Category : Small Biz Blog

Should I Get Involved In A Chamber of Commerce?

When starting a business there are a few fundamentals you need to understand. You have to understand supply and demand, operations, cash flow, marketing and service. But where does someone get plugged into the local small business market when they are just starting out? The Northwest Suburbs of Chicago is a big place! This is a great question for people that are looking to start their own business, or are moving their business to a new location.

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Top 5 Things Your Website Is Most Likely Missing

Young business woman in cafeHaving a website is a marketing must for small businesses these days. If you don’t have a website yet to market your product or services, you are missing out on the essential “pull” traffic that Google search (and others) provide. However, many companies do have a website but are missing some essential elements when they come to Severity Design to make updates or changes. Here we have listed the top 5 things your current website is most likely missing:

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Things To Consider When Hiring A Web Designer

Screen-Shot-2015-06-19-at-2.59.15-PM-1140x410Severity Design has been creating smart looking websites for the small business community since 2009. We started in this industry because we saw the need for business owners to get educated about utilizing the web to reach out and market their product or service. When looking for a website designer to help launch your website, there are a few things to consider before you do so. Many people, just starting out, will look for a web designer from a friend or family member. This might save you a few bucks, but in the long run it will always be more beneficial for you to hire a professional. Here are a few things to think about when seeking the professional services of a website developer:

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Why You Still Need A Website in 2015

websiteSurprisingly, I still hear the occasional business person tell me that they don’t need a website, or the other one is “A website is a waste of money.” I think it was the Microsoft guru Bill Gates that once said “There are two types of businesses, those who are going online and those who are going out of business.” We here at Severity Design stick by Bill. You cannot afford to NOT have a website in 2015. Today the internet provides a reach for businesses that traditional forms of marketing do not provide. Your website is your piece of internet real estate and your website is often the most important part of your sales team. Here are some of the key reasons you need a website to do business in 2015 no matter what business you’re in:

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Severity Design Joins Northern Kane County Chamber

logoAs of March of this year, Severity Design is proud to announce our new affiliation with the Northern Kane County Chamber. As with all chambers of commerce, the NKCC’s vision is to advocate the general interest of regional commerce and industry. We have only been a part of the chamber for a few months and already have felt welcome and at home. There are many networking opportunities and speaking arrangements that Severity Design has had to help educate small business owners about website marketing as a tool for their business and getting the most return on their investment. Websites are a must have marketing tool to do business today and a successful small business owner must have one in order to compete in the online market space. Unfortunately, many small business’ simply can’t afford to hire a ‘high end’ professional that will most likely sell them on services they don’t need and use techie language to confuse them. Severity Design fills this need for small businesses to acquire a creative, professional and affordable website that doesn’t burst their budget.

This year, Severity Design is also rolling out two new services to its customers, Search Engine Marketing campaigns and Social Media set up and management. “We have come to realize that just having your website sitting out in cyberspace is not really effective. In addition to affordable websites, we also provide affordable search engine marketing services to help our customer’s websites rank better in Google, Yahoo and Bing.” says Rusty Wimberly, the owner of Severity Design. This can include simple onsite and offsite optimization or it can include managing an effective Pay Per Click campaign. Severity Design offers 6 month programs for businesses that want to see greater traffic driven to their website, and we all know more traffic can translate into more contacts. More contacts, mean more sales.

Severity Design looks forward to being involved more in the Northern Kane County Chamber this year and meeting the dozens of businesses that are serviced through this wonderful organization. We hope to add value and bring the insight and talent to the table that could be of use to anybody who is interested in taking their start-up or dated website to the next level. You can contact Severity Design for a free website evaluation at 630-415-4054 or simply contact them at their website

Websites Between 800-1200 Dollars

I figured I’d write a blog post on pricing for those of you who might be in the market for a new website, but have no idea what it costs to hire someone to create one. I get asked the question all the time, “How much for a website?”. Here is how I explain the pricing structure for most website designers or agencies you might work with:

Free-500: This is usually your cousin or friend of the family. They have no formal education in design or building websites for that matter. They do this as a hobby and usually will utilize some type of WYSIWYG editor or hosting website builder. Your template will be generic, but you’re saving a few hundred bucks. Don’t expect to get top notch service from these people. They will not be around when you need them, and most likely will take a year to develop your website.

800-1200: This is the price range Severity Design falls into. We like to keep things affordable, fast and easy for our clients. We utilize easy to use content management systems like WordPress, Joomla or others to allow for fast and easy custom websites within a 3-4 day turn around time. Is your website built original from the ground up? Heck no! This would take hours of planning and development time, which you probably can’t afford. This is the next best option. Your site will look professional, clean and attractive, not to mention a step up in customer service.

