WordPress and why you should be using it

First let me declare an interest – We like WordPress, and without exception, every site we have built in the last 12 months is based on the platform, including a number were we have converted sites into WordPress from other platforms like Joomla and OS Commerce. WordPress has come a long way since its birth as a blogging platform back in 2004 when v1.0 was released, Partially thanks to the fact that there are over 70 developers working on and contributing to the core WordPress code, and probably hundreds of thousands of developers working on and developing the platform more widely.. The result is that 14 years later (give or take a month) WordPress is now the leading CMS on the internet. If you like stats, here are just a few for the platform which is now estimated to power over 25% of the world.s websites.

Why should I use WordPress for my website?

If going with the crowd is not a good enough reason to use it, and often it is not!  Let’s have a look at some good reasons for using WordPress. And some of the things you need to be aware of if you do! Here are 6 reasons to use WordPress:

1. WordPress is Open Source

Yes, WordPress is FREE! You can install it and build your own website for zero cost! You can download it here. or use it on the free wordpress.com platform without even having to worry about hosting. Though the latter ceases to be free very quickly if you want to do anything other than run a very basic site. OK, most SME business will work with a specialist to build their company website but managing costs is always important and an open source programme offers significant savings.

2. WordPress has a Huge User base

Perhaps as a consequence of being open source, millions of businesses have adopted WordPress and a large user base has encouraged the growth of WordPress specialists who:

  • Offer support to users – With a wide support base you aren’t tied to a particular developer
  • Develop Themes and Design Templates – Templates offer a low cost alternative to expensive bespoke web design. Increasingly, even web-design companies are using templates when they build sites for clients.
  • Create add-on functionality through dedicated plug-ins – many of which have free versions to encourage use.

3. There’s a Plugin for that!

WordPress is powerful ‘straight out of the box’ but you may find there is particular functionality that you need but isn’t immediately available. Chances are that you aren’t the first to want that extra functionality. There is every likelihood that someone has developed a plugin to add what you are looking for. WordPress has literally 1000s of Plugins (44,000 at the last count) many of which have free versions that add functionality which could cost £100s or £1000s to code from scratch. Even the paid-for plugins often cost less than £50 and offer full technical support Some examples of plugin functionality include:

  • Image and Video Galleries
  • E-Commerce Systems
  • Enhanced Security
  • Bespoke administration and back-end functions
  • SEO and Analytics
  • Email, Social Media and Marketing

The fact is there are very few unique requirements in a website In most cases requirements from company to company are similar, so more often than not, a plugin exists to give required functionality with only limited need for additional coding.

4. WordPress has a huge developer community

Because WordPress is effectively a standard with a huge user base a corresponding developer base has grown up. From Freelancers to major businesses there are thousands of people out there who really understand WordPress. In 2015 there were over 20,000 attendees at WordPress developer conferences across the globe. Given that only a fraction of developers attend these, its not unreasonable to estimate that there are hundreds of thousands of developers across the globe. As an WordPress user, you may well choose to work with a specialist but if you find that your chosen supplier isn’t delivering, you shouldn’t find yourself handcuffed to them with a site based on proprietary systems or developed in a way that no one else understands. You will always have the option to move to someone who better understands and meets your needs.

5. WordPress Content Management really works

WordPress is very usable, and as a web-based platform you can use it from anywhere you can access the internet. OK, there is a learning curve but, depending on how involved you want to get, you can be using WordPress in about half an hour and, in my experience, the more you use it, the more intuitive it gets. WordPress works in the real world – maybe this is why it is so successful.

6. WordPress has a solution for a wide range of budgets

Whilst you can spend £1000’s on a WordPress website if you want are specify exact look and functionality, you can get a WordPress site for free, and every price point in between is also catered for.  Whatever the price point, WordPress delivers excellent value and the knowledge that it will be developed & updated into the foreseeable future.

