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Getting the Right Web Content to Boost Business

April 8th, 2016

Can web content make or break your business? Rick Sloboda, seasoned web content copywriter and strategist, who conducts content studies with the likes of Yale University, suggests it can. We recently spoke to him about the impact of good and bad content, and how to establish content that gets real results.

ST: You’ve been quoted in various publications, stating content should come before design. What’s the reasoning?

RS: People go to websites for content to complete tasks. When sites are designed with dummy text or blank boxes to be filled in later, it implies content is secondary. This approach is fundamentally flawed because it forms how things are communicated before deciding what needs to be communicated. Identifying and establishing key messages up front helps visitors get the specific info they want or need, quickly and with ease.

ST: What are common pitfalls when it comes to web content?

RS: Common culprits include self-centric, ‘we’-driven content. ‘We are great, we are amazing’ messaging doesn’t resonate with people. It’s like going into a store and the salesperson starts boasting about herself non-stop. I would politely leave the premises as soon as possible. Of course, online visitors can leave immediately with a single click or tap. Visitor-centric, ‘you’-driven web content is more engaging and much more effective.

Another frequent offender is long-winded, jargon-heavy content. We must be careful not communicate what we want to say and instead communicate what visitors want or need to read. We must always write for the intended audience. Business owners often fail here because they’re passionate about their business, get excited, and blab and blab and blab. A third-party can go in objectively and filter out unnecessary verbiage.

ST: Writers often discuss features versus benefits. Can you speak to that?

RS: An old-school editor taught me years ago that features tell, benefits sell. We must remember that we’re emotional beings — we make decisions emotionally and then rationalize them logically. Benefits get people to care and take action.

So, for instance, if you’re selling binoculars with an oversized lens — what’s in it for them? That’s just a feature, and we need to convey what it does for the customer. It provides low-light performance. Okay, we’re getting warmer. Keep going! They’ll capture bright, sharp images from dusk until dawn. Okay, now we’re really getting somewhere.

ST: What other tips can you provide to establish content that works?

RS: Don’t forget to ask for the sale. We might be working in the digital age with fast-moving technologies, but the good, old-fashioned ‘ask for the sale’ still applies. Online, we do this with a call to action, also known as a CTA. It can be to prompt a visitor to call, email, request a quote, subscribe, download a report, or some other desired action.

Business owners must keep in mind that people go online for products and services to accomplish specific goals. They don’t want to waste their time. So, to help visitors complete desired tasks efficiently and effectively, your web content needs to be organized logically and intuitively, and communicate key points clearly.

When you do the heavy lifting up front and organize and fine-tune all of your content, it makes it more enticing and easier to do business with you.

 

Rick Sloboda
Rick is a Senior Web Copywriter and Content Strategist at Webcopyplus, which helps designers and businesses boost online traffic, leads and sales with opti-mized web content. His clients range from independent retailers to some of the world’s largest service providers, including AT&T, Bell Mobile, Tim Hortons and Scotia Bank. He advocates clear, concise and objective website content that promotes readability and usability, and conducts web content studies with organizations in Europe and the U.S., including Yale University. Rick speaks frequently at Web-related forums and seminars, and serves as a Web program committee advisor with various organizations, including Langara College and Vancouver Career College.
You can connect with Rick via his content blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

 

 

Case Study: New Design and Online Marketing for a Chocolate Franchise

January 5th, 2016

 

Mink-chocolates-logo

Location: Vancouver, B.C.

Industry: Food & Beverage

Website: www.minkchocolates.com

Mink Chocolates is a Vancouver-based franchisor with their own line of award-winning, artisanal chocolates. They sell their chocolates through retail chocolate cafés and an online e-commerce store. Their website hadn’t been redesigned in a number of years so they turned to Sparktank to refresh the look and update the technical standards of the site.

 

Goal #1: Redesign the website.

Our first goal was to assess their website to make it more visually appealing and user-friendly.

Mink Chocolates are more than just a food item. They’re a simple luxury that allows you to celebrate special moments in life with friends and family.

