7 Website Mistakes that can Hurt Your Business

We get a lot of new clients whose first request is that we do something about their website.

They don’t like it any more. (Or they hated it from day one.) As we get started on transforming their site, we often discover common website mistakes that can hurt businesses.

If we were obnoxious snarksters, we’d tell clients “We wouldn’t have done that.” Fortunately, we’re not jerks, so we don’t say that. We know how hard it is to make dozens of decisions as you’re building a site. We know that even good decisions can become “mistakes” as the internet evolves faster than fruit flies.

Here are a few of the most common website mistakes. Think of this brief overview as a table of contents for future posts that will dig deeper into each topic. You might spot a problem your site suffers from—and maybe get someone to fix it. (Doesn’t have to be us—although, you know, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Many recommend us, including us.)

WEBSITE MISTAKE #1: THE STRATEGY THAT ISN’T THERE.

Some questions are so obvious that it’s easy to forget to even ask them. What is the purpose of your site? What do you want visitors to do once they get there? Any plans to measure results and adapt the site in response?

MISTAKE #2: THE NAVIGATION TO NOWHERE.

We’re not just talking about broken links. (That is a common problem, but one that can be addressed with a modest site maintenance effort.) We’re talking about (for example) navigation categories that are too clever for their own good. Or mega-menus so large they are verging on being just another website on top of the first one.

MISTAKE #3: ALL FROSTING, NO CAKE.

It’s important that your site be visually attractive, but don’t make the mistake of stopping there. True, some visitors are dazzled and converted by a beautiful surface alone. But cast a wider net by including meaty content, performing link optimization, and other traffic-generating methods.

MISTAKE #4: THE FUNNEL THAT’S ACTUALLY A CONE.

Poor conversion doesn’t necessarily mean your visitors never even entered the sales funnel. They might have dived right in but gotten stuck—perhaps because your funnel isn’t the frictionless ride it should be.

MISTAKE #5: PAGE LOADS THAT .  .   .

…take too long. And by “too long,” we mean “longer than a few milliseconds.” Yes, in the digital age, we have all become frantic toddlers. Keeping load times zippy is hugely important, and should drive decisions during the build phase. Once the site is up, clocking page load times and performing maintenance tasks should be second nature.

MISTAKE #6: FORMS THAT ARE BORING—EVEN FOR FORMS.

Nobody expects to be captivated by a form. They just want the chore of filling fields to be over with. Make it as easy as possible by keeping the number of required fields to the absolute minimum. And don’t be nosy—if you really want to know your prospect’s birthday or eye color, save it for after you’ve made a connection.

MISTAKE #7: THE DEAD STARES OF THE PHONY STOCK PEOPLE

Don’t get us wrong—we are not dead-set against stock photos. We’re dead-set against dead stock photos. The ones with people that are WAY TOO HAPPY about looking at a laptop screen with four of their friends looking over their shoulder, also ecstatic about the screen. We’re not fooled by the smiles, people!

Avoid making these website mistakes. Call Red Letter Marketing.

If your site is suffering from any of these digital maladies, you’ll be happy to know that they are all solvable. We suggest not dilly-dallying — a lot rides on the perception your website creates. If you want to fix your website mistakes, give us a call.

Social Media Branding Strategy: How to Drive Results

Brands have a lot to learn about engaging on social media.

Sprout Social recently surveyed over 1,000 Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users to learn what social media branding actions drive them away, and what entices them to become followers. The survey, called the Q3 2016 Sprout Social Index, reveals important information about brands and social media, especially how they can improve.

Surprise. They seek relevance and authenticity.

  • 58% of respondents say they dislike too many branded ads.
  • 1 in 4 respondents say they dislike when brands don’t respond to them. Since only 1 in 10 brands actually do respond, that means there are a lot of disappointed brand followers (or maybe ex-followers) out there.
  • 35% of respondents say they like brands to have a personality.
  • 38% of respondents say they dislike when brands use slang.
  • 32% of respondents say they dislike a brand tries to be funny.

