Jim Stephens

Jim Stephens

E-Mail Marketing

E-Mail marketing, despite all of the hype around social media, remains an extremely effective way to market to you target audience. E-mail is more than sending out a mass email. When you do that, you are just sending out junk mail, hoping that something you send out may work. There are many points that should be considered in an email campaign:

  • The recipient should be sent to a relevant landing page, not the home page
  • The content should not contain words or phrases that could be considered as spam as the email may be blocked by the reader
  • Social media channels used should be integrated e.g. share buttons to help spread the word
  • The message should not look like it was sent by an impersonal robot nor should it be too personal
  • The response should ask the visitor to sign up for something, collecting information in doing so but not so much that the visitor is turned off
  • Does the email conform to the law, i.e. full corporate details, unsubscribe links that are easy to use?
  • The email must be readable on smartphones, tablets and desktops

Search Engines

Showing up on the top of a Google search does not happen by accident, nor can anyone buy their way to the top. Getting search engines to see, index and then properly rank your website is critically important. Your business depends upon it. So a partnership with a web designer who understands the subject is important. Building the site though, is only part of the battle. Once the site has been launched, there are several more actions that need to be take to help your site rank as high as possible:

  • The site should be submited to Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines and listed on Google Maps
  • A Google Webmaster account should be created
  • Google should be told which country it should target your site at
  • A Google Analytics account should be created to track how visitors are using your website
  • An XML site map should be submitted to Google to assist with indexing 

Responsive Design

Gone are the days when people viewed your website from the comfort of their den on a big monitor.  Chances are that visitors are using a tablet or a smartphone.  Your site needs to look good on a small or large screen.  If your site isnt mobile ready, Google will actually reduce your ranking!  Your website needs to be seen properly no matter what it is viewed on.  
To some, this means taking the lowest common denominator approach, using the smartphone view for all devices.  Pull out your smartphone and take a look at the typical non-responsive site.  What you will see is the entire width of page squeezed into the small screen, the text is unreadable and the images are unrecognizable.  Expand the page to where you can read the text.  You will probably  need to scroll left and right just to read one line.  Not very friendly is it?
What is really needed is for your website to recognize what it is being viewed on and adjust accordingly.  This usually means scaling the font to a readable size and reflowing the text.  
You could solve the problem by having several versions of your website.  The site then would only need to recognize the type of device that it is being viewed on (desktop, tablet or smartphone) and display the appropriate version.  The problem is that you now need to maintain at least three versions.  Not very efficient!
Of course, there are many other considerations.  Whole books have been written on the subject, so here are just a few:
  • Leave out the awkward content, if it doesnt fit on a smartphone, it may not belong on the website
  • Images need to be scaled to fit but do they work at the different sizes?
  • When columns dont fit side by side, they need to flow vertically, but does the content get mixed up?
  • Menus need to be adjusted (what do you do when you have one on the left and another across the top?) so that the visitor can click it easily
  • Does the site have anything that doesnt work on a smartphone.  Flash was big for a while but it is not supported by Apple devices
  • Bandwidth on mobile devices is limited compared to desktops, if its slow to load on a desktop, it may be intolerable on a smartphone
The answer is to design the website to respond to the device that is being used to view it.  A good solution needs to combine technical techniques with good design practices.

e-Commerce Solutions

Every business is different, the way it operates, it's customer base and its marketing mix. The e-commerce solution that is presented to the visitors (and hopefully converted into customers) must project the persona of the the business. Customizing the experience to your businesses persona is key to a pleasant user experience, a successful sale and repeat business. As your business grows, your needs will also grow and change. Responding to these changes requires a system that can scale (adding more computer power to handle the additional load) as well as the flexibility to enhance functionality easily. Whether it's a larger catalog of products, data analysis of shopping habits or inventory management, we can build your website to match your needs and your budget of today while positioning you for tomorrow

Content Management

A content-management systems, or CMS, is a technology that enables websites to be updated by content specialists who don't want to be bogged down by the technology. A specialist configures the different components, giving the system functionality, wraps it in a pleasing visual presentation and then hands it over to the client. With training/instruction by the specialist, the client is then in charge of the site's content. This separation between the technology and the content enables 'non-techies' to work with the content, safe that their involvement won't break anything.

