Update on Scammers

Posted April 25th, 2013 in CityMax.com News by Sean

Back in February, we alerted our customers about phone calls from potential scammers posing as CityMax employees. The response we received was fantastic and we got a ton of information that helped us investigate these calls further.

We’ve seen a definite decrease in the reports of these calls, but we want to remind our customers to continue to be aware of companies calling about your website. While they may not claim to be from CityMax anymore, these companies are still trying to sell website optimization or SEO services that are often expensive and ineffective.

Calls from CityMax will always come from a 604 area code, and we will never call to sell you website upgrades or SEO services.

If you have any questions about a call you’ve received, simply submit a support request via the link in the upper right of your website builder.

Customer Retention for Online Businesses

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Running an online business is, in many ways, similar to running a business with a physical storefront. However, it’s not always obvious how customer retention techniques from the “real world” can be utilized on the web. As a shopper, often the biggest reason I return to a store is because of a great experience with a sales representative. I know I’m going to get the same great service that I got last time, so I don’t even think about going anywhere else. With an online business, your website is your sales representative – so how can you give your customers an experience that will make them want to come back? Here are a few ways you can get your hard-earned visitors to return for a second or third visit.

Be Personable
Authenticity and integrity are what everyone wants when they’re shopping. What’s the hallmark of a lousy, underhanded salesman? Jargon, exaggerated claims, and deceptive practices can turn your enthusiastic shopper into someone else’s enthusaistic shopper. So how can we be personable and trustworthy online?

Everyone craves a personal experience no matter how they’re shopping. When writing about your products or your company, try to cut down on jargon and provide the necessary information in a concise manner. Smashing Magazine has a fantastic article on some common copywriting blunders that we highly recommend checking out.

Another great way to be personable with your customers is pretty obvious: put yourself out there! Many customers are still concerned about the safety of buying purchases online, and seeing that a website is run and maintained by a real person just like them will do wonders to ease their distress. A personal story, a photo of yourself and your staff, or simply utilizing an informal, casual tone when writing your copy will endear you to your visitors and turn them into customers.

Update Your Content
The concept here is pretty straight forward: if I decide to take a peek at the website I previously looked at or purchased from a few months ago, and the website looks exactly the same, what incentive do I have to dig through and see what might be new since last time?

This doesn’t have to be a huge overhaul of your website every few months, but something as simple as a refreshed home page is often enough to catch the attention of a returning visitor. If you’ve got new products, show them off! Having a sale? Your visitors should know about it! Gone above and beyond for a customer? Get a glowing testimonial and slap it right on the home page where everyone can see it! Your home page is by far the best place to focus on if you’re updating content, but fresh content everywhere is a recipe for success.

Even if you don’t have anything new to show off, update your content to showcase different things or emphasize different benefits of your product or service. All you need to do is catch their eye, and their curiosity will take care of the rest.

Utilize Social Media
It seems like the whole world is on Facebook and Twitter. If you and your business are not, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity for what is essentially free advertising to a captive audience.

Think of it this way: if I’m a web-savvy customer (and these days, everyone is) and I like what I see on your website – whether I buy anything or not – there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to check out your Facebook or Twitter page. If I “Like” your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter, I’ve now essentially signed up for you to advertise to me at your leisure, at no additional cost to you.

That’s not to say that you should bombard your Facebook friends and Twitter followers with advertisements, but when you have a new product to announce or are throwing a big sale, who better to get the word out to than people who are already interested in your products? Furthermore, your customers are one click away from sharing your posts with all of their own friends or followers. Now that’s word-of-mouth!

Customer Service is King
We could write a whole post about how customer service can affect your business, but let’s focus on two important concepts: make it easy for your customers to contact you, and underpromise/overdeliver.

Communication is critical for anyone making an online purchase. Sometimes, even if your website is rich with info about your products, a customer may have a question. Your customers will come up with things to ask that you never even dreamed of! Providing an email contact form that’s easy to find, at the bare minimum, ensures that no question goes unanswered. If you have the resources to offer more direct service, such as a phone number, go for it – your customers will thank you. Ensuring you reply as promptly as possible goes a long way to making your customers feel good about their decision to buy from you.