The new website images capture the lifestyle appeal of the brand, with photos of smiling people enjoying chocolate with friends and loved ones. We gave the layout a more modern style, while keeping the overall colour scheme and branding consistent.

Goal #2: Make the website responsive (compatible with mobile devices).

Prior to the redesign, the Mink chocolates website was not designed to work optimally on mobile devices. With nearly 50% of all e-commerce traffic coming from mobile users, Mink understood they needed to make it easy for customers to get information and shop online on any device. The new website adjusts perfectly to work on cell phones, tablets and desktop computers.

Goal #3: Setting up email marketing.

We also set Mink Chocolates up with a new email template so they could keep in touch with customers and website visitors. Email newsletters are a simple way to turn leads into potential customers, encourage repeat sales, and establish stronger brand loyalty with customers.

“Please accept my heartfelt thanks to you and your team. I’m thrilled with the results. Thanks for bringing me into the modern age!”
—Marc Lieberman, President, Mink Chocolates Inc.

 

Ready to get started on your project? Get in touch >

 

Case Study: Extending Premium Menswear into the Digital World

September 4th, 2015

vassihome-sm

Location: Toronto, Canada

Industry: Fashion

Website: www.vassi.ca

Vassi is a high end menswear brand based in Toronto, Ontario. The growing business has built its stellar reputation through word of mouth and by attracting local clientele in the business community.

Despite having well-established retail location, VASSI did not have a web presence. They turned to Sparktank Creative to translate the tactile, premium experience of shopping at the VASSI boutique into the digital world.

 

Goals and Creative Solutions

Before diving into the project, we conducted a Discovery Session with the VASSI team to learn as much as possible about their customer base and business needs. Sparktank’s Discovery sessions are typically filled with illuminating brainstorms and new ideas that get everyone excited about the project. Using a detailed questionnaire, we dig deep to really understand our clients’ businesses and come up with strategic solutions to help them succeed.

Together we identified four goals for the VASSI website:

  1. Communicate their high end sophistication.
  2. Expand their reach beyond their local following.
  3. Showcase their clothing line.
  4. Build long term relationships with customers.

 

Goal #1: Communicate High End Sophistication

VASSI excels in giving customers a premium experience in their retail store and through their physical products. They wanted a website which mirrored the brand’s sophistication and emphasized their customized, personal shopping experience.

On the homepage we showcased a high end video that conveys a sense of sophistication, prestige and sex appeal. We also incorporated imagery and a sleek design to appeal to VASSI’s discerning business clientele.

collections

 

Goal #2: Expand VASSI’s Reach

Superior service and products helped VASSI expand rapidly in downtown Toronto. Their next business goal was to reach new clients outside their local market.

With a new website, VASSI will be able to promote their brand to clients through advertising, search engine optimization, and other online marketing channels. The site also highlights their membership program which encourages repeat customers and rewards brand loyalty with exclusive discounts and other benefits.

 

Goal #3: Showcase Clothing Lines

Naturally, VASSI wanted to showcase their clothing lines on the new website. We created a photo gallery which highlights the variety, craftsmanship, and attention to detail in every product. VASSI can easily update their collections with the simple WordPress onlin

e system we used for this project.

details-sm

 

Goal #4: Build Relationships with Customers

In addition to attracting new clients, the VASSI website is a starting point for building a relationship with customers.

We set up a newsletter template and website newsletter signup box so VASSI could easily send out news and special promotions. Regular communication with existing and potential clients will help turn visitors into paying customers. It can also increase brand loyalty and foster long-term client relationships.

signup

 

Keeping Your Eye on the Goal

A custom website must be crafted to meet the needs of the client. We built the site not only to look good, but to make a statement. The finished product exudes the luxury and quality on which VASSI built their reputation. And as an extension of their brand, the VASSI website will reach more clients and enhance their brand’s visibility.

Next up? An e-commerce website focused on VASSI’s popular line of ties.

