Posts in "Branding" category

Diamonds in the Rough: Finding Success Where Others See Failure

Since the rise of the internet in the 1990’s, it has no doubt been a supernova of collaboration and communication, and with that communication – comes all the emotion and attitude that our species is famous for. Even though there is positive, beneficial interactions over the internet, one could argue that the negativity exchanged far outweighs the positive. You can’t even share a Facebook status or Youtube video without someone expressing some form of negative response or comment. It can be so easy to allow all the negativity one sees on the internet to be a discouragement from branching out and expressing themselves. The unfortunate part of this is this bleeds into the business realm too! Entrepreneurs, inventors, and business people alike consistently shy away from sharing ideas or using social media for fear of negative feedback or judgment. Who knows how many innovative goods or ideas have been abandoned because of negative backlash over the internet? That is why it is imperative, now more than ever, to change the dialogue. Change the way you approach the negativity that meets you – even on social media.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

I came across this quote a few weeks ago, and it really resonates with me. It is the backbone of this post. Failure is not fatal. It is such an impressive, optimistic outlook to nurture. Whether you are pitching a new idea, starting a business, or trying to make those first moves and turning your plans into reality, you are going to hit bumps in the road- that is just a fact of life. It is how you respond to those failures that will determine the outcome. Churchill said, It is the courage to continue that counts. That is your defining moment. Once you hit those obstacles, do you let it set you back and discourage you, or do you view it as a stepping stone towards success?

I know from personal experience, it can be extremely difficult to find small wins or successes when those obstacles hit and all you see is your “failure”. It is easy to give up and jump-ship. The key to surviving them is to set smaller, achievable goals and work to see the milestones you have achieved that you overlooked while trying to see the larger picture. When something goes wrong or doesn’t work, you obviously can’t plan for that, but if you can find the solution to the problem, that’s a milestone you have reached that you never planned for. Consider that a win! If you can measure yourself by short-term achievements, you will find that your work or progress will have more meaning and greater results. Motivational speaker and author Denis Waitley had these words to say:

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”

Find the diamonds in the rough. Create successes where others have already dismissed as defeat. If you can flip the script and learn to remain positive and optimistic in the face of trials, your business’ or idea’s success will be more rewarding and worthwhile.

My Essential MailChimp Tips

Email marketing has evolved into an essential tool for all types of modern businesses. There are a number of tools and services out there, however, Classic City Consulting chooses the popular Atlanta-based MailChimp. Not only are we supporting a local service, but it also happens to kick-butt in function and ease-of use. The interface, variety of options, and the analytics tools create a powerful user friendly experience. Since I use MailChimp frequently (just about daily) here’s a list of my top 3 favorite (and essential to survival) tips for

Automation
“Welcome to our email list!” When a new customer wants to join your community a simple “Thanks!” is a great welcome. The key to email success is being well received by your customers. Send them too many emails, they unsubscribe; Too few, and they forget about you. With automatic emails, you can touch your customer when they are thinking about you. If they left an item in their shopping cart, and there is a great coupon that they can use on it, let them know! It is always appreciated, and, with automation, it’s easy! And lets be honest, who doesn’t like saving a few bucks on an item you were going to buy anyway?

RSS Sends
You have information to share and your customers want to hear it! Make sure that they don’t miss out just because they don’t visit your page weekly. With MailChimps’s RSS Campaigns, you can update your blog and make sure it gets seen. These are easy to set-up with client lists, content templates, and your only real problem is making sure you keep coming up with interesting things to share.

Segmented Email Sends
Not everyone needs every message. By segmenting your email list, you can get a higher open rate with people who are more likely to take action. Within MailChimp you can use criteria like demographics, email engagement, interest groups, and location to choose the right audience for your email.

The key with any email marketing is for it to feel like a natural engagement. You aren’t asking people to do something for you. Those who have signed up for your list are interested in your company and your brand. Keep them engaged and give them the information that they came to you for in the first place. Make sure email marketing is reinforcing your message and brand by helping the customer, and not ending up in the Spam folder.

