HELPFUL WEBSITE STRATEGIES THAT CONVERT

Helpful website strategies that convert with Ray van Hilst

  • When it comes to website strategies and marketing, let's master the simple and make sure we're doing that well.
  • Ask your self, “What are they coming to your site to do? What do they need from you?” Then let's help them do that and get to that next page where you're going to do that.
  • It's not about you. If someone's coming to your website or engaging with your marketing, they're looking to you to solve a problem.
  • Go look at the top landing pages on your site. If you were looking at those for the first time, would you find them helpful? Do they convert?

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Doug Morneau: Well, welcome back listeners to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. In-studio today joining me today as my guest is Ray van Hilst. He is the Director of Client Results at Yoko Co. Ray is an innovative soul and his with and charisma are present from the very moment you meet him. Ray seamlessly blends 20 years of marketing experience with modern web principles to establish advanced web presence of organizations that help build a better world.

Doug Morneau: When Ray isn't in the office or a coffee shop, or a client office, or a wifi hotspot, you can often find him speaking at events about web strategy and marketing technology. I am super excited to have this conversation with Ray today. I earlier had the owner of the company, Chris Yoko, on the podcast as well. So I'd like you to join me in welcoming Ray van Hilst to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today.

Doug Morneau: Hey Ray, super excited to have you on the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today. Welcome to the show.

Ray van Hilst: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me today.

Doug Morneau: So I'm super excited to talk to you about your superpower and how you help people in the sales and marketing field or at least help them with their digital footprint. Do you want to share with our audience just a little bit of your background in terms of what it is that you do?

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. Background for me, I am a web strategist with a digital marketing agency called Yoko Co, and we work with organizations to help them leverage their web presence to make a bigger impact on what they do, through society, through their work and things like that. My key role as a strategist, I describe my job as helping my clients get beyond the, “Hey, wouldn't it be great if” because when you start doing a web project or a marketing project, and it's like, oh, people have lots of ideas.

Ray van Hilst: And so I work with my clients to say, “Hey look, get beyond the wouldn't it be great if, and here's what you really should do.” The superpower that I bring to the table for that is really focusing on helping my clients realize it's not about them. It's about their customers, their donors, their members, their stakeholders that are coming to them to look for information. I always say it's not about you. Someone's coming to your website or engaging with your marketing, they're looking to you to solve a problem.

Ray van Hilst: They're scared, they're worried, they need education, they need a tool or whatever. And let's make it easier for them to do that so that they like you a little bit better, and then they engage, and then we can convert them into our funnels. We go through that.

Doug Morneau: Well, it sounds like you may have been looking at my website because you just named all the things that I probably … On my personal branding site, that I've probably done wrong, so appreciate you didn't mention my domain in that description.

Ray van Hilst: No worries. One of the books that have really influenced me when I started realizing this, I describe myself as being pathologically helpful.

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Doug Morneau: I like that.

Ray van Hilst: It is true, people call me up or send me an email, “I've got a question. How do you do this?” I'll look up like 30 minutes later, I've written 12 pages in the email to them about things I would approach for that. Adam Grant wrote a book called Give And Take where he just talks about being helpful and how helpful people make a difference in society.

Ray van Hilst: I think marketing has an opportunity to do that too, to be helpful and to be engaging, and it's so much better than the standard like oh, sales call, or things like … The last time anyone actually went onto a car lot to buy a car and you had the salesman come up to you right away. That's the old school way. That's why I try to help my clients in this being helpful, helpfulness and [crosstalk 00:04:01]-

Doug Morneau: I'm going to weigh into that conversation. I remember my wife wanting to buy a car and it was an interesting experience.

Ray van Hilst: It is. I think people like us that do marketing, it sometimes becomes sport for us when we go into those kinds of situations.

Doug Morneau: Yep. Well, I'm just trying my best, I'm just going to ignore that whole conversation. Brings back this bad … Actually, it was a good experience, it was just a poor salesperson who unfortunately judged the book by its cover and said, “Oh, this older lady's not going to buy anything today.” And then she left with a brand new Turbo Cayenne which really surprised him that somebody else got the sale. Anyhow. I promised I wouldn't go there.

Doug Morneau: Let's go back to your superpower and how we can help our audience today. In terms of focusing on the people that you serve, what are typically the one or two biggest mistakes that you see people make on their homepage?

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. One of my personal pet peeves, for example, is when someone's looking at their homepage and it has their navigation, they put the about button as the first navigation. Like, “I'm going to tell you all about me. This is so awesome.”

Doug Morneau: Now that I'm done talking about me, why don't you talk about me?

Ray van Hilst: Exactly. I think one of the opportunities that people should do is say, “Okay, if you're here to be helpful and provide this service or someone's looking for XYZ, make that the first thing that people see.” Really lead into that.

Doug Morneau: Okay. So just try to address their problem, the problem they're looking for a solution should be the first thing.

Ray van Hilst: Exactly. And then I think the next thing, the mistake that I see people do is they try to fit too much into their homepage. I'll admit, I'm guilty of it as well, and my creative director, Max, is one of the best people I've ever worked with and he's trained me to pull some things out. But in our desire to get stuff out there, and sometimes in our desire to be helpful, we just start throwing things at people [crosstalk 00:06:10].