The content management process is relatively easy. If you can use a word processor or have ever posted a comment on a website, then you can modify the content on your own website using a CMS.

A CMS is also a whole lot more than a system for managing content. It's partly a publishing system that enforces all sorts of careful design rules without an author needing to know anything about how it all works. The key is the separation of the technology from the content. Think of it like a wedding invitation, you are only concerned with the details of the affair, the layout and design have been setup for you.

Mobile Development

Not having a mobile-friendly site is like being underdressed to a party. You wouldn’t wear shorts and a tee-shirt to a wedding, would you? Mobile-friendly need to be clean, functional and fast to be effective. Bells and whistles on a mobile site are not only ineffective, they interfere with the mobile user. We work with you to provide the mobile user with the features that they need and use responsive designs to minimize maintenance needs.
There is one other reason to have a mobile-friendly site, your competition has one and Google is helping them by giving them a better rating. That’s right, Google is now taking into consideration how your website displays on a mobile device. If the fonts are too small or the user needs to scroll left and right to see a line, Google will not rate it as highly. See our discussion on Responsive Design for more information.

In a previous blog, I talked about the difference between Advertising and Marketing.  In this blog, I'd like to talk about Inbound vs Outbound Marketing and why Inbound is becoming more important

Outbound marketing are those marketing activities that are focused on finding customers for your company.  In's a numbers game in which the further and wider you cast your nets, the higher your chances of finding a customer.  Now notice I said "chances".  This is because any targeted effort will have a always have dry areas.  Of course you can't know where those areas are and there are techniques to help your "hit" ratio (i.e. you may not find it profitable to send lingerie ads to certain segments).  At the end of the day, it's a hit or miss process that has some levers that you can use to help things along.

Inbound marketing is very different.  It is focused on being found by customers that are looking to buy.  They are motivated, educated and will move quickly when they find what they want.  The trick is to be ready for them, to provide the answers to their questions and to move them alone the sales process in their timeframe.

Now why is all of this important?  It's important because it's efficient.  Efficiency means lower costs to acquire and sell a customer.  At the end of the day, isn't that why we are in business?

You've made the decision to rebuild your website, or maybe you're looking to set up your first website. The first question that you ask yourself is "Should I do it myself or should I hire someone?". For some, you might be able to do a good job. For most people, this is a disaster in the in the making! To make things worse, many people go to one of those "build a website in 20 minutes without knowing what you are doing" site and hope to get value.

Let's look at the pro's of the DIY model first. Well, it's cheap! that's great, especially in this economy. Just remember, you get what you pay for! Your website projects an image about you and your business, just like a business suit. Would you make your own business suit (tailors & fashion designers aside) or would you buy the best you can afford. Maybe you can't afford the top of the line tailored Italian suit, but you can do better than sewing it yourself. Now a design is not the only consideration, functionality counts, A website is more than a logo, some text and some pretty colors on a screen and it takes more than expertise with a web site generator tool.

  • Looking at the flip side, the list is enormous so I'll only touch on the most important
  • Using one of the cookie cutter tools will get you a copy cat site, there will be many other businesses that look the same
  • You won't attract visitors because you don't know much if anything about SEO. What's SEO? I rest my case</li>
  • Your website needs to change often to keep visitors coming back, selection 1 of 3 options through the cookie cutter tool won't give you what you need
  • Using flash and stock graphics won't help you with Google and Bing searches.</li>

So why should you use a professional web designer? Experience! A good designer is not a tool jockey, a good designer thinks business and marketing, they eat and breathe technology and they understand enough psychology to get into the minds of visitors to your site. Combining all of this a good web designer will design and build a website on a technology platform that positions you and your business for the future.

  • How do recognize a good professional designer? Easy you might say, after all, doesn't your neighbor's kid develop websites? Look for these key talents
  • Business experience - does the designer understand your business, or business in general? Remember, the designer is part of your marketing team, NOT a tool jockey
  • Technical expertise - that's expertise not experience. Using a tool to generate a website is not the same as creating a website. The former is not much better than doing it yourself, you need some one who may leverage an open source system to keep the cost down but can write or enhance the programs. Not everyone can do this!
  • Web experience - writing code to appear on a website is easy but can the designer create a pleasant experience for your visitor or will it be a nightmare? Ask them to show you what they have done before. A good web designer is also a bit of a psychologist; they understand what a visitor wants from a web site and how they go about trying to get it. Not a trivial task! A website doesn't come with instructions and you don't get to stand over the visitor to guide them. A good web designer can do that.

