Why You Need a Website That Delights Your Audience

Why You Need a Website That Delights Your Audience

Without a doubt, your most powerful marketing tool, hands down, is your business website.

 

And, as you are probably well aware, some websites are designed better than others.

 

Have you ever visited a website and been disappointed? Or worse, tried to visit a website that failed to load within a few seconds?

 

Of course you have. We all have. And, more likely than not, you have probably moved on.

 

Their loss…or maybe it’s your loss.

 

The simple truth is that every business needs a website that wows its visitors.

 

In a nutshell, your business website can either:

  1. Help you stand out from your competitors or
  2. Drive people directly to your competitors.

 

These days, savvy business owners must consider the fact that their audience seeks more than just a place to go online to purchase products and/or services. Instead, they crave a unique and highly visual online experience that entices and delights them.

 

And this is where good website design comes in.

Here are 3 good reasons why you need a business website that “wows” your visitors

1. You only have one chance to make a first impression – so make it count!

Website visitors often decide whether they want to do business with you within a fraction of a second, based on how they perceive your site. They may not even be aware they are judging you.

 

In her article for Design Shack, Carrie Cousins says the following about the importance of visually pleasing website design schemes:

The visuals that will grab the most attention the quickest include a strong image or illustration, sharp contrast or something unusual on the screen, and a phrase or wording that is memorable.

 

The better “first impression” you give, the more likely your visitors are to stay and/or return to your website. Good website design definitely makes a difference when it comes to attracting and retaining potential clients.

2. Your business website is a direct reflection of YOU

Along with that all-important first impression a website gives to its visitors, your website design also gives them an idea (perceived or realistic) of how you conduct business. For example, shoddy web design may inadvertently give your visitors the impression that your products and/or services are also inferior or low quality.

 

On the other hand, a well-designed business website can go a long way towards building trust. And trust is a big factor in sales. An organized website with a strong visual component creates a sense of legitimacy for you and your business.

 

As I mentioned above, your business’ website is also your most powerful marketing tool. Consider a good design as yet another way you can successfully stand out from your competition.

3. Your website is an essential component of your business branding

As well as being a valuable marketing tool, your business website also serves to promote your brand. Brand exposure is valuable for all businesses, of course. However, it’s especially important for new business owners and/or startups that need to establish a positive reputation from the get-go.

What are my options for building the best business website?

Now that you understand why you need a well-designed business website, you are ready for the next step: building one.

 

You’re going to find that there are dozens of website builder platforms and sites currently available.

 

Perhaps you’re strapped for time, or design isn’t your strong suit? Many startups and new entrepreneurs find that it’s easier to hire someone else who has the time and the talent.

 

Unless you personally know or have received a trusted referral for a web designer, consider us to help you with all of your web design needs without breaking the bank.

 

On the other hand, if you are more of a “do-it-yourself” type, you’ll find many affordable options as well.

 

There are some do-it-yourself options for building websites are:

  1. Wix
  2. SquareSpace
  3. GoDaddy

 

Regardless of who designs your business website, these are some of the primary design aspects you should consider when designing your business website:

  • Logo and branding
  • Simple typography that is easy to read
  • Defined color palette
  • Easy user interface tools and elements that work in intuitive ways
  • Navigation that moves users through the site
  • Strong images that showcase your brand
  • Concise and targeted copy
  • Easy to understand calls-to-action
  • Your brand story told in a way that connects with users
  • Modern design techniques and interface

Source: Design Shack

 

Along with a strong design, websites today must be mobile-friendly, aka responsive. Google is now penalizing sites that are not mobile-friendly, which means if you are not and your competitor is, they will rank ahead of you. Site speed is important too. Please be sure to ask anyone working on your website about responsiveness and site speed – any designer worth their money will answer those with no issue.

 

Are you in the process of designing or redesigning your business website? Do you agree that a well-designed website is critical for successful online marketing? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

 

If you are looking to have a new website rebuilt or are just starting and need one, visit our website design page and contact us to get started!

Digital Marketing Strategy

Digital Marketing Strategy 101 for Boring Brands

Over the past decade, and especially within the last five years or so, digital marketing has more or less infiltrated every area of our lives. Online advertising has evolved in leaps and bounds thanks to the internet and social media platforms.

You’re unlikely to escape the sponsored ads on Facebook, promoted tweets on Twitter, or those pesky popups on websites you like to visit – and everywhere else in between. We can thank the latest and greatest digital marketing plugins and algorithms (and other technical things, such as tracking pixels, which I won’t even pretend to understand).

