Is Your Company’s Positioning Statement Accurate?

how to determine market positioning

Positioning is like a roadmap for your business. It drives all of your branding, messaging and marketing.

A clear positioning statement defines:

  • Who you are.
  • Who you help (your target market).
  • HOW you help (the problems you solve or needs you fill for clients).
  • Your USP (unique selling proposition).
    What makes you different/better than the competition?

Static Messaging Is…Ho Hum…Stale.
Your messaging should not be static. It needs to evolve along with what’s going on in the world – politically, economically, culturally.

If not, your brand will be out-ot-touch and not be seen as authentic. Since authenticity is a key driver of customer acquisition and retention, you can’t afford for that to happen.

In this INC article titled “In the Age of Brand Authenticity, Most Marketers Are Missing the Mark”, author Amy Balliet claims’ ”Only about one in every three marketers consider reworking their brand messaging and positioning when planning their overall marketing strategy.”

If you fall into that category, you’re missing out on growing your business.

So how does authentic and timely positioning work?

According to a  Zoom article titled, “Positioning in the age of authenticity”,  “Authentic positioning means your words match your actions.”

The days of allowing your business to say one thing but do another are long gone.  Customers want to know what you stand for and who you are.

Claiming to run a green company when you’re really not doing all you can to save the environment will eventually backfire.

Ever Heard of Greenwashing?

From misleading packaging claims to pseudo recycling that still harms the environment, companies that greenwash are eventually found out.

Check out this article from zoom.org, 10 Companies and Corporations Called Out For Greenwashing.

It’s not just oil companies that claim to do one thing but in reality do something else. Giant banks and investment firms claiming to be eco-friendly lend money to companies that pollute the environment and contribute to global warming. There’s still culpability. And consumers aren’t letting companies get away with that any more.

It’s All About Trust.

Companies that garner customers’ trust are the ones that will succeed in a turbulent marketplace….which is what we’re seeing at the moment.

Are gas companies screwing us at the pump or are they simply passing on increased prices they’re paying?

Can we trust that organic products we purchase in the grocery store really are?

Are the medications we take as pure as pharma companies claim they are?

We like to do business with companies we trust. Fortunately, in an age of unlimited media (thank you, Google), sussing out misleading claims is fairly easy. Eventually, dishonest companies get found out.

What can YOUR small business do to boost authenticity and accurately position your brand?

Here are three simple to-do’s to earn (and keep) your clients’ trust:

  1. If you say you’ll do something, do it.
    People remember and will hold you accountable.
  2. Don’t abandon your clients.
    There’s nothing worse than disappearing after the project. It says to the customer “We got paid. That’s all we care about.”
  3. Let clients know you want them to be happy with your work.
    Ask for their feedback (good or bad) and use it to improve how you work.

We are forgiving people. If we believe you’re sincere about mistakes you’ve made and changes you’re making in your company, you can recapture our loyalty. And loyal customers are what every small business wants.

Need convincing?

According to this article in Forbes titled “The Value Of Investing In Loyal Customers,” Keeping your current customers happy and making repeat purchases is key to growth for almost every business.”

It’s easy enough to do if you make authenticity and customer care part of your corporate culture. It’s certainly far easier that prospecting for new customers.

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Why aren’t people opening your emails?

Getting people to open your emails can be daunting.

With overloaded inboxes and so many subject lines vying for attention, yours really needs to pop to get opened..

As marketers, we are constantly working to improve open rates. After hovering around 31% for several years and being ok with that number (since the average open rate for marketing newsletters is 20.5% according to Campaign Monitor), we’ve noticed a consistent increase in our open rates in the past year. The last newsletter we sent out got a 51% which is pretty great.

What are we doing differently? 

A number of things. And we want to share some tips about what we’ve done that might help you boost your open rates too.

  1. Research.
    We pay close attention to what makes us stop while scrolling through our inboxes and also those we zip right by. That helps us write better subject lines of our own.
  2. Do your own due diligence.
    I remember reading articles not that long ago that suggested writing subject lines like:
    • Don’t open this email.
    • Limited time offer.
    • You don’t want to miss this.
    • This is your last chance.

Yawn. Yawn. Yawn.

I regularly zipped right past those in my inbox. So obviously I wasn’t going to write anything like that.

If you’re not sure that your subject lines are screaming “open me, open me”, do some A/B testing.

3.  Appeal to people’s natural curiosity.
Spend enough time writing your subject lines until you find what works.

SInce our goal is to craft subject line copy that’s compelling, intriguing and fun, rather than a subject line with one topic, we mention two or three. Like these recent examples::

    • Business trends, gallery openings and more.
    • Some fun things to do and new biz tips to try.
    • Perfect clients, bunnies, and more…..
    • Messaging, Live Networking and some (Free) Stuff You Need

That tactic seems to be a little more interesting to readers who like variety and choices. More like a buffet of goodies than one topic that may or may not be of interest to your entire list.

