How Consistency Improves Your Branding – 5 ways to help your brand reach its potential


The purpose of branding is to go beyond simply creating awareness, with the intention of nurturing a trusting and loyal relationship. It’s a comprehensive undertaking that requires consistent use of your branded identity, in all of its forms. It’s no easy task to maintain consistency among myriad print, digital and broadcast touchpoints: letterhead, business cards, ads, billboards, brochures, website, blogs, social media accounts, emails, ebooks, posts, videos, TV, radio… Reputation manifests in everything that represents your organization, including the experience of dealing with your organization.

In our ever-changing digital world and increasing communication channels, consistency is an increasingly critical aspect in successfully establishing a trusted and sought-after product, service or organization. This article focuses on the role that consistency plays in successful branding. Here are five important considerations that relate to your brand consistency, and your ability to build a strong brand.


  1. Start from the Heart

It all stems from your mission, vision, value statement unique selling proposition, any guiding principles for your organization. Ensure that they are authentic and aligned. A thorough understanding of what drives your organization and what it has to offer is the starting point. Your brand is the essence of what your market thinks of your organization; so consider what it is destined achieve, and what its brand should represent.

A full appreciation of your target market, their expectations and desires is also key. In order to be successful, you’ll need a receptive market; resonating with your audience paves the way to acceptance. Essentially, your brand should relate directly and explicitly to the belief system of your organization and that of your market.

  1. Set the Foundation

Even small companies can find it difficult to ensure that everyone treats branding aspects in a consistent manner. Add to the mix associates, freelancers, consultants, suppliers, advertisers, etc. and the task of maintaining a common front becomes rather formidable. Create a Branding Style Guide (this is often done when a new Corporate ID is created).

A branding style guide doesn’t need to be a monumental tome with excessive rules and regulations, but should cover all typical print, digital and broadcast uses. It should also be reviewed and updated periodically (at least every 3 years) to ensure it is relevant to the media and technology you and your industry are using.

It identifies all items used in presenting your organization and sets guidelines for their use. Graphic and presentation components typically include logos, icons, colours, fonts, specific photos and illustrations, etc. People have a strong and lasting connection with graphics and colours, which explains the importance placed on logos and their use.

Content components incorporate tagline, slogan, lexicon, tone, etc. What you say and how you say it can provoke tremendous impact and evoke strong emotion. In order for your audience to learn to trust your organization, they need to identify with what you have to say. The vocabulary used and tone of corporate content can help to position your organization as genuine, knowledgeable, caring, expert, as a go-to source that can be relied upon. Note that having a consistent corporate tone doesn’t mean that all your content needs to sound the same. Individual voices and characters within your organization add depth and can help to attract targeted segments or personas.

  1. Plan the Journey

Knowing where you came from and where you want to go makes it more likely that you’ll actually get there. To keep you, and the rest of your team, on track, plan how content and graphic identifiers will be used to build and support your brand. How will it get in front of your target market? What format will it take? When? Use an Editorial Calendar to ensure strategic, relevant and scheduled content.

Content generation provides many options (web pages, blogs, emails, social posts, ebooks, brochures, whitepapers, etc.) and is an influential means of attracting and reaching out to your audience. Consistency in template designs as well as voice/tone help build a strong foundation for your brand (keep that style guide close at hand!).

An editorial calendar maps out what content will be written, by whom, how it will be published, and when. It allows a strategic approach (ensuring consistency in both frequency and focus) and overview to ensure you are creating content that is of value to your audience as well as supporting your brand.

Chose your social media carefully, there are a lot of platforms, and just because they are cool or popular doesn’t mean it is a good fit for your organization. Also, consider the resources required to maintain an active and strategic presence.

  1. All Aboard

Having the components, a guide and a plan put you ahead of most companies. But to make it all work successfully you need buy-in from your organization. Your brand may not be a strong rallying force of motivation (it should be!), but it must be embraced by all. The entire organization needs to understand and support your branding initiatives.

