5 Things That Will Be More Valuable Than Cash to Marketers in 2021

As 2020 has officially come to a close, and as business owners start looking towards the new year, it’s understandable that many are keeping a closer-than-usual eye on their bottom line. The last 12 months have been completely unpredictable, and they have left even established companies in some industries scrambling around for cash.

There is no substitute for money in your business bank account, of course, but most of the entrepreneurs we know aren’t in dire straits. For them, our advice is to look at the bigger picture. We definitely think this is a good time to hold onto your money, but not if it stops you from winning customers or hurts you in the long run.

To help make sense of this advice, here are five things that will be worth more than cash to marketers in the coming year…

1. A Top Three Search Engine Position

When your company’s website is highly visible on Google, it allows you to reach an exponentially higher number of potential customers than your competitors. Then, you can continue generating leads and making sales even if you have to change your products, services, or pricing. Because organic search positioning builds over time, that’s an advantage that’s hard for anyone to take away.

2. A Sterling Online Reputation

Having a strong online reputationin terms of the right reviews and testimonialsis always important. When the economy is uncertain and money is tight, however, people are even more careful about the way they spend and whom they trust. For that reason, having lots of positive online feedback can give all of your sales and marketing efforts a huge boost.

3. A Strong Brand Identity

While brand identity and reputation are similar, they aren’t the same thing. When you have a brand that is well-known within your target market, it amplifies the effects of your ads, emails, and other outreach activities. If customers and prospects know what your business does, and they understand your unique selling proposition already, they will most likely to say “yes” to your offers.

4. An Email List Full of Buyers and Prospects

Email remains the most cost-effective sales and marketing tool around today. With a few clicks of a button you can reach out to hundreds or thousands of buyers at onceprovided you already have a list of subscribers to work with. Finding engaged subscribers who look forward to your messaging is a great way to generate consistent sales and make your business recession-proof.

5. The Right Marketing Advice and Strategy

Is it a little self-serving of us to say good online marketing advice is worth more than what you pay for? Maybe, but it also happens to be true. When you have a team of experienced professionals nudging you in the right direction, it’s easier to get results while avoiding common blunders. This is especially true at a time when many of your competitors are probably scrambling around trying to figure out their next steps.

How COVID-19 Changed Business Forever

It’s easy to say that COVID-19 has changed virtually every aspect of life in the past nine months. However, while some temporary measureslike social distancing, mask-wearing, and avoiding public gatheringswill probably fade away, some other changes will be permanent.

In our business, it’s easy to see how the pandemic emphasized the importance of having a strong website. Even though some entrepreneurs will be anxiously waiting for things to go back to “normal,” we think many of the shifts are irreversible. In other words, all the reasons your website was critically important to your company in 2020 will continue into the future. That’s because we were already moving towards a digital-first business landscape.

As a full-service agency, we deal with everything: print ads, branding, package design, and digital strategies. But this year has been all about online business. The internet has been critically important to marketers for years, of course, but current circumstances have shown what is possible and accelerated a trend that was already in motion.

What does this mean for you and your business going forward? Let’s look at a few things that are already becoming apparent…

Your Website is the Primary Point of Contact for Your Business

In many ways, your website is your most important piece of real estate, your best employee, and your biggest source of referrals all in one. That’s because it can be seen and interacted with by many times more visitors than you, your building, or all of your employees combined. That’s especially true if you’re using search engine optimization and social media to their fullest powers.

When you have a strong website in place it enhances your credibility. It’s easier for people to trust you, and to understand the unique advantages of your products or services. In order to gain these benefits, though, your website has to actually be impressive. It also helps if you can use interactive toolslike online chat and real-time social media feedsto engage visitors from the first moment they arrive.

It’s Not Just about Looks Anymore

Although we are in the “business web design” industry, we recognize that term has become something of a misnomer. That’s because the design (or aesthetics) of a website are no longer the primary or only consideration. What you can do with your pages is just as important as the way they look.

We’ve already mentioned the big benefits that come with using online chat to engage with visitors directly in real-time. What we have also seen this year is that ecommerce plugins, online scheduling tools, and video training modulesto name just a fewcan all make a website more valuable. These kinds of features boost revenue, save money, and make it more convenient for customers to do business with you.

