Tuesday, March 22, 2016

10 Questions to Ask Before Revamping Your Website

We’ve been in the website business for several years now. We’ve worked with all kinds of companies from startups just launching their brand to established businesses who want to take their sales and service to the next level using their website. Regardless of what the company does, the goal of the website seems to always center on increasing sales and customer service or support. Essentially, the website needs to function as the sales and support staff when its human counterpart is off duty. It is a tall order, but if a site is designed correctly with the necessary content, it can be done.

We’ve come up with a list of questions to help you identify what should be on your site in order to accomplish your goals.  Before you embark on a website revamp, sit down and answer these questions as completely as you can. Too often we see websites put up with high hopes of conversions and sales, but they lack the necessary content and flow needed to live up to the expectations. Answering these questions will give you a head start on knowing what your site needs in order to be successful.

1.  Describe your customer in as much detail as you can.

2.  Are you looking to widen your customer base? What would your new customer look like?

3.  Why does your audience choose you over your competition (try to avoid platitudes here, be specific)? What value do you provide?

4.  What is the goal or action for your audience (fill out contact form, complete online sale, sign up for e-news, etc.)?

5.  What search terms would people use to find your company online?

6.  What geographic location do your customers reside in?

7.  What do your customers like about your products/services? (be specific)

8.  What customer service concerns come up regularly with your products/services?

9.  What “offer” can you give to new customers to make them want to contact you (or like/follow/friend you)?

10.  Website content needs to be updated regularly. What topics could you write about on a weekly or bi-monthly basis?

Just answering these 10 questions will ensure your new website is poised to hit the ground running, rather than waiting for people to stumble upon it. Taking a proactive approach to creating your new website (or any marketing material) will help your customers find the information that they need and ultimately select you as their vendor. If you need help developing a new website or revamping your current site, we can help! Contact Brigid at 215-923-2679 or email brigid@creativecharacters.com.

Reduce the Stress of Wearing Too Many Hats

“How you do anything is how you do everything.”
– T. Harv Eker

Business owners and entrepreneurs will take this quote to heart and will either read it as an affirmation of their dedication or a condemnation of their failures. If you took it as the latter, now is a fine time to examine your habits and begin making a positive change.

Many of our customers have confessed that, as a business owner, they are being forced to wear too many hats and don’t feel like they are doing anything to the best of their ability. They are having to live a reactive life constantly changing focus and putting out fires which leads to unproductive days and sleepless nights.

It’s time to lose that overwhelmed feeling. It just takes a pad of paper and a pen. The number one thing you can do to help reduce stress is to create a list. Write down (on paper) everything you need to do. This is critical, because a big part of being overwhelmed is the mental energy of constantly thinking of all the things you need to do. Once you’ve written it all down, it will release the need to remember, and the fear of forgetting, and a huge chunk of stress will go away.

For some people, a simple to do list is enough. Other people may need additional organization. Tools we like and have used are:

1.    Brendan Bouchard’s 1 Page Productivity Planner – Click Here to Download

2.    "Tools 4 Wisdom Daily Planner" which you can buy on Amazon. Click Here to Check It Out

3.    Custom created notepads/stationary with your name and motivational mantras printed right on them. Click Here to Email Me About These

We recommend taking 15-20 minutes to plan out your day the night before. Going to bed knowing that you have a plan of attack for the next day will help alleviate stress as well. Revisit your list as the day goes on and relish in the act of crossing out completed items. This will help you see exactly what you accomplished during the day. It will also keep you moving forward with what must be accomplished next. If you end the day with items still on your to-do list, you can get started on your highest priority item immediately the next day.

Next time you are feeling stressed or you aren’t sure what to do, remember “How you do anything is how you do everything.” Just repeating that to yourself will help you live up to your highest potential and continue down the path to success!

Data Entry Standards

Consistency and accuracy are important attributes of a good mail list, and establishing data entry standards is an excellent way to promote both. Data entry standards are the rules for how the individual data elements in a mailing list appear. Data entry standards dictate how words are abbreviated, how to shorten data elements that are too long for the allowed field size, and what to do with data elements where no field exists in the record.

