5 Tips to Create a Customer Focused Website

Why This Website Wows, and 5 Tips to Make Yours Wow, Too

Five years ago, I tried to make jam for the first time. I'd received a bag full of persimmons from a neighbor and had no idea what to do with the fruit. So I opened my cookbook up and followed the recipe to make jam. Unfortunately, if you know persimmons, you know that one under ripe persimmon can spoil the entire batch of jam.  I must have had several unripe persimmons, because the jam not only curdled, it tasted like fiery gasoline mixed with lemon juice. Yum, yum. I threw out the entire batch, jars and all, and swore I'd never make jam again.

Until July 4th, that is, when the wild blackberry bushes flanking my driveway yielded not one, but two quarts of luscious blackberries. I felt brave. But my cookbook didn't have a good recipe for blackberry jam! What to do? Search online for one, of course.

And what website did I stumble upon? The Ball Canning and Recipe website.

And this, my friends, is a website that WOWS - and I'll tell you exactly why, and not just because I made an awesome batch of tasty jam.
Blackberry Jam

Why the Ball Canning Website Work

Here's the website: Ball Canning.

These are my top 5 reasons why this website works to acquire, retain and create loyal customers for the Ball Canning Company.

  1. It's super EASY to navigate. Many times I enter a website and find myself poking around odd corners of the site looking for what I need. I end up on virtual dead ends and digital alleys. With this site, everything I needed as a home cook was just one or two clicks away....easy!
  2. It made canning SIMPLE.  I'm new at canning. This was the first time I've ever tried to make jam with blackberries. Pectin? What the heck is pectin and why do I need it? Why are there several kinds on the shelf at the grocery store and which one do I need? The Ball website seemed to anticipate my neophyte questions and answer them easily and quickly.
  3. The tone in the text was just right...neither too advanced to confuse me nor so simple that I felt talked down to. Instead, the copywriter made me feel like he or she was taking me under the wing and guiding me through the steps of the recipe...like I had a trusted friend in the kitchen!
  4. The site had handy calculators that meant I didn't have to think - the site did all the thinking for me. Plus it was fun to play around with the buttons and dream about making strawberry jam next.
  5. Speaking of fun, Ball makes canning your own food seem like a blast. The pictures on the website made me want to run out and buy new Ball jars - colorful ones. The entire site encouraged me to try new things and delight in my thrifty, creative canning projects.

What is the secret that makes this entire website work so well? The Ball corporation knows and understands its target audience - people like me who are new to canning. 

My neighbors are country women; they grew up learning how to can food. They know intuitively how to make all sorts of tasty, delightful things. They don't need this website. They like the recipes, but the pectin converter? The explanations? That's for the likes of me, a former Manhattan executive who never learned to cook who now loves to explore home cooking and crafts.

The secret to a great website is to always keep the end user in mind. The target customer, your marketing manager might say.  The entire website, from start to finish, should be about the visitor - not about you, not about your products.

Ball's site could focus on its nifty caning jars, it's useful jar lifters, or its canning products. All well and good. But that gets boring, fast.

Instead, they focus on ME and my PROBLEMS - my problems were:

  1. I'm new to canning and making jam.
  2. I'm confused about this thing called pectin.
  3. I only have 2 quarts of berries and the typical recipe calls for more; how do I adapt it?
  4. How do I convert the amounts to my smaller quantity?
  5. I need an easy recipe to feel successful!


As a business owner, you may be doing a lot of your own website work or blogging yourself. To make your website work FOR you, not against you, use these tips and tricks:

  • Write up a simple visitor profile to help you imagine your typical customers. WHY does he or she come to your website?
  • Now, what content can you add to HELP him or her SOLVE PROBLEMS?
  • What benefits do your services offer?
  • Can you provide examples, such as testimonials, of helping people who have had similar problems?
  • How can you convey this through pictures (images) as well as through text?

Ball Canning does it right. Their website was a pleasure to use. I hope yours is, too.

Oh, and the jam? Delicious. Simply delicious. (Recipe is on my blog, here - Wild Blackberry Jam)
Cornbread Blackberry Jam

3 Tips to Get More Traffic to Your Website

Morguefile.com: Bandini
Morguefile.com: Bandini

Wouldn’t it be great if you get customers to flock to your website like this?  While there’s no magic formula, there are specific steps that you as a small business owner can take to boost your website traffic. Here are my top 3 tips for improving your site’s search engine position, visibility and traffic. If you need help implementing any of them, contact me at Seven Oaks Consulting for a consultation.

