Blogs and insight related to content marketing in the digital world.

woman typing on laptop with blogging mistakes

5 Blogging Mistakes To Keep In Mind

If you’re new to blogging, the execution of a well-written blog may seem intimidating. Writing tends to be easier for some people than it does for others, but that doesn’t mean that only certain people should contribute blogs. Everybody writes! If you are involved with your business in a big way, it will benefit your company webpage to show that you, as a business owner or other important individual, are an industry thought leader. While you don’t have to write like a New York Times bestselling author, you should be aware of the following mistakes for your blog.

1. Poor Grammar

Nothing kills credibility faster in a written article than poor grammar. With the assistance of technology, there shouldn’t be any reason as to why you are spelling things incorrectly or using poor sentence structure. Spell check is pretty much built into every word processing software and there are online programs like Grammarly that will even check for grammatical errors.

2. Not Adding Images

Forgetting to include images can actually really harm the click through rate of your blog. Not only that, but it can also harm the readability factor with Google as well. Adding images to your blog will make your written work look more appealing and easier to digest than other pieces of content. Most people prefer visual aids when learning, even if that visual isn’t in an educational format like a pie chart or line graph. Adding even just a featured image at the top of the blog will make the blog more enticing to read than strict text on its own.

Images can also assist with SEO ranking because adding ALT text to the images will assist in keyword ranking when properly added. The image will have a better chance of being shown in the image search of audience browsers where they can then click on your image and will be taken to the blog itself.

3. Unnecessary Content Filler

One of the worst things you can do when writing a blog is to continue to add filler content where it doesn’t belong. It is much better to leave your blog shorter with content that flows well and stays on subject than to stuff your blog with ramblings. Keep it short and sweet and carry on. Your audience will thank you for it.

4. Impersonal Tone

One of the traps of blogging can be losing your own tone within your writing. Blogging is not the same as writing a research paper for your school report. You don’t need to stay completely formal unless the subject matter calls for it. The important thing is to understand your audience and what they will respond to the best. It is not necessary, however, to stay completely formal in your manner of speaking. Throwing in your own tone or voice is not only acceptable, it’s welcomed. It’s also important to not sound too sales-pitchy either when you are writing with the intent of conversion. Your audience will see through it immediately once you cross that fine line from informative to pushy.

5. Unprofessional Tone

Again, when referring to tone, it is crucial to keep all content professional for the workplace. If you are writing for your company, then your blog has to reflect your business culture and tone. Your language and reference points are important in displaying both.

4 Step Blueprint for Marketing Your Small Business in 2017

Okay, first of all, let me say that EVERY small business is different. With this article, I have no intention of lumping every small business into a giant category, each with the same needs.  Marketing as a small business owner, you need to consider things like your competitive atmosphere, geographic scope, strategic partnerships and much more. Each one of those considerations will create different variables for each different type of business.  However, in my experience, every small business NEEDS to take these “Four Steps” regardless of industry, product, competition or geography. And by doing so, I guarantee you will remain competitive against not only your local rivals, but you’ll give the big brands a run for their money as well. So, consider this “Four Step Blueprint to Marketing Your Small Business” the “must-haves” of marketing your small business in 2017. Let’s dig in.

Step 1: Customer Segmentation & Buyer Personas

I know as small business owners, we never have enough time. And the truth is, you probably already know this information like the back of your hand.

But if you haven’t taken the time to outline your customers’ needs and wants on paper, you need to do so.

Not only does this process help you sort through a lot of unnecessary fluff, but it also gives you a benchmark from which to make decisions about your product, your marketing, and your growth strategy. Everything else surrounding the operation of your business, including the remaining three steps in this blueprint will find value and, in some cases rely upon, an effective understanding of your customers.

Ask yourself these questions to get started:

  • Who is your target market?
    • Think outside the box. Is your customer a homeowner who likes fishing (fishing related home decor, etc.), or a fisherman wealthy enough to own a home (fishing boats, guided excursions, etc.)?
  • What ELSE might they be interested in?
    • Don’t just think demographics here like income, home ownership, or gender. Think “psychographics” like interests, hobbies, convictions.
    • People who care about organic food may also care about environmental conservation. They might buy all natural products, and there could be some cross-marketing potential.  
  • Do you have separate segments of customers for different products or services?
    • Men’s and Women’s Accessories?
    • Casual enthusiast vs. Avid user?

Be sure to understand your customers, their motivations, their needs and their goals and market to those motivations.

STEP 2: Responsive Website & Stellar User Experience

It’s shocking to me how many NON-responsive websites there are in the world. I feel like we’ve been talking about the importance of responsive websites for about five years now. But if your website isn’t responsive, trust me, you’re not alone. But here’s why you need to get it fixed asap.

Having a website that responds to the size of the device that it’s being viewed on is crucial in this day when eMarketer estimates that last year, there was about 190.5 million US smartphone users of all ages, representing 73.4% of internet users and 59.3% of the population. By 2019, the smartphone audience will reach 236.8 million, or 85.5% of internet users and 71.4% of total consumers in the country. Crazy… and this doesn’t even account for all the tablets and different sized laptops coming out every day.

