Websites

Your Relevance is Your Message

Effective websites are publishing platforms that allow you to post content of interest to your customers or clients and build a relationship with them.

Effective websites are publishing platforms that allow you to post content of interest to your customers or clients and build a relationship with them.

If you wonder whether it is time to mix things up on your corporate website, you probably missed the memo about keeping your website mixed up all the time.

Effective websites stopped being electronic brochures a long time ago. Now they are publishing platforms that allow you to post content of interest to your customers or clients and build a relationship with them.

Put more directly, you should be adding fresh material to your website continuously to give your audience a reason to keep coming back. This is true regardless whether you are marketing a product or providing information about a complex public issue.

Good websites often resemble blogs. In fact, some websites have morphed into blogs. Other websites have become online newsrooms. Still others are similar to Ebooks, with a storytelling theme and look and feel.

Content is more varied and visual. It includes photos, videos, charts, screenshots and infographics. Think of the difference between National Geographic and the TV Guide.

Instead of just the facts, many websites convey a brand personality or the personalities of service providers.

All of the content is aimed at the singular objective of engaging your viewers, answering their questions and offering useful information. It is less about you and more about them. Your relevance becomes your message.

If you are reaching out to customers or constituents on a regular basis, then you should be thinking about your website constantly. A website isn't a marketing panacea, but it should be the core of your marketing plan, the place you invite people to come to see what you have to offer. It should be a place they find appealing and enticing enough to return again and again.

Great Websites Strike a Balance

Websites that balance simplicity with consistency are the most effective. Science says so.

Consistency is important from a usability standpoint. Website visitors bring certain expectations when visiting a typical website. According to a recent article on conversionxl.com, “Prototypicality is the basic mental image your brain creates to categorize everything you interact with. From furniture to websites, your brain has created a template for how things should look and feel.”

That is why most websites in a particular category share a similar layout. When designing a website, be sure to research what others in your sector are doing. It’s important that your website feels familiar to users, especially in terms of where to find certain items.

Simplicity Sells

Despite all evidence to the contrary, people resist the principle that simplicity sells. The simple truth is that it does. 

People loathe complicated instructions. They quickly abandon websites with confusing navigation. They click off YouTube videos that are too long and too boring.

With shortened attention spans and a lot of competition for mind-share, people want things simplified. It's that plain and, shall we say, simple.

American writing has become more simplified and uncluttered since Ernest Hemingway. Advertising copy and jingles, 28-minute sitcoms and mobile devices all have contributed to the trend of compressing a lot into a little space.

Brevity has gone from a virtue to a necessity. Simplicity helps determine the winner in the binary world of "click on" or "click off."

Yet many people, including PR professionals, continue to insist on "telling the whole story." They miss the point that you have to get people interested in the first line of the story before you earn the opportunity to tell more.

Your Website Matters

So much attention has been given to social media and thought leadership blogs, websites have become almost an afterthought. They are anything but.

Websites have evolved from their beginnings as electronic brochures, where content contained in print brochures was essentially uploaded online.

Websites morphed into information portals that moved beyond print copy to offer layers of information, often in multimedia forms.

Now websites are centers for content marketing strategies. The content spreads out like religious apostles, but a key objective of the content is to cause a click on the holy land of content, your website.

The look and feel of websites has evolved, too. They have gone from hard-to-read to vibrant and colorful, with images and information packaging overtaking the dull columns of copy that marked earlier websites.

Content with a Purpose

Content marketing is in many cases replacing advertising. However, content marketing must follow the example of advertising and provide a clear call to action to customers and clients.

While advertising tries to reach customers by sheer repetition of a simple message, content marketing seeks to convince by the reliable presence of valuable information. Websites and social media become information portals where customers can find tips and advice they trust.

But content marketing cannot slip into the role of librarian or simply serve as a magazine rack. The point of content marketing is to draw customers toward your product and service. Content marketers must integrate calls to action in the information they provide — and make it easy for customers to try out or purchase their products and services.

This can range from easy-to-find phone numbers to offers of free products or consultations. You can invite website viewers to watch a video demo and promote it on your Facebook page. You can feature a trial version of a product or showcase a how-to guide. You can couple a white paper with a coupon.

As the name implies, content marketing means selling your product through content. To be effective, you need both the content and the sales pitch. This demands intelligent website design. Content must be prominently displayed. So must your call to action.

Studies indicate many business fumble the ball by not providing quality, original content and, when they do, failing to combine it with effective calls to action. They have static websites. Valuable content, if available, is buried. Calls to action are either invisible or overdone. 

Five Deal-Breakers that Require a Website Redesign

Redesigning a website can be hard work, but it's worth the effort to cut the shackles that prevent your from updating your own site's content.How often should you redesign your website? Poll most experts, and the answer is the same, every two to three years. If the thought of overhauling your website is terrifying, you’re not alone. Since creating a website from scratch can take months and hours of staff time, it’s natural to be hesitant.

However, there are times when a website redesign becomes a necessity. Here are five signs you need to bite the bullet and dive into the website redesign process. Making sure all of these things are in place will mean your next website redesign will be far less painful.

You can’t update your website content

Choosing the Winning Strategy

Marketing PR is all about attracting a target audience for a product, service or idea.Once upon a time marketing and public relations were seen as the opposite sides of two different coins. Now marketing PR is viewed as a smart combination of communications skills.

When mass media ruled, marketing was all about advertising. You could run an ad in the major local newspaper, a national magazine or TV network and be assured of a huge audience. But those days have vanished with the rise of the Internet.

It takes more nowadays than a clever ad to reach and captivate your target audience. In fact, the key is finding your target audience.

