Archive for the ‘Business 2.0’ Category

Building a site that converts

Posted: April 18, 2011 in Business 2.0

Converting Customers

I’ve talked about conversion pipelines before, market testing your ideas online and maximizing online profit. A critical part of your success in all of these areas is your ability to create a site which converts. There are many pretty sites online which are totally ineffective. Many companies charge you for a flash design, then walk away and leave you floundering. It is quite something else to create a site which consistently converts visitors to paid customers.

I’ve created many sites selling complex products which convert as high as 10% of visitors to software trials, enquires or product sales. There are a few tricks to this which I’ve put into a short lesson which should get you converting traffic to sales in no time. I will focus on creating a killer home since this is where all the action happens.

If you want to look at the example site it is Centeros a dcim product.

Good Design
Good design is a critical starting point for any successful site. The design is the only thing which tells a potential customer if your company is a two man shop in Bangalore or a multi-national. Customers will decide what they think of your company within a couple of seconds of hitting your home page and the design will play a big part in this.

Web trends change like clothing fashions. A site which looked great in 2005 is going to look like brown flared pants today. So get a professional designer to do the design then keep it current.

The Journey
Putting a good design in place is common sense, the next bit is the magic. You need to hook your potential customer in within 10 seconds. This means organising your home page perfectly. To do this you need to understand the way your customer thinks and take them on a journey.

We order the page in a way which takes our viewer’s eye past everything they need to know to make the decision that we are indeed what they are looking for. The following diagram shows the journey and what we show them on the way.
1. Name – Tag Line
Our customer eyeballs the middle of the page then searches for a starting point. The question we are answering is “What company is this?”. That is why the company’s name should always be top left. Associated with the name should be a tag line. The tag line is a way of conveying in a glace what your company does. “Centeros – data center operating system”. Now your customer knows the company name and what the product is. Your customer is not interested yet, but we made it easy for them to determine they are in the right place.

2. Elevator Pitch
The next stop for your customer’s eyeballs is an elevator pitch. Your customer now wants to understand exactly what you do, but will only spend a few precious seconds on this. I’ve been to plenty of sites where it takes longer than 10 seconds to establish what their product does. Most often I give up.

Your Elevator Pitch should be clear, crisp and precise. Describe exactly what your product or service is, no more. Your customer should read the pitch and want to know more.

3. Something Flash
We now need to hit the customer with some eye candy. Show them something flash and sexy, showcasing your product. This is going to excite and leave them wanting more.

4. Credibility
As the customers eye balls browse lazily across your page you need to pop items in front of them which reinforce credibility. How do they know you are a real company? Someone they will willingly trust with their data and probably even credit card details. If you have some major customers, make sure you pop their logos on the front page.

5. Core Messages
If we don’t do the previous steps to warm a customer up they probably won’t read any details. If we did our job well, the previous five steps left them wanting more. This is the time to provide a summary of our key value areas. Keep this simple, something the customer can scan in ten seconds which allows them to understand your product will fulfil their needs. I generally break this up into core messages, each with a title.

6. Some life
A good reason for having your blog posts, or twitter syndicated to the home page is to show some life. Make sure they know there is action happening here, things being released, people buying.

7. A Crowd
Point 6 & 7 are important, people buy where other people are buying. Imagine one evening you are walking down a street with your other half looking to select a restaurant for dinner. You peek in each window checking how they look. You read the menu for sure, but the thing which leaves the biggest impression is the number of other people in the restaurant. I’m sure we have all walked away from a restaurant with no one in it. Point 6 & 7 aim to provide the feeling of a crowd of people buying from you. I often stick pictures of happy customers, quotes etc on the home page. This alleviates the customer’s fear that they are your only customer.

8. Call to Action
Some place high up on each page you also need a call to action. A big bold button with your goal often works, like “Free Trial” or “Free Evaluation”. Once you have the customer hooked you want to lead them quickly in the right direction. The call to action is the first part of this process.

If you follow these steps and design a nice looking page you are on the path to making your site successful. You should get people interested, get them excited about your product, show them credibility and give them an easy way to buy from you. Put it all together and your site will convert.


I'm a Steve Ballmer

General lack of coolness
Microsoft have always been uncool, but it never used to matter. Why? Because back when Windows 95 came out computers were still not really domestic devices. The Internet was still made up of pictures of Anna Nicole Smith, tech articles and university sites. Kids might have played computer games but that was probably about it.

Scroll forward to today and the whole scene has changed. Computers are now true consumer devices and that consumer is the notorious Gen-Y. The same Gen that spends leisure time on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, sharing photos of themselves and listening to MP3s is also deeply concerned about what is cool.

It all starts at the top. Go check out some videos of Steve Balmer, then Steve Jobs. The difference couldn’t be clearer. When Balmer talks about photo or music sharing you know he does about as much of that as your dad. They have tried so hard to market cool to the photo sharing public, but are being so outpaced by Apple it’s embarrassing. Meanwhile the Gen-Y’s are out in force pimping their Macbooks in cafes, flaunting their white headphones and ipads.

