Getting Your Business Started on Social Media

When you prepare to take your business social, it’s important to look at the big picture and really understand why your business should be using social media—specifically which social platforms you should be on. There are numerous tools out there that will help you understand which platforms are used for what messaging and which audiences are using them. To get started, go through the process below and you’ll be well on your way to defining your social media strategy.

getting your business started on social media

  1. Define business objectives and goals—Are you looking to increase your brand awareness or drive product sales?
  2. Define your audience—Are you speaking directly to consumers or is your business more B2B?
  3. Pick your platform—Once you’ve defined your goals and audience, you can begin to narrow your social media platforms. This is a great cheat sheet for understanding the landscape of the top platforms:  Social Platforms Cheatsheet. Match up your objectives and audience along with what each social network can help you achieve. Now you’ve got the platforms you should be on.
  4. Create a tactical plan (specific content and publishing)—Marketo offers a nice template to get you started when you’re ready to take the leap into creating content. Having a tactical plan will make managing your time and resources much easier.
  5. Monitor and report—It’s imperative that you monitor your social platforms on a daily basis and respond to current and potential customers. Your social media presence is an extension of your business and many times a customer service tool. For reporting, we recommend a monthly reporting system to help you gauge how well content is working and constantly plan the next month’s content based on performance from the previous month.
  6. Adjust content and strategies based on performance—Social media is a medium that allows you to test and retest content very quickly. Find the content that works best for your company and amplify it.

It’s important to remember that social media is just one instrument in your marketing tool kit. Like all other pieces, it must be integrated into your overall marketing efforts in order to work at its full potential. If you’re interested in learning more or would like to speak with one of our social media experts, please give us a call at 336-421-2168 or contact us here today.

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5 Tactical Resolutions to Improve Your Digital Marketing Results in 2016

2016 goals

 

While you may be planning on some major initiatives next year, like new product launches, platform adoptions, or market research programs, it’s important to augment these with highly focused, down-and-dirty goals that are easy to attack and quick to show results. These items are typically smaller in scope and may be easy to lose sight of when considering big picture, strategic decisions, but small, iterative improvements here can have a direct impact on your results.
Below are a few key areas that you can focus on in 2016; for each area, remember to capture a benchmark KPI to monitor your results as you go.

1. Landing Pages – Fix Your Problem Child(ren)

Chances are that your website’s interior pages account for the vast majority of entrances. These can be major drop-off points for first time visitors, so improving them is key. Take a look at the top 10 most popular landing pages – what channels are driving traffic to these? Based on where your visitors are coming from, try to match their intent with the on-page content; many times, a disconnect between expectations and reality will drive your bounce rate well above the average 40% range. Make sure to look at page goals – when a user arrives on any page on your website, it should be clear what you want them to do.

How to Get Started: Use a tool like Google Analytics to pull data for your landing pages. Look at bounce rate, conversion rate, or content engagement (video plays, scrollmap data) – minor improvements to any of these can yield big dividends.

2. Embrace Conversion Optimization

While almost all aspects of a business can benefit from testing and optimizing procedures, this can be a huge top-down cultural challenge, which takes time and effort. Don’t let this hold you back; in the meantime, you should be taking advantage of tools like Optimizely and Unbounce that let marketers quickly design and deploy on-page tests. These don’t have to be complicated multi-variant tests with several conversion points; it’s much easier to focus on one specific element to test (and you’ll get results quicker too).

How to Get Started: Use your list from #1 to identify high traffic pages that can quickly start accruing data. If you’ve crisply defined your page goals, testing gets a lot easier – calls-to-action, such as buttons, are a logical place to start. You can also test supporting elements like headlines, or experiment with forms by adding or removing fields. But remember – start simple and try to test one variable at a time for quicker results.

3. Improve Product Data

Many ecommerce sites, especially those with a larger number of SKUs, struggle with product level information. Resellers may rely on descriptions and images provided by manufacturer, rather than generating their own – and when the same content is duplicated across multiple competitors’ websites, both sales and search engine visibility suffer. Unique and well-produced product information means higher conversion rates and greater differentiation within your market.

