June 10, 2013

Five steps to a meaningful infographic

Infographics are becoming even more prevalent in today’s fast-paced, short-attention-span marketplace. That’s a good thing, because computers and networks have created more data than even the NSA can analyze. Your marketing program, no matter what you’re selling and no matter to whom, will benefit from an infographic program.

Design can’t rescue content
Infographic (IG) design takes a lot more than a few pastel colors and silhouette icons and trendy fonts. A successful IG design partner will participate in the research, sometimes more than you might expect (or desire) to deliver a valuable “a-ha” insight to the reader. Without strong, valid data content, design is just lipstick.

Do the diligence
Read everything. Make sure the facts support your story and connect all the dots. Existing data from your files, along with research from new sources, will form the basis for well-presented insight into complex data. Like all useful communication, your infographic needs a strong narrative supporting a single and unique intent, a main message. We’ve all seen enough PowerPoint decks to prove this point.

Truth wins out
What if some of the data points diverge from your sales message? What if the topic turns out to be boring or lacking relevant data support? It’s important to find truth in the information before the design process begins. Work with your designer to find the true story, even if it’s in a hidden connection, known as a confounding variable. For example, aggressive personality types prefer the color red. Therefore, their behavior, not the color of paint, is the reason accident rates are affected.

Spotlight on the hero
There’s one piece of data that’s a jaw-dropper for almost every topic. Your hero will grab and focus your reader’s attention as it leads the hierarchy of supporting elements in the story. Organize your outline into a framework for a motivating narrative and the opportunity for your reader to “see to learn,” as graphics guru Edward Tufte puts it.

Spend seven minutes with the masters in The Art of Data Visualization.

May 28, 2013

Eleven ways to increase online sales

In just 11 steps, you can boost results for any online sales initiative. Anything. It’s really not an art; web selling is a science, and the test results are conclusive. Follow these rules to greater success:increase-online-business-resized-600

1. Buyer personas.  If you aren’t optimizing everything for the needs, wants and requirements of your buyers, start over. Once you know who you are talking to, their situations, wants, needs and the answers to their problems, selling to them is easy.

2. Relevancy and motivation. It’s impossible to sell what people don’t want. Driving the right people to your site is the foundation of effective marketing, along with crafting the right offer at the right price.

3. Design for sales. The quality and craftsmanship of your site/store tells more than the words you write. Ugly and clumsy are not attributes, they are sales blockers. And visual hierarchy that encourages easy reading and even easier understanding — that’s salesmanship.

4. Value propositions.  If you don’t have  a unique value proposition, you don’t have what it takes to compete. And if your value proposition isn’t woven into every entry point on your site, you are losing sales.

5. Triage customers. Customers fall into three groups: those who have an unrecognized need, researchers, and those who have come to a decision. You can’t do much for the first group except to educate them, at your expense. Researchers, on the other hand, love to compare before deciding. If you are not the cheapest, this group needs to know your advantages (see item four). The last group is the one that’s ready to buy, so get out of the way and let them sign up or fill their carts.

6. Reduce friction.  There’s plenty of science to prove that friction can only be reduced, and it’s as much a part of sales transactions as it is for Soapbox Derby axles. For sales, it’s the doubts, hesitations and second thoughts. For online sales, here are guaranteed friction factors:

  • Long and complicated forms
  • Hidden contact information
  • Anonymity, no physical address or phone
  • Ugly web design
  • Claims without sufficient evidence of proof
  • Insufficient information
  • FUDs: fears, uncertainties, doubts

7. Obfuscation.  Or lack of clarity. Be sure the customer is able to understand the concept without jargon or big wordy words.

8. Noise and distraction. There’s a proven rule for creating good billboards:  it’s ready when there’s nothing left to remove.  Too many choices with too much information leads to choosing nothing. Too hard. Reduce clutter the closer you get to closing, including crosslinks, sidebars and navigation.

