5 Tips for Building an Engaging Website 

By Steve Hoag

web site design, website design

Lots of people have websites. Not enough have engaging ones. That’s a fact of the Internet. Everyone’s objective should be to make their website as engaging as possible. If it isn’t, why are they still putting money and time into their Internet presence? Engaging websites are for companies (like yours) that are serious about how their impact online. So how do you go about doing that? Read on my friend, read on.

1.  Unique voice – It doesn’t matter if you sell bolts or Ferraris, every company needs to have a unique voice that mirrors their brand. If you don’t have a unique voice then you will not stick out in people’s minds, and will blend into the white noise.

2.  Make sure your content can be skimmed through – This basically boils down to not adding a lot of filler. You want to make your point, and then move on to the next one. Keep things concise. Also, make use of headers that allow viewers to easily jump from place to place easily, and still be able to retain the main points you are trying to communicate.

3.  Emphasize benefits over features – Customers care more about what a product can do for them, rather than being fed a feature list. For instance, telling your average Joe that your TV has a 1080p resolution, and Dolby surround makes you sound like a used car salesman. A better option is to tell them:  Our TV will create the most visceral cinematic experience you have ever experienced by seamlessly combining its stunning 1080p picture with immersive Dolby Surround Sound.  See the difference?

4.  Continually update your site – This is an absolute must. Your website needs to updated continually to stay relevant. Business is constantly evolving, and the Internet moves even faster. New trends and technologies are common occurrences that you need to take advantage of. Staying ahead of the curve is the name of the game.

5. Call to actions - These need to be all over the place. You want to make the purchasing process as simple and quick as possible. People are much more likely to buy if you repeatedly present them with that option.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Thursday, July 18, 2013 4:44:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise web design website

Social Media: Your B2B Mistress 

By Steve Hoag

Social Media: Your B2B Mistress

Social media can be quite the fickle mistress.

You can stay active and see relatively little growth. But, the minute you stop posting, Hell has frozen over.

Now time for the good news! This doesn’t have to be you! There are a variety of ways you can easily bolster your online presence through social media. All you need is a push in the right direction, a little dedication, and an unpaid intern. I’m just kidding about the unpaid part. You should compensate them for their efforts. They are broke college kids after all.

So without further ado here are 10 easy pointers for helping to promote your website via social media:

1.Promote your content and website on every channel that is relevant to your business.

A lot of people think that it’s necessary to post on every single social media channel for their business. This is absolutely not true. For instance, let’s say you own a factory that makes screws, bolts, and nails. You create LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube company accounts. That’s great because they’re relevant.

Then you go way out into left field and create a Pinterest account. What’s Pinterest you say? It’s a social network that people (and by people, I mean mostly girls with an avid fashion/photography interest) post photos/images in a collage format. Do you think these people are interested in screws, bolts, and nails? I would venture to say no.

The point is this: Only become active in channels where your target audience is present in large numbers. The important B2B social networks are usually LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Most business professionals/targets are active in Linked In. The same can be said for Twitter, but to a lesser extent. Twitter has almost become a job posting/RFP network of sorts, with people actively looking for help in projects. Finally, Facebook is primarily used for direct to consumer products that have a quick purchasing decision process such as Pepsi, Xbox, Old Spice, video games, music etc. With regard to B2B, creating a company page on Facebook can be useful for developing an online community with your employees.

2.Create usernames/handles that reflect your business.

No one will be able to find you online if you have an account that doesn’t make people immediately think of your business. If you’re a graphic design company, use something like CompanyNameDesign, or something similar. The same goes for any other company. Include your company name in your handle, even if it is an acronym, along with another keyword that’s directly applicable to your work. Try to keep the handle as short as possible to make the most use of Twitter’s character limit.

3.Share content at peak hours.

It’s important to post when people are most active on social networks.  This will help to gain the most visibility. Activity varies a great deal between networks. For example, people are most active on Linked In during the weekends. Therefore, post content on Fridays when people are done with work and surfing their social networks. Focus on posting during business hours on weekdays for Twitter, especially between 1-3pm EST. This may vary depending on your business, but it is a good rule of thumb. Post on Facebook midweek between 1-4 pm.

4.Engage people you know and use them to share your content.

Who is more likely to do you a favor: A total stranger or friend?  Unless they’re a Good Samaritan, it will usually be your friend or even an acquaintance. The easiest way to immediately spread content is through people you already know. Leverage your network to engage potential clients in your contacts’ networks.

