For our first year in business, I am amazed and honored by the projects we’ve had the opportunity to work on. We’ve got several things cooking here – but the latest project to go live is that of Sauce Labs.
This is a company that is founded by the original author of Selenium, the open source web test automation software. Since I’ve spent so much of my career doing web applications development and go-to market, I’ve seen Selenium in action and know that the ability to simultaneously test across browsers is critical—especially when something new like a new release of Firefox or Internet Explorer or even a new operating system like Snow Leopard comes out. Problem is, Selenium while hugely popular, has never had any proper commercial backing and maintenance. So updates to ensure it test correctly across the same updates it is supposed to cover can be problematic. So when we had the opportunity to work with the Sauce guys to help take them to market to fix this problem, we jumped at it.
Today, we’re launching a new download, Sauce RC which is basically Selenium IDE & RC wrapped into a nice installer with a host of bugfixes to ensure it works across the latest browsers (even last week’s Firefox update!). But where the Sauce products really gets interesting is their Sauce OnDemand hosted test automation cloud. Here, you can use your Selenium or Sauce-based test scripts, upload them to the cloud and run against 10 popular browsers. Being a cloud-based service, you pay by test minutes that are incredibly affordable. Instant access to test infrastructure that you don’t have to maintain. What web application software development company wouldn’t want to have access to that?
There’s a lot more to come to continue building the Sauce portfolio of user services out, but for now I’d like to congratulate the Sauciers that invited us to be a part of this project – John Dunham, Jason Huggins, Steve Hazel and of course the always helpful rock of our development Santi Suarez Ordoñez. And of course – to the Silicon Spark team – Joanna “I will be one with Github” Duff, and Shannon “Python doesn’t scare me” Dunn. Great job everyone!
Summer was not slow for us here at Silicon Spark. One of the projects we took live is The Dwyer Law Group. If the name sounds vaguely familiar, it is – LoopFuse’s CEO Sean Dwyer referred us to the project at his dad’s law firm, after we took the LoopFuse site redesign live earlier this summer. A law site was a first for us, but we were up to the challenge – see for yourself:
The Dwyer Law Group new website
As for how we got there—first, we needed to find out what content we had to work with. And frankly, it was gold. Matt Dwyer is a board certified personal injury lawyer rock star. His firm has one of the highest winning and money awarded per plaintiff in the southeast. He’s recognized as one of the top trial lawyers in America—and his results speak for themselves. We needed to reshape the messaging to speak more to victims, and assure them that they were going to be taken care of well with Dwyer Law Group, but that wasn’t hard. Its always easy to sell something worth having.
Next, we turned to the website look and feel itself. We looked at lots of law sites, trying to capture the tone and feel of these sites and see what worked. Reality is, we saw lots of sites—but everything looked somewhat dated or amateur. We’ve been used to businesses that really use their website as a tool to drive business. Matt Dwyer knew he wanted that too—his son explained the power of that to him and he jumped at the chance to have us figure that out. We came up with a new design that places strong personal imagery that victims can relate to, loaded headers with keywords, and tailored text to suit victim need, as well as introduced a sidebar concept that assured visitors of their reputation, ability to garner high monetary awards, and to ultimately contact Dwyer Law Group. There was some obvious attention to SEO that needed to be done, and we’ll be looking to turn on adwords regionalized shortly, but for now—the site is out there for the whole world to see. Hope you never have the misfortune of a personal injury, but if you do… it should be a lot easier to find the best lawyer in the southeast to represent you.
All the sparkplugs here at Silicon Spark have been busy the past month. We’re working on several of new websites, whitepapers and some juicy press releases. One project in particular went live last week, and I thought I’d share. About two months ago, Matthew Porter reached out to me to help with his website. Matthew is the CEO of Contegix, a popular managed hosting provider. I personally worked with Contegix back in my Hyperic days–they were both a customer as well as a vendor for us, powering the RHQ project with Red Hat and also Hyperic’s CloudStatus. Contegix is an awesome partner to have – their service is unparalleled in the industry. And their customers are their biggest fans and best publicity ever, in fact they just recently won the Linux Journal’s Reader’s Choice Awards due to such a passionate following of their customers. So, when Matthew called asking for help to create a new website – we jumped at the chance.
