Monthly Archives: February 2015

Case Study of Austin Wholesale Decking

How a small lumber supplier became a national leader in his industry using the Internet

When Zaragosa Barbosa (who goes by “Z”) first contemplated putting his fledgling wholesale decking supply business on the World Wide Web in 1995, it was primarily a public-relations consideration. By the mid-1990s his hometown of Austin, Texas, had earned a reputation as one of the country’s most connected cities, and its high number of “wired” residents were smitten with the Internet. Although many weren’t ready to make purchases over the Internet, they viewed a Web address as a mark of success and wanted to do business with companies that advertised one. To Z, who was already aggressively courting the business of every deck builder in the area, this was just another marketing angle to try.

So five-year-old Austin Wholesale Decking Supply (AWDS) launched a website. In retrospect, that decision may well be the factor that has catapulted his business into the stratosphere. Little did Z know that in five short years, his company on North Lamar Blvd., a commercial artery that runs the length of the city, would be running one of the most notable Internet sites in his industry. In his wildest dreams, he could not foresee that he would be advertising the ability to ship to the Lower 48 from his location in Central Texas, and that it would generate a tremendous return on investment. He did not imagine that he would count his Internet site as a fourth “location” in his growing business, nor that it would promptly demonstrate the potential to outshine the company’s “storefronts”. He could not anticipate that the website would so enhance his personal profile that he would be quoted as an industry expert in such diverse national publications as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Taking Good Advice
From that first modest effort to today’s state-of-the art site, AWDS’s web presence has been a collaborative effort with then Austin-based Ad Wizards Internet Services. Ad Wizards has since moved to the Kingsland area of the Highland Lakes. Owner and Head Wizard Don Allen had become fascinated with the fledgling technology of the Internet when a back injury sidelined him from his first career, and he pursued every avenue to learn its intricacies. When Z leased some office space to Don’s brother, Don made a sales pitch to put AWDS on the Internet, and Z listened.

Well, not at first. “He made some proposals on how things should be, and with us being too busy with the regular stuff and never putting two and two together, I blew it off the first time,” Z says. “And I blew it off the second time.” But the third time, he says, something about Don’s proposal and the way Z himself was seeing new products being introduced in his own industry suddenly clicked. He gave Don the go-ahead to put together a website for AWDS.

But that’s just the beginning of the story. Early on, the same openness to marketing that made Z receptive to trying the Internet in the first place also made him susceptible to fast-talking salesmen. First, Z redirected his domain name to a telecom company that was offering to include web hosting as part of an integrated package of services. When they didn’t deliver, he fell prey to a salesman who offered to set up a second website as a way of doubling the company’s visibility. Only when that person appropriated a considerable amount of the website design that Ad Wizards had originally produced for AWDS, did Don pay Z a visit to straighten things out.

“More importantly from Z’s aspect, I told him, ‘Look, you need to pick one person that you feel knows that they’re doing, and go with them,’ ” Don recalls. “I said, ‘Don’t divide your efforts in an effort to increase your effectiveness,’ which is what he thought he was doing.”

More good advice. And at that crucial moment, Z made the decision that would set his future success in motion. Don remembers, “So he said, ‘Well, okay, Don, I’ll go with you. I’ll trust what you tell me.’ “

Z’s foresight in staying with Don and Ad Wizards has had long-lasting benefits in terms of visibility. “In non-paid placement, just normal run-of-the-mill search engine results, Z has been with me long enough to where we’re grandfathered in,” Don notes. “And we have enough content that we’ve had for a number of years, that we are grandfathered in the databases.” As the Web grows and becomes increasingly congested, some of those benefits may disappear. Until then, Z will have had the advantage of several years’ worth of enhanced visibility.

Z might have enjoyed that benefit with any webmaster, but most webmasters are not as knowledgeable as Don Allen when it comes to HTML coding, design and search engine advertising techniques-from a sales standpoint. This may be due to the fact that many webmasters have a background in programming or design; focused on the nuts and bolts of the project, they may forget the underlying message. Don’s background in sales and marketing, combined with his skill in incorporating the wide variety of products available through AWDS, helps bring the website to the top of the search, no matter what one is searching for in decking supplies.

