5 Web Design Trends to Watch in 2013

web-design-trends-2013It’s the end of the year. Traditionally a time for looking back, but savvy B2B marketers know it’s important to keep an eye on the web design trends that could spell the difference between website success and failure in the year ahead.

As a business owner, you’re likely too busy to delve into the nitty-gritty of web design techniques, so you leave those details to your web team. But it doesn’t hurt to know what’s emerging as the hottest design trends of 2013.

To help keep you engaged in the design conversation, we’ve identified five areas hot topics. We’ve posed them as questions, with links to stellar examples of each trend. Go ahead; take a few minutes to explore each of the points below. You may not be an expert when you’re done, but you’ll at least start to sound like one. And in this competitive market, that can mean a lot.

Will responsive design become a standard for web design? Responsive websites respond to their environment. Responsively designed websites are only valuable in today’s increasingly mobile word. Responsive design means you design one website and it adapts to different screen sizes–desktop, tablet, and mobile.

Will parallax design become more popular than single-page/vertical scrolling websites? Parallax design completely shifts how a view scrolls through a website. In web design, the parallax effect is a relatively new trend. The effect itself has been around for a while, but lately is becoming more used and talked about.

Will the 2012 tablet explosion (iPad, Surface, Nexus, Windows 8, etc.) create a need for specialized tablet versions of websites? Most website can easily be designed and developed for tablet use in mind, but that may not be enough any more. In general, there are at least five key differences between designing websites for tablets, and designing for desktops and laptops.

Will we see more use of infographics in web design? USA Today may have invented the infographic in print, but the design element is making a big splash on the web. A new infographic is featured every day on this eye-popping site.

With web fonts becoming more accessible/affordable, will typography in web design be used in new ways? One example is Typecast, currently in a public beta, which allows web designers and developers to combine and compare different web fonts directly from the browser.


Some Thoughts on Becoming a Thought Leader

small-business-thought-leaderEveryone wants to be a thought leader these days. At least, that’s what other thought leaders tell us.

Whether you call it thought leader, subject matter expert or some other buzz phrase, being highly regarded in your field is a great way to not just get noticed yourself, but to also attract new clients for your product or service.

Tips for Becoming a Thought Leader

Not sure how to position yourself as a thought leader? Here are some tips to get you thinking:

  • Know your industry. If you work in your industry, that’s a given. But also be aware of new, bleeding edge trends. Be willing to share those trends. After all, your customers come to you because you know your industry.
  • Form opinions on new trends. People look to you for guidance. Just don’t be too definite about new ideas. Some of your predictions or opinions may turn out to be false. If you positioned yourself as having all the answers, you might end up hurting yourself. People don’t expect thought leaders to be right 100% of the time, but it’s important to strike a balance between being opinionated and bombastic.
  • Share useful articles on social media such as your Twitter and Facebook accounts. If you don’t share your wisdom, no one will benefit from it.
  • Write useful, informative content in your blog. This might be the most important part of being a thought leader, since a blog allows you to develop and explain ideas.
  • Answer questions whenever and wherever you’re asked. LinkedIn Groups, LinkedIn Answers, and other social networks like Quora are a good place to start.
  • Consider giving talks to local business and trade groups. If you do, post your PowerPoint slides on SlideShare and bring print-outs of the slides as handouts.
  • If you have the capacity and the demand exists, consider giving a webinar.
  • Release a white paper on industry trends once a year. Make it available on your company website in exchange for visitors’ contact information.
  • Publish a regular email newsletter about your industry.
  • Follow other blogs in your industry and participate in the comments section.
  • Publish guest posts on industry blogs.

It will take some work, but with the help of social media, you might even make yourself a hot commodity with the mainstream media, who will may seek you out. When that happens, you know you’ve arrived in the thought leader stratosphere.

Don’t think it can happen to you? Read more tips from someone who put her mind to it and became a thought leader in just six easy steps. Well, maybe not that easy, but well worth the effort.


Marketing As a Conversation

If you ask 20 different experts to define marketing, you’re likely to get 20 different answers. Marketing is the process of educating people about your products or services. It’s how you go about building your brand. It’s what takes place before the sale. Marketing is conducting research to learn about your prospects and customers. It’s the activity that keeps the company looking to the future rather than focusing just on today.

The truth is, marketing is all these things and more, which can make it seem like a complex, difficult activity for small businesses with limited resources and no formal marketing training. At its most basic, however, marketing is a conversation. Specifically, it’s a conversation between you and your prospects and customers that needs to accomplish three essential goals:

  1. Determine your ideal customer – those who have a legitimate need for your product or service and have the financial resources to purchase it.
  2. Identify your ideal customer’s most important challenges, issues and concerns in regards to your product or service.
  3. Help them understand how your product/service/solution addresses those concerns better than anyone else while offering the best value for their money.

Do these three things well, and attracting new customers – which is one of the primary goals of marketing — gets a lot easier. Which means you can spend more time actually delivering your product or service and less time struggling to get people interested in it.

Taking the Mystery Out of Marketing

When you start looking at marketing as a conversation, it raises a number of questions. Who should you be talking to? What should you say? How do you say it in a way that motives people to engage with you? What tools and technologies should you use to engage people in conversation?

The process of answering these questions takes much of the mystery and complexity out of marketing. More important, it helps to resolve perhaps the biggest mistake that most small businesses make – trying to market their product or service to the whole world rather than carefully targeting their audiences. No business can be all things to all people. Answering these marketing conversation questions enables you to deliver a targeted, focused message that makes the best use of your time and limited marketing dollars.

Approaching marketing as a conversation also resolves another common marketing blunder — talking at your customers rather than with them.

Conversation implies a two-way dialog. You talk while the other person listens. Then they talk while you listen. If you discover a mutual interest, the conversation continues. That’s why the Internet and social media have caught on so quickly as marketing tools. When used properly, they make it easy and cost-effective to engage prospects and customers in two-way dialog.

During this two-way dialog, listening is by far the more important part of the process. Today’s B2B customers don’t want to be sold; they want someone to help them make the right buying decision. They want someone who will educate them about the questions they should be asking in order to make the best buying decisions. They want someone who will act as a trusted partner rather than just a vendor. In order to become a trusted partner, you must listen closely to your customers, and listen well!

If you’re not getting a good return on your marketing efforts, go back to the starting point and figure out who you should be talking to. Take the time to dig in and uncover their most pressing problems and concerns (by asking a lot of questions and then listening). Then engage them in a conversation about how you can help resolve those challenges in a cost-effective manner.

When you hold the right conversations with the right people, marketing becomes much easier and lot more effective. That’s an outcome that every small business would like to see.


New Client Website Design: Elevate Semiconductor

ElevateElevATE Semiconductor makes semiconductors and integrated circuits for test equipment. They recently became an independent company, spinning off from Intersil. The ElevATE team needed help transitioning from Intersil’s brand to a brand of their own.

Because ElevATE was previously part of another company, they didn’t have their own website. They needed a website to help establish themselves as credible, trustworthy company. Since current customers could be confused when their high-end orders are switched to a “new” supplier, it was important to highlight ElevATE’s capabilities.

Bop Design created a professional, conservative design that appeals to engineers. The Product section was given special attention, since it is the most important part of the website. It contains a technical overview of each semiconductor ElevATE creates. Because ElevATE requires interested parties to sign an NDA before receiving full access to their product descriptions, Bop made it easy for visitors to fill out a form to reach out to ElevATE for more information. The overall result is a polished website that highlights ElevATE’s expertise and experience.


Retargeting for Improved Online Advertising Results

effective-b2b-advertisingAre you getting a good ROI from your online advertising? If not, you might want to consider retargeting, an advertising approach that displays your ads on other websites to people who have already visited yours.

Here’s how it works: you target previous visitors to your web site with banner ads on display networks across the web. Because these prospects are already familiar with your product, service or brand, you can go beyond the standard introductory ad and design ads to bring them back to your site. When they return, your chances of converting them to a sale significantly increase. In fact, according to a study by a leading retargeting vendor, retargeting your site visitors makes them 70% more likely to convert on your web site.

If you’re new to retargeting, the following tips will help you start out on the right foot:

Choose the right platform. There are two types of retargeting platforms – managed and self-service. Managed platforms save time by doing most of the heavy lifting for you. Self-service platforms give you more control but require more time and expertise to manage.

Select a vendor. Currently, five vendors lead the way in the retargeting market:

  • Google Adwords offers more control, allowing you to narrowly focus on your target for better results.
  • ReTargeter provides a dedicated account manager to guide you through the intricacies of the process.
  • AdRoll makes it easy to get placement on most ad networks. (Bop Design uses AdRoll.)
  • Fetchback uses an audience segmentation approach that can be more difficult to manage than others. But it promises placement above the fold, so that more people see your ad.
  • Perfect Audience taps into Facebook’s ad network. This may increase the number of viewers who see your ads, but you may have to adjust them to make sure they’re Facebook-friendly.

Establish clear advertising parameters. Successful retargeting requires knowing where and when to run your ads, and for how long. To maximize control, run your ads when you’re available to tweak them, not during the middle of the night. Limit the cookie duration and number of impressions so your ads don’t wear out their welcome. If your ads include a specific offer, change them frequently to keep the offer fresh. To save money, don’t target internationally — unless, of course, your company does business overseas.

Segment your ads by viewer category. Different customers buy your product or service for different reasons. To address those reasons, organize your website by product, industry, or other area of interest to your viewers, and then segment your retargeting ads accordingly. The more accurately you segment your viewers, the more effective your ads will be.

Gather attribution data. With so many different ways to bring people to your website, it can be difficult to track what type of ad is most effective in driving conversion rates. To gather as much data as possible, always ask customers and prospects how they found you. While this information tends to be more anecdotal, the number of references to your retargeted ads can provide a reasonable idea of their effectiveness.

Finally, don’t forget to test for results. One of the real strengths of retargeting (and online advertising in general) is that it allows you to test different ads down to a fine level of detail. To get the best results, separately test each element of your retargeting ads, including headline, body copy, colors, images and call to action. To minimize measurement error, run the A test and B test for about the same length of time. As you get better at retargeting your ads for each viewer segment, your online conversion rates will begin to climb.

To learn more about retargeting, read tips from Software Advice: 5 Lessons Learned in Site Retargeting.


How To Use Customer Testimonials to Improve Your Website

website-testimonialsAre you avoiding the use of customer testimonials on your web site because they seem phony or cheesy? If so, you might want to reconsider.

We’ve all seen websites with obviously fake testimonials. And sometimes even legitimate testimonials can make the product sound too good to be true. But experienced marketers know that the best advocate for your business is a satisfied customer willing to tell the world about it. When done well, customer testimonials add legitimacy to your website and build trust with prospects who are contemplating buying your product or service.

The Right Way to Use Testimonials

The best testimonials share four important characteristics. They are:

  • Concise. Online readers generally won’t take the time to read long-winded comments about your product or your business. Use short, crisp testimonials that say what they need to say in a couple of sentences.
  • Credible. Testimonials should contain high, but reasonable, praise. Never use them to make false claims or promises, and don’t just make them up. Readers can tell when a business fabricates its own testimonials.
  • Specific. Don’t try to cover everything about your product in one testimonial. Instead, focus on one or two attributes or benefits of using your product or service. Avoid vague or unclear testimonials, no matter how enthusiastic about your company or your product they may be.
  • Outcome oriented. Strive for testimonials that describe specific outcomes, such as saving time, lowering costs, solving a problem or doing things more efficiently. These give prospects a clear idea of what your product can do for them.

Keep in mind that not all testimonials are created equal. If you can get testimonials from high profile clients, by all means use them! These show that you are large enough and legitimate enough to gain the trust and business of well-respected companies.

Even with lower-profile testimonials, try to include the customer’s full name—or at least a company name—as these add to the credibility of the comments. Always get permission from clients to use their testimonials, and be aware that some industries may require you to maintain client privacy.

Placing Your Testimonials

Even the best testimonials won’t do any good if visitors to your site can’t find them. So always put your testimonials where prospects and customers can easily see them. The obvious choice is to place them in close proximity to the description of your product or service. It also helps to put them in areas where you ask customers to take action, such as shopping cart checkouts. A well-placed testimonial can offer the final bit of assurance before someone decides to buy your product or service.

If you have enough credible testimonials, consider creating a separate testimonial section or page. Again, make it easy for readers to find them by including menu headings and “Read More” links attached to the testimonials placed near your product offerings.

Get Creative

Depending on the nature of your product or service, you may want to consider posting audio and/or video testimonials on your website. High-ticket items, complex products or services, and those that require a long sales cycle can often benefit from a compelling video testimonial from a satisfied customer. The same rules apply as with written testimonials: concise, credible, and outcome oriented. In addition, make sure they are professionally produced so they don’t look cheesy.

Cheese is good on pizza, crackers and nachos, not on websites. Follow these guidelines for using testimonials on your website and you’ll build trust with prospects while enhancing the credibility of your product or service.


Communicating with Today’s Time-Deprived Readers

marketing-to-busy-peopleHave you noticed how people in our culture have evolved from readers into scanners? People will still sit down to read a good book or magazine for entertainment purposes. But when it comes to business communications, most of us simply don’t have time to read all the details anymore – a fact that has serious implications for today’s marketing communicators.

We’ve evolved from readers into scanners for several reasons. For starters, everyone has more to do and less time to do it in. This is especially true in small businesses where people often hold many different responsibilities. At the same time, we’re all swamped with way more information than we can possibly absorb or even use. Less time and more information means that we need to quickly separate the wheat from the chafe, and scanning enables us to zero in on the information we need in as little time as possible.

In addition, the Internet has trained us to scan. With the ability to instantly click from one web site to another, we no longer have to slog through large amounts of text to see if a web page has the information we want. If it doesn’t, we simply click the mouse and move on to the next one. And finally, social media tools like texting and Twitter have forced us to become adept at communicating in very short, concise information bites.

All of which leads to one of the most important principles for communicating in today’s time-deprived, information-overload world: less is more!

It wasn’t too long ago that long, detailed sales and marketing copy was the preferred approach. Corporate brochures often ran 24 pages and more. But today’s time-deprived readers won’t tolerate lengthy brochures, bloated blogs, and wordy web pages overloaded with text. When a website contains thick blocks of dense text, people will take one look and quickly move on to something less cluttered and easier to read – no matter how worthwhile the message.

“Less is more” doesn’t mean withholding important information in the interest of brevity. You still need to tell prospects and customers what they want to know about your product or service, otherwise you lose their interest and trust. “Less is more” simply means making your point briefly and succinctly while showing your audience that you understand their issues and concerns and offer a cost-effective solution.

What does “less is more” look like?

  • Brief brochures and white papers that focus on a few key customer benefits
  • Clean, uncluttered web pages that are easy to read and quick to navigate
  • Short, concise blogs that don’t ramble on and on
  • Webinars and podcasts that focus on a couple of main points rather than trying to cover an entire subject
  • Lots of bold headlines and subheads that tell readers what they will find on each page

Most of all, “less is more” means respecting your readers’ time by making it easy to find and digest the information they need as quickly as possible. Whether in a brochure or on a web site, give readers what they want to know and nothing more. Then offer links, contact information, and other options if they want to know more.

In today’s world, lengthy marketing messages tell your target audience that you haven’t got a clue when it comes to communicating effectively.  So keep your marketing messages short and to the point, always focusing on your readers’ most pressing concerns. Provide content that adds value rather than only touting your product or service. And always let people know the next step (call to action) in the sales process.


Make B2B Marketing a Holiday Tradition

b2b-holiday-marketingUnless you have real elves toiling in your workshop, the holiday season usually isn’t such a great time for B2B marketing. That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway. But times like these call for unconventional measures.

Even if you’re busy planning ways to kick off business after the New Year, there’s really no excuse for not staying the course between Thanksgiving and January 2. Think long-term, soft selling. You may not close major deals over the holidays, but you can reach people when they’re thinking about the year ahead and what they could do better in their business.

Need More Reasons to Stay B2B-Busy?

Here are a few to consider:

  • Take advantage of reduced email clutter in late December. It could be a good time to send an email newsletter or just a personal note of appreciation.
  • Focus on mobile marketing. Make sure your website and newsletter links are mobile-optimized since many people will be out of the office but able to read useful information through mobile devices (like the husband sitting on the bench at the mall while his spouse is shopping after-Christmas sales at Nordstrom, or the wife avoiding her wacky uncle by reading on her tablet after turkey dinner).
  • People aren’t just thinking about personal New Year’s resolutions. They’re also thinking about business resolutions, so your message could stand out from the competition’s.
  • It’s always someone’s tax season. Some businesses are looking to spend money at the end of the year for tax reasons. This is a good time to get on their radar.

When it comes to B2B marketing, think of the holiday season as a gift to yourself as well as your clients. You have the luxury of giving a little more thought to fewer, more targeted marketing efforts. Clients will appreciate you offering them goods and services at a time of year when they might be focused on other needs.

So go ahead, put your marketing elves to work during the holidays. They just might deliver a bag of goodies that will take the edge off what is sometimes a chilly sales season.