“We’re thrilled with the new website. Sparktank worked closely with us to identify our business needs and came up with great solutions to expand our brand. They were very easy to communicate with and went above and beyond to listen to our needs. We’re confident the new website will help us grow our business.”
— Andre Vassi, CEO, VASSI

 

 Ready to get started on your project? Get in touch >

 

Make a Great First Impression With Your Website Homepage

July 15th, 2015

 

When a potential customer lands on your homepage, you have at most a few seconds to catch their attention. If your website doesn’t make a strong first impression, you may not get a second chance.

But what exactly makes a good homepage? Over the years we’ve spent studying and designing websites at Sparktank Creative, we’ve noticed certain differentiators that make effective homepages stand out from the crowd.

Here are four qualities that top-notch website homepages have in common:

1. Clear Messaging

With such a short window of opportunity to make an impression, your messaging must be clear and concise. If possible, condense your company description into a single phrase that tells people who you are, and what you do.

 

Example: MailChimp

2015-07-08_1652

We’re fans of MailChimp, a user-friendly email campaign program. MailChimp’s website greets you with one pithy invitation: Send Better Email. Below that they give you even more reason to consider them: “Join more than 8 million people who use MailChimp to design and send 600 million emails every day.”

They tell you what they do (send email), how it benefits you (your emails are way better), and why you should go with them (they’re trusted by millions of other people).

 

2. Visually Attractive

When it comes to websites, looks matter. Of course content is extremely important too, especially for SEO (see the next point). But a visually attractive website tells visitors that your company is professional and trustworthy.

With so many options to surf on the web, a poorly designed site can be enough to cause visitors to reject the website and move on to something else. And don’t forget to make your website responsive, so it looks amazing whether it’s being viewed on a phone, tablet, or desktop screen.

 

Example: Zipcar

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Zipcar’s website is not quite what you expect. Instead of a photo of say, a car, you’re greeted with a picture of hikers high in the mountains, and an intriguing suggestion: “Upload yourself to the cloud.” The website conveys a sense of adventure and makes you want to be part of an elite group (the cloud of online Zipcar users). Beneath that splash they clarify how Zipcar works.

 

3. Draws Visitors In

So you’ve got an attractive website with clear messaging. Great! Next you want to engage visitors to draw them further into your website.

Creating a Call to Action is one way to engage customers. What is your ultimate goal of getting visitors? Is it to get them to sign up for your program, or to contact you to discuss working together, or to make a purchase? Make sure this is easy for a customer to find.

And substance matters as well as good looks! We highly recommend a blog, or at least crafting valuable, intriguing content that engages customers. Offering useful content also improves your website SEO and is a way of demonstrating that your company is the expert in your industry.

 

Example: NatureBox

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NatureBox has a clean landing page with a clear call to action: Start your free trial. They give potential customers an incentive to sign up by offering a free trial. Other incentives could be a free e-book for joining your newsletter, a discount on a customer’s first order, or a free 30-minute consultation for joining your online training program.

 

4. Speaks to Your Audience

Learn as much as possible about your target customer. What are their needs? What questions and concerns will they have when they visit your site?

Try this exercise: Create a persona for your target customer. Describe in detail their age, gender, background, and other demographics. Get really detailed. Some companies even give this target customer a name. What are their goals? What are their primary needs and pain points? What are their main questions and concerns?

Make sure that your website copy addresses these needs and goals. The more you speak directly and anticipate their needs, the more likely you are to attract your ideal customer.

 

Example: Dove

Dove

Dove made headlines with its “Real Beauty” campaign in 2004, which celebrates different body types and showcasing real women rather than models in their advertisements. Today Dove’s website still features real women who are confident with their bodies. Their homepage also highlights their Self Esteem Project dedicated to helping girls overcome beauty-related anxieties. These campaigns speak directly to their target audience: women account for 85% of all consumer purchases in the U.S., and 75% consider themselves the primary shoppers for their households.

 

It’s a Win-Win

By crafting a clear message that is visually attractive and engages visitors, your website homepage will be a positive and memorable experience. And if you speak directly your target audience, you’ll be able to connect with your ideal customers.

