Leadership Basics, They Apply To A Website Too!


Warning, this is a Rant!

Well, at least a few of my opinions will be known and I'm pulling no punches.  You the unique visitor are what every blogger, webmaster, columnist, and website out there wants more than anything else.  Unique visitors are the modern gold in the 'web rush' we've been experiencing.


Unique Visitors

Unique visitors are IP specific 'clicks' on a website.  Every site has people who check it 1000 times a day, clicking on the bookmark 1000 times a day is only of marginal value to a site owner over someone who clicks just once a day.  A savvy advertiser paying good money (or magic web wampum thingys) to advertise on your site is looking for 'unique' visitors.

How many 'unique' individuals actually visit your site in a day, a week, a month or more.  They want to know how many individuals will see their advertisements and ideally they want to know more such as the age group, gender, and other interests which helps them direct the sale of specific products.  A photography site is easy, its a great place to sell photography stuff.  A writers website is easy, most writers love to read so it's a great place to sell books.


Earning Your Click!

Yes, you read that right.  Anyone running a commercial website, or any website that generates income through advertisements, must earn your click.  Why?  Because each time you click on their site they get paid.  It might only be increments of a cent, it might only be from the rates they can charge advertisers based on the popularity of the site, or it could even be Google ads, but each time you click on the site you're generating income for the site owner.  It's a fact of web life, it's how it works.  If you didn't know it before you know it now.

How can the website owner earn your click?  To start, but making the site worth your time to visit.  It starts with a basic easy to navigate web design, readable fonts, attractive colors, and ends in the ever important content.  But there's more, once you stop appreciating that fancy look and reading the informative content, then you need to look at customer service. 


Site Evaluation and Feedback

Does the site work as it should?  If it allows you to input content, does it make it easy and  accurate, or does it make it a major pain in the azz?  If you fill out a contact form does someone get back to you the same day, or weeks later, or not at all?  If you do manage to contact the site owner and take the time to provide feedback (feedback is even more valuable than your unique visitor click, feedback no matter the source and no matter what is said, is valuable information you wouldn't have otherwise had to help you make decisions on your site, how you use this feedback determines your success of failure as a website owner), how does he/she respond?  Are they helpful, do they answer your questions, or do they exhibit an undesirable attitude?

Do they make you feel like they share your concern, or do they make excuses and tell you they don't care what you think or feel?  Do they give you the impression the site is important to them, or something  they grudgingly do when not otherwise doing something more important?  How they handle feedback, and this is different from actually implementing the idea/request/thought, is vital to your impression of their services and should very much determine if you return to that site.


The Reality Out There

For every person who provides feedback, there are probably 100-1000x that many people who share the same feelings but just won't take the time to drop you a line.  If someone is unhappy, or having issues with a technical function of the site, or just doesn't appreciate the pop-up ad, an astute website owner understands 100-1000x or more are unhappy as well.

A happy unique customer is unlikely to actively promote your site, but some do and it's appreciated.  Mostly they expect things to work and for feedback to be handled appropriately, and they cruise on undeterred.  However, an unhappy customer will actively spread the bad word like a wildfire through a dry forest in summertime.. during winds with gusts up to 100mph!

They'll tell anyone who will listen, they'll write about it in their blogs, they'll enter complaints in the comments section, they'll do anything within their power to let everyone know they're unhappy with your site.  Why?  Because when it comes to this point, they feel its the only way someone will listen to them.  At this point it's all they've got, and they need someone to listen as a type of vindication if nothing else.


A Smart Website Owner

A smart website owner pays attention to unhappy customers, but they won't necessarily bend to them either.  A smart owner will learn when and how much to explain, how far to go to satisfy the unhappy customer.  Most unhappy customers aren't happy because they feel no one is listening, or they aren't getting the service they expect, or maybe they're just not understanding what they should expect.  A website owner, a website leader if you may, knows just how much information to provide and how to word it, to give the customer the feeling they care.. even if they won't be following your suggestion to implement pink text.  Usually this is all it takes.


Stupid Website Owners

Usually these guys have no concept of the value of a unique customer.  More often these days they've had no real leadership or supervisory experience.  It used to be we'd learn leadership basics in the military, or how to manage an office in our first corporate position.

