Here at Akamai Websites we’ve worked with many different clients — both in Hawaii, the mainland and across the world — and we’ve noticed an interesting perception about websites.
Here is a scenario. Tell us if this sounds familiar:
Barb the business owner doesn’t have enough clients, so she decides she needs a website to solve the problem. She spends thousands of dollars on a website which looks amazing and highlights her business well. But after a while, even though she is blogging regularly and doing what she can, she doesn’t see a significant increase in new leads from the website.
Barb realizes that what she really has is an expensive piece of custom software and digital files that she isn’t sure how to use and isn’t doing much for her business; basically an expensive digital brochure that ends up sitting on a web server collecting dust.
So, why does this happen? (And has it happened to you?)
If you look at Barb’s original motivation for building a website you’ll see the cause of the problem: she wanted to build the website to solve a problem. Specifically a marketing and lead generation problem.
The best question she could have been asked at the beginning of all this is “why do you think a website is a solution to your problems?”
Why is this a good question? Because it could have saved her a lot of time and money.
Here is the truth: a website is not a solution to her problems. It won’t solve challenges, answer questions or resolve issues.
At it’s core, a website is just a tool.
I realize it sounds strange for a company that specializes in building websites for businesses to say that websites aren’t a solution to your problem. It probably seems like we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.
But by the end of this article you’ll understand exactly what we mean.
We’re going to help you not only understand why a website is not the solution to your problems, but give you key insights into a more effective purpose for your website, and the best ways to use it to build your business.
Plus you’ll learn the key question that will help you identify your true business problems, and you’ll learn the types of technologies that will help you solve them.
Surprisingly, your solution may have nothing to do with a website. And that just might save you many thousands of dollars in wasted expenses.
Ready? Let’s go!
Identifying the true problem and it’s real solution
There are two things we’re trying to figure out:
First, we want to understand the true problem your business is facing.
Second, we want to determine which technologies will help you solve that problem.
To do this we’re going to go through a simple three step process. Feel free to follow along. You just might have an epiphany. 🙂
Step 1: Reading Your Reality
So, we need to learn what your business really needs. Maybe it is a website, or maybe it is something else entirely. But how do we find out?
Here is a question we like to use to help our clients gain clarity:
“If I gave you 10x qualified clients tomorrow that were each willing to pay 10x your normal rates or prices, could you handle the increased business?”
So, as an example, let’s say you are a HR consultant in Kapolei and you typically get 5 new clients a month that each pay $5,000 for a block of consulting sessions. The question would then be, “If I gave you 50 clients tomorrow that each wanted to pay $50,000, could you take them on?”
Naturally, there are two possible answers to this question: “yes” or “no”.
And each answer signals a key problem for your business.
If you said “yes” …
If you said “yes”, then your business is not generating enough leads.
If you could take on 10x the number of clients you currently have, but you don’t have them, then you aren’t bringing in enough potential customers for your business. One possible reason is that you are spending a lot of time on each sale, trying to teach potential clients why you are the right solution. Or, you might be sorting through a large number of the wrong type of clients to find the few that are perfect for you. Or maybe you just aren’t reaching the right market segment.
A lot of people see this as a marketing issue (which is sort of is), and of course the common assumption is that a website is a marketing solution that will help you generate more business.
We actually like to look at this problem as a “lead education” issue.
Marketing and filtering leads is often about educating potential clients to better understand your business, products or services. And, as we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, by focusing on the education of your leads, you’re going to end up focusing on how best to help them, rather than on just hawking your wares.
While a website is an effective marketing tool, it is just one of many possible tools that you could use to educate leads.
The important thing to realize is that a website, by itself, will never solve your problem. It needs to be part of a lead education system. A website is just a cog in the machine — just one part of your ecosystem that will attract, filter, inform and convert clients for your business.
If you confuse the cog (website) for the machine (solution), then you’re ignoring all the other pieces that actually help to solve your problem.
If you said “no” …
If you said “no” — that you can’t handle the increase in bandwidth — then you have a systems problem.
Your system for bringing in new clients and working with them isn’t scalable. Most likely you spend a lot of time hand-holding clients through the same processes, over and over again.
We like to look at this problem as a “client education” issue.
We used to call this an “on-boarding education” problem, but realized this term can be confusing since “on-boarding” is often associated with just the initial stages of the client relationship. When we talk about “on-boarding” we’re actually talking about the entire client relationship, not just the first stages.
However, while it is true that many of the bottlenecks lie in those early stages, there is a larger issue worth noting: the core problem of poor automation and inefficient systems can happen at any stage of the client life-cycle.
When you realize that your problem is related to on-boarding automation and client education, you might think that a website would be a great solution.
But, as you can probably guess, a website can’t solve the problem by itself. It is just a tool — one of many — that can help you work with new clients. But it needs to be part of a cohesive client education system.
