Do you know where you are on the trail?

If you like getting lost in the woods, skip the map and take the random approach. But if you apply that to your business you'd better have plenty of time and money. Since missing the mark can be expensive, it's a better bet to have a plan. A map. Maybe a guide. And definitely, snacks.

Client Spotlight: RW Wealth in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

Growing up, the rule was, “Leave a room nicer than it was when you found it”. I like applying that principle to my projects because it gets results. It’s gratifying to make improvements that do what’s intended and empowers a client’s goals. In that spirit, I want to share a recent before-and-after, with all the goodies in between.

Today’s client spotlight shines on Dan, Hal, and the accounting team at RW Wealth, CPA’s in Ponte Vedra Beach. They came to me with a mixture of the ideas they had for growth and an openness to how they might get there. They knew ahead of time that their current website and brand identity needed an update and they wanted to provide an easier interface to their clients. These are professionals who make it a lifestyle habit to have their fingers on the pulse of the market. Sensitivity to change is imperative- staying “locked in” to an idea means your progress will do the same: lock. I quickly learned that the mindset in the RW Wealth office is one that looks ahead: they are progressive, rational, understanding, professional, measured-yet-relaxed. Being located so close to the beach lends a sunny atmosphere that they match in attitude.

One thing both RW Wealth and Hired Scribe Media have in common is a desire to make decisions based on evidence. While it might be easier to just say, “we need a new website”, we find it a lot more valuable to know WHY first.

  • What do you want the new website to do that the current one does not?
  • What is your current website doing wrong, or poorly?

This does not have be subjective and should never be reckless. We started with research and metrics to compile a complete baseline report. This was a revealing process that went a long way in explaining why their old website wasn’t offering the results they wanted. The industry-specific framework had once been an easy entry point for a first website, but offered a limited amount of customization with few access points for search engine activity. A vertical design and side menu maxed out with just a few options, making it very hard to expand the site’s SEO. It did offer client portal access but not for as many services as RW Wealth provides. The keyword research revealed an amalgamation of all of these issues: it’s difficult to optimize for the best phrases when a site’s code and structure makes it almost invisible online!

The old site limited client and search engine access.

The old site limited client and search engine access.

The project scope that resulted was customized around improving the current environment to address the specific target ahead, line by line. Phase Two of the project began with new, fresh logo design. RW Wealth had just recently moved their offices farther down A1A, from Solana Rd to near the TPC Village at Sawgrass, next to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. The new logo needed to be eye catching and bright but also communicate the solid approach to fertile financial growth the firm emphasizes. We wanted it to be location-relevant and look great on all print materials, including embroidered options. The sign on the street has a black background, giving us a great opportunity to maximize visibility from the road frontage. The design process was collaborative and energetic- ultimately, it provoked a lot of good conversations on identity and strategic outreach.

The New RW Wealth Logo

The New RW Wealth Logo

My criteria for the new website was a mixture of what they needed fixed from their old pages as well as what it takes to be poised for growth by today’s standards. I didn’t want them to just have a brushed up design and some extra writing: they need this site to last a few years and have some growing space. This meant the new site would:

  • be mobile-device responsive, including tablet use
  • be built with HTML-5, offering cross-browser compatibility and ready for any future changes to the web
  • support graphics, including video, for their extensive client-education products
  • have a lateral, user-friendly design with tiered menu’s and sub-menu’s
  • integrate a blog with scrolling content
  • prioritize security
  • load for speed
  • have clean, light code that allows for full search engine access
  • allow for multiple client portal access points
  • be thoroughly meta tagged on every page

The build included an office-wide photo shoot, over 50 pages of SEO writing, and a client portal that offers quick and easy access to tax documents, investment account log-on’s, and business bookkeeping platforms. RW Wealth provides cloud accounting, wealth management, payroll services, investment and retirement account management, and a full range of tax services. Their new site has been constructed to fully support all of these service offerings, as well as empower their new expansions into start-up and small business consulting-  a hot market in the greater Jacksonville area as we nationally attract attention as one of the best cities in America to be an entrepreneur!

The new RW WEALTH home page!!

The new RW WEALTH home page!!

Phase Three is all about content generation, connection, client education, and growth. The RW Wealth Blog is a place where they can publish relevant financial news, educational information, and community connection. I’ve been consulting business owners on blog integration for over a decade and the platform is not stale when it’s done correctly. It remains one of the most powerful ways a website can boost it’s search presence, social media connectivity, and project the sound of the company voice. Phase Three is meant to progress in stages that work for the long term and also tackles Google Authorship, CRM Email outreach campaigns, and an entirely new site as part of the expansion of service: RW Payroll.