Don’t use WordPress because…

There are certainly people who don’t use and don’t like WordPress – do I really want to develop a website that my customer can update in-house rather than paying me to do it for them?! There are also people who quote technical reasons why WordPress should be avoided. Whilst there is no doubt that being a “Jack of all trades” does give the platform some limitations, for most mainstream company websites it does an excellent job of delivering. That said I think it is only fair that we look at the Cons as well as the Pros….. Here are 4 things to consider when taking the decision to use WordPress.

1. WordPress is vulnerable

Any high profile software can attract the attention of hackers. There are regular news stories about the impact of the latest security breach. WordPress is no different and does get targeted but this is another area where the WordPress developer community comes into its own. As fast as hackers are looking for security weaknesses to exploit, WordPress developer are looking for those same weaknesses and blocking them. WordPress gets regular update releases and sites can even be set to automatically update themselves. In my experience, problems tend to arise where sites are not kept technically up to date. Almost all security issues are introduced by plugins.  This is one reason we favour commercial, professionally supported ones. Whilst this does add to the cost, it increases the chance that issues will be identified & fixed quickly. We make sure all our clients’ sites are kept up to date and also regularly backed up so we have 2 layers of protection in the unlikely even that there may be a problem.

2. All WP sites look the same

There is no reason that they have to! As I mentioned, there are thousands of high quality templates available to give your site the look you want. Take a look here or here for just some examples of what is available. And if you want something truly bespoke you can create any design in WordPress take a look at these great examples of what is possible The other reason sites tend to look the same is more to do with user experience & functionality. The fact is many websites tend to look the same, not because of the platform they are built on, but because of fashion & what works. Most sites are designed to fulfill the same basic function (communicating information) so it is no real surprise that there is a lot of similarity across the web!

3. WordPress can be server resource hungry

OK this can be true, but is it really an issue? A standard installation of WordPress is designed to work efficiently and most web servers will run it no problem. Every plugin you add to your site requires additional server resources and if you start to add a lot of plugins, you can start to see your site slowing down. However there is a modest-cost solution. The cost of web hosting is coming down and standard server specifications are going up. If you do need a more powerful server, it is inexpensive to get server upgrades to keep your site flying.  In any event, I believe the benefit of WordPress with lower development and maintenance costs balances out any modest increase in hosting costs as your site evolves.

4. WordPress isn’t ideal for E-Commerce sites

If I was building a dedicated, high traffic e-commerce site, I would maybe think twice about using using WordPress. There are other (also Open Source) platforms such as Magento which are designed from the ground up for E-Commerce but they can be quite expensive to implement If you are looking for e-commerce as just an element of your site then WordPress offers several e-commerce plugin options. One of the most popular is WooCommerce. Here are some examples of WooCommerce stores

Finally…

You want your website to be at the heart of your business the best design/functionality at the lowest cost with straightforward updating to keep your messages current – and without getting handcuffed to the wrong website company – take a look at WordPress – here are some impressive WordPress stats.

It’s all about building the brand

At the moment we are focusing on the process of marketing, and looking at managing it for sustainable long term gain rather than short term wins. This is often at odds with the thinking re marketing within SMEs where the focus tends to be on the more short term priorities:

  • Leads and short term business development
  • Analytics and measurement
  • Brand, and tone of voice in communications

Since the 80’s I have worked in marketing in both the corporate and SME world, through the birth and growth of the digital marketing age, and in my experience: Corporates and well funded startups (successful ones at least) focus on building the brand whilst SMEs tend to focus on generating leads and short term business development. In reality this is not too surprising as traditionally, building the brand has been an expensive process that is beyond the resources of smaller companies, whilst through taking the short term approach most SMEs are able to build a moderately successful and profitable business (up to a point). However I would suggest that to see real success & growth companies need to look longer term and think more about building the brand. And this, I believe is where the real potential of digital marketing lies for SMEs.

