A week ago we returned from a very productive trip to the Adobe San Francisco office, where we met both our SVP, as well as a couple of very influential partners – Brent and Jason. One action item that we took from that trip was to make sure we very clearly and openly state what is our strategy and roadmap to the whole Business Catalyst partner community.

This blog post is about these concepts, explaining them in the simplest fashion possible.

Business Catalyst Mission

Our mission is to enable online businesses, not websites through a vibrant partner network.

Value Proposition

All in one as key differentiator, both for you as partners as well as for the business owners.

For you it’s the one stop shop that enables you to meet all your customers’ demands, allowing you to grow to be a successful agency, and for the business owners it’s the one place where you go to manage and grow your online business.

Business Catalyst Strategies

  • Treat our partners as real partners, not simply resellers of our solution.
  • Invest in the all-in-one aspect of business catalyst as main differentiator.
  • Reinventing Business Catalyst into a great platform that enables you to make your customers successful online, allowing the right engineering team velocity, scalability and elasticity.

All in one, explained

It's all about integration. It's not about how well the e-mail marketing side of Business Catalyst compares to our competitors (feature-by-feature comparison), it's all about how we can take advantage of the fact that our system offers e-commerce, analytics, CRM and CMS next to e-mail marketing, and how we can combine ALL these to make the world's best e-mail marketing tool by taking advantage of these integrations.

It’s about workflows that will enable partners to sell the integrated solution and all in one vision to business owners.

Tactics / Roadmap

September 2012

Better e-mail marketing/CMS integration, start working towards the platform vision.

  • Enable better integration between e-mail marketing and CMS and e-commerce, by allowing CMS content to be reused in e-mail marketing campaigns.
  • Start executing towards our platform vision, by improving the extensibility of the list layouts on web apps and e-commerce modules.

November/December 2012

Better e-mail marketing/CRM integration; advance e-commerce.

  • Better integration between e-mail marketing and CRM, by enabling things like list exclusions.
  • Expand e-commerce stock capabilities to product attributes.

February / March 2013

Better e-commerce integration; continue working towards the platform vision.

  • Enable better flexibility for e-commerce by enabling liquid in a production-ready fashion.
  • Better e-commerce reporting.

May/June 2013

Platform reinvention.

  • Enable flexibility for our webapps by enabling liquid and web apps API enabling partners to further extend Business Catalyst to SBO needs.
  • Enhance webapps up to a point where an average BC partner will be able to recreate and enrich most existing BC modules (blogs, photo galleries, etc) using web apps.
  • Enable webapps import/export to fuel an ecosystem of partners helping each other.

If you want to learn more about our strategy and focus for the near term, please attend our September 24th partner conference in San Jose, where the BC team members will be present, and more than open to get into more details.

- Bogdan

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In the last two posts, we've taken you through some easy steps for establishing better client communications.

Today, we'll talk about how you can create a solid action plan and sow the seeds for a long-term relationship with your client.

Create An Action Plan

You've gained an understanding of your client's business, talked strategy, and set some business targets. By now, the client is probably asking "How are you going to pull this off?" and you're most likely wondering that too. This is where you can demonstrate your expertise by giving the client an understanding of the Online Business you're about to build for them and outline how it will achieve their goals.

Once you've explained the motivations and what the goals are, you need to provide a documented timeline of where it goes from here.

1. Short-term
Your clients most immediate need is for you to build a website to roll-out and go live. The goals tied to this are all structural:

  • You need to provide suggestions for what content is required (and a mini plan for your client to deliver that content)
  • You need to discuss with your client what features are going to be implemented e.g what questions they need to ask in their contact form to qualify their customers? Do they need an online shop? What about a blog or forum?
  • What about the navigational structure of their website?
  • Other features and widgets or integration with social media?

2. Medium-term
Talk about launch and post launch marketing activities. These might not be done by you, but you need to give them a plan so they know how to nurture and grow their Online Business. Remember that a failed website often boils down the website owner having a "set and forget" mentality to maintaining their site.

Maintaining your client's website is an on-going process - think about eCommerce updates, new revenue generation, Email Marketing, SEO, SEM, utilizing the CRM Database and Advertising.

3. Long-term - What's next?
This is all about looking to the future and achieving long term goals. Websites need to stay dynamic or they quickly appear static and fall behind. What are you going to do to help your client overcome this?

Provide them with a plan for yearly site redesigns and encourage fresh, new content. Sow the seeds for future promotional work, email marketing templates, or advertising creatives - all of which you can provide them with in the future.

What's Next?

After working with their Online Business for a while, your client will figure out what works and what doesn't and they'll be much more involved in the next iteration of their site.

