6 Tips to help you get the best return on your investment

22 May 2009 by Kevin Holdridge  
Filed under News and views

You did it. You got yourself a website because prospects and customers kept asking for your web address. And you’d heard how much business small companies could generate from a website. So, you paid a Web developer handsomely for a beautiful site with the latest Flash animations, or had your brother-in-law build it on the cheap.

But your site’s been up for a while and it hasn’t brought you any business. What’s gone wrong? Here are the six things you can do for maximum results.

1 Make it part of your marketing strategy

Be clear what you want the website to do for you and then make sure it’s designed to do that well, whether reaching new customers, providing new services to improve customer relationships or improve cross-selling and repeat orders.

As with any marketing medium, your site must focus on your customers’ interests – not yours. Your site should be easy to use and tell customers exactly what they need to know.

2 Promote a positive image and user experience

Get the basics right so you don’t alienate users. Ensure the site looks professional, works properly, doesn’t oblige the user to install extra software and is user friendly. Websites that are too slow, crash in the middle of the transaction or ask for unnecessary information will alienate users.

3 Embrace Internet marketing

Google currently indexes billions of web pages. For your site to be found by customers and prospects you need to get your Internet marketing right.

The site itself should be optimised to get the best possible results in the search engines for your target keywords. A competent web developer can make sure the site is designed and built optimally. But, you also need to make sure that the text is well written for optimisation and is regularly updated. Use a web-savvy copywriter for best effect.

Get links to your website included on other relevant sites. Done correctly, this will improve your results in the search engines. You might even consider temporarily buying links on premium sites to get a quick initial boost.

Done properly, pay-per-click advertising is easily the most focused, cost-effective, and measurable marketing tool in history. You can easily dip a toe in the water through a small-budget Google AdWords campaign.

4 Reach out – use email

Websites only work when a user goes to them (the ‘pull’ effect). Get better results by combining the ‘push’ approach of using email to reach out to customers and prospects. It’s easy and cheap to reach people through email, and especially email newsletters.

5 Be sticky

'Stickiness’ is a measure of how well a website encourages users to keep coming back. There are some tried-and-tested ways of building stickiness:

  • Regularly give things for free (maybe a downloadable briefing paper or promotional offer). The cost to you can be small with online delivery.
  • Provide an online customer helpdesk
  • Build an area for customers only where they can get access to premium resources
  • Add new and relevant information

6 Stay fresh

Make sure you have good content management facilities so it is quick and easy to update the content and structure of your site without having to pay – and wait for – your web developer to do it for you. Then have a plan to ensure you make at least monthly updates.

Kent House offers a free no-strings appraisal of your site with recommendations for improvement. If you’d like some advice on how to get more from your web investment, give us a call on 0845 638 0700 or drop us an email at info@kenthouse.com.

Top tips for event management

30 January 2009 by Ken Brown  
Filed under Event management

I was travelling home from the office the other day and heard a conversation on the train from a fellow commuter about running events and how it was something that they’d never done before but had a big event to run later this year.  It got me thinking about what advice I’d offer if someone came to me about running events.  So here are my Top tips for running an event without resorting to mass murder.

Failing to plan means planning to fail

It’s a cliche I know but not planning an event means you’re more than likely to fail.  I’m a planner by nature, I love post-it notes, Visio diagrams and anything that allows me to put things in order.  That might not be your style but running events without some sort of plan will only mean stress for you and others around you and a bad experience for your delegates.

My advice is to start planning an event at least 6 months before you want it to happen.  Nowadays people book their weddings 2 years in advance just to get the date and venue that they want and events need to be thought of almost in the same way.  Work out a system for the different parts of event management that you need to cover and put some sensible deadlines in place so that you can manage things in small chunks rather than trying to do everything at once.  Keep an event file so that everything is in one place, use the logic that if I was off sick could someone cover this event for me just by reading the file.

Contracting

If you’re working for a client (or even if you’re running the event for yourself) for commercial reasons draw up a contract of what you’re going to deliver by when and, how and what the client is going to deliver by when and how.  Equally you need to have contracts in place for all the other parties you are working with, venues, caters etc.

The person commissioning the event from you needs to be part of the process, they’re the ones that know about the message that they are trying to get across and the people that need to be there to speak or present. They’ll know the style of the event that they want to put across and if you don’t have all that in writing even if it’s a short list of bullet points signed and agreed by them you’re starting on the wrong foot.

Budget

Business is ultimately about profit so not setting a budget for the event(s) means you’ve got no idea if you’re going to make a profit or a loss.  It’s easy to spend £1000’s on crisp white table linen when you could spend  £1’s instead on paper table cloths your delegates could write on meaning you save on flipcharts and table cloths and it’s fun for the delegates as well.  More often than not agreeing the budget will need your input because you have the knowledge of how much things are likely to cost.  Agree the budget with the person commissioning the event as part of contracting and allow a 5-10% contingency pot so you’re not likely to overspend.

Work smart

Use other peoples skills to make you look brilliant; as long as it’s within the budget everyone’s happy.

The event industry is huge and your event will be one of the x many millions that will be put on all over the world this year.  As a result of this there are lots of people that have events related skills that you can tap into.

Venues

Why would you spend days even weeks researching venues when you could write a venue search brief and use a venue finder to do the leg work for you?  Venue finders normally get their commission from the venue and cost you nothing, so everyone’s a winner!!  They’ll negotiate rates for you and because they have existing industry contacts they’ll get you better rates than you’ll be able to get yourself.  If you don’t like what they send you ask them to search again, that’s what they are there for!!  My top tip for venue finding is Pineapple Events Wendy and Lauretthe are great to work with and have years of experience in the industry.

Audio Visual

The same logic applies to Audio Visual suppliers, if you’re not an expert don’t try and do it yourself.  Don’t settle for the first quote you get especially if it’s from the AV company recommended by the venue.  Write a brief and email it to half a dozen AV companies and see what comes back but don’t forget that cheapest isn’t always best.  Give the work to the person or company that you feel is going to be able to work with you to deliver your agenda not theirs.

Keeping AV simple is really the best policy; get the kit that you need and have a technician booked to make sure that the kit works on the day, the last thing you need is to have your highly prestigious keynote speaker to stand up and the mic not to work or to have the slides for the wrong speaker ping up on the screen behind them.   My top tip for AV companies is i4Events based in Yorkshire.  i4events are highly experienced and fab to work with,  ask for Mike Farmer and mention me.

Buddy up

Sanity is a valuable thing in our manic world so I strongly suggest buddying up with someone else to manage your events.  I know that’s not always possible due to budget constraints but even if it’s asking a friend or colleague to spend a small amount of time talking things through with you it will make a huge difference.  If you’re putting anything live on the web or sending something off to be professionally printed, another set of eyes could save you time, money and potential embarrassment.

Event management system

Delegate registration can be hugely time consuming if you’re using spreadsheets and databases but can be a lot more friendly for both you and the delegate if you use a web based system like EventManager or EventBooker.  These systems can be accessed anywhere that has an internet connection and they allow delegates to self-manage bookings and cancellations for events that you have listed as being open for booking.

They handle a plethora of email communications that would otherwise need to be individually managed by you including: confirmation, account login, cancellation, reminders and many more.  EventManager can also issue short SMS messages to inform delegates that bookings are confirmed or that something has been updated for the event.