Point is, marketing is about meeting your users where they’re at – and they’re on mobile devices.

As if you needed more of a reason to go responsive, Google has already given preferential treatment to responsive websites in search engine rankings. It has been rumored that they will start penalizing websites that are not responsive in 2017.

But being responsive isn’t even enough anymore. You have to create an experience for your users that feels more like they’re interacting with a person than a website. Talk to them plainly and guide them through the process of working with you. Have the experience be simple and enjoyable – not cumbersome. At every step, your website should remove barriers to working with you. You may be surprised at what the inherent psychology of your users sees as a barrier. Beware your barriers.

STEP 3: Optimize your website for search engines.

If your website is responsive, you’re already off to a good start. If you’ve created a great experience for your users, congratulations.

But if no one ever comes to your site, a responsive & stellar user experience won’t matter.

Are you blogging? Writing and updating content regularly? Sharing that content on industry relevant websites? Are all of the titles and descriptions to all your pages in line with what the pages are about? If you’re not already, optimize your website for search engines, get high-quality backlinks, produce new content and blogs regularly, and your website will produce leads – guaranteed. If you need help, let us know. We can help you fix issues, and get your website humming in search engines again.

STEP 4: Embrace Social Media.

There are 2.3 BILLION active social media users, and that is growing by 10% each year. Social media platforms have become search engines in their own right, and a new age word of mouth.

Think social media doesn’t make sense for you “Mr. B2B”? Think again: 81% of B2B decision makers use online communities and blogs to help make purchasing decisions. 74% use LinkedIn, and 42% use Twitter. (Marketing Think). We send hundreds of high-quality visitors to our B2B clients’ websites every month – and that’s only increasing.

Along with increased lead generation potential, pure brand awareness is NEVER going to hurt your business, and social media allows you to get awareness relatively inexpensively.

Increased traffic from search engines also proves to Google that people are paying attention to what you’re doing and care what you have to say – which is what is aptly known as “Social Proof.” All other factors equal; Google will give preferential ranking to websites with higher traffic coming from social media.

There you have it.

The above may seem like a simple list. Make no mistake; there are certainly many more active tactics you can pursue marketing your small business. But this list is here as “must-haves” for every small business in 2017. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – B2B or B2C – do these four things to market your small business, and you’ll stay competitive.

Zuzu the boxer loves Chewy.com

Marketing Highlights with Chewy.com

Disclaimer: The following post is not sponsored content. I’m just a happy customer who wants to give a shout out to a company I totally respect. Among other things, I wanted to highlight their success from a marketing perspective and offer them as tangible examples of amazing brand experience.

If you haven’t heard of Chewy.com and you are a pet owner – get on board with their service, you won’t regret it.

Zuzu the boxer

See – even Zuzu the 9 month old Boxer puppy loves them.

Located in Daytona Beach, FL, Chewy is a delivery service of top pet brands (I’m talking about the ones you can’t find in a Walmart or even most of your local pet shops). From food to toys, treats, and supplies – Chewy offers the things pet owners need at a price you can’t beat. I didn’t even pay anything extra for shipping and my (dog’s) package showed up the next day. THE NEXT DAY. But enough about what they do that’s awesome. Let’s get into their branding.

Mission

It’s pretty easy to say you care about animals. I’d guess that more people would tell you they are animal fans than not. But it’s one thing to really like animals and another to display your passion for them through your business model. Chewy.com excels at this for a few reasons.

They won’t sell any supplies they believe to be low quality.

While lower quality pet brands are easily available and would add to diversity of product offering, Chewy doesn’t want to associate with any product that is less than satisfactory from their scientific standards. More than projecting an image of carrying high-quality products, they don’t want less educated pet-owners to even have the option of selecting a low-quality product purely because of price.

I save about 15% on my dog food brand when I purchase through Chewy.com compared to when I shop at the pet store. The people at Chewy make it their mission to offer top brands and quality products at an affordable price because they want healthy and safe options to be available for all pets.

I invest in higher quality brands of food because cheaper food brands will use “food fillers” that place grain or animal-by-products at the top of the ingrediants list because it is less expensive to fill the food with than acutal sources of animal protein such as chicken or fish. While not all pets will need a grain free diet, prioritizing the main ingredients will help ensure your pet remains its healthiest when it comes to what they eat.

They support animals in need.

Who doesn’t love a for-profit company that supports non-profit work? Chewy is dedicated to supporting non-profit organizations that help animals in need. They work with a lot of non-profit organizations that assist pets in some way. As a pet owner, I’m also a pet lover. Not just for my pet but for all types of animals.

Knowing Chewy donates to shelters and other foundations with programs helps me to connect with them on a more personal level. This also assists with customers identifying with their brand, knowing the profit they receive from sales will partially go back into charity they can get behind.

