Marketing for Tomorrow is Aiming for Success Today

Marketing for Tomorrow is Aiming for Success Today

Regardless of the size of your company or the industry you are in, the goal of your business is to convince people they need or want your goods or services in exchange for their money. However, if you market yourself solely with that goal as the forefront, your efforts will fall short. This happens mainly for two reasons. The first is that people don't want to be solicited to. The second is that most people are not ready to commit right now. Even though the end goal is to make money, your marketing strategy should not focus on persuading people to choose your business. Instead you should focus your effort on consulting people to make smart and beneficial choices, and ultimately they will choose you. This change in mentality can be accomplished by putting aside the question of "what does my business want" and instead asking the question "what do people want?"

People Want To Feel in Control

Successful advertising can be thought of in the same vein as the plot to the movie Inception. A person will be motivated to act on an idea if they think they came up with the idea on their own. While they may not take the action immediately, that idea will grow into ambition, which will lead to action.  To better relate to your potential customers, think about your own purchasing habits. How often will you need to buy a new dining room set? Probably only a few times in your entire life. If someone tries to sell you a new dining set right now, you probably won't be ready to buy.  You will likely feel uncomfortable with the hard sell, even if the price and quality seems great.  You will be convinced that the deal is too good to be true, and you are too smart to fall for it.  The persuasive strategy failed, because someone tried to take away your control by telling you what to do.  Now, let's look at what the consultative strategy would be.

People Want a Lot for a Little

From day to day eating lunch before work and dinner afterward, you find yourself looking around your dining area. You think about redecorating the room, noticing that some of the furniture is getting worn out. During your free time you look through a search engine for "dining room sets" and visit at some websites that appear in the results.  As you scroll through one of the sites, an unobtrusive pop-up appears that offers a discount to new customers after entering their email.  The cost for this discount is only your email address, so you type it in.  You probably won't buy now, but maybe in the future.

People Want an Expert

You start receiving mail from the site you gave your email to.  The articles are on topics like what to look for in quality furniture, how to match dining tables and wallpaper, and the best times of the year to buy. You begin to envision what the ideal furniture set would be. At some point when you feel ready to buy, who are you going to buy from? Would you go somewhere you haven't had any experience with? Most likely, you will visit the store that has been handing you information and consultation over the months without asking for anything in return. This company has been marketing to you for a long time, but you came to the decision to buy a new dining set with your thoughts on your time. The marketing campaign has succeeded without ever telling you what to buy and when.

Reflect on Your Own Habits

How did you go from not being ready to buy to committing to a purchase?  The keys were time and exposure.  Over time, you gradually began to desire a new dining room set.  When you were ready, you looked for more information about it.  Good SEO is what got the furniture website listed in the top search engine results you looked at.  The price discount is what convinced you to provide your email address.  Informative articles are what positioned that particular distributor as the expert.  You then followed through with the purchase that you decided on.  The customers you are hoping to attract are thinking the same way that you do when you buy.  Keeping that in mind when you create your marketing today will help to build a better sales pipeline for tomorrow.

5 Inconspicuous Features Every Business Website Should Have

5 Inconspicuous Features Every Business Website Should Have

There are a number of articles that have been written about obvious and essential features that business websites should have.  They include good recommendations like having a recognizable domain name and obvious calls to action.  As part of your design strategy, you should definitely research these articles.   This article will focus on features that are more discreet but are just as critical to having a successful website.

1. Use The Same Colors For Your Logo Throughout Your Website

This is a subtle feature that will reinforce your brand recognition.  If your logo uses the color Salmon (#FA8072
or RGB(250, 128, 114)), try using that color as a header text or as a transparent overlay on images.  A user that sees this color repeatedly on your site will begin to associate that color to your brand.  Ideally it influences a persons thoughts when they are not on your site, where if they see it somewhere else it will trigger a subconscious connection to your brand.

2. Written Information Presented In An Orderly Fashion

You've probably seen the masonry style of showing images used on different websites, most noticeably on Pinterest.  This is where blocks of content are staggered at different heights and widths to create a stylish look.  While this creates an interesting design for a media gallery, doing the same thing with written content would lead to confusion.  When it comes to written words, the best design choice is uniformity, top to bottom and left to right.

3. Copyright Notice

Scroll down to the bottom of most websites and you will usually see three things: the © symbol, the company name, and the year the site was published.  These are the mandatory elements of a copyright notice.  If someone were to steal your content and claim it for themselves, a copyright notice may not only deter a thief but will help you win a court case if you had to sue.  It costs nothing to add and provides a solid legal base for protecting your hard work.

4. Mouse Cursor Hover Effects

It's something that happens so often you don't think about it when you interact with software, but depending on what a mouse cursor is hovering over, it changes it's appearance.  People find it so intuitive now that not following established conventions can leave users with a negative impression of your business.  When testing your website, pay attention to the mouse behavior as you hover over text, images, and links.

