So you want a website, right?

This might come as something of a shock, given that I’m a web designer and developer, but the first few questions I ask a prospective new client are designed to determine whether they actually need a website at all. I know, weird, eh?

Anyway, the thing is, there’s a surprising number of businesses out there who feel pressured into particular marketing activities, just because that’s what their competitors are doing. If I must sound like your dad, chiding you for doing the self same thing as one of your daft friends: would you walk off a cliff if they did?

Wayne Smallman and Octane on Twitter

So you’ve found me, Wayne Smallman, on Twitter and became curious about myself, Octane Interactive and wanted to know more.

So who’s Wayne Smallman and what does Octane do?

Wayne Smallman is many things, but he is mostly known for his writing, his designing and his web development.

Wayne Smallman, managing director and owner of Octane InteractiveTo pay the bills, Octane is a provider of web design & development and internet marketing services to a variety businesses of all shapes and sizes, scattered hither & yonder around the British isles, of which case studies are available for your perusal.

As for the writing, I, Wayne Smallman am the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology blog — a mixture of science, technology and social media commentary and how-to guides (amongst many other things), all wrapped in my own unique style of opinion, observation, dark humour, all underpinned by an unbending faith in the soul of humanity.

I also write business support and advice articles right here on Octane, via my blog — less so the inimitable commentary and more a series of practical guides to help you steer your business through calmer waters, based upon my own years of experience, beginning in 1999, which is the year when Octane was founded.

In addition, I write for a growing number of publications (both printed and electronic), sharing the aforementioned knowledge and experience further afield.

I’m also the author of the popular ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media, which has been downloaded many hundreds of times by an eclectic mix of people from all over the world, eager to learn more about social media, and how it may benefit their businesses.

What’s your Twitter follow policy?

Twitter, the global social networkThe question itself might be a little misleading if you’re new to Twitter. When you follow someone — or at least when I do — I don’t expect those people to automatically follow me back.

As in life, we don’t always find that we have that much in common with the people we meet, or we feel that the person that just followed us isn’t adding the right kind of ideas, thoughts and observations to our stream of Twitter updates.

As an example, if you’re an up-and-coming singer / songwriter and you were to buy the latest album of a famous singer, would you expect them to return the gesture? Of course not, because that’s not how it works.

I’m neither famous, nor am I singer. But the fact of the matter is, we are all different and to reciprocate for the sake of reciprocation is disingenuous.

So I might not follow you back if you follow me. And of course, the opposite holds true, too. Obviously, some people feel very differently about this, but this is my Twitter follow policy, and I’ve at least demonstrated my honesty on the subject, if nothing else.

Ideally, we’ll have many things in common, so here are a few things I look for before I follow anyone, or follow back:

  1. A profile bio that tells me something about you, what you do and what you’re interested in.
  2. A link to a website or blog that tells me more about you what you do.
  3. Plenty of updates, so I know you’re an active Twitterer.
  4. We both speak the same language, i.e.: English.

So is Twitter the place to be?

That really depends on what you want from Twitter. I could go into all kinds of detail, but ultimately, you need to know what you want from a thing before you invest time & effort in it — which, incidentally, is where my social media ebook might prove useful, if you’re in any doubt.

Facebook is another social network which you could also join, but it is a quite different venue to Twitter, in the sense that it isn’t public; your network of friends is closed to external sources.

Twitter commands a huge audience, so your efforts are as well spent there. So if you’re hoping to form allegiances, find friends and allies, or you simply wish to learn from those in your industry, Twitter is the place for you.

What now?

That’s as open ended a question as you could ever hope to ask! If you haven’t already, you could follow me on Twitter and join the conversation. And finally, thank you for your time. Always a pleasure.

Making your workflow more efficient

Whether your organisation consists of a team of people or just you alone, you have a workflow — the series of connected steps your business activities pass through in sequence everyday.

You might dislike the idea that you follow set patterns, but if you’re running a business, you need to understand these processes in order to keep things running smoothly.

Earning trust in business

There are no short cuts to making people trust you for your words or your deeds, and even less so in the business world. And on the web, trust is a hard-earned currency.

I single out the web because unless you’ve got a video connection, no one can see your expressions, hear the tone of your voice, see your gestures or the movement of your eyes — all of which are strong indicators of sincerity. Without those face-to-face guides, trust takes that much longer to earn.

In a recent article exploring a Google Labs experiment, I had this to say about the value of trust on the web:

“It is inevitable that trust will be the number one currency on the web. Trust is more easily given than it is bought. The more people who trust something or someone, the more value is given, which will therefore (most likely) attract more trust and amass more value.”

And trust as a currency — while being free from exchange rates — is often difficult to sell but earns some excellent interest.

Ways to earn trust in business

As a business owner, certain things have become clearer to me over the years. One of them is that people buy into people long before they buy into your products or services.

That’s why I enjoy meeting people face-to-face. This is my chance to make the most of my personal brand, that ‘brand’ being me!

I use my enthusiasm as a conduit for my business knowledge to show people that I care about what they do and how I might be able to make things better for them and their business.

For the impartial yet interested visitor coming to your website or ‘blog, they want to feel that you’re a person they can trust. They want to be able to use you and your services, while at the same time be confident that you’ll still be around the day after they’ve paid you.

They don’t want hidden costs, dodgy business practices or shoddy workmanship. They want demonstrable evidence of you being good enough for them to spend good money with, and that you’ll be around to support their present and future needs.

In short, they want to feel that they can trust you. But how do you convey all of your worthy and commendable values via the web, or from within a social network?


