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The Value of Your Website

Guest Post by Teresa Renee of Designed to Connect

When running a business you have a direction that you want to go. In order to get there you know that you need to market your business and your services to your targeted demographic. So you take out an ad, you get business cards and you build a website to represent that business.

Many business owners think that they can just throw up a website by adding some content and sprinkling it with some pictures. However that doesn’t cut it in the business world. Your website is your calling card. It’s the face of your business. In many cases, your website will be the first impression that people get when it comes to your business. So what does your website have to say about you? What face is it putting with your business brand?

The following are 2 website examples for the same company.  The one on the left is their old website they paid a developer to create the second one was the redesign of their website.  How does one website over the other change the way you see the company?  Before hiring a web designer be sure to look through their portfolio of work.

 

Your website is not a static page. What it says; how it looks all reflects your business. There is so much value in your website, it will be the #1 viewed marketing tool your company will ever have. Whether you spent $5000 on your website design or $500, it doesn’t matter if what the website has to say is not a good reflection on your business, doesn’t clearly identify what you do or doesn’t convert visitors into customers.

Content is king but design and optimization can mean more than the words you’ve put on the page. Don’t take that the wrong way, your content needs to be valuable and make a statement but the design of the site is important. The appearance of a site is supposed to entice your customers and invite them to learn more about your business and the services that you provide.

Your website should identify what you want them to do; call us, email us, visit our store, shop online, join our email list or any other call to action.  You need to compel them to want to make a decision to go with your company.  In the site featured here you can see the call to action is to Book a Room.

The way the website is designed will determine its appeal to all those who view it. If the design is unattractive, the flow  is confusing then what you do or what you have to say won’t matter.

Think of it like chocolate. When you go by a confectionary you see workers pouring the silky chocolate onto a sheet. As it pours from the crock that it’s in you see the silky flow and it looks so delicious. You stand there imagining how the chocolate will taste. It looks so creamy and tasty and before you know it you go inside and buy you a pound of creamy milk chocolate bites. That visual drew you in. If you had walked into the confectionary and a worker said “Hi, we have some good chocolate, want some?” you probably wouldn’t have bought any. Seeing it for yourself is what made you feel the need to try it. That’s the same magic and power that a website has for the businesses they represent.

While it costs to build a website, its value cannot be under estimated. Once that website begins to pull in your target audience its worth becomes evident. Optimizing it so that it gets into the right hands, creating a design that lures people in and provoke them to act and adding content and search engine optimization that has meaning is what makes that website turn to gold.

So take a look at your website and determine how valuable it is. Today is here and it’s the perfect time to revise your website and turn it into what you’ve always wanted it to be – a money maker for your business.

 

About the Author

Teresa Renee is the owner of Designed to Connect a full service web design company that specializes in creating WordPress and ecommerce WordPress  Website.   They work to bring your “Bring Your Brand to Life Online” with a focus on building your brand image, engaging your current customers and finding new leads.  Additional services offered include; Search Engine Optimization, Online Marketing Consulting, Graphic Design, Social Media Marketing training and creation.  She can be reached at 1-855-348-4122 or info@designedtoconnect.com


 

 

 

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Getting Noticed with Direct Mail Die Cuts

Guest Post by Dave Ward of Highland Marketing

We often hear reactions to creative work expressed with an air of excitement, “oh, that’s interesting” or “is that ever different”; quite simply, people just like experiences that go beyond the humdrum things seen every day. The same applies to direct mail and pieces that attract attention are far more likely to generate desired results for your small business when compared to familiar, “same old” pieces that normally land in our mailboxes.

Over the past few years one of our favourite “stand out” techniques here at Highland Marketing has been the use of unique, die cut mailers and promotional materials. However, die cuts are not the only way of getting noticed. We’ve seen favourable results through the use (or even combined use) of techniques such as:

  1. clear polybags – where the contents can be seen without opening the package
  2. the use of larger items – we mailed over 14,000 full-size wine bottles (unfortunately empty) on one campaign
  3. insightful, personalized targeting – through the use of powerful techniques for Variable Data Integration (VDI)

Example of a coffee cup die cut created for a Highland Marketing client. What kind of Die cut could your small business create?

