“Good design accelerates the adoption of new ideas.”
---Yves Behar (Swiss designer, entrepreneur and an educator)
Over the years, we’ve helped a good number of startup companies and non-profit organizations develop and implement long-term growth strategies. Without question, one of biggest challenges we typically face when working with their leadership teams is convincing them to invest aggressively in their brands.
We’ve found that entrepreneurs and non-profit executives often place branding on the lower end of the priority scale because it's difficult for them to see the tangible benefits. Oftentimes, they assume that money spent on branding diminishes their operational capacity. Such thinking tends to be a penny-wise but pound-foolish approach.
This is particularly true when it comes to web design. In today’s world, your website is typically one of the first points of contact between your organization and your target audience. Strong web design often propels your organization to success. Conversely, poor web design can completely subvert your mission.
First impressions matter. Make a bad impression, and you’ll likely lose potential conversions. Make a good one, and you’ll typically gain new customers. More importantly, you’ll potentially earn a customer for life if you make a great impression.
In other words, quality web design is crucial to your mission. A high-quality website greatly increases the value of your brand in the minds of your target audience. Furthermore, wise investments in your digital assets ultimately build brand equity for your organization. With this in mind, here are the twelve design rules we suggest you follow in order to squeeze the most out of your website.
of your design will be evaluated instantly by your visitors. Their first impressions will likely determine if, when and how they decide to interact with your site, brand or business. A visually pleasing design scheme will create a favorable first impression and increase visitor engagement.
Here are the design elements that attract your visitor’s attention first and foremost:
Tip: Effective visuals and a crisp, clean design add credibility and legitimacy to your website. Effective design also helps establish trust in your brand. This is especially important if you're trying to convert a sale or sway opinions. A visitor will associate the experience they have on your website with the experience they are likely to have with you in real life.
RULE #2 – Get to Know SEO
To make the most of your Internet real estate, you need to design and build a website that can be found on the major search engines (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.).
The art and science of ranking in search is commonly known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). An effective content strategy accounts for the search terms your target audience uses on a day-to-day basis. An effective strategy also incorporates customized content (e.g. videos, blog articles, podcasts, e-books, etc.) based on your audience's demands and preferences.
Successful SEO requires patience and attention to detail. An extensive knowledge of how search engines work is helpful, and it generally takes time and practice to achieve sustainable success. That said, you’ll be off to a good start and probably gain an advantage over your competition once you get the basics down. After mastering the basics, you can always move on to advanced levels of SEO down the road.
Tip: If you’re just starting out with SEO, it’s a good idea to begin simple. For example, concentrate on improving your site in each of the following five areas:
RULE #3 – Responsive Websites Rank Better
Mobile search now accounts for over 60% of total search volume; and that figure is only expected to increase over the next few years.
Indeed, 80% of internet users own a smartphone, and Google indicates that “61% of users are unlikely to return to a mobile site they had trouble accessing and 40% visit a competitor’s site instead.” Therefore, the look, feel, form and function of your website on mobile devices is crucial to your long-term success.
based on the dimensions of the viewing device. For example, the look and feel of a site viewed on an over-sized desktop computer monitor, a laptop, or devices with small screens such as smartphones and tablets, is generally consistent across all devices.
Tip: Most of the major drag-and-drop website builders (e.g. Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, etc.) now include responsive design templates as part of their standard product offerings.
RULE #4 – Your Navigation Menu Matters
Navigation is a crucial component of effective website design. Your navigation menu is basically a map that displays the key places you want your visitors to explore. If your website’s navigation menu isn’t effective, visitors will overlook important content. Worse still, they may become frustrated and abandon your site altogether.
When examining the effectiveness of your website's navigation menu, it's important to ensure that it’s clear, concise and relatively simple. Common characteristics of an effective navigation menu include:
Tip: The bottom of your page isn’t necessarily the end of your site and the space for your copyright notice. An effective footer also allows visitors dig deeper into your site. Meaning, you shouldn't forget to include a secondary navigation menu in your website footer. As an added benefit, the additional internal links positively influence your page search rankings.
