Ask These Questions or Risk Getting the Wrong Website

The economy is looking good. Wood products manufacturers have told us they’re busier now than they’ve been in years.

With all this positive business growth, you might be ready to invest in a new and improved website to help you reach new customers and pave the way toward future sales.

Before you hire a web development company, be sure you ask these questions so you know exactly what you’re getting.

1. Will your website be responsive?

Responsive sites adjust automatically to fit mobile phones, tablets and desktops. Websites that are not responsive are penalized by Google, which could harm your search rankings.

2. Will you be able to update your site yourself?

Don’t get stuck with a website that you can’t update yourself. Otherwise, you’ll have to spend money on a web designer each time you want to make a change.

3. Will your site be a template, semi-custom or custom site?

This impacts your cost and how much control you have over the look and functionality of your site. Template sites cost less, but severely limit your options for customization. Semi-custom sites offer many more features and greater design choices. Custom sites, which offer the greatest flexibility, are designed and built to your requirements.

4. Does your web developer have industry knowledge?

Working with a web developer who understands the wood products industry makes the entire process go more smoothly and ensures that you’ll get a website tailored to the specific needs of your business and your customers.

5. Is your web developer using SEO tools?

Make sure your web developer has knowledge of SEO (search engine optimization) and uses SEO best practices. This is critical to your website’s search rankings.

6. Are you dealing with a web designer or a web developer?

This distinction is important if you have specific technical requirements or need a website with customized features and functionality. Web developers have programming and coding skills that most web designers don’t have. Make sure your web professional has the technical skills necessary to execute your project.

7. Are there monthly fees after your site is launched?

Some web companies charge you for creating your website and also charge you an ongoing monthly fee afterwards. Find out exactly what that fee is for and how long you’re going to be paying it.

8. Do you have a written contract?

This is important for your protection as well as the web developer’s. Be sure the scope of work and payment terms are spelled out completely and clearly so there are no surprises or misunderstandings.

9. Is your web developer using too many technical terms?

Beware of jargon. Your web developer should be explaining technical things in plain English. Ask questions if you don’t understand. And keep asking if you need to.


Why you need a product-intensive website. Read more.


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Six easy ways to beef up your website

muscle-armDoes your company website need some work? Can’t figure out how to make it better?

Improving your website doesn’t have to be complicated. Little changes that you can do yourself can often make a big difference.

Try these six easy ways to beef up your website:

1. Improve your home page.

First impressions matter. Web visitors coming to your home page judge within a matter of seconds whether your company can serve their needs. Make sure your home page clearly tells what you do, what products and services your provide, and which customers you serve.

2. Rework your “About” page.

Did you know that “About” pages are among the most highly viewed web pages? That’s because potential customers are more comfortable doing business with you if they know who you are. Use your “About” page to build trust by giving details about your company, its history, and your key staff.

3. Add customer testimonials.

Do you have happy customers? Add quotes from your customers that show how your products or services helped them to solve a problem or improve their business. Seeing positive comments from past customers helps potential customers form a positive impression of your company.

4. Have complete contact information.

Make it easy for customers to reach you. You should have a separate “Contact” page that prominently displays all of the ways customers can contact you including phone, email, mail, and social media. It’s also a good idea to include contact information in the footer section at the bottom of every page of your website.

5. Check and update every web page.

Make sure all of the information on all of your web pages is accurate and complete. Remove outdated information, update pricing, add any new products or services, and check that all links are working properly. Regularly updating your website ensures a good user experience for your customer.

6. Add photos.

Photos attract attention and keep customers on your site longer. Add quality photos that are relevant to your business such as product photos or project photos. If you have a photo gallery, be sure to update it with your most current projects. And don’t forget to add captions under your photos so you customers know what they’re looking at.


Learn why email marketing should top your list. Read more.


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Manufacturer websites need to be product intensive – that means YOU, wood products guys

I’m willing to bet that everyone who has used the internet to research products has had this frustrating experience. You go to a company’s website looking for specific product information, and you can’t find it. They talk about how wonderful they are, how many awards they’ve won, and how customer-focused they are. But nowhere on their site do they provide detailed information about the products they make. If they don’t have information about their products, who will?

Your customers need details

lawn-mower-1593883_1280Imagine you wanted to buy a lawnmower and you wanted to compare models from three different manufacturers.

