Author Archives: Sarah Hickman

How to get a website built

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What are the steps involved in getting a website built for your business?

Firstly, some facts.

1&1 Internet recently carried out some research showing that:

  • 46% of users have walked away from a small business because of a poor website
  • 7% have opted to spend less with the business as a direct result
  • 45% say that a bad website makes a worse impact than a business having no website at all

If you're a small or medium-sized business, it's unlikely you'll have big budgets, teams of people, or lots of time to invest in a complex online strategy, but there are some simple steps you can take to start reaping the rewards of visible online.

Advantages of having a website

  • The internet is a fact of business life now - if you have no web presence, no-one will find you
  • You'll appear outdated if you don't have one
  • It's a way of both summarising your offer, giving more detail and showing testimonials
  • It's cheap compared to many other types of marketing communications
  • Easily accessible – with mobile technology you can be found on any device
  • Acts as a shop window for your business
  • It's open 24/7
  • It's international – available (almost) anywhere in the world
  • You can be in control of it

Do it properly

So we've had a look at how important it is to have a web presence, but you don't want to shoot yourself in the foot by spending time and money getting a website up and running, if all it actually does is show your company in a bad light.

You don't need to have a huge budget to get something good – you can start small, and add to it later as your business grows.

The most important thing to do is to put yourself in the user's shoes.

SIMPLE STEPS IN GETTING A WEBSITE SET UP

1. Check out the competition

Create a list of URLs of your competitors, and determine the strengths and weaknesses of their websites.

What are your favourite websites – and why do you like them? Pick out a few sites that look the way you’d like yours to look, considering things like design, colour scheme, and layout.

2. What is your market?

Create a clear understanding of your website’s users. A good way of doing this is with "personas" - they are a great way to pinpoint who your users are.

The goal is to describe the target customer as a real person:

  • Give them a name and image
  • Age, gender, interests
  • Situation – when do they buy / use this product?
  • Key information needs – what do they need to find out?
  • Decision making factors – what influences them?
  • Increase the personal description for B2C situations, e.g. cosmetics, clothing
  • Understand the decision-making role for B2B situations, e.g. user, purchaser

You can create a few personas to help clarify your different market segments.

e.g. Florist in Leamington Spa

Persona 1

Woman who comes in every week and buys a different display for her living room

Persona 2

Man who wants to buy his partner a bouquet on special occasions

This helps you to understand what you need to put into your website from a user's point of view.

3. Set your goals

Make sure your users' needs are met. For example, do they need to reach you urgently or are you persuading them of your expertise?

What do you want your website to do?

  • Get new customers
  • Launch a new product or service
  • Reassure potential customers
  • Reassure existing customers
  • Remind existing customers
  • Inform
  • Increase product awareness
  • Generate more sales
  • Offer e-commerce
  • Create a community

...or a mixcture of the above.

4. Decide what type of website you need

  • eCommerce site or 'brochure' site - will your site be an online store or simply a 'brochure' type site that tells people about your business?
  • CMS – what is it? Why will it be cheaper for you? CMS stands for Content Management System. Many customers prefer to use a CMS as they have control over their own content, and it works out cheaper for them. WordPress is a type of CMS. It started as a blogging platform but is so easy to use, it's now a very popular platform for developing all types of websites.
  • Bespoke or theme – what's the difference? Have a look at some of the themes available from businesses like ThemeForest and Template Monster. You can't just download a theme and start adding content – you'll still need to get a web developer to configure and customise it for your brand. Buying a theme saves your web developer time and therefore saves you money. BUT there are drawbacks – a theme can drastically limit your choice of website design and functionality. Also, if you decide to make big changes to your theme, you are adding web development time which costs you money.
  • Responsive or not? - our website MUST be responsive, i.e. configured to display properly on mobile devices. Over 50% of John Lewis online sales are now made on mobile devices, and this figure will only increase. It makes sense to get responsive design built into your site upfront so it's future-proof.

5. Choose a domain name

We see URLs all day every day. A URL (Uniform Resource Locator) is basically a web address.

www: Worldwide web

publicagency: Domain name

.co.uk: Top level domain

You can select and buy your domain through a website that sells domains e.g. www.123reg.com, www.1and1.com, www.godaddy.com, or through your hosting company (more about hosting below).

You may have to compromise on the exact name, as your first choice may be gone.

There are now a large amount of TLDs available e.g. .photos .clothing .kitchen. It might be worth buying a few TLDs e.g. .co.uk, .net, .co, .org to save competitors snapping them up.

You're renting the domain name, and the rental lasts 1-2 years. Make sure you renew it, or it's gone.

Expect to pay between £3 - £30 + per year, depending on the popularity of your name.

