Website Design & Management

They could have gone anywhere on the web (which by the way is huge).

Of all the websites on all the servers in all the world, they walked into yours. Now what? Needless to say, we have a few suggestions, but they all hinge on knowing who your visitors are and why they’re knocking on your digital door.

You wouldn’t build a pyramid without plans. Same goes for a site.

The pharaohs were very clear about the purpose of their pointy buildings, and as such they provide an excellent example for us here in the digital age. Your site’s ultimate purpose is to build business—but there are as many ways to do that as there are grains of sand in Egypt. To devise plans appropriate to your goals, we perform a thorough SEO analysis, identifying your targets and investigating how they behave when Googling. We identify comprehensive use case scenarios, envisioning every possible goal of a potential visitor, and planning the best route from entry to action.

Planning prevents pain.

We don’t mean to sound like finger-wagging scolds. It’s just that proper planning is so rewarding! The experience of building the site—and the experience users have when visiting—are vastly improved when you start with a solid plan.

Design means way more than making things all pretty.

Long before our designers start slinging pixels, they have worked closely with the rest of the strategic team (SEO, developers, UX, branding) to ensure that the design you get is not just eye-catching but serves your brand and the goals of your business.

Our developers really are our developers.

We don’t subcontract our development work. Mostly because that arrangement would provide substandard results, but also because we grew out of a technology company that we still hang out with. Should you require a larger than usual contingent of developers on your project, our sister company employs an army of coders that are ready to assist. We’re particularly proud of our developers’ marketing-centric attitude. They put their talents to work to help you prosper, not to jump on the latest digital bandwagon. If smell-o-vision comes out tomorrow, we won’t be suggesting you do it unless you’re a florist.

Does your site need to be responsive? Only if you like money.

Internet browsing on mobile devices has now surpassed laptop usage. So yes, your site needs to work well on a pocket-sized screen if you want your visitors to enjoy their experience and eventually turn their money over to you.

e-Commerce: the digital version of “ka-ching!”

Our team has produced every kind of e-commerce site—some custom built from the ground up, others fine-tuned from off-the-shelf packages like Magento and WooCommerce. We have built sites that interface seamlessly with gargantuan supply chain and inventory databases, and arrange packing and shipping.

If you really want to know our thoughts on web design, look around. You came here (thanks for that) and we hope we have rewarded your visit (per the principal stated at the top of this page). The next step, if we may gently suggest it, is to contact us. It’s easy.

Search Engine Marketing & SEO

Why be a needle when you can be a haystack?

If you’re anywhere near a haystack, you can’t miss it. It just sits there saying, “Deal with me.” Your site should have a similar presence, except on the internet, not in a field. As long as hordes of people are buzzing around the internet every day, looking for products and information, it only makes sense to place your company in their path. The art and science of being unmissable on the web is what search marketing is all about. Broadly speaking, the discipline can be broken down into complementary pursuits of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Our search team—(yes we have a search team, and they’re great, but they don’t rappel out of helicopters)—can use SEO and SEM to help your company show up wherever your customers happen to be looking.

Keywords, schmeywords.

Oh, don’t get us wrong. Keywords are important. But they’re also really easy—so easy we could tell you most of what you need to know over coffee. (By the way, we have coffee at our office, so drop by any time.) But you need to do more to get your site near the top of organic search results than just sprinkling a few obvious words in the copy.

Those knuckleheads at Google keep things interesting.

They’re always changing the way Google works. And here’s what makes it especially gripping: they don’t tell us much about what they’re up to. This behavior is not Google just being a bunch of mischief-loving scamps. By keeping a shroud over how The All-Knowing Algorithm works—and by regularly tweaking said Algorithm—Google prevents internet scoundrels from rigging search results. This means that companies like yours (and ours) must actually pony up good content—and organize it well—in order to be blessed with Google’s favor. Not to worry. We can help you with that.

If you like traffic, you’ll love conversions.

A conversion occurs when a visitor to your site does what you want them to do. This might be an e-commerce purchase, but it could be any number of other things. Maybe you want them to sign up for your newsletter. Maybe you want your company to be put on a short list for call-backs. Whatever your definition of conversion is, you’ll be delighted to hear that a really solid SEO strategy not only drives traffic to your site but it should also increase conversions. If you ask our SEO and SEM team to increase conversions, they’ll roll up their sleeves and get to it.

