Infographics are taking over the earth! At least it seems that way. There has been an explosion of infographics on the web — in both B2C and B2B — literally illustrating that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. But before we get into what makes a good one, let's define what an infographic is and why they have reached the tipping point.
Infographics are graphical representations of content that would alternatively require a lot of words or that would be difficult to glean without previous knowledge of the subject. So, it is essentially visual shorthand for weaving a qualitative story, often from quantitative content.
The facility for rendering complex data in simpler terms is a coveted skill. The way in which people absorb content on the web these days is like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. Attention spans are short and getting shorter as is time to focus and reflect. If content creators can distill complex narratives into compelling, easy-to-comprehend visuals, visitors to their websites are more likely to engage with them.
The key ingredients of a good infographic are:
- A cohesive and coherent story line
- A series of concise, clearly worded headlines from which one can "get the gist"
- Simple storytelling graphic style, Icons can work very well
- Simple, clean font style, avoid lots of flourishes
- Not trying to do "too much"
- Test out the graphic among lay people before releasing to a wider audience
Here are a few infographics I've come upon lately, which do a particularly good job making a lot of content easy to digest.
Not surprisingly, HubSpot has created and compiled a top ten collection of cool infographics related to the field of marketing. Each represents a different concept and is rendered in a different visual format. The configuration of text, graphics, fonts, icons and colors is chosen specifically to solve the visual problem. The great thing about Infographics is that they grow organically from the data so developing one is a unique creative experience yielding a unique result. Because of their custom nature, most infographics are not template based, although I've seen a few starter infographic toolkits mostly directed toward non-designers. These may be helpful for people not comfortable visualizing, but tend to yield more cookie cutter solutions.
This Fast Company interactive infographics depicts the multiple ways a business can rank its profits, such as by project, by state, by customer and so forth. This one is actually a collection of single infographics representing one view of company profits at a time, which can be accessed by simply clicking an arrow.
For sports fans, this infographic provides 10 years of data on whether spring training improves batting averages.
You can see that whatever the quantitative problem, there is a unique and compelling way to simplify and visualize it in an infographic. Have you seen any cool infographics lateley? Please share.
It’s a well-worn fact that B2C marketers set the trends that B2B businesses subsequently adopt. Between them there are usually several years of lag time. The case for B2B companies to adopt mobile marketing practices and a mobile-friendly web presence warrants an acceleration of that schedule in direct correlation to the speed at which mobility is reshaping the world. Here are some compelling arguments pointing towards the value of mobile to B2B businesses.
Don’t let the Trend Pass You By
Gartnerpredicts that by 2014, there will be a 90% mobile penetration rate and 6.5 billion mobile connections. Think about it, that’s about the number of people in the entire world! They go on to say that in 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. If that alone is not reason to maximize one’s mobile presence, here are some other things to consider.
Protecting and Enhancing Your Brand
“Many companies are still behind and are not optimizing the web experience for mobile, which is incredibly damaging for their brands," said Steve Woods, CTO of Eloqua in an article titled,
"There have been countless studies that show a consumer will abandon a website in less than five seconds if the experience is unsatisfactory,” said Woods. “Now that we know potential buyers are reading our emails and visiting our websites from their mobile devices, marketers need to make the appropriate adjustments.”
Take a look at your website on a smartphone. Is it hard to navigate, slow performing or requiring a lot of pinch and zoom just to get from one page to the next? Now imagine your customers, prospects and prospective employees experiencing this. Does the experience support your brand image as a tech-savvy, customer-focused organization?
Business executives search using their mobile phones seven times a day, much of which is for business, according to a Forbes survey.At RainCastle, we have noticed the beginning of a “hockey stick” increase of mobile users accessing our website and as a result are currently redesigning our own site using “Responsive Design” to make the mobile experience as easy and compelling as the desktop. Our clients who follow their website analytics are experiencing the same trend.
Rethink Your Content
When your B2B audiences are working remotely they are seeking information that is easy-to-access and fits on their phones or tablets, whether it is text, imagery or video. As a B2B, you now need to make sure that relevant content is manageable and accessible not only on the desktop, but on mobile devices as well.
Respond Quickly to The New Normal for User Behavior
In the new normal, customers’ patience has plummeted while expectations for speed, accessibility and personalization of content have skyrocketed. When was the last time you had a meeting with a business executive who wasn't checking their mobile device multiple times? Whether or not that offends you, can you afford not to be reaching these people through their chosen medium?