Doug Morneau: You firehose them.

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. And we overwhelm them with choices. Let's find those choices of what is useful for someone, what are they coming to your site to do, what problem or thing do they need from you, and then let's help them do that and make it easier to convert and get to that next page where you're going to do that.

Doug Morneau: I'm just writing the notes here, so what problem are they trying to solve? Maybe I get, I can redeem myself. I'm not getting a gold star but I get a point because the about me part of my website navigation is the very last thing on my navigation.

Ray van Hilst: Exactly.

Doug Morneau: Okay. In terms of engaging people and helping to do that, so saying what problem are they trying to solve, so how would you typically work with a client in that situation? You show up, the client's asking you further advice, they've built something, in most cases already. They've got a website up and running. They're obviously not getting the results that they want, so they're looking to make a change.

Doug Morneau: What would your conversation typically be with somebody to lead them through that process, looking at their site and go, “Okay, here are  some changes that we need to make?”

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. In a case where someone has a site already set up like that, it depends on how much they want to go through. Are you looking to rebuild, reinvent, or are you looking to make moderate tweaks as you go? But the first place starts off with that customer research, and actually going out and talking to people and talking to your customers. If you're a non-profit, your donors, or if you're an association, your members. Talking to them to understand how your company and brand fits into their life, and what they're looking for you to do.

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Ray van Hilst: Part of it is making sure that you come into that conversation with an open mind and that you're listening, of what they need, so that you don't make any of those assumptions. Too often what happens is the marketers or the sales team sits down like, “Oh yeah, we know our customers” and they map this information out, but it is based on just a few conversations, and they maybe haven't gone deep enough in those conversations to say, “Okay, this is a” … I'll use a current situation. If you're a company providing medical equipment, if you're a healthcare worker right now, unless you're selling PPE right now, a healthcare worker doesn't care about what you're offering.

Ray van Hilst: Recognize that, or what they're doing. There may become times in the year where they need, for example, continuing education, so recognizing that that doesn't happen during their clinical care, during their day. That happens in the evening when they've put the kids to bed and stuff like that. So how do you make it easy for people to go through that? And recognize where people are interacting with your brand, how they're interacting with the brand and what they want from it, and pulling that in.

Ray van Hilst: Sometimes that's pretty eye-opening for my clients. Like, they have these assumptions because they talk to people and the reality is most of the people you talk to fall into two categories. If people are proactively reaching to you, they either really love you, or really hate you, right?

Doug Morneau: Yep.

Ray van Hilst: That only covers 20% of people. That other 80% of your audience, you kind of want to talk to them and dive in and take a look and see what are their needs, what are they coming? Where else are they going for information? How do they learn? What do they take a look at? And then start making adjustments based on that information.

Doug Morneau: So, it's funny you said primary customer research. I mean, that makes sense, although for some reason I find that generally, clients are reluctant to call and have those conversations. They should be easier than a sales conversation. So, in addition to doing primary market research, I used to tell people and they say, “Hey,” I guess the general thinking was that I've rebuilt my website, so I've arrived. I would say to them, “No, this is the beginning. This isn't the end.” I would point them to analytics. How much, once you get past the initial customer research, is based on analytics and looking at how people are actually using your site? And then maybe that's guiding your future rebuilds or tweaks or content based on where they are.

Ray van Hilst: Oh yeah, that is huge for us, because once you've done your research and you've said, “Hey, our users are coming in to do this thing. They're looking to us to do that,” you now know within your site based on that, where you want them to get to, and how much time you want them to go, and you now know what you want your actions to be.

Ray van Hilst: There is this Venn diagram overlap where if you do everything for your customer but not for you, the circles don't overlap. There is a potential to go a little too far. We want to make sure that hey, they're coming in be it through the homepage, or one of your blog articles. What's that next step and where are they going? And then looking at those analytics of how can we make some reviews, make some adjustments?

Ray van Hilst: I was doing that with one client and one of their main goals is to have people use a find a provider tool on their site. We noticed that okay, people were coming in off of the right Google searches, on the pages we wanted, but they weren't getting to the find a provider tool. Well, let's look at that and do  A/B testing at that point.

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Doug Morneau: Sure.

Ray van Hilst: What if we move it up on the page, make it really obvious, or have some other call-outs? Over time we increased the usage and we got to that goal of doing that, so using that tool. That should be an ongoing thing. It's a great point about analytics. Too many people get busy in their day-to-day thing of what they're doing, that they forget to look back at the analytics, and for many of our clients, we have a program where we do just a 30-day report and if you've been in Google Analytics, and you've got a savvy marketing group, I know they all have, you know it can become a rabbit hole of information.

Ray van Hilst: We've created a report that says, “Hey, here's the high-level things you need to know” and then we do that on a monthly basis, and then on a quarterly basis, we look at the aggregate of that and say, “Okay, how are we doing?” And that's the point to make those shifts in your planning of the website with that data in hand.

Doug Morneau: What's kind of interesting is I've been in the marketing space for a real long time. I have lots of gray hair, so made lots of mistakes, had some-

Ray van Hilst: I'm jealous. I don't even have hair.