RULE #5 – Take Time When Crafting Your Content Headers
If you effectively utilize and optimize your h1, h2 and h3 header tags, you can greatly improve your website’s search rankings and thereby increase organic traffic. That said, designers all too often miss the mark when creating the header tags for their web pages.
Header tags are a critical on-page SEO factor because search engines use them to categorize your site’s content. Search engines prioritize the copy in your header tags above your text paragraph sections. The hierarchy begins with your h1 tag and moves down in importance to the h2, h3, etc. In other words, your header tags supplement the mission or purpose of your web pages.
It’s important to structure your header tags appropriately. To truly be effective, it’s important to include short-tail and long-tail keywords in your header tag content. When the search engines crawl your site, they read your header tags and recognize the keywords you’ve incorporated. They’re factored in to the algorithms the search engines use to prioritize and rank your pages in their search results.
Tip: Your h1 tag should contain keywords targeted toward your audience. Your keywords should relate directly to your page title as well as your body content. As a general rule, you should only use one h1 tag on each page.
Your h2 tags are subheadings. They should contain keywords related to your h1 tag. Subsequently, your h3 tags are subheadings for your h2 tags, etc. In short, order your header tags in a hierarchy based on importance.
Also, ensure that your header tags are grammatically correct and coherent. Packing your header tags with keywords may in-fact hurt your search rankings. Google and Bing’s algorithms are sophisticated – attempts to manipulate search rankings generally do more harm than good.
Most visitors are comfortable scrolling a web page these days. Consequently, design emphasis has shifted toward optimizing aesthetics and form styling in recent years. A longer home page is now acceptable and offers some strategic advantages as well. Including 3-5 sections on your home page helps point visitors to key areas of your site. It also creates a more seamless user experience for your visitors.
Tip: Here’s a list of the key elements you should consider including in the sections of your home page:
RULE #7 – Make Effective Use of White Space
Believe it or not, white space is a critical design element. The term refers to the areas around your page elements that are empty and lack content or visual items.
White space improves readability and helps you compartmentalize your content. It also tends to decrease the apprehension level of new visitors. A page stuffed full of text and/or graphics with minimal white space generally appears busy or cluttered. This diminishes your user experience (UX) and typically leads to a high bounce rate.
Tip: If your web page lacks white space, review the page and strip elements or content that aren't necessary to the purpose of the page. After that, make sure this content is properly grouped so users are able to distinguish correlations on the page.
RULE #8 – Invest Time In Social Media
Effective use of social media really drives website traffic. In fact, over 26% of all traffic now comes from social media sites vs. 35% from search. Given that 62% of people list social media as a primary news source, your organization can’t afford to be silent on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks if you wish to stay relevant.
Besides being a valuable traffic and lead source, social media offers a unique opportunity to strengthen your brand’s awareness and reach. While organic search and paid advertisements generate attention, social media tends to spark interest. For example, people can begin following you with a simple click of a button on most social media sites. This provides an opportunity to engage with an interested audience on a regular basis and likely generate additional revenues long-term.
If all this sounds new to you, then we suggest you begin by setting up branded social media accounts and then embed social sharing buttons on the key pages of your website. Social sharing buttons contain icons from your preferred social sites and allow your visitors to share your content directly on their social media feeds. In other words, engaged visitors amplify your brand within their social circles and ultimately drive new traffic to your website.
Tip: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn are social media juggernauts. However, they aren't the only players in the game. Indeed, the social media landscape has changed considerably in recent years and the industry is becoming more and more competitive. A plethora of new “free speech” social media startups offer unique opportunities to quickly make a name for yourself. We suggest you check out up-and-coming players like Gab, InfinitySN, Minds and Free Talk which currently seem to be operating under the radar of most major brands.
