Just one designers ramblings about things that inspire me, observations, and advice about marketing.

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The desert island of promotion. Get rescued. Integrate.

For some reason, very often, companies look at their overall marketing efforts and their website as two distinctly different entities. Its like logo, brochure and sales sheets are whooping it up on the mainland while the website is sitting there alone, in the middle of the sea, sleeping in a hammock, and dreaming of the day that one of the other marketing angles will send it a coconut radio so they can communicate.

I’ve seen this phenom take numerous forms. I’ve seen companies hire a great designer to develop a logo and marketing materials and then scramble to get a website up as an afterthought just because they think they should. I’ve seen deliberate, calculated, creative marketing campaigns that have two completely distinct teams of players – one for “traditional” media, and one for “web” media. Neither one collaborates with the other, there is no communal brainstorming. Each team instead working independently, crossing fingers and sharing “assets” in the hopes that what they deliver will match in some “brand-y” kind of way. I’ve even seen very marketing savvy non-profits complete print related fund raising campaigns and completely ignore the rich resources available in online media.

I ask “Why”?

Why in the realm of our advertising world today of 2011, is web marketing still often not seen as an integral and essential part of an overall marketing or fundraising effort?

Why is it seen as some weird other territory that doesn’t play well with others?

Marketing is Marketing folks. Web / Print / Media – its essentially the same thing, not separate. They are part of one whole. Each have their own intricacies and needed expertise yes – but they all should be working together to meet a larger goal.

Just as direct (direct mail) and broadcast (tv / radio) have become part of the equation, so should web related marketing. A message, a brand, a goal presented in more than one medium is essential in today’s market. And a campaign that uses a multitude of media doubles and triples their chances of getting their message out to the right audience at the right time with the right technology.

Looking at your web marketing as an after thought, an “add-on”, or a separate project is selling yourself short.

When I approach any project for a new client – I look at the big picture. I consider the overall problem and I immediately look at ways to tie in a variety of approaches. To me it is essential for a campaign to be integrated and diverse.

I start with the brand. Who they are to their clients and audience? What approaches do they currently use to get their message out? What else do they need? How can it be most effectively driven? And usually I propose an effort that will cross a variety of media.

If the client’s desire is for a new brochure or leave behind – what about including an online component too, so that the audience has a “place to go” to get more information. If the need is to design a new logo for a startup, don’t forget about an essentials package that includes a starter website; well branded, to match the “traditional” logo and stationary, and how about a facebook page, an e-news template or mobi site.

In my mind if you are not including a web component somewhere in your efforts, you are missing the boat… bigtime. And yet, consistently it seems that companies and organizations still walk on divergent paths when approaching projects. Different departments. Different creative teams. Different goals.

In my opinion, this is not a good choice. Best case scenario – the different teams are run by the same creative lead, so at least there is a consistent voice to the creative, but even then there are going to be disconnects about who is responsible for what, how to carry the creative through to all media, what messaging and voice should be used and who manages both teams to a positive end.

And at worst, two individual creative teams are each creating a product for their specific “media” and they manage to deliver totally incongruent campaigns.

I am officially suggesting that if a campaign is to be totally successful, this thought process should stop. The solution? Integrate!

A well rounded, effective, and powerful marketing approach should encompass a multitude of media, driven by one strong creative vision that carries through every single piece that your target audience touches, sees, and interacts with.

Don’t miss out on the possibilities.



How do you know if you need a new website?

I hear this question a lot. And my reply is usually to ask a lot more questions.

One of the most important questions I ask is – What is your current website doing for you?

There are plenty of others too, such as: What do you do? Who are your customers? What kind of relationship do you have with them? What do you need your website to do?

But ultimately first establishing whether the current website is working, at all on any level, gives me a great deal of insight as to what I can do to help.

The average business person isn’t necessarily all techie-fied and up to speed on what is possible. All they know, is that they have a website and they are pretty sure that it should be doing more for them, then just sitting there gathering virtual dust.

But they aren’t really sure whether their customers care, visit, or want a better online experience. And if they think they should improve their online presence, they don’t know where to start, or what’s even possible.

So I thought that I would give a a starter list of things that you can think about if you also wonder whether you are ready for a new website.

First, start thinking like your customer.

Customers want to see that a company takes themselves seriously. That they understand the importance of their brand and image enough to make an investment in a major piece of marketing – such as a website. That they care enough about their customer relationships to build a website that evokes confidence, is kept updated, and gives their customers a pleasant experience. A website is often a first impression – and first impressions matter. A lot.

