We all have our favorite websites. But what actually makes a website great? Here are my criteria – I’d love to hear your ideas as well:
Visual appeal. The web can act as the great equalizer. Small companies can look big and legitimate with a quality website. Conversely, large companies that have lousy websites can appear distracted and amateur. There’s no substitute for giving a good first impression.
Powerful messages that speak to your customer’s needs. Nobody likes a long-winded talker. Unless you have an information-based website (like Amazon, which provides full reviews of products, etc.), resist the temptation of generating massive amounts of information, especially on the home page. Keep it short, sharp, and targeted, with a predefined objective (see “Lily pad” marketing for more information on objective-based marketing strategies).
Success stories. Providing case studies of your accomplishments have several benefits. You can demonstrate how effectively your company works with customers, provide concrete examples of success using metrics, share experiences with prominent customers to gain legitimacy and credibility, and strengthen the persuasion process through the use of similar customers in similar industries.
Social Networking. Whether it’s a blog (like this WordPress blog), Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, or social bookmarking, you cannot deny the impact of social networking on today’s marketing strategies. Customers now have an expectation of two-way communication, and social networking facilitates symbiotic connections between a company and its audience.
Logical lead generation paths. It’s frustrating when you have to bounce all over a website to find what you want. A well-designed site understands its target audience and develops well-defined, clearly stated communication paths with the proper Calls To Action (CTA). Typical CTAs are filling out a form, downloading a white paper, signing up for a webinar, contacting a salesperson, and purchasing a product through your ecommerce function.
Just the right amount of “wow” for your audience. Know they audience. If your products and services cater to accountants, don’t use bells and whistles that you’d use for, say, a teenage gamer audience. It’ll just turn them off and make them think you don’t understand them. I bet those accountants would love a virtual Dilbert experience, or a flash-based GAAP search tool.
Web 2.0 look and feel. This means many things to many people. To me, Web 2.0 means dimensional or reflective graphics, modest use of Flash, “push button” navigation (like the simplicity of Redbox’s navigation), and the use of negative (white) space to add airiness.
What do you think? Are there other characteristics that are important for creating a great website?
Sure, you’ve heard a lot about social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and, yes, even WordPress (I’m being ironic). But there haven’t been a lot of success stories attached to those ‘new marketing’ tools, mostly because a lot of marketers aren’t clear how to measure success. Simply put, success is defined as the achievement of pre-determined goals based on actual, real-life business needs and objectives.
Here’s a great social media success story from my company, Aximum Marketing. One of our clients was trying to elevate his company above the competition during a downtime, while his rivals were scaling back on marketing and overall customer communication. The goals were focused on lead generation, website visits, ecommerce revenue, and industry leadership. By developing a number of different social media programs, we were able to get some amazing results for them. And the real kicker: the initial execution on these initiatives cost only about $5K, and had a ROI of 350:1 after 4 months. Read all the details, as well as my other success stories, and contact me if you’d like to incorporate social media into your company.
There’s been a lot of talk this year about social networking and viral marketing… heck, even William Shatner is Twittering. What you’ve probably noticed is that the hardest part about viral marketing is the “viral” part. Just because you create a WordPress blog or Facebook page or Twitter profile doesn’t mean you’re going to get 50,000 followers overnight. It takes a lot of work, but the effort is well worth it. Like any good marketing campaign, the secret is quality, consistent, relevant content, along with a good communication plan for sharing your content. If you’re having trouble creating good content, gain inspiration by visiting websites that interest you. Read the news. Scan the newsletters that are sitting in your Inbox for topics that companies are writing about. Watch the television commercials (rather than fast-forward through them) to see what companies are trying to communicate. Your content is there, waiting for you… you just have to go and find it.
The communication vehicles may be different, but the overall strategy is still the same: understand what type of information your audience is interested in, and provide that information to them. Oh, and follow your instincts when it comes to style. Just because Johnny Knucklehead is doing it a certain way, and he’s got 25,000 Twitter followers, doesn’t mean that’s the right formula for you. Develop your own game plan, stick with the game plan, and be sure to test/measure/adapt/test again.
If you follow this strategy, you’re gonna find that your interest level goes up, your results will improve, and you might just become the next social marketing guru!
Episode 2 of the highly acclaimed web comedy series “Phoning It In,” hosted by David Ducic of Aximum Marketing. In this episode, David tackles recent events like Michael Phelps’ bong pipe, a shoplifter who was run over twice by her own getaway car, Hollywood actresses who overuse collagen in their lips, and much more.