Proving Its Power
While Z was exploring his options for positioning his company on the Web, the Internet was growing up. It was showing up on more and more desktops across the country, and users were becoming more comfortable with it as a tool, rather than a just a novelty. Once he settled on working with Don, AWDS was waiting to be found when customers were ready to buy. The website’s homepage introduced the company; additional pages described the benefits of various lumbers in the company’s product line, and featured the next generation of decking materials: composites.

The first incarnation of the AWDS website, simple as it was, didn’t take long to prove its ability to capitalize on Z’s local business success. AWDS fielded a request from New York, overnighted a bid with samples and promptly received a $37,000 order accompanied by cashier’s check. From halfway across the country, AWDS’s bulk purchasing power had secured the lowest price. Z arranged for product to be delivered directly from the plants, and cashed his first Internet return-on-investment.

“Ever since then, we’ve taken what we’ve made profit-wise, and put it right back into the Internet, to get more expansion,” Z says. “And every time there’s an idea now, we know it’s not a local idea, it’s not a North Lamar idea, we’re thinking national idea.” As far as Z is concerned, it’s a numbers game: If 9 out of 10 people are going to say no, for one reason or another, it only makes sense to get the word out to as many people as possible, to increase the number of those one-out-of-ten “yes” responses. The Internet offers him the potential to hear “yes” from all around the country, from thousands more than would have said “no” in Central Texas.

Adding More Features
Once Z could see the website’s potential, his fertile imagination has combined with customer suggestions and information about new technologies from Ad Wizard’s Don Allen, to produce upgrades. In 2000, when cutting-edge sites were introducing sound, Ad Wizards engaged the services of Ronni and Don Rhodes, owners of Tucson, Ariz.-based WBC Imaging, to add sound to the AWDS site.

In an increasingly visually oriented medium, WBC-which specializes in CD-ROMs, audio and video streaming and other multi-media applications-has worked hand-in-hand with Ad Wizards to make the AWDS website a textbook example of savvy technology, now also incorporating flash movies and streaming video. In part, it falls under the category of entertainment, another way to capture a visitor’s attention and direct them through the site, says Ad Wizards’ Don Allen.

But, as the technology becomes more mainstream for viewers and more affordable for websites, streaming videos have proved to serve another, deeper purpose. “Ronni and I haven’t seen a lot of lines around libraries,” Don Rhodes observes. “People would much rather watch a video on a website than sit and read four or five or six paragraphs of text” explaining how to do something. Recognizing this, when Z received instructional videos from manufacturers of composite decking products, it was a natural step to post them on the website.

{In 2009 Don Rhodes, died of cancer after a long and valiant battle. His wife Ronni died a few months later of a stroke in her sleep. We miss them both.}

Posting this additional content on the AWDS website generates goodwill and co-op advertising dollars with the manufacturers. And, when people understand more about a product and can see how to use it, they are more likely to make the purchase.

As Don Allen’s advice has proved itself time and again, a level of trust has grown between the two savvy, marketing-wise businessmen. Z knows that when Don brings him a new idea, it’s the result of constant evaluation of new technology that might benefit the AWDS website. And Don knows that when Z suggests an addition to the website, it’s very likely to be an addition worth incorporating.

In perhaps the most significant development, Z has committed himself fully to plowing profits back into the website and giving Don the financial wherewithal to do what needs to be done to maximize its profitability. For instance, as Don notes, when it comes to the major search engines, “We pay for the paid placement and we’re willing to fight with the big guys, so we’re right at the top.”

A Virtual Flood
Can one ever have too much of a good thing? Yes, as Z discovered in Spring 2002, when the latest enhancements to the website combined with the annual uptick in business to produce a virtual flood of Internet responses. It was more business than the AWDS staff in place at the time could handle. Ad Wizards’ Allen stepped in to advise Z on upgrading his staff to handle the overwhelming response.

