The Power of Your Website to Build Brand & Increase Sales

Your brand's website is more than a pretty face (maybe it isn't even pretty?  Let's talk.).   Rather, you can use your web presence to build your brand and customer base.  However, this is an intentional process and will not happen on its own.  Read that sentence one more time if you need to, we don't mind.

If you're ready to sink some time and thought into brand building process, you're ready to begin!

What is the goal?

Firstly, let's set the tone for what we're trying to accomplish.  The goal is to make it as easy as possible for customers to approach you and purchase your product/service or to support your cause.  Now, more than in the last decade-plus of online commerce, customers are looking for amazing service and quality products and they want to build relationships (we've all moved beyond the low-cost provider).

>> Regardless of the industry your brand serves, you can use your online presence to build your business.  <<

1.  Begin with existing customers/supporters

How can you increase your SERVICE, QUALITY and RELATIONSHIPS with current customers/supporters?  Today's interactivity makes this easier than ever.  Some ideas are more appropriate depending upon your industry.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Tweet them a message
  • Send a personal video Thank You message
  • Begin an email list (only email when you have something to say)
  • Create an online survey to gain insights
  • Start a podcast (even if periodic)
  • Blog
  • Have a Facebook contest
  • Share behind-the-scenes photos
  • Send an ecard on special occasions
  • Offer a coupon
  • Answer frequently asked questions online
  • Respond promptly to emails and phone calls
  • Think about the customer process and make one piece better, easier, simpler for customers

2.  Expand to potential customers/supporters

The goal of your online (and offline) efforts should be to make the transition from potential customer to customer as seamless as possible.  How is this done?  By increasing awareness of your SERVICE and QUALITY as well as building RELATIONSHIPS.  Noticing a trend?

>> This step assumes you have a website and that it is mobile-responsive.  If not, focus your efforts here first. <<

Here are a bunch of ideas, categorized:

Build Out Your Website

  • No PDFs - if you have valuable info, put it on a webpage
  • Address common questions on your website
  • Have a Contact Us form and check the email address it sends to regularly
  • Maintain website info - if it is out-dated, get rid of it
  • Add photos of staff, if relevant (remind customers there are actual people behind your brand)
  • Create a Completed Projects section then, set your calendar to regularly update it
  • Add a few testimonials
  • Link to your social media accounts (if brand-related)
  • Set up Google Analytics to track visitors, pages viewed, etc.
  • Only add info and web pages that ADD VALUE to the customer, if not, get rid of it

Step Up Your Communication

A website is a great start, but there are a number of ways to continue to gently welcome web traffic as customers.  The first step here is to think about an action you want potential customers to take that you feel with increase their sense of your brand's SERVICE, QUALITY and RELATIONSHIP.  A few examples might be:
  • Watch a welcome video
  • Take an online tour
  • Fill out a Contact Form
  • Download a white paper
  • Sign up for the email list
  • Purchase a product
  • Schedule a tour

Calls to Action

The last step here is to create Calls to Action throughout the website that encourage web visitors to perform one of the actions listed above.^^  If you're convinced the welcome video is a great way to help visitors learn about your brand (RELATIONSHIP), remind them gently to view the video.  Do so on different pages in different areas.  

When web visitors perform the Call to Action, be sure to collect their email address.  Why?  So you can continue the conversion with an email or follow up phone call.

"Dear XX,
Thank you for taking the time to view our Welcome Video.  I'd love to send you a brochure about our brand's offering.  It contains information on our brand as well as pricing.  If you'd like the brochure, simply email me back."

Take Aways

If all of this song-and-dance sounds familiar, that's because it is.  This is the very same way we build relationships offline (friendships, a first date, etc.)  We get to know someone and then extend the conversion through dinner parties, meetings, emails or phone calls, etc.

Now, we're simply using technology to extend the relationship experience to a much broader audience--one with global reach.  Email, social media, texting, websites and a variety of media help brands build relationships with people they would never come across in their day-to-day lives.  