  • Company A’s website shows an image of a lawnmower and lists models by cutting width.
  • Company B’s website has images of every lawnmower they sell, and they have specifications for their models like: horsepower, cutting width, adjustable wheels, self-propelled, etc.
  • Company C’s website has multiple images for each of their models, including close-ups of key features. They have a complete list of specifications and features, including optional accessories. They have videos demonstrating the use and maintenance of their product, and they offer printable PDFs for each model with all of the specifications and images.

Which of the three manufacturers serves their customers’ needs the best? Which website is most helpful? Obviously, the answer is Company C, because they provide a wealth of product information on their site. And detailed product information is what customers use to make decisions.

Why you should love CAD files

Here’s a real-world, industry example from a couple of years ago. An architect called me looking for advice and suggestions for interior details for a project. He was up against a deadline and he had to complete his drawings the next day. I sent him to my website and suggested several products for his consideration. Once there, he could see large images and dimensions for every product I offered. Plus, he was able to download the CAD files for each product he wanted – which helped him with his drawings. He specified my product in his blueprints, and I got the job. And he was so grateful for my help, he recommended me to a friend at another firm.

Speaking of CAD files, research conducted by ThomasNet has shown that when CAD drawings are specified into a design, the actual product gets purchased 80% of the time. Stop and think about what you just read. If you had any question about the importance of offering CAD files on your website, that should convince you.

Present your product information in the most useful way

empty-menuHere’s another scenario. See the image of the menu at right. Suppose you were looking for a restaurant online and you found this menu. What do you see, or more importantly, what don’t you see? The menu shows broad meal categories, but there are no dishes listed. Very frustrating. How can you possibly judge whether this restaurant is right for you given the complete lack of information about their offerings?

OK, now look at your company website and pretend you’re a customer. What information about your products can you find? If you were to search by product category, would you be able to find everything (or anything) that your company offers? Or does your website look more like that restaurant menu?

What product information is available, and how it’s presented makes a difference. For instance, having a PDF of your print catalog on your website is not a substitute for actual web content. Usability experts Nielsen Norman Group warns that forcing users to browse PDF files on a website makes usability 300% worse. More to the point, a survey conducted by Elsevier found participants preferred the HTML (web) format for learning and discovery, and liked the PDF format for reading and printing. In other words, visitors use your website to browse and evaluate your products, and they download PDFs for in-depth study. Both HTML and PDF have their place and each is necessary, but they support different stages of the sales funnel. Browsing and evaluating are top of funnel; in-depth study comes further down. It’s important that manufacturer websites support all stages of the sales funnel.

What’s the take-away?

Every manufacturer needs to honestly assess how helpful their website is to their customers. Give them the information they need to properly evaluate your products, and make it easy for them to incorporate your products in their specifications. Giving your customers the information they want, when and where they want it, ensures greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, which increases the likelihood of future sales.


Learn how to improve your customer’s website experience. Read more.


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What can a bench table saw teach you about choosing a website? Plenty.

bench tabe saw

As a wood products manufacturer, you would never choose a tool based on price alone. You would consider many factors like efficiency, reliability, longevity and return on investment. You would research and evaluate the options to ensure the benefit to your business. You know that investing in the right tool will increase efficiency, sales and profitability.

In this article, you’ll see how all tools, including websites, are not the same. Choosing the right tool will have a positive impact on your bottom line, while choosing the wrong tool will result in lower productivity and profits.

Let’s consider a bench table saw. Would using one of those saws as your primary saw help or hurt your business? A bench table saw can perform most basic operations of an industrial table saw. They can rip, crosscut, mitre, dado, and rabbet. And these saws are very inexpensive, so you’re not shelling out lots of cash. Then why would you invest in a Martin or Altendorf sliding table saw when a small, inexpensive saw can do? Because they have many significant shortcomings.

  • the single phase motor is noisy, small, and inefficient
  • it takes much longer to rip lumber, especially material thicker than 4/4
  • its light weight and size make it unstable
  • its lighter-duty bearings won’t stand up to continuous use
  • its reliability and accuracy negatively impact quality

While a bench table saw may be fine for homeowners or job site use, it could never handle the demands of an industrial manufacturing environment. It wasn’t designed or built for that.