Here is Part 2 of my eagerly awaited 2009 predictions… I’d love to hear your comments (after all, I’m not writing this stuff for my health)…
4. Gas prices will remain under $3.
The average price of a gallon of gas in December 2008 was $1.62; in December 2007 it was $3.04. With a recession, layoffs, and less people engaging in discretionary travel, gas prices will remain a lot lower than they’ve been over the past two years. Even with OPEC trying to raise the price by squeezing supply, they’ve been unable to move the needle. Like it or not, world, the U.S. consumer is the strongest component in this equation. One unintended benefit with lower oil/gas prices: Iran’s economy is suffering so badly that they’ve had to virtually abandon their nuclear weapon ambitions. Hopefully North Korea will follow suit.
5. Vista, or Windows 7, or whatever it will end up being, will regain luster and respect.
Worldwide usage of the Windows operating system dipped below 90% for the first time in eons last month. Even with that “bad” news, I can’t imagine how awesome it would be to own a 90% market share of anything. And that’s not going away any time soon. The dirtiest little secret about Vista is the release of Service Pack 1 (SP1) in March 2008, which has made the operating system quicker, safer, more compatible, and more reliable. Essentially, it has helped Microsoft realize the full promise of what Vista was supposed to be. However, with the Jerry Seinfeld/”I’m a PC”/Mojave Experiment TV commercials focused on everything but the word “Vista,” everyone still assumes that Vista is buggy and slow. Maybe they should hire me again…
6. Phoenix will have a white Christmas in 2009.
Sounds crazy, I know. But Las Vegas had 3 ½ inches the week before Christmas, so is it really that far-fetched? Sure, it hasn’t snowed in the city of Phoenix in 18 years (there have been a couple minor dustings since then, but too few to mention) – that just means we’re due for a big one. How funny would it be for all those snow-weary visitors from Minnesota and Iowa to spend their Christmas in a white desert? Don’t worry… it’ll be 65 degrees by lunch time.
7. With shrinking budgets and layoffs, marketing consultants will be more important than ever.
Of course, since I’m a marketing consultant, this is a little self-serving. However, I know that companies are really tightening their belts when it comes to marketing expenditures. I also know that many marketing departments have been forced to reduce headcount. However, they continue to recognize the benefits that marketing can bring them, and if they can’t produce results their jobs are in jeopardy. Marketing consultants bring the best of both worlds; they don’t increase your department’s headcount, and, when you consider the cost of employee health insurance, payroll taxes, 401(k) matching funds, etc., consultants end up costing less money than full-time employees. Below are some of my Success Stories from clients and employers of mine, which should give you a good idea of what you should be looking for in a consultant. Feel free to email me or call me at 480-814-8838 to discuss it further.
Yes, I know that 2009 has already begun, but I also realize you were probably tired of reading predictions from pseudo-pundits back in December, so I decided to wait a few weeks before publishing mine. Do I have greater prognosticative abilities than anyone else? Probably not. But I am a keen observer of human nature (being the third of three boys, I needed to stay on my toes or risk getting slapped in the head by my older brothers), so I believe these predictions will come true. At the very least, I will try to provide an entertaining read.
We shall revisit these next January to see how close I got. In the meantime, here’s Part 1 of my 2009 predictions:
1. The recession will end by the late spring.
Most economists agree that the recession actually started in December 2007, not in the fall of 2008. There have been 10 post-WWII recessions which have lasted an average of 10.4 months, the longest lasting 16 months. If the current economic downturn lasts 16 months, we’ll be back on the road to recovery by April. Chin up.
2. MySpace is so 2008. Twitter is so 2009.
Can Twitter change the face of social networking, 140 characters at a time? Perhaps. So far, I’ve had very good initial success with using Twitter as a supplement to other marketing activities. Its appeal is the ability to enable personalized, instant communication between customers and companies. Sure, you can’t engage in deep, content-rich conversations, but that’s not the point. You can always link to other sources for that. If you’re looking to join Twitter, create an account and follow me – I’ll walk you through it.
3. Microsoft will buy Yahoo!
Conditions are a lot more favorable now for a purchase of Yahoo! than they were when Microsoft made its initial bid in mid-2008. In hindsight, I’m sure Steve Ballmer is thanking his lucky stars that CEO Jerry Yang turned down his $44.6 billion bid. The current market value of Yahoo! is 60% lower than the bid value, and the company continues to struggle keeping up with Google. Combine a lower stock price, lower market share, recent layoffs of 1,500 employees, and the ouster of Yang (undoubtedly for putting his ego ahead of his stockholders), and it’s more a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’ Sorry, Yahooies, but as much as you hate Redmond, you’ll call it home in 2009.
I’ll bring you Part 2 of my predictions next week. Have a great weekend!
Happy New Year everyone – I hope 2009 brings you health and happiness!
In the spirit of optimism and good cheer, I created a new web video series called “Phoning It In“, a humorous take on current events. Think “The Soup” or SNL’s “Weekend Update,” minus the talent and post-production qualities. Enjoy episode 1 below, and please leave me your comments (positive or negative) either here or on YouTube.