Tip #1: Update your website frequently with juicy, interesting content and share-able graphics.

Search engines love fresh website content, and the more frequently a site is updated, the better. That’s one of the many reasons why website owners love Wordpress-hosted sites; the built-in blogging capacity offers easy site updates.

It’s not enough to simply swap out a picture or change a headline and call it a day. What are you saying on your website, both through your text and images? Are you using information to enhance your expertise, your brand position, your approachability?

Content offers entry points for visitors into your website. If you don’t have a content marketing plan, create one or talk to us about creating one for you. Content continues to be an integral part of online marketing and a great way to attract new site visitors once it is shared.

Tip #2: Share Content on Social Media

Share appropriate, brand-supporting links; build networks by commenting and interacting with your followers. Make sure you have social media icons prominently displayed on your website so that site visitors can find you and follow you on their choice of media platforms. Building a robust social media presence helps you generate links into your site when you share those links widely across social media.

Tip #3: Interact Beyond Your Usual Online Platforms

Broaden your outreach efforts. Consciously make an effort to visit new blogs. Bloglovin’ is a great place to find blogs of interest. You can type in the name of a blog you like, and the site helps you find similar ones. I also find fascinating new blogs through Pinterest. Many pinners share images from their blogs, and the link appears below the image when you click through to the original pin. It’s worth trying, especially if your business website is one that lends itself to images or blogger outreach.

Building website traffic takes time and effort. If your traffic is stagnant, it’s time to look beyond your current internet marketing efforts. [pullquote align="left|center|right" textalign="left|center|right" width="30%"]Getting customers to flock to your site is a combination of creating a great website with frequently updated content, sharing that content, and introducing yourself to a wider circle of acquaintances.[/pullquote] Try these three tips today and spend time this summer boosting your visibility online.

How to Be a Great Guest Blogger

Guest blogging is a great way to increase your audience reach online. Guest blogging is, as the name implies, sharing your content on someone else's blog as a guest. Some blogs welcome guests, while others don't permit them. This blog does not offer guest blogging opportunities, but I do welcome opportunities to write for other business and marketing blogs. So please contact me using the contact form if you'd like to have me write a guest post for your blog.

Like being a guest in someone's home, there are certain rules of etiquette when guest blogging. Just as you wouldn't peek into your host's medicine cabinet (you wouldn't, right?) or take a tour through their underwear drawer as you detour into the bedroom on your way to the bathroom (tell me you won't do this...please), so too as a guest blogger you won't cross the line into advertising copy.

When you're guest blogging, the emphasis should be on:

  • Sharing knowledge freely from your particular niche or area of expertise;
  • Offering more than recycled content - offering readers something new, unique and engaging;
  • Keeping the focus on the blog's readers, not on your business;
  • Supporting the blog owner's work or business by sharing links to your post freely with YOUR social networks.

It also helps to be prepared for common requests from blog hosts once they have agreed to have you as a guest on their blog. The most common requests are:

  • A good headshot or photograph of yourself
  • A bio of you (keep it short, 3 sentences, max)
  • Links to your website and social media profiles

I have a speaker package on my computer that includes all of this information and more. It also includes sample questions, in case the blog host prefers a Q and A format rather than a straight post.

How do you obtain guest blog posts on other people's blogs? There are directories available, or you can search in your area of specialty or niche for blogs on similar topics and write a short, personal email to the blog host asking first if they accept guest posts. Include a brief mention of why you'd like to be a guest on the blog, including the intended topic. This isn't the time to go into a length spiel; keep it short and to the point. Your initial contact with the blogger should be to the point and focused. You're just trying to ascertain whether or not they accept guest posts, and if so, if they are open to your idea.

The benefits of guest blogging are enormous. Not only will you share your insights with a completely new audience, but you'll also gain valuable inbound links to your website, potential social media followers and additional publishing credits to your name. Your host will get a day off and an interesting, engaging post to enliven his blog and educate and entertain his readers. It's a win-win for you both!


This post was written by Jeanne Grunert, a marketing writer and president of Seven Oaks Consulting. Visit our website, sign up for our newsletter, and get a free copy of The Little Book of Big Marketing Secrets.