Building Excitement

Die cuts are not only effective for getting your business noticed, they can also put a lot of fun into direct marketing. Sure, they need to be consistent with your brand and image, but it can be very rewarding to generate new and creative ideas. While we have designed numerous die cuts, we’ve also enjoyed watching clients come up with some outstanding ideas on their own after discussions with us.

On Results

Obviously, businesses are curious about how well die cut mailers work. Although we are strong proponents of die cuts, and as much as we often ask our client to measure, we do not always have access to actual campaign results.

I can say, however, that we use die cuts ourselves and have seen returns far in excess of the investments we have made. We also have one client who launched a pilot program earlier this year, in which they sent different Roundcards to different customers, based on specific information that they had collected. The program was such a success that they have continued to mail every two weeks.

We also had a client for whom we’ve mailed over 400,000 house-shaped postcards, over the course of 20 different mailings. It’s probably a safe bet that this company has also seen positive results. Consider that their first drop was a mere 2,500 pieces. Since then, the quantities have grown to upwards of 30,000 pieces per drop. They would not be continuing to increase quantities in this manner if the program was not tremendously successful.

It’s Only Expensive If…

Another question people often ask me is: how much do die cuts cost? Typically, we have found that they add about 25% to 50% to the cost of a standard print job, with the difference diminishing as volume increases. Of course, this does depend on both the size and complexity of the die.

Although this adds to the cost of the mailing:

  • direct mail is only expensive when it doesn’t work, and
  • the incremental cost of well-designed die cuts, with good copy, certainly enhances the likelihood of their success.

Although we are focusing on die cuts in this post, I will often stress these particular points by referring to a project where we mailed about 14,000 messages in wine bottles (over an 18 month period). Amazingly, this campaign actually returned every dollar budgeted to it long before it was even completed – and that was with an all-in cost of $16 per piece. It was a great project, but certainly not for the faint of heart.

Repetition is Still Key

We must never underestimate the value of repetition. Yes, it’s possible that you may come up with an awesome design, great copy, and a superb offer that gets your phones ringing off the hook with just one mailing, but more often it can take two or three mailings (or sometimes more) to the same audience to really see significant results. I often tell new clients that if they want to be successful, rather than mailing to 9,000 new prospects once, they might consider mailing to the best 3,000 prospects three times. If the product is good, the copy is good, and there is a solid offer – it does work.

It really does pay to be tastefully different and die cuts can help you stand out. Many of our clients have already put their “marketing in shape” and as we mentioned, it not only adds value, it also adds a lot of fun.

About the Author

Dave Ward is the president of Highland Marketing, which he founded in 1993 and built on the foundation of strong technical skills and a commitment to always trying to help clients achieve that most effective balance between cost and creativity. Dave is also the founder of the DM-Toolkit, a one-stop resource for integrated direct marketing, as well as a published author, with several of his articles appearing in Direct Marketing News. You can follow him on Twitter.

Posted in: Guest Blogger, Small Business Marketing, Small Business Solutions

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5 Things You Should Know Before Starting a Business

With Guest Blogger Jenn Hall of OSIM Interactive

When starting a business it’s always better to know as much as you can beforehand. Over the 10 years I have worked with businesses I have seen some costly mistakes, affecting both the bottom line and the owner’s personal success, which could have been avoided.

Here is a list of 5 things that you should know before you start your business:

The government will find you

You can’t hide from the government. They will find out you are in business and expect you to follow applicable regulations. The rules for HST, source deductions, taxes, labour, and other laws are all published online and all levels of government are more then willing to help you in the process of setting up your business properly. Federal, Provincial, and most municipalities have a website that has vast amounts of information for reference. Each level of government also has a telephone number to contact and ask questions. Overall, do the work to know the rules. Claiming ignorance when the government comes looking for payments will not save you the penalties, interest, and fines imposed if you’re breaking a law.