The steps we take as we get to know someone, slowly revealing more information about ourselves or simply sharing who we are, is the same we should take as a brand.  

Note, there are many people behind every brand.  And, there are many people who are helped by many brands.  Brands and businesses and companies and industries all serve people.  Therefore, our interactions should always be mindful of the person on the other end of the transaction.

In your efforts, think about communicating your brand's SERVICE and QUALITY and work to build RELATIONSHIPS through a variety of actions online and offline.  The result will be a stronger brand and that leads to stronger sales.

If the ideas and tips sound like something you'd like to act on, but you're not sure where to start, we'd be happy to lend an ear to discuss a path forward for your brand.  

^see what we did there?  

Best of luck as you build your brand!

The *Why* of Web Design

Life moves at the speed of light, it seems. Meetings, commitments, travel, family and friends all have our attention, and it’s a constant stream of movement. Often, we must remind ourselves to stop and ask an important question: “Why?”

Web Design is no different. There are features and apps and content management and blogging and social media and, if we’re not careful, we’ll careen from one to the next without ever stopping to ask “Why?”
Why add a new feature to your website? 
Why update the design?  
Why social media?  
Why add an “under construction” page?  
Why create an app?  
Why enter into a new social media website? 

 If you’re about to do anything to your brand’s website, social media or online presence, be sure you know the “Why?”

Some good reasons to move forward:

  • This feature will bring value to my customers 
  • This information will help customers make a decision 
  • This action will build positive relationships with my audience 
  • This update will strengthen our brand 

 Some reasons to pass on a project:

  • There is some white space we’d like to fill
  • Everybody else has this feature/app/presence
  • We aren’t ready to launch, but should put something online
  • This is how we’ve always done it 

The Effects of “I don’t know why,” Syndrome 

Maybe you’re too busy to be troubled with “Why?” Maybe you’ve always done things a certain way. Whatever the case may be, if you don’t stop to evaluate the “Why?” you may be left with:

  • Indecision
  • Uncertainty
  • Desire to chase flashy objects and features
  • Erratic projects, initiatives and work
  • Difficulty explaining the project/initiative
  • Low return on investment
  • Loss of business 

 You’d never get into your car if you didn’t have a destination. Otherwise, how would you ever know if you’ve arrived? The same is true of web projects. Are you meeting goals you’ve set? How will you ever know unless you first set the goals?

The “Why?” of web design is more important then the “How?” because logistics can always be worked out later.

If you’re at a point where you need to nail down your “Why?” block off a time to commit to brainstorming by yourself or those most vested in the initiative. At the end of the session, you’ll know full well if it’s an initiative you should continue with or if you’re simply chasing windmills. 

We’d prefer you leave that to the works of fiction.

4 Lessons from Apple on Running Your Business

Looking to improve your business?  Finding a mentor in biz and in life is difficult to do.  A brand should always be challenging itself and growing.  Successful stories are essential in showing us the direction we should go.

If you're in need of a mentor, check out some of the secrets to Apple's success and how they can translate to you:

1.  Know what you do best; do it better than anyone else

Whether you're a restaurant or a tech startup or any brand in-between, this absolutely applies!  It is so easy to add new products or services because there *may* be money, or a market, or opportunity there.  But if a brand is pushing themselves out of their core competency, they may be risking too much for perceived new income.

An example:  Ever head of a Mexican restaurant that sell hamburgers and chocolate shakes?  And cheese cake?  Maybe people say they'd like to see it on the menu.  Maybe the chef does make a good cheese cake.  But before adding anything new, scrutinize if it is within your brand's true identity.  Or are you simply stretching to become all things to all people?

Lesson from Apple:  Apple creates products products within only four categories:  computers, phones, tablets and personal devices.  That's it.  They're not creating high-tech blenders or calculators.  They know what they do better than anyone else, and stick to those categories.

2.  Be customer-centric

This adage works whether you're selling a product or a service or a little bit of both.  The economy is shifting away from consumers who are entirely price conscious.  Consumers want to get a great price, but they're willing to spend more for a top-notch experience.

