Website Design – The First Step of a Fascinating Journey

Website Design is just the first step of a long and fascinating journey for you and your brand. Today’s online presence is more than just an accessory to a brick and mortar location or the face of a business, it can extend the reach of a brand beyond its physical boundaries and develop an identity that far exceeds the usefulness of its products.

The types of services that make all of this come together, services like website design, conversion optimization and online community development will always have their place, but the one thing we will never have is the contact a business owner has with their clients and the understanding of their place in the market. Ambitious entrepreneurs will always push the marketing envelope and the more they interact with their audience the more they learn just how hard they can push and how well a new concept will be received.

Guerrilla marketing is a low-cost, creative marketing technique where success is based largely on creating the most memorable impression without crossing the line into intrusion or offense.

The original term was first coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book ‘Guerrilla Advertising’. The reference was inspired by the term guerrilla warfare which is an irregular style of warfare where a smaller force of civilians uses unconventional tactics to engage a larger more traditional military force. Ironically, in guerrilla marketing just as in guerrilla warfare, the more knowledge you have of your surroundings, the more successful your campaigns will be.

Before engaging in any creative marketing techniques always take a step back, assume the role of your audience and try to assess whether or not they would choose to be engaged on that level.

We’d like to brainstorm some techniques with you but generally the more radical the idea, the more niche specific it is, so we will limit our discussion here to some that are a bit more conventional.

1)  Sharing.  Everyone is familiar with the term ‘sharing’ as it relates to social media but this has somehow overshadowed the real-world satisfaction of actually sharing an experience or a product with a friend.

Rather than engaging in unoriginal marketing practices like “buy-one-get-one-free” or 50% off, why not offer to ship a second item free-of-charge or at a reduced rate to a recipient of the customer’s choice. Allow them to include a personalized message to the recipient or other media that will make the gift far more appreciated than if it were just passed along as a left over item. Not only has your customer enjoyed the experience of sharing, but introduced you to another individual that will likely have a taste for your products. Now that’s two happy customers for the price of one.

Couple this with the recent trend of ‘Paying it forward’ and you can come up with some pretty imaginative ways to virally introduce a new product or revive a web presence that has fallen off the radar.

2)  One of the most overlooked exposure tactics out there is plain old media relations.

An item that you feel might be a boring addition to your product line or an uninspiring service might fit nicely into a new local media column on health-conscious tips or small business cost cutting. Write up a press release or contact your local media outlets and have them take a look at your products from a fresh perspective. Repackage your wares in a way that challenges the status quo, inspires imagination or redefines the latest trends. There are a lot of regional newspapers and magazines that are just dying for some additional local flavor.

3)  Don’t be afraid to be different.

If you have a brick and mortar location take a walk around the immediate neighborhood. Notice anything out of the ordinary? Probably not. Any advertising by other companies in your local area is probably well blended into the background noise of normality. If you own the right to paint your building perhaps hire a local urban artist to create a mural or use reverse graffiti to ‘clean’ your logo into an otherwise aged wall – if painting is off limits, create an edgy window display. I have seen everything from thousand-gallon aquariums with glowing neon jellyfish all the way down to simple cartoon art. Be sure to reference your website address or even include a QR code for easy access by mobile devices.

Experiential marketing is the creation of a memorable and emotional connection between a consumer and a brand by engaging as many of the human senses as possible. The theory is that the more senses that are involved in an experience the more memorable it will be. Experiment with ways to create a lasting and favorable impression using sight, sound, touch, smell, taste or emotion. Pull potential customers into your world through the use of taste tests, product demonstrations or performances. Find imaginative ways to introduce document or highlight these experiences throughout your website and other media.

Define an ad campaign based on a single one-word question, disjointed phrase or puzzling image. Sign the image with nothing more than a website address and make that landing page fun or rewarding. The same could be done with QR codes painted in weird locations like bathroom tiles or a series of clues painted on the ceiling. Humans are naturally drawn to entertainment and once they realize you are engaging them on that level they are a lot more inclined to play along and enjoy the ride. For every minute you entertain someone that’s another minute they aren’t thinking about your competition.

4)  Organize a community or charity event.

Select an organization that has a strong online community or a far-reaching newsletter so they can be an integral part of your invitation process and plan something fun with them. If you don’t have a physical location you can schedule the event far in advance at a free venue like a park or library. Make sure you include events there like raffles or giveaways so that you can collect contact information for future correspondence with participants. Reminding people throughout the event that there is a fishbowl on a table that they can drop a business card in or that they can fill out an entry form for a drawing are pretty agreeable collection methods. If fun is had by all and the event is a success then you have an opportunity to expand on it or mold it into a recurring event that everyone looks forward to. Today’s consumers like to educate themselves on a product before making a purchase and they like to do it online, so the more you include your website address throughout your events the more they know you will be there when they need you most.

5)  In other articles we’ve covered the importance of content creation for search engine performance, but YouTube is often overlooked as a search engine.

