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The Thrive Hive

Tips on digital marketing you can apply today.

The Best Recipe for a Successful Website Redesign

Kristen Lindsey - Wednesday, August 31, 2016

As a business owner, successfully designing or revamping your website can be a daunting task.

Why is it so tough?

Outsourcing it can be overwhelming, with options ranging from moonlighting college students to huge national agencies; prices range from one thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. And, even if you have the skills, doing it yourself may not be the best use of your time. It’s enough to give you indigestion.

Good news! We have the perfect recipe for a successful website design project that will leave you satisfied and content (and get results!).

Ingredient #1: Strong Client Vision


I know, I know. You were expecting me to share everything a web agency should do for you, but guess what: you have complete control over one of the most important ingredients -- your vision for the site!

Taking time before starting a redesign project to map out a) your organizational goals, and b) how your web presence will support those goals is THE foundation of the entire project. Plus, if you are working with a good web company they are going to ask for this anyways.

Other important things to think through:

  • Who are your primary audiences?
  • What calls-to-action should be on the site?
  • What is your desired look and feel?
  • What content needs do you have?
  • Where will you obtain photos?
  • What other websites you like or dislike and why?

By answering these questions you can gain a clear vision of how your site will differentiate you from your competitors. It will also be easy to communicate this vision quickly to potential web partners. (We actually have a nifty project questionnaire with all these questions we give to prospective clients - you can view it here)

Ingredient #2: Strong Agency Strategic Input

You are responsible for the vision ingredient. But a good web agency should be able to interpret that vision and provide strategic input, apply current technology and use clear processes to offer “right-sized” technology recommendations. If you meet with an agency that pushes latest technology trends or makes recommendations that don’t seem in alignment with your business goals or target audiences, steer clear. Find a company that offers web solutions in a way you can understand and feel confident about, as well as ones that reflect your company brand and focus on the needs of your potential customers. a

Ingredient #3: Communication

Our web project recipe calls for a double portion of the “communication” ingredient. Even more than technical skills, good communication at every step of your project is critical to its success. If a web agency provides a scope of work that doesn’t clearly define the project goals and deliverables, they have failed to deliver this ingredient. Technical knowledge is not required to read a proposal and determine if it will deliver the site you need at a price reflective of its value.

Getting internal stakeholder buy-in is another example of the importance of good communication. If you are a one-person company and can make all the decisions, great! But most of us need input from co-workers or higher ups to make sure the new website will work for all departments. Getting internal participation and feedback, then clearly communicating that to your web agency will help the process go smoothly.

Some other examples of how both an agency and a client can contribute the communication ingredient:

An agency should:

  • Provide a clear, simple to understand proposal without jargon
  • Speak and write in layman’s terms 
  • Provide tools that help the client communicate their needs
  • Provide a simple, clear process for the project -- make it easy!
A client should:

  • Provide the agency with clear vision and direction
  • If you don’t understand something -- ask!
  • Use tools made available to you by the agency -- they’ve done this a lot

Ingredient #4: Client Leadership

Sorry, we’re back to you again. You thought you could outsource all of this, didn’t you? Well, at each stage your leadership is necessary to keep the website project on track. How can you lead? Some examples:

  • Make sure you understand the scope of the project right from the start
  • Give feedback on the agency’s approach -- is it supporting your vision?
  • Use the skills of your design partner -- they are technical professionals; it’s what you’re paying them for.
  • Expect timeliness, clear communication and solid solutions from your agency. If you don’t get these, speak up right away.

Ingredient #5: Digital Agency Skills

Yup, finally. Something the agency needs to contribute. Maybe you initially thought this was the only ingredient. But these technical skills, while extremely important, are pretty useless without all the other ingredients.

Your agency has very specific skills such as strategic thinking, graphic design, programming and coding, search engine optimization, user experience design, effective project management and more. These skills combined with all the other critical ingredients above are truly the best recipe for a successful website.

I hope this will help you feel a little more empowered and in control when starting a new company website. Pairing your vision and leadership with the right, results-driven agency will result in a powerful program that will grow your business.



Alaska Tourism - How Can You Thrive With Minimal State Marketing

Kristen Lindsey - Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The state of Alaska's budget woes have reached the tourism industry. Despite near record visitor numbers and a thriving industry, critical state marketing support for the industry has dwindled from upwards of twenty million dollars to to a mere 1.5 million dollars.

