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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 >

 

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

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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?

 

Tell Your Story with Web Videos

May 7th, 2014

One of my favourite marketing tools to implement for our clients is our web video packages. Web videos are a fantastic way to put a human face to a business and help differentiate them from the competition. Your typical website will use text and photography to present a company’s products or services. While this type of content is needed, video can offer a more personal look at their story, people and unique offerings. In addition, a well done video is simply more entertaining and easier to watch than static content. According to the Kelsey Group, “Customers are 4x more likely to click on a video than any other web content”.

Video is also a great social media tool. In addition to placing your video on your website, it can be used on your Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn channels or simply inserted into the signature of your email.

Here are a few of the ingredients that make a successful corporate video:

1- Be Human.
This come back to the point of putting a personal voice and face to your video. We are all a little jaded by overly commercial style sales pitches. Just tell your story- honestly and simply. People will relate to this much more.

2- Talk about Benefits instead of Features.
This is true of any marketing efforts. Clients often want to talk about all the technical details and unique features of their product or service. It’s a common occurrence as we are all a little too enmeshed in what we do and tend to look at our offerings from the perspective of an industry insider. However, it’s important to put yourself in your client’s shoes and describe what benefits your business will offer. Things like making our life easier, saving time, increasing revenue and improving your life are what hits more of an emotional chord with your audience.

3- Keep it Short.
Everyone’s time is limited and we’ve become accustomed to instant, on demand information. Keeping your videos to 3 minutes or less will give you more that enough time to get your information across without losing your viewer’s interest. Set the scene, tell your story and end with a strong call to action to encourage your audience to reach out and take the next steps.

 

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At Sparktank, we offer 3 main video packages:

  • Video Testimonials
  • Product Videos
  • Video Ads

Our videos’ streamlined system and affordable pricing has been a big hit with our clients.

MORE ON OUR VIDEO PACKAGES >

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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.

My new favourite Business Tool

November 17th, 2013

We recently started working with a new online program called “Bidsketch” for proposal writing. Much of the work we do is very customized and each client’s needs are different. As a result, proposal writing tended to be a lengthy process that I always felt could be better streamlined somehow. Being a bit of a project management software geek, I thought I’d start looking around to see what online tools were available. I came across Bidsketch and have been using it now for several months.

I have to say that my desire to streamline has been more than accomplished. The software saves a library of services you create with your own descriptions and pricing so that you can select the items you want and insert them into a very professional looking template. Bidsketch also gives you some sample text to use for things like introductory paragraphs. I’ve found these to be useful – though I’ve definitely altered them quite a bit to suit my own company’s messaging. Once the proposal is completed, you can email the client a link to the online version of the proposal (kind of like a mini website with your proposal all laid out) or save it as a pdf. The client can make comments or simply provide an electronic signature to confirm approval. All the proposals are archived in your own personal account.

There are instances when Bidsketch’s templates pose some limitations. Text formatting is less flexible than working in, for example, Microsoft Word. Also the software has not yet been configured to adequately provide hourly or per item rates but I’ve been told they are working on that.

All in all, the response from clients to the proposals has been really positive. In fact one client was so impressed, they’ve started using an online proposal writing tool for their business.

-Juliette

3 Lessons Surfing Taught Me About Business

December 26th, 2012

surfsister1_blur

A great article on riding the business wave:

http://pretirementliving.ca/3-lessons-surfing-taught-me-about-business/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=3-lessons-surfing-taught-me-about-business