Archive for the ‘Branding’ Category

Kick It Up a Notch!

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

As we begin each year, we turn our attention toward new goals. Unfortunately, no matter how excited we are when those goals are set, most of us have a tendency to lose site of things all too quickly. This loss of focus is a universally accepted practice for personal goals but it can be much more detrimental when we drop the ball on our businesses goals, especially as it relates to marketing.

Although business marketing is often the redheaded step-child of most companies, to truly succeed, it is not something that we can forget to pick up from swim practice just because Alejandro’s evil twin has just came back from the dead on General Hospital and we really want to see how things play out now that he is a woman. We have to endeavor not to make pie-crust promises (easily made – easily broken) regarding our marketing resolutions. We need to make them with care and be sure they always come out golden brown and flaky.

One of the easiest business resolutions to keep can be with your online marketing. And what better place to start than by kicking your website up a notch? There are a variety of ways this can be done from something as simple as changing the images and colors to a content overhaul or total site redesign. No matter where your needs fall, now is the time to assess and make plans for the coming year. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Does your website look like it is caught in a time loop where it is perpetually 1998?
  • Have you made changes to other marketing channels like social media but your website does not quite seem like it has caught up?
  • Is there such a disparity between your current marketing materials and your website that people are not entirely sure they are in the right place when they try to check out your company online?

If any of these scenarios apply to you, your business might be suffering from Mar-ket-tile dysfunction and a website update could be just the little blue pill that your company needs to get to the next level. No matter whether you need a quick menu re-organization or a total “do-over”, a little bit of time spent now can go a long way toward helping you reach your annual sales goals. And, BAM! you will be cooking with gas for the rest of the year!

Mobile Friendly Or Bust

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Does your website look as good and work as well on a mobile device as it does on a computer? It should–especially if you want a higher ranking on Google’s search pages.

As of April 21, 2015, Google’s search algorithm now ranks sites based on how mobile friendly they are. In other words, if you site is not mobile optimized, it will show up farther down in the search page results.

Passing The Test

According to industry experts, the new algorithm will look for sites with responsive design and best practices for mobile devices. This includes:

  • Text that can be read without zooming
  • Content that doesn’t require scrolling or zooming
  • Links that are sized and spaced to allow for easy selection on smaller screens
  • Eliminating the use of Flash since mobile devices don’t generally support it
  • Requiring fewer clicks to perform a specific task

The evaluation is done for each individual page on a site, not the entire site as a whole, so you can start by optimizing the most critical page on your site and going on from there. At the moment, tablets are not part of this new search process, but that’s coming soon.

If you’re not sure how you stand, Google has created a site where you can check your mobile friendliness.

Besides Google Rank, Why This Matters

Perhaps the biggest reason to have a mobile-friendly site is that it will help you keep up with or move ahead of your competition.

Over 60 percent of all web searches are now done on mobile devices, so you stand to lose current and potential customers if they can’t effectively navigate your site on a smart phone or tablet. The better the experience, the more likely they’ll come back to you again and again.

If you’ve been procrastinating on creating a mobile friendly website, it’s now more important than ever that you step up and make the change.

2 Easy Ways To Get More From Twitter

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

It seems there are two very distinct camps when it comes to Twitter: the people who love it and the people who know they need to use it. Saying what you want in just 140 characters isn’t easy even for the best of writers, so Twitter has two easy and effective ways to squeeze just a little more out of every post: images and hashtags.

Yes, Images!

According to a recent article on the Small Business Trends website, Twitter has done a little remodeling to make itself more of a visual application. Here are a few suggestions from the article on using images more effectively.

  • Use the new larger header image to better highlight your company name or brand. Add your logo, a quote, product pictures, even employee photos. You can be creative, but be sure to stay consistent with your brand colors and overall design.
  • Click on the camera icon under the Twitter update box to directly add images to Twitter. (Note: The image won’t show up if you do this from Hootsuite or another third-party application.) According to Small Business Trends, image tweets get double the interaction of regular Tweets with links.
  • Create video “shout outs” to your followers. Put the You-Tube link into the update box and Twitter will embed the video.
  • Tag people or companies in your images. It increases the opportunities for re-tweets.

