Jan 17

Mobile Website Design: Fad or Necessity?

A few posts back we talked about some advantages of redoing your website.  Today we’re going to look at mobile websites and answer the question:

“Do you really need a mobile website?”

The number of wireless subscribers in the U.S. is now estimated at around 322.9 million.   More importantly, data usage–an indicator that people are using their phones for web-related activity–has seen an 111% increase from the same period a year earlier.  (But don’t take my word for it, just spend some time driving around Tampa, Florida and it will become all too clear that mobile usage is on the rise!  Put down the phone and drive already, right?)

Is your website getting a significant amount of mobile traffic?

An easy way to find out is by setting up a Google Analytics account, which among other things shows you the percentage of your traffic that comes from mobile devices.  We can help you with this if you want to save time or need a crash course on how the analytics system works.

If you discover that you are getting a lot of traffic from mobile devices, or even if you currently aren’t but realize that in the future that’s bound to change, you need to ask yourself:

Is my current website mobile-friendly?

There are a few things to consider when answering this question.  First, how does the site look on a smart phone?  Does it “make sense” so to speak?  Is it easy or hard to navigate through the pages?  Is there a lot of Flash, which won’t even show up on most devices, including iPhones.  Second, what about the content?  Mobile users often come to your site specifically to do something rather quickly, such as find your phone number or get driving directions, look at your menu or make a quick purchase.  You may have content that works for people on PCs and laptops, but is generally irrelevant to mobile users.

A mobile version of your site or a separate mobile website?

Depends.  Some sites lend themselves well to mobile-versioning, which may include showing mobile users a slightly different design and hiding or revealing content depending on the type of device detected when a visitor accesses your site.  In other instances it may be less time consuming and smartest to just create a simple mobile version of your site to include the basic tasks mobile visitors may be interested in.

If you have a smart phone with a QR Reader app handy, scan the code below for an example of our own mobile website:

Scan for J Allan Studios Mobile Website

Bottom line, mobile is here to stay.  It’s definitely not a fad.  If your site is currently working well on mobile devices, you may not need to change a thing.  If that’s the case you’re probably better served putting your time and resources into some other pursuit, rather than worrying about mobile websites.  However, if you feel there’s room for improvement, give us a shout to discuss some easy, cost-effective mobile website solutions.

Jan 16

Website: Tampa Great for New Businesses

According to website Tampa a great place for new businesses.

According to Kiplinger website Tampa is a great city for new businesses. Having started a web design and marketing firm in Tampa myself, I would have to agree. According to Kiplinger:

Local government is particularly business-friendly, promising tax credits to businesses that locate in certain areas or work in one of a number of high-demand industries… Local nonprofits, such as the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, connect entrepreneurs with mentors and organize frequent conferences and networking events. Tampa’s small-business owners also benefit from the state’s lack of personal income tax and 5.5% corporate income tax. The city is a key player in the Startup America Partnership, a national initiative that has funneled more than $730 million to new businesses in Florida and six other states.

See the full article here

The article mentions wufoo.com, a website form creation company that is based in Tampa. There are countless other great businesses that have started in Tampa.  Both online ventures and brick and mortar businesses call Tampa home.  A good example is OSI Restaurant Partners, which owns Outback Steakhouse.

As a company that specializes in Tampa website design and web development, it’s great to be located in a place so conducive to start-ups. We really enjoy working with new businesses. We like helping them with web design, marketing, branding and overall marketing strategy. It’s rewarding to work with businesses that have real potential and then watch them grow and succeed over the years.

Viva Tampa Bay!

Nov 30

The new project triangle of marketing and web development

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   I’m sure you’re familiar with the project triangle: fast, cheap, or good, where you have to pick two.  It’s fairly ubiquitous; heck, it even hung in Stump’s Supper Club when I worked there in college.

Project Triangle

But with good marketing and web development projects the conversation should be about rushed, inexpensive, and perfect instead.

Fast vs. rushed: All good marketers will get you what you need as fast as they can.  But if you need it yesterday, that’s an issue of rush services.

Cheap vs. inexpensive: Cheap isn’t a word you want associated with your marketing and web development.  But inexpensive – that’s different!  We all want what we need to be inexpensive.

Good vs. perfect: Again, good marketers and web developers will deliver good work all the time.  Perfect, on the other hand, takes your project to a higher level and consequently requires a higher level of service.