COVID-19 Will Pass but Digital Business is Here to Stay

Speaking of decreased costs and increased revenue, it’s important to remember that bottom-line considerations have been driving business website upgrades for many years. There are a lot of business owners out there who only made changes to their websites out of necessity in 2020. Now that they’ve seen the benefits, though, they won’t be going back.

There aren’t many silver linings to the struggles we have seen in 2020. However, it’s never a bad thing when entrepreneurs and executives can discover lasting ways to find customers or save money. That’s why it’s a safe bet that the “new normal” of relying on business websites is going to be with us even as the pandemic stops being an ongoing concern.

7 New Year’s Resolutions for the Struggling Online Marketer

Do you feel like you aren’t getting the right kinds of results from your online marketing campaigns? Struggling to even get started with search engine optimization, social media, and digital ads? Or, do you feel like you’re always trying to catch up to competitors who get leads and sales from the web while you struggle?

If any of these situations resonate with you, then know you aren’t alone. We talk to dozens of business owners and executives every year who are going through the same things. With a brand-new year right around the corner, this is your chance to set your company on a different and more profitable path.

To help you make that change, here are seven New Year’s resolutions for any struggling online marketer to follow…

1. Review Your Business Website Regularly

Your business website isn’t one of those things you should launch and then forget about. Go through your pages, like a customer would, every month or two to look for problems or spot places where your content could be updated. This could stop your site from getting stale and prevent you from missing big problems (like broken links or missing plugins) that hurt your credibility.

2. Post Something New Every Week

Most business owners and marketing professionals struggle with content creation for the simple reason  like it never becomes a habit. You don’t have to write a long article, design a white paper, or dive into a video series every week. What you could do, though, is adding a few hundred words to your blog, updating your company’s Facebook page, and taking a snap for Instagram. Do that regularly (maybe on a Saturday morning) and you’ll develop habits that will build over time.

3. Get Familiar with Important Web Metrics

It’s almost impossible to make progress with your online marketing plan when you aren’t sure what’s going on with your website. Basic online statistics will tell you how many visitors are coming to your pages, how long they’re staying, and what they are doing when they interact with your site. Once you have a grip on those details you can develop smarter strategies and make better investments.

4. Try Something New Every Quarter

Most business owners (and more than a few web designers) fall into the habit of only working with the tools or techniques they are used to. For example, they might only post to Facebook because that’s what they pay attention to in their personal lives. It’s fine to start with what’s comfortable, but make sure you’re always trying something new to expand your boundaries. Before long you might come across a new source of leads or sales that you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.

5. Build a Brand without Overselling

Your messaging is important. You want to stay on-topic with your blog articles, emails, and social media posts. But, you have to do that without always being in hard-sell mode. Finding the right balance can be tricky. Here is a good rule of thumb to follow: when in doubt, write or speak as if you were explaining something about your business to a colleague. That will stop you from getting too personal, but also keep you from being overbearing with your marketing.

6. Put Your Focus on Consistency

You might have noticed that many of the resolutions we recommend have to do with keeping your efforts and campaigns moving over time. That’s intentional. Success in online marketing doesn’t usually come from an all-at-once effort. Instead, it’s the cumulative effect you get from hundreds of posts, updates, and interactions. Just keep at it and you will make progress.

7. Stop Trying to Do It All on Your Own

Want to know a secret? Even in a web design and digital marketing agency like ours, it’s impossible for one or two people to do everything. There is just too much to look after between content creation, online reputation management, hosting plans, and dozens of other details. You can get help with all of these thingsand a lot more—by working with a team like ours. It will probably cost less than you think and could make a huge difference in your company’s profitability.

Want to Make 2021 Your Best Year Yet?

There is no easier or better way to make your business more profitable than by improving your digital marketing strategy. And, there has never been a better time to get started with web design, search engine optimization, social media marketing, and internet advertising.

5 Low-Cost Ways to Start Planning for a Healthier Economy in 2021

Ecommerce retailers are hard at work trying to make the most of what is certain to be a busy and unique holiday shopping season. But what if your business isn’t dependent on seasonal transactions? Or, what if your company is in a holding pattern due to current economic conditions? How can you prepare for the coming recovery and turnaround?

