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by Bill Schmidt, Web DevelopmentWhy Use Web Standards? - AJ Ross Creative Media
The Web Development community often stresses the importance of following the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) code standards for creating web sites. While being completely error free is sometimes unobtainable (because of browser differences), the current wisdom is to future-proof web sites by complying with standards.
If you have errors, you may think, “but my site looks fine! Why should I worry about validation?”
Here’s why you should use web standards:
Web standards reflect quality. If your site fails to load, doesn’t work properly, or doesn’t look like it’s “supposed” to look, visitors will simply move on. Your competitors are just a click away.
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use Web crawlers or “spiders” to traverse the Internet and index web pages. It’s important to be in this index so that people can find your site when they type in keywords. When a search engine doesn’t see your fantastic content because of an error, your potential customers may never see it either.
Having a validated website ensures consistency between web browsers. When your website is on the Internet, there is no way to control what visitors are using to view your page. They could be on a PC, a Mac, a laptop or mobile device—each with its own web browser. Using web standards is one of the best ways to build a site that will look consistent between platforms.
Pages that validate will also load faster. Dial-up connections and wireless handheld devices (smart phones, iPads, etc.) are limited in speed and it is important to have a fast loading page. The web is all about instant gratification; users will leave your page if it’s slow.
Web sites that conform to web standards are easier to maintain. If any changes need to be made (and count on it, they will), web sites with clean code will be less costly.
Standard compliant web sites are future proof. By adhering to standards, you will save time and money when you need to troubleshoot, debug, or modify your website. The current recommendation has been the same since 2001. Work is being done on a new standard, and is expected to become the recommendation in 2012. If the new recommendation remains in place just as long, will your website last through the next decade?
Your website is a crucial part of your brand and an important marketing tool. Make sure it’s working at its maximum potential. Whether you’re just joining the online world or you’re updating your old site, using W3C recommendations is an important technical consideration you should discuss with your web design professional.
Expecting more than what you’re willing to pay for
We’ve all heard the saying “You have to spend money to make money” and unfortunately it’s very true. Your advertising and marketing strategy forms your brand’s reputation, and just like people, it is important to not only have a good reputation, but also maintain it. Skimping on a proper agency and strategy such as a mediocre ad and poor placement will end up being a waste of your money, and won’t give your company the respect it deserves. A new business should be willing to spend more up front to push the brand and be more ‘in your face’ to compete with established competition, gradually cutting back as they become more well known. An existing business should focus on keeping the brand’s name out consistently, and spend their budget on seasonal advertising and marketing pushes that make sense for their business. Making a realistic budget for your company along with realistic goals will allow you efforts to become positive investment for your business.
Giving up too soon
Being consistent is very important in the advertising and marketing world and although that mostly applies to branding, it also applies to your marketing efforts. A big mistake that can be made is pulling the plug on your strategy too soon. It is important not to stop running an ad after one shot just because your business didn’t double with in a week. Seeing the same brand consistently builds trust in consumers, so even though they may have passed over it the first time, after a while they start to look at your brand as an established company and are more likely to give it a chance. The take away is to give the advertising time to work and if you’ve given it ample time and your still not happy with the results, then it might be time to let your agency guide you and change directions.
DIY or Nothing at all
Most people have seen home improvement TV shows of ‘Do it yourself’ horror stories. The same idea applies to DIY advertising and marketing. Not putting your brand’s reputation in professional’s hands is a huge risk and it is important to remember that even though you may have a talented staff, if they are not experienced, the efforts could end up harming you. Some start with an agency, and then try and take over, ignoring the “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” saying, while some just think they can don’t need the help of a professional at all. Unfortunately in both cases, this does not result in savings, because not only do printing and ad space costs not change because you did the ad yourself, but the amount that you think you are saving by eliminating the agency will not match the amount of return on investment from a properly done and placed ad. On top of that, most ‘do-it-yourselfer’s’ end up giving up and then end up either calling in professionals anyway, or worse, giving up their efforts all together. Doing absolutely no advertising and marketing at all is the fastest way to let your competitors pass you by. By opting out of this important part of business you are hindering it’s potential and inevitably giving up future profits and growth.
Avoiding these 7 common mistakes is a great way to keep your business on the track that you want. Even if you’ve committed one or more of the marketing and advertising ‘sins’, the right agency can get you back on that track. No matter how large or small the business, a good agency can work with your individual needs to make sure that your company’s goals are reached to the fullest.
Making the decision to better your company through Advertising and Marketing is a smart step in growing your business, however it is important to do it the proper way. There are many pitfalls and myths that can hinder your efforts and potentially harm your business. Recognizing these common mistakes or “deadly sins” in Advertising and Marketing before you commit them will make all the difference between a failed and a successful business.