Low-priced tools have high long-term costs

Just like the bench table saw, many low-priced or “free” website platforms appear to be able to do everything their professional counterparts can do. But an informed buyer examining these low-cost platforms will see that they are woefully under-powered and inefficient, and they can never handle the demands of a manufacturer’s website. While their upfront cost may be small, their unreliability and tremendous inefficiency results in low productivity, which means very high long-term costs. Those websites rarely serve your customer’s needs, and that could mean lost sales.

As a manufacturer, you know that the success of your company is related to production efficiency and product quality, and how well you serve your customers. That’s why you need to invest in the right tool for the job – whether it’s industrial manufacturing equipment or an industrial-grade website. Prospective customers will judge you by your website design, content, performance and the user experience.

For a business website to be an effective sales tool it must:

  • be reliable and available 24/7
  • be fast and easy to navigate
  • have powerful searching capabilities
  • provide complete, detailed product information
  • deliver large quantities of content efficiently and consistently
  • serve as a resource for your current and prospective customers
  • be optimized for search engines

Invest in a quality tool

When considering a business website, take your time and do your research, just as you would with any tool purchase. Learn about the professional level platforms that are available, and try to compare apples to apples. Before deciding on a web development company, be sure to ask questions, know exactly what you’re getting, and make sure it’s the right tool for your wood products business. Rarely do the one-size-fits-all tools solve more problems than they create.

Working with a professional web development company that knows the wood products industry and takes the time to understand your individual needs, means you’ll get a website tool that will work for you and your customers. Remember, it’s important that your website contributes to your bottom line just like every other tool you own. The money you invest in a quality tool will be returned many times over through years of reliable service and increased productivity.


Learn why manufacturer websites need to be product intensive. Read more.


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9 ways to improve your customer’s website experience

man hands laptop blueprintsHow do you know if your business website is effectively serving your customers? Your website may look good, but is it really working? Is it giving your customers what they need? Is it providing the strong content and useful information that encourages your customers to browse your site longer?

Your website can be a valuable resource for your customers as well as a powerful sales and marketing tool for you, but only if it’s equipped with what it needs to create a quality user experience. We’re going to look at nine tools and tactics that can help you to improve your customer’s website experience. After you read this, take a look at your business website and see how it stacks up.

Website tools and tactics to create a better customer experience

1. Customer-focused

Your customers come first. Your website should be built to serve the specific needs of your customers and provide the content, features, and functionality that create a quality user experience.

The overwhelming majority of buyers first research products and services online before personally contacting a business. Your website is almost always your prospective customer’s first point of contact with your company, so you want to be sure your customer has all of the information he or she needs to make an informed decision. Your website should demonstrate that you understand your customer and that you can solve their challenges.

Put yourself in your customers’ place. Are you presenting the information on your site in a way that best serves your customers, answers their questions and addresses their concerns? Is the language clear and conversational? Are you providing easy access to your product information?

laptop screen2. Quality content

Your customers need specific information, and they’re searching online to find it. Relevant, credible web content is one of the main factors that search engines use to determine your search rankings. The success of your website – and its ranking in search engine results – is determined largely by the quality of your content.

Be sure to keep your website content relevant and customer-focused by incorporating these tactics:

  • Provide detailed and accurate product information to your customers so they keep you in the running during their research and buying phases.
  • Include other helpful content (how-to guides, blogs, etc.) that serves as a resource and keeps customers on your site longer.
  • Add fresh content on a regular basis. Sites that are updated regularly help to promote customer engagement and generally rank higher with search engines than sites that remain stagnant.

Are you getting the same questions over and over again from your customers? That’s a sign that your web content could be improved and that you need to update your site with answers to those common questions. What if that information is already on your site, but your customers aren’t finding it? Moving that content to a more obvious location on your site may solve the problem.

3. Professional design

First impressions matter. A professionally designed website creates a positive first impression, establishes your company’s credibility in the eyes of your customers, and reflects the quality of your products and services.

Professional web design is an investment that pays off. A professional web designer knows how to create an attractive design and communicate your message for maximum visual impact. But the benefits of professional web design go well beyond aesthetics. In addition to looking good, a professionally designed website incorporates user-friendly navigation, easy-to-read fonts, logical organization, and quick load times, which all contribute to a better user experience.

