Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Website

These days, businesses have more options than ever when it comes to building their website. And while there are great DIY tools you can use to build a website at a low cost, if you’re not trained in design, you might be doing yourself more harm than good. Whether you like it or not, the design of your website will play a significant role in your visitors’ perception of your company and brand.

If you’re building your website yourself, pay attention to these five design concepts to keep your visitors engaged.

1. Make some room

One common mistake companies make is squeezing a ton of information into a small amount of space. While you may think that information is essential and useful to your customer, if it doesn’t have room to breathe on the page, no one will spend the time to read it. Designers refer to this useful little concept as “white space.”

White space is essentially the negative space surrounding anything on a page (or piece of content). It functions as a mental “break” for viewers, creating a visual pause between pieces of information. If you don’t leave enough white space on your page, the information you present will quickly become overwhelming and cumbersome to consume.

This goes for text, images, videos, or any combination of content. Be sure you’re leaving your viewers’ brains “room to breathe” on your site. Create this white space by breaking up your site into sections, or strips of content, using different solid color backgrounds to create visual separation between sections. For further explanation and examples, check out this beginner’s guide to understanding whitespace.

2. Cut. It. Out.

A challenge many companies have is identifying what information should be on the site. Business owners often love talking about their company and tend to feel the need to offer up way too much information than necessary for a website.

The content on your site should be:

  • Concise
  • Clear
  • To the point
  • High level (not in-depth and detailed)

You don’t want your site to tell your customers everything they might ever need to know about your business. You do want your website to intrigue your customers enough to want to start a conversation with you.

Do yourself a favor and keep your About Us page short, keep the subject of your messaging centered around your customer, and keep your explanation of your products and services as Simple. As. Possible.

3. Content, content, content

When it comes to grabbing and holding the attention of your visitors, it helps to do your research. Different types of content have different strengths and functions, so knowing how and where to offer varying types of content can be extremely helpful.

Integrating video content, visual graphics, and written content throughout your site will help visitors consume information and expand their understanding and connection to your brand and product/services. If you’ve got a particularly important piece of information you want to share, consider putting it into a short video to help it stand out from the rest of the information on your site.

4. Simplify the journey

An easy way to turn people away from your site is to overwhelm them with options. To simplify and clarify their journey through your site, avoid having multiple pop-ups on one page, or too many CTAs in one space. Two is fine, but offering three or more directions for a visitor to go may overwhelm and frustrate them.

Keep your message obvious. Think about what it is you want your readers to do and then stick to that. If a visitor has to exit out of multiple pop-ups, alerts, and chatbots to get to the information on your page, you’re only getting in your own way.

5. Optimize

Making sure your site works well on mobile devices should be a top priority. For the past few years, more than half of all web traffic happens on mobile devices – more than half of all your website visitors are viewing your website on their phones! If your site isn’t optimized to function properly on a mobile device, you’re setting yourself up for readers who won’t get the information you want to share and likely won’t come back.

Take your time, and do it right

75% of people will judge the credibility of your company based on your website’s design. It’s the first real interaction you’ll have with the majority of your customers. If you want that experience to be a good one, then take the time to build a site that represents the brand you love. It’s worth it.

 

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Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

 

More Than a Logo: How a Strong and Consistent Brand Impacts Your Entire Organization

Often, when the topic of branding comes up, thoughts of logos, colors, and fonts preclude all else. But your brand is so much more than that! Your voice, messaging, company beliefs and values, vision, and purpose come together to create a cohesive story that impacts everything from external marketing to internal company culture. 

 

How your brand affects how others perceive you 

A strong brand will do wonders for your marketing. By incorporating your voice, values, and purpose into your messaging, you begin to establish your brand as a consistent presence in your industry or market. This consistency distinguishes your company from your competitors and gives you a leg up in the marketplace. You’ll begin to build trust with your prospects earlier in the buyer’s journey, establish deep lines of customer loyalty, and increase your company’s credibility.   

 

But your brand doesn’t just affect your audience. In fact, its effects on your organization are far more significant and much more important than anything seen from the outside. 

 

How your brand affects your perception of yourself 

When you have a cohesive brand, your whole organization is improved from the inside out. You’ll find employees more aligned, teams working together more efficiently, and productivity increased.  

 

Cross-departmental communication can often be a pain point for larger organizations. With a strong brand, though, consistency is easier to achieve, and communication becomes streamlined through the natural guide created by the values and vision that make up your brand.  

 

Clearly defined company values can even improve your recruiting and hiring process! Your brand provides candidates the ability to determine if they will feel good within your company. When you find someone who aligns with your brand and seems like they could play a vital role in achieving your company’s vision, you’ll find that they’ll be a good fit for your culture, and the transition will be natural. 

 

Refining from the inside out 

If you’ve never taken your organization through a branding process, it takes a while. It’s not a simple checklist or a short survey. It will entail philosophic conversations around the very existence of your business and might bring up uncomfortable topics that need to be addressed. But the time and energy you pour into it will result in a business and brand that you and your team can proudly stand by and celebrate. Your audience will see the confidence and pride from miles away and will inexorably be drawn towards you. 