Marketing tends to be sold on short term gains

Look at how digital marketing is sold and it’s all about the short term:

  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Google/Social Media Advertising
  • Website Conversion Optimisation
  • Optimisation of the sales funnel

These are all “magic wands” that are sold by web marketers, and they are relatively easy to sell as they seem to offer highly measurable, short term benefits. However in my experience, they invariably disappoint! Now don’t get me wrong, they are all potentially vital elements of successful marketing programmes, but my suggestion is that by focusing on them as the ultimate goal you are focusing on the wrong thing.

The value of a brand

Lets face it, all really successful companies have one thing in common. They have a strong brand, and marketing is focused on maintaining & developing that brand. By telling their story in a way that is relevant and attractive to their target market, people buy from them and assuming their business model is sound, sales & profitability tend to follow. Within this context the elements described above become tools in the process of building a brand an a planned & measured way. But the ultimate goal is the development of the brand, not the optimisation of individual metrics.

That’s fine but is it relevannt to SMEs

“That’s great in the resource rich corporate world” I hear you say, “But how does that relate to me?” I would suggest that through digital marketing, every micro and SME business now has the potential to build a brand. But by focusing on the short rather than long term they are missing out on this opportunity. Let’a look at the process of building a brand. I would argue it is a simple 4 step process:

  1. Understand what your business is about, and the value that you offer
  2. Understand your market and how they will perceive this value
  3. Use this to build your brand story
  4. Engage with your market to tell your story using the tools offered by the digital age

Ok, this might be like saying becoming a millionaire is easy 2 step process:

  1. Invent something that earns you £10 per unit, and that no one else has thought of
  2. Persuade 100,000 people to buy one each

It’s easy to say, but slightly more difficult to bring to reality! But unlike becoming an instant millionaire, developing a strong brand is well within the capacity of most business owners, Ultimately maybe even delivering the million! It does require a significant shift in mind set and the willingness and resources to commit to investing  in marketing. However the digital marketing tools now available mean that investment need not be substantial. Furthermore the investmentis not always purely financial, and in my experience is well within the reach of most micro and SME businesses.

We can Help

BSA Marketing are specialists in supporting businesses through this process. Helping them to build their brand through the use of digital marketing. In this recent post, I look at how taking this approach is starting to pay dividends for one organisation we work with. A story that’s hopefully familiar to others with whom we work. Feel free to post you experiences as comments on this blog. If this has inspired you to rethink you marketing and want to explore the possibilities, for your business, we would love to talk to you.

Don’t forget the big picture

We often express the view that there is “No magic wand” for marketing, and my favorite cartoon is still: So I thought the time was right to bang that drum again. Whatever cliche you use to describe it, marketing is a ….

  • Process not an event
  • Marathon not a sprint
  • Strategic process not a quick fix

The fact is that good marketing takes time and to be successful, needs to be applied consistently against the backdrop of a solid vision. As a case study on this, I would like to talk about another organisation in which I am involved with objectives totally separate from my “day job” at BSA Marketing. The organisation is “The Glossopdale Trust”. Incorporated in June 2012 the Glossopdale Trust works in and around Glossop (my home town) with the objecting of developing the music and arts scene within the town as a catalyst to economic development. This is a project that has been going for around 5 years. It has a clear vision:

"To support the economic development of Glossop through the promotion of music and the arts"

It also has a clear 2 stream strategy:

  1. Long Term – To create a focal point for the Glossop arts/music scene in the form of an Arts Hub owned & run by the community
  2. Short Term – To build capacity and develop the the scene through an annual community music festival

Over the past few years, we have used different approaches to the marketing of this initiative, underpinned by a consistent use of website, email & social media. Furethermore we maintain a consistent approach to measuring progress including:

  • Traffic to the website – www.whatsoninglossop.com
  • Photos from the events
  • Press coverage about the events & the campaign to open a venue
  • Review of social media activity

Through the long term monitoring of these metrics, we can assess the movement towrds the overriding Goals.

