"I don’t see a difference between in-state and out-of-state clients, but there is a difference between clients that serve a local market, which is in-state or within their surrounding towns, and clients that serve a national or international market. "
Daniella Norwood is the owner of Ella J Designs, a Web development and digital marketing company based in Warwick. Norwood founded the company in Rochester, N.Y., in 2007 to assist business owners in maximizing their presence online through purpose-driven website design and results-based online marketing. Ella J Designs has been based in Rhode Island for two years. Prior to developing expertise in HTML, CSS, WordPress and online marketing and launching her company, Norwood was an elementary school teacher.
She is a member of the West Bay chapter of Business Network International.
Norwood has a bachelor’s degree in biology from the State University of New York at Albany and a master’s degree in elementary education from St. John’s University.
PBN: In your work with website development and marketing, what’s the most common type of project request you’ve had from your clients in the financial services industry, including venture capital firms in New York and an accounting firm in Rhode Island?
NORWOOD: They want a website, usually to replace an existing website. They want the new website to have a blog and to give them the capability to post upcoming events that they’re hosting or attending. They want it to be easy for their team to make content updates. It’s important to them that the site is search engine friendly and mobile friendly. In all cases, a professional design is very important to them, because they need to present that image to existing and potential clients. We discuss website purpose and call to action - what they want a visitor to their site to do. Clients all want two things to happen - they want that visitor to sign-up for their newsletter and to complete a contact form if they’re interested in speaking with someone at the company.
PBN: At what point in their business strategy do you find financial services companies decide that upgrading their online presence or adding social media projects justifies the investment? Who does the daily work, for instance, the Tweets, when they decide to begin this? Do you do that or does their staff do that and do they see that as much of a time consideration?
NORWOOD: They typically are established, but want to take their business to the next level. They’re looking for smarter ways to attract new customers and clients from different online channels. They want to leverage the marketing power of a smartly planned website that educates prospects and allows those prospects to self-qualify themselves as ideal customers who can benefit from their services, and then leads them to contact the company. This process is inbound marketing, the most proven marketing method for doing business online. Instead of outbound marketing - buying ads and hoping for leads - inbound marketing focuses on a well-designed website with quality content that pulls prospects in who need their services. By aligning the content on the website and the design of the website with their customers’ interests, they naturally start attracting inbound traffic that can be converted. This process can and should include ongoing blogging and the use of social media, but if our clients are not interested in doing that, we manage it for them. When we talk about inbound marketing with clients, we always start with their growth goals and required return on investment. This then gives us a framework for a marketing plan and redesigned website that optimizes the ROI. Our approach is fairly analytical and possibly even boring upfront, because we focus on numbers and data before we get into the creative and fun areas of design and content writing, but in the financial space, our clients really understand and appreciate that analytical approach upfront.
PBN: Have you found differences between Rhode Island clients and clients in other states, as to adding new marketing or web enhancements to grow their business?
NORWOOD: I don’t see a difference between in-state and out-of-state clients, but there is a difference between clients that serve a local market, which is in-state or within their surrounding towns, and clients that serve a national or international market. For both categories of clients, the fundamentals of designing and an effective website are the same, and so are the core techniques of their inbound marketing strategies, but how we prioritize our efforts and concentrate resources will differ. For instance, a very important tactic for local CPAs is to create and claim their business citation on a number of local directories and Google+. Most of their clients these days look at local directories and search engines to see who’s listed and if they have any reviews or ratings. …
getting our clients who service only a local market properly listed on as many directories as possible and in Google+ is very important. And to then take it a step further, helping them solicit positive reviews from customers who are happy with their services is where they start to stand out.
With our clients who focus on national or even international markets, citations are less important. We don’t completely ignore them, but we don’t put as much emphasis and attention on them in the beginning. We work them in with other things that are more of a priority for them, like content marketing, social media, and potentially optimizing their site for international search.
PBN: What’s your strategy for getting small businesses to understand that web development is an investment and not just an expense, especially in Rhode Island, with the sluggish economy?
NORWOOD: When we sit down with a new small business client we ask about revenue goals, lifetime value of their customers and clients, average sales and profit margin. For a web design company, this may seem odd, but it’s critical to determine, and then measure, how a redesigned website and online marketing strategy can and should incrementally add to their bottom line. Knowing their goals and the lifetime value of a customer, we then create a plan that looks at the return on every dollar spent. The great thing about websites and online marketing is that it’s all trackable. You can immediately measure the results of a new website and see if traffic is increasing, if visitors are calling or completing the contact form on a website, if new subscribers are joining their newsletter, or if online purchases are on the rise. Any online marketing activities can be tracked to any of those results. So with everything we do, we focus on ROI.
PBN: One of the services you offer is reputation management, which is a growing concern for businesses with so much unknown material lingering online. Have you had many requests for this service?
NORWOOD: An increasing numbers of businesses from Rhode Island and other states have been contacting us about reputation management. To help our clients manage their reputation we take a few steps:
1. Make sure they control their business listing on all the major review sites in their industry or market. Controlling their listing ensures that all information is correct and that they can respond to positive or negative reviews in a timely manner.
2. We give them a strategy for soliciting positive reviews from happy customers. You have to be careful when doing this, because these review sites are pretty strict about incentivising customers to leave a positive review or even spamming their site with fake positive reviews. Our plan helps clients get the positive reviews they deserve in a manner that’s truthful and does not violate the review sites’ terms of service.
3. We give them a plan for responding to negative reviews if and when they do happen. If a negative review pops-up here and there, and you address the concern immediately, most people who see that negative review will look favorably upon it. After all, we all have bad days.
4. We help them monitor their reputation, giving them the tools to know when they get a review or something has been published about their company online.