accessible button on the keyboard

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines

Ontario is in the midst of rolling out AODA, a set of guidelines to make Ontario more accessible for people with disabilities. Websites will soon be judged on whether or not they adhere to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, AA compliance (except for live audio and video). The timeline for when compliance is required can be found on Ontario’s AODA page.

Reaching WCAG guidelines helps open up your website to a wider variety of potential prospects, and earns goodwill among clients. Many principles of content accessibility are good SEO, smart design, or both. Even if compliance isn’t mandatory (which it is for all public companies and all private companies over 50 employees), WCAG are often simply good design.

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Where to Start

Low or no vision accommodations make up a large percentage of WCAG guidelines; this includes making sure all links are comprehensible out of context, there are proper code markers in place for screen readers to know there is text to read, and all information available in graphics is also available within text.

This is one of the most comprehensive places to start, and one that shows the most immediate benefit. Making graphic information available in text also helps your SEO by giving either alt text (for simple images) or search engines a better idea of what is displayed on your webpage (which helps determine its relevancy).

 

Keep Cleaning Up

If you have audio or video content pre-recorded on your site, transcripts and descriptions need to be available for those. Building a site map is also advised, for how it helps people navigate and find the page they’re looking for more quickly. If people have to make choices on your site, make sure colour is not the only differentiating factor.

Any PDFs you have available on your site should also be checked. If you have Adobe Acrobat Pro, you can use tools within the suite to determine if they’re accessible. Make sure all buttons have a programmed purpose, so a screen reader can say what button to press.

 

Continue to Maintain

Reaching WCAG guidelines is both an initial investment and a continuing one. If you refresh content on the site frequently, then any and all new content must also be compliant. This includes new graphics, PDFs, pages, and audio/video. Determine how often you should review your content based on the frequency you update the website, and allocate time to run a small scale audit for accessibility.

Paying Travel Expenses

Manage Sales Costs With Marketing

Sales calls fact – it’s damn hard to get in to see anybody these days.

 

I recently spoke to a business owner about sales travel. He replied that his sales people were travelling less these days. It’s hard to get suspects and prospects to commit to appointments. Past customers are not interested in the latest and greatest unless they actually need something. Factor in the high cost of travel and the sales’ regular road trips are often not viable.

 

Paying Travel Expenses
Gettyimages/ Ridofranz

Willie Loman would die an early death in today’s markets.

 

Still, business relies on a constant supply of new customers and new business. Although the specifics vary by business and industry, the cost of acquiring new customers is multiple times the cost of retaining customers. There are resources and costs required in both efforts.

 

Business owners and sales managers have a dilemma. How to manage resources effectively between acquiring new customers and retaining existing customers?

 

Marketing can help with managing the costs of both obtaining new customers and keeping existing ones.

 

In many cases, a majority of sales come from existing customers. The satisfaction of existing customers and ongoing “staying in touch” are obviously very important in retaining customers.

 

Focus on acquiring new customers is equally important in keeping the sales pipeline full and fuelling company growth.

 

Marketing Qualified Leads

 

One aspect of marketing is to cast a wide net for new business opportunities.

 

Marketing can do much of the ”leg work” of qualifying leads before the expense of sales people are required. Marketing can reach many in an instant, much faster than even your speediest inside sales star or your heartiest cold caller.

 

The Internet has made marketing more focused and effective by allowing for very specific targeting, yet on a broad scale.

 

Marketing can filter the wide catch of prospects into those that you actually have a chance of doing business with. Filters like company size, geo location, and simple questions determining needs can qualify prospects before assigning to sales.

 

Marketing to Existing Customers

 

Another aspect of marketing is retaining existing customers and loyalty.

 

There is a lot of work to satisfying customers and showing the appreciation that you really care about them. It’s delicate staying in touch with people while respecting their reluctance to talk to sales people when not they are not in shopping mode. Sales people often feel they are banging their heads against a wall.

 

The Internet plays a large role in marketing effectiveness. Engagement is the key and in today’s world often public. The public nature of social media, reviews, and commentary is well serviced by the marketing dept. This takes some of the heat off of sales staff in not getting mired down in trying to do everything for existing customers.