Doug Morneau: … successes. Well, it can be overrated. Everyone's been giving me grief on all these live video calls I'm doing. They're going, “Dude, what's with your hair?” I'm like, “What do you mean?” They said it looks so nice. It's like, “Okay, whatever, move along.”

But in terms of website and analytics, it's funny because this is the space that I'm in, so to your point, things change. I believe and correct me if I'm wrong, so this is my confession for this week of a mistake, I went in to look at some analytics this week on a site, and I know that my web guy had made some updates on the site and blew off my GA code.

Doug Morneau: I'm lucky I'm going, “That doesn't make sense. What do you mean there's no traffic this week? Did something happen that I wasn't aware of?” So then I went and searched to see if the tag manager's there, it's like, “Where'd the tag manager go?” I don't know how it happened, but there's a perfect example of if you're not checking somewhat regularly what's going on with your online presence, it went away.

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. That's a tough one to recover from. But don't feel bad. I've heard it's happened to many people, too.

Doug Morneau: That comes back to like you said, hey, how busy are we working on our business that we're not doing regular check-ins with what we've got up there? We just can't assume that in these days of technology, not everyone works well all the time. Things break, things change, updates come in, and we need to have somebody looking at this on a regular basis. It's not a quarterly or annual review.

Ray van Hilst: Well, and I think the other thing that is important is that recognizing particularly if your business is search-driven and when you look at your analytics and say, “How much of my traffic is coming in off of Google?” And recognizing that Google is constantly making updates as well in an effort … I tell clients all the time. Google's goal is to always return the best results. They're actually not trying to penalize anyone, they just want the best results to come through, so back to my point about being helpful.

Ray van Hilst: If your content is being helpful, and your content is good, you should be showing up in Google, right? But sometimes Google adjusts something, there was the update last year called Your Money or Your Life, where it was updating … That's what we called it internally, but it was like updating around, for example, information from health sites and financial sites and stuff like that.

Ray van Hilst: But if you're not paying attention, what your traffic is doing on certain pages and certain keywords, you'll look up six months later and be like, “Where did my organic leads go?” That's why having that regular check-in and looking at that is really helpful.

Doug Morneau: Well, I also look at that to see where my … Like, to your point, where my traffic's coming from. Obviously Google's the 800 lb. gorilla. But where else does my traffic come from? When we worked a lot in the financial sector with venture capital guys, we had a better time on the site, better conversions from the traffic coming from Yahoo than we did from Google, and the only thing I could assume was that that was because of Yahoo Finance's legacy. That provided a better search. I couldn't get the volume, the traffic that I wanted, but the traffic I could get from Yahoo made a big difference.

Ray van Hilst: To the point of those channels, it's also looking at what are the people … The channels that people overlook. Your speaker that you had on I think last week, I'm brain farting on his name, but talked about email versus social, how everyone feels like they need to do social. Like, “Oh, I want to do social. I must be cool.” These people aren't converting. Email's so old school, but they're converting. Like okay, look at those channels and say, “Okay, let's be helpful there and double down in those channels.”

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Doug Morneau: Yeah. I mean, it was John Meese that was on last week, and yeah, it was funny, because I did look him up prior to our interview and I couldn't find him on social, so I thought he was kind of a joke and I saw the blog there. But I looked, again, to analytics, so where are my refer sources, and I can look at where are people coming from social? What channels is it? Is it Twitter, is it Instagram, is it LinkedIn? And then what's the quality of the visitor coming from those channels? So it makes a really easy business case. Should I be spending more or less resources or no resources in those areas?

Ray van Hilst: And then with those channels, where are they coming in? What are those landing pages they're looking at? Again, particularly if someone's coming in off of those channels, they came because they saw something they're looking for, so what are you showing them when they come in? Are you showing them something that's going to make their life easier, that addresses a pain point? Or, are you showing them, “Look at me, here's our greatest sale?”

Doug Morneau: Yeah, and the same obviously is true I think, I say this a bunch of times because my space is an email space, it's like what are you saying when you're communicating with people if you want them to engage and click serve them, don't always sell them.

Ray van Hilst: Right. I think it's also important to sometimes step out of your own world and comfort zone when you're looking at that and particularly with your organic traffic, to make sure that you are having that external view as you take a look at things. An example that happened, actually with a client yesterday when we were doing an analytics review, they have a page about COVID-19 on their website.

Ray van Hilst: They were about to have an education event coming up that obviously had to be canceled, and in-person event, and I noticed as we were reviewing their analytics with them, I was like, “Okay, you recognize that related to what you do in COVID-19 you're on page one of Google for the search and here's all the people around it.” They're like, “Oh wow, that's great.” I said, “Yeah, but this tells me that when I click through, you've done information to your core, small group of users, and this wider group that's looking for information around this, you haven't even addressed this. You've missed the SEO opportunity around that to elevate what it is you offer to the community as a whole.”

Ray van Hilst: One of the goals of this group is to elevate what their practitioners do, and the importance of it. I'm like, that's a missed opportunity. Sometimes we get so myopic as we're looking at our content or information. It's good to step back and say, “Okay, if I came into this fresh if I didn't know what this was, what would I see and what would my impressions be around that?”