Many of our clients are asking about how they can retool their own marketing programs in response to this situation. Here are some digital strategies to consider:

1.  Do you have the right business intelligence?

Of course, businesses look at overall revenues, profit margins, etc. but there are other important ways of tracking your marketing program. Evaluating which analytics you review to support your marketing objectives is an important first step. 

You need a fuel gauge in your car to know if you're running out of fuel, right? Just looking at miles traveled will not tell you if you are in danger. Are you looking at mere website traffic to determine your digital success? Rethink your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and find the ones that give you actionable information. Some examples of KPIs we use with some clients are engaged visitors (sessions of x page views or more), shopping cart abandonment rate, average order value and more.

2. How is your website conversion rate?

Is your site optimized to maximize bookings? An incremental increase in your conversion rate is one of the biggest ways you can improve your digital marketing performance. Analysis tools like heat maps, exit surveys or landing page optimization testing can help you find areas of opportunity. Google Analytics has multiple ways to measure conversion, and spending a little on development to get this information can pay big dividends.

3. Are you spending your digital advertising in the right places?

U.S. department store merchant John Wanamaker is credited with the quote, "I know half my advertising is working; I just don't know which half." With digital advertising & marketing, this is no longer the case. Conducting an ad cost analysis (i.e. cost per conversion by advertising medium) can prevent you from throwing money at a poor performing tactic and underspending on something really valuable. For example, when executed properly, paid search advertising can have the lowest cost per acquisition of almost any other type of advertising. If you have an effective paid search program but not maximizing your spending, you are losing cost effective conversions.

4. Is your site mobile optimized?

So many travelers are making decisions on where to eat, what to do and even where to stay once they have already arrived at their destination, and they are mostly using mobile devices to make these bookings. If your site is not optimized for mobile yet, it is time to bite the bullet and make the investment. Yes, it is a capital expense that may feel like a lot, but is the most important part of conversion optimization you can undertake.

5. It is time to professionalize your social media presence.

Playing around with social media and seeing if it can contribute to your marketing program is a thing of the past. The size of audiences on social media now easily rival audiences in other areas, such as search. Developing a coordinated social media strategy in alignment with the rest of your marketing as well as exploring paid social advertising options will enhance your overall program and increase its impact. As with all marketing, with digital, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Synergy and consistent message among all tactics - search, display, email, social - can have a disproportionate impact and huge bang for the buck.

So, if you are looking for ways to leverage your marketing program further to make up for State of Alaska marketing program support, here are some ideas to start with. Do these resonate with you? Any other comments on digital opportunities you see? Please share in the comments!




The Best Recipe for a Successful Website Design

Kristen Lindsey - Wednesday, October 14, 2015

As a business owner, successfully designing or revamping your website can be a daunting task.

Why is it so tough?

Outsourcing it can be overwhelming, with options ranging from moonlighting college students to huge national agencies; prices range from one to tens of thousands of dollars. And, if you have the skills, doing it yourself may not be the best use of your time. It’s enough to give you indigestion.

Good news! We have the perfect recipe for a successful website design project that will leave you satisfied and content (and get results!)

Ingredient #1: Strong Client Vision

I know, I know. You were expecting me to share everything a web agency should do for you, but guess what; you have complete control over one of the most important ingredients -- your vision for the site!

Taking time before starting a project to map out a) your organizational goals, and b) how your web presence will support those goals is THE foundation

Other important things to think through:

  • Who are your primary audiences?
  • What calls-to-action should be on the site?
  • What is your desired look and feel?
  • What content needs do you have?
  • Where will you obtain photos?
  • What other websites you like or dislike and why?

By answering these questions you can gain a clear vision of how your site will differentiate you from your competitors. it will also be easy to communicate this vision quickly to potential web partners. (We actually have a nifty project questionnaire with all these questions we give to prospective clients - you can view it here)

Ingredient #2: Strong Agency Strategic Input

You are responsible for the vision ingredient. But a good web agency should be able to interpret that vision and provide strategic input, apply current technology and use clear processes to offer “right-sized” technology recommendations. If you meet with an agency that pushes latest technology trends or makes recommendations that don’t seem in alignment with your business goals or target audiences, steer clear. Find a company that offers web solutions in a way you can understand and feel confident about, that reflect your company brand and will focus on the needs of your potential customers.

Ingredient #3: Communication

Our web project recipe calls for a double portion of the “communication” ingredient. Even more than technical skills, good communication at every step of your project is critical to its success. If a web agency provides a scope of work that doesn’t clearly define the project goals and deliverables, they have failed to deliver this ingredient. Technical knowledge is not required to read a proposal and determine if it will deliver the site you need at a price reflective of its value.