 

Marketing techniques and marketing automation service existing customers until they are ready for sales assistance. Again, “leg work” is provided until valuable sales people need to get involved.

 

Managing Sales Costs

 

Having marketing help manage sales costs can make a big difference in profits:

 

  • Marketing can bring down the costs of acquiring new customers by qualifying suspects into prospects. Marketing qualified leads can be passed on to sales. Sales can then do what they are hired to do – work with legitimate prospects and close them.

 

  • Marketing can bring down the costs of customer retention by delivering consistent messaging and managing customer engagement. Satisfied customers become repeat customers. The lifetime value of repeat customers should not be underestimated.

 

Managing sales costs in today’s markets is a challenge. Marketing can help by doing the “leg work” of getting your message out in the widest distribution possible. Marketing qualifies the interest generated to ensure precious sales staff only focus on potential opportunities. Marketing maintains the message that your customers are important and your organization is always a part of the conversation.

 

 

Nomophobia: The Reason Why Your Business Should be Mobile

You heard it first! Nomophobia!

Now before you start wondering what that is and how it impacts your business, just quickly look to your left, and now to your right or at the most, in your pocket. Did you find your smartphone yet?

women looking at phone in misty woods
gpointstudio/Thinkstock

Like 73% of people, if you don’t find your phone immediately or don’t feel it at hands reach, you might start to feel panicked or a little nervous and worried while trying to remember where it is. This fear of not finding your phone is called Nomophobia and as you can see, close to three quarters of your customers might be victim of the same faith. Now, how does that play in your favor? That means that more than half of your audience are always or constantly on their smartphone browsing the Internet to find new products, deals and the latest provider for their required service. If you are not mobile yet, this is the time to join the trend.

Nomophobia aside, 1st Aerial created an infographic that puts into perspective the importance that we place on our smartphone and main arguments why your business should be mobile friendly and offer a mobile adapted website. To see the full infographic, click here.

Now why should your business consider this statistic:

4.77 billion of mobile users worldwide

There are 4.77 billion people worldwide that own a smartphone. The statistic goes even further by confirming that more people own a smartphone than people that own a toothbrush. That is a massive audience that cannot be ignored. Although these people are still regular customers in your store or online on their laptop, the fact that so many people today own and use a smartphone can only mean more potential customers are moving their purchases online and will be getting a first impression about your brand through a phone screen instead of on a computer or in person.

crowd using cell phones
Michael Blann/Thinkstock

Without necessarily offering an app or bringing your entire business onto mobile, there are advantages of adapting your website to be mobile friendly and offer a great experience to your customer every time they look you up on their phone. My colleague, Claire Phillipowsky, also covered the topic of mobile friendly websites in The New Mobile-Friendly Website Imperative: What all Top Businesses Already Know.

 

83% of internet usage is mobile

It is a fact that purchasing has moved online and more and more people will go into a store to evaluate an item but will most probably go online to find a great deal and complete their purchase. Now, on top of that already challenging step in the customer journey, nearly 83% are doing most of their internet searched on their mobile. This number clearly examplifies the current behavior of your customer and is a very good reason to be online and to easily be found when your name gets typed in to a search. As a business, you might already be investing in Adwords and online search advertising but make sure with your agency that mobile searches are being included in your potential reach.

 

More than 60% of people are more sociable with their mobile than real people

The survey showed that 35% of people admitted to looking at their phone when they are in public or have nothing to do. And another 33% said that they pretend to be busy in a restaurant or a bar by browsing through their phones instead of talking to people around them. So over 60% of your customers and potential customers are using their smartphones as an excuse to keep themselves occupied and not look bored. A great way to do that is to shop on their mobile, look up their next purchase and plan their next trip thanks to your mobile friendly website, your latest app or your SMS filled with tips.

two people using cell phones facing each other
Image Source Pink/Thinkstock

Out of sight, out of mind, so make sure to be present in your customers mobile experience and help them choose you as their ideal provider, partner or simple marketplace! For more advice about how to bring your business forward and add a mobile component to your marketing, meet with a PROSAR team member today.

