Monday, December 11, 2017

Question of the Week: How Do I Build Brand Loyalty?


You’ve worked hard. You’ve done the marketing, run the ads, given away some free stuff. As such, you’ve landed some customers. But don’t settle into the hammock just yet. This is no time to breathe easy, friend. 

Because now it’s essential you keep them coming back.

Building Brand Loyalty Takes Work


And even more so with the presence of the all-encompassing gigantic discount mall called the internet.

Yep. Your customers might love your stellar product or service. But what can you do to keep them from wandering to the internet to find a similar product at a cheaper price, in a different color, with faster shipping?

Here are some tried and true ways to build brand loyalty.

1. Maintain High Quality


If your customers are loving on the quality of your product, then don’t change it for something more inexpensive. Sure, they may experience the thrill of finding a comparable product at a cheaper price. But when the quality is lacking, that thrill is soon gone. 

And then they’ll come back to you.  

2. Engage, Engage, Engage


Do you know what brand recall is? (Hint - It’s not when they pull your brand from the shelves because of a salmonella scare.)

This term refers to your customers’ ability to see your message and immediately identify your product or service with your brand name. 

And this is done by keeping them engaged.

No one wants to be merely an order number.

Building your brand means building momentum through communication. Let your customers know about new and exciting developments and  offerings. Keep them abreast of “what’s next.” Ask their opinions: 

  • How was your experience?
  • Were you satisfied with customer service?
  • Did the product or service meet your expectations?

Let them know that you’re listening and that you care about their experiences and/or concerns.

You can also proactively engage with your website customers through a live chat platform. This provides a personalized reply to their queries with almost no waiting time. A big plus in this “just add water and stir” world of instant gratification.

3. Remain Relevant 


What’s your competition up to these days? 

If you just shrugged and said, “Dunno,” then get out there and take a look. Monitoring the competition is how you stay up-to-date with the current trends in your industry. And to stay relevant, your marketing and communications strategy should reflect this. 

Otherwise you can expect about as much success from those efforts as selling yoga pants in a coal mine. 

4. Give Them Incentives


Another reason to stay vigilant of your competition is so you can provide incentives for consumers to return to your company instead of going to them. 

This can be achieved through insider discounts, special status, gifts with a purchase or complimentary shipping, for example. Anything to create added value and a sense of privilege. People love to feel special and to belong.

It could even be something as simple as a loyalty reward card. After all, what’s in YOUR wallet? We’re guessing at least a couple of those cards. 

5. Provide the Luxury of Choice


“Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”

Obviously this worked for Henry Ford. But unless you’re selling something so rare and unique that it can’t be found anywhere else in the world, it isn’t gonna work for you.

These are fiercely competitive times. 

So even if you don’t have the funds from the get-go, once your product gains popularity, consider creating variations to suit different tastes. Yeah, we’re talking about different colors, styles and sizes. But we’re also talking about offering a choice when it comes to shipping and payment methods too. 

6. Say Thank You!


You probably heard this from your parents or caregivers a lot. 

And regardless of all the other things they said that may have led you astray, turns out this one was valuable advice. 

In an effort to remain all business, companies often forget to
extend a simple thank you for their customers’ business. So wish your customers a happy birthday, some jolly holidays and a rocking new year. And thank them for their patronage.

Customers in every industry - from florists to toy-makers to steel-workers - appreciate this extra human element. Even if they pretend they're not the mushy type. 

Brand Loyalty Means Going the Extra Mile

Does your first repeat purchase mean anything to you? What about the third transaction? The fourth?

(Your answer should be yes.) 

Customer loyalty is invaluable. So exceed expectations. Do what it takes (within reason, of course) to make your customers feel valued. Because they are.

And if you do, they’ll return the favor. 





Wednesday, December 6, 2017

How Mobile, Social, Cloud and AI Tech Are Changing the Face of Marketing


Consumers are demanding a lot of personalized attention these days. Like a world full of cranky, hungry toddlers. As such, marketers have had to get clever about appeasing them. And a box of animal crackers ain’t gonna cut it.

Here’s the nitty gritty - the power has shifted to the consumers. They expect every experience to be curated specifically to them in each moment. What’s more, it’s no longer unreasonable for them to have these expectations. 

