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  • Entrepreneurs Agree, “My Website Helps Clients Find Me Online”

    Wednesday, November 2, 2016 by

    Find clients online

    A web presence is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to generate leads, but nearly half of US small businesses don’t bother—and it’s been that way for at least the past half decade. These businesses are at a competitive disadvantage, because most consumers research online before shopping and sometimes complete the entire buying cycle on their smartphones. We asked small business owners around the country how they generate leads and grow their businesses using affordable web hosting and mobile-optimized templates from HostGator.

     

    1. Show your portfolio

    Creative businesses need to show their work. Digital agency HMG Creative of Austin sets itself apart with a video portfolio page, easy to scan client and service information, and a detailed intake form with links to client questionnaires and brochures. Visitors see HMG’s work as they navigate the site, and they experience the agency’s site design strengths as they go.

    Website Lead Contact Form

    James Trumbly, HMG Creative’s founder and managing partner, recommends starting strong and continuously updating to bring in leads. “As a digital agency it’s important to be able to showcase our work, and a great website builds credibility. Our website was up and running immediately after launching HMG Creative. Since opening 13 years ago, we have updated the website to fit our growing company and we will continue to adapt our website alongside the agency.”

     

    2. Expand your market

    Websites also make it possible to generate leads around the country. Rick Geahan is the founder of two Phoenix-based promotional products businesses, Anasazi Sports and Tee-Signs.com. He says the websites themselves are his primary lead-generation tools and give him “the ability to obtain online sales nationally” without a national marketing budget.

    To capture the most leads, your business website must be easy to navigate on mobile devices, because more than half of all searches take place on smartphones and tablets now. JC Brazil, who left the corporate world to start Cake N Iron Games, says mobile optimization is a must. “The world no longer looks at billboards and commercials, but whatever comes across their phones.”

     

    3. Differentiate your business

    Realtor Mark Jones of Phoenix works in a highly competitive market. He uses his website to stand out among the sea of real estate agents by showing his personality and offering visitors simple tools to get the sale process started. “My website is the hub of all lead generation activities,” he said.

    Visitors can watch a short greeting video, fill out a form to find out how much their home is worth, and read his colorfully titled blog posts (including “How Not to Lose Your A—in Real Estate”). The bold posts are no accident. “I realized that adding value by providing great content will generate leads,” Jones said.

    Real Estate Blog

     

    4. Make the sale

    With strong content, your website can turn leads into customers even before they contact you. That’s been DeAndre Glover’s experience. Glover, a Detroit-based wedding and portrait photographer, offers hundreds of posed, candid and still-life photos on his Jireh Photography site. As visitors browse, they see Glover’s range and his ability to capture the moods and personalities of his clients, something that saves potential clients and Glover a lot of time.

    “Having a website has allowed me to streamline my business in terms of marketing, advertising, and client communications,” Glover said. “The majority of the time clients tell me ‘I've been on your website and love your work. I want to hire you.’ My website has definitely been my calling card.” To achieve similar results, Glover recommends new businesses include “a strong portfolio, straight-to-the-point information about your services, and a few ways to contact you” on their website.

     

    5. Start on a shoestring

    Many small businesses first choose HostGator for web hosting because it’s inexpensive and then stick with it as they grow. Punch Drunk Productions of Seattle started as a one-man party VJ outfit and now produces live video events for major corporations, sports teams, and entertainers. “HostGator offers huge bang for the buck and has been very reliable over the years,” said founder Jacob Stone.

    Small business owners pressed for time as well as cash will find it easy to set up a site through HostGator. “We recently held a live webinar with one of our social media partners where we went through the entire process, from domain registration to landing page, within the hour,” said Amelia Willson, Content Marketing Manager for HostGator. A small investment of setup time can deliver leads by promoting your portfolio, expanding your reach, introducing you to prospects, and making sales—and it puts your business ahead of competitors who still don’t have a website.

    Ready to start generating leads?

    Get Your Business Online Today! 

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  • How They Did It: Detroit Entrepreneurs Share Website Tips

    Monday, October 24, 2016 by
    Detroit Entrepreneurs

    Detroit is having a small business renaissance as local entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market and help to revitalize the city’s economy. Thousands of current and soon-to-be business owners attended Startup Week Detroit this summer, and small business investment and grants are flowing into the area. Even in such a supportive environment, starting a successful business takes a lot of work, careful planning, and good advice from experienced small-business owners. We asked two experienced Detroit solopreneurs, DeAndre Glover of Jireh Photography and Tracey Patterson of Tranndee Tech, to share their website tips for new business owners.