Simple communication is paramount to the post-purchase process as well. From shipping questions to feedback or support, your customers will want an easy way to get a hold of you once they’ve made a purchase. Be there for them when they need it, and they’ll be back.

The concept of underpromise/overdeliver is one that’s been around for as long as the sales and service industry has existed. The idea is simple: by carefully managing your customer’s expectations, you’ve set yourself to blow your customer away with a great product, great service, and great support. When you consider the alternative – failing to live up to the expectations you’ve set for yourself – your customers walk away feeling lied to. A classic bad example is your local telecom company; many of them offer great discounts or free bonuses up front to mask hidden fees or unexplained charges

So how do you do this? The number one rule is be honest. Never make claims you our your product can’t back up – it’s that simple. The second rule is to manage expectations. If your shipping takes five days, but your website quoted a ten-day delivery, they’ll be ecstatic when it shows up in six — and that’s one day longer than it was supposed to take! They got their product four days earlier than they were expecting, and they’re thrilled.

If you can give customers more than what they expect on a consistent basis, you’ll start building a loyal base of clients who will be back often.

Get Professional Pay Per Click Marketing Services from TitanPPC.com

Posted March 12th, 2013 in CityMax.com News, Contests, E3, Online Marketing by Emily

A lot of customers ask us what companies we think are the best for Pay Per Click advertising. As a result, we would like to officially recommend a new partner company — TitanPPC.com. Here’s a message from them about their services:

Advertise your business using PPC on Google!

We’ve partnered up with CityMax to provide you with world class Pay Per Click Services. TitanPPC.com has over 7 years of PPC experience and we are Google Certified Pay Per Click Experts. This partnership is a huge win for all CityMax customers! The best part is that TitanPPC.com really knows the needs of CityMax users. We have worked with CityMax customers in the past and know the website builder in and out.

What is PPC?

Pay Per Click allows you to get to the top of the search engines by paying for your ad to be there. Compared to SEO (search engine optimization) PPC gets you instant traffic to your website or business much faster. PPC simply means you are paying every time someone clicks your advertisement, thus: “Pay Per Click”.

Is PPC Right For You?

Every business big or small should be running PPC. If you’re a small one person operation, or a fortune 500 company, you should be running PPC. PPC is our passion and we believe that every business in the world should have the opportunity to grow like they have never imagined. No matter what your budget, we can help!

We Have a Special Deal for CityMax Customers

We know marketing budgets aren’t always big, so we are offering 2 special packages just for the needs of CityMax customers. You won’t find rates this low anywhere else online for world class pay per click services.

Please visit us at www.titanppc.com/citymax or call 1-888-325-4508.

Warning about Scammers Targeting CityMax Customers

Posted February 28th, 2013 in CityMax.com News by Sean

We have received reports of customers receiving phone calls from companies or individuals claiming to be affiliated with CityMax. The calls appear to be coming primarily from the following phone numbers:

801-494-1477 (Salt Lake City, Utah)
425-296-0294 (Kirkland, Washington)

The callers, who may go by the name Dream Real Solutions or other names, may claim they are partners or subcontractors of CityMax. These individuals may try to sell website upgrade or SEO services, claiming action needs to be taken on your website. These calls are scams and are not from us, and we advise you to exercise caution if you receive any calls of this nature.

Furthermore, the claims the callers are making – for example, that your site needs to be “upgraded to HTML5” or moved to a different host lest you risk problems – are false.

Calls from the CityMax team will come from a 604 area code. We’ll never call to sell you website upgrades or SEO services.

If you have received a call of this nature, we’d love to speak with you. Please contact our support team with any information you have regarding the call.

UPDATE:

A big thank-you to everyone who contacted us to tell us your story about these scammers. The amount of information we received was quite overwhelming and very much appreciated. With your help, we have taken steps to stop the company from mentioning any association with us.

Please note that this doesn’t mean the company can’t contact you and simply represent themselves. Just be wary if anyone calls you and makes comments about your site that sound unusual or alarmist. You are always welcome to contact our support team to ask questions about anything you hear about your website.

