Help! I Bought the Wrong Web Site!

In recent months, we’ve run into multiple clients who bought poor web sites. Most weren’t very web site savvy (and, really, how many people are?) were approached by a “specialist” who focuses on their industry. These firms promise expertise in and prices that seem too good to be true. Unfortunately, in most cases many of these folks are delivering inferior web sites that are slow to load, questionably responsive, hard to update, or more. Many promise that they’re using WordPress as a development platform, but that’s a nearly meaningless distinction. Even a WordPress web site can be a poor site. One recent site we saw used a multitude of widgets to deliver the home page and had over two dozen plug-ins installed. The site loaded VERY slowly, frustrated users, and made changes and updates nearly impossible.

Fortunately, we’ve got a relatively affordable solution. We’re currently porting two WordPress sites into full responsive, user-friendly, search optimized use of a widely accepted WordPress theme. One site went very smoothly – it would appear that the developer was competent enough, but preferred to do things on a proprietary platform. The second was a complete mess. It had a home page built up of widgets, so Google couldn’t index anything, and had dozens of unnecessary plug-ins installed. It was clearly poorly constructed.
But, the bottom line is that we were able to get both clients into great new web sites that were:

  1.  Fully mobile responsive;
  2. Search engine friendly; and
  3. Easy to update and maintain.

This experience got me thinking, “What questions SHOULD you ask when considering a WordPress web developer?”. Here are our key questions you should ask a potential web developer:

  1. What theme are you using? If the answer is “custom” or anything other than something specific you can go look up on www.themeforest.net, walk away. With WordPress, there’s no reason for custom or proprietary code.
  2. Who owns what? Often developers will either use their development licenses for themes, plug-ins and widgets. If you leave that developer, then you’ll have to buy them again. Some developers even retain ownership of code they developed for you. If you won’t own all of your assets outright, this isn’t the partner for you.
  3. Can I see some of your sites? Then find a web-savvy friend and have them take a look. A lot of sites pass the Google Mobile-Friendly test, but don’t truly behave well on a smartphone or tablet. This should be your first test.
  4. Can you show me the user interface for updates? True WordPress is super-easy and intuitive. If they show you something that doesn’t look a lot like the image below, there may be an issue.web site
  5. Will you install and ensure Google Analytics? We’re shocked by the number of web developers who don’t do this. For most clients, it’s not obvious and they don’t find out that they have no usage data until 6 months or a year has passed.
  1. Can I talk to some customers? Then, make those calls. Ask about ease of updating. About the development process. If they’d use the developer again.

Bought the wrong web site and need a fix? Talk to us. Looking for a web developer who will deliver a top-notch site? Talk to us.

Sean

Have You Hugged Your Salesperson Today?

Sales and Marketing: The Buyer's JourneyIn my first “real” job, my boss (head of sales and marketing) once said, “If you go on a sales call and they buy something, it’s sales. If they don’t, it’s marketing.” I’ve spent much of the balance of my career trying to counter that perception.

Once upon a time, sales and marketing were more discrete disciplines. Now, with marketing automation, demand generation, lead nurturing, and other strategies, the line is blurring. Marketing is now taking on the role that used to be handled by inside sales teams. We’re bringing leads to sales that are further along in the decision-making cycle, generally more qualified, and we can offer more knowledge when sales engages. In fact, we’ve represented this in the model shown below:

As you can see, in the New World Order, marketing engages prospects more fully early on, and then becomes less involved as the sales team ramps up.

Now you’re thinking, “That’s great; so what?”. A valid question indeed. Here are six actions we recommend:

