Author Archives: Roy Revill

Build a Business Around Your Website: How to Set Your Project & Team Up for Success

The most critical part of cross-functional teams simultaneously executing on small and large projects is the right process. Proper setup and management include four key areas: team, time, tools, and process.

Earlier in this blog series, we talked about the basics in building a website and how to turn your wishes into an actual plan.

In this blog, I’ll cover the four key areas you should focus on to set your project and team up for success: team, time, tools, and process.

Team

We start with your team because it’s the most important. People write the code. People create the design. People manage customers. People that have families, lives, hobbies…

Remembering that people are the most important piece of the puzzle will keep you grounded in what matters and ensure you hit your timelines.

Having clear team roles and responsibilities is important to avoid confusion on who handles what. This means assigning someone to handle requests not related to the current project —such as support requests. If you already have a website or other digital products, this new build will not be the only thing that requires your team’s time. Having clear paths for other inbound requests will minimize the distractions (and delays) caused by managing big and small projects side by side in your sprints.

The team should include the following roles and responsibilities. Sometimes these responsibilities will be shared on one project, but it’s best to avoid if possible.

Product Owner

The product owner or (PO) leads product strategy and project management, as well as design and engineering prioritization.

Their job is to:

  • Ensure the team is happy and productive
  • Ensure the product plan chosen provides the optimal ROI for the business
  • Ensure that all requirements are clear
  • Ensure all assets required are provided when needed to hit the timeline
  • Communicate with and manage stakeholders
  • Set up the tools for UAT, QA, ticket tracking, asset organization, sprint planning, and stakeholder communications
  • Clear the road for the team to meet the target timelines
  • Ensure your team is happy and productive. This was repeated on purpose. A happy and productive team is the most important thing for product and project success.

Not sure what UAT or QA is?

UAT is short for User Acceptance Testing

QA is short for Quality Assurance.

First Comes QA
QA is done with the development and design team. The focus here is catching significant breaks in functionality or formatting. QA is meant to make sure everything is working properly before handing off for stakeholder UAT.

QA typically includes a regression test to check each feature and function detailed in the specification and previously available on the site to ensure it’s all working properly. Regression tests are a quick way to check each use case and note what passed and failed. A good regression test makes a difference between QA representing 5% and 40% of the project time.

I use Google Sheets for the regression plan and Google Forms for the reported issues. I then update the regression plan for the development and design team noting what has passed, failed and why.

Next Comes UAT

UAT is a form of QA focused on stakeholders, allowing them to go through the product or website the way they would naturally. I use Google Forms to collect feedback from stakeholders and Google Sheets to organize feedback into categories: functional, formatting, and content.

You might wonder why use so many tools to organize this information? Why not use JIRA?

  • First, I want to make it easy to collect user feedback.
  • Second, I want to avoid 250 JIRA tickets or Google Sheet comments.

Google forms are easy to complete on any device. JIRA is the tool for support requests and tickets for sprint planning. Prioritizing and organizing feedback directly in the regression plan or the JIRA tickets in the sprint will create a nightmare of confusing inputs. Using external tools, I can communicate with the stakeholder, make sure I understand the issue, then provide the details necessary to the dev or design team to prioritize and address each reported issue.

Technical Captain

The technical captain (or technical team lead) is in charge of the day to day management of your dev team.

Their job is to:

  • Present blockers in meeting timelines to the PO (including support requests or stakeholders breaking the process)
  • Present new functionality, needed or ideal, time estimates by function, and how that functionality would impact the timing
  • Schedule and manage development team project planning meetings for backlog grooming, sprint planning, and daily standups
  • Execute a defined aspect of the build
  • Represent the development team in stakeholder meetings

Design Captain

The design captain (or design team lead) is in charge of delivery for all project design needs.

Their job is to:

  • Present blockers in meeting timelines to the PO (including change requests or stakeholders breaking the process)
  • Present new design or information architecture, needed or ideal, and how that functionality would impact the timing
  • Schedule and manage design team project planning meetings for backlog grooming, sprint planning, and daily standups
  • Execute a defined aspect of the design
  • Represent the design team in stakeholder meetings

Support Captain

The support captain is in charge of managing all stakeholder and user support requests for existing sites or products.

Their job is to:

  • Review and respond to all inbound support requests
  • Fix any bugs in the existing site(s) or product(s)
  • Communicate the status of support requests back to stakeholders and customers
  • Monitor the timing of each support request (response, resolution, time waiting)
  • Escalate critical bugs they cannot handle to team backlog grooming sessions

It doesn’t matter if the team is four or 40, clear roles and responsibilities are critical to meeting product release schedules.

Time

Time comes next. Time management is the simplest but most overlooked part of project planning. Tools and processes impact time management, of course, but here are a few simple practices to reduce distractions.

  1. 15 Minute Meetings. Keep the meetings brief and to the point. If there isn’t a decision to be made, don’t schedule the meeting.
  2. < 1 Hour of Meetings Per Day. Keep the meetings to a maximum per day. Too many meetings dull the mind, and the team needs to be alert and productive.
  3. Blackout Times. Blackout times during the day for team members. Two to three-hour blocks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This will give them ample time to work through big problems and chunks of the project.

Tools

The tools you use should be flexible by project and team. Use what your team is comfortable with. I do not force all of the tools and processes I prefer on any team. Focus on the requirements and make the team part of the process. It’s important to be inclusive, and you’ll also learn from them.

Here is a list of the tools I use by requirement:

Requirement Tools
Internal Communications – 1 on 1 (< 4 messages) Slack, Instant Messenger
Internal Communications – 1 on 1 (> 4 messages) Call, Face to Face Chat
Internal Communications – 1 to many (> 4 messages) GoToMeeting, Face to Face Meeting
External Stakeholder Daily / Needs Communications Email
External Stakeholder Planning Communications GoToMeeting, Face to Face Meeting
UAT – Stakeholder Feedback Google Forms
UAT – Feedback Organization for Team Google Sheets
QA – Regression Test Google Sheets
QA – Feedback Organization for Team JIRA, Google Sheets
Sprint Planning and Monitoring JIRA, Google Sheets
Backlog Grooming and Monitoring JIRA, Google Sheets
Daily Standups (communications) JIRA, Giant Whiteboard, Trello
Progress Tracking JIRA, Google Sheets
Support Request Management & Monitoring JIRA, Google Sheets

 

Enforcing or reinforcing the processes are a key part of the POs job. Once the project has started, for the most part, your job consists of keeping the train on the tracks and clearing the paths.

Keeping the Train on the Tracks

Daily Standups

Daily standups are your most important tool in understanding if the train will be on time and if not—what’s getting in its way. During the standups, each team member should be reporting what’s done, next, any blockers, and anything out of the process. Out of the process refers to stakeholders sending them direct messages about a change to the project or an existing product.

Review progress after daily standups to identify any barriers in meeting goals. Product and project management means paying attention to potential delays. Listen to complaints about blockers or communications issues with stakeholders. Look at what each person is working on and make sure it’s critical to this phase of the project. Many talented people work ahead. Their mind goes off to the ideal, and they forget what’s needed and who’s waiting. It’s the POs job to make sure the team is focused.

Clearing the Tracks

Clearing the tracks means being a great filter. No requests, “bugs” that aren’t really bugs, it’s your job as PO to clear as many things from the tracks as you can to eliminate clutter in the team’s slack, email, or mind.

Here are some examples of dos and don’ts that are useful for setting expectations and transparent processes for stakeholders and team members. The example is based on a company that has several websites used by their marketing and product teams.

TOPIC PROCESS
Content DOs:

  • Ensure your CMS power user (PU) has been consulted first
  • Include your CMS PU on the request
  • Submit requests in Google Form = provide the link
  • If questions, contact PO in Slack
  • Questions to be answered by stakeholder
    • What needs to be updated?
    • Is design required?
    • Has anyone on your team tried to update in CMS? (why/why not/result)

DONTs:

  • Submit a support ticket
  • Communicate directly with development or design staff—they will not respond

What’s a content request? Any request that will adjust text, an image, or the formatting of a text or image on the site including capitalization, bolding, or a URL.

Bugs DOs:

  • Ensure all of the following items are included = (Required)
    • Steps to repeat
    • Device + browser
    • Screenshots or screen recording
    • Prioritization + justification for prioritization (Remember: everything you work on is a P1 for you. However, everything can’t be a P1 for design or development.)

DONTs:

  • Communicate directly with design or development staff—they will not respond

What’s a bug? A bug is a functionality that is broken such as a form not loading or a page showing a 404 error.

New Requests & New Projects DOs:

  • Use a form for any new requests. In this form, you want to ask for critical information to understand the nature and priority of the request.

DONTs:

  • Communicate directly with design or development staff—they will not respond

What’s a new request or project? It is any new functionality for a page or the site including a new link in the navigation, a new landing page for demand gen campaigns or a new rating integration for a product review page.

 

Sharing the Load

Sharing information across sprint planning, support planning, and reporting, and project planning with the team exposes them to the details important to the success of the project. It also gives them authority in the group and experience that’s valuable to their professional development.

Team

Yes, I am repeating team. There’s nothing more important than your team.

Here are a few of the things that I do to make sure the team is happy:

  1. Be inclusive. Include your team in as much of the process as they’d like. While I don’t want to drown them in meetings—if exposure to stakeholders is important to them I make sure they are included and recognized.
  2. Professional development. Speak with them often about their goals and how the projects they are working on are—or are not—meeting those goals. Showing a genuine interest in their professional development is important to their productivity and loyalty to the company and you.
  3. Share the load. Sharing the load across sprint planning, support planning, and reporting, and project planning with the team exposes them to the details important to the success of the project. It also gives them authority in the group and experience that’s valuable to their professional development.
  4. It’s a marathon. Do everything you can to avoid 12 hour days and working weekends. That’s not sustainable, and it shouldn’t be accepted as the norm. Avoid rushed or tired work.
  5. The little things. The little things matter to people. Breakfast if there’s an early day or lunch during long work weeks. Bring their favorite snacks and drinks into meeting rooms. Be thoughtful about what’s important to them.

A lot can happen once you start a project. We’ve given you the foundation for a successful build, and in my next post, I will walk you through the day to day to preparing for a commercial launch.

The post Build a Business Around Your Website: How to Set Your Project & Team Up for Success appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

Top 28 Examples of Unique Construction Business Cards

The construction industry focuses on the execution of thoughtful designs, so construction business cards should reflect that to help attract potential customers. However, many contractors tend to limit their business card designs to classic colors and images that fail to stand out. To help inspire you, we’ve compiled a list of examples to follow. Here…

The post Top 28 Examples of Unique Construction Business Cards appeared first on Fit Small Business.

"The Robin Hood of Algorithms": Why LinkedIn's New Feed Could Be a Game Changer for Marketers

LinkedIn announced today that it plans to overhaul its feed ranking system to help more creators get better engagement on the content they share.

The changes were spurred when the professional networking site discovered that the top 1% of content creators — also known as “power users,” or perhaps influencers — were receiving the vast majority of engagement with their posts.

Meanwhile, the remaining 98%, the site says, was “receiving less [engagement] than ever.”

Here’s how that skew in engagement happened — and how LinkedIn has changed its algorithm to address the problem.

Why LinkedIn Changed Its Feed Ranking Algorithm

Year over year, LinkedIn has experienced noticeable growth in overal engagement with posts appearing in its feed — an average increase of over 50%, the company says. 

Much of the time, that engagement results in a post going viral — that is, LinkedIn members engage with certain posts to the point where the content earns “tens of millions” of likes, comments, and reshares.

On the surface, that seems like a positive development. But, LinkedIn says, there was a problem: The engagement was not evenly distributed, and the site was “in danger of creating an economy where all the gains in viral actions accrued to the top 1% power users.”

