Sparktank Franchise Marketing – our new franchise marketing division – recently launched one of our most exciting projects to date; teaming up with A&W on their franchise recruitment marketing to help the iconic brand expand their reach across Canada! As a longtime fan of A&W’s burgers and frosty cold root beers, I was very excited to see this project come to life.
A clean and modern bilingual website plus series of landing pages were created to replace an outdated website and ultimately increase conversions. In addition, we managed the production of two videos for the French and English speaking markets that had the video crew interviewing A&W franchisees and staff all across the country.
We are also working on their online marketing strategy and management to help attract new prospects and increase sales.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vancouver Film Studios is one of the largest film studios in Vancouver, Canada. Their website needed a new look and new content that would showcase their top notch facility and environmental stewardship. In addition, having a responsive website that would cater to their growing audience of mobile users was also a top priority. Sparktank managed all aspects of the project including strategy, writing, photography, search engine optimization/social media work, design and development.
A WordPress Content Management System ( allows staff to make their own content updates ).
The days of accessing the web from just a desktop or laptop are long behind us. With the advent of mobile devices like smart phones and tablets that feature fully capable web browsers, albeit on smaller screens, website owners need to seriously think about how their sites perform on them. The problem is that people are browsing the web on these devices more so than ever before. Whether commuting, at a coffee-house, or even lounging around at home, the chances are that today most people are accessing your website via their mobile devices a good proportion of the time.
Ye Olde Cell Phone
Back before smart phones were fully web-capable, there were “mobile websites”. The idea behind them was to offer an alternative version of the site for people with tiny little screens, next to no bandwidth, and a complete inability to view anything complex at all. This approach was necessary and the assumption that the user’s device was unable to handle anything else was well founded.
Today, the world of mobile web browsing has changed significantly. Data plans are measured in the gigabytes, our devices have high pixel density color screens, mobile processor chips exist that can play YouTube videos without breaking a sweat. Most importantly, in a world with pocket-sized smart phones, 10-inch tablets, 7 -inch tablets, etc – you can no longer make any assumptions about how your site will display in all of these and potentially many more formats.
In fact, we can safely say that we can’t make any assumptions about anything. So your user is browsing the web on his tablet… what makes you think he doesn’t have the bandwidth to display your cheerful photo gallery when he’s browsing over a WiFi network? So your user is reading up on your company with her smart phone, what makes you think she needs a reduced-content no-nonsense summary of your site when she’s sitting in a café enjoying a long lunch and have all the time in the world?
Unless you have a very specific understanding of your mobile viewer base and how they expect to interact with your website, assume only this: They are as willing, ready and able to enjoy your site as you originally intended.
A Responsive Website
Responsive design is to provide continuity between different viewing contexts, remaining completely agnostic to the type of device used and the size of the screen it has. What this means is that the same website has to respond to the environment it finds itself being loaded in, adapting itself to the screen with fluid layouts and with a lack of rigidity in the positioning of its elements.
By not downgrading the experience of your mobile visitors you’re able to deliver them the same quality of information and the same ease of purchase as you would any desktop visitor.
The Boston Globe: An example of a large responsive website project done right
Regardless of the size of the browser window, almost identical content is shown – just in a different way. Those elements that are less important and get in the way of efficient use on a small screen are moved out of the way. It’s important to note that these are not separate sites, they’re the same site with the same content, created only once by the author, responding to the capabilities of the device in use.
The importance of the mobile web user
As of the third quarter of 2011, industry surveys said 7% of all web browsing took place on mobile devices, up 2% from the start of 2011. Mobile usage in general is on the rise, in the same period 25% of mobile users expected to use their device to browse the web at least once in any given day.
Optimizing your site for the mobile user can only boost engagement. According to figures from surveys carried out this year in 2012, online retailers found they could increase engagement of customers by up to 85% and increase sales by 51% just by optimizing their sites for mobile users.
If you don’t think your business can afford to ignore such a large portion of its customer base, contact us today to discuss the most efficient way to get your website onto your clients’ mobile devices.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first question I always get when I tell people I am renaming the company is “Why?” We had established ourselves under the name Spectramedia for over 11 years so why go to all the effort of starting over with a new name? Here’s a little history that will hopefully put that decision in context.
A little history…
The SPECTRA part of the name was a tribute to our former sister company and family business SPECTRACOLOR Printing. The MEDIA part stemmed from the term “multimedia” which, back in the late nineties, was the buzz word for all things web / video / animation related. Today, attaching the word media to your name can signify a number of things but doesn’t quite fit with the design and website development company we are today.
So where’d we get the name Sparktank?
We spent months coming up with ideas, soliciting opinions and searching for available domain names. The one thing I kept coming back to was the word “spark” because I felt it signified ideas, creativity, and energy- all terms that resonated well with the kind of work that we produce. The tank part is loosely borrowed from the term “think tank” – a place where you’ll get creativity with some well thought out ideas behind them.
I’m very excited about the new name, the new website and the future of Sparktank Creative. We look forward to continuing to serve our many wonderful clients and to assist in them in reaching their goals.