Visit your own site, try to look at it from the perspective of your audience. Try to be objective. If you need to, ask some friends or colleagues to look at the site with you. Forget how much you paid, how long ago you launched it, how terrible your experience with your developer was. Just pretend that you are visiting it for the first time with the eyes of your intended audience. Are they young, are they retired, are they artists, are they business people, are they soccer moms? – You know who your ideal customer is – pretend that you are them.

What do you see?

OVERALL DESIGN ( how your site looks, colors, design, readability, the overall visual impression):

  • What is your immediate impression?
  • Does it look professional?
  • Does it look like the company / person who owns it cares about how they present themselves?
  • Does it “match” your other corporate marketing materials?  – **** a website is not a single entity – it should be a part of a whole marketing plan ( more on this in the next post) ****
  • Does it accurately reflect you and / or your business?
  • Does it give the right impression about your professionalism and your image?
  • Is it garish, or pleasant?
  • Is it bland or exciting?
  • Does it look dated or current?
  • Does what you see, match what  you want your customers to see when they visit?

THE CONTENT ( the text and information that make up the pages of your website):

  • Is it organized or haphazardly thrown together?
  • Is the content easy to read and friendly? Is it wordy and stiff?
  • Is it easy on the eyes?
  • Can you easily get the “jist” without reading every word?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Are there typos?
  • Is it kept current?
  • Is it accurate?

THE NAVIGATION ( the buttons that let you move around within your website):

  • Can you find everything easily or is it a challenge to figure out how to move around the site?
  • Do the Button Labels (links) make sense or are they cryptic?
  • Do you have to use your “back” button to get back to where you came from?
  • Can you get from the homepage to every other page on your website easily?

CONTACT INFORMATION (the information your customers need in order to contact you.):

  • Is your contact information up front, and easy to find?
  • Is it hidden within a ‘contact us’ page?
  • is it outdated or inaccurate?
  • do you have any way to track who found you via your website?

CURRENT TECHNOLOGIES ( Social Media, Standards Compliant Code, and other functionality that can improve your customers experience) :

  • Are you using IM, Twitter, Facebook – are links to your accounts found easily on your website
  • Do you know how your website looks in other web browsers?
  • Do you know what the most popular web browsers are for your target demographic?
  • Do you know how your website looks say, on a Mac? on an iPad on a Blackberry?
  • Do you have any kind of statistics on how many site visitors you get and where they come from?
  • Can you update your site yourself or does it stay outdated because you can’t find the time or you can’t get a response from your original developer?

Yes I know. Its a lot to think about. And this is only the start.

But the basics outlined above could get anyone started on the path to decision making. And a professional consultant such as myself can help make answering these questions and finding solutions to solve the problems that you find, a lot easier.

Any one of the bullet points above aren’t going to make or break the success of your website – but a couple of them together and you could be looking at a website that is better off – offline – then up there giving a terrible impression to your customers.

So if you have a website, and its just sitting there,  or worse giving a bad impression – change it.

Make it work for you.

Don’t lose opportunities or turn away potential customers.

Invest in your website, and you will in effect, invest in your business.

So, why does a website have to be “so expensive”?

A recent interchange at a networking event spurred this on. I think all of us in design / marketing / or web development have had a similar conversation. And in this case I thought maybe this situation deserved more than a shrug and a shake of the head, which is my usual response to similar exchanges.

The conversation went something like this…

” Did I hear you do web design”?

“Yes you did, that’s one of the things I do.”

“I’ve got a question for you”


He hands me his cliparty business card and then…


“I want to know why a website has to be so expensive. My friends and I we just want simple stuff, no e-com this or twitter that, just something simple, a simple website. We want to pay like no more than $500, and everyone we talk to wants $5000. Why can’t anyone build us what we need for a couple hundred bucks?”


My blank expression and general posture probably would have been enough, but I responded by saying something similar to “Certainly not every website costs $5000, some are much more expensive. ”

Thankfully he immediately moved on to the next person in the room and I didn’t need to clarify much more than that. But afterwards I began wondering what the answer to his question really was.

My husband generally responds to such questions by asking what kind of car the person drives. He crafts his response based on what their answer is.

Oh you drive a mercedes? Why did you choose that car? You could have chosen an old chevy from the used car lot? But you didnt? Why? Oh you like a reliable, comfortable, attractive car, one that makes a statement, one that helps you stand out from the crowd?


Oh you drive a Ford 350 pickup? Why did you choose that truck? You could have selected a lighter duty vehicle that would be better on gas, and probably cheaper. Oh, you need a truck that meets your needs, one that is powerful enough to handle the jobs you throw at it.