Tips:

  • It should be easy to spell
  • Try to avoid using dashes – it makes the URL easier to remember without them
  • Remember – it's not case sensitive
  • Make sure there are no howlers!

e.g. Choose Spain = choosespain

e.g. Lawyers Exchange = lawyersexchange

e.g. Speed of Art = speedofart

6. Arrange hosting

Like domain registrations, there are many companies that offer website hosting with varying pricing.

Web hosting companies own huge servers with lots of space for websites to 'live', and they basically rent out space on these servers. Web hosting is generally charged to you on a monthly or annual fee.

You can ask your web developer to arrange this for you, for you can arrange it yourself. If your web developer does it for you, make sure have a copy of the information you need to access all your files, in case you ever want to change developer. You will need the username and password to the place on the server where your site is hosted.

Larger hosting companies will offer cheap deals but as with any cheap service, you may not get the best customer service.

The amount you pay depends on the size of your website. A large eCommerce website, for example, will cost more than a small site with five pages of content. This is because you're taking up more space on the hosting company's server. For a very basic website, expect to pay from £8 per month.

Examples of hosting companies are 1and1, Fast Hosts, GoDaddy, United Hosting.

7. Get your website designed and built

The big one!

Do you 'do it yourself' or pay a professional web developer to do it? Play to your strengths – if you have some design or coding experience then give it a try. If not, we suggest you get it done properly! Consider your needs, your technical abilities, and your budget when making a decision about how your site will be created.

You only get a few seconds to convince a web visitor that they’ve come to the right place so it’s important that your website reflects professionalism.

An "amateur" website isn’t likely to give you the results you’re hoping for. Investment in your own website will improve your bottom line in the long run.

7.a. Get a brief together

The more you can tell your web developer about what you want, the better – you'll get a more accurate quote and will end up with the website you want.

What should you put in it? See our client questionnaire which was the subject of another of our blog posts.

7.b. The quote

As with any purchase you make, you should send exactly the same brief to a number of web companies, so when you get the price back you are comparing like with like.

Check to see if you've been given a quote for the entire job or at an hourly rate. If it's for the entire job, see what's included.

We recently met a small business owner who had asked web developer to design and build a new website. The business owner was shocked that the web developer wouldn't be designing the logo, writing the words, and arranging the photography. They thought all this work was included in the quote – which led to both him and the web developer parting on bad terms. So check what's included and what isn't.

7.c. What the web developer will need from you

Most web development companies will assume that you will be providing the following:

  • logo
  • pictures
  • text
  • links to your social media accounts

Good web development companies will check to see what you will be providing, and if you have any gaps they will supply a quote for the missing elements.

Consider deadlines. It's always worth giving yourself and your web developer a deadline, otherwise jobs can drag on.

7.d. What the web developer will do next

Between you, you'll agree the 'architecture' of the website.

Different web design companies will use different processes at this stage. For a bespoke website, good practise is for them to supply you with a wireframe so you are both agreed before they even start coding.

If you've gone for the 'theme' option, the web developer will purchase the theme at this stage.

Your web developer should design your page layout (especially the home page) with a hierarchy in mind.

They should consider the F-shaped reading pattern:

  • the viewer first notices the logo top left;
  • then moves onto the slideshow/main image which is the most important element on the home page;
  • as the reader moves lower on the page they notice the information about the business.

There should be plenty of space to make it easy for users to scan through and find the relevant information. Resist the temptation to cram everything in, and think about what the users are actually looking for.

7.e. Other things your web developer should consider

  • Create a call to action on every page.
  • Include an “about” page and testimonials to identify yourself and appear more human.
  • Make your contact information very easy to find.

7.f. Images

Again, find out up front if you or your web developer are responsible for supplying the images for your website. If you are supplying your own, try to find compelling images that match your branding and company image – consistency is key.

A good quality image can make a website look instantly professional (and of course, the reverse is also true). All image files should be 72 or 96dpi and saved for web. As a rule of thumb use GIF format for computer-generated graphics such as simple logos, buttons or animations, and JPEG format for photographs or scanned material.

Try websites like iStock or Shutterstock for cost-effective stock imagery. Images usually start from a few pounds each.

  • Avoid poor quality images of any kind – it's better to not show anything than to show something pixelated, badly resized or low resolution.
  • If possible, use photos that have a single main subject.
  • Photos of people are good – people relate to seeing other people.
  • Even though photos of people are good, try to avoid clichéd “business people shaking hands” photos!

7.g. Text

You can have the best looking website in the world, but if you’ve got spelling and grammar errors, nobody will take you seriously. Proofread everything, then get a colleague to go over it again.

  • Break the text down into separate sections to minimise individual pages.
  • Use short, precise words in your navigation links (e.g. About Us, Services).
  • Important navigation links should remain constant on every page and organised in order of importance.