An example:  Say you are a clothing boutique that has a solid base of loyal customers.  Why not branch out and seek ways to further serve them?  Maybe partner with a high-end hair salon for loyalty rewards?  Or, find a great niche shoe store that would be a great fit with your customers.  Find a way to go above and beyond and make your customer's experience something to remember.  Have you thought to ask your customers how you can improve?

Lesson from Apple: Apple was the first to come out with computers in different colors.  Apple was the first to come out with an MP3 player that was so-very-much-more.  The tech behemoth tries to envision what their customers would want and then go a step or a leap past those expectations:  always go one better.

3.  Listen to the public; but don't become a slave to them

It is important to listen to what your customers and the public in general, say about your product or service, or a product/service in the same category as yours.  Though you should never become always-shifting and changing as public opinion morphs.

An example:  We'll journey back to the Mexican restaurant that serves hamburgers and shakes.  Maybe they had a few customers that claimed they would like to see these on the menu.  Maybe other Mexican restaurants are going in the same direction.  Before adding items that are not in your core competency to your line-up, a lot of soul-searching is required.  Is this the best decision in the long run?  Is this the best representation of our brand?

Lesson from Apple:  Prior to every product launch, news outlets love to interview people to find out what they'd like to see in the new iPhone or iPad.  Some of the suggestions make sense.  Some are obviously way too out there.  For example, an infrared camera to see in the dark.  Or, apps to control household appliances.  Maybe these things will be important in the future, but right now, they would be features very few would use and value.

4.  Price for value

Pricing of a product/service is always a difficult subject.  The best route is to price for value, whenever possible.

An example:  Sales are booming at your marketing firm, though you've had a few comments that pricing could be lower.  After all, your competitors offer lower prices.  And free coffee mugs.  It is important not to get caught up slashing prices.  If your customers see the value of your offering, then price should not be their primary concern.  There will always be a lower-price option out there.  If they are beginning to think about pricing, maybe it's time to reevaluate the level of value you are giving.

Lesson from Apple:  While there is a flurry of low-price competitors in the marketplace, Apple's products remain priced for value.  Many people complain about the price of a new phone, but Apple has a strong grip on marketshare across all of their product categories.


We bet you never thought you could draw so many parallels between your brand and Apple.  The tech giant has a lot to teach us about doing business smarter.  We just need to take the time to listen.

5 For Friday featuring iOS 8, IPO fortunes and a vote that may have been influenced by social media.

Five quick links you don't want to miss before your weekend.

1.  iOS 8 is Here

What's so great about iOS 8?  We've come across a collection of links on the web that might show you why it's the bees-knees.  Here's how to become an iOS 8 Master.  Feel like 007 with these Secret Features of iOS 8.  And 25 Reasons iOS 8 is better than iOS 7.  Hope these tips make you feel more at home with the updated operating system.

2.  DIY Credit

Home Depot's security breach of over 56 million credit cards is on a larger scale than last year's Target security snafu.  Somebody tell them they need more than a hammer and nails to secure their credit card transactions!  Be sure to take some time to see if there is any suspicious activity on your card if you shopped at the Depot in the last year.

3.  An IPO to Dream About

Alibaba's IPO this week was hugely successful, raising $21.8 billion and a price per share at $68.  That's better than a genie in a bottle!  The stock sale could signal that the Chinese Internet industry may become the largest in the world.

4.  Social Media Informs Voters

Scotland's vote this week to possibly secede from the United Kingdom is the fruit of an era where the Internet helps to inform and convince voters.   Integrating technology in a more meaningful way since 2007 really paved the way for the referendum vote.  Imagine if Braveheart used Instagram and Twitter.

5.  Inspiring Your Weekend

Here's a quote from one of our hometown favorites.  Have a great weekend!

We'd love to connect with you on Facebook.

