Why You Might Not Need a New Website

In: Digital Marketing

“You might not need a new website.” There, we said it.

As a digital marketing agency, whose portion of their business revolves around developing websites, writing this post almost feels like blasphemy. Don’t misunderstand us, we feel strongly that there is a basic, essential need for every business to have an effective website.

(Disclaimer: If your website hasn’t been touched in a number of years, you probably do need a new one. There’s a lack of credibility that unfortunately comes with having a completely antiquated website.)

Pretty pictures don’t equal conversions.

But we’ve come across many businesses that feel the need to redesign and redevelop their website just because it isn’t being the top salesperson for their company they thought it would be, or because they don’t feel it’s the most cutting edge version it could be. They want the most current design, a whole new look and feel, and maybe if they just showcase more of their personality on the site, people will pick up the phone and do business with them.

Right?

Well actually, no, that’s usually not how it works.

Unless you’re one of the 22% of businesses that are satisfied with their website’s conversions, you’re looking for more. And if that’s the case, a ‘prettier’ version of your website won’t always be the fix. What you need is a funnel.

While a website may aim to accomplish many goals, a funnel has one goal: to convert visitors on a specific offer.

Focus is key.

Ever heard of “voluntary simplicity”? While things like minimalism and capsule wardrobes may just sound like a trendy millennial movement, there’s actually something to it. Having less choices, less clutter and fewer things vying for your attention naturally leads to less stress, can make people happier, and (what we’re most interested in) allows the individual to be more focused. Focus is key when it comes to someone sticking around on your site long enough to realize the true value you have to offer and to take action on one specific thing.

Picture this: A prospect arrives at your website. Their eyes scan the screen. There’s a top navigation menu that can take them a dozen or more places right off the bat. They might decide to learn more about your company or the many products or services you offer. They’ll take note of how easy (or difficult) it might be to get in touch with you. Now they’re distracted by the beautiful photos of your team, checking out upcoming events, reading blog posts, etc. Not to mention the countless other links to social platforms, special offers and more, begging for just a moment of their short attention-span.

Your first thought might be, “Wow! I would love to have a visitor checking out every page of my website and learning more about who we are!” And if your goal was just for a prospect to know about you, it would be a success. But a real conversion would be much more valuable. We want to see a specific goal accomplished; whether it’s a form fill, email submission, phone call, or maybe even a purchase.

Limit choices, increase conversions.

By limiting people’s choices, you’re actually increasing your conversion rates. We looked at multiple studies on removing header navigation done by Hubspot, Yuppiechef, Career Point College, SparkPage and more, and while percentage of increase varied, it was still always that – an increase. Hubspot’s increased percentages on middle of funnel content, such as a demo or free trial showed as much as a 28% lift in conversions. Yuppiechef and Career Point College both increased conversions by 100% and more!

The beauty of a funnel is in its simplicity, focus, and sophistication. As opposed to walking your prospect into a room with 100 doors and asking them to choose one to walk through (like your website is doing), when someone comes into your funnel, you are walking them into a room, and in that room they have just one door to walk through. The choice is simple! They can take a specific action, or leave.

Fortunately, even if they choose to leave, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost them forever. Because, retargeting. And while it’s true you can retarget from your website as well, the fact that your funnel is so specific means you can segment this visitor as having an interest in that very specific area of your business.

No ‘spray and pray’ marketing, just marketing that works.

Your marketing strategy becomes laser focused on those who are actually interested in what you have to offer when you take the funnel route. And the most exciting part is that implementing your funnel can simply be a matter of integrating with your current website and marketing systems.

One day, you will have to spend your marketing dollars on a brand new website. But we’re here to tell you, that day might not have to be today. Our advice is to create a system that funnels your audience into a specific offer, where you have a higher chance of conversion, and then follow up with them until you make the sale. Bonus points if this system is largely automated!

Now THAT’S effective, time and money saving marketing. And that’s something we can all get behind.

It’s Time to Manage Your Business’s Online Reputation! Here’s Where to Start.

In: Digital Marketing

Reputation is everything. For 83% of consumers, what people say about a business is more important than what the business says about itself. (Nielsen) For local, service-driven businesses, this is especially important as 86% of consumers would pay more for a service from a business with higher ratings and reviews. (BrightLocal)

Managing your business’s online reputation is a lot of work, but even with the limited time that local business owners have, there are a few great places to start—some low-hanging fruit so to speak. We believe that these are the most effective and important areas to focus on first when it comes to managing and marketing your business’s online reputation.

Ask for reviews.