SEM is trackable and trainable. And you only pay when it works.

Have you ever been idly considering a new couch and then you notice banner ads for couches popping up all over the internet? Clever, no? Yes! Even folks who are slightly mystified at how this happens are impressed. And some of them do buy couches. (By the way this effect applies not just to couches but also kimonos, cat toys, and every other thing in the universe that you can buy.) Another marvelous method is the pay-per-click ad. These small ads can generate mind-boggling ROI, when done right. Doing them right includes such best practices as creating dedicated landing pages to welcome those who click through. SEM techniques are gloriously trackable—and also trainable, by which we mean the following. A good SEM program is continually monitoring effectiveness and generating suggestions for revisions to enhance performance.

We call it “local optimization,” but only because we’re nerds.

It’s what most people call word of mouth, except this is the internet version. For businesses that provide service within a certain geographic area, local optimization is crucial. Your business must make itself known in a consistent way across all local directories. (Yes we can help with that.)

Once your company is not just on the map, but all maps, it will rank higher in search results and be easier to find using a mobile device (for example, by enabling “click to call” directly from search results).

If you don’t have something nice to say about a bad reviewer, say something nice anyway.

Reputation management is becoming increasingly important as more and more people get used to looking for reviews online. No matter how good your product or service is, it is extremely likely that somebody is going to submit a mean-spirited review of it. First, take a deep breath. Then, remember that you have an active reputation management program that will do what it can to soothe the angered customer, and impress other internet surfers with your generosity. With all of us getting more and more accustomed to making purchase decisions with the help of reviews, this aspect of marketing is becoming incredibly influential.

Welcome to the end of this page. If you contact us, we’ll let you do the talking.

Custom Development

Some humans are better than others at telling computers what to do.

There are several qualities you look for in a good developer. The easiest to identify is their mastery of the most powerful and commonly used languages. If you find someone with a strong command of PHP, SQL, jQuery, JavaScript, and Ruby, you are on the right track. But among this crowd of folks with coding skills are the special breed who understand not just how computers work, but how a business works—and how to reach its goals elegantly and efficiently.

Our developers are the good kind.

Any good developer can think of twelve possible solutions to your problem. The best developers are artists at determining which of many possible methods is going to deliver the strongest solution to your specific problem. These developers (the only kind we hire) know how to use their knowledge of the client’s goals, the target’s wishes and the rules of information management to create a solution that delivers what everybody needs in the most efficient way possible.

If they’re so smart, why do they ask so many questions?

Glad you asked. It’s the question-asking part that makes our developers the genii they are. (We could have used the word “geniuses” but “genii” is also correct and way more fun.) Our developers will ask you more questions than you thought language could generate—about how your business operates, and what its goals are, and whether you’ve got a clunker of an application rattling around your steam-powered servers already. Our developers don’t stop asking questions until you physically throw them out of the building. And even then they’re muttering questions as they walk to the car. It can be annoying, but it’s the surefire way to build you the best application possible.

Our plans fix problems before they happen.

Computers seem smart—but that is something of an illusion. (Consider that they’re too stupid to even ask for a paycheck.) Computers only seem smart because they are executing the instructions of developers. Those instructions are complex. Good developers think of every possible complication before they start pounding out code. That’s why ours put together a rock-solid plan, first. This way, all the bad stuff happens only in our imagination, not in real life. Worlds of pain are thus averted.

We’re joined at the cranium with a technology company.

As we mention elsewhere on this site, Red Letter originated as a department within IT services firm Dynamic Quest. While we are now a separate entity, we still work with Dynamic Quest and its battalion of developers all the time. (If this were a sci-fi movie, there’d be a tele-porter between the two companies to make personnel exchange even easier than it already is.) We mention this because even though Red Letter Marketing has a staff of able developers, we are always ready to augment our team with experts from Dynamic Quest. We are a marketing company through and through, with our clients’ prosperity as our primary reason to get out of bed in the morning. But we are also deeply knowledgeable about technology, and that is a very good thing, given the union of technology and marketing that has been growing closer for a while now.