How to Get Started: Identify a set of high priority products to begin – for example, products that are frequently viewed but rarely purchased, or high margin items that you really want to push. While great photography is definitely worth the investment, it’s ok to start elsewhere – for example, with new descriptions and product titles (optimized for search engines, of course). If you’re sending your products via data feed to third party sites (like Google Shopping or eBay), a little time spent verifying attributes and adding additional ones can improve product visibility and click throughs.

4. Improve Decision Making with User Testing

When it comes to deploying new content or redesigning existing pages, most people on your team will likely come to the table with ideas for what will work best. However, it’s important that these ideas are validated at some point by the most important audience you have – your customers. By making user testing part of your design process, you can spot problem areas before releasing new content into the wild. Lessons learned here can inform your team’s work in the future, so it’s important to share your findings internally.

How to Get Started: Heatmapping and scrollmapping tools like Crazy Egg can be added to existing pages to quickly understand what elements are effectively driving clicks, and how much content is being seen by visitors – for example, users may not be seeing important copy because it’s placed too far down the page. In this case, you may have to rework content above-the-fold in order to entice users to scroll down further. Sites like UserTesting.com are a great way to quickly and cheaply get real-world feedback before deploying design changes to your user base. Finally, qualitative survey tools like ForeSee can be valuable sources of customer feedback (at the risk of annoying your users with pop-ups).

5. Monetize Your Work

For marketers working in the business-to-business space, determining the value being produced by lead generation campaigns can be a challenge. While ecommerce sites have a fairly straightforward way of determining website revenue, B2B or lead gen websites require a bit more planning – not all inbound contacts will be qualified, and revenue may vary greatly across lines of service. However, being able to assign a dollar value to digital activities is hugely important for determining which campaigns and channels are delivering a positive return – and it doesn’t have to be an insurmountable obstacle.

How to Get Started: Gathering the most accurate data for lead gen outcomes typically requires some infrastructure development – for example, ensuring that traffic source information is passed from the website into a CRM like Salesforce, and then closing the loop by pushing revenue data back into your analytics platform. For a quicker and simpler view, simply multiply two numbers from your accounting and/or sales departments:

• Average deal size
• Average close rate for inbound digital leads

For example, if the average contract for your organization is $10,000, and your sales team can close 50% of all leads from the website, one of these leads is worth $5,000. This exercise can be performed for different lines of service, and will immediately make your analysis and reporting much more tangible and actionable.

If you looking for some help with your 2016 initiatives, be sure to give us a call at 336.851.0040  or contact us today.

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An Infographic Guide to Building Infographics [Infographic]

While throwing around the idea of doing a post on building an awesome infographic, it occurred to us, why not build an infographic to show how to build an awesome infographic? So here it is, complete with mermaid examples, our guide to making an amazing infographic. Enjoy.

Click below to make the image bigger, and feel free to share or repost using the handy dandy embed code below the graphic. Happy building!

building an awesome infographic

Contact us today to see what other amazing things our design team can do.

To add this infographic to your site, copy the code below and paste it where you want it to appear on your site. Click here to tweet this now or share using the social icons below.

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Modernizing a Workflow in Magento – Part 2

This is the second piece of our look into modernizing a workflow in Magento. The first article can be found here. I want to also mention that this is really just a stream of consciousness on my process and not a definitive guide of any kind. Moving on.

Based on the previous post, I’m breaking out the task this way:

  1. Put all design files in one folder ( so we don’t jump around so much )
  2. Use Gulp to distribute them to where they belong
  3. Watch the folder and recompile when anything changes
  4. Pitch up a local server to view changes

Ok, so unsurprisingly, I decided to work backwards here and start with the server.

We’ve begun including our database files in the root of our project folders. Our project folders look something like this. I’m adding one more folder for the gulp build area. This way, the website root stays clean of development files.

magento build blog

So the first task is to set up a local server. Magento is a beast and it requires a database. I’m using MAMP PRO for this.