  1.  If you haven’t been a salesperson, talk to some. Living with a number, and having your professional existence hinge on that number changes your perspective. If you haven’t seen the parody “A Few Good Expenses”, I highly recommend it. Cultivate relationships with the top performers in your sales organization. You’ll quickly learn the objections they face, the sales cycle they work in, and more about the subtle nuances that can make or break a deal. I can guarantee that you will learn valuable information for use in your marketing programs.
  2. A marketing-savvy sales force is your best ally. Many sales people I’ve encountered don’t fully grasp what we in marketing do, and how we do it. Make time to educate the sales force on your upcoming campaigns and the strategies that are driving it. Show them how your strategies tie to their objectives. If you have branding campaigns, give them the long-term vision so they understand that while this won’t give them leads tomorrow, it will make their next 3-5 years much more lucrative.
  3. Understand how the sales cycle differs from the marketing cycle. The sales cycle is a common topic. We all spend a lot of time talking about it. But, if you think about it from a sales perspective it starts when that prospect first enters into a sales dialogue. In reality, we should have started a marketing dialogue with them through branding and demand generation efforts months, or even years earlier. As a rule of thumb, I would recommend a marketing cycle that is 2-3x whatever you consider your sales cycle.
  4. Have a good filter. A lot of mediocre sales people become vocal when they’re not hitting their numbers. “The lead quality is poor.” Or, “I need a brochure.” Perhaps, “Google leads are lousy.”. While the top performers are investing that time into exceeding their sales goals. Also, remember that due to its more immediate nature and shorter cycle, sales is inherently more in the moment. Often, a salesperson’s biggest problem is the one they faced today. You don’t have to react to EVERY bit of feedback you receive.
  5. Align your planning. Marketing exists to fuel the selling process. Period. But that doesn’t mean you’re a slave to sales. It means working together. Finding out what sales objectives are, and finding ways to align marketing objectives. But don’t give up complete control and become sales’ lackey. This can quickly lead to a 3,245 fragmented campaigns. And, no marketing organization has the resources to support this effectively. Remember – you’re the Air Force, softening up the beachhead for the invading ground infantry.
  6. Don’t forget enablement. This seems SO simple, but it’s astounding how often it’s overlooked. When you’re planning a marketing campaign, be sure to review it with sales. Generating qualified leads when the sales force is unprepared to deal with them is wasted effort. Several years ago, we built a comprehensive integrated campaign for an industrial processing equipment manufacturer targeting a specific vertical market. Advertising. Direct mail. E-mail. Trade shows. AdWords. A dedicated web landing page. Then we launched it. And, the call center started getting inquiries. Unfortunately, no one on the marketing team had presented the campaign to sales, so they were totally caught unaware. Fortunately, within six months, the company had seen significant growth in this vertical, so there was clear evidence of marketing effectiveness.

All too often, sales and marketing are enemies. Fighting for scarce resources and management attention. The reality is that if we can work as a team, while respecting the inherent differences in our roles, success will almost inevitably follow.

-Sean-

Lifeblood

referrals

Referrals are the headwaters of lifeblood for an agency – new business. We greatly appreciate our solid clients, but to survive and thrive, an agency needs new clients. Agency network Second Wind tells us that most agencies average 15% per year in lost billings due to client turnover.

What this means for us is a continual need to find new clients. And, what’s the best way? Agency development consultant John Heenan recently completed a survey of marketer preferences. In it he found that 51% of marketers prefer to learn about a new agency by way of a referral from a friend, colleague, or peer. The numbers for other methods of contact fall off dramatically.

Another interesting discovery from Heenan’s research is that you are being flooded by agency news business contacts. In this survey, 56% of marketers report receiving 3-10 new business inquiries per week from agencies. And, this was a tremendous reminder of how much we appreciate our loyal clients. Despite being bombarded by agencies promising you the moon, you choose to work with us. Our sincerest thanks for your loyalty!

This is where you come in – we both need and appreciate your help. If you feel you’re getting great work and solid results from PWB, why not tell a friend? We’re not looking only for people who are actively seeking an agency, we love to build solid relationships that grow and evolve. Know a peer at another company who might need our services? Please help us connect. Whether they’re in a marketing role or not (while marketing is best, leaders in other functions are also generally solid), this really helps us cut through the onslaught of agency inquiries.

We appreciate these referrals more than you know, and we’ll definitely show our appreciation in return. We’re not talking “send us a referral and you’ll get a gift card from _______.” We’ll show you in real, thoughtful ways that are personal and indicative of our gratitude.