CityMax Work Retreat 2013

Posted February 1st, 2013 in CityMax.com News by Matthew

In January, our CityMax team was fortunate enough to partake in a staff retreat. Our team set off to the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia to enjoy a weekend of relaxation and team building exercises.

Lodge where we stayed

Lodge where we stayed

During the day we were busy at work taking a course on increasing productivity within our work and personal lives. However, as night approached, the vacation lodge we were staying at was host to all sorts of activities. If we were not engaged in competitive card games, we were huddled around the TV set watching our favorite ice hockey teams duel it out.

We also had the opportunity to sample some of the great hospitality the Sunshine Coast offers by visiting local hot spots such as “The Blue Heron” restaurant.

Some of our CityMax team members

Some of our CityMax team members

As with all getaways, our retreat did have to come to a conclusion. Our team has since been back at the CityMax offices hard at work providing the best web site builder service in the industry!

4 Tips On Protecting Your Passwords

Posted January 10th, 2013 in Tech Tips by Matthew

Here are a few practices to help ensure the safety of your online accounts:

Beware of phishing and scams

If an email links you to a site that asks you to type in your password, do not type in your password. It could be a fake site. The only time we or any other provider should ask you to do this would be when changing your password from a “password recovery” link. Make sure to double check that the e-mail originated from the correct source and that it is secure.

Verify you are speaking to an official representative

If someone claims to work for CityMax or any other site you have a relationship with and asks for your password, do not tell them your password. It’s most likely a trick to get access to your account. An agent of a company should never need to ask you for your password.  Also, remember that an actual representative would be happy to answer questions proving that they are an official agent of the company they represent.

Take caution when opening files

Do not download and run software, or open files attached to emails from a source you aren’t completely sure about. Malicious software can install a keylogger on your system to record your passwords and transmit them.

Use a strong unique password

Keep the email address associated with any online account secure, just like you keep your CityMax account itself secure. Use a strong, unique password which you’ve never used anywhere else. A combination of letters (including one or more capital letters), numbers and special characters makes a strong password. For example:  WebZ1te*33.  Also, do not use the same password for several different accounts and change your password from time to time.

Remember, security is all about the little details. I hope these tips helps ensure your passwords are safe.

3 Tips for Improving Staff Productivity and Happiness

Posted October 1st, 2012 in Contests, Getting Visitors, Productivity, Small Business Tips by Emily
Improve staff productivity with these 3 tips

Improve staff productivity with these 3 tips

Every boss wants a dream team of employees who go about getting everything done efficiently and with a smile. From my own experience, I’ve found the following 3 tips have helped my staff feel more motivated and happier at work because they have a clear idea of what their part in the company is:

Create systems for daily operations and emergencies

An efficient system is one where everybody knows what they need to accomplish and how to do it. They also know what other people on their team are working on so there’s no overlap or confusion. Everyone’s expectations match. To accomplish this, you can do the following:

  • Have regular meetings with your team. Give everyone an agenda in advance so that the meeting stays on track.
  • Have a contingency plan for emergencies, for when you are away or for when you are short staff.
  • Have an operations manual so if a staff member doesn’t know what to do, he/she can check the manual. An online manual is sometimes better as it can have the ability to search for terms.

All these items help ensure your operations run smoothly. It’s also a good idea to continually tweak your operations so you’re always optimizing the productivity of your staff.

Set clear and measurable goals

When employees know what your goals are for the company, it can help them make decisions that best support what you want to accomplish. Try to make goals as clear as possible, realistically attainable and with measurable results. For example: 12 sales per week, complete XYZ project by December or financial statements done by the end of the month. You can set smaller goals and overall company goals. You may even want your staff to help you set some of the goals. Once the goals are set and employees know what the goals are, they will prioritize their work better and spend less time on items that are not important.

Make time to get feedback from your staff

Usually your staff will have some of the best ideas for making improvements and will have the best understanding of what’s not working. It’s worthwhile, from time to time, to sit down and talk with your various employees to give them a chance to voice what they think about the current operations. You can do this one-on-one and/or make time at staff meetings. When ideas from staff are implemented, they will buy into your system more since they helped create it. Giving praise for good ideas will also encourage your staff to come up with more ideas. The end result is everyone is working toward improving the company as much as possible.

