Tag Archives: websites

A World Without Graphic Design

All the discussion about the red cup and the sans serif Google logo got us thinking about how large of a role graphic design plays in our world.

Life just wouldn’t be the same without it. Can you imagine running shoes without a Nike swoosh? A holiday tree without a Hallmark ornament?  Jonathan Goldsmith without a Dos Equis? Or heaven forbid a frat party without a red solo cup?

The desire to make things pretty while adding a semblance of order is why I went into graphic design to begin with. Recognizing the difference it makes in peoples lives gives me purpose.  I’m not a surgeon saving someone’s life or a Peace Corp worker feeding the hungry. I am a graphic designer who creates the annual giving campaign for an environmental education center, and a website for a non-profit who helps to feed and educate children in Africa and brochures for sustainable building products.  I make things pretty and hopefully catch peoples attention and get positive messages out to the world.

So go ahead, change your profile pic to an Eiffel tower with a peace sign in support of France, throw some change in a red kettle, catch the Macy’s parade and dance all night in your Manolo Blahnik’s. However you choose to express yourself, love your brands, love the world, love graphic design and art and how it connects us all.

What would your world be like without graphic design?

Share with us what you would miss most if there was no such thing as graphics design? We’d love to hear.

 

7 Components of Internet Marketing for Small Business

7 Components of Internet Marketing for Small Business

7 Conscious Steps to Connect with Website Visitors

Internet marketing for small business, also known as web marketing, online marketing, digital marketing and online small business marketing is comprised of many components. Internet marketing encompasses several disciplines, involving everything from websites, email, search engine optimization (SEO),social media and more. There is no one-size-fits-all for internet marketing campaigns. Depending on your business and your target market, finding the right balance between the many options available may take some trial and error but this effort will often lead to great results in internet marketing.

Inbound marketing components are used in concert with your website to convert visitors to customers. When visitors come to your website inbound marketing works to turn those in-coming prospects to customers. Inbound marketing works under the premise that your social media fans and website visitors are expressing an interest in your product or service purely by coming to your website or social media pages. The  same can be said for phone calls coming in from direct mail campaigns and other marketing efforts. Inbound marketing puts practices in place to respond to these hot leads through office procedures, marketing automation software, online contact forms, visitor tracking and through email marketing.

Components of Internet Marketing for Small Business

1. Websites

Some small businesses still don’t have websites – yes, really! Many small business owners do not pause to consider that people search the web for everything. Even if a business is not selling online and the majority of customers or members don’t come from internet marketing campaigns people search for phone numbers, hours, etc. Having information online and available also establishes credibility.

Do you need to make updates? Businesses lose credibility points from visitors if they see a dated website design or information that isn’t current. Outdated information can be frustrating to the visitor and make it seem as if keeping your information (and your customers and prospects) in the loop is not important to you.

What steps can you take to get your website current?

2. Getting Customers to Your Website

Is your website address on everything? You have your website address on your business cards of course, but do you also have your domain name on your company vehicle, in tv ads, radio spots you are running and on all of your social media profiles? Are their places your customers frequent where you can post your website address? Do you include them in ads, social media pages plus blog, and email signature?
Where can you add your website address ?

3. Relevant Content / Keywords

Do you have information on all your products and services posted on your website? We’re you hoping to get back to that someday? Search engines rely on keywords people use when making a web  search query. Adding the words and terms to clearly describe your products and services helps answer customer questions and it helps your website be discovered on search engines.
What products or services need more details on your website?:

4. Calls to Action

In every marketing effort a clear call to action helps to increase responses. Some websites require an email to access content, others offer a live chat option to answer customers in real time. Most website calls to action are requests to fill out online forms, including quote forms, make an online purchase, email, or pick up the phone. Online forms help to capture emails, phone numbers and other contact information of prospects. A clear call to action leads the customer smoothly onto the next step to connect with you.

Web savvy visitors have become hesitant to offer up emails or other contact information readily. Offering an item of value for free in exchange for emails or phone numbers is a great way to be able to follow up with interested customers. Some of the free value added items to offer your customers are e-books, free consultations, free trials and discounts . The key is to create a truly valuable item that your customer benefits from. Offering a download of a one page Top 10 list from your industry and calling it an e-book is not an authentic way to begin a trusting, long lasting business relationship— make sure you are giving value. Be careful not to ask for too much information from them. If you plan to send emails capture their name and email, don’t try and get their snail mail address just in case you need it in the future. The less information a visitor has to fill in the better.
What calls to action can you add to your website?