As a closing thought, those of you who haven’t worked in an agency environment may not fully grasp the challenges of finding and acquiring solid new business. This quote, from one of Heenan’s respondent is both funny, and a bit depressing (if you’re an agency…):

“We do not like receiving unsolicited contact from ad agencies. We do not like them Spam you am. We do not like them in a boat or with a goat. We do not like them while stung with bees or up in a tree. We do not like them Spam you am.”

-anonymous-

How can you help? A conversation with your peer, friend, or colleague would be great. If you’re not comfortable with that, a simple e-mail connecting both parties would be equally awesome. Or we’ll buy you both lunch, or breakfast, or and adult beverage (or two…).

Thanks, in advance for any help you can lend in PWB’s continued success! And, thank you for your loyalty!

-Sean-

Digital – The New Face of Branding?

Is Digital the New Face of Branding?Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at the Eastern Michigan University Center for Digital Engagement. The topic was “The New Face of Branding” with an emphasis on how digital has changed branding.

As I was considering my remarks, I realized that digital really has changed the face of branding, but that two key tenets from traditional marketing need to drive any effort:

  • 1. You need to know who your target market is. With digital’s increased potential to precisely zero in on prospects, this becomes even more critical to maximize efficiency.
  • 2. Clearly articulated messaging is key to success – you need to know who you are, what your advantage is, and how you’re unique. Life moves fast in the digital space. You have even less time to engage prospects.

Initially, my thoughts centered on the notion that strategy was paramount and how this doesn’t change for digital. In fact, digital makes having a sound strategy even more important as it enables unprecedented targeting and customization of message to audience.

But…

Digital HAS changed a lot of things. Do I think it really is “The New Face of Branding”? No. For most marketers, a balanced, integrated program is still the best solution. However, there are two scenarios where digital has been a game-changer:

The Little Guy
Once upon a time, a small marketing budget really limited what you could do. A full-page ad in the Harvard Business Review (one of my favorites) costs roughly $30,000. Assuming you need to run at least 6x, you’ve already eaten up the better part of $200,000. Ouch. But digital is scalable. Using digital display on HBR.org or LinkedIn, you can target these same prospects. Mix this with a solid program of organic and earned social media and you have the potential to be a giant-killer.

The Niche Market
The Internet has enabled makers of niche markets to reach a global customer base. It started with vehicles like Ebay and Etsy, but it quickly expanded to include social media, remarketing, and networked banner buys. Looking to reach customers for organic alpaca yarn in Northern Canada? Need to connect with left-handed engineers in the ski industry? With digital you can target them effectively without the waste built-in to traditional media.

The New Kid on the Block
Digital has levelled the playing field, enabling new products from emerging companies to compete with established players. Using WordPress you can easily create a site that creates a world-class image. Social media helps you introduce new products to established audiences and even target your established competitors.

In short while digital hasn’t lessened the importance of a sound strategy, it has created tremendous opportunities for many companies.

Sean

Contact Us

contact pagePity the poor Contact page. The most valuable place on your entire web site – yet often the most overlooked. I’m stunned by how little thought people put into this page.

Some want a simple “whaddya’ want?” form-to-e-mail fill in. Others put a little more thought into it, but not much. Mostly, they’re designed for the benefit of the host, not the visitor.

One of the key tenets of web marketing we advocate for our clients is a customer-centric view of their web site. Take a moment to think about the reasons you’d visit a Contact page…

• Sales inquiry (the obvious one)
• Looking for a job
• Having a technical problem
• Having a billing question
• Looking for driving directions

Get the idea? There are a lot of reasons someone might want to get in touch with you beyond simply wanting to talk to a sales person. Why not make this easy for them? We recommend a simple e-mail address (like info@yourcompany.com that might go to several people in the intended department. One recommendation – NEVER put in individuals e-mail addresses on your web site. You’re simply inviting a mind-boggling volume of spam.

Number one on most people’s sources of irritation? The lack of a phone number where they can reach a live warm body. Yes, I know you want to reduce your call volume. Too bad – people who aren’t comfortable contacting you through digital channels won’t. They’ll go somewhere else. Let that sink in for a moment.