     

    1. Show your work

    Wedding photographer DeAndre Glover understands that the images he captures are “not just snapshots but actual art” featuring his clients on their special day. To make the point clearly and show prospective clients what he can do for them, his company’s website (jirehphotography.com) has a huge image gallery filled with shots ranging from bridesmaids posing with attitude to sweeping chapel images and romantic first-dance photos.

    Glover said he set up his site within six months of starting his business to generate leads. “My website has definitely been my calling card. The majority of the time clients tell me, ‘I've been on your website and love your work. I want to hire you.’” He recommends that all photographers have a website that features “a strong portfolio, straight-to-the-point information about your services, and a few ways to contact you.”

    Wedding Photography Website Gallery

     

    2. Build your brand

    Tracey Patterson’s background includes teaching and writing about computer technology, marketing, and web site design. She specializes in site design and one-on-one technology tutoring. Her website (www.tranndee.com) has a deliberately clean and simple design to appeal to customers who want help but may find computers and flashy websites intimidating.

    Computer Consulting Website

    The site’s streamlined appearance is an important branding element, because it helps her business stand out in a field with “lot and lots of competition for web design and web marketing.” She recommends that other new businesses include a strong homepage, opt-in tools (such as a contact form) for customers to reach you, and ongoing search engine optimization for better visibility in search results.

     

    3. Choose reliable service partners

    Both Glover and Patterson use HostGator to host their business websites. Each said they initially chose HostGator because we offered the best prices, but they stayed with us for other reasons. “You can always reach customer service and the control panel is easy to work with,” Patterson said. “They provide stellar service and support,” Glover said. Because their sites are such important elements of their marketing programs, reliable service and usability are crucial. 

    HostGator Website Builder

     

    4. Know where your leads are coming from

    Like many small businesses, Jireh Photography and Tranndee Tech get most of their leads from word of mouth. Glover’s wedding photography business also gets lots of referrals from social media to his site. Jireh’s Facebook page features samples of Glover’s work, wedding-planning tips, and special events like bridal expos where engaged couples can meet Glover in person. Patterson says she gets a large number of leads from keyword searches, and she also links her Tranndee Tech site to her LinkedIn professional profile to show her extensive IT and training background.

    Tracey Patterson

     

    5. Keep learning and keep improving

    Patterson and Glover both say that the key to success is continual growth and improvement. The best thing new professional photographers and other creative business owners can do, Glover says, is to “study your craft endlessly and let your work speak for itself. Love what you do and the money will come.” A steady pace is important, too. “Don't doubt yourself, and do a little bit every day,” Patterson said. That’s a formula for individual small-business success and perhaps also for Detroit’s rebirth as a hub of creative new businesses.

    [bctt tweet="'Don't doubt yourself, and do a little bit every day.' - #TechEntrepreneur advice from @tranndee" username="hostgator"]

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  • Seattle Entrepreneurs Explain Why Small Business Websites Matter

    Monday, October 10, 2016 by
    Seattle entrepreneurs Connecting with customers is the key to business survival and growth, but many small businesses stay hidden because of misinformation. A report released earlier this year by Clutch found that 46% of small businesses don’t have a website, mainly because owners think they don’t need one or assume it will cost too much. We talked to two HostGator customers based in Seattle, Punch Drunk Productions and Cake N Iron Games, to explore why web presence matters to businesses of all sizes and types, whether they’re brand new or well established.  

    A digital calling card and portfolio

    Punch Drunk designs and produces live video and other content for events and broadcasts and has a long list of clients ranging from the City of Seattle and Valve to YouTube and The University of Washington. Creative director Jacob Stone founded Punch Drunk in 1998 as a video production and dance-party VJ outfit. Today the company employs a dozen designers, directors, engineers, “camera ninjas,” and other professionals. Punch Drunk has an established reputation and client base, but Stone still considers the company’s website an indispensable marketing tool. “Our industry is invisible to most people who aren't directly in events and live production, so making a name for yourself can be difficult. Without a website, a business is a big question mark to the public,” Stone said. Punch Drunk’s site also serves as a portfolio customers can browse any time. “We reach hundreds of prospective clients with our demo videos and case studies through our website.” [caption id="attachment_12281" align="aligncenter" width="573"]Punch Drunk Website The Punch Drunk website is an indispensable marketing tool for the company.[/caption] [bctt tweet="'Without a website, a business is a big question mark to the public.' -Jacob Stone of @getpunchdrunk" username="hostgator"] For independent game developer and voiceover artist J.C. Brazil of Cake N Iron Games (cakeniron.com), the situation is different, but the promotional needs are the same. The Cake N Iron site serves as a portfolio just as Punch Drunk’s does. “Whenever I talk to new clients or network, all I have to do is offer my webpage and the details are there for them to follow up with at their convenience.”  

