Image of 2019 coming soon

#backtowork? Or still at home enjoying the Christmas break with family and friends? Personally it’s a time of year I dread…a two to three week period where so many businesses run at ‘half cock’, reluctantly spluttering back into life the first or even second week of January. I’m afraid I’m one of those ‘live to work’ types, but accept that for most people it’s a case of ‘work to live’. Some businesses actively seek ‘lazy’ individuals as they’re the kind of people who’ll always find the easiest way to achieve anything, with the least amount of work….food for thought, but difficult to accept when you’re the kinda person many have described as a ‘human dynamo’. Yep, I’m always ‘on the go’ with a brain constantly working, and one reason I LOVE the run up to Xmas cuz it’s a time to race towards the finish line and try to hit one’s targets for the year. There’s usually a ‘feelgood’ factor in the air as businesses rise to the challenge, indeed, there are many busineeses who make their entire annual profit from just one or two months frenetic activity November & December. For most though it’s a steady slog…and 2019 promises to be more of the same, only WORSE.

The Bexit nightmare is unravelling bringing with it job uncertainties and ebbing consumer confidence. Travelling up and down the country as I do, working in the NorthEast as well as London, I witness the North-South divide firsthand;

…anywhere south of Huntingdon on the A1 or Milton Keynes on the M1 you see every square inch of land trading, in stark contrast to the acres of wastelands commonly seen in the former coalfields of Yorkshire, the North East and dare I say Scotland. Right now in London there’s a myriad of tower cranes & construction works; we spend a lot of time in Wembley & they’ve just built 7000 new homes there (starting at £450k). At Image of tower cranes in Wembley Parkleast 14 big cranes grace the skyline around around Wembley Park, and casting one’s eyes a bit further you see the same kind of thing’s going on in Harrow…one really does get the impression that whatever the outcome of political negotiations, London is BIG ENOUGH and BOLD ENOUGH to weather the storm, re-invent itself and come out a winner. I often walk the length of Wembley High Road, and it’s not uncommon to see not a single white person or hear any English spoken, at all; it’s such a multi-cultural district. The interesting thing is, that these people don’t perceive mixed communities as an ‘us and them’ situation….they see themselves all as LONDONERS pulling together towards a common good. Many of the ‘native’ English down there have gotten used to it, and accept contemporary Britain to be 100% multi-cultural…‘it is what it is’ a modern phrase which sums it up nicely BUT….these people fail to acknowledge that this way of life runs out of steam 40 miles beyond the M25. Past that, there lies a very different land, and a land I predict will take decades (if not for-ever) to embrace these London ways. In the capital you need to WORK and work HARD, or work SMART, and usually both in order to thrive. It’s a culture that promotes enterprise, embraces change and rubs off on its citizens. For many in the Rest Of The Country, and not meaning to be disrespectful to them in anyway, it’s a slower pace of life, and more a case of ‘doing just enough to get by’ and being content with that state of affairs. Any-one like myself working in both London and the NorthEast and keeping their EYES OPEN notices it. For 4 decades I’ve prospected for sales leads at street level, and let me tell you, when you’re used to that way of existence the things I’m talking about here ‘jump out at you’. They’re plain to see. Maybe it’s not politically correct to paint the country in these terms, but I care not; the politicians know these things  but cannot say them. I am not a politician, and I declined an offer to put myself forward as a PPC some years ago, preferring to continue through life as a businessman. (I think in hindsight I should have accepted but then we all know hindsight’s a wonderful thing)
So what is the point of this post I hear you ask? Well, in the run up to Christmas I got to organising a few things for Christmas Leisure and New Year Business Planning. Home get-together’s and knees-ups are not for us (my partner & I) as we are both from very small dis-jointed families. For that reason we tend to go out over Xmas. We’ve also just bought new business premises in Darlington which need alterations to make fit for purpose….building works, plumbing, decoration, furnishing etc. So both these subjects needed researching, which meant (naturally enough) diving deep into local busineeses via their websites in an effort to ‘find out more’. There’s nothing like looking at websites through the eyes of a consumer! And some of the businesses I looked at (and to be honest had favoured) as ‘first ports of call’ disappointed…..and majorly so. Two of them are very well known…one is a bespoke kitchen bed/bathroom design company, the other was a gastro-pub. Both businesses appear busy throughout the year, both businesses have lousy websites. Blurred images, broken links, dated styling, limited/no social media activity, one site home-made, the other done by a computer repairman who by the looks of it cleaned up the local area a few years back with cheap template sites.