This will create two serious problems for Microsoft. Firstly Gen-Y is taking over the world, while the Bill Gates generation are retiring. But worse is an old secret Microsoft knew well, that business computing is driven by home computing. In the 90s business users had CD Roms, sound cards and Windows 95 at home. Anything we have at home eventually gets dragged into the office. The same thing is starting to happen for Apple. Innovation at home drives adoption in the office.

Lack of Innovation & Hardware
The best example to demonstrate the way Microsoft innovates is the touch mouse. I remember seeing a video tour of Microsoft labs last year, where nerdy looking guys demonstrated possible future mice designs. There was lots of cutting edge but blatantly awkward R&D efforts showing different designs. Among the pack they showed off several ugly looking prototype multi touch mice they had in development. Apparently at some time in the distant future this technology might make it to production.

Several months later Apple released their multi touch mouse. An elegant curve of translucent plastic containing all the flash goodies Microsoft had predicted for the future. I could only imagine the disappointment back at Microsoft labs.

As another example, Microsoft had the handheld market for 10 years and the best they could do was that horrible cut down Windows Mobile OS. The same OS made damn sure no one was dreaming about having the latest Microsoft mobile device. Apple came into the market and killed them with their first iPhone release.

MS also had a monopoly on tablets, where, like mobile, they simply added some new features to their standard OS. Remember those laptops with the fold over screen and the stylus. Once again blown away by Apples first release of the iPad.

Part of this is lack of control over hardware of course. If the best your hardware partners can come up with is a Compaq iPaq you’re pretty much f@cked no matter what you do.

For Apple innovation is business as usual. Every year they hold Macworld and show off a game changing device, that’s just what they do as a company. The company is tuned to turn out killer new devices and big leaps forward. Microsoft as a company seems to be the opposite, an organisation which stumbles around spending billions on innovation with little to show. Some light was thrown on this last year by Dick Brass, a former Microsoft exec, who released an article blasting the way the internal bureaucracy deliberately gets in the way of innovation.

Do you think Steve Jobs would put up with this? No way. He’s a maniacal dictator, but one with a clear vision who gets what he wants. If he sniffed any of this behaviour at Apple there would be mass firings (without a second thought).

It shows once again that innovation isn’t a lab off to the side of a business, it’s the way a good business is setup to work. There is always a competitor coming from behind, if we don’t leap forward each year we loose our audiences attention and someone else will get it. Apple makes sure every year legions of fans are waiting for the next big thing and Apple always delivers this to them.

Apples new iPhone for 2010?

Posted: December 7, 2009 in Business 2.0

Every year as Macworld draws near the blog-sphere opens up and a veritable deluge of predictions rain forth. I overheard a colleague this week talking up Apple shares and speculating on what direction everyone’s favorite company would turn in 2010.

I did some thinking and decided I would get my predications in for next year. At least if I’m wrong people will have forgotten and I can quietly compromise my credibility by removing this entry on the sly.

So let’s walk through the facts. Life is good at Apple, Steve is back and the company is booming. MAC sales had flattened to 4% in Q3 but in Q4 chalked up a respectable 3 million units which is up 17% from last year.

They sold 7.4 million iPhones in Q4 or 7% growth from last year. To offer a more telling contrast in Q3 they sold 5.2 million iPhones or seven times as much as the previous year. 700% !

Ipod sales however are down, declining consistently around 8% when compared to the previous year. So it looks like people are finally moving away from music devices towards smart phones. iTunes hit 2 Billion downloads some time ago and continues to dominate online music sales, which one can only assume will be the only type of music sales in a couple of years time.

So we can establish that Apple is now becoming a phone company. So what do smart phone companies do after releasing their flag ship model? To substantiate the answer let’s look at two examples, Palm and Blackberry. We all remember what a hit the original half foot wide Blackberry was. The company followed that up by producing a smaller slimmer cousin called the Pearl. This phone made Blackberry a standard issue amongst corporate warriors and wannabees alike. Somehow it even managed to briefly bring back the rush of prestige business people felt when using a car phone during the late 80s. Once again people started putting their phones back on meeting room tables.

So what about Palm? This year they released the beautiful Palm Pre which gives the iPhone a run for its money, at least in the sexiness’ stakes. With 500,000 units sold exceeding expectations it still comes a little short of the 1 million units the iPhone 3GS sold in its first week. With its sexy flag ship in place Palm are making the obvious move by releasing a second webOS device. The smaller Palm Pixi will be available before the end of 2009.

My guess is Apple will follow suit. The mobile phone market is notoriously fickle and today’s hot phone is always tomorrow’s brick. The iPhone is the undisputed aspirational product of the year (again) and its success has already affected iPod sales negatively. The local step is to bring out a slimmer, cheaper and more pocket friendly version for generation Y.

To see how this would look, just check out a picture of the iPod range. Now image an iPhone range, one large touch screen like the Blackberry or the Palm Pre, then a smaller unit possibly with buttons like the Pixi or the Pearl. That is my pick for next year’s hot product, check out my hacked photo and let me know if you have any predications.