Typically, the most popular posts on any social network tend to gain more visibility, which is what was happening to content shared by top influencers.

Emerging brands and content creators, meanwhile, were actually receiving less and less engagement on their posts.

Source: LinkedIn

Besides the obvious issue of this uneven distribution of causing the “richest” content creators on the site — the influencers who already have a large following — to become “richer,” the lack of engagement with the remaining 98% of followers was actually discouraging them from posting again in the future.

That only exacerbated the virality gap, as less content-sharing altogether from the bottom 98% would lead to more eyes on posts from top influencers.

So, LinkedIn formulated a solution.

Why Linkedin’s New Algorithm Could Be a Game-Changer for Marketers

The changes to LinkedIn’s new ranking criteria is multi-fold.

Prior to this overhaul, the feed would prioritize posts according to how likely a given viewer was to engage with it — to like, comment on, or reshare it. That model also took into account the given viewer’s network, and how likely it was to respond to this content in kind.

What was missing was how likely the creator or poster of that content was to “appreciate” the engagement. To put that discrepancy into context, LinkedIn’s Bonnie Barrilleaux and Dylan Wang — who authored the company’s announcement — explain that for major influencers within “the top 1% of creators, one more like or comment from an unknown follower may not mean much.”

For smaller or emerging content creators, however, these likes and comments go a long away. According to Barrilleaux and Wang’s findings, creators who receive 10 or more likes on their content are 17% more likely to post again in the following week. 

That’s why the feed algorithm has been modified to include signals that indicate how much value the creator will place on viewer feedback received on a post. 

“The effect is that we are redistributing a little bit of the attention in the system from the power users to the other creators, so that no one is left behind,” write Barrilleaux and Wang. “This helps ensure that the ‘small’ creators who create high-quality posts can reach out to the community that cares about them.”

creatoroptimization3

Source: LinkedIn

Additionally, LinkedIn’s algorithm changes appear to be moving in a similar direction as that of Facebook, when the social media giant overhauled its News Feed to prioritize content from family and friends over that from Pages.

We’ve already covered the three pillars that LinkedIn’s new model takes into account when ranking creator content:

  1. How likely a viewer is to engage with a creator’s post
  2. How much that viewer’s network will want to see it
  3. How much the original creator will appreciate the first 10 likes of that post

But there could be a fourth, according to the figure below — which is whether or not the content creator is within the viewer’s network. 

creatoroptimization5

Source: LinkedIn

It’s also possible that these moves from LinkedIn could serve as a subtle nod to the drop in Business Page engagement and reach experienced by brands on Facebook — for some, a decline of 50%. 

LinkedIn’s algorithm change — especially within the context of boosting engagement for smaller, emerging content creators — does spark the question: Is this the company’s way of giving smaller brands and figures a chance to shine on another network, where it may have lost reach on another one?

Perhaps. But more than that, says HubSpot CMO Kipp Bodnar, LinkedIn is also responding to a growing user demand for a relevant, personalized experience.

“LinkedIn’s core job is to great a valuable experience for all users. Once a news feed becomes dominated by a small subset of users, then it starts to become less valuable to the broader community,” Bodnar explains. “The company is trying to deliver more value through more personalization.”

So, what kind of impact will this have on the bigger influencers — the top 1% of content creators on LinkedIn?

According to Barrilleaux and Wang, it won’t be much, pointing back to the overall growth in engagement received by all posts in LinkedIn’s feed.

“Taking 8% of the likes away from the top 0.1% still leaves them better off than they were a year ago,” they write. “These changes just help ensure that the rising tide is lifting all the boats in a fair and equitable fashion.”

But should this trend continue, LinkedIn could move further in the direction of Facebook, and re-allocate a growing amount of post engagement from top creators to emerging ones.

“This might not be a huge impact on top creators today but I think that over time they will continue to push in this direction,” says Bodnar. “The audience for posts from top creators could continue to decrease.”

LinkedIn says it will continue to observe and optimize its algorithm as these changes take effect.

19 of the Best Examples of Mobile Website Design

Now more than ever, businesses are focusing on creating delightful mobile website experiences.

After all, Google has been heavily favoring mobile-friendly websites since 2015 when it updated its ranking algorithm in April 2015, and then started indexing mobile sites in March 2018.

And that’s crucial, seeing as there have been more Google search queries on smartphones than on desktop computers and tablets for over a year now.

Going forward, Google will only continue to raise the bar for what it considers to be mobile-friendly (including page load time) and reflect that in its algorithm updates. So if you haven’t been focusing on improving your mobile experience, you’d better prioritize it now, or your search ranking could really suffer. Additionally, HubSpot Research found that half of US consumers are going online on their phones more than on their computers or tablets.

To help inspire any mobile website design changes you’ll be making, here’s a list of 19 companies who really nailed their mobile web experience.

1. Shutterfly

Shutterfly is an online service that allows users to create photo books, personalized cards and stationary, and more. Because more and more people are taking photos and then accessing them using their smartphones, Shutterfly recognized the need to create a great mobile experience for their customers — and they delivered.

Shutterfly accomplishes two key goals on their mobile website:

  • It’s easy for users to find out information about their offerings.
  • They’re selling that information by way of beautiful imagery.

When you arrive on their mobile site, you’ll see Shutterfly’s latest promotion front and center, as well as a large finger-sized sign-in button for returning members — neither of which overpower the user experience.

shutterfly-mobile-website

Scroll down, and users will see large buttons that make it easy for users to quickly select which type of product they’re interested in. Once users click through to one of those options, they’re greeted with large photos showcasing what Shutterfly is capable of for easy browsing.

shutterfly-mobile-website-2

2. Google Maps

Everyone has their favorite map or directions application. Mine is Google Maps, which I use whether I’m walking, driving, biking, or taking public transportation. What’s special about their mobile website is that it’s virtually indistinguishable from their downloadable mobile app.

The screenshots below are taken of their mobile website, but if you’re familiar at all with the app, you’ll notice they look exactly the same. Not only is the appearance identical, but the mobile website has the speed and functionality of the app.

google-maps-mobile-site-1.png

google-maps-mobile-site-2.png

3. Typeform

Typeform is a Barcelona-based tech company with one simple mission: to “make forms awesome.” Their desktop website is really beautifully designed, greeting visitors with succinct copy, high-definition videos, relevant animations, and other, more complex design components.

But for mobile users, they recognized that complex design components like video and animations could significantly affect page load time, among other difficulties. That’s why they actually removed many of them — which decluttered the site and simplified the overall mobile experience. The mobile website is a simpler version of their desktop website, and it’s still beautifully designed.

typeform-mobile-website

Take note of the large buttons on their menu page — perfect for tapping with your finger on a mobile screen.

typeform-mobile-website-2

4. Etsy

Etsy is an ecommerce website where people can buy and sell vintage or handmade items. Most buyers who visit Etsy’s website are there to do one of two things: Either they’re searching for a specific item, or they’re browsing items in categories that interest them.

The mobile website caters to both types of visitors from the very beginning. When you first go to their mobile website, you’re greeted with an option to search for specific items, shops, or categories.

etsy-mobile-site-1.png

Immediately below the search bar are thumbnail images of trending items that showcase some of the most popular things you can buy on Etsy. Mobile users can view these trending items in a collage format, and the images are big enough for them to easily tap with their finger.

etsy-mobile-site-2.png

5. Adrian Zumbrunnen

This is the personal website of Adrian Zumbrunnen, a UX designer, writer, and speaker. When you visit his website, you’ll notice right away there’s something very unique about it: It’s a conversational website.

It almost looks like a text message conversation you’d normally have on your phone — including the ellipsis to show he’s “typing.” Users are given two response options at the end of every exchange, so it’s kind of like a “choose-your-own-adventure” experience.

While the mobile and desktop experience are very similar, the desktop website feels like it was made primarily for mobile — which could be the direction sites will go in the future.

adrian-zumbrunnen.gif

And if you’d prefer not to engage in the conversation-like exchange, you can simply scroll down for details.

zumbrunnen-mobile-site.jpg

6. Elf on the Shelf

Elf on the Shelf is, relatively speaking, a fairly new Christmas tradition based on a children’s book. If you’re unfamiliar, the basic premise is this: The book tells the story of Santa’s scout elves, who are sent by Santa to watch over children in their homes all over the world and report back to Santa.

Along with the book, parents can purchase an elf figurine, which they’ll subtly place somewhere in their house where their kids can see it. Every night leading up to Christmas, parents move the elf to a different location around their house to “prove” to their kids that the scout elves are real and always looking over them.

When you first arrive on Elf on the Shelf’s website, you’ll see there are actually numerous types of Elf on the Shelf products you can purchase. But instead of forcing users to scroll through each product individually, the web designers package each product into a large, enticing tile describing the goal of each buyer’s journey, with the featured item displayed on the front.

You’re not buying your own elf or pup — you’re adopting it. It’s a truly empowering experience on such a small screen.

elf-on-the-shelf-mobile-website

7. BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed is a news company known for it’s viral content and popular quizzes. It also happens to be one of my favorite sources of entertainment during my commute to and from work.

And where do you think I’m checking BuzzFeed during my commute? You guessed it: on my phone. BuzzFeed knows that a lot of their visitors are visiting their site on mobile, so they’ve taken great care to create a smooth experience for their on-the-go readers.

When you arrive at BuzzFeed’s mobile website, the first thing you’ll see is some of their most popular pieces of content displayed in a simple, collage-like format using large images that are easy to tap with your finger.

buzzfeed-mobile-site-1.png

For users interested in specific categories, there’s a clickable menu in the top left-hand corner of the screen that lists out all the post categories.

buzzfeed-mobile-site-2.png

8. Evernote

Evernote is an application that allows you to store notes, images, and web articles and then access them across all your devices. Because users tend to download the app or access the website on multiple devices including desktop computer, smartphone, and tablets, it’s essential that Evernote get the mobile experience right.

If you look at Evernote’s homepage on your desktop computer, you’ll notice how clean the design is. The value statements are short and to-the-point, and the graphics add to the brand’s positioning but don’t clutter the page.

evernote-mobile-website-2

When you look at Evernote’s mobile website, you can see they’ve kept their color palate and general brand style entirely intact. The company’s mobile website is clean, simple, and doesn’t detract at all from the value of the app. Evernote’s conversion path is obvious from the centered call-to-action: “Sign up for free.”

evernote-mobile-website

9. Huffington Post

The Huffington Post is a well-known news outlet that reports from everything from politics and current events to entertainment and technology. What makes their mobile website unique is that they actually alter their headlines slightly for mobile users so their content is more easily scannable.

If you compare the desktop versus mobile websites, you’ll notice that the mobile website has fewer words on the homepage. The headlines are shorter and much more digestible — perfect for someone skimming or reading on a small screen.

huffington-post-mobile-website

As with BuzzFeed, you’ll find a clickable menu in the top left-hand corner of the screen listing out all the post categories.

huffington-post-mobile-website-2

10. Express

Express is a clothing store that caters to young men and women. Because their audience often comes to their website to browse clothing, it’s important for their website to include big, clear images of their clothing — especially on mobile devices, when users will need to tap items on the screen with their fingers to click through for purchase information.

Express takes their mobile experience a step further than most online retail sites. If you slide your finger from left to right across an image showing a piece of clothing, the image will change so you can see the clothing in a different view. In other words, users don’t have to load another page to see multiple pictures of the same article of clothing.

Look at the image on the top right in the following two images to see how it changes when you swipe to one side:

express-mobile-website-designexpress-mobile-website-design-2

11. Nationwide Insurance

Nationwide Insurance provides insurance and financial services. You might think a financial company would have a really complicated website, but on mobile, Nationwide Insurance nails down the simple user experience.

