Are You Missing These Website Basics?

One of the things that always surprises me when I am asked to assess a company’s website is how often they have missed the basics when it comes to effectively marketing their company and ensuring a positive brand and user experience.

Is your website doing everything it can to drive interest in your products and services and generate leads for your salespeople? To find out if your website could be working harder for your business, ask yourself these four simple questions.

Does your navigation lead to a clear destination or to user frustration?

Website navigation has several key functions. It should:

  • Help visitors easily get to the information they are looking for from any page on your site
  • Entice and drive prospects into the pages you want them to view so they can take the action you want them to take
  • Reflect your company’s personality and style

The most important thing to remember is, I came to your site because I’m looking for something, so don’t make me go on a treasure hunt for it. It’s okay to use a clever naming convention for your navigation to reflect your individual style (For example, using the term “Our Stuff” instead of “Portfolio”) as long as it is still reasonably clear to your web visitor what they can expect to find when they click on those links. There’s a fine line between “clever and clear” and “clever and no clue”...so always err on the side of clarity.

Your site may be nice looking, but does it have personality?

Every element on your website leaves an impression. Your site should reflect your brand personality not only in the images you chose, but in what you say and how you say it. If you are telling the same story in the same way as every other company in your industry or category, you’re not going to convince me that you are, “the one.” What I most want to know when I come to your website is what makes you different than all the rest? If you can quickly show me why I should do business with you versus the other six companies I’ve researched, you’ve got my interest. Reinforce that with statistics, testimonials and other solid factual evidence and we’ll walk off into the sunset hand-in-hand.

You’re leading visitors to your website, but are you making them click?

Do visitors understand who you are and what you have to offer when they land on your home page? If your home page content is not clear, concise and engaging, your prospect is not going to click any deeper. We web surfers are a shallow lot and unless we are immediately engaged with what you have to say, we will be gone looking for another more meaningful relationship. So don’t just present your information to us, sell us. Make us want to buy what you have to offer. Understand the problem you are solving for your customers and present the solution with a clear call to action.

Are you capturing potential leads or letting them get away?

What mechanism do you have on your website to encourage your prospects to give you their email address? Sorry, the “Contact Us” form doesn’t count. I might be a prospect who is legitimately interested in your product or service, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to initiate a “sales call.” If you aren’t encouraging me to give you my email address to get more information, you are missing out on an opportunity to engage with me and take me through the sales cycle. Create a white paper, a downloadable brochure or some other goodie you give the prospect in exchange for an email address. When you provide something valuable, you’ll get something valuable in return, an opportunity to connect with an interested prospect.

Building a Marketing Team? Five Key Things to Instill in Your Staff.

I’ve hired and mentored several marketing teams for various size companies over the years, which is information I often share with my clients in one of our first meetings when we are discussing WGI’s capabilities. To my surprise, several of those clients have come back to me later on to request advice on a particular marketing management situation or to learn more about the steps in building an effective marketing department.

As with any “building” project, I recommend they start by laying a solid foundation. What are the key values and ideals you can instill in your staff that will make them strong enough to meet every goal, overcome every challenge and face every situation they encounter with confidence and aplomb? Here are five key things that one of my former marketing managers recently told me she learned from me that made all the difference…

1. What It Means to be on a "Team.”

You’re not alone. Good or bad, we’re all in this together. That’s why teammates need to help each other, support each other and always be willing to fill in the gaps for each other. At some point, everyone on the team will need someone else to help them pick up the slack. That’s how it works.

2. A Good Boss Always has Your Back

A good boss always tries to understand your particular situation and see things from your perspective before advising you on next steps. They never make you feel "judged" or isolated. They don’t jump to conclusions. They constantly go to bat for your ideas, because they believe in you and want you to succeed.

3. Keep Your Perspective.

No one is perfect. We are still learning and growing at every stage of our career and getting feedback on your work is essential to helping you evolve as an individual and professional. Constructive criticism should never be taken personally; on the contrary every project should be looked at as a collaborative effort. Two brains are always better than one and creative work is always stronger when people put their heads together.

4. Creativity is King.

Always, always be creative. No idea is a bad idea. Think outside the box. Then draw another box around that and think outside of that one too.

5. Be Confident.

Use your voice. Stand up for what you believe in. Don't be intimidated by others, or the opinions of others. Don't let a strong personality strike you down or hold you back. Don't hide an idea from a room full of people who may see things differently than you. If you have an idea, you should voice it, and if someone doesn't like it...well, what's the worst that’s going to happen? At least you had an idea!

The Do's and Don'ts of Hiring Freelance Marketing Help

Hiring dont's.jpg

Many of our clients come to us for the first time when they are not getting the results they had hoped for from their marketing efforts. We work with them to find out where they went wrong. Over the years we’ve discovered that the biggest mistake most businesses make when it comes to marketing is how they go about choosing the person (or people) to lead their marketing and branding efforts.

Take a lesson from what some businesses have learned the hard way. If you’re ready to hire professional marketing help…try to avoid these “hiring don’ts”…

DON’T…

Take a chance on your brother-in-law’s ex-girl friend who used to do a little writing in college

What’s that? She created her own Facebook page and is super creative. Uh huh…

Recruit a first year college student in a design or marketing program

There’s a reason why college students are still in school. They don’t know all the ropes yet and they don’t have any real experience working with clients. If you need an intern, hire a smart college student. It you need a marketing professional…well, you know where this is going.