In other words, a brand that is not clearly defined and authentically communicated is less likely to encourage followers.

Sprout recommends, “Instead of bombarding social feeds with stock images or forced copy, do the work: Identify your brand values, collect data, identify audiences and target your content accordingly. Additionally, pull together guidelines that steer clear of over-played phrases and stay true to your brand’s personality.”

Repeated Exposure is Important

75% of respondents purchased something because they saw it on social media. But 60% need to see a product or service 2-4 times before purchasing. So brands have to find a respectful and creative balance between promoting enough and crossing the line too much.

Is a Social Media Branding Strategy Worth the Effort?

57% of respondents are more likely to buy if they are following your brand. In today’s digital world, brands have to be present where, when and how customers want them. Having good content and carefully managed promotions in the right social media channels is one way to do that.

The Bottom Line

  • Success begins with a clear social media branding strategy and appropriate brand messaging.
  • Be prepared to commit the time and resources to create quality content.
  • Likewise, make sure you commit to responding in a timely way. Treat your followers as respectfully as you would treat your real life friends.

Two Faces for Facebook? How we Solved a Client’s Facebook Dilemma

When is it appropriate to show multiple brand personalities in social media? Learn more about Facebook branding strategy below.

A client had an interesting Facebook branding strategy question. Their events management business, based at a beautiful, unique location, hosts all kinds of events, from weddings to corporate meetings. They wanted our advice on one of two options. Should they create one Facebook page to build the brand? Or two separate pages which might not be as brand-centric, but would better serve the target audiences?

Opinions from digital marketing and brand marketing professionals varied. They generally had an immediate response, as though the answer were obvious, but their answers differed. Some said it should be one page, others said two.

The one-page argument pointed out that it puts everything in one place, is easier to manage for a team with limited time and budget to keep the page updated, and it would be easier to ensure optimal SEO. All practical considerations, especially for a small business. They also pointed out that with two pages, people might pigeonhole them as only a wedding venue, or only a business events venue. Viewers would miss the complete story.

The two-page advocates admitted that it added management complications and would demand additional, precious man-hours to keep the content fresh. That’s especially challenging in a small business where people already wear multiple hats. They weren’t as concerned that people would only get half of the brand offerings if they only saw one page. They pointed out that, for the ideal Facebook branding strategy, each page should reference the other.

Back to fundamentals: know your audience and speak their language.

The more complicated marketing gets, the more important it is to practice the fundamentals. In this case, that meant putting the target audiences first, and asking, “What’s important to our clients?”

An excited bride-to-be, searching for her dream wedding location, is not going to be inspired by a Facebook page that shows updates with pictures of pinstripe suited executives. Likewise, a business meeting planner will not be comfortable recommending a potential location to his boss if it looks like bridal bouquets will be flying through the air. Because these target audiences are so different, they demand a dedicated page for each segment.

Yes, this means more staff time invested in social media. But here’s the thing with social: it’s, well, social. Social settings demand certain appearances and behaviors. Most of us behave differently in an important business meeting than we do for a Saturday evening cookout. Likewise, companies participating in social media, especially a personal channel like Facebook (as opposed to a professional channel like LinkedIn), need to consider the situation and participate accordingly.

The best Facebook branding strategy: just as in real life, be socially appropriate for the situation.

Like real life, there is no perfect answer. Weigh your options, make a decision, and then monitor and measure. Remember, too, that you can always change it and try a different way. The beauty of online content is that you can test different tactics to learn what works best. You can discover the best Facebook branding strategy through simple trial-and-error.

Red Letter Marketing is a marketing agency based in Greensboro, N.C., specializing in web development, design, branding strategy, and more. 

Volkswagen Emission Scandal: A Great Brand Gone Bad

The Volkswagen emission scandal is the latest example of a company that seriously damaged its brand credibility. Can Volkswagen ever recover its customers’ trust? 

Volkswagen managed to seriously damage over 50 years of brand credibility with their stupid “diesel dupe” software scandal. Share value has fallen over 30% since news of the debacle broke. Trust will take years to rebuild. And who knows how many missed sales are out there. The Volkswagen emission scandal is a prime example of a brand that spent years building customer trust, only to throw it all away. 