Mostly because they’re getting their needs met. 

Smart Brands Realize the Power of the Consumer


It is the consumer who decides when, where, how and in what way they’re going engage with a brand. And when they do, the experience had better be consistent, seamless and relevant across all touch points. Otherwise, heads are gonna fly. Or, more accurately, consumers will ignore you - which one could argue is just as fatal to your business as decapitation.

So that’s why the vast majority of top marketers are focusing on customer experience. They’re delivering exceptional experiences based on everything they know and learn about their customers, and then engaging them across all channels.

And we mean, ALL channels.

Mobile as a Mogul


There are now more mobile devices in the world than there are people. We won’t venture to guess how many of them are smarter than humans. Some humans, at least. 

The point is, consumers have made a big shift toward mobile channels. 

It’s how they check their email, find out how many “Likes” they got on their latest Facebook post and buy their ball bearings. Or whatever. It’s pretty much the new norm. And this fact has not escaped shrewd advertisers.  

The closeness and increased engagement of mobile gives companies some serious advantages. Marketers are now able to reach consumers with personalized messages and offers in real time. After all, a mobile phone is essentially a tracking device. So companies can advertise to consumers based on their interests, preferences and even physical
location. 

Mobile is no longer an option for marketers—it’s a requirement.

Everybody’s Talking


For better or worse, there’s no escaping social media. 

And if you're running a business and dodging it in some attempt to be a loner and a maverick, you’re losing out. Because social media is vital for product discovery, sales and customer care. As such, an overwhelming number of marketers say their companies use social media marketing to drive business ROI.

If you’re still turning your head away and cringing, we encourage to turn to your screen and face it head on. Because here’s the thing - social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat are more than just places to show off your child’s first day of school or what you’re having for breakfast. 

They give companies a load of information about who people are and what makes them tick. And that makes them a valuable part of any successful marketing strategy. 

But if you’d rather skip that whole driving awareness and sales thing for your company, then re-avert your gaze. That’s your business. (Though probably not for much longer.)

The Mysterious Cloud 


Not long ago, clouds were merely puffy white shapes in the sky. People would stare up at them and - as if suddenly engaged in some sort of self-administered Rorschach test - they’d call out what they saw. (An elephant, for instance. Or a chainsaw.)

And while clouds still float about in the sky doing impressions, THE cloud is more mysterious. It’s the “place” where super-sized tomes of information live. And it takes no space. 

This is the magic of cloud-based technology. 

It used to be that companies had to give up massive amounts of money and their first-born child to store all of their consumer data. There was clumsy hardware and software that had to be manually configured. And don’t even get us started on the big honkin' servers. It wasn’t pretty.

Plus, all of that fragmented information was susceptible to total annihilation by any number of vast and sundry natural disasters. 

But with cloud-based technologies, companies now have access to infinite computing resources without having to deal with a cumbersome infrastructure. Thus, managing consumer data is has become even easier than making ice. And without that pesky wait.

Add to that the fact that data and applications can be easily stored in a centralized location that’s accessed from anywhere and at any time, marketers are happy as pigs in mud. Pigs in mud that are able to use consumer data easily and instantaneously to power personalized experiences across all those channels, that is. 

The Real Intelligence of Artificial Intelligence


Once upon a time - not all that long ago - marketers relied on historical consumer information to figure out what customers wanted or needed. This information was gathered by manual and often annoying means - the telephone survey at dinner not being the least of which.

But these days, it’s all about AI tools. 

Unlike the tool that was calling you during dinner to ask your opinion on tube socks, the AI tool collects data to learn from past consumer  behavior. Through algorithms, it draws insights from massive amounts of data to see patterns emerge. 

For example, it can quickly identify the sentiment in a
brand’s social media feed or determine the precise sequence of mobile messages or email that drive a consumer’s behavior. And you won’t even have to put down your fork.  

With AI, companies are getting more from their data and able to personalize their marketing efforts like never before. 

Anticipating Consumer Needs through Data 


This is what it all comes down to. And it’s been a real game changer.

Brands that want to survive need to engage consumers with personalized, real-time content. And they need to do it across all channels.