How do you know when you need development?

Look for these symptoms:

  • You’ve got a great idea but little or no development expertise
  • You’ve got one employee who knows how everything is cobbled together, and that employee regularly crosses busy intersections
  • You’ve got a great application (or idea for one) but it’s not mobile

If any of those situations applies to you, it’s time we talked.

Video

Words only go so far, as this sentence demonstrates.

Even the most compelling collection of words requires a commitment on the reader’s part to actually read them. For many site visitors, it seems so much easier to just press “play.” And once that’s done, the pure power of images and sound can wash over and captivate even today’s attention-challenged populace.

Compelling videos don’t need to be major productions. Here’s proof.

Here is a brief video we put together featuring our lead designer, Olaf, presenting a sales kit we produced for our client CaroCon. Maybe that description sounds less than riveting, but just give it a chance.

See what we mean? We show that video to clients all the time. It’s popular. We’ve had viewers offer to buy not just a sales kit, but Olaf. This is the power of video. (By the way, Olaf is not for sale.)

Beware the temptation of dashing off a production with your smartphone.

Video production is so much cheaper than it used to be—and this is a great development. In addition, viewers are much more accepting of sub-Star Wars production values. However, quality still matters. We have seen videos created with hand-held smartphones that embarrass us—not because we had anything to do with making the videos (we didn’t) but because we share the planet with those who did. The video of Olaf above was comparatively easy to shoot, but it did require lights, a decent camera, basic sound equipment, some knowledge of direction, and editing.

We monitor how visitors interact with your video.

If you’ve got video on your site—it doesn’t matter whether it was produced by us or not—you need to know how your site visitors are responding to it. We use advanced analytical tools to track the behavior of everybody who clicks the “play” button. Heat maps show us which parts they watched, and whether they skipped anything—all kinds of useful data.

Watching a video doesn’t have to be a passive experience.

We can overlay your video with invitations to click to learn more, or to enter an email address, or any number of other actions. As rich as the experience can be to just watch and listen, a video can also prompt action.

We can make a really good video without even cranking a camera.

If you’re like most companies, you’ve got assets lying around that are just begging to be artfully assembled into an irresistible work of commercial communication. A good example of this is a little number we call Raising the Hunley, which recounts a client’s involvement in raising a Civil War-era submarine from the sea floor. We created this piece using photos (and a smidgen of footage) that the client already possessed, as well as public domain images we rounded up from the web. We wrote a script, designed a title, recorded voiceover, composed music and before you knew it, our editor had turned it into a mini masterpiece. Here, check it out:

Enough words! Or at least enough written words. Let’s talk!

Email Marketing

Maybe not the only way. But an extremely powerful one.

The sheer might of email as a marketing tool continues to boggle minds. Check out this blistering spray of fact-shrapnel:

  • Email conversion rates are 3x higher than social media (and are worth 17% more) (McKinsey & Company)
  • 7 of 10 people say they have used a coupon or discount from a marketing email in the previous week (blue kangaroo)
  • Email is almost 40x better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter. (McKinsey & Company)

Inboxes are just like elbows: almost everybody’s got at least one.

And 91% of all consumers use email daily. Which means you can reach just about every breathing human, no matter their demographic, location, or position in the sales funnel. When the gods of marketing bestowed on us this potent method, it was a very good day.

You pay postage at the low, low rate of no dollars.

This helps bring your cost-per-lead or cost-per-sale way down, compared to sending printed stuff to metal boxes in front of people’s houses. (Not that there aren’t good reasons to do traditional direct mail. We cover those here.) The ROI of a good email campaign can make even the sternest VP of Marketing giggle like a schoolgirl.

Play by the rules and people like you—they really like you.

People actually love receiving commercial communications via email—as long as it is done on their terms. (82% of consumers open email from companies. [Litmus]) Marketers who abide by the conventions of courteous, opt-in email relationships with their customers are rewarded with both loyalty and sales. Reputable companies have all taken the no-SPAM pledge and now only skeevy operations even consider using it.

The important subject of subject lines.