9. Engagement. When 100 people come to your site, how many buy? Increase sales by increasing engagement. The more expensive or complicated your offer, the more time it takes to make a decision. So get their email first, then work to add value, prove your expertise, get them to like you — before you ask for the sale.

10. Urgency. Hurry, because this list is about to end.  Creating urgency, when it makes sense, makes sales.  Limited quantities (only three left) limited time (before midnight tonight) or limited context (Mother’s Day is coming soon) all work.

11. Usability. If your site doesn’t provide a seamless, pleasant and valuable experience, start over. Everything should seem as though it’s made to meet the needs of the viewer, the potential customer. Poorly designed websites create sales failures.

Adapted from How to Build Websites That Sell, The Scientific Approach to Websites, by Peep Laja.

May 6, 2013

Is your website issuing a strong call to action?

Generating leads or sales from your website? The first thing you need is an effective Call To Action (CTA).

Formulating a magic bullet CTA can be a challenge, especially when you have so many valuable features.  The sales challenge, as always, is to turn features into benefits. Thanks to conversion expert Joanna Wiebe, here are some tricks to improve your success.

imagesIf you have a truly unique value proposition, say so. If the average viewer doesn’t know who you are, so say your name in the headline. If you can solve a problem, make the promise to solve it. And if there is a pain that you can eliminate or an objection that you can answer, be specific with proof. There’s nothing better than hearing your customers talk about pains, needs and expectations. They know why they buy, often better than you.

  • Be specific…aim your message at those most likely to buy now
  • Be succinct
  • Focus on the ONE thing prospects want
  • Confirm the expectation of your visitor

Joanna offers five cookbook formulas to cover almost all marketing situations.

1. All gain—When your prospects have a clear pain that you can relieve

Get The(fresh but relevant adjective) Power Of(what your product does) Without(pain)” 

The Astonishing Power of Eye Tracking Technology…Without the High Costs

2. Promise-based SEO—A highly desirable outcome with an SEO boost

(Adjective) & (Adjective) (what you are/SEO keyword phrase) That Will (desirable promise of results)

Clean & Modern iPhone App Design Templates That Will Set You Apart In The App Store

3. Explicit promise— When you customers will believe a promise from you

We Promise: (highly desirable results)

We Promise Just One Thing: Get More Clients from Social Media

4. Comparison — When your customers are using or considering a competitor

(Known competitor) (does this undesirable thing), And (your brand name) (does this highly desirable or impressive thing)

Google Analytics Tells You What Happened, KISSMetrics Tells You Who Did It

5. The value prop — Something that’s both unique and highly desirable

The Only (SEO keyword phrase) Made Exclusively To (highly desirable outcome or benefit) 

The Only Web Copywriting Guides Made Exclusively To Improve Your Sales

Incidentally, like most direct-marketing copywriters, she recommends bold centered headline, capitalizing each word, avoiding periods, and breaking up long headlines with ellipses or em-dashes.

Once you have written a test set of headlines, it’s time to test.

There are a variety of tools out there for conducting and monitoring A/B tests. One of the best tools is Google’s free Content Experiments, a part of  Google Analytics in the Content section.

  • Test Early and Test Often. You should run tests as early as possible when considering a new promotional technique or when launching a new product. You want your site optimized as soon as possible, so you aren’t losing sales. And then keep testing.
  • Test Only A Few Elements. Limit the variables or you won’t know what worked. Start with headlines — they do the most work and create the strongest effects.
  • Run Tests on New Visitors Only. Don’t use your existing customers as guinea pigs for changes to your website. Their preconceptions can skew your results and cause inaccuracies.
  • Listen to the Results. Resist the temptation to listen to your instincts if the empirical data is telling you different. You’re running controlled tests for reason. If in doubt, re-test.
  • Allow the Test to Run for Sufficient Time. Stopping the test early just means there’s more room for error. The same can be said for letting it run too long. Try for a time period of a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on your site traffic (you want a minimum of a few hundred test results before drawing any conclusions, and preferably a few thousand).