The Chewy.com Rescue and Shelter Network is open to all registered non-profit organizations that specialize in assisting pets in need. Their free rescue network partners with these NFPs by offering access to programs providing donations and fundraising opportunities.

They keep experts on staff.

Chewy not only offers 24/7 customer service, but their customer service reps are trained to handle more than your typical rep. They send these people to lectures, inform them of latest research and trends in pet science and the pet care industry. Chewy really wants you to know that it’s more than just a friendly face on the other end of the phone, but someone who can guide you in the best direction with your pet questions.

Marketing

Now that we know Chewy rocks because they truly liveout their mission – Let’s talk about actual marketing tactics. I consider myself an old soul, so I may find this gesture more impactful than other millennials, but around my second or third purchase through them I received a handwritten postcard in the mail. First off; that’s classy. Second; it gives a company with over 800 employees a personal and local feel.

img_0819

This is the postcard I received the other day from Chewy.com reading, “Welcome to the Chewy family! I hope your little one is enjoying the Greenies dog treats. We’re here 24/7.“

So what makes this ‘thank you’ special? What makes a marketing tactic like this so powerful is how incredibly personalized it is especially coming from a large business. While their products are not handcrafted, their thank you notes are. Someone at that company took a minute to legibly write out my correctly spelled name and even call out one of the products I bought. With as many orders as I can assume Chewy.com handles in a day they still make it a priority to not lose the who the customer IS in the process.

What this shows is that Chewy understands the most basic philosophy of business there can be; provide the customer with a memorable and pleasant experience. The reason? (other than truly caring about what they do): To tip the first domino in the chain of referrals. Word of mouth marketing is old school. Before internet, before social media, people talked (believe it or not). What Chewy has done is combine an online experience with a traditional piece of business advice: CARE. The truth is, even in our business of marketing, referrals are powerful things  because people trust people who aren’t getting paid to promote something and feed a tailored opinion to others. I haven’t met a single person using Chewy’s service who has not had something good to say, so why wouldn’t I trust them – at least to try out? Then when they send me a very personalized message – IN THE MAIL – and experience a great service, it just affirms that my choice has been well placed.

Social proof is another aspect of this. B2C companies are missing out on huge opportunities if they aren’t active on social media because it provides a platform for happy customers turned “brand evangelists” to display their endorsement publicly. I’m a huge fan of companies that engage with their customers through social media and applaud the ones ahead of the game with a help account for customer questions through social as well.

Creating LOYAL customers is far less expensive than acquiring new ones. A loyal customer base has also been proven to yield a higher return on investment over time than investing in getting new customers. Obviously a growing business has to strike a balance, but the best brands know how to appreciate and recognize loyalty.

The next great thing about this is they didn’t have to work too hard to make me a happy customer. They sent me a postcard, which really doesn’t require a whole lot of work. But the fact that SOMEONE took the time to do that, leaves an impact.

Also, the truth is, tactics like paid online advertising, billboards, and commercials are becoming  less and less appealing to audiences. There are ad-blockers now for most browsers, and with SO much bombarding us each day, it has become easier and easier for us to become blind to ads, or even hypersensitive to brand messages that aren’t authentic.

Chewy doesn’t promise anything that isn’t insanely evident about how they do business. But they’ve been able to go above and beyond in simple, but very effective ways. They’ve spent time on WHY they do business, and that has made all the difference. If more marketing and business models can be accomplished like this, the need to get out in front of potential customers dwindles down.  Show me you care in authentic ways, and I will be way more likely to care about you too.

learn to blog for your small business. help with blogging

Write Often, Be Cool: How to Increase Your Site Traffic With Blogging

Are you a small to medium sized business looking for a quick way to increase your following on social media? Are you scanning your brain for a way to develop your native content, and increase traffic to your site? Well, have we got a blog for you!

We talked recently about how important it is for your business to have a blog presence. Hopefully you were convinced by our many, many, tremendously outstanding statistics. You won’t be a (total) loser if you don’t blog, but you will be a big time winner if you do blog. Basically.

But what do I write about? But how do I write? But, but, but….

Listen, or rather, look with your eyeballs. I have some suggestions for you:

1) Write about a problem you have or a problem your audience has, and tell us how to fix it.

Think about it. When you type pretty much anything into your little Google search bar, what are you typing 9/10 times?

“How do I….”

“What’s the best way…”

“What happens when…”

“Is it true that…”

“Why does my girlfriend always…”

“Where can I find…”

QUESTIONS. You’re on the internet poking around asking questions and looking for answers. Or cute animal videos… but usually you’re looking for answers. So is your audience!

If you can’t think of a question to answer, look at your competitor’s blog and write an even better blog on a similar topic. DO NOT plagiarize what they’ve already taken the time to write… but feel free to use what they have as inspiration.

2) Write out all your ideas on the topic you’ve chosen, even if they’re just loose scribbles.

This is called BRAINSTORMING. Remember back to elementary school. Think about your favorite way to get your ideas out onto a page. Do that.

