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5 Web Design Blunders Every Business Should Avoid

Thinking about building a new website for your business? Considering re-building one that you’ve had for a few years? While the project may seem simple enough at the start, inevitably it becomes more and more complex — and easy to make mistakes.

Working with a great web design agency such as GREENCREST will help you avoid the five most common blunders businesses make online:

Mobile Un-friendly

Over half of all website traffic is mobile now – and it’s still growing. Five to ten years ago, businesses may have been able to get away with a desktop-only site, but that’s no longer the case. Today, companies must have a responsive website that is mobile friendly to survive in today’s smartphone-first world.

Call to In-action

What do you want website visitors to do when they arrive on your page? If you don’t know the answer to this question, do not begin a website design project. Every great website design has a strong call to action “above the fold” — visible when someone first lands on the page.

BUT, don’t jump the gun. If you sell a complex product that is extremely expensive and takes months to complete a typical sales process, do not put a “Buy Now” button on the page. Rather, think about what steps customers typically take in their journey and provide valuable resources to help them make informed decisions. Great calls to action include “Download the Ultimate Guide,” “Schedule Your Free Consultation,” and “Sign Up for a Webinar.”

Ignoring Search Engines

Before engaging with a brand, consumers and business decision-makers do an average of six to 12 searches online. And the overwhelming majority start with a search engine such as Google. If you want people to find your business online, then you need to invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of creating website content and following best practices that lead to ranking highly on search engines and gaining organic website traffic.

Another common blunder that businesses make is trying to “do SEO” after a website is launched. It’s best to begin your project with SEO in mind — you’re much more likely to succeed and avoid wasted investment in content that’s not optimized.

Who Ya’ Gonna Call?

Believe it or not, some businesses are so focused on the call to action and other design elements, they forget to make it easy for customers to contact them.

It should be extremely clear how customers can reach you, and you should provide multiple options including phone, email and web forms at a minimum. One of our favorite design standards is to include a small phone icon in the top right portion of a mobile website that allows customers to click and call you directly.

Set and Forget

Websites require constant maintenance and upkeep. Once your brand-new website is launched, the work is not over. You’ll want to continuously apply security patches and make sure your platform stays up to date.

The other thing to keep in mind is that websites are nothing like diamonds — they do not last forever. The web design your business proudly launched 10 years ago probably looks like, well, it was from 10 years ago. Think of your website as digital storefront — it tells a story to customers of how much you invest in and value your business.

If you’re ready to get started on your next website, contact us at GREENCREST. We can help you strategize, plan, build and succeed online.

Improving Company Culture: Making the Rounds Has a Positive Impact on Culture


A blueprint for rounding

Believe it or not, culture has a huge impact on a company’s ability to deliver its brand promise to the marketplace. It takes the entire team to care about the company’s mission, and caring starts with top leaders showing genuine concern for employees.

One small but smart step to improving culture is getting in the habit of weekly rounds. This involves leaders scheduling time to touch base with employees, make a personal connection, find out what’s going well and determine what improvements can be made.

Rounding is more than “face time” by leaders. It’s meaningful. It’s the heart and soul of “evidence-based leadership.” In order for organizations to benefit from rounding, it must be consistent, taught to all managers and hardwired into your culture.

Don’t assume that rounding is easy. It isn’t – but, over time, you’ll see the results are worth the effort. Here are some steps to follow.

  1. Tell your employees what you plan. Any time a leader changes his or her behavior, employees tend to get jumpy. Be honest. Tell them up front, “I want to be a better leader and I need your help. I want to find out what’s working well and what’s not working so well.”
  2. Prepare a scouting report. Start with a basic knowledge of the current problems. For instance, if you know a department is short-staffed, put it on the report. When you start making rounds, you can talk intelligently about the issues.
  3. Make a personal connection. Ask about a personal interest, a sick parent or how a child is doing in school. This is relationship building. Be genuine. It takes
    time to build.
  4. Mention an issue that was raised. Show the employee that you’ve solved the problem or that you’re working on it.
  5. Ask five key questions. Keep your tone and words as positive as possible. Just listen.
    • What is working well today?
    • Are there any individuals I should be recognizing?
    • Do you have the tools and equipment you need to do your job?
    • Is there anything we or I could do better?
    • What else would you like me to know?
  6. Solve problems. Don’t throw anyone under the bus. Obviously, there will be circumstances you can’t control. But people appreciate knowing that you will try. Sincere effort goes a long way.
  7. Record issues that arise in a log. Tracking feedback creates structure and will help you hardwire the process into your company. Writing things down makes them official and more likely to get done.
  8. Recognize and reward those identified by peers as high performers. This might mean conveying a sincere word of thanks, such as citing who complimented him or her, or making a small financial gesture or gift.
  9. Repeat. Make rounds on a regular schedule, at least once a week. Don’t risk losing momentum or you’ll risk mediocre results. The cost of improving culture by making the rounds is only an investment of your time. Try it and let me know how it impacts your culture.