Choosing a Secure Password for Your Internet Accounts

Create-Safe-PasswordsImagine the horror of visiting your company website and discovering that a hacker has defaced it. Or still worse, logging into your online banking account and finding out that a cyber thief has made off with all your money. You may think this only happens to other people. But get lazy or careless when creating online passwords, and it could easily happen to you.

The world is filled with hackers working around the clock to steal your private information. They employ highly sophisticated tools to crack your security firewalls, and for many of them, figuring out your password is faster and easier than you think.

For example, dictionary data attacks – automated programs that use lengthy lists of common words to identify passwords ­– can break through your defenses in a matter of minutes. To see how quickly these attacks can occur, log onto YouTube and search on “dictionary hacker attack.” You’ll find a number of videos showing how easily it can be done. That’s why choosing a secure password is essential for the safety of your online accounts.

What To Do

To set up a safe and secure password, keep the following in mind:

  • Passwords should have a minimum of eight characters, and should always contain both letters and numbers. Using symbols (when allowed) and mixing upper and lower case letters adds to the strength of your password.
  • Use a different password for each account, and change your passwords frequently. Some experts recommend changing them as often as every three months.
  • Randomized passwords are the most secure. Random password generators are available as software programs and through websites. However, many experts recommend against using online password generators for your most sensitive accounts, such as banking and other financial accounts.

To create long, complex passwords, the Microsoft Security Centers offers a simple strategy:

  • Start with a short sentence: Complex passwords are safer.
  • Remove the spaces between the words: Complexpasswordsaresafer.
  • Turn the words into shorthand or intentionally misspell one of them: ComplekspasswordsRsafer.
  • Add numbers that are meaningful to you at the end of the sentence: ComplekswordsRsafer2011.

Free online password strength checkers are also available. If you use one, make sure the site is secure.

What Not To Do

To thwart sophisticated cyber crooks, avoid using these common password mistakes:

  • Normal, everyday words found in the dictionary
  • Words spelled backwards, common misspellings, or abbreviations
  • Sequences or repeated characters, such as12345678 or abcdefg
  • Adjacent letters on the keyboard, such as qwerty

Never use your name, birthday, driver’s license, passport number, login name, or any other type of personal information. Also, don’t use spouses, friends, pet names or any other information about you that someone might know or could easily obtain.

Password Managers

So now you have these long, complex passwords, and your memory isn’t quite what is used to be.  What do you do?

If you write them down, don’t keep them near your computer or in your file drawer, and never carry them in your wallet or purse. A better option is to use a password manager or repository, especially if you have a lot of accounts with many different passwords.

A password manager is a software that uses encrypted data to help you safely organize and store your passwords. You can either buy your own software or use an online password repository service.  At Bop Design, we use Passpack, a free online password manager that allows you to store passwords to all your accounts.

It only takes a few minutes to set up safe, secure online passwords. This small investment of your time can keep hackers from defacing your website, damaging your brand, stealing your money, destroying your credit, and ruining your life.


The Pros and Cons of Allowing Blog Comments

blog-commentsTo comment or not to comment—that is the question. Of course, Shakespeare didn’t write it quite like that. But if he lived in our era and ran a B2B website, he might have.

The Internet makes it easy to engage in a two-way dialog with your prospects and clients, especially using blogs and online articles. And most blogging platforms offer the option of enabling comments from readers, which helps to facilitate the dialog. The question is, should you use them or not?

On the plus side, enabling reader comments gives potential and existing clients another method of contacting you. It offers a place for conversation, and enables you to interact with readers and readers to interact with each other. Enabling comments can improve the quality of your blog. Direct feedback from readers lets you know what they’re thinking about in regards to the content of your blog. Plus, intelligent comments (and even healthy debate) allow you to learn from your readers and perhaps see your products, services or business in ways you haven’t considered before.

Comments on your blog can also enhance your position as a thought leader. When people comment, it demonstrates that they think you have something worthwhile to say. Because many blogging platforms offer readers the ability to comment through social media accounts (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.), commenters don’t have to remain anonymous. Comments that come through social media accounts look more legitimate, since you know who posted them.

What are the downsides of enabling comments?

1) An empty comments section can make it look like no one reads your blog.

2) Nasty or inappropriate comments can scare other readers away from commenting. People might even stop reading your blog if the comments are consistently counter-productive or a few inconsiderate readers engage in lengthy flame wars.

3) Spam comments, which are inevitable, can detract from the professional quality of your blog. They can also cause readers to question the validity of all comments, and make it look like you don’t care about properly maintaining your blog. Plus, managing the comments section—including moderating arguments, getting rid of spam or inappropriate responses and replying to legitimate comments—requires the time and discipline to keep up with it on a regular basis.

With this in mind, should you allow comments on your blog site? The answer is: it depends.

Specifically, it depends on what you hope to accomplish with your blog. If a primary goal is to engage your readers and foster an online community with them, comments are a great way to start. On the other hand, if you plan to use the blog mainly as a vehicle for pushing content to your readers, allowing comments would probably require more time than you’re willing to invest.

If enabling comments fits with your blog strategy, start by soliciting comments within your blog posts. For example, close the blog with something like, “Those are my thoughts on the subject, I’m interested in hearing yours as well.” Or, “Let us know what you think!”

If your blog consistently fails to gather responses, you might want to disable comments until you gain a bigger following. If your blog has been up for a while, the lack of comments might signal a need to change the style, tone or subject matter in order to better engage your readers. Either way, you don’t want it to appear as if people aren’t reading your blog.

Finally, if you don’t have time to moderate, or at least weed out the spam, think twice before enabling comments. If not properly managed, they can end up doing damage to your blog, your business, and your brand. And that’s an outcome that nobody wants!


New Client Website Design: Kirby & McGuinn

KirbyKirby & McGuinn is a San Diego law firm with exceptional qualifications and experience in the fields of secured lending, commercial collection, and creditor rights. Their previous website needed to be refreshed. The content was strong but the dull design and Flash elements made for an unimpressive presentation. The website wouldn’t display properly on many smart phones and tablets, which conflicted with Kirby & McGuinn’s use of technology to better serve clients.

Bop Design created a bright, appealing design for the new Kirby & McGuinn website. The new design uses photos of San Diego and a modern style to make the firm stand out from the crowd of law firms. Bop also created a dedicated mobile website to enable mobile visitors to quickly find the information they need. The end result is a beautiful, functional website that will serve Kirby & McGuinn for years to come.

See the results here.


Are You Over-Automating Your Sales Process?

sales-automationThese days, more and more companies have jumped aboard the automated marketing train, using processes such as online lead tracking, email follow-up, and social media communication to enhance and improve their marketing efforts.

When done well, automated marketing systems offer a number of benefits. They allow companies to track and measure the effectiveness of marketing activities such as websites, webinars, online lead generation programs, and email campaigns. They make it possible to manage the sales pipeline more cost-effectively. Automated marketing systems can respond to leads more quickly, which can translate into higher conversion rates. And they can lower the cost of staying in touch with prospects and customers.

Despite all these benefits, automated marketing may not be right for your business. Unless you have a huge number of leads flowing into the top of your sales funnel, the return on investment may not equal the time and money you invest in marketing automation technology. That’s why it makes sense for most small businesses to manually follow up sales leads with personalized, pertinent content rather than with an automated lead nurturing campaign.

This doesn’t mean to abandon new technology and go back to the old days of phones, faxes, or hand-written sales letters. The key is to use today’s communications technologies appropriately.  For most small businesses, that means following up in more personal and intimate ways by providing content specific to each prospect’s industry, business, and marketing initiatives.

More than anything, prospects want to know that you understand their business problems and challenges, and that you offer a cost-effective solution. Automated lead nurturing programs may allow you to send content to prospects in a very efficient and cost-effective manner. But each prospect has unique needs, and unless they feel you truly understand their most pressing issues and concerns – which is often not the case with automated lead follow-up – they will look elsewhere for a solution.

To get the most out of a manual follow-up process:

  • Segment your prospects. Manual follow-up takes more time and effort, so it’s important to invest your resources wisely. Start by dividing your prospects into A, B, C and D categories, depending on their level of interest and where they are in the sales cycle. Focus the majority of your attention on A and B prospects.
  • Get personal. Prospects can spot mass emails a mile away. Even if those emails address the prospect’s issues and concerns, they have less of an impact than a personalized response. Sending individual emails to each prospect will go a long way toward building the relationship.
  • Focus on educating rather than selling. To goal is to become a trusted advisor for your prospects, especially with companies that have long sales cycles. Providing valuable ideas, insights and solutions will help to move prospects through the sales cycle until they are ready to buy.
  • Adopt a soft-sell approach. Coming across too strong after the initial contact can drive away interested prospects. After all, you don’t ask someone to marry you after the first date. Instead, follow up with series of personalized emails that gradually educate the prospect and build their trust over time.

Marketing technology can only do so much. So once your firm is positioned as a thought leader and advocate for your prospects, don’t be afraid to ask for the sales consultation. If you’ve done a good job educating the prospect and building the relationship, they will want and expect you to do it.


Marketing Lessons You Can Take Away from the Obama Victory

lessons-from-obama-victoryMany lessons can be learned from the 2012 presidential campaign, one of the most contentious in recent history. While the ’08 presidential election proved the power of social media on a grand scale, ’12 was more about messaging and strategy — specifically, about getting those elements right. The Obama camp obviously hit the ball out of the park, while the Romney team seemed to have more misses, more errors and fewer hits.

Here are five election takeaways that small business owners can heed when marketing to their clients and prospective clients.

  • Build a quality database of clients and prospects. It will take more time to build a quality list, but your marketing ROI will be much better for it. Once you have a quality segmented database, don’t market to your entire database with one message. Create more personalized content that will appeal to each of your audience segments. For example, send people who bought sweatshirts from your company an update on the latest sweatshirt designs, not about summer dresses. Sending targeted content to specific audiences is the best way to get good results.
  • Advertising to your fans’ friends is a great way to use the Facebook Advertising platform. Spend your dollars on sponsored stories to target your fans and their friends rather than waste it on people who don’t know your company or brand. This is especially relevant for small businesses on a budget.
  • Craft ads that appeal to your ideal customer base. Create messages that drive your point home and don’t beat around the bush. Don’t insult the intelligence of your target audience. Most importantly, focus on why it is important that they work with you and how you can help them.
  • Don’t just dump a bunch of time and money into all social media or PPC platforms. Instead, invest on researching where your ideal customer is and spend your time and money in that space. You may just find that an uncommon channel is the right fit for you.
  • Know your audience. Don’t stick your head in the sand about who you should be targeting. Do your research and make sure you are going after the right folks.

While most company owners don’t compare their businesses to political campaigns, there are similarities. After all, staying in business ultimately comes down to who accumulates the most customers who show their support by voting with their dollars. Do your homework to make sure your campaign is a winner. Use the modern marketing tools available to everyone, like the Obama campaign did, and you’re likely to sail to victory all season long.


Why You Shouldn’t Delay Your Website Redesign

website-redesignIt’s easy to find reasons to put off redesigning your company website. Too expensive. Too time-consuming. Too complicated.

The only logical response to all those excuses: Too bad.

Too Many Reasons, Too Little Time
Far too many business owners procrastinate when it comes to website redesign. Don’t be among them. It can hurt your business in more ways than you might imagine. Here are just a few of them:

  • Google can’t find you. A lot of older websites were built in Flash. If your website is built primarily in Flash, Google and other search engines can’t crawl it. Flash files are invisible to search engines, which means your rankings will suffer.
  • Prospective clients can’t see you. If your website was built on the web standards of five years ago (or more), it’s quite possible that text and images no longer display properly for some of your visitors. That makes your site – and your business – look out of step with the times.
  • Mobile devices can’t display your website. Browsers on mobile devices are designed with modern web standards in mind. A lot of websites built for desktops don’t display properly on mobile screens. If you use Flash in any part of your website, it doesn’t work on iPhones or iPads.
  • Your visitors can’t wait for you. People decide within seconds whether they want to further explore a website or not. If your website takes too long to load, they’re gone.
  • Your clients can’t get the information they need. A lot of older websites don’t have much content. If your visitors can’t get the info they need quickly (phone number, hours of operation, list of services, etc.), chances are good that you’ve lost them.
  • Visitors can’t tell if your company is open or closed. If the last update listed on your website is 2007, site visitors will wonder if you’re still in business.
  • Your brand can’t counteract it. An outdated or poorly designed website not only hurts your brand, but it also affects your credibility.

No More Excuses
Be honest with yourself. Take a critical look at your site’s design every few months. Compare it to competitors’ sites for readability, graphic appeal and ease of navigation. If yours doesn’t stand up to the competition, don’t expect your site traffic to magically rise on its own.

Take the initiative to consult regularly with a web design firm to be sure your site is a leader, not a follower. Proactive web redesign means no more excuses. No more procrastination. No more imitating others. Make it your goal for others to emulate you.


SEO Tips You Can Implement Today, Part 2

easy-seo-tipsSEO is a necessary part of marketing. If you ignore SEO or focus on outdated tactics, your search engine rankings will suffer and so will your business.

In part one of this two-part blog, we discussed the importance of keyword research and how you can perform a basic type of research to start your SEO plan. Once you have the results of your research, you can start utilizing that information!

Page Titles and H1 Tags
Now that you have a list of keywords you want to rank for, you can start the work of actually increasing your ranking. Again, SEO is a complex process. In order to be fully effective, you must utilize multiple tactics and utilize them consistently over a long period of time. However, there are still a few simple things you can do that will help—and those simple things are called page titles and H1 tags. Page titles and H1 tags represent important SEO real estate on your website (at least as of this writing). To make this explanation more clear, we’ll use our mobile website design page as an example.

Page titles are what you see in the top of your browser whenever you’re on a website. For our example page, the page title is “Mobile Website Design | Business Websites Designed for Mobile Browsing.” These are two keywords that we’ve decided to focus on. Putting the keywords in the page title is a signal to Google to pay attention. Most businesses choose to put their business name in the page title. This is a waste of valuable space!

H1 tags look a little different on each website depending on how the website is designed. On the example page, the H1 tag is “User-friendly Mobile Website Design.” Again, this is another keyword we’re targeting. H1 is an HTML tag that signifies the first header. Every website design should have an H1 tag. If your website doesn’t have one, talk to your web developer about adding one.

Before you start optimizing your page titles and H1 tags, heed this warning. Google is smart! If you use a page title and H1 tag that has nothing to do with the content on that particular page, it won’t help you. That’s considered a form of keyword stuffing, a practice that Google looks down on. In fact, Google has stated that some of their updates are designed to punish websites that stuff irrelevant keywords.

Create Content
You can devote hours upon hours to keyword research and integrating the best keywords into your page titles and H1 tags, but it won’t do you any good if you don’t have content on your website. Content is king and Google’s algorithm is focusing more and more on content-heavy websites. The trick is that the content needs to be relevant to users.

The best place to start adding content to your website is the Services/Products section. If you already have a section that describes your products and/or services, good for you. If you don’t, focus on that first.  Ideally, each of your products and/or services should have its own page. Don’t forget to optimize the page titles and H1 tags!

Once you have a Products/Services section, you should consider creating a section for each of the industries you serve. While this doesn’t work for every business, it can definitely help those companies that work within several defined industries. For example, Bop Design has a page specifically created for law firm marketing.

If you’ve created a Services/Products section and an Industries section on your website, you’ve already proven that you can generate content. Now is a great time to start blogging! The more frequently you blog, the better, but that doesn’t mean you have to blog everyday. If you can only manage to blog once a month at first, that’s better than nothing. Just remember that your blogs should be relevant and useful. Start by answering questions you hear often, both from clients and from prospective clients. The blogs can do double-duty; the next time someone asks you a question that you’ve already blogged about, you can just send them a link to that blog post.

Once you’ve done your research, optimized your page titles and H1 tags, created pages for your products/services and the industries you serve, and you’re blogging regularly, you’re well on your way to increasing your Google ranking. There’s a lot more to SEO, but if you can master these tactics, chances are good that you’re ahead of the curve in your industry. Keep up the good work!

In case you missed the first blog post in this series, you can read it here: SEO Tips You Can Implement Today.


What Content Should I Have on My Website?

How-To-Establish-A-Content-Strategy-For-Your-WebsiteIf anyone should know your business like the back of your hand, it’s you. But do you know your business’ website just as intimately? If not, don’t expect your site visitors to get to know it very well. In fact, they might not even stick around if it doesn’t contain some very basic elements.

While there’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all sitemap, there are certain types of content you should always consider putting on your site.

