Website Design for 2017 and Beyond

I often mention this in my seminars and newsletters, but it bears repeating.  Website “flavor” changes over time.  If you look back at 1990’s websites, and move forward into 2000, 2005, 2010, and now today you’ll see a marked difference in layouts, design elements, etc.

What is driving design right now is the use of mobile devices.  Sites must work properly on those little screens.  That’s why you often see larger images, big buttons, etc.

For small business people, a website is a major investment that is your calling card to the world.  It better look fresh and modern or you will be perceived as outdated.

Want to know one writer’s opinion of what’s next? 

Please read this article from Webflow.


Marketing/Discoverability/Location, Location, Location


Business location is critical in having a successful endeavor.  For retailers, putting your business in the wrong place can cause you to spend enormous amounts of advertising dollars to attract customers.  If your business is B2B, you may think location is not important, but that’s not true.  Let’s examine this a bit more.

Retailers  A business owner will consider a number of factors when choosing a location but a lot of times it comes down to what they can afford.  However, a cheaper location can become very, very expensive if you’re not near where the most business is located.  Have you ever wondered why near most McDonald’s there are also Burger Kings, and a whole array of other fast food locations?  Obvious answer:  They are not looking for “cheap” they’re looking for “visibility”.  So, they are willing to pay for that because without visibility they will spend enormous amounts of money trying to get customers through the door.

I once had a car dealer customer who sold a vacant piece of land to another car dealer who had a very, very popular vehicle brand.  “Why did you do it?”, I asked him.  At my younger age I thought this just didn’t make sense, to let your competitor move right next door to you.  He immediately replied “Are you kidding?  That brand is the #1 brand in the US.  Every customer that goes there has to pass my dealership first!  I get a chance to draw them in before they get to my competitor!”  Time has proven him correct.  His dealership grew to more than double its size since his competitor moved in.

Another interesting strategy was from a restaurant owner.  Being in a location that is a tourist destination, he depends on a steady stream of visitors.  Reaching them through traditional advertising would be cost prohibitive, as he would have to advertise in a multitude of far flung markets.  How does he attract customers?  Well, he knows there are huge attractions such as ski slopes, water parks and a gambling casino.  All of them spend millions in advertising to draw people to the area.  So, he uses only billboards along the major routes, and email marketing to bring in customers.  Does it work?  He’s packed all the time.

B2B  While it may not be as much of an issue, the logistics of selling B2B can impose challenges.  If you are located too far from your customers, you will increase lag time for filling orders.  You may also spend a lot of time and money caring for those customers when a closer location would be perhaps more costly but much more effective.  Sometimes, a creative solution will serve you well.

When I sold accessories to car dealers, I had dealers that used a lot of pre-painted spoilers.  I did not have enough storage space, so I relied on the fast turnaround of my suppliers when I needed 6 or 10 spoilers right away.  When I placed the orders, I would generally have them in about 3 days.  The problem was that if any of those vehicles were sold before I could get back, then I lost the sale and was stuck holding a pre-painted spoiler until I could sell it.  Better solution:  I located some storage space with one of my dealership customers, which was located right in the heart of where most of my business was.  I then stocked a fair amount of inventory.  I added other items I knew would sell quickly such as step bars, vent visors, etc.  The result?  I was able to fill orders THAT DAY for customers.  It reduced my frustration, as well as theirs.  They got what they needed, and I was able to substantially increase my sales volume.

If your business relies on sales to other businesses, you might need to examine things like distance to your customers, shipping costs, how convenient is it for them to come to your location if they need something quickly, and whether or not any of your competitors are in closer proximity to your customers.  If evaluating this leads to the conclusion that a new location would be better for your business then make the change.

Physical location is not the only issue in our digital age.  In our next post, we’ll discuss your digital footprint and how you can use it to build more business.

Marketing Basics – Discoverability

discoverabilityThe first rule of marketing is discoverability.  It comes down to this:  If they don’t know about your products, services, or YOU, they can’t do business with you.  All the work in unique product design, beautiful store fixtures, excellent training, logos and branding mean nothing if you can’t be found.  So, how is that accomplished?  There are a number of ways, some obvious, some not-so-obvious.

In this series of blog posts, we’re going to explore various ways a small business can be sure they are “discovered”.  Some of those are:  Location, online presence, search engines, online directories, advertising and promotion, email and social media marketing, and the “in-store” experience.

SEMA 2015 Seminars

KS_SEMA-2015So, I’m really humbled with this.  When SEMA approved my proposals to speak at SEMA 2015, I was excited and hopeful.  When they notified me I was scheduled for Tuesday, I was…well…disappointed.  Tuesday?  10 AM?  The SEMA Show opens at 9 AM on Tuesday.  I had no hope that I would have ANYONE in my program.  Boy was I wrong.