So there you have it, the new project triangle of marketing and web development – and graphic design, copywriting, resumes, and all other professional creative services.  Rushed, inexpensive, or perfect.  Which two are most important to you?

Oct 01

When push marketing isn’t so bad

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   I resisted starting Twitter and Facebook accounts for awhile, but now I’m on both and like them.  They are two small parts of the new social-media-as-marketing applications.  I like them so much because they represent an economical form of push marketing.

TV ads are traditional push: Show your stuff on TV and the right customers for you will respond.  Works great, but takes a big budget.

Guerilla marketing came in to save the bucks but took a lot of time and required you to do a lot of work to ferret out a few “good fit” customers and get them to listen to your message.  Not so fun.

Now social media combines the best of both – push marketing, but to the right people with less effort!  Don’t get me wrong; your messaging must be relevant and meaningful, which takes work.  But you just write it once, post it once, and watch people respond.  Love it!

Every day I get a new follower on Twitter, and who knows?  They – or someone they know – could become a client.

Just be careful what you post.  Before hitting “post” or “update,” think about who might see your words; realize that they will likely live on the Internet forever.

Apr 01

What to say when they say, “The price is too high.”

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   For the first four years of my company’s existence I struggled with pricing.  We did the pricing exercises and knew what we needed to charge – prices that were in line with the market and truly a good value for the service and support we provide.  Even so, price was the most common objection, and this whittled away at my confidence.  I know objections are disguised desires to buy, but still – it gets old!

So I solved my price confidence issue in two steps.

Step 1: Gather ideas and tactics from sales pro friends and online resources.
I’m an avid networker and have established great relationships with two sales guys who know their stuff.  I got their advice and worked it into our existing pricing structure; turns out our pricing was spot-on.  Then I did the same from the plethora of awesome sales resource websites online, like Just Sell and RainToday.com.  Just Sell had some real gems for handling the price-is-too-high objection, like “That’s a valid issue. Several of our current customers had those same concerns at the beginning. Let me show you some examples of how those purchases paid off.”  Then it was on to step 2.

Step 2: Mind training.
I know, sounds weird.  But really all it was is this: I allowed myself to become comfortable with our prices.  I looked in the mirror – literally – and said – out loud – “We give our clients amazing service and expertise and are worth every penny of the reasonable prices we charge.”  I took my sales friends’ advice and learned to stop talking; when sales conversations got to the price I stated it and shut up.  This one tactic alone was a miracle worker, because it exudes confidence.  And finally, I stopped wasting time sweating sales that didn’t happen and began using that energy to focus on upcoming opportunities.  And today as I write this we have three quotes to write and more resume business than we’ve had in months.

Everything I did, you can do too.  Go get ‘em!

Mar 01

Pick your focus: positive or negative

Posted by Mandy Minor, marketing strategist and copywriter   The other morning in the shower I happened to notice something about my shampoo and conditioner bottles that I think is significant.

While most products’ marketing messages focus on the positive, hair care product messaging focuses squarely on the negative.

Diet pills proclaim, “We will shed those pounds!” not “You’re fat, you really should take these pills.” Magazines advertise that they’ll help you get more organized, find the perfect outfit, or date like a pro – not that you’re hopeless in these departments without them.

But the hair care bottles advertise their contents for “weak, lifeless, or dull hair” and say they are “lengthening for hard-to-grow hair.”

Wouldn’t it be more customer-friendly to say something like, “Luxurious formula for the length and sheen you crave,” rather than, “Hey you with the pathetic mop, over here!”

Feb 01

Effective e-newsletter marketing: Step 1

The last five years have seen explosive growth in Internet marketing, especially in the realm of the e-mail newsletter, or e-newsletter.  E-newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with clients and offer value to people who visit your website.  But if you overlook Step 1 your e-newsletter will likely cause you more harm than good.

So what’s Step 1?  Get permission to send your e-newsletter!

It sounds simple, even elementary, but I am constantly amazed at the e-newsletters that land in my in-box: messages I was not expecting and did not give my permission to receive.  While we may be personal pals or worked together several years ago, this does not mean you can go ahead and add me to your e-newsletter distribution list.

And I’m not talking about my personal preference.  I’m one of the rare people who doesn’t really mind junk e-mail because it’s easy to delete unwanted messages.  What I am talking about is breaking some very real rules.  Many states have adopted their own anti-spam laws that expand on the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.  These include making the sending of unsolicited e-mail a punishable offense.

