I like to braai. Not eating nor cooking the food so much, but the braaiing. You know: the ritual of lighting the fire, preparing the grid, staring into the flames, sipping a beer, irritating your friends.
For instance, at an away braai an effective irritation technique is to sniff expertly at the wood before you stack it. The idea is to pretend you can detect the exact degree of wetness, and, if it is not bone dry (think dynamite), protest about "bloody amateurs" and toss the stompie into a corner. It gets really annoying if you do this to several pieces of wood. Later, when the fire is lit, you can stage a coughing fit at imaginary smoke.
Of course, when you are using your own wood and others are watching (beware covert surveillance!), you go through the exact same ritual but, after sniffing the stompie, nod sagely, smile a little and silently, gently stack the stompie - just so. (You could even stick out a pinkie if you feel a bit of flair is called for).
Once done, caution everyone to take a step back before you light up...with a single match.
A well built fire with minimum smoke is a sure sign of civilized person. And of a brilliant mind.
Now, as I said, I don't like eating what I've braaied. Not because the food is not exceptionally brilliant and good enough to drive Jamie Oliver to unemployment and abject depression (because it is), but because it means the braai is over.
Fortunately years of experience taught us (guys mostly) the mystical skill of building a fire that almost never has quite the right heat on the coals: Our skill to extend the braai time beyond the barbaric, "make-a-fire-cook-and-eat" perversion(!) would be world famous if we weren't so scared our wives would find out about the subterfuge. A small price to pay for greatness.
So it came that, two hours after lighting the fire, my friend and I were sitting with feet propped up, sipping a(nother) beer while staring into the brilliant blaze.
The coals were not ready yet.
"So." I said. "How is business?"
He sighed, and bluntly asserted: "@#$$%6".
"That bad hu?" I asked, genuinely interested. Given my field of work (working for Cozahost), I naturally continued: "Are you marketing effectively cuzzin?"
"Well," he said slightly irritated, "I do have a web site."
Like that is the answer to the universe, Zimbabwe and everything.
"Dude." I said pointedly. "Check the meat over there." I pointed. "Is it cooked?"
He ignored the obviously rhetorical question.
"No, it's not, but we do have a fire, don't we?" He looked at me, tilted his head slightly as if to ask if I was serious, and then made a loud tsk! sound to say that was the stupidest question since...since...well since his wife asked him if he enjoyed loosing all that money at the casino.
To make my point, I said: "Your phone is not ringing."
He glanced over to his phone. "No it's not".
"Yes, it's not." I said.
He crushed his beer can. I teased him for a few minutes more until I started worrying about my medical cover and the cost of dental surgery, and then explained what I meant:
Effective web sites
A web site is a tool. Like a fire. Like a spade. Like a cell phone. It ENABLES you to do something.
It is not THE something.
People won't start phoning you just because you have a phone. Spades don't march out of the tool shed and dig holes in the garden. Fires don't braai meat by themselves (tsk!!). Simply having a web site will not get you business out of thin air.
On the other hand, you cannot take calls if you don't have a phone, you cannot dig holes if you don't have a spade, you cannot braai without a fire, and, as sure as cold beer, it is much more difficult to get business out of thin air if you do not have a web site.
So the question is not: "Do you have a web site" but rather "Do you have an EFFECTIVE web site.
So, what is an "effective web site"? Simple, really: An effective web site is a site that produces the effect you want: be that to get leads, or make sales, or service existing clients. If your web site does produce the results you want - then it is not effective. (Duh!)
Does this mean web sites per-se are not effective? Err, no.
People who still believe that the most used technologies on planet earth are by nature ineffective, should find their time machines and dial back to 1970...the 21st century will not be kind to them.
For the rest of us (or to those whose time machine is broken) the question is then:
How to make your web site more effective?
1. UNDERSTAND: Make sure you understand exactly what you want from the site: do you want new leads? Service existing customers better? Build your brand? Sell more product? If it is more than one of the above, start with just one objective at first.
2. MEASURE: Implement metrics to measure how effective your site is - count the new leads for instance. If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage or improve it.
3. HONE: (make sharp) every single page on your site: when a visitor lands on (every specific page) your site, what do you want them to do? Leave? Surely not? So what then? Is the action you want them to take clear, obvious and does the content of the page lead to that?
4. QUALITY CONTENT: Add quality, original content to your site. You don't have to be Shakespeare. Write a review of your latest project, tips about your product, case studies, etc. Search google for content applicable to your business for ideas...see what your competitors are doing...and tune your site.
5. SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING: Get your site listed for your chosen keywords when a user searches Google. First decide which keywords you want to target (make them as specific as possible). For instance "B&B" is not practical. "B&B in Seapoint" is better. "Plummer" is bad. "Plummer in Bellville" is better. "Ebook" is bad. "how to get rich in your sleep ebook" is better. Use Axandra's software to get you on the first page of Google. They guarantee they can get you there...or your money back. Good deal if you ask me. Check them out here...
6. IMPROVE, IMPROVE, IMPROVE: Now constantly review your management and constantly improve your site. Don't know what to do next or out of ideas? Then educate yourself: You can get a trail subscription to the "Step by step guide to selling online" for about R 25.00. It is the best marketing rand you will spend on your business ever - or you might get inspired to kick of a few new ones to diversify your income stream. Low risk. High return. Your call.
At this point my wife called to say we should braai. Now. If the coals were not ready, the microwave was.
So, I had to leave it there (for the moment), with this thought: The time, money and effort you invest in your web site will bring handsome returns for a long time to come, or, you can do nothing - like that's been working for you. ;-)