This is a win-win: customers enjoy their visit to your website and feel connected to a brand that speaks to them, while you are able to engage with customers and make a strong first impression.

What sort of impression does your homepage make?

 

Which Brochure Format is Right for You?

May 4th, 2015

brochures

 

One of the first questions we are asked when discussing a brochure project with a client is what format to use. To help us make the best suggestion we can, we like to understand as much about the project as possible; to know what it is trying to achieve, who the audience will be, what the content needs are, and how much the budget is.
All of these factors will help shape the final decision on format, as they all bring their own qualities and limitations. To help you understand how, we’ve put together a rundown of the most common marketing brochure formats used today.

Rack Card
Sitting in racks in reception areas of restaurants, hotels or theaters, at landmarks, travel agencies, trade shows, and other locations that see a high amount of foot traffic, single panel rack cards are designed to quickly grab the attention and provide a call to further action.
Providing a short burst of information, rack cards are ideal for conveying a specific message, such as an upcoming event, a special offer, or an invitation for the reader to visit your website to find out more.
Because rack cards are usually displayed in tiered racks, the top half has to be eye-catching. This may be your logo, an attention-grabbing title, or a call to action, with your contact information, map of your physical location, or even a QR code can be placed in areas that are only visible once the card has been picked up.

Traditional Trifold
Folding to the same dimensions as the rack card, the traditional trifold is a staple of brochure design.
Often fitting in the same reception area display racks, the extra real estate allows a lot more text and visual information to be presented, making them more suitable for introducing a company than rack cards while still being small enough to be taken away.
Following the rules of brochure design, the text should be broken up with images and graphics, with bullet lists also making the information more scannable by the reader. As the back cover is the least likely panel to be read, no important content should be placed there; your contact information is often enough.

Larger Bifold or Trifold
For those looking for a more visually impressive result than the traditional trifold can give, larger bifolds or trifolds that typically fold to an 8.5 x 11 or similar size allow more room for the higher quality photographs that are preferable when introducing higher-end products or services.
Simple yet flexible, good brochure design can allow large bifolds to feel less claustrophobic than traditional trifolds, with more space around the images and text.
While rack cards or traditional trifolds are designed to easily fit into the pocket or bag and be taken away, larger bifold or trifold brochures are aimed more at individuals who will have the time to sit and read at the point of contact, and can be used as folders to hold additional papers or proposals too.

Booklet
The pinnacle of brochure design, booklets are used to give in-depth information about a company and its products or services while making a more impressive statement than any bifold or trifold could.
Whether placed in a company’s own reception area to be read by visitors or sent out to clients or prospects who have requested more information, the number of pages available in a booklet allows the designer to provide something unique while both impressing and informing the reader.
Full-page photographs can be used in high-end booklet design for a greater impact and to give visual breathing space to the content, while the quality construction of the booklet lengthens its lifespan; not only will it be physically more durable than a bifold or trifold, but the recipient is also less likely to discard it.

Further Considerations
Once you have decided on the most suitable format, there are a number of further aspects to consider regarding your brochure design.
Whatever message you’re trying to convey, your copy has to be right. As most company brochures are marketing pieces, that means focusing less on yourself and more on the customer, with more persuasion than information, and technical jargon reserved for when further contact is made.
High-quality photography is also a must for showing your company in the best light. Depending on the subject of the photos, hiring a professional photographer or having your designer select high end stock photos is highly advised to ensure your business brochure is conveying a professional image.
Finally, both the printing quality and choice of the paper stock used can have a huge effect on the success of your brochure. Today, there are many more affordable quality printing options available so a high end look can be achieved on a smaller budget.

Thinking of getting a brochure designed for your organization? Get in touch and we’ll happily help you sort through all the options.

Branding: The Art of making a Business look like a Million Bucks

January 16th, 2014

We’ve all seen examples of businesses that have polished, professional looks that are truly memorable. Their website, promotional materials, packaging or physical locations all have a unified message and design that creates an image of who they are and makes them instantly recognizable. This is all a result of carefully planned and well executed BRANDING. What exactly is branding? Entrepreneur magazine defines branding as “the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products“.

