Small Changes

This Christmas my wife and received some gift money. We used that money to make a few small changes. We installed shelves and mounted our TV to the wall and moved furniture around. These small changes allowed us to climate clutter and make our small apartment feel so much bigger.

These small changes reinvigorated our appreciation for our tiny apartment. What small things can you change in your life or business to get a big reward. Sometimes all it takes to feel reinvigorated is some reflection and action.

Doesn’t Meet My Standards

I just got done with a training session with an incredible individual. She contacted me and said she had hired somebody from upwork to create a website for her. Unfortunately her website wasn’t producing the results she expected. 

When she edited a page it wouldn’t show up for her guests. She wasn’t able to get things in her menu to appear the way she wanted them to.

Her website functioned, but it didn’t work quite the way she wanted it to. When we started walking through her website together I started finding glaring issues that weren’t done the WordPress way. Images and paragraphs were set and there was no way for her to change them.

She asked how much it would cost to start all over. I told her and she didn’t like the price.

But that wasn’t the point. The point wasnt to start over. My goal was to get her moving as best she could with the tools she already had. Sure we hit some spots where I had to say “the current design didn’t really anticipate this, but here is the workaround”. 

The thing is I could have just focused on the things that weren’t done right or I could focus on the things that were under our control during our 2 hour session. Her website still has some things I’m sure we’ll have to come back to. The big thing is getting her as confident with her site as possible and letting her know what is not her fault.

My standards could have kept me focusing on what’s wrong. But I’m glad we were able to do as much as possible with what’s right.

Are your standards getting in the way of you helping people?

2015/2016 Business Years In Review

I Started a Business…

Almost two years ago I started SBY Digital. I didn’t know much about business (now I know a tiny bit about business). Loved ones said it was a bad idea to quit a great job that I was only 9 months into.

I had discovered I enjoyed web design, and was on the brink of discovering how to make money doing what I loved full time. That was an exciting season, and scary too! There was no backup plan.

I named it SBY Digital…

I launched the SBY Digital brand as the face of my business. If you you have ever studied the Christian Faith deeply you’ll know the highest regarded prophet (Jesus) said “a prophet is not respected in his hometown.” I felt this was true for me only living 15 minutes north of my hometown. People would write me off as the kid they watched grow up who use to do that quirky thing (I’m still very quirky).

SBY Digital became a necessary way to market myself and prove my value before getting written off. The brand allowed me to build credibility and have a bit of early anonymity.

Since I also share my name with a former NFL player search engines didn’t rank me very high. Using a word that didn’t exist like “SBY Digital” also helped me with Search Engines. Using SBY Digital made it easier for people to find me. It also enabled me to avoid climbing the SEO mountain of de-seating an NFL player from the throne of #1 result in Google for my name.

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Chris Mcintosh played for the Seattle Seahawks

I did a lot of work…

I started my career as an entrepreneur and web designer by helping a city council member with his campaign website for mayor. A couple months later his campaign proved successful. Salisbury has been reaping the benefits of Mayor Jake Day ever since. This was a pretty incredible launchpad!

I was able to keep earning clients and worked with non profits, churches, photographers, economic specialists, CrossFit gym owners, daycares – the list could keep going.

Each job proved to me the importance of – the story we tell, and communicating what drives us to get out of bed and serve our customers. How to confidently communicate our value without sounding arrogant. I’ve learned that it’s our natural inclination to tout our business accolades and how great we are but what our customers really need is to know that we are intimately familiar with their problem. Instead of focusing on awards we’ve won and how many percent we are better/faster/cheaper than the next business in our space.

I won a project I’ve been aiming at for three years!

Then this summer I bid on a project that I had set my sights on three years ago. I bid on the City Of Salisbury website (this project also consumes the Fire and Police Department websites in addition to the Downtown Salisbury website). After learning there were 26 other companies that had bid on the project I was not hopeful of winning the bid.

In late August I was working from one of the most rad indie coffeeshops. I received a call from the City saying my bid was the winner! That was exciting!

I’ve been working with the city for the last 3 months to refine the experience we deliver to citizens and visitors when they browse the city website. We are making great and exciting progress. I’m looking forward to being able to unveil the project after it goes live!

It’s always a little bit scary when you reach your goals. I think most of the time when we set goals – we don’t actually think they are attainable.

So now being halfway done with completing a goal I set 3 years ago I am having conversations with myself “what do I want to focus on once I get this project shipped?” (told you I was quirky, people normally give the look when you talk to yourself).

Whats next, Chris?

Well let me share with you! The first big project will be – killing the SBY Digital Brand. I don’t need it anymore. I’ll still be providing the same story focused web consulting and design services. Now I’ll just be marketing those services under my name. I think this will allow for greater ability for conversation and personality in my blogging and marketing. I want to have more conversations with you!

I’ll be picking some specific areas to focus on. Who I want to focus on isn’t quite clear to me yet. Once I get more clarity on who, I’ll be redesigning this website.

I’ll be making an update to my Bolt Pro Starter Theme and making a better set of tutorials on how to DIY your website with the theme. A big goal for 2017 is focusing on the DIY crowd and helping others grow and learn. This means I’ll be publishing content. I want to focus on Facebook video, and Youtube. I also plan on publishing some PDF’s for improving your existing website.

Ill be investing in learning Javascript more as well as Facebook and Email marketing tools. I’m taking Wes Bos’s React for Beginners, his Javascript30 Challenge is pretty cool too! I’m also taking Zac Gordon’s JavascriptForWP course which is insanely deep. What I’ve learned from these two courses has already increased my capabilities as a developer – I wish these courses existed two years ago!

