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How low are YOUR barriers to entry?

How low are YOUR barriers to entry?

Let’s focus on my business for a bit. Usually, I’m all about my client’s business (the “if they do well, I do well” perspective), but we’ll flip it around for a change.

The websites/web-marketing industry is undergoing huge changes. Has been for years, of course, along with technology in general. Ask a website designer/builder to go back 5 years and recall how websites were built, and compare to today’s tools and techniques. It’s chalk and cheese.

  • faster
  • easier
  • slicker
  • more effective.

And cheaper. Like most technology (except iPhones, it seems…!).

In the last couple of years, there have been 2 major developments that have led to a massive surge in the number of people who say they are available to build you a fabulous website. “Page builders” which greatly reduce or even eliminate the technical knowledge needed. And “Software as a Service” which lets you subscribe to functions & tools & facilities that you need, when you need them, without having any hassles with installation, maintenance, upgrades or backups.

You may have seen the Wix ads, or Squarespace, or GoDaddy. Yes, you can DIY – build a website right now, and it will indeed look good, at low cost (to start with). Get up and running in an hour or two. They don’t lie.

So we have a huge number of ‘experts’ out there now. The web industry has such low barriers to entry that it has become an enticing side-gig, a part-time activity that fits in with the full-time job or study. All you need is a reasonable internet connection.

The result is apparently a reverse hourglass effect. Squeeze at the bottom of the market (lots and lots of competition for low-priced projects), squeeze at the top of the market (high-ticket projects attracting increased attention from mid-range players who can easily access more advanced capabilities).

In the middle, though, there seems to be a more positive effect for business such as Winch Websites. A project can now include functions and facilities that would have been financially out of reach to small and micro businesses or non-profits. It’s here that clients typically already have experience with owning a website, and recognise the skills, expertise and benefits that a professional brings to play. Websites are no longer about the technology – it’s about what they are there to achieve for the organisation. More sales? More signups? More donations? More enquiries or leads? The focus is on the outcome, not the tool. Find out what the outcome is first, then find the best tool to make that happen. Then fine-tune and optimise, forever. Something worth investing in, in other words.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that although the website and web-marketing industries have very low barriers to entry (and therefore many, many participants), it doesn’t mean that getting something good is easy and cheap as chips. A decent investment really should pay dividends.

However, riding shotgun with the low barriers to entry is the lack of regulation and control. If you haven’t come across outrageous claims already, you won’t have to go far to find some. Think “website in a day”, “Google page 1”, “10x your sales”.

How about your own industry? How easy is it for a newcomer to come along and think “Hmm, that looks like an easy way to earn money. I’ll say I can do it and then work it out from there!”?

If you too have low barriers to entry, you’ll be familiar with all of the above. And like as not, you too will have had customers who’ve tried the cheap and the quick, been burned, and are now looking for experience and knowledge.

When you go looking for website and web-marketing services, please bear in mind that there’s little to stop people saying what they like in internet-land. Take claims with a small pinch of cynicism and maybe do a bit of due diligence. Ask or look for evidence that your chosen service provider has done this sort of thing, and that it’s worked. Be ever-so-slightly distrustful of reviews and testimonials unless there’s evidence to back them up as genuine customers.

At Winch Websites, I’m well aware that the competition for your web-marketing dollars is global, huge, and a minefield of options, technicalities, capabilities and playing with the truth. I aim to provide honest and accurate advice, and if we aren’t a good fit for each other in terms of outcomes and objectives, I’ll happily refer you to services or businesses that are.

I want to take care of your website so that you can take care of your business – over the long term, ongoing. That’s not going to happen unless you get great value from Winch Websites. So next time you’re looking for website design & build, website care or email automation services, please get in touch. At the very least, you’ll get something to compare against. And I’d love to hear what you think when you do compare, business feedback is so hard to come by!

Good luck in your business, and may low barriers to entry be no barriers to your success!!

Interested in working with us?

WordPress Updates – Distracting But Essential

WordPress Updates – Distracting But Essential

WordPress is a software package that makes it easy (well, easiER) to build, manage and maintain a website. About a quarter of the world’s websites are powered by WordPress. If your website is powered by its own independent WordPress package, then someone needs to make sure that software is kept up-to-date. Some frequently-asked-questions (FAQs) about all this;

How Do I Know If My Website Uses WordPress?

Ask whoever built your website for you – “what content management system does my website use?”. This is something you ought to know, as a bit of background info. There are lots of other systems around, of course – some are for building ‘independent’ websites where you are free to do as you please with it eg. add whatever bells & whistles you like – some are ‘umbrella’ systems, where you get a set of facilities and tools but can’t add your own eg. Wix, Weebly, Shopify, Squarespace and many more.

One clue though is what you see when you login to manage/administer your website (and if you don’t login, then either someone else is looking after your site for you OR you aren’t maintaining it at all. Get in touch if it’s the latter, because someone needs to. Read on!). The typical WordPress Dashboard looks something like this;

What’s an “Update”?

There is a very high chance that your WordPress-powered website has more than just the base WordPress system installed. The WordPress package by itself definitely provides all you need to build and launch a website – but you really, really shouldn’t. It’s a bit like buying a new computer with the latest version of Windows or Mac OS and no other software packages installed. You just need more tools and facilities for it to be really useful. For WordPress, essential extras include things like security (much like a PC has to have internet-security software), search-engine-optimisation boosters, webpage speeder-uppers (nobody will wait 10 seconds for your images to load). These extras are called “plugins”.  There are THOUSANDS of plugins to choose from. If you want your website to do it, there is bound to be a plugin to make it happen!