Listen to your customers, formulate a short, sweet and resonant set of calls to action and test, test, test.

February 25, 2013

The miracle of responsive web design

With the popularity of mobile devices growing faster and faster, it’s no wonder that getting your website to look right and operate properly on a smartphone or tablet is urgent business. Most retail and B2B sites see about 30 percent mobile traffic, and that number’s growing.

Tablet sales exceed 100 million a year, mobile devices will soon outnumber humans. How can you make sure your website is serving this critical change?

Responsive web design uses media queries to figure out what device the user’s using. The layout and content are sized to fit the screen, from basic phone to high-res Retina iPad. It takes more than scaling to make the transition effective. Column layouts need to change, usually from three to two to one, depending on resolution and display size. Media queries can even detect device type and change the site’s behavior adaptively—like swiping between items or changing button actions.

Sound expensive? You’re in luck. Commercial template builders offer state of the art responsive products built on CMS foundations like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla! and other formats. Licensing a generic template is cheap, usually under $100, and can streamline adding mobile capabilities to your site.

Another path is to purpose-build a site dedicated to a mobile form factor. A media query invisibly shifts delivery from your main desktop-display site to your mobile site. Most web developers can accomplish this rebuild, or you can work with a specialist firm like Womp. They offer a dynamically linked mini version that plays well in the mobile space, at a great price.

If you don’t have mobile optimization in your roadmap, better get planning. New and old customers alike share an impatience with sites that don’t work properly. When your clients and customers are away from the traditional desktop or laptop, they’re using a small screen. So get responsive and carry your message through even the smallest window of opportunity.

January 9, 2013

Trends in logo design

Thinking about a new logo? Here’s an overview of what’s tired and what’s trending new, courtesy of Bill Gardner at logolounge.com

What’s old:

- Animals including birds, dinosaurs and monsters
- Transparency: flip books, pages, blossoms
- Fruit
- Xs in lines, words, or four quadrants

What’s coming:

- Little twixty interlinks suggesting connectivity
- Angry angles, discordant chords
- Leaves used to build cars, people, other shapes
- Text as texture
- Halos and spotlights
- Monolithic rectangles in perspective

Trends from 2012


Icon clusters, the merger of multiple transparent images to create a message with universal feeling, like a rebus.




Transparent linking to create a stronger union, bright colors add optimism.




Watercolor shading counters a tech feeling with a painterly richness implying humanity.





Potato chip, aka hyperbolic paraboloid, uses shading to create tension, depth and movement, mentally torqueing a two-sided view. Escher would be proud.




Anaglyphs based on old 3-d tech, now used to convey duality of choice, without the special glasses.




Selective focus: Now that blurry images are acceptable and digital technology allows subtlety never before seen, soft edges blur off into infinity, hopefully grabbing a little more attention as the consumer tries to focus.




Woven designs create a sense of strength, unity, order.




Twining connects and separates graphic elements with 3-D feeling in these somewhat whimsical treatments.




Sprouting suits sustainable themes, a fresher look on the leaf. Based in a spiral form, the sprout evokes birth, growth, opening.




Peel continues the trompe l’oeil graphics first seen in 2007 on “violator” stickers in the packaging industry. Now used as a reveal, the trick exposes an inner strength or underlying trait.




Sphere carving incises the design into an orb for a dimensional play of ground against foreground, what’s there against what’s gone.




App icons blur the line between buttons, icons and logos. When the design for an app button is used off-device, is it still a button?




Tesselation: The consultant’s word for pixelated. Multiple geometrics form a Bucky-like pattern, conveying strength in numbers with scientific precision and mathematical accuracy.




Arc twists add to the geometric standbys of circles, triangles and squares. This shape is a rectangle twisted 90 degrees and curved. Transparency and gradation add dimension to imply change.