TL;DR

I did a lot of work. I am killing the SBY Digital brand, but I’ll still be doing the same work I’ve been doing. My marketing will be coming from this website. I’ll be redesigning this website. The City of Salisbury website redesign will be launching next year. I’ll be learning more javascript. I’ll be learning more about video.

You’ll be hearing more from me. Let me know what you want to learn about using the web for your business.

Thanks for being on the journey with me!

How Google My Business Influences Santa’s Search for Cookies

For the ease of this post we are gonna come up with a fake business. Because it’s close to Christmas let’s call it “Jimmy’s Fireside Milk & Cookies Stop” or “Jimmy’s Cookies” for short.

Jimmy’s Cookies has a cool website and he knows who his customer is (big guy, red suit, chimneys, reindeer) you get the idea. 

When Santa is planning out his trip, he wants to figure out which house is the best to stop at for milk and cookies. He searches for “milk and cookies Ithaca NY.” He gets back 10 results for cookie joints in Ithica but he doesn’t have much time so he wants to make his choice based solely on the search page.

That’s where Google My Business comes in. The tool allows you greater control over what shows up in search when people do local searches. It’s no replacement for SEO, it’s meant to work with the SEO you are already doing.

Anyways Santa sees something in the right hand side of his laptop while he’s searching. Jimmy’s  Cookies popped up because of the profile he set up. Santa can see reviews of the cookies, he can see a picture that Jimmy posted of the vintage rocker that he’ll get to sit in while he enjoys his cookies. He sees a short description of the business that says they offer vegan cookies and this has sealed the deal. 

Santa hit the directions button right from search and he gets turn by turn directions and the reindeer take him right to Jimmy’s.

If you want to have a greater level of control over what shows up when people do local searches like this you need a Google My Business Account.

Is Your Business Hiding In Plain Sight?

Hide and seek was one of my favorite games as a kid. The most exciting challenge was to successfully use a poor hiding spot. Hiding in plain sight – the challenge was fun, but it was a game, and I was a child.

Have you ever felt like you are hiding in plain sight?

You have a website. You’re present on social media. Occasionally, people find you and business is going well. What if you could flip the rules? What if instead of people stumbling upon your business with much effort, you made it really truly easy for people to find you?

Your business could feel more like homebase (You know that thing that everybody desperately needs to get to). How would things look if people were racing to get your service? What if the value of your product was just naturally understood?

There are a few challenges standing in your way.

1. You don’t look trustworthy

Your website might look tacky or incomplete. It might give a potential customer the wrong first impression of your business and then when they call or visit you are nothing like your website and they get spooked. Maybe your logo doesn’t appeal to your user or you don’t have a logo. Your customer will be making many quick assumptions about your business based on the way you present yourself.

Tip: You wouldn’t show up to a job interview in sweats. Don’t treat your customers any differently, show up with your best self online and then do a great job. Get a great logo and website.

2. You don’t know who your customer is

Knowing who your customer is – this is your sweetspot. When you know who your customer is you can ask the right questions. You can show how you can solve their problems.

Tip: Instead of talking about how great you are – talk about how big their problem is. Show you really understand them and the mountain they need to climb. Solve the right problem for better results.

3. You are talking over the head of your customers

You work hard to ensure your website and copy is perfectly worded. The gotcha here is that you know the ins and outs of your product so well that you talk like your customer knows it just as well as you do. Or you try really hard to sound smart. Either way, this is the opposite of what you want to do.

Tip: Work really hard to make your product or service painfully clear to your customer. You likely communicate on a level 8/10 about your business and you need to explain at 2/10. Your customer will have to use much less energy to understand the value to them.

Or you might be talking too much

4. Your website is too slow

Your website is where everything points back to. It’s where you control the experience your customer receives. Your customer is going to expect your website to load in less than 3 seconds. Their attention span only lasts so long before they click off to Facebook or wherever else their attention decides to shift.

Tip: Make sure your website is setup to succeed. If you are using WordPress make sure you are on a managed host. I recommend Flywheel. Managed hosting has a lot of other benefits too.

5. You are marketing in a functional blind spot

You are placing the wrong request for your customers attention in the wrong place. I see this happen a lot with billboards. Often billboards are trying to get you to perform and action but possibly the only action a billboard has successfully made me perform is changing my radio station – possibly. Probably half the cars on the road have one passenger who is driving. Not a good time for them to attempt to text a number. Most billboards are probably only readable for six seconds. Maybe you are placing ads somewhere your customer isn’t or can’t take action on.

Tip: Market where and when you customer can respond. Maybe instagram ads after 5pm on weekdays is the right fit for your customer.

Hiding in plain sight is no fun

You are a business, you are done with the games. Come out from hiding and turn yourself into the place everyone is trying to get to. Have tips about how you’ve stopped hiding in plain sight? Leave ’em in the comments.

They Both Occupied the Same Corner, Only 1 Got My Money

My wife and I were getting our Thanksgiving holiday started off early. We were headed to a concert. Just outside the venue there were two guys screaming very loud.

It was confusing because they were both screaming two different things, one yelled “straight”, the other “left”. They represented two different parking companies. They were both on the same corner. “Straight” yelled louder and more often. “Left” wasnt quite as loud or persistent.

There were cars behind me beeping. I was frozen with decision lockup. What felt like forever, was really just a matter of seconds. It took me several seconds to realize they were competing. The whole thing was a stressful little ordeal.

They were on the same corner, they were both yelling a single word. So why did I decide to go left? “Left” had a vest on, he had a light up wand. He looked official, he looked more trustworthy and sometimes this is the only differentiation you get.

Screaming louder and more often isn’t the best way to win customers.

How are people deciding on the vendor they select when they reach the corner where you and your competitors exist. Will you get the business when the pressure is on?