When you arrive on Nationwide’s mobile site, you’ll see two tabs at the top allowing you to identify as one of two types of users right away to customize your experience: Personal or Business. Or, alternatively, you can “Find an Agent” or “Find an financial advisor” to learn more information about their services.

Although limiting the experience to these two options excludes Nationwide’s more in-depth features, it makes for a much easier experience for visitors using small screens. This is a great technique to lead potential customers in the right direction if they’re not yet account-holders and are visiting the website for the first time.

nationwide-mobile-website

12. Squaredot

Squaredot is an agency based in Dublin, Ireland that helps marketers build out their inbound marketing strategies. Their mobile website is colorful, simple, and makes for easy navigating.

What sticks out to me most is the visually pleasing color combinations and three-dimensional texture to their homepage — as well as the large clickable dots at the center of each section you can scroll to.

squaredot-mobile-website

These dots are animated call-to-action buttons, and the tapping the ones below the home screen will produce a pop-out page with more information on Squaredot’s approach to marketing.

squaredot-mobile-website-2

13. Zappos

Zappos is an online vendor for shoes and clothing known for their stellar customer service. Their top priority on mobile is to help users search easily for the items they’re looking for on their website, so they’ve put a large search bar at both the top and bottom of their mobile website to make it super easy for them.

This is what the top of their mobile site looks like:

zappos-mobile-site-1.png

14. ABC

ABC is a television broadcasting company known for popular shows like “The Bachelorette,” “The Rookie,” and “General Hospital.” Users visiting ABC’s desktop website are greeted with these options and more. View the network’s television schedule, check out the most recent Emmy winners, watch some of your favorite television shows, or even look at entertainment news relating to those shows.

But because nearly every household today is a multi-screen household, ABC knows its experience on a mobile device should be both simple and ready for viewing.

When you visit the ABC website on a mobile device, you’ll see a dark background for a theatre-like experience with tiles for each program you might want to stream. Users can scan through these options and click into any show they want based on genre, alphabetical order, what’s popular, and similar categories you’d also find on your TV’s streaming platform.

abc-mobile-website

15. Lean Labs

Lean Labs is a marketing agency that creates engaging, responsive, and high-conversion web solutions. (They were also featured on ABC’s hit TV series Shark Tank.) The folks over there do a great job of providing a smooth experience for their mobile users, especially with regard to their design techniques and the emphasis they place on their “10x formula” — which is apparent to visitors within seconds of landing on their mobile site.

Notice how Lean Labs’s mobile website uses scale, contrast, and typeface to distinguish certain elements of their page. You can even see the subtle photo of a mountain set to the website’s background, eliciting the heights your brand can reach as a Lean Labs customer.

lean-labs-mobile-website

And, as explained above, their core “10x” formula is clearly visible and broken down into easy steps for mobile users scrolling through the homepage, with relevant icons to match.

Lean Labs mobile website with circular CTAs to learn about 10x formula

16. SAP

SAP is an enterprise software company that manages business operations and customer relations. The business enhances its mobile experience by condensing information, specifically into one important video case study, playable from the homepage on a mobile device.

sap-mobile-website

SAP also combines some of their calls-to-action into sliders, whereas their desktop website has these CTAs laid out horizontally. This helps keep things simple so mobile users aren’t overwhelmed with a lot of information at once, and it also ensures none of the CTAs are too small to read.

SAP mobile website with call-to-action sliders

17. KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics provides analytics software for businesses. On their homepage, there’s a lot of information explaining what the software does along with a testimonial.

But their mobile site is displayed a little differently: On a mobile device, the information on their site is shown in a list with alternative dark and light modules. This makes it easy for users to skim the page without getting lost in text.

kissmetrics-mobile-website-2

They’ve also made the text and fields on their forms large and easy to read:

KISSmetrics mobile website with large form fields for users to sign in

18. idig Marketing

idig Marketing is a development and communications provider. Their mobile website is laid out similarly to their desktop website, but I especially liked how they incorporated the interactive heart icons into their blog posts so users can “Like” their posts.

This mimics the “Like” heart icon in Instagram and Twitter, which is easily recognizable for mobile users familiar with those platforms.

idig-marketing-mobile-site-2.jpg

19. IndiaMART

IndiaMART is the largest online B2B marketplace in India, and its simple category-based mobile store makes it one of the best mobile websites we’ve ever seen in the ecommerce industry.

The company’s mobile homepage puts the search bar right at the top so you can always retreat to a custom search if browsing no longer suffices to find the item you’re looking for.

But, IndiaMART makes it easy to peruse its digital aisles by sorting each item by item type, and then sub-types within each item type — a smart design move to encourage users to explore your site further. Under “Apparel & Garments,” for example, you have easily clickable tiles to check out more specific categories of clothings, such as menswear, women’s dresses, and even suits, sarees, and similar garb native to India.

indiamart-mobile-website

Underneath IndiaMART’s browsing tiles, the company has its own trending section specifically for merchandise people are paying most attention to — similar to a trending list of news on a social media platform. Each trending category has a mobile-friendly call-to-action button allowing users to get price quotes for the product they’re interested in.

indiamart-mobile-website-2

Want more information on how to optimize your business for mobile devices? Download the free kit on mobile marketing below.

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Halloween & Bonfire Night – why this extended holiday is great for businesses

Grab your mask, sweetie bag, and pumpkin spiced latte, it’s our favourite scary time of the year again, Halloween! That’s right, Halloween has already crept up on us, and if we aren’t careful Bonfire Night will fly by as well.

Us brits may not celebrate Halloween in the same way as our overseas cousins in American, but the Halloween holidays are undoubtedly not to be missed by retailers across the UK. It is a great opportunity to start your sales early with the following months including Black Friday, Christmas and January sales.

Every year Halloween grows in popularity, with sales of sweets, scary outfits and probably bed sheets (they make great ghost outfits). So we wanted to help you get your juices flowing with some scarily good facts and ideas of how you could incorporate Halloween into your marketing plan.

If you store isn’t selling Halloween costumes, or directly promoting Halloween, it doesn’t mean you can’t jump on the proverbial “ghost ship” and make some sales out of it. A simple SMS to your customers prompting a Halloween sale could be enough.

“Don’t like dressing up for Halloween? Don’t worry, we have great outfits that you can wear all year round with a huge 30% off & next day delivery www.link.com”

And Halloween isn’t just for retailers, restaurants can use this holiday to their advantage as well. Why not send a text message to customers who don’t want their door constantly being knocked on and just want some peace and quiet over the Halloween period.

“Don’t be tricked this Halloween and have a nice quiet night at Ed’s Bistro instead. Book a table between the 29th and 31st and get a free dessert www.link.com”

Once Halloween is over and people have finally stopped dressing up as witches and ghouls, the next big sales opportunity is less than a week after, Bonfire Night! This can be used as an extension to your Halloween sale.

With millions of people throwing Bonfire parties, and in need of food, drink, warm clothes, and of course fireworks, the lead up to Bonfire Night is the perfect time to squeeze in a few extra sales.

Bonfire night 18 stats

Remember people need warm clothes when out watching the fireworks, and those who are hosting the event will need food and drinks. Two great reasons to send your customers an SMS prior to the event.

“Don’t freeze this Bonfire Night and wrap up warm with our big fluffy coats reduced by up to £50 www.link.com”

“Get you snacks and drinks ordered and delivered ready for Bonfire Night and save 20% on your total shopping www.link.com”

So make sure you have incorporated both Halloween and Bonfire Night into your marketing plan, and by sending customers an SMS message, you know that your message will be read.

Halloween & Bonfire infographic

Will $15/hour really change things?

How much good service can a shopper expect from a retail worker making $15 an hour? The answer depends on the worker’s experience.

This is what shoppers will likely learn as more retailers raise their workers’ wages. Most recently, Amazon said it will hike its minimum wage to $15, following increases by Target, Walmart, Costco and others that are pushing their pay north of $10. (The federal minimum wage is $7.25.) Among the motivations for the hikes, retailers have said, is attracting and retaining the best talent as well as improving customer service.

But delivering better service really depends on the level of employee experience retailers already have, let alone attract. And that can be a challenging task, as low unemployment rates, combined with seasonal holiday hiring, is making good talent harder to find.

Shoppers evidently do not have high hopes. According to a 2016 survey by Colloquy, which asked 1,500 consumers if they would expect better customer service if the minimum wage were raised to $15 an hour:

  • 59% said they should expect better service and overall experience.
  • However, 69% said they don’t believe they would receive better service.

Yes, improving the customer experience starts with well-compensated employees, but it requires an adherence to operational principals that extend beyond pay.

Stuck In the Middle

Central to whether pay increases result in better service is how those raises are being applied. Under the new pay structures retailers are announcing, inexperienced workers might make the same as those with a few years of practical service skills.

Economists told the Washington Post that despite requirements that employers pay more than the federal minimum wage in 29 states, those increases are not resulting in higher wages for mid-level workers.

“Poor wage growth has persisted even as we’ve hit 4% unemployment, and that’s particularly true for workers in the middle,” Josh Bivens, director of research at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank, told the Washington Post.

Those middle workers are more likely to know how to troubleshoot unexpected issues, how to navigate operational hiccups and even recognize shoppers and predict their preferences.

The shopper experience, in many ways, is as good as the employee’s experience.

Further, it’s not clear if retailers will cut back on the number of workers they employ overall to cover the cost of paying each worker more. If so, those middle workers, in addition to not getting a pay raise, could find themselves having to do more.

Putting $15 Worth Of Service In A $10 Bag

Consumers likely don’t think of worker pay while on a shopping trip, and they shouldn’t have to. If customers are not treated well, pay is a moot issue. It’s the brand that matters, and they should be treated well regardless of pay and regardless of whether they are spending $10 or $100.

Here are some basic principles for ensuring that worker compensation, whatever it is, pays off for the shopper:

Hire the right people, no matter where. It’s basic, but often retailers overlook their best prospects by not fostering the talent they have in place, and then promoting those workers. Publix, for example, promotes from within to fill all manager positions and most department positions. This is to ensure continuance of its standards and culture. Publix, which is repeatedly rated one of the best places to work, pays its cashiers nearly $10 an hour.

Invest in training. Ever been to a restaurant and the server couldn’t answer a basic question about a menu item? The same type of menu-level training should apply to retail, meaning employees should be familiar with the origin, operations and limitations of the products they sell. Some brands, such as Lowe’s, have furnished their staff with handheld devices so they can locate items on the shelves and review how-to videos. Best Buy, meanwhile, has altered its in-store systems and technologies, based on interviews with hundreds of employees, to smooth customer interactions.

Share data, to a point. Retailers can provide their employees with limited pieces of information to better inform them of common shopper behaviors. Reward program data and credit card data can help managers align their primary goals (for example, higher sales per shopper) with their highest-potential customers, identify those encounters that embody the brand’s value to those shoppers, and then modify employee training and participation to better serve the shoppers at those points.

Free workers to make service choices. Empowerment is among the best ways to foster employee loyalty. When retailers free workers to make at-the-moment judgements about how to improve a customer’s experience, those employees feel a sense of ownership in the brand, and therefore become more invested. Wayfair is among those retailers praised for giving its workers autonomy and encouraging them to take risks, which it supports through resources and trust.

Trust is perhaps the most important benefit a retailer can gives its workers. It is a necessity of loyalty, which can’t be bought. But so is respect, and a wage increase to $15 an hour won’t hurt on that front.

Bryan Pearson a Featured Contributor to The Wise Marketer and is the President of LoyaltyOne, where he has been leveraging the knowledge of 120 million customer relationships over 20 years to create relevant communications and enhanced shopper experiences. 