Another major opportunity is your location, or locations. In addition to helping people find you when they need to this has potential brand value. For example, if you’re an America company and Made in the USA is something your customers. Some customers will want to know your global presence – do they have a location in my country or at least my part of the world? Having this information on your web site offers nothing but potential.

Finally, pay attention to your dialogue with your customers. If you’re hearing that not having something on your Contact web page is a problem – get it on there today!

Sean

Don’t Be So Negative – Leveraging White Space

Leveraging White Space While I was attending the Digital Summit Detroit last week, the topic of white space came up in a few presentations. Meanwhile in some projects at the agency we had some discussions with clients who wanted to fill every available square inch.

Early in my career, I was taught that white space wasn’t what was left over after all the visual elements were used – it was a design element just like type or photos. Every day I see examples that illustrate the “cover every square inch” mantra. Like trade show booths with copy down at foot level. Or billboards with 20-word headlines, four URLs, and social media icons for every channel. Sometimes, quite simply:

Less is more.

See how I did that? You read that line because it was all on its own. It had impact, power, and simplicity. Three simple words. With space around them. A few other key benefits of white space:

  • It helps the reader prioritize – when the entire space is filled, the brain can’t process what to pay attention to first. So, your primary benefit could get overlooked entirely.
  • It improves readability – by making elements stand out, they are easily and quickly read and grasped.
  •  It separates and groups elements – keeping copy associated with the relevant visual is a key benefit of leaving some white space.
  • It creates balance – the reader’s eye likes order and balance, thus attracting greater readership.
  • It invokes imagination – by leaving some white space, the readers mind becomes freed to process what you’re saying and engages them to explore the possibilities.

An additional thought – “white space” doesn’t have to be white. When the term is used, it’s simply negative space. The color doesn’t matter, what does is the fact that it’s not filled by other elements.

So the next time you’re tempted to cram in just one more graphic to occupy that “empty” space, consider this:

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

-Sean-

Does Your Content Have Superpowers?

Content marketing | Content Superpowers | PWB MarketingA few years ago, while serving on a social media panel during a presentation to a local entrepreneurial group, I casually remarked that, “Content is everything; social media is just plumbing.” In the years since then, I’ve seen this proven over and over both with clients and with brands I follow. In order to succeed, your content marketing needs superpowers.

This post examines some of the content marketing your brand needs to succeed.

Exceptional Audience Relevance

Social – more than any other medium – has to connect with what your customers and prospects want to learn. If it doesn’t, they’re on to the next thing. Too many marketers are pushing content that THEY want to tell customers, as opposed to information that customers are seeking.

Powerful Stickiness

Remember the old days of “sticky” web content? Where your reason for existence was to get customers to return to your web site? Sticky content and content marketing are essentially the same concept. According to a study by DDB Worldwide and Opinionway, 84% of a company’s fans are already customers.  Only relevant, interesting, and fresh content keeps people coming back.

Incredible Engagement

In his book SocialnomicsEric Qualman observes that social media marketing is, “More like Dale Carnegie than Mad Men. Less about selling and more about listening.” Social is a unique channel because of its allowance for real-time dialogue. Harness this ability with content that asks questions, solicits opinions, and takes other actions to encourage audience response.

Robust Adaptability

Successful content marketers generate content for use across multiple channels. A LinkedIn post might lead to a white paper on your web site, expanding on the post topic. A targeted Facebook ad might direct users to a a topic-specific landing page. Great content is great content – just be sure to recognize the unique nature of each channel and modify appropriately. For example, text on a web page won’t make a dynamic Pinterest post without adaptation.

Brand Power

What does your brand stand for? How are you positioned? What is your unique value proposition? Content marketing should clearly and consistently support your brand and values. If you don’t have a clearly defined set of brand values, we can help you with that.

These are but a few of the content marketing superpowers your brand needs. Want to know the others? Or put this to work? We should chat.

-Sean-

Blogging – Be Your Brand

successful bloggingSuccessful blogging seems to be one of the biggest challenges we see for many marketers. But in my opinion blogging is one of the most valuable activities an organization can do. It’s a chance to dig deeper than you would on your web site, or in other social media channels. You can establish real domain expertise, add depth to your brand, and even accomplish silly objectives like increasing search engine traffic and user time spent on your site.

