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Home » Big Red Tomato Company

What Do You Get When You Cross A Tomato With A Brick?

Don’t worry, it’s not a joke. This is a guest post by El Edwards, one of Problogger’s 40 bloggers to watch in 2011 and custodian of the UK Charity Give A Brick . The Big Red Tomato Company are working ‘pro bono’ with Give A Brick to help them realise their goals this year. This is a monthly diary post by El to update you on her progress.  If you would like to know how we could help you with your business with one hour brainstorming please get in touch, by clicking the link or using the get in touch form above.

Over to you El:

Sounds messy doesn’t it?! Thankfully this union is looking like the creation of awesome sauce!

Enough with the puns already, tell us what on earth you’re going on about!

OK, I hear you. But first I’d better introduce myself. My name’s El Edwards and I’m the founder of a rather fabulous (and yes I am hugely biased of course!) charity called Give A Brick.

A couple of weeks ago, lovely Matthew here at The Big Red Tomato Company made me an offer. Would I like him to help me push Give A Brick to greatness in 2011? Aside from feeling like an answer to prayer, how could a girl resist such an offer?

And so the greatness commenced.

As part of this epic adventure, I’ve promised Matthew I’ll keep a diary and update you guys and gals on a monthly basis. Welcome to the second Friday of the month. It’s Brick meets Tomato update time.

Aside from this being an opportunity to show you just how dazzling Matthew’s coaching and consulting skills are, I’m keen for these updates to be full of practical stuff that you can use too. Why else would you bother coming back eh?!

And so today we have three little lessons I’ve learned thanks to Matthew and Give A Brick. Let me know in the comments if any of them sound familiar.

1. All stats are equal. Some are more equal than others.

One of the first questions Matthew asked me was about my frustrations with Give A Brick. My answer? Traffic. (And it’s not what you might think.)

I’m not one for stats. I look at the numbers and know if they’re going up or down but that’s about as far as I dig. I knew that Give A Brick was getting a lot of traffic. We’re not talking thousands of unique visitors a day but it was what we Welsh would call ‘tidy’ traffic.

But after getting all this traffic, what did we do with it? Very little apparently. No email sign-ups. No extra donations. No interaction. Nothing. So I assumed that the site design and copy were at fault.

I’d been talking about all of this with another Tomato regular, Ben Lumley, and he asked me which page (or pages) were getting the majority of views. I’m not a digger so I had no idea but after a little procrastination I decided to have a look and try and find out.

And I am so glad I did!

Let’s just say that it turns out that all this traffic that I was so frustrated by was coming from sites that won’t ever convert into loyal Give A Brick supporters. The techie wizards amongst us will understand it better than me but we’re talking robot-spider type visitors from sites selling the stuff you get offered in your spam email. Need I say more?

Take home? Yes, the Give A Brick site needed a face-lift, but don’t ever make major changes based on stats until you’ve at least found out the facts!

2. Fail to plan, plan to fail!

So I’m armed with Matthew’s practical suggestions and a rather snazzy mind map. Now what? Were Give A Brick my full time job it would be easy – just start at the top of Matthew’s list and, when I get to the bottom, stop.

Except, Give A Brick is just one of my hats. The day Matthew’s email arrived I was in the middle of getting my personal site looking all snazzy ahead of a guest post on a rather large blog. This week I launched my business site and I also run around after three lovely, but very noisy and messy, children.

I’m the sort of person who gets inspired very easily so give me a list of to-dos or advice on how to move an exciting project forward and I’m all over it, regardless of what else I’m meant to be doing.

I was all set to put my site on hold and dig in with the Give A Brick stuff. It was exciting and full of promise and all sparkly and new feeling. Who wouldn’t want to rush around and do that first?!

But I didn’t. I had stuff I was already committed to finishing. Thanks to the help of my best friend (who knows only too well what I’m like!) I got myself armed with a list that took into account everything that I was accountable for.

Take home? I know it can feel a bit stuffy and dull but if you want to get stuff done, you really need a plan (and to stick to it!)

3. Design is subjective

After getting to ‘sort out Give A Brick’ on my list, I spent an entire weekend playing around with what we had, thinking about the intentions of the charity and finally coming to the conclusion that we needed a new design for the site.

Step forward Headway and a couple of doses of sleep deprivation and finally the new site was ready to reveal to the world.

Now I’m no designer but I know what I like and even allowing for my being hugely biased, I was delighted with the new look. It re-captured the fun, quirky nature of our first website whilst still remaining functional and clear.

Or so I thought.

I had lots of feedback via well meaning friends and supporters. Lots of it was lovely, some of it was neutral but one email stands out in my mind because it was very detailed. Paragraph after paragraph telling me what I needed to change and why.

Truth be told, I was gutted! I guess this is what happens when you’re emotionally invested in something. Unless it was totally unworkable, I didn’t want to hear about faults on the site. I just wanted to hear that it was fab!

I emailed one of the trustees and Matthew asking them for their honest opinions. They were both wonderful but it was Matthew’s reply that sticks in my mind for its wisdom:

”It’s just moving deckchairs. Get the basics right and the rest can follow.

Take home? Design really is subjective and if you spend 80% of your time moving deckchairs you’re going to miss all the sun!

But now it’s over to you. What has your business taught you over the last couple of weeks and how are you planning to put those lessons into action?