7.h. Fonts

Of course you want to be memorable, but don’t be fooled into thinking a fancy font is the way to do it!

  • Stick to web-safe fonts like Google Fonts, or "reliable" ones like Arial, Helvetica, Georgia or Verdana.
  • For text and heading styles, stick to one or two typefaces and two or three type sizes and colours.
  • For ease of use, keep link colours in line with the page colours.
  • Don’t use all-caps text for anything other than a heading.

7.i. Important things your web developer should be checking

  • The loading time of your pages. Loading speed is key to getting repeat visitors (and in our experience, anything over 15 seconds is too slow). This is one of the reasons you need 72 or 96dpi images saved for web. Huge images will make the page loading time too slow.
  • Check the 'depth' of your pages – how many clicks does it take to reach any page? The fewer the clicks, the better.
  • Check your browser compatibility (does everything still work on IE, Chrome, Safari, Firefox etc.)?
  • Check for broken links.
  • Optimise your footer area with links, copyright, terms and conditions, privacy policy, disclaimers, contact info (as well as being either legally required or just good practice, this helps your SEO).

8. What happens after it's built?

Once the site is up, what’s next? Regardless of whether you build it, hire someone, or a combination of the two, traffic won't just arrive on its own. You'll need to use marketing tools and tactics to promote it.

To find out more, drop us a line.

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Everything you need to know about website content

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So, your website's been built. What next? You need to think about your website content.

The golden rule is to MAINTAIN YOUR WEBSITE. Don’t just get it built and then forget it – you'll be ignoring a valuable marketing channel and potential for growing your business.

There are many ways you can increase traffic to your website:
• Optimise your site with search engine optimisation techniques
• Google Adwords pay-per-click campaign
• Promoting your site through advertising on popular industry websites
• Newsletter marketing
• Promotion through social media
• Promotion through traditional marketing such as press adverts and flyering campaigns

Another way of driving traffic to your website is to continually update the site with fresh and valuable content, which we'll talk about here.

So, do you do it yourself or outsource? This depends on your own time and your skill. If English isn't your best subject, this may damage your business' image. If you don’t have the time or skills to maintain your website, use the skills of a professional.

What is website content?

Basically, it's words, pictures and video.

Your web developer might enter the initial content to get you going (make sure you know if this is included in the quote).

People assign more credibility to sites that show they have been recently updated or reviewed – and it's also great for SEO. When a website is updated regularly, Google sees it as an active site and therefore ranks it more highly in search results pages.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is taking your website content one step further.

Many customers nowadays shut themselves off from the traditional world of marketing. They own a Sky Plus box to skip TV advertising, put themselves on the TPS to avoid cold calls on the telephone, often ignore magazine advertising, and skim-read online information without looking at banners or buttons.

Content marketing aims to reach these people in a different way. It's a technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving customer action.

Content marketing is being used by some of the biggest companies in the world, including P&G and Microsoft. It’s also carried out by small businesses and one-person shops around the globe. Why? Because it works.

It can include, blogging, social media posts, e-newsletters, videos, articles on other websites, infographics....the list goes on.

Copywriting

If you're going to write your own words, here are some tips:

  • Try to be clear, direct, and sincere
  • Remember ‘KISS’ - ‘Keep it Short and Simple’
  • Avoid long sentences - split them into two where possible
  • Avoid errors of all types, no matter how small they seem. Get someone to double check what you've written
  • Avoid “wishy washy” words like: may, maybe, hope, wish, try, but, could, perhaps and strive. Instead, use words like will and can to describe what your business will or can do for your reader
  • Avoid the passive voice where possible, e.g. use “We created ten new designs” instead of “Ten new designs were created"
  • Consider why your customers should buy your product or service
  • Know your target audience and use a writing style that suits them
  • Break text into small easily read chunks separated with headings and images for easier scanning – most people skim-read website text
  • Create a call to action as often as possible (without becoming repetitive) – more on this next

Calls to Action

Call to action help your website to work hard for you. Calls to action are also very valuable in email campaigns, as one of the purposes of an email campaign is to get your potential customers to take an action.

Calls to action are a marketing necessity. Get them right and you have the means to drive your customers to just the conclusion you want, for example:

  • Increasing leads and revenue
  • Purchasing goods or services
  • Downloading your latest white papers, etc.

Get your calls to action wrong and you are potentially damaging your digital marketing efforts.

Blogging

Some people have a blog separate to their website, and sometime it's incorporated into the actual site. It's best for SEO to have everything in one place, but if you've got a separate blog, just make sure that you've got obvious links back to your main site.