RULE #9 – Leverage and Grow Your Brand Assets
Your website is your public persona. It creates a lasting image of who you are. Therefore, carefully consider what you want your local, domestic and international communities to know about you, your product or your services. Once you've identified your desired game plan, meticulously craft your image and effectively manage your message.
Therefore, consider the following as you define or re-evaluate your brand:
Tip: Start by defining your ideal target market before you do anything else. Identify common attribute characteristics like:
Once you’ve profiled your ideal customers, create content tailored to the audience. Use language and imagery relevant to your target audience and relate on their terms.
RULE #10 – Font and Color Palates Really Matter
One of the keys to effective web design is to remember that digital marketing is principally text communication. According to Ryan Shafer (Lead Digital Designer at MTV & VH1), “I encourage all budding web designers to embrace that the web is fundamentally about typography design.”
extremely important when it comes to creating a cohesive color palette for your website and your other mar-comm materials.
A three-color palate is a good rule of thumb. That said, adhere to basic best practices in color theory no matter what color scheme you choose for your brand.
Tip: If you’re a design novice, a number of free online tools and resources are available to point you in the right direction. For color palates, we recommend Adobe Creative Cloud’s Color Wheel and Paletton. For font type selection, check out: Adobe Fonts, Wordmark and Type Scale.
RULE #11 – Maintain Fresh Content
The expression, “content is king” is widely-used these days in digital marketing circles. So, what exactly does it mean?
For starters, it refers to the fact that the search engines place a premium on new content. Indeed, the quality and relevancy of your content is essential in determining your page's position in search query results.
Simply updating or refreshing your pages on a regular basis doesn’t make your site “fresh” and more likely to rank effectively within the search engines. Similarly, adding new pages just for the sake of increasing the size of your digital footprint won’t necessarily boost your site on the freshness meter.
Google employs a tool referred to as "Query Deserves Freshness" (QDF) to rank and prioritize new content. This tool monitors search query activities and identifies trending topics that stand out from normal activity. When QDF is triggered, Google looks to see if there’s any fresh content on the topic and then gives that content a boost in their search results.
In other words, if you have fresh content on a trending topic, you’ll likely enjoy a ride at the top of the search results for a period of time. Once the QDF boost wears off, your page generally shuffles back to its original position in the search results.
If you’re a savvy and nimble organization, the QDF algorithm provides opportunities to generate a significant competitive advantage. For example, if you create relevant and robust content in pulse with the hottest trends in your market, you can quickly establish yourself as a thought leader within your industry.
Tip: Follow these five simple guidelines if you struggle to create fresh content:
RULE #12 –Utilize High-Quality Images and Graphics
Eye-catching visual elements that complement your branding have a tremendous impact when used properly. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting graphics and images for your website:
customized graphics from a professional designer. That said, there are plenty of affordable stock image sites to choose from if you happen to have tight resource constraints (e.g. iStock, Adobe Stock, Wikimedia Commons, etc.)
If you do decide to use stock images instead of proprietary artwork, be careful to ensure that every image you select matches your brand persona and correlates with your written content. Also, you want to establish a unique brand identity and protect your site from having a generic look and feel, so be sure to avoid popular images if you can.
Tip: Remember that page load time factors in to your site’s search rankings. This is especially true for mobile. Therefore, you’ll want to pay close attention to the size of your image files. Familiarize yourself with Google’s “Image Optimization” guidelines if you want to completely optimize your images.
As we stated earlier, your website is often your organization’s primary public persona. It holds enormous influence over your target market’s perception of your products and/or services. More often than not, healthy and flourishing organizations tend to have effective websites; while struggling organizations often have ineffective websites.
Author: Erik Gagnon - Managing Partner, Chi Rho Consulting
Note: This is the second of a five-part series of articles examining the discipline of Demand Generation. Follow this link to read the first article in the series: Why Nearly 60% of Enterprise Demand Generation Programs Underperform.