Now when one clicks on a gastro-pub that you know to be good (or at least used to be good when last visited), you want to see a current menu, and in this case, their Xmas hours. You DON’T EXPECT to click on ‘MENU’ and be referred to ‘Page not Found’ do you????
And when you visit a home improvement firm boasting ‘bespoke design’ the very least you’d expect is a few score or even several hundred images of beds/baths/kitchens am I right? For bedrooms I found just two examples on their site! Now I’m not picking on these people. Both are BUSY. But here’s the thing: In 2018, consumers had a so-so year; not too bad, and just good enough to still splash a bit of cash. Both of these businesses have thrived, however, what they’re not doing, (and what any successful market-savvy company knows) is to keep marketing hard even when they’re busy. Instead, they’re not paying attention to their online presence since in their eyes, they ‘don’t need to’…websites to them are a kind of useful bolt-on but no big part of the marketing equation….their businesses ‘only need’ to worry about traditional ‘Word-of-Mouth’. Or so they think. You might have read a previous post about modern ‘W-O-M marketing’ if not, it describes how these days the new W-O-M is reviews! Which you only get from a fully functioning and credible website my friends! When faced with a ‘Page not Found‘ instead of a menu, I couldnt be assed, so Image of Il Palazzo Italian eatery Barnard Castle, County Durhamclicked on Barnard Castle’s ‘Il Palazzo’ instead. BINGO! A nice website + a comprehensive printable menu: Result = £100 table for 3 on Christmas Eve and a delicious meal, equating to a Image of five £20 notes£100 LOSS for our gastro-pub with the poor website! And the custom design company? Well I’ve crossed them off my list because I figure if they’re in design, then that should reflect in their website and marketing material…. after all ‘DESIGN’ is their ‘stock-in-trade’ and if they can’t get that right they’re probably not worth bothering with…especially when only 2 examples of their work were showcased. I’ts entirely possible that their ‘designer/estimator’ chappies might have hundreds of jobs they could show me on their tablets, but on the other hand, they might not. To get to that stage, I like others, will have formed my first impression of them from their website, and we all know that YOU NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE TO CREATE A FIRST IMPRESSION. Their loss?….Around £10k-15k on projected washroom improvements and alterations to our new facility in Darlington. I moved on to an alternative company hopeful of finding better things…..instead I found a dead website and an email address that bounced back and forth for 48 hours. Did I try ringing them? Errrrrrrrrrrr NO! So, I’m still looking. You might call me harsh, but one things for sure, I’m old enough and wise enough to know that if I’m behaving like that with SEARCH/SERPS results others will be too, for sure.

So, there you have it folks. Three local firms. Three busy firms. All three complacent and with ‘no {perceived} need of improvements to their websites thank you’. Our gastro-pub may well see increasing numbers of empty tables as consumers reign in spending. A grand spent on improving a website pales into insignificance when you consider that’s the equivalent of just 10 meal orders like ours on Christmas Eve at a £100! (for 3 of us) And the custom bathroom company? One decent order could be all they need to recoup costs on an EFFECTIVE WEBSITE MAKE-OVER & SEO!!!

2019 is set to be a challenging year. Those that leave it till the last minute to address dwindling levels of custom will struggle, while others who were more pro-ctive will thrive.

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