3000-5000: This is the cost most professional firms or agencies might charge. These are the guys that probably put forth a fully custom design from scratch. Usually, instead of 3-4 days this might take 3-4 weeks and requires a lot more upfront planning and thought put into it. Be careful though, some firms CLAIM your design is from scratch and charge you this amount, but its not. They are using a template and charging you an arm and leg for small time work. You might be able to get away with a more dynamic website, but you get what you pay for.

5-10,000: Either you’re doing a custom e-commerce website here, or your just being ripped off. No one needs to pay 10,000 for a small business website these days.

I hope you don’t mind my straight-forward talk, but this is pretty much how it is folks. No more guessing how much to design a website. Do you have a small business or dream website you’d like to get started on? Contact us today for find out what we can do for you?

UnMarketing Book Review

Scott Stratten’s book UnMarketing: Stop Marketing, Start Engaging, flipped my perspective of marketing on its head. My wife and I were at the library thumbing through books and I happened to just pull this one off the shelf due to the grabbing book title. Immediately, as I’m thumbing through the first chapter of the book, I realized that this was a keeper and I took it home to read through. I’m glad I did.

In the first chapter, Scott discusses the hierarchy of buying. At the top of the pyramid is the smallest, but the area of “marketing” where the majority of potential business will come from, current satisfied customers. Of course, we move down to the larger base of the triangle, which signifies the largest, broadest form of marketing that people try and utilize to gain business. This happens to be “random search” and cold calling. (Two of the things I’ve crossed my fingers with, hoping to get business..albeit unsuccessfully.) This chapter alone was worth the whole book. From it I learned that, as a small business, I should focus the majority of my time, energy and resources on gaining more business from those who I already have a relationship with.

The whole premise of Scott’s book is that old marketing tactics don’t work any more. The modern buyer is way more shopping savvy these days and wants more than a list of features and benefits when making a buying decision. We have to create “engagement” with our market. We have to listen and provide value to them even before they decide to buy. The book is filled with case studies and stories about businesses that have “gotten it” and how it has worked for them to increase brand awareness and their bottom line. Aside from the stories, the book also offers up practical insights as to how to engage and utilize techniques that will help businesses start conversation with their market. Doing this will hopefully help businesses build and attract customers, versus the old “push and pray” tactics that aren’t working today. Instead of brushing off social media as a “fad”, businesses need to start seeing social media as a tool in their marketing tool box to engage customers.

We must face the fact that people are using social media, so if we are going to put ourselves out there, we have to take our products and services to where the people are at. The key is doing it in the right way. Providing valuable resources instead of sounding like an infomercial when we socialize. If you are a business owner who cares about staying in business, I would highly recommend you add this book to your marketing arsenal. I’m sure you’ll pull away a weeks worth of new things to add to what you already do, if not a few nuggets of insight we all could use to help market our businesses in today’s digital market space.

What Google+ Means For Your Business

I have to admit, I’ve been a naysayer for Google+ for a while. As of today the user statistics for Facebook, Twitter and Google+ are as follows: Facebook has 1.11 billion users, Twitter 500 million total users, and Google+ has 343 million active users. Facebook is still in the lead where over 1 billion users are sitting. However, Google+ has major advantages that small businesses need to consider. Here are a couple of them you need to consider factoring in your decision on whether to spend time on Google+:

1. Google obviously owns search rankings.
This reason alone is enough for you to at least set up a full Google+ profile. Google will obviously play favorites to businesses and individuals that use its own social media platform above the rest. Google+ works powerfully on Google and has given their +1 button a big advantage when it comes to their own ranking factors. Keep in mind Google owns Youtube as well.

2. Google Places/Google+ Local
You know when you pull up that map on your cell phone when your out with the fam looking for some pizza? Yea, you. Well, the businesses that come up under the Google maps search listing are businesses that have filled out and claimed their Google places page. Give customers the right information about your business by updating your contact information, hours and more. I’m pretty sure you’ll need a Google+ account to set this up.

3. Google Hangouts
Google hangouts are a neat way for you to hold video conference calls. You can also stream your hangout session to your website, youtube or Google+ page. If and POTUS Barack Obama have hosted Google Hangouts, I think its time you did too. Participants faces will be displayed via their webcams below the presenter’s main screen – and participants can “take the floor” also. You can:

– Hold a workshop
– Give presentations
– Conduct a team meeting and more.

4. Last but not least, Greater audience engagement: I find people are more interested and engaged in the sharing and conversations that go on within Google+. There is also more substance in the comments as compared to other social media tools. Google’s “+1” button (“plus one”) gives you similar functionality to Facebook’s “Like” button. It lets people recommend your content on Google Search and share it on Google+. You should add a +1 to your pages to help your site stand out.