Believe it or not, this can be a great time for business owners and executives who aren’t currently bringing in as much revenue as they might like. We know that for the short term it is painful, but we’ve also been working with some of our clients to prepare for brighter times ahead. 

Contrary to what a lot of businesspeople think, finding success online isn’t just about spending all of your time and money on internet marketing. Instead, it’s largely a matter of planting small seeds (through consistent effort) and watching them grow over time. It’s the men and women who can think aheadespecially when times are tough—who come out on top.

If history is any guide, a stronger economy is right around the corner. Let’s look at what you can do for little or no expense today to prepare for a healthier market in 2021 and beyond…

1. Tighten Up Your SEO Efforts

A lot of marketers will tell you that they’ve “always meant” to take search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing seriously, but never really had the time. Well, if 2020 has given us anything, it’s a bit of extra space on our schedules. If you aren’t being overwhelmed in other parts of your business, this might be your chance to finally catch up.

This is a great occasion to examine your search strategy. Are you targeting the right terms, keywords, and buyer personas? Is the content you are producing engaging to customers? Have you been getting lots of search traffic, or are you constantly falling behind your competitors?

It doesn’t take a lot of hours to generate an editorial calendar, post some new material to your blog, or have your website audited. Any of these activities can help set you up for bigger success next year. 

2. Develop an Organic Social Media Following

As with search engine optimization, social media marketing is one of those disciplines where business owners and executives are constantly looking for shortcuts and quick fixes. Everyone wants to have tens of thousands of qualified buyers following them on Facebook and Twitter, but you can’t buy that kind of engagement or get it by tweeting the occasional picture of your dog. 

Social media marketing takes a bit of effort and activity, but that’s why this is the perfect time to start taking it seriously. Optimize your profiles, update your contact information, and get familiar with tools that let you schedule your content in advance. Do all of that now, and you’ll have an easier time keeping up with your social activity in just a few minutes a day.

Building an organic social user following is like running a marathon, it takes time. If you get started now while things are slow, you’ll build the kind of following that pays off when the economy is turning around.

3. Follow a Smarter Email Marketing Strategy

You can use email to spread news to your subscribers, generate instant purchases, and stay on the top of buyers’ minds… all while bypassing your competitors. Or, you can annoy the people on your list and waste everyone’s time without generating any revenue.

Most marketers fail at using email lists effectively for a number of reasons. They stop attracting fresh subscriptions, fail to format their emails correctly for easy loading and mobile compatibility, don’t send relevant info, and mismanage their sending schedules. Even if you’ve made these mistakes in the past, you don’t have to keep repeating them now.

Take advantage of the lull in your business to start segmenting your email lists and develop a schedule that you’ll be able to stick to for the next year. Think about how you can grow your subscriber list and turn it into a source of new leads and sales. It might take a bit of work and planning, but this is an activity that will pay off in a big way later.

4. Improve Your Online Reputation

Improving your online reputation is the business equivalent of getting more sleep. It might not seem crucial until you realize it affects everything else you do throughout the course of a month or year.

When potential buyers hear about your business, they will almost invariably look you up online before setting an appointment or making a purchase. You want them to find positive reviews, powerful testimonials, and stories of the good experiences other customers have had with your company. What you don’t want them to see are complaints, unaddressed issues, or even fake pieces of feedback posted by your competitors.

To establish a strong online reputation, and be able to monitor it, is one of the fastest and most affordable ways to boost your marketing campaigns. This is the perfect time to start looking at what’s been posted about your business on the internet.

5. Get to Know Your Web Analytics

Ultimately, web analytics will tell you almost everything you need to know about the current state of your business and where it’s headed in the future. With the right perspective, you can see where new customers are coming from, what they like, and why they choose to do business with you instead of a competitor.

Of course, if you’ve never installed web analytics on your site, then you are in the dark when it comes to these insights. Even though there are plenty of free options out there, we regularly meet with business owners and executives who have no idea what their numbers look like, or which direction they are headed in. We don’t want you to make the same mistake.

It won’t cost you anything to get good analytics data for your website, and it only takes a little bit of time to start generating custom reports that can give you a lot of important details. Don’t let your business stop growing simply because you haven’t seen the numbers being generated by user visits.

Want to Put Your Business in Position to Fly Next Year?