Doug Morneau: Yeah, and it's funny because I think that the social channels, and feel free to push back, kind of have the same goal at Google. I think they're trying to serve the best result for the user. When you type into Google, I mean they're looking to get the best result, not an ad, not a spam ad, or SEO that's going to take me down the wrong path. And I think the social guys are trying to do the same thing, and although a lot of marketers complain, “Hey, I'm not getting the visibility I used to get.” I don't know. What are your feelings on the social channels opposed to Google in terms of serving content?

Ray van Hilst: Well, I think in the modern, in the more recent world of marketing with what we're seeing with everyone being at home and working, and I've been seeing articles, and actually I've seen with some of our clients, first of all, if you're doing paid social, your costs per thousand and your paid social is going down because there's so much more inventory, because everyone's working at home and on Facebook a lot more now.

Ray van Hilst: But I definitely see that when you're in the paid social realm, again, back to having that relevant content and when you can tweak it and when you can target the right audiences and what you engage with, yeah, you get those better results as you go through that. I see that personally. By the way, I'm not a New England Patriots fan or a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, but I've been kind of curious watching the Tom Brady stories around that.

Ray van Hilst: And I've noticed, and again, so it's kind of an experiment for me. I'm like, “Oh, I click on a Tom Brady story.” All of a sudden, I'm seeing New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneer's stories, because I read some Tom Brady stories. It's kind of interesting to every now and then start reading articles that are outside of your interest in these social channels and see what different ads start getting served up to you.

Ray van Hilst: But we do that as marketers as experiments, and to your point that's like, “Okay, the channels are trying to show that most relevant information of things you'd be interested in.” Same as with Netflix. Our two Netflix pages would look completely different. Unless you like standup comedy and jazz, then they'd look exactly the same.

Doug Morneau: I like standup comedy and jazz, absolutely. So in terms of people evolving from where they are, so I mean we're in a time now where like you said, there's more people at home. I'm assuming that search is up, obviously time on screen is up. Where's the low hanging fruit with most people's websites? You've said hey, the about us page shouldn't be first. You've said that you need to address your audience, so what problems are they trying to solve, and make that front and center. Are there other areas where people are just missing it, and if they made a couple of tweaks would they see an improvement?

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. Well, I think let's look at it from two perspectives of one is are you marketing a solution or service that is relevant to our COVID-19 crisis and the here and now? Which is going to be, that's going to be a small [inaudible 00:22:52], but if you're not, your low hanging fruit then is to prepare for what's coming next. Because eventually, we are going to get to this new normal of what's happening in our economy and things will start to … And air quote, in the “normalize” things, of behaviors.

Ray van Hilst: This is a really good opportunity in these, while things are slowing down, prepare for those next waves in our economy and in your marketing. Go look at your landing pages, look at the top landing pages on your site. If you are looking at those for the first time, would you find them relevant? Would you find them helpful? Are they converting? Look at where you're appearing in the search.

Ray van Hilst: Are you in the right places? Do you have that content? Again, if we go back to our users and we say, and our members and our customers, if we say, “They're looking for this kind of information,” go look at your content, do a content audit. Do you have that information? Do you have this information to be helpful? If not, then getting on that content strategy plan of creating it, putting it up there, optimizing it, and the benefit I think you're going to have is it's going to take a while for that content to get indexed, but when things start to “normalize,” you will have a greater presence and you'll have that organic search foundation built for you at that point.

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Doug Morneau: You're only the second person who's mentioned that, that I've talked to this week, and I think that's a really interesting point. I'll come back to that. Indexing, I'm finding now happens almost immediately. That's just my personal experience, so we released a podcast episode this morning, I think it goes out about 4:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. I checked my email this morning at 6:00 as I'm getting up, having a cup of coffee, and there's my Google alert, so the content's there.

Doug Morneau: But I want to get back to something you said, because it's so relevant right now, and the question that somebody asked me in a mastermind is what will your business look like after the quarantine's over? And he said that your vision needs to be past the quarantine, so to your point, we've got a business, we've got a website now, what are your customers going to be looking for when things get back to whatever the new normal looks like? And now's a great time to try to anticipate that, I think like you said, and create content or maybe processes or forms or funnels. What advice or comments do you have on that?

Ray van Hilst: So, it's going to definitely start off with going back to your customer research and this is going to take some imagineering and we can't necessarily get out and talk to people right away, so if you're looking at your audiences, what are they doing, you think, “Okay when things normalize, what will have changed for them?” Is this a company, hypothetically, that they've gone to more remote workers? They used to have this office and now 50% of them have said, “Screw this, I'm not going back to the office, I'm going to say a remote worker,” right?

Ray van Hilst: So maybe that's a thing of how do you manage this workforce that stayed remote? Or, is it around financial questions, and hobbies? And saying, “Okay, so in that changed the environment, what questions are people asking and what things do they need to deal with those new challenges?” From there, we have a technique that we do when we're working on a content strategy with a client, that we call a content needs matrix. We map, we take our personas, and our users, and customers, we say, we literally go down like, “Okay, what is every single question this person could ask? How do I buy it? Where is it? What does it do?” So on and so forth. How do I solve this? Is it any good?

