For today's episode of Marcom Talk, Mike Gastin and Mike Nelson highlight the importance of having a marketing plan. Don't have a marketing plan, or perhaps you have one that's in need of updating? Don't worry, because it's never too late to get started.
What’s been on your marketing mind lately? What burning questions from your corner of the marcom universe are in need of answers? Let us know! We’d love to help by offering some of our thoughts in future episodes of Marcom Talk. If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below.
Web site projects can be large and complex, making it easy for a project to get sidetracked or to fall short of expectations. The following five tips will help you deliver an awesome site that’s an asset to your organization and maybe even make you a hero in the process.
Here are five tips for web site development success.
1. Let your company’s goals and objectives drive the project
The best place to start with any web project is at 30,000 feet: your company’s goals and objectives. These goals and objectives should be your yardstick when deciding what your site should and should not do.
Everyone has an opinion on what your new site should look like or how it should function and it’s easy to get caught in the trap of trying to keep them all happy. But you’re going to spend a lot of company resources to deliver a new web site. A project of that scope should align with company goals and objectives.
Be a zealot about building a site that helps the company accomplish its goals. If a feature, design or function can't align, it shouldn’t be done. This will help you stay focused and it will give you a sound argument when dealing with all those 'helpful' opinions.
2. Refuse to choose between functionality and design
In the early days of web development you had to choose between functionality and design. Either you got a web site that had a lot of technical functionality and allowed you to manage your own content or you got a site that was visually stunning and delivered your brand proposition beautifully. But you could not have both.
Those days are gone! Open source content management systems (CMS) make it easy to build sites that are customizable and functional. That means you can have a functional and flexible site that is custom designed to deliver your message and give your visitors a great user experience.
So, don’t buy it when a stakeholder or vendor wants to focus on just one or the other. You can have it both ways and you should. Help your stakeholders accept the need for both high functionality and great design. Insist your vendors are able to deliver on both. If they can’t or won’t, find new vendors.
3. Content may be king but are you ready to swear fealty?
Everyone agrees that web sites need new content on a regular basis. A static site doesn’t cut it anymore, especially if you want your site to be found on Google and support your marketing efforts. But, here’s the problem: who’s going to create all that new content on a regular basis? Creating content every day, every week or even every month is a big undertaking and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and give up.
How many sites have you visited where the last post in the news section was from six months ago? What did you think? I bet it wasn't good. You don’t want to be that company.
You can beat this trap by developing a content strategy. Before you launch your new site you should have a strategy in place for content. A good content strategy includes the following:
It should also include a one-year editorial calendar. This calendar could include articles, videos, interviews, podcasts and any other item that you want to publish over the next year. It should identify who’s responsible for what and it should include due dates!
4. Talk to imaginary friends
One way to ensure your content meets the requirements of your content strategy is to create customer personas. A customer persona is a little like an imaginary friend. A persona is an imaginary, but accurate representation of an ideal customer.
So, rather than being general and saying, we’re writing for the owners of sheep dogs in America, you would create an imaginary person to represent your market. We’re writing for Sue Jones, a 53-year-old attorney from Boston who took an early retirement to move to Vermont and raise sheep as a second career. She is married and loves animals. Since she worked in the corporate world she is technologically savvy, but loves being back to the land. Sue enjoys training her sheepdog to help with the sheep.
You can have a number of personas depending on your customer mix.
Personas make it really easy to identify great content because you can get in the mind of your audience and understand what they need and want and what you have to offer that can help.
5. Measure for success
Finally, design your site with measurement in mind. Remember the first point? Develop your site to deliver on your company’s objectives. If you’re trying to deliver on your company’s objectives, then your site should be measured as to how well it’s accomplishing that.
