Ebook: How to use WordPress to manage your company website

How to use WordPress to manage your company website is my latest ebook, written specifically to help businesses understand the potential of WordPress, as a tool to manage and control their website.

How my ebook will help you get the most from WordPress

“I’ll be taking you through WordPress from a business perspective: what it does, its strengths and weaknesses, how to use it, how to get the most out of it, and how it can genuinely benefit your business. I’ll also be including a guided tour of WordPress, for the total beginners amongst you.”


Here’s just some of the many benefits of understanding how to use WordPress to manage your company website:

  1. Take more control of your website, helping your business save money
  2. Write and publish articles about your products and services in your own time
  3. Share your content on social networks, like Twitter and Facebook
  4. Interact and engage more directly with your customers

My ebook will help you understand and do all those things and more, and includes:

  • An illustrated guide to using WordPress, including how-to videos
  • Examples and links to many of the valuable resources you’ll come to rely on when using WordPress
  • Learn how to optimize your business website or blog for social media
  • WordPress security and privacy (managing email addresses, comment spam and software updates)
  • Video tutorials, to help you with the basics

A business case for WordPress

Like any modern business, having a website is only part of the puzzle. Now, with the web maturing and becoming a deeply social arena, positioning your business as a brand at the heart of a conversation about a product or a service is probably as important than the product / service itself.

So why WordPress?

WordPress is probably the most popular content management system there is, either free or commercial. Thousands of people all around the world write Plugins for it, to extend WordPress and add additional features.

Getting the most from WordPress

It’s also very easy to change the appearance of WordPress, to suite your businesses corporate style. Also, because WordPress makes use of very popular technologies, installing WordPress is, as they say, just five minutes of your time.

If you know of any friends or family members who’re in business and interested in learning more about WordPress, please feel free to tell them about my ebook and send them the link!

All things Octane — This ebook is professionally composed, prepared using Adobe InDesign (a high-end pre-press publishing application), complete with linked indices, graphics and linked references to various other articles of my own, including a collection of short video tutorials on YouTube — yes, I wrote, designed, composed and rendered everything you see in this ebook, including the videos.


ASA investigate Chris Cardell newspaper cutting “scam”

Due to the heavy-handed actions of Cardell Media Limited and their factually erroneous cease and desist order, I am withholding the contents of this article from the public until I’m satisfied that my claims and the claims of those who have kindly commented on this article are within their rights.

If I am to determine that we’re within our rights, this article and its associated comments will once more go live and people will once again be able to read my misgivings concerning the sale letter sent by Cardell Media Limited.

In the meantime, please read the subsequent adjudication by the Advertising Standards Authority against Cardell Media Limited regarding the sales letter I and thousands more received back in April this year.


Asking clients the right questions

Rarely do you just manage a project in isolation. To some extent, you’re also managing the client. As an added consequence, you’re also managing their expectations. So are their any questions you ought to be asking your client before, during and after a project?

A while ago, I read 14 questions to ask your clients before and after a project, which I encourage you to read if you’re either a freelancer or aspiring project manager, or someone like me, a Jack of all trades. I decided to follow the article up with some insights of my own, gleaned from managing clients, their projects and their expectations.

But first of all, I’d like to add some questions of my own.

What do you need your website to do?

A stupid question? You’d be surprised. In the past, I’ve talked people out of having a website and told them to concentrate on the marketing methods that are proven to work, rather than experimenting with one that most likely won’t earn them a penny or raise their profile.

People still believe that “If we build, they will come” and that is not often the case. Sure, if you’re a hugely popular brand name, or you intend executing a marketing campaign to promote your website, I can help! But if it’s just a brochureware website, made up of few web pages and bunch of images — all of which you’re unlikely to update on a regular basis — there are better ways of marketing your business.

The needs of the client come second to those of their customers. The odd few people don’t like to hear that kind of talk because they have all kids of ideas about what they want, which don’t always align with what their customers need.

Are you sure?

This is an open ended question, applicable in so many ways. But don’t be afraid to ask! So many will shy away from second guessing a client. It’s not a requirement of the client to know exactly what they need. But once we’ve finally figured out what it is they do need, it is incumbent on them to pay for the whole of the journey, not just the getting there. By asking the right questions at the right time, you can avoid a lot of hassle for yourself and your client. Chances are, all of this stuff is new to them, so be their guide.

Be brave and ask.

Do you have the funds to see this project through?

Don’t be shy! Money is not a rude word. Be up-front and ask the client if they have the funds to meet with the project. Sometimes, the needs of the client exceed the budget and they will probably hope you’re going to come down on price.