This article originally appeared in Forbes. Be sure to follow Bryan on Facebook and Twitter for more on retail, loyalty and the customer experience.

The post Will $15/hour really change things? appeared first on The Wise Marketer.

Michael Brenner’s 5 Skills You Need to Become the Next CMO

The marketing world today is a whole different ball game than it used to be. You have to come up with big ways to stand out to capture the attention of your customers and prospects. It is about knowing what content your customers and prospects want to consume. It’s also about knowing when to take action to engage them with those stories. This new era of marketing is all about storytelling and curating customer-centric content.

Michael Brenner recently uncovered the five critical skills a CMO needs to produce content with the customer at the heart while also demonstrating business results through leads, revenue, and ROI.

In this blog, I’ll recap those five key skills so that you can apply them to your own best practices. 

Take Accountability

One of the first tasks of the CMO is to look at why your marketing organization exists. It is important to know and understand the goals of the organization to ensure that everyone within the organization is aligned with those goals. The marketing team needs to work together as one with a belief in those goals to achieve results. Being aligned will allow the CMO to hold the marketing organization accountable for contributing to the results of the business.

Take on the Art of Storytelling

This new wave of marketing demands for marketers to look at how their efforts are serving customers. It is crucial to start to market from what Michael calls, “a culture of empathy.” This means putting the customer first, and at the heart of what marketing is doing. Additionally, the marketing team is developing content that customers can relate to, to know that there are real people behind each of the efforts sharing their stories and expertise. Becoming a customer-centric and obsessed marketing organization is the best way to show results.

Talk to the Business

Not only is it necessary to ensure your marketing organization is aligned with your mission, but it is imperative to establish relationships across the business. Marketing should not act in isolation. Developing partnerships and space for collaboration with other parts of the business will ensure that you are all working towards the same goals: being customer obsessed and driving revenue & ROI. This will allow you to create a customer base that has continuous and evergreen engagement from the stories you are telling as a company.

Courage to Take on the Culture

Marketing is more than creating content to sell a product or service. It is also the ability to engage your audience with thought leadership and content to help them learn and grow in their profession. This allows for you to have a discussion with your customers and to encourage two-way dialogue to foster and build your audience.

Leadership (To Reach Across the Business)

As the CMO, it is your responsibility to ensure the broader organization understands how the marketing team operates & contributes to the overall business results. It is about communicating and demonstrating how the marketing organization can move the business forward.

Final Thoughts

Your customers need to be at the heart of everything your marketing organization does. Specifically, aiming towards curating content that keeps your customers continually coming back for engaging with your brand. It is vital that this content is aligned not only with your marketing goals but with the broader business. This will, in turn, lead to better business results with growing ROI over time.

The post Michael Brenner’s 5 Skills You Need to Become the Next CMO appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

Top 27 Creative Business Sign Ideas & Examples

According to Signs.org, great signage design goes beyond telling your customers where to find you. It also gives them an idea of what your business is all about. Good design and construction are important to communicate this message with limited space, but the task doesn’t need to feel overwhelming or overly complicated. To help you…

The post Top 27 Creative Business Sign Ideas & Examples appeared first on Fit Small Business.

New Details Have Emerged on the Facebook Data Attack. Here's What You Need to Know.

Facebook today released new information regarding a data attack that compromised the personal data of 30 million users.

First reported on September 28 — approximately three days after the full issue was allegedly first discovered — a vulnerability in Facebook’s “View As” feature allowed hackers to gain unauthorized access to private account information for personal user accounts.

It was originally estimated that 50 million users were impacted. That number has now been lowered to 30 million.

Here’s the latest on the issue from Facebook, and how marketers should be prepared for what comes next.

The Latest Information From Facebook on the Data Attack

There were two key items in the update from Facebook today:

  1. The number of people affected: Facebook estimates that 30 millions accounts had their private data compromised, which is fewer than the original figure of 50 million.
  2. The nature of the personal data obtained by hackers.

Of the 30 million users affected by the incident, 15 million of them had two sets of information compromised: their names and their contact details. Information within the latter includes user phone numbers, email addresses, or both, depending on what each user disclosed on their profiles.

For another 14 million users, hackers gained those same two sets of information, as well as a plethora of personal details. These include:

  • Username
  • Gender
  • Locale/language
  • Relationship status
  • Religion
  • Hometown
  • Self-reported current city
  • Birthdate
  • Device types used to access Facebook
  • Education
  • Work
  • The last 10 places they checked into or were tagged in
  • Website
  • People or Pages they follow
  • Their 15 most recent searches

Users can see whether or not they were affected by the security issue here.

New York Times tech reporter Mike Isaac was one of the millions impacted back the attack, and shared the details of what affected users might see on Twitter.

Users who were likely not impacted might see this message on the aforementioned link:

Facebook said today that the FBI is investigating the attack — the latter has reportedly requested that the company not publicly discuss who might be behind it.

What Marketers and Businesses Should Know

Perhaps most troubling about the information revealed today is the nature of information scraped by hackers — particularly user search and location history.

This is far from the first time Facebook has dealt with high-profile security issues. Over the past two years, the site has been repeatedly weaponized by foreign actors in coordinated misinformation campaigns. The personal data of 87 million of its users was improperly harvested by an app developer. 

Could this latest data attack be the last straw for users?

While 60% of the users we surveyed when news of it first broke said that the breach has not caused them to stop using Facebook, or delete their accounts — these latest details might change their minds.

That number could remain steady, and we plan to measure it as news of these details continues to reach the public. But in the meantime, marketers might want to re-examine what their plans and strategies could look like with a drop in their Facebook audiences. 

According to earlier reports, Facebook Business Page engagement has dropped by an average of 50% over the past year. Combined with these latest events, some businesses might reevaluate how they use the site.

This is a developing story that we will update as more details emerge.

Why Email to SMS is still a popular communication channel for businesses

Email to SMS is like your old sturdy car. Yes, it may not be as glamorous as online SMS platforms, and some people think it is outdated, but the outcome is exactly the same. Your car takes you from A to B and your SMS goes straight to the recipients’ mobile phone in just a few seconds.

Email to SMS is so simple, you add the recipient, type your email, then click send, seconds later the recipient receives your email message as a text message on their mobile phone.

As the famous saying goes . . . “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

We have a brilliant online SMS platform Message Box, that has loads of handy features, from seeing who clicked your URL link, to being able to add a free SMS Web Page to your text message, where you can include images and extra text all for free, and much much more. We love Message Box and we always hear great things about it from our customers.

Even with all those great comments and more, we also recognise that some businesses don’t need, or even want all the amazing features that Message Box has. This is why we have our equally easy to use Email to SMS gateway.

Like the name suggests you can send an email that converts into an SMS. It is still extremely popular way to communicate with customers, especially if you need to have a conversation with them easily.

Customer quote: “So easy to use, I love responding from email it’s so much quicker”

Email to SMS can be used to send individual messages or bulk messages, both being delivered in seconds. It can be used for;

Appointment reminders – Get a list of people who have an appointment with you the following day and send them a message reminding them about it.

Website chat – Add a txtUs number to your website and get people to text you with their queries, you can then reply by email and see the conversation thread.

Marketing and sales messages – You can send mass marketing and sales messages from your email account, increasing sales and engaging with customers at the same time.

Delivery notifications – If you are a small retailer, sending personalised delivery notifications is a great way of keeping customer informed and happy about your service.

Four great ways to use Email to SMS, but why in this modern age is it still so popular amongst businesses? Well there are 3 major reasons as to why businesses are still coming on board and asking for Email to SMS.

Simple to use
We understand that employees already have a huge amount of marketing platforms that they need to login on, and with Email to SMS all you need is your email account. And like everything in Text Marketer, we have made our Email to SMS gateway extremely easy to use, with 3 very easy ways of setting it up and using it, all can be found here.

But in simple terms, all you need to do is enter the customers mobile number in the ‘To’ box followed by @textmarketer.biz, type your message, enter ## at the end (this is so your email footer is not included) and hit send. See we told you it was simple.

Multiple users
With email to SMS you can have as many users as you like sending and receiving text messages through email. Because it is all through the employee’s email address, what it means is with each email account, comes a potential new SMS user.

This gives businesses a way of allowing users to connect with customers on a personal level. As with a text message, 98% are read and 90% are read within 3 minutes, sending a text message instead of an email vastly increases the chance your message will be read and your required action completed.

Easy conversation tracking
Email to SMS allows you to have a conversation with your customers, and just like an email, you can see the thread of conversation between you and the customer. This is great as you can use Email to SMS as a chat option on your website, meaning consumers won’t have to wait around on the phone for hours before talking to someone. They simply send a text and wait for your reply, then have a full conversation with you.

Both your employee and recipient now have a full thread of the conversation if you ever need to go back and check it.

 

If you are interested in using Email to SMS for your business, then sign up for a free SMS account and our expert team can help you set it up and have you up and running in no time.

Loyalty Program Wildly Important Priorities – Do You Have Them?

As a program owner and visionary for a retail loyalty program one of the keys to our team’s success was laser-focus on WIPs (wildly important priorities).  I was inspired to codify these priorities by an inspirational leader at American Eagle Outfitters – Joe Kerin, EVP Store Operations.  If you don’t have a commitment to WIPs but even more importantly a select few WIPs to ensure 100% achievement every business day, then you are not going to fulfill enterprise expectations.

By David Slavick

Now emotionally we all want to be recognized and rewarded for the great work that we do.  Likewise, we strive to partner with the moving parts of the enterprise so that initiatives are planned and launched successfully.  Unfortunately, human nature has a tendency to cause us to be distracted.  Or worse yet, agree to stretch our efforts well beyond what is humanly possible to achieve with 100% success at a sustained level.  Your partners or senior executives have their own WIPs.  From time to time they ask for “more” or why don’t we explore something “new” or a hot topic or trend that may or may not be worthy of being considered a WIP.  The reason CRM/Loyalty teams lose their way is because of various factors, but too many WIPs is a major contributor.  It takes your eye off the ball.  It stretches your staff to the point that they aren’t doing what they do best or distracts them from what their primary role/ responsibility is on a 24/7 basis.

Focusing on the new bright shiny object – crypto-currency as an alternate equity earn?  Or why not blockchain within our ecosystem, and promotional partners?  How about a subscription model for what has been to date a highly successful free program, it works for Amazon and Wine Clubs, so why not us? Add a credit card program and use it to help fund the program value proposition?  Sound familiar? I am sure there are many more “options” that are suggested during the calendar year.  My point is that any one new initiative must be evaluated within the framework of the WIPs that were established as the guiding principles of the program currently in operation.  If it distracts, detracts or diffuses program impact – don’t go there.  The only reason you should is if the program is truly underperforming against your well defined financial model that established your key metrics which measure program shift/lift.

So what are true WIPs and if I don’t have them, how do I go about defining them for my program?

Here are a few examples so you have guideposts that every program should rely on:

  • The program must be free, fast to earn, and easy to understand while always being brand right.
  • The program is servant to the customer, the customer is ALWAYS right – no arguments on returns, no refusal to redeem coupons within reasonable timeframe of expiration, outstanding customer service and responsive support.
  • The program must fulfill its incremental lift metrics with careful monitoring of all key performance measures, plus provide timely and accurate reporting to all segments of the enterprise.

 

Alternatively, a program might have the following WIPs depending on the business model and what is or is not a priority:

  • The program must exclusively recognize and reward credit cardholders and provide differentiated value to those members who represent the top 5% of sales and 40% of annual revenue.
  • The program must provide real-time recognition and reward to members, leveraging data and insight at every opportunity, but must be permission based while not crossing the line of intrusiveness based on that insight and personal service – don’t be creepy, be cool.
  • The program must provide for omni-channel support, deliver a cohesive brand experience that is nurturing and causes members to recommend the brand to their friends and family, while encouraging them to have preference for our preferred tender.