Ask yourself which of the insurance agencies below you’d have more confidence in hiring:

They both have five stars, but when it comes to online reviews, it’s not just about the amount of stars you have. It is important to have many positive reviews. Not only does this give consumers more confidence in your business’s ability to meet their needs, it also protects your online reputation from being tanked by one negative review.

The way to get more positive reviews is simple: ask! We see a great increase in amount of reviews simply from asking. And if this process is quick, easy and automated after a purchase or completed appointment, even better!

Respond to reviews.

It’s very important to keep track of reviews as they come—positive or negative—and respond. It’s encouraging for customers to be thanked for positive reviews, and it’s especially important for businesses to reply to negative reviews quickly and professionally.

If handled well, a negative review from a poor experience can be turned around into a positive experience for the customer. Not only can you work through a solution before it becomes a bigger problem, you can also do this in a public forum where other potential consumers will see that your business cares about customer service.

Promote positive reviews.

You’re good at what you do and it’s important for people to know that! Be sure you share the positive reviews that your business is receiving on other review platforms, on social media, your website, landing pages, and on print material and let your happy customers do the selling for you. When you share these positive reviews on social media, just make sure that you are spreading them out over time and mixing them in with other content.

Remain FTC and ISO compliant.

An effective reputation marketing strategy can take dozens of precious hours a month to execute. From monitoring the many review sites out there, to asking for and responding to reviews, some decide that managing and marketing their business’s online reputation isn’t a top priority, which is understandable! It’s easy to make excuses for a lack of investment in marketing, especially when your job is already pulling you in a thousand directions.

In this case, many people decide to turn to services and platforms to do it for them. A very smart move, but only if you know exactly what practices are used to garner reviews. Unfortunately, a lot of solutions out there use processes called ‘gating’ and ‘filtering’, essentially meaning they ensure a positive review will be received before the customer is officially allowed to even give one. This is an illegal practice and up until recently, a lot of people were getting away with it. Now it is being more strictly enforced, and many businesses have been penalized because of it.

Conclusion

With review platforms today being considered the new word-of-mouth, your business can’t afford to not be the one people are talking about. You may not receive all 5 star reviews, but guess what? An average score of 4.8 or 4.9 will be just as trustworthy, and consumers will know your business is getting real, honest feedback from people in every kind of scenario. But it’s important to put some resources into this aspect of marketing…to give every customer the opportunity to review, to follow up on all reviews (especially negative!), and promote the positive all while following the rules. It just might be the biggest (and quickest) bang for your marketing buck you could hope for!

These AdWords Excuses Might Be Holding Your Business Back

In: Digital Marketing

Believe it or not, Pay-Per-Click advertising is one of the best marketing investments you can make today. Consumers go to Google when they want to know, go, do, or buy something. That means, when leveraged correctly, your business, product, or service can appear before the eyes of a consumer who is itching to convert. However, many businesses still aren’t taking advantage of Google AdWords.

Here are four common excuses we hear from those who aren’t making this marketing investment:

“Google AdWords is too expensive.” 

Yes, it is an expense, but businesses make an average of $2 in income for every $1 they spend on AdWords. When done correctly, these campaigns can be worth every penny.

“I have an SEO campaign.”

Not only can you see the benefits of AdWords more quickly than SEO alone, but AdWords visitors are 50% more likely to purchase something than organic visitors. AdWords campaigns compliment SEO very well and can even help you dominate all search results above the fold.

“No one clicks those.”

Actually, they do. Over 45% of people couldn’t identify paid ads on the search results page and the top 3 sponsored spots get 41% of the clicks on the first page of search results.

It's time to put your money where their search is. -@PaulMcQuadeOC Click To Tweet

“I already tried it, it didn’t work.” 

When done well, an AdWords campaign can be highly effective. First, assess things like your ad copy, the landing page your prospect is taken to, keyword categories and negative keywords lists.  Then, make the necessary adjustments to help your campaign run more effectively.

In the end, Google AdWords is one of the best tools for lead generation—one where you can see fast, measurable results. 80% of search results now yield Google ads. And these ads take up 85% of the space above the fold. That means it’s time to stop making excuses.

It’s time to put your money where their search is.

5 Reasons Why Buyer Personas Inform Your Business

In: Digital Marketing

You can’t be all things to all people.

You’ve heard the old saying, but do you practice it when it comes to your business? Whether you are selling a product, or providing a service, there are going to be certain types of people that are more likely to buy from you than others. So focus on them. You want these ideal customers to think of you when they need what you provide, but are you thinking of them in the meantime?