4. Make the content worthwhile.
Remember getting magazines in the mail and being so excited to dive right in and see what goodies they held?

That’s how you want people to feel about your newsletters.

So think about mixing it up a little. We still focus on marketing topics. But we also share interesting places we find and fun things to do in Chicago….with a focus on local and women-owned businesses. We call them Small Business Shoutouts. And every month we get more feedback from subscribers who say “Love your newsletter!”

That certainly helps the open rate if your readers look forward to reading each issue.

5. Make it visually appealing.

The design of your newsletter has a major impact on how readers respond.

A well-designed document enhances your brand and presents your business  professionally. Smart use of white space, a clean, easy-to-read typeface, a scannable layout, compelling images — all of these affect how well your newsletter is received. And opened.

Adobe shares some smart design advice in this article about newsletter design titled:  Captivate your audience with simple, stunning newsletter designs.

That’s a wrap for this month.

Hope this post gives you some good ideas on getting more clicks on your emails and newsletters. If you still need help, we’re always happy to chat.

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How to create an Ideal Client Profile

graphic showing 1 red token in a line of blue tokens

Before you start any marketing, you need a plan. Without one, you’re bound to make scattershot efforts. A waste of time and marketing dollars.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen more than a few startups  make this mistake. It’s painful to watch.

But it’s an easy fix! Start with developing a client profile.

What does your ideal client look like?
This provides direction for how you position your company and informs content development for all of your marketing.

Think in terms of the attributes of someone you’d consider to be the perfect client. You might give him, her (or them)  a name if that helps create a personae. Then lay out the following:

  • Type of Company
  • Industry
  • Number of Employees
  • Sales Volume
  • Geographic Location (if relevant)
  • Job Title:
    • CEO
    • VP of Sales
    • Marketing Manager
    • Sole Proprietor, etc.
  • Personae
    What traits does this ideal client have? Patient, focused, responsive, direct, open to suggestions or knows exactly what she wants?
  • Budget: Ideal allocation for your product or service. No budget, move on.
  • Value Recognition
    What value do you bring to this ideal client?  What problems can you solve? What needs can your product or service fill?

Once you’ve got this ideal client profile laid out, you’ll have a clear picture of the type of client you want to attract.

Then you can proceed to direct your marketing efforts to convince that potential client why they should do business with you..

If you’re ready to move forward, here’s a Guerilla Marketing Form to work on next.

See you next month!

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How to deliver a remarkable customer experience

Gordon's Ace Hardware Store in the Gold Coast

Last month, we blogged about what NOT to do when offering new products or services.

This month, we focus on how to deliver a remarkable customer experience. Because delighting customers not only keeps them coming back but also sharing their delight with others (can you say word-of-mouth marketing?).

I believe in learning from the companies that are doing it best. Like Netflix — which has figured out how to provide an amazing customer experience by streaming a seemingly limitless number of shows.

During Covid lockdown, Netflix kept us sane.  Stuck inside, we talked with friends about who was watching what. We shared on social media. Soon other streaming companies jumped on board. But Netflix was the first.

So I found it interesting to learn that Netflix is now partnering with Walmart (another company that seems to know exactly how to build sales) selling products related to recent streaming hits like Squid Game. They’ve created an area on Walmart.com for an online store called Netflix Hub.

A stretch you say? Hardly. It’s brilliant.

Netflix’s strategy is to develop new revenue streams to support their core subscription business. Promoting hit-show-related merchandise in a new marketplace allows them, as their EVP, Jeff Evans, says: “to connect with the Netflix fan base and potentially attract new customers.”

It’s probably safe to say that any small business would be over-the-moon happy with growth like Netflix. In Q2 2021, the company generated over $7.3 billion in revenue. Their growth curve since 2013 is one that makes investors smile.

What can your small business do?

Why not apply Netflix’s strategy to your small business marketing efforts?  What can you learn from them? What do they do that you don’t?

I found the answer I was looking for in this article in Media Labs.  And it’s pretty basic for a brilliant idea — “Netflix knows how to cater [to] their customers’ needs by giving them a remarkable experience. This is the real success story of Netflix..”

Creating a remarkable experience isn’t something that only big companies can do. Small businesses can absolutely do it. Maybe even easier. We don’t need to run it by layers of departments for approval. We simply need to make it part of our company culture.

Let’s see how that works.

I’ve identified 5 things that make for a remarkable client experience: ‘

  1. Offer Choices
    Make it easy for customers to get what they want. Netflix lets customers watch shows they want — when they want them — on a variety of devices.
  2. Offer Personalization
    In this HubSpot blog post, Kaleigh Moore writes about 8 Brands Creating Memorable Customer Experiences That Go Above and Beyond.  One company called Function Of Beauty lets customers create their own personal hair care products. They offer an online quiz to determine your hair type as well as colors and fragrances you like. You get a product created just for you. Talk about feeling special!
  3. Surprise Surprise!
    Surprises are the impetus behind mystery box subscriptions. There are boxes for almost any interest. They’re great for gifts when you’ve run out of clever ideas. You can find themed boxes for just about anyone on your shopping list. For example,…treat your mixologist brother-in-law to the Shaker & Spoon Cocktail Club. Or gift your sister the crafter with Home Made Luxe so she can create homemade goodies themed to each month (for these and 28 other cool subscriptions, head over to Buzz Feed.)
  4. Outstanding Customer Care
    Marshall Field of the eponymous, now defunct, Chicago-based retail store said “Give the lady what she wants”. Fields was famous for their return policy of “no questions asked”. It takes “the customer is always right” to a whole new level.  Ritz-Carlton has one of the best customer care policies around. Employees are encouraged to “give the client what he needs”. And each employee is given up to $2,000 to make that happen. See #11 in this Qualtrics post titled: 11 examples of companies delivering great customer service. But you’re a small business owner. The above examples reference big companies. How does that apply to you? Great question! Which leads us to the 5th way to offer a remarkable customer experience……
  5. Make the customer feel special. Be like Ace.
    Ace Hardware has been around since 1924. Some of you may remember their jingle (we had jingles before the internet) — Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man. Ace is a franchise company with over 5,000 stores around the world. Most of these stores are independently owned and operated by local entrepreneurs. So even though the parent company is huge, each store functions as a small business.I want to talk about my local Ace store, Gordon’s Ace Hardware. This is in their profile: “As the helpful hardware folks in your community, we promise that, “helping you is the most important thing we have to do today.” And helping customers with really excellent customer service is exactly what they do.I stopped in there last week to have a key made. As I walked in the door, a salesperson asked if I needed help finding something, which I did because the key carving station had been moved. Got my key made in a snap. Stood in line for a few minutes chatting with a woman behind me who told me you could find ANYTHING at this store and how helpful the staff was.

    At least three other people walked in while I was waiting to pay. One customer after another. Each was warmly greeted. I was surprised to see this kind of traffic since Amazon probably carries 90% of the merchandise Ace does. And probably cheaper.

    At a time when retail vacancies are high —  the vacancy rate in Chicago’s Loop is 20% — how is this small local shop thriving? We’ve had empty storefronts in my neighborhood since I moved here three years ago. And I know my neighborhood is not unique.

    What is unique is the way my local Ace Hardware makes customers feel.  Like we count. Like our business is valued. Like they’re happy to see us.

    I’ve never been in an Ace store where I didn’t get amazing service, so I know this focus on customer care is part of their corporate culture.

    After meeting my share of bored salespeople who obviously don’t what to be there, it’s awfully nice to be warmly greeted by kind people who really want to help you find what you need.

    And that just doesn’t happen when you shop at Amazon. It’s efficient and the prices are good. But it’s impersonal. And creating a remarkable customer experience involves human interaction.

    So what can you do to create remarkable experiences for your small business customers?  Have any ideas we haven’t covered? Feel free to comment below. We’d love to hear them.

    On a related topic, check out our post on how to nail customer engagement.

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Guest Post: Shouldn’t Business & Life Skills Complement Each Other? by Julie Morris

post-it notes on a planning calendar

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Americans spend one-third of their lives working – often more for entrepreneurs – and the distinction between our work and personal lives becomes more difficult to separate.

You may not realize what you learn as a business owner may also apply to other aspects of your life, whether it’s your relationship with your partner, or negotiating with a home contractor. And applying interpersonal skills to your business is also appropriate.

Getting things done

If you have fallen victim to the never-ending “to-do list” at home, consider how you tackle your essential tasks and projects as a business owner. You might track a project’s progress using project management software. You give yourself deadlines for reaching certain steps or milestones.

While investing in professional time management software may not be realistic, there is no shortage of time management apps that can replace the seemingly endless sticky notes or the list stuck to your refrigerator door (probably with a promotional magnet that is supposed to remind you to get your teeth cleaned). However, you can go old school and use the A-B-C method to set priorities and decide which tasks to do first and in which order.

Another thing business owners do is have a sense for when they need to call in reinforcements, whether from employees, associates, contractors, or even technology. For example, as a business owner, you can ask your assistant to draft a standard “thank you” email that you can easily personalize as necessary and send out as needed. You can recreate this at home by ordering personalized, pre-printed cards that can easily be adapted into customized thank-you notes, birthday greetings, or expressions of sympathy.

In all cases, remember that just because you know how to do something yourself, doesn’t mean you have to, or even that you should. As a business owner, if you decide to structure your business as a limited liability company or LLC, you could do all of the work yourself by researching the steps of filing in Illinois online and taking time from your already-stacked day to fill out the required forms and file the paperwork.

You could also spend money and hire an attorney to do it. Better yet, take advantage of an online formation service for starting a business in Illinois, easily saving your company’s precious resources as well as your irreplaceable time. In the space of a couple of hours you’ll be ready to hang up your shingle and accept your first customer!

Getting things done, only better

Successful business owners have a vision for their company but still embark on tried-and-true paths in their business operations. For example, business plans have been used for years, giving business owners a roadmap and helping them validate their ideas to potential investors. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs help them manage their sales funnels and manage customer satisfaction and retention. Not reinventing the wheel saves time, money, and reduces stress and anxiety.

BUT … business owners also aren’t afraid to innovate and problem-solve when necessary. It may involve taking risks, but risks are a necessary part of business and in fact, many would consider risk as being synonymous with entrepreneurship.

However, developing a healthy sense of risk tolerance along with the need to develop discipline and standards as the business evolves is what makes some business owners “business builders” rather than serial entrepreneurs, as noted by Chris McGoff.

How does this apply to other parts of your life? Well, sometimes it pays to take the path of least resistance, but that shouldn’t erase the desire to make positive changes, to dare to dream, and to try new things – or simply improve on existing ones.

Take communication, for example. Everyone does it, whether we want to or not. But for some people, it comes easier than others, and they may not see a reason for putting additional effort into their communication capabilities, or “soft skills.”

Technical and practical expertise is often emphasized and lauded, while “soft skills” are considered “nice to have.” Well, honing your soft skills can help you land jobs, contracts, get a better price, and even save relationships. That sounds less like a “nice to have” and more like a “must-have.”

Establishing your brand

Who are you? As a business . . . as a person. What is your brand? Creating a brand that matches with your values and your company’s values is easier than to pretend to be something you are not. Spending some time considering your brand and your values is important.

Have some fun with this. Use a visual logo design maker to create and stimulate your thoughts. What do you want your logo to say about you? What can you visually bring into the world to emphasize your emerging brand and values?

Also, your website and your marketing need to let the customer know how you can help them and what problems you can solve. Hiring What A Great Website to ask you the right questions, help you define your brand, and create a website and all marketing materials that properly align your brand with your values and business model can be immensely productive and necessary to your continued growth.

Explore the portfolio of What a Great Website’s clients and see how hiring someone to create or update your website can establish your brand and better serve your customers.

It’s all a blur of humanity

Improving yourself crosses both personal and business lines, which is the point. What you do in one affects the other. Your business is filled with emotions because it’s filled with humans. Once you understand that, you’ll realize the importance of adding tools to your toolbox to help you deal with that humanity.

Julie Morris is a life and career coach.  Find her at http://juliemorris.org.

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Should you offer new products or services?

graphic image of a rocket that crashed

Recently, we’ve been privy to a lot of conversation from small business owners who are trying to come up with new products or services…. some even considering startups.

No surprise.  The ongoing disruption small businesses are experiencing (Thanks, Covid) has left owners looking for new income streams to replace those that haven’t come back.

An obvious example is restaurants and bars. But any business catering to a downtown corporate market…. or convention trade…. or travel and hospitality industries…. is also scrambling to replace lost income as many workers continue to work remotely.

Over the years, we’ve seen more than a few startups crash and burn before they even got started. Since offering new products or services is not all that different than starting a new business, we want to share what we’ve learned.

Why do businesses fail?

Usually, there’s a simple reason behind a business failure and it’s generally one or more of these 3 things:

You haven’t identified your target market.

I always cringe when someone tells me “everyone” is their target market. Rarely is that the case.

OK, maybe for something like toilet paper…..or water. Necessities that all humans need. And even then, the target market for pricey high-end bottled water like FIJI is not the same as that of generic brands in the flimsy plastic that you pick up in the grocery store. FIJI customers are willing to lay out far more money than someone who shops by price.

For most ventures, there’s a specific audience. Luxury products are geared to different audiences than mass market offerings. Think Versace vs Walmart or Tesla vs Ford. Whole Foods vs Aldi.

The marketing you develop to sell your products —  the language, design and messaging — will change based on who you’re marketing to. That’s why FIJI’s water is “artisan” and comes in a sleek, beautifully designed square bottle. It’s aimed at customers who are willing to pay up for a premium product, not someone looking to save money.

You haven’t verified the need for your product or service.

This reason always makes me sad because I see it far too often and it’s so easy to avoid. You come up with a “great” small business idea — an idea, not a concept because a concept usually involves significant reasoning — and an idea…..not so much.

A doomed-from-the-start startup, on the other hand, usually is the result of someone falling in love with their idea. They’re so sure that everyone will love their product that they neglect to do market research.

The most egregious example I’ve seen was someone who quit a well -paying job (with benefits) to launch a business selling something that not only did not fill a need but few people would buy.

I was astonished.

Had I been able to say something……which I couldn’t because it was a personal relationship and my feedback was not requested….. I would have opened my (rather big) mouth because it pains me to see an eager entrepreneur fail.

But I had to keep quiet while the startup launched, burned and crashed….taking thousands of dollars with it. A pricey lesson that didn’t have to happen.

You haven’t set aside a marketing budget.

We’re website design and developers. We love creating custom sites, and nothing makes us happier than happy clients. But every once in a while, we turn down a project because while the potential client might be able to pay for a custom website, they hadn’t set aside any money for marketing.

Long ago when the internet was in its infancy, you could launch a new business on a website and get away with word-of-mouth marketing or a small public relations campaign to promote your company.

But today there’s no way in hell that can happen. There’s far too much noise….. online and off. We’re bombarded with advertising from a multitude of channels.

That’s why there are influencers on TikTok and Instagram and social media experts to manage your campaigns. Add in email marketing, blogs, podcasts, newsletters, trade shows (yes, they’re coming back!) and other content development and you’re looking at a marketing campaign. And campaigns cost money!

If you stand still and stop promoting, you can be sure your competitors will be waiting in the wings to overtake you. So putting all your money into a website is a really awful idea.

Recently. we turned down a lucrative prospect for reasons 1 and 2. So even though there was a marketing budget, we just couldn’t stomach the idea of participating in a project that was doomed to fail.

Instead, we suggested that they hire us for a few hours of consulting to review their idea and see if we could help create a more feasible option. Because as much as we like making money, we also want to help our clients succeed. 

Next time a colleague or friend tells you about an idea for a new product or service and you’re feeling iffy about it, do them a favor. Share this blog post with them. They might be very grateful.

Resources

Some interesting post-Covid business opportunities.  13 Post-Pandemic Businesses You Can Start Now

Here’s a book to read for more prep work. So when you come to us to build a new website, you’ve already qualified your business concept. 5 Books to Read Before Starting Your Business by Ken Dunn.

5 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Your Clients.

Read this if  you’re already in failing mode. 5 Tough Steps to Save Your Failing Business by Doug and Polly White.

And if you’ve had to close up shop. Before you beat yourself up, see  what good company you’re in.

One failure does not make you a failure.  It makes you a little bit wiser for the next opportunity. Just ask Mark Cuban.  13 Business Leaders Who Failed Before They Succeeded by Lynn Truong.

If you’ve been mulling over starting a new business or launching a new product and having second thoughts, call us. We’re happy to brainstorm with you. Maybe we can save you some money. And grief.

 

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 5 reasons why you should add visuals to your marketing.

woman pointing to the 5th of 5 yellow stars to signify successful marketing

We know that social media posts with visuals outperform text-only posts. 

But visuals enhance other forms of marketing as well. As visual creatures, we enjoy reading or skimming material which contains graphics and images.

In fact, according to this post in Polls Everywhere, visuals increase the desire to read content by 80%. With a reach like that, can you afford NOT to use visuals in your marketing? Hardly.

Get Creative.

Smart marketers employ a variety of different types of visuals to spice up content — photos, graphics, banners, Infographics, charts, videos, clips or gifs.

The type of product or service you’re selling will generally inform the type of visuals you use. But as long as it helps clarify your copy and grab the reader’s eye, there’s no reason why you can’t get creative and try a type of visual you haven’t used before. Play with colors and shading. Do something none of your competitors are doing.

Head over to Content Marketing Institute to see some excellent examples of companies that have nailed visual content.

Since we also like material laid out in an easy-to-scroll format, here are 5 reasons why you should add visuals to your marketing.

  1. Readability.
    Blocks of text are not only boring, they’re intimidating. Not the reaction you’re looking for when you publish a new article or blog post or launch a new website.Blocks of text are not only boring, they’re intimidating. Not the reaction you’re looking for when you publish a new article or blog post or launch a new website. Your content might be groundbreaking, but that’s irrelevant if people don’t read what you’ve written. Adding visuals breaks up copy making it more compelling to read and easier to scroll.“Every aspect of your website must account for each user’s wants and needs at a given moment in time.” Alan Smith, Usability Geek
  2. Reach.
    Some people really don’t like to read. And with the success of YouTube, they don’t have to. They prefer to learn via video. Others respond better to visuals than to text.What to do? “People are 80% more likely to read content if it’s paired with colorful visuals.” Tara Johnson, “How Visual Marketing Works”.So if you want to reach the broadest audience you can, make sure you incorporate visuals (and videos where appropriate) into your copy.
  3. Retention.
    According to this post titled “7 tips for using visual content marketing,” from Social Media Today, people remember visual information 6x better than the information they have read or heard. Since you’ve taken the time to write your content, why not make it as easy as possible for people to absorb it.
  4. Impact.
    Ideally, you want your copy to have an impact on your readers. You want them to follow you, refer you, quote you, or  hire you. Or share how terrific you are on social media.  Adding visuals to your content helps make that happen.In this article from eLearning Industry titled “Visual Learning: 6 Reasons Why Visuals Are The Most Powerful Aspect of eLearning,”  author Dana Jandhyala states ““Powerful images and visual metaphors create strong impressions and lasting memories in learners.”
  5. Interest.
    Illustrations or photos support your content and enhance copy so it’s more interesting.  From PR Daily, “visual content gets viewed 94% times more than content without any visuals” according to a 2018 Social Media Examiner report. May 24, 2018

    Ready to mix up your marketing?

If your marketing efforts haven’t resulted in sufficient new business, try putting some of these tips into play.  And start to pay attention to how and what YOU read (and react to). Odds are that visually void content is not something you’re really reading either.

Learn more about how to make your website compelling.

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Is your website ready (and healthy enough) for Google’s algorithm update?

a stethoscope laying on a laptop keyboard

Earth Day is April 22nd. Yes, we relegate one day to focus on keeping our planet healthy.

Anyone else think this deserves an ongoing commitment? Or at least a month?

Here’s a link to Earth Day Live which runs from April 20 -22nd. Learn about some events you can participate in and get involved.

But we digress…..back to your website.

What Makes A Healthy Website?

A healthy website performs well. It doesn’t just look good.

It works well. It loads fast. Fonts are legible. You don’t have to squint to read the copy. Papers and pdfs download quickly. Finding information is easy and intuitive.

Links work….both external and internal. And the site is responsive. It looks good on any size screen — mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop. It’s also secure and uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). More about that here.   

The health of your website should never be negotiable. A healthy well-run business has healthy procedures in place. And that includes your website, your face to the world.

Here are 6 things you can do right now to make sure your website is indeed healthy.    

  1. Don’t fall behind.
    Make sure that platform updates and plugins are up-to-date. Staying current is important to keep your site functioning properly and securely. New releases generally take care of any pesky issues that developers have found since the last update.
    Note:  we manage and monitor all client websites and send monthly reports. Your web team should handle this for you. If not, find one that will.
  2. Get rid of old plugins.
    A bloated website doesn’t perform well. Outdated or no longer used plugins can slow down your site. We once inherited  one with 62 plugins, most of which were not being used. The site was super slow to load, something you do not want.
  3.  Fix sluggish load speeds.
    According to Google, people will abandon a website if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds. Don’t be a Google fail. Here are 20 free tools to test your website’s speed.
  4. Make sure you’ve addressed any ADA (American Disability Act) issues. Google will punish you if your site isn’t accessible for people with sight or hearing disabilities. Learn what you need to do in this Business News Daily article titled Is Your Website ADA Compliant?
  5. Update content.
    If your copy hasn’t been updated in a while, it probably needs a refresh. If you cite a lot of statistics or references, they’re probably dated. Maybe you’ve added new products or services that never made it onto the site (yes, we’ve seen that)!
    Ideally you update your site on a weekly or monthly basis. But we know that sometimes stuff gets in the way. So do it now.
  6.  Make sure your website is easy for visitors to navigate.
    A healthy website allows people to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for. Referred to as UX (user experience), ideally this is a factor that was built into your website in the design phase. But if you have a do-it-yourself site, it’s likely that navigational ease is not a feature.

Why NOW is the time to make sure your website is healthy.

Google has a new and highly anticipated algorithm launching in May of this year. It will include something called Page Experience which addresses what we’ve talked about above. If you have a business website, you need to know about it.

Search Engine Watch explains it clearly in this post titled Google Page Experience update is all set to launch in May 2021 – Webmasters, hang in there!

Hopefully, we’ve given you some tips you can use to make sure your website is healthy and working efficiently. So you won’t be blindsided when May comes around.

As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you might have. Shoot us an email info@whatagreatwebsite.net and we’ll help you out.

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6 workarounds to get out of a creative rut.

upset woman holding her head in her hands

We’ve all been there.

A project due. Deadline looming. And bam! You’re stuck.

The words (or layouts or designs or insert-your-own-noun) are simply not coming. You’ve hit a creative rut and you need help getting out.

In his article in Wired Magazine, What’s Up With That: Your Best Thinking Seems to Happen in the Shower, author Nick Stockton talks about random thoughts and “eureka” moments.

