I have been experiencing the promise of a great solution to improve what it is that we do for our clients, and how to attract more of the right sort of clients. At this point in my use of and experience with the new software, I am finding that I am, what Richard Tripp calls, becoming tribal.
I have read hundreds of books about entrepreneurialism, business and leadership.In fact its probably what I spend the most amount of time in my personal development outside of my immediate discipline as a financial planner. This is in part because I love business, to some people that sounds weird, but others of you will get it. I love seeing businesses thrive, creating jobs and value. I have always been interested in entrepreneurialism and business, which is why I did a Business Studies Degree after school, though frankly it was not the experience that I had hoped it would be. Unfortunately it wasn’t the right fit for me at the time, over the 4-year sandwich course, I enjoyed no more than a handful of lectures and the most memorable was about design, by someone who wasn’t even part of the Business School.
Anyhow, Richard Tripp has a great 30 minute video, highlighting the problems that many (probably most) businesses suffer from, which probably helps explain the high business failure rate. So if you are a business owner, or are planning to start one, have a look at his video. I’m not suggesting you sign up, but certainly have a look at www.povmethod.com
Dominic Thomas: Solomons
Does your website need a redesign?
Most web pages include lots of “furniture”, such as branding, navigation, images, advertising and lists of other useful things you might want to look at. Indeed, when we land on a plain text web page we tend to think it is something from the dark ages of the early Internet. These days we expect colour, graphics, video, useful links and so on.
However, new research suggests this could all be working against us, as website owners.
Neuroscientists at University College London have identified a phenomenon they are calling “load blindness” – the more information that we see, the more we don’t see it. This is a particular problem in certain professions such as being an airline pilot or a surgeon, where lots of visual information has to be processed. However, it is clearly also an issue for web pages.
What the researchers found was that when we are presented with lots of information in one go, our awareness for that information decreases. Indeed, the scientists found that the impact was the equivalent of turning the lights down to dim – we just can’t see as much.
The problem for web designers, though, is how do you include all the necessary information without leading to “load blindness”?
When you only have a small amount of information presented, added extras lead to distraction. So if you design a simple web page with one banner advert, for instance, the advertisement distracts the visitor, leading to loss of attention on what you might be wanting them to read. However, if you overload the page with extra “furniture” the distraction level appears to drop – therefore suggesting that you might get more engagement. But this new study suggests the opposite – it implies that your visitors don’t actually see as much as you think they do. The overload of information is effectively closing their eyes to what you want them to see.
What this study is really suggesting to us as website owners is that we need to think carefully about the pages we produce. Too little visual information can lead to distraction, too much visual information can lead to load blindness. Either way, many web pages could be getting traffic, but not actually having the required impact. It could explain why bounce rates are so high, on average; people simply do not see anything when they land on the pages because there is too much to see.
It is not the extent of the information that is the problem – you can have web pages with thousands of words on them. It is the amount of visual information that can be seen in a glance that is the issue. Too much “furniture” on your web pages could mean that people simply do not see what you want them to see.
Today Graham pulls no punches as he outlines the need for businesses to have a proper strategy for utilising new technology fully or face the plight of those that didn’t adapt quickly enough, such as Kodak or Polaroid.
Let’s face facts: the digital world is fundamental to all businesses. Even if you sell offline or operate mainly in the “real world”, the digital world has an impact on your business. Whether it is for communications, such as email, or as a starting point for buyers researching your business, the Internet is central to customers.
The problem is that most businesses themselves use the Internet as a “nice-to-have” and not as central to their business. When I speak to Chief Executives and point out this difference they nod their heads in agreement. But then they say it is “impossible” to change their business to focus on the Internet because it would involve too much change.
Now, though, they are in for a shock. The highly respected consultancy firm Forrester has said that unless businesses make this change they will “face an extinction event” within the next decade.
They are saying this because their latest research shows that only 21% of companies have a clear vision for the future use of digital within their business. That’s in spite of 90% of firms agreeing that digital will revolutionise their sector within the next 12 months….! And they are not the only consultants sounding the warning bell – just three months ago Capgemini published their own research suggesting that businesses simply have to make the Internet central to their company, regardless of their sector or industry.
According to Forrester, businesses are now just “bolting on” the Internet to their existing business structures. But what is required, they say, is a complete “re-set” – a fundamental shift in the way businesses are structured and run. Business leaders I meet are totally unprepared to do this because of the seismic shift required. Yet the warning from Forrester is stark: do it or die.
