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design & marketing blog

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

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

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.

Great Branding

January 3rd, 2012

I wanted to share this phenomenal branding video from my friends at Infuze Marketing in Sacramento. While I have to admit I’m biased in my fondness for Infuze Marketing, this truly is one of the best branding videos I’ve ever seen especially considering the relatively small market. Great job Infuze!

Using Conformity to Communicate The Uniquness of Your Company

August 8th, 2011
Baker Tilly Email Design

A great example of the the principles of consistency and conformity is the email template we designed for Baker Tilly. Compare the email design with the graphic identity of their existing Website.

Seth Godin’s blog posts are always profound, but his most recent post Bypassing the Leap is especially relevant to the services we provide. The gist of his post is that most of the time creativity is the act of reinterpreting and reassembling elements that are already well accepted and proven to work.

Effective branding and design services are based from this same perspective. While it may sound contradictory, quality creative products are almost always intentionally designed to conform within well established boundaries.

No matter how unique of graphic identity a corporation has, you’ll find the logo almost always in the upper left and the main site navigation in one of two locations. This is staying within the proven boundaries of usability. When Fortune 500 corporations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop their branding and identity all marketing publications will almost always have identical colors, layout and typeface. This is adhering to the core principle of graphic design—consistency. Corporations conform to the principles of usability and consistency because they know they’re the most effective way to communicate a credible message and the most effective way to persuade their customers to action.

Embracing conformity to communicate uniqueness is really the secret of success when it comes to marketing communication and application design. 

Many small and mid-sized companies don’t get this. Have you ever found a Website through Google that you thought might be a good solution for a need only to have second thoughts when their Website design looked dated, amateur or unclear?  No matter how unique and appealing their solution may be, if their graphic design and usability do not establish unwavering credibility you’re likely to just head back to Google to search for an alternative.

Small and mid-sized companies have a great opportunity to level the playing field against even massive competitors by communicating their unique value message by conforming to already accepted and proven principles.

Does your marketing communication produce credibility or doubt? Ask ten people outside your organization that you can trust to give you honest opinions about their impressions of your Website, emails or other marketing material. If you need an objective professional opinion let us know. The one thing you’ll get is honesty and there’s no obligation. If you do decide for yourself that your identity needs a makeover we provide consulting as well as in-house development and design services. You can call us at 866.770.7967 or through our online form.

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