    Mobile optimization is a must for small business

    Both company’s sites are mobile-optimized, because more than half of all searches now take place on handheld devices instead of computers. “The world no longer looks at billboards and commercials, but whatever comes across their phones,” Brazil said. “I wanted to make sure I had a reliable website for that reason.” Mobile is another area where many small businesses lag behind larger competitors. According to the Clutch survey, nearly a quarter of small businesses websites are not optimized for mobile display. That problem is easy to fix by finding a web host that offers plans with fast-loading, responsive site themes that show up properly on any screen, regardless of size or type. [bctt tweet="According to @clutch_co, a quarter of #smallbiz websites aren't optimized for mobile." username="hostgator"] Responsive design is easy to opt into and relatively inexpensive. To get it, both Punch Drunk and Cake N Iron use HostGator. Stone said we “offer a huge bang for the buck and have been very reliable over the years.” Brazil cited cost and uptime as advantages for the business. “HostGator has the most competitive rates. All the websites I own are hosted by HostGator.”
    Punch-Drunk Website Cake N Iron Games Website
      Despite the low hosting costs, their websites have delivered real value. Stone says switching Punch Drunk and its extensive portfolio from a custom-built website to a HostGator WordPress site with a built-in content-management system was “a huge milestone, an absolute game changer.” For Brazil, the Cake N Iron site is delivering customers. “When I got that first sale, I just sat there and thought, 'Wow. Someone enjoyed what I did enough to pay for it. That's awesome! I should make more and see what happens!'” This love for work shapes Brazil's advice to other new business owners. “Do your own thing, be your own Dr. Frankenstein. Create your own art and vision that you are proud of and you'll talk about it naturally instead of pitching it. It's not the idea...it's the enthusiasm behind it!” Stone agrees that taking action is the key to success. “Just say YES. It's always better to do something than nothing.” For small business owners, doing something includes getting a mobile-optimized website to get found by customers on the go.

    Get Started With HostGator!

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  • How One Chicago Non-Profit Makes Smart Use of Everyday Technology

    Wednesday, October 5, 2016 by
    The Well of Mercy Chicago

    We hear a lot about technology’s ability to change lives—usually when a company launches a new app or device. The Well of Mercy founder Mary Zeien’s experience shows that the smart use of simpler technology can help people change their lives, too. Her Chicago-based non-profit provides group housing, childcare, counseling, and job resources to homeless single mothers and their children. The Well of Mercy is funded by grants and donations, without any government money. To generate community donations and make the case for grants, The Well of Mercy relies on a simple website and a handful of social media accounts.

     

    Non-Profit Websites and Social Media Raise Awareness and Donations

    “It is absolutely a necessity to have a website for a non-profit business in order to increase awareness of our mission,” Zeien said. Zeien’s background was in social work studies so she relied on family to help her set up The Well of Mercy’s website. “My techie son-in-law chose HostGator web hosting for easy access and reliability. Another non-profit group in Chicago, EPIC, adopted our business and redesigned our logo, website, and Facebook page and took us to a whole new level.”

    [bctt tweet="It is absolutely a necessity to have a website for a #nonprofit in order to increase awareness." username="hostgator"]

    Today, Zeien said, The Well of Mercy’s social media accounts and website are its two best sources of new visitors and supporters. “The website helps us acquire grants. It not only showcases the success of the women and children who live at The Well, it also brings awareness to the plight of the homeless and demonstrates that if we think 'outside the box' with program support, people can get out of the cycle of poverty.”

    “The most difficult part about entering care for homeless, abused women was to convince people that offering surrogate family life with built-in accountability would change generations to come,” she added. The Well of Mercy website and its social media accounts create a sense of community among volunteers, donors, and residents and offer proof of success. Snapshots show kids who live at The Well taking pre-K classes, going on field trips, and simply enjoying playtime in the yard. Other posts celebrate their mothers’ accomplishments as they move through the program. The Well invites community involvement with open houses and thank-you posts to give volunteers credit for their hard work.