For a lot of business owners and executives, 2020 has been a difficult year. However, these tough times have given them an opportunity to regroup and be more profitable in the future. If you want to be one of the entrepreneurs who comes out stronger for the experience of the last few months, this is your chance to start planning and preparing.

7 Ways to Deal with Online Competitors and Their Dirty Tricks

In most business books and classes, competitors are treated like an abstract concept. They are in the background, like gravity, but don’t really affect you except as a thought exercise. In that context, the way to deal with them is simple: just do what you do better than anyone else and let customers figure out that you offer more value on their own.

As most of us know, the real world doesn’t really work like that. You do have to concentrate on your own business, but your competitors are anything but abstract. They are people just like you. In fact, in some cases they are petty, unethical, and downright dishonest.

That brings us to a question that’s rarely ever addressed directly enough: how do you deal with the dirty tricks they play? What should you do to fight back when they try to run ads using your brand names, put up websites that look like your own, or try to copy your products? What are your options when they post fake online reviews, try to steal your content, or market their products or services with lies?

In today’s post we are going to give you the answers. But first, a quick warning: don’t try to fight bad behavior with more bad behavior. While it might not always seem like it, those who perpetrate online lies and scams usually get caught. And once they do, they can face severe consequences, ranging from legal challenges to blacklists from search engines and social platforms. Your competitor might be willing to risk the future of their business, but that doesn’t mean you should put yours in jeopardy.

With that little bit of fine print out of the way, let’s look at seven ways you can deal with dishonest online competitors and their dirty tricks…

1. Run Defensive PPC Ads

Suppose you have industry-leading products and services, or just draw a lot of traffic to your website. Your competitors might take an approach that could be summed up as “if you can’t be them, imitate them.” That usually involves running search and social ads based on branded terms or product names that are normally associated with your company. In other words, they try to steal web traffic that’s meant for your website.

An easy way around this is to simply run your own ads for the same terms or branded search phrases. You might not prefer to spend money on search traffic that was meant for you anyway, and that’s understandable. However, you’ll end up getting most of those visits at a very low price (usually pennies per click). And in the process, you’ll deprive your competitor of that web traffic while also driving up their pay-per-click budget at the same time.

2. Lock Up the Right Domains

A similar tactic some dishonest competitors will use is to direct searchers towards a website that looks like it’s owned by your company. Usually they’ll be savvy enough to employ a variation that’s just different enough from yours to avoid any legal liability. Again, the goal is to siphon traffic away from your website and towards their copycat pages.

If you have a very popular company, it’s worth taking the time to snap up a handful of related domains. As with running ads on your own branded search terms, this can be annoying but it’s ultimately going to be inexpensive.

Not sure which domains you should reserve to play defense against your competitors? Get together with your web design team to evaluate search in traffic patterns, along with your most important keywords or brand names. Then you can come up with a list of the most obvious targets and lock them up before your competitors can.

3. Monitor Your Online Reviews

One particularly nasty tactic some desperate competitors will use involves hiring people to post negative reviews of your business. The theory in this case is that if they can’t beat you on price, service, or value, they can at least make you look worse in the eyes of potential customers who might not know better.

This is an area where a little preparation goes a long way. For a few dollars a month you can have your web development team deploy reputation management software that will keep you informed any time someone leaves feedback about your business. If lots of false and negative reviews show up at once, you’ll be alerted before they can do any damage, and as an added bonus you can use the same tools to improve your reputation online with legitimate reviews, boosting your sales in the process.

4. Protect Your Content

There are lots of scams related to web content, but a competitor who is jealous of your success may simply use it as their own. Unfortunately, this is something that’s common enough for us to have seen dozens of times.

Protecting yourself from this kind of theft is pretty simple. There are software tools (like Copyscape) that will scour the web and let you know if someone has posted your copy-written material. If you find that has happened, you can contact the company hosting the offending website and have them remove the pages right away. Google and the other search engines will also take action against blatant content duplication or scraping. However, you have to monitor the web and be aware of the problem before you can do anything about it.

5. Post Comparison Product Reviews

Sometimes, the problem with competitors is that they try to pass their products or services off as better, using false or misleading information. If you come across minor exaggerations, you might not care enough to address them. If you feel like they’ve shared something inaccurate that’s going to hurt sales, though, you might decide to take the issue head-on.

