Talk on How to Improve One’s Business Website at NAMM Show

Michael Ross of Sweetwater speaking about Websites at NAMM Show 2016

Michael Ross of Sweetwater speaking about Websites at NAMM Show 2016

How can those in the music industry improve their websites? A talk delivered on just this topic took place in Anaheim at this past weekend’s NAMM. “7 Ways to Improve Your Website” was delivered by Michael Ross, senior vice president of marketing at Sweetwater, who covered many aspects particular to those who sell music instruments, although many of which were widely applicable beyond such an industry. Starting off with a list of thought-provoking questions, Ross began with “Are you learning best practices form companies you like and trust?” However, he specified, “I’m not talking about stealing their pictures or words, I’m talking about what they are doing.” He also queried the audience “Are you investing in professional input and support?”, “Are you asking for and paying attention to customer input?”, and “Are you tracking results?”

His final question, before moving on to his 7 ways to improve one’s website, he posed the question “Are you truly willing to invest in your website?” To flesh out this question, he made a parallel to a kid asking one’s parent if they could have a puppy; the question the parent will ask the kid is “Will you feed and walk the puppy?” And, obviously, such follow-up questions such as “Every day?” and “Promise?” Just like a puppy, a company’s website requires care and feeding once you put it in place. “It’s like a puppy, it will go away; you have to make a long-term commitment to maintain a website if you want to compete in this marketplace.” If not, then you will not be successful.

Michael Ross of Sweetwater speaking about Websites at NAMM Show 2016

Michael Ross of Sweetwater speaking about Websites at NAMM Show 2016

The first of his seven ways was the necessity to have a responsive design, since many people are using mobile devices to access the web. From Sweetwater’s website, about 40% of their traffic comes from mobile devices and it’s increasing. “If you are not that responsive design and how it translates into mobile,” one’s website may not come out well. “I am surprised to how many websites do not include important information on their mobile designs,” said Ross. “You need to have at least the basics on the mobile format, such as store hours, contact information, product information, and checkout.” One’s responsive design needs to take into account the medium in which people are accessing the information.

The second aspect is content, since content is king. “The single most important thing you need to make an investment in is the content; by far, this is the most important thing that you do,” said Ross. “If you’re not willing to create regular content on a regular basis, then you have lost the race before it’s even begun.” One “must make an investment to creating content, since content drives domain authority; it also drives your organic search, which is free.” In considering the question of written content versus video content, Ross says “the answer is ‘yes’, you must invest in both.” One has “to provide content in a way that Google will recognize it; you must add written content so google can search it.”

Michael Ross of Sweetwater speaking about Websites at NAMM Show 2016

Michael Ross of Sweetwater speaking about Websites at NAMM Show 2016

The third way Ross mentioned is to lower the barriers to selling. One suggestion is to use Amazon one-click. Also, he said free shipping is now the price of admission if you want to compete and not a way to entice customers ahead of your competition. Also, how many methods of payment do you take? It’s better for your website if there is a convenience of checking out. Also, he said, we “don’t want to force you to create an account in order to buy something – you want to lower the barrier.”

The fourth way was by adding value, which, Ross said, “is an interesting discussion, because everyone has a different opinion.” “Pricing is not added value; loyalty is not driven by price.” There are two things that drive loyalty, said Ross, “the frequency of visits and the number of times they find new content when they get there.” Also, “processing and shipping orders the same day is no longer added value.” When trying to figure out how to add value, ” you have the opportunity to add value that fits your brand.” “What is your idea of adding value?” queried Ross, who then mentioned that his company puts candy in the box as a value add.

Michael Ross of Sweetwater speaking about Websites at NAMM Show 2016

Michael Ross of Sweetwater speaking about Websites at NAMM Show 2016

Leveraging customer behavior and data was Ross’ fifth way, which he said was a hard one. Ross pointed out that although “we live in a society where everything is tracked, I don’t get your data unless I have done something to earn it.” Since one’s information is essentially a form of currency these days, “that information has value to you,” Ross said. However, people will give one’s information if one makes it worth their time. Also, Ross said, “If you’re not collecting data, then it’s hard to do something with data.” Finally, Ross pointed out that vertical specialization is important, which, means “What are you really, really smart about? Can you become an authority in a vertical space?” And one can track that with Google Analytics.

Next was to invest in stability and reliability. “If I show up to your website and it doesn’t work, do you think I will come back?” queried Ross. “Maybe if I am a loyal customer.” With new OS releases, your immediate attention is required and you don’t want to get caught behind the curve on this, so you better test your website on different web browsers. Furthermore, customers do really strange things – they will find the problems, so we create a level of communication, so we can go in and do something about it. He also said that one needs to invest in security, as it is no longer something that happens to someone else’s website. “I don’t think you can take security lightly – it goes back to a level of trust and if someone is willing to give you their information.”

Ross’ final suggestion was to invest in speed. “You must accept that we live in an (squirrel) attention-challenged society.” People do not have the patience to have a website load. “You have to make sure it’s clean and quick – speed matters.” However, Ross said, “I look forward to the day that we don’t have to have this conversation.”

Throughout his presentation, Ross was comfortable, authoritative, not patronizing, and, above all, enlightening. It was a smoothly-run presentation with digital slides accompanying it, featuring key points. While it was geared towards those in the music industry, most of his talk was certainly appropriate for anyone looking to build a website for their business.

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