So How are we doing?

Web Traffic

Whilst looking for increasing web traffic over the short term can be challenging and inconclusive, looking at the statistics over the longer term using 2015 as a base, we can see a growth in traffic and the quality of visits year on year:

Photographic Evidence

Comparing photos from the event in 2011 and the 2017 Festival It is clear to see the development in what we are doing.

Press coverage

With little or no press coverage in the early days, 2017 saw two front pages, and numerous other coverage in local press. A couple of examples are given below: https://glossopchronicle.com/2017/04/summer-festival-fun-coming-to-glossop/ https://glossopchronicle.com/2017/08/bank-holiday-music-festival-coming-to-glossop/

The Broader Picture

That all suggests that the short term strategy is working, but what about the impact on the long term objectives? Again indications are that the activity to date is positively impacting the project. 2017 has seen increased commitment to the project by the local council, including their direct support for the festivals and into a bid to the HLF (Heritage Lottery Fund) for significant development funds. Whilst on first application this bid has been unsuccessful, the feedback was that they festivals & development of the market were key positives in the eyes of the HLF. Further suggesting that the adopted strategies & marketing tactics are paying dividends.

So what does this tell us

Looking in the short term at any individual marketing initiative, it is difficult to tell exactly what is being effective. But look at the long term evidence and it is clear that the project is going in the right direction. We are making progress towards achieving the goals set out.

It is the combination of a clear vision and a consistent strategy for delivering this vision that is the key to success, rather than focus on short term marketing metrics.

However monitoring these short term metrics (delivered through tools like Google Analytics) is key to ensuring that you are on the right track. The issue arises when these optimising these metrics in the short term become the ultimate goal rather than a tool for monitoring progress towards longer term objectives & strategies.

Website Analytics – do you use them? You should…

Do you have a website? (if you are serious about your business, you should!). If so, you have the opportunity to get some real insight into how your customers and markets are engaging with you.

  1. Do you know how many people are visiting your website right now?
  2. Do you know how many people visit each day? How many and which pages they visit? How long they stay on your site?

All of this information is available to you and opens up real insight into how your customers, markets and contacts engage with your business. I have said it before and I will say it again, at heart, marketing is about engagement between your business and your customers and markets. Website Analytics can open up this information, but there’s a problem – actually, there are 2:

1. Analytics can be complicated

Most people who log in to Google Analytics (other Search Engines provide analytics tools but Google is the daddy!) take 1 look and never go back. On first sight, Google Analytics looks terribly complicated – and to some extent, it is. There are just so many possibilities and options you could spend all day analysing the stats – not very good for driving your business forward. It is also easy to get sidetracked. The more you delve into analytics the more the risk of it becoming the end rather than the means – another case of the techy tail wagging the business dog – I wrote about this here Despite the complexity of analytics, with a bit of thought, it can be tamed and put to work delivering real value to your business.

2. Analytics gets hijacked

How often do you see offers like this:

Want more clients and customers? We will help them find you by putting you on the 1st Page Google, Yahoo & Bing…

If you are anything like me it is at least daily. This is a classic case of the Marketing Magic Wand. You may have dipped your toe into analytics and seen how complicated it is, now here is someone suggesting they can use tools like analytics (and SEO (search engine optimisation) and PPC (pay per click)). The implication is that they understand the complexity and make it work for your business. In principle they may be right, there are certainly some highly skilled digital marketing specialists out there, but they are expensive and the process takes time. If your business operates nationally or internationally with thousands of website visitors daily, the investment may well be worth it but for most SME businesses, particularly in the technical/niche B2B arena, the true levels of website traffic simply don’t warrant this commitment. This said, there are a LOT of digital marketers targeting the SME B2B sector (the offer above is just one example I received today). These people often don’t know your business. They are working to their model where the focus is on rankings rather than traffic. Even when traffic is considered there is too much focus on quantity and not enough on quality. If you aren’t careful the end result can be a bill with no real benefit to you. – More reasons not to embrace analytics! However, there is an alternative…

