On Episode 5 of The Edge of Innovation, we look at a case study of a client and understand how to find the “why” behind the “what” in web presence. We are also talking about how to set smart goals. Many projects fail because expectations weren’t set well.



The “Why?” behind the “What?” in Business
Our Case: The Need: Client Website Must be Mobile Friendly
Our Case: The Business Side
Small vs. Large Businesses


Paul: This is the Edge of Innovation, Hacking the Future of Business. I’m your host, Paul Parisi.

Jacob: And I’m Jacob Young.

Paul: On the Edge of Innovation, we talk about the intersection of between technology and business, what’s going on in technology and what’s possible for business.

Jacob: Historically, we’ve done episodes looking at specific topics. Today we want to turn to a special episode looking at a case study. Paul, would you talk you through who is the focus of our case study today?

The “Why” Behind the “What” in Business

Paul: Sure. We’ve been working with a client who is a personal services firm. It’s a single owner and worker, one person. She provides services to pregnant women. So, it’s a doula. What that basically is, is a coach, or somebody to be there to help the mom out throughout the pregnancy the really through the delivery. It’s primarily for that delivery time. It is a benefit for the mom who’s doing all of this work.

So, she came to us. She had a website, as lots of people do, a few years old and said, “Gee, I want to improve this.”

So, we looked at it and said, “Why? Why do you want to improve it?” I think that’s an important aspect that a lot of people don’t ask, especially in business, and I’ve sort of made it one of my hallmarks, is why do you want to achieve what you want to achieve? And you get lots of interesting answers. I could imagine anybody saying, “Well, I want more business.”

Well, first of all, do you have the capacity to do business? If you’re successful with the outcomes, basically what is your expectation? And if we meet those expectations, is it going to meet… Are you going to be able to deliver that?

As an aside, before we get into some of the details in this particular case study, the pattern I use in consulting for businesses is you often have businesses come to you with knowledge of the solution they want. They come in a say, “I want you to do this for me.” And many people are very happy to do that.

I always – I don’t know why – but I want to understand why you want this solution, really to get to the underlying “What’s the goal? What’s the need here?” Many times, almost the majority of them – an overwhelming majority I would say – is the case where the solution they have chosen is not the solution that will meet their goals.

So, that’s a huge thing. A lot of technology projects fail. And they fail primarily because the expectations weren’t set. And the goals weren’t set properly. And I think as simple as it sounds, these are the question you need to ask before you start a project. Why do you want to do this? What are you expecting?

Jacob: Well, sometimes it seems like a solution becomes the shiny new thing that somebody wants rather than not only understanding who they are and what they’re about and what they’re trying the accomplish but what exactly is going to help accomplish those specific ends. And not everybody has the same ends and goals in mind. So, what you’re trying to do is figure out what exactly are you trying to accomplish.

Paul: Absolutely. And it’s not even that understanding, but many times I’ve found that business owners or business principals or managers don’t understand what they really want. They don’t even know, because they’re so heads down, doing their daily tasks that they can’t step back and say, “What’s the goal here? Why am I doing this every day?”

That, I think, is one of the differentiators between businesses that are successful rather than businesses that are just plodding along. They’re successful, but they’re going one step in front of the other, just plodding along. And that may be fine, and you may want to optimize that. But let’s understand that before we get started.

Our Case: The Need: Client Website Must be Mobile Friendly

So, this particular client came in and had a website. And one of the things that’s interesting in the web economy – and I use that term fairly loosely – and that is post-traditional advertising. You are basically judged on what’s on your website, unless you have a business that people just happen to know about you.

Jacob: Right. Like Coca-Cola. I don’t know if I’ve ever been to their website.

Paul: Right. You’re the five million pound gorilla, that’s fine. But if you’re trying to get market share or make people aware of you, especially in this context where it is was we have this woman who delivers these services, happens to be in New England, will go to Boston, North Shore, that kind of thing. And usually, if you sell your services, in her case, helping deliver a baby, you’re not going to have another chance to remarket to that mom for another year or so, and that’s optimistic. So, you’ve got to find new clients. It’s really got to be that.

One of the things that’s critical in this, again, sort of web economy, is that you have a nice shiny website. And people, just like they like shiny objects and brand new cars “Oooh! It’s nice and shiny. It’s really cool and everything is sparkly.” That has to be the ethos on your website. And the minute you put it out there, you’ve got to start planning for your new one. It’s just the case.

