Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category·
Thursday, June 21st, 2012
Getting your website redesigned or launching your first ever website can be a blast. If you are considering venturing into the world of web, consider these misconceptions about web design. They can save you a lot of money and keep you on the right track after your site is launched.
If I build it, they will come
Ok, you’ve probably heard this expression used in other contexts I’m sure, but it applies here—big time. When done properly, a website is a powerful tool. However, just because you have a well designed website doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get traffic. You need to start getting traffic. There are many ways to start doing this. Some easy ones are:
- Simply talking about your new site
- Put your URL on all your stationery and signage
- Promote your site via social media
- Promote your site via traditional advertising
There is also Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which is highly effective in getting traffic. SEO takes time and effort, or money. The point is that to really see your website work, you need to get traffic.
If it’s pretty, I will make money
Pretty is great. But it’s more of a byproduct of good design than an end unto itself. Good design takes into consideration your target market, user needs, business goals and conversion optimization. Using design principles, we can more likely reach your business goals via your website. The end result is ‘pretty’, but the foundation is sound principles and best practices. Many designers simply offer “window dressing” which may look fine and make you feel good, but it may not move the needle. The goal of your website should be to make it easy for your users to say “yes” to whatever it is you are offering.
All I need is traffic
You can have all of the traffic in the world, but if your site is not compelling, easy and enjoyable to use people will leave. The standards that the average internet user has for interacting with websites has risen exponentially. Your users expect more. They want to be engaged. Boring won’t cut it, either.
Think about it like this. You have a restaurant in the middle of town. You get lots of foot traffic every day. However, your restaurant is cramped and dirty. The menu is difficult to read, and you can’t even figure out where to order.
It wouldn’t matter how much traffic you got, you wouldn’t convert much of it. Not many people would buy food from that kind of restaurant. Traffic alone won’t bring in the business. You need a well executed site that will convert that traffic.
Branding doesn’t matter
Tell this to the biggest brands in the world. If branding didn’t matter then everyone would have the same name, logo and colors. No one would take out advertising, and if they did, it would simply be a word document converted into a magazine ad. Big companies are a lot of things, and they do waste a lot of money, but they must get a decent ROI on their branding and marketing efforts or they wouldn’t do them year in, year out. Your brand is your story, and story is one of the most powerful tools in society. Pay attention to your brand and build it. Your website should help to build your brand and reinforce the message that you are trying to get across.
I just need a Facebook page
With the rise in social media, it’s easy to think that maybe all you need is a Facebook page, or Twitter account. Don’t be fooled! Social media is very important, but having a dedicated website and blog is crucial to your online marketing.
The first reason is shelf-life of content. On Facebook, the shelf-life of your post is about a day. Twitter is less. On your website and blog, your content’s shelf-life is infinite (as long as you pay your hosting bills)!
The second reason is ownership. Many people don’t realize that Facebook owns your content. It can decide tomorrow that it’s changing its policies and half of your posts, photos or videos get removed. This exact scenario hasn’t happened (yet), but recently with the timeline updates, many of the features that marketers were using simply disappeared or changed dramatically. If you are in business, you can’t soley rely on Facebook, Twitter or Linked in for your web presence. Having your own website and blog, you can host your own content and have it there forever. It’s yours. This is a very valuable aspect of a website.
The third reason is customization. With Facebook and Twitter, it is very difficult to differentiate yourself visually from your competitors. Granted, you can change your background on Twitter, and your Cover Image on Facebook, but other than that it’s tough to really provide and exceptional user experience on these platforms. A custom website is the key. Your website is your hub of all marketing. You have the opportunity to create a stunning user experience that compels visitors to engage with you. You can always change, rearrange and redesign the site as many times as necessary. You’re at the mercy of the Social networks’ whims if you rely solely on them for your internet marketing plan.
A good use of social media is to create community and drive traffic back to your website and blog. Don’t waste time and money by exclusively using social media tools.
Set it and forget it
It may work for rotisserie chicken, but not for effective websites. Constant testing, updating and refreshing is necessary for success. What worked last quarter may not work this quarter. Weekly blog posts, monthly updates to core website content and quarterly content strategy plans are essential to a thriving web presence. A website is rarely ever “done”.
Your website is the center of your marketing world. Take the time to invest in a quality web presence that will engage your audience and convert more users into customers.
Thursday, May 17th, 2012
If you have a website, then most likely you are trying, in some way to get your visitors to do something. With professional service firms, typically, that action is to contact the firm, or fork over contact information (lead-gen). To be effective, all websites need to have a conversion strategy in place. Otherwise they have a good chance of simply taking up space on a server and draining your account of money.