Who’s Your “Amy”?

three women with shopping bags
Photo credit: ThinkstockPhotos-454296797

Last week the Globe and Mail published an article by Marina Strauss on Sears Canada’s marketing focus (New Sears Canada president’s mission: Win over ‘Amy’) — spoiler alert, it’s all about Amy. Amy is “40 years old and has one child and another on the way. She’s time-starved and looking for reasonably priced fashions.” And she doesn’t exist as an actual person, she is a representative of the ideal customer that they believe will help Sears regain some of its lost market share in Canada. And, for the foreseeable future, most of their marketing decisions and service implementation will take Amy into account.

Defining your ideal client, even to the point of naming her or him, shouldn’t seem odd in this time of avatars and online profiles. In fact, determining your target market and understanding your customer is nothing new. However, the structure and detail applied in the current trend does seem to be adding an additional dimension to the practice. And, that’s a good thing. It is driven, in part, by the rise in content generation and inbound marketing tactics. It’s important to understand who you are writing content for and how best to attract their attention and online loyalty.

Sears realizes, of course, that they can’t ignore the existing customers who remain loyal shoppers. Have you met Linda? She’s an “over-50 customer with two grown children and an ingrained Sears shopping habit.” (Maybe Amy and Linda will go shopping together, and Amy can help Linda post her purchases on Instagram.)

Under the savvy stewardship of new President Carrie Kirkman (another notable successful woman in Marketing), Sears Canada is applying a disciplined marketing strategy. It sounds obvious, and you might assume that all companies employ this type of strategy, but most don’t. In fact, many SMEs don’t truly implement any structured marketing strategy. (Yes, they probably have some form of strategic plan, but they often don’t have a workable implementation plan, so it never becomes part of the day-to-day consideration.) And that’s the real strength of what Sears Canada is doing. This strategy is pervasive and lends itself to implementation at all levels — not easily, it will take real commitment. But making it more tangible (Would Amy use that product, notice that display, appreciate this service…) It’s easier to understand directives and more motivating to care about how they are fulfilled when you’re “doing it for Amy.”

In addition to facilitating implementation, here are some other advantages to a successful buyer persona directed marketing strategy:

Coherent Communication: For any organization, and especially large corporations, communication (both internal and external) can be rather confusing. Concentrating on buyer personas provides a simple and engaging storyline internally, and coordinates clear external messaging.

Resource Deployment: Having such a laser focus reduces waste as you more effectively direct spending and staff.

Staff Morale: Understanding who you are working for and why can be a rallying force for staff. If everyone understands their targeted demographic is, if everyone knows Amy, then the entire organization can understand what they are doing and why. Retail, and virtually every organization, is reliant on service; isn’t it easier to care of a friend?

Satisfied Clientele: Not trying to please everyone allows your organization to hone in on satisfying your targeted market — improving both ROI and customers’ experience.

Regardless of the type of organization, you will benefit from articulating your ideal client/customer/member/donor/patron, and focusing your strategy on that buyer persona. Any business is not necessarily good business, so determine who you should be catering to, and set out to rock their world.

Any other advantages that you would add to the list above?

The 3 A’s to Business Networking Online

Recently, I have been looking up different ways to maximize online strategies to connect with potential partners and networks. I mostly found that articles don’t explore as much the idea of social media as a networking environment and focus mainly on reaching the end-user. Now, when I say networking, I mean mainly to interact and connect with other businesses and services that will help you promote, distribute and eventually, generate sales. To help you remember what you need to consider when thinking of such a strategy, check out my 3 A’s to Business Networking Online.

 

Achievement

Every good strategy has a goal or an objective. This is what I call an achievement. Although, you have not yet achieved it, this is what you want at the end of your networking efforts.

Important to note, contrary to a B2C approach, you will not be speaking directly to the end user. You will be connecting with like-minded partners, peers and other parts of your industry. So what do you want to achieve at the end of it all? Here are a few examples of achievements you should work towards:

– Position yourself, or your organization, as an expert in your field
– Find partners that are willing to work with you to push your message or cause
– Generate leads to grow your distribution channels

Like any worthy destination, these achievements will take some time and effort to reach. Which also means your networking strategy needs to be on a longer timeline than a simple social media campaign to promote a new product or make a quick sale. Best to set achievement goals that will push you to connect, network and create relationships over both the short and long term, but remember that time will be required to gain significant traction. To find inspiration, and check out what other businesses might consider a priority, check out Scott’s article on a recent HubSpot survey: Only 8% of Sales Leaders Prioritize Social Sales.