The last phase of any project scope is the tracking of results. They already knew they were seeing a better ROI because of the verbal feedback they’ve received. But earlier this week I was assembling the slides, metrics, and maps that show the progress we’ve made in numbers. Their site traffic is up 40 times what it was, with 58% of that traffic being returning visitors that are staying and using the site multiple times. This means they have a good balance of being found by new contacts and nurturing their existing clientele’s needs. The heat maps are especially exciting as they directly confirm the popularity of the company’s growing cloud accounting services for business owners. Seeing improvements work never gets old! Mission accomplished!

I’ll repeat the analytics process throughout the coming year and recommend adjustments based upon those results, as well as periodically address site updates and additions. I consider this team model clients, representing a collaborative, creative, ongoing working dynamic that makes me want to keep going. The story doesn’t end here-  they are so fantastic in everything that they do that I also now rely on them for my own business accounting needs, and will be sharing that more in a series of posts about the Services That Help My Business Go.


sea oats and ocean, just down the street from RW Wealth

sea oats and ocean, just down the street from RW Wealth


The One-Size-Does-Not-Fit-All Marketing Approach

Something I love about my work is the variety of projects I manage for each client. This has been a week where I’ve been freshly reminded of the power of first asking the question, “What do you think your needs are?”- and then listening closely to the response.

Often I work with people who aren’t completely sure what the solution to their problem is but they are quite aware something isn’t right. Some part of their marketing or conversion rate isn’t satisfying them. Or, the impression they are leaving on customers, contacts, or leads is disturbing and they just aren’t sure how best to fix it. They might be nervous they’ll get oversold on expensive overkill that masquerade as “solutions”.

So I always start by asking that question. Let them vent if necessary. Once the steam has dissipated, what’s left is valuable insight into their preferences for pacing, expense, resources, introversion/extroversion, internet philosophy…so much can be gained by listening.

The answers gained from that aren’t enough to stand on. They sought out a consultant’s help for a reason. This is where process analysis and analytics come in. I don’t want to advice decisions be made on emotions and perception alone: we need evidence.

  • What’s being done right now?
  • How is it being done? What are the steps?
  • How is that performing?
  • What facts verify something is broken?

Okay, now we’re getting close to a customized solution. By the way…this applies to a heck of a lot more than just marketing and branding. This process analysis and evidence based decision making is as relevant to a recipe for mouth-watering Bolognese sauce as it is technical ISO documents. Anything that must be repeated and carry a level of quality assurance is going to require process mapping, consistent supply, standards for analysis and a protocol to address any glitch.

This skill set is worth developing because it encourages versatility. I was recently meeting with a potential client where this was reiterated. This person was much more interested in transferable strengths  that could apply in many settings than they were a boxed-in service offering. Go back to the kitchen with me a sec: if one knows how to use a set of kitchen tools and appliances, knows what basic spices and pantry items go together, and the basics of ingredient chemistry, that person can pretty much follow any recipe and cook anything that’s wanted. They won’t necessarily be an expert on par with a specific niche- like say, a French pastry chef or Japanese Sushi master. But there’s a skill set in the kitchen that does allow for a very versatile range of food to be created with a high rate of acceptable success. With exceptions for highly-specialized restaurants, someone who needs to hire a cook is most often going to want someone who is versatile and adaptable, confident, open, and skilled with the process.

Once its determined what the desires are, and it’s been paired with what the evidence shows, a new project scope can be designed and pitched with rational, explainable intention behind each step. That project scope for one business is not going to be identical to another’s. Even if they follow a similar trend, it must still allow for individual goals, personalities, approaches, and objectives.

For my clients, it means they got my best at a customized solution for their unique needs. On my end, it means the job is never boring, never quite the same, never just a dressed up version of the same thing the last guy got.

One of our great century old oaks

One of our great century old oaks

Build Your Bridges: How to Improve Site Performance

“No man is an island” according to John Donne. Turns out, neither is no well-performing website.

Still, plenty of businesses build a website all about,and only about, them. It’s got their “about”, their FAQ’s, the contact pages, the list of services. Then, they go out and do their work.

There’s no blog to generate updated content.

There’s no social integration, online or otherwise.

They don’t participate in community events, initiatives, or charitable outlets.

Or, they do and never talk about it.

No one reviews them, links to them, or even really visits the site.

And, maybe the search engines don’t either, because they can’t access the site well. It’s just another pretty face with broken code and no inner optimization.


Here’s the analogy I always share: your website is an island. It’s real estate you buy and build upon. There’s an airstrip but only a few people have planes. What you need are bridges to the mainland. You need access pathways for your traffic to reach you.

It’s a web, this internet you built upon. Webs naturally have connections. If you aren’t connected, you aren’t truly here.

Incidentally, Jacksonville achieves connectivity through its many bridges over the St. John's River.