Here’s the list:

  • About: Tell prospective clients a little about who you are. It doesn’t need be too detailed; the idea is to build your credibility as an expert or thought leader in your field.
  • Team: Do your clients work closely with you or some of your staff? Providing background on your key players could be important, particularly in service industries. Again, you want to position your company as an industry leader, so highlight the team members who can help potential clients become leaders as well.
  • Process: Depending on your business, you may have a particular process in place that ensures your clients receive the highest value. If so, feature it on the website. An infographic is particularly effective.
  • Products/Services: People need to know what you offer. As much as possible, each of your products or services should have its own page (it’s better for SEO). Because the web is a visual medium, images and graphics are helpful. Showing real products, staff and customers can position you as trustworthy and credible. However, if custom photography isn’t in your budget, carefully selected stock photos can also enhance your product or service descriptions.
  • Industries: If you serve particular industries, make sure to promote that fact on your website to build credibility in that industry. It can also be good for SEO.
  • Resources: Whether it’s a blog, a list of whitepapers, videos or podcasts, providing useful content is great for SEO and for your clients. Just make sure everything is in a format your visitors can download. PDFs or streaming audio/video are preferable.
  • Contact: The more options people have to contact you, the more likely they’ll be to do so. Don’t bury your contact information. Many businesses include address and phone number at the bottom of each page.
  • Call to Action: This is perhaps the most important element of all. On each page, show your visitors what to do next, whether it’s click on an email link to request more information, call now by phone or via Skype link, download a whitepaper after completing a contact inquiry or visit another landing page. After all, if you don’t tell them what to do next, they may do nothing at all.

Don’t Assume Anything

Site visitors like to be told what to do once they land on your site. Make sure you have the basics in place to make it easy for them to not only know your site like the back of their hand, but to eventually be in the palm of your hand.


The Importance of Generating Content

generating-contentIt goes without saying that any business that’s serious about success needs a website…you wouldn’t be reading this blog if that wasn’t true.

But just having a website in itself is not a competitive advantage. As a business owner, you need to make sure your site is generating leads and positioning you as a thought leader in your industry. Quality content is the key.

Make Sure Your Site is Found, Not Lost

In light of Google’s recent search algorithm updates, SEO practices have become more focused on generating quality content than ever before. One of the major updates — called Panda — focuses on content-rich websites.

While hyperlinks remain important in boosting a given website’s Google rankings, Panda now also judges content  as vitally important in site authority and, therefore, results placement. Striking a balance between obtaining solid links and generating authoritative content is the best approach. These two goals are inseparable—the more quality content you generate, the more likely people are to link to your website.

Follow Guidelines from Panda

Google Webmaster Central Blog has provided the following questions for content creators to use as guidelines for producing “authoritative content”:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert/enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?

The SEO experts recommend thinking of Panda as a “content quality filter.” Tailor your content to fit Panda’s known parameters and your website is more likely to be perceived as a living resource center—one that clients and prospective clients will return to when they need information — not just on your products and services, but your industry as well.

And generating content encourages other content creators to link to your website, which can further enhance your search engine rankings.

You Owe It to Your Business to Stay Current

There’s little chance your website will be found if it doesn’t yield decent search engine rankings. So think about Panda. Visit Google Webmaster Central and similar sites regularly to keep up with best practices for content creation. Your business will be the richer for it.


Making Sense of Social Media Advertising

social-media-advertising-for-small-businessesShould I advertise my business on social media? That’s a question many small businesses are wrestling with today. The answer is – it depends. Specifically, it depends on your target audience and your marketing goals. Most small businesses can benefit from a well-designed social media advertising strategy. The key is to make sure that you use the right social media platform for your customer base.

Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages and people use them for different reasons. For example, people who regularly use LinkedIn may not be on Facebook and vice versa. Also, options for targeting paid ads are different for each platform. So don’t make the mistake of adopting a “one size fits all” social media advertising strategy. Instead, research your customer base to find out which social media platforms they use and how they use them. Then figure out how advertising on those platforms fits in with your overall online marketing plan.

Facebook

Facebook advertising can be a great way to grow your Facebook fan base. During the vetting process, many people will check out your Facebook page, and when people “like” you on Facebook, it helps to build your credibility. For example, if you have hundreds of “likes” and your competitors only have a few dozen, it makes you look more connected and more entrenched in the community.

Another advantage of Facebook is that it allows you to target people based on age, relationship status, interest, or geographic region. Keep in mind, however, that Facebook tends to be more casual and personal relationship oriented, and Facebook users don’t want or expect a hard sell. To get the best results, keep your ad simple, make your product or service stand out, and have a clear call to action.

Twitter

Twitter tends to be faster-paced and more news/current events oriented. It’s important to curate compelling content, as it positions you as a thought leader. Twitter ads allow you to draw attention to your thought leadership and promote your account to others who have similar interests. You can also pay to promote specific tweets to people who aren’t following you. Currently, people can’t access your website through Twitter ads, which is why it helps to use Twitter in conjunction with other social media platforms. However, you can get a lot of bang for your buck by getting people to retweet your Twitter posts.

Two points to remember with Twitter: people will only follow you and interact with your tweets if they’re interesting and relevant, and there’s no value in advertising on Twitter unless you’re actually using your account.

LinkedIn

This is probably the best platform for B2B advertising because people are more ready to do business when they’re on LinkedIn. It also allows you to target individuals based on the companies they work for, specific job titles, or positions. Plus, targeting by job title allows you to narrow your ads to exactly the people who would be most interested in your B2B products or services.

Another benefit is that LinkedIn has its own self-service ad network, called DirectAds, with options for display ads and sponsorships.  To use LinkedIn most effectively, target your audience carefully, and create short, relevant ads with a specific call to action.

YouTube

YouTube offers a unique advertising opportunity in that your ads can appear within videos or alongside them. Because the ads combine video and sound, they can be more engaging than other advertising platforms allow for. YouTube provides many resources to help you advertise more effectively on their site.

But be aware that viewers have short attention spans. If you advertise with videos, keep them short, to the point, and entertaining as well as educational. Be sure to deliver your key messages early, as viewers tend to tune out after only a few seconds.

Regardless of which platform(s) you use, remember that social media ads should never send people to your home page. Instead, have a landing page that clearly shows visitors what you want them to do next. Always include an option for providing their contact information so that you can build your email or social marketing list.

 


Business to Business (B2B) Holiday Marketing

Holiday-Marketing-CampaignThe holiday season is quickly approaching. It is time to start planning your travels, dinner parties, gift shopping and prepping the house for company. Most of us start holiday planning early in our personal life, but many of us neglect putting together a holiday marketing plan for our businesses.

A holiday marketing plan can be beneficial to both Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B) businesses. For most B2C businesses a holiday marketing plan is critically important. The holiday season is when consumers notoriously spend the most money on food, retail items and travel.  If you are one of these B2C businesses hopefully you have already started to implement a holiday marketing plan. But, if you are a Business to Business (B2B) the holiday season can also be a good time to set up some holiday marketing campaigns.  The following are a few ideas to help get your creative juices flowing:

  • End of Year Discounts
    If your business has an overflow of inventory, or you want to boost sales before the end of the year it might just be a good time to create an “End of Year Discount” campaign. Consumers are incentivized to purchase during the holidays because of impending occasions, but sometimes businesses can also be incentivized this time of year to make a purchase.  You may just find that some departments you are selling into have money left in the budget that needs to be used before the end of the year.  Offering a discount, with an end of year expiration date, might just help incentivize them to make the sale happen before the end of the year.
  • Happy Holidays
    Consider sending a holiday message to your clients and followers to show them that you appreciate their business. This is a great way to reach out and engage with your contacts in a positive communication. Be sure to focus on thanking them for their support and wishing them a happy holiday season; please don’t get this message mixed up with a sales pitch. In addition, to offering thanks and well wishes be sure to include any charitable items your business is participating in. For instance, if your business is participating in any local charity events it would be beneficial to include this in your communications to show that you are proactively helping the community.
  • 2012 Reflection
    Let people know what you have achieved this past year as a business. Did you make any big product changes? Achieve major milestones? Do you provide better customer support? Put together items that will show how much your business has achieved in the past year.  You want to prove to your clients why they should continue to put trust in your business, be proud of what you accomplished and show how you are adapting. I would also suggest wrapping in some content thanking your clients for their help in achieving these milestones, either by providing their valuable feedback or continued support.
  • 2013 Look Ahead
    Inform your clients and followers of your business objectives for the next year. Provide a brief statement that on what your business is looking to accomplish for the next year.  It doesn’t need to entail all your goals, simply choose the ones that are most important to your audience. Are there going to be new product/service enhancements? Is your company taking steps to be greener? Whatever you choose for your message I would suggest making it relevant to your audience and something that would make them proud, happy, or look forward to remaining a client. Letting people know that you want to achieve record sales for next year is probably not going to help keep people as clients, or make people want to do business with you.

These marketing campaigns can be implemented through a variety of channels. These are a few channels I recommend pursuing:

  • Website
  • Social Media Platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc…
  • Email/Newsletter
  • Press Release
  • Direct Mail
  • Call Campaign

I recommend using a multi-channel approach to try and reach your clients, followers and prospects through as many outlets as your business has established.

Halloween is right around the corner, but fear not it is not too late to get your holiday marketing strategy rolling.


SEO Tips You Can Implement Today, Part 1

easy-seo-tipsSearch engine optimization is necessary for any business that wants to remain competitive. Most B2C companies understand that. Unfortunately, as is often the case with new marketing tactics, some B2B businesses are still behind the times with SEO. Far too many B2B businesses either ignore SEO altogether or focus on one narrow aspect. In the nineties, websites that used a few commonly searched terms as meta keywords quickly rose in the rankings. That doesn’t work any more, particularly with Google’s recent updates meant to punish websites that keyword stuff.

Those B2B companies that do take SEO seriously can take advantage of their competitors’ obsolete tactics. If you’re in an industry like this—say, business insurance or leadership and management consulting—you may be able to quickly improve your Google ranking with a holistic SEO plan.

While a thorough SEO is a complex mix of on-page and off-page optimization that should be guided by an expert, there are a few simple tactics that anyone can start doing to lay the groundwork. The best part is, you can start doing them right now.

Keyword Research
The first step is keyword research. While this may sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Think of at least 10 search terms your best customers might use to find you on Google (not including your company’s name, of course!). It’s usually best if keywords are geo-targeted. For example, Bop Design focuses on “San Diego website design” as one of our primary keywords.

Once you have your list of 10 keywords (it can be more, of course, but 10 is a less daunting number to start out with), go to Google AdWords and sign in (or sign up if you don’t already have a Google account). In the navigation bar, go to “Keyword Tool” under “Tools and Analysis.” Enter the keywords you came up with and click “Search.” Google will run an analysis on how often those keywords are searched and how many of your competitors are running ads based on those keywords. (In order to see the full results, make sure you go to the “Keyword Ideas” tab and not just the “Ad Ideas” tab.)

From this list, choose some keywords that seem best to you. This can be a little tricky for a non-expert, but just remember that this doesn’t have to be perfect. SEO is an on-going process—you always have to improve. There’s no sense in stressing about making it perfect from the very beginning. Choose some keywords that have a reasonable amount of search volume. Anything less than 100 might not be worth your time; that is, unless it’s a keyword that your ideal client would search for. “San Diego B2B website design” is a keyword Bop Design might target, even if the search volume is relatively low. Don’t worry about the keywords that are marked as having High competition. When you’re first starting out with SEO, it’s better to aim for the low-hanging fruit first.

The final step in the basic keyword search phase is to check out how your company’s website currently ranks for the keywords you want to target. While you could simply Google the terms yourself, that doesn’t always work. Google is smart enough to tailor results based on your past activity. If you’re signed into your Google account, chances are you’ll see your website much higher in the rankings than other people will. Instead, we recommend you download the RankChecker plugin for the Firefox browser. Enter your keywords into the plugin and it will generate a reasonably accurate report of where your website stands in Google. Remember that, by default, Google displays 10 search results per page. If you rank 43, you’re on page 5; if you rank 143, you’re on page 15. If you’re on page 4 or 5 for some keywords, you might want to focus on those first (even though the closer you get to #1, the harder it gets to increase you ranking), just because you’re already doing decently well without even trying!

Skip ahead to Part 2 of SEO Tips you Can Implement today.


The Elements of Effective Brochure Design

effective-brochure-designOne may think that a physical brochure isn’t necessary anymore in this digital era, but guess again. A professionally designed and printed brochure can be a vital lead-nurturing tool.  When you meet someone face-to-face for the first time, whether it be at an event, tradeshow or an initial sales meeting, you take the time to learn about each other’s businesses. But what happens after you leave?  A well-executed capabilities brochure will remind your prospect of the services you offer and, most importantly, what sets you apart from the competition.

In an initial contact, a brochure can be more effective than any other marketing asset because it’s immediate.  Your prospect won’t necessarily take the time to visit your website after an initial meeting. Since the brochure is right in front of them, it will often intrigue them to learn more about your firm and then visit your website.

A professionally designed print brochure is especially important for service based, B2B industries. It builds credibility by conveying important messages about the value of your product or service. It helps to build your brand, and positions you as a legitimate business in the minds of prospects and customers.

To connect with readers, every brochure needs three essential design elements:

Attention-grabbing cover.  Chances are your prospects have very short attention spans. If your brochure cover doesn’t immediately catch their eye and pique their interest, they won’t open and read the rest of the brochure. To get the attention of your target audience, combine a visually appealing design with an attention-grabbing headline that addresses a powerful benefit for your customers.

Compelling content. You care more about your business than your prospects do; they aren’t interested in a detailed history of your business. Instead, they want to know how your product or service can help them save time, lower costs, get more sales, or run their business more effectively. Focus your content on the problems and challenges your customers face and how you solve them better than your competitors. Use graphs, charts or images to help support your content, and convey your message more quickly.

Powerful call to action. The primary purpose of a brochure is to move people to the next phase of the sales cycle. Do you want them to visit your web site? Pick up the phone and call for a free estimate? Contact you via email to receive a downloadable white paper? A good call to action tells your readers exactly what you want them to do. It also stands out from the rest of the copy so that readers can’t miss it.

From a visual standpoint, a brochure needs to appeal to your specific audience. For example, if you serve a more conservative market, edgy or trendy design elements might look clever to you, but they don’t reflect the mindset of your readers.

At the same time, consider the image you want to project as a business. Most B2B firms use a matte finish on their brochures because it looks more distinguished and professional. Retail companies tend to use glossy finishes, as they make product pictures and images stand out more.

Your design and layout of inside pages should work well with the content. Use benefit-driven headers and sub-headers to catch the reader’s eye. Include plenty of white space to make the brochure easy to read.

Make sure the brochure’s visual elements — color, imagery, font, logo, etc. — align with and support your brand. Consistency of brand image is a key ingredient in earning your prospect’s trust.

Finally, never shy away from a professionally designed brochure because of cost. When done well, the return you receive will far outweigh the money you invest in growing your business.


New Client Website Design: Synergy Financial Group

SynergySynergy Financial Group is a Baltimore financial services firm. They provide independent, non-product oriented financial advice for families and small- to medium-sized business owners. With each of the advisors averaging over 18 years of experience, Synergy Financial Group is committed to helping their clients pursue financial independence.

The previous website was out of date. The navigation was confusing, making it difficult for prospective clients to find the information they needed. The website was also cumbersome to update, which meant that sometimes lacked the most current news and information.

Bop Design worked closely with the team at Synergy Financial Group to create an appealing website design that makes for a good first impression. Because Synergy Financial Group is rapidly expanding, they needed the ability to make changes to their website as needed. By building the website in WordPress and providing a detailed, customized website manual, Bop gave Synergy Financial Group the freedom to easily keep their website current. Now their website highlights their commitment to providing personalized service and attention to each of their clients.


How to Write E-mail Newsletters that Get Opened and Read

b2b-email-marketingE-mail newsletters have been around since the early days of the Internet. Compared to new technologies like Twitter and Facebook, they may seem old-fashioned. But there’s a reason that smart companies use them as part of their marketing strategy – they work!

A professional email newsletter serves many important goals. First and foremost, it keeps you top-of-mind with clients and prospects by reminding them of who you are and what you do. This is especially important for B2B companies with complex products or services and/or long sales cycles.

Other goals can include generating new leads, positioning your business as an industry thought leader, attracting readers to your web site, and more. To write a newsletter that engages your readers and keeps them coming back for more:

  • Keep it brief.
    Today’s consumers are swamped with information, so keep your newsletter short and sweet. Aim for one to two articles, with links to your web site to provide more details. If you need more than two articles, consider publishing more frequently.
  • Provide value.
    In an e-mail newsletter, “value” translates to “useful content.” To connect with your readers, write about something they care about or would benefit from knowing. For example: business tips and how-to’s; information on industry trends and updates; links to articles on how to save time, cut costs, or improve their business in some fashion.
  • Make it easy to read.
    Online readers tend to scan more than read, so get to the point as quickly as possible. Use lots of headers and sub-headers to break up the text. Write crisp sentences in short paragraphs. Use plenty of white space to make it easy on the eyes.
  • Be consistent.
    This includes style, tone, and timing. Write in a consistent voice that supports your brand. Set a firm publication schedule and stick to it.
  • Tease your readers.
    To attract readers to your website, don’t put an entire article in the newsletter. Instead, include the first few paragraphs to grab their interest. Then provide a link to the rest of the article on your website. Make sure the link works properly. Otherwise, readers will lose interest in the article and your newsletter.
  • Ask for feedback.
    E-mail newsletters allow for two-way communication with prospects and customers. Ask people what they think about the newsletter, your products or your business, and make it easy for them to respond. Engaging your readers in a virtual conversation is a great way to build top-of-mind.