That's where the discipline of marketing is important. Marketers use research techniques to identify and confirm their prime audience, so messages and promotions can be tailored for them.

Marketing on a Shoestring

Small businesses and startups can get the marketing boost they need without spending a fortune.Small and startup businesses shy away from marketing because they fear they cannot afford it. However, lean marketing plans can be affordable and extremely effective.

Business owners imagine astronomically expensive ad campaigns, but a whole lot can be done for far less. In fact, the whole notion of marketing public relations is based on clever, cost-effective techniques that attract the attention of target audiences.

The first steps to success on a shoestring budget include:

  •   Clear, mutually agreed upon objectives
  •   Sharply defined target audience
  •   Fixed dollar limit
  •   Measurable outcomes 

Creating Your Winning Online Video

A good video shoot can produce gems. Video is the ultimate visual asset. From online TV to YouTube videos, how-to videos to viral videos, people watch and share quality content. With new tools, it no longer takes a Hollywood director to make quality video.

CFM produces lots of videos for clients for websites, marketing PR campaigns and advocacy efforts. We invite you behind the curtain to view our video-making process.

Act One

After determining if video fits with your communication goals and strategy, we focus on three areas: key messages, brand personality and emotions.

Key messages are what you want to say to your audience. Effective videos are edited tightly, so we find ways to weave those messages into the scenes and images we capture on video.

Brand personality informs video style. Is your brand modern, traditional or elegant? Fun, energetic or reserved? This step sets the stage for our creative brief for the video project.

Emotions inspire action. Should the video be inspirational, humorous or hunger-inducing? Peaceful, calming and inviting? Video can convey emotion, but it takes planning and skill to capture it.

Act Two

Informed by your key messages, brand personality and desired emotions, our team curates inspiration. We gather video examples to show style, approach and tone.

We recommend a video screening that includes your creative team and CFM. We’ll explore likes and dislikes and have a brainstorming session.

Act Three

This is when the process goes from concept to reality. It’s time to dig in to the nitty-gritty and logistics.

Landing Pages by Design

Lots of energy goes into designing a website home page, but not enough on landing page strategy and contents. If you use a click-to-read-more approach on your website home page, your landing pages take on even greater significance.

Landing pages are where viewers land when they click links on your home page. Viewers may go to a home page out of curiosity. They go to a landing page with the intent to find information of interest. You need to provide it, along with a call to action.

Too often landing pages are cast with the design format of the entire website. Continuity is a good thing when it comes to navigation, but it shouldn't be an overlord that tramples clarity for viewers. If home pages are intended to capture a viewer's attention, a landing page's job is to hold that attention. On CFM's website — we have landing pages devoted to each of our five business lines, They were designed with the client personas of each business line in mind.

Keeping someone interested is a function of relevant content, which is nicely displayed and in a hierarchy and language that makes sense to the viewer. Landing pages aren't playgrounds for creativity; they are the platforms that convey your key messages.

So You Want to Start a Blog

Many excellent communications campaigns use blogs as story-telling tools, but too many blogs are floating around the internet that haven’t been updated for months. You imagine the blog creators were full of excitement, set up a basic blog format using a site such as WordPress.com, Blogger or tumblr, published a first post and thought, Voila! Smooth sailing from here, right?

A blog only is as good as the strategy and plan guiding it. Before hitting publish, you need to be clear about what you want to accomplish with your blog. What will success look like?

Reasons for a blog may include establishing thought leadership in your industry category, self-publishing news, providing added-value service to clients, raising awareness about important issues or engaging new audiences. All the content you publish should support your goals. 

To measure success, we recommend evaluating multiple touch-points, such as reader comments, content spreading on social media, numbers of readers and blog traffic.

You also should plan content development. Look to your key messages and values to help you indentify the stories you should tell. If your staff members are the key to customer service, consider profiling them. If your brand is committed to supporting the community, write about your involvement. If you have a major event coming up, think how you can advance it through teaser posts.

Get a calendar and mark it with your content ideas, including time-sensitive promotions such as new products and services, special events or campaigns. This content calendar becomes your map, ensuring you are prepared to keep your blog updated.

Brains Know Good Websites When They See Them

As websites have evolved from electronic brochures to interactive marketing portals, their design has become increasingly important. Research shows the most successful websites help the brains of viewers recognize familiar patterns, which boosts click rates and, ultimately, sales.

In a recent blog, web marketing expert Todd Follansbee says, "The brain doesn't like things that don't fit right. More accurately, it doesn't like things that don't fit the way it expects them to fit." He explains humans have limited short-term memories, but can absorb and retain more information if the brain can place into an established cranial crevice.

A simple example Follansbee cites are visual cues for hyperlinks on a website landing page. If hyperlinks aren't consistent or fit into a recognizable pattern, viewers grow inpatient and exit.

He recommends submitting website designs to a usability test, employing UX guidelines to simplify site features, conform with brain recognition patterns and increase conversion rates.

"The brain's ability to recognize patterns and form mental models also helps us to identify and remember good and bad sites," Follansbee says. "Make sure your visitors' first visit to your site is a good one by ensuring that you meet basic guidelines. They will be more likely to return."

Hannah Smith, CFM's account executive who designs websites (including CFM's website), reinforces Follansbee's point. "When I design a website, I envision it with the perspective of the viewer. The questions I ask are, 'Is the site design clean and uncluttered?' 'Is it easy to navigate?' "Are main features accessible and attractively placed?' 'Does it work in a mobile format?'"

The phrase "I know it when I see it" applies to good websites. Make sure your website design speaks to the brains of your target audience. If you are using an off-the-shelf template, chances are it doesn't. The vast majority flunked the UX scoring test. Maybe it's time for you to bring your website in for a check-up.