Large corporations invest millions of dollars working with ad agencies to develop and market successful brands for their businesses. Tactics like extensive market research or using the perfect celebrity endorsements are not uncommon. Of course not all businesses can afford or, quite frankly, require this level of investment. Great branding doesn’t need to be overly complicated but it does require some important thought and planning.  Here is a breakdown of the major steps involved in creating a great brand:

1-      Asking the right questions:

  • What is the company’s mission?
  • Who is their ideal client?
  • What are the unique benefits and features of their products or services?
  • What values do they want to be associated with?

2-      Establishing a look and feel for the business. This could include:

  • A logo design
  • Development of a unique colour palette
  • Writing a company tagline
  • Creating a set of design and branding guidelines to follow
  • Creating a “voice” or “unique selling proposition” for the company

3-      Continuously and consistently applying these brand elements in all of the company’s marketing materials and customer interactions.

Making a business look like a million bucks is all about developing a strong foundation and creating branding building blocks that will aid in a company’s growth. Large business or small, the same basic rules apply.

Shing Digital – Logo, Graphic Design and Sales Materials

February 18th, 2013

shing

 

A few of the logo concepts we presented to the client:

shing

 

 

Project
Shing Digital is a successful IT company with offices in Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. They had decided to expand their sales efforts and were in need of a more professional logo and sales materials to distribute to the their prospective clients.
Sparktank presented a number of new logo concepts before finalizing their new brand. We then designed stationery and business cards as well as a presentation folder and sales sheets outlining their various services. Our writer worked closely with our client to develop professional content for the pieces. Finally, as always, we handled all the print coordination.

Marketing Materials
Logo Design
Stationery (business cards, letterhead and envelopes)
Presentation Folder
Sales Sheets
07_Shing_logo-03

7 Ways You Are Missing Out On Getting Your Company Noticed

May 1st, 2012

There are undoubtedly a number of marketing methods that your business is NOT using at the moment to improve your visibility with potential customers. Unfortunately, too many businesses feel that if they have a website, they have done enough to make themselves visible. The truth is today’s businesses need to make use of many methods in order to make it easy for their customers to connect with them.

Here are just a few methods which are commonly overlooked, but can bring a lot more exposure to your company.

Email Newsletters

Email newsletters allow you to regularly communicate with your customers. Newsletters can be a great relationship builder as you can inform your customers of everything from product and service changes to industry news or some great tips to benefit them. If you continue to provide them with quality information, you will build trust and remain actively in their thoughts when they are considering a purchase. Writing and sending a regularly published email newsletter is one of the best ways to establish and maintain this contact. Just be sure to give valuable information and avoid being overly salesy.

LinkedIn

By creating a profile on Linked-In, you (as the owner) and/or your business will most certainly increase your visibility. Linked-In is a popular social networking site, organized in ‘connections’. A LinkedIn profile allows you to showcase your expertise as the company owner, as well as create a Company profile outlining your products and/or services. You can begin to connect with other professionals and expand your network substantially. Invite your customers and prospects to connect with you through LinkedIn and be sure to participate in the ongoing conversations taking place in various groups.

Vehicle Decals

Branding your business by creating a uniform feel across your website, business cards, and sales material is a great start and where most businesses end when it comes to branding. However, putting a decal or sign on your vehicle is another great way to increase visibility and get noticed. This is one of the quintessential guerilla marketing methods, and is incredibly under-used. As an owner of a business, you need to be marketing constantly and always looking for new way to capture new prospects. What is more captivating than a well-designed decal or sign on your vehicle; clearly identifying your brand? You are driving all over to meetings and errands anyway. You may as well get some marketing use out of it.