Snapchat: Should Your Organization Consider It?

If you think Snapchat is just for kids, think again. The extremely popular social media platform is gaining traction with savvy brands and marketers, but is it a fit for your company? Consider the advantages the platform offers to determine if adding Snapchat to your social media arsenal makes sense.

Ability to reach a younger audience

First, a few facts. Snapchat is hottest among the millennial and Generation Z demographics, with over 70 percent of users under the age of 25. Young people with a smartphone are likely on Snapchat; in fact, more than 60 percent of Americans ages 13 to 34 with a smartphone are already there. What does this mean for your company? Essentially, if you’re marketing your products or services to a younger audience, you should go where your audience is and give the platform serious consideration.

A growing audience of older users

You’re not off the hook if younger people aren’t your target market. Just like many other social media platforms, as Snapchat matures, the platform’s users are skewing older as well. In fact, it is growing fastest among users over 35, with a 224 percent growth rate in the last quarter of 2016 when compared to 2015. While Snapchat might not be a part of your marketing strategy next quarter, it likely may be next year.

Less competition

While many brands have been on the bread-and-butter social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for years, Snapchat is less popular (although growing rapidly) among businesses. Competition for your audiences’ attention is fierce on the conventional platforms; Snapchat could offer a window of opportunity to go where your competition isn’t.

It’s different

Snapchat goes beyond likes and comments to a new and creative realm of social media. Custom geofilters and stickers allow you to promote your brand and special events to users in pre-determined locations. A lens can be customized with creative ideas to promote your organization. Your story is a fun way to give users an inside look at your business. While content on the platform is only temporary — snaps and chats disappear after they have been viewed and stories only hang around for 24 hours — this limitation can be a fun challenge when developing new content ideas.

Need professional assistance with your social media? Contact the GREENCREST experts!

 

Helpful Tips for Successful Holiday Marketing Campaigns

holiday marketingYear after year, consumers are bombarded with hundreds of holiday marketing messages. So, how can your company stand out and create a successful holiday marketing campaign?

We discuss some of the best tips to follow that will help your holiday marketing message stand out and make an impact with your target consumers.

Get the Timing Right

Consumers look forward to the cheer of the holiday season all year long, but blasting them with holiday marketing messages about sales or new products too far in advance will take all of the excitement out of the end of the year and only add annoyance. However, companies still want to get their message out with enough time to make an impression on consumers and give them enough time to make purchasing decisions.

A great option is to begin promoting your campaign about one-to-two months before the actual event, and continue to mix up the messaging to make sure it doesn’t get tired. Adding words like “coming up,” “happening now” and “last chance” are all ways to express the same excitement and importance at different stages of the campaign.

Incorporate Meaningful Messages

For most companies, the goal of a holiday marketing campaign is to increase sales, brand awareness or company engagement. However, consumers are commonly less receptive to messaging that is all about the deal. People react well to “realness,” so a message from a heating and cooling company encouraging consumers to update their furnace to ensure they can stay warm and cozy with the family this holiday is much more enticing than simply announcing furnace price reductions. It’s important to communicate the emotional benefits as well as the rational.

Holiday marketing messages not meant to drive sales can still succeed in creating customer loyalty and brand recognition. Find ways to be creative and personal when wishing your customers a happy holiday. Depending on the nature of your business, something as simple as an email with a warm holiday message can be just as effective as sending out a personalized gift. Think about what approach best fits your business and brand and go from there.

Don’t Forget About Digital

Whether much of your sales come from e-commerce or not, it is important to have your online marketing efforts match flawlessly with your direct marketing strategies. Consumers tend to conduct online research about companies, products, sales and more before taking action or making a purchase. If your company website doesn’t reflect what your holiday marketing messaging is saying – or if the website is of poor quality – your marketing efforts might go to waste. Keep your website up-to-date and optimized to ensure a seamless transition from marketing message to website for your users.

Use Social Media to Engage Customers

Sharing all of your holiday marketing messaging on social media is one of the best ways to engage and expose your customers to your message. If you send your customers or clients holiday gifts, encourage them to post and share photos online and tag the company. If you’re featuring a holiday sale, create an incentive around someone getting the most likes or shares on a post to receive extra discounts. There are many ways social media strategies can be incorporated into your messaging to enhance customer engagement and satisfaction and help boost your sales.