You can think of that little subject line box as your window of opportunity. You’ve got just a few words to convince the recipient to open your email up. There are two valuable tools that greatly increase your chances here. The first is to use an experienced copywriter like those found at Red Letter Marketing, who have a few tricks up their keyboards. Second is the A/B test. Even our most brilliant copywriter will never be 100% certain that a particular subject line is “the one.” That’s why the gods invented A/B tests.

Proper targeting and astute scheduling get your message to the right person at the right time.

This is where our team can really add some heft to your results. They dig to find out who will be most receptive to your message, and at what time. We will have helped you clarify exactly what you want the recipient to do, so when the results start rolling in, we know we’ve done everything we can to push them as high as possible.

A good email has a clear call to action, like this one:

Let us show you more about how we have used email marketing for our clients, and how we might put the tool to use for you.

Content Marketing

Give them something first.

Content marketing draws prospects in by providing something of value—usually information or expertise. Think of it this way: while your company has a product or service for sale, it also possesses a body of knowledge that can be packaged and given away like a free sample. When your prospects learn something useful from a white paper or webinar or blog post, they not only respect your expertise but also feel all warm and fuzzy toward you for handing it to them on a pixel platter.

You get their attention and their good will.

By the time a prospect lands on your website, they have been doing some thinking. Studies show that 70% of the buying decision process is complete by the time they’re ready to make themselves known to you by showing up at your digital doorstep. By greeting them with a giveaway, something they will value you set the relationship off on the right foot. It’s like handing them a cupcake with the frosting in the shape of your logo (which by the way is also a good idea).

Where can you get yourself some of this content stuff?

You know we’re going to say “Right here at Red Letter!”—but hang on. You might have a good stash of content on your premises. After all, you’ve got experts in your business, right? And maybe they’ve written an article for a trade publication, or maybe they’ve given a presentation at a conference. Bingo! That’s content. We can help you shape it into something that is transferrable to web surfers. We can rustle up some of your existing content, or we can generate some new content for you. We work with our clients on generating and disseminating content in whatever way fits their needs best.

Interruption works. But it also bugs people.

For decades, advertising was based on the interruption model. Folks would be gathered around the tv watching Gone With The Wind when all of a sudden the Civil War came to halt so we could talk about toothpaste for a minute. Don’t get us wrong—research shows that this model still works (and by the way it doesn’t have to be annoying). But these days consumers are more accustomed to being in control. They would like to talk with you about your excellent product when they are good and ready (or at least 70% ready). A well-conceived content marketing plan acknowledges who holds the power in this relationship. And it shrewdly puts to use an understanding of how people actually behave.

We’re not insisting, but if you feel inclined, perhaps you’d care to discuss this further.

Social Media

Wherever your customers are, that’s where you should be.

That seems so obvious, but the internet is chockablock with companies putting up, say, Facebook pages when their time would be better spent on LinkedIn. Maybe your company should have a presence on both—but the point is that there’s no point going where your customers aren’t. In addition, every social media space lends itself to particular uses, and only some are appropriate for your business.

Remember what Mom said when you told her “Everybody’s doing it.”

Of course you should look at what your competitors are doing in social media. But that doesn’t mean you should mimic their behavior. Only rigorous analysis can reveal what your company should be doing. Our social media team can assess the competitive landscape within the framework of social media, and guide you to where your efforts will do the most good.

Define success first. That way, you’ll recognize it when it happens.

It’s tempting to just dive in. You didn’t “define success” when you started posting vacation photos to Facebook. (If you did, it’s possible you’re the least fun person at the beach.) But the business uses of social media demand an accounting of some kind. Are you hoping to drive customers to your website? That’s measurable. Are you trying to convert them? Again: easily measurable. Brand building is harder to measure but is both possible and desirable.

There’s nothing drearier than a dormant social presence.

If you’re going to do this—by jiminy!—do it. If you haven’t added fresh social content in six months, it just makes everybody sad. The other side of this coin, of course, is that an active presence conveys vitality and encourages return visits. So be sure you have a content production schedule in place and then stick to it. (If you’re not into making schedules or producing content, that’s what we’re here for.)