Your goal with a blog is to:

  • Show yourself as an expert in your field
  • Showcase your products and services – within a good story
  • Make it interesting so that it's shared, thus increasing your brand awareness
  • Having obvious 'sharing' buttons on your website will help get your content shared

Some tips for writing engaging blogs:

  • Identify and understand your target audience
  • Be original
  • Don’t be afraid to make it a long, magazine-style post. If it's interesting, people will read to the end
  • Make it positive – positive blog posts are shared more often than negative ones
  • Use current trends and recent news events as inspiration when you are creating content
  • Use pictures
  • Make is useful – maybe it will help people to solve a problem
  • Make it easy to read, using the copywriting tips above
  • Think of a headline that demands attention. For example:

- Include a promise in your title: “Everything You Need to Know About Web Design” (sound familiar?!)

- Numbers let your reader know what to expect: “10 Ways To Build a Great Website”

- Ask questions to stimulate curiosity: “What's Your Favourite Ever Website?”

- Write a “How To” article: “How to Become a Web Design Expert”

Content schedule

With so many options for content marketing out there, the biggest challenge SMEs face is – how do I find the time? You might be a sole trader struggling to fit everything in. Or an SME with a small number of staff covering a multitude of different roles.

Large organisations will either outsource their content marketing, or have staff whose sole role is to work on the content. SMEs don't have that luxury.

We can't create time, but what we can do is draw up a content schedule to fit what can do within the limited time we have to do it.

And as always in marketing, think about who your target audience are.

If you need any help or advice on getting your website content written, drop us a line.

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10 copywriting mistakes that are ruining your marketing

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Copywriting mistakes

One of the ways of increasing traffic to your website is to have well-written, enticing copy that will result in people spending more time there. Well crafted news pieces or articles, for example, can help create trust in your organisation, and may even attract enough web traffic to make advertising revenue a potential income source.

Poorly-written copy, on the other hand, can reflect badly on your company and turn potential customers away. Below are some common copywriting mistakes that you should try to avoid.

1. Overuse of exclamation marks
I couldn't agree more!!!!! The exclamation mark is for shouting something at the top of your voice. It should be used sparingly, so that when you actually do have something to shout about, it is meaningful. If not, stick with a full stop. If you have well-crafted, eloquent sentences, they should make an impression on the reader without needing an exclamation mark.

2. Too, two and to
Too is an expression of excess. It can mean also / very / extra. Two is one more than one. To is for everything else. Use the wrong one at your peril.

3. That vs. who
“That” is used when you refer to an object. “Who” is used when you refer to a person. For example, “He's the man who devised that incredible advertising campaign.”

4. Misuse of apostrophes
This is our bugbear at Public!* An apostrophe is used:

(a) To indicate the possessive.
- This is Sarah's house.
- The dog's food smells disgusting.
- Men's shirts are on the third floor.
- It is everyone's responsibility to keep our streets clean.

Note: Personal pronouns are already possessive, so they don't need an apostrophe (my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs).
- The house is yours.
- The dog broke its leg.
- That car used to be ours.

(b) To indicate missing letters.
- You can't stay here.
- Don't empty the dog bowl there!
- I won't be able to climb up the stairs.

* Unnecessary exclamation mark

5. It vs. they
There seems to be confusion about which pronoun to use when describing a company: it or they? The trouble arises because a company is an entity, but it is made up of people. How do you choose? A company is a non-living entity, so the pronoun “it” is used. For example, “Twitter floated on the stock market and it sold initial shares for $26 each.” If you're talking about Twitter’s directors, use “they.” “The directors said they were 'feeling excellent' after the share price was announced.”

6. Capitalising job titles
You should only capitalize a title immediately before someone’s name. For example, “Marketing Director Emma Jones was praised for her work” and “Emma Jones, marketing director, attributed the success to her team's hard work.”

7. What goes inside the quotes?
The full stop and the comma. They don't ever go on the outside. Question marks and exclamation marks are different - they go outside or inside depending on whether they refer to the whole sentence (outside) or just what is inside the quotes (inside).

8. Lead vs. led
This is a common mistake. “Lead” rhymes with “head” when you're talking about the metal. “Lead” rhymes with “seed” when you’re at the front. But if you were once at the front and now you're at the back, then you should use the past tense, which is “led.”

9. Less vs. fewer
Use “fewer” for things you can count, but use “less” to quantify something you really can’t count. For example, “Please hang fewer clothes on the line next time.” Conversely, “I wish we had less stuff in this attic.” And yes – the sign at the supermarket checkout is wrong – it should say “8 items or fewer” because you can count the items.

10. Over vs. more than
Over is the opposite of under. It shouldn’t describe number or quantity. If you want to tell someone how many or how much or how long, use “more than”. For example, “We’ve sold more than 500 widgets this quarter.”