All this to say that even just setting up your Google+ account is worth the benefits mentioned. To get the full usage out of the Google+ page, consider hiring us to set up, customize and brand your account. We do social media set up, customization and management for you so you can focus on the more important parts of your business.
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5 Small Business Marketing Ideas for Fall

small business marketing ideas 2013So what if its the middle of Summer? Can’t you already feel the crisp autumn leaves crunching on the ground or visualize the beauty of the first snow fall? We’ll, if you haven’t yet, you should start! Just take a look in your latest newspapers advertisments. Businesses are already starting to advertise for “Back2School” and the Labor Day holiday which is next month. This is the time for you to begin to ramp up your marketing for the fall. If business has been light or slow for the Summer months, take advantage of the time you have now to create marketing collateral, develop your sales ideas for the last big hurrah for the year. Here are a few tips and ideas for marketing for the upcoming holiday season:

1. Say Thank You
Get your email lists in order! Take advantage of upcoming holidays to tell your clients and customers “Thank You” for their business. Be genuine and make sure your emails and cards STAND OUT. List a few accomplishments the company has achieved because of their support. This is a chance to not only show appreciation, but also to put your face in front of them to continue to nurture and foster your business relationship. This is where having a up to date email list is valuable. If you’re not collecting emails yet, what are you waiting for?

2. Holiday Events, Fundraisers or Open Houses
Take this opportunity to schedule a holiday celebration, party or event. Make sure you use Facebook and other social media to advertise and get the word out. Holidays are for socializing and getting together. Keep the primary purpose for the event social so people don’t feel like they are being marketed to. Make a brief mention about the services and products you provide and if people are interested they will buy or spread the word.

3. Don’t Stop A Major Holidays
Yea, everyone pays attention to the big ones, but consider taking advantage of the other smaller holidays as well. Remember September 8th is Grandparents Day, November we have Veteran’s Day and Black Friday. Remember October 14th is Columbus Day and the 16th is Boss’s Day. Here is a list of marketing holidays here to put on your marketing schedule.

4. Holiday Mobile Apps
If you’re a business that’s taking advantage of mobile applications, you’re already ahead of the competition. A large percentage of people are now searching on smart phones and tablets. Make sure your website is viewable on these devices, but also consider creating a fun mobile app for the holidays. Make sure that it is either something useful or funny like a game or map of industry related items. Think it costs millions to develop an app? Think again.

5. Forget it All and Take A Vacation!

Don’t wait for the last minute to get these marketing items in order and begin thinking about taking advantage of this high traffic driven season. This is the best time right now to begin to plan for making the most of the fall and winter months to make it the best end of quarter thus far! If you need help with marketing, consulting or creating attractive web content for your small business, please consider giving us a call to discuss your project! We’re happy to help!

Is Your Website Mobile? Adapting to Current Social Trends.

Is your website mobile? Why should my website be available on mobile phones you say? You can’t ignore mobile, even if you think that your customers aren’t using it. And it’s not even just mobile, but you also have to consider other devices people are searching on such as ipads and tablets. According to this article on Smartinsights, a small business marketing website, tablet and smartphone usage nearly doubled in the last year based on a study of 500 million visits tracked. Research, and personal experience, is showing that mobile devices are still ahead of the game for being used as a research and browsing platform. The bottom line is if your website is not optimized for mobile, table or otherwise, you may be missing out on those who are searching for your product or services. For those websites that are e-commerce related, this translates into dollars and sense. Thus, it makes TOTAL SENSE for you to make sure that your website can be browsed on mobile.

Another thing you have to think about is email marketing. Smart phone users are checking more email from their phone, if your email consists of links back to your website and they visit the site and its broken, what does that say about your business? It doesn’t matter if you’re a family owned farm celebrating its 75th anniversary or a business that just opened its doors, mobile already influences the lives of your customers and will gain more influence in the years to come. So what do you have to do to make sure your site is mobile friendly? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Simplify Your Design
Pull up your website on a smartphone and take note of the design changes needed. Does your site require larger font sizes? How about critical information placed above the fold? You’ll go a long way providing big, touchable buttons for navigation on your mobile website design.

2. Use Responsive Design
Responsive design is a more affordable solution that uses CSS style sheets. CSS style sheets created for mobile will auto adjust the display of the website properly on most mobile phones and devices. Check out the Boston Globe website on your phone. Responsive design will allow your website to adjust no matter the size of your screen.

3. Adaptive Design
Adaptive Design will be the more expensive solution to your website. Adaptive solutions detect automatically what type of browser you’re using and generates a page matched to the device capabilities.

Your website needs to be considered a long term investment into your business. With the speed at which technology is changing these days you must make a commitment to be forward thinking about updating the platform of your website along with the rest of your customers. This is the name of the game in small business, don’t get behind! Contact Severity Design for a free, no obligation website evaluation to see if you need to go mobile or what it would take to get your mobilized on smartphones and tablets!

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