Welcome All things Online, the b:web Podcast
What’s the Point? We ask: What is the point of a website anyway? And, how do you stand out in a busy landscape.
Listen to episode 1 using the links below
Our podcasts were professionally recorded by audio specialists Fresh Air Group in their lovely studio in Plymouth. Paul hosted the interview with our CEO ZEO Ashby, and provided the helpful transcript below.
Paul: Hello and welcome to the B:Web podcast, All Things Online, where we’re talking about, well, all things online basically… websites, internet, and online marketing. In each podcast, we’ll cover a different topic and give some practical advice on where you can improve your online presence and make better choices for your business.
Paul: My name’s Paul, and with me today we have Zoe Ashby, the Managing Director of B:Web. Hello.
Zoe: Hello, Paul. How are you?
Paul: I’m very well, thank you.
Paul: We’ve got some really interesting and challenging questions to ask you. This, our first podcast, is titled So What’s The Point? And I think that’s a really good place to start… What is the point of a website anyway?
Zoe: Well, really good question. What is the point of not having one? I think it’s really important that you definitely have a website. In fact, this feels a bit like a conversation I might have had 15 years ago when originally at exhibitions and shows, I was heckling customers, and I asked them, “Do you have a website?” And I would be saying to them, “You need to have a website,” and they didn’t have one. But of course, nowadays we’re working with customers normally on their third or fourth generation of website, and they recognise that the website is actually the centre part of all their communications online and offline, TV and media, all those things linking integrally to the website.
Paul: So that said, for those who perhaps have been on planet Mars – in a nutshell, what exactly is a website? Probably more importantly, what should it achieve?
Zoe: Yeah, it’s really important question, and I think many people compare a website to a brochure, and they think, “Oh, I need a brochure for my business.” It’s got a beginning and end. It’s got a number of pages that people can flick through in order. But a website is so much more than that because people don’t read it from beginning to end. They don’t start with the homepage and then necessarily go through each page in order. And they can be dynamic these days, so they can respond to the person [depending on] where they’ve come from. If they’ve come from Facebook or they’ve come from a pay-per-click advert or from social media, the website, if it’s clever enough, can track where that person’s come from and then generate content for them that’s relevant. So instead of being a salesperson that’s a sort of sat there saying the same thing over and over again, these days they can tailor their content to the person and the requirements and what they’re looking for.
Paul: So, you would definitely say that websites are still important, even though it’s such a crowded landscape out there?
Zoe: It is. It is crowded. Websites are crucial, but they have to be surrounded with a whole digital campaign. You can’t create a website, launch it, go home, and then sit by the phone waiting for it to ring. That’s not going to happen. You need to do some kind of promotion of the website as if it’s your business, your shop front.
Paul: So that leads me to ask, and this is probably a bit of a nasty question: If you’ve got a website, where do you start with regards to actually marketing your website and getting traffic to go to it, and when you’ve got a new one, is it just going to appear in search engine results over night? What’s the story there?
Zoe: Well, it’s not going to appear in search engines overnight. Most of the time these days we are working with clients who’ve already got a website. So, we have to do some kind of SEO migration, but I think the question is you need to step back a little bit and think, “Where are my customers?”
So really you got to think about: where are your customers.
Now roll back 20 years, everyone believed their customers are walking past the post office and seeing the little bit of paper that was stuck on there advertising their business. Now that isn’t where they are now. It doesn’t matter what kind of role they have or job title, they’re going to be on social media or they’re going to be on the internet at some point, either professionally or personally. So, find out where those people are, what they are doing in that time, what they’re looking for, and then hook into that. I mean, professional people are using Facebook in their free time, and they may be looking for information, for guidelines, for documents to download and read in their work day. So think about that, think outside the box, where could they be, what are they doing, what do they need that you can offer, and try to give them that information in that order.
Paul: So you’re kind of flipping the specification on its head. I wouldn’t be planning a website for myself. I would actually be planning the website for my customers.
Zoe: Absolutely. That’s exactly it. If you had a printed brochure, you might have one, but it’s set in stone. You have to give it out to every single person that you speak to, and you have to kind of hope that some of it resonates with what they’re looking for. But with a website, you can be much cleverer because you know where they’re coming from, you know what channel they’re coming from, and you know how they’re going to behave and what they’re looking for. And the likelihood is you’ve got several different kinds of customer and several different types of product. So you have different angles for all of these sales.
Paul: So where does a website fit in with regards to your overall strategy and brand, because if I was putting together a new business, I’d probably go and get a logo done, obviously I’d get a website done, and I’d get my printed brochure. I’d get all this up, but where does it all tie in to each other?
