Dave and Kim Kolb share experiences in growing their business, Hightouchweb.com – ideas that could help grow your design business.

After meeting at a resort, falling in love and being laid off at the 2000 tech bubble burst, Dave and Kim decided it was time to build their own Web company.

By combining and complementing their strengths in strategy, design and marketing, HighTouchweb.com was born.

MP3 audio interview of Dave and Kim Kolb, has them candidly sharing:

  1. Finding motivation in each other and maintaining a "CAN DO" attitude, to get through the tough times.
  2. Have fun doing it - Love what you do and "whatever you do", do it well.
  3. Taking time to follow up with every client (Kim sends personal welcome cards to every one of their customers).
  4. Dave shares his feelings on building their own CMS and the pain of using lots of 3rd party open source plug-ins, that didn't always work.

In their words:

  • Keep it simple and excel at the basics.
  • Don't be all things to all people, you'll drive yourself crazy.
  • Know who you are and what you do.

A Business Catalyst feature that benefits their clients:

"We view InContextEditing as the strongest sales tool within the tool set that BC offers. You can take a mere mortal and have them updating their website in no time with little or no training. The power this gives the client is priceless. They feel like they are actually participating."

I hope you enjoy hearing some of their story as much as I did.

Adam :)

Click here for the mp3 interview of Dave and Kim Kolb.

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The next video in our "Learn BC" series will help give you a better understanding of key BC concepts and the various modules available in your toolkit when building client sites.

In this episode you'll see how to integrate powerful BC modules in your web designs. We'll begin by taking a closer look at creating a dynamic menu, adding it to a page and overlaying a BC template. From there you'll see how both announcements and image portfolios are managed, and how you can begin moving your own content into your Partner site. Finally, we'll show you how BC customer management is integrated directly into all your web forms, and how visitor's contact data is used to send email campaigns.

Are you new to BC? Make sure you watch all five episodes of the series over at our new "Learn Business Catalyst" channel.

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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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Last month, we looked at Automating Customer Service using BC. This month we're looking at how to "Generate New Leads" 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 Qualify and Generate New Leads

Do your clients have a strategy or a process for generating new leads and passing them on to their sales team? Do they sell a highly customized or intangible product that can't simply be given a price and sold online?

Business Owners today are using web forms and quotes to automate the process of qualifying and generating leads. They're using workflows to alert the sales team via email and SMS, cutting the time the customer is waiting for their enquiry to be followed-up.

Here are some great examples of lead generation and capture on BC:

SimpleFlame - lead generation from a rebranded partner...

For our partners, you can optimize your own lead generation process by following this great example created by SimpleFlame. By placing effective calls to action at the base of the page they are funneling visitors to their contact page. The contact page uses a customized web form to capture additional information, including company details, cell phone number and most importantly, the type of job that the prospect is interested in engaging Simpleflame to quote and complete.

Every time this form is submitted, a workflow is triggered, alerting the sales team via email and SMS. If you or your client have large sales teams, you can use Customer Service Ticketing to delegate the enquiries to the team member with the least load. For more information on setting up CST, visit the:

House Of Bamboo - capturing leads using web forms...

Created by Click2It, this Online Business uses two highly customized contact forms to capture and qualify leads. You'll notice that the contact form collects information regarding the current project the prospect is working on. This is important for businesses who offer services that can't be sold online because the quoting process is too complex. Collecting this additional information gives the sales team a better understanding of the lead, allowing them to generate quotes and take a more personalized approach.

House of Bamboo also has a seperate business contact form, helping seperate sales leads from business or career enquiries.

Selling the 'Generate New Leads' Strategy To Your Clients

A familiar theme exists in the two sites we've looked at - they both effectively direct prospects to customized web forms, generating and qualifying new leads. These forms capture additional information about the lead which greatly helps the sales team in approaching them.

Sell this as a strategy to your clients where you can help them generate new leads by wisely placing calls to action, implementing customized contact forms and triggering workflows which automatically notify the sales team via emails and text messages.

In the next post, we'll be looking at how BC Partners have built sites that Build Customer Loyalty for their Clients. 

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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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In the last post, we looked at some great examples of eCommerce shops running on BC. Luckily for you, there's more to work than just building online stores with products, catalogs and checkouts. This time, we're looking at sites whose main focus is building an online community.