There’s just no substitute for a good referral, so word-of-mouth recommendations are still the top means of getting yourself known.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are by far the most cost-effective means of marketing, and only works because you were good enough to be recommended in the first place. And if you’re within a close-knit social network, there’s every chance this vocal referral will have an echo effect — being heard by many more businesses along the way.

If you have very satisfied customers and you’re sure they would have no problem singing your praises, then ask them for a testimonial. Ideally, this testimonial would come on company letterhead, written in hand, and signed personally — but that’s just an ideal!

Extending this ideal scenario further, maybe adding in a photograph of the aforementioned very satisfied customer along with their testimonial on your website will add that essential sense of trust. Additionally, getting your client to link to your website or ‘blog is even better.

Placement is also key. Some people might want to place all of their testimonials on one page, but I try to encourage my clients to place their testimonials within the web pages of a product or service that the testimonial relates to, assuming that’s the case.

Case Studies

So your customer is happy with their little lot. You’ve got paid, so you’re happy with your little lot, too. You look back on the job and realize that as well as learning some new things, you also managed to improve on many fronts — you hit the budget, breezed the deadline and managed to give your customer that little bit more than they’d asked for. I’d say that’s got the makings of a Case Study!

Put simply, a Case Study is a working, living documentary, evidencing your good work and the satisfaction of your customer. Ideally, a Case Study should be no more than a thousand words and should consist of four parts:

  1. A summary of what was achieved, typically entitled as benefits in the form of bullet points. They should match the prior objectives of the company, and be implied in numerical form (ex. increased 20%)
  2. A description of the project, the aims, the stakeholders and the particulars of the project.
  3. A summary of what was achieved, typically entitled as benefits in the form of bullet points.
  4. A conclusion, with supplementary links to the customers website and other related resources.

Why not add in a testimonial, right in the conclusion? Also, add in some photography, or maybe a picture of the client logo, their premises — something that’s going to add some visual interest. Also, if appropriate, link to the page on your website that relates to the products or services you supplied to the client.

Case Studies can be quite authoritative content for your website. So by adding in some strong words and phrases that relate very specifically to you, your customer and both your businesses, the search engines will make the most of that authority.

Standards, professional memberships and associations

Next time you’re given a business card from someone, look at the end of their name. Chances are, you’ll spot a bunch of letters.

If I wanted to, I could write my name as: Wayne Smallman ND, HND, Ba(hons). But for the most part, Wayne Smallman gets me by just fine!

When you see stuff like this, you’re given some vital information — that this individual had a formal education that resulted in a recognized qualification. So that’s years of studious education put to good use. If they providing a service to you, you’re probably going to benefit from their knowledge in some way.

If your business is ISO rated for example, or if you’re a British-based business and you’re an Investor in People, then your business has a valued, recognized accreditation that will open doors. In the case of the ISO 9001 rating, this means you have formal procedures in place that govern certain aspects of your business practices.

As for Investors in People: “Developed in 1990 by a partnership of leading businesses and national organisations, the Standard helps organisations to improve performance and realise objectives through the management and development of their people.”

In both instances, you have a wealth of trust that ought to be made a key feature of the benefits of using your business. Be sure to get the proper permission to make these associations and memberships known. Get the proper logos and add them into the relevant web pages and printed stationary.

It is easy to forget or underestimate the value of your “organic knowledge”, and your qualifications and accreditations are an integral part of that invaluable, ever-growing resource.

Trust as a value-added part of your business

By making the most of your qualifications, your accreditations, your more-than-happy client base, your professional associations, memberships and your processes & procedures, you have all of the ingredients to build a formidable series of Unique Selling Propositions, all of which will mature into a valuable and transferable store of trust.

So make the most of the respect your clients give to you every time they come back for more. Trust me — you’ll do just fine.

This article was first published on Octane’s sister blog, Blah, Blah! Technology, in an article entitled: “Earning trust in business

Trust in a little business education

“I’d like a car!” The woman announces confidently to the young salesman. He raises a quizzical brow as he nervously scans around the vast showroom of motor cars all around, in gleaming neat lines, not quite sure how to reply to such a broad and breathtakingly naive question.

You wouldn’t, would you? Yet I still get people asking me questions like: “I’d like a website that lets me advertise jobs. How much would that cost?” The feint of heart would feel that thump in the pit of their stomach, like the sales man, not sure what to say, or even how.

“I want my company website to be number one on Google” Oh yes! Less of pit-of-stomach moment and more of an angry-fist-in-the-air episode.

“We want to tell everyone about our new product. How much will that cost?” You want to tell everyone? Assuming you can really afford that, could your sales team even cope with the response? And do you even have a sales team?

But the fact of the matter is, we cannot in all fairness expect the average business person to know what we know. They have needs and expectations — sometimes naive, sometimes unrealistic — and it’s our job to meet them.

Of course, there are those amongst us who will happily say “Yes!” to all of the aforementioned, much to the detriment of our industry, and to the dismay of the client when in time, they realize they’ve been sold a lemon.

So what’s the solution? We educate. But that takes time, surely? Yes, but it’s all part of the added-value service and controlled experience we all really should be offering.

When a prospective client comes along, we inevitably invest an element of our time. How long is up to you and how much value you place in the potential for a lucrative contract. But if you’re able to demonstrate the value of your knowledge, that time can become an investment, because through education comes insight and understanding, out of which trust often emerges.

And before people buy from you, they must first buy into you. And trust is the one thing you can’t buy.