Whether your strategy is to increase product sales, promote a specific sale, or simply thank your customers and wish them a happy holiday, it’s best to create the best holiday marketing campaign possible. Sending out meaningful messaging at the appropriate time in the appropriate fashion is key in making sure your campaign, and your company in general, resonates in the minds of your consumers.

The season is upon us, so be sure to contact the team at GREENCREST with any questions you may have about your holiday marketing messaging!

 

Four GREENCREST clients named to Smart Business Magazine’s Smart 50 list

 

GREENCREST, a full-service marketing agency, celebrated Sept. 20 when four of the agency’s clients were honored by Smart Business Magazine at a ceremony in Columbus.

Dianne Grote Adams of Safex, Inc., Phil Derrow of Ohio Transmission Corporation, Jennifer Kuntz of Greenleaf Job Training Services, Inc., and J. Michael Vargo of VARGO® Companies were named to the publication’s Smart 50 list, which recognizes the top 50 executives of leading companies in the Columbus region for their passion and adherence to the tenets of the Smart 50 award: innovation, impact and sustainability.

While each of the honorees’ businesses vary dramatically in products and services, all four leaders have built their companies with an emphasis on customer service and top-notch quality, in addition to several unique factors that differentiate their companies from the competition.

  • At Safex, Grote Adams has built a company laser focused on providing high-quality environmental, health and safety training and consulting to companies throughout the United States. The company culture emphasizes employee well-being — the health and safety of clients’ employees and the well-being of her own team. Associates enjoy a flexible work environment and ample professional development opportunities.
  • Employee loyalty is top of mind at Ohio Transmission Corporation as well. During the recession, Derrow stuck to the company’s commitment of no layoffs, and did not lay off any of its associates despite a 25-percent drop in revenue.
  • While Greenleaf Job Training Services already had a successful business helping people with disabilities secure employment, Kuntz pushed the envelope and developed four new business-to-business initiatives to drive new revenue to her company.
  • Mike Vargo leads a company that is not content to rest on its laurels. VARGO®’s efforts to develop new features of the company’s Continuous Order Fulfillment Engine (COFE®) software impressed the judges.

At the ceremony, one GREENCREST client took home an additional top honor when Derrow received the specialty award for achievement in sustainability. When accepting the award, he again emphasized his obligation to his employees.

“It became clear that the responsibility is to ensure that the business outlives whatever I might do, so that when it’s time for me to move on, the business continues on as well for our 800 associates,” he said.

That sentiment – of continuing to look forward – is sure to bring continued success to all of the Smart 50 honorees as they grow and expand their businesses for the future.

 

Direct Mail Marketing: Best Practices for a Digital World

direct mail marketingDespite contrary belief, direct mail marketing is not dead. In fact, with companies focusing on digital marketing efforts, now is the best time to make sure you have a solid print marketing strategy.

Direct mail marketing is still as effective as digital when strategically implemented. Keep in mind the following best practices when developing your next marketing strategy:

Cut through the clutter

Develop an eye-catching direct mail piece that will make prospects stop and ask, “What’s this?” Test out various sizes and types of mailers to determine what works best. Make sure all of your pieces are consistent in branding so recipients know the mailers all came from the same company.

Get personal

A carefully written personal letter to your prospects can go a long way. Personalize the letter as much as possible using names, locations, interests or information from previous discussions with a prospect. Write the letter with the mindset that you want the recipient to feel as though it was written specifically for him/her. As always, include a call-to-action to entice the prospect to reach out.

Use print to augment other efforts

With a thoughtful marketing strategy, you can use print to augment other marketing efforts. It’s always good for a prospect to receive information about your company from a variety of channels. Just make sure your strategy and branding is consistent across all channels.

Develop a strategic mailing list

Your direct mailing list can make or break a campaign. Take the time to understand your ideal customer and make sure your mailing list targets your most valuable prospect. If you’re purchasing a mailing list, consider the different categories of lists available:

  • Specialty list: Reach niche markets based on key behaviors.
  • Custom list: Target your list based on specific demographics.
  • Cloned list: Find customers like your best existing customers.

Track your efforts

Though it takes a little more effort than with digital marketing, it’s still possible to track your direct mail marketing efforts. Consider creating print-specific landing pages on your website and track how many individuals visit that page. You can also include promo codes on your direct mail pieces and ask that prospects mention the code when calling or filling out a form online.