The easiest way to do that is to simply post a side-by-side comparison video or product review. Just put what you have to offer up against the competition and point out the differences in a clear and accurate way. This type of content tends to attract plenty of views and can be easy for buyers to understand. 

Just be sure that you are sharing your facts, comparisons, and assessments. Being untruthful or overboard doesn’t help you. In fact, it just makes it harder for customers to separate you from others who are being unethical with their marketing.

6. Get Customers to Tell the Story

Even if you are completely honest and straightforward in your marketing, it can be hard to get buyers to pay attention. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem: because your competitors lie, it’s difficult for buyers to trust you. And because they don’t trust you, they can’t see the value in what you are offering.

To get around this stumbling block, you just have to let your satisfied customers do the talking for you. People might not believe marketers, but they do believe impartial reviewers who look and act like themselves. So, if you have testimonials from customers who faced the same problems that the rest of your target market is dealing with, get them to share their experiences.

The caveat here is to make sure your reviewers are uncompensated, specific about the benefits they received, and are easy to verify. Do that, and their kind words will do more to boost your sales than any kind of marketing content ever could.

7. Just Keep Leading the Pack

You knew this piece of advice was coming, didn’t you? As frustrating as it might be, the best way to deal with an unethical competitor is usually to ignore them and do your own thing. They might be getting under your skin, but they probably aren’t making a very big dent in your bottom line.

Think about it this way: when someone tries to imitate your products, your content, or some other aspect of your messaging, they are basically admitting that your business is better than theirs. They’re pointing out that you have the real thing and they are a pretender.

Naturally, we don’t want you to ignore serious copyright violations or let a competitor steal money from your pocket. When in doubt, though, your best bet is to work on your own business, continue racking up those positive reviews, and watch your reputation (and profitability) just keep growing.

Are You Getting the Right Kind of Online Marketing Advice?

Having the right information and strategy has always been key to finding customersand surpassing your competitors—on the internet. Now, with the changes and disruptions we are facing in 2020, it’s more important than ever to have a winning plan.

How to Prepare Your Ecommerce Site for an Unusual 2020 Holiday Shopping Season

In a normal year, this would be the point on the calendar where we would be speaking to our clients about changes, additions, and improvements to their online stores. After all, nearly half of all ecommerce sales are made through the holiday season.

Of course, this is anything but a normal year, and as a consequence, many business owners are scrambling for answers and directions.

If you’re like most of the people we talk to, you’re wondering whether you should be playing offense or defense. You’re looking to save money due to an uncertain economy and take advantage of the marketing opportunities that are just around the corner. How can you walk this tightrope and make smart decisions for 2020?

To help you maximize your profitability this Fall, here are seven tips we think you should follow…

1. Pay Attention to Your Website Audit

Typically, we would begin helping our clients to prepare for the holiday shopping season by auditing their existing website and online store. This involves taking a deep dive into their HTML to look for coding errors, security vulnerabilities, search engine visibility, and technical issues like broken links.

That’s an important starting point in any environment, but especially in the economy we are currently facing. You can’t afford to let simple unseen errors affect your ability to attract customers or engage with them. So, order a website audit today and take the time to go over the results with your web design partner.

2. Upgrade Your Shopping Cart for Upsells

The prevailing wisdom in the world of ecommerce is that customers might be a little more jittery than usual this fall. That means you have to maximize the value of every visit and sale. One good way to do that is by generating upsell opportunities with special offers that appear at the time of checkout.

These kinds of last-minute add-ons and combinations are easy for buyers to say yes to, but they require more than an entry-level shopping cart solution. Why not look at the tools installed in your online store and see if a few simple improvements could help you double your sales volume in the coming months?

3. Develop a Smart PPC Strategy

Should you be increasing your pay-per-click advertising (PPC) budget to attract more buyers in a choppy economy, or pulling back to save money? The best answer might be “both.”

Look into the history of your PPC campaigns to see if there are clear trends. You certainly don’t want to pull back on your profitable ads, particularly if they are still working in 2020. At the same time, though, you may consider cutting off marginal or speculative ads for a while. In other words, focus on your winners and cut off any ads that aren’t performing for the next few months.