Ray van Hilst: Thinking through that conversation that someone has and now's the time to be doing that thought work for that, of looking at it.

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Doug Morneau: That's a great idea. I mean, the other thing I'm finding is now people that wouldn't do a Zoom meeting with me are now up to do a Zoom meeting. Or, video, whatever the conference is, Google Hangouts, I don't care, pick one. I don't work for Zoom, I just happen to spend hours a day on Zoom, but to your point, now's a great time to reach out to your customers and have a non-sales conversation, like you said, to be helpful. “Hey, so how's this affecting your business? What's your business going to look like when you come out on  the other side? What are the problems that you anticipate that we could start these, have a conversation today, so you're not 1 in 500 people who are emailing me next month?”

Ray van Hilst: Yep. And looking at then also how can you help them bridge that gap to get to that point of what it is that they need for their [inaudible 00:27:57]?

Doug Morneau: Do you have a case study or an example? Feel free, if you'd like to shout out a client or if you want to keep it confidential, that's fine as well, of a remake, like a before and after. Because I think often as marketers, and I'm guilty of this for sure, people come to me for something and I really want to get into the deep weeds of what I do because I love what I do, and they really don't care. They just want to know, how can you transform me from where I am to where I want to be?

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. One of my clients I'll talk about, they are a government contractor and so they offer a technology in the government space that helps federal agencies manage information and share information across users, within agencies and stuff like that. When we started working with them, their marketing was just around like, “Here's our product” and they gave it a product name and said, “This is what it does without that.”

Ray van Hilst: We worked with them, and even as a relatively smart technical person, I looked at it, I was like, “I don't quite get what it is you do. I'm not understanding the benefits.” I think that's one of the challenges they were having, they were talking about all the features of what it does. “Oh, it's got this” and security levels and can source so much, and I was like, “Okay, what are the benefits?”

Ray van Hilst: What we ended up doing with them was going back and saying, “Okay, let's go back to your audiences and let's look at the people that you're interacting with within the federal government, and what are their pain points or what are they doing?” We actually worked with them to then map out marketing personas and addressing okay, what benefits are they using? What are they going through? And then we, over time, just started revamping their content of highlighting out the benefits.

Ray van Hilst: Like for example, with knowledge management, it's a fact that in the federal government, everyone's got access to SharePoint, as an example. I don't mean to pick on SharePoint, but that's just the case, it's there.

Doug Morneau: I've worked with government agencies, so I'm familiar with SharePoint, unfortunately.

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. Everyone just throws, like, they just throw these documents to SharePoint and throw it all on a share-drive or someplace. So, the benefit is from using our client's system is that it's searchable, it's findable, there's taxonomy, less time searching, more time doing is essentially that's essentially what you get when they do that. Once we told that story and put that all together for them, and created content around it, and created content around the benefits and content around the, “Here are the best ways to manage that, and here are the tips and tricks,” we actually over time, and it's a great example of not having to tear your marketing down and start over from scratch because we did it bit by bit.

Ray van Hilst: We said, “Okay, let's look at this, and let's just update the copy on the webpage.” We did that first, “And let's update these landing pages. Then, let's update, get the blog post going.” And then we got [inaudible 00:31:04] like, “Okay, that's good, we've been going through that, and now we're going to update the entire look and feel and bring you up to speed.”

Doug Morneau: That's a great approach. I've never heard anybody in your business talk about that, going to that process over a period of time before.

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. I mean, the work has to be done and there's this fear of … Side tangent, the standard process of people, what people go through when they're building their websites is, “I hate my website, let's do a big project, rebuild the website. I set aside all the work for four months to do this, now I have to do the work and now I get busy doing other things. I look up two years later, I hate my website. Repeat.” Right?

Ray van Hilst: Instead, there's a way to say, “Okay, what's the most important thing? What's the low hanging fruit? What's the next bit of fruit? How do we do that? How can we make those incremental improvements and manage that over time?” You still eventually do the same work, you just spread it out in a much more manageable way, where you haven't had to put all your other work aside. [crosstalk 00:32:05]-

Doug Morneau: Well, it seems to make sense. You get to utilize your resources so your people and money resources, over time, and I think the other upside at least for me as I'm thinking through this, is I get to see the changes in analytics. You're sending me reports, I get an email and you're saying, “Hey, here's your new analytics.” We can start to see the improvements as they go, which we can point to, “Hey, we did this, this is what happened. We did this, this is what happened.” Opposed to doing a big change and going, “Okay, well it's better, but I don't know exactly what moved the dial.”

Ray van Hilst: Exactly. That's exactly what happened with this client, is that they were … A lot of their traffic that was coming in beforehand was irrelevant, not proper, not targeted. We made those tweaks, we started seeing people coming in, going, “Oh, now I see what they do.” We saw traffic then coming in, going to their service line pages and actually spending time on the service line pages.