“More than anything, we’ve just become a student of our own game,” says Z. And his web site provides evidence. For instance, he notes, pressure-treated lumber is currently embroiled in issues with the EPA. Z’s stature in the industry, combined with his unparalleled visibility on the web, make him a natural point of contact for the media. Take the EPA representative who mentioned Z in an interview on pressure-treated lumber. The USA Today reporter contacted him for additional information, and when the article came out in the paper, a local television station followed up on their home-grown businessman.

The streaming video of that news package is now featured on the website. It can’t be directly associated with profit, but in Austin-a particularly environmentally sensitive town-and for others who care about such issues, the public relations value of Z’s knowledge in this area is inestimable.

Other features help speed payment, hold down costs or generate goodwill; the interactive display of account information for major clients does all three. It allows deck builders to access the AWDS website at any time, at their convenience, and identify specific costs for each individual project. Getting the information at the moment they need it means quicker invoicing (and therefore quicker payment to AWDS). The one-time cost for writing the program that generates the information freed AWDS from staffing the phones solely to answer contractor requests for billing data. And account information that’s available 24/7 means the contractor can access it at his convenience, rather than interrupting his work day. If he has questions, he can check the account late at night, or before dawn.

What’s next? Webmaster Don Allen says a whole new section of products is waiting in the wings. Z says he has ideas he hasn’t even mentioned to Allen yet. Whatever the next upgrade brings to the AWDS website, history suggests it will be the latest thing, done well, with the promise of enhanced profitability and the rewards of building a great business.

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“12 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Website Host”

The Naked Facts of Internet Host Site
“Due Diligence”

This free report is provided by: Ad Wizards Internet Services
www.AdWizards.com

If you have any questions regarding this report, please email:
don@adwizards.com

Many business owners sooner or later will begin looking for a Host Site on the Web to assist them in setting up their company’s “Web Presence.” This can be a very pleasant experience IF certain “due diligence” items are done BEFORE any commitments are made, or monies are paid. Many small and medium sized businesses, as well as home-based businesses, are looking for a Host Site that will act like the Captain of their Starship and “make it so!” That is, they want someone they can trust and that is competent to take them by the hand (figuratively speaking) and create a website for them that is not only effective and looks attractive, but most importantly, that will achieve the goals that they have for the site – be it new leads, sales, or a place to disseminate information to their clients. Additionally, they do not want to pay any more than is reasonable and necessary for these services.

There are a number of things you can do before deciding on which company or Host Site to use for this purpose, but remember this: they will ALL most likely tell you that they offer great service, that they are the best, that they get tons of traffic etc. etc. You would be wise to NOT take everyone at face value unless you want to set yourself up for a possible expensive disappointment. YOU are the one that will be responsible for checking them out FIRST and, after doing your “due diligence,” decide whether or not to do business with that company.

The following is a suggested check list of things to look into, questions to ask, and considerations that will help you have a better shot at signing up with the right Host Site for YOUR needs:

1) If you can, first try to get referrals from people you know and trust that are currently using a Host Site and are satisfied with the service provided, and the results achieved.

2) Ask questions! Don’t be shy in this department. Any ethical, honest and professional Host Site will not mind answering your questions.

3) Ask for AT LEAST 3-5 references from clients that have been doing business with them for more than just a couple of months. Then CONTACT those clients and ask them about the results, responsiveness, service, honesty, integrity, etc. that they have experienced in their dealings with said company. You should get as much input as possible. If you contact a number of client references, you stand a much better chance of getting a clearer picture of how that particular company operates overall.

It is important to remember that the Internet is home not only to many fine companies and Host Sites, but unfortunately a great many fly-by-night operators, dishonest companies and outright frauds. Due to the fact that “Internet Law” is still being developed and tested, there are a great number of “gray” areas. Unethical companies know what, and where, these areas are and use them to your disadvantage, and can take you to the cleaners. You have very little, if any, recourse.

4) Find out about response time and resolution time to problems the clients may have had. This can be a very good indicator of how much or how little the company cares about their clients after setting up their website. All sites will experience problems at one time or another, but how fast and how honestly they deal with them is a prime indicator of their integrity.