Data entry standards should be developed, then written and published to ensure that everyone working on a mailing list understands what they are and why they are important. Appoint someone in your organization to monitor and ascertain that the standards are being followed, and provide training to anyone who may not be following these standards.

For an example of the data entry standards that we use at Creative Characters, contact us at 215-923-2679 or email info@creativecharacters.com and we’ll provide you with a copy.

Big Results Small Package

There are many ways to market your business, but none can match the effectiveness of a postcard. Postcards are a great way to market a businesses simply because they work. Postcards are a marketing staple because they’re economical, flexible and highly effective. They are indisputably the most inexpensive targeted marketing strategy available. Whatever your mission – to advertise, invite, brand, remind, promote or sell – postcard marketing will get the job done simply and affordably.

A recent USPS study says postcards are 94% more likely to be read than letters.
They don’t have to be opened and their colors and graphics quickly get readers’ attention. Plus they don’t face spam filters like e-mails do. Properly designed postcards are usually the most remembered component when multiple marketing tools are used. With careful planning and strategy, postcards can increase your prospect and customer base, along with your profits.

Email Brigid@CreativeCharacters.com to discuss ways to use postcards to drive more prospective customers to your business.

A Guide to Postcard Marketing

A postcard is one of the most versatile, inexpensive, and effective tools you can have in your marketing tool kit. Compared to the effort and cost of a brochure or traditional direct mail in an envelope – a postcard is quick, easy, and a great way to stretch your marketing budget.

Billboard In Your Pocket

Think of a postcard as a miniature billboard – a design space that can hold:

• A photograph of a new product, a staff member, or your location
• A handwritten message to customers
• A reprint of a press release or article
• A reminder of an upcoming event
• A request for an appointment
• A mini newsletter
• A discount coupon or admission ticket
• A newsworthy happening in your company

The advantage of a postcard is that it does not have to be opened to be read, and if creatively designed, can have impact far beyond its size and cost.

When A Postcard Is Not A Postcard

According to the United States Postal Service (USPS), a postcard is a self-mailer – something that is not in an envelope. A self-mailer can be either a single ply like a postcard, or can be folded over like a brochure or an invitation. It can also be a wide variety of sizes – from the smallest size at 3.5 x 5 inches to the largest size at 6.125 x 11.5 inches.

Though a postcard may not immediately come to mind when you think of a self-mailer, this can be a very effective marketing piece. Since postcards do not have to be opened to be read, you may be able to engage the reader with eye-catching graphics or an attention-getting headline. For example, vivid color blocks can draw the reader into your copy without the reader’s conscious decision to participate. This allows you to make the most of the 7-10 second window of opportunity to interest your reader.

To be eligible for postcard postage rates, the card must be:

• Shaped like a rectangle with an aspect ratio between 1.3 and 2.5
• Not less than 3.5 or more than 4.25 inches high
• Not less than 5 inches or more than 6 inches long, and
• Not less than .007 inches or more than .016 inches thick

If a postcard exceeds the maximum size of 4.25x6 inches, then the USPS classifies it as “letter” mail for the purpose of determining postage. One popular size is 5.5x8.5 inches – half of a sheet of letter size paper. This size offers advantages in printing, but because its size is larger than 4.25x6 inches, it cannot be mailed at the postcard rate. However, it can be mailed at the letter rate with a discount using the standard mail class.

Standard Mail

Standard Mail has two very big advantages. First, it is the least expensive commercial postage class at nearly 50% cheaper than First Class. This enables you to save quite a bit on postage. Second, it also allows up to 3.3 ounces per piece without any increase in postage. If your mail is heavier than 3.3 ounces, there is a small postage surcharge.

At these reduced rates, it’s interesting to consider an over-sized postcard – perhaps 6x9 inches or even 6x11 inches. These “super size” postcards are eye catching in a stack of mail because they will be taller or longer than the rest of the mail. Regardless of the size you select for your postcard, you will need to pay close attention to the aspect ratio and the mail panel. The aspect ratio is the relationship of the length to the height of the postcard.