The solution:

Don’t let someone take over your analytics. Integrate it with your day to day marketing – OK you may want some help but make sure the focus is on your business, not making someone else look good! You can’t ‘fit and forget’. Making the most of analytics takes time but it is easy to get carried away. This is where a plan is important. Focus on your goals and don’t get sidetracked. Set aside time each week (I suggest no more than an hour or so) to learn and develop your analytics. Take it one step at a time and don’t try to do everything all at once. It is a process, not an event. You will need to stick at it but the rewards can be significant. There are lots of resources online but, in my experience, the best approach is to integrate analytics into your wider business marketing, using the numbers to test and reflect the marketing you are doing.

And finally…

Here are my top tips for analytics in the real world…

  1. Know your traffic levels Before you do anything, benchmark your website traffic and work to increase/improve it. If you choose to engage specialists to help you, benchmarks give a basis for managing their activity.
  2. Profile your traffic In 3 words: Quality not quality. Having hundreds (or thousands) of visitors to your website may make you feel good but if they arrive then immediately leave, what is the point?The technical term is ‘Bounce’. A ‘Bounce Rate’ of 100% means every visitor arrives at your site then leaves without clicking to any other page. If you believe your traffic is the sort of visitors you want, look for reasons why they might not stick around then update your website content to make it more relevant to them.
  3. Set up Goals/Conversion Tracking Google Analytics includes some great tools for tracking website visitor engagement, measuring how often they download a ‘White Paper’, send an enquiry form, or even call you. In my experience, most people don’t use goals or conversion tracking. This is such a waste. Make sure you do!
  4. Join-up analytics with the rest of your marketing It is essential that conversions should equal sustainable engagement. By planning analytics in the context of your wider marketing it is easier to ensure all your efforts focus on the common purpose of taking your business forward.
  5. Keep it simple The last one isn’t easy but it is important. It is better to concentrate on doing a few things well than trying to do everything – which you won’t achieve! By integrating even one or 2 analytics fundamentals into your wider business marketing and using the information to make practical, common sense decisions that you can monitor can be enough to make a real difference.

How’s your customer engagement?

I have written a few times about the death of selling and how people don’t want to be sold to anymore, they want to buy, but only when they are good and ready. But does this mean we should just sit waiting for the phone to ring? I think not. Although most of us don’t like pushy salespeople, we don’t like to be sold to, we DO like to be acknowledged and respected. Now here’s an opportunity! Let’s have a look at a couple ways we can ‘sell without selling’

1. Make the first move – engage with your prospects.

One of the issues with the passive sales approach is a lack of control. If we are simply waiting for a customer to turn up and buy, what do we do if they don’t? If you are targeting a niche market where there is a clear and natural fit between your business & the products/services you offer and a potential customer, why not make the first move and let them know you are around and open for business? As an example, we have a client who offers specialist process engineering services. Amongst other things, these services have a particular ‘fit’ with manufacturers of specialist process equipment, particularly when it comes to servicing and maintaining that equipment. Rather than simply advertising their services and waiting for people to respond, they are being proactive. Because of the niche nature of their target customers, relevant companies and individuals can often be found through a combination of desk research, social media (particularly LinkedIn). At this point, they could start a ‘normal’ sales approach with letters, telephone calls etc.  The risk in doing this is that you invest too much in any given prospect ending up with a pushy sales approach.

A neat alternative

Our client is avoiding this by taking a more relaxed line based on a well-defined process:

  1. An initial e-mail making introductions, explaining their proposition and inviting a response.
  2. A follow-up email referencing the initial e-mail and again inviting a response.
  3. A final e-mail acknowledging (and respecting) the lack of response and inviting a process of ‘keeping in touch’ via e-newsletter.