With a little imagination, there are any number of ways that images can be used to draw more attention to your tweets and your business.

Master The Hashtag

Placing a hashtag in front of a particular word or phrase (without spaces) makes your tweet show up when people search on that word or phrase. For example, a hashtag can be your business name or a keyword that people would use to search for your product or service.

If you’re having a sale and want to get noticed, use hashtags such as #sale or #coupon to get your tweet on aggregate websites which list all daily tweets showing that keyword. By using a specific code in your hashtag, you can track your sales and know who found you through your tweet.

Hashtags can be anywhere in the tweet, and you can use an existing hashtag or create one for your particular message.

When using hashtags, there is actually an etiquette you need to follow:

  • Don’t put more than two hashtags in a tweet.
  • Make sure you understand the purpose of any hashtag and use it appropriately.
  • Be sure your hashtags are relevant to the information in your tweet.

A quick Google search can provide more in-depth information on using hashtags effectively.

Whether you can’t wait to tweet daily or have to drag yourself to your keyboard for your regular posts, there’s value in knowing how to get the most of what Twitter has to offer.

The Care And Feeding Of An Outstanding Logo

Monday, May 5th, 2014

For many business owners, creating a logo is a bit like walking a buffet line:  a little of this, a bit of that, a few more of those and your immediate needs are satisfied. Later, however, you might end up wishing you had taken a little more time and care in making your choices.

While a poorly designed logo won’t have you running to the bathroom, it might well affect the overall health of your business. Here are some tips for ensuring that your logo conveys a professional, unique and memorable message of your brand.

Follow Some Basic Standards

Everyone will have a different opinion of what makes a great logo based on their specific tastes. However, there are some basic rules to keep in mind as you go through the process.

  • Be Timeless And Evergreen – Create a design that can stand the test of time and convey your business identity clearly and consistently. Avoid using the current trends, as what’s popular today might be far out of favor tomorrow–and you don’t want to look like everyone else.
  • Keep It Simple – Think of the logos for McDonalds, Nike, Microsoft, and Apple. Pretty simple designs, yet almost no-one on the planet can see them and not know the company they represent.
  • Design With Clients In Mind – You’ll want a very different logo for selling to Millennials than if your primary market is Baby Boomers.
  • Make It Adaptable – Be sure your design will look as good on paper (think business cards) as it does on a computer screen. Some experts suggest designing first in black and white and then adding your color as the final step.

Know The Power Of Color

Different colors generate a wide range of emotions and reactions and, when used correctly, can give your logo real selling power.

For example, red creates feelings of passion, trust, and aggressiveness while yellow makes you feel alive, energetic and joyful. Besides being the world’s favorite color, blue generates comfort, understanding, confidence, and calm. Green generates relaxation and peace while purple brings out power, romance and glamour.

If possible, create a design that will be equally effective in both color and black and white.

Remember The Goal

You want your logo to instantly identify the value and uniqueness of your brand and your organization. The overall design, colors, fonts, and artwork should always be chosen with that end in mind; otherwise you’re just wasting time, effort and money on something that will create very few, if any, returns.

Taking the time to create an outstanding logo can help your business become a trusted and well-known resource in your particular market space.

What is RSS and why do I care?

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Almost every site you visit these days not only allows you to connect via various social media icons but also has this funny little icon with three arced lines over a dot. It is usually orange (but not always) and many people do not know what it does. What that icon represents is an RSS feed. RSS or Really Simple Syndication has been around since that time in the distant past before the current era of the smartphone when PDA’s (Personal Digital Assistants) ruled the world and most of them did not include an internet connection. At this time you had to synchronize your device in order to update information and while you are at it you could also synchronize information from websites using these feeds so you could read it offline. At that time you only really found RSS feeds available through news sites or other outlets with constantly changing content. Now though you find them everywhere because most sites contain a blog and what is a blog but an updated version of those same old news feeds but now they contain the most up to date info about your business rather than the latest crime statistics or the life and times of your favorite celebrity.