In order for your team to be part of the successful implementation of your branding plan, they’ll need access to info and files. All graphic components, the branding style guide and editorial calendar should be easily accessible to anyone who will be publishing and presenting on behalf of your organization.

  1. Stay the Course

A brand strategy requires ongoing monitoring and attention. It’s part policing and part propping. You need to ensure that your team is adhering to the style guide and maintaining the image and voice to properly position your organization. You’ll also want to identify where the brand is weak and might require additional support.

Don’t be overzealous or near-sighted in your regulation. In these fluid times, acknowledge that things change and your brand strategy and implementation will need to evolve to stay current and relevant.

Do you have any thoughts on brand consistency or other considerations that could be added to this list?

Image Credit: mindscanner / gettyimages

3 Considerations for Finding Better Blog Topics

Above view of business man working place. Cup of coffee, laptop, notebook and pen. Business, education or blogging concept.

Whether you’re just starting your company website or you’ve been in the game for a while, it’s no secret that blogging has become a central component of content marketing. And, the reason why it’s become so prevalent is because frequent and regular company blogging can significantly increase your page ranking. In today’s rich information world, however, simply maintaining an up-to-date blog is no longer enough. To attract and retain clients your blogs should be written in an engaging and meaningful style; they need to stand out and be deemed worthy of reading. After all, pretty much all your competitors are writing blogs too.

So, when it comes to writing blogs for your organization what’s the secret? How do you factor in both quantity and quality?

To get the most out of your blogs, to rank high on searches and convert more leads into sales, here are three important considerations

1. Get a vision for how you want to house your blogs

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing yourself or you’ve hired a team of experts. Before coming up with topics you should be prepared to ask yourself what you want in your blog and to do some research. If you’re stuck on this, go see what your competitors’ and others in your field are doing, you need to see what they already have that could appeal to your audience. This will help you see how you can make your blog page and content unique and more attractive. No matter what stage you’re in, if you’re in the midst of changing or revamping your blog page, aesthetics also plays a huge role in strengthening and building customer loyalty. Once you’ve come up with a good vision of how you want to structure and design your blog page, only then should you start fleshing out blog topics.

2. Find topics by looking within your company, and your staff

Your blog page should serve as an informative, interesting, and even enjoyable, user’s guide. Every aspect and angle of your service or product can be explored in ways that make them relevant and meaningful to your audience. Your blogs should be written in such a way that it clearly explains and showcases all the great qualities that your organization has to offer. And, what better way to pinpoint all the unique aspects of your company than to at look at your staff for guidance? Your employees reflect all the different units that make up your company. From first-hand experience, they typically know what benefits your service/product has to offer and how the organization meets clients’ needs on a day-to-day basis.

Ask your team questions like:

What are some frequently asked questions from our clients?

How do we enrich the lives of our clients?

What’s a memorable conversation that you’ve had with a client or supplier?

There are additional benefits in talking to your staff: it will not only help you choose some hot topics for your blog, this in-house communication will also increase your overall knowledge about your clients.

3. Go to the heart of your company – the clients

The secret of some the most successful company blogs is that they’ve managed to get into the mindset of their clients. Every communicator appreciates the need to know their audience! Reading your blog may be a potential client’s first impression of your company, so be conscious of starting a relationship and be prepared to carry on a conversation. The key to choosing informative and engaging blog topics that speak to your clients is to pick up on typical buyer cues. This will help you hone in on specific company messages to promote within your blog. You can also get a better idea of who your company’s clients are and flesh out their personas. With this information you can  connect more personally with your audience through your blogs, making it more likely to get referrals.

Writing company blogs regularly and effectively can seem like an onerous task. However, with proper planning of blog topics, it will prove to be an extremely rewarding marketing tool. Put in the time and effort in a strategic fashion, and it will surely pay off! If you are producing relevant and readable material, you can define your brand as a trustworthy and valued online resource; and that is something that your audience will appreciate.