The key here is to establish yourself as an expert who will enable their business to succeed online, so in the future, they'll seek out you on-going assistance and require your services.

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Communication In the last post, we ran through the first two steps toward better client communications, beginning at your initial meeting. So far, you've talked in-depth about their business and gained an understanding of exactly what they want to acheive online.

Today, we're looking at how you can start talking strategy, and set business targets.

Talk Strategy

You need the business owner (your potential client) to see that what you're talking about is of strategic value to their business.

We've talked with them about what they want to achieve, so now we'll take a step back and paint a bigger picture. Show them that it's about more than a website, explain to them how they can use Twitter, comments on products, email marketing, or SEO to help achieve their goals.

At this point, we're aiming to make it clear - a simple website doesn't cut it anymore. A website is an integral part of their overall business strategy

As part of this strategy, their website requires a marketing plan. Websites need thought put into to how they will convert their visitors, meet business goals, capture leads, and make money. Expressing this truth to your client is what makes the difference between them seeing you as overpriced vs. them believing your services are worth every cent.

A business owner who treats a website launch just like they would treat the opening of a new office or branch is almost sure to be successful. Just like their brick and mortar store, their online store is a business that needs on-going attention, planning and strategy development.

The two goals here are to:

  1. Help the client perceive how important a website really is
  2. Make them to see you as an expert, offering a valuable, strategic service which will help them succeed.

Set Business Targets

On a piece of paper in the meeting, try and draft 3-5 basic and easy to understand business oriented goals for their Online Business.

Try for a short term, medium term and a long term goal. Here are some example of great goals that will excite clients:

  • 10 new customer leads from the web per week
  • $300 of online sales per week
  • Building a marketing database - 1000 subscribers by years end
  • 50 entries in their online competition
It's important here to avoid setting a goal for site traffic, as it's not meaningful. Always relate goals to something with meaning for their business - leads, revenue and costs.

You need to make sure the targets reflect what the client said they want to achieve, that they are buying into these goals and they don't feel like you're rushing through the process.

What's Next?

What is next? So you've opened your client's eyes to the need for stategic thinking in doing business online and set some solid business targets.

The key here is to establish yourself as an expert in what you're offering and show the client where you can help take their business.

In doing so, you're building the trusting relationship needed for better client communications well into the future.

In the next post, we'll be capping off the series by looking at how you can create an action plan for acheiving the goals you've just set and stick to it in the long-term.
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You may be a professional web designer, but that doesn't mean you're also a mind reader - that's why it's crucial to have a process for communicating with your clients effectively.

This is the first post in a new three-part series, "Your Guide To Better Client Communication". Over the coming months, we'll be exploring how you can establish a better flow of communication with your clients, starting on day one of your business relationship.

Talk About Their Business

When meeting with a client, what's the first thing you talk about? For most successful Web Designers out there, the answer is unanimous: talk about the client's business.

It doesn't matter if they're a cold prospect or someone who's found and approached you - this is your chance to make your pitch about genuinely improving their business rather than focusing on technology or your own skills.

It's a matter of one simple question:

"So, before we get into it - tell me about your business"

Find out when they started, how business is going, what they sell and how they sell it. Show interest and ask questions - "that's an interesting sales process, how does it affect XYZ?" - you're fishing out information about the way they sell and run their business, so you can customize a solution for them.

Your goal is to set the agenda of the first meeting as being about your client's business and what you can do in your capacity as a web designer to help them improve. Everyone loves to talk about their own business, so this is also a nice way to break the ice.

Understand What They Want

Now that you have a firm grasp of how your potential client's business works, the next logical question is: "what are you hoping to achieve online?"

You've got to understand what their expectations are, their motivation and their desired results. Why are they going online? Why do they want to work with you?

Try and get them to express their goals in business oriented terms - I need to: "reach a wider audience", "generate online sales", "get old customers to come back" etc. Some clients are not going to have a clue and look to you for guidance. Others will think they know everything and promptly go about showing off how much they know.

Both the content of their answers and their attitude in answering gives you important information. You may need to alter their expectations, dialing down their enthusiasm to a more realistic level. On the other hand, you may need to significantly ramp it up, opening their eyes so they can see the possibilities they're missing out on.

The key here is to get inside the head of the client and understand how they work and exactly what they want, before proceeding with the project.

What's Next?

What's Next

So you've talked in-depth about their business and gained an understanding of what the'yre looking to achieve online - all from the very beginning of your designer / client relationship.

The open flow of communication and level of understanding you've established has set the stage for better results and a happier a client.

In the next post, we'll be continuing the series by looking at how you can start talking strategy and setting business targets with your clients.