Three Ways to Generate Content When You're Stuck

Everyone gets stuck on occasion. I'm not talking stuck, like Winnie the Pooh in his tree or like a kid getting his head stuck in a stair banister. I'm talking creatively stuck, as in, "Oh no...I've got write four blog posts this month and I don't know what the heck to write about..."

Feeling stuck like that is no fun, especially when you're a business person with a pile of tasks waiting for you. It's easy to push aside content marketing and get back to things you feel like you can actually do right now, like pay the bills and check your Facebook account for the 100th time today (guilty as charged).

But if you keep avoiding the blank page, or in this case the blank screen, you'll be left without content and without the opportunity to share your expertise with the world. And what fun is that? None in my book!

I've pulled together three of my top tips for generating content when you feel absolutely stuck, like you're staring at a blank wall or that the creative well has completely dried up. Feel free to grab any of these tips and try them today if you're facing that situation.

  1. Compile your own "top 10", "top 5" or whatever list. Go back and look over what you've already created. Chances are good you've got several posts you can group together into a 'best of' sequence of posts. Write a one paragraph summary and introduction (surely you can do THAT), and then use bullet points to link to the original posts you wrote. Voila. Instant blog post!
  2. Create a meme, quotable quote, or Pinterest-worthy share. Use only your own original photos to ensure you're in the copyright clear. Find a quotable quote. Use a free service like Pixlr.com or PicMonkey.com, add the quote, and share.  Instant content!
  3. Review a product, service or website in your industry or niche.  I like this one because you can talk about something or someone else without feeling pressured to sell, sell, sell. Plus, you're sharing the love, by helping someone else sell without any pay off on your own. It's a feel-good way to get yourself writing again. I'd stick with only positive reviews, but that's just me. Negative may get you more press, but positive gets you more karma points.


The next time you're feeling stuck, think of this:





So take action!


Written by Jeanne Grunert, Seven Oaks Consulting. Jeanne is an award-winning writer, blogger and marketing consultant helping companies acquire, retain and create loyal customers. She is available for freelance work.

The New PR: Blogger Outreach

Traditional PR (public relations) still has a place in most businesses' marketing plans. It's a smart move to add blogger outreach to your mix in addition to traditional press releases and media outlets.

Contacting bloggers and courting them as blogger-reporters requires a different mindset and approach from the traditional PR approach. Bloggers, for example, have smaller followings than newspapers or websites, but those followers tend to be fiercely loyal, eager readers who engage more frequently with bloggers. Blogs tend to focus more tightly on a specific niche topic, too.

There are other differences which will change how you approach blogger-outreach as compared to media outreach. Blogdash offers a new free paper on the topic. You can download it after following their instructions. Visit Blogdash.

How to Determine the ROI on Your Social Media Accounts

When I'm wearing my marketing consultant's hat, I'm focused on the return on investment (ROI) for my clients. After all, most are small to mid-sized business owners, entrepreneurs and artists - folks who absolutely need to understand how, when and where their marketing investment is paying off.

Social media often seems like the big question mark in the marketing mix, but it doesn't have to be. You can track your company's return on investment in social media marketing just as you would any other digital campaign. The trick is to have the data available from your website, as well as from the social networking website you're using, and to put into place some smart best practices to help you move ahead.

I've written a new article for the website, Routing, detailing just how to do that. I've included three simple steps you can take to enact social media ROI tracking and analysis, but of course there are other ways. I'll share more in the future on this blog and other article.

Read:  Three Simple Steps to Measure Social Media ROI

Content Marketing for Small Businesses

If your business doesn't have a robust content marketing strategy in place, you might be losing out on the biggest innovation to hit marketing since the internet. I read a statistic this morning that made me really sit up and take notice.  According to the article on Inbound Writer, 78% of chief marketing officers think custom content (articles, white papers, blogs, etc.) is the future of marketing.

Content Marketing Defined

What is content marketing? According to the Content Marketing Institute,

"Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action."


Why Content Marketing Matters

Traditional advertising's effectiveness is fading. The more people are bombarded with ads, the less effective the ads become. Consumers have grown wise to the tricks of the advertising trade, and eschew ads for information. And that's where content marketing comes in.

file9521235560276_Alvimann_MFContent Marketing In Action: An Example

Most custom content produced as part of a content marketing strategy seeks to inform consumers, providing them with facts to help them make a purchasing decision. The other day, I was searching for background information to write a client's blog post, and found a treasure trove of woodworking project how-to sheets online. The major retailer producing this excellent content had uploaded a complete project library that anyone could access and download without having to jump through hoops. Each sheet had a simple format and clear drawings that showed the novice how to complete everything from a deck to a new pantry shelf system, with a shopping list of hardware, lumber, paint and supplies needed to complete the project. The idea, of course, was that once you found the project sheet, you'd download it and take it into the store as your shopping list.