This ain’t your mama’s RSS.

I know what you are thinking, we are no loner in that distant past, we are in the now and the age of the smartphone is here so who cares about RSS feeds anymore, right? Well, you should if you have a website. The age of the smartphone is upon us but there are still a significant number of less intelligent calling devices still in operation and many of those have the ability to access RSS feeds with their basic mobile browsing. Not only that but RSS feeds have a myriad of other uses including the ability to be integrated into other websites just by using the links. All that aside, the single best reason for you to have an RSS feed available for your content is because it is the easiest way for clients and potential clients to subscribe to your content. Like the PDA apps back in the day (which was a Wednesday as I recall..) there are apps available on the web, for smartphones and for desktop computers known as RSS Aggregators (A.K.A. “RSS Readers” or depending on how old you are, “News Readers”) that allow you to subscribe to content from your favorite sites and then be notified when updates are made. When site owners use web based apps like Google’s Feed Burner, it makes the process even easier for end users. These apps allow the site owner to connect their RSS feed to the apps notification system and then the end user is notified by email when updates are made to the site. It is like giving your clients and potential clients a sales rep to put in their pocket. Whenever the site is updated, that sales rep pops up and lets them know about all of the exciting and new things going on with your company.

So now that you know what RSS is all about and how it can benefit your company, you now realize that RSS feeds are like a Moving Buddy in the movie Toy Story – “If you don’t have one, GET ONE!”.

Just because you build it, does not mean they will come

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Business owners often think that the mere act of building a website will bring in the droves of adoring fans that they want to make their business thrive but sadly this is not the case. A website is a tool and like other tools, it requires guidance in order to accomplish the task for which it was designed. Your website was not previously an Iowa corn field so you still have some work to do now that your obviously well thought out and impeccably designed site is complete.

You may not realize this but this but it is no longer 1993. Just getting your site listed in a search engine is no longer enough. There are millions of sites out there competing for the traffic you want and a whole industry has built up around it. If you do not have the thousands of dollars a month required to really make a go of it with the big boys you will need to do the leg work yourself to try and even out the playing filed. Now I am not taking about spending all of your waking hours on SEO but what I am talking about is putting your best foot forward. You need to make sure that your little corner of brilliance is doing its job by making sure you are not leaving anything on the table.

Think of the building of your website like the trip to see your friend Andy Dufresne. You have made your way to the obscure field in Buxton and found the box under the volcanic glass that has no business being there. Now all you have to do to realize your dreams is to be willing to go a little further. Your website’s Zihuatanejo lies just over the border, you just have to be willing to buy the bus ticket to get you there. And that ticket can be had with three words – Research, Optimize and Update.

  • Research
    The most important step of any site launch is to make sure that you do your research, in this case I am talking about researching search engine keywords (although hopefully at this point you have done some other research as well). I am not talking about the general terms related to your field that everyone uses but well thought out keyword phrases that not only make sense to your potential clients but ones that you can potentially own. What I am talking about is the SEO Sweet Spot. That nice warm area nestled snugly between number of searches per month and the competition for given keywords. Don’t get me wrong, it will take a little work on your part but there are tools out there to help you along (including some good free tools from Google). If you know your competition it makes things a bit easier because it gives you a great place to start.
  • Optimize
    Once you have put in your time on the research, it is time to rethink some of the content that makes you so proud. Go through your site and optimize the pages to make sure you are making use of your new best friends – your drippingly sweet keywords. Pick a hand full of the most high profile pages on your site (home page, product pages, etc) and optimize them using your new keywords. Makes sure to use them in the page title, the main heading and in the body text where it makes sense. Doing this will increase the keyword density on these pages and thus increase their rankability when the pages are re-indexed. Don’t get crazy, optimize each of the special few with only a few keywords so as not to dilute what you are trying to accomplish.
  • Update
    Once the pages are optimized then it is time to turn your site into a labor of love and update. Update early and update often. The best way to bring the search engine spiders back to your site is with regular updates. Any page will do but the easiest way to keep the coming back for more is to start a blog. These days a blog on a business site is like a moving buddy in Toy Story – if you don’t have one, get one! Many business owners do not see the value of a blog but what they do not understand is that blogs are not used simply for discussing your wife’s new hair style or what happened at the Bar-B-Que last week. Business blogs are the perfect forum to talk at length about specific aspects of your products and services, to help keep your customers up to date on new developments in your industry that might affect them or even just to toot your companies horn about community involvement. It is the easiest thing in the world to keep your site updated because there are so many different topics that you can pull from when developing the continent.