This starts - and maybe even ends - with the ability to tap into the power of mobile, social, the cloud and AI.

Have at it.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Question of the Week: What’s the Difference between A Web Designer and Web Developer?



Let’s turn to the 1970's to illustrate the answer to this. 

Think of a web designer as an architect - like Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch. And consider the web developer a construction worker - like the construction worker from The Village People.

Can you dig it?

Web Designers Are Responsible for How the Pages Will Look


They decide where the images will go, how the buttons will be placed, what the color scheme will be, and other stuff like that. It's like how Mike Brady drafts a building plan before handing it over to a construction firm.

Once Mike has handed over the building plan, then the Village People construction guy (and the firm that employs him) do the job of building the structure itself. In other words:

Web Developers Write the Needed Codes to “Build” the Website 


They take the design and make it work. 

Of course, there are those who can code and design at the same time. It would be like Mike Brady plunking on a hard hat and welding steel joists right alongside the construction worker and his other village friends (except the cowboy, who prefers the open range to the confines of a building).

So let’s move back to the 21st century and break it down a little more.

What Are the Skills and Tools of a Web Designer?


The web designer governs not just the visual aesthetics, but the overall usability of the website. They must be able to answer the hard questions like:

  • Do the user interface and experience work? 
  • Does the information flow?
  • Are dancing robots effective design elements?

Here are some of the skills and tools that distinguish the web designer from the web developer:

Graphic design
Logo design
Layout/format
Branding
Wireframes, mock-ups, and storyboards
Color palettes
Typography
Placing call-to-action buttons
Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator) or other design software

This list is far from exhaustive. But in a nutshell, web designers are concerned with what the user actually sees on a screen, and not so much about the mechanisms beneath the surface that make it all work. 

They use their expertise of color, images, typography and layout, to bring the miracle of life to the digital experience. That’s some powerful stuff.

So Then What Are the Skills and Tools of a Web Developer?



Back in the day, web development was essentially about
writing to the back-end and possessing a whimsical lack of concern about the look of things. But that day has passed.

Web development is currently divided into three segments - front-end, back-end and full stack.

Front-End Development 


This is all about creating the layout of a website. It’s the component that users not only see, but also with which they interact. Development on this level uses:

  • HTML/CSS/Javascript (predominantly)
  • Bootstrap 
  • Angular.js.

Back-End Development 


This development concerns itself with the functional part of a website. Its what makes the website work. Back-end developers don’t have set  languages in which to code and are able to choose those they prefer. By languages we don’t mean French/English/Italian, but rather PHP/Java/Python/Perl. 

Some of the frameworks include:
  • Ruby On Rails
  • Django
  • Node.js. 

Bored yet? If not, there’s more. Because back-end development is also responsible for interacting with the Database. This requires its own set of exciting and exhilarating languages like AJAX/MySql/MongoDB.

Moving on.

Full Stack Development


Despite the girly calendar sound of it, this is essentially a combination of front-end and back-end development performed by someone who is able to work comfortably with both. So that means s/he can use all of the above frameworks and languages and is probably going to be the life of the office holiday party this year.

So that's it. You're now clear on the differences and may continue on with your day.


Enough said. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Question of the Week: Is “Advertising Agency” Even an Accurate Term Anymore?


When faced with this question, we pondered whether the trouble was with the word “advertising", or with “agency”.

Yes, there’s no arguing that “advertising” is, to some, akin to a dirty word. And telling people that you work in advertising only makes you look good if you’re in a room full of lawyers. 

It’s more than just that though.

Companies in the “Ad Business” Are Doing More Than Just Advertising  


To stay relevant, agencies have to be able to wear many hats. So along with the dazzling whiz-poppery creative work, they’re doing other things like branding, web design, media buying/trading, marketing, social media management and taco eatery pop-ups. Okay, maybe not the last thing. But then again, maybe. 

At any rate, there isn’t a word that covers all of the above. Some businesses are branding themselves “experience” agencies - attempting to unite brands with their target audiences through live experiences, digital engagement and traditional marketing. And it’s working. Sorta.

Still, the problem isn’t just with the word “advertising.”