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In the last post, we looked at some great examples of how you can Generate New Leads using BC.

This is the final part in our "6 Online Business Stategies" series, and we're capping it off by looking at how you can "Build Customer Loyalty" as a strategy for your Online Business.

Help Your Clients Build Customer Loyalty

Attracting new customers to your site is a time consuming and expensive task in itself, but many business owners often forget to use their Online Business in catering to the needs of their existing customers.

Switched on business owners are applying subscription models to a widening range of businesses to generate a recurring cash flow from a loyal customer base. They're reaching out to their existing customer base by using email marketing and personalizing the online shopping experience by offering discounts, vouchers and recurring billing options.

Here are some great examples of how you can build customer loyalty using BC:

Art Needlepoint - encouraging newsletter subscriptions...

This beautifully designed site encourages customers to suscribe to the newsletter on the "Sales & Specials" page by promoting a Buy 3 Get 1 Free offer for registered members. Buy 3 Get 1 Free is a great tactic that Art Needlepoint has used to gain their customers permission to send mail emarketing to them and follow-up on a regular basis.

Another benefit of subscribing is the Refer A Friend system. Every time a customer refers a friend and that friend makes a purchase, the customer is credited with a $10 gift code. This is a great way to encourage newsletter subscriptions via word-of-mouth or referral marketing, helping your clients expand their customer base.

Kampai Wine Experience - offering recurring billing...

Designed by Receptive Technologies, this Online Business offers quarterly recurring billing and delivery as part of their Kampai Wine Club. By automating the back-end transaction process, Kampai are simplifying the shopping experience for customers, allowing them to focus on the great service being provided rather than manually organizing the billing.

Subscription Billing is a great model for encouraging customer loyalty and we're seeing more and more consumable/perishable products (especially in the boutique end of the market) being sold using this model. For example, you can sell weekly catering or boutique deli/grocery deliveries, monthly magazine subscriptions, or yearly access to downloadable content on your client's site. Think about how you can help your clients by implementing recurring billing and try it out today.

Best Friend NYC - personalizing the customer experience...

Best Friend NYC maintains customer loyalty by personalizing their shopping experience. By joining "The Best Friend Club," customers are given access to a range of exclusive features such as personalized product suggestions, a "favorites" section, and special discounts. Best Friend NYC are making extensive use of our Secure Zones feature to implement this functionality.

As a member of the club, you also receive a "Birthday Present" for your dog, based on the date you enter when signing up. By personalizing the online experience and making the customer feel as if they have been given individual consideration, Best Friend NYC keeps their customers (and their pets) smiling.

Selling the 'Build Customer Loyalty' Strategy To Your Clients

There is a familiar theme in the three sites we've looked at today - they all succeed in maintaining a strong relationship with their customers through personalization and regular communication.

This strategy is about keeping in touch with satisfied customers and periodically reminding them why they bought from you in the first place - all with the aim of encouraging repeat visits and purchases.

Help your clients build customer loyalty by:

  • Promoting newsletter subscriptions and using Email Marketing to stay in touch
  • Implementing subscription billing to generate automated, on-going cash flows
  • Personalizing the customer experience to keep them coming back

That's it for the "6 Online Business Strategies" series - we hope you've learnt some useful hints and tips for building powerful Online Business for your clients.

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How To: Google Maps Integration

Did you know you can map web-app items on an embedded Google map inside your Online Business with just a few clicks?
Follow this guide to understand how you can store address data for Web App items. Your Web-App items will then be displayed as location balloons on an embedded Google Map.

3 Steps to Integrate Google Maps with Web Apps

1. Get a Google Maps API Key here. You'll need this to insert the module. Also, make sure that Address Input/Search is enabled in Web App options:

2. Add the Address data to your Web App items. When creating new items, you will be given the option to add address details. To add an address to an existing item, simply select the item and then the "Address" tab:

Fill the address fields for the individual Web App item and click "Save" to confirm your changes.

3. Insert a pre-made Google Maps module. There are two modules available: one that maps a Web App item list and one that maps Web App search results. For this example, we're going to use the first module:

This module can be added to any page where Web Apps are currently being. Just substitute the fields relative to the Web App you wish to display on the map and replace "googlekey" with the Google API Key from the first step.

Further details on how to use this and the Map Search Results module can be found at the:

How Google Maps Integration Helps Your Client

Store Locators

Real Estate Listings, hyperlinked to detailed Web App view.

A great example of this is a Store Locator, where the location of your client's stores or offices are pinpointed on an embedded map. Using our pre-made modules, you can make the map searchable and apply filters to the items displayed.

