It’s The Little Things That Count!

3 04 2012

The Shaw-Walker Company was a manufacturer of high quality office equipment.  Their motto, “Built Like A Skyscraper,” and their logo showing a filing cabinet standing next to the Empire State Building with a man jumping in the bottom drawer made a powerful statement about the durability of their products.

I had the opportunity to land a national standardization contract that would have been the largest sale in the company’s history.  Prudential Insurance Co. agreed to consider a new source for their office furniture and equipment as they updated all their offices in the USA.   We were leading the competition for the lucrative contract until a team from Prudential visited our manufacturing facility in Muskegon, MI.

Although our product was by far the best in the industry, the factory was antiquated.  Bare light bulbs hanging from the ceiling barely pushed back the gloom.  The team saw a foreman walk over and unlock the single Coke machine at precisely 10:00AM.  He stood next to it with watch in hand as employees lined up to make their purchase.  At precisely 10:10AM, he locked the machine.  Other out-of-date processes offended the Prudential team.  Subsequently, they decided to contract with the fledgling Steelcase Company for their furniture needs, an agreement that remains in place to this day.

The Shaw-Walker Company that was founded in 1899 failed to reach its centennial celebration.  The factory has “gone condo.”  Although its products can be found in offices throughout the country, the company simply “withered on the vine.”

Frequently, we focus so much of our attention upon our products and services that we neglect our infrastructure.  While we make vague references to the time in the future when we can focus upon our own needs, prospective clients select competitors who apply state-of-the-art techniques and procedures for their own benefit.

The company that charges thousands of dollars to create sophisticated interactive websites yet applies dated, ineffective SEO techniques to their own website is “shooting itself in the foot.”  Sophisticated buyers can easily check meta tags in website source code.  They know that “Flash” presentations cannot be viewed on iPads and iPhones.  They have read about the challenges of optimizing “Flash” websites, about ColdFusion.

Search Engine Optimization is a particularly critical element in website development.  Website structure and content must be carefully researched and planned in order to have an effective SEO strategy.  Creation of a website with a plan to optimize it after the fact or to leave optimization to a third party is a costly error that will affect the level of website activity.

This website, http://www.mollyshouse.org, was created on the basis of an SEO plan.  Twelve out of fifteen key words provide placement in the top 10 search results of all major search engines.  If you’re not delivering similar results, your competition will eat your lunch.

Start the process with meta tags. While they are a relatively small portion of the process, they are highly visible.  Their quality can raise a red flag when not used properly.  The rules regarding content and length are easy to find, and implementation is easy.  Do it right, and you will generate more website activity while demonstrating the depth and breadth of your skillsets to prospective clients.

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Collaboration is the key.

26 01 2010

Collaboration is the key. When industry voices decry the “lack of professionalism,” overwhelming “black hat” strategies, and the need for organizations to monitor, and certify participants, the real issue is a breakdown in collaboration. When innovative concepts drive our industry to new heights, when brilliant ideas explode into more exciting websites and applications… collaboration is thriving.

Read the definition in Wikipedia. It references “an intersection of common goals,” “sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus.”

At its inception, collaborators created the internet for the exclusive purpose of collaboration. When we started building websites in 1994, we knew nothing about html, little about IP addresses and networking, and less about domain management, hosting, or email configuration. Those who voluntarily, nay enthusiastically shared knowledge grew with us. Those who were secretive and possessive fell by the wayside.

There was no such thing as black/white hat. Everything was an experiment. We constantly tested the boundaries. When someone had a breakthrough, it was shared with the entire community. Others would piggyback their experiences, and before long entire new worlds would open. Color, graphics, animation, mouseovers… The list goes on and on.

The very people who rejected this new technology at first, i.e. ad agencies with their MAC based systems, their Quark, and their commitment to print media were the people we soon observed creating a shuttered and closed environment. They were the ones who would take but wouldn’t give. They were the ones who chose obscure terminology to describe mundane tasks. While they openly spoke of “leisure suit technology,” they secretly worked to determine how it could be built into their existing structure.

The pendulum is swinging in the opposite direction. Openness is the byword. One needs look no further than Adobe to see an absolutely brilliant “today” example of collaboration. The current holder of Flash technology (I submit that no one, no entity owns technology. They only hold it for a period of time.) finally presented a series of videos to disperse the rampant myths about the most successful SEO procedures. Jay Middleton, Worldwide Manager of Search Marketing for Adobe Systems, Inc. and Damien Bianchi, Regional Director of Client Strategy at Global Strategies, collaborated to deliver rock solid, long overdue solutions to a problem of great magnitude.

The time has come for others to jump on the collaboration bandwagon and open the doors. The internet will benefit. We will all benefit.