"Success doesn't necessarily come from breakthrough innovation but from flawless execution. A great strategy alone won't win a game or a battle; the win comes from basic blocking and tackling."
---Naveen Jain (Entrepreneur and Philanthropist)
In a game of American football, two competing teams vie for control of a ball, which can be kicked through a set of goalposts or run into the opponent's goal area to score points. If you're a fan of the sport, you probably know that the game has evolved dramatically over the years. In fact, nearly every aspect of football has changed to some degree since the game's inception over a century ago: the rules, the equipment, the venues and even the on field tactics. The game constantly evolves, innovates and modernizes.
Despite, the game's ongoing evolution, the end objectives of the contests have always remained consistent. Score more points than your opponent and you win the match. Win the most important matches and and you're crowned champion. Consistently win championships and you solidify your team as a dynasty.
I doubt that any dynastic football coach would dispute Naveen Jain's quote we cited above. Having played the game myself, I can tell you that the best teams on paper don't always win the contests on the field. The bottom line is that ongoing success on the gridiron typically requires consistent and near-flawless execution of basic fundamentals in every facet of the game.
Suffice it to say, the end objectives of nearly every business enterprise are parallel to the game of football: you play to win. In our first article of this series, we discussed why a high percentage of companies that have adopted Demand Generation practices and principles are ineffective. In this article, we'll address the four strategic pillars of successful enterprise Demand Generation programs and examine some of the fundamental tactics that distinguish the champions from the also ran's.
The First Pillar: Your Process
As we discussed in the first article, Demand Generation defines your organization’s personal relationship with your leads, prospects and customers. Needless to say, every customer touch-point offers an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your customer. Consequently, your organization needs to be structured around your customer rather than your products or services to fully optimize your Demand Generation efforts.
Unlike traditional Lead Generation programs where interested (warm) prospects were turned over to a sales professional to close deals, Demand Generation programs nurture the relationship through the entirety of the Revenue Funnel. In other words, you're not just looking to close a deal. Instead, you're seeking to establish long-term relationships with your buyers; where satisfied customers become loyalists and loyalists become vocal brand advocates.
So why is having a dynamic, ongoing relationship with your buyers so important these days? First and foremost, the digital revolution has dramatically altered buying processes and decision making over the last few years. In effect, buyers are more knowledgeable and better informed than ever before. They're turning to friends, colleagues and other key influencers to research their purchases long before they ever engage with your sales team.
Recent studies by Forrester Research, DemandGen and CSO Insights all reveal some startling figures that support this claim. For instance:
These figures indicate that your customers' needs and buying patterns must be at the center of your Demand Generation strategy. The stats also suggest that you need to actively engage with customers at every point in the revenue funnel principally on their terms.
An effective demand generation process does just that. It more closely aligns your Marketing and Sales functions, and it creates a seamless buying process that eliminates the gap between Interest and Desire:
The Second Pillar: Your People
Traditional business models typically view Marketing as a cost silo and Sales as a revenue silo. Effective Demand Generation generally requires a blended model approach. In our experiences, we've found that a combined marketing/sales organizational model, built around the touch-points in the revenue funnel, typically works best.
For startup companies, adopting a blended organizational model is usually a relatively easy task. Conversely, established businesses with traditional lead generation models seem to experience difficulties. To be successful, you will most likely need to change the skill-set of your personnel, the reward structure based on changes in goals and performance metrics and the organizational structure to align to the buyers' purchase path. This requires a shift away from the traditional way of thinking of both marketing and sales.
It's important to remember that organizational change Is difficult and that people sometimes resist the efforts. Your marketing personnel and your sales team need both support and leadership in order to make the strategic shift pay off. Consequently, clear communication of your overall mission, vision and objectives from the top on down are critical for transition.