Whether you’ve chosen to write blogs yourself or to hire a specialized marketing team, these are simple in-house tactics that will help as you strategize your blog topics. Read more on how to convert your topics into blogs so that they take advantage of blogging tactics like SEO and link building in “Blogging for Qualified SEO,” “Content Creation for Link Building,” and specific writing strategies in,  “Good Content is FRUITFUL: Your 8-Point Checklist to Writing Content Worth Reading.”

image credit: Dutko / gettyimages

5 Reasons to Use Content Marketing

PROSAR content marketing graphic on blackboard

Content Generation and Content Marketing are current buzzwords and part of a leading marketing trend, but the concept has been around since the dawn of commerce. Content marketing is simply using information strategically to communicate with your market. What has changed since the first messaging merchants is the complexity and scope of that communication and its delivery. So buzzwords or not, a more focused and strategic approach to getting your message out is now critical.

Here are five reasons why you should be taking a structured approach to your content marketing.


1. Myriad Touchpoints

The ad guys in Mad Men had it comparatively easy; they could focus on a killer ad campaign knowing that a high percentage of their market would absorb their newspaper, TV and radio ads. Since the halcyon days when a campaign brainstorming required a brain-numbing amount of whisky, the Internet has given the information and communication world a whole new environment. This new landscape is vast, cluttered and omnipresent.

A minority of small companies are treating their websites as strategic communication hubs (unfortunately most are still virtual brochures with a link to their dormant Facebook page). And even if you are paying attention to your website, simply keeping it up-to-date isn’t sufficient. Blogs, online communities, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+… there are myriad touchpoints where your existing and potential market could connect with you. A strategic content marketing plan will determine which are best for your company and what needs to be done to properly support them.


2. Consumers Want More Info

The Internet has empowered consumers like never before. They now expect to easily find online all required info about any product or service, as well as reviews, user comments, instructions, how-to videos… in essence they want it all and they want it now. A strategic plan helps you to determine how you can most effectively provide that information in a compelling way.

Early advertising guru David Ogilvy understood the importance of content marketing. He maintained that “the more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.” Ogilvy helped the industry to appreciate the value of understanding your market and providing the right information in an appropriate manner. And even in those simpler times, this Mad Man realized that “Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.” The fact that the communications and marketing world has become all the more complex underlines the importance of Ogilvy’s insight.


3. Open Lines of Communication

In addition to providing you with countless ways to connect with your market, social media and blogs also enable a two-way communication. This may seem daunting but it can be an incredible opportunity. A dialogue with consumers is a direct means to learn from your market and gather valuable information.

Ensure that the bulk of information about your organization online is under corporate stewardship.


4. Your Brand is Linked to Your Content

While you are putting good content out there, it is important to also listen to what is being said about you. Scanning the web for mentions and responding swiftly and appropriately has become an important aspect of brand stewardship. Whether you are thanking someone for kind words or a helpful suggestion, or addressing a misperception or mistake; dealing with it publicly and honestly helps you earn loyalty.

Essentially, it all reflects on you (or your organization if you really don’t want to take this personally). I believe that a company’s brand is now formed as much by the unofficial and/or unpaid content online as it is by the paid media and carefully crafted PR. Online, everyone hears you scream — the Internet hears everything said about your company and saves it for anyone to read. Your brand is living 24/7 online and you are probably unaware as to how it’s doing.


5. Much of the Content Online is Crap

This proliferation of information on the Internet has bred a lot of poorly researched, badly written and pathetically self-serving crap. (Yes, yes, there is also a ton of really good content, but when you research a purchase online, what percentage of the information is both helpful and well-written?)  So users need to sift through the garbage to find what they are looking for. If you’re churning out less than stellar material, you could be doing more harm than good and actually tarnish your brand.

Conversely, if you are actually producing relevant and readable material, you can help to define your brand as trustworthy and a valued online resource. This positioning moves you a whole lot closer to a buying relationship.

Writing compelling content is not easy, heck, just writing good informative content is challenging. With professional guidance, a strategic plan determines what content you should be producing, what you should be writing, what your staff can do, and what professional marketers/writers should create for you, as well as a schedule to make sure it actually happens. And this structured process makes it much easier to deliver good content.