Equally as important, a professionally built website has clean, proper coding and is optimized for search engines, helping to boost your website’s online presence.

Look at your website as if you’ve never seen it before. Is your website making a favorable first impression? Is it creating a sense of trust? Is it presenting your company in the best possible light?

woman holding smart phone4. Responsive website

A responsive website is one that is built to automatically resize and adjust to fit a tablet, mobile phone, laptop or desktop so your site looks good and performs well on any device. If your website isn’t responsive and your customer is using any device other than a desktop computer, your site may not display properly, forcing your frustrated customer to zoom, pinch or scroll sideways to see your web pages. Even worse, your customer may abandon your site altogether because it’s difficult to interact with.

Here’s one more compelling reason to have a responsive site. Responsive sites actually rank higher in Google search results because they provide a better user experience. If your website is not responsive, you’re likely hurting your search rankings.

Take a look at your website on your mobile phone. Is your site displaying properly? Is it providing the same user experience as a desktop?

5. Calls-to-action

Your customers are coming to your website. Now what? You need to tell them what to do or where to go next. Calls-to-action (CTAs) lead your customers to perform a specific action while helping you to capture information and generate qualified leads.

Calls-to-action can be for whatever action you’d like your customer to take, such as subscribing to your newsletter, downloading a how-to guide, and signing up for a free consultation. In exchange for getting useful information, your customers provide you with contact information such as their email addresses, which you can use as sales leads.

Another type of call-to-action doesn’t require your customers to sign up or give any information. These CTAs can be used as a tool to establish trust, create more visibility for your company, and position yourself as an expert. This type of CTA usually directs customers to take action such as “read more” or “share now.”

The most effective CTAs are in the form of a button on your web page. They should be brief, attention-grabbing, and explain very clearly what your customers are getting when they click on your call-to-action.

Are you using calls-to-action to generate leads? Are your CTAs enticing enough for your customers to provide their contact information? Are your CTA buttons well-designed and strategically placed?

tablet showing Google6. SEO

You want prospective customers to find you when they search online. That’s where SEO comes in. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of improving the ranking of your website in search results on Google and other major search engines. When combined with strong and engaging content on your website, SEO helps to boost your online visibility, so you can get found by your customers.

SEO is a complicated topic which cannot be explained in just a couple of paragraphs. However, one very important thing you must know about SEO is that it cannot guarantee that your website will appear on the first page of Google or any other search engine. What SEO can do is help to increase your website traffic and your chances for better search rankings.

There are a number of SEO best practices that you and your web developer can follow to optimize your website for search engines. They encompass a wide range of technical and tactical strategies, including how your website is set up; the types of links you’re using on your site; the quality of your content; and even the quality of your website’s user experience. Incorporating a multi-faceted approach to SEO will go a long way toward helping to improve your search rankings, which, in turn, helps your customers find you.

Does your website follow any SEO best practices? Are your images optimized for web use? If you’re unsure if your site is optimized for search engines, contact your website developer and ask what SEO practices were followed when your site was built. Implement whatever SEO practices you can to improve the effectiveness of your site.

7. Clear navigation

Simple and clear navigation on your website is essential to providing a good customer experience and is one of the key elements of good web design. Your website’s navigation should be obvious, allowing your customers to easily and quickly find the information they’re looking for without having to “figure out” how to move around your site. Ideally, your customers should be able to find the information they’re looking for in three clicks or fewer.

Your website’s navigation should provide a clear path, enabling your customers to know where they are and to move seamlessly from page to page without getting lost or disoriented. Easy, intuitive navigation creates a positive user experience, which encourages your customers to view more of your web pages and spend more time on your site.

Is your website’s navigation providing clear pathways? Can your web visitors go from page to page without having to hit the “back” button or go back to your home page? Is information accessible in three clicks or fewer?

girl at computer8. User-friendly CMS

As far as your customers are concerned, useful and accurate content is the most important part of your website. Keeping your web content up-to-date is essential to maintaining a positive user experience.

Your website’s CMS (content management system) is the suite of tools that allows you to create and manage your web content. Your CMS should be user-friendly, allowing you to quickly and easily add, update, delete, publish and organize your web pages. Your CMS should give you a certain amount of flexibility for displaying and formatting your content, but it should also provide the appropriate built-in protections that ensure that page design, fonts, colors and styling remain consistent across all pages of your site. This ensures a consistent experience for your customers.