As we mentioned earlier, effective Demand Generation processes bridge the gap between marketing and sales. Over the years, we've found organizations that appoint a C-Level leader to oversee the whole process are generally more successful than their peers who draw territorial lines between marketing and sales functions. Therefore, we strongly urge our clients to appoint a "Chief Demand Officer" (or a Chief Revenue Officer if you prefer), who owns the he entire Customer Life Cycle.
The CDO / CRO leads a team that is responsible for meeting the revenue objectives for your products or services, Their functional org chart generally looks something like this:
The CDO / CRO's functional teams exist to create awareness, nurture prospects, close sales, up sell, cross sell and strengthen relationships. Support staff (Marketing Ops) support the entire organization. Along with traditional sales and conversion metrics, two critical financial measurements tie the teams' activities together:
The Third Pillar: Your Content
Once you've fully committed to a customer-centric business model, it's time to turn your attention to your content strategy. Like every marketing program, success is a matter of being in the right place at the right time with the right solution. An ideal Demand Generation program establishes your organization as the expert in your particular line of business. Therefore, each and every interaction with your prospects and customers should affirm and strengthen the perception that you are the leading solution in your category.
First and foremost, you need to find and target the best touch points to engage customers. This isn't an exact science. Tactics vary by industry and product type. Additionally, every business has varying strengths and deficiencies. Therefore, we strongly suggest you begin with category best practices that seem to fit your model. Test them out for yourself and quickly adapt and expand the ones that seem most promising. Here are some basic tactics to consider through the various stages of the revenue funnel:
With this model in mind, here are our five fundamental recommendations for developing an effective content strategy:
The Fourth Pillar: Analytics
Although it doesn't directly appear on your balance sheet, your company's structured data is an extremely important and valuable business asset. To a large degree, your ability to access, analyze and interpret the data generated through all of your customer interactions drives the effectiveness of your Demand Generation campaigns. As a recent report by DemandMetric / Radius demonstrates:
We recommend that you take stock of your data as early as possible! Missing, inaccurate or poor quality data impedes effective Demand Generation as well as the successful application of predictive analytics. You may wish to consider a full audit of your CRM applications, gathering and storage systems, personnel, as well as the depth, accuracy and quality of your structured data. That way, you can quickly begin to harness your assets and pull together an action plan to address your deficiencies.
A real opportunity exists in most industries to develop a sizable competitive advantage through structured data. Believe it or not, the DemandMetric / Radius report suggests that only 44% of CMO’s understand predictive analytics well; and only 11% of those that do understand are actually implementing or using predictive analytics for Demand Generation activities. Even more surprising, only 55% of companies that employ predictive modeling are using their data to find new revenue opportunities!
We'll state once again: Demand Generation programs are an ideal pairing for predictive analytics. Even if you're a very lean organization, commercial solutions do exist to help integrate predictive analytics into the process. If your current Demand Generation campaigns are yielding less than desired results, chances are there's room for improvement if you unlock the full power stored within your enterprise data systems.
Effective Demand Generation is an enterprise-wide endeavor. It requires a firm foundation built upon each of the four strategic pillars we described above. Whether your company is new to the discipline or you're a seasoned player, you need to ensure that you're executing the fundamentals efficiently and effectively. Otherwise, you're likely to be steamrolled by your competition.
You may be wondering why we haven't listed technology (e.g. automation systems, adaptive control technology, CRM systems, etc.) as a fifth pillar. While the right technology certainly speeds delivery, improves effectiveness and can also lower costs, we'd argue that technology systems are complementary tools to each of the four pillars we've described above. In our next article in this series, 12 Things to Consider Before You Automate Your Demand Generation Processes, we'll discuss the benefits of several Demand Generation technologies as well as some serious technological pitfalls you'll want to avoid.
Author: Erik Gagnon - Managing Partner, Chi Rho Consulting
Note: This is the second of a five-part series of Jumpstart Strategies articles examining the discipline of Demand Generation. Here are links to the other live articles in the series: