3 Design Tips for Your Website

So, you’re moving forward with your dream and are this close to developing a website! You’ve got the functionality down and are trying to figure out what details will really get your users to engage with your site. Below, I’ve listed three important principles that I learned from Lidwell’s “Universal Principle’s of Design“. Note that Lidwell outlines 125 in total and these are just three of my favorites!

Aesthetic Usability Effect – The AU effect claims that designs that are aesthetic or pleasing to eye are assumed to be easier to use than less aesthetic designs. In other words, users are more likely to think your site is usable if your layout is attractive. And if you don’t think this is important, tell me when was the last time you were eager to spend your money on the site that you perceived to be hard to use?

Flexibility Usability Effect – The FU effect claims that as the flexibility of a system increases, the usability of the system decreases. Seems pretty backwards, right? Shouldn’t more flexible features mean more usability? The effect makes more sense when you think about it in terms of efficiency. A system that does 3 things exclusively is likely to have less downtown than a system that does 100 customizable things. While I’ve always been a strong supporter of open systems and the iteration of ideas (e.g. Google’s Android), this effect really makes an excellent case for closed systems with limited customizability (e.g. Apple’s iPhone).

80/20 Rule –  The 80/20 rule is based on the principle that 80% of the effects generated by a large system are caused by 20% of its variables. In other words, if you’re developing a website, you can spend months developing a feature rich experience but only 20% of those features will actually be appreciated and used. I find this principle especially interesting because it reinforces the idea that you should focus on doing few things well, instead of making your website everything to everyone. A good rule of thumb here is to think about how much of your website you’d prioritize including on a small mobile device. If it’d be easy to convert your website to a mobile experience, you probably have the 80/20 down perfectly! If you don’t have the luxury of cutting out functionality, I’d suggest making your frequently used controls fully accessible and at the top.

So there you have it! 3 design tips to jumpstart you on designing an interactive, usable and efficient website!

Best of luck and happy designing!



3 Unique Keys to Marketing Success

So it’s 7:51pm on a Tuesday and naturally (read:randomly), I’m thinking about what makes a marketing initiative really stand out to me. What is it about a 30 second spot or a 300×250 banner that makes me engage?

It’s a hard question to answer, especially when my first inclination is to say “I know it when I see it” but here are a few of my thoughts anyway.

Clear Value Proposition – For me, a campaign’s success depends on the clarity of its value proposition. Sure, your product might do several things kind of well but what’s the one thing that matters most? For example, with Google+, yes I can create circles, explore ripples, make blog posts and integrate my account with other Google products but I, like many, am the most engaged with Hangouts. Google+ hangout technology is second to none and is truly a game changer. That is why a marketing campaign that clearly calls this out is much more interesting to me than any Google+ capability montage. As I have gotten increasingly daunted with companies that all do the same thing but just slightly differently, it has become especially important for me to see marketers get to their most important value proposition quickly and clearly.

Self Awareness – There’s nothing that I love more than a brand that’s completely self aware. If your product has had difficulty with adoption in the past, it takes a lot of guts to speak on the big elephant in the room. Though difficult at first, I’m convinced that taking on this strategy is one of the smartest strategies to refresh potential customers and convince them to come back after a setback. Take Internet Explorer, for example. They own the domain www.browseryoulovedtohate.com and use it to convince users that the experience has drastically improved with IE9. They even have hilarious videos that mock older perceptions of IE. Check out the video for a great laugh!

Investment in the Future – The last characteristic I’ve seen in really successful marketing campaigns is a little less intuitive. It’s the idea of investing in the future. A few weeks ago, I went to Boston to celebrate Boston’s Doodle for Google state winner and have never been so impressed with Google. Though not directly related to a monetized service, Google uses the Doodle for Google contest to invest in the minds of the innovators of tomorrow. If you’d like a less Hallmark example, take Salesforce. They aren’t necessarily investing in let’s say, the future of small children, but a couple of years ago, they spent a lot of time investing in educating users on upper funnel terms like “cloud computing” and what it meant for their business. Fast forward a couple yeas later, Salesforce is almost synonymous with cloud computing. And I’m convinced that this is because they were the one first to invest in making sure that people understood their industry. Take a cue from Google and Salesforce and invest in something that’ll pay off tomorrow!

Happy Marketing!


Tips for Launching in a New Location

So you’ve scored the opportunity to launch in a new city or country! You’re excited about the possibility to expand but how are you going to generate local demand in a foreign place?  What marketing initiatives can you take on to really hit the ground running?

Let’s take a look at some creative ways to get you started!