Once you get the basics in place then just rinse and repeat as needed (mostly just content updates but keep in mind that as your site evolves you may have to go back to the well with some new research and optimization as well) and you will soon see that uptick in traffic you were hoping for out of the box.

The best things in life are FREE…Now including publicity

Friday, November 30th, 2012

You’ve all heard the song and it is true that the best things in life are FREE but now that old adage has been updated to include publicity. Yep, you heard me right, publicity. How much time do you spend each year trying to get exposure for your company or products using regular marketing channels just to get lost in the minutiae that is the internet? How would you like to get some of that much needed exposure, possibly even in national media like ABC and AP? Well…wait for it…NOW YOU CAN!

You may not be the inventor of the exciting new Miracle Wrench that tightens bolts, loosens bolts and even takes bolts all the way off. And in all likelihood you will not get your very own nuclear submarine absolutely FREE so that you can be the first person on your block to Level Cleveland. What you can do though is Help A Reporter Out and possibly help yourself out at the same time. So how can you make those kind of connections, you ask? Easy! All you need to do is become a  HARO Hero.

So what exactly is HARO and how do you become a hero? HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out and it is the easiest way to FREE publicity. HARO is a new type of social media service that helps pair reporters with sources for their stories and it is free for everyone involved. All you have to do is follow these three steps:

  1. Visit HARO’s site and register to become a source.
  2. Watch for emails for PR opportunities that are sent out three times a day.
  3. Respond to inquiries that you feel will benefit from your insights on the subject.

If your response fits the need you will be contacted by the reporter to follow up and you could find yourself with anything from some additional search engine links for contribution to a bloggers post all the way up to some national exposure for your expertise on a certain subject. You could be one of many sources on a subject or you could find yourself as the subject of the article altogether like our sister company Virtual Technique did when it responded to questions about hiring a bookkeeper.

You may have heard that “The Truth is Out There”, you just may not have realized that you could be the source. So put your knowledge to work to Help a Reporter Out and who knows you may find yourself with a whole new pool of potential clients.

Spicing up your boring website text

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Differentiation is always at the forefront of marketers minds but until recently the only way that could be done on the web (outside of stellar content that everyone wants to read) was through the use of flashy designs and creating graphics for all of the headings you wanted to use your logo font. Sure the @font-face CSS tag was added to the CSS2 spec back in the late 90’s but only in the last few years have all of the major browsers begun supporting it.

So what does that mean exactly, you ask? It means that you might finally be able to escape the same old boring Times, Arial, Georgia, Helvetica loop you have been stuck in since 1993 without having a degree in graphic design. Or if you are happy with your existing San-Serif choice, perhaps you will just be freed up to bring some Holiday Cheer to your otherwise dreary website.

There are a great many ways to achieve this new level of style but for the purposes of this post I will stick with the two easiest:

@font-face

As I stated above, this CSS tag has been available since the late 90’s and is the most basic implementation. All you do is upload the necessary font files to your web server and then link to them using the appropriate CSS code. But don’t go wild and upload all of the fonts on your system thinking that you will make a tapestry of crazy on your site because most fonts are NOT licensed for this type of public distribution. As time goes on, more and more will open up but be very careful before implementing this method.

So how do you know what fonts you can use? Well, to be safe, stick to sites like this one when looking to trick out your site using this method..

 

Google Web Fonts

Like with everything else you need on the web, Google is there for you again with their Web Fonts API. With hundreds of fonts to choose from and simple search features Google does it for you with probably the easiest method for implementing this new found font freedom on your boring site. They even go so far as to give you the code you need to simply copy and paste into your style sheets and pages. What could be simpler?

