Editors Note: The Wisconsin Chapter of the American Society of Appraisers brings together appraisers across disciplines from all across Wisconsin. The spotlight today is on ASA’s Wisconsin Chapter’s website. The website is the works of Theresa Zeidler-Shonat, ASA and President of the Wisconsin Chapter. To learn more about the Wisconsin Chapter and their website we sat down with Theresa for a little Q&A.
Q: We’d like to commend the ASA’s Wisconsin Chapter on the design of your website. What was your vision for the website?
A: The vision for the website was multi-faceted, and it was designed to accomplish multiple goals. It is more and more true that people do research online before making decisions about hiring an appraiser – or, for that matter, spending money on anything. It is, therefore, crucial to not only have an online presence, but have a presence that reflects the caliber of service you provide. The Wisconsin Chapter has some excellent appraisers, and we wanted our website to communicate that excellence. To that end, it is working well, as we have received inquiries requesting help finding a local appraiser, and inquiries from people who are interested in joining the ASA.
Our other primary goal was related to facilitating chapter communication. We wanted to make it easy for our members to find information about the chapter – be it meeting dates and times, officer contact information, past meeting minutes, or slide decks from presentations at chapter meetings.
Related to that goal, we wanted to make it easy for people to RSVP for meetings, so we’ve included online registration and online payments as part of the website. This both simplifies the RSVP process for chapter members and reduces the administrative time officers spend managing and coordinating chapter meetings.
Q: What challenges did you face in bringing your vision to life on a website?
A: We set ourselves a few targets as part of the decision-making process: we wanted to contain costs of both the design and ongoing maintenance of the website, we wanted to have a website user interface that was easy and intuitive, so that updating the website could be done by pretty much any member of the chapter who was interested in taking on the responsibility down the road, and we wanted to make sure that maintaining the website didn’t become a full-time job in and of itself.
To that end, I looked at a number of webhosting services, and particularly ones that also offered site design services or templates. I then did an informal poll of a few people I know whose actual full-time job involves at least some webmaster duties, and considered their recommendations for a website platform. Ultimately, I ended up selecting WordPress as the right platform for our website. I was surprised to learn how many companies use WordPress for all or part of their websites – companies like The New York Times, CNN, People Magazine, LinkedIn, Groupe Vivendi… the list goes on and on. You can find it here, if you are interested.
We used a WordPress template for the site design, and we used WordPress to obtain our domain name – which, by the way, cost all of $26 for a year’s registration and domain mapping. That, plus the cost of a few stock photo licenses, was the total cost of our website. While we could have spent more by using a premium template, or registering multiple domain names, we chose to keep costs low – and we believe the website is very effective. Updating the website is simple – it uses WordPress’ dashboard, so if you can update a blog, you can update the website, and you can grant administrative access to as many, or as few, people as you would like.
The whole process was surprisingly easy and quick – it took approximately one afternoon to get from “we’re a go, let’s build a website!” to the point at which the website was up and running. I was familiar with WordPress, and have a personal interest in website design, which may have sped things up, but even if you were completely unfamiliar with WordPress, it’s so intuitive that the process would be relatively quick.
Beyond the “how do I build the foundation/where do I begin?” questions, we also looked at what the best way to manage online RSVPs. There are a number of free and low-cost services that do this. The one we chose, Eventbrite, doesn’t charge a fee for free events, but does impose a surcharge for collecting online payments. Payments are automatically deposited directly into our Chapter’s bank a few days after the meeting. It’s efficient, convenient, and easy. Researching online RSVP options took a few hours and a bit of discussion (convenience vs. lower fees was one of the discussion points), but once set up, it requires about 30 minutes of administrative time per meeting. In comparison to the amount of time it takes to manually manage RSVPs for meetings and take cash or checks to the bank, and hand-writing receipts (which is what we had been doing) it is an enormous time-saver.
Q: Can you explain the different efforts taken to market ASA’s Wisconsin Chapter appraisers to the people of Wisconsin?
A: This is a good question, and it is something that we are very much in the infancy of considering. Historically, the Wisconsin Chapter relied on its individual members to discuss the ASA in their own communications with their clients and prospective clients – and this is still a fabulous way to market. People like to do business with people the like, and they (usually) like people who talk to them. However, we know that demographic preferences are shifting – people always have the internet at their fingertips and an online presence is crucial.
Beyond that, people don’t want you to tell them how good you are, they want you to show them, to provide a demonstration of what you know. This is part the reason that the slide decks from our meetings are available on our website to anyone who goes looking for them, not hidden behind a members-only wall – it’s content marketing!
We also have a small-but-growing social media presence.
Q: Are there any other ways to interact with ASA Wisconsin Appraisers?
A: As I just noted, we have a social media presence. You can find us on Facebook and we have a LinkedIn group. We also have some content shared on SlideShare. We are considering a Twitter presence, but doing Twitter “right” requires a time commitment. Twitter is most effective as a marketing tool if it is used frequently. Once you in the habit of using Twitter frequently, you don’t want to just post marketing content on Twitter – you look like spam if you do that. Remember that Twitter is “social” media –you get the highest engagement/usefulness/return on your time and effort if 2/3 of your posts are actual interactions with people or human interest updates, and only 1/3 of your posts are marketing updates.
You can also look for our members on the “Find an Appraiser” page of the ASA’s website and reach out directly.
Editors Note: Thank you Theresa for taking the time to speak with us. We applaud ASA’s Wisconsin Chapter’s website on their clean, straightforward, easy to navigate and professional representation of their chapter and the Society. We hope this will inspire other chapters to actively engage with one another and their community!