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6 ways your blog design might be turning off customers

(Business Marketing) In the arena of content marketing, fewer titans loom larger than the company blog. With engaging, informative, and timely blogs, businesses can establish themselves as thought leaders and provide a valuable resource.

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blog design

Don’t lose biz because of your blog design

In the arena of content marketing, fewer titans loom larger than the company blog. With engaging, informative, and timely blogs, businesses can establish themselves as thought leaders and provide a valuable resource to their customers and attract significant traffic to their websites.

While quality writing is crucial, another component of an effective blog is its visual content. According to GetResponse blogger Sara-Ruth Wolkiewicz, any company should be able to create a visually compelling blog with the use of one or more free tools.

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Whether your firm invests in an elite designer and development team to construct the best blog money can buy, or a few savvy inside personnel team up to create something clean and navigable, visual appeal is vital.

Unfortunately, many companies make grave errors when it comes to visual design. Their sites are not just irritating to the customer’s eye, but bad enough to turn readers away completely.

Take a look at some of the primary mistakes companies have made while blogging, if you want to preserve your readership.

Common design pitfalls of company blogs are outlined below:

1. Generic stock photography.

Customers perceive stock photography as a cheap trick. When a business does not take the time or have the means to create honest and real images for its website blog, it gives the impression that the company is careless.

Perhaps visitors wonder whether the company is worried about how proprietary images would look. Would the business seem less professional and savvy if you saw it in its real light?

Stock photography also does not necessarily convey the purpose or meaning of the blog content. It can make the content seem thrown together or unnecessarily misleading.

2. A lack of images.

In addition to the gaffe above, some companies publish all their blog communications without any images. Websites that lack visual richness often suffer the worst bounce ratings.

To combat this problem, hire a professional photographer to take fabulous photos of your facility, products, services in action, or anything else that represents what you do well. Release them gradually, with new posts, to get the most out of your investment.

If this is not workable, take your own photos! Customers forgive an amateur photo as long as it is appropriate, clear, the right size, and loads quickly.

3. Inconsistent or unattractive color schemes.

This can be serious. Inconsistency causes customers to recall a valuable tidbit they read in your blog and wonder where they read it.

If the answer doesn’t come to them, they may scour your competitor’s website in search of this useful information. If you keep your look consistent, customers are better able to remember your stellar content from its familiar, trusted source.

An unattractive color scheme can drive potential customers away from your website. While attractiveness is somewhat subjective, some color combinations are almost universally repellent, including those that are scathingly bright or conversely dim and overcast, or those which are unreadable.

4. Inappropriate or difficult-to-read fonts.

Color is not the only cause of accelerating bounce rates. Illegible fonts account for a great deal of customer exits.

As web users evolve, there has been a greater upsurge of interest in clean, thin-yet-wide fonts such as Century Gothic and Arial. Serif fonts such as Times New Roman are still acceptable for more traditional content.

Promotional images and headlines can have a curlier, bold, or script-like font, but readability is still paramount. Customers can often be put off by fonts that do not seem appropriate, such as overly curly, feminine fonts for a truck rally or bulky, jagged fonts for a wedding expo.

Stereotypes aside, Google doesn’t play well with unacceptable fonts either, and SEO rankings defer to websites with cleaner blogs.

5. Lack of responsive design.

Look around you. Everyone at the coffee shop, in the store, on the sidewalk, and even in their cars is operating a mobile device.

Gone are the days when people spent more of their hours — as much as 16 hours a day — sitting at a laptop. Desktop computers with their separate tower and monitor are even more antiquated.

So it should be intuitive that company blogs and websites as a whole should be designed to be responsive to mobile browsers, right? Unfortunately that does not appear to be the case: Many companies’ sites are still inaccessible, mangled, or partial in mobile view.

Customers who come across your blog on mobile and find that it doesn’t automatically suit their screen will simply not take the time to minimize, maximize, or otherwise bend to your layout. Responsive design is important for all aspects of web content in 2014.

6. Slow loading.

This is absolutely unacceptable to customers. If your images and videos — or worse, your entire content panel — load slowly or partially as a result of a poorly optimized website structure, customers will flee. Guaranteed.

The current generation of web users, which now includes your grandmother and mine, doesn’t have the time or patience of the dialup generation. We will not wait to see your carefully chosen image, and we will not stream your embedded video and wait for it to load the remainder halfway through. A great developer can handle optimization to make everything run faster and more efficiently.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Business Marketing

No-reply emails don’t help customers, they’ve run their course

(MARKETING) No-reply emails may serve a company well, but the customers can become frustrated with the loss of a quick and easy way to get help.

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no-reply mail boxes

Let me tell you a modern-day horror story.

You finally decide to purchase the item that’s been sitting in your cart all week, but when you receive your confirmation email you realize there’s a mistake on the order. Maybe you ordered the wrong size item, maybe your old address is listed as the shipping location, or maybe you just have buyer’s remorse. Either way, you’ve got to contact customer service.

Your next mission is to find contact information or a support line where you can get the issue resolved. You scroll to the bottom of the email and look around for a place to contact the company, but all you find is some copyright junk and an unsubscribe option. Tempting, but it won’t solve your problem. Your last hope is to reply to the confirmation email, so you hit that trusty reply arrow and…nothing. It’s a no-reply email. Cue the high-pitched screams.

Customers should not have to sort through your website and emails with a microscope to find contact information or a customer service line. With high customer expectations and fierce ecommerce competition, business owners can’t afford to use no-reply emails anymore.

Intended or not, no-reply emails send your customer the message that you really don’t want to hear from them. In an age when you can DM major airlines on Twitter and expect a response, this is just not going to fly anymore.