What can you say or offer to entice visitors to leave an email, call, or fill out a form?

5. Blogging

Company blogs serve as an outlet to post new information about products and services. They also help to educate prospects and customers about how your product or service can help them and they can recognize the value your company offers to them. Blogs can give updates to warranty information, announce new products, company press releases, samples of completed work, customer case studies and industry news. Adding a blog to your company website demonstrates your leadership in the industry and assists with search engine optimization. Consistent blog posts show search bots that your website has current information that should be indexed. Every time you update your site or blog you increase visibility to search engines.

What can you write about that will include your keywords within the context of your blog?:

6. Landing Pages

To highlight a special promotion, product, or service, create a landing page with a strong call to action. Landing pages are stripped down versions of your website that focus on the service or product you are promoting and that promotion only. The page should offer quick bullet information about the item being promoted. Include your logo, a form to complete the purchase of the promotion or a form that gathers information and has a follow up to the customer such as a free download. Landing pages have unique URLSs and are usually associated with a specific email, advertising, or internet marketing campaign. Landing pages can be tied directly to each media used in a campaign. This helps to provide data on what marketing methods received the most activity. You can then use this data for choosing the same or similar marketing methods for future campaigns. The unique URL’s make it easy to check analytics nd gather all kinds of information.

What information is of interest to your website visitors?

What can you offer in exchange for their contact information?

7. E-Mail Marketing

By now you have probably figured out what you will be doing with all of the emails you are capturing. That’s right, email marketing campaigns! There are a variety of ways to stay connected with your customers when you have their email. You can send individual personal emails, weekly or monthly e-blasts or e-newsletters that offer discounts, product updates, etc. You can also create automated emails when visitors perform a specific action on your site. Emails can also be formulated to send at specific times along the sales chain. Creating a process that responds intuitively to customer inquiries serves the customer quickly and makes efficient use of everyone’s time.

How will you use the email addresses you capture? (e-newsletters, send coupons/discount, etc.)

Another large component of internet marketing for small business is social media marketing for small business.  When fed well and frequently, social media marketing campaigns can drive visitors to your website.   Set your intentions and be conscious of how your internet marketing will boost you company brand and sales. If you have question or need help getting an inbound marketing campaign going,  please give us a call. If you are interested in getting more of these detailed small business marketing tips be sure to check our workbook format e-book Mastering the Art of Marketing for Small Business for 2015.

 

What Can A Marketing Plan Do For Your Business

Internet Marketing Plan and Strategy graphicThe Marketing Plan is a valuable road map in helping companies and organizations succeed in achieving their business goals. Marketing planning is an ongoing business activity not just a page in the business plan.

Objectives of Marketing Planning

  • Get all personnel working toward the achievement of common goals.
  • Develop an understanding of the organization’s competitive position and opportunities.
  • Establish a master plan to achieve business goals though marketing strategies and tactics.

In order to create a marketing plan that is a truly useful tool, it is important to give careful consideration to a number of topics relevant to your specific company and market. Connection Group has developed marketing planning guides for small, medium and large companies.

marketing-price-promotion-placement-productMarketing planning guides include:

  1. Business Descriptions
  2. Products and Services Details
  3. Target Market Identification
  4. Competition Review
  5. SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats)
  6. Business Goals
  7. Current Situation in the Industry (potential market)

Clear identification of this information helps to determine where a companies’ marketing efforts and budget should be focused. Instead of blowing your entire annual marketing budget on a Super bowl ad in Sunday’s game, a more strategic plan could keep you in front of your target audience with more frequency and less money!

Another example is the number of inquiries from customers about setting up online advertising, specifically Google Adwords. Typically these inquiries are from existing customers who have hired us to design company websites, logos and / or print marketing items. In the same way dedicating your full marketing and advertising budget on a Super Bowl ad may not be the best approach, Google Adwords may not be the first step for some companies to begin their marketing and advertising efforts.

Adwords offers a variety of products that can provide valuable online exposure but many companies just aren’t ready before they do a complete evaluation of current brand and marketing channels. One of our first questions to these customers is what they want their internet advertising to achieve:

  • increase brand exposure
  • increase website visits
  • increase online sales
  • increase offline sales
  • increase readers/members/customers
  • build database

Based on the answer different strategies can be applied. Additional work may be required prior to running the ads, or in some cases another advertising medium or marketing tactic may be a better fit for their product, service or budget. When customers complete the marketing planning guide Connection Group can develop a comprehensive marketing plan that will identify where and how marketing efforts and budgets are best allocated.