A website should make you money, and conversions is how that money is made.
Here are 10 elements of a high converting website.
Calls to action
Number one on the list is the absolute most important element: Calls to action. Without calls to action the user will have little opportunity to know what you would like them to do. People need and want to know what to do next. By nature, most people aren’t too aggressive, even the ones who seem to be so. They also don’t want to think to hard and have to dig to find out what you would like them to do. Have a clear call to action saying exactly what it is that you would like them to do. Just take out the guesswork and you will be on your way to higher conversions.
Your headlines need to be succinct and compelling. The homepage headline should sum up what the site is about and why it would benefit the user. Always think “what’s in it for them (the user)” when writing headlines.
We would all like to think that everyone cares deeply about our firm’s standards, procedures and awards, but the don’t. All they really care about is their problem and how you are going to solve it. It’s a hard truth but if you embrace it, you will have a lot more success creating effective headlines (and entire websites).
Clear, on-message design
This one is a biggie. Too many times firms settle for sub-par design that is off-message, cluttered and/or has no strategy behind it. While Tommy down the street may have a copy of dreamweaver and only charge $3/hr. you’re most likely missing out on business that could be generated via a well thought out and designed website.
Clear, on-message web design means that the entire site has a defined message that is being delivered throughout the layout, color, typography and imagery. The design should help to not only build trust, but guide the eye, and increase conversions. Invest in design and it will pay you back several times over.
People do not want to think too much. It’s unfortunate, but you have to meet them where they are at. Let’s face it, people are busy, they don’t have time to hunt around your site for an hour to find what they are looking for. Make sure that your site is designed to take the guesswork out of the equation. This goes along with having clear calls to action.
Having an incentive is critical. You need to have some sort of free valuable resource to give people. Simply asking for their information is not only pushy, but a little rude. Put yourself in the user’s shoes. If someone were to ask you for your contact info, you would want something of value in exchange. That’s what I mean by incentive. Give them a no-brainer reason to become a lead.
Create a free report, video, audio seminar or any other kind of digital resource and give it away for free. You will see your conversions start to go up quickly.
Unique Value Proposition
How are you different from your competitors? What makes you unique? These are really tough marketing questions that many firms wrestle with. Answering them and then forming a value proposition is key to high conversion.
Visitors need to know why you are different from the bazillions of other firms out there, and they need to know quickly. Give them what they want. Create your unique value proposition.
Balance of information
This one is tough and has a lot to do with what industry you are in or what your market expects. Finding the balance between too much and too little information is tricky. Having too much content can lead to overwhelm. When a user is faced with too much information and choice it can be, well, too much. They can shut down and simply leave out of confusion.
Having to little information can have an adverse affect as well. It can lead to confusion on the part of the user and they can leave as quickly as they showed up.
The key is to know your audience and to keep it simple. Run some user tests and see how your balance of information works. Then, add or remove as necessary. Try to err on to little info on the homepage. You want to limit the amount of options that the user has as this can lead to inaction and frustration.
Making it easy for your visitors to navigate your site is critical. An assumption that’s often made when it comes to navigation is that the user needs to see every possible option. Giving your users to many options can have an adverse effect and actually make navigating your website harder.
Keep your navigation simple and easy to find. Use a good amount of whitespace, or frame it in so that it stands out from the rest of the layout. It’s also a good idea to stick to conventions with a navigation system. You can be creative, but don’t overdo it. Getting to creative can create confusion.
Think about how your users are going to use your site. What are they looking for and how do you perceive that they are going to get there. Create user paths on a white board, scratch paper or with 3×5 index cards. These user paths help you to visualize the user flow of your site. This exercise can help you structure your site in a way that helps your users find what they need as well as meet your goals.
Finally, a site with no personality will not convert well. Unless you’ve hired the absolute best copywriter on the planet, you’re probably going to benefit from having some personality woven into your website.
Use images of people within your organization or images of happy clients. Breathe some life into your website through color and typography to engage your users. Doing so will build trust and aid in conversions.
Conversions are the name of the game on the web. If you’re looking to increase them on your website think about these 10 points and try to integrate them. Be sure to test after you’ve implemented your changes and measure your results. Keep adjusting until you get the results you’re looking for. Happy converting!
Wednesday, May 16th, 2012
In our world, we are constantly bombarded with choices. On the one hand, this is truly an amazing thing. No longer are we left searching for a solution to many of the problems that we face. Often, we have 1, 2, 3, or 10 different choices, all with their own slight twist on the solution. It’s great, if you are the consumer, and a huge challenge if you are a business.