Fixing this issue doesn’t need to be a huge burden on your company. A simple solution is to create a persona for your email marketing or customer service emails, it could be member of your team or even a company mascot. Rather than using noreply@company.com you can use john@company.com and make that email a place where your email list can respond to questions and communicate concerns. Remember, the whole point of email marketing is to create a conversation with your customers.

Another great strategy for avoiding a million customer service emails where you don’t want them? Include customer service contact info in your emails. Place a thoughtful message near the bottom of your template letting people know where they can go if they’re having an issue with the product or service. This simple change will save you, your customers, and your team so much time in the long-run.

Your goal as a business owner is to build a trusting relationship between you and your customers, so leave the no reply emails behind. They’re annoying and they might even get you marked as spam.

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Business Marketing

Influencer marketing isn’t new, it’s actually centuries old

(MARKETING) You may roll your eyes at sexy strangers hawking snake oil on social media, but influencer marketing is nothing new…

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Influencer marketing people taking video on a smart phone to record dances.

Influencer marketing is now one of those buzzword phrases that you can’t go a few days without hearing. In fact, it’s become such a popular term that it was officially added to the English Dictionary in 2019.

While this is a recent change, the concept of an influencer is nothing new. For years, people have looked to friends and family (as well as high-profile people like celebrities) to be influenced (intentionally or unintentionally) about what to buy, what to do, and where to go.

Social Media Today notes that influencers date back centuries.

One of the first “influencer” collaborations dates back to 1760, when a potter by the name Wedgwood made a tea set for the Queen of England,” writes Brooks. “Since the monarchy were the influencers of their time, his forward-thinking decision to market his brand as Royal-approved afforded it the luxury status the brand still enjoys today”

Now, influencers are known as people blowing up your Instagram feed with recommendations of what to wear and stomach flattening teas to buy. Influencers are basically anyone who has the ability to cultivate a following and, from there, give advice on how followers should spend their money.

After the 1760 tea set influencer, influencers were found in the forms of fashion icons (like Coco Chanel in the 1920s, and Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s), celebrity endorsements (for example, all of the money Nike made in the ‘80s after signing Michael Jordan to be their spokesperson – I wonder if Hanes is raking in the same bucks as Nike…), TV stars endorsing products (like Jennifer Aniston when she was at the height of “The Rachel” cut and became the face of L’Oreal Elvive; now she’s the face of Aveeno).

Then in the mid-2000s, blogs became a space where “everyday” people could use their voice with influence. This trend has continued and has shifted into social media, usually with a blog counterpart.

Now, blogging and influencing is an industry in and of itself with influencer marketing being a key form of comms. According to the HypeAuditor report, the influencer industry will be worth $22 billion by 2025. Where can I sign up?

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Business Marketing

The use of offline marketing can still be advantageous in a digital world

(BUSINESS) Offline marketing is usually skipped over nowadays for the sparkly, shining ‘digital’ marketing strategies, but don’t forget the roots.

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offline marketing billboard

Everywhere you look, people want to talk about digital marketing. In fact, if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy in today’s business world, you’re not going to last long. But just because digital marketing is popular, don’t assume that offline marketing no longer yields value.

When used together, these strategies can produce significant returns.

“Some people will argue that traditional marketing is dead, but there are several benefits to including offline advertising in your overall marketing campaign,” sales expert Larry Myler admits. “Combining both offline and online campaigns can help boost your brand’s visibility, and help it stand out amongst competitors who may be busy flooding the digital space.”

How do you use offline marketing in a manner that’s both cost-effective and high in exposure? While your business will dictate how you should proceed, here are a few offline marketing methods that still return considerable value in today’s marketplace.

1. Yard signs

When most people think about yard signs, their minds immediately go to political signs that you see posted everywhere during campaign season. However, yard signs have a lot more utility and value beyond campaigning. They’re actually an extremely cost-effective form of offline advertising.

The great thing about yard signs is that you can print your own custom designs for just dollars and, when properly stored, they last for years. They’re also free to place, assuming you have access to property where it’s legal to advertise. This makes them a practical addition to a low-budget marketing campaign.

2. Billboards

The fact that you notice billboards when driving down an interstate or highway is a testament to the reality that other people are also being exposed to these valuable advertisements. If you’ve never considered implementing billboards into your marketing strategy, now’s a good time to think about it.

With billboard advertising, you have to be really careful with design, structure, and execution. “Considering we’re on the move when we read billboards, we don’t have a lot of time to take them in. Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard,” copywriter Paul Suggett explains. “So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.”

3. Promotional giveaways

It’s the tangible nature of physical marketing that makes it so valuable. Yard signs and billboards are great, but make sure you’re also taking advantage of promotional giveaways as a way of getting something into the hands of your customers.

Promotional giveaways, no matter how simple, generally produce a healthy return on investment. They increase brand awareness and recall, while giving customers positive associations with your brand. (Who doesn’t love getting something for free?)

4. Local event sponsorships

One aspect of offline marketing businesses frequently forget about is local event sponsorships. These sponsorships are usually cost-effective and tend to offer great returns in terms of audience engagement.

Local event sponsorships can usually be found simply by checking the calendar of events in your city. Any time there’s a public event, farmer’s market, parade, sporting event, concert, or fundraiser, there’s an opportunity for you to get your name out there. Look for events where you feel like your target audience is most likely to attend.

Offline marketing is anything but dead.

If your goal is to stand out in a crowded marketplace where all your competitors are investing heavily in social media, SEO, PPC advertising, and blogging, then it’s certainly worth supplementing your existing digital strategy with traditional offline marketing methods that reach your audience at multiple touchpoints.

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