Good copy can impress your customers. Bad copy can turn people away and detract from your brand. If you've invested in a well-designed website, why would you populate it with copy that you've just thrown together?

Professional, effective web design is a great way to build confidence in your organisation and boost your reputation. But fill it with unprofessional, inarticulate copy and you'll destroy your customers' trust and undermine your reputation.

 

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Is your website still fit for purpose?

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Is your website fit for purpose

Ask yourself these questions about your current website:

  1. Is it immediately obvious what it's for? If you can't tell in the first five seconds what the website is selling or telling, then it isn't doing its job effectively. Amazingly, this is the amount of time viewers will spend deciding if they want to stay or leave. If they can't tell what you do in that time – they'll be off.
  2. Is it optimised for mobile devices? Have a look at your website on a smartphone or iPad. It should be simple to navigate and text should be easy to read.
  3. Is it too cluttered? If you've had the same website for a few years, it may have been tempting to 'bolt on' more information, perhaps as your business has grown. To gain a competitive advantage, you need a crisp, clean design that's easy to navigate.
  4. Is it flexible and adaptable? What if your business launches a new product or service? You don’t want to have to revamp everything to accommodate it. Using a CMS (Content Management System) can allow for future expansion, and enable you to add new features to your existing website.
  5. Are my competitors doing it better? Have a look at what your rivals are doing. If their sites rate above yours in search results and look more professional, it may be time for a refresh.

If you'd like to a chat about what you need to go forward, give us a call.

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What to include in a website brief

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What to put in a website brief

The website brief - thinking about getting a website built but not sure what to ask for?

Let's turn the question on its head. When people come to us for a cost estimate for a new website, we ask them to answer the questions below. These questions will help both us and the client understand exactly what they want from their new site.

1. YOUR BUSINESS
What products do you sell or services do you provide?

How big is your business?

Do you trade within the UK only?

Describe the company using five or ten words (e.g. young, vibrant, technology based, etc.)

2. YOUR CURRENT WEBSITE
Why is it no longer suitable?

What do you like and dislike about it?

Do you know what levels of traffic is it currently receiving, including from mobile devices?

3. YOUR AUDIENCE AND COMPETITORS
Who are your target audience for this website?

What's the purpose of the website? (e.g. sell products, provide information, educate, etc)

What actions do you want visitors to take? (e.g. contact you via email or phone, fill out an online form, follow you on social media, make a purchase, etc)

Please list the names of two or more of your competitors.

Please list the names of two websites that you like and two that you dislike. What do you like and dislike about them?

How will your target audience be accessing your site – via their phones, tablets or desktops?

4. DESIGN
Do you have any ideas for the look and feel of your website?

Do you have existing logo/branding/business cards or other printed materials, or should branding be part of our quote?

5. GENERAL
We will link to your social media so please provide the links.

Do you need to purchase a domain name or do you already own it?

Do you need to purchase hosting?

Do you have an idea of budget and a deadline date in mind?

6. WEBSITE FRAMEWORK
Please place an 'X' to identify any pages or features you envisage as part of your site:
Basic
 Home
 Products / services
 FAQs
 Directions
 About Us
 Contact Us with contact form
 News / blog
 Upcoming events

Special Features
 Home page slideshow
 Video
 Map
 Search facility
 Newsletter / email list sign-up
 Information / request forms

Applications
 Registration / customer login
 Store / shopping cart
 Online payment
 Forum
 Reviews
 Customer surveys/polls

Please list any additional or custom pages you would like.

7. AFTER IT'S BUILT - WEBSITE CONTENT
How often will you need to update the website content?
Hourly
Daily
Weekly
Monthly
Rarely

How many content pages do you expect to update on your site each month?

Who will be responsible for updates – your website developer or yourselves?

Who will be responsible for generating content – text and images?

As with any purchase you make, you should send exactly the same brief to a number of web companies, so when you get the price back you are comparing like with like.

Ready for the next steps? Check out our blog post about the stages involved in getting a website built.

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How to create a simple yet effective marketing plan

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Simple yet effective marketing plan

It’s a well-known fact that a business plan is vital. However, many people don’t realise that a marketing plan is just as important.

A marketing plan is a strategic document outlining your objectives. It spells out all the tactics you’ll use to achieve your goals. It’s your plan of action, and unless you’re using it to help gain funding, it doesn’t have to be lengthy: bullet points will do.

Here are the elements you should include in your marketing plan:

1. SITUATION ANALYSIS
This is a snapshot of your current situation. It can be broken down into these sub-sections:
• Definition of your company and its products or services
• Your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
• How the benefits you provide set you apart from your competition (also known as your Unique Selling Proposition or USP)

2. TARGET CUSTOMERS
Create a simple description of your target customer. This is known as a Customer Persona. You can describe the person in terms of demographics - age, gender, family, income, location - as well as lifestyle or social factors. Is your customer traditional or modern? Are they leaders or followers? Introverted or extroverted? How often do they purchase what you’re selling? You'll probably have a number of different customer types; create personas for each of them.

