I’ve been asked a lot lately what sets us apart from the competition. While we fill a distinct niche, it is often difficult to articulate how what we do is different from others.
Today I’ll use a bridge analogy. This bridge on the right gets me where I’m going. It is very functional. One side of the bridge looks much like the other side. Many web firms can give you a web site. But most of those firms will give you a site that looks both like most of the rest of their web sites and like most of the sites that are out there on the internet.
You’ll notice also that this bridge doesn’t give you much of a view. It just goes from point a to point b. No railings or other features to help you. Notice also that you could probably get by without this bridge. Just a little hop and you’d be across that ditch and on the other side. Other folks design web sites that don’t really help you get anywhere difficult. Those sites have few or no images, and little to spark the imagination. There are no “railings” that you can hold on to and grasp new meaning. And frankly if the site didn’t exist, it probably wouldn’t have much of an effect on business anyway because it isn’t generating leads, interest or new customers.
Now consider the bridge below. This bridge practically invites you to come and stand on it. The path is wide, there’s a pleasant arch to it there are railings. We make web sites like this. First they are visually appealing. They let the visitor know they are welcome to step onboard. Next, and this is the most important part of any bridge, they actually go somewhere. The bridge in the picture crosses a babbling brook that turns into a torrent every spring. Without the bridge, you’d be stuck on your side of the river. With our sites, we help you get where you’re going – each site is designed to help your business grow. We build powerful, data-driven web sites that can streamline processes, attract and retain more customers and offer opportunities to stay connected and build on the relationship.
And just like every bridge has many of the same parts but a good bridge fits in and enhances its surroundings, that is what our websites do. Some firms ask you what template you like best. We never start with a template, instead we spend time listening to you to determine what you need. Then we bring our expertise to bear to build a custom look that not only carries your brand forward but also draws the visitor in.
So the choice, dear reader, is yours. You can choose the plain old bridge (web site) that draws no attention or you can choose a beautifully designed bridge that helps move your company forward. And that is what sets us apart.
Was part of your New Year’s resolution to get back to blogging? Most of us know it is good for business. It keeps your site fresh. The search engines love new content. It helps you think about your business. But you’re just not sure what to do next? Here are some helpful hints:
Post REGULARLY (AT LEAST twice a month)
- Write about what you do
- Write about what you know
- Write about the questions you answer regularly
- Write about what is happening related to your industry
- Feature projects you’re working on
- Graphics to illustrate your point
- Use key words in the Title
- Make sure the permalink has keywords in it
- Tag each post with 2 – 5 tags
- Categorize each post with 1 – 3 categories
- Write several blogs at once
- Schedule them to go out over the next several weeks
- Never wait until the deadline for posting to write several more
Tuesday, December 6th is Colorado Gives Day. The Community First Foundation, together with 1st Bank, is sponsoring the 2nd annual Colorado Gives Day. Last year over 8.5 Million dollars were raised for Colorado NonProfits.
EduCyber is pleased to work with and support the following Non-Profits that are participating in Colorado Gives Day:
The MaxFund (www.Maxfund.org) From the time the founders first helped Max, the MaxFund has been all about helping pets. Denver’s true no-kill animal shelter, MaxFund helps hundreds of animals find homes and get the care they need. Visit the site and click on Donate now with GivingFirst.org on December 6th and make your donation go further.
Wheat Ridge 2020 (www.WheatRidge2020.org) Created to help enhance businesses and neighborhoods of Wheat Ridge, WR2020 continues to play a positive role in Wheat Ridge and helps to bridge the gap between government and business. Visit the site and click the Donate Now GivingFirst.org logo.
There are lots of great nonprofits in Colorado but these two are near and dear to our hearts. Please take a moment and give to your favorite (or ours!).
I just took a look at my schedule. Next week I have lunch with Brian DeLaet twice. The problem you see is that I am Brian DeLaet. Two different colleagues have sent me calendar invitations to have lunch with them. The problem is they didn’t think about it from my perspective.
So my calendar now says I’m having lunch with Brian. Not as helpful as I’d like. Now I have to open up the invitation to see who it is that Brian is dining with.
And a lot of businesses treat their customers the same way. They start off with the perspective that if you’ve arrived – either in person or online – then you’re “in” and they skip over foundational parts of the relationship. It becomes all about “us” – the company, rather than being all about “me” – the customer.
We experienced that today with a software company. We received a username and a password for the software we purchased. There was no mention of how or where to use this information. Just the codes. After some not insignificant searching, we discovered that once we had created an account on vendors site, we could use the codes to get access to the software and registration keys. Ooops. No one told us that.
