Thursday, September 30, 2010

Four Trends to Unlocking Web Success for Small and Medium Size Businesses

It is time for a web site redesign, right? Your old web site lacks the punch, zip and energy you need to meet your marketing needs.

You’re not alone.

Small and medium size businesses across the country are taking a purposeful look at how they engage online as a means to enhancing their prospect engagement and, ultimately, sales efforts.

For most professional marketers that aren’t deeply in tune with digital marketing strategies, it might feel like an organic, evolutionary effort to re-visit your Web activities for improvement. However, there are several large trends that are driving a marketer’s sensibility:
  1. Storytelling
  2. Inbound Marketing
  3. Social Media
  4. Experience
Storytelling
We live in an age of information overload. There is simply too much of everything. The key to this from a marketing perspective is to provide context and a narrative – create a truthful story about you, and, most importantly, how your business helps people or other businesses.
Remember, every anecdote that we share with somebody in conversation has a beginning, middle and an end, usually with a point. This is storytelling at its base level; the story of your business should be no different and should incite recall and sharing anecdotally with a positive benefit.

Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing suggests that instead of a sales effort to identify prospects before applying an effort to convert them to a customer, companies should be present where there customers exist, creating value and service for them so they seek you out at time of need.

By analogy, instead of merely fishing in the lake, inbound marketing is about fishing at the right spot, at the right time, with the right bait. Sales then reels the fish in.

This is a flip of the role whereby marketing has existed to create sales opportunities by pushing. Now, marketing exists to provide customer value, often times to a greater degree than what is required for the sales effort. Savvy marketers are providing value with pull mechanisms.

Social Media
As an extension of storytelling and inbound marketing’s value creation where a customer lives, social media serves to create a one-to-one human connection where your customers and prospects exist online, across a number of different online properties – LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

Experience (or what I affectionately call “Oomph”)
It’s not enough to do the things listed above, everybody is doing this. The real key, the “secret sauce” if you will, is to provide something extra that entertains, delights, and engages your customers and prospects.

How you execute that “experience” is dependent largely on the blank canvas you have – and, it can be motion graphics, games, or advanced interactivity. Think “sizzle” and think about the positive feeling and impression you want to impart to a visitor of your web site. What can you do to have a prospect leave your site saying, “That’s a cool company.”

Why should you care?
These four trends (telling a story, creating value, being present online by pulling, and providing an experience) become very important to understand because in an age of digital connection before in-person human connection, your storytelling hook, your image online, your brand, and the content you create, as a matter of doing business, becomes paramount to success.

Simply, nowadays, if a prospect reaches out to you, you can be assured that they have already done enough research on your company to decide whether they want to work with you. A meeting is simply passing the “eyeball” test.
Alternatively, if you’re proactively selling new business with a team of salespeople, you can be assured that your prospect has drawn a deduction about you, your company, and your services based not on an initial meeting with you, but rather how you are presented online and if you’ve helped them at all at that point.

Nowadays, the old maxim about “first impressions are lasting impressions” does not mean YOU specifically, or the services of your organization, it means your brand image online and your firm’s engagement online.

You want to impact that as positively as possible, right? Of course you do.

Well, your web site is the hub for this and the engagement you offer from your web site via inbound marketing (value creation) efforts and social media serves to complement your hub. And, all of it should be with a bent towards experiential storytelling.

How to do this?
Well, having a great story to tell and a great web site is the place to start. TBH Creative can help you with that. And, a unified brand image across social media properties as an extension of your brand is important, too and TBH Creative can help you with that, as well.

However, when it comes to bringing your story and outreach efforts to life online, that’s where we come in. As a digital design studio that specializes in motion graphics (and as a partner with TBH Creative), we know that storytelling and an experience comes to life with motion and visual engagement.

Whether it be motion graphics in the header of your home page, or if your entire web site is based on interactivity and motion, your chances of presenting an excellent brand image at your web site, as a reinforcement of your story, as a complement to your value creation (inbound marketing) and your social media efforts, adds to the positive takeaway, bringing life to your organization, online.

The net result of following the mentioned four trends in online marketing will be an increase in energy, momentum and sales with your business. TBH Creative can lead you down the correct path and The Basement Design + Motion, in conjunction with TBH, can help add the sizzle that you need to stand out in a crowded and noisy business landscape.

Jeff Lefevere
Professional Internet Marketer
About the Author
A professional Internet marketer since 1996, Jeff Lefevere manages Client Services for The Basement Design + Motion (http://www.thebasement.tv/). Headquartered in Indianapolis and working regionally and nationally, The Basement Design+Motion, LLC defines, designs, develops, and deploys digital marketing that delivers - delivers on providing meaningful engagement and user experience that drives a response with its intended audience.

TBH Creative is proud to have a partner in The Basement Design + Motion. Contact us today to get your online sizzle!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Six surefire signs your website needs an upgrade.

Marketing managers or company owners may wonder if their website should be updated. The answer 95% of the time is yes. Even if your website is good, there is always room for improvement either directly on your website or through complimentary services such as email marketing, search engine optimization, or social media efforts. Successful websites are continually and routinely enhanced, changed and updated.

For this post, I examined obvious and must-need reasons to upgrade and update your website. If your website has the following problems, you need to upgrade now. Not tomorrow, not in a few months, but now because hundreds or thousands of visitors are (or could be) learning about your company each day.
  1. Information is inaccurate.
  2. You are embarrassed to send potential clients to your website.
  3. Visitors are interested, but cannot contact you via your website.
  4. Your website has broken links or error pages.
  5. Visitors cannot answer ‘who you are’ or ‘what you do’ after 10 seconds on your home page.
  6. Your website hasn’t been updated since it launched… over a year ago!
1. Information is inaccurate.
Outdated, incorrect or misleading information on your website will turn visitors away. This is a plain and simple fact; however is something that so many companies put on the back-burner to correct. Why is this on your backburner? Your website is a presentation of your company that continues to play all day and all night to hundreds or maybe thousands or millions of potential new clients.

