If you are a Hawaii Business finding yourself navigating the unfamiliar and ever changing world of the web you are no doubt looking to cut through the crap. The rapidly changing online landscape makes it hard for even the professionals to keep up. There is a lot of noise out there and these people are screaming out you from all directions. There is an over saturated market and not enough available education for our small businesses.
As a business you need to know that there are people out there right now targeting Hawaii Businesses. Our Aloha spirit makes Hawaii more susceptible to falling prey.
Through unethical advertising, false or exaggerated claims and outright lies people have succeeded in scamming many local businesses already. I have had many clients come to us trying to recover their losses.
The good news is, that it can be easily avoided.
RULE #1 – DO YOUR RESEARCH!
I can’t stress this enough. The secret to avoiding being ripped off, or ending up with something that will cost you more money to fix is this point right here.
CHECK EVERYTHING OUT!
No doubt many of you have already gotten emails, cold calls, even personal visits to your business, claiming they can help you spin your business into online gold. Some of these people are nice, friendly and charming. Others resort to high pressure sales tactics.
It does not matter what any of these people say or how well intentioned they may seem. No matter how great their website is, how impressive their presentation or marketing materials are, no matter what they promise you. IGNORE IT and follow these tips.
- Avoid unsolicited services. If these businesses were doing what they claim, they would not need to solicit you. The best businesses have people coming to them. Many of them don’t market because they don’t have to.
- Do your own research. Ask around! Get referrals from local business organizations. Better yet, look around and businesses who seem to be doing it right, and just ask them how they did it and who they use.
- Avoid using businesses who don’t give examples of their work, or have vague information about who they are and where they are from. Google them. Check out their website. If you have even a little trouble finding information about them on the web be wary. A reputable business will be transparent and easily accessible online.
- Never rely on their own claims (even screenshots of their work can be manipulated). CHECK THEM OUT. Don’t take their word for it. Taking an hour to simply check out things like if they are a legal business, calling some of their clients, and actually going to the websites in their portfolios to see if they exist is a good idea.
- Be careful of off shore businesses. Try to stay with local, or at list in country businesses who are REGISTERED legal businesses paying taxes. Not only does it show they are more serious, but it helps you recover damages. Local businesses also do a better job with marketing because they know the area and the keywords that only locals would know.
- Be careful of Craigslist. I am not saying you can’t find any decent help on Craigslist, I am just saying that you need to know what type of people market there. I would say about 1 in 20 is trustworthy. Many of theme appear to be local, but are actually not. Again, not necessarily a bad thing that they aren’t local, the problem is that a company that is not being forthright and find it necessary to be vague and misleading about their origins and location are not trustworthy.
- Do not trust a company that promises your page one ranking. No one can guarantee that and no ethical company would make that claim.
- Try and find a FULL SERVICE company. Someone who not only designs the sites but also codes them. There are web designers and web developers. You want someone who is both. You also want someone who understands that Search Engine Optimization needs to be built into a website and someone who offers education and training, and knows how to integrate and leverage Social Media.
FACT: There are numerous businesses right now, marketing in Hawaii that have false information on their site, from fictional clients, to false local addresses.
RULE #2 – KNOW THE ENEMY
So who are the people we see cost businesses the most money? Let’s get to know them:
- The well intentioned family member, friend or start up company who set up a facebook page or website once
- The unethical money-hungry scam artists.
- The off shore or out of state company with the local sales people
The Friend or Startup
I am not saying your friends or new companies are bad people. But well intentioned people can do just as much damage to your business online and it will cost your money in the end. This could be your friend, your brother in law, your employee, a new business just starting out. Any experience professional will tell you that we spend more time and more of our clients money repairing the bad work that resulted from a well intentioned person. You were looking to save money and in the end spent more than had you had paid someone to do it right the first time.