Horrible Hack

iPhone 2010

Here are some other predications of how it might look.

In the last week I’ve heard many ‘interesting’ ways to take an average under-motivated team and turn it into one of the illusive High Performance variety. Office furniture, pool tables, team structure, salaries etc. all appear to be important.

I thought I would throw my 10 cents in and describe the tangible elements I have always found in teams that performed better than most.

I apologize for my exclusion of pot plants, natural light and meeting rooms that look like ski lifts.

1. People
Forget trying to change people – it just takes too long. The famous book Good To Great said correctly ”Get the wrong people off the bus and the right people on it as quickly as you can”. If you want your team to perform above average you need better than average people (no brainer, huh).

If you don’t know how to pick or recognise these people make sure you start by hiring a manager in their field who does. I personally always start with the same profile. Youthful, extremely bright people, with a genuine passion for what they are doing. These are the people who won’t let you down, will work on into the night and spend their spare time reading articles online to improve their skills.

Simply put, if you staff your team with these people you can’t go wrong.

2. A clear and exciting mission
You won’t get these people past a first interview unless you have a clearly defined and inspiring mission to offer. They don’t want to be on a losing team and they see their time as an investment which should take them somewhere great. You need to lay out a mission ie.“We’re going to be first to market with a world beating product using cutting edge technology, in 12 months we predict 100% growth etc.”.

If you do it right, good people will be climbing over each other to become part of it.

3. A clear business goal
It’s common sense but every great company needs a clear goal and a plan to get there. For a team to perform well they need to know exactly where you want them to take the company. Enough said.

4. Inspirational Leadership
Your team will be running on strong coffee and long hours so it’s very important they have an inspiring leader to keep them motivated. Sure, your highly intelligent staff members are like race horses but they still need someone to motivate and keep them running in the same direction.

5. A Reason
You now have a team of smart people working towards your goal and you better believe they will be asking themselves…what’s in it for me. You need a good answer to this question. There are plenty of ways to address this. Options, shares, bonuses. Pick something which suits your situation but just make sure there is something in it for them. There is nothing more demoralising for a smart, in-demand person than the feeling of working extra hours to make someone else rich. This should be avoided if you want to keep the talent you have spent so much time and money recruiting.

Put these factors together and your team will perform, it won’t be able to help itself. You will have the best talent working on an exciting and clear mission, motivated by an inspirational leader, happy in the knowledge that their late nights are going to make them rich.

Here are some photos of what Google believes makes a team perform. (Spot the people working – no I couldn’t either). For more go to Picasa

My New Shoes

Posted: May 6, 2009 in Business 2.0

Every now and then you see something online that is a game changer. Great way to start a blog aye! But grandstanding metaphors aside I have fallen for a new site which offers a glimpse of the future (of retail at least).

Consider the way sociality has moved over the last 100 years. After living through the great depression our grandparents were happy to have jobs and a roof over their heads. Our parents lived life a little grander and added a TV and Stereo. But you can be sure they kept that stereo for 20 years before you convinced them to throw it out and go blue ray.

Fast forward to 2009. Our friends in Asia have managed to make everything so cheap you can afford the latest flat screen TV and feel like you need to upgrade 2 years later to get a second HDMI port. CD, Mini-Disk, DVD, Blue Ray,IPod. If you’re under 30 you’ve probably have had most of these.

So now we are swamped with cheap product what is the next step? We all drive flash cars have the latest hi-fi gear and trade our phones up each year. We have everything we possibly need but none of it is special or different. It’s the same old stuff everyone else has.

The next step is of course personalisation. We want things that are unique to us and define who we are.

The first good example of this is Its co-founders started Threadless in 2000 with $1000 and a vision of revolutionising the humble t-shirt. Using a model, now known as crowd sourcing, designers (and would be designers) upload their own t-shirt designs and each week the site’s users select the top 10 designs which are produced (and sold for $12).

This fitted perfectly into the need for customisation and its founders were pleasantly surprised when the company started growing 500% a year with no advertising, professional designers, photographers or sales force.

As is the way of the world it took seven years for main stream retail brands to catch up. Today I tried NikeID and it totally blew me away. The site allows you to design your own shoes and clothing. Take a standard design and customise the different elements till you end up with your perfect statement clothing article.

I’ve been looking for the perfect pair of shoes for ages. I wanted something kind of like a golf shoe, 10% hipster, 10% information technology, thin, slick, would go with jeans and stylish. Think I could find one, nope. Within 5 minutes I was addicted, I’ve created my perfect basketball shoe which I can even brand “Air Mac”, a fair of casual shoes and a company t-shirt. This is seriously cool! And everyone I showed around the office was hooked.

Try it…I bet you will never buy a standard pair of shoes again…unless like me you live outside the US.

I’ve read a fair bit on the subject of Mass Customisation & Personalisation and also crowd sourcing. It all makes alot of sense and can be applied in various forms to most businesses. However alot of it is fairly fluffy so it’s good to see a site that just does it.

For another take on the model check out this site for a vending machine that allows you to design your own drink : New vending machine