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Over the Christmas 2011, I spent several hours looking and studying almost every single website that BIHA members use to win more customers.

I will not be commenting on any individual sites, as that would not be fair. However, some were absolutely amazing, while other sites were not so good.

Below I have made a list of what I consider to be the 16 main mistakes that some websites make. I realize that some of you may disagree with some of the points below - especially if you build websites yourself.

(Please don't be offended if your website has one or more of these errors -- I am only trying to show you how they can be improved, and how you can skyrocket your bookings and profits).

Here are 16 major mistakes which I came across while looking at hundreds of bouncy castle hire websites....

1) Mistake #. 1. One website I looked at just had text on the home page -- no pictures or images whatsoever. You had to click on a link to actually see pics of the inflatables.

2) Mistake # 2. Several websites I looked at had hidden their phone number for some strange reason from the home page. You had to actually go to the "Contact Us" page before you found it. The problem is that some potential clients would have exited the site once they saw there was no phone number above the fold (i.e. in the top half of the website). Some websites had the phone number at the bottom -- which is nearly as bad.

3) Mistake # 3. Many websites hide their physical address. (I fully realise that this is for security reasons). However, there are two big problems with not publishing your physical address on your site. Firstly, Google may find it much more difficult to rank you well in their Places Listings -- giving an opportunity for your competitors to rank above you. Also, and just as serious, Google may not be able to put a little red marker on their Google Map of where you are based in your town. Secondly, some of your potential customers may mistrust you if they can't see a physical address on your website.

4) Mistake # 4. Several websites had "cartoon-style bouncy castles" on the home page instead of real photos of their bouncy castles. BIG MISTAKE. Customers and their kids want to see what their castle will look like. Cartoon images just confuse them, and it is a big waste of space above the fold. It's probably OK to have a mix, but don't give priority to cartoon castles over the real thing! The website should be designed to help a visitor very quickly see an inflatable they like and then pick up the phone and book it, or via an online booking form e.g with www.BouncyCastleNetwork.co.uk . 5) Mistake # 5. Similar to # 4 above, almost unbelievably some sites were built in flash. This may look really nice and pretty, but Google can sometimes have problems understanding what the site is about and as a result may lower its ranking -- sometimes dramatically.

6) Mistake # 6. Some members are still not displaying the fact that they are a member of the BIHA on their website. Official statistics have shown that around 90% of the public feel happier about contacting a company who is a member of an industry trade body, than a company who isn't. If you're a BIHA member -- tell your prospective clients! They are more likely to call you (and book you) as compared to a competitor who may not be a member. BUT, if you don't tell them you're a member by forgetting to display the BIHA logo on your website -- you will almost certainly miss out on bookings!

7) Mistake # 7. Many websites did not say which GEOGRAPHICAL AREA they covered. This makes it really difficult for Google to rank the site locally.

8) Mistake # 8. Some websites don't use a proper top-level domain e.g. they use mywebsite.cheapwebsitebuilder.co.uk instead of mywebsite.co.uk This can look really unprofessional and customers realise that the site is probably a free one.

9) Mistake # 9. Not having a video on your website and uploaded to YouTube. Many parents (and their kids) love looking at video of your inflatables in action. It can be more entertaining and engaging than just looking at text and pictures. They are not only more likely to book with you if the video is reasonably professional, but also Google may give your site a slightly higher ranking in the organic listings, as they own YouTube!! Also, it is a proven fact that companies which have video on their Google PLACES listings move higher up the rankings.

10) Mistake # 10. Not having a photo of yourself and/or your staff on your site (preferably the homepage). Again, it is a proven fact that if you show your potential customers who will be supplying their inflatable, they are more likely to book with you! If you are in uniform or are wearing clothing with your company logo on it, it gives off a very professional image. Some parents even say to their children - while pointing at your picture "That's the nice bouncy castle man (or lady) who will be bringing your bouncy castle for you on your birthday". It sounds corny, but this can mean the difference between them booking you as compared to booking one of your competitiors.

11) Mistake # 11. Not one website had the words "In an emergency we have back-up drivers and spare equipment to ensure that we can deliver to you" (or similar wording) . Several websites I looked at had the words "Reliable service -- we won't let you down" but it is important to inform your potential customers what you actually do to make sure that you will never let them down.

12) Mistake # 12. Many websites did not display reviews and testimonials from happy customers. Again, it is a proven fact that if you display positive reviews from clients, then you will get more bookings. People may not necessarily believe what you say about your company, but if a client says it -- then it changes everything. E.g. If you say on your site - "We offer great service!" So what? -- every inflatable hire company owner and their brother says this, and it's become diluted. However, if your clients are writing online reviews to say that your service was amazing and the castles were clean etc. then your phone will ring off the hook, because people believe what other clients say, more than what you say about your business.