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Ray van Hilst: We saw through the blog articles, people coming in off of the organic topics and then converting back into the service line pages around that. And then the blog articles also worked to then help them market to their existing clients and their existing stakeholders in the federal government. It's a good way to just like make those baby steps, then the big design reveal when it was done was to then say, “Bah-buh, let's give you a new look and feel.”

Ray van Hilst: Quite frankly, for this company, it helps them punch above their weight from a marketing perspective. But we paced it for them in a very measured way.

Doug Morneau: That's really cool. Super encouraging. Listeners, I hope you got that. I have so many conversations and overhear so many conversations with people that are rebuilding or want to rebuild and their idea like you said, is to throw everything out, but they start with, to the beginning of our conversation, with this big list of what if we could do this? It's like, “Okay, so what are the minimal requirements? What do we have to have?” Yes, we know that we can do this and this and this and this, but is that what you really need? Cool. How do you manage those conversations?

Doug Morneau: Because today we've got so much information at our fingertips, there's events and seminars, whether they're online or obviously there's no face-to-face anymore, but with all these new bells and whistles and the latest social media trends and all these gurus that are publishing every day saying, “Do this, do this, do that,” how do you manage your clients to get them down to, “Okay, hey, I'm glad you went and you heard this guy speak. However, let's get back to what you need to do to move your sales dial?”

Ray van Hilst: It comes back to our conversation we were talking about earlier with analytics. The first thing I ask a client, I look at them and I'm like, “Show me the money. Where is your revenue coming from? What are the things that are generating either your most margin or your most revenue?” And so that we understand that, and then are we looking to optimize traffic and marketing through that? Or, is that doing good? Or, are you looking to add on another product or service line and go through that?

Ray van Hilst: It really does come back to some of that business strategy, driven by the analytics, as you're going through that. I really love working with clients at that point to say, “What are the base hits we can make?” Since it would be baseball season now.

Doug Morneau: Yeah, it would be. Yep.

Ray van Hilst: Home run hitters strike out a lot, right?

Doug Morneau: Yeah, they do.

Ray van Hilst: But the singles, the guys that hit the singles and the doubles, I'm in Washington D.C. so I'm going to miss Anthony Rendon, Tony Two Bags, consistently hit doubles, consistently hit. So, what are those singles and doubles that we can be hitting? What are those small steps that we can do? And learn from that as we go, rather than just swinging for the fences with that home run, with a big thing out of the gate.

Ray van Hilst: And sometimes it really is about what can we simplify? What can we make a little easier? I think that's the challenge with all these tools and things that are out there. People kind of want to jump in feet first and do all this kind of stuff, but they haven't even mastered the simple yet. Like, do you have a good email list conversion? Do you have Google Analytics on your site and are you tracking that? What are the basics of what you're doing? Are you regularly publishing content that is relevant and helpful? Let's get those basics down first, and then once we have then we can use that as a foundation to build on.

Doug Morneau: I mean, that totally makes sense. Very easy to hear you talking about that, but I find it very tough to implement, whether it's for myself or clients I've worked with. Even on my own stuff, it's like you've got to come back to that and they go, “Okay, stop. Do I really need to do that?” Like yeah, it's really cool, and I think it's really cool, but is that going to help my clients? Are my clients going to have a clue what I'm doing? Can I get it back, like he said, to something simple that just really focused on them?

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. I had a boss, you probably saw in my bio, but I used to work for Ringling Brothers. I used to work for the circus, and no, I was not a clown. But I worked [crosstalk 00:37:39]-

Doug Morneau: I wasn't going to say that.

Ray van Hilst: And my wife would totally say I was a clown, but we'd do these campaigns, we'd do these things, I had a boss that always said, “How many butts will it put in seats?” At the end of the day, it's all about butts in seats. I'd be in the middle of a project that has nothing even to do with live entertainment, I just look at it and go, “Butts in seats.” They're like, “What?” I'm like, “How is this going to move the needle? Is it going to really make a difference in your revenue, your donations, your goals, whatever? If not, why are we doing it?”

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Doug Morneau: Absolutely. Most often I would say that, but at that time, it would be a not-for-profit that I'm volunteering with or giving money to and they're doing a fundraiser. It was really about, “Okay, so how do we get butts in the seat? But more importantly, how do we get the right butts in the seat?”

Ray van Hilst: Right.

Doug Morneau: Which is no different than our business, so it's like okay, there's people that are passionate about their organization and they volunteer, that's great. But those are the wrong people to have at your fundraiser. We need butts in the seat that can write really big checks. So we can do a social, for everybody, but if you want to … So yeah. Get the right butts in the seat.

Ray van Hilst: In that case with the non-profit, that's the question of are you looking to, and we do campaigns like this with clients, where are you looking to deepen the engagement within a small group and get more out of them? Or, are you looking to expand the pool and get more smaller groups in and then move them through that process?

Ray van Hilst: And then within each of those, again, coming back to our customer research, what are their motivations for getting involved and participating? Is it initial feel good, or because they feel invested? What does that path and that journey look like for them, for that?