Embedded maps can also be used to plot real estate listings. You can display all the available properties on a large map, which when clicked take the user to the detailed view of the Web App item.

Try it out yourself today.

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In the last post, we looked at some great examples of Blogs and Email Marketing on BC. This time, we're looking at how to "Automate Your Customer Service" as a strategy for your Online Business. Check out what we had to say last October, as part of our 6 Online Business Strategies.

Help Your Clients Serve Their Customers

Does your client find themselves on the phone all day? Do their customers complain that they can't be contacted after hours?

Today, Business Owners are using self-help portals to automate their customer service allowing them to work on the business, not the phones. They're using web-forms to qualify enquiries before directing them to the right person to answer them, and they're directing customers to FAQs, how-to's and do-it-yourself articles. All this cuts down the live help load.

Here are some great examples of automated customer service on BC:

Spitfire - great service from a rebranded partner...

For our rebranding partners, you can turn your free partner site into a self-help portal for your own clients by following this fantastic example created by MDX Interactive. Once an existing customer logs in, they are provided with links to a knowledge base of self-help tutorials, video training, forums and the unbranded Online Business Wiki. Setting up a secure support zone for your client's customers will help ease the demand for time-consuming Live Help.

Bogan Bingo - automating booking enquiries...

Created by Renaissance Funk, this fun Online Business is managing booking enquiries using web forms. You'll notice that the form collects details such as Venue, Date and No. of Guests, alerting the business owner of the enquiry and allowing them to quote a price based on these fields. You can set up a similar system up for your client using Web Forms, triggering a Workflow that notifies them when a new enquiry is made.

Food Matters - serving customers with an FAQ...

Always Interactive has helped Food Matters answer customer queries by building an extensive FAQ that provides all the relevent information in one place. For example, clicking "Can I call to place an order over the phone?" provides customers with a direct phone number they can call. FAQs are a great way of organizing the most important information for your client's customers in one, easy to navigate page.

Selling the 'Automate Your Customer Service' Strategy To Your Clients

Although employing different tactics, there's a familiar theme present in all three sites we've looked at - they all succeed providing customers with the information they need in an automated and efficient manner. This strategy is about taking the stress and distraction away from the business owner by streamlining the customer service process and allowing them to focus on running their business

Help your clients automate their customer service by implementing features such as FAQ's, Enquiry Forms and building Self-Help Portals for their customers.

In the next post, we'll be looking at how BC Partners have built sites that Generate New Leads for their Clients. 

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Software Designer
How often have you engaged a client who's not quite sure what they want from their website? A lack of clear direction leads to a website that's a haphazard mish-mash of content, images, ads and navigation menus that's a nightmare for the user and doesn't convert because it bounces visitors.

To counter this problem we need to think with the end in mind when designing for a client. We need to guide them through different strategies for different types of sites. This post kicks off a 6-part series where we're going to carefully and concretely examine each of the 6 Online Business strategies in action using live BC Partner Designed sites as showcases...

Part 1 - Selling Online

"To reach sales targets and reduce shopping cart abandons, you'll need to focus on an all-in-one eCommerce site complete with catalogs, products, shopping cart, shipping and a payment gateway and that provides an immersive and seamless shopping experience." - taken from the BC Blog, last October.

Catalog and Product Layouts

Are featured products being displayed on the homepage? When designing online shops make sure you put a large gallery or catalog of featured products on the front page (just like a department store front window display) - it entices customers to click through and makes the intention of the website clear, this is an online shop and I'm here to buy. Furthermore, it's a good idea to have catalog-subnavigation on the homepage as well so browsing products is only 1 click away. A great example is Designer Mum by GloobleWeb.

Designer Mum Screenshot

Shopping Cart Design

One of the most overlooked elements of online store design is a clearly accessible 'Checkout' button that's accessible from anywhere on the site (not just the catalogs/products subsections) - Pretty Pollution show us an elegant solution by putting a customized checkout button in the page template header for ArtCoolMad.

Art Cool Mad
As for Shopping Cart customization, iBingz by Click2IT takes the prize here with their very simple summary of products you've ordered and their 2 calls-to-action - you can either checkout or continue shopping. I like this approach to limiting options for the shopper (less thinking).

iBingz Screenshot

Checkout Design

Finally we go to MidoriRideShop by MoultonStudio for an example of how to customzie a Checkout form. They've made it easy to fill out by segmenting it into 3 distinct bite sized pieces and asking for the minimum information they need. There's less fields, it's less daunting and a nice touch is the final order price in large font at the bottom with the 'Place Order' button underneath.