Establishing The Personalized User Experience
Mobile devices present a more personal, one to one medium than marketers have ever had. People wear them, carry them and keep them next to their beds at night. Why wouldn’t you want to create a relationship through a medium that provides that kind of access? Mobility is changing us, driving new habits, altering the way we live, connect and market.
So, don’t miss the (mobile) boat lest you want to live the “Life of Pi,” trying to tame the (mobile) Tiger.
If you've ever struggled to convey a lot of information in an email — knowing the recipient or recipient type (hint: client) doesn't read, but skims content — and did not receive any response, then the article I just read in Fast Company is for you.
Titled, "How to Write a Convincing E-mail," the article highlights 6 key points that when followed, result in effective emails that will actually get read. My own perspective is that your emails are an extension of your brand and if they are concise, clear and action-oriented, your prospects, clients and colleagues will respond more frequently and hold you in higher esteem. I encourage you to read the full article as it provides great examples of poorly crafted emails and then the same messages written effectively. Following are article highlights. When composing an email:
1. Have a specific decision in mind.
What is the outcome you desire?
2. Start by writing your conclusion.
As opposed to the way in which you compose an essay with and Introduction, supporting text and a conclusion, go for the conclusion and work backwards to support it.
3. Structure your supporting argument into digestable chunks.
Use bulleted copy where possible or two sentence paragraphs if content is not listable.
4. Bolster each argument with evidence.
Opinions hold little sway. You're seeking action. Make it easy to respond by using facts.
5. Repeat your conclusion as a "call-to-action."
At the end, repeat the conclusion you began with and invite a next step.
6. Stick a benefit in the subject line
I found myself analyzing my own emails and certain points immediately resonated. Point #6, I put in the "last but not least" category. Composing a subject line is analagous to crafting a great tagline in that it successfully distills a theme down to just a few words, which can express facts and intention with clarity of purpose.
Which points do you find most helpful?
With the display of websites and mobile devices requiring businesses to be brief and to the point — or lose online traffic, the value of pictures and especially icons has grown and will continue to gain in importance.
In our popular Copywriting for the Web eBook, we discuss the importance of brevity and conciseness in web writing, but the power of concise visual designs that speak the proverbial thousand words cannot be underestimated. As any writer knows, it is a greater challenge to be brief than verbose. “If I had more time, I’d write a short letter,” Mark Twain once said.
It is an equal challenge for designers to distill concepts into their most core element and still communicate. As we are in the age of responsive design and the mobile user interface, the value of simple, clean and informative imagery is only going to grow.
At RainCastle, we have been creating compelling visual icons that enhance our client’s user experiences for years. Below is a small collection.
Law firm Lando & Anastasi Service Area Icons
Thermo Fisher Scientific Process Icons
Unica (Now IBM) Expertise Icons
In my last blogpost, I talked about this being the Era of Design. I made the statement, “great design is about inventing and sustaining a vision.” I think that statement actually begins to describe the role of a brand more than design. Great design is about elegantly solving a particular problem, be it creative, technical or business in nature.
I think we are in fact in the era of “brand,” not necessarily “brands,” since there are other eras of brands, as viewers of Mad Men might attest.
Maybe more accurate is that we are in the era of brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty is generally a B2C term suggesting the establishment of brand preference. Today’s B2C brands often start with an idea, some kind of competitive differentiator, and often spend less time formally market testing, but rather, quickly assemble a website, and Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn presence, and proceed to make incremental improvements based on real time feedback from customers and others. From this real time digital dialogue, if handled with care, brand loyalty grows.
B2B firms generally deal with specific audiences, often technical, and generally build their businesses thus brands from word-of-mouth recommendation. Because they are historically relationship-based they often tend to be skeptical about what a website, internet marketing or social media can do for them.
What B2B businesses have been missing in their perception and practice of brand building, is that power of brand loyalty, which drives B2C brands. Today, it is not enough to just develop a brand voice through repositioning and execute a solid website as many B2B brands settle for, which is a recipe for brand stagnation. Unlike in the past, many customers want to have more interaction with their favorite companies and brands both online and offline.
Simply put, in order to utilize and promote your messaging to its fullest, you ultimately want the trifecta for a successful brand; ending in enhanced brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty comes from openly and consistently projecting your voice in an online dialogue with customers and others using available and ubiquitous vehicles like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. This is not new, but it is fast becoming unavoidable for B2B companies that have thus far avoided it under the assumption that personal relationships are all that is needed.
B2B company leaders are generally in their 30s and 40s, and are quite comfortable living in the digital space. In fact, many of today’s executives expect an active digital dialogue with those they are considering doing business with.