Doug Morneau: Well, I'm going to ask you a general question, so feel free to decline to answer, I'm just thinking that businesses, I would broadly say they obviously have more resources than not-for-profits, so in terms of people resources, they have more paid staff, they're typically … They're for-profits, they have more money. Do you think the problem with … I don't know what [inaudible 00:39:54]. With not-for-profits is greater than with a business? In terms of creating the right homepage and website.

Ray van Hilst: Actually, oddly enough, I'm sometimes surprised because I work with such a wide range of for-profit and non-profit and groups, that many for-profit groups also have the same budgetary constraints going on as a non-profit does. I think within the non-profit space, the challenge becomes trying to do too many things and trying to make too many asks. When we talked about one of the mistakes people make on their homepage is they try to put too much stuff there.

Ray van Hilst: In nonprofits it's like, “Okay, give us your money and do this and volunteer, and do this, and buy something and get your tote bag” or whatever. That's again, that's about the … That's the ask, instead of the tell. Like, what are you passionate about? What are you working with?

Doug Morneau: Yeah. If I make a donation, what does that translate into in terms of a result? Because obviously there's lots of places you can give money, just like there's lots … As a business, there's lots of places you can shop, so if you're talking not-for-profit, like what does my dollar get if I give that to you? Does 90 cents go to administration and 10 cents go to help somebody, or does 90 cents go to help somebody, and then how do you help that person?

Ray van Hilst: We do this with many of our non-profit clients, is then showing the impact that had on the group that the organization is helping.

Doug Morneau: Sure. Totally makes sense.

Ray van Hilst: We're ultimately participating in non-profits and with organizations to make a difference, but then we don't always see that impact. Is it land saved, people helped, as you go through that? That's part of that storytelling piece that is able to come back and be helpful and goes into your content strategy plan.

Doug Morneau: Super cool. As a guy who's been in this kind of space for 20+ years, what are you most excited about in the next 6-12 months? I mean, admittedly, we're in a really weird time in the world, but that aside, what gets you most excited and wakes you up early every morning?

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. I think as I said, I'm pathologically helpful, and I love that my role as a marketer helps me to help other organizations who are making a difference in society. And I think our clients and the people that are making that positive impact in society are going to be even more necessary as we adjust to this new normal. The services and goods that organizations and companies provide as we adjust are going to be super important.

Ray van Hilst: I love helping them do that, and that's my reason for doing. I always say, “I don't save the world but my clients do” and I truly believe that. That's across the board at my for-profit and non-profit clients, and then what makes me excited is because of what we're doing right now, digital is even more important. I feel bad for people that are selling billboards and out of home advertising right now, because no one's out driving.

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Ray van Hilst: These digital tools and telling your story digitally and getting them in front of your audiences, and having your storefront on the web, that's exciting to me, to be able to help our clients make that impact through their digital presence.

Doug Morneau: Yeah. It was certainly and sadly at the same time, a stark wake- up call for all the bricks and mortar companies that refused to go online, because they had to have customers in their store. And there's some that are close to us that we now see. We see some local ads coming up for them. “We're working on getting our inventory online,” so unfortunate that they missed that wave, but there's obviously a big shift now for people going, “Hey, this is where we need to be.”

Ray van Hilst: Yeah, it totally is, and it's requiring people to adjust their businesses as they go. I mean, and I think the businesses that plan just a little bit ahead are the ones that are going to be able to make it through there. A good example of that is a friend of mine who owns a coffee shop in Herndon, Virginia. I want to give him a shout out, to Weird Brothers Coffee, weirdbrothers.com. Paul and I coach softball together with our kids, and when he said he was starting a website when he was starting a coffee roasting company, he was like, “I don't know how to buy a domain.” I was like, “I've got you, dude. Let me help you out.”

Ray van Hilst: We set up his site and I said, “I'm going to set you up with some eCommerce.” He goes, “I'm not going to need that. Everything's going to be in store.” I said, “Trust me, I'm going to put it on the site, it'll be there, one day you'll thank me for that.” Well, low and behold, right now he's got free shipping if you buy two bags of coffee. He's selling, you can place your order, driveby, he'll run out, put it in your car, and stuff like that.

Ray van Hilst: He's making it through. This is a small coffee roasting shop but planned ahead, had those tools, and he's reacting well.

Doug Morneau: That's a cool story. So, as you think back, when you're out socializing at business conferences, what's some of the bad advice that you hear people talk about when they talk about web design and the service that you offer? At this point, I'm not asking you to name names, but just what's some of the bad advice that I'm likely to hear?

Ray van Hilst: I think a lot of people look at their web presence and their digital as a cost expense rather than a multiplier for that. Sometimes it's the, “I don't need to be spending that much money on it, going through that.” I do a lot of work with associations as well. There's an association for everything, and in fact, I have people [inaudible 00:46:20] to the association for associations. That's how mad it is.

Doug Morneau: That's funny.

Ray van Hilst: So, when I'm speaking at association conferences, I always remind them that more people interact with their website than do anything else than will come to their annual conference or their annual meeting. Then I look at the event people and I'm like, “So your web budget should actually be bigger than your annual meeting budget.” They all cringe. I'm just slightly joking at that point.

Doug Morneau: Just slightly.

