A good website is a “living” marketing tool that can evolve to accommodate different approaches to engage with it’s users. Our long standing client, The Rockwood, a St Louis retirement community, understands this and recently asked us to revisit their site and make suggestions on how it could be improved.
The site has now been overhauled so it performs better in the search engines and offers interactions with it’s users through social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. We also built them a custom WordPress blog which was seamlessly integrated into the site.
You can subscribe to their blog, become a Facebook Friend or Follow them on Twitter
© Chicago Web Designer
Blogging can be a great tool to add to your marketing mix. It can improve the visibility of your online presence and allow easy interaction with your clients and site visitors.
For small business owners serious about getting their sites to perform well in the search engines (internet marketing, SEO) I generally suggest adding a blog if … and this is a “big if”, they can devote the time to write it. A new blog will require at least two to three post a week for the first few months to get it rolling and at least one per week after that.
There is no way you can cheat either. I subscribed a year or so back to a blog which, until the weekend, appeared to be dead. However over the last few days posts have been rolling into my reader from this blog, all post dated. To readers new to the blog it looks like the blog has been updated on a regular basis …but the search engines will know better.
Coming up with regular fresh content can be a challenge, but you most definitely “reap what you sow”
The St Louis web designer Tip of the day
What is the essence of good strategy? The attempt to answer that question has filled more pages of business books than anyone could count, most of them essentially useless. For every piece of advice that points in one direction there are invariably a dozen which point somewhere else; strategy isn’t a “one size fits all” topic and many best-selling books on the subject are dangerous because they attempt to position one strategic approach as a universal solution. In real life there is a time to focus and a time to diversify, a time to invest and a time to restructure. Half the battle is knowing your situation, and deciding which strategy is appropriate; the rest comes down to execution, that less talked-about aspect of business without which strategy is meaningless.
Nevertheless there are some characteristics of good strategy that transcend the situational. If we work on the assumption that strategy requires a knowledge of your desired destination (what you want your business to be or become) and a relentless commitment to excellence in achieving this, strategy becomes the roadmap, the backbone upon which plans are based. This is important, because without a clear view of the goal, strategy is unlikely to be successful. How could it be? It’s like trying to figure out directions without knowing where you’re going.
This doesn’t mean, however, that having a good strategy will make you feel comfortable. On the contrary, a powerful strategy is about navigating from where you are to where you want to be, and this inevitably means change, challenge, risk and discomfort. If you’re executing a strategy you’ll be doing something. You’re on a path and it will be clear what needs to get done but that doesn’t mean it will be easy, certain or “safe”. What you actually do will depend on your situation, your goals and, of course, your strategy. You might be investing in new channels, expanding your offering, adding manufacturing capacity, acquiring a related business or building a brand. You could be rationalizing product lines or production sites, qualifying new suppliers, outsourcing activities or reducing overhead. Whatever it is though, it should feel like you’re moving.
Executing strategy is like exercising: if it doesn’t feel a bit uncomfortable you’re not pushing hard enough. It might not matter now, but watch out, because sooner or later someone leaner, fitter and more committed might decide that your business lies in the middle of their strategic pathway.
It’s easy to get excited about your new business strategy – you’ve assessed the market, evaluated the competition and developed a compelling offering that will position you for success. Now comes the hard part – execution. Unless you are a sole trader you are going to be heavily dependant on your employees to determine the extent of your success. No matter how great your strategy it can fail in numerous ways if your people don’t implement it correctly.
The larger your business becomes, the more you are dependant on others and the more important it is that you can achieve through your team. Training is obviously a part of the equation but most people develop fastest when they are given new responsibilities and challenges. Unless you want your employees to be the limiting factor in your success you need them to grow with you and deliver more over time. So how do you give people the right amount of challenge? It’s a bit like holding the safety rope as someone climbs a cliff face – if you don’t let the rope pay out they can’t progress, but if you give them too much slack and they fall it will not be a pleasant landing. On balance, though, people tend not to be stretched enough and to develop too slowly as a result.
Another key issue is hiring – if you hire the best people, lead them effectively and constantly challenge them then you’ll be rewarded with an organization fit not only to deliver on the plans you develop but to build on them and drive you to the next level. The power of a well-chosen, trained, energized and motivated team can be an awesome thing to experience.
How easy is it to understand your product line? Let’s say a potential customer wants something that you offer – can they readily determine from your brochure, website or other collateral what is right for them? If you read Forbes magazine, you may have seen a small article about the problems Chrysler has with product complexity; more than 150,000 possible combinations of features for one model alone, compared with less than a hundred for a competitive vehicle. In this age of mass customization you might think that offering more choice would be a good thing for consumers, but if you’ve ever tried to figure out the combinations of features on some of these vehicles you very soon realize that sometimes less is more.
This isn’t just a matter of complexity – people’s attention span is lower than it has ever been. If you don’t seem to have what they want the chances are that they’ll be on to the next website in a click. Remember this when you’re thinking about organizing your information – put yourself in the position of the user and ask yourself what they would like to know if they were in the market for your product. As the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression – better make it a good one, because if you don’t someone else will.
Few subjects are more talked about and less well understood than strategy. Countless theories have been developed and books written, many with completely contrary advice, so what should a business do when developing strategy? There is no easy answer, but one theme should guide your thinking from the start.
Strategy is about deciding where you want to be in the long term – that means at least five years in the future. First decide what you want your business to look like, and then decide how you will make it happen, not the other way around. Describe your business in the future in sufficient detail; don’t use generic language – instead be specific about as much as you can. If your “future” could describe just about any business you won’t be able to build a real plan to get there.
Strategy is simply the way in which you intend to get to your desired future. It’s no different to planning a journey – first decide on your destination and then pick a route.
Design is a very personal thing. When choosing a look and feel for your brand you are going to have to accept that not everyone is going to like it. This means that you can avoid trying to please everyone.
A good example is the 7 Series BMW I saw in a car park today. When Chris Bangle took over responsibility for styling at BMW he introduced a whole new look to the product line. His design was controversial, largely because the BMW brand was already successful and the look of its existing product highly popular. Now, several years later, the old product looks dated and the new BMWs are as stylish as anything in their class.
If Chris Bangle had based his design decisions on offending the fewest people he would likely have created a “lowest common denominator” look that would not have positioned BMW for the future. The Pontiac Aztek, by contrast, was designed with full use of focus groups and customer input. It was an abject failure in the market, one of the most enduringly ugly vehicles of recent years.
Design decisions aren’t easy but they should represent you and what you stand for. Remember the old adage: “A camel is a horse designed by a committee”.
We are very pleased to introduce a guest writer to our blog who will contribute under the name of “St Louis Marketing Executive”.
He will be sharing perspectives drawn from his experience of branding, global business management and marketing in a B2B environment, and has promised us a monthly contribution.
Look for his first post this week!