The modern prospect has learned to tune out much of the advertising and marketing that is constantly vying for their attention. Can you blame them? You probably do it to.
So, with that said, what is the value or importance of a strong brand identity?
A strong brand identity helps you cut through the clutter
First and foremost, a strong visual identity helps your firm stand out from all of the noise in your industry and the marketplace at large. Without a unique identity, you are almost guaranteed have no perceivable difference to your prospects. Note that I said, “Perceivable”. You are most likely VERY different from most of your competitors, but many potential clients will not even notice you without a strong visual identify. You run a serious risk of just being one of many—and you know, that you are not.
Your identity acts as a gentle salesman
Being nagged is no fun. But we don’t like being reminded of things that we enjoy in a gentle way. Your identity is that gentle reminder. I’ll use my addiction to Starbucks as an example. Every time I see the Starbucks logo, I think about how nice it would be to get an Americano and sit out in the sun and read a great book. These positive feelings come to me and I am compelled to go in and purchase a drink.
Now, I have enough self control to not act on those feelings all the time, but I do many times. Essentially, the Starbucks identity is acting as a subtle salesman gently reminding me that if I want to have a great experience in my day, I can. All I have to do is go in and buy a drink!
I should warn you, however, people are reminded of whatever experience that they have by your identity. If you are making your clients angry, frustrated or leaving them feeling undervalued, then your brand identity will remind them of all those feelings. So, make sure that your business is creating real value for people, then enhance it with a powerful identity.
Your brand identity keeps you relevant
Many times having an identity refresh is an effective way to stay relevant to your marketplace. Especially if a cooler competitor is gaining market share. It can send a clear signal to the market that your firm is still alive, active and really wants to serve the market’s needs.
Don’t ever copy a competitor’s identity or style. It’s one thing to re-brand to stay relevant, but another to emulate your competition. Offer up a solid choice for your market and you will be head and shoulders above much of your competitors.
Cutting through the clutter of today’s over-stimulated culture is no easy task. A unique, well planned and executed brand identity can help you gain the attention of your prospects and keep the attention of your current clientele.
Looking to convert more visitors into leads on your website? Get the free report here.
Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
If you are in the professional services industry, you know that there are a million firms out there that basically do the same thing as you. You may be the best at your business, or at least one aspect of your business, but there are many other firms who claim to do the exact same thing that you do just as well. Some of these firms even have the audacity to offer the same service for lower fees. How dare they!
How can firms keep their head above water in a sea of competition?
The key is differentiation. And one great way to do this is via your website. The web is an excellent medium to define exactly what it is that you are all about. You’re able to speak with clarity and engage your potential clients on a deeper level than through any other medium.
Sadly, most professional service firms don’t take advantage of their #1 marketing tool. Many of them settle for off-the-shelf solutions with boilerplate copy. These sites all look and sound the same. They have the same calculators and tools.
They say nothing original or unique. This is a real shame.
Give people a reason to care
Another sad point is that visitors really don’t care all that much. At least, they don’t care about what you think they care about.
Here’s a list of what they don’t care about:
- Your dedication to customer service
- Your credentials
- Your awards
- Your technical resume
- Anything that they cannot understand
- Anything that confuses them
- Anything that does not relate directly to their problem (more…)
Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
In business, you’re concerned mainly with one thing: make money. That’s pretty much it. Of course, there are other things, like developing relationships, a sense of accomplishment and charting your own course. But, at the end of the day, you just want to make money. The more, the better!
How can design help us do just that—make more money?
Design can and does help businesses around the world make MUCH more money than they might have otherwise. Apple is a great example. It’s an overused example, but still a great one. What Apple did by focusing on design revolutionized not only their company, but the world. Steve Jobs is famous for saying,
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
That phrase sums it up nicely. Weather it’s a website, a car or an iMac, design helps to engage the user, create an emotional response, and guide the user as to what to do.
What does this mean for business on the web? It means that paying attention to the design of your site or app can be a tremendous help in your quest for profitability. The truth is, attractive people sell more, so do attractive websites. Attractive is just the start though. Design facilitates the user in taking an action after first convincing them that the site is trustworthy and relevant.
- Design can communicate directly to the needs and desires of your audience.
- Design can connect them to the products and services that you provide them.
- Design can build trust.
- Design can increase the number of clicks you get on your web ad
- Design can increase the number of subscribers you have
- Design can keep people on your page for a longer period of time
Now take this list and switch it to negatives. Bad design, or not enough attention to design, can have a negative impact on all of these things. There’s a good example here. They redesigned the web ads and got 35% more traffic. That’s a big deal.