But with the ease a person can throw up a website these days, you could just as well be dealing with an introverted foul mouthed idiot whose biggest accomplishment is taking out the garbage in his mothers house he probably still lives in.  There's even the pointy headed geek who stays holed up in his parents basement playing video games.  And unfortunately yes, the loser who for whatever reason has failed in any endeavor they've undertaken in their home country has now moved to Thailand and starts their first business on-line.

It is very common, much more common than it should be, to encounter these types on the web. 


How it Should Be

A website that derives income from advertising is a business, and should be ran like a business.  You should not run a business if you don't have time to do business things.  You open the door each morning and lock it each night at the very minimum.  During that time you're supposed to take care of customers. 

Unless you have time to do it all yourself, you'll need others to help.  You'll need to delegate responsibilities and this means giving up control.  This can be terribly hard for the inexperienced controlling types, but remarkably easy for the seasoned leader who realizes and understands that his/her personal success, hinges tightly on how successful he can make his/her employees.  In other words, if they take care of their employees properly they needn't worry about giving up control to those same employees.  Unfortunately the unseasoned and inexperienced leader hasn't yet developed the skills and confidence necessary to give up control.

Depending on your site you'll need different skill sets, and not every site owner is gifted knowing it all.


A Comparison

The mentality of putting up a website as a business can easily and accurately be compared to opening a restaurant as a business.  Restaurants have long been seen as an easy target for the beginning business owner because the uneducated and inexperienced beginning business owner thinks running a restaurant is just one step up from cooking in his mother's kitchen.

I worked full time in restaurants from the time I was 11 years old.  I know what it takes and how to do it because I started cleaning tables and peeling potatoes and was brought up by a family to management level.  I was taught every nuance of running a restaurant from the ground up.  I was taught the hard way, and the right way.  Most often the hard way was the right way.  If you're not willing to work 16 hours a day seven days a week at full speed ahead, don't try and run a restaurant!

I managed the most successful H. Salt Fish&Chips restaurant in America when I was 17.  For my 18 months we brought in more money than any other franchised member.  Before and after my time as manager they brought in less.  I had learned well.

8 out of 10 restaurants fail in their first year, often taking every penny of savings and every ounce of self-respect the owner had left.  In our current economy it's probably closer to 9 out of 10.

Websites are no different, people start them because they think it will be easy, they're not prepared to put in the hours or hard work, they have no practical leadership experience, they haven't yet learned to listen to customer feedback, and subsequently they're not equipped to deal with the other professionals (i.e. advertisers, suppliers, inspectors, officials) necessary to run a site.

A website invites you in the door by an attractive skin.  A restaurant invites you in the door by an attractive entrance.  Once inside a website or restaurant the customer expects to be able to find things (tables, menus, features and visuals), and they expect to be served.  They expect to be served quality food/content, and they're used to consuming food/content a certain way.  They'll often provide feedback if these areas are lacking.

Restaurant managers MUST be a people persons first, and cooks second.  Website owners must be people persons first, and programmers second.  Both often try to isolate themselves from the general public and this is always a huge mistake.  Be prepared to spend lots of time not only with your cooks, suppliers, bar managers, wait staff, accountant, but also your customers.  You need to get out there and LISTEN.  Your success as a restaurateur is heavily dependent on your ability to read customers in many ways.  Do they feel comfortable in your restaurant, are they enjoying the food, do they find the value high, how are they getting along with the wait staff, are the take home bags working as they should?


Final Words

Don't start a website if you're not prepared to spend a lot of time and energy maintaining it.  It's a huge mistake to think websites run themselves.  If people knew how much time and effort this column took me each week they'd think I was crazy, but I look at this column as an investment.  I want it to grow and become better and subsequently have a growing readership.  If I wasn't willing to put in the time and constantly evaluate (listen) my feedback then I'd be wasting my time.

With only so much time each day to devote to web surfing I've become very selective on what sites I visit more than once.  I expect a lot from a site if they want me to be a regular visitor.  If they want me to contribute in some way then I expect more.  I expect GREAT customer service, feedback, and a positive professional attitude.  I think you should too.  Don't waste your time supporting websites that aren't worth your time.  Move on.  Click on one of the other hundred million zillion sites out there.

Your click is golden.  It's like your vote.  Make them earn it.


Until next time..