Regardless of whether you consider current digital marketing techniques to be effective or “creepy/stalkerish,” many brands are finding success with using them.

In a recent article for TopRank Marketing’s blog, Ashley Zeckman pinpoints three attributes of a successful digital marketing strategy:

  1. Authoritative (having or showing impressive knowledge about a subject – Merriam-Webster)
  2. Credible (able to be believed – Merriam-Webster)
  3. Trustworthy (able to be relied on to do or provide what is needed or right – Merriam-Webster)

Sounds simple enough, right?

Sure, but how can I apply these digital marketing strategy attributes to my essential, but boring brand?

First of all, let’s determine what type of brand might fall into the “boring brand” category. These are brands that also want to creatively market their products, such as those for feminine hygiene, or medication for hemorrhoids, toilet paper, or auto insurance, for a few examples. You know, mundane things people don’t typically talk about in their everyday conversations.

And so, in a nutshell, the marketers for boring brands are tasked with creating and promoting brand awareness, starting conversations about and ultimately driving sales for these necessary, yet “blah” things – but for their brands.

For some time now marketers for this unique niche of brands are often left scratching their heads in the past when it comes to developing effective digital marketing strategies. They may be wondering, is it really necessary to “reinvent the wheel” just to gain more attention on the internet?

The short answer is, “yes.” Although many of us have become accustomed to seeing ads for these boring brands on television or hearing them on the radio, there is an entirely new and growing audience online. In my opinion, it’s just a matter of time before we fully embrace ads and other content for the so-called “boring brands” on the internet as well.

One issue the marketers or boring brands face is determining why their products and/or services don’t seem as easy to promote with the digital marketing tactics currently working for those not so “ho-hum” brands and how to work around it. The good news is that even though it may seem difficult to attract and retain an audience, it certainly isn’t impossible.

Scott Ayres has written an inspirational post for boring brands of all sizes for Post Planner, a social media engagement app. The post, which is titled, “36 No-brainer Social Media Tips for Boring Brands & Products,” provides an excellent list and resource guide that is perfect for creating content to use on social platforms or anywhere online.

Here are a few of Ayres’ tips you may wish to consider as you begin creating a digital marketing strategy for your own “boring brand”

  • Don’t be “salesy” — The 70/20/10 formula for content is ideal! This includes 70% informative, 20% other people’s posts, and 10% sales
  • Be personable — people want to see the personal side of your brand, and also use humor if appropriate
  • Share customer reviews/testimonials – potential clients often trust what others say about you and your brand
  • Create and share “How to” content related to your product or service through blogs, video or social media
  • Share posts from “experts” in your brand’s niche or industry

How real “boring brands” are finding real ways to reach their online audiences through digital marketing

As I have seen in my own experience there is truly no one-size-fits-all digital marketing strategy for any type of brand. There is a lot of essential research, testing, and trial and error involved in achieving success online.

However, there are several brands of various sizes and within different industries that are seeing positive results.

Here are a few examples:

1.  Charmin

Regardless of who you are, you probably (hopefully!) use toilet paper. It’s one of those essential, yet mundane products I referred to above with few marketable qualities.

In 2014, Charmin drummed up brand awareness when they launched a hugely successful social media campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #tweetfromtheseat. The tweets prompted interaction with the followers and provided some humor for the brand’s followers.

 

 

2.  General Electric

Although most B2B companies have had mixed results with their digital marketing efforts, General Electric (GE) has successfully boosted their brand using social media and other online marketing platforms.

One surprising platform where they have excelled in introducing their industrial products to a mainstream social media audience is Pinterest. Pinterest is still a widely popular visual platform. As of 6/8/16, Pinterest has 100 million active users according to Expanded Ramblings.

As for GE, Gina Hutchings says the following in her post for digital marketing site Receptional:

As a visual medium GE set up a ‘Badass Machines’ account to share images of not just their own work but also amazing innovations worldwide. The whole portal of the page is that ‘engineering is cool’ it’s new and exciting and something you would want to be part of.

 

3.  The Zebra

Car insurance is yet another one of those essential items people need. When it comes to gaining brand awareness it’s typically not an industry that attracts loyal online audiences by using the digital marketing strategy and techniques that work for more common consumer products.

The Zebra has taken steps to set themselves apart from some of the other car insurance providers online. As a startup in 2013, The Zebra’s goal was to be the “Kayak for auto insurance,” by aggregating quotes to provide car insurance shoppers with the best options. Consumers are also able to do this comparison shopping anonymously and without any obligation.