You can readily tell by comparison how different these WIPs are.  The WIPs provide focus for you and your team.  Call it swim lanes that drive decision criteria, resource allocation, budgets, taking a meeting with a vendor or partner on a particular topic and many more demands that occur every business day.

Operationally, WIPs impact what needs to be monitored, reported on and responded to.  Is the in-store experience for program members more important than zero defects in how the program operates online?   Are finding partners to extend the value proposition more or less important than building a tiered program design that recognizes and rewards members leveraging in-kind/proprietary rewards? Should the program shift from hard benefits that result from how much the member spends, or evolve to a soft benefits design that gives greater value to brand advocates who help with social posts, likes, community blogs, product or service reviews online, referrals fueling new member acquisition, etc.

Reflect on your program today.  Then get started drafting WIPs – current state.  Next create future state WIPs.  Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle.  Place WIP current state on one side, WIP future on the other.  Now reflect on current initiatives, challenges from internal partners, operational problems/concerns that have been raised, plus proposals you’ve fielded from vendors and partners in the past 12 months where you and your team have invested time and energy to meet and evaluate, and so much more.  What fits in each column and how do these considerations, ideas, proposals, issues align?  This should prove helpful on the go forward to inform and direct your team’s energy and at the same time ensure that your program gets the attention it deserves to the maximum extent possible.  All to the benefit of your valued customers plus your own peace of mind!

David Slavick is a Digital Global Strategist, Technology Expert in CRM/Loyalty Innovation.

The post Loyalty Program Wildly Important Priorities – Do You Have Them? appeared first on The Wise Marketer.

The Plain English Guide to XML Sitemaps

You wouldn’t design a new kitchen without creating a blueprint first, would you? So, why would you design a website without creating a sitemap?

If you want to launch a website that Google (and your potential customers) can discover, you’ll need a sitemap. Here’s how to create one.

People create sitemaps when they first design their website, add pages to it, and/or redesign it. It’s kind of like a floor plan for the site, which comes in handy whenever the site gets changed. Along with boosting search engine optimization (SEO), sitemaps can also help define a site’s navigation scheme so you avoid internal linking issues.

Visual Sitemaps

You might be thinking to yourself, “But I thought sitemaps were more visual, like a web.” That’s a visual sitemap, as opposed to an XML sitemap — the latter is what we’ve been talking about so far.

Visual sitemaps, on the other hand, are abstract sketches of your website’s structure, like the one below of Google’s website. They’re useful for the internal planning process, but it’s the XML sitemaps that are relevant to SEO best practices.

Visual sitemap of Google.com with green and orange boxes showing each Google webpage

Image Credit: Wikimedia

XML Sitemaps

XML sitemaps are designed specifically for search engines like Google, which need to be able to find webpages anchored within a website no matter how old or deeply nested they might be in that website’s domain.

Here’s an example of what an XML sitemap file might look like:

9 lines of sample XML sitemap code

 

Image Credit: Sitemaps.org

 

For this reason, an XML sitemap is a crucial component of a blog, where article pages are constantly bumped further back into the website’s archive as new content is published.

There are four major types of XML sitemaps you can create, each dedicated to a different type of media you might publish to your website:

  • Image Sitemaps structure a website’s image content so that it ranks well in Google Images results.
  • Video Sitemaps classify video content so that it ranks well in Google Videos results, as well as rich snippets in organic results.
  • News Sitemaps describe your website’s news content so it’s more easily indexed in search results like Google News.
  • Mobile Sitemaps optimize website content for mobile phones that don’t use native web browsers, which automatically produce web content in mobile form.

So, how do you structure your website’s XML sitemap? Let’s dive right in.

How to Create a Sitemap

1. Engage Your Marketing, Tech, IT, and Legal Teams

Typically, the teams involved in structuring a website’s sitemap are the marketing team, a technical team (whether that’s a team of developers or an agency), the IT team (or whoever controls your servers), and the legal team.

The Marketing Team

This marketing department is usually responsible for defining the structure of the site. Which pages need to link to one another? Should site visitors be able to get from the “About Us” page directly to the product page, for example? Whether they define the structure using a visual site map in PowerPoint or some other tool is up to them.

The Technical Team

A team of developers will then build an sitemap.xml file based on the structure defined by the marketing team.

The IT Team

Your support team usually gets involved too, assuming you’re using your own servers or some servers that IT controls. Remember, the sitemap lives on that server — so someone has to make sure it’s on there. If you’re working for an agency, they should be able to do this for you, too.

The Legal Team

Lastly, be sure you check with your legal team to make sure everything on your website is legally sound and you don’t have any outstanding copyright restrictions that could pass through your sitemap.

2. Research Each Search Engine’s Sitemap Requirements

When you first begin planning your sitemap, think about questions like: What are your website’s goals? Who’s your target audience, and what do they want to see?

You’ll also want to keep in mind each search engine’s requirements. The last thing you want to do is break the path of a visitor getting from a search engine to your website. Google’s, Bing’s, Yahoo!’s, and others’ requirements are fairly similar, but you’ll want to make sure you’re not breaking any specific requirements for any of them. This is especially true if you see a lot of your traffic is coming from a specific search engine.

To make sure you’re not breaking any rules, check out:

3. Define the Top-Level Navigation Structure

What do you want your homepage to link to? This will provide the foundation for your site’s structure, and will allow your site to grow. 

Navigation structure with 4 teal buttons for About, Products, Pricing, and Blogs

The structure of your website plays a big role in your site’s SEO, so it’s important to plan your top-level navigation structure carefully. Specifically, pay attention to your website’s depth. The further away a page is from the original homepage URL of your site, the worse it is for that page’s SEO.

In other words, a shallow website (one that requires three or fewer clicks to reach each page) is much better for SEO than a deep website, according to Search Engine Journal.

What are best practices for top-level navigation, you might be asking? Unfortunately, it’s hard to give general advice here as best practices can vary significantly by industry, company type, and so on. For inspiration from companies similar to yours, then take a look at Crayon: It has a huge library of real marketing designs you can filter by industry, traffic level, device, and so on. Check out high-traffic homepages in your industry to get a sense of their structure and get some ideas for yours.

4. Define the Second- and Third-Level Content

This is where creating visual sitemaps can come in handy. Once you’ve defined your homepage’s navigation structure, you’ll want to brainstorm and map out the pages that are two or three levels deeper into your website. This might be your “About Us” page, your team management page, your hiring page, your blog, and so on.

Depending on the complexity of your website, you may only need two levels, or you may need up to four. And as you think out the deeper parts of your website, you may find you need to tweak the top-level navigation — that’s okay.

 

visual-sitemap-example.png

 

5. Write the XML Sitemap and Submit it to Search Engines

Once you’ve planned out how your website will be organized, it’s time for the technical team to create the XML sitemap, put it on your web server, and submit it to each individual search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and so on).

When you first publish your website, and each time you go through a significant site redesign, someone on your team will have to submit the sitemap to each search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc.) so that those search engines will be able to tell your homepage from your “About Us” page from your team management page.

Unless you’re using a platform that automatically updates your sitemap, you’ll need to update the sitemap yourself and resubmit any time you make a significant changes to your website.

(HubSpot customers: HubSpot will automatically generate your sitemap.xml file when you publish new pages and make changes to your site. But remember, you’ll still either have to rely on search engines to pick up new pages organically. That means if you’ve made a really significant change to your site’s structure, you might want to manually submit it.)

We recommend using a sitemap generator to build your XML sitemap. While the folks at Google no longer maintain their own sitemap generator, there are now plenty of free and downloadable tools you can use to create your own.

To make your choice of sitemap generator easier, here are nine of the best sitemap generators available today.

1. Screaming Frog

Price: Free

Screaming Frog sitemap generator

Screaming Frog is a web crawler that allows you to assess your website’s on-page SEO. Naturally, the company also offers a tool to develop your own XML sitemap and strengthen your website’s on-page SEO in the process.

To use Screaming Frog’s sitemap generator, you’ll first download the company’s SEO web crawler (also known as a “spider”), which is free for crawling your first 500 URLs. Once your website is crawled, you can create an XML sitemap from it including every webpage that scores a “200” in the initial crawl. This ensures only your strongest pages are included in your new XML sitemap.

2. XML-Sitemaps

Price: Free

XML-Sitemaps

XML-Sitemaps requires no registration or initial download to create a sitemap for your website. Like Screaming Frog, which is explained above, this tool is free to websites that carry up to 500 URLs. Once your sitemap has been created, you can either download it as an XML file or receive it via email if you need to transport it to a new computer or coworker.

The paid version of XML-Sitemaps allows you to crawl up to 1.5 million pages (instead of 500), create other forms of XML sitemaps — such as news, video, and image sitemaps — and submit your sitemap directly to a search engine from the sitemap generator.

3. Slickplan

Price: Free trial, plans start at $8.99/mo

Slickplan sitemap generator

Slickplan offers a suite of content planning products that are ideal for freelancers, agencies, and small businesses. One of these products is an XML sitemap builder. This tool helps you build a visual sitemap first so you can determine how your website will be organized, then export your visual sitemap as an XML file.

4. InSpyder

Price: Free trial, $39.95 for full version

InSpyder sitemap generator

InSpyder is a fully downloadable sitemap builder that allows you to crawl an unlimited amount of URLs and synthesize them all in an XML sitemap for you.

The tool, which is free to try, is compatible with Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Ask.com, so you can quickly submit your XML sitemap in the format the biggest search engines expect to see it. You can also schedule sitemap updates at regular intervals if you know you’ll make frequent changes to your website. A blog that regularly publishes new articles (with new URLs) is one example of a website that would benefit from a new sitemap every so often.

5. Sitemap Writer Pro

Price: $24.95

Sitemap Writer Pro

Sitemap Writer Pro is a fast and simple XML sitemap creator, compatible with seven types of sitemaps depending on the type of content you want search engines to index. The tool can crawl millions of webpages and automatically produce a sitemap file that is ready to be imported into your content management system (CMS).

Sitemap Writer Pro is free to try for crawling up to 10 webpages, and requires a Windows operating system to run.

6. DYNO Mapper

Price: Free trial, $40/mo billed yearly

DYNO Mapper sitemap generator

DYNO Mapper is similar to Slickplan in that it is a visual sitemap builder. Start by outlining your website and its URLs in one of four visual formats, then edit the placement and hierarchy of each webpage included in your sitemap and export your sitemap file so you can easily share it with your colleagues.

DYNO Mapper comes with Google Analytics built in, so you can accurately identify your highest-performing webpages and where they should be placed on your sitemap. This integration also comes in handy when updating your sitemap, in which case you can simply import your sitemap’s XML file and revisit its visual model for quick adjustments.

7. Rage Google Sitemap Automator

Price: Free trial, $29.95 for full version

Rage Google Sitemap Automator

Rage Google Sitemap Automator is both an SEO auditor and XML sitemap builder. The tool allows you to quickly optimize your website’s on-page SEO so it’s easily crawled by Google, then create a sitemap that’s downloadable to an XML file in a matter of minutes.

This sitemap generator also lets you create your own “filters” for assigning various attributes to the webpages included in your sitemap — making it particularly useful for big websites that have many URLs serving diverse purposes.

8. WriteMaps

Price: Free for 3 small sitemaps

WriteMaps sitemap generator

WriteMaps is a visual website planner, helping you create a color-coded flowchart that outlines the content of every URL nested within your website. Once your website — and its webpages — are written and sorted exactly the way you want them, you can export your sitemap as a PDF or as an XML file for submitting to search engines.