Stockton interviewed psychologist John Kounios who studies creativity and distraction at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Kournios refers to the random thought/freewheeling type of problem solving as “aimless engagement in an activity…and a great catalyst for free association”.

I’ll expand on that. I think that creative ruts are based in neuroscience. Our brains are wired in such a way that we get stuck on repeat. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for fresh new thoughts to filter in.

Neuroscience and Creative Thinking

Our women’s advocacy group (shoutout SBAC Women In Business!) hosted a panel a few months ago on how to move forward in business after the devastation of 2020.

Doreen Petty, an inspiring business coach who uses neuroscience in her practice, shared that 95% of our behavior is based on what we’ve done in the past. What we need to do is learn how to use the remaining 5% to build new pathways.  Applying this to creative thinking makes perfect sense.

Trying to work with the same old- same old content results in what I call “dam jams”. The stream stops moving quickly when it reaches a dam.  Getting past the dam jam is how I now think about writing ruts. So what do I need to do to move past the dam?

Blasting Through Creative Dam Jams

Here are six easy workarounds we’ve found helpful:

Get up and get out.
A change of scene can help get your creative juices flowing. Head outside…..ideally somewhere green. Being out in nature is an excellent way to clear your mind and make you more receptive to fresh ideas. And walking gets your blood moving and heart pumping faster. It’s a win-win.

Stop! 
Close your laptop. Give yourself a 30-minute break. Something distracting. Arrange some flowers. Rearrange your closet or drawers. Call someone you’ve been meaning to call just to say hello. Get out of your own head and the vicious circle of “ it’s not happening”. You’ll come back refreshed and hopefully with a clean slate of possibilities.
Try the water trick.
If you’re not near any waterfalls or water features, jump in the shower. There’s something soothing and cerebral about running water. Even better if you add a few drops of lavender essential oil in the corners of the shower and make the water super steamy. The lavender is calming and relaxing. And being relaxed is much more conducive to the creative process than stressing over why you’re stuck!
I’ve written some of my favorite articles sitting near a water feature in a backyard in Palm Springs. I’ve also come up with some great ideas in the shower.
Do a brain dump.
Take all that stuff that’s whizzing around in your head and driving you to distraction and put it on paper. Write it or draw it or record yourself. Whatever your preferred method of screaming quietly.
Better yet, draw a mind map.
If you’ve never done one, it’s sort of like an organized brain dump. Get a clean piece of paper. In the center, draw a circle and write the topic or name of the project you’re stuck on. Now draw smaller circles (or squares) around it with some of the things you want to include in your project (yes, I know. This is like an outline but in visual form!).
As I was attempting to write this post……over several days…. and still wasn’t happy with it ;(  I finally used the mind map method. After walking away from my computer several times and distracting myself using some of the techniques mentioned above, I knew I was still overthinking.
Getting my key points down on paper and adding supporting points underneath made it so much easier to move forward. Doing it in color made it fun. Here’s what that looked like:
The power of music.
In a time,com article “Does Listening to Music Stimulate Creative Thinking, or Stifle It?”, Markham Heid says: A 2017 study in the journal PLOS ONE found that listening to “happy” music—defined as classical tunes that were upbeat and stimulating—helped people perform better on tasks that involved “divergent” thinking, which is a core component of creativity.
As I was mind mapping, I was also watching a Facebook Live recital by my friend Sara Su Jones, an accomplished violinist whose music introduced me a number of years ago to the beauty of classical music. The pieces she played (today’s recital all pieces by women composers) were joyous and happy and elegant. I mind mapped with ease. Check out Sara Su’s schedule for upcoming performances. 
What works best for you?
I’m partial to drawing rather than mind mapping digitally because I find that the tactile sensation of paper and pen works better for me.
mind map drawing showing things to do to break out of a creative rut
But if you’re a digital person, here are a few places to check out mind mapping software….some free, some premium.
Some other good resources for getting unstuck:
 (Note: I don’t agree with all of these suggestions but that’s just me ;)
The focus is on photography but the suggestions are good and could apply to writing and design as well.

Why yes, it would be lovely if you want to share this post.

If you’re so inclined, we’d love you to share how you get out of a creative rut. There’s always something new to learn. And if you’d like to share this post on social media, that would be lovely.
Addendum
After this post was finished, I found this article in Entrepreneur that is spot on topic and “endorsed” by Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein.
They both  used a concept called “No Time” which is the time they left unscheduled for self-care — in this case, for doing nothing. Because “neuroscience shows that disconnection time blocks have a large influence on creativity.” Read the rest here. It’s well worth your time.
If you’re having productivity issues, this blog post might help.
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5 traits that successful businesses use to engage customers.

figures reaching out to help a man climbing up a mountain

Successful businesses connect with customers. And they do this via 5 traits that are critical for client engagement: believability, authenticity, transparency, sincerity and dependability.