Incidentally, Jacksonville achieves connectivity through its many bridges over the St. John’s River.



Does Cost Predict Performance?

It’s a scary question. No one wants to invest in something that won’t get the job done. But there’s an even scarier question worth asking:

Does the performance reflect the cost?

There are so many examples out there of expensive things that don’t live up to their performance expectation. This is certainly true when it comes to products, tangible items. The phrase “durable goods” doesn’t mean what it used to. Things can be made more cheaply and they are, to the detriment of durability and very often, performance.

When it comes to products, sometimes you get what you pay for. Sometimes you don’t.

It’s true in the service industry as well. Services may be a bit more difficult to ethically cost slash…but we all know this is a global economy. Money in one country means something else in another. Outsourcing happens. And along the way a reminder has been experienced.

Sometimes you get what you pay for. Sometimes you don’t.

In my career experience I’ve seen some things go on that make me boil. Here are a few:

  • Expensive websites that are so cluttered and cumbersome to load that traffic clicks away before the page finishes.
  • Expensive websites that have broken code, no anayltics and no optmization. Which means, all the continued and ongoing resource the site owner pours into the site won’t mean squat.
  • Cheap writing that was generated by a machine; a paragraphed assembly of irrational keywords that aimlessly stab in the search engine dark.
  • Cheap writing that was created by someone with poor language proficiency, which saved the owner a few bucks and makes their business look really bad.
  • Stories from business owners who were sold on services and products that don’t effectively  help them achieve their goals and target their unique audience.
  • Stories from business owners who do things because they are sure they need to…but can’t really explain why. It’s a sure fire red flag of either a random approach or a bad sale.

I believe business owners, no matter the size of their company and the strength of the current economy, care about where they spend their resources. Most of those I’ve worked with value investment over expenditure. With an investment, performance surpasses cost.

With a defined vision, a planned content structure, quality products and services, and ongoing analytics and performance reports, that will happen.

Photo taken at the Dreamette, a Jacksonville favorite for dipped cones.

Photo taken at the Dreamette, a Jacksonville favorite for dipped cones.


When Bad Marketing Happens to Good People

I don’t really understand why my electrician needs to be on Twitter. He’s on call 18 hours a day, has a family, and more work than he knows what to do with. But when he was here to fix some wires the other day, he heard what I did for a living and said, “Oh yeah, I need to get my business on Twitter and use social media.”

I found my electrician by searching online. He  needs a better listing in Google Places. His website should stay modest but it could certainly use a software update and some optimization to help him stay up in the rankings. His logo is a bit hokey; if brand identity really matters to him, that could use a fresh pass.

Mostly, he just needs a day off.

What made me bonkers that day was the reminder that one size does not fit all when it comes to marketing strategy. Some business really benefit from deep sites with extensive copy, very visible and frequent social media integration. They experience noted increases in conversion rates from email campaigns and newsletters. There are still industries who thrive on direct mail, customer incentives, and street signage. Some people get on social media and actually harm their own interests. Or, they sign up and spend on ideas they can’t make come to fruition.

Trying to do it all, just because you think everyone is doing it and so should you, is random and wrong. It’s spreading yourself too thin. Bad marketing isn’t about the medium: it’s about the application. So here’s the prescription:

  • Get a vision of what you want
  • Think about your audience and what they need
  • Create a plan to meet that need and engage their attention
  • Keep is Simple Sweetheart
  • Measure Your Progress.

If something isn’t working, you can always adjust. The catch is that you can’t measure progress if you don’t know where you started and where you want to be.

Case in point: A dentist wanted more customers. People need the dentist but they also hate going. Our city has tons to choose from too. So this marketing savvy dentist hatched a plan: make coming to the dentist more attractive.  He had his vision, he knew his audience, and he started a plan.

To get attention he:

  • has a great website that’s deep and easy to use.
  • invested in a fantastic reminder system that syncs with calendars. Patients get reminders via text, email, and with a phone call.
  • offers an incentive program that makes kids beg for their next appointment: free movie passes if you keep your scheduled 6 month appointment!

He kept it simple. His office is very busy actually handling patients and appointments. They don’t have time to maintain active social media profiles or write newsletters. They’ve seen marked customer increases through their incentives (there’s another one involving free dinners out for sharing a referral). Their website needed some improvements and they addressed that; I experienced their business model when they needed a series of internet articles written and published to increase their search rank. Their website comes out on top and they’re easy to reach. They have a good local reputation.  They’re happy, their customers are happy.


One size doesn’t fit all, no matter what the salesman says.

Photo taken at Mickler's Landing, south of Ponte Vedra.

Photo taken at Mickler’s Landing, south of Ponte Vedra.