Facebook Business Page

With the surge in popularity of social network sites such as Facebook, there is no longer any excuse for not having a business page. Facebook users are one of the largest and most active social groups on the web today. Most users will access their accounts numerous times throughout the day to view their news feed. Creating a Facebook Business Page gives you one more place to inform both current and potential customers about your products and services. With the very viral SHARE option on Facebook, users can easily help spread your information to their friends quickly, giving any great content the ability to go viral in a very short period of time. Invite people to connect with you, be active, and respond to questions and posts from Fans. You may want to set aside a few minutes each day to add new posts and information and respond throughout the day to customer questions. Doing so will greatly add to your overall reputation and increase visibility tremendously.

Mobile Websites

The sales of smart phones, tablets, and other mobile internet connected devices are growing tremendously. In a few years, it is estimated that their may even be more internet users on mobile devices than on laptops or pc’s. As a business owner, you can take advantage of these trends by creating a mobile website or making sure that your current website is mobile friendly. Many sites may look great on a desktop or laptop, but look incredibly bad when accessed from a the smaller screen of a mobile device. In fact, some cannot even be accessed at all. Most consumers are now on the go and their smartphone is their only link to the internet. What happens when a customer is out and about and wants to find a good Italian restaurant or a great shoe store nearby? She is going to pull out her mobile phone and do a search. If you do not have a properly formatted site, you will lose that consumer and the sale will go to your competitor.

Video Marketing

A large portion of current internet traffic is video. After 5pm, video represents more than 50% of all internet traffic and this trend is not slowing down. People are consuming more and more video content because it is instant and easy. Creating even a simple video for your business can help bring visibility in this market. If you are already creating content for a newsletter or blog, you are already half way there. You can easily convert your current to video, add some background music and distribute the same message to a new, and very active, audience. Not feeling savvy enough to create this type of media yourself? Outsource the project to a marketing firm who is proficient in creating such content and get results without the need for the tech ability.

Google Places

Take advantage of Google’s free “Places” services. By listing your business here, you will be able to be found when your prospective customers search for local results. In fact, Google is becoming more and more ‘local’ oriented, and actually prefers to give folks targeted results. Best of all this listing is totally free! You can sign up quickly with just a few steps and dramatically increase your local visibility.

These are just a few of the ways your businesses can increase its visibility. Higher visibility means more prospects turn into customers, repeat customers and even fans. So, start implementing these today.

If you would like more ideas for promoting your business or would like us to help you develop your marketing material, contact us today.

Redesign for Canada Health and Home Care

April 19th, 2012
Canada Health & Home Care was looking to improve their image and develop sales materials to help with their business development efforts. CHHC’s logo and sales/marketing materials had become outdated and needed a new, more polished look that better reflected their service oriented, healthcare business.

Sparktank Creative’s writer developed all of the brochure copy while our design team worked to redesign their logo and print marketing materials. The result was a beautiful set of custom designed brochures that CHHC was excited to show off.

CHHC was thrilled with their new look and are confident their fresh new look will help them grow their business. Next step: a complete website redesign! We look forward to helping them align their online presence with their new marketing materials.

What Does Your Logo Say About You?

October 15th, 2009

The first step in developing a company’s image is generally the logo design. Your logo introduces your name, your colours, your look and your brand to the world. As designers, it is the foundation from which we develop all other print and online marketing materials.

According to Entrepreneur magazine, “…your logo is a visual representation of everything your company stands for…Ideally, your company logo enhances potential customers’ and partners’ crucial first impression of your business. A good logo can build loyalty between your business and your customers, establish a brand identity, and provide the professional look of an established enterprise.”

Essentially, logos are a major factor in building a company brand. In order to get to the heart of that brand, we ask our clients a lot of questions. Examples include:

  • Who’s your audience?
  • What type of image do you want to convey?
  • Who’s your competition?
  • What does your company name mean and is there a tagline associated with it that helps to define your “brand promise”?

Answering these questions is a great exercise for business owners and team members, and inevitably results in everyone becoming much clearer about the company’s objectives. Ultimately, our goal is to come up with a design that speaks to all these points.

So, take a moment to think about your company’s logo. Does it reflect the image you are trying to convey? Does it solicit the emotions and attract the kind of customers you need? You might even want to ask a few people not currently associated with your business what impression they have of your logo and marketing materials. You might be surprised at what you discover.