5.Stay active on other blogs, groups, and pages that your targets are active on to establish credibility.

What’s easier? Talking to that random girl at the party? Or making friends with her friends, impressing them, and then getting introduced that way? Here’s a better question: which is more effective? The first option is easier, and can be effective, sure. However, it is a lot easier to establish credibility if you focus on leveraging the contacts of your target. This goes back to pointer #4. People trust people they know. If you engage their personal network that your targets trust, then that immediately boosts your brand image in their mind.  A lot of companies focus on trying to promote their brand directly, where the indirect approach can be just as effective. Some practical ways of doing this are identifying blogs, groups, and pages that your targets are active on. Make comments on topics you are knowledgeable in, and post questions as well as interesting content you found to gain exposure.

6.Don’t spam your followers. Talk with them rather than at them.

Who likes someone that texts them incessantly throughout the day? No one. It’s annoying. When it comes to social networking treat your followers like you would your significant other. Don’t across as desperate for attention or needy. Give them just enough to keep them interested, but not too much so that you push them away. Spread out your posts so that you don’t flood their newsfeed. There are a lot of tools out there that can help you achieve this. One of the most prevalent in B2B circles is HootSuite. It aggregates all of your social media accounts from different channels, and allows you to schedule posts ahead of time. This means you don’t need to immediately post every interesting thing you find. You can save it for later! By spreading out your posts you are able to stay top of mind among your target market.

You know that one friend who can’t stop talking about themselves? Yeah, so does everyone. Don’t be that guy (or company). No one enjoys hanging out with them past the first 5 seconds. The same goes for social networking. Don’t constantly push your products on people. Talk with them rather than at them. This can be done by posting content that appeals to them, which in turn builds engagement, and makes people want to come to you. By posting interesting, and fun content you can engage them in a way that other companies who focus on hard selling and heavy advertising can’t. You will gain respect, and become a thought leader in their minds. When they do eventually have to purchase a product that you provide, you will already be top of mind.

7.Include share buttons on all of your content to make it as easily as possible for people to share it.

Once you drive people to your site, make it easy for them to share your great content! Install social share buttons on every blog page of your site so that you make sharing as seamless as possible.

8.Promote other people’s content, and ask them to share yours! They will more often than not return the favor.

Fact: Everyone loves attention. Nothing feeds the ego like seeing other people value what you have to say, and demonstrating that. When it comes to social media that means sharing, re-tweeting, reposting etc. Feed your followers’ egos by sharing their content, as long as it is directly relevant to your business and core competency. This goes both ways. You will be surprised how often people will share your posts as long as you ask them. For instance, asking for retweets on Twitter leads to 4x as many RTs! Cite hubspot It never hurts to ask.

9.Pre-populate article/blog content on your site to show that you are not new to the game.

This follows the idea that more content equals more credibility. Who do you trust more: The author with 30 books on the subject, or the one who is writing his first book? Definitely option A. If people go to your blog on your site and see only one post, does this convey your expert knowledge in your field, or commitment to your social networking? Nope. An easy way to avoid this is by posting several blog articles before promoting them on social networks. Backdate these so people see that you have had this blog going for a significant amount of time, rather than having 5 blog posts from the same day.

10.All posts and bios should use appropriate keywords to help you gain exposure.

Increasing exposure of your site and social media accounts are intrinsically tied in some ways. SEO for your site depends on prevalence of keywords and links, and the same goes for gaining exposure on social media. Include keywords that are relevant to your business in all blog/social media posts, as well as bios. If you are a designer, that doesn’t mean trying to force fit words like design every other sentence of your blog post. Make sure the article flows! When it comes to social media, including #hashtags with keywords makes your posts more easily searchable for other companies. For instance, Fast Track operates in website design and development, so including hashtags like #webdevelopment, and #webdesign are great options for any posts we have.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, July 10, 2013 12:06:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SEO SMB social media social media marketing website

Website Designer or Developer? The Catch 22 of B2B, or is it? 

By Steve Hoag

web designer, web developer

Ah yes, web designers and developers, the Michelangelos and Henry Fords of the Internet. Who do you need for your online business to succeed? This is perhaps one of the more perplexing, yet simple questions to answer. Before we work through this problem, let’s create a brief profile of both types of Internet professionals:

Web Designers:

These right brained individuals are oftentimes the creative, Apple-cult, organic coffee drinking artists of the internet industry. Yes, that is a generalization, but just roll with it for now. Their primary focus is on the visual and graphical representation of a website. They want to create a seamless experience for visitors by combining eye-catching design with usability. Most, if not all, have some knowledge in coding, but their core competency resides in design.