What would you add to my list of reasons to approach content marketing in a professional manner?

Photo Credit: Getty Images : Cacaroot

Blogging for Qualified SEO

man typing on keyboard with ideas floating around his head

SEO is important for any business, but determining how to best improve it can be a tricky task. One easy way to improve your website, short of an SEO audit and a website revamp, is to regularly blog. Regular blogging gives prospects a reason to return to your website, and can improve your ranking— so long as you purposefully plan your content. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your blogging.

man typing on keyboard with ideas floating around his head
credit: Federico Caputo / getty images

1. Set a goal and a strategy

Start with your end goal in mind. In a sentence or two (or less!) you should be able to explain exactly what your blogging strategy is supposed to accomplish. How is this content helping reach your business objectives? Talk with your team and do what you can together to ensure the goal is as clear as possible. No piece of content should be random or lacking purpose, even if it’s a short blog. Really examine your sales process to determine how you can use blogging to support it, and how you want to drive people through your funnel.


2. Make sure the pieces support the goal

Higher ranking SEO might get more people to your website, but that isn’t as important as getting the right people to your website. If you’re blogging just for the sake of it, without putting your sales goal to the forefront, your SEO efforts won’t provide as much return as they could. Have benchmarks and review points in place to adjust your blogging strategy, and make sure to review every piece so it does the best job it can.


3. Use inbound marketing techniques to further your sales

Once you’ve written the content that gets more qualified buyers to your site, you have to continue nurturing them along your sales funnel. If you’ve properly set up goals, you should know where to drive your leads for the next stage of the buying process. Setting up CTAs is the easiest way to do this, but depending on your overreaching content strategy, you could use individual blog posts in a multitude of ways.


4. Continue improving the rest of your online presence

Blogging is only one part of a content strategy, which, ideally, covers everything you produce— from website pages to social media posts. While blogging can generate an improvement, you need to make sure all of your content strategy is optimized to drive qualified leads to your sales team. You can do this yourself or hire an external agency, freeing up your resources to work on further nurturing those sales instead of trying to keep up to the constantly-moving target that is SEO.

Your Online Properties – Is There Anybody Home?

We all know the trick when you are off on vacation. Leave lights on, stop the mail delivery, have someone drop by often. The idea is to dissuade break-ins by giving an impression that there is someone at home – all the time.

I’m sure it’s true that most of the baddies would prefer to target homes with no one there or homes with reduced chance that people will return home in the middle of a burglary.

Vacant, crumbling house

So, neglect of this trick leaves us vulnerable. That same vulnerability occurs when you neglect your online properties – websites, blogs, social media accounts. The worst is you get hacked and you don’t notice it immediately. Even without an online “break-in” subtle damage can occur. It can be equally costly.

The world may think that your business is on vacation.


Are There Signs of Life to New Visitors?

New visitors often look for some sign that your online information is current. They may look for something on your website that has a date. Many websites have a year in the footer, which is intended to show the last time the site was updated. Social media and blog posts (sometimes) have dates attached to them. All of this is proof that you care about your online properties and are maintaining them regularly. Proof that there is somebody at home.

I recently went to a website of an industrial manufacturer to find the last update of their site was 2012. What impression did that leave with me? I wondered if they were still in business (they are). Not good for attracting new business.

Corporate websites are built to support business. Many businesses are online because they have to be. Modern buying takes place at least partially online as shoppers gather information before buying. If a website is neglected it’s a message that online is not important to that business. Buyers can’t have access to the most current information to support an eventual purchase.


Are There Signs of Life to Return Visitors?

Let’s say someone has been to a website before and they return. In the online world, return visitors are gold. Most shoppers do not make a purchasing decision on their first visit. If they return, they have made the most important step possible to becoming a future customer or client. These golden return visitors must be treated with the highest regard.