4. Lean into Retargeting Ads

Although we’ve already mentioned PPC strategies, retargeting ads deserves special mention. Since maximizing value per customer (VPC) is likely to be your top priority for the 2020 shopping season, you want to convert as many high-dollar sales as possible. That means giving buyers second and third chances with retargeting.

You don’t want to go crazy and blow through your marketing budget, of course, but consider throwing additional dollars at potential buyers who are looking into your most profitable products. You may be able to turn more of those exposures into sales and lower your ad costs, particularly if you follow the advice given in the last tip.

5. Use Targeted Content to Your Advantage

It’s easy to forget that free content is often more effective than ads when it comes to drawing in traffic and generating conversions. That’s especially true when you plan ahead.

In recent years, our clients have done particularly well by publishing buying guides, online video demonstrations, and customer testimonials. These all reassure visitors that they are making good decisions and will be happy with their purchases. In other words, they reduce the sense of fear that so many customers feel when it comes to checking out, particularly if they aren’t familiar with your products. Why not use these pieces of content to make your store more profitable this Fall?

6. Build Adaptability into Your Online Marketing Plan

No one can really say with any certainty what the next few months will be like. The best any of us can do is to make good plans, search for opportunities to get ahead, and then stay adaptable.

There are a lot of ways you can be flexible with your holiday season ecommerce strategy. You can build two or three sets of promotions and then let week-two-week analytics guide your strategy. You could prepare various ads, landing pages, and email blasts for different scenarios. You could even activate or hide certain parts of your online store, changing prices and promotions on the fly. The more uncertain you feel about the Fall season, the more contingency plans you should have in place.

7. Start Planning Today

It’s possible that our most important piece of advice is to simply get started on your Fall strategy today if you haven’t already. We advise our clients and readers to get an early jump on ecommerce preparations every year, but in 2020 it’s even more crucial.

Savvy business owners and executives are already following the advice we’ve laid out in this article, knowing that they may have to adjust their plans and ideas as they go. That’s going to be almost impossible if you wait until the last minute. It’s much better to spend a few hours putting together an email, social, or ad campaign that you won’t need than it is to find yourself scrambling to create one when you’re desperate to generate online sales.

Need Expert Help with Your Ecommerce Strategy?

It’s never easy to make good online marketing decisions on your own, and the current economic environment hasn’t helped anything. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert in web design, search engine optimization, or pay-per-click advertising to maximize the sales from your ecommerce site. You just have to have a team of experts who are willing to learn about your business and give you the right advice.

How Closely Should You Copy a Competitor’s Website?

Judging by the phone calls and in-person meetings we sit through, there is a certain level of ice cold dread that comes with finding out a close competitor has launched a new website. It’s not hard to understand why. Who would enjoy the thought of another company having a powerful tool to steal their customers?

Because things like income and prestige are squarely on the line, many business owners and executives will want to take immediate action when a competitor steps up to the plate. Specifically, they’ll inquire about copying certain parts of another website they have seen and liked. But is this a good idea?

Before we answer this question, let us point out that you’re always going to have competitors and it’s easy to over-react. When you see something new or interesting in your industry, try to look at it the way a customer would. Is the other company doing something valuable, or just vaguely interesting?

Once you have that mindset in place, you’re ready to come back to the original question: how closely should you copy a competitor’s website? To help you find the right answer, let’s go through a quick series of ideas…

Figure Out What You Like

Often, when a business owner tells us they “really liked” a competitor’s website, it turns out they actually appreciate a single feature or design point. This is important because you shouldn’t go and duplicate big parts of a strategy when you are actually enamored with a small part of it. It can be difficult to separate the various elements when you’re first looking at them, so break the website down into pieces and try to identify specific traits that you find engaging.

Separate Features from Gimmicks

Remember, the goal is to think like a customer. Often, the things we see on competitors’ websites seem fascinating to us as marketers but deliver very little in terms of payoff for customers. It’s important to be able to separate what is shiny from what is useful. Otherwise you could end up adding things to your website that get in the way of your success rather than adding to it.

Find Out What’s Feasible and Profitable

Suppose you determine there are elements of your competitor’s website that you really are fond of, and feel like your best customers would be impressed with. The next step is to find out whether you can add them to your own site legally, feasibly, and profitably. You certainly can’t copy word for word, but you might be able to add your own version of an app or a downloadable report. Talk to your web design team and figure out what makes sense in the context of your existing site or a redesigned page.