The first rule of branding: Do no harm.

A quick perusal of the VW corporate site reveals no brand purpose, mission or vision statement. The only overarching corporate mission is growth. That’s not to say the brand elements don’t exist. But when an organization does not clearly proclaim them internally and externally, it suggests they don’t take them too seriously.

When your business focus lacks the foundational grounding of purpose, mission, values and character, employees will take the short, easy route. They won’t focus on what’s good for the long-term prosperity of the brand.

As Berthold HuberDeputy Chairman of the Volkswagen Supervisory Board, said: “The test manipulations are a moral and political disaster for Volkswagen. We can only apologize and ask our customers, the public…our investors to give us a chance to make amends.” Unfortunately, that chance he’s asking for is going to be very, very expensive.

As a result, poor brand management has cost the company billions. “We will review all planned investments, and what isn’t absolutely vital will be canceled or delayed,” Volkswagen CEO Matthias Mueller told workers at Volkswagen’s headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. “And that’s why we will readjust our efficiency program. I will be completely clear: this won’t be painless.”

The Bottom Line:

Branding is first and foremost a risk management tool. VW’s emissions-cheating software should have gotten no further than a tasteless joke in a lower-management meeting. Due to poor branding ethics, it cheated thousands of its customers, and seriously weakened an asset decades in the making. Branding is serious risk management for your business. Ignore it at your own peril.

Interested in learning more about brand strategy as a risk management tool? Give us a call

What is Branding, and How is it Different from Marketing?

What is Branding?

Branding is the ongoing activity that creates experiences and strengthens the bonds between people and a company. In other words, it’s taking a brand and making something positive happen with it. It’s a verb. So the deeper question than “what is branding” is, what’s a brand? What’s this thing we’re going to “ing”?

In fact, it’s remarkable how blurred the language and understanding is for branding, considering it’s a discipline that demands clarity and focus. Smart, well-educated business people often interchange terms like branding, marketing and advertising as if they were all the same thing–but they aren’t.

What is a Brand?

A brand is a mental experience or expectation that is created from a company’s personality, values, character and actions.

When you think about Apple, your mental experience is very different than when you think about Microsoft. The two are radically different in their root brand elements. That’s why they can create products that may serve the same purpose, yet are vastly different from each other.

A brand is not:

  • A logo
  • A tagline
  • An advertisement

Those are representations of brands, but they are not the brand itself. In the 1900’s, those items were considered to be the brand, and branding was the process of plastering them wherever possible. In more recent years, the strategy of creating “customer brand experiences” became the big buzz. But today, branding is far more complicated and more fundamental to business success. It has moved out of the marketing department and is a key strategy to compete and thrive; a cornerstone of company structure.

Branding is a Critical Business Process

Why has this happened? The competitive dynamics and the number of choices for customers have exploded. The information revolution, coupled with the ongoing technology revolution, has empowered customers and employees to publicly call out companies that are not authentic to their brand promise.

If the sales department is bragging to customers about the great service their company provides, but the service technician posts a comment on Facebook saying how the company cuts corners on replacement parts quality, the brand credibility is damaged. Whereas word-of-mouth once meant telling a dozen or so people about your brand experience, now it means telling thousands or millions with online reviews.

That same information revolution mentioned above has flooded us with too much content to process. Our brains are structured to filter information without us being consciously aware of it. So we use brands as neural shorthand to quickly filter and categorize: important or not important, dangerous or safe, valuable or worthless. A weak brand is not likely to penetrate those filters. (Or at least, you’ll need some really smart marketing to do so, but that’s another blog.)

What is branding? Everything.

So, what is branding? It’s is a fundamental, strategic discipline that is not just for the marketing department. It’s an enterprise-wide initiative that must be created and driven from the top. The companies that employ it effectively will gain significant competitive advantages and enjoy greater profitability.

If you are wondering how your company can build a powerful brand that drives growth, give us a call.