Update Your Mailing List with Postcards

Mailing the postcard at the first class postage rate has definite advantages. First, the postcard receives delivery priority which means it will arrive sooner. Second, it’s eligible for ancillary services such as forwarding and address correction at no charge.

Because the ancillary service of returning the mail piece with corrected address information is available at no charge, postcards are an excellent way to update your mail list. For less postage than it costs to mail a letter, you can get the information you need to keep the addresses in your mail list current. And with approximately 17% of the population moving every year, this is an important part of mail list management.

Seven Uses for Postcards

1) Direct prospects to your website. Using a postcard to direct prospects to your website has traditionally been one of the best ways to announce a new or updated site.

2) Feature a single product or service. Consider a series of postcards that feature your fastest selling or most useful products and services.

3) Test an offer. Using a postcard to test various offers is a cost-effective way to determine which offer generates the greatest response rate.

4) Remind people about an event. Postcards can be an important part of building attendance at an event such as a fundraising activity.

5) Provide something of value. A postcard can serve as a redeemable coupon or discount certificate in order to reward customers or encourage prospects to make an initial purchase.

6) Convince prospects to move ahead. A postcard provides an alternative to phone calls and emails in order to convince a customer to move ahead.

7) Highlight a staff member. Remember, people buy from people. Help your customers get to know your staff by introducing them.

Effective Use of the Mail Panel

Contrary to common usage, the mail panel on a postcard does not need to take up the entire right half of one side. An addressing area of 4 inches wide by 2 1/4 inches high is sufficient for most addressing machines or for labels. When positioning the mail panel, remember to orient the mail panel along the longest side of the card.

We’d also like to remind you that we would be happy to relieve you of remembering all these things by designing your postcard for you. Just call us at 215-923-2679 to get started.

Increase Effectiveness with Creative Use of the Mailing Panel

Knowing some tricks about the design and placement of the mail panel on a postcard can significantly increase the

In the case of a postcard, are you looking at the well-designed, eye-catching side of the card, or are you looking at the mail panel? How much care was taken to design the side with the mail panel for maximum marketing impact? Contrary to common usage, the mail panel on a post card does not need to take up the entire right half of one side.

One trick is to size the mail panel at 6 x 2 ¼ inches and position it across the entire width of the postcard. This creates an unobstructed rectangular area of 6 x 1 ¾ inches above the mail panel that is very easy to design. That is plenty of room to place an eye-catching headline or suggestion to turn the card over for more information.

A poorly designed or positioned mail panel may prevent you from qualifying for the best postage rate. If you’re designing your own postcards, we suggest that you have us look at the mail panel before printing it. Just reach out to Jason at
215-923-2679 and ask him to take a look at your mail panel to ensure it’s positioned for the lowest possible postage rate.
effectiveness of the card’s marketing message. Imagine that you are going through the mail. Most likely you are viewing it as presented by the letter carrier – with the address areas facing the same way and letters sorted by size.

Q&A: What determines the response rate for a mailing?

Response rate is broadly influenced by three factors: the mail list, the offer, and the appearance of the mail piece. Of these three, the most important is the mail list, accounting for about 60% of the response. The offer and the appearance account for about 20% each.

Your in-house mail list of existing customers will always significantly outperform purchased lists. After all, these are your customers who already know you, so they’re more likely to respond than someone who doesn’t know your business.

Other factors include the uniqueness of your product or service, its price, whether it is a seasonal product, the image you project, how creatively you engage the reader, and how consistently you mail.

Another important factor is the size of the mailing itself with regard to the number of responses. The higher the number of pieces you mail, the greater the number of responses you can potentially receive. For a goal of 500 responses, mailing 1,000 pieces and expecting half of them to respond is unrealistic. A more realistic scenario would be mailing 10,000 pieces to yield 100-200 responses.