Know Your Community

  • Be a part of what defines the community: Taking on this strategy can be as easy as looking at a local calendar and figuring out how to attach your brand to key events in the city. If your city is big on marathons, make sure you’re at the finish line passing out water with your brand’s name on it. Or if your city likes parades, take a hint from Zazzle and sponsor customized parade t-shirts for events like Bay-to-Breakers. Being a part of what makes your new location unique can help accelerate your brand recognition in a new space.
  • Identify and win over key decision makers:  Where do your customers go for the latest trends? Who are the first people that customer’s look to in order to get expert advice? Knowing these answers can put you one step closer to expanding the reach of your brand’s reputation. Once you’ve identified this information, attempt to get some of these influencers to review your product in blogs, newspapers or YouTube channels.
  • Study cultural nuances: One of the quickest ways to annoy a local is to show them that you’re not local! So before you barge in with your marketing posters, take a step back and study things like language nuances (e.g. soda versus pop in Chicago) and cultural pockets of different neighborhoods.

Know Your Industry 

  • Identify pain points in your industry: Let’s say, you’re a launcher at Uber and you need to make people fall in love with your new town car service. If this is your challenge, make sure sure you’ve clearly outlined the pain points in your industry before proceeding. For example, how long does it typically take to take a taxi across town? What’s the worst thing about riding the bus? You might have several good ideas of how to meet demand but paying attention to pain points can be the quickest road to success!
  • Chart yourself against existing competition. Do you have any? What makes you different?
  • Identify barriers to entry: Would it be easy for other companies to copycat your business model? If so, take a step back and think about what’s unique about your product that can’t be touched. If you can answer that question, you can make sure to stress the uniqueness in your marketing!  
Know Your Business

  • Create an Elevator Pitch: If you’re not the first to the scene, it’s unlikely that you’ll have much time to make an impression with your customers. They’re going to want to know who you are, what you do and why you’re different.
  • Learn from the Past: If this isn’t your first launch, aggregate feedback from previous launches to make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes again and are scaling success. If you have tracking setup, use Analytics to make correlations between the timing of announcements and subsequent surges in traffic. Rinse and repeat.

So, there you have it! A few small tips on getting started in a new city! Send me a postcard?

Happy launching!!


Making Twitter Work for Your Business

It’s no secret that Social Media is quickly and surely taking the world by storm. If you’re skeptical, navigate to any website and you’re likely to see at least a Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and/or Google+ gadget. Turn to any news channel or watch any pop culture show and you’re likely to hear reporters citing Tweets and Facebook Likes as completely legitimate sources of information. Social media is the direction in which B2B and B2C marketing is going and if your company is serious about being around for the long haul, you’re going to have to invest time in figuring out a relevant response to this shift to social.

So where do we start?

Here are a few memorable approaches I’ve seen:

Pulse Checks: President Obama signs a new healthcare bill – How did this affect his approval ratings? American Idol judges choose tosave Jessica Sanchez from elimination a couple weeks ago – Did their fans think this was a good decision? Gone are the days where you have to speculate what your fans and viewers are thinking. For better or worse, companies are turning to Twitter to hear what their user base really thinks and you should too.

Customer Service: We all enjoy the low prices of chains and large corporations but let’s face it, the discounts come at a cost. You save a couple bucks here and there but you ultimately, end up paying with invaluable time spent on customer service lines or time sifting through vague help center articles when something goes wrong. As your company grows, Twitter is a great way to offer up great customer service that is done personably, quickly and at scale. Check out how Comcast is using customer service to provide customer service @comcastbill.

Branding Campaigns: What’s better than talking about your brand 10,000 times? Well, try having someone else talk about your brand 10,000 times. Getting your fanbase to include your hashtag in their tweet exposes your brand to everyone that they follow. For example, if you see smartphone cases, try asking your followers to tweet the most ridiculous way they dropped your phone that includes your brands hash-tag. If you want to take it a step further and offer a prize for the best story.

Image Expansion: Do you have a fanbase that only looks at your brand for one or two of your flagship products? Are you trying to expand your image of what business problem your company solves? Perhaps, you have a great financial management solution and an equally great but less popular CRM solution. If you’re interested in expanding the solutions customers associate with your brand, you can use Twitter to show off your niche expertise and knowledge in areas for which you’re less known. Once your fanbase starts to see you as an expert in other fields, the up-sell will feel more natural and less forced!

Happy Tweeting!