The Term “Agency” Causes Some Confusion Too


Consultancies have been in competition with traditional agencies for quite some time. And because they’re able to crank out anything at a massive global scale, they’re giving agencies a run for their money. 

As such, some companies are trading out agency for consultancy. But there’s something dull and factual about the term which seems to imply that it’s the place where creativity goes to shrivel up and die.

So where does this leave us? 

Collectively, the Words “Advertising Agency” Don’t Really Cover It 


And companies that have comfortably slapped this moniker
on their business cards and stationary for decades are wondering whether potential clients are even looking for an ad agency any longer.

It smacks of 1960s (glorified sexist) Mad Men.

Still, there doesn’t seem to be an alternative term that’s killing it at this point. 

So for the time being, when it’s a keen marketing strategy that includes a snappy headline, stellar design, a strong media buy and effective social media management, the advertising agency continues to be your go-to. 

You just might be able to get a taco too. 





Monday, November 27, 2017

What Are the User Interface Design Elements to Watch for in 2018?



Somewhere around the time that Pokémon Go sent people walking head on into traffic in 2016, web designers started to shifting their focus even more to interface design. They moved the emphasis from purely landing the sale to creating user experience. Coincidence? Probably not.

How users were interacting with screens had been a thing. But now it was a really big thing. And from it all rose some great new ideas in UI design.

As such, 2017 asked designers to focus on designs that were more personalized and would save users time. But, miracle workers that they are, designers still needed to deliver deeper metrics than ever before.

So What Can We Expect from User Interface Design in 2018?


The good times just keep coming.

1. Gradients


Colors are going to be brighter and more vivid. And there will be more use of gradients. Yep. When it comes to user interface, 2018 is going to be the web designer’s dream.

2. Long Form Content


Content continues to be king. Or queen. Or some form of tyrannical royalty. 

The demand for lots and lots of words means that web pages require scrolling. This make writers happy (no easy feat) and is great for search engine optimization. But for designers, it’s challenging when content extends below the fold. So in 2018, UI design trends will be addressing this issue. Because designers deserve happiness too.

3. Full-Screen Video


It’s true that rich stories are developed through powerful writing. BUT, videos can speak a thousand words. Or more. Plus, they don’t require the user to scroll down. Or to read. (Which, for some, is a four-letter word.)

Visitors can more easily immerse themselves in the full-screen video experience. This leads to more involvement and, if all goes well, better metrics. So with that goal in mind, this trend is likely to grow in 2018.

4. Typography 


Yeah, while sites will be heavy with long-form content, full
page pictures (so gradient rich!) and videos, bold and expressive typography is expected to be in the limelight for 2018.

Forget minimalism. That’s so 2016. 

5. Illustrations


While color and typography contribute in their own way to story-telling, illustrations can stand on their own. 

That’s because illustrations are a versatile bunch. They can be sophisticated or simple, playful or serious, calm or animated. And they’re capable of creating unique experiences for website visitors. 

So they’re bound to stay relevant in 2018.

6. Cards


Cards are nothing new. They’ve been used in website design for a while.

They’re getting more attention now though because they’re easy to use in mobile design, are included Google’s Material Design and are such an  effective way to pack information into a small space.

And since people currently have an intimacy with their phones that surpasses what they feel for most other humans, this design element is expected to become even more popular in 2018.

Change Happens Fast - Trends Come and Go


So even though these trends in user interface design are bound to hold for the coming year, technological developments and humans’ capacity for fickleness will forever keep designers on their toes. 

For example, the increasing popularity of voice user interface could point to the possibility of a far less visible UI in 2019 or 2020. Who knows?

Here’s one important thing to remember though:

It Doesn’t All Come Down to the Designer


Sure, typography and custom illustrations depend on savvy designers. But long-form content requires skilled writers. And, of course, the drive for metrics involves experienced marketers

The group effort of creating a website requires everyone to play well together. And that’s some real user interface.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Question of the Week: Which Social Media Platforms Are Most Relevant for B2B Brands These Days?


This is an interesting question. Not on the level of “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” But similar in its elusive answer.