One unique way The Zebra is boosting its digital marketing strategy to attract the everyday, mainstream consumer is through providing free car insurance advice on demand through their website. Their page, “Ask an Agent,” promises fast, accurate, trustworthy – and 100% free – expert answers and tips from licensed and experienced insurance agents.

 

Zebra Ask an Agent

 

Which digital marketing techniques do you see working well for “boring brands”? What are other examples boring brands you think have been successful online? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

 

How to Start an Ecommerce Business: 6 Easy Tips

For most of my life, I have dreamed of being a business owner. I grew up in a small town where the single location, “mom and pop” stores were the norm.

As a young girl, I went back and forth between wanting to run my own clothing store versus my own book store. Although my town had a few of these niche-type shops and a couple of department stores already, I still held onto my dream for many years.

But then I graduated from high school, went off to college, and have lived in larger towns ever since.

However, even in my small hometown, the entire concept of shopping has changed dramatically over the past two decades. The town I grew up in now boasts a “super” Walmart and a Kohl’s store, for example. I’m glad that some of the original independent stores continue thriving though.

In today’s hustle and bustle world of franchises and mega-stores, the small, family-owned businesses seem to have become more of an exception than not.

There is also the ever-growing popularity of online shopping, which is yet another form of competition that many small business owners find they must now contend with. People no longer have to leave their homes at all to buy almost anything they want or need. And online shopping continuously becomes more sophisticated and convenient in order to keep up with consumer demand.

How about you – are you a startup or small business owner with products and/or solutions to sell?

If so, there has never been a better time to consider starting your own ecommerce business, especially if you want to reach consumers who are outside your local bubble.

Here are a few things to consider when starting an ecommerce business

In a recent article for Entrepreneur, The Top 5 Reasons You Should Start an Ecommerce Business, Thomas Smale explains why now is the “right” time:

  1. Worldwide, ecommerce is expected to grow by as much as 13 to 25 percent (forecasting $1.6 trillion in profits for online merchants this year, and $2.5 trillion in profits by 2018).
  2. The ability to earn as you sleep (Time zones are no longer a factor – your shop is open 24/7/365).
  3. It’s easy to get up and running (I talk about this more below).
  4. Eighty percent of the web population has made a purchase online.
  5. You can sell more to customers down the line.

If you’re new to the concept of ecommerce, you may feel initially overwhelmed by all the options out there.

However, once you choose an ecommerce platform, you’ll find that most online storefront builders provide all the resources and tools you need. Most of them will walk you through, step-by-step. This helps you to set up your shop and start selling online quickly and easily.

From the giant ecommerce sites such as Amazon and eBay, to smaller, niche online storefront builder/platforms such as Spaces, there is a site for all types of budding ecommerce business.

How to start an ecommerce business: 6 easy tips to help you plan out the basics

I found a helpful post on the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) website about starting a successful ecommerce business.

The author of the post, Caron Beesley, obtained advice from real business owners who have hands-on experience and first-hand knowledge.

Here is a list of the easy tips and helpful hints they provide for starting your own ecommerce business:

  1. Decide what you want to do and define your niche

Knowing what you are going to sell, how, and to whom is a critical part of your business plan.

  1. Have a plan

Just like any other aspect of sales and marketing, you must start with a strong foundation – i.e., a plan – from the get-go.

A plan provides you with the goals and focus you need, as well as a budget to work with. As well, having a plan allows you to anticipate and be prepared for all situations – positive and negative – that may arise.

  1. Fund your business at a low cost

Fortunately, most ecommerce builders and platforms let you get started at a low cost. Some even let you start for free.

That way, if you decide that an ecommerce business is more complicated or time-consuming for you to maintain, you won’t lose much money.

  1. Build a website

Just like having an attractive and findable website is important for your other inbound marketing activities, it is essential that you have one for your ecommerce activities as well.

Your website is where your potential customers can learn more about you and your products as they begin researching and making their purchasing decisions.

  1. Drive traffic to your site

Having a great website is not enough these days, especially when you’re building an ecommerce business. In order for people to find you online, you must also implement SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques such as regular blogging and making good keyword choices for your evergreen content.

Being active and engaged on social media is also essential. Social media platforms allow you to have online conversations and develop relationships with current and potential consumers.

When your ecommerce business is more established, social media can provide great opportunities for you to reward loyal customers (with coupons or special sale notifications), as well as provide customer service. These help with customer retention and a good reputation for your ecommerce business.

  1. Don’t forget to follow the “rules of the road”

In other words, make sure you read and fully understand all of the terms and conditions for the ecommerce platform you choose to go with. And, just like starting a brick and mortar business, you will also want to follow all the legal steps involved in starting an ecommerce business.