When you look at successful businesses online they are mostly businesses which focus their firm on the Internet – Google, Facebook, Amazon for instance. But it is not just technology-based companies like these online startups which have embraced digital as central to their business. Back in 2012 Starbucks transformed itself into a digital centric company.
Business leaders, used to a non-digital world, find it hard to make the transformation necessary. So, what is the solution? The first step must surely be to conduct an immediate review of the kinds of people setting strategy and plans for your company. The data from Forrester and Capgemini both point to the need to use the services of those “digital natives” in central roles in your company. The future of your business could well depend upon giving the strategic reins to your grandchildren.
Graham Jones is a man that knows a thing or two about the web and our relationship with it. He is an internet psychologist with a lot of useful insights, in particular for those that own or run a business in the UK. Here is his latest piece to get business owners thinking – which includes me. So let me know how I can help you too.
Business owners heed lessons from online retail
Where do you go to buy things these days? The chances are you use a variety of sources – local shops, out-of-town retail parks, town-based shopping centres and, of course, the Internet. However, increasing amounts of evidence show that the starting point for our purchases is the web, with Google being our “number one” place to go to start our shopping journey.
The latest piece of research comes from the incentives company, Parago. They found that the majority of shoppers begin their decisions about what to buy on the web. It means that if you are not using your website as central to selling, you are missing out – big time. Only for groceries, building supplies and pet supplies do people choose a retail store as the first port of call – though second on the list is either Google or Amazon for those shoppers.
But look deeper into the figures. They show that your products and services need to be found on Google – but that you also need to be on Amazon and have your own retail website too, if you are to pick up the most shoppers. Indeed, even for subscription services, people prefer to look for you on Amazon than in social media.
The study also found that the time taken to buy something is now down to 2.25 days. That suggests that if you don’t follow-up website visitors immediately, then you are losing out on sales because the decision to buy will have already been made if you wait more than a day or two to contact people.
In other words, to sell these days you have to be fast and you must have the web as central to your sales process.
Every business has its ups and downs… well maybe there are a few exceptions, but it seems a fair generalisation. There are lots of reasons for running a business, but “simply for the fun of it”, is not a sustainable approach as most businesses drain the owners of time, energy and money. There may be (and hopefully there is) a really valuable service or product being provided through the business – after all that’s what will make it successful. This invariably is based on a conviction and passion about serving a particular need in life, not everyone’s but certainly a “target audience”. So a business can have many valid merits and virtues. However it also needs to work for the owner and many business owners forget that it needs to serve them too. Indeed I would argue that it needs to serve them first, if it doesn’t it is unlikely to be sustainable and therefore end up serving nobody. Whilst customers don’t wish to be taken advantage of, the sensible ones know that a healthy business is far better than one on its knees, struggling to survive; it inspires confidence for future service and reliability.
What is your why?
Business owners therefore need to think through what they really want out of the business. This may change over time, it probably will. Importantly though, you need to pay yourself before everyone else. This doesn’t mean being greedy, it means ensuring that you aren’t left with, well… what’s left. The principal of “pay yourself first” is well established and most employees will be familiar with it. You get a salary and then your bills are paid.. but noting that someone else gets paid at the same time – your State pension (NI) and the taxman – who clocked on many years ago that being paid first, each month is a reliable way to secure that payments arrive.
Business Owners have far more options
However, for the business owner it goes deeper. Paying yourself first also includes money for the future – such as a pension pot. This shouldn’t be left as a last expense, but a first expense. I was working with a business owner this morning, who is building a successful company and gradually employing more staff, taking on new premises and so on. As with all business owners there are more options and solutions for great financial planning. Those we discussed today were never selling the business, but building it so that dividends can be paid until death, but with others (a good pair of hands) taking over the management at some stage (ideally well before “retirement”). Another option is to build a value into the business, so that someone else might want to buy it and figuring out, how much the after tax and sales costs the sum needs to be. Thirdly, simply get the company to pay into a pension scheme, a business cost and part of the owners remuneration. There are other options too, but great financial planning will outline the options, help quantify the figures and build a plan that achieves the right results, knowing what returns are needed. All in all, empowering business owners to look after themselves, so that they can look after their staff and their customers.
Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA