Which Super Hero Are You?

Japanese Bug-Eyed-Superheroes Miming Speech

One of those things that we’ve become really, really good at in the past 15 years is expressing the warmth of a business in a website.

Businesses often want to go the way of the corporate. To them, going corporate is a way of saying: “See? We’ve made it. We’re one of the big boys now. We’re not small players.”

But we say, be proud of who you are.

Don’t Fake It…It’s Odious!

Stop trying to be someone else. Stop trying to be one of the big boys.

Because it’s more fun being yourself, being true to who you are.

Even as a business. Or a business owner.

But how do you convey your sense of self, who you are as a business, when you’re online as a website?

Many companies and businesses take the easy path.

Just add lots of people wearing suits, wearing fake smiles, looking cool and aloof, all sophistication. That’s really going to wow our customers.

That’s what most businesses think. After all, we want to IMPRESS the pants off our prospects right?


Add A Cup of Warmth

The first thing you do as a business owner is to convey warmth and personality on your website, especially if you’re new and struggling to establish yourself as an up-and-coming business to be reckoned with.

But it’s often difficult, not to mention arduous when trying to encapsulate the soul of a business, the essence of a growing company and infuse this delicate distillation across the pages of your website.

Especially if it’s a business website. Especially when you know your customers today are a lot smarter and perhaps, a lot more jaded.

In many ways, what we do is really tough work.

It starts with understanding who you are as a person and as a business owner and what your message to your customers will be. We go through hours of interviews.

We dig really deep into your motivations, dreams and desires. Short of being your personal psychologist, we then use what you’ve recounted and given us.

We clarify and simplify that deep personal message, your true heart of hearts, blending words, design and marketing into a website that exudes inexplicable warmth and honesty.

But is it worth it?

Of course. Customers who reach your website will experience engagement as if you’re chatting with them. They connect instantly with you through your website. Like you’re their friend.

And we trust friends.

They GET you. They get your message. They get it that you’re unique. You’re you.

When we do that, your customers understand what your unique ability is. People buy from people whom they know, like and trust.


What Makes You…Well, You?

Over these years, we’ve often asked ourselves – What makes us authentic? What makes our unique ability?

Our unique ability lies in being able to take your story, no matter how simple or humble, and use this story coupled with your unique abilities to create a website that exudes warmth, authencity and sincerity.

We work with what you have. We do not embellish more than needed; we do not add what’s not there. We don’t have to. Inside each of us is that special something, if you only looked hard enough to see that spark.

Many business owners cannot see that spark in themselves. And it’s understandable.

Because you work so hard in your business – you’re waking up tackle day to day operations, guiding employees, fixing what’s not right that at the end of a work day, you’re exhausted. It’s no wonder you can’t see in yourself any of that magical spark.

But we can.

We can take that uniqueness of yours and express it in a website so that your soul – the one who began the business with a dream so huge it scared you – can reach out to people who are in search of your offerings.

That’s what our unique ability is.

We can tell your story better than you can tell your story.

And we can tell your story so that it reaches out to the millions of people all around the world. We tell your story so that you can become the unique business you’ve always envisioned, one that’s not fighting to be the lowest price supplier or the cheapest one around.

If there’s one thing you can do for yourself today, ask yourself: what’s my unique ability and how can I use what I have to help others?

In short, which super hero are you?

How To Engage The 5 Senses of Your Customers

how to make your customers shop moreJust because we design websites for business does not mean we don’t get beyond our digital world.

In fact, we love going offline.

Because lots of what we know and love about marketing and business strategy really comes from human interaction.

I came across this post about using aromas to tempt and tantalize and engage the senses of your customers.

It’s true because how many times have we felt obligated to buy a food product after we’ve stood around and sampled noodles/cakes/ice cream/energy drinks etc. in the supermarket and got into the idea that hey, the food actually tastes pretty good. We then buy the product.

If you run a cafe, restaurant or supermarket, this article (which includes a video) will give you extra ideas to keep your customers lingering… and buying!

Website Case Study: How A Reflexology Business Uses Its Website To Get More Business

Starting this month, we will be running a series of case studies to profile our clients. In the process, you’ll be able to learn how we work and why we do the things we do.

As we’ve been in the web design and web marketing business for 13 years, we’ve done website redesigns and website designs as well as e-commerce designs for clients from a variety of industries. In each of the case studies, we will show you how you can amplify your business and create instant credibility online.

Zen Wellness Spa Batu Feringghi Penang

They Needed A Website For Marketing

When we met the business manager of Zen Spa, they were just about to open for business. This was some 3 years ago. But they were smart enough to recognize that they needed a website to help them sell far and wide. After all, they were in the tourist belt of Batu Feringghi.

Zen Wellness Spa wanted a website which would help them sell their services and convince clients they were credible and trustworthy and definitely not the fly-by-night outfit.

In this case, we were entrusted to help them create website content, design their website and once the website was live, help them manage, maintain and update the website.

What’s Unique About Them

Before any website design happens, we first have a long discussion with the client. We want to find out all about them. Sometimes clients will overlook things which can be used as a point of differentiation. Points of differentiation are important. If your business is doing what the other businesses are doing, you won’t be able to last very long in business.

We always ask – “what’s unique about your business?” to all clients.

They readily underscored 2 important factors – they were affordable (despite being located in Batu Feringghi) and that they were not to be lumped with the rest of the dodgy, no-license spas. They had trained masseurs and therapists in a fully licensed centre.

After our in-depth interviews, we decided to approach the problem by writing for the Zen customer. As you can see, we don’t begin with design first.

Starting With Content

We start with content. For most people, content is secondary while design/ the visuals are of utmost importance. Not so with us.

We imagined ourselves as a Zen Spa customer.

What would we need to know before we book a massage, reflexology session or even manicure? We dug around and came up with real reasons why people who love massages or reflexology should try a session at Zen Spa.

Taking these ideas and transforming these into tangible benefits, we designed a website which inspired calmness and peace, besides being extremely trustworthy and credible.

Attention To Colours, Content & Photos

Everything on the website was written and designed to let the customer know that Zen Wellness Spa was the spa to go to if you are in Penang. We pay incredible attention to details such as photos, graphics and colour combination.

Aside that, we know it can be quite an alien experience for most newbies to massage. We calm their fears by outlining exactly what they’d see, hear and experience when they walk into Zen Spa for a massage session.

Don’t Be Afraid To Give Information

Since we know tourists and travellers have extra questions, we created a Frequently Asked Question page to answer more questions. The idea is, give your customers all the information they need to choose you. Far too many websites reveal too little, much to their detriment. If you are upfront and honest and what you reveal is true, your customers will immediately feel at ease with you.

Once you answer all their pressing questions and are up front with your rates, your customers will be totally at ease when they enter your shop or business premises or request a quote. They are not fearful of any ‘hidden’ terms and conditions.

Photos are used liberally to show how the interior of the reflexology centre looks like. We encourage real photos, rather than stock photos, because customers want to see how the business looks like. It’s just human curiosity but if you help them satisfy this curiosity, they will put their trust in you.

Yuna, owner of Zen Wellness Spa

Yuna, the Korean owner of Zen Wellness Spa was amazed by the results when their website was launched. Yuna was hard to get hold of as she’s mostly kept busy by her bustling business (which is actually a very good thing indeed! It shows the website has become a wonderfully efficient marketing tool).

Results: 70% Customers Come Via Website

When we met her at Island Plaza for a quick chat, she was almost too eager to convey her thanks and appreciation. Many know of Zen Wellness Spa through her website which inspires confidence immediately. Many email to book the services they want even before they get into Penang.

Yuna says, “Some 70% of our customers come to us via our website! Many people find us when they search on Google about what to see and do in Penang before they come to Penang. When they come here, they already know about our spa and come for our spa services, thanks to the website you built for us.”

This means they have already won over their customers even before they set foot in Penang.

Isn’t that fantastic?

*In this website design project, we were involved in creating content from scratch, designing their website and once the website was launched, we help them update and manage the website. We also help the client with search engine optimization as well as teach them how to market using some of our own tried-and-tested web marketing strategies and online techniques.

Cutting Out Crap Online

Let me say this clear and loud: I despise websites which copy content from article directories or get cheap writers to write a bunch of low-quality articles and use them so that they can earn money from the advertisement links peppered all over the websites.

So that is why I’m quite pleased that Google is going all out to make sure content farms (yup, these are what the websites are called) do not rank the same as real websites which produce their own informative and useful content.

A few years ago, some smart-ass Internet “guru” (I hate the term guru!) showed onstage live how he copied content off Amazon; he taught seminar participants how to do this so that they didn’t have to produce their own content! I mean, it was the lowest of the low but hey, when it comes to money, some people are desperate and can get pretty dirty!

So yeah, we definitely welcome Google’s method of clearing the Internet from cheap, junk information and provide quality information at each search session. You can get the news of how this works and how it came about from the official Google Blog.

The blog says: “…launched a redesigned document-level classifier that makes it harder for spammy on-page content to rank highly. The new classifier is better at detecting spam on individual web pages, e.g., repeated spammy words—the sort of phrases you tend to see in junky, automated, self-promoting blog comments.”

You know that sort of websites – the ones which keep repeating a particular keyword over and over! It makes no sense to the human readers; it just wants to trick Google into indexing the site. I am so glad Google isn’t stupid.

They’ve also shifted to target content farms – sites which have low quality content.

I say, hurray to that!

Asking The Most Important Question in Marketing

I posted a status update on our Facebook page recently which went like this:

When you write (especially copy for marketing), always ask yourself: who am I targeting? Writing without a target in mind is like driving a car to nowhere. Many a time people are so excited about targeting everyone that they eventually reach no one!

Walter, an artist and a friend on Facebook, asked me: “Do you think that this targeting thing works for art as well? Thank you!”

This was my reply to Walter (and since I replied his message, I decided why not share the reply here as well):

Hi Walter

Yes, I do. Find out who these art appreciators are and target them. When you write copy, write with these people in mind. What do they want to know? What they want to know may be totally different from what other non-art people want to know. They may want specifics. They may want to know the story and idea behind the piece. They may want to know if you can ship overseas. Things like that.

When I posted that status, I was writing for a client who seems not to understand this.

Her product targets business buyers but it seems she wants to overload her website with information for end users (which she isn’t targeting).

So she is quite confused about who she really wants to reach. I suggested that if the bottomline to her is about getting the companies to understand and buy her products (which eventually will be sold to end users), she should just focus on the companies.

Of course she can still target end users but that is another website, with another kind of copy.

Copy targeted at companies is different from copy for end users. End users can have manuals, how-tos, FAQs, downloads etc. but companies would like to know things like “how does the product work” and “why should we collaborate with you on this?”

It works the same with my company.

We design premium websites for businesses so that’s marketed under my main brand, Redbox Studio. They’re premium for a reason – they are truly designed to help you market.

Then again, we understand that some people may not have that kind of money to spend yet but still want something to get online.

So we have a product called RedboxEasyweb.com for them. It’s a DIY website they can easily update and maintain on their own for a low price. We could have promoted RedboxEasyweb on our Redbox Studio website but we decided that these are 2 different targets. From the beginning, we decided that these are 2 different targets so we created another website to sell this DIY website product.

The people who go for Redbox Easyweb want a web presence but they also have a tighter budget. They have ample time to update their website or they want to maintain their websites on their own. They like this flexibility and in some cases, they can write. The copy in this RedboxEasyweb website is written to fulfill these needs.

On the other hand, people who visit RedboxStudio.com are people who are most likely to outsource website maintenance to us because they are too busy to maintain on their own or they want our input and guidance because we have been in this industry for 13 years. They want a marketing tool, not just a web presence. They are already beyond web presence. They want to make a dent in their industry… in a good way of course.

They want ROI and know that a well-designed and well-maintained website (polished, stylish, elegant) can do wonders for their profile especially in attracting prospects. So these people come to us and the copy written for this group is different because we address different needs.

So yes, I hope I have answered your question ;-).

We own a number of different websites for different purposes because our target markets are all different. Targeting helps you drill down and define the group most likely to buy from you and this helps you sell better.


Do I Look Fat To You?

I know everyone loves The Biggest Loser Asia reality programme on TV.

I like it a lot too, if only to watch the constant relationship issues (OK, arguments!) among the contestants. In every TV show, there’s just someone we love to hate – that’s the main villain. It keeps us all glued to the box.

So I get it when everyone is image-conscious. We all want to look slim and young and confident. We all need to feel good. And I think there is nothing wrong with that. (I keep slathering moisturizer on my neck just so I can prevent the wrinkles from forming.)

This was something I was talking to Nic about just this week.

Each time I go to an event, be it social or not, someone inevitably will be an agent for slimming potions, rubs, pills and health drinks.

To me, it’s all perfectly fine. I mean, that is YOUR business and if you have had great results and decide to pursue the business as your own, it’s fabulous.

But the problem with most people is, they don’t stop to think that just because someone gave you their email or mobile number does not mean that person gave you permission to market everything to them!

And since when is EVERYONE your prospect?

That’s the biggest lie in the world. Everyone is NOT your prospect.

Just last week I was at an event where this lady who doesn’t know me gives me a flyer about weight loss! I’m amazed at her audacity because frankly, I don’t think I am fat. Oh sure I have some tummy flab but generally I am quite all right. I don’t go around moaning that I’m fat and need to go on a diet. I don’t. I just plain don’t.

So what gives?

The first rule of marketing is: have you even determined the NEEDS of this prospect? (Did I wail to you that I have put on 200 pounds? No? Then why in the world did you think I need a weight loss programme?)

The second rule of marketing is: don’t give stuff that people don’t need. It’s a waste of time. Preach to the converted – it’s much easier.

Another lady whom I met once keeps sending me SMSes about weight management too. Damn.

Being Asian, I am too polite to reply her SMSes.

Maybe I should.

Maybe I should just tell her, “Look, do I seriously look fat to you? I think you need to get your eyes checked!”

If I am fat, oh boy, the rest of the world needs to be in The Biggest Loser Asia.

So put on your marketing glasses before you start promoting your service or product.

The next time someone comes along and shoves a weight loss brochure at me, I am so going to be RUDE.

Izad Gets Featured in Gorgeous

Izad, one of our clients, was featured in Gorgeous magazine recently.

Izad is a certified trainer for Law of Attraction, based on the famous book by author Michael Losier. In fact, Izad was one of the few Malaysians who had flown all the way to Canada to take Losier’s training course a few years ago.

We’re proud to say that we’ve been trained firsthand by Izad. The personal one on one coaching was invaluable as he taught us what Michael Losier taught him!

Funnily enough, we had wanted to learn more about this when Izad actually came to one of our talks. Talk about sending the right vibes out!

What makes Losier special is that he teaches the “how” of the Law of Attraction with specific exercises you can immerse yourself into to make the law work in your favour. If you’ve watched “The Secret” or read the book, you’d be wondering how to apply the secret into your life. So that is where Losier and of course, Izad come in. They teach you specific principles and exercises.

How does the Law of Attraction work? Is it just a bunch of New Age mumbo-jumbo?

You’ll just have to find out at Izad’s Law of Attraction website.

Rebecca Gets Featured in Woman’s Mag

We love it when clients get featured in the media.

In this month’s Malaysian Women’s Weekly magazine (Nov 2010), you can read all about Ethan, the inspiration behind the book “Great-grandma’s Hair Loss Remedy” which serves to educate and inform parents and children alike about the medical condition called alopecia which results in baldness.

Our client, Rebecca wrote this book, based loosely on her son Ethan as he started having alopecia since he turned four. It takes a not-so-serious look at the condition and gives other children an understanding about alopecia and how some children can be different in their own way.

We’ve met the vivacious Ethan before and he is a mature boy with a love for comics!