First, let me tell you about my trip to SEMA.  On Sunday morning, I got up at 2:30 AM.  I had to leave for the airport at 4 AM.  In my inbox was an email from Zane Clark.  A speaker on the program for the Manufacturer’s Rep Council had taken ill and they needed an emergency fill in for 3:30 PM.  Could I do it?  I responded either I could, or my partner Dave Yunghans could.

Well, Sunday was supposed to be my day to “breathe”.  It wasn’t turning out that way.  Mind you, I would do anything I could for Zane because he’s a great guy.  We broke him in to his new job with SEMA when I was PRO Council chairman.  He was supportive of the council and has moved on within SEMA to be a tremendous asset to the industry.  So, I couldn’t let Zane down.  Well, thank goodness for Dave…because Dave did all seven presentations.  I got there after the event started, thanks to the luggage carousels at McCarren.  Dave was already fired up and going.  So, we made it through Sunday.

Monday was going to be “go to education programs and learn stuff” day.  Nope.  My client did not get their booth stuff in on Sunday, so they needed help.  My partner, Nicki Schoen, was getting in at 1 PM so I had to make sure to get her into her hotel and then drag her back to the convention center (poor thing endured a Spirit Airlines flight to Vegas and probably needed a soak in the tub and bed).  I spent Monday evening in my hotel room going through my two presentations for the next day.  Vegas is all party and fun, right?  Wrong…not when you’re a professional speaker and you visit there several times a year.  I hardly ever see anything of Vegas except what I view from the monorail….

So, Tuesday arrived.  I had fears of stepping into an empty room and presenting my program to 5 people.  Thirty minutes before my program started, I was in the room.  There were already about 15 people in there.  “No place else to crash?”, I thought.  Nope…they wanted to be sure they had seats.  Fifteen minutes before I was to begin, the room had 50 people in it.  Hmmm….not bad.  My dear friend, Jim Goguen of Jim’s Auto Installations ( was standing there smiling at me.  Jim is always smiling.  He made me feel a big burst of confidence.  Realizing this party was already starting, I said to Jim,  “Here’s a mic.  Tell everybody why you use email marketing”.  He talked for 15 minutes about his success, which by the way is quite remarkable, and he really warmed up the crowd.  By the time I started, there were over 100 people in the room and they were still streaming in.  SEMA later reported to me I had 192 in attendance.  Highest attendance for a Tuesday education program.  Wow!

It was a great crowd with a lot of interest in the topic.  Personally, as a part of the industry, I was amazed at the people in that room and the level of expertise.  These are MY people!  This is MY industry.  When I asked how many had marketing plans, more hands went up than in ANY seminar I’ve presented to ANYWHERE in the US in ANY industry.  My industry gets it more than any other!  I was so proud and enthused.

Here are some of the contents SEMA shared with me:

• Great seminar, If the rest of the show was not even here it made the trip worth it! (WOW.  Whoever wrote this…Thank You.  After years and years of working within the SEMA Councils, pouring my heart into my industry, this one comment brought tears to my eyes.  To think someone actually felt MY presentation was just as valuable as millions of square feet of exhibit space with thousands of exhibitors and over 130,000 people swarming the floor!  Wow.  I will never, ever forget this comment and I can only hope that I made an enormous impact on this person’s business life that will make them successful beyond their imagination.)
• Very detailed – Lots of info
• Excellent
• Easy to follow
• Good guidance
• Enlightening
• He knew his stuff
• Fantastic
• It was great
• Some great points
• Good & digestible information
• Very informative and applicable today
• Great content

Wow.  Just wow.  I cannot ever end the love affair I have with this industry and the people in it.  What a privilege to be a part of it, and be someone who can help others achieve success.

I will finish this with huge thanks to Nicki Schoen, Jim Goguen and Dave Yunghans.  You are not just friends but you have encouraged me, supported me and helped me achieve things beyond my dreams.  I cannot thank you enough.

VW How Could You?

News yesterday that VW knowingly installed software in their diesel vehicles that allowed them to spew pollutants but turned the vehicles into “clean” when hooked up to testing equipment has shocked and appalled the public.  It led to the resignation of Martin Winterkorn, who accepted responsibility but denied any involvement.

How could this happen?  It may take a long time before the truth comes out.  The Volkswagen brand has been tarnished and perhaps fatally.  The company now faces the recall of millions, MILLIONS, of cars.  It has set aside $7.3 billion….yes BILLION and the cost will probably run even more.  They face fines in the US of billions of dollars.

A few years ago, I wrote an article for a trade magazine on telematics.  The question on a lot of people’s minds back then was “Could the systems be hacked?”  At the time, “experts” told me it was unlikely.  Well, Jeep found out that wasn’t true, didn’t they?