Every website has its own specific content needs, so be sure that your CMS is customized to best serve the needs of your business. If your CMS is developed to suit your needs and is easy to work with, you’re more likely to add and update content on a regular basis, which is key to keeping your customers engaged and providing a good user experience.

Is your CMS giving you the control you need to manage your website content? Can you easily update your website or is the process too time-consuming and tedious?

9. Social media share buttons

Social media “share” buttons offer an easy, no-cost way to help you reach a wider audience, promote your web content, and build your online presence. Using share buttons on your website for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media channels can contribute to a positive user experience and increase visitor engagement.

What makes share buttons so valuable is that they make it easy for your web visitors to pass along information to their social media networks. When your web visitors share your content, they’re helping to spread the word about your business, build your company’s credibility through social “proof,” and drive more traffic to your website. One of the biggest benefits of using share buttons on your website is the potential to reach a new pool of prospective customers who may not even be aware of your business. And those prospective new customers could share your content with their networks, expanding your reach even further.

When properly placed, social media share buttons act as friendly prompts, encouraging your web visitors to share your photos, videos, product information, blog articles or helpful tips. This social sharing helps to establish your company as a trusted and knowledgeable resource.

Are you helping to promote your business through social media share buttons? Is your web content shareable? Are your social media “share” buttons prominently placed for maximum effectiveness?

How does your website stack up?

If your site is incorporating all or most of the tools and tactics above, congratulations! You’re maximizing your website’s value and providing a positive user experience. If you’re only using half of the tools and tactics, you probably should consider how to include more of them to improve your customer’s user experience. If you’re using almost none of the elements above, you need to formulate a strategy for incorporating these elements into your current website or seriously consider a website redesign. After all, your website is one of your most important sales and marketing tools, and an ineffective website can actually hurt your business through lost sales and lower search rankings.


Think of your website as your top salesperson. Read more.


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Think of your website as you would a top salesperson

person-apple-laptop-notebookFrom your potential buyer’s point-of-view, your company’s website is like your salesperson, and it’s very likely the first “salesperson” he or she will encounter. That’s because buyers prefer to do online research first, rather than contact a company directly, to get the information they’re looking for.

In fact, 94% of today’s B2B buyers do online research, according to Acquity Group. Buyers go online to search for, evaluate, and select suppliers – and they do it all anonymously. What this means is that potential buyers are visiting your website, checking out your company, and deciding whether to contact you based on what they find.

With all this behind-the-scenes research going on, you need to ask yourself if your website is effectively selling your company to prospective buyers. Is your website providing the important information that your potential buyers need to properly evaluate your products and services? Is your website helping your company to advance to a buyer’s short list?

Use your website as a salesperson, or risk losing sales

Consider this: Nearly 60% of the buying/decision making process is already complete before prospects ever contact a supplier, according to Google. Because contact with a company’s sales department comes much later in the purchasing process than it used to, you need to be sure that your website works as your virtual sales rep, or you could miss out entirely on new business opportunities.

Unfortunately, many manufacturers don’t invest in their website’s sales potential. They’re not using their websites as a sales tool to provide the useful content that creates value for buyers. Many B2B buyers, in fact, report being frustrated with suppliers’ websites because they often find the information lacking, according to a study by Google and ThomasNet. This lack of useful information is causing many manufacturers to unwittingly lose business they might have otherwise won.

Give your website the right sales tools

pexels-photo-175039 To be successful, a salesperson has to be prepared. For your human sales rep to be effective out in the field, he or she has to have complete knowledge of your products and services. He or she also has to have detailed product information to leave with customers, such as product catalogs, spec sheets, CAD drawings, etc. By being prepared, your sales rep can educate your customers, answer questions, offer solutions, and make a convincing case for using your company. Without having knowledge and information, your salesperson wouldn’t be much benefit to your customers, and his or her value to your company would be diminished.

The same holds true for your website. If your website isn’t equipped with the information that buyers need, it’s not helping you to maximize your sales potential. Properly armed with useful product information and resources, however, your website can become a hard-working and valuable sales contributor.