 

Audience

When thinking about the audience you want to reach, remember that every company has individual people in it. This being said, your message needs to be focused to achieve your goal, but accessible enough to be noticed by a broader audience. Typically, it will be be an employee, community manager, or even a CEO, looking on social media for like-minded partners that will find you and initiate the conversation.Looking for ideas on what to achieve? Prosar can help

To start that process, you will need to decide, what part of your industry you want to network with and why. If we adopt the three goals listed above, this is what could be considered:

– Position your company in the industry: you will want to connect with researchers, experts, other companies that are pushing the development of your industry.

– Find like-minded partners: you will be connecting with potential competitors, associations, organisations, partners in other countries, companies that can collaborate or recommend you.
– Generate leads and grow your distribution channels: you will connect with other parts of your supply chain, partners in new markets you want to reach, prospective customers.
Creating a dialogue with these people and nurturing relationships builds a network for referrals, feedback, advice and industry/competitive information. In many cases, these contacts become more intimate than in typical B2C social networks, where the relationship can be more generic.

 

Avenue

Here, I am referring to the different channels, platforms and media that are available to you. From a social standpoint, the main ones to include are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Now within each of those platforms, here are certain avenues to consider for your networking efforts:

  • Facebook: Does your industry have any specific Facebook groups you should be apart of? If not, maybe you should be the one to create it.
  • Twitter: Are your industry experts, researchers and partners online? Do they participate in certain Twitter chats? Are they on certain lists? If not, you should perhaps host a chat to regroup your like-minded partners.
  • LinkedIn: What groups should you be in? What kind of messages are your peers posting? What kind of knowledge do they want to receive? Can you contribute in any way?
  • Forums: Does your industry have its own topic? If so, than find those forums and see what the conversation is all about. Can your company help find solutions in any way? How can you get involved?

Transform online connections into offline business with ProsarAnd let’s not forget the offline avenues! Lasting connections can be initiated and nurtured online but often offline conversations will reinforce those relationships and help you generate leads or references. Here are a few avenues to consider:

  • Events: What events can you go to? Can you be a guest speaker or host a workshop?
  • Publications: What publications should you be in and how can you contribute a piece of information instead of a simple ad?
  • Direct Contact: What companies can you meet face-to-face with and how can you connect with them directly?

These suggestions based on the 3 As (Achievement, Audience and Avenue) are meant to serve as pillars when building your online networking strategy. To start your journey and add the right elements into your plan, include these considerations!

How to Find Your Ideal Client

Or, perhaps more to the point, how to make sure your ideal client finds you. All organizations face this issue, and it can be especially challenging for small businesses. But done right, online inbound marketing puts you in the driver’s seat – you just need a roadmap for success.

a smartphone with a maps app overlaid on top of a map with a compass and pen
Oleksiy Mark/iStock/Thinkstock

In the same way that not everyone who walks into your physical “bricks and mortar” store is actually going to be a client, not everyone who visits your website or your social media channels will be a client either. So, how do you drive the real clients to your website? And once you’ve achieved that, how do you find them amid all the other site visitors? Is there a way to not only identify them, but also to separate them out for closer attention? There is… and it involves two terms: Segmentation and Target Marketing.

 

Segmentation and Target Marketing Defined

The online Business Dictionary defines market Segmentation as: “The process of defining and subdividing a large homogenous market into clearly identifiable segments having similar needs, wants, or demand characteristics.” This dictionary goes on to say: “Its objective is to design a marketing mix that precisely matches the expectations of customers in the targeted segment.” Which brings us to our second term…

Target Marketing involves breaking a market into segments and then focusing your marketing efforts on one or a few key segments so you can concentrate on understanding the needs and wants of that particular market intimately. The bottom line is that Target Marketing is about attracting customers who will buy what you’re selling.

 

Who is your Ideal Customer? The Art of Buyer Personas

If you’re going to target your ideal customer, obviously you need to know who that is. Before you try to identify specific people, groups, or organizations, take some time to define your ideal. What characteristics does your target buyer have? Go beyond just demographics such as age, gender, location, marital status, education level, and income bracket. What are some key personality traits that might make them a good fit for your products and services? What might their interests be? What motivates them? What might they be trying to achieve that your offering could help with? The more information you can determine about your ideal customer, the better you will understand them and the more effectively you will be able to tailor and deliver your messaging to them.