WriteMaps’ interface is perfect for team-wide collaboration, making this tool especially useful for companies that are in the process of building a website from scratch.

9. PowerMapper

Price: Free Trial, $149 for standard version

PowerMapper sitemap generator

PowerMapper is touted as a “one-click” sitemap maker, used by several major organizations to create sitemaps for their websites in a number of potential mapping styles. The tool uses its own web browser, where you can navigate to your website and click “Map” to create a sitemap from every webpage currently live on that website.

For more options of XML sitemap generators, check out this archive of suggestions by Google. Not all of the links on Google’s list are still active services, but you’ll still find tools that are designed with Google’s website ranking algorithm in mind.

Once you’ve selected a sitemap generator, and created your sitemap in XML form, you’ll need to add it to your website’s source code and submit this sitemap to each search engine on which you want your website to be indexed.

Below are step-by-step instructions for submitting a sitemap to Google, and then to Bing and Yahoo!.

1. Sign in to Google Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools will be your dashboard for testing and submitting updated sitemaps to Google, so you can ensure Google is always aware of the latest pages published to your site.

For this step, you’ll first need to register your website with Google. Click the link at the beginning of this paragraph to get started.

2. Click “Add a Property.”

Once you’ve logged in to Google Webmaster Tools, click “Add a Property,” the square red button on the top righthand corner of your screen.

3. Enter the URL for your company and click “Continue.”

Type in the website whose sitemap you want to submit, exactly as it appears in your address bar. This website should just be the domain name — the parent URL to which all of your other webpages belong.

4. Click “Crawl” on the left-hand side of the page, and choose “Sitemaps.”

Once you add your website property, you’ll see a sidebar of options to the left. Click “Crawl” to reveal a dropdown of options and select “Sitemaps.”

5. Click “Add/Test Sitemap.”

To the right of your screen, you’ll see another red button for adding a new sitemap. Click it. If you already have a sitemap submitted, this button will simply say “Test,” allowing you to verify that Google has crawled your current sitemap.

6. Enter “sitemap.xml” after your website’s domain name.

Adding a new sitemap requires you to add a string of text to the end of your website’s domain. Think of it like a tracking tag, allowing Google to examine all the activity that takes place inside your website.

This sitemap tag is “sitemap.xml,” and you’ll want to add it to the end of your domain name. For example, if your domain is www.yourcompany.com, you’ll tag it like this: www.yourcompany.com/sitemap.xml

7. Click “Submit Sitemap.”

Submit your sitemap and you’re all set. Depending on how much page authority you have already accumulated on Google, it might take some time to see the status of your submitted sitemap. Give it time — Google will eventually accept it.

For more information on the sitemap submission process, click here.

How to Submit a Sitemap to Bing or Yahoo!

  1. Sign in to Bing Webmaster Tools.
  2. On the My Sites page, enter the URL for your company (e.g. http://www.yourdomain.com). Click “Add.”
  3. In the “Add a sitemap” field, enter http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml. (Replace “yourdomain” with your company’s URL.)
  4. Complete the rest of the required fields on the page, and click “Save.”

(For more details, click here.)

What If I Want to Add Webpages Later?

Once you define and submit your sitemap the first time, chances are you’ll want to tweak and add pages to your website every so often — and that’s completely fine. But keep in mind that if your website isn’t built on a platform that automatically generates a new sitemap and updates it on your web server when new pages are added, then every time you add a page — any page — to your website, that page will be missing from the sitemap that search engines see.

Remember, Google and other search engines will pick up the sitemap organically as long as you’ve updated the sitemap.xml file on your web server. But if you want to try to index your content the fastest way possible, you could resubmit your sitemap after publishing a new page — and it’s possible that Google would pick it up more quickly.

Once you’ve created and submitted your XML sitemap to search engines, you can start working on other fun stuff like your website’s design.

Having an up-to-date sitemap is just one marker of a high-performing website. To see what else you should optimize for your site, run a free Website Grader report.

website redesign seo mistakes

 
free guide: common SEO mistakes

Is Attribution the Key to Professional Success?

Why is it that the average tenure of a CMO is so much less than other C-suite executives?

According to the CMO Impact Study, over 40% of CMOs have been in their roles for less than two years and 70% less than four years. There is much speculation as to why marketers have a shorter lifespan than their executive colleagues, but one stat from the Marketing Performance Management Survey, 2017 particularly caught my attention and could be related: only 23% of marketers earn top ratings from their C-suite on proving impact, value, and contribution to revenue. Think about that: just two out of 10 marketing leaders are making a solid connection between marketing activity and profitable growth and in that process, communicating the ROI of their salary. On the flip side, this same study shows an alarming 38% of marketers earn average or below average ratings from their CEO’s—those who focus on the internal agency approach and create campaigns on demand vs. aligning activity with organizational objectives. Likely, these are the marketers whose salaries are viewed as a corporate expense.

As CMOs struggle to quantify and communicate the value of marketing, it also creates a credibility gap with their superiors. Given this information, perhaps the limited incumbency of CMOs isn’t that surprising.

So what’s the answer? How can marketing leaders reverse the trends, build confidence, demonstrate value, and increase position longevity?

Delivering Metrics that Matter

As marketers, we all have our go-to reports—those that help us gain an understanding of campaign performance, answer fundamental questions, and guide our next steps. However, are our stock metrics the ones we should be communicating upward? In a recent Marketo webinar, Lori Wizdo, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, recommended aligning the report with the business objective of the stakeholder who’s receiving it. For example:

Stakeholder Meaningful Metrics Corresponding Reports
CEO / Board Member / Investor ●      Revenue projections

●      ROI of money invested in marketing

●      Revenue report

●      Revenue by channel—full path

Executive VP/ VP of Sales ●      Contribution to pipeline ●      Revenue report

●      Pipeline report

CFO ●      Return on marketing investment

●      Cost per lead

●      Revenue by channel—full path
CMO / VP Marketing / Marketing department ●      Campaign performance

●      Best lead sources

●      Cost per lead

●      Contribution to pipeline

●      Revenue by channel/campaign/content

●      Opps/pipeline by channel/campaign/content

●      MQLs by channel/campaign/content

Sales Directors ●      Volume of sales-qualified leads ●      SQLs by channel/campaign

●      SQLs by BDR/SDR/sales channel

Sales Reps ●      Qualified leads

●      Content consumed

●      SQLs by sales touchpoint type (eg., email, call, chat)

●      Touchpoints by content (gated and ungated)

(Source: Lori Wizdo, Forrester Research. Note: some reports listed may be exclusive to Bizible.)

Prioritization of Attribution Tools

Granted, reporting by stakeholder requires more sophistication in analytical tools, which many marketers lack. According to The Marketing Measurement and Attribution Survey,  52% of marketers are manually generating reports using excel spreadsheets, 54% use their marketing automation system, 51% rely on reports from their CRM, 63% use web analytics, while only 15% are using a dedicated attribution solution.

In today’s complex marketing environment comprised of multiple channels, devices, and touchpoints, manually-generated reports from siloed data sources are time-consuming, open to inaccuracies, and can lead a marketer to incorrect conclusions. 58% of marketers say their current ability to measure and analyze marketing performance “needs improvement or worse” but the good news is marketers also recognize the need for more sophisticated solutions. How do you know if you’re ready for a more advanced tool? Marketers surveyed in The Marketing Measurement and Attribution Survey reported the top drivers for investing in a dedicated attribution tool as follows:

  • 70% desire to show marketing’s impact on pipeline and revenue
  • 67% want to demonstrate ROI from all marketing investments
  • 38% seek to improve marketing and sales alignment
  • 27% hope to gain actionable insights into buyer interests

The Attribution Ripple Effect

Naturally, when marketers are more informed, they make better decisions: more strategic spending, focused campaign adjustments, enhanced customer experiences, and efficiencies in staffing, to name a few. Moreover, when marketing is optimized, the organization benefits—more efficient use of resources and more leads fueling the sales pipeline, both of which lead to exponential growth—for the organization and for marketing leaders.

Want to dive deeper into the benefits of attribution? Please join Perkuto and Marketo for our Marketing Impact Talk, “Leveraging Attribution for Better Results” touring Canada this Fall. Registration is free—reserve your seat:  Montreal: October 11, 2018 | Toronto: October 18, 2018 | Vancouver: October 23, 2018 | Calgary: October 24, 2018

The post Is Attribution the Key to Professional Success? appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

Top 25 Free & Paid Door Hanger Templates

For a strategy that can cost as little as 15 cents, door hangers remain one of the most cost-effective marketing investments if done right. However, coming up with an effective design in a limited space can be a challenge. Choosing the right template for your business is the best first step to getting started. Here…

The post Top 25 Free & Paid Door Hanger Templates appeared first on Fit Small Business.

SEO Smoke Tests for Dynamic Rendering



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Google just published an article on how to “Get Started With Dynamic Rendering.” If you are working on a site with a “modern framework” (e.g. Angular, React, or other tech with a lot of JavaScript features), you’ll want to bookmark that post. If reading is not your thing, a few weeks ago I put together Server Side Rendering For Dummies (& Non-Technical SEO Decision Makers), which boils down a lot of the Google techno-jargon into a single PowerPoint slide.

While that Google post has most of what you’ll need to get started with server side rendering, I’d like to focus on the Troubleshooting section – talk all you want about answering user questions, relevance, domain authority, etc. – if I had to define 2018 SEO with one word, it would be “troubleshooting.”

Google gives you most of what you need to troubleshoot prerendering problems in the “Verify your configuration” and “Troubleshooting” sections. Here’s what they say to do (edited for brevity):

Verify your configuration

Check a URL with the following tests:

  1. Test your mobile content with the Mobile-Friendly Test to make sure Google can see your content.
  2. Test your desktop content with Fetch as Google to make sure that the desktop content is also visible on the rendered page (the rendered page is how Googlebot sees your page)
  3. If you use structured data, test that your structured data renders properly with the Structured Data Testing Tool.

Troubleshooting

If your content is showing errors in the Mobile-Friendly Test or if it isn’t appearing in Google Search results, try to resolve the most common issues listed below.

Content is incomplete or looks different

What caused the issue: Your renderer might be misconfigured or your web application might be incompatible with your rendering solution. Sometimes timeouts can also cause content to not be rendered correctly.

High response times

What caused the issue: Using a headless browser to render pages on demand often causes high response times, which can cause crawlers to cancel the request and not index your content. High response times can also result in crawlers reducing their crawl-rate when crawling and indexing your content.

Structured data is missing

What caused the issue: Missing the structured data user agent, or not including JSON-LD script tags in the output can cause structured data errors.

We call these “Smoke Tests.” Here’s a little more nuance to server side rendering troubleshooting based on some real-world situations we’ve encountered.

