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The Smashing Business Blog

The Blog from Smashingbusiness.co.uk. We're all about helping you run a "Smashing Business." Whatever your niche, we hope you find some inspiration or help here. If you'd like us to feature a particular topic just email us at hello@smashingbusiness.co.uk

Website Statistics: Why constantly checking your Stats can harm your Online Business.

Ben Lumley - Monday, December 21, 2009
Everyone likes to constantly check their website stats. I know I do. It's a daily routine that depending on which site I'm checking, could happen many times a day just to see if that latest post or latest update or tweet is attracting more people to visit. Whether you check the inbuilt stats on your Business-Catalyst powered website or through a third party provider like Google Analytics, keeping up to date with the traffic movements of your online business can actually be harming your site and sales.

Here's why.

What are you checking? 

There's an abundance of statistics out there that you can check. From total visitors, page views, and entry pages, to search results, traffic sources and exit pages; all designed to give you a great idea about what people are doing on your site. The problem is people don't always look at the more important statistics and are just obsessed with the total number of visitors on any given day, while some even become so obsessed with stats that they are constantly changing what they do just to bring the numbers up. 

The problem with constant stat checking is that it makes you super unproductive. Think about it, if you spend 2 mins every half an hour checking your site's traffic that's 4 minutes over an hour right? Doesn't  seem like much. That's also the same as 96mins every 24 hrs but when do you every work for 24hrs straight? Very rarely. So say you're like me you work on your sites for around 15 hours a day. If you check your stats for an average of 4 mins an hour, now you're looking at around an hour in lost work time. That's more than enough time to write a blog post, catch up on emails, fix that bug on your homepage, spend more time interacting with potential customers on social networking sites or even making an hour's worth of sales! Can you afford to loose an hour a day? Think about all the sales you could be missing out on. 

Here are two of the stats that I think are useful for you to check from time to time during the day / week / month (depending on your level on desire to keep checking) 

Referral Sources: 

This will give you a really good idea about where the visitors to your site are coming from. Knowing where people are coming from can direct effect your marketing strategy because if you know that a large percentage of visitors are being referred to you via Twitter, or Google Search or some other site, then it's probably a good idea to try and promote your business there a bit more often. 

Exit Pages: 

Most website owners will probably disagree with me here but I think it's important to know which pages your visitors are leaving from. Are they all leaving on your pricing page? Maybe your pricing structure is turning them off or the prices you are giving aren't competitive enough. Is everyone leaving via your blog? This might mean that your blog content is poor and that your visitors are becoming disinterested or maybe you haven't provided them with enough call-to-action buttons to take them to other areas of your website. 

Don't worry about the quiet days 

There's really no need to worry about quiet days. I know lots of small online business owners do, it's just like having a bricks and mortar shop and having no one come in for the day. It's not ideal but it's just one of those things. No need to worry too much. Granted if you have a very quiet week when no one comes in at all then maybe it's time to investigate a little bit but if it's just a quiet day thats just part of business.Try to not fret about your stats and instead worry more about making those sales. 

What website stats do you regularly have to check?

What do you charge for? Or do you give back to the community when you can?

Ben Lumley - Friday, December 11, 2009
What things do you charge for? What's your reaction when someone asks to do something a little bit different with your product or service? Are you receptive to something out of the ordinary or do you flatly refuse without a second thought?

We took our two daughters to see Santa this week at the local tourist attraction. Joining the queue I marvelled at all of the added extras that Santa was offering apart from having to pay for a 1 minute sitting with the big man himself. Not only did the man in red want me to pay for my daughters to see him but photos, rides on his sleigh, and drinks for parents were all added extras. Fair enough I get that. It was a local event run by local organisations so the pull of all that potential money must of been huge. I get that. I understand. I have no problem with paying for kids to see Santa and may even stretch to the odd added extra if I'm in a good mood.

My problem with today's little festive outing was that if I wanted to take a picture of my kids with the special man I couldn't, I had to let the (so called) professional photographer take the photo and then in order to take it away with me I had to pay for it. The reason given for this was child protection. By not allowing me to photograph my own children they were ensuring that my daughters were being protected. The real reason however wasn't protection but revenue generation. Someone from the organising committee had obviously twigged that it would be a nice little earner to charge for taking memories away from the event.

What has this got to do with running an online business? Well go back to the three questions I asked right at the start of this post. Do you charge for absolutely everything you can or are you more relaxed and give something away for free? If someone comes to you with a suggestion of how they could use your product or service a bit differently are you excited or do you flatly refuse?

Look at Twitter. They built a platform and then opened it up to the world of developers to allow them to create some amazing applications using the API. Rather than keeping things close to their chest they said "look we've got this great platform come and have a play and build something cool with it." Most importantly they did it for free.

Gone are days when you can run an effective business online, especially a small online business and not even consider giving something back to your community. If you charge for absolutely everything and give nothing back to the community that surrounds your products and services then your customers will find someone else who does.

So how can you do that?