And so on.

His technique is a good analogy for people who truly don’t understand the value that an asset such as a great website can be for their business. The car comparison works to get people to start to see the light. And with it, you can begin to engage and connect. But it doesn’t do the whole job.

So, why does a website have to be so expensive?

The answer is certainly not simply the hours that it takes to plan, design and build an excellent, intuitive, effective website.

If hours were the answer to cost alone, then every talented artist and craftsperson I know would be getting gazillions of dollars for their incredible work.

Its certainly not simply some sort of mathematical equation of the cost of inventory + markup + overhead like it is with retail pricing.

Its certainly not simply a matter of looking at “the going rates”,  and choosing something in the middle, because everyone in this industry prices differently according to their customer base and expertise.

So again.. one more time… So, why does a website have to be so expensive?

One of our clients can actually trace 100% of his business back to the site that we built for him. 100%. Thats a lot of power for a bunch of pixels.

Another of our clients increased attendance to a promotional event by 60% after the launch of a  marketing campaign and website we put together. Their goal was a 15% increase. We slam dunked it.

So what can we accomplish, enhance or effect with a website or for that matter, excellent design and creative marketing techniques? Oh things like…Increase traffic, gain new customers, increase revenue, attract better clients, close more sales, respond to more inquiries, improve your reputation, help you stand out from your competitors, ensure that you look professional in a world full of amateurs, convey your brand, get out the vote, introduce a new product, provide a venue to showcase your work, attract the right audience, entice potential customers, support your mission, showcase your skillset, shine a light on your work.

Can you put a price on that?

Yes, actually you can, its called professional marketing, and today at the end of 2010, a website is a huge and powerful part of a marketing plan.

Hiring an expert will make your company look like an expert too. The converse is also true.

You need to decide how want your customers to think of you.

Uncle Harry or your next door neighbors son might do a great job for free, and if you have a tiny side business selling crocheted toaster covers, it’s probably exactly what you need.

But if you run a legitimate business, are a professional artisan, or a professional anything, and you want to succeed you need to tell the world about what you do. And you want the world to see you as you deserve to be seen. These days that means having a website that shows the world how wonderful you are at what you do.

Accomplishing that takes skill, experience, planning, artistic sense, technical expertise, creativity, energy, research, dedication, reliability, resources, time, and in some cases intuition and good judgment.

You need to decide whether you, or your business, are worth the investment.

Sharing and Marketing are kissing cousins.

So lately i’ve been wondering about how things seem to happen for some people, and for others, well… maybe not so much.

I was struck lately by a blog post by David Airey called Self-employment advice for designers. In it he gives some excellent advice for those starting out, and actually much of it applies to everyone,  I highly recommend it.

But what struck me particularly about this post, is the intro in which he states that he has been self-employed for 5 years. I think he has been in the design industry at least as long as I have, but has only been self employed – working under his own name – for five years. He’s done an awful lot in that 5 years and it shows. At his 5 year anniversary, working on a totally different continent, I know his name. I know his work. I know his book. I read his blogs. I follow him on Twitter. And chances are, that you do too.

Now why is this? Well certainly, first and foremost he is quite talented and skilled at what he does. But what does he do that many of us don’t? He provides others in the industry with interesting and valuable content. He offers excellent advice, shares articles, and writes great content that is downright entertaining and interesting to read.  In short, he is an excellent marketer who is extremely generous with his knowledge and his expertise. and because of that, he has positioned himself as a trusted expert in the field and people pay attention.

Design is and has always been a highly competitive industry. But keeping everything you know inside for fear of someone stealing ideas or running off to steal your clients is not a healthy state of mind. Nor is it the way to get noticed and grow your business.

If you have talent, ideas, great customer service and can be innovative and inspriring to others, tell people about it. Share what you are good at, shout it out loud and market your expertise.

Sharing your knowledge and providing advice to others does more than just make you feel good about yourself. It helps to establish your value as an expert. Do people flock to follow newbies on twitter to learn about new articles or technologies?? Not usually. Usually people flock to those who are strong at what they do, and who are experienced and have the confidence to provide real honest advice to others without feeling territorial of their knowledge.

Getting out there and introducing yourself to people isnt enough to build your reputation as an expert in this highly competitive industry. You ( and I include myself here) need to use the skills that you posses as great communicators to write, to pose questions, to provide advice, to create a stirring and get people interested.

Its a difficult time out there. meeting people definately helps, and we all should be doing it. But at the end of day you can’t force people pick up the phone and call you. You need to position yourself as that expert that people need to call, because they know that you are the person who can help them creatively solve their problem.

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