Customer Personas work just as well for B2B organisations, although you’ll need to adjust them slightly. Your target customers will be working within other businesses. You can define them based on their type of business, job title, size of business, location, estimated turnover, etc.

3. MARKETING OBJECTIVES
What do you want your marketing plan to achieve? For example, are you hoping for a 10% increase in sales per quarter?

Write down a short list of goals. Make them SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic and time-bound) so you’ll know when you’ve achieved them.

4. MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIES AND TACTICS
This is probably the most important part of your marketing plan. In this section you should detail the tactics you’ll use to reach your target customers from section 2, and achieve your objectives from section 3.

Strategies
Different strategies are suitable for different stages of the ‘customer journey’. For example, advertising and direct marketing are great for reaching cold prospects. Warm prospects - people who have already been exposed to your marketing message and perhaps even met you - will respond best to permission-based email, for example. Your hottest prospects are people who already know you, and are ready to buy. Generally, personal contact (whether face-to-face, by phone, or email) combined with good marketing will help complete the sale.

Tactics
In this section, summarise your marketing strategies above, then list the tactics you’ll use to reach your customers at different stages of the customer journey. For example, you might combine online and print advertising to reach cold prospects, but use email to contact your warm prospects.

To identify your ideal ‘marketing mix’, find out which media your target audience turns to for information on the type of product or service you sell. Are your target customers using social media? Do they read trade publications? Do they attend industry events? The marketing tactics you choose should reach people when they’ll be most receptive to your messages.

5. MARKETING BUDGET
A good rule of thumb is to set aside a percentage of projected annual sales for your marketing budget.

Tactics are available for even the smallest budgets. If you exceed the budget in your marketing plan, you can simply go back and adjust your tactics until you have a mix that’s affordable for you. The key is to never stop marketing.

6. REVIEW AND ADJUST
The final step in any plan is to monitor and evaluate progress. If you're not achieving the results you would like, go back a few stages in the plan and make any tweaks you feel are necessary.

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So you want an eCommerce website. Where do you start?

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Ecommerce woocommerce

You may be a business owner who currently sells products from a 'bricks and mortar' shop, and is looking to expand their sales channels to include online.

Or perhaps you've already got an eCommerce website, but it's been around for a few years and you're unhappy with its limitations.

If you've read any of our previous blog posts you'll know that we're big fans of WordPress. We love it because our clients can update their own websites after launch, it's easy to use, it's great for SEO, and if you want to increase what your website can do, it's usually possible to add functionality with 'plugins'.

If you want to sell products via your website, WordPress can handle this via a plugin called WooCommerce.

Woocommerce allows you to easily control the products on your website. You can add 'basic' products, products with variations like different sizes and colours, and add a range of images to show different angles. Shopping carts and checkout pages look professional and are customisable.

You can up-sell and cross-sell related products – Amazon do this, so why not borrow their idea? It's also easy to enable social sharing, so your customers can share links to your website via Facebook, Instagram, etc.

You can administer the whole process on the website, including checking your orders, despatching them and printing out packing slips (via an additional plugin).

If you have stock to clear, you can set up a Sale at any time by updating the prices of your products and showing a 'before' and 'after' price. You can even use voucher codes for a set price discount, a percentage discount or free delivery. This could be for a month, a week, a day...or however long you want your promotion to last. All this can be done with no input from your web developer.

There are a wide variety of delivery options including Flat Rate Shipping, Free Shipping, International Shipping and Local Shipping. Delivery options are very flexible and allow for detailed control of shipping rules and rates. This part can get a bit complicated depending on your delivery requirements, but once it's all set up there's no need to go back and update it.

WooCommerce supports hundreds of payment gateways (for example WorldPay and PayPal) and provides secure SSL certificate support, giving you and your potential customers peace of mind.

How about keeping a track of figures? The system includes dashboards and widgets to monitor your sales and performance.

There are so many possibilities when using WooCommerce, whether you want a basic online shop or an all-singing, all-dancing site. If you want to find out more about how WooCommerce can help you run your online shop more easily, drop us a line.

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10 tips for producing a brilliant brochure

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Brochure-design-Leamington

Nowadays many small businesses forego a sales brochure. Your website provides all the information your customers need, so what's the point?

There are still lots of good reasons why your business needs a brochure. Many potential customers still like to have something tangible to take away with them, to use as a quick reminder of your products or service. A well produced brochure will help to reinforce the message that you provide a good quality service.

For example, a conference venue may leave a brochure with a potential customer after a venue show-round. Brochures also continue to be widely used by companies providing high value products such as cars.