Rebecca is a good example of taking inspiration from real life and turning it into a book.

Find out more about Rebecca at her website.

How to Evaluate a Franchise Business: 6 Tips

While I have much to say about the audio at the venue (it was an open area and very noisy so the organizers must take note of this for their next exhibition), I must say that one of the more educational talks was by a certain Mr TK Lee, a franchise consultant. He was one of the speakers given 30 minutes to talk during the Franchising and Licensing Asia event.

Thirty minutes is a good amount of time to listen to a talk. Too long and my mind tends to wander off. So to keep me focused, I usually jot notes. It gives me something to do.

Mr Lee gave 6 important criteria to use when evaluating a franchise. I am paraphrasing so this is NOT his exact words but words to that effect.

1. Profile yourself.

A franchise is not a way of getting out of your job. It is buying a business. It is getting yourself into a business. It won’t work if you think you are going to be the BOSS and act like one. You have to be as hands-on as your staff. If you think you can hang around and watch money roll in, this is not the business to buy.

My version is this: buying a franchise is a bit like buying your shortcut to success as the systems are laid out for you. But who works the systems? Someone like you. It frees you from thinking what business to start, how to start it, where to get resources etc. But it does not free you from managing it or running it. For the lazy person, a vending machine might be a better deal than a franchise. But even vending machines need servicing and maintenance. So do you know yourself well enough? Are you committed to making the franchise work? If buying a franchise is just an escape from the drudgery you call a job, then it is not going to work.

2. Research the desired franchise.

Do your homework. You can look at new and growing franchises as their fees may be lower. Or you can go with proven businesses which have been there long enough (but which also means the fees are higher). As a franchise is a partnership, what do you expect from your franchisor? Just because you can run a restaurant does not mean you can run a restaurant franchise.

3. Initial contact with franchisor.

Just because you want to buy a franchise does not mean the franchisor may want to sell it to you! Now the reality is, this is a mutual (beneficial) partnership. The franchisor must want to work with you and see in you the potential for his success (as well as yours). So therein lies the mutual evaluation. Just as you would evaluate the franchisor and his terms, he is also going to evaluate you as a potential franchisee. Do you fit his idea of a good franchisee? Being turned down by an established franchisor is not an uncommon experience even if you have the financial means.

4. Investigate the franchise system and laws.

Accordingly Singapore does not have a law on franchising while Malaysia and US have. Understand the law and its regulations before you jump into a franchise. Also, you may need to ask how a specific franchise works and how the franchisor will support you. You can talk to their existing franchisees and check out product margins. Above all, you need to really go into detail about franchise rules and regulations.

5. Understand the franchise model.

Not all franchise models are the same. Again, you need to understand how the franchisor has planned his model. Some are not into direct consumers. Some target offices and corporate companies. For instance, if you sell espresso machines, your customers may not be consumers at all. It could be offices where they have their own pantry and need to supply coffee to their staff.

6. Review the franchise agreement.
Here’s a question: which is better – a thick agreement or a thin agreement? A thin agreement might be easier to review but a thicker one may also mean the franchisor has put more thought into all aspects of the business. The franchise agreement needs to cover all eventualities and the more you know and review in the agreement, the better you are. Or at least you know what to expect in all types of situations.

At the end, buying a franchise is buying a business which someone has thought of all the details, systems and plans.

Many people dream of owning a McDonalds franchise outlet. They look at it like an automatic money machine. But I know a friend who owns a McDonalds outlet and she puts in long hours. It’s just like a regular business except that in this, you get support if you get lost and disheartened.

You don’t need to think of how to market and advertising costs and methods on a case by case basis. Collective advertising and promotion help to bring customers your way. And of course, having a strong brand is a selling point in itself. It may not be very flexible if you’re the sort who likes spontaneity in business and don’t want to be tied down to rigidity. It would be godsend to you if you love going by the book.

Are you searching for a franchise? Why are you looking for one? I’d love to know what you think!

P/S: Your guide to owning a franchise…this is a very useful read!