3) Look over everything and find some commonalities.

What can you take from this mess of ideas to turn into a cohesive, lovely, little story?

4) Find your voice.

You’re not in college anymore, you don’t have to be prim and proper in the way that you write. You can write to me in the same way that you talk to me. As we’ve talked about before, consumers respond best to businesses that have a personality. People like to buy from people, not companies.

So if you can let yourself and your personality shine in your writing, that will receive the most positive response.

5) Spell, punctuation, and grammar check.

I don’t care how amazing your writing is. I don’t care if you’re wowing me from here to next Tuesday with your incredible insights and hacks for improving my life. I don’t care if you’re the most recognized blogger in the entire universe. If you have spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes… you’ve lost my respect and the respect of many people that would have followed you. There are a few different schools of thought on this, but stats show that when you can’t keep up with these basic writing skills you are seen by your audience as unintelligent.

But don’t be scurred! For some extra help have a coworker edit your work or you can download an add-on like grammarly to help you along the way.

6) Watch and enjoy your success!

If you have other questions about how to get started with blogging, please feel free to reach out! If you already blog, tell us about the tips that work best for you! We’re always excited to talk about ways you’re improving your business’s digital marketing strategy.

UX Design makes the User the Hero

Storytelling & UX Design Part 2: How to Use Story to Create Effective UX Design.

In Part 1, we shared with you WHY UX design needs to consider effective storytelling as synonymous with effective UX design. In Part 2, we’ll now explore steps a UX designer can take to get better at storytelling to create amazing journeys for their users.

Make your User the Hero!

UX Design makes the User the Hero

Designed by FreePik.com

 

 

UX design creates experiences with users in mind, duh. And the point of a story is to keep the events in the story related to the main character at all times. So, it stands to reason that “Storytelling Design” would place the user in the shoes of the main character or protagonist.  Good designers and good writers know that without first knowing your protagonist/user completely, it will be unlikely you will be able to create an effective experience for them.

When we design a website for a client here at SWELL, we first start with a brief. This is a series of questions intent upon understanding our client’s users and inspiring our design and content teams to create something beautiful and effective. In the same way, as a writer begins to form characters for their story, they ask very similar questions.   Let’s explore some from the writer’s perspective:

  • Who is the protagonist?
    • Just as in real life, this is so much more than a name. Where do they live? What do they do for a living? What about for fun?  
  • What motivates them?
    • Without understanding what truly motivates someone, we miss a major part of their story. It becomes a real challenge to relate to the character.  
  • What are their dreams, hopes, and fears?
    • Delving deeper, every individual has layers. Within the layers underneath motivation, lay a myriad of emotions unique to that individual. This is what influences how people process things – How they act upon the events in their world.
  • What are they struggling with?
    • This is probably the place that we should be relating most to our character (though your product or service should probably be addressing this inherently). What our protagonist struggles with is probably the most compelling piece for a writer to construct. These are the points in a story during which the character grows. Without the character growing within a story, the story falls flat.

The “Building of the World” and Architecture

Building Your User's World using UX Design

Designed by FreePik.com

 

 

Have you read Lord of the Rings? The Hobbit? Any science fiction or fantasy? (If not, you should – but I digress.) J.R.R. Tolkien (the author of LOTR, and Hobbit) was simply the best at investing a significant amount of time building the world in which his characters will live. He was known to make maps of cities and landmarks, define cultural and societal norms, introduce politics, and ensure the “science” of the world is consistent. Much of which he built surrounding his “worlds” was said to have never even made it into the books. The reason is simple: authenticity. The more complete the world is, the more real it feels to the reader. In this way, the “world” becomes a character in and of itself. In the same way, UX design should invest time into thinking through the “world” they’re tasked with creating. Again, let’s look at some questions we ask during the briefing process and relate them to questions UX designers can ask themselves during this process:

  • What is the world we’re building?
    • Is it a website? A web app? A mobile app? Depending on the platform, your approach will certainly change.
  • How do key aspects of this world interact with one another?
    • In a story, the writer may consider things like the rules of magic in this realm – do some characters have it? Do some not? Why? In the digital world, the concept is the same. How do elements on the platform relate to one another?

Story Arc and User Flow

In every good story, the hero makes choices. Those choices have impact on how the story plays out and what happens next. They dictate the “arc” of the story and eventually lead the hero to resolution.  

The same is true of users engaging with your design. Which is why it will be vital to understand the steps in the process of your “narrative”, in order to guide the user toward making the choices you want them to make.  