Use this information to develop one or more “buyer personas.” According to HubSpot, a buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers. Be as detailed as you can. Give each persona a name – Frank the Farmer, or Connie the Coffee Connoisseur – and have some fun with personality traits. Done well, buyer personas help to focus your marketing content and hone in on the right audience to reach out to with your message.

 

The Advantage of Online Marketing

Working online using inbound marketing tactics gives you more power over your marketing efforts and outcomes. With an ad in a newspaper or magazine, you have no way to determine who has seen it, nor do you have any way to follow up with those who have. By contrast, online marketing allows you to discern who has seen your banner ad or other digital marketing content. Not only are you able to collect information about people who visit your ad, site, blog, or social media page, but you are also able to track that information over time, use it, and act on it:

  • follow up with a thank you for downloading an article,
  • respond with an email message or an offer, or even,
  • have a complete automated campaign set up that guides your prospect through several steps, providing gradually more detailed and more targeted information about your products and services.

You might start with an ad on social media or in an online publication, then provide a useful checklist that your buyer would find helpful in reaching their goals, and follow that up with a more detailed white paper on a topic they’ve expressed interest in during your interactions. This progression gives you more information about what they are looking for at the same time that you are leading them through your sales process and propelling them towards a buying decision.

 

Multi-faceted Results

If you do the following:

  1. develop strong buyer personas
  2. use these to define a relevant target audience
  3. streamline your online marketing message for this audience
  4. provide progressively more detailed or tailored content to meet the audience’s needs

You will see positive results on a number of different fronts:

  • Efficient use of time and resources
  • Cost effective marketing activities
  • More sales, increased revenues, and improved profit margins
  • Improved customer relationships and happier customers
  • Measurable progress and results throughout the entire customer engagement cycle

 

As a small business, it can be difficult to set aside the time needed upfront to establish solid buyer personas, to clearly define your target audience, and to create content that will resonate with them. However, experience tells us that these efforts will pay off in spades.

Communicating with and Marketing to Millennials and Gen Z in 2015

It is important to be aware that every generation thinks differently. They have different shared experiences that often lead to different beliefs and different values. Accordingly, different generations communicate and want to be communicated to differently. Gen Y and Gen Z are no exception to this rule. Though, they are both different in many ways, they share many important similarities that should not be ignored by companies who want their attention.

So, if you’re marketing to one of these younger audiences you should keep a few things in mind.

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First, You Must Understand What They Mean.

Communicating clearly, succinctly, and in the style that best works with your audience has never been more important than it is now. Whether communicating in blog form, on social media, or through writing on your website – the wording you use matters. Younger audiences interpret words and phrases online quite differently than you might.

Certain words have evolved or mean something completely opposite of what they used to mean! “That’s sick!” can mean that’s disgusting and terrible in one context, but it can also mean, “that’s amazing!” in another, to a younger audience.

Additionally, the word “literally” means something completely opposite to its original meaning. Gen Z will say they, “literally can’t stand spinach.” The word means that you are not exaggerating at all, but the younger generation commonly uses it to mean extreme exaggeration.

This phenomenon has been taking place for a long time. To illustrate, generations preceding the baby boomers took the word “awful” to mean “generally good, impressive things”. “Awful things” were in fact, “worthy of awe”. This is where expressions such as, “the awful majesty of God” come from. The difference is that today, with the speed of the internet, words, phrases and cultural memes are morphing new meaning at a far accelerated pace, and it requires a lot more work to keep up.

 

They Will Only be Interested in Your Content if it is Great.

You’re in a competition with the rest of the content online. Because of the endless options of content to consume, your advertising content has to be as good as or better than the content (paid and unpaid) they find and are exposed to around the rest of the internet. Otherwise, they’ll easily and instantly tune out, clicking the “X” button.

 

They Want Information Quickly.