Updating Your Website Design

Your website is arguably the most important piece of your business. You want to make sure you not only have one that functions, but that it’s also up to date, and easy to navigate. Here are five warnings signs that reveal if your website needs an expert redesign:

1. No traffic, no business

If you notice that the traffic to your site has decreased, this might signify a larger problem. The main goal of your website is to bring in as many visitors as possible and to have them make their visit worthwhile, buying your product, signing up for a service, or even just leaving a name and email. If people aren’t visiting, they certainly aren’t buying, and you are losing money.

In order to combat this, you have several options. Try integrating your social media with your website, and pushing your business on those outlets. You may want to invest in an advertising campaign. Try talking with a professional about search engine optimization (SEO) and how they can help you drive traffic to your site through ad-words and other means of advertising.

2. Not viewable on mobile devices

The technology market has steadily been moving towards the rise of mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets. If your website is unable to be viewed properly on these devices, you will lose visitors and potential customers. With a redesign plan, be sure to talk with a designer who has experience in this flexible design (also called responsive design.) This will ensure that your website will be able to be viewed across all devices and all browsers.

3. Slow… loading…

Does your website take forever to load? In today’s busy and stressful society, this could mean the downfall of your business. Overdramatic it may seem, but many people will not wait around for a site to load. They will simply move on to another, faster loading site to do their business. In order to make your site load faster, an update is highly recommended. Many older websites are very image and link heavy, making the site slower. Any designer worth anything will be able to change this, among other things, and will allow your site to run smoother and faster.

4. Outdated and antiquated

Sometimes the popularity of your website will have nothing to do with the product or service you’re selling. There is constant competition between rival businesses about which site looks better, runs faster, and is considered “trendier.” You might be surprised at how much appearance counts for in the website business. Try visiting a competing website and going through the process to buy something. See if there is anything you might be able to improve on your own website.

5. No change, no gain

Have you updated your website since it’s launch? If the answer to that question is “no”, then you may need to evaluate your design. Even if your site has only been around for a year or two, trends in the industry seem to change every day. Paying attention to these shifting trends, can ensure that your website is up to date and utilizing all possible advantages technology has to offer. Be willing to make these changes and you’ll be rewarded with an increase in traffic and more business.

As is evidenced above, a possible update and redesign for your website can be quite important. If your website does not take full advantage of every person that visits, then it’s wasting precious potential. Guarantee your website is up to date, and you will see your business increase.

Why Your Web Experience Matters

User experience (UX) can quietly make or break a website. UX refers not to how a site looks, but how it functions for a user. A beautiful site will initially catch a visitor’s eye, but doesn’t guarantee the outcomes a website exists to create. Once your business or application has someone’s attention, it should guide them through interacting with the site easily and smoothly. Through retaining user attention and facilitating desired actions, a site that is easy to navigate simply produces better results.

Usability Across All Devices

Responsiveness and user experience are not the same thing, but they should work together in a well designed website. Responsiveness, which we will discuss further in the coming weeks, refers to a site’s ability to operate effectively and attractively across various devices, from the biggest monitor to the smallest smartphone. Good UX must hold up across devices. For designers, this means ensuring that important buttons and desired actions are placed well on all platforms. There is a trend toward “mobile first” design, since the limited space of a mobile device necessitates such intentional prioritization. Regardless of where you begin your design process, a website’s effectiveness hinges on its ease of use on all devices.

User experience is not about keeping up with current design trends. Remaining trendy and relevant is important, but UX should never suffer because of efforts to modernize. We recommend that highly visible businesses experiment with new designs about once a year and completely overhaul their look every two years. However, UX must remain consistently strong to ensure that customers can easily interact with the site after any changes are made. Your customers should never have to figure out how to make a purchase. They should be guided through it by an intuitive experience.