Here are a few questions our digital storytellers ask that are also worth asking for UX design:

  • What is the ending?
    • Every story has a conflict to be resolved. Every character – a struggle to emerge from. I.E. Frodo needs to get the ring to Mordor. Luke Skywalker needs to realize his potential as a Jedi. Poirot needs to be observant and uncover clues.
  • Why would someone want to get there?
    • I might take a note from Simon Sinek and argue that your “Why” should come first. But this harkens back to user motivation and how that plays into user’s choices. I.E. Frodo needs to save Middle Earth from great evil. Luke needs to help lead the Rebellion and restore the Jedi order. Poirot needs to solve the case.  
  • What decisions need to be made along the journey to get to the end?
    • Think of this as the GPS directions that guide the character through the struggle, telling them where and when to turn to reach their destination. The choice is still upon the character, and each decision has the potential to change the story. The fact is, characters don’t always know what they’re going to do in the moment – nor are they aware the decision is significant. But the writer is – and so are we as UX designers. It is our role as the creator to create a safe and enjoyable space for users to make decisions even if our user doesn’t realize they’re making decisions.  
  • How can we better help the hero?
    • Writers will plug in all sorts of assistance for the protagonist in the form of new information, items, companions, magic. How does your UX design provide what the user needs to get to the destination?

A Note on “Conflict”

For most of this post, we’ve been discussing the similarities between storytelling and UX design. But for a moment, let’s discuss a major difference.

Stories need conflict and struggle to be interesting. A writer will spend time constructing tragedies and events that their character must endure. They do so because it helps their character mature or understand their own surroundings in a way that helps define them. Through struggle, the character obtains clarity on what it is that they are moving toward and why!

On the flip side, UX design is about minimizing struggle within the user’s journey. The less conflict there is, the better the overall experience will be. We don’t need our users to grow as much as we want to make it as simple as possible to shine.

In Summary

If we want to create digital experiences that are unique and intriguing, we need to consider including storytelling. As humans, we relate innately to stories and learn well from them. If we can think about user experience as a story we’re writing and our user as the main character, we will deliver an overall story arc or experience that is compelling.  These methods will help us to achieve our goals of effective UX design.

boy reading a story and having an experience via UX Design

Storytelling & UX Design Part I: Why They Go Hand-In-Hand

Welcome to our two-part series on storytelling through the eyes – and talents – of UX design. In Part 1, I’ll share with you WHY UX design needs to consider effective storytelling as synonymous with effective UX design. In Part 2, we’ll explore steps a UX designer can take to get better at storytelling to create amazing journeys for their users. To start, indulge me in a quick thought exercise:

Which of the following two paragraphs do you find more intriguing ?


Paragraph 1

Stacy arrived at the airport. She checked in, went through security and waited for her plane. After a half hour or so, they began to board her group. Her plane was last in line to take off and had to wait on the runway for 45 minutes. Because of this, Stacy was late to her meeting in Denver.

Paragraph 2

Stacy arrived at the airport a bit nervous. She hadn’t been on a plane for many years, and she was heading to Denver for a meeting with a large potential client. Despite arriving plenty early, Stacy waited in a ridiculously long line to check in for her flight. Once her turn was up, it was pretty clear from the expression of the attendant and people in line behind her, that Stacy had no idea what she was doing – which made her face get red and her palms get a bit sweaty. After checking in, Stacy raced to the security area, only to see that the line was even longer there.  Even though she knew in the back of her mind that she had time before her flight took off, Stacy began to feel as though this whole day was going to go terribly wrong. While she waited in line, she decided that she was going to review her pitch in her head. She had been practicing for weeks and really wanted to land her first big deal. But Stacy’s train of thought kept getting interrupted by the stop and start of the security line. Finally, it was her turn. Learning her lesson and following the cues of the people in front of her, Stacy’s trip through the checkpoint went relatively quick. As she found her terminal and sat down, Stacy was beginning to feel a little better about the day. Little did she know that what was about to happen next was going to make her late for her big meeting in Denver.     


Both paragraphs have essentially the same information. In fact, the first paragraph has slightly more. However, the second paragraph is much more interesting because it is a story.  Some may argue that the first paragraph has a beginning, middle, and an end – so is, therefore, a story. But REAL stories are meant to connect with us emotionally, and the first paragraph is simply a list of facts. In the second paragraph, we feel Stacy’s stress. We experience her physical response to embarrassment. We understand her excitement to land her first big deal. And we empathize with her obvious inexperience and remember a time when we were that worked up over something we wanted and worked hard for. We are intrigued and want to find out what happens next (even though paragraph 1 contains spoilers).

So what does this exercise have to do with UX Design? Everything. The point of UX is to connect with your users and create lasting impressions. This means the UX designer’s list of talents MUST include the craft of storytelling. If we consider UX through the periscope of telling a good story, we are much more likely to create with a human-centered approach, therefore moving people to action through more memorable experiences.

Why Storytelling and UX Design go Hand-in-Hand

story

Source: Designed by Freepik

Let’s think about the fundamental goal of UX design: to improve customer satisfaction and engagement through the utility, ease of use, and enjoyment provided by interacting with a platform, product, or service. When we think of the process of UX design like the craft of telling a story, a few things happen.