Cousins are logo variants within a system, sometimes to add meaning, sometimes to add whimsy. Variation in color, texture or pattern allows flexibility for a variety of exposures.

December 5, 2012

Getting to yes: Tips to improve conversion from any offer

Whether you are designing a landing page, email or website, your customer’s  hoped-for response can be influenced by friction, anxiety and complexity. Here’s how you can streamline the process and increase your success.

Friction is caused by anything that slows conversion. That could be a form that collects more information than you really need, multiple steps in a process, long explanations, page layout, etc.

When the benefit to your prospect isn’t obvious, they lose faith and bail. Surveys, long forms, multiple clicks and screens can all build anxiety – leading the prospect to believe they won’t be rewarded for their hard work. Make it simple, make it obvious and make it easy.

Subtle persuasion isn’t always the fastest way to closing. Clarity keeps your offer simple, and clarity should keep your process easy. Always be sure your potential customer knows three things:

- Where am I in the sales process

- What can I do here

- Why should I do it

Finally, test, test and test again. Refining your call to action is just one benefit of A/B testing. Always test to refine your close – learn from the experts at Amazon, 37 Signals or Apple.

November 14, 2012

Calling All Calls to Action

Here are a few ways you can build a better landing page, email or webinar — with a call to action that resonates, activates and motivates.

Identify your goal. Be honest. Do you want clicks, sales, respect, friends? Define your goal and quantify it. Trim it, hone it and nail it down.

Bait the hook. There’s got to be something of value for the reader/visitor or you’re wasting ink or pixels. The better you can get inside the head of your viewer, the easier it is to create a valuable offer.

Look inside their heads. When you know the reasons they might say “No thanks” you’re closer to “Yes.” Eliminate the distractions, the what-ifs and that boring list of features.

One bullseye per target. With a clear offer, valuable benefit and easy path to ‘Yes,’ your chances of closing are improved. Don’t clutter your call to action with extras. Ask clearly, loudly and obviously.

Treat ‘em like they’re smart. Don’t use a sledge hammer when a spotlight works better. If you’ve delivered the right message to an audience that will benefit from your offer, get out of the way and let them buy, sign up or click-through. They do know better.

Always keep this criteria in mind: Does your message resonate with the viewers’ reality? Does your offer touch on a real need? Are you allowing a path to closure with the least resistance?

When your call to action connects, offers value and encourages participation, you’re going to get increased success.

November 5, 2012

Why website redesign? A list of factors

New technology and growing customer expectations put web design at or near the top of the list for marketers. Here are a few ways to tell when it’s time to overhaul your site.

  • Mobile viewing? Responsive design lets your site shine on phones, tablets, notebooks – all the way up to high-def desktop screens.
  • Quick, easy updates? No content management system (CMS)? Fresh content keeps visitors engaged, and the easier it is to update, the likelier it will happen.
  • Lost in the load? Old-style sites are heavy with backgrounds, textures, Flash animations and scripts. If your site takes more than five seconds to load, it’s time to streamline.
  • Delivering the clicks? Google Analytics-type tracking shows visitor behavior, and if they’re not getting past the home page, you have a problem. Structure, design and content (calls to action) can move, or turn off, potential customers.
  • Time for a trade-in? We’re post-Web 2.0, HTML5 and CSS3 are in play. Social media integration has grown beyond a Like button and SEO is more critical than ever. Three to five years is a reasonable upgrade cycle for a website, just to stay current.
  • Broken links? Error messages, missing images and 404 pages kill visitor interest. They’re as bad as a typo on your business card. Potential customers don’t complain, they just go elsewhere.
  • Talking to no one? Ask your sales team what questions potential customers ask over and over. Your site should have the answers. Does all your marketing include your site references, links or support.
  • Old goals? In the last five years, your business plan, product mix and targeting have probably changed. Your website needs to mirror your new sales and marketing goals – moving prospects closer to conversion.

If any of these rings a bell, call your web designer to start the process.  We’re already working on ours and may be able to help you with yours.