They may return to a website to check on something that caught their attention first visit, but they will notice if things look the same. No problem if it’s a day later, but if they return in a month they may also be looking for something new – corporate news, product news – some sign of life in that business. If there are no changes it may not jeopardize their reason for returning. If they are returning to more than one site, sites that show signs of life have a huge advantage in impressing return visitors.

The days of a website as an online brochure are over. If you think of your website as static then you will get about the same reaction to it as what most brochures produce these days – a disinterested “meh”.

So, get in the game and show your online visitors that there is somebody home.

Effective Simplicity – 3 Steps to Building an Online Marketing Plan

Effective marketing can help a business soar. Business people know this. Just watch a few episodes of the CBC’s “Dragons Den” to hear the most common response to the question, “What do you need the money for?” Pretty much everyone’s reply includes “marketing”. From launching a new business to growing an existing enterprise, the business world knows the difference marketing makes.

Online businesses rely on marketing to spread the word of not only their stellar products and services, but also word of their very existence on a very crowded Internet.

A marketing plan is the cornerstone of marketing a business, regardless the size or type of business. Online businesses must have a plan in place as an anchor and a guide. Plans can be as complex or as simple as businesses themselves, but for our purposes today we will talk about the components in a simple, basic plan.


effective marketing plan


1) Pick your channels.

The Internet offers many marketing channel choices:

  • social media marketing
    • Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter ads and sponsored posts
  • online marketing
    • content creation, search engine optimization, blogging
  • online advertising
    • online display ads, search engine marketing (Adwords)
  • offline advertising
    • print ads, TV, radio
  • events marketing
    • trade shows

You must pick those that make sense to your particular business. The shotgun approach of trying everything and throwing as much as you can to see what sticks makes no sense. This leads us to the next important point:

2) Do a few things extremely well.

Having picked your channels, now is the time to define what you are looking for from these channels and to execute them effectively.

The quick answer to what you are looking for is “more sales”. This is in no way specific enough. You wouldn’t tell your sales staff to just go forth and make “more sales” without being more specific on what’s expected of them. The same holds true for your selected marketing channels.

Examples of further goal definitions include:

  • increased visits to the website
  • requests for demos of products and/or services
  • click-throughs to online offers
  • increased engagement with potential clients/customers
  • downloads of unique content specific to your business

Obviously your end goal is to sell, but these specifics help to define which channels would be the most effective with these mini-goals. In online, rarely does a visitor go directly to a sale without involvement of the above.

Execution of these channels and tactics must be done effectively. Every detail possible. It’s far better to do something thoroughly and properly that doing lots of things half-assed. The key approach is take your time and learn this stuff really well.

3) Measure, tweak, and measure again.

Measure the results of your efforts. Is there room for improvement? What needs to be tweaked or changed?

The eventual results (or lack thereof) will either lead to your happy place or to the realization that this or that channel is simply not working.

The greater the expertise you have in these areas the easier it will be to get the results and the more efficient you will be with your time and resources. There are some really great tools for measuring how things are going at any time in the process. A common complaint is there are too many tools and no one has the time to learn them.

A simple, basic online marketing plan, in concept, is not that difficult to conceive or execute. There are many online resources to assist in learning all the details. The channels, themselves, such as Google Adwords and Facebook advertising, are deceptively simple to use by just about anyone.

Why, then, are there agencies and specialists that offer help in these areas? The answer lays in the details. Specialists know this stuff, inside and out, and can deliver these services effectively and efficiently. You can do it yourself, but it’s like those TV ads of the guy holding a scalpel to his chest while on the phone with a surgeon – should you really be doing this?

Regardless if your online marketing plan is DIY, or supported by the pros, simple and basic is a good starting point. Often, a simple approach is the most effective approach.

How to Unleash Your Content Marketing Superheroes

In marketing your organization online, “content is king” is more truth than cliché. All the advertising in the world cannot compensate for a lack of substance on a website. As Bill Gates observed back in 1996, “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

Generating original, relevant content can be a daunting task for many organizations. Transmitting expertise and knowledge, in just the right online doses, can be difficult to start, edit and polish. It can cause procrastination and neglect in building a website beyond something that just looks good. The power to rise above your competitors resides in your own staff. These tips will help shed reluctance and release their inner content marketing superheroes.