Tips for Creating Content for Your Blog

So you understand the importance of creating social content for your business but do you sometimes wonder what it’d take to move it to the next level? What takes a blog from good to great? Check out below for a few tips:

Post Original and Unique Content –  While this might seem like a simple concept, it’s an important one to remember when you’re skimming other blogs for inspiration. While citing research and interesting articles can be great ways to ground your perspective, overuse of this strategy might end up boring your readers. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that your followers are reading your blog because they want to hear from you. So if you really want to cite other articles or blogs, just make sure to customize it with your own unique take. Additionally, you can use your Twitter account to cite articles and then your blog to deliver a unique perspective.

Post Consistently – Have you ever gotten really into a blog, only to find out the writer has dropped off the face of the earth when it comes to posting? You stick around for a bit but ultimately, you lose interest by the time the blogger comes back around.

Why is that?

My hunch is that people don’t want to commit to things that don’t deliver consistently. For better or worse, we are creatures of habit and one of the most annoying things you can do to such a creature is to not deliver once you’ve set the expectation that you will. If you have trouble staying up to date, try writing all of your social updates in bulk and scheduling them to be auto-published later.

Stick With Your Audience and Area of Expertise – If you don’t have a lot of time to produce a large volume of content, it’s going to be really important that you focus your content to a specific audience and area of expertise. Focusing your efforts in this way, will allow you to establish a tight brand for yourself that you can leverage to expand into general areas down the rodad.

Happy blogging!


Advanced Tips for AdWords

Given that my experience in online marketing started with Google AdWords, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include an article about it on my blog!

With the assumption that you already have the basics down and are just trying to get to the next level,  here are a few highly ROI driven marketing opportunities for you to try:

Create separate campaigns per network: Yes, you have the option to target both Search and Display in one campaign but you’re likely to see a higher ROI if you split the traffic into two campaigns. Splitting traffic in this way will allow you to do the following:

  • Have impression share numbers that you can act on. Given the vastness of inventory on the Google Display Network, an impression share on 4% on Display could very well mean that you’re hitting a realistic portion of your audience. An impression share of 4% on your Search brand campaign, however, could mean that you’re missing out on a large chunk of opportunity that you could realistically reach with a bit more budget.
  • Allocate different budgets to Search and Display based on marketing objectives. For example, if your priority is direct response, you could allocate more to Search. If your priority is branding, you could allocate more to Display.

Add Sitelinks to every Search campaign: Sitelinks present a good opportunity to drive users deeper into your landing page, giving your customers the results they’re looking for faster. In addition to this end user benefit, sitelinks are typically associated with a 30% CTR uplift. And in the long run, higher CTRs mean lower quality scores which ultimately means, cheaper Cost Per Clicks (CPC).

Save Time with Automated Rules: If you’re short on time, try creating a set of automated rules to optimize your account for you. For example, every time one of your highly valued keywords misses the first page bid but passes a Cost Per Conversion (CPA) minimum requirement, have the system automatically increase your bid by 25%.

Prioritize Remarketing: If you’re interested in dipping your toe in the Google Display Network, please stop whatever you’re doing and try remarketing! With remarketing, you can capture users that have been to your site but didn’t convert. These will be your most qualified leads on the Google Display Network, so why not prioritize it? In fact, you should consider having a special budget set aside just for retaining people who have already risen their hand for your brand.

Keep the Lights On: While it might seem tempting to shut off your ads when funds are tight and run on organic traffic alone, the truth is that you can’t expect your organic traffic to make up traffic lost from paused campaigns. In fact, 89% of paid traffic isn’t recouped when you turn your campaigns off. And besides, just because you’re not running on your brand terms, doesn’t mean that your competitors aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity to run on the keywords you care about.

Best of luck!
Source: Google, Search Ads Pause Study, Global, Jul 2011.

Making an Impression That Lasts

It may have taken time for me to acknowledge this but there’s no denying it… I’m obsessed with startups. Even more so, I’m obsessed with the idea of trying new products and the general idea of technology being used to meet human needs and improve output.

However, despite my deep love for technology and supporting new and upcoming startups,  I sometimes find myself being turned off very early in the adoption process of new products.

Here’s a few reasons why:

Exclusivity: As a consumer, my thought process regarding exclusivity is very straightforward. If you’re first to market like Pinterest or Facebook, I’ll wait as long as I need to wait in order to try your service. However, if you’re one of 3 to 4 options that I have to choose from, the “invite only” notification might as well be a kiss of death. In cases like these, I lose interest very quickly and will likely never come back to your site.

Downtime: Remember that one week where everyone was obsessed with @drawsomething? I was on that boat and couldn’t be happier to be on it, until the day where I tried to show it off to a friend and it wouldn’t load. While @drawsomething will undoubtedly iron out its kinks overtime, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to erase this very early impression.