Browse Craigslist

Remember the Craigslist serial killer? Have we learned nothing?

Bid for a freelancer on an "auction" website

Ever see a doctor auctioning off her services online? Is this how you would choose a tax attorney? We know you want the best marketing and creative talent at the most reasonable cost…but you’re not buying farm animals here. Real talent and expertise should be valued but that doesn’t mean you can’t find someone to get the job done well without selling a kidney.

Try to do all the work yourself

We know on the surface, marketing doesn’t seem all that complicated. We’ve all had 7th grade English and even grandma uses PhotoShop now. You might be thinking...“Why couldn’t we just “Tweet” or “Pin” our story? How difficult can it be to write a 140 character message?” This is not sound thinking, not at all. Just because there are more marketing tools readily available to everyone doesn’t mean everyone knows how to use them effectively. It’s true, anyone can do marketing (see grandma comment above)…but only some can do it really well. Hire those people.

Hire an agency that has a lot of initials in its name

Can you say, Cah-ching? One word for you – overhead, and over head will cost you. When you hire a fancy schmancy agency, you are not only paying for the talent, you’re paying for the lights, rent, landscaper, medical plan and that sign on the front of the building with all those initials. Why pay for things that don’t really solve your problem?

The best way to hire a qualified marketing or creative professional is to do your homework.

• Ask your friends and colleagues if they know anyone they would recommend. They can give you valuable insight into the quality of the person’s work as well as things like rates, work style and personality.

• Search Linked In profiles for professionals who specialize in your type of business and have experience in all areas of tactical marketing and communications.

• Contact the ones who match your criteria and take the time to discuss your business, challenges and budget with them to determine which one feels like the best fit.

• Give some serious thought to what your business and marketing goals are and what you are willing to invest in before you make a final decision.

It doesn’t matter how much or how little money you have to spend on marketing. Eveyone who owns or manages a business can afford to spend just an hour or two with a marketing professional who can help you attract and engage customers and grow your business. In the long run, it’s a small investment that has the potential to pay off big, if you choose wisely.

Five Branding Tips for Small Businesses (and Large Ones Too!)

While most business owners and managers have some understanding of what we marketing types mean when we talk about “branding,” we’ve discovered in working with our own clients, that there are many misconceptions about what makes a strong brand and how to achieve powerful and consistent branding.

Below are five insights we regularly share with our clients at WGI to help them better understand what the challenges are in building a brand and what they need to do to engage their audience and set their business apart from the competition.

A Logo Doesn’t a Brand Make

A logo isn’t your brand. It’s part of your “visual brand identity,” along with your color palette, typeface fonts and the style of photographs you use. By using all these graphic assets consistently in your marketing communications, you begin to build your visual brand identity. That means when people repeatedly see your ads, emails, web pages or marketing brochures, they begin to identify your brand visually even before they read any of the words. But pictures don’t tell the whole story. Just because you’ve taken the plunge and hired a graphic designer to create a logo and website, doesn’t mean you are on your way to creating a successful brand. Sure, people may begin to recognize who you are from your visual brand identity, but they will have no idea what you stand for and what’s important to you. Those are the things that will make them want to engage with you and get to know you. That’s why you also need to craft a strong brand message.

No One Likes a Copy Cat

You can’t differentiate your brand or company by saying exactly the same things your competitors say and do. Seems like a no brainer, right? Time after time we see similar businesses’ websites, ads and marketing materials all touting the exact same benefits: exceptional customer service, friendly staff, X years of experience. See what I mean? The first step in branding is to figure out what makes you uniquely different than every other company out there. What do you offer your customers that no one else can? You have to dig deeper than the surface marketing buzz words every company in your industry uses and describe your business in a way that’s unique to your DNA. It’s called “positioning” and when done right, it’s what sets you apart from the competition and drives sales.

Are You Selling Something or Improving Lives?

A brand promise is not about what you make or what you sell. It about WHY you do what you do. It’s about how you are improving the lives of your customers in a way only you can. It’s about showing us how your customers' lives (and the world, yes, the world!) are better because your company is in them.

Personality Makes You Popular

As human beings our physical attributes and personality are the two things that most strongly differentiate us from everyone else. It’s the same with your business. Consumers and businesses want to align themselves with a company that engages them, interests them and that they click with. You need to make sure your personality shines through in your advertising and marketing and make sure you’re making meaningful connections with potential customers. Are you a warm, compassionate, caring brand? Are you an innovative, bold, take no prisoners brand? Are you a smart, no nonsense, get things done brand? What are the personality attributes that make up your brand? Sit down and think of five right now that define you.

Be Brave

Life is more like high school than most of us like to admit. We are still trying to fit into the world in which we have been thrust and be just like everyone else. This is the kiss of death when it comes to branding. Branding takes courage, self awareness and a lot of moxie because it requires us to be bold, definitive and different. It requires us to put a stake in the ground and proclaim who we are and what we stand for with conviction and that tends to make the stakeholders in a company a little nervous. If you’re truly passionate about your brand and the benefits of what you have to offer…be brave… listen to your gut and forge ahead…the others will follow.