I was able to use this blog post to help me get things running:
http://www.grayboxpdx.com/blog/post/setting-up-a-magento-site-on-your-local-machine

Since I’m using the paid version of MAMP ( MAMP PRO ) I didn’t need to alter the hosts file. MAMP did that for me. After creating a local database via phpmyadmin, importing the Magento database, making a few alterations to it, editing the Local Magento config, choosing a url ( mysite.local )… all outlined in the above article, I was ready to go.

I should mention that we (BEM) are going to be automating this process using Vagrant and Ansible soon. Until that day happens, I can pretty quickly get a Magento build running locally.

Now that the site is up and going, I can configure my Gulp install. Gulp can be a little time-consuming to get up and going so I normally start with this gulp configuration:
https://github.com/chrisdavies/gulp_starter_kit
(Chris Davies is super smart and was my instructor at The Iron Yard)

It does a lot of great stuff right out of the box, obfuscate html, minify and consolidate javascript, push to github, gives hints, does a quick html server… it’s a lot. One of the things I didn’t want it to do was to minify or concatenate my javascript. The gulp build I’m using makes one javascript file to rule them all called app.js and a second file for all vendor scripts (jQuery, angular, etc) and compiles that into vendor.js. So instead of 50 js files, I use 2. It’s a best practice to load fewer files but would require refactoring the theme which is beyond the scope of what I’m working on right now. The next theme I write from scratch will work this way.

I also had to configure gulp to handle php and xml files since this build doesn’t do that.

So first, I need to tell Gulp where to look for my files. This gulp build has a really helpful config.js file. It’s great because I can pretty quickly tell gulp where to find all the important stuff. Normally, I have one destination folder but for this as you may recall, I want two: A skin/frontend directory and a app/design/frontend directory. So I started by setting up my config file like this:

// Build configuration, defining source and destination // directories and patterns // // srcDir is the source directory var srcDir = './src', skinDir = './../html/skin/frontend/dist', designDir = './../html/app/design/frontend/dist', bowerDir = './bower_components'; // src holds the values of source folders var src = { root: srcDir, vendorRoot: bowerDir, css: srcDir + '/scss/**/*.scss', js: srcDir + '/js/**/*.js', img: srcDir + '/images/**/*', fonts: srcDir + '/fonts/**/*', html: srcDir + '/**/*.html', php: srcDir + '/**/*.{php,phtml}', xml: srcDir + '/**/*.xml', ejs: [srcDir + '/**/*.ejs', '!' + srcDir + '/**/_*.ejs'], tests: './test/**/*' }; // dest holds the values of desination folders var dest = { root: designDir, css: skinDir + '/', js: skinDir + '/js', img: skinDir + '/img', fonts: skinDir + '/fonts', html: designDir, php: designDir, xml: designDir }; // Export our src and dest configurations so they can // be used in our gulp tasks module.exports = { src: src, dest: dest };

This variable: skinDir = ‘./../html/skin/frontend/dist’ tells gulp to go up a directory and then snakes down into the skins directory.
This variable: designDir = ‘./../html/app/design/frontend/dist’ does the same for the actual template and layout files.

I added a globbing pattern to find all the php files as well as one to look for xml files.

Next I created a task file called php.js to process all .php or .phtml files. It’s a pretty simple idea. In the tasks folder, there are a number of files that we can call to process our code. I’m adding one for php since that isn’t something that was in the previous build. In normal node fashion we include all of the dependencies we need to use and point gulp at where it should put all the files when done.

Since I’m not processing the phtml files, I didn’t bother doing anything extra. The task just looks in the appropriate folder, finds the php files, and copies them where they belong. Below you’ll notice a few places where you see something like this: config.src.php . That variable is the object we created in the above config.js file. It just makes life easier to put all definitions in one place.