It’s essential you have a process in place. If you’re dealing with a project that’s likely to be worth several thousand in web design and development costs, for example, you need to break the project down into smaller, deliverable parts, each of which being billable. This will ease your cash flow and help ease things financially, should the client pull out part way through.

Where do you want to be in 3-5 years time?

I first put this question to a friend of mine, not realizing at the time just a how powerful a motivator that question would be to her. It wasn’t until some time later that she thought about where she’d prefer to be and how that realization simply didn’t match her present direction in life. I change her life with a single ten word question.

You can write up all of the marketing and business plans you like, but just thinking about where you want to be in three or five years time is something totally different. And it’s not until you do this that you begin to appreciate what resources you’ll need access to if you’re going to make your dream come true.

Once you have a clearer thought in mind, the next thing to do is to put together a series of realistic, achievable strategies to help you get there. This isn’t just about having a bigger website, or just getting more clients / customers. This is about building sustainability into everything you do.

And now I’d like to expand on some of the questions in the Design Reviver article.

What is your company’s reputation?

I suspect many companies probably couldn’t answer this question. Many wouldn’t really know how to quantify any kind of sentiment amongst their customers, other than asking them directly, but that’s not quite the same thing.

Of course, reputation is action after the fact. What you really want to be doing is managing your companies brand right from the outset, mitigating some of the problems your reputation may inflicted upon it later on.

So what can you do to measure the value of your reputation? Well, this new social web offers many tools to monitor things like customer perception, for example.

Google Alerts is a free service that allows you to track certain keywords, such as your company name, which will offer some insight into what people may be saying about you.

Then there’s Twitter, which allows you to search for keywords and save the searches, functioning in much the same way as Google Alerts, but within Twitter itself.

What is your target audience?

Sometimes, this kind of question can have unexpected consequences. Be careful how you interpret their answer, because “target” can often be misconstrued as “idea”, and the ideal customer isn’t always the same as the ones they already have. In chasing down the ideal, there’s a danger of neglecting the needs of those they’re currently servicing.

It’s certainly a question that needs to be asked, but any provisions you choose to make, with respect to your website being re-design and / or re-developed, should be done so with an eye towards maintaining the same level of service your current crop of customers and come to expect.

Do you plan on having any revisions and updates done to this project?

This is a question I don’t actually ask in this way. The question arises as a result of establishing the clients broader needs. If it’s web application project, like To Book, then we build a series of plans, covering short-, medium- and long-term needs.

Building a website (and even more so a web application) is like building a house; it’s essential you get the foundations right at the outset. In most cases, I start by planning and then building a framework.

If a framework was a house, it would be the foundations, the wiring, the plumbing and the locks for all of the doors and windows. The actual plans, as well as the building materials are for the developers, like myself, to decide upon and ultimately build on top of the framework.

By establishing all of these things at outset, and by agreeing on what features are to be included and then expected one, two and then three years hence, I can get the foundations of the website in the right shape from the outset.

After all, there’s no point putting the foundations down for a bungalow if the client wants a four story office block in three years time!

Conclusion

Simply accepting a brief from a client is just negligent. You have a duty to ensure their expectations are realistic and achievable, or you’re just creating problems and storing them up for later on. Don’t just say “Yes!” to everything if you don’t agree or think / know there will be problems. If required, say “No.” and propose an alternative.

But above all, be brave and ask questions.


Managing client expectations is no magic trick

Expectations are a funny thing. Sometimes high. Sometimes low. Managing client expectations is as much an art form as it is a process. If you’re good, they might even think you’re magical — and that could spell trouble.

Managing expectations is something I learnt early on, before I even started Octane. My philosophy is to underestimate and over deliver. Give the client more than they expected. In short, make them happier than they thought they would be.

Why quick is not synonymous with simple

However, doing so quickly with apparent effortless ease can give the impression that what you just did was simple. Remember all those kids from the eighties, solving muddled up Rubik’s cube in seconds? Quick, yes. Simple, no.

Fact is, you might have been quick, but quick doesn’t equal simple. So you don’t want make something look so easy that your clients begin to think everything is easy.

Working all hours to meet a deadline is commendable, but it’s imperative you make it clear this extra effort is not to be a pattern to be repeated henceforth, and that this extra effort commands and extra fee, too. Of course, if it’s your own fault you’re working late, that’s tough. Live with it.

Often, the cause of these extra hours is the result of bad planning, which Leslie Poston summed up perfectly in a recent message on Twitter:

Today’s theme seems to be: “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

To which I replied:

“And if you jump through that fiery hoop of unrealistic expectations, you’re then forever beholden to their whip cracking.”