Getting internal stakeholder buy-in is another example of the importance of good communication. If you are a one person company and can make all the decisions, great! But most of us need input from co-workers to make sure the new website will work for all departments. Getting internal participation and feedback, then clearly communicating that to your web agency will help the process go smoothly.

Some other examples of how both an agency and a client can contribute the communication ingredient:

An agency should:

  • provide a clear, simple to understand proposal without jargon
  • speak and write in layman’s terms
  • provide tools that help the client communicate their needs
  • provide a simple, clear process for the project -- make it easy!

A client should:

  • provide the agency with clear vision and direction
  • If you don’t understand something -- ask!
  • Use tools made available to you by the agency -- they’ve done this a lot

Ingredient #4: Client Leadership

Sorry, we’re back to you again. You thought you could outsource all of this, didn’t you? Well, at each stage your leadership is necessary to keep the website project on track. How can you lead? Some examples:

  • Make sure you understand the scope of the project right from the start
  • Give feedback on the agency’s approach -- is it supporting your vision?
  • Use the skills of your design partner -- they are technical professionals; it’s what you’re paying them for.
  • Expect timeliness, clear communication and solid solutions from your agency. If you don’t get these, speak up right away.

Ingredient #5: Design Agency Skills

Yup, finally. Something the agency needs to contribute. Maybe you initially thought this was the only ingredient. But these technical skills, while extremely important, are pretty useless without all the other ingredients.

Your agency has very specific technical skills such as strategic thinking, graphic design, programming and coding, search engine optimization, user experience design, effective project management and more. These skills combined with all the other critical ingredients above are truly the best recipe for a successful website.

 

I hope this will help you feel a little more empowered and in control when starting a new company website. Pairing your vision and leadership with the right, results-driven agency will result in a powerful program that will grow your business.

 



Site Launch: Alaska Mill and Feed & Garden Center

Scott Thomas - Thursday, October 27, 2011

A newly redesigned website was launched this week for Alaska Mill and Feed and Garden Center. The site features the Business Catalyst Content Management System (CMS) and continues to use their existing mail order/online store.

 

Alaska Mill Feed and Garden Center



When do You Reinvest in Your Website?

Kristen Lindsey - Monday, August 15, 2011
This is often a tough call for clients. Websites should be built to last a while, but there are some tell-tale signs that indicate that it is time to make an investment by upgrading to a new platform.


When it makes sense to stick with what you have:

  • You already have a content management system (CMS) and a site designed with styles sheets and templates. This allows you to make design refreshes at a relatively low cost.
  • Your site is five years old or less. Most sites in this range are relatively current in look and feel, as well as functionality.
  • You need minimal functionality changes. If your site is relatively simple, it will last longer.
  • No need for new navigation or layouts. Again, a simple site without dramatic changes in content or navigation can last longer.

When it makes sense to reinvest:

If any of the following apply, it's time to think about your options. If more than one apply, it's time to think seriously about your five-year web plan.

Before and After
  • You have a static, HTML website. Making changes to these sites often requires someone with HTML experience. Current technology empowers clients to do a lot themselves effectively and affordably.
  • Site is more than five years old. There have been significant improvements in web technology in the past five years, and the cost has gone down. You can gain significant improvements with an investment now.
  • Older site (5+ years). These sites are not optimized for new screen sizes and will appear very dated, which can hamper credibility.
  • If you have new product lines or want to invest in some significant new functionality. First review the current platform to see if upgrades are possible, and at what cost. 
  • Your business model has changed and the web is more important. If the website is playing a more significant role in your business, you need to make sure it's scalable for the inevitable improvements in the coming years.
  • Significant navigation changes or additional content are needed. When changes like these are significant, it's a good time to revisit – new best practices may be incorporated at a modest price.

Is this something you have been thinking about fior your business? What other considerations do you have to share?




Check out Apokrisis Web Design Portfolio

Monica Whitt - Tuesday, August 09, 2011
We've added a fun gallery with recently launched projects that use our online business content management system, plus other web sites we've done in the past. Visit Apokrisis Web Design Portfolio!




Redesign Site Launch: Pike's Waterfront Lodge

Scott Thomas - Thursday, July 14, 2011
We are excited to announce a newly re-designed website for Pike's Waterfront Lodge. Pike's Waterfront Lodge has been a long-time client of our Alaska web design and Alaska search marketing services. Their new design features the Business Catalyst Content Management System (CMS), blog, online reservations, and email newsletter.


Pike's Redesigned Website