A quick Google search on “unsolicited e-mail” returns several horror stories: the unsuspecting company that bought an e-mail list and sent out messages, only to be reported by hundreds of people as spammers and have their website shut down.  Do you have the time or desire to deal with a site shutdown?  I didn’t think so.

Luckily it’s very easy to avoid this situation.  Just build your own list via a sign-up on your website – you’d be surprised at how quickly the number of subscribers will grow.  If you’re going to begin sending an e-newsletter and have a list of clients you want to send it to, first send a message asking if you can add them to your e-mail list.  And always keep the e-mails and sign-ups giving you permission to send e-mail – you never know when you might have to prove you were given the go-ahead to add someone to your list.

Jan 01

Hang those shingles upside down!

The other day I heard screaming outside the office. I walked outside and onto the street to see what was going on. Next door to our office a man was up on the roof laying shingles in the hot sun. On the street below, the owner of the building was yelling up to him.

“I don’t care, I want them upside down!” the builder owner screamed.

“But sir, that’s not how it’s done,” the roofer replied.

“What do you mean that’s not how it’s done, I’m the client and the client is always right!”
Continue reading

May 08

Is YouTube a clever way to market for free? Yes, but…

A client and colleague has recently been researching video and how he can use it to market his insurance business. Video is a great idea, as long as you create relevant content that will entertain and inform the people you want to see them – in other words, videos that have value for your target market.

He sent me the link to a YouTube video someone posted, saying that the video was done for free and posted on YouTube for free and asked, Clever idea, isn’t it?”

He told me that to find the video I need to go to YouTube.com and search for “luxury car, chauffeur super bowl commercial.”

I didn’t bother to search for the video – I already knew what I needed to know to answer my friend’s question. Here’s my reply”

“So, did not watch the video, but can tell you that success on YouTube relies on people knowing about your video AND passing it on. Since you have to search for ‘luxury car, chauffeur super bowl commercial’ I’m guessing not a lot of people know about it, UNLESS he has a great e-mail list and let that list know about it. He does have the Super Bowl thing going for him, but I can only imagine how many Super Bowl-related videos are on there.

“Viral video is still in its early stages, and the little research that’s been done says it’s effective when people pass it on and remember what was being advertised. I saw a really funny video about how guys get sent to purgatory for buying their wives bad gifts, like a vacuum cleaner on her birthday, and it was a video made by a jewelry store chain. I remember the video, but I can’t tell you which store it was.

“Your best bet is to go with educational videos that help your clients and target market – advice on choosing insurance products. Send the link to your clients, and ask them to pass it on saying that you’ll give a referral bonus to them if their lead becomes a customer. Now the stakes are real!”

That advice applies to any industry: Make videos that help your clients and target market. Let them know the video is there. And ask them to pass it on. Then measure your response by asking new inquiries how they heard about you.

Yes, YouTube can be a clever way to get new business on the cheap. But your video has to be entertaining, useful, and passed along.

Apr 13

The three little As

 With increasing frequency we’re seeing a new breed of ad campaign where advertisers try to get people to go to their websites to see the continuation of a story or play a game.  Surely these are attempts to overcome the advertising obstacles presented by TiVo and Too Few Viewers Spread Over Too Many Channels Disease.  And just as surely, they were met with standing ovations in agency planning meetings world-wide.  But they strike us as annoying, assumptive, and arrogant.

Why are they annoying?  Because they’re trying to trick viewers into thinking they care about our entertainment and made this little story/game/interactive whatever to benefit us, when really they just want to sell us stuff.  And we know this.

Why are they assumptive?  Because they’re assuming viewers don’t have anything better to do than go to their websites and soak in their product.

Why are they arrogant?  Because they so smugly assume viewers will see the “opportunity” to watch their little self-congratulatory mini-films as a good use of time.

If you want people to go to your website, give them a real incentive – a coupon, contest, free sample.  And if you want us to think about your product, make us laugh – in a relevant way.  How?  Here’s a perfect example!

The show 30 Rock, clearly taking advertising dollars for product placement (a practice I believe in wholeheartedly, as long as it is relevant), expands the divorce story between Alec Baldwin’s character Johnny and his soon-to-be ex-wife, played flawlessly by Isabella Rossellini.  He wants everything and she says fine – until he gets to their Arby’s franchise.  She cries, “Damnit Johnny, you know I love my Big Beef and Cheddar!”  Hilarious.  Relevant.  Now I’m thinking Arby’s – and not just Arby’s, but their slogan even!  Genius!