I like to ask business clients, “How long are you planning to stay in business?” Because if you’re just saying you want a solution that’s going to get you past two years, that’s fine. But the fact of the matter is you’re going to have to reinvent your website every couple years to make it fresh, to make people feel like, if they’re coming back, “Wow. That looks cool. Oh, you painted your room.” They come into your house. They don’t see all of the old things. You’ve improved it. You’ve made it better.

But now, you have new people coming in and they’ve seen better websites. Amazon looks better than it did five years ago. They’re tuned, they’re hyper focused on getting those visual cues and getting that clear information across. So, if you’ve got a website from the ’90s that has a menu across the top that doesn’t look good on a phone, you’ve got to change it. It builds your market persona.

Jacob: Yeah. I immediately, almost invariably, whenever I visit a website and they aren’t updated to being reasonably modern, like you say, since 2007, I just immediately assume either they aren’t in business anymore or they don’t care about my business, and I go someplace else.

Paul: The minute you say these things, they’re obvious. But they’re not obvious beforehand, because you’ve got this woman who has this business, and she is getting enough clients to keep her busy. Why do I need a new website?

Well, we don’t know. If we could fork reality and say one reality where we don’t change the website and one where we do, they’re going to have different outcomes. Now, it may be people look at… Let’s say she had a five year old website and the text on it is so good that they look past that. But studies say that people come and they bounce. Half of the people that come to your website are going to go away. And that’s because in the three to five seconds they’re looking at that website, something didn’t hook into their mind to make them go to the next step.

So, we looked at some of her analytics. She had some rudimentary analytics. I think her site was actually hosted using GoDaddy tools, which, again, simplifies things. But in that simplification, it makes things minimal. And it didn’t provide the depth of insight we needed.

We were able to find out, for example, with her particular thing, is mobile important. Well, it was only like 20% of the people went via mobile. That is right in complete opposite of what we’re seeing across every property. Now, why might that be the case? Well, this is a pretty heavy decision you’re trying to do that. And you wouldn’t equate… People do dating apps on mobile, like Tinder and two second judgement. If you don’t know what Tinder is, it shows you a picture of somebody, and you basically say thumbs up or thumbs down. Swipe right or swipe left. And if you swipe… What is it? I don’t even know.

Jacob: I’ve never used it.

Paul: Swipe right and you say you like that person. It’s very superficial, obviously, because you’re just looking at a picture. But we saw that in this case, a lot of people weren’t sitting down on the bus or in those mobile moments where they were choosing a doula, a person to be there and help them deliver their baby. They were taking time out and spending time on a desktop.

So, that told us, well, we certainly do want to make it mobile friendly. We don’t want somebody to have a bad experience. So, if your website isn’t mobile friendly right now, you have a serious problem. You need to fix that. You’re saying to the people out there, “I don’t really care what you think or what you’re interested in, but we don’t care enough to make it easy for you to get to know us.”

Jacob: We want to be irrelevant in the next five years is what you’re saying.

Paul: Well, right now, honestly, if it’s not mobile friendly. I would say that irrelevant in the next five years is how often you reinvent your site, re-optimize it, and show that your innovation is continuing, and that you’re relevant.

While mobile wasn’t our first thing, we found that the overwhelming majority of her clients said, “I felt like I got to know you by reading the website.” So, that didn’t me that we throw away all of her content, because that content is very effective. So, we needed to optimize that so that it was easy to read, easy to consume in a friendly, conversational way, both image-wise, friendly fonts, friendly colors. Because this is a relationship that they’re starting. So, as we re-architected that, we wanted to make sure we kept that.

Additionally, we want to have new content delivered through multiple channels so that people can discover this person. So, if you’re a mom and you’re thinking about having a doula, you might like to find out from this experience that this doula has, this is a really good thing to think about when you’re going to the hospital, or when you’re going to be there, it might be good to have this with you or this with you. Things that you might say, “Well, that’s obvious,” but it would be really nice to hear that from an experienced professional that says, “Hey, you’re going to do this. Do this, this, and this.”

So, we’re encouraging this client to commit to developing content. Now, the difficulty with developing content is just like when you were in high school and you had to write a report, and you’re staring at a blank piece of paper. That is the most difficult thing to do in writing.

