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Are You Dressing (Your Website) for Success?

website success

Your site doesn’t need a tiara, but it does need to be dressed.

You wouldn’t go to a client meeting in cutoffs and flip-flops. Or attend a business luncheon wearing slippers and a concert t-shirt. You wouldn’t attend a gala in jeans and a tank top. If you wouldn’t wear clothes and hair from 1999, why would you let your website? Website success depends on diligent upkeep.

Your site may be outdated if…

  • You were still using a rotary phone when you launched it.
  • Your backup files are on floppy disk.
  • The kid who built it now has children of his own.
  • The computer you used had a black and amber screen.
  • You scanned polaroid photos to include on it.
  • You were listening to a walkman as you worked on it.
  • You accessed the internet through a dial-up modem, and were thrilled every time you heard the digital handshake connecting you.
  • You printed out a hard copy on your pin-fed, dot matrix printer.

Seriously, though, many business owners put their best foot forward personally – but let their website remain a remnant of design-gone-by.

So what makes a website out-of-date? Here are 6 things to check today.

    1. Your site isn’t responsive. Check your site on a smart phone. If it isn’t easy to use, you have to pinch the screen to expand the page to read it, or if the links aren’t clickable, then your site isn’t mobile responsive. A huge number of your visitors will be visiting your site on a mobile device. Make sure their user experience is easy, and shows that you are up-to-date.

       

    2. Your information isn’t current. Is your phone number correct? Street address? Email address? Logo? If not, you are losing clients who can’t connect with you or find you. Consistent branding (i.e. updated logo) is also a marketing nightmare. Update all of your information. 

       

    3. Most of your text is embedded in images. If so, you’re missing out on web features that read text – not only SEO (search engine optimization) but accessibility for the visually impaired. Use actual text on your site – in headers, buttons, menus, and paragraphs.

       

    4. Video or audio auto-plays as soon as someone lands on your site. This can make for a bad user experience. Imagine your visitor accessing your site from a library, cubicle, or late at night while their significant other is sound asleep. Sound erupting from their laptop can be embarrassing and/or startling to the user and those around them.

       

    5. Your copyright date is out-of-date. This is a sure sign of a neglected website. If you don’t update the copyright, visitors will assume that all of the content is out-of-date.

       

    6. You still have a hit counter on your site, proudly displaying the number of visitors. Once helpful, these now show how ancient your site is. There are so many more ways to gauge analytics for your site, without displaying them to the public.

If any of these apply to your site, it’s time for an update and/or upgrade. Contact your web designer/developer to get changes made to bring you up-to-date. Or if you need to, find a new designer to either update your site, or redesign it to meet current visitor needs. 

A fresh site can make all the difference.

(Need some help, let us know. Contact us here.)

In Defense of Ugly Carpet

carpet2

I am sure that there is a reason for ugly carpet. There must be – the industry produces a LOT of it. And I don’t mean 40+ year-old shag that came with its own rake. No, I mean brand-spanking-new carpet. The kind you see in most hotels. (more…)

Build a Better Business Card

bettercard

Did you know that there are fourteen square inches of potential in every business card?

Fourteen square inches of space is probably more than you realized – and yet, somehow still not enough sometimes. The information that you include and the graphics that you use send a message and can be the first impression that a potential client has of you and your business.

Here are ten things to consider for your business card. (All ten may not be right for you. It depends on your business and your message.)

  1. Include your company logo – and few or no other graphics or pictures. Print your cards in color to make the logo “pop.” Don’t clutter the card with extra images unless they are truly helpful in establishing your message.
  2. Prominently feature your company name, your name, and your title.
  3. Include all of your contact information: phone, email, website, fax (if you still have one), and physical address.
  4. Consider including a tagline (if there is room and if it helps brand your business).
  5. While the jury is out regarding the helpfulness of QR codes, they may be useful depending on your industry.
  6. Consider using the back of your card. Service-oriented businesses find it helpful to have a place to write down a next appointment. Others include a small menu of products or services. Still others find this a good place to put social media contact information like a Facebook page and Twitter handle.
  7. Use a nice quality and good weight paper – but not too thick. The goal here is to present quality but not make it impossible to carry more than a few in your briefcase or wallet.
  8. Use a readable font and font size that relays class and professionalism. Cute or overly-ornate fonts are not your friend.
  9. Use appropriate colors. A dark font on a dark background is difficult to read, as is a light font on a white background. Make your card easy on the eyes so that it does its job well.

Make sure that your business card keeps within the design and color realm of your other marketing materials – like your website, letterhead and brochures. Consistency in marketing is key.

Of course, the most important thing about business cards is that you use them. Never be without a card, as you never know where your next great connection will come from.

 

Somewhere Between a Dead Fish and Vice Grips

handshake

If what I am experiencing on a regular basis is indicative of what is happening everywhere – then I fear for the future of a good firm handshake.

The problem is that no one ever actually teaches us how to shake someone’s hand. We grow up seeing it happen. Adults “shake” our hands…but not wanting to scare/harm/overwhelm us, they often do us a disservice by “going easy on us” and actually just hold our little outstretched paws gently and briefly. So we learn early on that a handshake is soft. Then we grow up and either shake hands like royalty expecting our rings to be kissed – or overcompensate by establishing a bone-crushing vice grip on unsuspecting victims.