Common Themes across Different Shops

We might've chosen 4 different sites to showcase different features but the recurring theme we glean is that each site is a laser-focused online store that's easy to use and navigate from end-to-end in the online shopping process. We're presented only with as much information as we require, and we only need to make a minimum of mouse-clicks to make the purchase. It's an integrated and seamless experience with no speed humps. These are excellent examples to follow when you design your online shop.

In the next post of the series, we'll be looking at how BC Partners have built Online Communities to attract traffic.

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I've been writing for the past few weeks on a problem I've called the Broccoli Problem. Broccoli problems are everywhere, and if you want to grow your business, you need to find them and remove them. The classic Broccoli Problem is embodied by my aunt and her son's objection to eating Broccoli:
Broccoli may be good for me BUT it tastes terrible.

Last week I wrote about Removing the Negative - how to remove the problem altogether. This week I'm going to discuss my third strategy: how you can simply embrace the problem and move on.

Embracing Your Broccoli Problem

This is probably my favorite strategy. It's super simple: that guy doesn't like the taste of broccoli, no problems. Just go and find someone who does! This strategy is about finding a better target market - the possibility is that you've just landed in the wrong market, and your product is better suited to another market. 

This one's rather interesting, because sometimes you don't necessarily need to embrace the problem itself, but rather you need to find people who at least  don't care.

Unfortunately though, it doesn't always work; my aunt couldn't exactly go and swap her son. That said, there are many Broccoli problems that can be solved this way.

Think about Diet Cola.

Diet Cola may have less sugar HOWEVER it doesn't taste as good as regular Cola.

You can fix this Broccoli problem by simply finding people who care more about the health benefits and less about the taste. Most broccoli problems can be solved this way, although sometimes it's not optimal to do so. 

Consider every single statement I've written about in the past few weeks - all of them could be solved by embracing the problem. You just need to find the niche of people who care more about the positive side and much less about the negative side. Problem solved.

Fixing your Broccoli Problem

So, what's your broccoli problem? Chances are you have a whole bunch of them and they all sound and look different. The key is to pick out the most commonly repeated ones, the ones that you think are holding your business back the most, and address those issues with the appropriate strategy.

Good luck broccoli hunting. Next week I'm going to end my affair with Broccoli with my final post on the subject - how to choose the right strategy for YOUR broccoli problem. 

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Brett Welch | BC

Street Cred is for Rappers, Net Cred is ...

Rappers Need Street Cred. So you need... Net Cred?

What's street cred? The urban dictionary of slang gives us this definition:

Street Cred
Short for street credibility (n) -
repsect(sic) from urban communities. usually something essential for making it big in the rap world.

Now if I may offer a definition of Net Cred:

Net Cred
Short for internet credibility (n) -
Respect from the online community, with tacit acknowledgement that the information or propositions you present online are real and somewhat trustworthy. Usually something essential for making it big online.

Unfortunately, Net Cred isn't really measurable - it's more a feeling people will get when they land on your website.

Think about this: when you're surfing the web, you're often looking for something. It might be a gift for your sister, some information for a project, or news on your favorite singer.

Sometimes you'll find something suitable, but then ask yourself: "Can I trust this website?"

That's when the website's Net Cred comes into play; the more apparent the site's Net Cred is the more likely you will buy the product, use the information or believe the news.

Zooming in on Online Businesses for a moment - for every business, there are some basic building blocks of Net Cred that can be (and should be) used pretty easily. If you are a business owner, here are some things you can add or do to your website to lend a basic level of Net Cred in the eyes of your visitors.

  • Your physical office address. Real companies have real postal addresses - so tell people about it!
  • A phone number. Your customers might not call it, but at least they know they can, if they want to.
  • Watch your spelling and grammar. It's simple, but important. If someone has too many spelling mistakes and poor grammar it's too easy to be dismissed as amateur.
  • Think about presentation. Your website should look good. It doesn't need to be a work of art, but spend some time, effort or money to ensure your site is well laid out and easy on the eyes. Either use a professionally designed template (as our online business builder does) or get a designer to put something together.
  • Make sure your site displays nicely on all browsers. Too many sites only work on Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), and not Firefox or Safari. Websites need to work across IE, Firefox and Safari for mac users - if your site doesn't display correctly to your potential customer, they will not buy from you.
  • Add an About Us page. About us pages are commonly read by people trying to work out if they should trust a company. Make sure you have one! It should tell the prospect 5 important things about your company: who you are, where you are, what you do, why you do it and how you do it.

That's 6 things - and there's loads more, no doubt.

The point is simple: credibility is a huge question when your customers land on your website. You've got to make sure you are communicating your credibility effectively - or you'll lose them lickity split.

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