13) Mistake # 13. This one is probably the most technical of the lot, but many websites I looked at did not render correctly when viewed on a mobile device such as a smart-phone. More and more people nowadays are using their mobile phone to look at websites -- especially when they are on the move, or when another family member is using the computer. If your site does not render correctly, or it takes forever to load up on their mobile, or the writing is too small, or they can't find your phone number (see mistake # 2 above) , then there is a very real risk that they will book with one of your competitors who does have a mobile compatible website. Up to 50% of people who look at a website when looking for a local service do so on their mobile phone (or other mobile device) and this figure is set to increase as mobiles which can surf the internet become cheaper and more widespread.

14) Mistake # 14. Not having a blog. Google loves blogs and when bouncy castle hire content is added on a regular basis -- Google should reward the site with a higher ranking.

15) Mistake # 15. Not displaying all the instant credibility factors (or trust factors) that can really boost the number of enquiries and bookings that you get. (Please see my email of 2nd January 2012 for a list of these credibilty factors).

16) Mistake # 16. Several websites I looked at were rife with spelling mistakes -- all over the home page. (With free spell checkers this is not really necessary and can harm a hire business). On the surface this may not appear to be a particularly serious mistake. However, a potential customer may have the view that if they take this amount of care with their own website, what assurances have they got that the bouncy castle will be in a clean condition and be delivered on time. It's a bit sad, but this is how some people think.

If you can think of any more mistakes which I have left out -- please post them on the forum on www.BouncyCastleOwner.com under the thread "WEBSITE NIGHTMARES" -- Thanks.

Due to the importance of this memo, I strongly recommend that you go back and re-read these 16 points again.

If you are not making any of these above mistakes -- then brilliant. However, even if you are making just a few of them, then you are literally leaving money on the table, possibly large amounts - which could even be jeapodizing the future of your business and your livelihood.

If you don't yet have a website, (many inflatable hire companies have not got round to getting one yet) or you are not happy with your current website and want something fresh and new for 2012, please bear in mind that the BIHA has a small team of people (Mark J, Martin and Kevin) who can create professional websites for members at an extremely affordable (and subsidized) fee of just £75. This fee also includes basic search engine optimization to get your site zooming to the top (or near the top) of Google and a free 1 or 2 minute video posted onto YouTube and then onto your new website . (If you are interested - please apply before the 15th Feb 2012, as the price will be going up then).

When we design websites for members we also try to eliminate most or all of the above mistakes so that they get more bookings. We can also show members how they can easily add/edit and delete information themselves without needing a webmaster to do it, although we happily do this for you if you prefer.

This £75 fee also includes website hosting for the first year, (Just £25 per year thereafter for hosting).

Here's an example site which the BIHA created for a member last summer www.1st2bounce.com

It is now number 2 in Google for the keywords - Bouncy castle Hire Chelmsford.

If you want a professional website (and a free video) created for your hire business for an exceptionally low fee (until the 15-2-2012) -- please email me at mark@biha.org.uk

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      Thinking about it now after the wet 2012 summer
      Yes - but mini-marquees and gazebos only
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      Yes - we hire out all sizes of marquees

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      Do nothing, but wait for others to report them.

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      Yes - for every booking, unless very short notice
      Yes - we won't deliver without a deposit up-front

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      6 - 8
      9 - 10
      11 - 13
      14 - 16
      17 - 19
      20 - 29
      30 or more

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      Basketball Shooters

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      No, we keep the same hire price
      We charge an extra £10
      We charge an extra £20
      We charge an extra £30
      We charge an extra £40
      We charge an extra £50
      We charge an extra £60
      We charge an extra £70
      We charge an extra £80
      We increase price in accordance with their budget

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      Directory listing of your business on BIHA website
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      Getting the FREE Tip of the Week from this site.
      General sense of belonging / Less loneliness!
      Hearing about special deals etc.from manufacturers

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      I have a system & they get rewarded for referrals

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      Cannot answer as I don't yet have a website

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    • How much do you charge for a standard 12ft x 12ft bouncy castle (including 12 x 12's with a 4ft+ safety step) delivered LOCALLY in your town.
      £35 per day
      £40 per day
      £45 per day
      £50 per day
      £55 per day
      £60 per day
      £65 per day
      £70 per day
      £75 per day
      £80+ per day

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    • What is your most profitable type of inflatable which you hire out?
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      Adult bouncy castles
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      Castle/slide combis
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      Yes
      No
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      Sometimes

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