 

 

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How to Create a Marketing Strategy When You’re Not a Marketer

While most small businesses invest in marketing, they rarely have a marketing team on staff. Or even have one person whose entire job is dedicated to marketing for the company. Usually, marketing falls to one or two employees whose primary job allows them the small amount of time they need to send out social media posts and emails every so often.

Often, those who take on the marketing role are volunteers genuinely interested in making marketing work for their company. But without training, it can be challenging to make the most out of the little time they have to market effectively.

While sending out weekly posts on social media or monthly emails is a great start, without a coordinated effort, you’re going to lose a real opportunity to grow your online brand.

The good news is, you don’t need to be highly trained in marketing to increase the effectiveness of your efforts. With just a little added time and effort, you can make the work you’re already doing reach a whole lot farther.

Time to plan

To make the most out of your efforts, take a step back and consider your marketing from a distance. Start by breaking up your business year into sections. The sections will be different depending on your industry. For retailers, you’ll break it down by season. For insurance agencies, by quarter, and so on.

Then, take a look at your business’s activities during each section. Identify any special events, meaningful goals, or company initiatives relevant to each section. These will be the centerpiece for your section themes.

For reference, Memorial Day weekend will be a theme centerpiece for most retail stores, as there are always large sales and increased traffic during this time. For insurance agencies, fourth quarter will center around open enrollment and employer-employee communications.

If there is a month or section that doesn’t have a specific event or theme, you can have fun and come up with the theme yourself! Choose something about your company you want your customers to know about.

  • Do you offer any special services or products you think could use some extra promotion?
  • Do you feel your audience has a clear idea of your company culture and brand image?
  • How well does your audience understand the services you offer?
  • Is your audience comprised of everyone who would benefit from your services? Or could you expand your communication to more people?

Break it down

Using your chosen theme, come up with a monthly, weekly, and daily communication strategy that ties into it. Consider the different types of content your company can offer.

If your company has social media, email lists, and a website, each of those platforms supports varying types of content.

Break up your content into hierarchies. Start by identifying the main event/theme/product. Then consider tiers of supporting content:

  • Daily or weekly communications: These will look like social posts or short emails.
  • Content offers: These are educational content offers that support your central theme, such as checklists, eBooks, or blogs).
  • Events: If you want (or have the capacity) to take it a step further, consider offering a special opportunity like a webinar, seminar, or pop-up shop.

Plan out how often each piece of content gets pushed out, and on what platforms. Consider how they support and play off each other. Think of it as a puzzle! Each piece plays its part to create one cohesive picture.

Tying it together 

By creating content themes that tie each piece of your content together, you’ll start to build awareness among your audience of each topic and increase the effectiveness of your message.

It’s common sense, really. The more coordinated your efforts, the easier it will be for your audience to follow along and consume the message you’re communicating.

The time it takes to create a yearly marketing strategy is well worth the effort. By picking a message and sticking with it, you’re also making it easier on yourself to come up with new, relevant content. Whether you’re marketing for your company because you’re trained, or because someone needed to do it and you stepped up, strategy is the number-one tool you want in your belt.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

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Navigating Marketing During a Crisis: Q&A

In the wake of COVID-19, marketers are scrambling to figure out how to talk to their audience.  You need to continue marketing, but how do you do so in a way that feels right during a time when everyone is scared, nothing is certain, and people aren’t buying? 

If you’re feeling at a loss and unsure how to continue talking to your audience, you’re not alone. We’ve compiled answers to some common questions companies are struggling with.  

Should we drop our regular content plan altogether to focus solely on COVID-19? 

The short answer is no. People are overwhelmed already. Continuing to post your regular content may help your audience preserve a much needed sense of normalcy. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of articles and resources shared every day that pertain to COVID-19. The front pages of every major news organization are covered with COVIDrelated content. So posting about it just to feel like your content seems relevant isn’t the most helpful approach.  

However, if you have resources that are unique to your business/industry and will be specifically helpful to your audience, then absolutely share them.  

The key here is to make sure you’re providing something useful to your audience.  

I need to be marketing a product/service, but I don’t want to sound insensitive.  

This can be a tricky one because it all depends on your ability to navigate tone through writing. The best thing you can do is be honest and authentic. People will pick up on anything that feels like you’re taking advantage of the crisis.  

Be direct. If referring to the crisis feels relevant and necessary, speak to the specific needs and anxieties of your audience. Acknowledge them and explain how your product can help them. 

If your product has nothing to do with COVID, adding a simple statement at the end of your copy may be all you need. Here are some examples:  

  • Stay safe! 
  • Take care of yourself! 
  • Stay healthy! 
  • Sending our wishes for your health during this time! 

We had an event scheduled that we had to cancel. How do we go about telling our audience?  

First, before you decide to scrap the whole event, consider whether it’s possible to convert your event into a virtual experience.  

