Growing Your Business with Marketing, Week 7: See my site, hire my brain

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This is Week Seven of a 52-week project/experiment in DIY marketing. Armed with nothing but a copy of the 2009 Grow Your Business Marketing Plan + Calendar and my bare wits, I'm applying the skills you need to grow a business in real time, day by day, and reporting on them week by week. You can follow along here every Monday; check in with my companion blog, A Virgo's Guide to Marketing, for additional links and information.

This week, Part 2 of Optimizing Your Online Presence: Getting your site to do the heavy lifting

Before I get into the meat of this, I need to address a couple of things. First, the stated task for this week of the Veteran's Calendar is to choose three projects to write up as case studies. That's great, but it's not what I needed most, so I decided to tackle another online-related task: getting my "hire me" pages up and running.

Second, working this calendar out loud has been nothing short of monumental in the amount of stuff it's enabled me to finally get done towards accomplishing my goals—some of them quite longstanding.

Take, for example, my "hire me" page. I've been semi-officially retired from design for over a year  now, but up until this week, all of the "hire me" links on my site redirected people to my old (and outdated) design portfolio site. I'm not embarrassed by the work, nor am I trying to hide my background as a designer, however brief it was. But I knew it had to be confusing to people—the email queries asking "What do you do, exactly?" and "How do I hire you now?" were a big hint—and I was overdue for getting something more concrete up there.

How I pulled together my "Hire Me!" page

The first thing I did was to block off the entire weekend. In my experience, any web-related project not only takes a lot of time, but a lot of time in a row. Also, I like the immersion technique, and I didn't want to get into it and then immediately get pulled off of it to do something else.

But you can pretty easily chunk the tasks themselves into smaller, more digestible portions, as follows:

  • Research other sites for inspiration (anywhere from 5 minutes to 1/2 hour at a time) You may or may not be looking at competitors' sites, and think loosely about the term "competitor" anyway.
  • Review your site for "missing" pages (1/2 hour) I've been keeping a wish list of stuff I want to do to my website, but I still took one more pass with my "prospect" hat on. If I was looking for help with my marketing and I came to this site, what would I want? How would it be easiest for me to find? It helped me realize which pages I needed to add, and the order of the information within them.
  • Scour your files for copy that already exists (1/2 hour – 1 hour at a time) I don't know about you, but there's a wealth of usable data buried in my emails to various clients, prospects and just queriers (which isn't a word, apparently, but should be!). I've gotten in the habit of tagging emails with "boilerplate" and "keepers" and other cryptic codes, so they're easy to pull up when I need them. But even if you're starting now, search functions have gotten so much better that you could probably pull up a lot of info from a well-picked set of keywords, looking in your sent mail for stuff to clients, etc.
  • Write pieces of your "hire me" page (1/2 hour – 1 hour at a time — less if you're fast!) Again, I like to collect info a little at a time, then write all at once. But you could break it out into pieces if you hate sitting down for a long time: your philosophy, your list of services, your process, etc.

Nerdy details that bear mentioning on creating new web pages

In my case, I also wanted the page to be as easy to read as possible, which got me to do something else I've long put off: tweak the text size, line height (or leading) and formatting of my entire site. I'm not great with coding, so I made sure to attack this while I was very fresh and full of energy; NEVER CODE TIRED!! Also, save your work often, and keep a clean backup so that if disaster strikes, you can go back and restore things easily.

I'm definitely going to do a "do as I say" thing, here, and suggest you draft your work in a text editor, then bring it into your CMS (content management system)–WordPress, Expression Engine, TypePad or whatever else you use. If you're handing it off to a developer, you pretty much have to do this, but a lot of us DIY-with-WordPress types get in the bad habit of doing our content creation and our design testing at the same time. Mea culpa is all I can say; I realize the process would have gone much faster if I'd written all my text, THEN imported it, but I just like seeing how things are gonna look right NOW.

Research call follow-up and other marketing housework for the week

One side effect of not having my online ducks in a row was postponing my email follow-ups to the research calls I've been making. Ilise was alarmed when I told her I'd not followed up on a single one, and urged me to follow up with just an email reiterating what I'd said during the call (or the voicemail), so that I'd make the contact.

I was bummed; I really wanted to have a nice, shiny packet o' stuff to send before I replied. But she insisted that I could create things as people asked for them, so I swallowed my pride and started firing off follow-up emails. I didn't get them all out, but I'm making headway. That's what all this is about, right? Making a little headway every day, not doing it perfectly.

I've also been playing with my contact management system. I'm doing a trial of BatchBook right now and so far, I'm really liking it. It could be a little prettier (sorry, BatchBook—I'm picky!), but it's packed with useful features I'm discovering as I go. One of my favorites is being able to bcc all my follow-up emails straight into BatchBook, where they're automagically added to that contact's history. Niiiice! There are also some really robust tagging and sorting functionalities I've only begun to play with. More on that as I use it.

A list of pages I created for my site, and a request!

To recap, this week I created…

  • A landing page for acting-related searches This replaces the page with all my LA Casting columns on it as my acting-related landing page. I've left it up, but you now have to click on something else to get to it.
  • A "hire me" page for all the services I currently offer It's not exactly right yet, but it's getting there. On it is a section about my mission and philosophy, a section for civilians (i.e., non-actors) and a section for actors or acting-related queries.
  • A contact form page As queries grow, I need to have some way of sorting things to help keep me sane. I'm test-driving this particular WordPress plugin; if I like it, I'll have it coded to match my site better, and toss the developers a few bucks, as well. (Most WP plugins are free, but it's good karma to share some material love, I think.)

I would love any feedback you can give: suggestions for improvement, kudos, pointers to broken links & stuff. Also, it would be great to get a feel for what's still missing. I have ideas, of course, but I'm so close to it at this point, I have zero objectivity. It's time to step away, work on something else for a bit, and see how people respond to what's there now.

Next week: For most people, eNewsletter stuff; for me…well, any idears?

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