It’s okay to include important company news – such as new products or services, special deals or promotions, awards won by the company, etc. And if you have social media accounts, be sure to mention them in your newsletter. Just don’t make your business the primary focus of every newsletter you send out. If all you do is promote your products or your business, people will quickly lose interest and unsubscribe.


How B2B Firms Can Use QR Codes

QRCodeWith mobile browsing reaching 12% of all web related activity in September 2012, businesses are becoming increasingly aware that they need to focus on mobile marketing. The trend is toward responsive design. The design of a business’ website should respond to the platform being utilized – smart phone, tablet, laptop, etc. It used to be that you had a separate mobile website and main website. With new customer demands, responsive design is needed. Mobile usage and responsive design presents a new way to engage with clients. More and more businesses are utilizing QR codes but there is rarely optimal implementation.

What’s a QR Code?

QR Code is “Quick-Response Code.” QR Codes are two-dimensional bar codes that are used to point people to websites, landing pages and other forms of digital content. In most cases, users use a mobile device to scan those codes and once it’s complete, a user is transported to the content specified by that code.

How does a QR Code work?

A business can present an offer such as a coupon through a QR code. A customer can scan this code with their phone. This takes them to a coupon page where they can download it, print it and redeem it.

How are QR Codes misused?

Too many QR codes just send a scanner to a firm’s website and nothing else. Many businesses were just proud to have a QR code, even though it did very little to engage a potential customer. Businesses should only use a QR code if they can offer something enticing to a prospect.

How can a B2B firm use a QR code?

Many B2B firms have an opportunity to utilize a QR code through print advertising and direct mail. The best execution of a QR code is when a firm offers a white paper, guide, resource that resonates with their ideal prospective client. A firm can run an advertisement in a magazine with the call to action being to download a resource through the QR code.

Sales Benefit of QR codes?

Print advertisements and direct mail can drive people to a firm’s website but many times, a business does not have any way to capture these leads and have the sales team follow up. A QR code is best utilized when a QR code scanner must complete a form to access the offer. The form must be short – take minimal time to complete. A completed form coming from a QR code scan can generate quality leads for a sales department.

In the future, consumers will see more and more QR codes. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that QR scans “have soared to 2 million a month, nearly double the rate of last year and up from 80,000 a month in 2009,” making them one of the hottest trends in marketing today. With all these QR codes competing for a customer’s attention, it is important for the QR code to be the right offer for the right audience.


Integrating Online and Offline Marketing

offline-marketing-strategyBusinesses and marketers know the important of having a company presence online. With 80% of consumers doing online research before making a purchase, having a branded website in place is essential. However, small businesses, locally-based businesses and even large corporations are still seeing a positive ROI from offline marketing efforts. Website design strategies for offline efforts can boost your marketing team’s success. Here’s how to do it.

Know Where to Spend

Just as with web design, whether your keep things in-house or outsource, it’s important to know where your money is going. Whether you choose a direct mail flier, guerilla marketing stunt or TV commercial, pay attention to where your cash flow is going. If you’ve hired a web designer, you probably asked for status updates, budget and other reports. Make sure you pay the same attention to detail across your online and offline marketing. You may spend more time on the copy of your website than the background. If this is case, you can budget your offline material production is a similar way.

Know Your Target

Websites are designed with both the brand and audience in mind. Your offline efforts should do the same. If your web design is colorful, youthful and full of slang such as “OMG” and “LOL,” a serious billboard might not be the best idea. Not only are you causing disconnect with current customers, your business brand has just been altered. Your online and offline audiences are often the same and your web design and offline efforts need to be cohesive. Knowing who you want to reach and when will make your offline efforts much easier.

Know the Balance

Successful web design balances creative and copy on the homepage and throughout the website. Your offline marketing efforts can use this same strategy for the better. Websites have CTAs, contact information, interesting images, etc. And so should the rest of your marketing materials. Balance your copy and design to create engaging offline, branded materials.

Know Your Message

Online marketers frequently hear the need to put the call to action (CTA) above the fold. This means the customer doesn’t have to scroll to perform the action that company’s marketing team wants them to take. Your offline marketing messages need to take this same approach. Have a clear to call action on all your marketing materials. Be concise to avoid any miscommunication. If you’re printing something out, include a short CTA that directs consumers down the path of converting.  Sure, you promote your website with social media and vice versa. Have social media icons on all your offline marketing materials so customers know where they can find you.

Apply the strategies you use in website design to your offline marketing messages and materials. Keep a balance between the right and left brain for marketing products that appeal to your audience. Direct mail and other offline marketing channels are becoming less of a priority for many businesses, but applying web design strategies to your efforts can yield a greater ROI.

Author Bio: Erica Bell is a small business writer who focuses on topics such as web design and direct mail marketing. She is a web content writer for Business.com Media, Inc.


All About Ad Retargeting

effective-b2b-advertisingThousands of sales are lost every month. In fact, researchers estimate that upwards of 98% of visitors leave a website without contacting the company. Typically the first visit someone makes to a website is for research purposes. The visitor isn’t ready to make a purchase yet. Studies have shown that it can take up to seven individual visits before a visitor is ready to take that next step.

Simply put – it isn’t enough to bring visitors to your website. You have to remind them who you are and what you do. That’s where ad retargeting comes in. Retargeting can help transform researchers into prospects and eventually clients. For small businesses that lack the major advertising budgets of large corporations, retargeting offers a cost-effective way to maintain brand awareness.

To give you a clearer picture of what ad retargeting is and how it works, here’s concrete example:

The Initial Search

Let’s say a law firm is looking for a new IT consultant. The law firm’s office manager searches for “outsourced IT for law firms.” One of the results leads to an IT consultancy with a creative web design that highlights their qualifications.

Don’t Let Them Forget

The office manager is impressed with the website, but wants to evaluate other options. Like the 98% we had mentioned before, the office manager doesn’t take any action other than browsing a few pages. After 2-3 minutes, she’s off to another one of the search results, perhaps never to return.

In a Prospect’s Consciousness

Because the IT consultancy set up re-targeting, the office manager doesn’t forget. Retargeting places a cookie in the visitor’s browser. The browser “remembers” that the office manager visited. Now she sees ads for that IT consultancy when she goes to websites like CNN, Mashable, and even YouTube.

Top of Mind When They’re Ready to Engage

The goal of the ad is to remind that office manager of the IT consultancy and how they can help her. Without retargeting, the office manager might forget and never contact the IT consultancy. With retargeting, she sees the ad frequently. After the typical six to seven touches, she goes back to the IT consultancy’s website (by clicking on the ad, of course!). When she visits the website again, she sees an offer to download a resource on what type of IT solutions law firms need. She fills out a form to get the resource, and now the IT consultancy has her email address for a direct follow-up.

Retargeting: Maximize ROI of B2B Website

A strong website design is only the beginning. Serious firms need to consider how they can draw visitors back and encourage them to take action. Ad retargeting is a great, cost-effective way to maximize the ROI of a B2B website design.


Guest Post by WebHostRanking.com: How to Create a Website Using Shared Hosting Tools

hosting-toolsA lot of people are afraid to use custom website designers because of the word “custom” and instantly think exorbitant prices. This isn’t necessarily true. However, there are some people that can get what they need by using the website designing tools that their shared hosting providers offer instead of using a custom web designer. It is important to realize that the tools you get from your web hosting provider are only good for basic websites. Most business owners require more complex tools that a only a web design firm can offer you. This is particularly true when you are looking for a 2nd or 3rd generation website! Custom website designs are a great way to make your business stand out from the competition. The tools shared web hosts offer should only be used in the beginning stages of a business.

Shared web hosting plans offer a number of free tools to help you design your own website. Several of these web hosting tools also give you the option to choose from more than one similar tools. These tools allow you to create, design, and manage every aspect of your website in an easy reliable way. In this article we will review several web hosting tools and discuss how they can help you design a basic website.

Control Panels – Some web hosting providers choose to create their own control panels while others offer open source control panels, such as the popular cPanel. Nearly all control panels will have left hand list type navigation, with icon based navigation on the right. From your control panel you may set up and manage your preferences, files, mail, logs, security, domains, databases, software, and much more.

 

 

One-Click Installers – Shared hosting plans typically include one or two one-click installers which allow the user to quickly and easily install scripts that will add features to their website. Two of the most popular one-click installers include SimpleScripts and Fantastico, each of them offering more than 50+ scripts to choose from. With these installers you will be able to choose a CMS, eCommerce features, website builder, website templates, and more; you can also add a blog, forum, photo gallery, guestbook, and more. BlueHost is one of the companies that offers SimpleScripts and is a great web hosting provider. Using a BlueHost coupon can save you a ton of money without sacrificing anything.

Content Management Systems (CMS) – The script installer typically includes several open source CMSs including (but not limited to) Joomla, Drupal, Mambo, Xoops, PHP-Nuke, and more. From the CMS it is easy to publish, edit, and modify content, as well as maintain your site—all from one central page.

 

 

 

Website Builders – While some web hosts, such as GoDaddy, have created and even trademarked their own website builders; most shared web hosting providers offer open source website builders like liveSite, Soholaunch, BasicPages, or Concrete5.

 

 

 

eCommerce – Anytime you build a business website designed to sell products or services there are a number of tools you may need to help you carry out your transactions. Most importantly you will need a way to accept credit cards online. Shared hosts often offer iPayment as a solution for this. IPayment or other payment solutions can be found within your script installer. You will also find a number of online shopping cart options. Some of the most popular open source shopping carts includes Magento, CubeCart, Zen Cart, AgoraCart, TomatoCart and more. Because not all shopping carts are equal, and your shopping cart needs may be unique, it is suggested that you do some research before installing a shopping cart. It can be quite challenging to switch shopping carts if you choose a shopping cart that does not suit your needs.

Help Center – By installing some of the ‘Help Center’ software you can offer your visitors a customer support center to answer their questions, and help resolve problems. Help centers provide you with the ability to have an open ticket system or a live help center.

Client Management – For websites needing software to keep track of their clients, invoices, accounting, or invoicing. Common client management installations include QuickBooks, Front Accounting, Simple Invoices, and more.

Backups – Backing up your files, or even your entire website is a good idea regardless of how you do it. When choosing a backup program from your script installer your files will typically be backed up and stored using cloud storage, which means your information is not stored on a specific server, but instead on an Internet storage system (which is available from anywhere, anytime).

Blogs – Some people use a blog as their main website, while others attach a blog to their website. Blogs are a great way to continually create new content for your website, which will help get your website recognized by the search engines. Installing a blog from your script installer can be done in just a few quick easy steps. Most installers include blog software’s like b2evolution, Geeklog, WordPress, and more. Keep in mind, some of the blogging software may also be used as a CMS. If you don’t find the CMS you’re looking for under the ‘Content Management Systems’ list check to see if it may be listed under blogs instead.

Forums, Forms, and Surveys, Guestbooks – If you are building a website where you want customer interaction you may want to use some of the forum, forms, or survey software. Some of the more popular software’s include LimeSurvey, GBooks, AdvancedPoll, vBulletin Forums, phpBB, and Vanilla Forums.

 

 

 

RSS – If you plan to continually feed your website or blog with new updated information, or have visitors or customers that will want to know every time you update new information on your site then you should consider adding an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to your site. An RSS feed can include full or summarized text as well as publishing dates and authorship. The fact that you have an RSS feed that people can join is usually indicated by the RSS logo (indicated above).

Security – While most shared web hosting providers include a shared SSL certificate in your hosting package, if you are going to have a website that accepts and shares information that needs to be encrypted (such as credit cards or legal documents) then you will want to purchase your own SSL certificate either through a SSL provider or your web host. Within most script installers you may also be able to download additional security with programs like SiteLock. It’s important to remember, however, that SiteLock is not a substitute for SSL security.

Statistics – Most web hosting control panels have a number of solutions in place to help you track statistics. Your installer may also have software such as Piwik to assist with your website statistics.

 

Utilities – Adding WebCalendars, visitor counters, or a FAQ section to your website can be done through any of the ‘Utilities’ software such as phpMyFAQ, WebCalendar, or GCount.

Webmail and Mailing Lists – Webmail is web-based email as opposed to an email program you download directly onto one computer. Webmail allows you to check your mail from any location any time. While there are a number of free Webmail services available through providers such as Gmail, Hotmail, AOL Mail, etc…Web hosts also include free webmail programs through your script installer (ex. BigSenders or Roundcube).

Photo Galleries – Pictures speak louder than words. Effective use of photos can lead to more conversions in your online store. Images are also beneficial to draw in and keep your audience’s attention. When images are optimized they may also benefit your search engine optimization. Shared web hosting plans often include photo galleries such as Coppermine, Zenphoto, Pixelpost, and more.

Project Management – Planning, running, and managing projects is incredibly easier when using project management software. Script installation programs usually include 2 or 3 project management programs to choose from such as BaseCamp, Mantis, or PHProjekt.

 

Wiki – If you would like a website where your users can add or edit content you may want to add a ‘wiki’, some of the more popular Wiki’s included in web hosting packages include Mediawiki, Wikkawiki, Dokuwiki, and others.

Features and tools offered by shared web hosting providers may vary from one to another. Before signing up for a web hosting package make sure your web hosting provider has the tools you are looking for, then make the best use of all the features and tools your host has to offer. And remember, when it is time to turn your basic website into a custom, lead-generating website, make sure you contact Bop Design!


Looking for a New Hosting Provider?

09.18.2012Last week, on 9-10-12, GoDaddy suffered from a massive outage of all of their services in the United States. Millions of customers who use GoDaddy’s databases, DNS services and email services found that all the services were inoperable throughout the majority of the business day.

During the disruption, a self-proclaimed security hacker falsely took credit for GoDaddy’s demise. However, after services were restored, GoDaddy admitted that the server outage was actually due to internal problems.

Upon hearing the reason why GoDaddy was down, I wasn’t sure if “internal problems” was a good thing or a bad thing. The only good thing about it was that at least it wasn’t a security issue and customer information was not breached. Other than that, the reason for service failure was very disappointing. One has to question a web hosting company that spends millions of dollars on cheesy, racy SuperBowl commercials, that heavily sponsors a NASCAR racing team, and doesn’t put their toll free technical support number on their website (even though the number exists). In fact, I went to GoDaddy’s website and tried to search for the number 1-866-463-2339 and I got zero search results. I actually found the toll free number with a Google search. What’s up with that?

Where should a web host spend its money? Is advertising the best investment for the host’s customers? Or should a web host spend millions of dollars on actual web hosting technology, web security and customer support?

Apparently the TV commercials work, since GoDaddy is one of the most popular web hosting companies around. They have an estimated 6.5 million customers worldwide. Interestingly enough, while watching NFL football over the past weekend, I noticed that 1and1 Hosting has had numerous advertising slots during the games and during normal broadcast television. Does TV advertising really bring in new customers for web hosting providers? It’s hard to say but it appears like it is.

So how do you choose a hosting provider?

The four biggest things I tend to look at are: uptime, web technology/performance, affordability and customer support.

There a literally hundreds if not thousands of different hosting companies you can choose from. You just need to figure out a way to narrow it down to one. Maybe you prefer a U.S. based company or to be even pickier, a California based company. Or perhaps you just want the most affordable and cost effective. Sometimes software application performance can factor in your decision, as well as other additional features of the hosting plans. Do you want to keep your domain name with the same company that does your hosting or do you want to keep them separate? These are some of questions you will have to answer when making your decision.

Here at Bop Design, we prefer to use HostGator as our main hosting provider. I don’t want to make this an advertisement for their services but I’ll list a couple reasons why I prefer to host with them over GoDaddy and 1and1:

  • WordPress performance. From my experience with GoDaddy and 1and1, WordPress performance is significantly slower and less responsive in comparison to HostGator’s servers. HostGator was ranked as the Best WordPress Hosting of 2012 by WordPressHostingReviews.com
  • Hosting Account Administration. HostGator uses the standard cPanel interface to control and navigate the admin area. GoDaddy and 1and1 have custom admin areas that can be confusing, hard to navigate and are always trying to upsell you on their other products.
  • Pricing/Plans. HostGator provides better performance with competitive hosting pricing/plans

So does that make HostGator the best? I wouldn’t say that. I’m sure there are many other hosting companies that provide the same, if not better, services and performance. But I’m also positive there are far more hosting companies that are far worse.

It all comes down to what you want and need in a hosting provider. Your best bet is to ask around. Here are some ways to get started:

  • get advice from experienced web developers or IT professionals
  • go online and look through support forums for any major issues/complaints
  • try reading some website reviews to see what others say; don’t take these opinions too seriously though, just use them as a guide

Also, if you are unsure about a hosting company, don’t sign up for a long term plan. See if they have a trial period or offer month to month billing. This way if you are not satisfied, you can switch to a different host quickly instead of having to wait for your plan to end.


Guest Post by Therapy Changes: Increasing Confidence through Self-Talk

09.13.2012Everyone has feelings of doubt, worry, or anxiety at one time or another. As a business owner or entrepreneur, these sensations may be all too familiar. Believing in yourself, like any other attitude, can be learned. Research shows that you can increase self-confidence by changing the way you talk to yourself.