Too many brochures, though, lack the visual impact or marketing message that will lead people to look twice. Our advice – if you're going to do it, do it properly and hire a professional. A brochure that you have mocked up in Word, littered with clip art and printed on your office printer simply won't reflect your business as a professional outfit.

We've come up with five things to consider when you're talking to your marketing agency about your new brochure:

1. Outline your brochure objectives
Ask yourself why you need a brochure. Then define your objectives – is it simply because your last brochure didn't work? Is it to promote a new product or service?

2. Define your target market
Who is the brochure for? Will it be used as a 'scatter-gun' mailout, or only distributed to warm leads? Are you targeting the budget holder/decision maker? When someone opens it, what will it say to them? It should be designed for that person, not for yourself.

3. Check out the competition
See what your competitors are doing. This can be tricky as you might not want to contact them for a brochure. Many companies upload their brochures to their website however, so you can do your research anonymously! See what works and what doesn't, and work out what elements you might need in your own brochure.

4. Make sure it fits with your brand
Brochure designs need to fit in with what you do as a business. For example, charities won't want to spend money on luxury brochures, whereas a new manufacturing product might need a brochure that looks amazing on an exhibition stand.

5. Don’t consider it permanent
A good brochure may only work for a few months before you want to change the offer or send a different message. Perhaps your business is seasonal – for example a chocolate retailer might have separate brochures for Easter, Christmas etc. Don’t think of your brochure as something you’ll distribute for years.

And here are five things your marketing agency should do:

6. Use a copywriter
Excellent copy is crucial to great brochure design, but is often the most undervalued element. Copy needs to be considered as part of the overall design. The messages should be clear and simple, and focused on providing a solution for your reader. The brochure doesn't need to include every piece of information in great detail, but should highlight the benefits of using your company. The reader should be interested enough to take further action. Finally, make sure it's proof-read as many times as possible – a mistake can't be corrected once the ink is on the paper!

7. Include calls to action
Your brochure should always include correct, legible contact information and a call to action. We’ve seen beautiful brochures that omit the company’s phone number, include it in tiny type or even get it wrong. Be sure to have a goal in mind for what you want readers to do. If you’d like them to visit your website, direct them there. If you’d prefer them to phone, say so.

8. Use great images
To make a brochure enjoyable to flick through, it needs good photos. Don't worry if your budget doesn't stretch to your own photoshoot – your agency can use stock images from an online image library like iStock or Fotolia. However, they should try to find pictures that don't look like they're stock images! Your agency should be using large, colourful photos. We see many brochures using lots of tiny images, or no images at all. Pictures should be relevant to the message – there's no need to include a photo of your office, for example, unless it’s to encourage potential customers to visit.

9. Invest in professional printing
Your marketing agency will deal directly with good printers. They may even be able to negotiate a cheaper price on your behalf. Printers can advise on the best and most cost-effective paper stock, and size of page. For example, A4 size is much more cost-effective than a non-standard square size. Heavyweight paper that feels substantial in the reader’s hands, and a nice finish can add to the good impression.

10. Don't cut corners
We might be biased but we would always recommend getting the help of a marketing agency skilled in brochure production and its component parts, such as graphic design and copywriting. You might save money by writing the words yourself, for example, or taking your own photos. But unless you are experienced this can be a false economy – there's no point investing in a brochure if it's not properly produced, as this could make your business look cheap and unprofessional.

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10 reasons why you need a WordPress website

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Why your business needs a Wordpress website

If you're doing some research prior to getting a new website built for your business, you might have heard about WordPress. We love WordPress here at Public, and all websites we build for our clients use the WordPress platform. You can see some examples of our WordPress websites on our Clients page.

WHAT IS WORDPRESS?
WordPress is an open source website creation tool. By open source, we mean the framework is available for anyone to download free of charge. It’s the most user-friendly and powerful CMS (Content Management System) around today.

WHO USES IT?
You’re in good company if you've got a WordPress website. Well-respected sites like Mashable and TechCrunch use WordPress. This WordPress showcase gives you a flavour of some of the companies using it, and this chart shows which content management systems are currently the most popular.

HOW DO I GET IT?
If you're going to use a hosting company (and there are plenty out there to pick from), you can download it from WordPress.org. Alternatively you can use it as a hosted service via WordPress.com. If you're not very tech-savvy, ask your local friendly web developer (us!) for advice.

WHY SHOULD I USE IT?
There are lots of reasons why WordPress is so popular. Here are just some of them:

1. You have control of your own website
No more waiting for your web developer to make simple changes and updates – and paying for every tiny change. With WordPress, you have control of nearly every aspect of your website and can carry out simple updates yourself.