That’s why when I see a good brand with a great blog, I feel compelled to share it. Recently, I’ve run into November Bicycles – a company dedicated to making great wheels at a great price. They’d received numerous kudos in some online forums I frequent, so I checked out November’s web site to learn more. The web site itself is solid, but simple. Much like their products, the brand was all about high-value without compromising performance and quality.

But even more impressive is their blog. In straight, no bullshit language, these guys mix discussions of the issues they address in wheel design and construction, opinions on the industry, and current promotions in a way that’s engaging, compelling and provides a successful blogging experience! I want to come back and check the blog regularly. It’s interesting and I learn something on every visit. With topics ranging from selecting the right spoke, to the importance of execution for corporate success, there’s something that adds brand richness, and makes me see them as knowledgeable, trustworthy experts.

blogging

Oh, and I bought a set of their Alloy Nimbus T11 wheels for my cyclocross bike. If I like them as much as I think I will, there’s a good chance come Spring I’ll sell my road bike wheels and order some Rail 52’s. I’d call that engaging a prospect. From consideration, to purchase, to repeat purchase. The true “Yahtzee!” of marketing…

-Sean-

Keyword Density: When Is It Enough?

Last week I was chatting with a client about their on-page content, specifically they wanted to know “how many times their intended keywords should appear on their web page?” I told them what I tell all of my clients, that there is no magic number. I can’t tell any client that having a phrase appear on-page 10 times will return first page search engine results (SERP). Instead it’s about having good, relevant content in addition to mentioning the intended keyword phrase.

Often pages that have the chosen to use the keyword in the URL, within the page title, in Meta Data and also in the on-page content, will do well. However it also takes website visitors to bring up web traffic numbers too. No one can tell you exactly the formula that performs well with SERP results, but I can tell you what won’t work.

As I was browsing Facebook, I saw a friends shared article titled the worst cities in Michigan. Her Facebook friends commented that the article was poorly written and used the chosen phrase too many times. That likely intrigued me more than the article itself, so I checked it out.  After reading it though, I realized as a search and social media professional, what was likely happening. My comment was that the author was likely trying overly hard to achieve a certain keyword density to vie for the top spot on the SERP.

Holding that top spot though was not what happened. Surely there could be several factors in this:

  1. The article was written in 2011 and is not current, despite being edited earlier this year.
  2. The article overly uses the intended keyword phrase. In fact the phrase is used twice in ever paragraph – 22 times overall!
  3. There are no other similar phrases used to improve relevancy.

I am oversimplifying here, however it is not difficult to write good webpage content, an amazing blog post or online article. So how do you do that? Here are a few tips to help find the perfect level of keyword density.

  1. Know your audience. What would they like to read? Is there an important message that needs to be there? What are your readers expecting and looking for? If you know your audience you are likely to know how they will search for content.
  2. Use good tools. Google has a great (free) keyword tool that can help determine which keywords would be searched for more often and also what keywords could be used in conjunction with the chosen keyword phrase.
  3. Find other great keywords and phrases that support the concept of the article. Use phrases not just one phrase.
  4. When writing, make sure sentences flow. Clean writing is important to avoid keyword stuffing. Get creative in using the intended phrases.

Certainly writing techniques and strategies vary if writing a stand-alone article or part of a larger website or blog. If done correctly though, choosing keywords and using them properly can have a big impact on a website. Keyword density is not simply about repeating a phrase 22 times.

I like to use my personal blog as an example of this. I chose a specific audience to speak to, chose my keywords carefully and incorporated them into the URL and in writing each post. I did not however stuff the phrase into sentence after sentence to achieve this. I used it throughout the blog, and in many relevant posts. As a result, the blog and keyword phrase “Ann Arbor Mom Blog” has had top SERP billing since 2009. I’d call that a success.

Want to know more about incorporating blogging into your marketing plans? Need help reaching your intended audience? PWB Marketing can help, just give us a call (734) 995-5000.