Poorly designed website or mobile experience: I’ve always said that you can tell a lot about a company by the experience you have on their landing page. You can tell even more about a company by first looking at if they have a mobile experience and secondly, if it’s any good. As a consumer, I love clearly structured sites with lots of white space. I want to be able to acces your service wherever I am and on whatever device I happen to be carrying. Beyond the aesthetics and convenience here, having a great website and mobile experiencesignals to me that your company is progressive and in tune with the both the latest marketing trends and the needs of your customers.

So there you have it. The top 3 reasons why startups lose me as a customer.

What are yours?


Making Time for Social Media

I know what you’re thinking…You’ve just started your business and you don’t have enough to do. You are the CEO, CFO and CMO all wrapped up in one and who needs 3-4 hours to sleep a night anyway? Clearly you’re not nearly busy enough and you’d like a new project, right?

Oh, if only that were the case…

As great as social media tools can be for your business, is it realistic to think small business owners have time for it? Let’s face it, if you had to choose between being at the register and being in front of your computer, there’d be an obvious sacrifice.

Given this reality, should small businesses leave this new form of communication to the big players? My answer is simply no. In a world where there will always be other initiatives vying for your attention, I posit that there are a few ways to stretch your days a little further and make time for social media.

Respect the strategy: The first step to making time for social media is to up level the value you place on it. If you’re in the habit of thinking that social media is a fad or just a free form of advertising, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever take it seriously enough to ever see a return on your time investment.

Pull back on filtering: Earlier today, I asked @bashirqaasim how he managed to always know what to talk about and win over his listeners in casual settings. He laughed and pointed out that his secret was that he simply, didn’t filter too much of what he said. Though you should proceed with caution with this recommendation when it comes to your business, there’s quite a lot of relevant truth to this with social media. If you’re concerned about making every tweet a deep and philosophical insight, its unlikely that you’ll ever find time to achieve any significant volume of tweets or followers for your blog.

Have a conversation: Believe it or not, a lot of companies with thriving Twitter and Facebook fan pages incorporate open ended questions into their tweets and status updates. If you don’t have anything on your mind, why not ask your fans?

Schedule: If you’re anything like me, sometimes you might find yourself going through bursts of very focused energy followed by periods of less creative energy. Perhaps, you can write 15 tweets or 5 blog entries in two hours but none for the rest of the week. Alternatively, perhaps you have extremely high and creative energy at 10am but are completely wiped toward the end of the day. To make sure you’re on while your customers are on, simply try one of the dozens of social media schedulers out there. To make sure you’re never dark, take an hour or two every week to plan out a minimum level of tweets or status updates and sit back and count any real time tweets that you think of as a bonus!


Mobile Marketing: The Why and The How

In the event that you haven’t been sleeping under a rock the last couple years, you’ve probably heard about the importance of going mobile by now. It’s the next “big thing”. It’s the “marketing platform of the future”. But what exactly does this growth in mobile search demand all mean? Why should you care? Well, let’s start with the numbers (courtesy of HowtoGoMo):

 Bad Mobile Experiences Create Bad Customer Experiences 
  • 57% of customers would not recommend a business with a poor mobile site.
  • 40% have turned to a competitor’s site after a bad customer experience.
  • 23% of customers have cursed at work when mobile sites don’t work.
Positive Mobile Experiences Drive Sales 
  • 50% of mobile searches lead to purchases.
  • 65% of people have product reviews on their phones.
Positive Mobile Experiences Drive Local Demand
  • 95% of smart-phones users have searched for local information.
  • 61% of users call businesses after searching and 59% visit the location.
Sold yet? If so, consider these few tips to get started on your mobile marketing strategy.
  • Invest in a mobile website or create a free mobile landing page with Google’s Mobile Landing Page Builder.
  • Make it easy for customer’s to reach you by phone by incorporating Click to Call in all your SEM campaigns.
  • Separate your mobile campaigns from your desktop campaigns and optimize for the top 2 positions on mobile search pages.
  • Apply geo-targeting to your mobile campaigns to reward local customers with exclusive deals.
  • Use price comparison language to reach audiences who are doing real-time price comparisons in store.
  • Make it easy for people to give you money! Simplify your mobile conversion funnel by linking your website to Paypal or eCommerce solution.

So there you have it, 3 major reasons why you should get started and 7 tips on how to! So what’s holding you back?


Source: Gartner, 2010; Google Mobile Optimization Webinar, 2011; Cisco, 2011
Source: Compuware, “What Users Want from Mobile,” 2011
Source: Lightspeed Research; Google “The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users,” 2011