Let’s see how this works. One of the easiest ways to do this is by asking yourself 3 questions:

  1. Think about your favorite businesses. What is it about them that makes your favorite list?
  2. How do you FEEL when you interact with those businesses?
  3. Why do you keep going back?

What we’re doing here is identifying engagement triggers. Those traits that keep you engaged with vendors, shop owners, and service providers.

I’ll start…..

We count on certain colleagues and small business owners for various services we need — IT support, accounting, video production…..to name a few.

If we look at the commonalities of these vendors, we see a recurring theme.

They’re all dependable and believable. Believable because they’re transparent. What you see is what you get. It makes us feel confident that they’ll deliver on their promise and we’ll get what we were ordered. And then some.

Since we like working with people we like, we also hire people who are sincere and authentic. These traits are part of being a trusted provider. And that’s one of the things YOU need to do to build your client base.

Examples always help. We learn from others who’ve gone before us. So let’s look at some companies that have done a really good job of engaging their clients.

Successful Client Engagements

NetflixNetflix logo
The name Netflix is synonymous with offerings that no one else has. And what you see is what you get.

Can you think of the last time you heard anyone say something bad about their service? I can’t. What I DO hear is only raves about the latest hits that “you have to watch!” And the service is always dependable.

Per this article in Forbes,  “While the company hasn’t been without the occasional controversy, a report in the Wall Street Journal going so far as to describe its corporate culture as being “transparent to the point of dysfunctional,”

TargetTarget's logo
If you shop at Target, you know their stores are uniformly clean and well-stocked and the service is outstanding. You rarely have to search far for assistance. So you can get in and out quickly and generally find what you need. Their mission is to “provide Target shoppers a hassle-free experience” and the effort starts with making sure inventory is available in stores and on its online site. They nail it.

Read more about Target’s outstanding customer service n this article in Retail Customer Experience.

Trader Joe’sTrader Joe's logo
Trader Joe’s is another company that delivers on customer care with impeccable service. Jolly check out people, helpful shelf stockers, and easy returns make shopping there enjoyable. Well, other than the Covid lines outside the stores. But the lines are there because Trader Joe’s wants to keep you safe. They are precise about the number of people allowed in their stores at any given time. So you feel like they really care about you as a customer.

Warby Parker
I love Warby Parker! They take customer engagement to a whole new level. For one thing, it’s fun to go into one of their shops. It’s like going into a wonderfulwarby parker's packaging bookstore but instead of books, there are glass frames. Which you can touch. And try on. At your leisure. You can browse…..

as much as you want. And when you’re ready for help or have a question, there is always a knowledgeable and friendly sales associate to help you out.

Their make-shopping-fun branding is outstanding. “Nice to see you” is printed on the inside of your glass case. It’s fun and charming and makes you feel good. Like they really care about making you happy with your purchase. And they include a bright colorful lens cleaner that makes you smile every time you clean your glasses. Super marketing. Super company.

QuinceQuince
Familiar with Quince? They embody all of the traits I mentioned at the start of this post — believability, authenticity, transparency, sincerity and dependability. Plus one more, sustainability.

Their tagline — “Everyone should be able to afford nice things.”

An online retailer, they offer top quality clothing and organic bedding at remarkably low prices. Think beautiful quality $59 cashmeres and washable silk items that would cost triple that at a traditional retailer. Their secret? No middlemen, they sell “Factory direct to your doorstep.” Low-cost minimalist packaging. And what they call “specialist factories” around the world that pay sustainable wages.

Add in a commitment to green manufacturing, reducing carbon footprints and a beautiful clean website designed for accessibility, and you have a company that truly understands millennials and probably a lot of their parents as well.

Bottom line: you feel good shopping Quince. You feel like you’re helping others receive living wages and not hurting the planet. And their Mongolian cashmere sweaters are yummy soft.

What can your small business learn from companies like Quince?

How do you build trust into your client relationships?

We offer 5 key takeaways:

  1. Believability – Make honesty a part of your culture.
  2. Transparency – Let clients get to know you. This is how you engage them and build relationships.
  3. Authenticity – Be genuine. Whether you sell products or services. Quality counts.
  4. Sincerity – We like doing business with people who are sincere. It makes us feel good.
  5. Dependability – Without this, you can’t have much of a business.

Companies that don’t deliver what they promise don’t stay around long. Especially with social media that enables anyone to share your lousy products or crappy customer service with half the world.

From a consumer standpoint, the internet affords us a multitude of ways to buy. If your company doesn’t make customer care a priority, there are plenty of others that will.

Read more about keeping your customers happy..

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