  • We remain focused on our users. This may seem obvious because users are always SUPPOSED to be at the center of the design process. Still, it can be very easy to let our ideas and preferences muddle what the users not only need – but what they want. Stories are rooted in characters and maintaining focus on the story we are telling makes it almost impossible to remove characters from the process.
  • We create a meaningful buyer’s journey. The most effect product experiences will take the user on a journey. Some journeys take the user where they already want to go. The best journeys take them where they don’t even know they need to go – yet convinces them it’s where they need to be. The worst ones, however, will involve a series of unrelated actions that take the user somewhere they may or may not have expected – and moreover – don’t understand. If we envision our user flow as a story involving step-by-step events in a cohesive narrative (and even a more traditional story arc), we all but eliminate the confusion and disjointed nature of a seemingly random set of tasks.
  • We make a lasting emotional impact. The truth is, most products and services do not elicit an emotional connection. They make no long-term impact on the user, nor do they create a sense of anticipation for the returning or (better yet) the loyal customer. But stories – good ones – have the capacity to do all of these things.  

As human beings, we have stories ingrained into our very being. This makes us literally hard-wired to respond to them. On the flip side, humans are NOT wired to connect with digital products. Effective UX design marries the two and creates more meaningful user experiences.  

In this part one, we explain why you should wrap UX design in an effective story. In part two, we’ll discuss how. Keep an eye out and take this journey with me!

A woman blogging on her bed.

“Oh My Blog!” How Blogging Increases Your Lead Generation

Here’s the thing, the whole point of social media marketing is to engage your audience in such new and wonderful ways that they think, Hey! These people are pretty cool! I’m going to visit their website! I’m going to start following them regularly! I’m going to buy this amazing product they offer!

Did you see that?

You want the information you post on social media to effortlessly lead your audience back around to your website so they’ll look at YOU and make buying decisions about what YOU have to offer. In order to do that, you need to consistently deliver new and relevant information via. your site. One very easy way to accomplish that goal is by keeping up a regular blog that can be linked to through your social media platforms.

Still not convinced? Check out my five favorite statistics on blogging:

  1. Small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog. Blogs are one of the best and easiest ways to keep a regular flow of new eyeballs coming through your site. (Source: HubSpot)
  2. The average word count for top ranked content in Google is between 1,140-1,285 words. This means larger pieces of writing (blogs) are top ranked, but it also means people aren’t wanting to read much more than two pages of text at a time. Relevant and concise information is what reigns. (Source: Source Metrics)
  3. Blogs have been rated as the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information. This means people are using blogs to find information they want and need. When you successfully present useful and accurate information, you will establish you and your business as experts and thought leaders in your industry. (Source: HubSpot)
  4. Google really likes when you keep it fresh. As far as SEO is concerned, you will be rewarded by having a blog. Watch your site climb closer to the top with each piece you write. (Sources: Tech Client, Social Media Examiner, SEJ, CMI)
  5. 61% of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on information they found on a blog. Let that sink in, people specifically use information from blogs to make decisions about their purchases. (Source: BlogHer)

By writing a well thought out, simple, engaging, and informative blog just a few times a month, you will have more leads, sales, better SEO rankings, and street cred. within your industry. Boom.

 

hashtags in social media marketing

6 Tips for Getting the most out of your Hashtags

New to the whole hashtag thing? Well, the answer to your first question is, Yes, hashtags DO matter. They can actually be pretty powerful for attracting new followers and attaching your content to other brands and relevant topics. Don’t fret, it’s less complex than you might think, but there are some tactics and tips that will help you understand the reasons social media platforms use hashtags and how best to use them to your benefit.  

That said, we wanted to offer up a few simple suggestions for new hashtaggers. So, this is for you. You newbie hashtagger you!

WHY DO WE HASHTAG?

Did you know that twitter didn’t even use hashtags originally? It wasn’t until 2007 that the hashtag was added to their repertoire of social media offerings. It was suggested by a user to help categorize posts in a better way for ease of contributing and following specific topics.

Hashtags link your posts to all other posts with the same hashtags. They will show up in feeds with the same hashtags you use, which has the potential to get your posts in front of more eyeballs than it otherwise would.

Hashtags have become so popular that every other mainstream social media platform has jumped on board with them.

HASHTAG ETIQUETTE

  1. Keep it simple. #DontUseAHashtagThatsHardToReadAndWayTooLong. Make sure your hashtags are relevant to whatever your post is about, and that they’re simple to read. Think of hashtags in two ways:
    1. A quick joke you might mumble under your breath. #CoughCough
    2. An easy way to add your post to a conversation. #GreatAdvice
  2. Keep it relevant. You might know that there’s a trending hashtag like #PumpkinLatte, but it doesn’t make any sense to add it to your post about building a house. You’ll look like a spammer and lose credibility. Which leads us to…
  3. Control yourself. Yes, the more tags the more eyeballs our post may get to, but it can actually work against you too. If you have a bunch of hashtags at the end of your post, you’re likely to come off as desperate, unknowledgeable, and the eyeballs will scroll right on. Keep it to no more than three hashtags per post. The more you have, the more you look like a spammer. The more specific and to-the-point you are, the more professional you’ll look.