1. Free trials
2. Discounts for renewing subscriptions
3. Seasonal offers and discounts
4. Offer free advice via a blog
5. Offer limited offers to email subscribers
6. Share relevant links via Twitter
7. Offer savings for bulk buys
8. Price match or price promise
9. Free gifts
10. Free consultation sessions
11. Freephone customer services number
12. 24/7 support

These are just some of things you can do to give back to your customers. Do you do any of these or do you see the benefit of charging for everything you can? Let us know in the comments

5 Reasons why Apple Stores are Great Examples of How You Should Run Your Online Business

Ben Lumley - Thursday, December 03, 2009
I’m a geek and a proud geek at that. I love all things techy and gadgety and can think of nothing better than a Sunday afternoon of playing around with some gadget or building something cool and funky. For a real treat I love to go to an Apple store and stare at wonder at all of the shiny gadgets and gizmos. I’m assuming that my response in an Apple store is something to that of a child who gets to see Santa’s Toy Factory.

I’ve never been to an Apple store in the US but if it wouldn’t surprise me if they were the same as the ones we have here in the UK only much bigger. (So I apologise to anyone reading in the US but I only have experience of UK Apple stores.) 

There’s something amazing about going in to an Apple store if you’re a geek like me. Rows upon rows of neatly laid out shiny Apple products all begging to be touched and played with. Everything in an Apple store is exactly where you’d expect it to be and help for a cool looking dude in an Apple t-shirt is never too far away. 

Whenever I go into an Apple store, even if I don’t buy anything, I leave feeling inspired. Inspired to build a better Online Business. 

Here are my 5 reason why Apple Stores are great examples of how you should run your online business. 

1. Like Santa’s Toy Factory. 

Does your site make people jump up out of their seat when they see it like walking in to an Apple Store or does it leave your customers wanting more? Now I’m not trying to get into the whole Form over Functionality debate but I do think your site should look the business to really engage with your customers. If you’re not a designer then spend some money on a really nice template for your site that will give it the wow factor. If you are a designer then spend some time before you launch your site making it look good. 

But whoever you are and whatever you do make sure that you’ve got the content on your site to back up the design. There is truly nothing worse than a site that looks really good but is completely useless. Apples stores aren’t just pretty, they are also full of loads of really cool stuff, your online business should be the same. 

2. The “Oh now that’s cool” effect. 

When Apple release a new update or a new product they expect the “oh now that’s cool” response from the public. There’s always something they’ve done to make a product better that Apple know their customers will love. Does your online business make your customers say to themselves “oh now that’s cool” whenever you release a new product or service or update an existing one? Or does your business leave them feeling indifferent? 

Your customers should be impressed with what you offer whether it’s a product or a service. If they are they’ll keep coming back for more everything. 

3. Sensible help from cool looking people. 

I have never met an Apple Genius who didn’t know what they were talking about or demonstrate some personal experience in order to help you. When you ask for someone’s help and they talk from experience you nearly always take their advice, don’t you?

Do you offer that kind of personal customer service experience? Do you know your products and services inside out? You should do because then when a customer asks you a question you can give them the answer there and then. There is nothing more frustrating as a customer than a business owner whose stock response is always “I’ll get back to you on that.” Don’t be that person. 

4. The simple yet stylish factor. 

Apple stores are stylish, there’s no denying that. Beautifully laid out with everything just where you’d expect it to be. There aren’t packaging boxes everywhere blocking up the aisles or products slung here there and everywhere. Shelves and surfaces are uncluttered, enabling the products themselves to truly sell themselves. 

Your online business website should be the same. It should make sense to your customers so that they can find what they need when they need it. Your customers shouldn’t have to click on stupidly hidden links in order to find your products. Everything on your site should be clear and easy to find. 

5. Leaving with a shiny new product that does what it’s supposed to. 

When you buy something for an Apple store you always get that excited feeling of walking out with your new product. You get it home and it does exactly what it’s supposed to do, straight out of the box. 

Your online business should offer the exact same thing, every time. Your business will crash and burn within days if you ship dodgy products and you’ll end up with no customers if the service you provide doesn’t live up to what you originally offered. In online business you should always exceed your customer’s expectations and give them more that they were expecting. 

Does your online business run like an Apple store? Let us know in the comments.

Inspirational Video: Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005

Ben Lumley - Monday, November 30, 2009

So we haven't had a inspiration video in a while so we thought, seeing as we could all do with some inspiration every now and then we drop this one, from Steve Jobs, in.

Steve Jobs Stanford Commencement Speech 2005 was given to the young minds of the future but as an online business owner there is a lot from the 3 stories he tells that we can take on board and apply to our business.

Why not let us know what you think about Jobs speech in the comments

My First Guest Post

Ben Lumley - Sunday, November 22, 2009
Today is a day of firsts for the SmashingBusiness.co.uk Blog. We've had our first ever guest post published on another blog.

The post is called Marketing a Small Fish in a Big Pond and it can be for on TheInfoPreneur.net

Go check it out but don't forget to come back here and tell us what you thought about it in the comments

Great Sites That You Just Can't Put Down: The InfoPreneur

Ben Lumley - Friday, November 20, 2009

Here at The Smashing Business Blog we're all about sharing ideas and great ideas at that but we're also the first to admit that there are other great places online to find great content that will help you make the most of your online business. So we've come up with a great new way of sharing some of the fantastic sites we've come across to help inspire not only our business but yours as well. We call it "Great Sites That You Just Can't Put Down!"