Using proven research methods, including how you will segment your audience, then conducting in depth interviews (IDI’s) and persona interviews is the surest way to get accurate data for your buyer personas. Whether you are a B2B or B2C company, the takeaway is the same – taking the time to create and utilize buyer personas is the most powerful way for you to truly understand your customers – their needs, their pain points, and how you can make their lives better.

While the subject of buyer personas goes incredibly deep, we want to focus this post on 5 reasons why buyer personas inform your business.

1. Know where your customers spend their time

…so you can be there, too. Hear us out, though. Please don’t bombard your customer with annoying sales pitches on every channel they utilize. You don’t even need a buyer persona to tell you that, because, nobody wants it.

But do let it inform things like what social media platforms your persona prefers, so you can be there to provide relevant, useful information through that avenue. By conducting research and talking to your current customers, you may find that they never even open their Instagram account, but have LinkedIn running in the background all day long. You can then put the appropriate resources into building your LinkedIn presence instead of just dipping your toe into all social platforms.

It can also inform the places that would be most beneficial to place ads, because they have a higher probability of visiting one website over another, or reading one magazine over another, etc.

2. Create content with a purpose

If you write it, they will come…said no one ever. Producing content for the sake of content will end up frustrating everyone involved. It also won’t give your marketing team a win in your company’s eyes.

On the other hand, having well-developed buyer personas will give you insight into exactly who you are writing to so they are more likely to resonate with your content when they read it. Remember all of those categories you focused on when developing your personas? Well, this is where they can really come into play.

What are your persona’s biggest pain points? You can now create a blog post for each pain point. Include solutions in these posts, particularly how your company can help. Have a new customer? Develop a series of emails to be sent that will help to onboard them and give them tips and tricks for how to be successful using your product or service. Maybe you’re aware of what would make your persona’s life easier.  Create an infographic with 20 things they can do to achieve that goal.

Now let’s take that a step further, remembering that you also know where your target personas spend their time, as we discussed above. Imagine a targeted ad appearing in front of your persona leading them to an article that offers a solution to the exact kinds of problems they’ve been trying to address. This is where you go from just another company pumping out content, to a trusted partner helping them achieve their goals.

3. Build a website that works hard for you

Setting out to build or rebuild your company’s website can seem like an incredibly daunting task. There are countless agencies vying for your business, but clearly they are not all created equal. Not all agencies know how to properly use buyer personas to inform your website development.

A great, effective website will address the motivational drivers of each persona. In some selling situations, personas might be based on role. For example, marketing managers vs. marketing directors vs. business owners, each with different motivations for buying the same product. In another case, you may find personas driven more by attitude than role, ie strategic, financially or technically-driven buyers. The type of design, the images you choose, and your text and calls to action should specifically appeal to your personas.

4. Create the product your buyer wants

Done right, personas will inform more than just your marketing department. An area greatly affected by properly developed personas tis the product development department. Personas provide insights to your development team about who they are selling to, who they are creating for, who they are constantly working to attract and retain as loyal customers.

Just about every product in the world will continue to evolve over time, to become more useful and to stay relevant to its users. The personas you have already created, as well as having built a culture of communication with your customers, can be invaluable as your product development team looks to improve. You are able to provide them with clear wants and needs, as well as feedback on what might not be working or valuable to the user.

This is also a good time to mention that buyer personas not only come from talking to your customers. They are also the ones who didn’t end up buying from you. Their opinions can be some of the most important because you can save countless other prospects from slipping through the same cracks. Again, you can never be all things to all people, so for some it might just not be a good fit. But whether it was a hole in the sales process, or because your product didn’t have a certain critical feature, this type of information can serve your company well.

5. Bring in qualified leads

Speaking of the sales process, buyer personas can easily become your sales team’s best friend by increasing the amount of qualified leads versus unqualified leads coming across their desk.

If your personas are being used to their fullest potential, you might see a scenario like this:

The process of creating the buyer persona has informed product development, now making it the ideal solution for your prospect. You have written an ebook outlining the persistent problems facing the persona and how those problems can easily be solved. After creating and placing a targeted ad on your social platform of choice, your prospect downloads the ebook, resonates with the problem and is excited about the solution.

With all of the information that’s available with just a single click, most people do their research and read reviews ahead of time. They only really want to connect with a salesperson when they are ready to buy. So let’s look at the scenario above. As soon as the prospect decided to download, the power of person-driven marketing automation takes over. It nurtures your lead through the sales funnel, with content that engages, educates, and removes barriers in the buying process. By the time this person gets to a decision point, or talks to a salesperson, they are already informed about who you are and how you can help them. This makes the sales team’s job much easier…finally, marketing and sales REALLY working together!