We all talk to ourselves. Some of us have full-blown conversations right out loud. Others of us recognize a silent phrase now and then. But we all engage in some form of self-talk, whether it is the positive or the not-so-helpful negative kind.

“I should have done a better job”, “She’s so much smarter than me”, “I’ll never measure up”, I can’t do it”, and “I’ll always be this way” are just some examples of negative self-talk. This pattern of thinking influences both mood and behavior and can become a significant roadblock in the success of your business.

Change your Self-Talk
Changing your thinking is not as simple as saying something positive to yourself. Effective self-talk requires that you actually believe what you are saying. Use the suggestions below to balance you thinking and start feeling more positive about yourself, your world, and your future:

  • Gather evidence to refute your negative thought; remember that your feelings are not necessarily based in reality
  • Realistically assess your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of allowing your mind to produce negative messages about yourself, consciously override these thoughts with positive statements about what you’ve done or do well
  • Consider that your lack of self-confidence could stem from lack of experience, and has nothing to do with your capabilities or skill level
  • Emphasize what is going right – work on overcoming the basic human nature of focusing on the negative aspects of ourselves and situations
  • Take an outsider’s point of view. Studies show that considering your progress from an outsider’s perspective leads to faster improvement
  • Change your feelings by changing your behavior – smile, compliment others, accept compliments about yourself graciously, and take good care of yourself

Be Patient
Increasing self-confidence through self-talk is achieved through practice. Many of us have years of experience saying unkind things to ourselves. It will take some time to counter your negative self-talk with positive, supportive statements.  Try writing the new balanced thought on a piece of paper and refer to it frequently throughout the day; especially before performance-based activities. Keep it up – feeling more confident in yourself will lead to better success in your business and an improved sense of accomplishment and self-pride.

About the Author
Rochelle Perper, Ph.D., founder of Therapy Changes, is a licensed clinical psychologist in Point Loma. She has established a caring practice focused on helping patients better navigate and manage life’s difficult transitions. Dr. Perper provides action-oriented therapy customized for individuals, families and couples. Her therapeutic approach involves helping people change their thoughts and behaviors from negative to positive in order to enhance their productivity and satisfaction.


Guest Post by Therapy Changes: How to Relax Fast… and Make a Great Impression

09.13.2012Whether you are about to walk into a conference room for a presentation or meeting with a potential investor for the first time, sometimes a need exists for a quick, and easy way to relax. Research has demonstrated that in order to operate at our personal best we must be in an optimal state of arousal. That is to say, with the right amount of anxiety our performance is highest – too little or too much anxiety and our ability to think clearly and creatively rapidly diminish. Mini relaxation exercises like the ones described below are helpful to use in the moment to reduce stress and make a great impression.

When you’ve got 1 minute
Place your hand just beneath your navel so you can feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Breathe in – your hands should rise. Pause for a count of three. Breathe out – your hands should fall. Repeat as necessary.

When you’ve got 3 minutes
Stop what you are doing and sit down. Check your body from head to toe for tension. First relax your facial muscles and allow your jaw to fall open slightly. Let your shoulders drop. Let your arms fall to your sides. Allow your hands to loosen so that there are spaces between your fingers.

Uncross your legs or ankles. Feel your thighs sink into your chair, letting your legs fall comfortably apart. Feel your shins and calves become heavier and your feet grow roots into the floor. Now breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly. Each time you breathe out, try to relax even more.

When you’ve got 5 minutes
Spend five minutes of self-massage. Start by kneading the muscles at the back of your neck and shoulders. Make a loose fist and drum swiftly up and down the sides and back of your neck. Now use your thumbs to work tiny circles around the base of your skull. Slowly massage the rest of your scalp with your fingertips. Then tap your fingers against your scalp, moving from the front to the back and then over the sides.

Now massage your face. Make a series of tiny circles with your thumbs or fingertips. Pay particular attention to your temples, forehead, and jaw muscles. Use your middle fingers to massage the bridge of your nose and work outward over your elbows to your temples. Finally, close your eyes. Cup your hands loosely over your face and just inhale and exhale easily for a short while.

When you’ve got 10 minutes
Try imagery. Start by sitting comfortably in a quiet space. Breathe deeply and evenly for a few minutes. Now picture yourself in a place that conjures up good memories. Engage your senses to passively observe the pleasures around you. Allow intrusive thoughts to gently escape your mind and instead fill the space with positive images and emotions.

About the Author
Rochelle Perper, Ph.D., founder of Therapy Changes, is a licensed clinical psychologist in Point Loma. She has established a caring practice focused on helping patients better navigate and manage life’s difficult transitions. Dr. Perper provides action-oriented therapy customized for individuals, families and couples. Her therapeutic approach involves helping people change their thoughts and behaviors from negative to positive in order to enhance their productivity and satisfaction.


Don’t Know Where to Start Marketing? Start Here.

marketing-planSo you’re here because you’re a new to marketing. That’s fine—we all were at one point or another. You’re starting up a business or just bought one. Maybe you’re thinking about it. Whatever it is, you know you need to get the word out but don’t know how. Like they said in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade—the hardest place to find is where to start.

So we’re hoping this post will help solve that problem. While every small business is unique and has different opportunities to capitalize on, there are some basic, fundamental things you can do to get started at the most rudimentary level and get you and your business on the proverbial map.

Write a mission/vision statement. Yes, they can be cheesy. Yes, they’re sometimes written by people who like to talk about themselves too much—but the truth is mission statements are a vital component of marketing. They tell your prospects who you are, what you do and—in some cases—why you do what you do. It serves as the bones of any marketing campaign or initiative. If you don’t have one, write one. If you don’t feel you’re best equipped to do it, find a marketing agency who is. Mission statements are extremely important—they give you an identity.

Develop an ideal customer profile. Who would benefit most from your service or product? What do they do? Where do they go? What worries do they have? How do you make their life easier? Where do you fit in their life? Who are their friends, what kinds of communities do they live in, etc. We know it’s a lot—but it’s totally worth it. Narrowing down exactly who’d be the best fit as a client helps you be more efficient with how you’re spending your marketing budget. Especially in the case of a startup, every penny counts.

Professionally designed website and marketing collateral.  You’re not going to believe how often you’re going to be asked for a business card. You’re going to be even more shocked at how quickly people will comment on it. Having cohesive branding means a lot—it tells people you’re serious and that you’ve put skin in the game. You’re not a moonlighter or someone trying something because you don’t know what else to do. It tells people who you are, that you’re serious and most importantly—that you’re open for business.

LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is basically Facebook for professionals. The tone is more formal, but the resources that can be had are immense. People can learn lots about you—you can recommend others, be recommended yourself, organize contacts, network, participate in discussion forums, etc. It allows you to personally brand yourself and have your information readily accessible in a place where anyone can get ahold of it.

Where you go from here with your marketing strategy is dependent on a lot of things, but having those four pieces of the puzzle firmly in place can go a long way towards making your future, more expansive marketing campaigns successful.


New Mobile Apps to Check Out – WordPress, Chrome and Facebook

During the last month, a few App updates were released to the general public. More specifically, updates for the WordPress, Google Chrome and the Facebook Apps on iOS. All Apps are both iPhone and iPad friendly.

WordPress

The revised WordPress app (version 3.1) got a new user interface refresh along with a good amount of performance and reliability updates. Here’s a full list of what’s new:

  • New sidebar menu for quick navigation.
  • Sliding panels on the iPad for greatly improved navigation and ease of use.
  • Updated colors and graphics.
  • Improved sign-up experience.
  • New app icon.
  • Support for Post Formats.
  • WordPress.com Reader and Quick Photo added for the iPad.
  • New Simple post preview feature for the iPad.
  • All-new WordPress.com stats.
  • New WordPress.com Friend Finder feature helps you find your friends blogging on WordPress.com.
  • Landscape orientation support throughout the app.
  • Easy access to your site – view it and access the web dashboard right from the app.

Shortly, a quiet update to version 3.1.2 was released addressing these issues:

– Fixed login issues with stats and Jetpack
– Easier Jetpack set up for self-hosted blogs
– Improved accessibility
– Crash and bug fixes

Download the WordPress App here

Chrome

Earlier this summer, Google released the Chrome web browser for iOS. With it’s release, Chrome quickly became one of the top downloaded Apps. It has received rave reviews from everyone I’ve spoken to about it, mostly about how fast it is. Just the other day, Google made a small update to the browser which adds the ability to share web pages from the browser straight to Gmail, Facebook, Twitter or good ole email. Other changes to the App were stability/security improves along with bug fixes from user feedback.

Download the Chrome App here

Facebook

One of the most anticipated App updates to arrive is Facebook’s iOS App. If anyone’s ever use the previous version, you know it was a bit slow, clunky and crashed a lot. That version was coded with web code (HMTL5), while the new version was recoded using iOS’s native language of Object-C. According to Facebook, the result is an App that is up to twice as fast when launching, scrolling through news feed and opening photos in the feed. Here are the other new features of the App:

  • New banner lets you tap to quickly see more stories – no need to refresh
  • Photos open fast and close with one downward swipe
  • Instant access to your notifications

Download the Facebook App here

And for all the Fandroids out there feeling left out, Facebook will release an updated Facebook App for the AndroidOS at some point in time. Rumor has it that Zuckerburg is forcing Facebook employees to use the Android App (while abandoning their iOS devices) in hopes of making them more motivated into making fixes to the Android version.


Mobile Website vs. Mobile App

08.27.2012What is a mobile website? What is a mobile app? Are they the same thing? These are some of the common questions I hear from clients in this new age of the smart phone and tablet. If you aren’t technically keen on the subject, confusion between the two is inevitable as they are similar and yet different.

The Main Differences

A mobile website is a specialized version of your current website that is optimized for your smart phone or mobile device. Since smart phones have smaller screens and are touch-based devices, having a version specifically for mobile devices will give your users a much better browsing experience. Mobile websites can be accessed on multiple mobile platforms (such as iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.) because only a web browser is required to access the mobile website.

A mobile app is a software application that you download (from the App Store or Android Market) and install on your mobile device. A mobile app can be practically anything from a calendar, a video game, an online bank account manager and even a website. Mobile apps have to be written specifically for a mobile device platform. For example, an iPhone mobile app will not work on an Android phone and vice versa.

Which one do you need? Do you need both?

With smart phones becoming more affordable and wireless speeds getting faster, having an alternative mobile website is eventually going to be the norm. The main reason is because of usability and speed. Normal websites are designed for use with larger screens and a mouse/keyboard. They are also created with faster Internet connections in mind. Mobile websites take advantage of the smaller screen and touch-based nature of the device making navigation and browsing much easier and faster. They also require the file sizes of the images and other website content to be smaller for faster downloads.

However some websites might have special features that would make more sense as a mobile app or might only work as a mobile app. Types of websites such as an e-commerce website or bank websites are good examples. Take for example Chase (m.chase.com). You can log into your account online using their mobile website to access your account or you can download the Chase mobile app. Are both really necessary? In this case I would have to say yes. I tried accessing my bank account using both methods and here are the results from this quick test:

Mobile Website:

  • Pros: Accessible through any web browser on any mobile device, don’t need to download/install anything
  • Cons: Slower, less responsive. Have to use web browser to navigate there first (or use bookmarks). Can’t use built-in camera to take pictures for deposits.

Mobile App:

  • Pros: If used frequently, much easier and faster to use, requires single tap to access (after installed). More responsive because of native device code. Takes advantage of built in camera to make deposits.
  • Cons: Must download and install first. App must be written and approved for specific device(s).

The only real downside to using the mobile app is that you have to download it and install it first. After that part is completed though, the mobile app is much faster and more responsive than its mobile website counterpart. So if you are frequently managing your account online, using the mobile app makes total sense. The main advantage of using the mobile website is that you could quickly check your account on any mobile device without the need to install anything. For example, you need to make an online payment with your account on your friend’s phone because your phone’s battery is dead. Since your friend has a different bank and doesn’t want you to install anything on his phone, using the mobile website to make the payment is the best and only option.

Other factors to consider are time/cost and compatibility. Mobile app development costs considerably more and takes longer then mobile website development. A mobile app is only compatible with the platform it is created for. If you want your app to work on an iPhone, Android and Blackberry, three different apps will need to be developed. Where with a mobile website, a single version will work across all mobile platforms.

Summary

Most websites will do just fine with just having an alternative mobile version of the website. Depending on the website, its content, and features, however, having a mobile app as well could be highly beneficial. Sometimes it all depends on the amount of usage a particular area of the website is being used. For example, there could be a part of the website where users can book and make appointments. With data analytics you find that this part of the website gets the most traffic is being used most frequently. Creating a separate mobile app specifically for booking and making appointments would be a viable alternative for your users as it will most likely get downloaded and used.


New Client Website Design: Wertz & Co

08.07.2012Wertz & Co is an accounting firm in Irvine, CA that specializes in serving entrepreneurs and their unique needs. Unlike most accounting firms, Wertz & Co is proactive and consultative. Instead of working with their clients only once a year around tax time, Wertz & Co strives to be a year-round partner and a trusted adviser. The professionals at Wertz & Co are passionate about helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

Wertz & Co came to Bop Design in need of a new website design that would appeal to the younger entrepreneurs of Orange County.  The website needed an up-to-date look that fit in with the urban lifestyle led by many entrepreneurs. Wertz & Co sought creative direction from Bop.

Instead of the typical book-report-like CPA website, Bop created a visually-driven design supported by dynamic copy. Everything about the website, from the terminology to the set-up of the team page, was created with the target market in mind. Because the website was built using WordPress, Wertz & Co has the power to easily update the website—providing fresh, useful content for their clients.


The Bop Design 2012 Website Olympics

07.27.2012With the beginning of the London 2012 Olympics, I thought it would be fun to have a Olympics competition with country websites. The countries I’ve chosen for the 2012 Website Olympics are the top 8 ranked countries from the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

The contestants:

  1. China
  2. United States
  3. Russia
  4. Great Britain
  5. Germany
  6. Australia
  7. South Korea
  8. Japan

To keep politics out of it, I will use the english versions of the official tourism website for each country. Each website will be judged by these main factors:

Look & Design – colors and layout/navigation
Web Development – Internet technologies used, official Google PageSpeed score
SEOGoogle Page Rank, MozRank, Hubspot Marketing Grader

Let the games begin.


China

(http://www.cnto.org, http://www.cnto.org/aboutchina.asp)

Look & Design

Colors: The China National Tourism Office website for China is visually generic. There is no color scheme unless you consider “Rainbowish” a color scheme. Unfortunately, the use of the primary rainbow colors (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet) are ignored and an array of different color palettes are used.

Layout/Navigation: The layout is a simple blog style layout with standard placement of content. The website is left-aligned to the browser window, leaving much undesirable whitespace to the right. Some areas of the website need more padding to create a more balanced experience when reading the content. There are no drop down menus in the main navigation bar. There are however sublinks/boxes that appear underneath the menu bar on certain pages. There is also a way to view other pages using the right sidebar. Arial is the font of choice as it is used primarily throughout the website.

Bop Score: 4/10


Web Development

Internet Technologies
Hosting Framework HTML5 Layout base Fluid Layout Responsive Layout Javascript
Windows IIS ASP No HTML tables No No Yes
jQuery Social Media Mobile optimized Mobile version Flash Minimum Screen Resolution Google PageSpeed Score
No No No No Yes* 800×600 92/100

*splash page, page header, photo galleries

Bop Score: 4/10


SEO

Using the keywords “official china tourism website”, cnto.org is number 1 in Google search results
Google PageRank Score: 6/10
MozRank Score: 3.74
Hubspot Marketing Grader: 25/100

Bop Score: 5/10


Overall Average Score: 4.3/10


United States

(http://www.discoveramerica.com)

Look & Design

Colors: DiscoverAmerica.com uses a simple primary color scheme with the use of white and gray tones. The home page uses orange and cyan colors to highlight keep links. Upon navigating throughout the site, the use of red, yellow and blue can be found. The colors are well-balanced and do not strain the eyes.

Layout/Navigation: The layout is elegant and modern looking with easy navigation. The main menu bar consists of only four links. Each of those main links/pages have their own sub navigation either as thumbnail images or a slider with nifty rollover menus. Also on some pages there are floating side menus that slide in when clicked on. The custom font “Quicksand” is used as the main font throughout the site.

Bop Score: 9/10


Web Development

Internet Technologies
Hosting Framework HTML5 Layout base Fluid Layout Responsive Layout Javascript
Windows IIS ASP Yes CSS Yes No Yes
jQuery Social Media Mobile optimized Mobile version Flash Minimum Screen Resolution Google PageSpeed Score
Yes Yes Yes No No 1024×768 70/100

 

Bop Score: 8/10


SEO

Using the keywords “official united sates tourism website”, discoveramerica.com is number 2 in Google search results
Google PageRank Score: 7/10
MozRank Score: 5.76
Hubspot Marketing Grader: 70/100

Bop Score: 8/10


Average score: 8.3/10


Russia

(http://www.visitrussia.org.uk)

Look & Design

Colors: The website of the Russian National Tourist Office uses a reddish/burnt orange color and gray tones as its color scheme. There is a nice usage of drop shadows, gradients and rounded corners that soften the feel of the website.