  1. How To Test Server Side Rendering On A New Site Before It’s Launched
    It often is the case that SEOs get brought into the process well after a site has been built, but only a few days before it will be launched. We will need a way to test the new site in Google without competing in Google with the old site. For a variety of reasons we don’t want the entire new site to get crawled and indexed, but we want to know that Googlebot can index the content on a URL, that it can crawl internal links and that it can rank for relevant queries. Here’s how to do this:

    1. Create test URLs on new site for each template (or use URLs that have already been built) and make sure they are linked from the home page.
    2. Add a robots.txt file that allows only these test URLs to be crawled.
      Here’s an example:
      User-Agent: Googlebot
      Disallow: / (this means don’t crawl the entire site)
      Allow: /$ (allow Gbot to crawl only the home page even though the rest of the site is blocked in the line above)
      Allow: /test-directory/$ (allow crawling of just the /test-directory/ URL)
      Allow: /test-directory/test-url (allow crawling of /test-directory/test-url)(you can add as many URLs as you want to test – the more you test, the more certain you can be, but a handful is usually fine)
    3. Once the robots.txt is set up, verify the test site in Google Search Console.
    4. Use the Fetch as Google tool to fetch and render the home page and request crawling of all linked URLs. We will be testing here that Google can index all of the content on the home page and can crawl the links to find the test URLs. You can view how the content on the home page looks in the Fetch tool, but I wouldn’t necessarily trust it – we sometimes see this tool out of sync with what actually appears in Google.
    5. In a few minutes, at least the test home page should be indexed. Do exact match searches for text that appears in the title tag and in the body of the home page. If the text is generic, you may have to include  site:domain.com in your query to focus only on the test domain. You are looking for your test URL to show up in the results. This is a signal that at least Google can index and understand the content on your home page. This does not mean the page will rank well, but at least it now has a shot.
    6. If the test links are crawlable, soon you should the test URLs linked from the home page show up in Google. Do the same tests. If they don’t show up within 24 hours, while this doesn’t necessarily mean the links aren’t crawlable, it’s at least a signal in that direction. You can also look at the text-only cache of the indexed test home page. If the links are crawlable, you should see them there.
    7. If you want to get more data, unblock more URLs in robots.txt and request more indexing.
    8. Once you have finished the test, request removal of the test domain in GSC via the Remove URLs tool.
    9. We often can get this process done in 24 hours, but we recommend to clients giving it a week in case we run into any issues.
    10. Pro-tip: If you are using Chrome and looking at a test URL for the SEO content like title tag text, often SEO extensions and viewing the source will only show the “hooks” (e.g. {metaservice.metaTitle}) and not the actual text. Open Chrome Developer Tools and look in the Elements section. The SEO stuff should be there.
  2. Do Not Block Googlebot on Your PreRender Server
    Believe it or not, we had a client do this. Someone was afraid that Googlebot was going to eat up a lot of bandwidth and cost them $. I guess they were less afraid of not making money to pay for that bandwidth.
  3. Do Not Throttle Googlebot on Your PreRender Server
    We convinced the same client to unblock Googlebot, but noticed in Google Search Console’s crawl report that pages crawled per day was very low. Again someone was trying to save money in a way that guaranteed them to lose money. There may be some threshold where you may want to limit Googlebot’s crawling, but my sense is Googlebot is pretty good at figuring that out for you.

The post SEO Smoke Tests for Dynamic Rendering appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

10 Great Examples of Welcome Emails to Inspire Your Own Strategy

We’ve all heard how important it is to make a good first impression. Show up late for a job interview? That’s a bad first impression. Eat a ton of garlic and forget to brush your teeth before a first date? Also a bad first impression.

It turns out that the “make a good first impression” principle holds true not only in face-to-face encounters, but in email interactions as well.

When you send a welcome email to a new blog or newsletter subscriber, or to a new customer, you’re making a first impression on behalf of your brand. To help ensure you’re making the best first impression possible, we’ve rounded up some examples of standout welcome emails from brands big and small.

As you’ll soon discover, each example below showcases different tactics and strategies for engaging new email subscribers. Let’s dive in.

Email Newsletter Lookbook

10 Examples of Standout Welcome Emails

1. Virgin America

Type of welcome: Get Started

Virgin America welcome email with a red CTA to get started

A welcome email is the perfect medium for introducing folks to the characteristics (and eccentricities) that make your brand unique.

For Virgin America, that means putting the “I love you” hand symbol front and center. This small gesture signals to the recipient that the folks atVirgin America really care about their customers. The playful accompanying copy, “Welcome aboard,” and casual call-to-action, “Grab a seat,” also help to position Virgin America as a hip, fun-loving brand right off the bat.

2. Food52

Type of welcome: Get Started

Food52 welcome email with a gray CTA to get started

Sometimes the tiniest of elements in a welcome email can speak volumes about a brand. And when it comes to Food52’s welcome email, their preview text at the top of the email, “We brought snacks,” definitely accomplishes this.

Also known as a pre-header or snippet text, preview text is the copy that gets pulled in from the body of an email and displayed next to (or beneath) the subject line in someone’s inbox. So when you see Food52’s welcome email in your inbox, you get a taste of their brand’s personality before you even open it.

preview_text-3.png

Food52’s welcome email also does a good job of building trust by putting a face (make that two faces) to their name. As soon as you open the email, you see a photograph of — and welcome message from — the company’s founders.

3. Monday.com

Type of welcome: Video

Monday.com welcome email with a link to watch a video by CEO Roy Man

From the subject line to the conversational tone in the email body, the welcome email above keeps it friendly and simple so the focus stays on the introductory video inside.

Monday.com is a task management tool for teams and businesses, and the welcome email you get when you sign up makes you feel like the CEO, Roy Man, is talking directly to you. The email even personalizes the opening greeting by using the recipient’s first name — this is well known for increasing email click-through rates (especially if the name is in the subject line).

The closer you can get to making your email sound like a one-on-one conversation between you and your subscriber, the better. If you have just so many details you need to inform your new customer of, follow Monday.com’s lead and embed them in a video, rather than spelling them all out in the email itself.

4. Kate Spade

Type of welcome: Thank You

Kate Spade welcome email with orange envelope graphic saying thank you

Let’s face it: We, the internet-using public, are constantly bombarded with prompts to sign up for and subscribe to all sorts of email communications. So as a brand, when someone takes the time to sift through all the chaos in order to intentionally sign up for your email communications, it’s a big deal.

In order to acknowledge how grateful they are to the folks who actually take the time to subscribe, Kate Spade uses a simple — but effective — tactic with their welcome emails: They say “Thank You” in big, bold lettering. And by placing that “Thank You” on an envelope, Kate Spade recreates the feeling of receiving an actual thank-you letter in the mail. (The 15% off discount code doesn’t hurt either.)

5. Lyft

Type of welcome: Get Started

Lyft welcome email with pink CTA to get started

If there’s an ideal “attitude” that welcome emails should give off, Lyft has got it.

The company’s simple but vibrant welcome email, shown above, focuses entirely on the look and feel of the app, delivering a design that’s as warm and smooth as the lifts that Lyft wants to give you. At the same time, the email’s branded pink call-to-action draws your eyes toward the center of the page to “Take a Ride” — inviting language that doesn’t make you feel pressured as a new user.

6. IKEA

Type of welcome: Offer

IKEA welcome email with offer to join free membership

It might not be the most beautifully designed email on this list, but that doesn’t mean IKEA’s welcome email isn’t effective.

Instead of going for the hard sell (e.g., “By stuff now!”), or explaining what it is they do (which is something IKEA probably assumes most people already know), IKEA uses its welcome email to turn folks onto its other, lesser-known programs and content channels. For example, there’s a call-to-action right at the top that explains the value of its member benefits program. There are also prompts to visit their design blog and to contribute to their collaborative “Share Space” site.

Of course, if you’re not interested in any of that stuff, IKEA’s welcome email also makes it easy for you to simply log in and start shopping (there’s a login field right up top).

7. Michaels

Type of welcome: Offer

Michaels welcome email with offer of 20% off an entire purchase

The Michaels approach to the welcome email borrows elements from both Kate Spade and Virgin America. In addition to expressing gratitude to the folks who took the time to sign up, Michaels uses its welcome email to showcase the brand. And the company does a great job: The lengthy email feels like one big arts and crafts project, complete with paint, yarn, and chalkboards.

Another standout feature of this welcome email is that Michaels makes it immediately clear what value its future email communications are going to provide. After thanking subscribers, there’s this nice bit of copy that sums it up:

“We’re going to send fun stuff like DIY tips and tricks, invites to in-store events, and exclusive deals and coupons.”

8. Sphero

Type of welcome: Hello

Sphero welcome email with BB-8 Star Wars Droid saying hello

Sphero’s welcome email might in fact be the cutest one we’ve seen recently — and it was sent from a galaxy far, far away.

If you purchase a bluetooth-controlled BB-8, the friendly Droid from Star Wars, it was probably made by Sphero. And if it was, you’ll have an email similar to the one above waiting in your inbox when you activate your new rolling companion.

This email’s subject line is what qualifies it for this list — “A little Droid told us you wanted our emails.” By cleverly personifying the product, and being somewhat candid about its email marketing newsletters, Sphero develops a relationship with their recipients through the product you just bought from them.

Besides showing you how to use your new BB-8 Droid with your smartphone, all this welcome email wanted to do was say hi — just like BB-8 himself.

9. InVision

Type of welcome: Video

InVision welcome email with link to watch video

When you sign up for InVision’s free prototyping app, the welcome email makes it very clear what your next step should be: using the app.

To facilitate this action, InVision’s welcome email doesn’t simply list out what you need to do in order to get started. Instead, it shows you what you need to do with a series of quick videos. Given the visual, interactive nature of the product, this makes a lot of sense.

10. Drift

Type of welcome: Get Started

Drift welcome email with link to get started

No fancy design work. No videos. No photos. The welcome email Drift sends out after signing up for their newsletter is a lesson in minimalism.

The email opens with a bit of candid commentary on the state of email. “Most people have really long welcome email sequences after you get on their email list,” Dave from Drift writes, before continuing: “Good news: we aren’t most people.” What follows is simply a bulleted list of the company’s most popular blog posts. And the only mention of the product comes in a brief post-script at the very end.

If you’re trying to craft a welcome email that’s non-interruptive, and that’s laser-focused on adding value vs. fluff, this is a great example to follow.

Free Download Email Newsletter Lookbook


Free Download Email Newsletter Lookbook

Why MMS is dead and has been for some time

The first SMS message was sent in 1992 and read “Merry Christmas”. Since then SMS has been on a meteoric rise, going from strength to strength and now used by millions of people and businesses across the world.

MMS came along 9 years later, with the first MMS capable phone being the Sony Ericsson T68i in December 2001 and the first MMS message being sent shortly after.

MMS was a great idea at the time, you could send pictures, attachments and more to your friends through your mobile phone. But it was not to last, when OTT messaging like WhatsApp was developed. Since then MMS has never really recovered.

This issue with MMS is that it costs a lot more than SMS. Currently sending an SMS to your friends and family will cost you anywhere between 10p-14p, unless it is included within your monthly subscription then it is free. MMS on the other hand can cost up to 4 times as much and can be around 45p a message, and even if you have unlimited text messages on your mobile phone contract, this will still cost you 45p.

The story is the same with business SMS providers. Some SMS providers offer MMS at 34p where sending a normal SMS would only cost around 3.3p. That means if you are send a message to 1,000 people, sending it as an MMS would cost you an extra £307.

What is worse is that not everyone has an MMS capable phone, with nearly 30% of all people in the UK not owning smartphone, and therefore cannot receive MMS. That means if you do send an MMS message to your customers, then potentially 30% of them won’t be able to receive it – that is a huge missed opportunity.

So why do some SMS providers still offer this dated solution? Well to be honest we don’t know, but we have taken a stab in the dark and thought of 2 reasons:

1. It makes it look like they have loads to offer, with extra features to their platform.
2. Because it costs their customers 3 times as much, meaning a bigger profit margin – more money for them, less for you.

Both not great reasons, and both not really beneficial to businesses or the end user.

Some businesses still use MMS because it is all they know, but what would you say if there was a way that you could send pictures, links, and more to your customers at no extra cost?

Other option to MMS
As we said above MMS was a great idea, with a huge emphasis on was. As technology has rapidly evolved, MMS has stood still, with other features have overtaken it, one of these being SMS Web Pages.