Put Your Own Spin and Improvement on the Idea

Rather than just copying something your competitors have done, why not take the next stepone most business owners and executives missand see if you can improve on the idea? Look for ways to put the unique spend on what your competitors have done or make it more engaging and valuable. Often this kind of brainstorming leads to groundbreaking innovations.

Get More Proactive about Web Design

Finally, regardless of whether you institute some version of your competitor’s idea or not, don’t settle for simply following their lead. Sit down with your web design team and internal staff and see if there are more ideas you can come up with that go beyond what is currently available in the market. Look for ways to give extra value to your customer base. The more often you do this the easier it will become to have the competition following you instead of needing to worry about catching up to them.

Ready to Start Leading the Pack in Your Market?

Far too many business owners feel as if they are simply following the herd online rather than leading the pack. If you want to have a website that gets your competitors worried about what they should be doinginstead of the other way aroundthen it’s time to get serious about thinking outside the box.

Effectively Marketing to Your Company’s Advantage

At The Marcom Group, we often meet business owners who have tried marketing their company on their own but never quite achieved the results they wanted. Maybe branding and marketing your business has taken a backseat to your daily operations. You want more business and more traffic to your website, but you’re not quite sure how to accomplish that. Working with a professional, full-service advertising agency like The Marcom Group can provide you with the guidance and resources you need to more effectively market to your target demographic. 

The Marcom Group: Your Marketing Partner 

Many businesses owners don’t realize just how important marketing is from the outset. They may use cookie-cutter services to create their website and other marketing materials—but these templated services are limited in how much they can personalize to your business. Do-it-yourself programs can only offer so many functions—but with The Marcom Group, your options are nearly limitless. From your website to your logo to your social media advertising, our team can help you create a cohesive brand that will be a lot more effective at bringing your business to the next level. 

When companies use professional marketing materials, it can make a big difference in how potential customers perceive them. Done properly, a custom-designed business card, logo, and website can show that you are an authority in your industry. People will be more likely to trust you than someone who has put little effort into building their brand. Our staff consists of talented graphic designers, web developers, copywriters, and digital marketing strategists. Each member of the team specializes in their area, providing our customers with a level of customer service and professional expertise that they just can’t get with ready-made programs. We pride ourselves on being able to offer a variety of creative solutions for each individual company’s requirements. 

When we meet with a new client, we ask them to think beyond their immediate needs to consider their long-term goals. This often includes utilizing social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to improve their web presence and more effectively reach their target demographic. Social media is an important component of any marketing strategy, but many business owners don’t have the time to keep up with their accounts. Our team can work with you to create the SEO-enhanced content you want customers to see, post it across your accounts, and boost the posts to reach the right customers. 

We Take a Holistic Approach to Your Branding

New businesses may not have a huge marketing budget, which can make them wary of seeking out professional help. However, The Marcom Group partners with each client to maximize their marketing budget no matter how large or how small it may be. We offer a diverse range of services customized to your business. We use a holistic approach to consider all aspects of a client’s brand, from their brochures and trade show displays to their website and social media posts. This provides for more cohesive branding across all mediums, which helps to improve your corporate identity.  

Many of our clients are concerned with ranking high in online search results. This is important to earning more business from people who are searching for a particular keyword or phrase related to your industry. After all, people are more likely to select a business on the first page of their Google search than one that’s several pages in. However, you must have the right SEO plan in place to get that kind of result. For the best SEO rankings, your website must be secure, fast to load, and easy to navigate. It should also be regularly updated with high-quality content using a variety of mediums, such as photographs, videos, blog posts, and other interactive tools. We utilize the latest SEO strategies, including Google Ads, to improve rankings for our clients. From regularly updating plug-ins and checking security features to posting blogs and other content, we can manage all aspects of your website to optimize it for PCs and mobile devices. 

A business’s online reputation is paramount to their success, so we also encourage our clients to reach out to their customers to post Google reviews. This increases your online presence via a platform that more and more people are relying on every day. Replying to negative reviews can also demonstrate that you care about customer experiences. We make providing this level of customer service easy through automated responses that help you reach customers more quickly, saving you time while also showing prospective customers that you’re responsive to their concerns.