Content marketing superhero
Image Credit: cyano66/Thinkstock

Commit to a Content Strategy

At a minimum, everyone should commit to extending your organization’s expertise and value to your online presence. This will help bring the internal perception of your website to something more than just an online brochure and as something that is important to everyone in the organization. This can get staff thinking about what needs to be online to reflect what your organization is really about and how to attract and impress new visitors.

Draw up a Content Calendar

A content calendar is your plan on how your business will deliver its expertise and uniqueness online. It is the details on how to implement your content strategy.

A content calendar describes the topics, details and schedule you will follow to keep an ongoing delivery of your organization’s value online. Content delivery needs to be consistent with no gaps. Visitors need a reason to return to your website. Each time they do is your opportunity to further a relationship. A calendar keeps you focused on your online commitment.

Start With an Outline

Content can be in any form that your target audience finds engaging; blogs, guides, videos, case studies. All of these formats begin with an outline. Begin by answering this question: What is it that you are saying and to whom? Answering this should lead to what would be the most effective format for your message.

After the “what” and “who”, make notes of the major details to deliver your message. Point form is fine. The idea is to capture your ideas without a lot of censoring at this point. Editing and polishing are the last steps.

Get Help if Needed

If your organization has the necessary skills in copywriting/editing, graphic design, video production, website maintenance, and content promotion, you are ready to polish your content and publish it via (or linked to) your website. If not, you’ll need some help.

Many businesses do not have all of these skills. Not having all of these may have held them back from producing original content in the first place. The point is that the guts of original content best comes from your organization, regardless if you have all of the resources to complete the package. Your organization’s expertise and knowledge is the foundation to all original content creation, and original content is the best content.

You may need help with the strategy, or the calendar, or the polish and promotion of the content. Regardless, your own staff can be content marketing superheroes by tapping into the knowledge they have and use everyday. They just need to commit to it and get started. They may be surprised and proud of what it can end up as. Some of the greatest superheroes are those that didn’t know they had it in them.

Video: Now a Must and no longer a Maybe

YouTube_crazy.jpgAs a marketer, of course, I believe in video and integrating it into my overall marketing strategy. But as a project manager with a budget to manage, whenever something had to go, it would also be the video topic that would be postponed or assigned to later ”when we have more money”.

Although video is a must in any content strategy, it is also difficult to startup and even more, to maintain. Yes, you will read many blogs, especially these days, that state: Video is a MUST! 2015 was even proclamed as the year of video with 50% of online videos accounting for 50% of all mobile traffic.

Here are my top 3 tips on how to do video the right way and for the right reasons…Not only because you read a blog about it or because you want your company to be YouTube famous!


Tip 1: Be Authentic

No matter what you do, remain true to your brand. Yes, video can be your way to do something different, test the waters or think outside the box but whatever the strategy, remember your brand. No need to be boring if you are the head of marketing at a stuffy and conservative company but also no need to be making a dance video and having your staff make a lipdub to look cool. Take the time to think about your message and the goal of your video project:

– What is your message?
– Who is your audience?
– What emotions or values do you want to express in your videos? And how can you do that?
– What do you want to put forth? Your Customers? Your Product? Your Service? Your Staff?


Tip 2: Be Proud

Invest the money and produce good quality. It is that simple. I have recently gone through the experience of searching for an agency and realized that depending on the quality you want, prices can vary. But remember to keep it simple and be proud of what you produce.

If you don’t yet have a Hollywood budget than don’t look for a Hollywood storyboard!

Sometimes, we get overly excited by what is being proposed and forget what is the purpose of the video project or, other times, we are so focused on costs that we start producing shaky and cheap  videos with no intro or exit animations although we want to communicate our company’s professionalism. Can you see the confusion or possible misinterpretation?