Marketing & Advertising: the Same Thing?
NO. Marketing and Advertising are two separate strategies that work best when in conjunction with each other. Marketing encompasses the complete conceptualization of a brand, research, public relations, sales strategy and more. Advertising is a way to get your company, product, or services out to the public through various types of media like television, billboards, newspapers, flyers, etc. Each strategy should work well separately, however the real strength is when the right Agency uses them together to achieve a bigger goal for your business. An agency that can do both Marketing and Advertising will not only save you money, but will ensure brand consistency and more return on investment. Choosing an agency that is accessible, experienced and that you feel comfortable with will be the foundation for a good working relationship and will promote better business for all involved.
The Shot Gun Method
When you decide to use Marketing and Advertising for your business, not knowing where to begin is a common feeling. The wrong thing to do is use a ‘shot gun’ strategy, meaning having no clear plan and scattering ideas all over the place to see if anything ‘hits’. The right idea is to have an agency that understands what and where the best efforts are for your individual business and goals. Anyone can put ads everywhere, but there is no strategy involved in that, and that is how you can potentially waste budget money. Having your Agency implement a smart and strategic plan to target the right audience for your company will beat out the shot gun method every time.
Overload of information in a small space
When you are spending money on a newspaper ad for example, your first instincts will be to get all of the great information about your company, practice or product into the ad. However it is important to keep in mind that size matters. If you can only afford to spend the money on a business card sized ad, then you have to make sure not to overwhelm the ad so that it is passed over by the reader. A good Agency can produce a successful small ad, as long as you are willing to understand that less is more. Keep in mind that if you have a smart campaign plan, this will be the first of many ads, and you can get the information out in small doses, hitting a different point and attracting a different audience each time.
Allowing To Many Cooks in the Kitchen
The bigger the business, the more opinions there will be when it comes to how the company should execute their Advertising and Marketing plan. While they are probably all valid ideas, keep in mind that the most important thing is what is best for the company. Group brainstorms and multiple ideas can be an asset as long as egos are pushed aside and everyone is working towards a successful ad or marketing push. An idea may come up that may not work for the current project, but could be perfect for a future one. Remember, the Agency is being hired because they understand how to portray the company’s message to your key demographic. Having one or two main contacts for the agency will help to eliminate mixed messages, so that way less will be lost in translation, and more accomplished for your business.
Next time, Sins five through seven.
Hi this is Allan Ross on how to Market Your Business
Today I would like to talk about Competitive Marketing
Something crucial to remember when creating a marketing plan is anticipating your competitor’s strategy. You could be doing everything right: providing the best goods with the best services and prices, and yet your competitor could be outshining your business. It’s because they are doing one other major thing right, which is properly advertising.
Being the best at what you do is key in gaining and maintaining a reliable reputation, but it means nothing if no one knows about it. You may be thinking, “but I do advertise,” and yet it is important to realize that getting results requires much more than putting any ad in the paper. Having knowledge of what advertising techniques similar businesses are using will help you be a step ahead of them, and possibly allow you to use their marketing to benefit your own.
The first step to take would be objectively analyzing your own business and all it entails: the goods, service, prices and whatever else you are offering to consumers, and compare yourself to the competitors. Before you start advertising ‘the best’ of something, make sure you can back it up, and be prepared to explain why what you’re offering is the better choice.
Next, understand who your target audience is, and make sure you are gearing your advertising towards how consumers can benefit. Assume your customer is thinking, “what’s in it for me?”, and use that mentality to your advantage. Different cultures, genders and ages all respond to things in different ways, so it is also important to speak to your key demographics. You should also be noting what your competitors did during peak and low sale periods, and then use their triumphs and failures as guides. Another extremely important tactic is staying afloat during hard economic times. It not only gives you credibility, but also builds brand assurance, and you’ll gain more exposure while your competitors sink.
In addition, taking advantage of new and changing advertising methods will benefit your business. You don’t have to fear social media, applications, and owning an up to date website, because they are extremely useful marketing tools. They not only expose your business, but also allow you to gain trust with consumers regardless of the product, service, or generation. If your product is a cutting edge gadget, then an advanced Facebook page will speak to your technology savvy customer. If you are an established company with more of a traditional product or service, then a user friendly website can be creatively designed to help portray your business as distinguished while maintaining its values.
Every business will have a competitor at some point. Whether you are the number 1 in your field and you are looking to maintain your current status, or you are lost in the mix and want recognition in the industry, competitive marketing and advertising can make all the difference between just owning a business, and doing steady business.