5. Image Handling

The majority of what makes up your website outside of the text and layout is the image content.  These can include banners, product pictures, and infographics.  Depending on what is the purpose of the image, users will expect different behavior.  If the image is for information or a backdrop then there is no need for specific behavior.  However if the image is of a product that a user can buy, hovering over that image should zoom in for closer inspection.  If the image is an example of something or comes with a caption, then the image should focus at the center of the page with a slightly transparent background covering the remainder of the page (this is called lightboxing).  In addition, make sure that clicking on an image doesn't navigate away from the current page to the file location of the image.  That click behavior reflects poorly on the professionalism of your website.

Creating your own website can be a difficult job.  There are a lot of nuances in the industry and it can be hard to keep update on changing trends.  Be diligent when researching design strategies and look at how other businesses do their websites.  It can be easy to overlook features, especially when they are hidden right under your nose.

Local Businesses Are Affected By Customer Reviews Now More Than Ever

Local Businesses Are Affected By Customer Reviews Now More Than Ever

Times have changed in the last 10 years for local businesses.  The number of consumers that looks at flyers, take notice of billboards, or reads through the penny savers have gone down dramatically.  Most of what influences purchases for local business is word of mouth, and those words are available at the touch of a button on the internet.  Marketing companies like BrightLocal have taken the time to survey consumers on their purchasing behavior, and what they have found may be shocking to you.

84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation

Imagine yourself at lunchtime.  As you are walking down the street looking for something to eat, a person walks up to you and says "If you are hungry you should try the Turkey Club at the XYZ Deli two blocks down."  You might say "Thank you" as you hurriedly walk away from the oddly friendly stranger.  However if someone is searching on their phone for somewhere close by to eat, and a customer review comes up with 5 stars and that exact same comment, most people will trust that recommendation as if it came from a friend or colleague!

90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business

Consumers have a lot of options and not a lot of time to figure out which one is best.  It's important to take notice of what people are saying about your business online.  A new customer is going to make a decision about your business fast, so the more positive reviews about you there are, the more likely that quick decision will benefit you.

73% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant

Change is happening all of the time, and it's happening faster and faster.  People are aware of this.  They are looking for up-to-date information in order to make the best decision.  As a business it's important to have a consistent influx of reviews.  If you see that it's been a while since you've had customer feedback, start a campaign to get some fresh recommendations.

7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they're asked to

Trying to figure out how to get customers to leave a review about your business?  Apparently all it takes is asking!  Request and remind your customers to leave reviews of your products or services as it could have a big influence on your future customers.

74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more

Trust is at the core of all relationships.  This includes the relationship between a business and it's customers.  It used to be that companies would have to spend time and money through marketing campaigns in order to gain trust.  Now all it takes is quality feedback from happy customers in order to gain an edge in the marketplace.

With information being exchanged quickly and constantly across the internet, customer satisfaction is incredibly important.  A positive review from your customer can be as helpful as a negative review can be detrimental.  The best way to grow your business is to make sure that consumers love what you do so much that they want to tell others just how great you are.

Making Decisions With Google Analytics: Session Duration

Making Decisions With Google Analytics: Session Duration

Google Analytics is an incredibly useful administrative utility for any website.  By analyzing and interpreting the information gathered here, your business can make informed decisions not only for the website but for the direction of your company as a whole.  This can be easier said than done however. The shear amount of data being collected can be daunting, and even if you find the right report to look at, statistics are just numbers without the knowledge behind it to interpret those numbers into useful data.  This series of articles, "Making Decisions With Google Analytics" will hopefully help you understand some of these numbers and give you an idea on how to make use of them.  Today we will talk about Session Duration.

What is Session Duration?

A session is any number of user interactions (i.e. clicks, drags, swipes) that a visitor to your site makes within a given time frame.  By default, Google Analytics considers a session maximum to be 30 minutes.  Depending on what the purpose of your website is, you may want to alter the time limit for what analytics considers a user session.  This can be changed from the Google Analytics Admin section (the small gear icon in the bottom left of your Analytics page).  Select the Account and Property (if you only have one website, there will only be one account and property to select), then navigate to Tracking Info -> Session Settings, and change Session Timeout the whatever amount of time you want a session to be.  In general, if you don't have a reason to change this, leave it as is.

What to do with Average Session Duration?

Average session durations for all of your users (seen on Google Analytics home dashboard) gives you a general idea of visitor engagement on your website.  In order to give you a more accurate idea of how users are spending that time, you will have to drill down deeper and analyze the individual session durations for each of your pages.  You can navigate to this data under the Reports section -> Audience -> Behavior -> Engagement.  The time listed here gives you an idea of how long the average user looks at a page.  In order to properly interpret if this number is good or bad, you need to understand the purpose of the page.  If the page is conveying marketing information about a product or service, long amounts of time spent here means that your users are interested in reading about that information.  Conversely a short amount of time spent on that page could indicate that users are overwhelmed and give up quickly.  In this case, a strategy may be to reduce the amount of descriptive text by summarizing, or replace text with an info-graphic.  However if the purpose of the page is to lead consumers to buying a product or service, a lot of time spent here could mean that the purchasing process is confusing to your users, and simplifying the process can lead to quick and more frequent conversions.