The SBA provides information for starting a business here.

They also provide a thorough guide and checklist for entrepreneurs who are specifically interested in starting an ecommerce business here.

 

Are you in the process of starting your own ecommerce business or have you considered it? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to leave a comment below.

5 Easy Ideas for Creating Content Your Audience Craves

5 Easy Ideas for Creating Content Your Audience Craves

Are you responsible for creating and publishing the content for your business’ website and/or social media pages? If so, then you already know that creating content for your specific audience involves time and commitment – not to mention a reasonable amount of creativity.

As I mentioned in a post from earlier this year, content marketing should be a top priority for your company by now – if it isn’t already. The percentages of businesses that are experiencing success from their content marketing strategies has increased dramatically over the past couple of years.

Creating content that prompts engagement and builds loyalty within your audience is not always easy. For starters, content creation requires research, strategy, and skill…not to mention trial and error, with a good dose of frustration mixed in.

However, once you get past all those necessary activities that help you eventually determine the content your audience really wants, you can then focus on creating the content that wows and wins them over.

Here are 5 ideas for easily creating content your audience craves

1) Provide them with what they need most – value and education

Regardless of your business’ industry or geography, there is really one main thing your audience wants more than anything else: valuable information.

In his recent article for todaymade.com, Garrett Moon suggests aggregating information as a useful way of creating content that provides value to your audience. Moon says the following:

Job listings, or important upcoming events surrounding a certain industry can be aggregated using a single Twitter feed or Facebook page. Your audience will value your effort in collecting and organizing content that matters to them. This one is very easy, but you will have to stay at it in order to build a reputation of trust.

2) Infographics

As Mandy Edwards pointed out in one of her recent posts, infographics are useful for condensing and displaying information and data into a visually pleasing format. Infographics convert your numbers and stats into stunning visual content. As well, they grab your audience’s attention because they are often quicker to read and easier to absorb than some blog posts.

On the flip side, quality infographics can also benefit you. As noted by Victor Ijidola in his recent article for The Next Web, infographics are effective for increasing traffic to your website and are powerful in regards to SEO.

3) Lists

Writing a list post is another easy way of creating content. Lists allow you to give your audience the valuable information they crave in an easy-to-read format.

For example, you might consider compiling a list of trustworthy, industry-relevant tools that you know your target market can use. Another idea is putting a list of resources together that your audience can bookmark for future reference.

The possibilities are endless for the types of lists you can create, and your audience will appreciate them, too.

4) Interviews

Take the initiative and reach out to influential and knowledgeable audience members and your current clients. Chances are good that they are more than willing to share their expertise with others in your industry.

As Ann Smarty suggests in her article for Tweak Your Biz, “Ask the Right Questions: Creating Awesome Blog Content by Interviewing Others,” ask questions that provide thought provoking answers, or which give you a glimpse into the expert. Include those questions, along with the industry specific ones that will inevitably be a part of the list.

In this same article, Smarty suggests that you offer other members in your audience the opportunity to submit questions for the interview. This option can certainly drive engagement and help get more of your audience involved.

5) Create original content by using your own photos, images, and videos

Brett Relander provides the following impressive stats about visual content marketing in his recent article for Launch & Hustle:

  • Tweets with images or photos can generate as much as 150 percent more retweets than those posts without images, according to research from Buffer.
  • When it comes to Facebook, posts with photos generated the most action, an impressive 87 percent of total interactions, as reported by eMarketer.

Online design tools such as Canva make creating attractive and unique visual content easy, even for people who are not designers by nature.

Creating, editing, and sharing videos has also become easier (and more affordable) than ever with apps such Windows Movie Maker, Magisto Video Editor & Maker, and WeVideo.

Over to you

Are you creating content that attracts your audience and keeps them coming back for more? What types of content drives engagement for your business? I would love to hear what works for you – please feel free to leave a comment below.

How to Ace Business Travel like a Pro

How to Ace Business Travel like a Pro

Whether you’re a solopreneur, work for a major corporation, or fall somewhere in between, there is always a good possibility that you’ll travel for business purposes. Although a lot of business is conducted virtually and online in our modern society, face-to-face meetings are often invaluable for developing and maintaining solid business relationships.

