Monday, October 15, 2012

Fast-Track to Creating a Website! (And Save Time & Money)

If you are reading this, you probably have or need a website. Today I would like to help you speed up the process of making changes and give you some tips on achieving your desired website results.

Depending on where you are in the process, you may just need some simple content changes, or a complete new website that even you are not 100% sure what it needs to look like. Are you certain what specific functions it should or will need to perform? And worse, maybe your current website is not performing the way you had hoped; the orders are not coming in, the hits did not go up, and you spent a lot of money. :(

It may be time to speak with a web solutions architect.

An architect will take into consideration not only your marketing or sales goals, but design a site that achieves those goals. He/she should be well versed in graphics (aesthetics, and content placement), front-end design (what the page does that you see) and back-end development that supports the data and usage needs of the site. (the part you don't see)

Here are some tips to get the website you really want, and save time and money by speeding up the process.
  1. Content: I have worked on thousands of websites and the number one delay is content. If your copy and photos aren't ready, your website developer will be waiting on you.
  2. Pages/Sections: The structure of your site should be well established. It not only needs to make sense to you, but to first time visitors too! Sitemaps are helpful (but no one uses them!), however; a flow into the site so that it is intuitive is far better. Be sure to define the main sections. IE: Home, About, Store, Contact, Downloads, Press etc. Then document a flow that gets the job done.
  3. Function/Action: An effective website needs to have a purpose. In marketing we call this a "call to action." When visitors come to your site, what do you want them to do? Buy a product, sign up for an email list, or follow you on Twitter? If your action is defined, the site needs to support that action.
  4. Best Practices: Intuitive websites often have a small group of links that make standard information quickly available! They should be part of every website to help first-time/new users, while staying out of the way of experienced users. They are Home, About, Contact (Customer Service), and My Account (sign in) for account based sites. If it a store My Cart is a standard.
  5. Priorities: Your site needs to manage your priorities and objectives. One page (actually 1.24 pages) is probably all the time you get to capture the interest of a user and entice them to read more, or act. Each one us of us visits at least a few sites a week if not a few each day. How long do you stick around? How hard was it to find what you were looking for? Your site needs to manage your calls to action and the process of building customer confidence in your brand to achieve that goal. Page real estate is ESSENTIAL! A good architect can maximize your "hits" to guide users to the desired content/actions by effective use of page real estate and menu system.
If you do your homework before engaging a developer, your site will be cheaper and finished in less time.

Is your website performing the way you want it to?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Profits of Paying it Forward

In today's vernacular, the term for charitable giving is paying it forward. Entrepreneurs and companies who give time and money, even lend their name to charitable and non-profit organizations, provide an emotional link to their customers by connecting them to causes which are important to them.

Like "buying American" after 9/11 and "going green" a few years ago, this market trend can be a powerful tool for energizing your web site.

Causes marketing is a double edge sword. Choosing neutral causes is a much better choice than choosing a more controversial one. If we choose cancer research, it's hard to go wrong unless that organization or cause has a negative press experience. It's usually best to stay away from politics and religion because those causes are often polarized and may alienate potential customers and clients. The only caveat would be a time when your customer base is identical to a cause you support.

Another word of caution, jumping on the band wagon too soon after an event is perceived as "taking advantage" of peoples emotions, and is negative. Profiteering is negative marketing. People like to have time to make up their minds about events; particularly emotional ones. Wait for the end of a news cycle and work to regenerate interest in your cause.

How do you participate in paying it forward? There are lots of ways.
  • Forward letters of support for causes you care about on behalf of an organization
  • Like a cause on Facebook with your fan page
  • Send out a letter or snail mail piece outlining your contributions
  • Volunteer your time and post pictures on Facebook and your web site
  • Participate in an event, a walk, or a 5K race
  • Provide food for the needy
  • Work in a soup kitchen
  • Donate money or products to your cause
Here is brief list of causes which I support because they matter to me. I often run races which help generate interest, awareness and funds. I also donate time and money as I am able.
  • American Heart Association - because I had a heart attack.
  • Pancreatic Cancer Action Network - because this is the disease which my mother died of.
  • My daughter's PTO because it provides supplies for the classroom.
  • The Local College and High School Hockey teams because I like hockey.
  • The local youth hockey organization because my child is involved.
  • Food Pantry
  • Cancer research
Not only are causes a way to contribute to your community and feel good, it benefits those who are less fortunate - I don't think that anyone has an issue with that, and most people will support you because they perceive you to be not just reputable, but compassionate.

Do you pay it forward?