PRO TIPS

  1. Keep an eye out for what’s trending. You can use twitter, google, or a plethora of other websites to check on trending hashtags. That means those that are being followed by the most people. If there’s one that is relevant to your business, your post, your life, feel free to hop on and add to the conversation! #MoreEyeballs
  2. In your post (that’s using no more than 2 – 3 hashtags), use one hashtag that’s trending, and one that relates to your brand. The third is probably unnecessary, but I’m sure you can get creative! #MakeItUp
  3. Be creative and specific. You want to hop on tags that are relevant, but you don’t want to be too generic. #Wood #Building #SEO #Hashtag… these are too broad and you’ll get lost in the mix. Try being clever and just a bit more specific. Experts say the more targeted your audience is, the better your engagement will be anyway.
  4. Don’t use a hashtag when responding to someone, or trying to specifically call someone out in your post. That’s what the @ symbol is for. Everyone has a handle (screen name) with an @ symbol in front of it. Find out what your friends’ are, and use them in your post rather than #JohnnyJohnson.
  5. Don’t hashtag in the comments sections. It just doesn’t make sense.
  6. You might be eager to make up and take over hashtags that call out your specific brand names, but followers tend not to like this. Rather than putting #MyNameBrand at the end of your posts, think about who your brand is and what you represent. You may notice that we use #RethinkingConnection on some of our posts rather than #SWELL.

GO FORTH AND HASHTAG

Now that you have a bit more information on how it works, test it out! Let us know how these suggestions work for you, and if you’d have any more to add.

Nudge marketing and dual process theory in consumer decisions

Nudge Marketing & 4 Tips for “Nudging” Customers Effectively

If you know anything about nudge theory, you know it’s a bit controversial. If you don’t know anything about nudge theory, let’s start by thinking about all the little decisions you make throughout your day. How many decisions do you control? You might be quick to say “all of them”, but I would suggest you consider the autonomous act of breathing. Did you make a conscious decision to breathe today when you woke up this morning?  

In Psychology, the phenomenon where actions and decisions we make seem to happen outside our conscious control, though still fully aware of others, is known as Dual Process Theory (DPT). DPT is the foundation of nudge theory. DPT explains what happens when we act, unaware that we are doing so. It also explains how we are equipped with the tools to make an otherwise unconscious act conscious to us, or even change the context so we can choose another, possibly better path without thinking about it.

Think about what happened when I asked you if you chose to breathe this morning or not. Did you immediately become aware of your breath? Did you begin to breathe a bit deeper? Is it possible you began to breathe deeper and didn’t even realize it? That is DPT in action.

Dual Process Theory in the Brain

Our brain works in two different ways. Those two ways happen simultaneously and are handled by separate parts of the brain. One is called the automatic system and the other is called the reflective system. These two systems reflect different ways of handling information and forming responses.

It has been eight years since the book Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, was published. Since then, “nudges” have become a widely used marketing and consumer influence strategy. Nudge marketing refers to deliberately manipulating how choices are presented to consumers in order to steer them toward only the options you WANT them to take or with the simple goal of stimulating purchases.

The double cheeseburger in dual process theory and marketing

Here are a couple examples. A burger place has a single patty burger that looks rather small on the menu, and a triple patty burger that looks excessive. These two are there as decoys for the choice they REALLY want you to make; the DOUBLE patty burger, which is most likely a profit center for them. A grocery store places plastic mats with large arrows marked “Follow the green arrow for your health…” directing shoppers to the produce. Within two weeks, produce sales increase by 10%. Maybe a company automatically enrolls new employees in its retirement savings plan with the option for the employee to opt-out if they want. Enrollment obviously rises from 60% to 95%.   

Now, if you ARE aware of nudge marketing (and now all of you should be), you know that doing it poorly can backfire. As marketers, we should have some fundamental concerns about the practice. Improperly planned and thought out nudges can hurt a company’s credibility and tarnish its reputation.

For instance, nudging can come off as condescending. By its nature, a nudge is intended to make a buyer’s current behavior seem inferior to the behavior you want them to take. In other words, “unless you accept my nudge, you’ll be doing it wrong.” Whatever “it” is. In other words, a nudge assumes if the grocery store didn’t put a literal “path to health” on their floor – their customers wouldn’t buy produce.

Many argue that if nudging runs the risk of being condescending, the better option would be motivating and empowering your customers to make decisions for themselves. Encouraging your customers to set goals and implement processes with your products or services works far better to build lasting relationships than manipulation.

However, if you know anything about sales and marketing – indecisiveness is a huge barrier to conversion. And there are ways to nudge your online customers into making a choice by making it easy for them to take another look. Sending someone a personalized email about a new feature/benefit of a product they talked to you about last month, or having an ad pop up in their sidebar about an item left in their cart, can mean the difference between your customer engaging in the buying process again, or leaving it altogether.