Business travel slowed in the U.S. during 2015 due to a variety of economic uncertainties. However, the percentage of people traveling, at least for domestic business travel in the U.S., has picked up somewhat in 2016 so far.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), which is the world’s premier business travel and meetings organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. area with operations on six continents, has been keeping tabs on multiple statistics which impact the rates of business travel. Most notable is the lower cost of airfare due to the plunge in oil prices earlier this year. As a result, the GBTA anticipates the overall increase in travel spend for 2016 to be around 3.7% in the U.S. They have forecasted an even more significant increase in global business travel spend over 2015.

The time and current economic situation are conducive for business travel. Get ready to pack up your laptop and/or tablet, appropriate business attire, and smartphones and travel like a pro.

Here are suggestions to make business travel less stressful and more efficient

There’s little doubt that business travel can feel overwhelming, especially when you are a new or infrequent traveler. Planning ahead will help you feel more prepared and less stressed.

In her article for U.S. News, Sienna Kossman shares a variety of useful tips for efficient and stress-free business travel. Her post provides a helpful, basic resource that you may find helpful as well. Consider these tips as you start planning your own trip.

Here are a few of Kossman’s pro tips for business travel:

  1. If you’re planning to be on the go regularly or need to be able to leave at a moment’s notice, make sure to keep essentials packed at all times. This includes toiletries and charging cables, for example.
  2. Remember to pack leisure clothing items. You probably won’t be in meetings for your entire trip so make sure you have comfortable clothes and shoes for sightseeing, going out on the town, etc.
  3. Avoid checking bags. You’ll save time and money when you pack what you need in a carry-on.
  4. Sign up for frequent traveler programs. These types of services will save you a lot of time and hassle since they allow pre-approved travelers to bypass traditional security checks.
  5. Make sure you have all the documents you need for travel (i.e., driver’s license, tickets, passport, etc.) and that you’re able to quickly access them. This will help further reduce the time you spend waiting in line at the airport.

As I mentioned above, all business travel involves planning ahead as much as possible. It can make all the difference between having an experience that is enjoyable or downright regrettable. There are two primary aspects of business travel which especially require diligent planning: packing and securing accommodations.

Here are recommendations for packing properly and finding affordable accommodations like a pro:

What to pack for business travel

Decide what absolutely needs to be packed, what can be left behind, and what can be bought when you arrive at your destination. Packing for a business trip is much different than for a family vacation. For business travel, efficiency is key.

TripCase, an itinerary management travel app, shares an excellent business trip packing checklist on their blog titled, “Packing List For A Stress-Free Business Trip.” As the author of this post points out,

Preparedness and planning are you(r) best weapons. With a well thought out, but simple plan of attack, it’s easy to avoid a large number of the plights and pitfalls that many travelers fall victim to.

The author recommends coming up with a handful of categories as a way of organizing your business travel packing:

Your attire

  • What is the dress code?
  • Will you need a versatile wardrobe?
  • How long are you going to be there?
  • What is the weather going to be like at your destination?
  • Have an extra outfit for each function at the ready, just in case.

Work-related items

  • Printed handouts
  • Business cards
  • Pens and a notebook
  • Laptop, mouse, and charger (or tablet(s) and charger)

Electronics and entertainment

  • Chargers
  • Power adaptors
  • Books for fun reading
  • Phone accessories

Choosing a place to stay

In some cases, the company you work for chooses where you’ll stay when you’re traveling for them. However, when you’re an entrepreneur or small business owner, for example, you are most likely responsible for your own accommodations. Ideally, you want to find a safe, comfortable place to relax at the end of the day without spending a small fortune.

For short stays, you can go online and easily find discounted corporate rates for business travelers, either using travel sites or through specific hotels’ websites.

Kristina Portillo, the founder of the Business Travel Life website, shares useful tips for accessing corporate hotel rates as a small business owner on her blog post, “How to Get Corporate Hotel Rates.”

Portillo’s tips include the following:

  • Do not make your reservation using the 800 number
  • Request a corporate rate if you are doing business with a local company
  • Ask for an unofficial corporate rate
  • Do not approach a busy check-in desk
  • Ask for a non-refundable rate

Some business trips require you to stay for an extended period of time. Fortunately, there are many affordable and comfortable extended stay options to choose from. Whether you’re seeking a simple place to stay with a small kitchen and real “dishes,” or a furnished home or apartment – or something in between – there are many different types of accommodations available.

Here are a few ideas for extended stay business travelers:

Although planning for business travel requires a good amount of time and patience, it will be completely worthwhile when you successfully arrive at your destination. You’ll have time to focus on your business needs and be more productive with your work, rather than worrying about lost luggage, unsatisfactory accommodations or botched reservations.

What are other tips do you have for efficient and stress-free business travel? I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions – please feel free to leave a comment below.

Send this to a friend