Design is more than making things look pretty, although that’s part of it. Design makes things work, and work well. Investing in design is always a good decision. When your product, website, marketing materials or even your business card work well, you can make more money.
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
If your firm has a website, you most likely want your users to perform some kind of action that is in line with your business goals. That action could be to contact you, to fill out a registration form, to come to your premises, to purchase a product or to download a free report in exchange for their email address. Whatever the action, having clear calls to that action or CTA’s are vital in accomplishing your goals. They also give your user more control over their experience, generating some always welcome good will.
Do your users know what to do on every page of your site?
How often have you been reading something on a firm’s website or blog and come to the end only to find that you have no options. Granted, you could always scroll up to the main navigation and click around, but, let’s face it, we’re lazy, and so is everyone else! Many times your website visitors leave your site, not because they don’t like your firm or don’t think that you would be a good fit, they simply don’t know the next step. There is no clear call to action.
Calls to action are the solution.
As I have stated before, having a clear list of goals for your site is the first step. If you don’t have clear objectives for your site (i.e. increase inquiries through the website) you really are shooting in the dark. With a clear set of goals you can then craft calls to action that point your users to the very thing that you would like them to do. Prioritize your goals and have multiple calls to action if nessesary. Design your site so that higher priority CTA’s are more prominent allowing easy discovery by users. Also, having multiple calls to action can help you pair appropriate content with an appropriate CTA. For example, on your about page you may not want to have a CTA asking the user to leave a comment, however asking them to get in touch might be a perfect fit.
One last thing. Always think win-win with calls to action. Have a benefit for the user and your firm. This has the potential to increase conversions greatly. Give and you shall receive.
Now a real world example:
Want to know what’s in an effective website? Click here to find out.
Monday, November 7th, 2011
When potential clients are looking to hire a professional service firm, trust is the name of the game. More often than not, a prospect will use word of mouth to find a firm. This is where a sterling reputation comes in handy. However, when that prospect goes to look up your firm’s website, what will they see? How will they come away from that interaction with your brand? Will they trust your firm more or less than they did before they accessed your website?
Having thorough, interesting, and relative case studies can help build and reinforce that trust. (more…)
Monday, October 31st, 2011
For many professional service firms, their website and over all web presence has but one goal—generate leads. Fortunately, a website can be very good at accomplishing such a goal, usually at a lower cost per lead, if it is designed properly.
Give away something valuable
There are many ways to convert visitors into leads. One really effective way is to provide some sort of useful information product that addresses a specific problem for your visitors. Make it accessible only after the user has given you their contact details.
This information product can be in the form of a free report, an audio CD, a DVD, a video series or a podcast. The key is to make the information so valuable that your visitors are willing to give you their email address and perhaps other contact information in exchange for your product.
Advertise your own stuff
Have your information products “advertised” on your own site. Make sure that you have a compelling graphic that draws attention to it. Make sure that you let people know that it’s a free download as well. Doing so will give them more incentive to download the product and give you their contact details.
Around the clock lead generation
Now, when a visitor comes to your website, blog or landing page, they will see your advertisement for the valuable information product that solves their problem—and it’s free! They then go to download the product, give you their contact details and— BAM! — a lead is created. You now have permission to nurture and provide further value to these leads.
The great thing about a website is that this lead-generation process can be happening around the clock, without having to pay a sales team! Happy conversions!
Tuesday, October 18th, 2011
There’s a story that is becoming more common every year. It goes something like this: An organization (a ministry, bookstore, non-profit) sees a decline in members, customers, tithers, etc. and they can see the obvious problem needs to be addressed. Many times the quick answer is, “lets re-design the website. It must not be working. That’ll give us the shot in the arm that we need!”. Unfortunately, this often does not help the organization at all. And this is coming from someone who is a huge advocate for well planned and designed websites.
The truth is, a website is no silver bullet.
If your organization is on the decline, then there are other issues that you should look at first. Get those in order and then focus on your web presence.
While you may see an initial increase of visitors, donations, or inquiries when you launch a new website, the deep problems of your organization will still rear their ugly head eventually, and the results will most likely be short lived.
Here’s the bottom line (in my humble opinion). A great website can help an already amazing, productive, organized, effective ministry become even better. It can help them grow at a pace greater than they are already growing. Many times, organizations look to new marketing channels, like the web, to go from decline to growth, when a website is usually most effective when growth is already taking place.
If your organization is experiencing growth and progress (however marginal), investing in your online presence is one of the best things that you can do. If you are struggling and on the decline, an effective web presence can help, but only after the deeper internal issues are worked out.
Have you seen this to be true in your organization or with your clients? I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment below.