Arrow representing nudge marketing and dual process theory

Guide them, don’t manipulate them

Nobody likes an aggressive salesperson. By leaving “arrows” to guide your customer down a path and allowing them to choose to walk down it, you help customers follow their own interests, make their own decisions, making the purchase their own idea. If you nudge in little steps, proving slowly over time that you have quality and consistency, your customers will come to you.

Don’t condescend, inflate their ego.

Find what motivates your audience and appeal to THAT. If your goal is to help your customers be healthier, then instead of guilting them into better health by saying “Right now you’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables. You should be eating more.” try saying “You want to eat healthy, and we have the best produce in town to help you do that (what you ALREADY want).”  

produce in the grocery store representing good habits in nudge marketing

A nudge + motivation = the BEST combination

When using nudging to influence customer behavior, we must fully understand its proper applications as well as its limitations. The benefits of nudges are likely to be amplified, while at the same time neutralizing their dangers, when nudges are used in combination with effective motivational psychology tools as well. We shouldn’t just put a path to the produce aisle on the floor; we should place guides to eating healthier, easy to make recipes including fruits and veggies, and tips on how to get your kids to eat more vegetables throughout the produce area to help our customers form those habits long-term (therefore selling more produce long-term as well).

Nudges aren’t for everyone. BAD nudges aren’t for anyone.

Good marketing is relational marketing. Effective relational marketing is placing the marketer (or company) on the same level as the customer. If marketers employ a nudge to influence customers, they run the risk of claiming superiority over them. Motivational psychology shows us that differentiation is unnecessary and entirely less effective. Know your audience and how they’ll respond to different marketing techniques. Any goal can be achieved (and probably at more significant returns) by treating customers as equals and empowering them. We need to equip them with motivational tools while using them alongside well-designed nudges.

If you don’t know how to nudge effectively, seek help, or just don’t. The risks you’re taking by doing it poorly are too great. In other words, are you helping your customers to be great, or are you telling them they’re not great if they don’t choose your product? Happy nudging!

Professional photographer capturing images for marketing materials.

Photography in Marketing: Three Elements to Enhance Your Brand

Pictures speak louder than words. Images can evoke emotion that text can’t. And photography is a visual representation of a story. To most businesses, content equals text, but quality pictures and professional photography is essential if you want to attract more customers. Regardless if some individuals are visual learners or not, it’s been proven that people are drawn to pictures much more than text. This is why having a solid mix of text and photo content is essential for your marketing material.

So how can you judge what would be known as quality photography? How can you incorporate that quality photography into your marketing strategy? Three main elements will help you stay on course with that.

Authenticity

Steel worker loading delivery truck for a photography shot.

Authentic photography can evoke powerful emotion regardless of industry subject matter.

High-end cameras are available to the general public pretty easily these days. Even smartphone cameras now possess the capability to capture high-resolution images. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make whoever is holding the camera an expert in “capturing the moment.” When representing your company, you want truly authentic visual images. Images evoke emotion in viewers, so it’s important that you are displaying photography that will create the feeling you want your viewers to feel in order to attract customers. Hiring professional photographers or art directors to capture those types of images is worth the cost if you want a well designed website or well designed print content.  

Hiring an art director or professional photographer can be very helpful in evolving your brand. It’s pretty easy to tell which businesses use stock photos for their marketing. Although stock photography isn’t a distasteful means of content and certainly should be utilized at times, it does at times give off a “cheesy” feel. Website viewers may be turned off by inorganic and inauthentic photos being used to convey the actual business or product. Professionals will know how to capture the story of your business and use those pictures to develop your brand in a visual way.

Uniqueness

Machinery cutting wood with sawdust flying off.

Photography can capture the uniqueness of your brand with the simplest details.

Expanding on the idea of stock photography as a replacement for your personalized images is that stock photos are available to the rest of the online public as well. After a while, it becomes easier to identify certain stock images because they quickly become overused. The tighter niche your business is in, the more difficult it will be to find stock photos that represent what you offer. You may even find yourself asking “have we used this one before?”.

Having a cache of photography offers your marketing department a much wider array of options for marketing material. Not only that but the collection of photos that you will have will be unique to your business only. They will highlight your performance as a company, and be representative of what you specifically offer your clientele. Your own photography then becomes an extension of your brand.

Quality

High angle imagery of a steel cutting machine in a steel production warehouse.

Professional photographers use lighting and camera placement to capture quality imagery for marketing.

Because online customers are more likely to look at images as opposed to text, it’s important that quality remains central to your photography. Remember, photography is an extension of your brand, so you need to make sure your images are sending out the right messages, and that they are representing your business in the best light possible. This is why good photography is vital to a successful brand.

If you’re thinking about when you will have the opportunity to showcase these images, you must realize that there is endless amounts of possibilities to use and reuse your professional photos. Professional photography is truly an investment for your marketing efforts because the images that come from it can be used in print resources, website pages, and even social media posts. Keeping your content fresh and appealing will help build a stronger following of brand advocates and customer base.