Do You Have A Great Business Website ?

When building a house, the integrity of the construction is only as good as the strength of its foundation. This is the same with websites. If the design is drab and dated, if the message regarding your products or service does not tie to how it benefits the consumer, then you are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to attract new customers.

In our current economic recession, it has become extremely important for businesses to maintain and expand their customer base through well-designed and effective market strategies. You can’t afford NOT to have an extra edge in your business, if you want to maintain revenue and profitability. In the current “online” age, that extra edge is afforded to you by creating a fresh and relevant professional website for your business. The days when folks browsed through the newspapers and magazines or the yellow pages to locate the businesses that would meet their needs are long gone; online search engines have now taken the place of those age old tools, and are used by people to locate the services required by them.

Obviously in that scenario, your company needs to have a significant professional presence if it hopes to gain a piece of the online market. Think about it.  What is the impression you are giving visitors to your site if it looks drab and dated? Also think about you local competition, do they have a website that is fresh, professional and provides consumer benefits in their messaging?

The site is your foundation, social media starts the buzz

Some might argue that simply creating a Facebook or Twitter profile for your company should suffice in this social media centric age. While that is not a bad idea, simply relying on your company’s social media profile is not going to cut it. Social media presence is meant to complement your online presence; it is not the be all and end all of your online strategy. This article and others to come will discuss some additional pertinent reasons that should prompt you to create a compelling website.

Most users who spend a lot of time on Facebook or Twitter, are not concerned with professional networking, rather they spend time on the social network site to connect with family and friends. Your presence on social media channels alone is not enough for drawing in potential customers; rather your profile’s discovery on Facebook and Twitter should serve as a precursor to encouraging friends to share (provide a small promotion) your website link with others so that they might benefit them from your products or services.

Your company’s brand awareness will then expand by your extended network of prospects. However unless you link your Facebook or Twitter profile to a “best in class” website, your prospects won’t be subjected to a professional and effective company branding strategy.  The value proposition of your product or service will be lost to the visitor, who is now off searching and viewing your competitors’ site.

Content Management Systems for Control and Opportunity

A CMS (Content Management System) allows the business owner full editing control of the text and most of the imagery that resides on the website.  Having your website built with a CMS platform is critical initially, in order for you to create fresh new content needed for optimum SEO results. You need control to edit the content you are positioning to prospects and valued customers so that you able to change it on the fly when there is a need to react to the market, with focused attention on what is working in you marketing efforts.

Possibly, you would also be responding with better promotions, more comprehensive detail to products and services etc. Your website is your primary online brochure; it is the face of the company to the marketplace. Having control of the content on your website is the only way to affordably react with information to an ever changing  market, so make sure when speaking to the company designing and developing your website, you include a CMS platform.

 

Interactive Advertising With Greater ROI

Advertise With Greater Confidence Knowing You’re Maximizing Your Response Rates

“Half my advertising money is wasted. The problem is that I don’t know which half”, said William Lever, founder of Lever Soap Company back in 1886. Sadly, well over a century later, it’s estimated that 50 percent of advertising budgets are still wasted on programs that don’t produce a meaningful response. Yet, marketing executives are being held increasingly accountable to deliver greater, more predictable, and measurable returns on investment from their advertising spend, according to Forrester Research.

While some marketers grow increasingly frustrated with declines in response rates to their traditional print advertising and shifting their focus to digital channels, others have discovered how to “crack the code” and are achieving new highs in response rates and returns on investment through properly integrating the offline and online channels. This guide aims to provide the practical, yet frequently overlooked, tips and critical action steps to dramatically increase the response rates and maximize the returns on investment from print advertisements.

1. With so many distractions today, capturing customers’ attention with an ad has become as much science as art. While a great picture can tell a thousand words, studies show that wondering eyes automatically gravitate more towards pictures than words. Use a relevant, high contrast image that supports your core message. So don’t make your audience “work” – read more than is absolutely necessary. Use a picture whenever possible to enhance your offer. Pictures of people and smiling faces are very  effective.

2. If your image succeeds in capturing your readers’ attention, the rest of your ad copy must gain and keep their interest – that’s where your headline plays a pivotal role. Think of your headline as “an ad for your ad”. Its sole purpose is to captivate your audience and “sell” them on reading the rest of your ad copy. Eyes automatically gravitate towards large, bold text. Therefore, be sure your headline stands out from the rest of the ad copy. Focus on your offer’s key benefits. Most readers are “skimmers” and will make a split-second decision about whether or not to keep reading. A “skimmer” should be able to get the “gist” of what the ad is about by the picture and headline (and subtitles if applicable). Books have been written on the topic of writing effective headlines. Refer to a few and them by your side for creative inspiration.

3. Readers are “skimmers”. Avoid long, small-type paragraphs. Instead, bullet out your offer’s benefits whenever possible. Newspapers like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are written at an 8th grade level to make the content easier to consume. So present your offer’s benefits in an easy-to-digest manner. Use color and call-outs to deliver the most relevant points.

4. If your ad succeeds at capturing your audience’s attention and interest, be sure to provide a clear, concise call-to-action; tell them what to do next. Don’t leave it up to them to guess what they should do next. If you want them to call a phone number or visit a website, say so. And be sure to include the benefit of doing so. An extra incentive  can instantly increase response rates. For example  by applying an expiration date to your CTA, you can instill a sense of urgency and further increase response. If you’re selling flowers, for example, your CTA might be to visit your website and offer a coupon code with an expiration date.

5. Providing readers multiple options to respond to your ad can not only dramatically increase your overall response rates but also increase the value of your response. A Direct Marketing Association study found that customers who buy from two channels (vs. just one) are between 20 and 60% more valuable, while triple-channel buyers are 60-125% more valuable. Ads that provide readers the option to respond by calling a phone number or by visiting a web page tend to get higher responses than identical ads that offer only a single option.