How can your company use direct mail marketing to enhance its marketing strategy? Contact us today — we’d love to hear about your challenges and successes with direct mail marketing.

 

Five Things You Can do Today to Improve Your Organization’s Social Media

social mediaAs the pace of business continues to accelerate in an increasingly digital world, staying on top of social media can feel like one more thing to add to an already lengthy to-do list. From the newest platform to the latest trends, creating a social media strategy that makes sense for your organization — while keeping within budget and staff time constraints — can be challenging.

Here are five changes you can make today to improve the ROI of your social media plan.

Post more frequently

If your Twitter account hasn’t been updated since 2013 and your last Facebook post was three months ago, you need to think about posting more frequently. Free scheduling tools, such as Hootsuite, make scheduling content a cinch. Although advice differs on optimal post frequency, try to aim for several tweets a day and a daily post to Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Engage with others

It’s easy to take the ‘social’ out of social media, particularly when content is scheduled. Make sure you set aside some time each week — and ideally each day — to review your content and engage with other brands and people relevant to your business. The old principle of ‘you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ applies here. If a customer engages with you, make sure to reply as quickly as possible. Fifty-three percent of customers expect a response from a comment directed to a company in less than an hour.

Make it look pretty

Social media is a visual medium, so if you aren’t including images and video, you are missing an opportunity to reach your audience. In fact, tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets than tweets without images. Fortunately, you don’t need a graphic designer to create engaging content. Free tools make it manageable for anyone — even the less artistic — create beautiful graphics and professional videos.

Stay up-to-date

Perhaps you think Snapchat is just for kids, or that Twitter is full of trolls. Whatever your opinion may be, it pays to stay informed when it comes to social media platforms and trends. Subscribe to free newsletters to pick up new ideas and to make sure your organization keeps up with the competition.

Get your staff involved

No one knows your company better than your staff, so consider asking your team to engage with your company on social media. Encourage employees to submit photos of company events and to share your content with their personal networks. Your staff can be powerful allies in sharing your company’s message with a larger audience.

Need professional assistance with your social media? Contact the GREENCREST experts!

 

PowerPoint Best Practices for a Stronger Presentation

We’ve all experience it: Sitting at a seminar, and the presenter pulls up a text-heavy slideshow and begins reading it word for word, slide by slide. There may be valuable information on the screen but the second a PowerPoint is read like a script the audience’s mind is wondering off elsewhere.

We all are probably also guilty of overlooking PowerPoint best practices. A PowerPoint should enhance your presentation, not take away from it. Give a stronger, more memorable presentation with these simple tips.

Keep it simple

A PowerPoint packed with paragraphs of text will tend to distract or bore your audience, taking the focus away from you. Avoid blocks of text by breaking up bullet points into multiple slides.

Use appropriate type sizes

If you’ve ever sat in the back of a room during a presentation, you know it can be difficult to see what’s on the screen. As a general rule, your font should never be smaller than a 24-point size. Think of your PowerPoint as a billboard — fewer words and big, bold text grabs attention.

Don’t get too animated

Your PowerPoint shouldn’t be overly complicated with dozens of lively transitions. In fact, too many different animations can become distracting and take the attention away from you. The presentation should be about what you’re saying, not what’s happening on the slides.

Use your PowerPoint as an aide, not a focal point

The goal of any presentation should always be to capture your audience’s attention and keep it on you. Your audience should be engaging with you, not staring at your PowerPoint. One way to get creative is to pose a question on your PowerPoint but encourage audience participation and engagement. Your audience is more likely to absorb your message if they feel like they’re having a conversation rather than being given a lecture.

Be visual

Instead of text slides, consider using visuals such as images, graphs, videos and diagrams. This is where you can really get creative. Try different types of imagery to engage your audience — use infographics to present information or display a single, powerful image that grabs their attention. Remember: You don’t always need to use text. Find unique, high-quality images to illustrate your main points.

As a presenter, there’s nothing worse than feeling like your audience’s eyes have glazed over and they’ve completely disengaged. Remember those PowerPoint best practices, or contact us at GREENCREST, to ensure that your next presentation is a memorable experience.

 

Seven Tips for a Successful Email Marketing Strategy

successful email marketing strategyEmail marketing, which has become one of the most efficient marketing tactics, makes it easy to engage prospects and maintain relationships with your existing customers. You can even develop a series of emails to help guide a prospect through the buyer’s journey.