Part 2 - Build Your Community

"To build an online community, you'd need to nurture a social site with a discussion forum and post regular news on a blog to keep visitors coming back. Make a space for photo-uploads to show what's going on in your community, post podcasts of speeches or presentations for your visitors to download in a members-only area. Make sure members know about your site and that they contribute as well!" - taken from the BC Blog, last October.

Community Sites on BC

Why would you build a community site? Traditionally, not-for-profits like churches charities and government organisations used these to get their message out. However we're now seeing savvy marketers use online community sites to drive traffic to a product/service or a cause. The community (in the form of a blog, forums and anything else user posted) generates credibility and fresh content that attracts and builds an organic following. Let's have a look at a few:

Youngstown Metro Church - a modern online community...

This non-profit site by The Media District takes church community building to the next level by empowering visitors to contribute through the forums, prayer wall (comments) and a mini-site called metro-connect that's a dedicated portal for registering as a church volunteer or a family group. The site is centered around the blog on the front page which is used by the staff to post news and share thoughts. There's also a media page where you can download podcast sermons as Literature items. The whole gamut of BC features being used here to achieve an immersive user experience.

Best Buddies Australia - a simple charity site...

Best Buddies Australia Thumbnail
A more conventional not-for-profit site to help those with intellectual disabilities socialize and find employment, Best Buddies was built by Bos Web Systems. They've used secure zones to create the 'Buddy Up' login area for members and they've used eCommerce to allow donations and merchandise sales to raise money for the community.

Evolution Through Vacation - community sites as a marketing strategy...

Evolution Through Vacation
So far we've showcased a church and a charity, now comes the community site that's part of a marketing strategy to drive more sales - this type of site has been gaining traction for several years and is now reaching the mainstream. Check out Evolution Through Vacation by Osmond Design. Using BC Blogs to publish content, E-Commerce to sell their 'e->v' guide and email marketing to send a regular newsletter, this site also has a neat modal photo uploader for users to submit their own photos. Photos are sharedusing a Flickr flash slideshow (presumably the site owner vets and moves photos from their own site onto Flickr).

Selling The Online Community Site To Your Clients

These are some fantanstic examples to follow when building an Online Community. The main focus here is for users to be able to interact in some way - contribute their own content, register to become a members, communicate with other site users or the site owner and these are the topics you should be talking to your prospects about. Media and marketing are about having a conversation and presenting your prospects with a community site proposal will illustrate a clear need to upgrade from their 3-4 year old ecommerce-only or brochureware site.

In the next post of the series, we'll be looking at how BC Partners are using Blogs and Email Marketing to amplify their voice- and be heard.

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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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Brett Welch | BC

2 Cream Cheese Customer Service Lessons

Friday is "Coffee and Bagel" day for me. A white toasted bagel with cream cheese to be exact. See, I figure after a working week it's nice to treat myself to an easy, simple and delicious breakfast, right?

I really look forward to that bagel and its creamy cream cheesy cheese goodness. It's sorta like a mini-christmas day on friday - it makes me get up a little earlier and walk to work with a spring in my step.

And so it was that I bounced down the hill and into my coffee shop (they have the best bagels in North Sydney), rolled up to the counter and stopped. I ordered.

The lady took my order cheerily, then turned to her colleague. "Hey, are we still out of cream cheese?"

My mind entered a state of panic. No cream cheese was almost a deal breaker for me. So I waited anxiously for an answer.

"Yeah we are. Would you like butter instead?" She happily asks me.

My brain snapped back: "No-i-don't-want-butter-butter-sucks-on-a-bagel-you-silly-person-i-want-cream-cheese!!!!" But those words didn't make it to my mouth.

"Ummm..." I replied. I'm sure I looked pretty upset. "Ummmmmmm...." I looked down and resigned myself to butter on my bagel. "Ok."

The counter lady continued to serve me, taking my change and passing my order along. I was distracted, wistfully thinking about how much better my day would be with some cream cheese in it.

Just as I took my change, she says "Hey, we're sorry about the cream cheese. Next time have a drink on us, ok?" She passes me a free drink voucher. Now while  this may be pretty standard, I was surprised and thanked her.