Layout/Navigation: The website uses a simple 3 column layout. The main menu bar has drop down menus that link to the subpages of each section. Breadcrumb links are used on the subpages for easier navigation. Everything is solid and standard as far as the layout and navigation goes. The website also makes use of the not often used font Tahoma.

Bop Score: 8/10


Web Development

Internet Technologies
Hosting Framework HTML5 Layout base Fluid Layout Responsive Layout Javascript
Apache PHP No HTML tables No No Yes
jQuery Social Media Mobile optimized Mobile version Flash Minimum Screen Resolution Google PageSpeed Score
Yes Yes Yes No No 1024×768 67/100

 

Bop Score: 7/10


SEO

Using the keywords “official russia tourism website”, visitrussia.org.uk is number 3 in Google search results
Google PageRank Score: 5/10
MozRank Score: 3.79
Hubspot Marketing Grader: 57/100

Bop Score: 7/10


Average score: 7/10


Great Britain

(http://www.visitbritain.com)

Look & Design

Colors: The VisitBritain.com website has a predominantly white color scheme with touches of some blues, pink, black, purple and a lime green color. Overall the website gives off a “news” type feel similar to Forbes’ website. The use of a very light drop shadow gives the website a sophisticated effect.

Layout/Navigation: The website uses a 2 column layout. The main content is in the wider left column, while miscellaneous content fills up the right side bar. The main menu bar has sub menus that appear after a main link is clicked on. It would be more effective if the sub menu appeared when the main link was hovered on. Overall navigation is very good, it is hard to get lost while browsing the website. Arial and Georgia on the main fonts used for the website.

Bop Score: 7.5/10


Web Development

Internet Technologies
Hosting Framework HTML5 Layout base Fluid Layout Responsive Layout Javascript
Apache PHP Yes CSS No No Yes
jQuery Social Media Mobile optimized Mobile version Flash Minimum Screen Resolution Google PageSpeed Score
Yes Yes Yes No Yes* 1024×768 85/100

*photo galleries, video player

Bop Score: 7/10


SEO

Using the keywords “official great britain tourism website”, visitbritain.com is number 1 in Google search results
Google PageRank Score: 8/10
MozRank Score: 4.46
Hubspot Marketing Grader: 58/100

Bop Score: 7/10


Average score: 7.2/10


Germany

(http://www.germany.travel)

Look & Design

Colors: The Germany tourist website has a very busy feel to it. There is full width and height CSS background that randomly chooses a background image. The main colors used are white, black and gray tones with touches of the German flag colors highlighted certain in elements like the hyperlinks. The colors that pop out are the colors from the full screen background image. Almost all corners throughout the website are rounded corners.

Layout/Navigation: This website uses a slightly non-standard layout. The main menu bar resembles a toolbar at the very top of the page with a minimal amount of links. The main header logo is also located to the far right instead of the usual far left. Instead of drop down menus, sub bubbles are used and are located above the main content area which is split into a standard 2 column layout. Some pages also make use of the floating slide-in side menu. The most impressive feature of the website is the non-flash interactive map section of the website. The Arial font face is the font of choice for this website. This website offers a mobile version of the website for smartphones and such devices.

Bop Score: 7.5/10


Web Development

Internet Technologies
Hosting Framework HTML5 Layout base Fluid Layout Responsive Layout Javascript
Apache PHP Yes CSS Yes No Yes
jQuery Social Media Mobile optimized Mobile version Flash Minimum Screen Resolution Google PageSpeed Score
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes* 1024×768 79/100

*video player

Bop Score: 8/10


SEO

Using the keywords “officia germany tourism website”, germany.travel is number 1 in Google search results
Google PageRank Score: 7/10
MozRank Score: 3.69
Hubspot Marketing Grader: 69/100

Bop Score: 7/10


Average score: 7.5/10


Australia

(http://australia.com)

Look & Design:

Colors: The color scheme of Australia’s Official Tourism website is absolutely beautiful. It uses dark, earthy colors in combination with photos of the natural colors of Australia’s land and water. The website makes wonderful use of the readily available landscape that Australia provides.

Layout/Navigation: This websites layout is unique because it uses the negative space between the menu bar and the main content area as the header area. That header area is then filled with the picturesque background image of the page. The menu bar uses an impressive mega menu that is neatly organized. The layout is fluid as well as responsive. There is also a mobile version of the website available. The main font used is a custom font called Open Sans.

Bop Score: 10/10


Web Development

Internet Technologies
Hosting Framework HTML5 Layout base Fluid Layout Responsive Layout Javascript
Windows IIS ASP Yes CSS Yes Yes Yes
jQuery Social Media Mobile optimized Mobile version Flash Minimum Screen Resolution Google PageSpeed Score
Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes* 1024×768 77/100

*video player

Bop Score: 9.5/10


SEO

Using the keywords “officia australia tourism website”, australia.com is number 1 in Google search results
Google PageRank Score: 7/10
MozRank Score: 5.98
Hubspot Marketing Grader: 69/100

Bop Score: 8/10


Average score: 9.2/10


South Korea

(http://www.visitkorea.or.kr/intro.html, http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto)

Look & Design:

Colors: South Korea’s tourism website uses mainly blues, beige and white with an assortment of pastel style rainbow colors that highlight certain titles and links. The variation in colors gives it a very busy look and feel.

Layout/Navigation: This website has a main splash page where the user chooses the website language they want to view. This page has the old school Flash image slideshow. The layout uses a Flash slideshow as the header and the main content area of the home page resembles a standard portal website layout. The rest of the website have a two column blog style layout. These pages have a sticky “Quick Menu” that stays afloat to the top right of the browser window when the page is scrolled downward. The menu bar is of the tabbed variety using a submenu the appears underneath the main menu bar. It works well in junction with the layout. Verdana is the main font used in the website.

Bop Score: 6/10


Web Development

Internet Technologies
Hosting Framework HTML5 Layout base Fluid Layout Responsive Layout Javascript
unknown Java/JSP No CSS No No Yes
jQuery Social Media Mobile optimized Mobile version Flash Minimum Screen Resolution Google PageSpeed Score
No Yes Yes No Yes* 1024×768 42/100

*slideshow

Bop Score: 5/10


SEO

Using the keywords “official south korea tourism website”, english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto is number 1 in Google search results
Google PageRank Score: 8/10
MozRank Score: 6.07
Hubspot Marketing Grader: 31/100

Bop Score: 7/10


Average score: 6/10


Japan

(http://www.jnto.go.jp, http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/)

Look & Design:

Colors: Japan’s Tourism website uses mainly the colors of the Japanese flag (red and white) blended with light gray. The home page is very smilier to South Korea’s home page as it uses light rainbow style colors for title backgrounds and gradients. Through out the rest of the website, the appearance is a clean and professional looking layout.

Layout/Navigation: The home page of Japan’s Tourism website shows a Flash image gallery that can be hidden with Javascript. The Flash image gallery is hidden on the rest of the pages but can be viewed/hidden with a slider button. The home page like the Korea’s Tourism site has a portal style layout that is very busy with buttons and with multiple feed lists. The rest of the pages of the website vary. Some use a standard three column layout while others use a 50/50 two column layout. The header area is combined with the menu bar, while underneath it is the toolbar that controls and navigates the Flash image gallery. Tahoma and Arial are used as the main fonts in the website.

Bop Score: 7/10


Web Development

Internet Technologies
Hosting Framework HTML5 Layout base Fluid Layout Responsive Layout Javascript
Apache PHP No CSS No No Yes
jQuery Social Media Mobile optimized Mobile version Flash Minimum Screen Resolution Google PageSpeed Score
Yes Yes** Yes No Yes* 1054 pixels wide 55/100

*video player
** Only Facebook and YouTube

Bop Score: 7/10


SEO

Using the keywords “official japan tourism website”, jnto.go.jp is number 1 in Google search results
Google PageRank Score: 7/10
MozRank Score: 6.76
Hubspot Marketing Grader: 42/100

Bop Score: 7/10


Average score: 7/10


Summary of final Average Scores:

  1. China: 4.3
  2. United States: 8.3
  3. Russia: 7
  4. Great Britain: 7.2
  5. Germany: 7.5
  6. Australia: 9.2
  7. South Korea: 6
  8. Japan: 7

The winners of the Bop Design 2012 Website Olympics are:

Gold Medal : Australia

Silver Medal : United States

Bronze Medal : Germany


Small Business Facebook Advertising Tips

Are you considering a Facebook advertising campaign for your small business? Before you get started you first need to consider the goal of advertising on Facebook. Do you want to generate more traffic to your website, get more leads, increase brand exposure, or simply to get more fans to like your business page? The good news is that you can achieve any one of these goals with Facebook advertising. Once you have chosen your goal you can then begin developing a successful Pay-Per-Click (PPC) strategy.

Follow the steps and tips below to create your campaign:

  1. Destination 
    One of the first steps is to choose the destination for your ads. In other words, the landing page for where people visit after clicking on your ad. The destination can be your website, a specific post, your company page, event, or an application. The application destination is only relevant if you have created a custom application for your business on Facebook.
  2. Promotion
    Next, you simply choose what you want to promote. You can promote your company page, a specific post, a new ad about your company, or stories about friends liking your page. If your goal is to generate new likes and traffic to your page, then choose to promote your page or a specific post on the page. If your goal is to drive traffic to your website or get new leads then choosing a landing page on your website will be the best way to achieve these results.
  3. What People Will See
    Your third step in the set up process is to choose what type of ad your audience will see. The following are options for your ad creative based upon what you decide to promote:

    1. A new ad about your page – by default the headline will be your company page name and you can choose your own text and image.
    2. Stories about friends liking your page – for this particular ad your ad will be automatically created based on the actions friends took on the page. These ads are typically a great way to build new likes for a page because the ad will be shown to friends of the people that like your page.
    3. A post on your page – here you get to choose from your most recent post/updates on your page. This type of ad seems to perform best if you frequently share educational information that has broad appeal. You can either choose one particular post or keep the ad automatically updated with your most recent post.
    4. External URL – if you choose to build an ad sending people to an external url from Facebook you have a lot more options for the ad creative. After you enter the destination url you can have Facebook suggest an ad based on the destination url, or you can create your own ad below. If you decide to make your own ad, the following are the needed materials: headline, text and image. As with all online advertising we suggest creating a few variations of the ad to test out your messaging and images to develop the most successful ad.
  4. Choosing An Audience
    Choosing the target audience for your ad campaign is extremely important to determining the success of your campaign. If you develop an audience that is too broad we’ve found that your ads are rarely shown. It is usually best to set up very targeted ad groups to achieve the best results, the more specific the audience the better you can tailor your advertising message. For instance, if you specific target women, ages 20-30, in San Diego your message will most likely be very different than if the audience you were targeting was men, ages 40-50, in Minneapolis.As you select your audience keep an eye on the right column to see your target audience size adjust as you make modifications. The following are criteria you can use to find your target audience:

    1. Location – like many other PPC platforms you can choose to segment the audience by country, state/province, city or zip code.
    2. Age – you can require an exact age match or choose an age range.
    3. Gender – choose to target by gender.
    4. Precise interests – this is a great way to find a segment of people that are interested in your products or services. Simply type in interests that are related to your business and choose the topics and interests that match your offerings. As you select interests Facebook will provide similar likes and interests to help you build a robust list.
    5. Broad categories – use the broad categories tool to easily find segments of people. The following are a few of the available categories: activities, ethnic, events, family status, music, business/technology, etc….
  5. Campaign and Budget
    After your ad and audience are finalized the last steps are to name the campaign, set the budget, and schedule the campaign. We suggest choosing the Cost Per Click (CPC) option for pricing so you only get charged when people click on the ads.
  6. Additional PPC Tips
    1. To copy an existing ad simply click on the name of the ad and click on “create a similar ad” at the bottom of the ad preview.
    2. Set up weekly performance monitoring to see which ads are doing the best. Use this information to pause weak ads, or to develop better ads.
    3. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ad variations or your target audience.
    4. If you are running ads to promote your page or posts then check out the Insights tab on your company page to see just how many new likes or activity are from your sponsored ads.

5 Common Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs

07.10.2012Entrepreneurs come in a lot of different stripes and colors. Some are outgoing, some are introverted, some are detail-oriented and others are big-picture thinkers. While there are vast differences in their individual personalities, successful entrepreneurs tend to share certain characteristics and work habits—which we’ll be discussing today. Keeping these concepts front and center can help you be a better boss, a more engaged leader and best prepared for whatever is coming around the corner.

Think strategically. Great ideas don’t make money. The strategies that implement them do. No matter what your line of work is—it’s the people who lay out the road maps, define roles and conceptualize the questions that get paid the big money—and with good reason. Whether it’s baseball, insurance, banking or engineering—strategic thinking and implementation is crucial to success. So remember, having great ideas is great—but without the strategic thinking to get it off the ground, it’ll remain just a great idea.

Try to avoid failure, but don’t be terrified of it. Sure, no one wants to fail, but the reality is that most business owners willeventually. There will be days where you fail small and there will be others where the sound of your ‘splat’ as you hit the wall and vaporize into oblivion will exceed all definitions of the word ‘spectacular’. Yes, you will fail, but it’s also important to realize that failure isn’t necessarily the end of your branding.

In fact, most successful entrepreneurs are those who can turn failures into educational moments and in some cases—new opportunities. We go to often-ridiculous lengths to avoid failures when sometimes if we just accepted it’s inevitability, we’d save a lot of time and money thanks to the great lessons it teaches. Don’t actively pursue failure, but don’t run from it—especially when there’s something valuable to be learned.

Learn to adapt and evolve. If you talked to a group of successful entrepreneurs who’ve been in business for more than five or six years, most of them would likely tell you that their business today is different in some way from what they started with. People change, markets change, demands change, prices change, marketing consultants move on and your needs will always evolve. You need to be able to go with the flow and make adjustments where appropriate if you’re going to enjoy long-term success.

Maintain discipline. They say the most successful businesses are the ones based on simple, repeatable systems. Sticking to those systems and processes can pay dividends. Having a decision-making process, marketing strategy, vetting the people you allow into it, deciding how you prioritize your day—all these things can mean a lot for a successful entrepreneur and can bring sanity to even the most chaotic, random day.

Persistence. Ask anyone who’s ever been successful at anything and they’ll tell you that the word ‘no’ is the background music of their life. It only takes a few great clients to build a wildly successful business. Many who say ‘no’ today often don’t say ‘no’ tomorrow. As such, getting wrapped up in the naysayers is pointless, deflating and counter-productive. One ‘yes’ a day is another colossal step towards your goal. Stay persistent and focused and you’ll always be close to the light at the end of the tunnel.

Being an entrepreneur can be as challenging as it is rewarding. Stay focused, stay on task and most importantly—stay passionate! Good luck!


19 Common Web Design Terms Even Your Grandparents Know

comon-web-design-termsJust like any other industry, website design and development has its own vocabulary. While agencies should try to speak in a way that’s intelligible to our clients, we understand that some words simply don’t make sense to people who aren’t already familiar with them. But we don’t think that’s a good way to do business. We want to collaborate with our clients.

Below are a few words or phrases web designers and developers commonly use that you may be unfamiliar with. They’re all in alphabetical order to make it easy to find what you’re looking for.

Browser: chances are, you’re using a browser right now. A browser (also known as web browser) is a program you view websites. The most common browsers are Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox (also known as Mozilla), and Chrome. WhatBrowserAmIUsing.co is a great resource for finding this out.

Browser cache: you’ll most often hear this phrase after the words, “clear your.” Browsers often save the website you look at in a cache. This allows the pages to load faster when you visit them later. However, this can cause problems if the page has recently been updated. You may not see the update, or you may see an error. WikiHow has a great article detailing how to clear your browser cache for almost any browser you can think of.

Concept: designers will sometimes refer to a concept. This is just a fancy way of saying a design or preview of how something will look. A concept is part of every design process, whether it be for a logo, a website, or anything else in between.

Content management system (CMS): this is the software you use to control the content on your website. It’s a way to update or add to your website. Some common CMS programs are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.

CSS: is a language web developers use. Without getting too technical, CSS is an easy way to control how a website looks. Every web developer should have a strong understanding of CSS. If they don’t, find someone else.

Domain: this is what people type into their browser to go to your website. In our case, it’s bopdesign.com. Every website needs a domain.

Email client: is how you view your email. In a business setting, most people use Microsoft Outlook. Web mail services like Gmail and Yahoo also provide email clients—it’s what you see when you look in your inbox.

EPS: is a type of file. If a designer asks you for your logo file, it’s usually an EPS they really want. This is a high quality file type. Chances are even if you have an EPS file, you won’t be able to open it because you don’t have the correct program. That’s okay because your designer will have the program.

Home page: the page you see when you first visit a website. The home page typically looks different from the other pages.

Host: this is where your website files are stored. Without a host, you don’t have a website. You should have login information for your host. Hold on to it! It is important information for your web developer. Just like your registrar, you should have login information for your host. Please note that your host and registrar may be the same company or it may not.