So what is a business to do? Review your process from beginning to end and test it. Make sure it is customer friendly every step of the way. And a lot of businesses take this step. But this is only the first step. Every process gets changed over time. It gets “improved” when a new manager changes one part of the process but when another manager changes a different part of the process, bad things can happen.
What you need to do is build in a continuous review of your process. For example, if you sign up for EduNotes (our newsletter) you’ll likely be told to expect it weekly when in fact it is now only twice a month. Oops. That is a process that we are reviewing (should be fixed by the time you receive this) so that we are creating the correct expectations for people.
Obviously this applies in every aspect of business but here are just a few of the processes you should check on your web site:
- First and foremost, the sales funnel – are you guiding visitors down the best path for them to do business with you? Are calls to action clear and prominent?
- Is the sign up for your email newsletter smooth, clear, and setting the right expectations?
- How can I find your contact information?
- How can I find your physical location?
- If your site is set up for ecommerce, is it easy to put things in my shopping cart?
- Is it easy to check out?
- If your site is generating leads, are the forms easy to fill out? Are you asking for too much information?
- Are the images on your site appropriate and do they facilitate your processes?
- If you have complex activity (users in forums, members interacting, data being shared) are the instructions clear?
- If you want people to engage with you via social media, are the links prominent and working? (I clicked a Twitter link last week that took me to twitter.com instead of to a user’s page)
Let me close with one last example illustrating the need to review and streamline your processes.
- I received an email from a vendor saying I need to renew a service for a client.
- I clicked the link they provided in the email and filled out the form.
- I received an email saying I filled out the wrong form and directing me to the right form.
- The next time I got a similar email, I remembered the link was wrong but couldn’t find the correct link.
- I started a chat with the vendor and was directed yet a different form.
- Suspecting something was amiss, I did a Google search, and found the form I’d used previously.
- I asked the support person about this other form and was told either one would work!
- I requested that the correct link be put in my emails moving forward so that I wouldn’t have to go through this again.
- I was told that would happen. Stay tuned to find out if it does.
One of the cool things that I see happening again and again is the convergence that happens in Social Media. Personal and Professional lives converge and people make connections that never would have happened otherwise.
This has always happened in Face to Face networks but the obvious limiting factors in such instances are geography and room size. We’re limited to the number of people that are or can fit in the room and to the people who are in the area.
But online those two limiting factors disappear. This first hit me a couple of years ago when my friend Max, who organizes cool tours to exotic places told me how he posted something on his personal facebook page about a trip to Africa. His post wasn’t marketing in nature, it was along the lines of “Looking forward to the upcoming trip to Kenya”. The convergence happened when he booked a couple of spots on the tour by folks who saw his post.
I was conveniently reminded of how this convergence works when I posted, last week, on our corporate Facebook page, about how thrilled we were to be working with two new customers, a Lutheran Church and a Lutheran School. An old friend from Iowa saw that posting and invited me to a Lutheran conference in Florida in January. Seems like a no-brainer. Spend my time and energy networking in cold Colorado in January or spend it in sunny Florida. Hmmm. What should I do?
In the first instance Max’s personal sphere attracted new customers into his professional sphere. In the latter, my professional sphere overlapped into my personal sphere, creating an opportunity that wouldn’t have otherwise been there.
What does this mean? (a very well-known question in the Lutheran Church) It means what I have been telling people for years – don’t forget the SOCIAL part of Social Media Marketing – people want to know you personally, even if they’re doing business with you but also don’t forget the MARKETING part of Social Media Marketing. Often people don’t do business with you because you haven’t asked them to.
So I guess I’ll close this with our pitch – Partner – Engage – Convert. Lots of firms partner with their customers to engage web site visitors. And then stop. We help folks figure out how to convert their visitors into clients. Need help with this? Call Brian at 303 268-2245 to find out what else you can be doing.
Well really it is your computer that is getting livelier but it sounds better (scarier?) to say the Internet. I have asserted for years that my kids will be able to reminisce “remember when computers used to be 2D?” That time is quickly drawing near.
In the 70’s and 80’s we heard a lot about how technology built for NASA worked its way into our everyday lives. Now that model has changed – technology built for cutting edge games is working its way into our lives. I thought it was kind of cool when ESPN set up cameras across the football field so they could give us views almost as though we were in the action – just like many of the video games my kids play.
But late last year Microsoft rolled out a new technology called Kinect that lets you be the game controller. That is pretty cool. Whether you’re driving, dancing or a variety of other activities, your movement is what controls what happens on screen. Seems pretty cool for game technology.