Don’t believe me? Check it out for your self.

As with everything there are pros and cons to any method you choose. Most methods for spicing up your fonts differ slightly in the pros but the main con is the same for them all: limited selection. But don’t let that dampen your creativity! As long as you have a little time and some patience, chances are you will find either the exact font you want or something close enough for government work to get the intended result.

 

3 simple ways to increase Facebook engagement…

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

You have your Facebook page setup just the way you want it and you are beginning to accumulate those ever elusive “likes”. Now the big question becomes how do you go about increasing the level of engagement you have with your new “fans”? You got them commit and say they like you as a friend but how do you get them to show you they “like you” like you? There are a great many ways to get your fans to show the love but here are three simple ones that you can start implementing right away:

  1. Pictures – Everyone has heard the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” but what it did not tell you is that it can be just as valuable when trying to interact with your new social media peeps. Facebook, like life, moves pretty fast and photos are much harder to miss whether you are looking around once in a while or not. People on Facebook do not always have time to read the latest and greatest bits brilliance you feel compelled to share with your ever-increasing audience but they will always scan their news feed for any interesting images even if those images showed up hours or days earlier. So if you are posting images to anchor the info it will be more likely to be seen by the masses.
  2. Captions –  Keeping with the pictures theme, the next best way to entice weary Facebook pilgrims into your web of marketing brilliance is to let them write the copy. Post an interesting photo and ask your social media minions to come up with a good caption for it. The photo can be of anything and it gives your fans an opportunity to be creative and gives you yet another opportunity for interaction that is separate from business that helps build a rapport with clients and potential clients.
  3. Questions – for those of you who just want to write and don’t want to be bothered with photos, another good engagement inroad is post questions for your Fans to answer. The questions can be about anything you like but usually the less formal the better because it opens up the field to more potential connections.

So what fits your personality best? Pictures, Captions, Questions or maybe a combination of the three? The ideas are simple but they all have the potential of new interactions at very least and the potential of going viral at most. So why are you still reading this, other than the fact that this entire blog is chock full of brilliance? Head on over to Facebook and start making some magic happen.

Marketing success for the summer or making hay while the sun shines

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Most small businesses ebb and flow with the seasons and summer more often than not is one of those slower times. The kids are out of school, vacations loom and clients are slower to respond even when they are very anxious to get something completed. During these times it is important not to lose focus. Don’t get me wrong, you deserve a break and should take some time to smell the roses but think of how much easier your life will be the rest of the year of you take a little of this time surplus and apply it to some of the housekeeping things you have been forced to ignore? So what can you do now that will make your life easier the rest of the year?

  1. Editorial Calendar
    As you know, regular site/social media updates are the cornerstone of any SEO success. I know you have your blog setup and have been dazzling everyone with the shininess of the pearls you have been putting on display but how much easier would it be for you if you had a calendar to rely on for your blogging, newsletter, social media and website update topics? Take some of the extra time you find yourself with this summer and rather than spending it trying to beat your old paddle-ball record, use it to sit down and come up with an outline of topics to get you though the rest of the year.
  2. Design updates
    If you are thinking about making updates to your identity in the form of design changes for your logo, website, collateral materials or social media themes, now is the time to put those thoughts into action. If you have plans for a new media blitz in the fall, you don’t want to lose valuable time going through a design process when you could already be reaping the rewards. Get the things you need done in process during your slow times so you can take as much time as you need to make sure any graphical updates are exactly what you want rather than rushing the process and accepting an inferior product because your are in a hurry to get things out the door.
  3. Blogging
    Now that you have your editorial calendar, why not take a little of this time to go ahead and bang out some of those posts? If you are using something like WordPress for your blog, you can go in and write as many posts as you like and schedule them to go live over time. How great would that be to be going into fall with posts queued up to run at regular intervals without a thought. Just fill up that marketing crock pot and let it run. And who knows, you might find some other marketing uses for your brilliant prose along the way.

Summer is finally here but fall is right around the corner so make sure to make the most of your summer and smooth out some of the business wrinkles for the rest of the year.