Measuring is important because it does two things. First, it helps you to refine the site over time, as you can interpret the data and make changes until it’s doing exactly what you want it to. Second, it allows you to promote the success of your efforts within your organization. Some of your coworkers may be skeptical or ignorant of what you do. Or, maybe your manager was not keen to spend money on a new site. With real data that shows how the site delivers on company objectives you can win them over and gain more support for what you do.
So, launch the site and celebrate—you got it done. And then, after you’ve put down your beer, start measuring!
There’s a lot of work involved in developing and launching a new web site and that means all kinds of things can go wrong. Follow the five tips I’ve just shared and you and your organization will be pleased with the results of your hard work.
It's tough choosing an agency to help you with your marketing. Most people approach it like buying a house. They go online, look at pictures, find a few that look really nice, take a tour and then choose the one that feels right. That approach leads to being stuck with a house that's rife with problems and an agency that feels like a boat anchor.
The following guide will make it easier to find the right agency for you.
Before you open your browser to look at portfolios, get a piece of paper and write down two things:
1. Why you need an agency
2. What you expect them to do for you
Knowing the answers to these two questions will save you a lot of time. With defined expectations you'll be able to focus your time on candidates that can meet your needs.
The "why" helps you interview and subsequently measure agencies. If you know that you need an agency because your workload is too much, you are new to marketing and need a little handholding or you have a quota of qualified sales leads you are responsible for you can assess agencies based on those issues.
The "what" helps you find the right kind of agency. Do you just need some help in creating the odd brochure and web banner? Then you should be looking at freelancers. Do you need to do a complete overhaul of your messaging and apply it to a new web design? Then maybe you should be looking at design firms. Do you have a $4 million advertising budget? Then you need to talk to traditional ad agencies with media buying departments.
Where My Money At!? aka ROI
The question of return on investment is like kryptonite to a lot of creative agencies. Make sure to ask each one how you will realize an ROI with them. If they can’t answer, don’t hire them. And by answer, I mean give you a solid, measurable answer, not some fancy dancing. Lots of folks will jump into tech speak at this point and try to explain to you that ROI is the wrong metric, etc. That's BS.
Your company is a business. Why should it spend a dime if it can’t get a return on it? And, as a marketer, why would you want to be viewed internally as overhead? All activities that do not generate income are overhead—the cost of doing business. In this economy, overheads get cut cut cut. Don’t let an agency put your head on the chopping block. Find one that understands how they can give you an ROI.
Peek Under the Hood
Ask agencies about their process. What do they do to get to the end product? Your not looking for a 32-step process documented in a binder. You're trying to get at the agency’s level of expertise. If an agency responds that creativity can’t be bound to a process, then thank them for their time and move on. You are in business and you hire vendors to help you solve problems and drive your company to strength. Relying on the creative muse to do that for your marketing is reckless.
Once an agency has told you how they do what they do, ask them to show you examples of work that resulted from that process. Ask how the results of that process delivered a return on that client’s investment. Listen for real returns.
Winning Battles vs. Winning Wars
Do you need to win battles or wars? Maybe you have your strategy all figured out. Then it’s simple, just hire the tactical experts necessary to deliver on it. But, maybe you want help on strategy. Well, then you need a firm that can support you on that. There’s no correct answer here, just make sure your agency fits your needs.
A Final Word: Beware of Sheep in Wolves Clothing
The agency space is littered with all kinds of companies delivering all kinds of services, and there's a metric ton of overlap; web development companies doing print design, ad agencies doing publishing, freelance graphic designers doing media buy and PR firms doing print media. This is because there are so many firms out there and they all are looking for ways to keep revenues flowing. So, big agencies design pamphlets and freelance web programmers offer logo design.
Go back to your piece of paper. The two answers you wrote are important. Why do I need help and what do I need my agency to do? Don’t talk to a web development company if your needs are centered around supporting your company’s sales efforts. Sure, their account rep might be lovely, but beauty is only skin deep. You need to get a job done. Hire a firm that is made to deliver.
NOTE: This post was originally published on www.mikegastin.com