The increased expectation of brand accessibility provides companies with both an opportunity and an obligation to be more engaged. For relatively little effort, a brand that is not engaging customers online can get up to speed and turn a well-positioned yet quiet “relationship” company brand into an engaged organization that reaches out to customers in a daily dialogue that will result in better products and services and a bigger brand persona.
We will discuss how to build brand loyalty for B2B companies in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!
While content is king in many inbound marketing circles, certain social sharing platforms are rising to the top to be the "next big thing" by catering to a long-held design standard: people respond to visual brand representations.
In addition to content-based social media standards like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, visual sharing sites Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr are becoming increasingly effective in presenting an overall brand online.
Instagram had a banner year in 2011. According to TechCrunch, by March the photo filter site was adding 130,000 registered users per week to its 2.2 million user base. At the same time, users were uploading 3.6 million new photos per week – 6 photos per second.
Instagram as a tool has been used to shoot magazine editorials, by designer Rebecca Minkoff in print advertisements, and by Levi's to crowdsource a modeling competition. In addition, most big brands are using the platform to share information about their company in a creative, personal way. News programs like the Today Show and NBC News post behind-the-scene shots of their newsroom, interesting audience members, and guests.
Time magazine uploads photos of events their covering, breaking news, and high-profile people of interest the magazine covers, including, in the last week, Mitt Romney after his Iowa caucus win. In another interesting piece of news, President Obama was said to have newsjacked the Iowa caucus results by joining Instagram on the same day.
At RainCastle, we like to share photos of our office (including generous gifts of purple highlighters from my coworkers), social work events, and exciting team additions.
Pinterest is the new kid in town in the group, and the week of December 17 had 11 million visits. A repository of images, Pinterest allows you to "pin" or "repin" anything that you find interesting according to separate boards you can create.
Pinterest is a great place to demonstrate interest outside of strictly your products or services. Whole Foods, for example, doesn't pin photos of their stores or a particularly good-looking apple found in a California location, but rather creates boards according to themes involving food: Sweet Tooth (photos and recipes of deserts), How Does Your Garden Grow? (inspirational and beautiful gardens from around the world), and Edible Celebrations (weddings, parties, and festivals that involve inventive meals or treats).
Because these photos don't originate from Pinterest or necessarily the brand at hand, it gives companies the opportunity to interact with bloggers, publications, and other Pinterest users to cumulate content.
It's also a great way to encourage customers to showcase their ideas, how they use your products, or their own visual identities that ultimately gives you greater insight into the mind of the consumer.
Tumblr is essentially a blog, but instead of articles collects images, quotes, memes, gifs (moving images), and other forms of bite-sized media that mainly reflect pop culture. It currently has over 20 million blogs, and as of last July over 13 million unique visitors per month. The platform allows for an enormous amount of expression flexibility in what you want to communicate as a brand.
So it's not surprising that most brands populating Tumblr at the moment are media or fashion companies. The Economist, in particular, takes full advantage of the Tumblr atmosphere to promote small-scale pop culture, news, or human-interest stories, in addition to relevant bite-sized media.
Additionally, Kate Spade in their brand image overhaul over the past few years, has jumped on the Tumblr bandwagon, sharing media that supports their overall "live colorfully" theme and the motto of the Kate Spade woman: "We love colored tights and sparkly heels, festive fêtes and tables for two, we believe in celebrations big and small."
Kate Spade uses the expression at their disposal with Tumblr to assign visual meaning to this brand message.
The Return of Visual Identity
These three sites evolve the initial concept of social media for brands: to build and showcase brand personality in a way that communicates effectively with consumers. These platforms ultimately act as extension's of the brand's website, and work as a system of visual identity, as each site offers different potential.
If you're looking to reach out to customers in a more personal manner, want to expand your visual brand identity, or are interested in monitoring trends in your industry, consider adding these platforms to your collateral.
What have your personal or professional experiences with these sites consisted of?
On Monday, Google+ rolled out its brand pages for businesses, and while the social network has lost most of its steam since the initial hype, marketers are still rushing to create branded profiles.
Google+, despite its slowed growth and lack of interaction, is hoping to make a comeback with the introduction of branded pages based on the (very true) premise that marketers love content creation and social interaction; basically, that marketers see the use in creating as many online resources for brand information as possible.
It also doesn't hurt that Google+ will play a large role in real-time search results.
But, the greater implication of Google+ brand pages remains to be seen, so for now let's concentrate on the first step: creation.