So, we develop content calendars which says, “Let’s look at the year. Let’s look at the holidays that are in the year.”

Jacob: For a doula, Mother’s Day is coming up. What are we going to say about that?

Paul: Exactly. It’s the summer. If you’re pregnant and you’re going to be delivering in the summer, how do you beat the heat? Those kinds of things. So, those are one level. The content calendar is relevant in time, but there might be trends. Doctors are indicating that there are more this or this or this. Or what about medications. All these different things that you bring in. This particular professional can bring a comment to that, to say, “Here’s what I’ve found has been helpful. Here’s this.” Or, “You’ll encounter this.” A lot of these are certainly going to be first-time moms. But they’re also going to be second-time and third-time moms.

But that information is hugely valuable to them. And if you have any trust with your client, your opinion on your expertise is hugely valuable to them.

We had another client who asked about a time card system and emailed and said, “Do you know anything about time card systems? Have you ever done any work with them?”

I wrote him back and said, “Well, no. I haven’t done directly, but I did some research.” I took five minutes and did some research and found one, and I said, “This one, I think, based on these factors, might be a good choice for you.” And they were so appreciative of that. Now that, if it were in my sweet spot, I might want to make a blog post out of and post that.

And then, where do I put these blog posts? A lot things, if I put them on my website, that’s okay. That might be a good place to store them. But I really need to find places in which I can stand on top of the roof and shout. And you do that through Facebook, certainly for this personal services firm.

For a doula, Facebook is perfect, because I can both put it there, I can have my friends like it, and then it gets to be cross-pollinated by friends and referrals. But I can also buy directed advertising on Facebook to people that are pregnant, that are in 30 miles of me. It’s beautiful to do that.

And then I can also use Twitter, and I can use Pinterest in this particular way, for this genre, if you will. But the point is you have to be willing to create content and then socialize it. That is work. There’s no getting around it. You can Tweet little things. That’s one of the things. If you have a pithy thing to say, you can do that with Twitter. You can even find good articles out there and tweet about them. Say, “Hey, I found this good article.” Same thing with Pinterest.

But you need to commit to making your constituents aware of neat things.

Our Case: The Business Side

Jacob: So, Paul, you just mentioned all these dynamics that are in play with the website and web design. How does this affect the business she’s trying to build?

Paul: So, you want a nice new shiny object called a website. What are you going to do? What is your expectation of that? If you had one client last year, do you want two this year? If you had 10, do you want 20? That might sounds doable for a single person. If you had 20, do you want 40? That’s still even doable. Maybe one a week. If you had 40, do you want 80? Wait a second. This is going to be hard.

Jacob: Are you trying to acquire another person to work with you?

Paul: Well, that’s the whole thing now. Are we building a business or is this me as a professional, personal service? And that’s the crux of the matter. Because some people, having 80 moms giving birth over the next year would be overwhelming.

Jacob: Right. And you can’t necessarily push off those clienteles.

Paul: No, you cannot. Sorry. We have space for you.

Jacob: In six months we’ll have…

Paul: Exactly. We have an opening. So, what are you going to do if success strikes? We’re helping work through that, looking back and saying, “How many contacts have you had and then how many of those turn into clients?” And then we look at how many website visits have you had and how many of that turns into clients. So, if we quadruple that, and she quadruples the number of clients, then how do you deal with that? What if it wants to go to the next level? Well, maybe she has to raise her rates. And that’s not a bad problem to have. She can pick and choose. “No, I’m sorry. I’m not good.” Maybe she makes a relationship with another doula and gets commission.

That’s way different than talking about “build me a website.” That’s vastly different. And most people, again, I’m an engineer type, and if you ask an engineer for a solution, if you ask a software developer for a solution, a programmer, their solution will be to program something. If you ask a marketing person how to solve a problem, they’ll say you have to market something. If you ask a carpenter how to solve a problem, they’re going to say you need to use wood and nails to do that. That’s typically what we do.

What I’ve tried to do is think outside of the box and say, “Why do you want to do it?” And then how do we want to achieve what you want to do in the area that I may not know. We’ve got to figure that out though.

Small vs. Large Businesses

Jacob: Are there questions that come to mind in terms of helping understand the why of a company? Of a business?