How is Session Duration calculated?

When making business decisions based on statistics, it is important to understand how that information is gathered.  It is especially important to know what a lack of information means, like when you see a session duration of 0.  This is not an indication that no time was spent on the page, but that Google does not actually know how long the duration was.  Google cannot know how long a user spent on a page.  What they can tell is what time a user loaded a page and what time the next page was loaded.  Google takes the difference between these values and shows it to you as the session duration.  However, if another page is not loaded it is impossible to tell how long a user spent looking at your page.

Here's an example.  A user visits your homepage, starting the time at 0:00.  At 0:30, the user clicks on a Category page.  With the time visited being 0:00 and the load of the next page occurring at 0:30, Google can tell that the user spent 30 seconds on the homepage.  From here, at 0:45 the user clicks on a Product page.  The time spent by the user on the Category page is 0:45 - 0:30 = 15 seconds.  Now, if the user doesn't visit another page after landing on the product page, Google cannot take a difference in time to determine how long the user spent on the page, so Analytics records this page's session duration as 0 seconds.  Due to the way session calculations are performed, the last page that a user visits will never have a session duration recorded, meaning that the session time will always be 0.  This means that a bounce (a user only looked at one page) will always be recorded with a duration of 0, but this does not mean that the user didn't spend any time looking at the page.  To collect more data on the last page visited, there are ways to enhance your analytics by estimating the time users spent on bounced pages.

In closing

Google Analytics is a powerful free tool that all websites should leverage.  In particular, by understanding what a session duration is, how to view and understand that data, and dealing with the limitations of how that data is collected, you can make better use of this information.  I hope you'll be back to check the next article in this series which will address user demographics.

3 Design Choices Users Love

More people use the internet for information, socialization, and commerce than ever before.  With consumers relying on the web for its critiques and reviews, it is critical that businesses have a professional website as part of their brand strategy.  It will become the focal point for people seeking to learn more.  Businesses have to build their website with their customers interests and behaviors in mind.  Your users may not even know it, but they will love these 3 design choices on your website.

1. Familiar Interfaces

Many businesses want to emphasize that they are separate and unique from their competitors, and while this is important for some aspects like branding and product/service options, this isn't necessarily the case with a web interface.  A user wants to navigate a website with ease and access the information they want in the least clicks possible.  Users expect links, menus, buttons, and modals to work in a way that they are familiar with.  For example, an up arrow in the bottom right corner of the screen has been commonly accepted as a way to scroll back to the top of a page.  Changing that functionality to something they are not familiar with, like opening up a menu on the bottom of the page, would be confusing.  Failing to me the expectations of your users when they are using your website by not adopting widely accepted practices will lead to user frustration.  Users love it when websites follow behavior that they already know how to use.

2. Unobtrusive Pop-ups

Numerous websites use full screen pop-ups for gathering email addresses for newsletter subscriptions and marketing blasts, and it's had its success in the past.  However, not only do users find it an annoyance and are more likely to leave your website immediately ("bouncing"), but it will hurt your search ranking in the long run.  As of January 10, 2017, Google will lower the search results of any websites that uses intrusive marketing tactics.  With most web users not navigating past the first page of search results, this can cause more harm to your business than the mailing lists are worth.  Instead, utilizing design strategies that allow for email collection in an organic manner will build your following while saving your SEO.

3. Content Positioning

The content a business decides to include on their website is important.  Users and search engines like to see unique and interesting content.  Equally important to the type of content is the location of the content on the site.  There are a number of tools you can use to gather specific information on how users behave on your site, like heat maps and A/B testing.  As general guidelines, websites should position their most important content toward the top left of each page.
There are two main reasoning behind this common user behavior.  First, there is a lot of content available for consumption, but users have limited time to view it.  Many times a user won't even scroll down a page or an email, and will try to get as much information as they can from what they see immediately before deciding if they want to investigate further.  Content that is available immediately on a screen without scrolling is called "above the fold", originating from newspapers that were delivered folded in half, where only the front half page was visible.  Second is the natural way that people read in the English language.  English is read top to bottom, left to right.  Therefore people will naturally start at the top left corner of a page, their eyes then move to the right of the top, then down and to the left again.  By this pattern, content found in the bottom right of a page will rarely be seen, so make sure to position what's important to you and your customers in the proper place.

When designing and updating a business website, companies need to put themselves in the position of their customers.  Understanding the user base expectations and delivering what they want will help build search ranking and brand awareness, while putting a smile on the users face :)