With modern e-mailing systems, it is also possible to monitor whether your email has been opened, clicked etc. so technical feedback can be a good indicator of whether/where your approach is gaining traction. The beauty of this approach is that you always get an outcome. Either you get a response from which you can qualify the opportunity, or you don’t get a response but, by researching your target contacts appropriately, you can find relevant database contacts (with due deference to B2B Data Protection rules, of course) The other benefit is that you don’t up with a list of contacts that are all ‘loose ends’. Once you send the final e-mail the contact should disappear from your target list (though stay on your e-newsletter circulation list). You keep your target list fresh and short! It is true that the vast majority of your targets will fall off the end of your process but in a niche B2B market where long-term trading relationships are often the norm, you don’t need many wins to have real success.

2. The power of Customer Service

Last Monday did not start well. I came down to find my car was dead! As an automatic hybrid, this was not good. No lights, no nothing. I had no choice but to call the recovery team and get the train into the office. The only problem was I really needed a car for the day. I called the garage where my car was being taken to ask about a courtesy car but they had nothing. I saw the cost of a hire car looming. Then I remembered that, as a relatively new vehicle (a Mitsubishi), my car was covered by Mitsubishi Assistance Package. Not expecting much, what did I have to lose by calling them? Now I must admit the initial experience wasn’t great. I was on hold for over 15 minutes but once the call was answered, what a transformation…. I needed a hire car? No Problem. Leave it with us. I did….

Sometimes Customer Service really is ‘service’

Literally 10 minutes later I received a call from our local car hire depot. It took five minutes to go through their terms and conditions and they said they would be with me inside an hour. Within 90 minutes of my call to MAP I had a shiny new hire car in the carpark. Even better, when my own car was repaired, I simply drove to the garage and left the hire car there. My Customer Service from Mitsubishi was exemplary (bar the 15 minute wait on the initial phone call!) OK, Mitsubishi is a big company and arguably they should offer good service but how many times do we hear of the appalling experience of customers with big companies? Clearly, there is a lesson for all of us.  I was treated as an individual who needed help – and they helped. OK, they had the systems and procedures in place to do just that but isn’t that the point of good processes? Simply listening and acknowledging is a great start. If a customer in need called you, could you step up to the mark? Here at BSA, I know we can but it does make you think!  …and hats off to Mitsubishi

Christmas E-mails that stand out from the crowd

XmasKBoardThe corporate Christmas Card has declined or even died out for many businesses but we all still want to take the opportunity to say, ‘Happy Christmas’ and ‘Thank you’ to our customers and clients. Simply sending e-cards is increasing in popularity but a lot of people (me included!) think this is a bit of a cheap cop-out. Not really the right impression!

Get Charitable

Some people note on their e-card that rather than spending money on cards, they are donating the money to charity. While this is certainly a better option, it doesn’t really involve much engagement and (as everyone who knows me will acknowledge!) I believe that engagement should be at the heart of marketing, and let’s face it, even at Christmas, we are still in business and marketing is still important!

Get Interactive

How about this idea to really tick the Christmas marketing boxes – The Charity Vote: Rather than just make a charitable donation, invite your customers and contacts to help you decide which charity. Here’s the plan:

  • Pick 3 Charities
  • Set up your e-card with ‘clickable’ links to vote for each charity (maybe use their logos?)
  • Invite your customers receiving the e-card to ‘click’ their preferred charity
  • Track the clicks and keep score
  • Make your donation to each charity in proportion to the votes cast

Setting this up does require a bit of web-coding but if you need any help, I’m sure whoever looks after your website will be able to assist.

Make the most of the opportunity

Once you have set up the charity voting links, you can add your own seasonal messages, and maybe details of your Christmas office hours etc. Even better, in the New Year, you have another chance to engage with your contacts by thanking them for taking part and letting them know the results.

Christmas Greetings + Charitable Donations + Customer Engagement…

…A great Christmas marketing combination!