With the exception of the legaleze for their acceptable use policy and service level agreements, we re-wrote the whole site, changed the layout and really brought them an updated, slick new look. Over time we’re going to be adding more components to the site such as a screenshot gallery for the managed applications, more diversity/offers on the right sidebar, and definitely more information and details on their upcoming cloud release. For now – check out how cool this website is-and tell us what you think!
Redesigned homepage for Contegix.com
Redesigned solutions sections on Contegix.com
I have been doing a lot of websites lately (last one to go live was Loopfuse). One of the first exercises is always to do a messaging/branding exercise. I thought I would share a quick and easy exercise to help you focus your brand message.
I find it is usually best to have a couple key executives and your star sales rep answer the following questionnaire:
- What are the biggest problems your customer want solved when they come to your business?
- What are three gaps or complaints customers have about your industry?
- What positions do your competitors take in addressing customer problems? (identify competitors if possible)
- What three things could you do that are different from what others are doing in your industry?
The questions are positioned in a friendly way that helps extract a market profile and competitive positioning. Each question helps approach the challenge of messaging from all angles:
- Customer pain. The biggest problmes helps identify the customer point of view, by identifying their pain points. Its useful to have the sales folks answer this question because they can best assess why customers are typically arriving at their doorstep looking for your products or services.
- Gap assessment. Next we take the first step to differentiation here – what are the gaps in the industry and are you actively working to close them. Many times this question leads to new product ideas and services. If you can answer this successfully, then you have a successful edge in messaging where you can offer something that is critically lacking in your industry.
- Competitive edge. Understanding your competitors helps in a variety of ways. One, for a marketing consultant like me, it helps to narrow down a lexicon of terms that are popular. But for businesses, it helps to map out competitor positions so you can find the specific area/sub-segment that you compete successfully in. This is critical to help attract customers and to stand out in a crowded marketplace – especially if your market is primarily driven through the web. This can identify keywords that are needed in your message to better power search.
- Differentiation. Many companies think they can’t come up with three – but usually when they sit down, they can come up with many more. This question is easily answered once you get through the previous three, and helps to solidify the three key points you want to emphasize in your value proposition.
OK, so now you have those answered. What’s next? The messaging exercise itself. While the survey helps to kickstart it, its very important to remember that this is a process – and its usually not quick. Many companies review/revise messaging one or two times a year. Its really hard to get perfect. My best advice is to timebox it (say 2 weeks) and to make sure stakeholders get their say (the questionnaire is a great way to involve them). Then promise to continually review. While a perfectionist myself, I am also a pragmatic believer in the 80/20 rule when it comes to messaging. Get the majority of it done to where you are comfortable – and then try it out. Your customers and prospects will be the best litmus test of how they respond to the message, and often times its more important to have a message than to wait for the perfect one. You can always evolve that message over time – and evolution is going to happen anyway, so embrace that.
Here are the key points that you should try to cover in the messaging exercise:
- Mission Statement. What is your company trying to do? This message is sometimes used publically, especially in blogs (our mission at XXX is to ..) and in the About Us page of the website. Mostly, however, it is an internal message. It helps to keep focus on what market you are trying to serve and what kind of a company you want to be. When developing this message, it is useful to remember the old PR mantra of F-B-O – try to be the first, best or only in your market. This assures that your mission is unique and noteworthy.
- Value Statement. This is an external message. This is what you say to your customer. It should be used in your PR slug, in your elevator pitch, and it should be prominent all over your website. Be sure to keep the message directed to a customer, and articulate what value you provide to them. Think about how you save them time, money, or worry.
- Value Propositions. Identify three specific statements describing specific value that your products or services bring to a potential customer. These are the three legs of the stool that support your value statement. You can have more if need be, but consider that this then becomes really long to describe. Keep it simple, and your customers will grab onto the messages more readily.
- Call to Action. This one is typically overlooked, but especially in developing websites, its critical to force action into your site. The goal of a website is to attract potential customers – and to do so, you want to spur them into action. Again, it should be short and think of selling the value and then what reaction you want – a free trial, a talk with one of your experts, or just straight out buying your product.
Good luck, and of course, if you need any help – the gang here at Silicon Spark are available to help you with your messaging exercise.