Define Your Calls to Action

Well defined calls to action are not exactly what we mean by UX. UX is about how your site executes its calls to action and facilitates the user’s interaction with your business. Amazon is a great example of this. We all know what Amazon wants its visitors to do – make a purchase and do it now. But notice how easy that make it for a user to comply. Their site prominently invites you to “add to cart” as soon as you are looking at a product. Amazon would never expect their users to fumble around to figure out how to send them money, and neither should you. Once your user is interested in answering your call to action, make sure they have an easy time doing so!

Great functionality requires some planning, but intentionally setting up your site to further your goals is essential. Don’t waste your time and money on a site that doesn’t optimize your visibility and sales. Invest in excellent UX early to get the most out of each user’s visit. You’ll see the results in repeat traffic and in your desired outcomes.

Domain Name: Finding The Right One

You have this fantastic business idea, but now you need to figure out what domain name that works best. Should you shorten your name (since that domain name happens to be available) or should you use your full name (since that’s what people will be searching for)? First, you need to define what you want people to search for and then hone in on your new domain name.

What Are People Going To Search For?

Let’s say your company name is Thompson Home Renovations. You definitely know potential customers are going to be search for Thompson Home Renovations since that is your full company name. You definitely should pick up that domain name (even if you have to shell out a little bit of money to purchase it from someone).

You know that eventually, people are probably going to just call your company name (around their friends) Thompson Home. Given that you know this is a good possibility, it’ll be a good idea to go ahead to see if you can grab this domain name as well.

Tip: We do the same thing for Classic City Consulting. We own ClassicCity.com, ClassicCityConsulting.com as well as ClassicCity.consulting. We point all of them back to ClassicCity.com since it’s shorter and we want people to start calling us Classic City.

What Not To Do with .com

Given that a lot of .com domain names have already been taken, some business owners get excited about shortening their name and using it for their domain name. However, this will not help you out from an SEO perspective in the long run.

Don’t use dashes: No one will remember where they are supposed to be placed or even remember if they should actually be present. Just because you can have dashes doesn’t mean you should.

Don’t abbreviate your name: In our example above, you don’t want to own ThompHomeReno.com. Much like with dashes, people aren’t going to remember what part of your name is abbreviated. It’s best to go for the lengthy version or (if you have the luxury) modify your business name before committing to a domain name.

Make sure your domain name is appropriate: Your name might look correct in your logo (and with spaces in the correct locations), however a domain name is agnostic towards those items. teacherstalking.org definitely looks like Teacher Stalking at first, but in reality the website is about Teachers Talking.

The Wrap-Up

With the invention of websites, having an appropriate domain name for your business is as critical as naming your business. Before you get too excited about a name you came up with, check for it’s availability on the web before you sign too much paperwork with the state for your business license. It could save you a lot of hassle (and a lot of money) in the long run.

Details: Overlooked Branding

You have your main brand: your logo is slick, your color scheme makes your website “pop” and your font selection really hits home with your audience. You website design matches up perfectly with your logo to make your company feel like one cohesive machine in your digital presence.

However, there are a few details that are frequently overlooked that can help when content leaves the safety of your website. You want your visitors/customers to easily identify your logo and brand on other platforms – like blogs and social media. The different forms of media you use to advertise need to look the stylistically the same. For example, let’s say you produce a few things on a regular basis:

  1. Podcast
  2. YouTube “How To” Videos
  3. Blog

Too frequently, small businesses let the social media channel choose the imagery that is associated with each of those outbound links. By doing so, companies surrender their carefully crafted brand. While followers feeds are cluttered with average images and a new visitor can’t determine which link goes out to which type of content.

This is why prioritizing your branding details is so important. So any viewer of social media isn’t confused with a barrage of imagery, it’s good to style and layout the visual content for each of your “channels” uniquely while still maintaining consistent with the overall brand style of the company.

Perhaps all of your blog posts utilize a black-and-white photo with a specific type of text overlay so people can see the featured image and title by just looking at the image. While your YouTube videos feature a red tint over the image (since your main color is red), the Youtube logo in the top left and a black bar across the bottom with the video’s title.

Once you create these mini brand guidelines, now all of your media still feels like your brand, but can be distinguished by customers as to what type of content it is without having to think about it.