Think about this content for a moment. Not only can it be printed and handed out in-store, but it acted as a search engine marketing tool, appearing on the first page of the search engine results when I typed in my search term. It was a potent marketing tool helping the company's website attract new site visitors, and by using clear, simple instructions, perhaps transforming the casual visitor into a buyer in the store.

Starting Your Content Marketing Strategy: The First Question to Ask

Any size business, from a sole proprietorship to a major corporation, can use content marketing to build their brand and acquire, retain and create loyal customers. The first step is to identify your content marketing strategy.

Why do you want to enact a content marketing strategy? Is it to boost your visibility on the search engines and attract website traffic? Is it to build your brand? Is it to increase sales for a specific product category or engage better with a specific group of customers?

Any and all of these are great reasons to begin your content marketing program. A good content marketing strategy begins by knowing the answers to these questions in detail. Take your time to develop your responses. Knowing WHY you want to begin a content marketing strategy is even more important than understanding the HOW of carrying it off.

If you'd like to begin work on your company's content marketing strategy, I'd be delighted to help you. I've created great content strategies for many industries and products, and for companies ranging from small start ups to major established firms.  Contact me through Seven Oaks Consulting, and let's talk about how we can harness the power of content marketing to boost your website visibility and sales.




About the Author

By Jeanne Grunert, President and Founder of Seven Oaks Consulting. Jeanne is an award-winning writer, blogger and marketing manager with over 20 years of experience. She personally works with every client at Seven Oaks Consulting and creates expert content marketing strategies and written materials to build brands, attract site traffic, and acquire new customers.  Contact Jeanne.




The Secret Reasons Why People Buy Your Services

piggy bank
Know the reasons why people buy!


MarketingProfs ran a story this week about the reasons why customers purchase B2B (business-to-business services).  The reasons ranged from "collaborated with me" to "offered solutions".  You can read the original article on MarketingProfs, but I wanted to offer my own take on the topic based on my years of sales and marketing experience.


People Are Illogical During the Sales Process

People purchase products and services based on a complicated stew of emotions, logic, and feeling. They may buy from one salesman because he reminds them of their favorite actor, while another person may buy from a different salesman because he looks like a favorite teacher. While most people apply logic to their choices, underlying the logic is their past history, their feelings and other factors outside of your control.

Your Task: LISTEN

Your first task when selling goods or services is to LISTEN.  What is the person really telling you?

Number four on the Marketing Profs list was "Listened to me" but I believe that listening comes first on the list. If you don't listen to what the customer is really telling you, then you can't offer solutions.

Listening involves all your senses. It's not just what the person is saying, but what they're not saying.  If they're coming to you seeking a solution, listen to the problem. Sometimes the problem is what they say it is, but often there's a "problem behind the problem" that needs to be explored.

The Reasons Behind the Reason

For example, a company called me to ask if I would conduct a teleseminar for their marketing staff on the topic of SEO. I gladly said yes, since it's one of my favorite topics to teach. However, they didn't need information on SEO - they could get that from books, online articles, and myriad other sources.

What was the real reason they wanted me to present on this topic? I had extensive industry experience that related directly to the audience's job functions. Because the industry is so specific and so insular, they needed someone who had actually worked "in the trenches" so to speak and who could teach from a place of knowledge, experience and education. Just hiring any old consultant wouldn't do. They wanted someone who their team members could trust, because she'd walked the path before them.

That was the 'reason behind the reason' for the assignment. My job wasn't just to impart the basics of SEO to the group, it was to reassure them that good search engine optimization is useful for all industries, and that it was possible to implement good SEO in their industry.

Why Do People Buy from You?

Let's look more closely at the Marketing Profs list of reasons why customers choose a particular vendor for B2B services. The reasons include:

  1. Educated me with new solutions.
  2. Collaboration (partnership)
  3. Showed me it would achieve results.
  4. Listened to me.
  5. ....more

Among the topics on this list, do you see a trend?  Education, collaboration, results.

Do you educate prospects on the possible solutions available? Do they feel like they have a true partner with you, someone they can trust to deliver the results? Lastly, do they see a clear pattern of results in your previous work - results you can demonstrate to them?