– Take the time to go through the thought process in tip #1 and look carefully at the proposals you receive.
– Call and talk to agencies to invite the right ones to your bid and avoid being disappointed or
– Start with a good freelancer and test him out to see what he is capable of…you might be surprised and it might be enough for year 1.

To learn more about content marketing and how to keep up with the ever increasing speed of content generation, read up on the Marketing Process with my colleague Scott Vetter.

Tip 3: Be a Game-Changer

What I mean here is not to want to go viral over night or make an impact in the YouTube world but more to make a difference for your customers. Are you adding value to their overall experience? And remember to centre their needs in the goals of your project.

– Your customers are asking how to use your product? Create clear and concise tutorials that look professional, are helpful and clear.
– You want to become a reference in your market? Get your customers in front of a camera and share their best experiences with your new potential audience. It will also reinforce your business relations and add credibility amongst your partners.
– Your want to put show your great service? Share the spotlight with your staff and talk about all the great work they do in a day for your customers.
– You want to become a thought leader in your market? Interview your CEO and discuss important topics in your industry. Create content that will be shared and that can be used for years to come, by anyone.


The only way you will make a difference is by being transparent, honest and real. Produce content that you would also be proud to share and promote and remember to stay true to your brand.

Can’t see the fundamentals for the trends?

Creating a meaningful website

Natural photos and bold colours. Hero sliders and parallax feature strips. Material Design and micro-interactions. These were among the trends to watch in 2015 and the predictions for 2016. Trends are ever-changing – otherwise, they wouldn’t be trends! – and it’s important to keep up with current design and navigation preferences to give your website visitors the user experience they are seeking. However, in our rush to keep up with the online Jones’, it’s important that we don’t get lost in the trends and forget about the basic principles of a good website.  If you fail to deliver meaningful, relevant content and a welcoming, accessible user experience, you’ll end up with a pretty-looking website that still fails to engage your target audience.

Giant redwood trees, Felton, California
Photo credit: Jupiterimages / Creatas / Thinkstock / 86532049

So, what are the fundamentals?

  • Above all, identify your business objectives: What does success look like for your business? What does your website need to offer to help make that happen? What do you want visitors to accomplish on your site? What unique value do you offer them?
  • Next, define your target audiences: Who are you ideal customers? What do they want to achieve when they come to your website? What sort of content are they looking for?
  • Develop a strategy and stay focused: How will your website help your leads, qualified prospects, and customers achieve their goals? What web elements will complement your customer engagement efforts and facilitate your sales process? How can you make your site inviting and useful without being cluttered?
  • Develop your site structure with the user in mind: How does your target audience want to interact with you? How should your site menus be set up so that your valuable content is easy to find? Does your site navigation enable your visitors to achieve their objectives each time they visit?
  • Invest in the creation of compelling, intelligent content: Is your content written specifically for the web to ensure easy scanning and readability?  Have you added engaging graphics, video, and audio to augment the text? Is your content truly relevant and valuable to your target audience?
  • Make it easy for your audience to communicate with you and share your content: Do you have easy-to-use contact and feedback forms? Sharing buttons? Links to your social media channels?
  • Incorporate SEO: Did you consider Search Engine Optimization, with relevant and on-trend keywords, tags, and messaging throughout your website? Have you identified where you can provide links to external content and expert resources, and which of those expert sources are willing to provide links back to your content?
  • Foster ongoing lead generation and nurturing: Do you have Calls to Action (CTAs)that drive visitors to your website in all your promotional campaigns, social media activities, and events? Have you published blogs or articles that establish your expertise and set you apart from your competition? Have you implemented workflows that nurture leads through your sales funnel?
  • Evaluate and respond to your website traffic– Have you set up analytics tools to assess site traffic, performance and achievement of goals? Have you asked your audience for feedback on whether your site is meeting their needs? Do you have a process in place to follow up on that feedback and the results of your analysis?