HTML: the language that the internet is based on. HTML is used on every website, even if it isn’t the primary language.

Link (hyperlink): is how you navigate the internet. Click here. “Here” is a link to the Bop Design home page. If you look at the top of the page you’re on right now, you’ll see with words like “About,” “Services,” and “Team.” Those are also links.

Registrar: this is the company you used to register your domain name. A common registrar is GoDaddy. You should have login information for your host. Hold on to it! It is important information for your web developer. Just like your host, you should have login information for your registrar. Please note that your host and registrar may be the same company or it may not.

RSS feed: is a way for people to subscribe to your blog. Have you ever seen a button that looks almost like a volume button, with a dot and two bars coming off it? That’s an RSS feed button. Clicking it will bring you to the feed page. From there you can add the feed to whatever program you use to keep track of blogs. Google Reader is a common one.

Screen shot/cap/grab: is a picture you take of your screen. This is invaluable for web developers when they’re trouble shooting a problem you have. WikiHow provides instructions for taking a screenshot in Windows and on a Mac.

Social media: refers to websites where the primary purpose is for users to interact with each other. The biggest social media websites (or networks) are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Subpage: any page on a website that isn’t the home page. Depending on the context, subpage could refer to a page that’s “underneath” one of the pages in the main navigation. For example, if you look at the navigation of the Bop Design website, Web Design & Development is a subpage of Services.

URL: is how you link to other pages. https://www.bopdesign.com is a URL; it takes you to the Bop home page. The URL https://www.bopdesign.com/team/emily-vonsydow/ takes you to my bio page.

WordPress: a popular content management system. At Bop Design, we develop all of our websites in WordPress. We like it because it gives us a lot of control over how the website looks and it’s easy for to use (relatively speaking, of course). It’s also great for our clients because it’s easy to edit and create content.

Are you puzzled by a word you don’t see here? Leave us a comment! We’ll explain it for you.


When Is The Best Time To Launch a New WordPress Website?

website-launchSo you’ve doubled and tripled checked the staging website content for grammar errors and typos. You’ve clicked on every link to make sure they are going to the correct location and none of them are going to your custom 404 error page. All the page titles, meta keywords and descriptions are in place. Contact forms and the like are working and are sending to the correct email addresses. You even have the 301 redirects ready to implement, assuring that the page rankings won’t get harmed.

Now when is the best time to make the website live?

The answer is: It depends. There are a lot of different things that can factor into this decision.

Has the domain and hosting been set up properly?

Depending on the server and what else is on the server (e.g. subdomains, another CMS, etc.), making a WordPress website live can get a bit tricky. If it’s installed on a brand new hosting account, there will be little to zero issues. But on existing hosting accounts, sometimes having to make edits to the .htaccess file will be necessary. It is also possible DNS settings will need to be changed. Email service may also be affected if not executed properly. For these types of issues, it is essential that an experienced web developer and/or an IT expert is involved during this transition. So when choosing a day to launch the website, make sure all the people involved are readily available just in case something goes astray.

You should also have access to all the admin accounts for the hosting service provider, the domain registrar (if they are different) and any other services that you are using. If you need to contact technical support for whatever reason and the main account holder is not available or incapable of communicating with them, you will usually need to verify the account in order for them to work with you. Some hosting providers will require credit card information for verification, so this information may be necessary. This way you can directly respond to tech support without having to go back and forth with the account holder, wasting valuable time.

After the site goes live, there might be some unexpected bugs that appear. Maybe some PHP code in a few template files need to be updated/changed or the boss decides on a different color for the menu bar at the last minute. When you decide to launch your website, make sure your web developer is available the day of and the day after it’s launched too.

Are you going to send an email newsletter campaign, a press release or maybe just a Facebook wall post about your new website?

If so, it only makes sense that the day you choose to launch the website will be a day that will work with your announcement. If you plan on sending our your announcement on Tuesday, then you’ll probably want to get the website launched at least 24 hours beforehand so you can check and fix any bugs/errors before you tell everyone about it.

Was there a previous website on the same domain and was it using any type of website tracking analytics?

If the answer to that question is yes, then it would be a good idea to view the website’s tracking statistics first. Look for the non-busiest times the website gets visitors and try to pick a reasonable time around that. You don’t want to launch the new website while a lot of people are trying to access it. Depending on your hosting plan, things could get too busy and the website could experience massive slowdown. It’s also possible the majority of the website’s visitors are in another time zone, so take that into account.

When to not launch a website:

Friday or on the weekends. This is mainly because the necessary people may not be available if something does go wrong or needs to be fixed. Also some services may not be open on the weekends or may have limited hours of business. As long as you’re properly prepared for the launch of the website, choosing the day and time is totally up to you.


What is SEO and Why is it Important?

06.28.2012Definition of SEO
According to Wikipedia, SEO “is an acronym for Search engine optimization, the process of improving the ranking of a web site in internet search results.” Not only is it the process of ranking higher in search results, but it is the process to rank higher in the “organic” search results. The organic results are the websites listed in the middle of the search results because of their relevance to the search terms. The websites that achieve a high organic ranking, such as those on page 1, will typically garner more impressions and traffic because these results are more trusted by users.

The primary search engines that people use today are Google, Bing and Yahoo. Developing an SEO strategy around the parameters of these search engine giants is the best way to improve your overall website ranking and get more traffic.

Simple SEO Tips
Before getting started on an SEO strategy the most important thing is to develop a set of target keyword phrases. Think of your target keywords as your roadmap to success. Your target keywords should not only reflect the products or services your business offers, but they should be keywords that are actually searched on the web. If you choose words that are too niche with little to no traffic then your SEO efforts are in vain. There are millions of new searches a day so take the time to properly research keywords that are the best fit for your business. For more information on developing a target keyword list, please refer to our blog “Keyword Research – The First Step To Increasing SEO.” Once you have your list ready then you can set the next step of creating an action plan to improve your ranking for each of these target keyword phrases.

The following are just a few guidelines to getting the SEO basics of your website set-up:

  • Alt tags – all of the images on your website need alt tags and should preferably contain your target keyword phrases.
  • Meta data – create unique and optimized meta descriptions, page titles and meta keywords for each webpage.
  • Headers – create h1, h2 and h3 heading tags that contain your target keyword phrases on each webpage.
  • Content – a chosen target keyword phrase should be listed 3-4 times within the content of each webpage.
  • Sitemap – develop an xml sitemap for your website and submit to the top search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing).
  • Deep linking – link the most important content from the homepage and set-up links within the internal webpages.
  • Domain – check to make sure that your domain is registered for more than a year. A domain that is set to expire within a year can have a negative effect on SEO.

After setting up the SEO basics on your website the next step is to work on getting inbound links to your website through local listings, directories, social media accounts, blog articles, etc… We will delve more into building inbound links in a later blog post.

What You Can Expect From SEO
One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that SEO is not an overnight achievement, but the results are lasting. On average you can expect that it will take about 3-4 months to start seeing any improvement in your website ranking, and not every website or industry can expect the same results. The more competitive the keyword phrases the longer it can take to see results, or more work might be needed to effectively compete. SEO is a continuous fight to achieve a better ranking and it doesn’t all rely on your efforts. There are three primary factors involved in how well your website is ranked: how well you’ve optimized your own website, how well optimized your competition is, and the parameters search engines are using for ranking. Unfortunately you can only control one of these factors, but it has a big influence on your ranking. So grab ahold of the piece you can control and develop a search engine optimization strategy today.

Benefits of SEO
If you decide that implementing an SEO strategy isn’t right for your business, one alternative is to purchase pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to appear on the first few pages of a search engine. Paid advertisements in search results appear typically on the side or top of the search results. PPC is an expensive alternative and it isn’t guaranteed to produce great results. Most people searching the internet tune out the paid listing sections in the search results, so it is typically quite difficult to get people to click on your ads. Most people prefer to click on the results in the organic search results display, knowing that the websites listed here are probably the best match for their needs. The following are a few common pitfalls of PPC: it takes a bit of time to implement, continuous monitoring and tweaking, and a continual investment to rank on the first few pages. Whereas, with an SEO strategy you are building a foundation that provides a long-term goal of continuously improving search engine ranking.


Why Great Content Is More Than Telling People What They Want To Hear

06.26.2012We’ve more or less made it policy in our office that if you find something cool on the internet, you should share it with the rest of the office. Recently, we found this pretty great piece on content marketing over at Fastcocreate.com that became a hot topic over the past week at our marketing agency.

The piece made a ton of great points and should be required reading for anyone looking to get a handle on how to create good content for a small business marketing blog. As good as it was, I felt it did lack one thing, and that was to emphasize the importance of disposition and tone in your content creation. As such, this week’s post is about just that.

It’s not just about writing it, it’s about believing it.

While creating customer facing content is important to your internet marketing efforts, it’s not a panacea. You shouldn’t just be developing content because someone on a blog told you to. You can use the word ‘you’ a lot – but at the end of the day – if sincerity is lacking in the tone of the content, customers will be turned off. It’s one thing to say the right things. It’s another thing for customers to believe you’re saying the right thing.

Long story, short: Valuable content is values-driven. Write about what you believe in because you believe in it – not because you think it’s something you should be saying.

It’s not just about believing it, it’s about doing it.

Great content helps people do things, solve problems, meet goals, etc. But do you know what else it says? It says a lot about how you do business. It says that you are a giver. It says that the customer is important. It says that you’re willing to change, evolve and adapt to meet their needs. If your actions don’t reflect the tone you set in your communications, the consequences could be serious. It’s not about rushing people in the door and making tons of money. It’s about creating value in your business by cultivating long term, genuine relationships. The way you do business should be reflected in your content. It’s an essential part of your branding.

Being genuine means more than you’ll know.

Insincere content sticks out like a sore thumb. We’ve all read “The top 10 reasons to do <insert catchy thingy>” posts. We’ve all read “How to rocket your profits”… Basically, we know when we’re being sold. Direct sales copy is customer facing, but it’s also hugely distinguishable and easy to tell you’re being sold a bill of goods. People are becoming increasingly skeptical of this kind of prose and are beginning to tune it out. Sure, it’s well written, sure it addresses pain points and all the other good fundamental rules of making the sale. But it’s beginning to fail because it lacks sincerity. People crave authenticity in their relationships more and more these days and the more sales-driven your content becomes, the less likely they are to think that you’re on their side. Don’t relentlessly sell to people. Listen, dialogue, provoke conversation, and ask questions. Inclusion in today’ digitally driven world can be the best marketing strategies you can employ.

Good content isn’t about giving answers. It’s about creating conversations.

Remember the old saying ‘”it’s about the journey, not the destination?” More often than not, that’s exactly what is at the heart of good content. While it’s great to divulge secrets and provide answers where you can, the copy that will resonate the most with your readers is that which provokes conversation, encourages dialogue and requires participation.

Customer-facing content is important, but making it effective goes well beyond writing about what they want to hear. Tone, disposition, intent and action mean a lot and are important marketing tactics. Be genuine, be sincere and most of all, be yourself.


WordPress 3.4 Update

06.21.2012With the latest version of WordPress just arriving, version 3.4, I’m sure people who are using the self-hosted version of WordPress are interested to know what is included with this update. Along with the usual bug fixes, included are many improvements and additions that will benefit both designers, developers and end users. Let’s take a look and see why.

Designers

Web Designers who primarily design custom WordPress themes will be happy to know that the custom headers are now even more customizable. Previously, the height and width of the custom headers had to be a specific dimension. With version 3.4, the size of the custom headers are now flexible and the header image files can now be kept in the Media Library. Background page images are also customizable in this version. Another new feature that designers will enjoy is the Live Theme Customizer. If you happen to sell custom themes or have clients that like to customize and edit their themes, then the Live Theme Customizer will definitely be a feature you’ll want to employ into your work.

Developers

Web Developers should also get a kick out of the new version of WordPress too. The new upgrades/features that intrigue me most as a developer are :

  • Better page template organization. In the previous version (3.3.2), page templates had to be kept in the main theme’s folder. Now page templates can be kept in separate folder (within the theme folder) for better organizing.
  • Updated internal functions and classes for browser targeting (specifically for Internet Explorer versions 7, 8  & 9)
  • The theme installer now supports child themes
  • Updates to WordPress’ external libraries (jQuery, jQuery UI, SimplePie, PHPMailer, TinyMCE and hoverIntent)

End Users

What sets WordPress apart from other CMS’s is the amount of attention devoted to the end user. Here are some new features that the end user will no doubt appreciate and most likely start using right away:

  • Adding HTML like bold/italic text and hyperlinks to image captions. (This was a long overdue feature)
  • Embedding Twitter tweets into your blog post or page. Previously a plugin was need to accomplish this but now it’s built in!
  • Posting comments to a specific post or page while in the editor. Comments were able to be added while only in the front end of the website. Now they can be added in the back end.

Speed

Last but not least is the biggest enhancement in WordPress 3.4. The core performance of WordPress, specifically the WP_Query function has been greatly improved. Pages and posts now load up to 2-3 times faster than before, on the front end and back end. This speed increase was the very first thing I noticed after upgrading to 3.4 and I’m sure others noticed it too.

More technical details about the new version can be found here. Also, here is a video from WordPress about the new features of WordPress 3.4:


Twitter’s Small Business Guide Simplified

06.14.2012If you’re a small business owner who doesn’t get Twitter, don’t worry – you’re not alone. If you consider yourself a Twitter novice, you’re in luck! Twitter’s web site recently released a swell Twitter for Small Business Guide designed to help folks like you not only learn about the benefits of leveraging their service, but also how to use it at a more functional level. The downside of that is that not all of us have the time to thumb through a ‘how-to’ manual about why and how to use a social media platform that may or may not help us make more money. Not to worry, though! We’ve already done it for you!

This week’s post is a simple break down of what Twitter is, why it could be good for you as well as some helpful pointers about how incorporate it into your marketing strategy. There’s a lot of depth to all of these points, so if there’s anything that you require a deeper understanding of, feel free to check out the full guide here.

Let’s not waste any more time!

What is Twitter?

Twitter’s web site puts it pretty succinctly: Twitter is an information network that brings people closer to what’s important to them.

That’s pretty simple, isn’t it?

With over 100 million active users, Twitter is one of the largest networks in the world. Its 250 million tweets per day have turned it into an interest-driven media machine that’s introduced new channels for communication – not just between people, but relevant businesses as well.

How can Twitter help your business?

Small business internet marketing on the whole has become more interest-based than ever before. In a world filled with tons of advertising and push-marketing clutter, platforms like Twitter are allowing people to cut through the noise and get to exactly what it is they’re looking for. It’s made it easier than ever before to connect – and connect frequently- with people who are interested in buying what you’re selling. That means a whole new world of opportunity if you’re brave enough to make the jump.

How does it work?

Users search for, link to and share information using Twitter as an incubator. Your ability to leverage Twitter depends largely on how well you’re able to interact with the people that are of interest to you and those who are interested in you. This perpetual, never ending dialogue with others can help you do a lot of things about people in and around your industry, using your observations to help sculpt a marketing plan based on how your users talk, interact and behave with your brand and brands similar to yours.

Twitter is 100% conversation-driven, meaning that it will take some participation (and time) on your part to make it work. Interacting with your followers and those who you are following yourself isn’t really a choice – it’s a necessity if you’re looking to grow your network and truly make it work. Remember- Twitter isn’t about creating a website – it’s about creating a conversation!

What’s the basic lingo?

The great thing about Twitter is its simplicity. Here are some basic Twitter terms that you’ll have to be familiar with before you start:

  • Tweets – In a nutshell, a tweet is what you have to say. It has to be under 140 characters in length. Whenever you share out information, you’re tweeting.
  • Hash tag (#) – Hash tags are the lifeblood of Twitter. They’re essentially the conversations themselves. For example – if you’re a San Diego Padres fan and want to contribute to a discussion on the team, searching the hash tag #padres will take you to thousands of tweets and conversations about the team. Diving right in and tweeting to people or just contributing can result in more interactions. The more interactions mean more conversation. The more conversations you have, the more likely people are to follow you. That brings us to…
  • Follow – Just like Facebook, Twitter allows you to keep tabs on the people and entities that interest you. If you like what someone has to say, you can follow them and their tweets will show up in your feed. You’ll be able to access the content they provide, read the articles they suggest and interact with them at will.
  • Followers – These are the people who are following you and want to read what you have to say. Anytime you tweet, they’ll be able to see what you shared in their timeline. This is your audience, so make sure you’re paying attention to what they’re talking about as well! Some folks like to follow the people who follow them- not because of some unspoken courtesy (although that does happen), but rather because there’s a lot they can learn from their behavior.
  • Direct Message – Exactly what it says it is. When the conversation becomes too involved or in some cases – too private – for public consumption, Direct Messages allow you to interact with folks on a deeper and more private level.
  • Retweet – Retweet allows you to share someone’s comments with the push of a button. Retweeting is especially handy when you’re looking to share information such as a blog post or article. Instead of going through the pain of making your own tweet, you can merely hit the ‘retweet’ command and that person’s tweet will show up in your timeline for your followers to enjoy.
  • Mention (@) – When you want to bring something to someone’s attention, you can use the mention function. Your tweet will show up in your timeline and be visible to the person with whom you are interacting with. Mentions are usually used to directly start or jump into a conversation.