The file I created looked something like this: // php and php:release build the php and ejs files var gulp = require('gulp'), addsrc = require('gulp-add-src'), connect = require('gulp-connect'), config = require('../config'); gulp.task('php', function() { return buildphp(); }); gulp.task('php:release', ['html:release', 'css:release', 'js:release'], function () { return buildphp(); }); function buildphp() { return gulp.src(config.src.php) .pipe(gulp.dest(config.dest.php)) .pipe(connect.reload()); }

I replicated the process for my xml files. I also had to work on the js.js task as previously mentioned. That was actually pretty easy. I just removed the calls to concatenate the files and unfortunately, I had to remove the jshint (error reporting). There is a lot of legacy javascript in these builds that makes the error reporting go wild and sorting through hundreds of errors to see if you made a new mistake isn’t terribly helpful.

So that’s pretty much where I am. The file is currently running and dumping all the theme files into a folder called a dist’ but I’ll change the current name dist’ to the package name of the particular project I’m on. I hope this series has been insightful. If you’re looking at using the Magento platform, give us a call today at 336-421-2168  or contact us here.

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How To Maximize Ecommerce Sales

Whether you’re new to ecommerce, or have a well-established brand, there are always tweaks you can make to your site and marketing to maximize sales. In order to get new ecommerce customers, you’ll have to first get qualified buyers to your site. From there, you can nurture those customers and continue to target them until they’ve purchased. Keep in mind that although not every visit results in a purchase, you can still find ways to nurture visitors into paying customers. The sales cycle doesn’t end after someone completes an order, however. Be sure to continue communicating with customers over a variety of media to turn first time buyers into repeat purchasers and long-term brand advocates. Below we outline the 4 key stages and ways to maximize ecommerce sales at each.

Online Shopping Concept

Stage 1: Getting Qualified Buyers To The Site

Assessing Your Marketing Universe: Do you know where qualified buyers are hanging out? Use tools like Google Trends to find out what users are searching to find your products and then Google those terms to see what websites show up most. You might be surprised at what other marketplaces, social networks and other online hangouts exist where you can promote your products.

Be The Expert: Inbound marketing advocates like Hubspot are big on generating thought provoking content designed to generate awareness about products, help them consider/compare options and ultimately decide to buy. Thorough research and knowledge of your products and industry should be custom-crafted into digestible content on your website. Leverage your expertise to target ideal buyers (personas) and help to drive them down the conversion funnel through other content, calls to action and cross promotion.

 

Stage 2: Bringing Non-Converting Users Back After They Leave

Incentives: Price is one of the primary drivers of the purchase decision. Sometimes buyers who visit your site will shop around for better prices if they don’t feel they’ve been incentivized enough. Consider offering promotions for first time buyers and incorporating additional promotions for users who leave your site before purchasing. Below are some methods for retargeting non-converting users that are a great medium for promoting incentives.

Remarketing: Through tools like Google Adwords and Adroll, you have the ability to track and serve ads to users who came to your site in the past. Remarketing follows your audience around on a variety of different sites including popular news publications like CNN as well as social networks like Facebook, so you have ample opportunities to get back in front of users and help them come back.

Abandoned Cart Tools: According to Baymard Institute, average cart abandonment rate as of May 2015 was over 68.5% (up roughly .5% from earlier this year). With rates rising and customers gravitating to sites like Amazon.com for more purchases, it is more important than ever to have an abandoned cart strategy. In many instances, your shopping cart platform will already have built-in tools for sending out custom-tailored emails to users who have submitted information, but not completed a purchase. If your platform does not have something out of the box, however, consider some of these tools:

  • autorespondermax.com (Email marketing tool that supports Volusion, Bigcommerce, shopify, Magento, Mozu and other platforms with custom integrations).
  • rejoiner.com (Email marketing tool that requires custom integration)
  • bounceexchange.com (Exit intent software to capture users who try to leave your site)

 

Stage 3: Selling And Upselling

How to Increase Average Order Values: There are a variety of techniques for increasing average order values on your site including bundling products, up-selling, cross-selling, providing rewards programs, and much more! Lucky for you we’ve already written extensively on the subject! Visit our post on increasing average order value now.

Optimizing the Shopping Cart and Checkout: Driving qualified buyers to your site won’t help you much if they get confused or struggle through your shopping cart and checkout process. View this post on creating a single one page checkout to help shorten the number of steps users have to go through before completing their order.

 

Stage 4: Post-Purchase Marketing Initiatives

Customer Nurturing Campaigns: As a marketer and ecommerce store manager, your job isn’t done after new customers check out. In fact, repeat customers have an over 50% chance of converting, which compared to an industry standard 1-3% makes a compelling case for where to spend your marketing dollars. There are a variety of customer outreach programs that are widely used across different industries. Worried about how much time you might have to invest in these project? Consider marketing automation as a delivery method for automated emails to customers on their birthday, long-term re-engagement (we miss you!) or cross promotion (other customers bought x, y, and z items).

 

In need of a new ecommerce site or maybe just a redesign? How about implementing some of the optimations from above? We can help with that. View more about our ecommerce solutions or contact us today.

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Modernizing a Workflow in Magento – Part 1

Before I start let me introduce myself. My name is Tim Hooker and I’ve been building websites for about a year now. I’d like to talk about my process in setting up a Magento development environment that allows you to simplify theming a Magento site using Gulp and Compass.

Compass is a tool for creating css using a program called Sass. It makes supporting multiple browser stacks easy. It also allows you to make multiple files for all your css. This allows you to reuse that code on other projects more easily.

Gulp is a build tool. It can do many things but I use it to look through a folder of files, find what is needed for my website, and put them in a new folder all prettied up and ready for the web. I also use it to let me see my work live in my web browser and refresh it when I make changes.

 

In this post, I’m just going to talk about the challenges and my thought process.

Here are the challenges and why this is worth some effort:

  • First, Magento, unlike WordPress and other popular frameworks, separates your html and xml (structural files) from your other files (css, javascript). They’re not even close together so you spend most of your time jumping between directories. (It should be noted that Magento 2 relieves most of these issues but Im not holding my breath for the release date)

When you’re jumping around between directories it can get really confusing. You can easily find yourself editing the wrong files. That’s the first challenge. I’d like to put them all in one big mama folder.

  • Secondly, we need focus. We have to figure out which files we need to alter and pay attention to those specific ones. Magento is a system built almost entirely on overrides of files. Out of the box, Magento already works and your theme will only override or extend the core look, feel, and functionality. So it’s like this big onion of code with layers and layers to look through.

If we’re going to be successful, we have to figure out which files to include in our big mama folder.

That said I’ve decided to pay attention to one child of the RWD theme folder which is a fully functional responsive them. That will save time. RWD has a default folder which is also not the folder I want to pay attention to. My folder will be named for my theme and essentially will override the RWD default folder. If I have a header.phtml, it will override the default header.phtml. If I don’t have one, it will fall back to that file. It also works that way for css and js. This way, when you want my files, you’ll go to RWD/mytheme both in the app/design/frontend folder and in the skin/frontend folder. This should simplify where we focus.

  • The final challenge is to make this simple. Another developer needs to be able to pick this up and in about 2 minutes have it up and running without too many questions. It’s no good if this doesn’t work in a team context.

Now that we’ve gone through the challenges, I’ll talk through the process in the next post.

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Top Web Design Trends of 2015 (So Far)

Now that we’ve passed the halfway mark of the year, it’s time to see what’s trending in the world of web design. In 2015, web design makes use of video, animation and mobile-first thinking to bring the web more responsiveness, interaction and connection. Here’s a look at 4 of the top trends of the year so far.

 

  1. Card Based Design

Pioneered by sites like Pinterest, Google Now, Facebook and Twitter, card-based design is the new—and growing—form of UX architecture. “Cards” offer content in small, digestible packets of information, allowing users to quickly scan chunks of information and quickly “choose their own adventure” in navigating a site. It’s also highly conducive for mobile, allowing for information to re-order and re-size easily for different screen widths.

grandover pinterest

 

  1. Responsive Story Telling

While the idea of “responsive story telling” has been around for a while, with wider browser support of fast-loading vector graphics, native video, CSS3 effects, HTML5 animation and parallax, websites are interacting even more with the user to tell a brand story.  Encouraging users to explore and engage with the content allows users to connect with the information emotionally and effectively.

inceptionscreenshot

Built by Matt Dempsey, Co-Founder togethera.com

 

  1. Big Video

2014 championed big, full-screen background photos. In 2015, these images are moving. Full-width and full-screen video take the stage.  Whether it is a subtle, full-screen background loop or a fully-interactive video website, big bold video adds a story and a life to a website, often working hand-in-hand with the movement toward responsive story telling.

canopyscreenshot

 

  1. Flat Design Gets a Little Less Flat.

Flat design is still trending, but we’re seeing it with just a little more depth in 2015. Google introduces the language of Material Design, adding a hint of shadow, meaningful movement and a more three-dimensional space that follows the rules of physical objects. These design elements provide context and clarity to flat elements, providing cues to the user on how to interact with content.

gpc screenshot

 

New trends are emerging everyday so it’s important to stay current with what’s new. If any of these trends caught your eye, feel free to reach out to us today to discuss our extensive design and development capabilities. Call us at (336) 421-2168 or contact us here.

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Responding to Negative Reviews Online

If you’re online, odds are, people are talking about you. And as much as I’d like to tell you they all say, “You’re the best,” well, they probably don’t. Negative reviews are going to happen. The way you handle those reviews can have a huge impact on your business, both with current customers and potential ones.

dealing with a bad review

 

  • Monitor your presence

The first part of responding to a negative review is knowing one exists. You need to be consistently monitoring your online presence and social/review platforms. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to dealing with online reviews. It’s simply bad for business. A prompt response can go a long way toward dealing with a complaint. Try a reputation monitoring tool such as Review Trackers to keep a close eye on what’s being said about your business.

 

  • Apologize…In the right manner

Time to put pen to paper—actually fingers to keyboard. First step: apologize. ‘I’m sorry,’ is one of the most powerful phrases at our disposal, and it can go a long way to appease someone who’s had a bad experience. Be careful how you phrase the apology though. When you read the review, you should know whether the company was at fault. If you don’t know, take the time to find out. It changes the approach you take to the apology and the solution. If the issue wasn’t your fault, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” is a better approach than “I’m sorry we messed this up.”

 

  • Address head on and provide a solution

When responding, address the issue head on. It’s important to your reviewer that they know you’re sorry they had this problem. You should communicate what may have gone wrong and what has been or is being done so it doesn’t happen again. Providing a solution or next step lets your audience know you’re working to improve the business and overall customer experience. A simple, “We’ve put a new process in place,” can mean a lot to a potential customer as well as the person who issued the review.

 

  • Take it offline if necessary

Not all issues can be dealt with simply by replying with one comment. If need be, take the issue offline and contact the reviewer directly. A personal approach can often be the best approach. However, make sure to leave some response on the platform for others who may be reading.

 

  • Know your audience

Lastly, it’s important to know who you’re responding to. Hint hint, it’s not just the person who wrote the review. Whether it be Yelp, Facebook or any other site, prospects are reading to see how you handle the situation. Take Yelp, for instance, which has a 1/9/90 Rule. One percent of people create content, nine percent edit content, and 90 percent simply consume content. That’s a lot of people eager and ready to read your response. How you handle a negative review online can be the difference between a potential customer choosing your business or not.

 

You’re bound to get negative reviews online but take the chance to look at them as opportunities. As long as none of you result to physical threats and you follow the guide above, you’ll be a pro at handling negative reviews on the web (see how not to deal with a bad review).

As always, if you need any consultation, feel free to reach out to us here.

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