Whatever the current trends or the “next big thing” may be, these essential building blocks for a successful website never change. So go ahead and add that widget or wiz-bang feature that you heard about on Twitter, but make sure they are building on, not taking the place of, your strategic, content-driven foundation.

One last thought worth mentioning: In some cases, the lines between trends and fundamentals are blurred. Case in point: Responsive Web Design has held a prominent spot in “Top 10” lists of trends for the last few years, but this has moved beyond trendy to become a design imperative – a fundamental – given the predominance of smartphone and table browsing today. Similarly, well-implemented micro-experiences promise to make a user’s interaction with your site simple, streamlined and personal. For example, “web applications where, instead of transferring to a new screen to enter some data or complete a task, the cell simply adapts to allow the task to be completed right there on the spot.”[i] Think also “of funny images, expressions, hidden functionality, smart personalized data and more.” [ii] But as appealing and user-friendly as these elements are, they will still fall short if the proper groundwork isn’t laid first.

A shrewd strategy, well-crafted content that delivers real value to your prospects and customers, and carefully considered measurement and follow-up are the roots of an effective website that will convert leads, close business, and delight customers. Make sure you can see the forest despite the trees.


[i] Source: “Web design trend predictions for 2016 – 2017” by Matthew Mombrea for Bytestream, IT World.

[ii] Source: “Top Web Design Trends To Watch In 2016” by Tomas Laurinavicius  for Forbes.I


The Marketing Process Has Changed – Has Your Content Kept Pace?

Illustration of the buyer's journey

It’s old news that customers have changed how they shop and buy. Thanks to the Internet, customers have a massive amount of information, reviews and feedback on virtually anything they want to buy, and they seek it out prior to making a buying a decision. Consumers are more in control of their purchasing behaviour than ever before. This changing dynamic has developed a new approach towards the marketing and sales process.

Companies like SharpSpring realized this discrepancy and created software tools to help create, manage and analyse inbound marketing tactics. A new perspective has evolved out of necessity to better address consumers needs. Sales and marketing are starting to work in harmony to provide a seamless experience along the prospect – consumer – brand ambassador journey.

This never-ending process is aptly depicted by Altimeter’s Dynamic Customer Journey (shown below). It’s not so much a marketing funnel or sales cycle, but an ongoing experience controlled by the customer as to how and when they choose to seek information and buy.


So what does this shift mean for your organization? How do you attract, convert, close and delight new customers? Radical inbound marketers will tell you that the old ways of marketing (e.g. broadcast media, such as newspapers, television, direct mail, cold calling) are falling on deaf ears and a waste of time. Obviously, that isn’t totally true. But, it is true that consumers are less likely to listen to uninvited messages that tell them why they need something. Consumers are now motivated to seek out the information they want, whenever they feel they need it. The intent and tone of what they seek will be to inform and enlighten, not to sell them.

Your target market may be more interested in a blog, review or rating, than a corporate brochure online. In fact, prospects often seek out information provided by anyone other than the manufacturer/seller of the product/service. They are seeking seemingly unbiased opinion (yes, I realize that is an oxymoron) to help clarify their buying decision.

For this reason, content generation has become one of the primary marketing efforts to inform, educate and subtly persuade. (Yes, marketing is still about persuading.) A mind-numbing plenitude of content is poured into the ether every day in the form of web pages, blogs, reviews, whitepapers, posts, comments, ratings, videos, presentations, animated graphics, photos, emails, texts, podcasts… Realizing that you need a content strategy to help position your information with your target market is the easy part — how do you effectively get your message to the right people at the right time?

There is no quick fix or easy means of successfully reaching out to your desired audience. Being noticed among the clamour of content relies on several skills (strategic marketing, product/service/industry knowledge, editorial strength, creative prowess, online media familiarity, SEO expertise), time (it is largely an organic process) and money (unless you are capable of doing it all yourself). Hence the growth in content marketers, strategists and experts. Taking advantage of such a professional or competent agency is probably a smart marketing investment. Certainly, including content as a central component of your marketing plan will help you to successfully reach your target audience and maintain a relationship with them.