Hi this is Allan Ross on How to Market your business.
My subject today is “What ever happened to doing business with people?”
You’re probably thinking you always do business with people, so what is he talking about? But do you really?
How many times a day do you opt to use text messaging, emails, voicemails etc? You probably do that a heck of a lot more than a face-to-face interaction or a handshake. Another question you might consider, is who answers your business phone? Is it a real person or voicemail? Where has all the ‘so-called’ personal touch gone? At some point, the lack of personal interaction is going to catch up to us, and it seems like only a matter of time before people are going to get sick and tired of communicating through cyber space.
Do you notice differences between communicating online versus face-to-face? What are the implications of our increasing online communications and decreasing face-to-face communications? Although there are many positives to online communication and social media, we must be careful not to only nurture our relationships in this way. Interactions online tend to be brief and to the point. Having personal interactions brings a human element to your work and the services you provide, which leaves a nice impression. It is impossible to truly relate to even the biggest social media ‘over-sharers’ without physically meeting them in person, because you miss out on certain qualities that cannot be substituted for online. The social interactions of these personal meetings are not only more genuine, but they also allow you to physically see what you will get.
Now don’t take me wrong, I believe in Social Media as an extremely useful tool, but I make sure I use it without sacrificing personal relationships. My company uses it and also supplies our clients with the capabilities and knowledge on how to break through what can seem like an online marketing maze. Finding the balance between the two forms of communicating is not only important, but it is key in building real relationships. Remember, you still need to market your company the old fashioned way: face-to-face.
Today I’d like to talk about: Are you keeping your website fresh and up to date?
Probably the most important marketing tool your company has today, is your website. The web has become your online portfolio where your prospects and clients check out your company to get information of your services. Now that being said, just like any other marketing tool, there are professional websites and there are amateur sites. It is becoming more and more important to present your company web presence in the best possible light. It will keep your site visitors coming back.
Now how do you keep your website fresh. Here are some of my suggestions.
- Make sure the content in your site is an accurate reflection of what your company does and is visitor friendly. Sometimes less information is better than more.
- Nothing looks worse than a “What’s New” section that hasn’t been updated since 2004. Keeping your site fresh and functioning effectively as a business tool is critical. It also will help your company rankings in search engines.
- Make sure you let the public in on what’s going on. And with new technology coming out, it’s hard to stay ahead of the crowd. If you write articles or newsletters make sure you post them on your site or on your blog, and change them every month or two.
- Make sure (if you’re selling something) you always have the latest merchandise. It will keep your site visitors coming back.
- Hire a web developer to do your regular updates. Someone who specializes in website maintenance, SEO (search engine optimization) is a key.
Remember your website is your online portfolio to the world. Be proud of your online presence. You work hard, so have your website also work hard for you.
Today I’d like to talk about: Professional Networking – Help your company’s bottom line.
I hear the groans already… I hate networking. I’m uncomfortable talking with strangers. Well guess what, networking is probably one of the best ways to grow your business. The heart of any business is the connection it has with other businesses and individuals that it can call upon to help meet its needs. Networking enables businesses that do not compete with each other to refer, share leads and find creative ways to partner. Networking events help you advance professionally.
No matter what type of business you have, it is all about relationships and how people perceive your talents. Your fellow business people are a vast resource. Focus on the quality, not quantity, of your connections at networking events. You’ll get better results by making a few good connections then by handing out dozens of business cards indiscriminately.
Most networking veterans agree that it’s hard to beat a face-to-face meeting to make the best contacts. The best lead generator is a handshake — the human touch.
Networking may sometimes seem insincere pretentious or even manipulative. There are always going to be people that judge someone by their position or image but there are many people who really want to build a true and mutually beneficial relationship.
You might consider yourself shy or self-conscious to go out and meet people. Networking does require a degree of boldness. The more you do it the easier it becomes and you will enjoy the adventure. The key is to smile and take interest in other people’s interest. Listen to what they have to say. Listen and learn.
Some pointers about networking:
Go with a goal. Have a firm reason to be at the event and know what you want out of it. Are you looking to acquire new prospects, meet colleagues for possible collaborations, and create name recognition for you and your business.
When someone asks you what you do make sure you can communicate not only your business, but also its benefits, in a clear, concise manner in 15 seconds or less. Is your message crisp and to the point? Is it compelling? This is not the time to give a dull, dry description. This is the time knock people’s socks off and rally make your company shine.
Leave the resumes and sales pitches at home. Networking is networking. Sales is sales. These are social events. If you are there to sell yourself, most likely you will fail. Nobody wants to be sold when the environment doesn’t call for it. Be genuine and sincere.