Zoe: Well, I would say I’m probably a bit biased but a website is fundamental. It is the main thing that they should be tweaking on a regular basis and updating and making sure that it is still working. I’ve been saying for 15 years that a website is never finished, and that’s more true today than it was 15 years ago, because there’s never going to be the end of the data and the information and the insights that you can learn from analytics and from other sources. So it’s, for me, it’s central. Every communication that you have, TV advert or Facebook, is all going to be linking back to your website. It shouldn’t be linking back to the homepage necessarily, but there should be some activity or some call to action on that website to grab that content and that user’s information.
Paul: Obviously some people listening to this podcast at the moment, they might already be engaged with a web developer. They might have an idea about who they want to work with, be it yourselves or be it somebody else. If you can put yourself into the shoes of a small business, what advice would you give in terms of what somebody should look for independently in a designer, or a website designer? What kind of things should they be asking?
Zoe: They should be looking for the commercial aspect. So there’s lots of platforms that can build websites. You can press a button and the website can be built. These things can happen. But the website needs to be curated around the marketing and the commercial sense. So you need to be speaking to somebody that understands business, how to make money, and how to understand your business and where you make your money and to leverage that on the website. It isn’t just a brochure website. You’re never hiring just a developer, just to build a website, it has to be a team of people that can build it and work out the story, branding and the messaging. It’s a whole package.
Paul: Because we see the ads on TV and on the internet where you can get templates, if you’re going down that route, you got to kind of … I imagine … crowbar your content-
Zoe: Absolutely, yeah. So if you went down that route, you would be expected to be the person that works out the commercial side of things, how you want the website to integrate with your marketing materials. You wouldn’t have to build the website. You’ve got a button that’s a go live button for the website. But you would have to wear all the other hats, and all those other hats are, for me, the most important thing.
Our guys at B:Web do a great job of building websites, and we tend to take on things that are a little bit more complicated anyway. So these template builders would never be sufficient for our customers. But there has to be that whole package and the commercial aspect is the most important thing. And I will say that you normally need a team of people to be able to deliver the commercial, the graphical side of things, and the technical side of things.
Paul: So if I were to put together a brief then, what sort of things should I gather first in order to put together a brief for someone like you?
Paul: A brief for the brief.
Zoe: I always think it’s really interesting when I have no brief, when the client’s coming with no brief. They know they want a new website. I’m really interested always to find out what happened with the old one. Where’s it gone or why isn’t it working? And I really like talking to them quite quickly about their business – be mindful you’re trying to find some kind of person that knows all this commercial stuff. But be mindful of the person you do choose. They should be asking you the right questions. They should be saying to you, “What are your top products? Where’s your profit? What are your business plans for the future?” And that’s the kind of questions that people should be asking in order to produce a website. They shouldn’t be asking what mobile phone do you want it to render on and things like that. Those things will come out in the wash. But you need to have somebody commercial that will be asking you all those interesting questions about your business that you can’t wait to tell them.
Paul: So in essence, you put together a profile of your customer, do you?
Zoe: Yeah. We’ve got quite a detailed briefing document. Actually I’ve been doing this for 15 years. So, I kind of know it by heart, and I guess it’s a little bit like Dragon’s Den. I’m a bit nosy. So when I’m speaking to a business owner, I will be asking them what are their USPs, who are their customers. I’ll even ask them what their favourite clients are like, who do they like to work with, who do they want to work with more, and it could be financial, or it could just be pleasure. And I think it’s that, that is the point of difference between having a website and a website that works for your business.
Paul: Let’s just close off by asking you a little bit about your background actually, just to close the podcast nicely…
Zoe: I originally went to University in Plymouth so I’m a Plymouth girl really. I did leave Plymouth after a couple of years and went to Surrey. And I worked for Thompson Reuters and I was there for three-four years as a software engineer. And that’s where I actually learned the backend of coding and things like that. Obviously at university, you learn a lot but not the hands-on practical side. And then I started B:Web in Surrey. That was 15 years ago, and we started off with small clients. We’ve now got two offices: one in Surrey and one in Plymouth. I’ve relocated back to Plymouth with my family five years ago. Clients still tend to be across the whole of the UK, which I’m really happy about. It’s great. And we’re working with larger clients, and we have a team of seven professionals who’ve been with the team for a long time. And we’re a boutique agency, and we specialise in working with family-run businesses. I like to talk to business owners that are really enthusiastic about growing their business.
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