Paul: I think, again, a lot of these things are obvious when you say them. I think it’s profoundly simple. What is it you want to do? Especially in small businesses, when you get into sole proprietors and things like that, you have to figure out a way to scale your business. But you may not want a scaled business. You may be comfortable with the level of business you’re at.

But let’s say you want a company that has 30 employees, and you want to expand your market. You need to be prepared to be able to fulfill that plan. That doesn’t mean you have to do all the engineering work and all of the decisions, and how are we going to add 600 people, and what place are we going to have picked out for office space and all that. But you have to have those notions that if my growth is incremental or exponential, how will I react in those.

And if I drive you to thinking about that, that’s going to help you sharpen your focus on everything you do, because you’re telling me that’s the goal.

Then we need to look at other things you’re doing and say, “Why are you doing this? You shouldn’t be doing that.” Those can be scary things to deal with, but that’s critical. I do a review every year for an entrepreneurial competition, and I will tell you that everyone, when I ask “Why are you doing this?” — and you can ask that in a lot of different ways… “Well, I really like this” is an answer. That’s good. But why do you think it’s a business? And then they’re like, “I don’t know. I hadn’t thought of that.” Those are things that you have to consider.

Jacob: hose are the sort of things that come under fire and that are tested a year or two into the business. And it’s no longer just kind of the fun of getting things up and running. That’s the real engine that’s going to move things forward.

Paul: Right. Well, businesses are usually built to make money. That is the universal filter that says how we can say whether a business is successful or not. Even a non-profit has a money component to it. It has a value proposition there. And so you have to be very clear on how those things work so that you can understand and judge whether your business is doing well or not.

We get so close to it as business owners, and we fought and sweated so much to get this aspect of the business there, you really need to be in the situation to be able to step back and say, “Is this even worth doing?” And that’s a hard reality. But I think, especially in small businesses, you need to reevaluate that constantly.

Paul: To summarize… We had this client come to us. She’s a doula. She works with pregnant moms. She’s there to be their coach and support in the hospital deliver room. In the delivery room. I don’t want to say hospital, because many of them are done with midwives and things like that. They don’t want that tradition, sterile experience of delivery. And so, she’s very good at what she does. She’s adored by her clients. I think she wants to do more. She felt her website was a little old, which is a very important thing. That shows she has some insight there. It’s probably a little bit past old. So, it should have been done two years ago.

And I think that’s an important takeaway for business owners. A year is a long time in internet time. And you can help extend the life of your website to two years, two and a half years, by keeping content fresh, keeping pictures fresh, new pictures, things like that.

So, we’ve built a new website for her that takes into account the fact that we have mobile devices, takes in all the modern design elements that one might expect, has a plan so that it won’t become antiquated. We have new pictures, we have a gallery of new babies and things like that. We have a plan for content so that she’s going to be writing content, sharing it on social media, Facebook targeted advertising to moms that have identified as pregnant, and Twitter tweets, and also Pinterest, and blog posts on her own site. Here’s lessons learned.

Those things, we think – and we’ll be able to measure this and actually report on it over the series of podcasts – will continue to drive traffic to her. They’ll get to know as her as they’ve raved about the fact that “I feel like I know you when I read your website,” and it will reinforce that. And then hopefully they’re refer two friends, and they’ll refer two friends. And then we’re going to have to… Seriously, how does the person who’s doing this deal with the success of their business? That’s a good problem to have.

Jacob: That’s a great problem. And I think one of the dynamics that you’re pulling out, though, is that we aren’t just doing this sort of work of just nuts and bolts. Let’s move things around and update the paint on this website. Your approach is to go into the why question, understand the heart of what’s going on, and then from that relationship, build the technical components to help realize those goals.

Paul: Absolutely. Again, I have another friend who is impatient and wants a website and wants it now. And we really haven’t figured out what he wants. And that can be frustrating for him. But the problem is, once you go out there, people form an opinion and never come back. And you’ve got one opportunity to make a good impression.

Now, moms…there’s more and more of them every day, so it’s a replenished thing. But still, I think you want to have a good message that’s synergizes with the reader and says this is what I want.

What I really want to be able to measure with this particular client, is people that make a bookmark to it. “I’m not pregnant now. But, boy, this looks cool. When I am, or when I know somebody that is, I want to refer them to that.” I think that is the proof of success for us.

Jacob: Yeah. That’s great.

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