On one level, it’s actually gotten more difficult to gain organic reach on social media over the past few years. Yet at the same time, many new doors have flung open to create a lot of opportunities. 

Start with the Established Channels 


These are the old school platforms. These wizened dinosaurs (anything over ten years old) still offer reach. But simply spamming these channels doesn’t work anymore. So now you need a new approach.  

Facebook


Aside from being able to create customized messaging to a highly targeted audience and having powerful analytics to make whip-smart decisions, Facebook is the largest of the dinosaurs. 

There are around 1.55 billion users on Facebook. And over 1 billion of them are active each day. So yeah, your audience is likely on Facebook. 

Even if you don’t use Facebook for lead generation, not being on Facebook means NOT showing up in the largest social-media conversation on the planet. So there’s that.

LinkedIn


While many groups have disappeared, those that are established are still going strong and offer solid visibility. Plus, its publishing platform also has potentially good visibility - depending on the publisher’s profile. 

And if you have a blog (and you should), you can syndicate content you’ve already created to save time. It’s a "two for."

Twitter 


While it may not bring as much engagement as Facebook or puppies and kittens being friends on YouTube, Twitter is still
an effective tool for answering questions and providing support. It’s ideal for having one-on-one conversations.

It’s can also be good for building relationships with micro influencers in your industry. This means visibility from the right people. 

It’s a good idea to keep an active stream of valuable content on Twitter.

YouTube


If you generate content in formats that fit on this channel, it’s going to continue to be effective because, come on, it’s YouTube.

So that’s the big four of the old school platforms. And you might be content to stick with those for now and leave the newer platforms to those millennials. 

But You Might Want to Consider the Newer Platforms


Especially if the goal for your B2B company is to make your company seem cool and playful - the sort of place that understands the fun of peeing on a spark plug.

Instagram


Although B2B audiences are generally not hanging out on Instagram, it does offer visibility and loads of engagement if you’re in an industry that focuses on brand awareness or public perception.

In fact, one recent survey found that even though B2Bs are still more likely to choose LinkedIn, 53% are now active on Instagram.

Quora 


This question and answer platform offers visibility with specific target audiences. So if you can offer up an impressive answer, it can help to establish you as an authority.  

And if your website is relevant is the question and will actually add some value, you’re allowed to add a link to it.

Medium


Like with LinkedIn, you can reuse content on Medium from your blog. That means less work for you. And that’s good because Medium can be a little work intensive. 

But it does offer big readership and visibility. And you can even choose it to host your blog. Cut out the middle man (or woman).  

SnapChat


Though generally considered a younger person’s game, Snapchat has demonstrated the staying power that makes it worthy of consideration. 

Let’s face it. The workforce is growing younger and younger. That means your audience increasingly lives on non-conventional channels. Channels they understand way better than you do. 

Yeah, we get it. 


If you’re not an internet native, then making headway on Snapchat or Instagram can be challenging. But what isn’t these days?  It’s just like with any other platform - you’re looking to build relationships with your audience.

And since more and more B2B companies are seeing they have plenty to gain from these popular networks, they’re getting on board.

Blending the Old and the New


It comes down to understanding what you’d like to achieve and whom you’d like to reach. From there you’ll figure out the right approach and networks for your B2B company.

Adjust how you use those established channels. Try one of the new ones. Or both. 

Gary Vaynerchuk puts it best when he says, “Behind every B is a C.” Of course, if you’re being silly, C could stand for any number of things. But what Gary’s saying is that even though you’re a B2B company, you need to remember that you’re really not marketing to another business. You’re marketing to a human decision-maker behind the business.

If those decision-makers are hanging out on Instagram or Snapchat, then start getting familiar with them. If not, maybe just stick with the classics for now. 


There’s something to be said for cozying up with dinosaurs.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Adaptive Vs. Responsive Design - Which Is Better?


If you’ve been following this blog, then you already know that we aren’t going to give you a straight answer. Partially because it wouldn’t make for much of a post in we answered it definitively with one or the other. But mostly because there isn’t a definitive answer.  

Life is tough for designers these days. Aside from being misunderstood as the tortured artists that they are, they’re also expected to cater to a whole  bunch of different screen sizes. The humanity of it all. 