I was suddenly a lot happier. I still missed my cream cheese, and my Bagel wasn't quite as good. But a simple gesture like that turned me from a disgruntled customer into a happy one. And more importantly, I will go back there next friday, in the hope that they have cream cheese once more.

Two important things to note:
  1. She made the decision to give me that voucher herself.
  2. The gesture didn't give me cream cheese, but it did improve my mood.
Which makes me wonder: in your business are you:
  1. Giving your front-line team the power to make decisions that make a difference?
  2. Giving your customers something extra when you disappoint them?
And finally, the most important lesson: A token gesture and saying "sorry" really does get you a long way.

Sometimes, human beings are incredibly simple animals. When we're upset or angry, we're usually in our basest, simplest state. And that means that it only takes simple gestures to start making it just that little bit better.
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Brett Welch | BC

Increasing Online Conversions: The Window Shopper Syndrome

Every business owner wants to increase conversions. Whether it's trying to get browsers in your street level clothing store to buy, or website visitors to add a product to their cart, we're all playing a game of converting browsers into buyers.

Naturally there are some browsers in your shop that are really quite serious and almost ready to buy. And there are also various degrees of browsers. I'm going to bunch all the browsing customers and call them Window Shoppers - ranging from completely uncommitted passers by to browsers in your shop tugging at a new sweater.

Recently I was in a store that I had no intention of buying anything from. As I walked through the store casting my eyes around, I started wondering:

How could this store's owner turn ME into a buyer?

Which leads me to a second thought. If I'm in your store I'm 1000 times more valuable than someone in the street, even if I have no intention of buying today. Why? Because you have my attention. It's your shop, your staff and your message. You should have a pretty good chance of converting me. Maybe not today, but one day. Buying decisions are often cumulative things.

But before we get too deep into this, let's try and get inside the head of a window shopper.

The Window Shopping Syndrome

While this would apply to both online and offline stores, I'm going to focus on ecommerce, or online stores. In this context, a window shopper is someone browsing your ecommerce store.

Window shoppers, the lovable little creatures that we are, share some similarities in the way they think. I've identified two things that are true of online window shoppers (By Brett's hand-waving theory of common sense and reasoning).
  1. They're actually looking for a product they want that you have, but they're not ready to buy yet. This is sometimes called pre-shopping - finding out information and prices etc before the purchase.
  2. They're interested in some information that you have, or just like to look at the latest widget thingy-ma-bob. They're a fan. In any case, they're not buying anything in particular, but you probably sell products or have information that they're generally interested in.
Thankfully when your shop is online your visitors are usually fairly targeted already. You're not so likely to get people wandering onto your website who are just waiting for their tardy friend.

So if that's what they're, how can we keep them happy? How can we convert these browsers into buyers - even though they're not really thinking of buying?

I think there's two things to accept up front:
  • They probably won't buy today.
  • They might buy in the future, but you can't be sure.
With that in mind, we've got to come up with ways so that they remember us when they DO want to buy.

3 Tactics to Increase Conversions: Recruit the Window Shoppers

Use Email Newsletters to Snag Future Customers

Have you got an email newsletter? Throughout your site, think about how you can prominently display your newsletter. Explicitly ask your website users to subscribe to your newsletter.

Use wording to incentivize the sign up - remember, you have to answer their inevitable question "why should I sign up? Phrases like "Sign up to receive updates on our products" are okay, but not as good as "sign up and receive discounts inside our monthly newsletter". Make sure you follow up on these promises though!

Give the Fans Even More Great Content

Search engines love content; so do fans. If you have reviews and comments on the latest iPod, it will be of interest to iPod fans. Write honest reviews of your products. Take photos and post them. Make videos showing you using the product or service if possible, and put them on YouTube. These things make your site a hub of information for people, and make you their top-of-mind store to buy their favorite widget from.

Build a Community

People like to hang out. They like to discuss and post their thoughts. Give your visitors a reason to stay! You can use Forums - why not link your forums to your products, so that people can discuss particular products? Or you could simply enable comments on your online store so that people can tell others what they think.

The 4Cs

Most of these ideas are easily derived out of the 4Cs framework - it's all about Content, Credibility, Conversion and Customer. Remember to keep what your customers are looking for right at the top of your list of priorities, and you'll be heading in the right direction.
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