As you might have noticed with both issues — leads and clients — each is related to education. You’re either working to educate potential leads (marketing), or you’re working to educate new clients (on-boarding).
And that means we have to start asking ourselves a key question: what are the other pieces of technology that can help us best educate our leads and clients?
And that is where Step 2 comes in.
Step 2: Finding the Right Solutions
There are a half-dozen or so technologies that can help you educate leads or clients. So, now we’re going to review the tools that we at Akamai Websites have found are the most effective when crafting an ideal education system.
Lead Education Tools
Here are the five tools that we’ve found to be beneficial elements in a lead education system:
Blog (Content Marketing):
We’ve shared in previous posts about how a blog, often the backbone of an organization’s content marketing strategy, is a great way to educate leads. But at the risk of being too repetitive, it is important to remember that a blog can’t be the only piece of the puzzle. Just as a skeleton doesn’t move on it’s own, we need some muscles and organs to move your efforts forward.
Social Media Marketing:
You can think of social media as the fish hook for your business. If your blog is the aquarium where the fish live and learn, then social media is the bait that entices them to join in on the party. Social media, just like a website or a blog, needs to be a part of your entire lead education system. An Instagram post by itself won’t generate business, but when used in conjunction with all of these other elements, you’ll build a better mouse trap.
Okay, the metaphors are getting mixed up now. But you get the idea.
In the world of online marketing, email is king. It is a key component in building trust and brand awareness with potential leads and, if you’re working to automate parts of your lead education system, then email is your ace in the hole. Email is most effective when used to nurture your relationship with leads to convert them into clients and customers.
Video is where you take your marketing efforts and push it into the 3rd dimension. Even more than the written word or even photos, videos can build relationships, attract leads and educate potential customers faster than any other medium. While many lead education systems don’t use video, those that do find that the time spent to create this type of content is well worth the effort.
This is usually the last thing we recommend to clients. Why? Because paid advertising is not effective unless you have all the other pieces of your system in place. Buying advertising to direct people to a system that doesn’t build trust, nurture relationships and educate leads is pointless. Think of paid advertising like adding nitrous oxide to your marketing engine. If you don’t have any gas in the tank then it’s a wasted investment.
One thing worth mentioning is that only one of these — a blog — is actually related to having a website. Yes, a website can be used in conjunction with all of these tools and can level up your efforts, but it isn’t always necessary.
An example of lead education
Let’s look at an example of how this might work for a business.
Katsuo, the owner of Widgets, Inc., posts up a great blog on the best way to select the right widget for your needs. After the blog launches he puts together a variety of custom social media sharing images for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and schedules them to go out to his followers over the following weeks, as well as putting it on a recurring schedule of promotion for the next several months.
Then he sends out an email to his subscribers inviting them to check out the blog post, focusing on all the benefits they will derive from reading it. He includes a special link just for his subscribers that provides them with a downloadable bonus to help them take action on the content in the blog. He has also put a call to action in the blog post where people can get the download by signing up for his mailing list.
To really add fuel to the fire, Katsuo puts together a quick 3 minute video walkthrough of how to select the right widget and posts it up on his YouTube channel, embeds it in the blog, and posts it on his Facebook page. He also promotes the video across his various social media channels and the video itself includes the call to action for the blog post and his special mailing list opt-in gift.
After a week or two Katsuo makes some adjustments based on feedback from his audience, and then buys some targeted advertising on Facebook and Instagram to promote the content and his opt-in gift. Since he’s gained some traction on the article and knows it is popular he feels confident that this will additionally boost his lead education efforts.
As you can see, Katsuo isn’t just following one specific path to educate his leads. And none of his tools are used in isolation either. He is implementing all of the pieces as part of a larger strategy designed to provide maximum value and education to his leads and followers.
Is it easy to put something like this together? No, it takes time and effort and a lot of logistical planning. But it can be incredibly effective when done the right way.
So, once you’ve converted your lead into a client, what happens? It’s time to look at the other side of the sales transaction.
Client Education Tools …
Here are five tools that we’ve found effective in creating a client education and automated on-boarding system.
You’ll notice that we used the term “blog” for the lead education tool and are using “website” for client education. This is because of the distinction between these two related-but-different platforms. Educating your leads is about providing regular valuable content for their consumption, but educating your clients is about providing the same information consistently for each client you bring on. Another benefit is that you can “hide” website content from non-customers with hidden links and passwords — something that is challenging to do with a public-facing blog.
Email is something that really deserves an entire blog post of it’s own. But for now we’ll just say that the power of email with new clients is the ability to drip-feed information and education gradually over time. You can set up an automated sequence of emails that guide new clients through your processes, saving untold hours in hand-holding and back-and-forth email exchanges.
Just like with lead education, video is a powerful tool. But unlike lead education where you’re building a relationship with potential customers, video for new clients can be used to teach your specific processes and share important tools and techniques. Again, video really deserves it’s own blog post.