    In the five years since Zeien founded The Well of Mercy and launched its website, her group has served 150 families. In addition to on-site housing for up to 15 families at a time, weekly counseling sessions, and childcare for participants while they work or attend classes, The Well of Mercy covers the cost of basic living expenses such as diapers, groceries, bus fare, and more. The group is now in the middle of a capital campaign to raise $400,000 to buy the building they call home, with support coming in from community groups and local churches.

    Rather than make technology the centerpiece of her group’s mission, Zeien has leveraged reliable, easy to use technology and the design skills of volunteers to support her goal – giving mothers without homes a stable, live-in support network to help them launch new lives and get their kids out of the poverty cycle. “My advice to entrepreneurs is to not be afraid to reach out and get help from professionals who can make a huge difference in your business.” That difference, as The Well of Mercy shows, can have an impact far beyond one website.

    Raise awareness with your own non-profit website.

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  • For Digital Entrepreneurs, The Proof Is In Your Website

    Monday, September 26, 2016 by
    Creative Agency Website

    James Trumbly understands the power of a well-built website. As the founder and managing partner of Austin’s HMG Creative digital agency, Trumbly has seen his own business website evolve through three iterations (with a fourth in the works) as his agency has grown from a small startup to an award-winning shop that serves major corporations, nonprofits, and government institutions. At the same time, he’s seen his clients’ website needs change as the digital landscape has become more crowded and the web’s role in everyday life has expanded.

    HMG Creative, which Trumbly launched in 2005, now counts IKEA, RetailMeNot, Texas A&M University, and the State Bar of Texas among its clients. In April 2016, HMG Creative’s design for the nonprofit public-school advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas website won an Award of Distinction in the 22nd annual Communicator Awards competition, judged by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts.

     

    A Professional Website Builds Credibility

    Trumbly said that a good website allows businesses to highlight not only their products and services but also their culture, connection to the community, and industry expertise. That’s as true for his own business as it is for HMG Creative’s clients.

    “As a digital agency, it’s important to be able to showcase our work, and a great website builds credibility,” he said. “In the beginning, we wanted to share the HMG Creative brand with the world in addition to highlighting our incredible team, culture, and client projects. Our goal, other than providing excellent service to our clients, is to be known as a thought leader throughout the industry. By filling our blog with industry related content and fun snippets of Austin culture, we are able to show our company voice and love for Austin.”

    HMG Creative Website

    Trumbly said his agency’s site is the company’s second-most productive source of new leads, after word of mouth. Having a high quality site to show clients has been the key to HMG Creative’s growth.

    “HMG Creative didn't start with an in-depth portfolio. We relied heavily on personal relationships and our team members’ personal portfolios and we hit the ground running. We began partnering with smaller brands with limited budgets and from there we expanded to what we are today. Being able to showcase our creative chops has helped bring in business. We’ve been able to partner with many Fortune 500 and 1000 brands.”'

     

    Take Web Design A Step Further With Reseller Hosting

    The agency has worked with HostGator since 2005, Trumbly said, because “their support and reliability and uptime was the best in the hosting industry.” HMG Creative is now a HostGator reseller, to provide seamless service to its web design clients.

    A reliable, easy-to-access web hosting option supported by a well-known brand gives HMG another way differentiate itself in a competitive field. “There are many great digital agencies, especially in Austin, but being able to compete alongside them has been both challenging and rewarding. The constantly changing landscape has also helped our team grow within this industry.”

    [bctt tweet="'For digital agencies, a great website builds credibility.' - James Trumbly, founder of @hmgcreative" username="hostgator"]

     

    Your Business (And Your Website) Should Constantly Evolve

    Trumbly’s advice to new business owners and entrepreneurs is to embrace change and choose your partners and advisors wisely. “As an entrepreneur, it is important to always accept change, never stop learning, and to always grow from it. You should be willing to pivot and adapt to an ever-changing landscape, while taking calculated risks to enhance and grow your brand. The most beneficial thing a new entrepreneur could do is to find a trusted advisor from day one that you can ask for guidance. Being able to bounce ideas off someone that has been in your shoes goes a long way.”

    That comfort with change extends to companies’ site design, as well. “A website is a constant evolution. Technology is rapidly advancing so it’s important that we’re present and constantly adapting. It’s in our DNA never to stop learning about the web or you’ll end up behind everyone else.”

    Evolve your business. Evolve your website.

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