They have no patience for longer, time-consuming content. To be clear, when I say “time-consuming content”, I’m not talking about an hour or two, I’m talking about often a video that lasts more than 20 seconds, or a couple of paragraphs of text. They prefer to socialize, inform themselves, and entertain themselves in short bursts, in part because they have so many other great pieces of content competing for their attention.

 

They Like Images and Short Videos.

Consuming, sharing, and even creating content is easier than ever before and the younger generations are doing it more than ever before. Vine, Snapchat, and now Instagram are places where short video and/or images can be shared.

Instagram has recently launched the ability to advertise short 15-second videos to respond to this audience’s need for short video content. Many of the brands who have tried it have experienced great success on Instagram.

 

In Summary

Even if these younger generations aren’t your target audiences, understanding them can lead to major insights about the future of all older target markets.

The actions of younger generation cause a spill-over effect to older generations. Inevitably, the younger generations begin to shape everyone else’s consumption of media by affecting technologies and trends that are (and will be) formed. Older generations will play catch-up much like as was the case with Facebook: popular with college student by 2007-2008 but only widely adopted by older generations in 2010 and later. (Most recently, my 87 year old grandmother created a Facebook account and is on it everyday: responding to comments and sharing posts, pictures, articles, and even memes!)

National Associations: 3 Ways to Engage Your Members

As the staff of any national association knows, it is important to keep members informed, motivated and remind them of the importance/relevance of the association they belong to. Engaged members are members who care. Importantly, this engagement can also support your organization’s continued relevance and value to its members.

Though many members of associations automatically become members by default, meaning they don’t need to be persuaded to join or to remain members, associations should nevertheless strive to continuously prove their value to members. All members should feel like the association they are a part of is invested in them and that they matter. Further, it is important to provide members, new and old, with easy ways to relate to your association and find their place within it. Read on for three ways to engage members with their association.

National_Associations-3_Ways_to_Engage_Your_Members

 

1)   Use Social Media to Create an Engaged Community

The power of simple, instant communication afforded by social media to bring people together is incredibly impressive. A key strength of social media is that it enables the creation of communities  united by a commonality, in this case, a shared membership to an association. Your national association should see social media as an opportunity to create a community of engaged members.

Maintaining your social media accounts, with the help of a sound strategy, of course, will also aid your federation in appearing (and being) more relevant and approachable.

Once you’ve (a) made your social media accounts easy to find and (b) maintained activity on these accounts, you open the door for members to engage with you directly in an easy and convenient manner. Make sure to respond in a timely manner to show members that their national association values their input and cares about their needs.

 

2) Produce Visual Content to Engage

Large associations can seem complex to outsiders — even to their own members!

Infographics are able to both clarify and disseminate sometimes complex information while engaging the reader. They do this by delivering valuable information such as statistics and facts in an organized, efficient, and visually engaging way. Breaking down the association’s key functions or highlighting achievements (for example), into simple, well-branded visuals can effectively present how the organization works and benefits its memebership. Done properly, infographics have the remarkable ability to make potentially confusing or bland information nearly painless and even enjoyable to consume!

The advantages of infographics for national associations are clear: from highlighting membership benefits to sharing important news or history.

Unlike a blog article (which has its own list of virtues), infographics are more immediately immersive. A well-designed visual arrangement of information will immediately create an appealing environment for the reader and requires less of a mental investment than multiple paragraphs of words on a page.

There is a reason infographics have been trending for a long time: they are easy to share on social media. People like them because they are seen as low-effort/high-pay-off pieces to both consume and share. For that reason they are also a great way to extend your message to places it hasn’t been before. Strong brand awareness for any national association is an on-going concern.

 

3) De-clutter Your Website for More Engagement

Try visiting (nearly) any national association’s homepage — choose one you have never visited before. How do you feel? A little overwhelmed?

If you don’t know exactly where to look and what you want, you’ll find that navigating many association websites can be overwhelming. There is often so much depth and breadth of information in such a compact space, that it can be difficult to figure out where to begin. Imagine how someone must feel who knows little about your organization. Pairing things down and organizing information in a clean and logical fashion makes good sense.(Not everything needs to be immediately accessible from your homepage.).

 

Conclusion

By using social media to nurture a stronger sense of community, infographics to communicate important information clearly and appealingly, and an easy to use and informative website, you will be more successful at engaging your members than ever before.