ADA Compliance for Websites

The Supreme Court recently shined a light on ADA compliance for online businesses by refusing to hear a case that had previously ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guarantees disabled individuals the right to access not only businesses but also their websites and web-based applications. 

The initial suit was brought against Dominos by Guillermo Robles, a blind man who was unable to order a pizza on the pizza chain’s website because it didn’t have the capability to accommodate him. He claimed this violated the ADA, which states that anyone with a disability should have full access to the goods and services “of any place of public accommodations.” While Dominos argued that this law only applied to physical locations, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it also included the online services offered by the business. 

This ruling could open the door to many other lawsuits against retailers who fail to make their websites accessible. The Supreme Court’s action implies that they are likely to apply ADA standards to web-based services in the future, leaving many business owners concerned about their ADA compliance. 

What to Know about ADA Compliance

Making your website ADA compliant is a smart business move that will not only protect your company but also help you reach more individuals with disabilities who may be interested in your services. Here are some key things you should know about ADA compliance:

  • The ADA extends to Tier I and Tier III organizations. Tier I is any business that is open at least 20 weeks out of the year with at least 15 employees. A Tier III organization applies to the “public accommodation” category, which includes businesses like grocery stores, banks, hospitals, and retailers. 
  • The ADA doesn’t have specific guidelines for websites, but the Supreme Court’s actions suggest that they should have the same level of accessibility as a brick-and-mortar location. This means using various website programming techniques to ensure a website is functional for individuals with disabilities.  
  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) is the industry standard for web developers. It consists of guidelines and techniques to ensure websites are perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. These guidelines are broken up into three levels to conform to varying degrees of disability.
    • Level A: This is the lowest level of accessibility. It focuses on ways to improve navigation and translation for readers. 
    • Level AA: This level does more to account for multiple disabilities, including providing developers with direction on color contrast and identifying errors. It’s more in line with what has been considered acceptable in past court cases involving ADA compliance.
    • Level AAA: At this level, a website is designed to be accessible to the broadest range of individuals with disabilities using a combination of programming tools and elements.

4 Things Customers Want from You When the Economy Reopens

While the coronavirus pandemic is still unfolding in many ways, business owners are being confronted with new challenges and decisions as we move forward. 

In some states, the economic reopening process has already begun. In others, official start dates are still weeks away. But, regardless of where you work and live, you’re probably thinking about what you can do to hit the ground running when customers start to return in bigger numbers.

The best ideas and practices are going to vary from one industry or situation to the next, but it’s always a good idea to start by thinking of things from your customers’ point of view. With that in mind, let’s look at four things buyers are going to want from you when the economy reopens…

1. Clear Updates about Your Businesses’ Availability

As we’ve already seen in some areas, “open for business” can be a guideline rather than a practice. In other words, some companies are opening, while others are choosing to remain closed. For that reason, it’s crucial that you communicate to your customers what your policies and availability will look like. Let them know if they can take advantage of your products or services as your state reopens. And if they can’t, let them know when they can expect to see you in the future.

2. Information about Availability and Fulfillment

In the same way, being open doesn’t necessarily translate into “business as usual.” It may be that you are able to operate in an altered or limited capacity, or that some regular products or services aren’t available because of disruptions to your supply chain. Be clearon your website, and emails, and through your social accountsabout what you can and can’t provide in the coming weeks. That will save yourself, your team, and your customers from disruptions.

3. Safety Guidelines and Risk Management Procedures

In industries where person-to-person contact is the norm, you might want to communicate to buyers how your policies have changed in light of the continued coronavirus threat. If you’re taking extra precautions, or practicing social distancing measures, highlight those steps in your communications. Doing so will let buyers know what they can expect when they visit you or meet with a member of your team. It might even increase sales if it can help you draw in customers who would otherwise stay away.

4. Marketing That Speaks to Customer Needs

In many cases, business owners are going to find that what customers wanted from them a couple of months ago isn’t necessarily relevant today. Lots of people don’t have as much money to spend as they did at the start of the year, or they have different needs because of changes to their own businesses or careers. Recognize that and emphasize products or services in your marketing that speak to immediate concerns. You’ll know when things are back to normal, but most of your customer base probably isn’t there yet.