Much like a human sales rep, your website can:

  • increase revenue
  • reach new markets
  • contribute to your company’s growth
  • promote your company’s products and services
  • educate prospects
  • cultivate new customers
  • keep existing customers engaged
  • generate sales leads
  • stand out from your competition

A good salesperson does more than just sell

handshakeA successful salesperson knows that sales is about more than selling. It’s about building relationships, establishing trust, educating customers, solving problems and inspiring confidence in the products and services that he or she is selling.

If you want to turn your website into a top sales contributor, you need to treat it as any other member of your sales team. And that means using your website to do more than talk about your products and services. It means having a website that focuses on your customer while also contributing to your company’s sales performance.

Incorporate these tactics to make your website a sales contributor:

1. Create value

Anticipate your buyers’ questions and provide them with the information and resources they need. Searchable online catalogs, extensive product information, downloadable CAD files, FAQs, case studies, and testimonials are some of the elements to have on your website that will create value for buyers. The more valuable you become to your prospective buyers, the greater your chances of getting the sale.

2. Build relationships

Your website can build relationships with your customers just as a human sales rep can. Use your website to share your knowledge and offer helpful solutions to your customers’ problems. A blog, for instance, can be a useful tool for providing information and nurturing prospects. Think about how a human salesperson builds rapport and trust in a face-to-face meeting with a customer, and incorporate those methods into your website content.

3. Adapt the conversation

Many businesses sell to more than just one customer group or industry. Human sales reps interact differently with each customer group and adapt their messages accordingly. In the same way, your website content should be customized to speak specifically to each of your customer groups. Whether you devote separate sections of your website to your major customer groups or use targeted calls-to-action, it’s important to show your customers that you offer solutions to their specific needs.

4. Capture sales leads

Just like a human sales rep, your website should be capturing qualified sales leads. One way is to offer valuable information in exchange for contact information from prospective buyers. Consider special offers, how-to guides, e-books or other useful information that your buyers might want. Request-for-quote forms and newsletter sign-ups are also a good way to acquire sales leads.

While incorporating these sales-focused elements might mean a website upgrade or redo, the potential for return on investment through increased sales is worth the expense. And like your top salesperson, your website might just deliver your next big client.


Uncover the hidden profitability of your indirect customers. Read more.


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Why wood products manufacturers need to treat their website like any other tool

man on bandsawYou wouldn’t consider purchasing a tool, setting it up in your shop and never touching it again. But many manufacturers think that building their website is a once-and-done process. In this article we’ll look at why treating your website like any other tool can yield benefits in the form of leads and sales.

Imagine never checking the squareness of your radial arm saw, the accuracy of your miter saw, or the set of your planer knives. You know what problems that would cause further down the production line. You would be wasting not just materials and time, but opportunity and profit. By continually monitoring your tools and making fine-tuned adjustments you are ensuring reliable production. You maximize your output and seize new opportunities through efficiency.

Likewise with your website, you need to regularly monitor your pages to keep them optimized for search engines (SEO – search engine optimization). Optimization is the process of monitoring and refining the keywords and phrases on a page to increase the page’s search ranking. To reach a wider audience and be found, you need to elevate your website page rankings. That’s really worth doing. 89% of B2B buyers research products online, and 46% use their research to create a short-list of potential vendors. If they can’t find you, you’ll never be on the short-list.

Most people don’t realize that visitors who reach a site through a search engine are much more likely to arrive on a page other than the home page. Home pages are not good candidates for optimization because they contain so many competing keywords and phrases in order to direct traffic to different parts of the site. Really effective business websites have optimized pages for specific search terms to get higher ranking for those terms. The point being that higher ranking will result in greater visibility, increased traffic and more sales opportunities.

But just like the tools in your shop, you need to actively monitor and adjust your pages to achieve those benefits. So think of it like the regular maintenance you perform on your equipment. Keeping your tools sharp and the shop clean goes a long way toward maximizing production efficiency. You invest the time because you recognize that efficient production increases profitability.

Invest time in your other machine, your sales machine, your website. Create and optimize pages so they will deliver quality leads. Focus pages on specific keywords or phrases for maximum effect. Then monitor your analytics and page ranking, and continually refine the page content until your pages begin to deliver leads and sales. It’s worth remembering that maintenance is an ongoing effort that results in long-term benefits.


Learn 9 ways to improve your website. Read more.


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