Now pause and think how that could affect your computing experience. If you’re creating a new design, instead of drawing with a mouse, wouldn’t it be cool to draw with your finger – not on the screen but on your desktop? If you’re an architect, wouldn’t it be cool to build a house or building with your hands and have it show up on screen? Med students could perform surgery, rocket scientists could build spacecraft, and the list of possible uses just goes on and on.
Some of the cool things that Tony Stark does in the Iron Man movie as he builds himself a new iron man suit might not be that far off. Add some Kinect-type technology to hologram technology, and you’ll be able to build your own Iron Man suit – well maybe we’re not quite there yet but these technologies are developing.
How does that affect you? You might be done with school but the technology will affect us all. Wouldn’t it be cool to flick your finger through your emails without holding on to a mouse or touching a keyboard? Kiss double-clicking goodbye and greet the finger tap? Be able to dictate (did I mention it also incorporates voice recognition?) a lengthy letter (or chapter of your book) and then edit with your hands instead of having to scroll and click with your mouse and type with your keyboard? The potential impact, on our everyday computing experience, is immense.
And surfing the internet? No more clicking links – just point at them. Marrying Kinect to the Internet could open up some amazing possibilities. Have you heard the stories about people in remote outposts getting sick? Now instead of needing a full time doctor, you could take the right tools and the doctor could operate in Antarctica while sitting in her office in Houston. And being able to operate a robot from afar? Well maybe the movie “Real Steel” is not that far off either but there are all kinds of potential uses.
Learn more about Kinect at the Microsoft Kinect website.
Sometimes that is all it takes. Click and all the pieces fall into place. In our case that is usually what happens. We intentionally go after those “Click!” moments as that is when we know that we’ll be working with a new customer / partner.
Click happens when your internet marketing goals converge perfectly with your web site design. For each industry and even for each business the click is something unique that occurs when we connect what they want to accomplish (more customers, bigger customers, “stickier” customers, etc.) and the plan we have for designing their site come together just so.
While usually the “Click” seems to be an intuitive thing, there are steps you can follow to help you focus on what will click for your web site.
- Determine what sets your business apart from the competition. NOTE: Superior service is not what sets you apart. EVERYBODY says that. Consider niches or vertical markets that you work particularly well with.
- Ponder or brainstorm with others how you can leverage your unique selling proposition (what sets you apart) be highlighted or leveraged through your site. We recently did this with a tourism related site and came up with a unique trip planner that fits very nicely with their business goals. When we came up with the idea, we could almost hear the “Click” as everyone realized that happened.
- Look at what the competition is doing on their sites. Look especially at what they’re doing well and brainstorm how you can do it even better.
- Consider every area of what your business does. Too often all the attention is placed on customer acquisition when customer retention or customer engagement may be a better use of web resources. For example if your existing customers can log in and check the status of their account, that frees up more man power to be out acquiring new customers.
- Look at what your web site does now. Is it clear? More importantly, is it easy for visitors to take the next step (whatever that next step is)? Obfuscation in the name of design is a common mistake we see in web sites. It doesn’t matter how pretty your site is if it drives people away. Consider how you can streamline it – thinking about what steps or pages can be eliminated or combined.
While sometimes “Click” happens while working on one of these steps, as mentioned in step 2, it is more often considering all of these steps together when it happens.
If Click hasn’t happened on your site yet, take some time to work through these steps and see what happens.
- Thinking about starting a social media marketing campaign
for your company?
- Wondering why your social media marketing isn’t getting
- Wondering IF your social medial marketing is working?
If you answered “YES” to one or more of the questions above, plan to attend the next EduCyber seminar. Attendees will learn what the core components of a social media marketing
campaign are, how they interact, and how you can measure success.
Unravel whether being “retweeted” on Twitter, “Liked” on FaceBook or “Connected” on LinkedIn is really beneficial for your company and if so, why and how.
Learn how to build a firm foundation upon which to launch your success.
Who should attend this seminar?
CEO’s, COO’s, Marketing Directors and IT Directors. Those who make decisions regarding the company’s web presence.
When: Wednesday, May 18
Time: 7:30 – 9:00 am
Location: 4251 Kipling St.
(2nd Floor Conference Room)
Cost: $24.99 (includes a light breakfast)
Pay online to reserve your spot >>
One of the most difficult things for most of us to wrap our minds around is that the cyber world of Social Media Marketing works very much the same as the physical world of marketing. Relationships rule. Cultivating relationships online is not really all that different than cultivating relationships in the physical world.