What are some basic best practices?

Like any information network, Twitter has some best practices that you should follow. The following is a brief summation of the points raised in the Twitter For Small Businesses Guide. For a more comprehensive overview, you can read the guide in its entirety, here.

  • Show Personality – The biggest part of your brand is you. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. Too many people make the mistake of communicating in a generic tone. Remember, you’re having a conversation, not lecturing folks!
  • Follow & Learn – People who listen and learn on Twitter are those who are usually the most successful. Follow businesses that are similar to yours and see what they’re doing. Observe what’s working and what isn’t. Over time, your goals will be developed largely in part by the behaviors of your audience.
  • Give them something more – Twitter can be used to convey information about your company that might not be able to be found elsewhere. Maybe it’s a video showing you making a product. Perhaps it’s a promotion or special offer. It could even be an article teaching someone how to do something. Adding value to your tweets takes them from being just something that’s fun and informative, but a legitimate resource for information to your customers. That’s what will keep them coming back.
  • Be responsive – When people have something to say to you, respond. Like I said before, Twitter is all about the conversation. Especially if the tweet is something that might be more critical in nature, being able to address it up front and publicly says a lot about how you handle issues. Always be prepared to engage others. Your responsiveness is essential to strong branding!
  • Tweet daily – The best part about Twitter is that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to stay active. 420 key strokes a day can give you a tweet in the morning, afternoon and evening. Most marketing consultants are going to tell you to tweet at least one to two times daily. It’s up to you how much you decide to dedicate to Twitter daily, but being there every day – especially in the early going – is important! Stay active and stay relevant!

Jump in!

While a lot of places will tell you to be careful about how you experiment with Twitter for your small business social media marketing, it shouldn’t stop you from jumping into the fray. Set up a personal account and explore on a dry-run before setting up an account for your business. Get a feel for how it works and your comfort level. Use your personal account to see what other companies in your industry are doing, saying and what they’re using to drive interaction and engage their users.

Once you’re ready to go, jump right in! You won’t get everything right, but that’s O.K. Experience is more often than not, the best teacher! Good luck!


New Client Website Design: Retire with Renewals

06.08.2012Retire with Renewals provides an opportunity to health insurance professionals to retire worry-free. Retirees can sign up for the program and transition their current clients to the experienced professionals at Retire with Renewals. RWR will service the clients; 50% of the commissions go to the retiree, providing a steady income month after month.

Retire with Renewals came to Bop Design in search of a simple website to quickly illustrate the concept of the business. We created a clear, easy-to-navigate website design that appeals to those considering their retirement options. Because the concept is unfamiliar, calls to action are liberally sprinkled throughout the website, encouraging visitors to contact the company to learn more.


What Content Should I Have on My Mobile Website?

mobile-contentIn a world saturated with smartphones, mobile websites are becoming increasingly important. As companies take on the task of creating mobile versions of their websites, they face a number of decisions. The most obvious one is how the mobile website should look. While it’s important to focus on the design, content is equally important and perhaps more difficult.

Due to their very nature, mobile websites need a separate content strategy. When was the last time you downloaded and read a white paper on your phone? Even if you frequently download content to your desktop, you’ve probably never (or rarely) done it on your mobile device. Mobile browsing tends to be much more focused and results-oriented. Here are some of questions you should answer as you’re thinking through your mobile website content strategy.

What are your visitors there for?

If someone is visiting your website on a mobile device, chances are they’re looking for a specific piece of information. It’s your job to figure out what that information is and how best to get it to them. If you’re a restaurant or retail store, it’s easy. People want to know your location(s), your hours of operation, and what kind of food or products you offer.

What about B2B mobile websites?

That’s more difficult to answer, especially since B2B can encompass anything from lawyers to IT consultants to office furniture providers. A good place to start is what restaurants put on their mobile websites: location(s), hours of operation and product/service offerings. The trick is to keep the content short and to the point without skimping on important information. Here are a few tips:

  • Get to the point. Make sure your mobile home page shows the information people need. This includes your company name and maybe a brief summary of what you do.
  • Make it easy to navigate.While this is more related to design, make sure it’s easy for visitors to find the content they want on your mobile website. In other words, when it comes to mobile design, buttons are better than text links.
  • Don’t drill down. While your full website should be content-rich, your mobile website shouldn’t be packed with information your visitors must wade through. By all means, include your Services page. You may want to consider, however, not including the Services subpages. Instead, provide a list of your services and prompt visitors to either contact you or visit the full website to learn more.
  • Summarize. While you may want to include your blog on your mobile website (to build credibility), don’t expect people to read it. Your full website may display 15 of your most recent blog posts. Your mobile website, however, should have no more than 5-10 of the most recent posts displayed. Instead of showing the entire blog post, display a one-paragraph summary of each post to save on space. Include a “read more” link at the end of each summary, in case someone is interested in delving deeper.
  • Think about your target market. Mobile e-commerce is a growing trend. It can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon to position yourself as a cutting-edge company. It’s important to consider your target market before rushing into a trend like this. Many B2B purchasers will never buy anything on a mobile device. You need to consider this before investing in a mobile e-commerce solution.
  • Trim content. If long paragraphs are overwhelming on a 15-inch computer screen, think how much worse they are on a 3- or 4-inch phone! First, shorten your content. Mobile visitors don’t need three paragraphs of your company’s history; they just want to know what you do and how you can provide value to them. After you’ve shortened your content, break it up. Keep paragraphs short. You definitely want your paragraphs to contain less than 100 words.
  • Include calls to action. Mobile website browsing can be disjointed, separate from a person’s normal browsing routine. For that reason, you want to include calls to action prompting visitors to further interact with your company. Giving visitors the option to email (or text) the page to themselves or someone else is a good option. You can also add a form that allows visitors to sign up for your email newsletter.

Should I have an app?

While this is a little off topic, it’s good to have an understanding of the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website. An app typically has one, focused purpose. For example, Westfield Shopping Malls offers and app that provides maps for each of its malls. This is more useful than a website because it’s focused on solving a specific problem—how do I locate specific stores in the mall?

There’s also the matter of frequency. If your app solves a specific problem, but I will only use it once, then I don’t need an app. Westfield’s app makes sense because many people frequent malls. If a B2B firm such as Cisco released an app showing you map of each of the location of each of its departments, would you download? Probably not, unless you worked there.

Even though a mobile website has less content that a full website, it takes just as much planning. A mobile website with a well-thought out content strategy will yield better results than one that is quickly thrown together.


New Client Website Design: FPMG

06.06.2012FPMG Website ScreenshotFPMG, otherwise know as Federer Performance Management Group, is a firm dedicated helping successful people become their best. FPMG offers custom performance coaching solutions for firms seeking to move to the next level. The programs combine a strong foundation in behavioral psychology with a focus on the bottom line.

FPMG came to Bop Design in need of a new website design to enhance the brand. Not only did the old website design no longer demonstrate professionalism, but the content was also in need of a refresh. The old domain, FPMG.info, was also a source of confusion, due to its unusual domain extension.

Bop created a clean, up-to-date website design. Dr. Denise P. Federer, the firm’s principal, is a highly credentialed performance coach, and the new website highlights her qualifications. The Resources section features both articles written by Dr. Federer for third-party publications and audio files of her interviews. The website was designed with FPMG’s primary target markets—financial companies and family-owned or closely-held businesses—in mind. Everything, from the website content to the photos, is meant to appeal to these two market segments.


Five Tips to Make Managing Projects Easier

06.05.2012When running an internal project, there are a myriad of things to worry about. There are timelines to be established, goals to be met and budgets to be crunched. Your ability to keep all these balls in the air will depend largely on how well you manage the people involved in the campaign – both those who are working with you as well as the people you’re creating the campaign for.

Whether designing marketing strategies for clients or managing our own internal initiatives, we’ve managed a lot of projects over the years. Here are some of our tips to help you get the most out of your team during your next big project.

1) Don’t overwhelm people with choices

“Every woman wants choices, but in the end, none wants to be one of a hundred in a box.” – Don Draper

If you’re looking for an example of a marketing tactic gone bad, consider the concept of choice. Studies show that while choice may be appealing to customers, they’re 10 times less likely to buy (30% to 3%) a product or service when presented too many options. Why? Because choice can be paralyzing and overwhelming. Whether you’re talking to customers, external clients or are pitching branding ideas to an internal team – make sure the options you present are limited. If you don’t, you run the risk of wasting valuable time, money and opportunity waiting for people to get over said paralysis. Keeping your energy focused on a few, well-honed ideas is always more valuable than spreading your resources too thin.

2) Don’t try to please everyone

“A ‘no’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The old proverb holds true – Try to please everyone, and you’ll end up pleasing no one. Some folks will love what you present. Others won’t. While it’s important to listen to dissenters, it doesn’t necessarily mean that what you’re doing is wrong. In fact, your biggest room for improving a campaign might not be in pleasing those who are dissatisfied – but doing a better job of pleasing those who are already satisfied. Always take negative feedback into consideration, but unless it threatens to cut to the core of what you’re doing, don’t let it dictate your overall direction.

3) Remember that time is money

“Time is money says the proverb, but turn it around and you get a precious truth. Money is time.” – George Gissing

The more time that’s put into making a decision means that there’s less time being spent doing what your campaign was meant to do in the first place – make money. After all, it’d be a shame to lose a great account that could have come from this campaign because you were wondering what color the ‘I’ in your logo design should be. This doesn’t mean you should be reckless or that planning and development don’t have their place. They most certainly do. But using thoroughness as an excuse to do nothing is unacceptable. Trust your instincts and move forward. There’s no such thing as the perfect campaign and adjustments will have to be made in the future. Don’t think yourself into inaction.

4) Limit the number of decision makers

“Nothing at all will be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.” – Samuel Johnson

At some point, we’ve all been at a table where a group is trying to decide if A will come before B. Someone blurts out that A has a minor crack in it. The person next to them agrees. Person #3 wonders if it’s a deal breaker. Person #4 says it will and Person #5 insists it won’t. What starts as a casual observation has now turned into a time wasting, money burning debate over something mostly innocuous. It’s the kind of thing that drives a marketing consultant mad.While it’s nice to look at a campaign from a variety of perspectives, it’s also important to recognize that too many cooks in the kitchen can become problematic. In some cases, they can derail an entire campaign. That’s why you make sure – before any project begins – to set a clear strategy that defines who is making decisions and stick to it. Define what is expected of whom and when it’s expected. Limit the decision makers to no more than 2 to 3 people. The more people you have to go through, the more basic decisions can bog down your efforts.

5) Don’t forget who’s paying for whom

“Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win”- Jonathan Kozel

At the end of the day, you’re in your position because you possess a certain expertise. Part of that expertise includes your judgment. Judgment includes making decisions. Whether that’s you guiding a group to a consensus or making it yourself, don’t be afraid to use the power you’ve been given. If you don’t like the direction things are headed in, then you’re within your authority to change it. If someone has flown off the reservation, you can put them in a better place on the team or choose to part ways. You were given the power for a reason. Don’t be afraid to use it.It doesn’t matter if you’re at a big marketing agency or dealing with a small client, our experience has taught us that managing people is more important than managing things. Things have a tendency to work themselves out. People, on the other hand, always need guidance and encouragement. Stay positive, stay focused and abide by these rules and whether it’s a creating a website or merely maximizing your SEO, we’re confident your next project will be the best one yet!


WordCamp OC: Enterprise Class WordPress & End User Awareness

06.02.2012bSo many great talks! It’s hard to keep up with everything.

Enterprise Class WordPress covered how WP is a viable solution for big business websites.

End User Awareness covered security for WP. Here are some great tips:

  • You can only reduce threats–it’s never 0
  • Use complex passwords
  • It’s okay not to have your passwords memorized. Use a password manager instead

WordCamp OC: WordPress I

06.02.2012aWordPress I: Introduction to WordPress

Great tips from Sé Reed:

  • Posts are always in categories; Pages aren’t. This is an easy way to tell the difference
  • WP won’t let you pixelate your images
  • Read documentation before updating!
  • WordPress only works if you do

Why Strategy Means More Than You Think

05.25.2012For those of you who don’t know what AMC’s new show The Pitch is about, it’s essentially a reality show based around Marketing & Web Design Agencies like ours competing to win bids on major brands looking to engage in new marketing campaigns. The show follows each company and their trials and tribulations along the way – from the brief all the way through to the big pitch. At the end, the winning agency is announced and to the victors goes the spoils.

This week’s episode was centered on two marketing agencies – one from Charlotte and another from New York City – to win the rights to the Pop Chips account. What transpired became the world’s greatest excuse to write a blog about process and strategy, ever.

Here’s the rundown of the episode for those of you who need the context:

The Charlotte team was super creative, had great employees, great ideas but lacked strategic focus. New York’s creative was poor and their ‘process’ wasn’t really a process at all. In spite of not being able to execute either of those key components, the New York team did seem to have a loose grasp on the strategy that would be needed to drive their ideas.

Both agencies made their pitch. The Charlotte agency looked comfortable and certainly had a multitude of great ideas. However – as was evidenced through the episode – their presentation lacked strategic focus. The New York agency had a poor (OK, almost terrible) idea, and seemed awkward and uncomfortable throughout their pitch. However, the strategy behind what they wanted to do was far more apparent.

New York won the account.

What’s the moral of the story? It’s that you can have all the creative ideas in the world, but if there isn’t a focused process and strategic vision to implement them, you’re wasting your time.

That’s why here at Bop Design, we take process and strategy very seriously. In light of this week’s lesson from TV on such matters, we figured it’d be the perfect opportunity to talk about how we approach and attack our campaigns and web sites.

Information and creative are more intertwined today then they’ve ever been. Creating marketing strategies based on bringing all of those pieces together into one, meaningful whole isn’t ‘something that’s nice to do,’ but rather, something you have to do. That means creating more than a web site that pleases our clients – we create experiences that please their clients.

Here’s our web site creation process:

  • Information gathering– Collecting information is more than filling out a survey and saying ‘thanks for playing.’ It’s scoping out the competition, identifying gaps, finding your target audience, getting to know them, who they are, what they do, how they do things, what matters most to them and gaspwhere your service or product fits into their lives. We figure that websites should reflect what your clients want, so finding out as much as we can about who they are and what they’re all about is important to us. In fact, truly creative web design depends on it.We also define why you’re doing what you’re doing. All marketing should be outcome-driven and defining what success means to a project should be one of the first things we identify. Are you judging success on monetary gains? Better branding? Consumer engagement? Whatever your goal is – we need to figure out what it is and what your world should look like if we’ve met our objectives.While finding the answers to these questions may seem daunting, it’s actually not. Your clients will give you the answers you need. It’s our job to ask the right questions.
  • Analyzing information– It’s one thing to have access to a lot of information, it’s another thing to take it and do something with it. Information and data on it’s own should never be thought of as a ‘competitive advantage.’Information and data is a tool. It’s what you use it for that counts. And yes – just like the ones you have on your workbench, tools are there to help you accomplish specific tasks and objectives. Information for the purpose of web design is no different.Not only can pointed analysis help us identify gaps, but it will also help identify strengths. Maybe your real problem isn’t that you’re not doing something; it’s that you’re not doing enough of something else. Information is a powerful directional tool and disseminating data and trusting it can help dictate the strategic scope of your web design project and give us a solid foundation to create from.
  • Design planning – Great, creative web designis more than a navigation bar, a banner, good copy and a cool looking photo. It’s putting together an intuitive user experience that not only meets your client’s needs, but also falls in line with their behaviors. How the pages flow, where you want people to go, what you want them to do, how they find the information they’re looking for on your site – no matter what it is, it needs to reflect your clients and their needs.The best part about planning is that clients are usually pretty good at letting you know how they like to do things. So long as your homework has been done on the information-gathering end of things, you’ll be standing on solid ground. Your clients may be focused, precision shoppers who get in and get out. Some may like to browse around, kick back and relax for a while. Whatever they like to do, we’ll find out and create a graphic design that caters to those needs and behaviors.And yes – you’ll see outlines, color palettes, structures, navigation styles – you’ll see it all and have a clear understanding of what’s being done and why. For example, we’ll help you understand how color choice can make a significant difference in the unspoken messages you’re communicating to your clients. These things matter. Having you on board and understanding the methodology behind what’s being done helps you ask better questions, saves us headaches and makes you a participant in the process, as opposed to someone standing around and waiting for something to happen. It also gives you a B2B website that does what it’s supposed to do – get results.
  • Presentation, Feedback and Revisions– We’re good at creating great designs. We’re better at being judged. In fact, we’re completely comfortable with it.When we’re done, you’ll get three client-facing, information-driven, beautifully designed custom web designs to choose from. You might like some of one and more of another. You might hate one and go with the other. Whatever vision you have, we’ll work with you to help you make it a reality.

We’re not only in the business of creating ideas; we’re in the business of cultivating them. That means taking them and helping them grow into all they can be. Plenty of web design agencies and small business internet marketing firms will give you good ideas. Finding marketing consultants that can turn them into something real and tangible is another.