7 Sources of Content for Your Small Business Website

Finding inspiration for your small business website is not as scary as that blinking cursor on your blank Word document.  Take a quick look at your small business and you'll find more web-worthy information than you imagined.   Here are a few places to check out:

1. Your Past

Your small business is working hard every day.  Don't forget that you're creating and producing and moving forward along the way.  Display that hard work on your website.  Showcase your products or services or the effects of your products and services for the world to see.  The proof of your biz is in the pudding.  And people want a taste!

2.  Your Future

Things are happening all the time at your business.  People want to know.  Whether it's via a company blog, Facebook updates on your website or an Instagram feed, your brand's future is a great source of content for your small business website.

3.  Your Salesforce

Whether you have a sales team or if you are a team of one, salespeople are a great source of website content.  Every day customers and potential customers are asking questions.  Create a small answer bank on your website of the most common questions and their answers. 

4.  Make It Easy

Visualize your small business website as a pathway to your front door.  Every piece of information and assistance you can lend can help a customer along that path, making it easy for them to walk through your door.  What insights and information can you make available to help potential customers along?  What can you offer to make it easy to purchase from your brand?  Maybe a free sample.  Maybe a free consultation.  Maybe a slideshow about how your product or service will make their life better.  Make it easy for them to walk through the door and purchase from you!

5.  Directions and Hours

Nothing is more frustrating than heading out to shop or getting around to making a phone call and not reaching the person you intended.  At the very least, provide basic information about your business.  Where are you located?  What are your hours?  How do I get to your door?  At the very best, you could provide contact details for all of the employees at your small business.  Again, make it easy to do business with your brand.

6.  Show Us Behind the Curtain

Many of us revel in the deleted scenes and outtakes from our beloved DVD collections.  Brands are finding out that their customers are just as captive as an audience.  What does a team brain storm look like?  How high up did you have to hang an outdoor sign today?  How happy is that couple that you just took engagement photos of?  Your small business is an expert in your field.  So, show us!

7.  Don't Forget Your Off-Line Marketing

If you've spent money on a great new brochure, put it on your website.  There are amazing online options that make flipping through a brochure or catalog as enjoyable as real life.  Did you just put up a clever billboard in town?  Take a photo and add it to your Instagram or Flickr feed.  If you are spending money on marketing somewhere, put it online and maximize your money.  


If you need a little help or a lot of help on your small business website, we'd love to connect with you!

Why Your Website Needs to be Mobile

Your small business or community now has a website.  That's great!  It's supremely important that you have a web presence.

But, I need to ask you, have you looked at your website on a mobile phone or tablet?

The results may surprise you.  If consumers need to do a lot of scrolling and zooming in and out to navigate your website, they will probably just leave in search of a mobile-friendly resource.  If you sell online, how does the shopping cart process look and feel on these mobile devices? If your website is not translating well on mobile devices, it can cost you sales.  Not convinced?

Mobile Shopping While In-Store

Check out this survey from a Cincinatti-based card processor, Vintiv.  The group found significant increases during the past year in the number of consumers that research and purchase right from their mobile device, while they are in-store.  It's hard to believe that we're making in-store purchases right from our devices!

Shoppers who paid for products in stores with tablets: 33%
Shoppers who paid for products in stores with smart phone apps: 11%

Shoppers who paid for products in stores with tablets: 19%
Shoppers who paid for products in stores with smart phone apps: 2%

Mobile Shopping Overall

The major increase in mobile shopping is, of course, directly related to the number of people carrying these devices around with them.  You'd be hard-pressed to name someone in your circle of family and friends that DOES NOT have a smartphone or tablet.

Who is shopping on their smartphones and tablets?
30% of 18-to-34-year-olds
29% of 35-to-54-year-olds
14% of those over 55 years old

How Much Money are We Talking About?

We're talking about a major online sales!  Goldman Sachs projects that U.S. retail sales directly on smartphones will more than double from $70 billion this year to $173 billion by 2018. Similarly, tablet sales will more than triple from $130 billion this year to $453 billion in 2018.

Moving Forward

I think you now realize the opportunity in front of you.  Just as the major players in retail changed with the advent of online shopping, the major players can once again shift with regards to the mobile experience.  How can you move forward?