We like to be remembered. We like to hear our name mentioned. We like the personal touch.
But because, in the cyber world, things CAN be automated, many people do so. I have left my Twitter direct message notification on (I get an email when someone direct messages me). Many of the people that I follow have an auto-responder on. Some of these can even capture my real name and send me a response. But the response is general and impersonal enough that I’m turned off by most.
What would be a good response? “Hey Brian, read your latest blog post. Interesting read.” That tells me you’re taking time on our relationship. I confess that I don’t do this often enough but it is taking time for REAL genuine interaction that engages people, lets them know you care, and leads to building a relationship that can turn into business.
How can you cultivate relationships online?
- Interact with fans / likers (FB has new ways they are rolling out where, they say, the Fan Page will be able to interact with users just like users can – making comments and liking other’s posts)
- Accept friend requests and then browse through their friends to see if you have common acquaintances that you might not have connected with yet
- Take enough time to respond to followers – this is obviously important for potential customers – in a meaningful way. “Nice Tweet” isn’t particularly meaningful.
- Follow those who follow you. I actually take time to click through to my followers profile to see who they are and what they tweet about. This would be a good time to retweet something good they’ve said, reply to a tweet or direct message them with a genuine message.
- If you have a good experience with someone, right a recommendation – everyone likes to have their praises sung to others.
- Find a good group to join in – one where you can ask questions and learn and then contribute.
- If there isn’t a group (look around first, there probably is) create your own group and invite connections to join you.
On Social Media:
- Keep in mind that Social Media is two way communication
- Keep in mind that folks might be hesitant to interact with your brand at first. Find creative ways to get them to start – ask your physical network to help get this started by making a comment or responding to a quiz.
- Provide value. That means providing real content that you have created – not sharing someone else’s or simply copying other’s content (this is usually illegal as well).
- Search out people you want to connect with – movers and shakers or even potential clients – and, once again, interact with them genuinely. Be honest about why you want to connect (I’ve been following your work / blog / Facebook page, etc and would like to connect directly).
- Provide original content – I know I just said this but a lot of folks get hung up on this point. “I don’t have time.” “There’s nothing new in my industry” etc. I disagree. There is something unique about you as a company or individual that provides your unique selling proposition. Turn that into original content.
And I would be less than authentic if I didn’t tell you that EduCyber provides these kinds of services, whether it is helping you create a plan (Social Media Marketing Plan), setting up your accounts (Basic SMM setup), or actually implementing your Social Media Marketing plan, we can help. Give us a call at (303) 268-2245 ext. 4.
I came across an article on Mashable from back in November talking about how B2B social media is on the rise.
They make some interesting points that I consistently make with clients and in presentations. Basically the point is “Create a Plan” followed by “Do some exploring to find out what works for your business”.
While there are some interesting statistics and good analysis I must disagree with the quote that says “Why not use free social media tools?” There is no such thing as a free lunch and there sure isn’t any such thing as a free tool. There is a real cost to these social media tools. That cost can be measured in time and should also be measured in $$.
It really takes a professional to make sure your Social is done right. That doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t be engaged in their own Social Media Marketing either. I don’t change the oil on my car but I do drive it. I don’t rotate the tires on my car but I know how to change a flat when it happens. I even took Auto Shop in high school. I know enough to know I should let the experts handle my car.
In the same way, companies should rely on their Social Media Marketing company to get them set up (I don’t build cars), start the processes going (I don’t work on my car) and then show you how to “drive” (I took Driver’s Ed back in the day): what to look for, where to turn, and what to do when something doesn’t go as planned.
Setting up Social Media is easy. Just like putting a new engine in your car is easy – as long as you know where the connections go and can connect them together in just the right way. Do it wrong on your car and it won’t start or won’t run right. Do it wrong on your Social Media and you might not get any followers or actually drive people away instead of attracting them. Groupon experienced a very red face after their super bowl commercial. They were trying to attract people and instead, because they belittled the struggles of the Tibetan people, drove people away. View the ad at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXGYK1eP_wo
Of course there are different levels of Social Media Marketing as well, just like some folks drive Hyundai, some drive Fords, some drive Mercedes and others are driven around in Rolls Royces. If your company is in high gear, you might need somebody to “drive you around” in your Social Media Marketing – and there are businesses that can help you out with social media from A to Z.
And now it’s time for a little plug. EduCyber can help you whether you need help developing the plan, implementing the plan, or running the whole thing. Give us a call at 303 268-2245 to get started today.