A good example is WebHostingHub’s customer support department. According to WebHostingBillboarders, their staff is friendly and supportive despite being bombarded with questions! Their support team is available 24/7. That’s a very good example of a reliable web hosting company.

5) Compare rates for services. Don’t go cheap! But don’t lose your shirt either. Already Hosted reviews the top 10 affordable web hosting services. In this business, you can get great service at affordable rates by people that not only care about their clients, but know how to accomplish the various things necessary to assist their clients in getting results without draining your bank account. You just need to find the right company.

If you can find a company like iPage (see hosting review) that can give you a money back guarantee anytime, so much the better! Most hosting companies offer a 60-day money back guarantee. Do your research, it can save you a lot of money in the future.

Another similar company is Host Clear. An analysis of Host Clear shows that they advertise around $6/month but regularly offer discounts for as much as 50% off! Now that’s affordable indeed.

6) Check on the type and size of connections to the Internet used by the company’s Web server(s). You want one that utilizes redundant carrier “pipes” to the Net if at all possible. Additionally, one that has a backup generator and a UPS system if at all possible.

7) If you have an idea of some of the features you want or need to incorporate into your Website, either now or later, make sure that the company can and will provide them, or assist you in getting them.

8) TALK to whoever you will be dealing with. Sure, you can use email for most things, but NOTHING will ever replace a personal relationship and, at least in the beginning, it will be much easier for you to establish a relationship, as well as get a feel for the person if you can either meet them in person or talk to them on the phone. This should not be a substitute for the other things mentioned above unless you get a reference from someone you trust implicitly.

9) Check into how many clients the site deals with and how long they have been doing business on the Internet. You can also check with one of the organizations that track scams on the Internet to see if the company has been reported as being unethical in the past. Remember though that many people do post bogus “scam” reports on the net out of anger, mischievousness, or by their competitors.

10) Check on the variety and quality of web design featured on the company’s site. Does it look good? Did it take forever to load on your browser? Is the spelling on client’s pages correct? Are all images showing up? Do you see any random “code” (you should not see any). These are some of the types of things that can indicate whether or not the Webmaster is concerned not only with their own image, but more importantly, with yours. Again, contacting a number of their clients can be most illuminating.

11) How fast does the company itself respond to your inquiries? Check them out via email and telephone – this can be crucial if you decide to do business with them.

12) Analyze the company’s own website. Does it have most of the information you need already on it? Does it answer most of your questions? Is it user friendly?

As a final thought, don’t fall in love with “cool” graphics or whiz-bang special effects. While these all have their place, it is best to have them used judiciously as many Internet “surfers” are bored by many of the effects that in the past were new and a novelty.

If you have any other information that pertains to this report and wish to have it considered for inclusion, please email it to:
Ad Wizards Internet Services – For businesses of any size!
We will create, maintain, and promote your website at a very
affordable price. No misrepresentations, just fantastic service by
HONEST professionals with integrity. We CARE about our clients!

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“6 Most Important Items to Remember When Choosing a Commercial Host Site For Your Business”

This Free Report is Provided By:

Ad Wizards Internet Services
www.AdWizards.com

If you have any questions regarding this report, please email:
webmaster@adwizards.com

Service After The Sale – Is It There?

One of the most important things to consider when deciding which Commercial Host Site to use for your business in establishing its Internet Presence is SERVICE. While this may sound obvious, many very smart business professionals forget to cover the basics of “due diligence” when choosing a Host Site and/or website designer and end up not only unhappy, but in many cases, out a great deal of money in the process.

There are some relatively easy ways to determine if a prospective Designer or Host Site truly offers superior service during AND after the sale. There are no real shortcuts that can be taken unless you are fortunate enough to be able to get a rock-solid recommendation from a friend or business associate. This only counts if they are currently using that Host Site, are pleased with their service, and the results. With a recommendation that you can rely upon, your task is much simpler, and less time consuming.

Most businesses do not have the time to research properly, and will simply take the word of the Host Site operator or designer at face value. Everyone in that business will tell you that they are the best, will take great care of you, make you look superior on the Web, will save you money, etc. This being the case, and since it is becoming increasing common that the proliferation of unprofessional, uncaring, and in many cases downright crooked Host Sites and designers are popping up everywhere, BUYER BEWARE!