Conclusion

We’d go so far as to say your marketing strategy should begin, first and foremost, with creating buyer personas and mapping the customer journey, using research and data tools. Buyer personas are all about getting into the minds of your customers, so you can truly understand them and their buying behaviors, and then serve them in the best way possible.

By taking the time to talk to your current or past customers, or those who chose not to become customers, you will be able to develop a strategy across every area of your business that can attract and engage a prospect through their buying decision, and then nurture that customer relationship long into the future.

 

Acris Technology Launches Mortgage VCO, the Mortgage Industry’s First Complete Virtual Office Solution

In: Digital Marketing

Fireworx Digital just completed a full branding, website and collateral development project and launched this innovative new cloud technology company. Here is the press release that went out this morning…

Cloud-delivered software suite allows lenders to slash IT and office expenses and run an entirely paperless mortgage business – including loan processing, customer relationship management (CRM) and integrated telephone communications – in a secure, centrally-managed virtual environment San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) July 14, 2011

Acris Technology, formerly Acris Solutions, a software development company and provider of paperless technology for mortgage bankers and lenders, today unveiled Mortgage VCO, an end-to-end, cloud-based “virtual corporate office” suite of software applications, IT and consulting services that enable any mortgage lender to run a compliant, scalable, paperless mortgage business without the expense and complexity of on-site servers, software, maintenance and upgrades. The announcement was made at the 39th Annual Western Secondary Market Conference in San Francisco.

Developed and refined over a period of 12 years, Mortgage VCO had been in use privately for years by Laguna Hills, California-based Millenia Mortgage to process over $10 billion in funded loans and is now available to mortgage bankers, regional and community banks, credit unions, and other mortgage lenders. Mortgage VCO’s suite of solutions includes cloud-delivered virtual desktops, sophisticated loan origination and processing software, paperless document storage, digital signature technology, IP telephony, and mortgage-specific consulting and IT services. As a virtual, cloud-based office solution, Mortgage VCO drastically reduces lenders’ IT costs so they can focus on what matters: closing more loans in less time. It also removes all geographical boundaries from a lender’s hiring criteria and integrates all communications among all parties – including emails and phone calls – into the mortgage production process, enabling ultimate transparency and accountability within a lender’s operations. Lenders simply need a high-speed Internet connection to run Mortgage VCO.

“The enormity of the changes sweeping through the mortgage industry is having a fundamental effect on how lenders do business,” said Richard Johnston, president of Acris Technology. “If there was ever a time to reinvent the mortgage office, this is it. For the first time, lenders can have one office solution that does everything they need it to do and more – including a completely integrated communications platform that provides total control over leads and call campaigns, and the ability to run an entirely paperless operation. Simply put, Mortgage VCO makes lenders’ lives easier and more productive.”

The Mortgage VCO suite begins with the VCO Desk platform, which delivers a Windows desktop environment to any computer, laptop, thin client, iPad or tablet PC with a high-speed Internet connection. VCO Desk also includes the Microsoft Office® suite and MS Exchange® Server. Any third-party or proprietary software can also be hosted and delivered through VCO Desk’s secure Citrix® environment. Each of the five separate components described below can be added individually or together as part of the integrated suite:

VCO Lend – Loan origination and processing software that lets lenders enjoy increased productivity from their sales and processing teams, get real-time visibility into their operations and staff, reduce errors and ensure complete, compliant loan files. Designed for a compliance-driven marketplace, VCO Lend features highly-advanced task parsing and file queuing technology, custom rules-based workflow management, real-time performance reporting, incentive-based compensation, lead tracking and distribution, and comprehensive secondary marketing tools. VCO Lend allows multiple people to collaborate on the same file at the same time, improving turn times from application to funding. VCO Lend is packed with features yet can be fully customizable to a lender’s unique business needs.

VCO File – An easy-to-use paperless document management and hosted storage solution that integrates seamlessly with VCO Lend and other loan origination systems, VCO File saves time, money, and eliminates the need for on-site servers and file cabinets, enabling instantly-searchable digital file sharing anywhere, anytime.

VCO Sign – A digital electronic signature tool that uses public key encryption to ensure security, turbo-charging a lender’s pre-disclosure and document signing processes.

VCO Link – Provides seamless integration links with a variety of title, escrow, flood, credit, appraisal management, compliance and other settlement service providers – plus the ability to integrate with most pricing or automated underwriting engines.