You don’t have to spend months training your cat to dance or risk your marriage building a Star Wars set in your back yard to cash in on a couple of quick videos. It is a lot easier to learn how to remove a stain from carpet, set up a firewall on a computer or fix a leaky faucet if it is demonstrated in a video and because of that millions of people flock to YouTube every day for tips and tricks on topics you wouldn’t believe (really, you wouldn’t).

Start with some simple 1 minute ‘How-to’ videos on topics specific to your industry or products you are familiar with and go from there. Make sure to include a link back to your website and positively engage your audience through comments or the sharing of additional resources. I have seen instances where a quick 1 minute video tutorial can gain thousands of views where an article on the same subject may only have a hand-full of visits.

6)  Gamification.  People are visiting your website for one of three reasons, either for entertainment, education or to purchase a product or service.

So many site owners focus on the commerce and educational aspects of their presence that they neglect the most captive audience – those seeking entertainment. Through the use of game mechanics and game design you can introduce your wares to visitors that may have otherwise overlooked them.

Stage a photo contest where customers are rewarded for submitting interesting uses for your product or for posting pictures of its everyday use.

Create a mobile app that playfully engages your target audience. Brainstorm some of your own ideas or hire an experienced app developer to guide you down the right path.

A website designed in a content management system like WordPress can unlock literally thousands of ways to interact with an online community. Adding a sense of community to your site can result in a more loyal and engaged following and if those followers feel like they can participate in your product offerings and have fun while they do, it is a win-win for everyone.

Allowing customers to spin a prize wheel after a certain purchase, rewarding today’s 10th customer or offering a free item after so many stamps of a card are all ways to add a little pop to an otherwise routine experience – and of course the secret to any successful contest is having more than one winner whenever possible.

Giving customers bonuses, rewards or some type of competitive website status for participating in product development surveys, polls or demos can instill a sense of involvement and faith in the future your brand.

Not having that same sense of investment and reward for employees can lead to bad morale and can suck the life right out of a company. Organize friendly competitions between branches or departments and try to incentivize productivity by rewarding your team for meeting quotas rather than punishing them for falling short. Reward top producers with an offer to leave an hour early, select from a pool of gift certificates or even take a brief complimentary vacation.

Have employees suggest ways to streamline your internal operations and give bonuses for any that are successfully adopted. This can be a huge morale booster as well as a boost to efficiency.

7)  Why not barter for necessities you would generally pay for? Business-to-consumer merchants can still benefit from business-to-business opportunities.

Some cities even have trade associations that connect businesses with these interests in mind. Down here in New Orleans we have the Crescent City Trade Exchange which is a website that allows members to offer services for credits and then cash in those credits to purchase goods and services from other participating members. The use of barter systems can not only bring down your overhead during those slow times, but help to gain exposure in markets that you may have never considered.

8) Random acts of kindness can go a long way.

Never throw anything out before making a quick mental note of possible alternative uses or others who may have a need for it. Simple examples might be:

donating out of date computer equipment to local students or learning centers (remember to delete sensitive information first!)
broken air conditioning systems or industrial equipment can be salvaged by local repair shops for spare parts or even traded for future service.
even weird items like old mannequins can find a home at a local performing arts studio or second hand clothing outlet.
Many people would be happy to come take them off your hands and if the folks you approach have no use for them, just the fact that you offered can do a lot for your reputation.

If you are in a position to unload a lot of used merchandise or do it frequently be sure to list the items on your website and invite people to take a look. Bargain hunters will begin to visit your site frequently to see what you have to offer and even better, share those offerings with friends who may have a use for them.

9) Having your logo or website address printed on novelty items is something everyone tries at least once but the items you choose to print on can make more of a difference than you think.

Items like thumb drives and mugs are all the rage, but probably don’t leave the drawer or cabinet very often. Shirts and hats, when they are worn, are walking billboards for your company. Everyone has a few promotional tees they throw on for a morning run or a trip to the store.

The only thing better would be to have people actually pay to wear your logo – and yes that really is an option. Why would someone spend $100 for a Nike jogging suit when they could buy a virtually identical one from your website for only $25? Find a company that will print your logo or website address on higher-end merchandise and have them ship directly to the customer on a per-order basis. List those products for sale on your site at 50% or 75% off the suggested retail price or just sell them at cost. Repeat this for jackets, golf bags, luggage – you name it.

When using this strategy you are only printing items that you know will be used, doing it for next to nothing and saving your customers a few bucks along the way.

10)  Coupons Coupons Coupons.

Everyone likes a little savings. In fact some people like savings so much that they buy things they don’t even need as a result. I know I’ve personally seen a few ‘shiny contraption things’ on sale for 50% off and found them in my cart before I even knew what they were.

If part of your advertising campaign involves print media, try running coupons rather than your standard ads. Use a different redemption code for each coupon in each periodical and track the response. It’s a direct and measurable way to test which advertising outlet offers the best bang for your buck.

No matter what your comfort level or tolerance for risk might be there is always another way to promote your products or another customer that doesn’t even know they need them. Contact Fusion Website Design of Metairie to help with your website design projects but never doubt your own imagination.

Fusion provides website design services to Metairie and the World.

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