You’ve probably noticed that when you buy a new appliance it inevitably comes with an owner’s manual. You can think of your documentation as the owner’s manual for your client services and products. But instead of a dry, stale “how to use this product” presentation, your documentation should be designed to provide key insights and tools to guide your clients through your process. Reference guides, checklists, worksheets and forms are all great forms of documentation for new clients.
This technology is about combining communication with education. You can use software like Skype or Google Hangouts to have meetings and record them for client reference. But you could also hold a private webinar for your clients to answer common questions, and then include that recorded webinar as part of your client on-boarding process.
Like lead education, only one of these five tools is related to a website. A website can be a part of these systems — an important part — but only if you use it in the right way.
The Akamai Websites Example
This time let’s look at the client on-boarding process we use at Akamai Websites for our web design clients, along with our specific tools.
Step one: Once a new client signs on for a website design project, the first thing we do is send them to a private page on our website that includes a welcome video. This video educates clients on our processes and answers a few common questions. It also shares our next steps and provides them with links to forms that they fill out as part of their intake process.
Tools used: email, video, website, documentation
Step two: Next we schedule a discovery meeting with our client. The link to this is also on our website’s welcome page and it is automatically scheduled through our appointment application. We hold the meeting either in person or using Zoom (teleconferencing software) and record it for future reference. Before the meeting they also receive an automated email with some documentation that provides helpful information for the meeting.
Tools used: email, website, teleconference, documentation
Step three: Finally, we set up our client portal, which is a password protected page on our website where the client has access to all the various parts of their project. This is the storehouse of education and information related to their website design project. The discovery video recording is here, as well as documentation links, project schedules, relevant PDFs and much more.
Tools used: email, website, video, documentation
As you can see, our on-boarding system isn’t just one thing — it has many tools working together in harmony towards a common goal. It is about creating a system that is scalable, automated and provides your clients with a helpful experience.
The other benefit of our system is that the time it takes us to set up a new client is under 15 minutes. We have templates for almost all of the content, emails and systems so we’re able to get a new client up and running with a minimum of effort, but a maximum of results.
The key to setting up effective education systems, either for leads or clients, relies on having a clear understanding of the available technologies and how they will best serve your customers, products and services.
And that leads us to Step 3.
Step 3: Hire some Help
Understanding the tools is important, but the implementation of those tools to create a cohesive education system can be a true logistical nightmare.
Rather than “Frankenstein” a make-shift system yourself — which often takes much more time than you think, and requires a lot of back-tracking — we recommend finding someone who can help you design the best education system for your business’ specific needs.
Every business is slightly different, and what might work for your friend’s hula school in Waipahu, might not work for your mac nut farm in Waimanalo.
In this situation hiring your run-of-the-mill web designer might not cut it. Most web designers just focus on making websites and aren’t necessarily versed in the integration of technologies to create an education system.
How do you know if your web designer fits the bill? Here are a few things to check when you discuss your project:
- Have they created similar systems in the past for other clients?
- Can they explain the different technologies they use for their education systems? As you just read, there are a lot of options for each type of tool, so make sure they are using tools they are very familiar with.
- Do they communicate effectively? Ask them to explain the technologies they use and make sure you can sort through the “techno-babble”.
- Give them a hypothetical business problem and ask them what technologies they would use to solve it. If they’re going to be solving problems for your business, make sure they can come up with solutions.
But even more important than those four points, is to make sure you find someone you trust and believe. Is this a team of people who you are comfortable trusting with your business? Are they contractors or collaborators? Dig deep and make sure they’re a good fit.
Of course, if you’d like to work with us, we’re more than happy to chat in detail about your business. Just contact us today to get more information. 🙂
The Solution Take-aways
So, what did we cover today?
First, we learned that a website by itself isn’t a solution to your problems. It is just a tool that can be used as part of a system to solve a problem.
Second, we learned how to use the 10x question to determine your business’ true problem — lead education or client education.
Third, we looked at how different technologies can be used as part of an education system for leads or clients, including how we use them in our own on-boarding system here at Akamai Websites.
And finally, we discussed the importance of finding the right type of help to build your own education system.
At the end of the day the real lesson is to not make any assumptions that technology will solve a problem until you truly understand both the root problem and the specific technology.
Technology is a tool, not a solution. It is a tool that can be used to achieve several different types of results. Know which result is right for you, and you’ll know how best to use your website to accomplish your goals.
If you’re serious about educating your clients and customers to free up your time to focus on the work you love, then check out our free quick reference checklist that details the eight ways you can create an on-boarding automation system. Just sign up using the form below to get instant access right now.
But, if you’re REALLY serious, then check this out:
We’ve put together a full video walk-through of the eight on-boarding automation methods and have included an on-boarding resource guide that lists out over 90 different on-boarding technologies that you can use yourself — including the specific ones we use in our own business to educate our clients.
Click here or on the button below to get your copy for just $9.