Invest in a professional, you'll get what you pay for

For some more ideas, feel free to explore my website. give me a call to discuss how I might help you and your business

I'm often asked about the difference between Inbound and Outbound marketing. People ask "Where should I place my ads?" or "Which one will give me more leads?" My first response to these questions is usually "Do you know the difference between advertising and marketing?" Most people don't know the answer! Without that knowledge, how do you expect to be successful? Let's start with the basics then, what is the difference between advertising and marketing?

Advertising is, at the end of the day, an announcement. Of course there is an art to it; in fact there is a very creative component to it that precludes many people from doing it well. It can be as simple as a 2 line classified ad or as complex as an infomercial. The former is within the skill set of most people, the latter probably is not. Either way, it is really just an announcement.

Marketing, on the other hand, is concerned with the mix of activities that bring buyers and sellers together. Advertising is a component of marketing, in the scheme of the whole selling process.

Right away, you can probably see why web based marketing is more than just web based advertising. If your website is only announcing your products and services, it's only doing part of the job for you. It should be helping you move prospects along the sales process. We won't get into the attributes of a good website (look at my previous blogs and explore my for more ideas).

Your website should be an important tool in your marketing plan. It's not just about telling prospects about your products and services. It should also be helping you gather the names of people that may be interested in what you sell. It should actually be taking orders for your products. It should also be answering questions and educating prospects, customers and clients. It should be qualifying prospects so that when you get a call, it's from a motivated, interested buyer. It should help eliminate the casual inquiries or help turn them into real buyers.

With all of this in mind, we should be all set to look at the differences between Inbound and Outbound marketing. We'll do that in part 2. In the mean time, feel free to look around my website and read my previous blogs for some more thoughts

I could sit and preach to you about the value of social media to your business all day long, but I won 't. I can quote statistics to you, like it took radio 37 years to get 50 million listeners but it took Facebook only 9 months to reach 100,000,000 users, but I won 't bore you. A prospect just asked me What does all that mean to me? . Well, I 'll tell you

People say that Facebook is a phenomenon that has never been seen before. But that is not completely true. Granted the technology of the product is new and unique, but the concept isn 't. At the end of the day, Facebook is a gossip tool, efficient, electronic, and widespread. But it actually performs a social service. People bemoan the loss of personal interaction of our modern day society, but we still interact. It may not be over the clothes lines in the backyards or at the local watering hole after a 12 hour shift like our grandparents did. It may not be at the club or over the water cooler as our parents did. We do it electronically these days. People talk to each other on Facebook, not in contiguous, serial conversations, but in parallel, asynchronous stages. Messages are left, threads are joined, and information is passed back and forth without setting eyes on the other participants. What 's more, these conversations  hang out in cyberspace for some time and get reused and revisited very often by people that were not part of the original conversation. That 's the value of the channel, ideas and comments are no longer fleeting moments that are so quickly lost. Let 's take a look at a real world example and put yourself in the shoes of the business owner. Let 's say you sell jewelry to the newly engaged. A bride comes in with her entourage and they make a purchase. Great, you make some money and the bride is happy. Where does your next sale come from? Probably, it is the result of some marketing effort. Now what happens if you use social media marketing? That bride goes home and writes on her Facebook wall that she just bought your jewelry. Wouldn 't it be great if she became a fan of yours? With the wedding a year after the purchase, wouldn 't it be great if someone at the wedding saw the jewelry, looked at her wall and found your Facebook page? If she went home after the purchase and told all of her friends about it, how many friends would she tell, 5, 10, 15? How many would go out and buy the next day and how many would remember next year? The average Facebook user has 130 friends! When she touts your product, 130 people, on average, hear about it. Those 130 people, in turn, talk with 130 people each (we now have 16,900 people in that second degree network). That means there are 16,900 people who are a heartbeat away from being connected to you when someone hears about their friends are shopping for jewelry. Not only will that, of the original 130 people, most be in a similar demographic group as the original customer. They in turn will also have a similar demographic group.

Now, do you understand why Facebook is so important to your business?

For some more ideas, take a look around my website and give me a call to discuss how I might help you with your business.