Setting up a Google+ brand page is incredibly easy. You simply sign in with your personal profile and set up a page. The interface will walk you through a series of steps to establish the company, add information about services, location, and contact information. From there, you have to look at individual aspects of the UI to add value to your profile. Below are a couple tips for creating a better Google+ brand page.
1. Adding to Your Circles
Facebook has "friends" and "fans," Twitter has "followers," LinkedIn has "connections," and Google+ has "circles." Google+ doesn't let brand pages add personal profiles to its circles unless that person has already added your brand to his circles. However, this shouldn't deter your initial circle-building efforts. Add other brands to your circles that you interact with in social media. Some of ours include HubSpot, Mashable, and TechCrunch, as well as local companies and brands.
Also, make sure that any employee who currently has a Google+ account adds your brand to their circles, and then have them post about it. This is also an option when you publish your brand page; whatever personal profile it is linked to has the option to share its creation with their followers.
2. Add Photos and Videos
Photos always add value to a networking site, no matter what the industry. In Google+, they can be added in three main areas:
1. Profile photo
3. Photos tab
Your profile photo should be your branded logo, as is customary on any social networking site. And the photos tab is almost identical to Facebook: it houses "albums" that you can specify by adding photos and captions for specific events, services, products, etc.
The "scrapbook" section is where Google+ tries to differentiate itself in terms of design and put creativity in the user's hands. This is a series of five photos that are featured at the top of your profile. You can use this section to display whatever you want: portfolio work, office and employee photos, event photos, or create a series of interactive images that work together to create one larger design.
3. Add Useful Links
Your "About" section should be optimized from the get-go, meaning you should always have an introduction, contact, and website listed on your page. But Google+ has also included a helpful are here called "Recommended Links." This is the perfect place to link to other brand resources, pages, and networks. Looking at RainCastle's, you can see we've listed links to our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.
This sort of integration of social networks and web pages is beneficial in optimizing each page for search. You are strengthening each site with inbound and outbound links, and increasing credibility with Google when they crawl for your company name.
4. Connect your Google+ Page to your Website
Google gives you a simple one-line code to incorporate into your website that automatically links to your brand page. Linking your site is an important step to increase credibility, but also makes you eligible for Google Direct Connect, which hooks your Google+ page to search.
Basically, this gives people the ability to search for your Google+ page by typing into the search box "+[Company name]" ex: "+RainCastle Communications." Because this feature allows your Google+ page to appear at the very top of the page, it has a jump over Facebook and Twitter, and will automatically outrank any organic search results.
5. Share on Other Areas of the Web
Google provides you with your page's URL in a "tell the world" section, so take this and spread it like wildfire. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email, Gchat; anywhere you communicate with employees, customers, and friends, quickly let them know that you've created a Google+ page and ask if they would like to network with you.
This past Friday RainCastle attended the HubSpot User Group Summit to advance our HubSpot skills and learn more about what the future of Inbound marketing holds.
And while we did have some fun learning about their censored unicorn marketing strategies and watching the CEOs detail a report card on the company's improvements, the heart of it was a look at how Inbound marketing can greatly advance your company's marketing success. Here are our top five takeaways from the event.
1. Marketers need to utilize the MOFU (Middle of the Funnel)
The sales funnel can be a complex system of communication based on your company, resources, and preferences. The middle of the funnel is where relationships are formed, and it depends heavily on creating relationships with potential clients. At HUGS, a big theme was how to utilize the MOFU so that our content and websites are geared toward personalization; creating a personalized experience for the visitor will be more effective in gaining him or her as a customer. HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan pinpointed Amazon.com as evidence of this: the more you visit and interact with the site, the more personalized the experience becomes as Amazon directs you to things you might like.
2. Don't discount social media
Social media can generate leads in a number of ways; it's all about direction. Ex: Tweet about a blog post that leads to an eBook offer that registers the visitor as a lead. Find what channels your leads use to navigate the decision-making process and what content brings in customers. When you maximize content discovery you make conversion potential pervasive, and this allows you to optimize for leads. Social media only increases the number of chances you have to reach out to your audience.
3. Test, measure, learn
A/B testing your landing pages, calls to actions, titles, photos, etc. will only lead to more concrete findings on what works for you. If a certain title on a call to action gets more views but fewer follow-throughs, re-think the title to optimize offer completion instead of views. Similarly, find out what offers are getting the most leads from Twitter and Facebook, and use this to tweak your marketing efforts for that offer (see? more social media integration). Learn what you can stop doing to specify what you can do more of.
