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Straightforward design, marketing, and technical advice for making your marketing communications more effective.

CMS Made Simple Admin User Tutorial

September 12th, 2012

CMS Made Simple Admin Overview Tutorial from Doug Case on Vimeo.

Website Content 101

September 7th, 2012

The content of your Web site is crucial and should be developed to quickly answer the basic questions and needs of your specific target visitors. Research shows that you only have a few seconds to entice your visitors to stay so it’s vital that you present obvious choices for them to find the information they need. In addition clear and compelling navigation options need to be present that allow your visitors to easily recognize where they should click to proceed through the sales/information process.

If your visitors become confused about what your site is about or how it applies to them, they are likely to just leave and look elsewhere. The goal of your front page is to allow visitors to qualify themselves as prospects for your business or organization and to proceed through the sales process by accepting a call to action that you offer. Call to actions can include purchasing online, contacting you for an appointment, subscribing to your newsletter/blog or whatever the specific next step is in your sales process.

The Essential Questions Visitors to Your Site Will Need Answered:

  • What do you do? One of the most common mistakes that sites make is not being clear on exactly what they are providing. The more complex of solution you offer the more important it is to provide this answer in easy-to-understand language. The essence of what you do should be the basis of your organization’s mission statement, but answering the “What you do” question will also include the specific products or services  you’re offering.
  • Why you do it? This is related to an organization’s vision statement but needs to be expressed in concise language free from industry jargon. Telling visitors “why you do it” is a means of establishing credibility and positioning yourself as an expert adviser for recommending a solution to their needs.
  • Why are you the best choice? This question is the most vital for new prospects and should be answered by your unique value proposition. Your unique value proposition is simply a concise statement of how you
    meet their need better than anyone else
    .  In addition to stating your unique value, you need to back it up with real-life examples. The most effective support will be testimonials, portfolio’s of your past work, and third party reviews or endorsements if available.
  • What can I do? This is the question you want most asked because it means your visitor is satisfied (or at least intrigued) with the answers to their first three questions. They are asking how to proceed through your sales process. This doesn’t mean they’re necessarily ready to buy, but they’re willing to take a step closer. Your site needs to present unambiguous action items for your customers to answer their question of “What can I do?” by providing conspicuous “call to action” links in the body of your front page and the navigation menu.

How To Provide the Answers

Here are a few key principles for answering your visitors’ questions :

  1. Be concise. Paragraphs of text on your front page will bury the answers to your visitors’ questions and result in a high abandon rate. Your front page, and navigation bar, should be thought of as a map that clearly directs people to more detailed information on the destination of their choice, without them having to think twice about their choices. While, supporting pages will provide more detailed answers the still must avoid verbosity to be effective.
  2. Communicate in layman’s terms and avoid your industry’s jargon. Realize that much of the internal language your organization uses may have no relevance for your visitors.
  3. Provide clear call-to-action choices for all types of visitors. The fundamental questions presented above provide answers for newly aware prospects through “trial” or first-time buyers. If you anticipate clients, customers with an ongoing relationship with your organization, to be frequent visitors you need to accommodate the needs of these visitors. Other visitor types can include press, investors or employers. The answers to each type of visitor questions need to be presented in proportion to the importance they have towards achieving the overall goals of your site.

See also: It’s Easy to Spot Amateur Copy

Google Explains SEO

August 16th, 2012

If you watch this very short video from Google and believe what they’re saying, you will catapult yourself into an elite group of  people who actually understand the “secret” of SEO.

I emphasize the word believe because I’ve learned from years of Web development that many people persist with a misconception that SEO success is determined primarily by how that site is coded, even when they’ve been enlightened with the truth. Many, if not most, people think that there is some method by which a developer can arrange the code on their site to make a big impact on their SEO. We get inquiries all the time from people who are looking for someone to take their existing site and have it recoded so the same content is listed higher in Google.

That’s simply not how it works.

As stated in this video from Google, “First and foremost we [Google] care about content.”  Not to go down another wrong path, this does not mean Google is looking for some special arrangement of content and keyword stuffed pages. What they are ultimately looking for is content that is unique and truly valuable to your target visitors. By no coincidence, that’s what real people are looking for too.

To be clear, there is still a place for proper coding (on-site SEO) . . . but it is not the driving force behind the overall success or failure of your Website’s SEO.

How long do you want to be in business?

August 14th, 2012

How many business leaders plan on sacrificing so much of their life for a business that sticks around for a decade or two? Assuming the answer to this rhetorical question to be “few if any,” then another question is begged: Why is the shelf life of most companies so short?

The best place to look is on the opposite end of the spectrum, to those companies who have created a legacy. I’ve been fascinated by this topic especially since recently becoming an adoring fan of Fiskars, a company founded in 1649 and on the cutting edge today of customer evangelism marketing utilizing social media.

Weihenstephan Brewery

Founded 1040

So maybe a better question to ask is, “Why  are old companies are still around?” Starting with the extreme relics like Kongo Gumi, (the Japanese construction company who was in continual operation from the year 578 until January of 2006) there is a treasure of insight available that we can directly apply to the business environment today. I’m no business history expert, but I am smart enough to deduce that most of these companies are going to be found very strong in two important suits: 1)Exploiting environmental change, and 2)Exemplifying the marketing concept.  Inversely we can deduce that most companies, the ones with short shelf lives, are probably vulnerable to environmental change and don’t adequately embrace the marketing concept.

Here’s what makes this topic so provocative todayas you may be aware we’ve just stepped into a period of radical revolution that will be destroying the status quo of how business interacts with society through social media and  mobile devices.

So what’s the average business to do? Fight the trend?  Stick to the old ways that have worked (or at least kept one’s head above water) and hope it all goes away? It all depends on how you answered the question of “How long do you want to be in business?”  My brash prediction is that companies, large and small, who do not undergo an extreme
makeover and embrace the paradigm shifts of customer facing social media and mobile marketing platforms will cease to exist, sooner or later within the 21st century. For context to my position please see our perfect storm analogy.

As we continue to progress this new era, it’s a prudent tactic to take some time and study those organizations that have weathered and prospered from these storms of change time and time againa truly fascinating  and timely study.  Here’s a list of the world’s oldest companies for those interested.

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