Remember networking is a good thing. It’s about building relationships. As easy as networking sounds—and it really is pretty straightforward—it takes time build and it takes time to be good at it but it’s worth the time and energy. It will help build your client base and you might even find some new friends.
Hi this is Allan Ross from AJ Ross Creative Media
Today I would like to talk about,
When size really does matter… How to look and act bigger to increase business and grow.
We all know the infamous account of David and Goliath, where a young little boy defends himself and wins over the renowned giant. It’s the classic ‘underdog wins story’ and emphasizes the importance of using one’s knowledge over one’s physical size.
While that may work most of the time–there still is that new business pitch or new venture when you realize–size really does matter.
Here are some tips on how to look and act bigger than you are to land that new business and help your business grow, all without giving up what you went into business for in the first place–your expertise.
First, you need to surround yourself with professionals who think and work like you. I call this the “type wow” personality, and I mean it in a good sense. Owning your own business is fast paced and there is no room for an unmotivated staff. The key is to nurture talent and keep them. Your image is portrayed not only by you, but also by all who work for, and with you.
Image is everything. So, how does a small to mid-sized company compete with the designer, high-end New York City executives? “Stay on top of your game,” is the best way to put it. Project an image of confidence and assurance, but be sure to back it with experience, examples and referrals. Know your field, know your client’s needs and cater to your client as if he or she is the only one that exists. Larger companies tend to lose sight of client needs, and quickly, once they get the account.
You may have to tweak who you are on occasion. If your office looks more like a storage bin than a workplace, rent space for that big meeting. Bring in the caterer if necessary. Even hire temporary staff. Show that you are interested in entertaining your new client.
Re-think your marketing materials–from your letterhead to your brochure to your web site. Do you present a mom-and-pop image or a new, trend-setting company ready to produce that award-winning widget or provide that phenomenal service? Yes, image. And yes, it’s important to have a polished, professional and integrated package to explain who you are and what you do. You need more than just a logo and some ads in the local newspaper. You need a professional marketing company. Make the investment. Hire a company who knows what they are doing, who has experience and a track record. Remember, you get what you pay for. A lot of companies try to save money and hire designers who have no marketing or branding experience. You should also use public relations, which is a tried-and-true approach that should be an integral part of any marketing program. Have the agency write and place announcements of your firms’ achievements, new business and new hires, feature articles, and even speaking and seminar engagements.
So, with tape measure in hand, or at least a fresh look at your company and what you do–it’s time to move forward. Use your talents, seek advice, outsource, revise your image by hiring the right brand professionals, tell everyone and… succeed.
Hi, this is Allan Ross from AJ Ross Creative Media.
Today’s article is about: pay now, or you may not be around to pay later.
Remember those classic Fram Oil Filter ads where the mechanic would look you in the eye and say, “You can pay me now or pay me later.” The premise was you could pay for an oil filter today or pay for an expensive engine repair later.
Something similar is going on in the advertising/marketing business today. The wording of the line, however, is slightly different. Today it’s, “You can pay now or you might not be around to pay later.”
The economy is getting better. Believe it.
In good times and bad times, it’s not the time to stop telling customers what you can do for them. The assumption that you can cut back on the ads and wait until everything turns around before you remind people how good you are at what you do, may not be the most prudent strategy. People forget. People change. And if they’re not hearing from you, they’ll always be willing to listen to an offer from somebody else. Don’t for a second believe they’ll jump right back to you when you decide to start communicating again.
So what are we saying here, today’s the perfect time to spend like there’s no tomorrow? No, we’re just saying times like these may be better than you think to advertise and build business. You might well be the only voice in your category. Maybe.
Of course, you have to do the advertising right. And that means having professionals working with you. Unfortunately, there are some people out there nationally, and especially locally, who are trying to make the most of a volatile economic situation. You know who they are. They’re those “new” ad guys on the block who claim they’ll give you everything you need for a lot less. You have to be extremely careful when you hear this pitch. It’s very tempting. Just remember, experience matters and so does proof of success. Cheap is not a good trade off for effective or smart.
If you believe as we do, that these times are good for advertising, you should seriously evaluate any advertising proposal made to you. Just make sure it’s legitimate. Check references. Call the agency’s clients. Ask them if they’re happy. Look at the work the agency’s done. Do you wish you had run some of the ads they created for somebody else?
Finding the right partner and putting some muscle behind a solid plan with creative that grabs eyes and ears can make a huge difference in your business right now and perhaps even more impressive for years to come. People should know you’re still here working hard and you’re not going to forget about them, because if you don’t do this: Remember, you can pay now…or…well, you know the rest.