SMS Web Pages lets businesses create their very own landing page, filled with images, extra text, downloadable links and all for no extra cost. Like all Text Marketer products, it is so simple to use, and it only has a 5-step guide from start to finish.

MMS vs SMS Web Pages

SMS Web Pages is a great feature that all businesses can take advantage of, but as we developed SMS Web Pages to enhance SMS and give customers a better experience, SMS itself is also evolving to give businesses and customers an even better experience.

The future of SMS
SMS has been around for years and will continue to be around for years to come. SMS has continued to get stronger and stronger, and with technology rapidly evolving, SMS must also evolve . . . introducing RCS.

RCS stands for Rich Communication Services, it will allow people and businesses to send richer messages to customers. Allowing customers to interact with the SMS message, making their lives easier.

RCS will be coming out this year, but as a lot of new technology, it will take some time for it to really take off. Only the new Android phones will be RCS enabled and until Apple say yes to it, it will be some time before Apple users can use it too.

 

With SMS Web Pages giving businesses and users the same experience as MMS, and with RCS soon to be out, why do businesses still use MMS?

If you would like to talk about any mobile marketing options for you business then do get in touch on 0117 989 5139.

Using Agility as an Excuse for Indecisiveness

The following is a guest contributed post from Alani Setalsingh, a Mobile Strategist and Business Analyst at Propelics.

Agile is one of the biggest buzzwords in business today. Companies are either starting to utilize Agile methodology as a means to run their businesses or are beginning to explore how to properly “be Agile.” Agile methodology helps business groups show progress and results more quickly and effectively than in the past. Although many companies confidently claim to be Agile, after review it becomes clear that not only are they not properly implementing Agile, but in fact they are using this methodology as a way to justify indecisiveness. Companies need to understand that if a business process is working well, then the entire business may not require adjustment. Many successful companies don’t use Agile yet will continue to be successful-even when compared to Agile businesses.

Agile is often described as “a process based on iterative development, where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams. Agile methods or Agile processes generally promote a disciplined project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a set of engineering best practices intended to allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software, and a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals.” 

Agile methodology is a great option if implemented properly. But oftentimes it can lead to longer development cycles and out of scope project specifications that only complicate tasks. It’s not enough for a company to simply decide to use Agile. They must also invest in training their employees to properly understand the benefits. Companies must also be willing to try new tools, invest in training and implementation, and take the time to give the methodology a chance by starting small (versus altering the entire company). That’s not to say these companies have no chance of success once they’ve given Agile a chance and failed, but there are necessary steps and points to keep in mind if being effectively Agile is the end goal.

Though this is only a start, the following points will certainly help companies better utilize all the advantages of an Agile methodology:

Firstly, companies must be willing to try new tools specifically designed to facilitate a more Agile approach. Tools like JIRA exist to better help companies plan their projects and more effectively track things like releases, sprints, bugs and tasks.

Secondly, companies must be willing to train employees on Agile and ensure they know how to implement the lessons they have learned. Without training, people will create their own versions of agility. Sometimes these may work, but more frequently they will be time consuming and costly for the overall business.

Lastly, it is of utmost importance not to give up after your first failed agile project. Process changes take time for people to accept and fully utilize. Rather than giving up, learn from the mistakes made and work to limit these issues in the future. Granted, this is a lot easier said than done. But with the right mindset, many businesses can reap huge benefits and rewards from going Agile.

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alani Setalsingh is a Mobile Strategist and Business Analyst at Propelics. Alani earned his MBA from Suffolk University and has guided numerous Fortune 500 Companies on their internal mobile apps programs. Alani helps clients redefine their business processes to support a fertile and robust mobile environment. He is most passionate about Healthcare Mobility and all the myriad benefits it can bring to patients and caregivers alike.

The post Using Agility as an Excuse for Indecisiveness appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

Who will provide the loyalty program of the future?

For the purposes of this article, imagine if you will, I am the newly installed CEO of a 100 plus location national Casual Dining Chain here in the UK.

With little or no footfall growth predicted for the UK restaurant sector, except for quick-service, my first real challenge is to stop convenience & price being the two deciding factors for the purchasing decisions of my customers.

I know by increasing the loyalty of my existing customers will help protect my profit margins.  However, my knowledge of the actual workings of a loyalty program is limited.  Based largely on my experience using the plastic card I habitually swipe in my local grocery store and the frequent flyer rewards I collect through my membership of the BA Executive Club.

I am aware data is perhaps the most powerful asset I have in my company.  Given my online experiences using Amazon, Google & Facebook, I understand how these companies use data to enrich my customer experience.  I therefore must also optimise my own data to ensure I delight my customers, personalising their food & service ensuring they come back time and time again for more.

So where do I look for help?  Rather than engage a specialist loyalty company, I decide to start by speaking with my existing service providers.  To my surprise all of them have developed a means of bringing together the online & instore experience.

First, my WiFi provider explains how the data they collect from my WiFi log in page can be used to send personalised marketing messages to my customers and these can be targeted based on frequency of visit & dwell time in my locations

Next, my Payment Gateway company tells me they can tokenise & track my customer’s card transactions.  They show me a marketing dashboard where I can view, in real time, the purchasing behaviours of my most valuable customers.

 

I’m not Starbucks, so do not have ownership & control over my technology stack to make this happen.  I’ve come to understand, however, that my vision for customer loyalty can be delivered if only I can connect my existing technology stack around an open Point of Sale system. 

 

Then, I’m informed by my Couponing provider by linking their Promotions Manager service with my Point of Sale, I can track all my promotional coupon redemptions centrally.  Building up a profile of my customers, how they respond to my different promotions based on the channels I issue them; direct, social media or even within my mobile ordering flow.

Finally, the provider of my Digital Receipts says they can deliver targeted offers & promotions published on the receipt itself.  Crucially, this will allow me to target new additional bank customers with offers where redemptions can be tracked and analysed in real time.

Following these conversations I decide, rather than a loyalty program, I’m looking for a ‘game changer’ in how my restaurant locations use technology to optimise the guest experience.

I really like the idea of linking customer rewards & promotions directly with my ordering & payment flows.  So where ever my customers make a purchase; via my on-line ordering website, my App or even at the table using their own mobile device I have an ability to reward them.

I’m not Starbucks, so do not have ownership & control over my technology stack to make this happen.  I’ve come to understand, however, that my vision for customer loyalty can be delivered if only I can connect my existing technology stack around an open Point of Sale system.

Providing my customers with a great restaurant experience; personalised for loyalty, promotions, ordering & payment, can only happen once my back-end systems, Point of Sale & Kitchen Management, work seamlessly with my front-end capabilities; App & ordering website.

I now know what I want.  Who, however, do I ask to deliver me this loyalty program of the future?  The Point of Sale provider, Payment Gateway a Loyalty Specialist or a front-end Development Agency?

The answer is in fact all of them.  To create the loyalty program of the future, all the providers in my technology stack must work in collaboration.  Only then can my vision for customer loyalty, at least in the F&B sector, truly be delivered.

Nick Chambers is Director at Mobile Loyalty Technologies Limited.

The post Who will provide the loyalty program of the future? appeared first on The Wise Marketer.

Rebranding Is Much More Than Designing a New Logo

Companies put a lot of stock in logos, and who can blame them? A logo is meant to serve as a visual and memorable representation of a brand, an enduring symbol of what it means to be “me.” But this graphical, emblematic totem rarely says much on its own. And when a logo becomes the focal point of a rebranding effort, which it often does, you’re missing the mark. 

A rebrand is closer to a revolution than an evolution. It should represent a fundamental shift in how you position your business. Sure, the logo and design will be a part of this. But the most important aspects will be the rationale behind the initiative and the outcome you’re hoping to achieve. Most of today’s rebranding efforts are in response to changes in the marketplace or consumer behavior. Perhaps a new competitor has disrupted industry norms, and your brand is now seen as stodgy or pedantic.

When Airbnb turned the hospitality industry on its head, Marriott responded with the launch of Moxy Hotels in hopes of appealing to Millennial travelers. Radisson did the same with Radisson Red, introducing a hip, lower-cost option for this same demographic. Both of these rebranding efforts are more than design or messaging—they’re new experience-driven business models.

And it’s this emphasis on experience that’s altered how businesses think about branding. If you want to connect with consumers, branding—or rebranding, at that—has to move beyond look and feel. It must encapsulate and communicate the authentic purpose of your brand.

Ogilvy did just this when it went through a rebranding initiative—or, to use the agency’s terminology, a “re-founding.” The objective wasn’t just to repackage its brand for a younger audience; it was to position itself as a creative network, which entailed two years’ worth of restructuring to its staff, organizational design, and financial reporting standards. For Ogilvy, the rebranding was about authentically asserting its identity.

The Struggle Is Real 

Not all companies, of course, are successful with their rebranding efforts. Some brands neglect the needs of their customers as they rethink their position in the marketplace. KMS haircare recently repositioned its brand with a new aesthetic to appeal to “premium” consumers and build a more diverse customer base. Part of the initiative, however, included a change to its product formulas, which could alienate people who loved the originals. 

Some brands also forget about staff in the midst of a rebranding. Any change should make your employees feel excited, not like an afterthought. Besides, the people who work for you are just as much a part of your brand as the products or services you offer. It makes strong commercial sense to include them in the equation. 

And let’s not forget the PR implications of a rebrand, which many businesses do. IHOP had people scratching their heads when it began to call itself IHOB. Time will tell whether the effort to get consumers to try its burgers pans out, but its parent company did see a 30 percent gain in its stocks.

This, then, leads us to the question: How do you ensure a successful relaunch of a brand?

The following are often good places to start:

1) Craft a Compelling Narrative

All brands have a story to tell, and the successful ones realize the role this story plays in forming a connection—sometimes emotionally—with customers, both external and internal. Develop a clear, relatable narrative that provides a tangible direction for your brand. Use it to inject energy into each strategic initiative. If a rebranding effort focuses on building a community, for example, define how new digital tools can empower staff and enable greater collaboration, all while reducing hierarchy.

2) Set Expectations for Brand Rollout

Companies often concentrate so much on connecting with the masses that they can lose sight of their very first customers: employees. These are the people you want to feel passionate about your brand. After all, passion can be infectious, making each customer interaction a memorable one. And we all know improving the customer experience increases customer loyalty. So align your team behind your brand, and get them excited about the rebranding initiative.

3) Take Care in Timing Your Relaunch

It takes considerable time to coordinate all the pieces for a successful brand launch, and business pressures can drive many boards to prematurely unveil a rebranding initiative before everything is in place. Resist the urge to drip-feed the launch. Make sure every key asset is aligned and ready to launch simultaneously. Your internal communication should be ready to go live at the same time as your website. The last thing you need is for a client to visit your store or office and see old signage. It’s not just confusing; it’s unprofessional.

4) Make It More Than Just a Brand Relaunch

The excitement of relaunching a brand keeps enthusiasm high, but few rebrands are entirely successful from day one. They require ongoing commitment and refinement. Ask yourself, “What will the 12-month rollout look like? What are all the initiatives to follow the initial launch?” Consider keeping a brand steering group engaged beyond the launch date. Keep tabs on the response and progress of each initiative. You might find that certain elements don’t resonate and will need minor adjustments. 

As with any marketing effort, not everything will strike the right chord with consumers. But there are multiple metrics you can use to measure where an initiative might be falling flat. Just make sure to tailor these metrics to reflect your rebranding objectives. Personally, I recommend a mix of commercial and marketing efficiency measures. While increasing website traffic, lowering customer acquisition costs, and improving employee engagement numbers are all great indicators, there’s no substitute for increased revenue and improved margin performance.

The post Rebranding Is Much More Than Designing a New Logo appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.