4. 73% of CEOs don't believe marketing drives revenue
This is a sad fact. Marketing is what fuels your website, brand messaging, and corporate identity. Advertising isn't enough anymore; your company has to have an online presence and utilize Inbound marketing to build reputation, revenue, and clientele. More importantly, the analytics you have access to today in relaying information about your marketing efforts give you the ability to build on your efforts, and tailor your campaigns to success.
5. Set goals
Every campaign you launch should have a goal. This means creating massive amounts of personalized content that is valuable. Understand the customer: who they are, where they found you, what they're looking for, and set goals around them. For example, email campaigns should be customized to different customer personas representing different goals; their goals influence yours. This is, generally, a best practice for any marketing effort, but becomes especially important considering the vast number of ways a modern potential customer can be reached and influenced.
After examining Parts 1 and 2 of Copywriting for the Web: the three C's and five great examples of writing for the web, it's time to concentrate on addressing the right people.
The first step in finding your followers, is to question…
What is the mission of your website?
Examine your company's mission and branding and how they are supported by the website: what do you want to accomplish with your site?
Here are some possibilities:
- Exciting visitors about your mission, approach, and impact
- Informing visitors about your expertise, activities, and achievements
- Inspiring visitors to explore the ways they can participate, contribute, and benefit
- Attracting visitors to your services
You want them to think and act, and come away with a basic understanding of your company and it's mission.
Who are your audiences?
Before you sit down to crank out what is sure to be fantastic website copy after this 3-part series, you need to identify the types of people who will visit your site. These could be:
- Potential clients/customers
- Prospective team members
- Industry professionals
- Investors or board members
Try to do a little research and check web traffic analytics to see the kinds of people coming to your site, what pages they're visiting most and the bounce rate of each page. This will give you a general idea of what kind of content they're looking for and who they are, which will enable you to tailor your writing to them. Which leads us to…
What do your audiences want?
Understanding your audiences' motivation will give you insight on how to approach them. Consider:
- What motivates them?
- Why should they care?
- What will they gain?
Think about why you visit certain websites and what you hope to take away from them, and then pair this knowledge with the traffic research you've done and look for the consistencies. Then, consider what do they want in relation to…
What do you want them to do?
This is the ultimate goal of your website: aligning your audience with what you would like them to do. Is it about lead generation? Building a community? Gaining customers? Your writing should build on a consistent theme of action; if not, you run the risk of it serving only as a brochure.
Taking these steps will help you create content that is aimed at providing for your audience. However, it is always important to remember that while the visitor's actions may be fairly consistent, you should always:
Speak to one person.
The diversity among readers is often overlooked when it comes to marketing copy. There is no "one size fits all" approach, and writing copy that implies a generic reader will be of little value. When writing, make sure to address this by tailoring your voice to the individual.
So go forth with quality content, tailored messaging, sharp writing and an eye for the individual, and create fantastic copy for your website.
A website redesign is a serious undertaking for any business, and as I discussed in a previous post on the web as an catalyst for better marketing practices, in many instances it forces the client to re-evaluate their brand strategy and marketing.
The marketing experts at HubSpot recently published research stating that 1/3 of marketers were not happy with their latest website redesign.
Although this figure is disappointing, it can serve as a wake-up call for marketers to fully invest in the project from the get-go.
Here are some highlights:
- 72% of people whose goal it was to improve branding were happy with the final product of their redesign
- 76% of people whose goal was to optimize for lead generation and sales were happy with the final product
- Only 25% of those who claimed their website redesign goal was "other" were happy with the final product
A successful website redesign stems from clarifying specific goals ahead of time, which is certainly supported by the last statistic. This may seem obvious, but there wouldn't be a statistic if it was.
HubSpot's research also shows that the redesign process and the final product are more successful when initiated by senior leadership. Getting the CEO or senior executives of a company involved means a cleaner, quicker process, and a result that is understood and agreed upon by top leadership. Working from a clear focus outlined by company leaders has a major effect on the success of a new website. In a March 2011 post, "Five Mistaken Assumptions About Web Site Development Projects, Part 3," I discuss this in more detail.
It is just as important to measure the progress of the site once a goal has been set. Those in the study who used metrics to measure the effectiveness of their redesign were generally happy with the result, with only 25% unhappy, compared to the 44% who used no analytics and were unhappy.
But the responsibility for a website's success doesn't lie solely on the client's shoulders; it is a partnership between client and agency that is based on communication, organization and teamwork.
In summary, remember these three points:
- Clarify website goals up front and get agreement from stakeholders
- Ensure CEO or other high-level participation in the website process
- Measure results and make necessary adjustments
Have you had a bad experience with website redesign? Do you agree with HubSpot's findings, or think there are other elements needed for a successful website?