By doing the 3 tips above, you show your staff that you value their time and their opinion. You’ve removed confusion and inefficiencies. You’ve given them a forum to know what’s going on in the company and to give you feedback. You’ve set realistic goals so when they are accomplished your staff will get a chance to feel proud of what they’ve done. The end result is happier, more productive employees.

5 Tips to Making a Successful Sales Call

Posted August 23rd, 2012 in Small Business Tips by Brett

The telephone has long been the primary source of communication in business but slowly that has changed. With Email and Social Media, communication can now spread infinitely faster and customers and clients can find out everything they need to know about you online. However, the human element of the telephone cannot be replaced. Sales Calls can still be a resourceful tool to increase sales.

Here are a few tips that can help you form a successful sales call:

1. A proper introduction can go a long way

When you call your perspective client you should always introduce yourself and your company. “Hi, my name is Bob; I’m calling from Citymax.com, the Easy Business Website Builder.” If you are cold calling your leads, you might want to keep it more general, “Hi, my name is Bob from Citymax.com, and we’re a company that enables you to build an affordable website for your company.” Your goal is to keep them on the line as long as possible, so try to find an introduction that keeps them intrigued in what you are saying.

2. State the purpose of your call

Try to phrase the purpose in the form of a question. You are more likely to get a good response when you make them answer a positive question. Once you have gotten your positive response to your question, you can begin the process of giving them the required information that they need to buy your product. Always talk about the benefits that the product provides your client, not just the product itself.

3. Qualify your prospect

The qualification process is the most important aspect of a sales call. You only have so much time in the day, so wasting time on a lead that has ultimately no interest in using your product takes away time you could be talking to someone that does. Once you have completed your introduction, you need to ask the right questions that not only qualify the client, but also put you in position to make a sale. Get to the point as quick as possible, and try to get in touch with the person in charge of buying. It’s great if you build a rapport with someone but if that isn’t the person who makes the buying decision, that relationship will be all for naught. At the end of this process, you should know exactly what you need to do to earn their business; otherwise it will be an uphill battle trying to make the sale.

4. Ask for the sale

This is the one thing that can set you apart from becoming a good salesperson. There is no shame in asking and pursuing the sale in your initial call. If the call is positive and you feel that the client has bought into what you’re selling, ask for the sale and close the deal right there and then. Here’s an example:

“Jeff, it sounds like CityMax is exactly what you are looking for as a way to grow your business and make sales online. Let’s get you signed up so we can secure your domain name and get you started right away.”

5. A new call = A new attitude

Not every call you make is going to be successful, but it is important to move on from a failed call immediately and not let it affect your next call. Tone and confidence is everything in a sales call. Every new call you make is a new opportunity, so move on quickly and don’t let past failures affect your tone of voice or demeanor on the phone.

Try a couple of the above tips into your next sales call and enjoy success!

Profitability and People

Posted July 19th, 2012 in Small Business Tips by Darrell

Darrell Lim is our Vice President of Operations at CityMax but he is also a trained organizational development coach. Find out more about him and get more business insights at his CityMax powered business website: oakmanagementconsulting.com

No doubt, profitability should always be the focus of any successful organization. As we approach the halfway mark of the year, you are probably firmly aware of how much profit your business has already made and how well it is projected to do this year.

At the end of the day, no matter what goals you set, you must never neglect the importance of growing the human capital of your organization. These critical levers to business success stay largely the same regardless of the industry that you work in.

Recently, top areas of business focus for 2012 were identified by thousands of organizations that participated in a research study by the BC Human Resources Management Association. The results were:

  • Increasing Leadership Capability – 31%
  • Increasing Employee Engagement – 27%
  • Attracting & Recruiting Staff – 26%
  • Managing Change – 26%
  • Planning for Staff Succession – 23%
  • Managing Staff Performance – 23%

How many of these focuses do you relate with? Consider the following:

Increasing Leadership Capability

  • How much more profit/client value would you experience if your leaders were freed up to lead and innovate in new ways? What impact would 10% more time have on the bottom line?
  • What areas of your leaders’ responsibility could they improve if they were given time and resources to retrain and retool? What would the impact be on the bottom line?
  • What would the impact be on the bottom line if your key leaders stopped fighting with each other and actually learned to work well together?