With so many companies focusing efforts on email marketing, how do you make sure your message rises to the top and isn’t immediately sent to the trash — or worse, spam — with the rest of them? Consider the following tips for a successful email marketing strategy:

  1. Develop your list

Your top priority for a successful email marketing strategy should be the development of a high-performing email list. There are several different tactics you can use:

  • Gather emails as part of a giveaway or raffle sign-up at trade shows and events
  • Add a sign-up form on your website
  • Continually promote your company’s sign-up link on social media
  • Include a sign-up link in your company’s email signature

Whichever method you choose, always make sure your list targets the right audience. It’s better to have a small, fine-tuned list than a large, generic one.

  1. Get recipients to open your email

The best way to ensure that a recipient opens your email is for it to come from someone they know and trust. Avoid using generic email addresses — like sales@company.com — and instead have it come from an actual person.

Stay away from salesy language in your subject line. Words like free, limited-time, offer and sale increase the likelihood that your message goes straight to spam. Another way to avoid the spam filter is to make sure your subject line is less than 50 characters (32 characters is preferred). If 50 characters isn’t enough for everything you want to say, continue your statement in the preheader text.

  1. Write your content with a purpose

Write your emails with clarity and purpose. When someone opens your email, it should be clear why they received it. If it’s appropriate, personalize your emails with specific information, like a recipient’s name, location and interests, to make your email feel more like a conversation than a marketing message. Also, remember that big blocks of text are off-putting — write so that people can skim through your email.

  1. Design for responsiveness

As more and more people reach for their phones and tablets to check email, it’s important to make sure your emails are responsive. Increase your mobile open rates by making sure your emails adapt based on the reader’s device.

  1. Create a captivating call-to-action (CTA)

Your email should have one goal: To get the consumer to take some sort of action. Whether it’s to register for an event, sign-up for something, contact your organization or purchase a product, your CTA should have a single purpose. Including multiple CTAs gets confusing — make sure all links point to the same end goal.

  1. Know the CAN-SPAM Act

Make sure you take the time to know and understand the CAN-SPAM Act. The last thing you want is to receive a fine (up to $40,654!) for not being compliant. As a general rule, make sure your emails:

  • Don’t use false or misleading “From” and “Reply-To” information
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  • Identify the message as an ad (if applicable)
  • List your physical address
  • Give recipients the choice to opt-out
  1. Test, test and test again

There’s no better way to determine what is or isn’t working in your email strategy than to perform A/B testing. Performing A/B testing can allow you to gauge the impact a design, copy, subject line or scheduling change can have on the success of your email campaigns.

Email marketing can be an effective and cost-efficient marketing method when done correctly. Need help with your email marketing? Contact the GREENCREST experts for a smart email marketing strategy with creative execution.

 

Benefits of Working with a Google Partner Agency

Google Partner. You’ve probably seen that name and badge floating around the internet — but what exactly is a Google Partner?

A Google Partner is a company that has demonstrated AdWords skill and expertise and has helped clients grow their customer base and revenue through AdWords campaigns. Agencies that achieve Google Partner status are dedicated to search advertising and continuously exceed Google’s standards to maintain Google Partner status.

If you’re looking for an agency to help with your digital marketing efforts, it’s important to make sure they’re certified by Google. Here are some of the benefits of working with a Google Partner:

Work with a Certified Staff

Working with a Google Partner agency assures that their staff members are experts in creating and managing strong, successful AdWords campaigns. With access to the most up-to-date practices and training, a Google Partner agency will have the skills needed to optimize your campaigns and ensure continuous growth.

Receive the Full Advantage of AdWords Features

Google Partners have extensive knowledge in all of the features of Google AdWords. This level of mastery provides them with the capability to help their clients become more profitable with the use of:

  • Expanded text ads
  • Progressive demographic targeting
  • Integration with physical locations
  • Ad extensions
  • Sitelink extensions
  • Call tracking
  • Conversion tracking
  • Negative keywords to eliminate wasted spend

Get Help from a Dedicated Google Representative

Getting in touch with someone at Google isn’t always the easiest task. Every Google Partner agency has access to its own Google representative. This means that Google Partner agencies can address and resolve any AdWords-related client issues much faster than non-Google Partner agencies, saving time and money.

Stay Ahead of Competition with Beta Features

Agencies that have earned a Google Partner badge are among the first to have access to Google’s beta features. When Google develops a new feature or application, its partners have access to test these features before it becomes available to the general public, giving you an edge up on any competitors not working with a Google Partner.

Are you ready to make sure your prospective customers will be able to find you as they begin searching online for solutions to their needs?

As a Google Partner agency, GREENCREST thoroughly understands search engine marketing best practices to help its clients increase traffic to their website. Contact us today to see how online marketing can help your bottom line.