This is not to say that you cannot find a reputable Host Site that will do the work required, and once your Website is functioning, will take excellent care of you. What it DOES mean is that you must put forth some effort to help ensure that you are putting not only your faith and money, but your company’s image, in the hands of people who care about you, and know what they are doing. While many Host Sites are run by programmers and designers, a solid sales and marketing background is also very important to a commercial website client. Some of the things that are important for a business website should be:

1) Service
2) Your company’s image
3) Service
4) Effectiveness of your website
5) Service
6) Service

Now to elaborate on these items:
1) Service – from the standpoint of helpfulness and input to the client during the initial process of consultations, gathering information, graphics etc. to design the website so it can achieve the goals you want on the Web. If a Host Site is not helpful from the get-go, BEWARE!

2) Making sure that the image your website projects is positive, professional, effective and most importantly user-friendly! If you receive complaints, or, ask for and get, a lot of negative feedback from clients and associates etc., something needs to be changed, and quickly.

3) Service – in taking care of all the details that website designers and Host Sites SHOULD be knowledgeable in, but many are not. An example of this is the proper and effective and correct use of META tags, ALT tags, TITLE tags, Headline tags, text layout and content and the submission process to Search Engines – collectively referred to in part as “SEO” – SEO Austin. If these thing are done correctly, it will greatly enhance the ease with which your Website can be located by those using a Search Engine. If they are NOT used correctly, it can hurt your chances tremendously. There are other items involved with ranking, but you must have the right foundation to start.

There are other issues to take into consideration to achieve “ranking” in Google, and you need to be sure you are dealing with someone who truly gets results for their clients. It is not cheap to do this, but it is a necessity if you intend to do business on the Net and be found in Google.

4) The results from your Web presence are the measuring stick. If your reason for having a website is an online brochure, then merely looking nice is fine. If however the reason for having it is to generate new leads or sales, and it does NOT generate them, is it due to your business…or to a lack of knowledge and assistance on the part of your Host Site, or a lack of ranking in Google?

5) Service – if there is a problem with the site, is it easy to contact the Host Site and get quick assistance to fix the problem? Are they friendly and knowledgeable so they can offer alternatives to you? Do they answer their email promptly? Do they return your phone calls?

If you are being ignored, it is usually due to the fact that they already have your money, a Website has been placed on the Web, and they feel their job is over. I believe that it has just started! A Host Site that has their clients’ interests in mind, will, on an ongoing basis, assist those clients, however they can, so their Web presence is working effectively, and their clients are happy. This can cover things like ongoing changes to the site, information and education for their clients, publicity for the Host Site as well as the businesses that reside there etc. Taking the money, putting up a website and ignoring you thereafter is unprofessional, to say the least.

6) Service – does the Host Site really care about you and want you to succeed on the Web? Do they want you to be so happy with their responsiveness, service, results, etc. so you will not only continue to build your website, but send referrals to them? Do they make changes and updates when requested in a timely manner?

If you can answer YES to many of these questions, you most likely have found one of the few Host Sites that know what they are doing and care about their clients. If not, ask your friends, ask your business associates, and if all else fails, check up on a number of Host Sites by contacting directly, at least 3-5 of their existing clients that have been doing business with them for at least 6 months and ASK QUESTIONS about the things I have mentioned previously. With a little “due diligence”, some time spent in asking questions, and a reasonably well thought out plan of action, you can find the right Commercial Host Site that truly offers you an effective Web Presence and SERVICE AFTER THE SALE.

Don Allen is founder and CEO of Ad Wizards Internet Services based in Burnet, Texas and can be reached via his website at www.AdWizards.com, by phone at (512) 834-9013, or by email at don@adwizards.com

If you have any other information that pertains to this report and wish to have it considered for inclusion, please email us.

Ad Wizards Internet Services – For businesses small or large!

We will create, maintain, and promote your website at a very affordable price. No misrepresentations, just fantastic service by HONEST professionals with integrity. We CARE about our clients!

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