The specter of hackers gaining control of your vehicle was unthinkable but now it appears it’s possible.  That’s bad enough.  But what about when the MANUFACTURER decides to use software to “hack” the system?  BP was scorned all over the world after their drilling rig caused the environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  Exxon is still castigated, rightfully so, for the oil leak of one of its tankers in Alaska.  VW has committed a sin against the world.  This was not an accident.  This was DELIBERATE.

Besides the effect of causing enormous amounts of pollution to escape into the atmosphere, potentially harming billions of people, not to mention all other life on the planet, what about the owners of these vehicles?  The choice to purchase a VW diesel is often made because of concerns about the environment–uses less fossil fuel, supposed to be “clean” (now we know better).  Owners of these vehicles will now face the inconvenience of having to bring their vehicles into a dealership to have the “fix” applied.  When that happens, it appears they will no longer have the economical vehicles they thought they were purchasing.  Result?  More fossil fuel burned, greater expense of ownership, potentially more pollution.  Another impact will be the hit they will all take on the resale value of their vehicles.  They could and probably will lose thousands of dollars as a result of the tarnishing of the brand and the fear of a buyer that somehow the vehicles are damaged goods.

I’m reminded of the recent mess with General Motors.  For years, GM brass knew about the ignition switch problem they had.  They covered it up.  The US government became the owner of GM, for all intents and purposes, and GM filed for bankruptcy.  Can they be sued for what happened before the bankruptcy?  Probably not.  Another huge black eye for the credibility of the automotive industry.

My guess?  If VW was doing what they did, there are probably similar things happening elsewhere in the auto industry.  It’s disturbing that this kind of immorality can be carried out.

Why Use An Email Marketing Service (Such As Constant Contact)?

I hear it all the time.  “I just keep a list of email addresses, and do a blast-send from Outlook.”  There are some compelling reasons to re-think this strategy, especially for small businesses and nonprofits.

First of all, and worst of all, you’re breaking the law.  Really?  Yes.  The CAN-SPAM act regulates the use of email by commercial and nonprofit enterprises.  What it boils down to is this:  Mass sends of email are OK as long as they comply with the law.  What determines compliance?  You must be easily identifiable:  Your company name, address, and phone number should be displayed.  You must have a 100% compliant means for “opt-out” of receiving future emails.  You must avoid the use of “spam-speak” and believe it or not there is actually a list of words and phrases that will not pass through most spam filters on the Internet.

Deliverability.  You send your stuff out through Outlook.  It gets delivered, right?  Wellllll…..not so fast, Lucy.  Here’s what actually happens:  Email from New York to Scranton doesn’t take Route 80 through New Jersey, a quick ride up Rt. 380, and arrive at the inbox of your recipient.  It may leave New York, travel to Iceland, then through France, then through China, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, and finally to Scranton.  Along the way, there are an array of filters that are used to check for email that may be “junk”.  It gets dumped and never delivered.  When you use a service such as Constant Contact, email becomes more likely to be “trusted” and therefore there is a high rate of deliverability.

Another problem with Outlook is that your ISP or domain-server may limit how many “sends” you can do per hour or day.  Mine is 250 per day.  My contact list is in the thousands.  Can you see the problem?

An email service company (again…Constant Contact) will give you trackability.  You’ll be able to see who opened your email, when, and what they clicked on.  You’ll also see how many “bounced” and can correct the obvious things like a mis-spelled name, wrong domain name, or even just leaving the “o” out of “dot com”.

Professional Appearance.  A well-designed template can incorporate your logo, your company colors and a pleasing format that is mobile responsive.  With the devices we use today, we thrive on visuals.  Outlook, gmail, Yahoo….they just can’t compete with a service like Constant Contact.

The Good Stuff…..Video links, document downloads, links to registration for your events…all can be handled properly by a service such as Constant Contact.  Additionally, using a tool called Simple Share, links to your email marketing pieces can be redistributed through social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Autoresponders.  If you don’t know what these are, you are missing probably the most magical part of using an email marketing service.  As new contacts are added to your database (whether directly added by you, or by some kind of sign-up form on your website) autoresponders can kick in and begin sending pre-written emails at specified intervals.  This gives you a silent marketer who is there working away for you.  What can you do with autoresponders?  Greet new subscribers, then begin telling them about your company.  Share tips and ideas with them.  Nurture your relationship with them.  Give them links to your website, links to videos….you’re only limited by your own imagination.  The beauty of it is that once it’s in place, you don’t have to touch it.  It just goes to work and your recipients receive a pleasant, steady stream of emails from you.  By segmenting your contact database, you can send one series of autoresponders to one group, and another series to a different group of contacts.

Would you like to know more about email marketing?  Download the free guide HERE!

Want to try out Constant Contact?  CLICK HERE TO GET A PRACTICE ACCOUNT.  No credit card needed, no obligation.  Sign up and see how it works.