So we have this WordPress software package (the “content management system”). And we have these extras on top of it (the plugins). Like any software, the developers that created them are constantly improving things – fixing errors or bugs, adding new or better features, preventing the bad guys from doing bad things. So an “update” is simply a newer version of WordPress or a WordPress plugin that has been improved in some way.

How Do I ‘Do’ An Update?

Nowadays, you can set your WordPress to automatically update itself to the latest version of the package whenever a new one comes out (every couple of months or so). Alternatively, when you login to your website as an Administrator, you can click a button or two and make it upgrade. It’s really that easy.

Likewise the plugins – when a newer version is available for your website to retrieve and install – click a link or button, and it gets done. Easy. You will probably find updates for your various plugins several times a week.

Do I Have To?

Of course not. You don’t have to have internet-security software for your computer. You don’t have to have home insurance. You don’t have to put petrol in the car. But if you want to avoid potentially BIG trouble, you should. Really should. A website that gets built and published and then left is a website that;

  1. will sooner or later stop working – reflecting badly on your business and you as its owner
  2. could well be abused by hackers, to attack other computers and/or websites, spread spam, or publish nasty stuff on your website
  3. threatens the other websites that share your webserver (you are very unlikely to be the only website on a webserver) – because the many blocking services protecting people from bad websites will block the entire webserver
  4. will cost you an arm and a leg to fix when things do eventually go wrong, and you’re in an emergency-repair situation

What A Pain…

It is. Looking after WordPress updates is probably not what you regard as a core activity for your business. Luckily, it IS a core activity for Winch Websites. We will not only make sure that your WordPress system and its plugins are all kept up-to-date, we do a few more things too (like take backups every day, perform security scans, monitor your site 24/7, and more). Get in touch to find out more, or see our Websites Care page.

Interested in working with us?

SAAS – Perfect for Small Businesses

SAAS – Perfect for Small Businesses

First – What is SAAS??

SAAS is huge, and it IS changing what you do and how you do it. SAAS is Software As A Service, a collective term for anything that you can do online where you used to have to buy, install and manage software packages on your computer(s). If you made the move from Outlook to GMail/YahooMail/Hotmail, you started using SAAS. If you moved your accounting from MYOB or Reckon to Xero, you started using SAAS.

Second – Why SAAS?

Software As A Service provides you with the tools, facilities, functions that you need via the internet – while someone else does all the maintenance, management, backups, security, etc etc etc. You’ll nearly always pay a monthly fee for the privilege, although there are other charging models of course.

SAAS can give you exactly what you need to run an efficient, effective, low-cost business where you can start small and grow as you need to. Take up the lowest-cost plan, and as you need more, you simply change to the next plan up (and pay a bit more). Perfect for systems to grow as you grow.

What Can SAAS Do For Me?

Well, the world is your oyster. There are literally thousands of SAAS providers covering an immense array of tools and functions. Just a few examples that might pique your interest;

  • Accounting – see Xero for a completely-online small business accounting system. Invoices (including automated followups of unpaid ones), payroll, superannuation, bank-account feeds & reconciliations, BAS reports, contacts.
  • Webmail – if you are still using Outlook on a desktop to do your email, it’s time to think again. Yes, the transition is a pain. But switch to an online-only email system like the business version of GMail and you open up possibilities that allow you to integrate with all sorts of other things. Plus you have easy access from anywhere on anything (internet-connected, of course!). And usually better anti-spam, anti-virus protection.
  • Contact Management – looking for somewhere that keeps track of your customers and potential customers? CRM (Customer Relationship Managment) services store the usual info (name, address, email, phone) but also notes about each conversation, you can automatically store any emails to/from them too, and even classify as Leads (possibly interested), Prospects (actively interested) and Customers (purchased) then add auto-reminders to prompt you to get in touch at appropriate times. Lots more to CRM… Insightly is a great example.
  • Image & Video Editing – save on graphic design costs with DIY online tools that make it easy AND look good! For example, Stencil for fast & effective social-media graphics, Rocketium to make short attention-grabbing videos for your website or social media outlets.
  • Surveys – find out what your customers ACTUALLY think or want! Survey services are not only easy-access for the people you want to survey, but they help guide you to get meaningful results. SurveyMonkey is a popular one, but upcomers like SparkChart are pushing the boundaries.
  • Webpage Customiser – so you have a website already. What if you could easily make it adapt your webpages according to who is looking at them,  when, and why? Without changing the webpages… So you send an email out to a selected group of potential customers, and when they click that email to visit your website, it greets them with “Good Morning Sally!” This is what Unless does.
  • Email Campaigns – you’ll have seen a lot about growing your email list so you can market to them. There are quite a few services that make this easy and automate in fabulous ways to save you time AND make you more effective. Automatic personalisation (“Hi Bob…”), automatic removal of invalid emails, automatic recording of who opened what when and clicked on what. Automatic grouping of contacts into whatever categories you choose (customers-who-bought-x, customers-who-visited-website-did-not-buy, etc).

These just scratch the surface of what you could do in your business to grow it and manage it – the old ‘doing more with less’. SAAS offers you great potential to extend what you do, save you time, save you costs, and scale up as your business needs more. Keep your eyes peeled, there’s a good chance that there are tools out there now that could make a big difference to your business!

Interested in working with us?

Just quickly send us your contact info and what you’re looking for – eg. why you want a website (starting from scratch, remaking an existing one, etc) and any particular features or questions you have in mind.