1.  Can Consumers Find You?

The first step in many shopping experiences is simply setting foot in your business.  When searching on a device, can people get quick and accurate directions to your door?  Also, do you offer a sampling of what your business is like?  Photos of the great food or product selection can entice shoppers to visit you rather than the competition.

2.  The Mobile Experience

It's time to simply look at your website on a variety of devices.  Borrow your friend's Android device and your nephew's iPhone.  Conduct a test purchase transaction on an iPad.  The ultimate question:  Is it a good experience?  Easy to navigate.  Easy to put items into the shopping cart.  Easy to swap out product features?  Consumers are looking for enjoyable experiences when they shop.  Make.  It.  Easy.

3.  The In-Store Experience

Can you offer a unique in-store experience?  A number of businesses are capturing the in-store device browsing by offering:

  • A QR code that is scanned in-store for a special coupon
  • Specific shopping apps to allow customers self-checkout
  • Special offers by text message
  • Offering more purchase options online than in-store
The time to become mobile-friendly is now!  While the process seems daunting, it doesn't need to be. The focus is on making the process to buy from you, research about you, or enter your door, easy and enjoyable.  



Outdated or Here Another Year? - Website Features

Website features, like anything else, come and go with differing fads and fashions.  Does your website have a feature you should hang on to?  Or a feature that you should get rid of?

Recently. Mashable asked 12 entrepreneurs for their opinion on web trends and features.
We read their ideas and had a few thoughts to share.

Homepage Sliders

What is it:  A slide-show of images and/or text that automatically rotates through.  Viewers can also click through all of the tabs.

Keep it or Trash it:  We currently produce a number of sites that use this feature.  Why do we love it?  It gives your web visitor a quick run though the hot-topics on your website.  In our visual-heavy culture, a combination of images and text can send a message faster than just text.

We say, keep it!

Stock Photos

What is it:  Getty revolutionized websites with the availability of a stock photo of pretty much anything and everything.

Keep it or Trash it:  If you don't have any proprietary photography that will work well, a stock photo may be your best bet.  However, web consumers are becoming more brand-loyal and they like to know the faces and places behind those brands.

We say, use stock photos only when necessary!

Animated Gifs

What is it:  In this case, a picture is worth 1,000 words.
Keep it or Trash it:  This fad went out over 10 years ago.  The American flag is a beautiful thing!  Just put a nice, small graphic of the flag on your site and leave it at that.

We say, keep the flag, get rid of the animation!

Reloading Pages

What is it:  As you navigate along a website, the menu, sidebar and footer don't need to be reloaded, necessarily.  Just the content in the middle of the page would need change.

Keep it or Trash it:  This is a must keep.  If you ever want to send a customer to a specific page or product, then each page really needs their own unique address.  Also, search engines love to crawl pages on your website.  Make it easy for Google to find your site and index all of its information.

We say, keep it!

Mobile Websites

What is it:  A separate website just for mobile devices.

Keep it or Trash it:  Responsive websites are becoming more of a necessity with increasing web use on tablets and cell phones.  If you've got an elaborate website, a separate mobile site may actually be easier for your audience to navigate.

We say, go responsive if you can.  If not, be sure to have a separate mobile-ready website.


What is it:  The 250-300 pixels along the side(s) of a website.

Keep it or Trash it:  If you utilize sidebars on your website, be sure all of the information you put there is necessary and not simply taking up space.  If you choose to go without, be sure your web site content has large margins.  What's a good rule of thumb for text width?  Your text should be no wider than it takes to list out the alphabet three times.  Any more and it is difficult for the eyes to track.

We say, do what delivers the most value!

Hit Counter

What is it: 
Keep it or Trash it:  Please let the "hit counter" go the way of the floppy disk.  But do delve into your website's stats to see how many visitors you've had, what the top search terms were for your website and other valuable information.  Please note:  hits are no longer being tracked.

We say, trash it!


What website elements do you think should be a thing of the past?  We'd love to have you join the conversation on Facebook!