Increasing Employee Engagement

  • If your employees actually trusted each other, what sorts of dividends would that multiply into?
  • What would productivity look like if your team actually enjoyed coming to work and what are you willing/not willing to do to provide that?
  • If your best employee quit today saying that they found another job that was “more aligned with their passions,” how much monetarily would that cost your organization? What if your top 3 performers left in the next 12 months?

Attracting and Recruiting Staff

  • What has your organization done recently that has brought it some good press? Is it an organization that people want to work in? What does it mean to your organization when the answer is “no”?
  • What have you done for your employees recently that has them talking to their friends and family about how great of a workplace they belong to?
  • What makes your organization attractive to potential new employees? Is it your fantastic compensation package, unique culture, or particular niche in your industry? If you have no answers, you are probably not attracting the cream of the crop that will help accelerate your growth into a new horizon.

Managing Change

  • Measure the percentage of people in your team that is on board with all the changes that you are planning this year. What if I told you that you could make that much closer to 100%? How could you make that possible?
  • Do your key leaders have input into determining the changes that are coming down the line? How would it transform your organization if they did?
  • What changes have you left by the wayside because the topic was too emotionally charged? How much is that affecting the bottom line?

Planning for Staff Succession

  • Do you currently have a clear plan for coverage when major illness happens or if someone were to go on a 3-week vacation? What happens to your productivity during those times?
  • Have you identified up and coming leaders and begun a development plan for each of them? How much money will you save in efficiency and productivity if a smooth succession happens should someone choose to leave?
  • Have you identified a key leader in your organization that you can entrust your business to when you need to unplug for a vacation or rest? How much longer can you do this before you burn out? What will that cost your organization?

Managing Staff Performance

  • How much does it cost per month when your team misses a deadline? How does it affect the longevity of your client relationship?
  • How much time is lost due to tardiness in your organization? Extrapolate that calculation towards labor lost over the whole year? Do you now feel greater urgency to address the issue?
  • Perhaps you generally have a great team but you have one bad apple that drains the energy from the team and debilitates chemistry. What is the cost to the rest of the team when you don’t address the bad apple’s performance issue? Extend those calculations to the domino effect it has to your clients. How grave is the issue now?

Remember, the principle is that the more time we spend in preparation and planning, the less time we will spend fixing emergencies. Do the math, because it almost always makes good business sense to focus on any of these areas and you will ultimately reap the rewards as your business thrives and the quality of life for your team improves. Ignore these issues at your own risk and then prepare to go through the lengthy, and extremely costly process, of rehiring and retraining new people.

Imagine life where you no longer had to repeat these dreaded life cycles in your business and then think about how much more capacity YOU will have for work that is far more relevant for the growth of your organization.

4 Common Design Mistakes

Posted June 19th, 2012 in Selling Online, Website Design by Sean

When building your website, there are a few simple things to keep in mind that can drastically improve the quality of your online presence. Today’s web viewers are fickle and move fast, and if your site makes one of these common design mistakes, you might lose a potential customer.

Background Blunders

Using patterns or textures is a fantastic way to make your website seem alive. A solid color background with a contrasting color font is the go-to as you can never go wrong with keeping it simple. But, nowadays, designers around the world are revolutionizing the use of textures in web design by taking the previously sterile world of web design and introducing textures that we’re familiar with in our day-to-day lives. Wood grain, linen, paper, leather, and metal are finding their way from our homes and our possessions onto the websites we visit. When used properly, they can inject a tremendous amount of life and familiarity into a design and can help your website stand out against the rest.

However, variation in textures and patterns is also dangerous because it’s easy to overdo. Bold, colorful backgrounds often distract from the content, and even worse, if used behind the body of your website, they can make your text difficult to read. That can turn into a lost visitor. In general, high-contrast backgrounds that use more than one distinct color are usually unfit for a website background.