Some typical examples of information problems on corporate websites include:
Your staff page shows incorrect employees.
  • Your services or products are outdated, a partial list of what you really do, or are missing photos and proper descriptions.
  • You have rebranded but the website still shows your old logo and colors. If your design is good and your website works well, do not forget about the information. These things all work together to help you achieve results.
2. You are embarrassed to send potential clients to your website.
I honestly hear this often and cannot express more how this is holding your company back from potential success. If you aren’t sending people to your website because it is not “up-to-par”, do not think for one minute your potential clients are not going there anyway and judging you. 

On the flip side, you may have a great salesman that closes the deal. That is great, but boy is he working hard! Why not double or triple his efforts (not to mention make his life easier) by putting your #1 marketing tool (your website) at the top of your priority list. Set a realistic timeline, find a website company who can help make it happen, and get it out there -- non-embarrassing style. You will be amazed at the what a web strategy can do.

3. Visitors are interested, but cannot contact you via your website.
Seriously, you spent all this money (or maybe you didn’t and that is part of the problem) and you have potential new clients on your website…but they cannot reach you, they do not know how to buy your products, or they have questions but no one is available to answer. What do most users do in this scenario? They click away. Quickly and without a second thought. You just lost potential business.

Your website should:
  • Have a clear call to action on each page.
  • Provide a phone number or an online form – that is easy and obvious to find. 
Another big mistake is to have a contact form, but it doesn’t work! You have now frustrated your user or made them believe someone will be contacting them (but in fact you aren’t sure who receives those messages – do they go off into cyberspace?).

Adding a call to action and clear method for contact is a fairly quick and easy addition to make that will have a significant impact to visitors on your website and for your company ROI.

4. Your website has broken links or error pages. If you were trying to impress a new client over a lunch, would you be late? Would you take them to Taco Bell or spring for something a bit nicer? Would you belch at the end of the meal? You surely answered no. Well, at least not on purpose, right? 


Broken links on your website are similar to the above. They leave a bad impression, do not show off your strengths, and are simply lazy.


Find and get those broken links fixed immediately!
5. Visitors cannot answer ‘who you are’ or ‘what you do’ after 10 seconds on your home page.
This puzzles me, but so many website simply do not state what they do or who they are right up front. Your website should not be a game or riddle for these basic questions. Everyone is busy and people use the Internet to find important information… quickly. If you do not say what you do, users will go somewhere else or leave your site wondering: “what?”.

A few examples: 
  • If you are business furniture store, show them some furniture. That is great that you are involved in the community and are a cool company, but tell them what you sell!
  • If you are a service company, show samples of your work or the products you work on. 
If you sell coffee, attract their senses with a steaming hot cup of coffee or coffee beans.
Do not leave your users guessing why they should be interested in your company. You are good at XYZ, so just answer the question: What do you do or who are you?

6. Your website hasn’t been updated (or thought about much) since it launched… over a year ago! 
If you launched your website a few months ago or over a year ago, your job is not done.  This was the thinking 5 years ago, but not anymore. Your website is not just a brochure. It is an interactive tool that is easy to change to reflect new ideas and directly speak to your customers. If you are not taking the lead, your competition is going to.

Are you measuring your website or online success? Do you know how your visitors are behaving on your beautiful new site? Are you directing people to your site and giving them a reason to come back? Creating a website is only step one.

The next steps you should plan on include ongoing analytics review, making changes based on user trends and company goals, and strategizing techniques on how to use your website as a tool to achieve results.

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If you need help with these items, TBH Creative is a website strategy company located in Indianapolis. We help companies realize and achieve their online potential. Contact us today for more information about our website services and recommendations for your corporate website. Indianapolis web design at http://www.tbhcreative.com/

Friday, September 24, 2010

Get your Sports Medicine online

Saint Anthony Medical Center's Sports Medicine Institute hired TBH Creative as a partner in their website project. The Sports center did not have a website (only one page on the main hospital site), and they wanted to have a place to highlight and inform visitors about all that SMI can offer.

TBH Creative helped SMI from start to finish. It took us a while to iron out the details and flush in the content, but we launched the new and exciting website on schedule for September 2010. The website and online strategy includes custom web design, content management system through their technology company, high energy video, email newsletter marketing, and social media through blogging, Twitter, and YouTube.

Check out the site
About Saint Anthony Sports Medicine Institute
Saint Anthony Sports Medicine Institute (SMI) offers comprehensive, structured programs in a supportive and competitive environment where athletes receive instruction in training methods and techniques that will lead to athletic and individual improvement. Our clients and athletes represent all ages from grade school to high school, college to professional, and adults

After launch, we received this glowing letter about our services:
First, I'd like to personally thank you for all of your hard work and patience during the last year during the build of the SMI Website.

I am certainly proud of that website and the effort it took to get it to look that outstanding. Actually, it's beautiful.  It represents SMI in a dignified, productive and technologically advanced design and layout. The more I look at it...the more I like it.

You're efforts are to be applauded and I can't thank you enough.
~ Eva Tokarz, Marketing & Communications
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About TBH Creative
TBH Creative is an Indianapolis web company offering full service solutions and web strategies to businesses. We help you build and design an outstanding website and then make it truly successful.
 

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