White rabbits, black hats and business sleight of hand

This being Easter, it does seem somewhat appropriate to talk about rabbits. OK, so these are white rabbits in tall black hats and not the Easter bunny, but the thought was there!

I am not a magician, no matter what some of my clients think. What I do as a trade isn’t some dark art or the work of the devil. But I will confess, programming isn’t something anyone can just pick up over night. Similarly, the eye of a designer is more intuitive than it is a learned skill. Put all those things together and you have a web developer and a web designer, not a magician.

By going that extra mile time after time after time, you’re giving the impression that not only is this easy, but you’re prepared to keep doing so. You are forging a rod for your own back. A yolk of totally unrealistic expectations that essentially absolves the client of any culpability in their imprecise planning. Remember what I said about the power of saying no? Well here’s were it really counts.

“And as if by magic…”

I recently had to do a vanishing act of my own and cut a company loose who were making me look bad. They work all hours because they just can’t plan things properly and constantly cave into their clients disorganization. So when I said: “no, there’s just not enough time” or: “no, we need to plan this properly first” I became the villain of this crazy stage show illusion.

The thing is, clients are people and when we succeed where others have failed, or help them in a time of crisis, they place a huge amount of trust in our abilities. High expectations, for sure. And the best trick of all isn’t magic, but managing their expectations.


Is social media management for the major players only?

What holds true in sport often applies to business also; not everyone can be a winner. And for businesses wending their way through the world wide web, engaging with customers is crucial. But how do you manage and measure such things? Say hello to social media management — but only if you’re a premier league player.

Saturday saw England lose to France in the Rugby Six Nations. As is often the case in rugby, when the attacking side gets close to the try line at the base on their opponents half of the field, all fifteen men are often gripped by “white line fever”. The parallels between business and sport are often lazily made, a cliche almost. But there they are none the less.

And so it is with those businesses easing themselves into the realm of social media management — they chase down the business behemoths and ignore the rest. But is that where the money is?

Earlier, I was to be found reading through a list of social media management systems. Yes, content management systems are now passé, apparently. Although I do well enough from them, as a web application aspect of Octane.

But, here I am, making lazy comparisons with sport again. First it was football and professionalism (no longer two words that are happy bed fellows, in light of the recent bed-hopping indiscretions of Messrs. Terry and Cole) and then it was football and questionable antics on LinkedIn, of all things.

So what is a social media management system?

Since SMMS is still relatively new, the standard features are still subject to change. That aside, here are some of the core features you’d expect to see.

Manage your social media profiles — Much like a content management system, a social media management system is about aggregating a particular kind of content. In this case, profiles for social media websites and social networks.

So, after you sign into your new SMMS, you’re presented with the option of granting access to your Pages on Facebook, Twitter accounts and YouTube Channels.

Create and share content — Like any marketing campaign, your efforts need to be coordinated, possibly across a team, across time zones, different languages, in addition to the various social media channels.

Analyze and measure engagement — All of your furious industry counts for nothing if you don’t know what happened to all of that great content you’re creating. So here’s where comments, clicks, votes, sentiment and distributed discussions are pooled and analyzed, helping you put a pounds and pence value on your investment.

All eyes on the prize

The list of social media management systems is concise, but sadly, the emphasis in most cases is on the enterprise prize at the expense of every other business, which prompted me to comment thusly:

There appears to be a mad dash towards the enterprise (a noble venture, assuming they have the time time and money to stick out the sales process through the myriad departments they’ll have to navigate), with hardly a look over the shoulder at the vastly more populous SMEs / SMBs who would be serviced and served just as well.

After all, if it wasn’t the case that small-to-medium sized businesses were being neglected in the social media gold rush, I would never have written my ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media, which wouldn’t have been downloaded well over a thousand times, and I would never have picked up new clients via social media as a result.

Whatever the reasons, these guys have their sights set on the enterprise. Perhaps it’s at the behest of their investors. Who knows. Either way, there’s a gap in the market, an opportunity for someone to develop a social media management system for the masses of businesses out there not in the Fortune 500 list, who don’t have a fleet of private jets, no international offices, nor a politician sympathetic to your cause.

Look at it this way, just the one client worth £30k a year might look better than ten clients worth just £3k. On the face of things, managing one client would appear to be simpler. But if you had to lose just one client, which would prefer; one worth £30k or one worth £3k?

So as I stand, looking across the field of play, the prize is staying true to the strategy, being mindful of the be-suited potential suitors in the executive box, but keeping in mind the goal of creating a genuine crowd pleasing, seat filling spectacle for years to come.