Ray van Hilst: Just slightly. Because think about like all these associations have canceled all their conferences, but if all that money was in the web team, and now they're starting to set up virtual conferences around there. So thinking about your web presence, not as an expense, but an opportunity is one.

Ray van Hilst: I think the other advice that I hear, and this is back to, I said earlier, simplify, is people try to jump into the deep end and do everything at once. Let's walk before we run. Not necessarily a marketing-related example, but I'll use it. My wife is a second-grade teacher here in Fairfax County, and teachers across the country are suddenly becoming web marketers.

Doug Morneau: Sure.

Ray van Hilst: They've all learned how to use Zoom, do digital content plans, and reach out one on one to their target audiences, be it their students and stuff like that. And that's a completely different skillset. She was working with her team, she said, “Hey, let's master simple.” She teaches second grade, so these parents haven't had the Google Classroom and Blackboard experience that my high schoolers have, so these are parents that they're learning to home school, I helped my sister with this the other day who's got a first grader. My sister's like, “What's Google Classroom?” I was like, “Oh, well let me walk you through this.”

Ray van Hilst: The parents are confused, so throwing all this technology at them is just going to confuse them. The same thing in your marketing, as you come back to that, it's like hey, yes, there are all these complex things you could do. You could use marketing automation and set up a 20 step workflow with all these rules and stuff like that, but if your list isn't clean, is that a good use of your time?

Doug Morneau: Or if your deliverability's poor.

Ray van Hilst: Exactly.

Doug Morneau: Doesn't matter how many times you hit the send button.

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. Let's master simple and make sure we're doing that well, and then build on it as we go. I see people at conferences throw out these grand plans and I'm just like, 10% of my clients could do that.

Doug Morneau: There we go. That's going to be my thought for the week, the rest of the week. I just wrote down master the simple. That's going to be my goal, is everything I look at for my work this week's going to be, “Is this as simple as it can be?”

Ray van Hilst: Yeah.

Doug Morneau: Because lots of times, as a marketing guy who loves technology and going, “Oh, this is so cool, we can do this, and this, and this, and this,” yeah, come back to simple. A couple of questions, and then I'll let you get back to serving your clients and helping out your friends and family on Google Classroom, who's one guest you think I should have on my podcast?

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. I think a great guest to have on your [inaudible 00:49:45] would be my friend Dave Martin, who is VP of Marketing at the American College of Radiology. Dave and I have actually spoken at conferences before. He's doing some great stuff with artificial intelligence. He's a good example of someone that did simple, and has built on it. He and I kind of experimented with AI and marketing for that. He'd be a great, great guest for you.

Doug Morneau: Well, Ray, if I could ask you for an introduction, that'd be great.

Ray van Hilst: I would love to. Yeah, definitely.

Doug Morneau: The most important question of the whole day, because I know you like to help people, how can people connect with you and learn more about what you're doing and how you're helping save the world?

Ray van Hilst: Yeah, absolutely. Well, first of all, as I've told my kids, van Hilst is a unique name, okay? I run into friends from high school, they're like, “Oh dude, I always wondered what happened to you,” and I'm like, pardon my language, “Bullshit. You didn't wonder.” They're like, “What do you mean?” I'm like, “Google my name. Type in Ray van Hilst into a browser. You'll find me, there's five pages of results. I'm the only one in the country.” If all else fails-

Doug Morneau: That's funny.

Ray van Hilst: … Google me and you'll find me.

Doug Morneau: Okay, that's good.

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Ray van Hilst: This is why I tell my kids this because I'm like, “I'm watching you. I see you online. Your name pops up in a Google search. I see it.” But beyond that, my email address is [email protected]. You're welcome to email me or check out our website at YokoCo.com. We're about to launch a new website in the next couple weeks so depending on when you visit, you'll get the old experience which is pretty awesome or the new experience which is going to be even better.

Doug Morneau: Well, they should do both.

Ray van Hilst: Exactly.

Doug Morneau: There you go. There's your case study. Listeners, when you're reading through the show notes, go have a look at the website now, and utilize the resources they've got, and then check back in a couple of weeks and let Ray know if you think he's done a better job than when you first showed up.

Ray van Hilst: Yeah. I'll take your feedback. Let us know how it's working for you. Is it helpful?

Doug Morneau: Is it helpful? There you go. That's a great question, is what I'm doing helpful? Look at this, I've got all this wisdom from you today. I appreciate that.

Ray van Hilst: My pleasure.

Doug Morneau: So thanks for taking the time. Thanks for sharing what you're doing. I love your approach and what you guys are doing. I love the master simple and being helpful, some great tips. I love your approach in terms of not having to throw everything out and start all over, but to do it gradually over time. It makes a lot of sense. So, listeners I hope you enjoyed this episode today. There's a ton of information. I've got half a page of notes that I've written kind of cryptically here as I was talking to Ray. As per usual, the show notes will be transcribed, so you'll be able to head over to the website. I'll make sure that all the contact information is there, and links to Ray's social as well. So, thanks again, Ray. I appreciate what you're doing.

Ray van Hilst: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.

Doug Morneau: So thanks listeners for tuning in. We look forward to serving you on our next episode.

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HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR WEBSITE AND BOOST SALES

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