Web Developers:

On the flip side of the yin & yang spectrum are the left brained web developers. These guys focus on the nitty gritty work that goes on behind the curtains of the beautiful design that designers create. Designers are Xzibit on Pimp My Ride, while developers are your friendly neighborhood mechanics that make sure that your car does what it’s supposed to do – work.

So who do I need? A web designer or developer?

Put simply, it depends on the functional and visual requirements of the project you have in mind. Like I said before, almost all designers have programming knowledge, so they can handle a lot of tasks that are functionally simple, yet graphically/visually intensive. Do you need a simple 3-5 page site created? Hire a designer. How about a simple blog? Hire a designer.

However, it gets trickier the more complex of a solution you need. For instance, if you are looking for a custom e-commerce solution, you will want both a developer and designer depending on how visually attractive you need it to be. How about a new, shiny custom website? You will need both Xzibit and your friendly car mechanic – AKA a designer and developer.

Successfully building your online presence depends on sound design and programming. It is difficult to succeed with one, but not the other. Sure, your dependable ’90 Civic may still run well, but wouldn’t you rather have a Ferrari? Likewise, having a Ferrari with a defective engine really doesn’t do you much good either. That is, unless you are Fred Flintstone and can power it with your feet. The most important step in this process is clearly establishing its requirements at the beginning. Once that is done, the hiring decision is easy.

 

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Wednesday, June 26, 2013 12:00:00 AM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development website

If You Build It, They Will Come: Why A Strong Website Foundation Is Crucial 

By Steve Hoag

 

web foundationBuilding a great website can be a crowning achievement for many businesses. A lot of money and time are invested into these platforms, so much so that it is imperative the website turns out well. Companies with a strong foundation are like the kids in college who took the time to get internships and got a great job right after graduation. They set themselves up for future success. You reap what you sow, and that is especially true when it comes to online business. Here are some reasons why you want to be one of those college kids:

  1. Putting in the time and money now is better than having to do it repeatedly later.

If you’ve ever taken finance classes you know the basic principle that money now is worth more than money later. When it comes to websites, it’s the exact opposite. Yes, I know I am   completely disagreeing with some core ideas of finance, but those finance guys never had to go through multiple redesigns. And trust me; it can be a real headache. Making sure all your i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed early on can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Custom websites aren’t cheap, and neither are multiple redesigns.

  1.  You only have one shot with some consumers. Get it right!

Eminem once said: ‘If you had one shot, one opportunity…would you capture it?’ I like to think he wrote that just for this article and not a biopic. It definitely applies to online business. Some consumers will only take one brief look at your site and completely write you off. No three strikes and you’re out. You need to have a strong foundation so that you can effectively capture these leads from the get-go. Any lost leads means lost $$$.

  1. Rebranding and redesigns can lead to lost sales opportunities.

As said earlier, redesigns cost more than money, they cost time. This means you have to allocate business resources to the redesign, which can detract from sales efforts. The opportunity cost on redesigns can be quite large when you take everything into account. Make sure your foundation is strong so you don’t have to make these unnecessary sacrifices later on!

  1. Websites are the new brick and mortar store.

Back in old timey days, people didn’t have the Internet. They had to physically move to buy something they wanted. Now you can do pretty much all shopping from the comfort of your La-Z Boy. Old timey people judged stores by their appearance and by holding their wares. Nowadays people judge companies by their websites and snarky customer reviews/social media comments. This means that your website needs to be in tip top shape, ideally from day 1. It has to effectively reflect your brand, and persuade viewers that what you have to sell is worthy of their Benjamins.

  1. Climbing search rankings depends on sound website design and development.

SEO is like trying to lose weight. It’s a constant uphill battle, and you can undo significant progress with a few late night pizzas. That’s why it is important to have a strong foundation that you can easily build off of. Good search rankings don’t happen overnight. You need to do the little things like having suitable tags, use of keywords, intuitive nav structure, and linking through social media/blogs etc. It’s better to have your growing pains early on, rather than trying to adjust further down the road. Make life easy for search engines, so they can bring customers to you.

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Friday, May 31, 2013 5:35:00 PM Categories: B2B enterprise SMB web design web development website
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