So as they’re looking to bridge the gap between the vast array of devices, they essentially have two options for their designs - adaptive and responsive. (A third option would be to abandon the field of design in a huff, though those sorts of histrionics are typically reserved for high-strung actors and stylists rather than mild-mannered designers.)

Perhaps you’re wondering this:

What Is the Difference between Adaptive and Responsive Design?


Experienced designers know the difference. But to the layperson, there seems to be some confusion around the difference between the two. So we’ll dumb it down for you. Not that you’re dumb, of course…

Responsive Design


As the name implies, sites with responsive design respond to changes in browser width by adjusting the placement of design elements to fit in the available space. All without the aid of black magic.

A responsive website will display content based on the available browser space. So, for example, if you open a
responsive site on your desktop and then change the size of the browser window, the content will move to arrange itself in the most optimal way for the browser window. That’s the theory, at least. 

On mobile phones, this happens automatically. The site checks for the available space and then, like a toddler beauty pageant contestant, presents itself in the ideal arrangement. 

Responsive design is straightforward and fluid. It enables users to enjoy the online world without the deep and horrible frustration of having to adjust their screens. (First world problems.) As such, designers need to have a strong concept of the site they’re designing, as well as a sense of the end users. 

Adaptive Web Design


Adaptive web design is a newer animal. It was introduced in 2011 and is also known by the far less sleek moniker - progressive enhancement of a website. Notice how it writhes on the tongue.  

While responsive design relies on changing the design pattern to accommodate the available real estate, adaptive design has multiple fixed layout sizes. In this case, when the site detects the available space - be it a phone, tablet, desktop -  it selects the layout most appropriate for that screen size. Resizing the browser has no impact on the design.

Sites were quick to embrace adaptive design. They have no qualms with the fact that the layout displayed on a mobile website using adaptive design may be different from the desktop’s version. Although this is often because the designer - who may arguably have control issues - picked a different layout for the phone’s screen rather than leaving the design to try to rearrange itself.

When working in adaptive design, it’s normal to develop six designs for the six most common screen widths; 320, 480, 760, 960, 1200, and 1600 pixels.

So which is better? That's another loaded question. We will say this:

Responsive Design Is the More Popular of the Two  


For now, at least. Though popular isn’t always better. (It doesn’t, for example, decide who's going to be president.) Nevertheless, responsive design allows designers to show content based on the browser space available. And all of this equals consistency between devices.

The fluidity of responsive design makes for good UX. It’s SEO friendly and often easier to implement than adaptive design. Plus, there’s a plethora of exciting templates to use. Fun, fun, fun!!!! 

So what are the drawbacks? In a nutshell: 

  • Not as much screen size design control
  • Advertisements can get lost on the screen 
  • Longer mobile download times

Adaptive Design Is More Involved 


The designer has several fixed layout sizes. And that means more work. But it does offer an alternative to the “one-size-fits-all-once-it’s-stretched-out-all-over-the-place” approach. (Which is how the clothing labels should REALLY read.)

All of this extra work does allow for the best UX based on the device for which it is designed. Mobile devices are able to sense their user’s environment, and designers can optimize advertisements based on user data.

Here’s where adaptive design doesn’t shine:

  • It’s labor-intensive to create – especially when retrofitting traditional sites
  • Tablets can have trouble with site configuration that’s smartphone- or desktop-oriented
  • Search engines have trouble appreciating identical content on multiple sites so it’s challenging for SEO

So there you have it. 

The Choice between Adaptive and Responsive Design Is Yours


There’s something to be said for sticking with responsive design in terms of saving money, improving SEO and keeping users content. Then again, adaptive design can tune in more to users’ varying needs.

It all comes down to thinking about your product or service when designing your site. Will you be accessing users in a specific setting? What aspects of their behavior can you use to keep them informed and engaged?

You might want to start with responsive design while keeping an eye on adaptive design and the ever changing field of design. More and more devices are getting “smart” and designers are increasingly designing to that notion.

It’s all part of the evolution of web design. Your job is to remain aware of these changes. After all, survival of the fittest isn’t about being the smartest and strongest - it’s about being the most adaptable to change. 


Just ask Darwin.