Here are a few examples of background choices gone wrong. The backgrounds themselves are not fundamentally flawed – I chose images and patterns that were nice on their own – but if they don’t play nice with your text, or draw the eye away from your content, your site will drive visitors away.

example1

example2

Now for a few examples of a good use of texture. These examples use simple, subtle patterns to breathe some life into the design while keeping the text legible. They don’t use bold colors, and look good with a wide variety of text colors, which means you can switch things up in your headers or titles on your page to draw the eye of the visitor.

example3

example4

Bold backgrounds can be very effective and striking when used properly – that is, with your text placed on a contrasting, solid color background or simple texture.

example5

Not Enough White Space

Just like harsh background choices can cause a visitor to close your site quicker than you intended, hitting your customer with a wall of text, an erratic layout or a strange content structure will make a mess of your first and only opportunity to keep your visitors on your site.

Instead, make sure your content is organized in a way that makes it clear where the visitor should look. Only put emphasis on the most important points. On the Internet, a cluttered page will feel daunting to read so remember to use white space to break up content into easy to read chunks.

I like to use Apple.com as a perfect example of a beautiful, clean home page:

appleexample

Apple uses descriptive text, beautiful product photography (always a huge plus!) and an extremely simple layout.

Unreadable Fonts

Fonts come in two basic types: serif and sans-serif. The word ‘serif’ refers to the decorative lines and strokes attached to characters, and of course, ‘sans-serif’ refers to those characters without those decorative strokes. Here are some examples of serif vs sans-serif fonts:

fontexample

Serif fonts tend to look more distinct and are sometimes easier to read, which is why they’ve been used for years in print – books and newspapers historically use serif fonts almost exclusively. They tend to give off an air of quality, personality, warmth, and intellect. If you’re going for a professional, classic feel, a serif font like Times New Roman or Georgia is a great choice.

Sans-serif fonts are missing the traditional decorate strokes of serif fonts, but they are often better suited for computer screens. Compared to a serif font, sans-serifs look clean, crisp, cool, minimalist and modern. A simple sans-serif like Arial or Verdana is familiar and looks great.

There are a few font no-nos out there that are good to stay away from. Any fonts that may be difficult to read like scripts, comic fonts, handwritten fonts and bubble letters can distract from your website copy. It’s important to remember that the visitors to your site could be absolutely anyone, with any computer screen or mobile device, at any resolution. And let’s not forget those with less than perfect eyesight. If your fonts are tough to read, your text won’t get read – it’s that simple. Some common culprits of this include Comic Sans MS, Papyrus, and Bradley Hand ITC. If you absolutely must use them, keep them to page headers or graphics and leave your body text in a simpler and much easier to read serif or sans-serif font.

fontexample2

Autoplay Music or Video

I don’t know about you, but I know when I stumble across a website and it starts making noise at me, I frantically dig through my open windows, find the culprit, and close it immediately. I think many web users can probably say the same. Multi-tasking on the web is the new standard, and it’s common for users to have several websites open at once, all while checking email, instant messaging, listening to music, and watching a video. If your site auto-plays music and your visitor already has their own music playing, guess which one probably wins?

The same goes for YouTube and other embedded videos. It’s tempting to have your video roll immediately when your site is opened, but consider this: what if your unsuspecting visitor has their speakers cranked to 10 from the last video they watched? You might scare them out of their chair if they weren’t expecting it, especially if they’ve opened your site in a new window or tab they haven’t looked at yet. Not a great first impression.

Always let your user choose to play content on your site. Place it in an easily accessible way, draw attention to it if you must, but don’t auto-play it. It’s the website equivalent of a pushy salesman pouncing on you the moment you walk through the front door of a store.

Conclusion

There are a lot of ways to make your website stand out, but the best way to build your website is to think like your visitors. No doubt you are a visitor to many websites yourself, so put yourself in those same shoes when you are building your site. What kind of things do you like and dislike when visiting websites and shopping online? What kinds of things draw you in and make you want to read more? What kinds of things send you running from your browser as soon as you see them? Building a website is all about your visitors and providing them the best possible experience – and if you can make a sale in the process, even better. A good website is like a good retail store: clean, organized, inviting, and easy to navigate. Following some of our tips can get you well on the way to success on the web!

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