Each month we're going to be review a different website or blog that will enable your to create a smashing business with ease. We'll look at what their site owners do, how they do it and most importantly how it can benefit your business. We really hope you enjoy this series and would love to hear what you think about it as well as your opinions of the sites we review in the comments.

To kick off the series, the first Great Site That You Just Can't Put Down that we're going to feature is.....(drumroll please)........ The InfoPreneur 

The InfoPreneur - Information for your Business 

Author: The InfoPreneur (aka James Richmond) 

Focus: Helping others with their business and providing the necessary information for free! 

What's Cool About The Infopreneur?

The InfoPreneur has, (at the time of writing,) only been going for 18 days and yet is getting huge amounts of interest from around the internet already, with retweets and comments on almost everything posted so far. James writes with great passion about how to make the most out of your online business or website and regularly refers to personal experiences in order to get his point across. He also uses some brilliant analogies to help explains things, like with his most recent post Promote your Website with the Military in which he uses the idea that you should treat your website or online business like a military operation!

The blog is really well written, with some great topics while maintain lots of fun and a splash of humour. 

Why The InfoPreneur will help your online business or website.

James puts in to plain English advice that every online business owner needs to hear. Don't expect post filler and mindless ramblings this blog is all about clear, concise advice direct from James' own experiences, that will inform inspire and engage you. 

Go check The InfoPreneur today and join this new and up and coming community. 

You can also follow The InfoPreneur on Twitter

Be Obsessed with your Business and Watch it Grow

Ben Lumley - Monday, November 16, 2009

Ever wondered why some entrepreneurs are so successful? Ever think about why these truly successful business owners can do so much and reap so many rewards?

Easy! They’re obsessed by what they do. They love it. They eat sleep and dream the business and their goals.

Want to start being as successful as them? Become obsessed. 

How do I make quick money from my blog or website when I first start out?

Ben Lumley - Thursday, November 12, 2009

I must see this question all over the internet all the time. So many people want to know how they can start their new online business off with a bang and be instantly making money. There are loads of options out there that look to offer some amazing results to first timers offering a massive financial return for very little work.

The easy answer is no! No you can’t make quick money from an online business. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and a great deal of patience, something of which many people entering the online business space don’t seem to have.

When they don’t get any revenue in the first few weeks from their products they begin covering every piece of html real estate with click though ads, affiliate links and adsense code. Expectantly they sit back and wait for the money to pour in. And guess what? None arrives.

Simply there are no quick money fixes on the internet. You need hard work and patience. With a lot of commitment and constant work you’ll begin to make money, maybe some serious money but you won’t get there with quick fixes. 

Should I use Social Media to help me sell more products?

Ben Lumley - Monday, November 09, 2009

No! This is where most businesses get it wrong.

Whether you’re running a bricks and mortar company with office space coming out of your eyeballs or a funky online store that comprises of you in your back room working until late at night the going off to your regular job, the answer is always no.

Social Media is not about selling. It’s not about whoring yourself and your business out on Twitter or Facebook or on your blog to make more money; it’s about a whole lot more. If you treat Social Media like another member of your sale teams, who’s constantly trying to sell every product that you have to anyone who will listen is just bad business. You’re about 5 years behind the trends if you do that. Wake up!

Social Media is about Customer Service. It’s about listening to what people have to say and what people want and helping them out. It’s about solving problems when you can with not asking for anything in return. Social Media connects you with your customers but that doesn’t give you the permission to assault them at every turn with the hard sell.

Try listening and not selling through Social Media. The people who sell for you through Social Media are your customers, who by word of mouth recommendations will bring new customers to you. 

Everyone is Clueless

Ben Lumley - Saturday, November 07, 2009
I'm such a Seth Godin fanboy. The way he puts his ideas across is second to none. His speeches and posts never fail to challenge me and make me think about business and marketing in a completely different way.

Seth recently posted this post about the essence of targetting the right people for our businesses. I've posted things by Seth before so I'm hoping that everyone enjoys this. 

The video Seth links to in this post is a really good watch so please go check it out. 

Everyone is Clueless by Seth Godin...

The problem with "everyone" is that in order to reach everyone or teach everyone or sell to everyone, you need to so water down what you've got you end up with almost nothing.

Everyone doesn't go to the chiropractor, everyone doesn't give to charity, everyone has never been to Starbucks. Everyone, in fact, lives a decade behind the times and needs hundreds of impressions and lots of direct experience before they realize something is going on.

You don't want everyone. You want the right someone.

Someone who cares about what you do. Someone who will make a contribution that matters. Someone who will spread the word.

As soon as you start focusing on finding the right someone, things get better, fast. That's because you can ignore everyone and settle in and focus on the people you actually want.

Here's a video that David sent over. I am thrilled at how much this guy loves his job, and I'm inspired by his story of how he turned down Pepsi as a vendor. He turned them down. But everyone wants Pepsi! Exactly. Once he decided he wanted someone, not everyone, his life got a lot better.

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