2. Easy to use
WordPress is very easy to use, even for non-technical people. Adding new pages, posts, images, etc. can be done quickly and easily.

3. Manage your website from anywhere
Because WordPress is browser-based, you can log in and manage your website from any computer, anywhere in the world. All you need is an internet connection, and a little bit of knowledge.

4. No specialist software required
WordPress is a self-contained system, so you don't need to use HTML editing software such as Dreamweaver. You can create a new page or blog post, upload or edit images, and upload documents, video files, images, etc. all without the need for additional HTML or FTP software.

5. Great for SEO
Google loves WordPress! The code behind WordPress is very clean and simple, making it easy for Google to read and index. In addition, you can give each page, post and image its own keywords, description and title. You can optimise your content for specific keywords, allowing for very precise search engine optimisation. And you can update all of this yourself, without the help of a web developer.

6. Multiple users
There's no need to be the sole administrator of your website – other staff members can have their own logins. The primary administrator of a WordPress site can set up multiple users, and assign different access levels to different users.

7. Blogging is built in
WordPress started life as a blogging platform, so blogging is built in and easy to integrate. Setting up newsletter subscriptions and commenting is very simple. You can also add your most recent blog posts to other pages of your website, like your home page.

8. Increase what your website can do with plugins
Plugins are pieces of code that allow certain things to happen on your website. They have already been written, so there's no need for your web developer to write them from scratch. Plugins are either free or cheap to buy. There will be some configuration required – if you're not technically-minded, your web developer will do this for you. Plugins allow your website to have features like event calendars, video galleries and Twitter feeds.

9. Large community
As the world's most popular CMS, there's a lot of free support out there. If you're not sure how to do something, you can Google it! Someone will have been there before and will have the answer.

10. It also does eCommerce
WordPress websites can be set up to sell your products online, using a plugin called WooCommerce.

If an easy-to-use Content Management System sounds like the kind of thing you are after, drop us a line for a no-obligation chat about your requirements.

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Create a compelling, profitable website using these 9 steps

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So you've got a fantastic idea for your new website. Before you start talking to web developers about the project, it will be hugely beneficial to map out the steps and plan the important details. That way you'll lessen any delays or surprises along the way.

Here's a brief, whistle-stop tour of what you need to do:

1. Determine Your Market

  • Get a clear understanding of your website’s potential users – why will they visit?
  • Create a list of your competitors' websites
  • Determine the strengths and weaknesses of their websites
  • Define your organisation’s Unique Selling Points – what's special about you?

2. Set Your Goals

  • Make sure the goals of the website are the same as the goals of your business. For example, are you trying to showcase your expertise? Or perhaps sell online?
  • Decide on a method for defining and measuring success, for example, number of leads or orders generated by the website

3. Name Your Website

  • Choose a domain name and hosting
  • Consider potential misspelling issues
  • Purchase your domain name(s)

4. Think About Content

  • Draw up a plan of what you need to include
  • Name your pages or major sections such as Contact, Services, etc.

5. Find a Web Developer

  • All I can suggest here is to contact us!

6. Design Your Website

This part of the project will be carried out by your web developer, but here are some things you should keep an eye on along the way:

  • Use lots of space, a harmonious colour palette and web safe fonts
  • Find compelling, good quality images that correspond with your branding
  • Check the loading time of your pages – if your web developer has done a good job your pages should load quickly (depending on your WiFi speed)
  • Check the 'depth' of your pages. How many clicks does it take to reach any page? You want as few clicks as possible
  • Check your browser compatibility - does it work on Safari as well as Chrome, for example?
  • Check for broken links
  • Optimise your footer area with links, terms and conditions and privacy policy (essential for GDPR compliance), and contact information
  • Ensure that SEO best practise is used
  • Include links and sharing to social media

7. Include 'Sticky Content'

Again, you may have appointed a professional to look after your content, or decided to take the plunge yourself. Either way, here are some tips to follow:

  • Create a call to action on every page
  • Use a style of writing that will appeal to your target audience
  • Break text into small, easy-to-read sections separated with headings and images (remember - many people skim-read web pages)
  • Include an 'About' page and testimonials to identify yourself and appear more human
  • Make your contact information easy to find

8. Measure

  • Set up Google Analytics to monitor and measure your traffic (again, your web developer may do this for you)

9. Update and Promote

Website up and running? Great. But there are millions of websites out there, so you can't just sit back and expect visitors to find you - although your SEO will help. Here are some tactics you should use:

  • Update your website regularly. Use interesting content so people keep coming back for more
  • Create an ongoing method of marketing and encouraging visitors to your website. This subject could fill another article but basically can involve writing blog posts, videos, cross-promotion with other websites, social media, newsletters, etc.
If you're looking for a web developer in the UK, drop us a line.
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