  • Can you livestream your event? 
  • Can you host it on a video meeting platform like Zoom? 
  • If you can’t hold the whole event online, how about setting up a virtual round-table discussion based on the theme of your event?
  • If you were going to share materials, can you share them on your website? 
  • If it was a networking event, how can you connect your attendees virtually?  

There are numerous platforms you can use to help you convert your event to a virtual experience. Make sure you’re not losing out on the opportunities they offer before you decide to cancel.  

If, however, you need to cancel the entire thing, you’re not alone. Communicate changes clearly and quickly with your audience. Try not to spend too long talking about the circumstances that are forcing you to cancel. They don’t need to know that you don’t have the team resources or virtual hosting capabilities. Keep your explanation simple and direct. Here’s an example: “We regret to inform you that due to the circumstances created by the pandemic, we are canceling our event.”  

Give them the necessary information they need about what to do, and be sure to end on a positive message. Your audience will understand. The whole world is adjusting their lives around the virus, so it’s not going to shock or deeply disappoint them if you need to cancel.  

Be intentional. 

Above all, be intentional. Make sure your message is honest and direct, and your audience will appreciate it. Be ready to make adjustments as circumstances change. Keep an ear to the ground as you listen to what your community, competitors, and audience are sayingWe are in this together, and we can all support each other through the many challenges if we stay connected and open.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Andrey Alyukhin

Reduce the Noise: Improving Customer Experience

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, you’ve got customers and an audience. And it’s their happiness, satisfaction, and loyalty that will ensure your long-term success. You’ve got a great product that they love and great sales and services teams, but that isn’t enough to ensure your customer has a good experience with your company.

All too often, the person on the other side of the phone, screen, or table is inundated with information that is unnecessary, complicated, confusing, and overwhelming. And this can happen without you ever knowing it. Scary!

The difficulty for companies is understanding what’s most important to the client. What seems important and relevant to you doesn’t necessarily track for the customer or client. When you think about it, it’s obvious why. When you’re embedded in a system or project, you can see it from all angles and need as much information as you can get to understand how best to execute. But when you just need a functional product, you don’t need to know how it’s made, or why it was made with a particular part—you just need it to work.

The happiest customer isn’t necessarily the one with the most amount of information. Happy customers are a result of a successful customer experience that is clear, easy to execute, and personalized.

Reduce noise

The human brain burns 11 calories an hour, and as a survival technique, will start to tune out superfluous information that isn’t necessary for its survival so as to conserve calories. So what does that mean for your company? It means that everything your customer receives from you should be relevant to their specific needs and provided at the time those needs arise.

This concept continues to be critical throughout the customer experience, from the first time they visit your website to receiving the final product from you. It can be applied to literally every interaction you have, both internally and externally.

As an example, think about your website for a minute. What is the first thing it says about you? If it says anything like We’ve been in business for over 30 years and are trusted advisors, then you’re already giving the viewer information that isn’t critical and doesn’t speak to their needs. The visitor doesn’t need to know how long you’ve been in business; they need to know if you have a solution to their problem.

Additionally, if your customer has to slough through a bunch of information they don’t yet need to find out if your solution works for them, they’ll lose interest and move on. And this isn’t just relevant to prospects. It can become even more cloudy once they begin working with you.

If you’re working on a project for a client, there are countless ways you can drown out the critical parts of your communications. Overloading them with too many choices, for instance. Or inundating their inbox with overly detailed progress reports. Or hijacking your review meetings to go over topics that aren’t relevant or essential. The list goes on and on.

Chances are, somewhere down the line of your customer experience, your company is guilty of one or more of these. Don’t freak out though, you’re definitely not alone. Refining your customer experience is hard. So how do you mitigate this problem?

Choose one point of contact

Once a client is on board, designate a single person on your team to be in charge of all communication. This will help clarify your voice and streamline communication efficiencies. It will also help your client develop a more personal relationship with your company and help them to build confidence around how to communicate with you.

Identify the preferred communication channel

These days, companies often work on multiple platforms. One company may use Slack, Trello, and email to communicate about projects and across teams. This may be fine internally, but if you’re asking your client to move between communication channels to talk to you, you’re asking too much. Make it as simple as possible. Pick one, and stick with it.

Set clear expectations

When you start a project with a client, take time to set clear expectations for them around how they should communicate with you, when they should expect a response, and what the communication will look like. This will help build trust between your client and business, and provide them with a clear understanding of what they’ll get from you as you work together. Setting clear expectations will also reduce the risk of frustrating, confusing, or disappointing your customer. That is, as long as you stick to what you tell them.

Always be learning 

In the end, the best thing you can do is to ensure you never get too comfortable. The world of communication is constantly evolving and it’s up to you to stay on top of the changing expectations and needs of your clients and prospects. Take the time to ask them how you could improve their experience, listen to the feedback you get from your team, do your research, and don’t be afraid to change up your tactics. It’s a never-ending process, but it’s worth its weight in gold.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

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