There is a lot involved in building websites and successful social media campaigns. It takes years of experience. No one can learn this overnight. Some of these people mean well and are looking for a way to make extra money or start a new career. I have watched 11 businesses spring up around Hawaii offering social media services in the last 4 months at costs higher than I charge. ALL of them have new twitter and facebook accounts with less than 100 followers, no clients or campaigns to speak of. They have some great looking websites, and well written content and marketing materials. But not one of them have any experience.
True story: A client of mine had a sister in law that wanted to start building websites. She had a built a few and told my client she wanted to redesign theirs. She didn’t do a bad job with the design. But she made a lot of rookie mistakes that made it clear she didn’t understand search engine optimization or copyright law. The site got them in trouble with google and was removed from the searches, they lost all of their ranking and they got hit with $4000 in fees from copyright owners because she used illegal imagery and non licensed products.
The out of state company with the local sales people
There are quite a few of these in Hawaii now. They are either out of state or out of country firms that have created website specifically for Hawaii, that have local numbers and addresses (some real and some not). They have hired local sales people to attend meetings or solicit businesses.
The problem I have with these companies are their tactics. I feel its unethical and misleading to encroach on another market by misrepresenting yourself as a local company. If you want to market in that area fine, but be forthright about who you are and where you are. Several local companies have contacted some of these people. When we asked them outright if they were local they lied or gave answers that implied they were.
Don’t hate me for saying this. But as a business owner, you can be your own worst enemy. SEE RULE #
RULE #3 WHEN IN DOUBT, GET HELP
The TRUTH: You are going to have to pay for help. Its just that simple. Think about your own business. I am sure there are people who choose to try to do it themselves, or there are cheap options for what you do. And you know, at some point they are going to need a professional. If you try to cut corners, you are taking a risk. And if you do that, you only have yourself to blame.
If you can’t afford to hire someone to build your website or run your marketing campaign and plan to try yourself, try hiring a consultant. Some companies are willing to offer consultations to small businesses. Maybe the web designer you wanted to hire but can’t afford might have an hourly rate and would be willing to sit down with you and help you. Be honest with them. They can discuss your budget, available options, and you can even hire them to teach you or your staff social media or how to update your website.
Workshops and seminars are also a huge help. Try an attend regular events to help keep you in the KNOW.
RULE #4 BUILD A TEAM
When approaching someone to handle your web design or marketing needs, its important you understand a few important things. You to look at them as part of your team. You need someone you can trust and that has a history of supporting businesses in your community because things keep changing and you will continue to need help. Building a relationship with someone now will save you so much time and money over time.
When hiring your own staff, try and find people with experience in social media or online marketing or who are interested in it. Having someone on your staff like that will be hugely helpful. You can pay them a little more and give them a cool title and make them in charge of working with your web studio. Most will be grateful for the experience as well.
The biggest mistake you can make is treating your prospective web team like you are hiring a new employee and that its their job to impress you.
Here is a little inside information. You are being interviewed too!
You will be sized up and the results of that assessment will determine the cost and whether they will even take the job. In order for us to give you a proper proposal, we have to know what is involved in a project.
Most companies, have a set pricing scale they go from. But there are things that can come into play that will affect this scale and that is YOU. There are red flags they look for in potential clients.
Once you find a team you can trust its important you understand how to work with them. If you have done your homework and followed these tips, you should have a qualified team behind you and should not be worrying. Now, its time to let them do their work.
- Asking WHY too much
- Nitpicking or complaining about cost
Follow these rules and you will get the best out of them and they will WANT to help you.
RULE #5 BE SECURE
There are so many security issues, that it is now more than ever, vitally important you take steps to secure yourself online.
I am surprised by how many people do not have IT people for their computers. I see clients with very unsecure systems, passwords, emails, etc.
I can tell you that when something goes wrong, and it always does, it is huge and never a good time for them.
BE PROACTIVE, don’t wait for something to go wrong. Having an IT person come by every few months to check out your computers and help you stay up to date is worth the money.
Have a password system in place, where you and your employees change your passwords regularly.
Consider investing in APPLE products. Apple has a huge amount of resources, training, and support that does not cost anything and they have an entire department that supports businesses.