Many of us will eventually figure out that a good handshake is somewhere between a dead fish and vice grips. Some of us will not.

So what makes a good handshake? I posted that question to Facebook to see what the masses had to say. Here are some of their responses:

  • “I have always been big on the handshake as a measure of someone’s self esteem, outgoingness, and respect. Needs to be firm and if it is, [length of] time doesn’t matter so much. Germs shmerms. Wash your hands a lot.”
  • “As a woman who works in a male dominated field…I appreciate it when a business man I am meeting with gives me a firm handshake, looks me in the eyes and treats me with respect as his equal in business!”
  • “I always use a firm handshake and look the person right in the eyes. I believe it says a lot about a person’s character and self-esteem.”
  • “If you are going to shake my hand with a limp hand, don’t bother. Gross!”
  • “Firm grip, two pumps, look in the eye, then let go. Don’t hang on to my hands while you ask about my family and what’s new!!!”
  • “There’s a difference between a polite handshake and just being limp and wimpy.”
  • “A two-hand shake (where someone holds one of my hands in both of theirs) is just weird. If you’re not my grandmother or my pastor…don’t do it.”

Here are my steps to a good handshake:

  1. Reach out your arm, and grasp the other person’s hand. (This means actually curling your fingers around their hand…not merely extending a hand to be held. This is what determines if a shake is “firm” or “wimpy.”)
  2. Two or three “pumps” is all it takes for a good handshake. One seems too brief, but more than three feels invasive of personal space and social convention. (Usually during this time a “nice to meet you” and “same here” are exchanged between parties.)
  3. Let go. (Do not wipe your hand on your pants/skirt/jacket. Do not pull out the sanitizer.)
  4. Carry on with your meeting.
The art of the handshake does not need to be a dying art. If we teach our children – especially teenagers – what a good handshake is, we will equip them with the ability to give a good first impression.

Buzzwords: Don’t Get Stung

bee

When it comes to language – every business has its own words. Whether you are in education, marketing, banking, retail, non-profit, or any other field, you are bound to come across words that are industry-specific, sometimes trite, and (if not already) eventually overused.

Using buzzwords can give us a sense of belonging. When we use them we are “in the know.” We somehow feel that we have arrived and are accepted. If we are not careful, however, buzzwords can do more harm than good.

Because buzzwords are trendy, they have a shelf life. Think in terms of fashion. Certain buzzwords are the side pony tails and leisure suites that shouldn’t be worn today. Also due to their trendiness (among other things) they can serve to alienate those who aren’t “in the know.” Sometimes those people are your customers, co-workers, and higher-ups.

Buzzwords can also be a re-use/intentional misuse of a term from another industry applied to a different field. Accounting terms get used this way all the time (i.e., “bottom line;” “on the margin”).

I’ve compiled my list of buzzwords that are currently making the rounds – and a few that should have been retired quite awhile ago.

  • Bandwidth – originally referring only to the Internet and available rate of data transfer, bandwidth described the capacity that may or may not be available for data processing. It has since become synonymous with a person’s ability to process information or even a group/business capacity.
  • Growth Hacking – This refers to a marketing strategy to grow a business quickly.
  • C-Suite – This refers to the highest-level administration in a company (CEO, CIO, CFO, COO, etc.) named because their titles all begin with “C.”
  • Lens – Used a lot in education, this refers to viewing a challenge, issue, or problem in a different way – or “through a different lens.”
  • Pivot – This term simply means something wasn’t working, so we changed our strategy to adjust.
  • Pre-revenue – That time when a business is in its formation and hasn’t sold anything yet. This is a euphemism for “we aren’t making money yet.”

While there are, of course, dozens (if not hundreds) more, you get the idea. The concepts and meanings are valid, but we should definitely find a better way to communicate them.

Otherwise we may become “yesterday’s news.”

Writing Better Email

email
Love it or hate it, electronic communication is here to stay. If anything – it will become more prolific rather than less so. But we can do our part to abate the junk mail, provide information, and still be effective.
Here are a few tips that will help your email be read (to the bottom) and make your writing better, over all.
  • Be polite, but get to the point.
  • Be clear – are you asking for a response? Do you need something? Are you sharing an opportunity? Make it clear.
  • Stick to the matter at hand. Do not add unrelated questions or information. Use a separate email for those.
  • Keep it brief. Many people read email on their phones. This makes your email look ten times longer than it is. And feel even more overwhelming.
  • Always check your spelling (especially peoples’ names).
  • Reduce the amount of slang you use. It will make you sound more professional (and intelligent).
  • Similarly, reduce the number of acronyms – not everyone knows what they mean.
  • Avoid buzzwords. They are pretentious and overused.
  • Use proper grammar. When in doubt, ask someone to proof your work.
  • Use commas sparingly – but correctly.
  • Avoid exclamation points – it comes across as shouting or overly-enthusiastic.
  • Avoid abbreviations.
  • Do not use texting shortcuts in email.
  • And NEVER write an entire email in all caps, or all lower case.
By being concise and using proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation, email will be better received.