VCO Voice – Based on IP-PBX technology, VCO Voice integrates call center phone service capabilities into the mortgage production process, with features such as a CRM-driven dialer that provides click-to-dial capabilities directly from a borrower’s file and the ability to have a borrower’s loan file appear on the loan officer’s screen when the borrower calls. Integrated call reporting ensures company-wide accountability and performance monitoring.

Mortgage VCO also provides a full range of integrated IT, technology and managed services, infrastructure support, customer training, and software customization, all tailored specifically to mortgage lenders. Mortgage VCO was originally developed by Millennia Mortgage, which has been processing loans in a paper-free environment since 2003. Acris Technology was founded to market the continually-developing proprietary software technology to the industry.

“It’s important to understand that while Mortgage VCO is new to the market commercially, it is a tried and proven platform that benefited from full-time developers and mortgage banking professionals, working side-by-side for many years – with innovation and process improvement as two of our primary core values,” said Martin Williams, CEO of Acris Technology. “We believe it’s the ultimate complete office solution for mortgage lenders that want to minimize overhead costs and IT complexity, increase efficiency and improve business processes.”

For more on the Mortgage VCO story, visit http://mortgagevco.com/our-story.

About Acris Technology

Founded in 2005 and headquartered in Laguna Hills, California, Acris Technology is a technology provider offering custom software development and a full range of IT services and infrastructure support. Its flagship product, Mortgage VCO, is a virtual corporate office solution that provides all the necessary software and tools to run a completely paperless, cloud-based mortgage office, enabling clients to realize increased productivity, shorter loan life cycle times and reduced expenses. The virtual suite includes loan origination and processing software, paperless electronic document management (EDM), digital e-signature tools, IP telephony, virtual desktops with Microsoft Office® and Outlook®, plus software customization and development services, IT, telephony and Citrix® virtual office consulting. For more information, visit http://www.mortgagevco.com.

Ecommerce Site Launched For World Renown Fishing Tackle and Clothing Company

In: Digital Marketing

Fireworx Digital recently launched a new ecommerce web site for internationally recognized sportswear and fishing tackle company AFTCO Manufacturing, located in Irvine, CA.

For the first time, customers can make direct online purchases from the entire AFTCO fishing clothing line, including fishing shorts, shirts, pants, gloves and more. In addition, the site features a comprehensive catalog of AFTCO’s world famous hardware, including AFTCO roller guides, rod parts, gaffs, fishing harnesses and fishing belts, outrigger clips, Unibutts, and much more. These tackle items are not available for sale online, but each item includes a direct link to a dealer locator for finding retailers in a visitor’s local area.

The site is built on the Searchfit ecommerce platform, a favorite of ours here at Fireworx Digital, based largely on it’s extremely SEO-friendly architecture. Also included are a video blog, a dealer locator database for both clothing and tackle lines, and additional information pages featuring AFTCO’s unique technology that contextually tie back to each product. In addition, the site tells the story of AFTCO’s colorful history, including founder Milton Shedd’s founding of Sea World, and many other major ocean conservation efforts over the last several decades.

The AFTCO.com online store is the third site built for AFTCO Manufacturing. Fireworx previously designed and built online stores for GuyHarveySportswear.com and AlAgnewSportswear.com, two of AFTCO’s licensed product lines. As with the two previously developed sites, AFTCO.com is fully integrated with the company’s ERP software, Full Circle, which enables near real-time, two-way flow of pricing and inventory data between the two systems, as well as providing order and shipping information exclusively through one interface, familiar to employees at AFTCO.

Guy Harvey Sportswear eCommerce Site Launched

In: Digital Marketing

Fireworx Digital just launched a new online store for GuyHarveySportswear.com This innovative line of fish art clothing and accessories with over 7,000 styles and sizes has seen incredible sales growth not only among it’s loyal salt water fishing fans, but also among university students at campuses across the country.

The site was designed with a primary focus on extending and promoting the Guy Harvey brand. It provides one online location where Guy Harvey fans can see the entire line of Guy Harvey clothing items. A dealer locator makes it easy to find retail locations within a given zip code.

Fireworx selected SearchFit as the shopping cart platform for client AFTCO Bluewater, master license holder for Guy Harvey Sportswear, based largely on the fact that it was built from the ground up for maximum search engine optimization. Together with SearchFit, Fireworx was able to deliver a cost-effective, turnkey eCommerce solution for the new consumer direct site. The shopping cart was fully integrated into AFTCO’s existing ERP system, provided by Innovative Systems, LLC.