Marketing plans can be developed at any time during the year but starting at the beginning of a calendar year is best if that is when your fiscal year begins. If you are interested in having Connection Group put together a marketing plan for your company for 2014, or if you have any questions, please give us a call today.

 

STOP STEALING FROM GOOGLE!

copyright symbol graphic with colorful graphicEver wonder what your name means? How will you find out? Look it up in the tome, the Dictionary of Names from Oxford University Press? No, you will do what I did and Google it. Go ahead, do a search, see what you come up with.

In searching ‘what does my name Connie mean’, Google graciously returned 8,280,000 results. Granted I did not go to every website citing the information. I went to four. All had different results. One spoke of the history of the name and how it is derived from Constance (I thank my parents for being kinder than that). Another provided a pretty little graph showing the popularity of the name (seems Connie peaked in the fifties) my third attempt landed me on a page filled with ads and a three word descriptive answer to my inquiry; ‘Connie means knowledge’. I really think I am much more complex and warrant more than one descriptive word! So, I took a chance at one more, which I believe is profoundly more accurate. This website states the meaning of Connie means “Queen of the House – a determined but also an awesome person who can always make you feel good and is a boy magnet.” Absolutely! This is what I am going to tell everyone my name means! So what that the website designers Mom was named Connie and people can enter their own interpretation of the name. I choose to believe.

To all writers, professional assistants, marketers, students, authors, please don’t limit your research to a Google search!

Don’t go to results page 72, click the link you think nobody will ever find and plagerize the content for your next newsletter, term paper, or website. That is stealing AND it could be completely inaccurate information! After reviewing multiple sites and finding similar facts you can then compose an original article or paper. If you are using proprietary information, quotes, statistical research, remember to cite your source and respect those who came before you and did the work.

The internet is getting smaller every day. Once I post this blog entry I can randomly select a sentence from it and do a search. Every website who has used my sentence will be returned in my Google search.

This also goes for Google Images – ugh, don’t get me started! When you search Google Images please note the disclaimer that states “image may be subject to copyright” that does apply to you too. What’s the best solution? Find the original owner and pay them for use, or hire a professional graphic designer or photographer to create an original solution. Appreciate the wonderful web of knowledge we have access to and share your wisdom, don’t steal others and think you will get away with it.

What are the consequences of Copyright Infringement?

If you use a copyrighted work without permission and your usage is not exempt under the law, you are infringing on copyright. If the copyright holder discovers it, they can then sue you for actual damage or loss of profits. The holder/owner may also choose to seek statutory damages up to $150,000 for each infringement. So if you have stolen a logo and used it on your business cards, letterhead, brochure, signage and website, etc. the copyright holder can sue you for statutory damage for each, or $750,000. Here is a list of damages and profits of copyright infringement.

If you use a copyrighted work without permission and your usage is not exempt under copyright law, you are infringing upon the copyright holder’s rights. The copyright holder can sue you for actual damages or loss of profits. The copyright holder may also seek statutory damages up to $150,000 per infringement. See Section 504 for additional detail.

Copyright law is not limited to just United States Citizens. In an effort to address international use concerns as the world wide web expanded.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 signed by President Clinton addressed this issue by implementing two 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) treaties: the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.

Depending on if you are citing an entire website or citing a specific article or page within a website following are the MLA (Modern Language Association) Style standards to follow for proper citations:

· If you can’t find all of the information, cite what you can find in the recommended order for each.
· In these examples we have provided them as single spaced; you should double space citations in your list.
· For more information on MLA citation styles, refer to the handbook and the website.

To cite an entire website that you have referenced in your work :

Title of Database. Date of electronic
publication or latest update. Name of
sponsoring institution or
organization. Date the information
is retrieved <URL

Example:  Connection Group Web and Design Tips. July, 2011. Connection Group. August, 2011, www.connectiongraphics.com

To cite a webpage, cite a blog or cite an online journal article use the following format:

Author. “Article Title.” Journal Title
vol.issue (Year): pages.
Date retrieved information
<URL>.

Example: Sweet, Connie. 10 Baby Steps for Small Business to  Grow in Social Media.
Web and Design Tips, 17 (2012) 1. Retrieved August 25, 2011, from
http://www.connectiongraphics.com/tips/

Be original! We are ALL connected.