Find an advisor who knows what they’re taking about

Anyone can claim to be a business advisor, they just need a business card and sales pitch. When starting a business you should not need to pay for a first meeting with an advisor. A real business advisor can be found by contacting your local CFDC or Business Centre, asking business professionals (your lawyer, accountant, or banker) for a referral, or contacting a local college or university for referrals. If someone is claiming to be able to make you millions of dollars with the contribution of some of your hard earned cash…run, fast! As to the role of an advisor, they’re available to guide and help you; they will not do the work for you. Advisors help you get connected to the people, mentors or other businesses that can help you in the process of building your business.

Pick one thing and do it well

You cannot be everything to everyone. It is physically impossible, so stop trying!  When starting a business most people know what they want to do. They have decided that whatever skill, product, or service they offer is something that they can do well enough to generate an income. Most people go wrong when they stray too far from the original item or idea. It’s always better to say no to a project that you’re truly unsure of rather than to take on a project and fail horribly. The possible negative response from a unsatisfied customer will have a long-term affect on your business and isn’t worth the risk. Be honest with people, they will appreciate it more than a costly mistake.

Know who you’re in business with

Not every personal relationship can handle the stress of a business relationship. The best marriages can end over a business and friendships can be ruined. It’s always important to test the waters before you go into business with someone you wish to have a future with. Care must also be taken with the contacts that you make in business. You need to identify staff and suppliers that work well with you. Trust your gut, it is usually right. Never hire or work with another business out of desperation, it’s guaranteed to come back to haunt you.

Plan, Plan, Plan

The best thing you can do for your business? Write a business plan. A business plan will allow you to organize all of your ideas and gives you time to think the process though. A plan will encompass the rules are you need to follow, who you will work with, what you need in a potential staff or supplier, and what you are going to sell/make/do. The most vital piece of the plan is the financial planning. It is much easier to find out on paper that the numbers don’t work in advance than to be up to your ears in debt too far into the growth of your company. Your business advisor will be able to help you work though the process of building a plan.

 

Posted in: Guest Blogger, Small Business Advice

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What can Social Media Really do for Your Business?

Guest Post by Matthew Piggott from Community CarShare

We live in an online world where Facebook is your town square, Twitter is a local group of opinion leaders, and LinkedIn is your virtual Rolodex. Many platforms exist and your business is trying to find out what works best. At Community CarShare the majority of our growth still comes from word of mouth and traditional forms of promotion, but an increasing amount of sales are coming from online marketing driven by social media. Every business should be monitoring whether, and to what extent, to be part of social media.

A common question asked is, “what is the return on investment of social media?” Any responsible business should be asking that question, but ultimately the question is best answered with your gut rather than your head at this point.  Sites like Klout.com, Google Analytics, and the ad section of Facebook will give you lots of data, but it doesn’t paint a complete picture of the true worth of social media. When your BIA sends you an invite to this month’s networking meeting, do your rush to quantify the value of attending? I’m guessing not, so base your decision to get involved on Twitter, or other platforms, based on questions such as: Will this help improve my brand? Can I get better customer engagement? Etc…

I can best illustrate the benefits of social media involvement with an example. For years we have been working with our insurance company to lower our minimum driving age and this summer succeeded in having it lowered to 21! This was great news for us but, in the rush of our summer, business expansion only had a chance to compose one tweet about it in the first few days of receiving the news. A few days later a prospective member approached me at an event; turns out the message had spread so fast that it went beyond our immediate network and was being repeated back to us in a very short time frame.

In the end, that one tweet was re-tweeted over two dozen times and has been our most broadcast message of any we’ve composed. If you compare what we invested (the time to compose a 140 character phrase) with what we received then you can understand why we’re enthusiastic about the ROI that social media can bring to your business.

That being said, Facebook likes and Twitter followers don’t necessarily translate into sales.  So while you’re working to build your platform, don’t be afraid to branch out and tap into other established networks. We’ve used online deal sites like Groupon and WagJag, and have considered others like Living Social. Those deals have offered great returns because they give access to an already established network of several hundred-thousand people depending on which site you choose.

As always make sure you know your target audience and do some research on the particular demographic of each site and its potential successes/failures to avoid disappointment. Is your business based on a membership service? Then these deals are a no-brainer because you’ll have an easy chance at a repeat customer. Pick a site that works best for you and go for it.

Our experience at Community CarShare is that social media has helped drive word of mouth advertising, allowed us to engage with a community of interested people, and brought in new business opportunities that would not have been possible before. Studies show that social media adoption is currently in the “early majority” so it’s not too late to jump in. Define your goals, pick a few platforms, and follow us @GrRiverCarShare  or on Facebook if you’d like!

Matthew Piggott is the Member Services Coordinator at Community CarShare. He enjoys using social media to find new CarShare members, and also to ensure they have good service once they join.

Posted in: Guest Blogger, Small Business Solutions, Social Media Tips

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Developing Quality Content for your Business’ Social Media Pages

With Guest Blogger Glen Hall of OSIM Interactive

So someone asks if your business has a Facebook page:

“Yes!” you proudly remark, “… it just hasn’t been updated for two months.”

Sound familiar?

You might return to social media sites to dish out a few days of content, but eventually day-to-day operations pick up and suddenly Facebook, Twitter, and the social media scene has fallen off the priority list.

Providing content for your social media pages can become a time-absorbing task; however, below you’ll find five tips to make generating quality content easier:

Share Published Articles

Simple, right? Well sharing articles can take a lot more of your precious time if you’re not organized, so organize!

Oh thanks Glen, but how?

Set up an RSS Feed:

An RSS feed is ONE page that organizes ALL the blogs you follow into ONE stream. All that you need to do is subscribe the web page (ex. blog.website.com, forbes.com/tags/social-media) to your RSS feed and voila: your RSS will fill with articles whenever those pages are updated.

You may have a few websites bookmarked that you use to find articles – if not try Google-ing “top 10 blogs for <industry>” to get you started.

I recommend Google Reader. It’s free, easy, and a great time saver.

Create Your Own Articles

When creating your own articles you should focus on three fields to report on: company, community, and industry.

        • Company: Do you have any successes to share? Any odd things around the office? Photos of your work?
        • Community: report your community involvements and share community events even if you aren’t necessarily a part of them.
        • Industry: what could you tell people about your field that they wouldn’t understand? What is- and How To- articles are great ways to show off your expertise.
Newsjack Articles

Newsjacking is capitalizing on a popular story by rewriting a similar, but original article.

Ex. An article is published 1 minute ago: “Steve Jobs has died”.

So publish your own article immediately, titled: “Can Apple Persevere without Steve?”

These stories do not have to be the same in scale as Steve Jobs’ death; depending on your industry, it can be as simple as a new type of flower being discovered or Facebook’s new timeline update.

But once the news gets out, people will flock for more information and if you newsjack industry-related articles you’ll have an attractive article that pulls in the leads you want to your website. So watch your RSS feed; you can hit the jackpot.

Share Photos

Photos are an easy way to place a face behind your company. Whether it be on-site work, new products, team building, or documenting the surprise dozen of Timbits in the office can generate interactions and even be fun to create!

Motivational or funny photos are also easy to share, and, so long as you keep it relevant, they can yield excellent results.

Ask a Question

This is the social media version of a call-to-action. Leave an open-ended question to encourage conversation. See our examples below:

Question: The iPad 3 has been released in China! Are you a tablet user?

Opinion: What do you think of Facebook’s new timeline?

Response: It takes _____ cups of coffee to wake me up in the morning.

I hope these tips help grow your online presence and nurture your brand’s community.


Glen Hall
OSIM Interactive

Posted in: Guest Blogger, Small Business Solutions, Social Media Tips

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