6. Displaying your main company phone number in your ad is sure-fire way to keep yourself guessing about the performance of your ad. Instead, use unique phone numbers with call tracking. By assigning a unique number to each of your ads, you can accurately test and measure which ads generate the best response. You can view reports to analyze the data and adjust your advertising to increase the overall ROI. This is critically important for new ad campaigns.

7. Most advertisers today already get it. Displaying a website address in a print ad increases response rates. But where many ads fall short is by display the link to their website home page. For better results you can measure and repeat, drive customers to a unique web page, specifically designed to complement your ad, also known as a “landing page” or “micro site” using a personalized URL, or “PURL”. This method is proven to provide a better user experience and increase conversion rates. Sending customers to your home page and making them hunt through your website for the offer they’re interested in is a sure way to aggravate them and lose sales.

8. Studies have shown that the majority of prospects don’t convert into customers the first time they’re exposed to a brand, product or service. Conversions increase over time as prospects are repeatedly exposed to an offer. Since the majority of visitors to your landing page won’t immediately convert, provide an incentive that gains you their contact information.

8. Assuming 5 percent of visitors to your landing page immediately convert and another 10% take advantage of an incentive and share their contact information, you’re building a highly valuable database of prospects and customers. Nurturing those prospects with routine email offers further increases conversions over time – effectively increasing the ROI from your print ad.

9. The saying, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” doesn’t ring more true when it comes to direct response advertising. Create variations of your offer using live A/B tests to determine the best response. You might determine mid-campaign that one version of your landing page is clearly outperforming the other and redirect all traffic to the winner to maximize conversions. To make all this possible you must, of course, properly install and configure a web analytics program and understand how to interpret the data. Using PURLs, you can clearly see how visitors behave; how long they stay, where they click, how many convert, etc.  – providing you the hard data you need to eliminate the guess work.

10. Properly analyzing the data contained in web analytics and performance reports will clearly indicate how visitors respond to a given offer and interact with the content. This valuable insight can then be confidently applied to the design of future print ads to incrementally improve response rates and maximize advertising ROI.

While any one of the above tactics can produce immediate measurable results, you can expect the greatest positive impact from a comprehensive approach. I hope you’ll gain value from these tips and that you’ll advertise with greater confidence.

 

eCommerce website design trends for 2014

The eCommerce industry has grown considerably over the past few years. eCommerce sites have been greatly dependent on web designs. This year the eCommerce website design trends focused mainly on providing an enhanced user experience across multiple platforms such as mobiles, tablets, laptops and desktop PCs. The designs involved features such as scrollable layouts, responsive sites and fixed navigation sites. While these trends are here to stay and will surely evolve in 2014, there are also certain new aspects that are changing the world of eCommerce website design. Here’s a brief overview of what could happen in the upcoming year.

Integration with social media

The impact of social media on eCommerce also has been huge. The massive reach and potential of social media has always been appealing to e-tailers. It also provides an innovative platform to bring together all aspects of an eCommerce site into a center stage, making things easily accessible to potential buyers. Adding sharable wish lists to your site is one of the best methods to publicize your merchandise while reaching out to a greater audience at the same time. Integration with social media can increase your conversion rates and act as an effective platform for publicity at the same time.

Videos and images

Videos and images are going to play an important role in website design in the coming year. We have constantly seen that the borders and padding that was erstwhile used to distinguish between segments of a page are slowly disappearing and designs that spread across the browser are in vogue today. Also videos and images convey a message quicker than anything else. But there is one downside to using videos and images in website design and that is downtime. A higher downtime can not only wreak havoc on your search engine rankings, but also dissuade users from your site. That will be one area of concern but smart tactics such as saving the images as per your requirements instead of editing them every time through a CSS file can save a lot of sweat. You can also use a single image or video to represent a huge chunk of data and reduce your downtime.

Better processing techniques

Processing the design has also been a major area of concern for designers. It is also important as it provides key information about the expected downtime. Two such per-processors LESS and SASS for CSS are quickly gaining popularity. These per-processors help in efficient management of CSS styling. These tools save the website downtime by providing valuable insights during the design process and also save the time consumed during design process. We could possibly see more such tools being used in 2013.

Importance of minimizing flash on your website

With over 25 million iPads sold since its launch in January of 2010 the demand for the iPad continues to nearly exceed supply. Never before, had any a product hit the 1 million unit mark so quickly. Another Apple product, the iPhone, has sold 109 million units since the device’s inception in 2007.

Nevertheless, an alarming number of web applications and content do not work on Apple’s  iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices. Despite Adobe Flash being a popular platform used for adding multimedia to web pages, Apple continues not to support Flash on any of it’s i-branded products.

A 3rd party survey of 3.5 million web pages revealed that approximately 30-40% of websites contained elements that were driven by Flash. So, what happens when any of the 125+ million users try to access a Flash website on one of these devices (not to mention other non-Apple mobile devices that do not support flash)? Instead of the website, or the content within, they see an error message. In other words, all Flash content is invisible to these users.

So how does the growth of iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users and the lack of support for Flash on these products impact your business? If your website was developed in Flash or has Flash elements, your customers and prospects will have a disappointing online experience. Many consumers are unaware of the technical issues between Apple and Adobe Flash and will assume the website is broken.

As US mobile internet usage increases (to over 134 million users by 2013) and number of Apple i-products and other non-flash supporting mobile devices grows, it will be progressively important for companies to update their websites and make them compatible with these devices or risk alienating their customers.

The advent of competitive products from Blackberry, Samsung and others, that do in fact support Flash are out there now.  However 25 Million iPad units and 108 million iphone users is nothing to sneeze at.