Clearly Convey a Reason to Buy

Remember that if you sell online, your words must convey the reason to buy. That goes for people who use the written word, as I do here in this blog post, audio or video clips.

  • Are you clearly articulating the "why" behind the "buy?"
  • Do you show the results people can achieve with your services?
  • Do you offer new solutions or educate them on ideas they didn't know before? (That's content marketing, much of the word I do here at Seven Oaks Consulting).
  • If you have conveyed the "why" before the "buy," is it prominent on your website? Do you repeat it often enough? Saying it once isn't enough - people may need to read it multiple times to truly 'get' what you're saying.

In order to sell more of your goods or services, or acquire new customers, you've got to know, understand and apply tactics to address the secret reasons why people buy your services. Listen, learn, educate, respond and collaborate. It's the best way to acquire, retain and create loyal customers!



Jeanne Grunert is the president of Seven Oaks Consulting. She's an award-winning writer and marketing expert who works with clients in diverse industries to help them acquire, retain and create loyal customers through powerful direct marketing and content marketing strategies, great writing, and expert online promotion. Visit Seven Oaks Consulting to learn more.

What Is a Klout Score and Why Is It Important?

Did you sign up for Klout? Do you even know what Klout is? Klout, said a friend of mine, is like high school all over again - a popularity contest. Since I was relatively popular, albeit geeky, in high school, I don't mind popularity contests. Klout, however, is more than a popularity contest.

Klout is a website that assesses both your social media presence, your interactions and influence, and assigns your profile a score based on the results. A Klout score of around 30 is considered average. Above 60 and you're a superstar internet marketer. Mine is above 60 (wink).

Klout can seem weird at first. What do you use it for? Do you even check it? I don't check it frequently, but I find that my potential clients DO check it. I have actually gotten gigs because my Klout score was high. Potential clients for my blogging and SEO writing services like to see their writers with a high Klout score because it means they have significant online influence and followers, which can translate into better exposure for their content.  In other words, because I have a strong following online, my sharing a post may help a potential client out.

Learn more about Klout on their site.

Quick Ways to Build Your Email List Now

Don't you just hate websites that make you sign up first and give away your email address just to peek at their stuff? I know I do. I thought I was alone. A friend shared a photo of colorful Converse sneakers today on Facebook. I wanted to see how much they cost because you know, you can't have too many pairs of purple shoes. So I clicked on the link. What popped up? Not the sales page for the sneakers, but the home page of the site with a mandatory pop up box that demanded I reveal all my contact information and opt in for their emails.  No, thank you. I left without even looking at the sneakers. I'm sure I'll find them elsewhere, and more easily find the price.

So I left without shopping or sharing, and guess what? Looking at the comments on Facebook, a lot of other people were equally displeased.

Engaging readers using Pinterest, Facebook and myriad other social media tools is only part of the equation.  Once you've engaged your audience, you must welcome them once they get to your website.  By not welcoming new customers and in fact putting up a hurdle to jump before you could even see their wares, this website lost business.

Why do companies put up those annoying pop up boxes that demand email sign ups, anyway? Because somewhere along the line they've either discovered or were told that such boxes can help them boost their email list. Many of these companies are using email marketing very heavily to promote their products, and clothing companies love email marketing.  Hey, I love their email marketing, too; this morning, I clicked on two emails in the 40+ in my person in box just to see the sales.

But that's really the point, isn't it? There were 40+ emails from my "favorite" clothing companies, and I had time to click on just two of them. I didn't sit down and read every single one. So I may be on their email lists, but I'm not particularly engaged with their brand.

Build up an email list takes time and hard work.  Forcing customers to join your email list just to look at your products is a no-no in today's world of internet marketing.  It's off putting and will do more to hurt your social media and digital marketing efforts than many other mistakes.

The Do's and Don't of Email List Building


  • Offer customers an incentive to join your email list, like a free book, coupon or something else great.
  • Send only emails out on the promised schedule; don't bombard customers with emails.
  • Publish a privacy policy and terms, and follow them carefully.


  • Make people disclose an email address just to look at your site. Most people won't bother.
  • Share your list with other vendors UNLESS you have revealed you may do so in your terms when customers sign up.
  • Send emails too frequently. How frequently is too frequently? Check your list stats. Declining open rates and high opt out rates may indicate list fatigue, a term which means you are sending too many emails out.