Email Marketing Campaign

As a web designer at Atomic, I’ve found that more and more of our customers are turning to us not just to manage their websites, but also to manage their email marketing. That’s great news, because email marketing software is more powerful than it’s ever been.

Here are some of the reasons I’m excited about email marketing, and where I see it really helping our customers succeed.

  • It’s measurable. If you create an email campaign using the right software, you can track all kinds of detail. You can see who opens your mail and what stories they click on. You can see how many people forward it, and how many people unsubscribe, bounce out, or mark it as spam. You can even see which email client your readers prefer – so you can tweak your design accordingly. Having this level of detail helps you see what’s working for your readers – and what’s turning them off.
  • It has great ROI. Multiple studies have shown that email marketing has the highest return on investment of any form of advertising – as high as $43.62 for each dollar spent. Moreover, many email marketing systems are set up so that you only pay when you send – giving you complete control of how much you spend, and when.
  • It reinforces your brand. The days of text-based email marketing are pretty much over. Today’s software lets you design great-looking email templates that reinforce your brand identity every time you send a message. And, the best software out there lets you import your own designs, in your own software, with the click of a button—meaning you don’t have to waste time and money re-creating your branding elements in awkward WYSIWYG editors.
  • It’s personal. Again, with the right software, you can personalize your email messaging to the max. You can include your client’s name or the last product they purchased right in the email. You can make sure it’s delivered to them at the right time according to their time zone. You can segment your mailing list and send targeted campaigns to distinct groups of subscribers, or even change the way the signup or opt-out process looks for different types of viewers.

A few months ago, we contemplated whether email marketing was dying. Honestly, at this point, it seems to me that it’s just getting better and better.

Pay Per Click Ohio

A few months ago we talked about deciding if a pay-per-click campaign is right for your company. I thought I’d back up today and review how pay-per-click works, as well as explain some strategies we use to help pay-per-click pay off for our clients.

So … let’s start with the basics. Pay-per-click campaigns are created using Google AdWords. You create an ad using keywords related to your business. When someone searches for those keywords, your ad pops up on their screen. That’s called an “impression.” When someone clicks on your ad and is sent to your website, that’s called a “clickthrough.”

With AdWords, you typically pay not for the number of impressions you get – but for the number of clickthroughs. Thus the name “pay-per-click.”

Creating a successful AdWords campaign isn’t a one-time deal. You don’t create an ad, throw it on Google, and leave it there forever. Instead, it’s a process of constantly refining your ads to find out which ones bring the most business.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step 1 – Create. Write two or more ads for your business using the same keywords. (For example, if your keyword is “golf shoes,” one ad might read, “Try the season’s hottest golf shoes”; the other might read “Try our top-performing golf shoes.”)
  • Step 2 – Evaluate. Run both ads simultaneously. After a set period of time – usually 1 to 3 weeks – assess which ad is working better. Then delete the worst-performing ad and replace it with a new one. If you’re using more than one set of keywords in each ad (like “golf shoes” vs. “golfing shoes”), delete the worst-performing keywords and replace them with new ones.
  • Step 3 – Rinse and repeat. You can repeat this cycle almost indefinitely – constantly trying out new ads and new keywords, keeping the good ones in play, and removing the scrubs. The goal is to constantly increase your conversion rate – the number of clickthroughs compared to the number of impressions.

Increasing your conversion rate does two things: first, it gets more customers to your site. Second, it gets you a better position on Google, for less money per click. Having each click cost less can make a big difference in your ad spend over time.

Of course, the ultimate goal isn’t just a high conversion rate – it’s what customers do once they get to your site. If you have a high conversion rate and high online sales, you’re golden. But if you have a high conversion rate and low online sales, there’s probably a disconnect between your ads and your website content.

And that’s a topic for another day’s blog.

Custom Magento

So… you want to make money online? Putting a few items on Ebay is one thing. But building a successful online store is another. Whether you’re selling products, services, or information, careful planning is essential for success.

Here are a few questions to consider before getting started:

Inventory

  • Do you have a brick-and-mortar store that will share products with your online store? If so, what would happen if you sold a product online and in the store at the same time? Would one of your customers have a bad experience?
  • How will you track your inventory online? Some store owners use the web; some use Quickbooks and sync the store and the ecommerce site together. Whatever method you choose, create a process and follow it diligently.

Software

  • Is there existing ecommerce software system that you can use?
  • If so, is it the best solution for your customers? Would they have a better experience with a website ecommerce design that was custom-built to their needs? A custom Magento solution, for example, might pay off in the long run if it makes the buying process easier for your customers.

Handling payment

  • How will customers pay for your product or service? You’ll need to select a merchant account and gateway to get started.
  • PayPal is an affordable option – but they aren’t a bank and don’t have to obey the same legalities that banks do.
  • Authorize.net might work with your business banking account.
  • Your bank might have a custom solution, or your inventory management system might have a built-in system.

Shipping

  • Will you offer free shipping? If so, how will that cost be built into your business model?
  • What vendor will be most convenient and cost-effective: UPS, USPS, or Fedex?
  • Are your products large enough to require freight shipping? Can your vendor handle that? What will the handling fee be?

Marketing

  • How will you market your website? Customers won’t find you automatically – you need a plan for getting their attention and moving them to your site.
  • Are you familiar with the ins-and-outs of website marketing—from search engine optimization to analytics? Or would it save money in the long run to work with a trusted advisor to market your ecommerce site?

Figuring out the best ecommerce system for your products and your customers may take some time. Remember that time you spend upfront in planning will save headache down the line — and that custom development, if it helps convert interest to sales, can be worth its weight in gold.

Dayton Web Design Award

Each year, the Greater Dayton Advertising Association and the American Advertising Federation honors creative excellence in advertising by inviting accomplished advertising and design firms to take part in the Hermes award competition.

There are three levels of Hermes awards: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Recipients of the Gold award are publicly recognized at an annual banquet, given the opportunity to say a few words of acceptance and gratitude among their creative peers and, most importantly, given a life-size bust of Hermes himself.

This year, Atomic Interactive was honored to receive its first Gold Hermes Award for excellent creative design in the Public Service category. It is rare for a company as young as Atomic Interactive to be honored with a Gold Hermes Award. We at Atomic showed our appreciation and excitement with the nomination and eventual award when every employee of Atomic, along with our significant others, attended the awards ceremony at the Dayton Masonic Temple.

Atomic was presented with a Gold Hermes Award for creating a website for GetUp Montgomery County, an initiative to encourage the children of Montgomery County to lead healthier lives. Atomic created a beautiful, fun site that appeals to both adults and children alike.

At Atomic, creating an excellent website relies on establishing a functional and pleasant relationship with each client, which is precisely what happened when Atomic collaborated with GetUp. We were more than pleased to work with Lorraine Russel, Chris Schlorman and Jim Gross, Montgomery County Healthy Commissioner. Each of these members of the GetUp team played an integral part in the development of their award winning website. We feel grateful any time we get to work with a client who is receptive to our creative vision and GetUp displayed a great amount of confidence in our abilities as a design team.

For Atomic, the Hermes award ceremony was a tremendous success. Along with the Gold Award, we were also honored to receive three Silver Awards and three Bronze Awards. The Silver Hermes were for the design of Buckeye Business Solutions’ website in the category of Interactive Media; in the Public Service category for the design of a Digital Learning Portal website for the Public Health Department of Dayton & Montgomery County and for a Digital Storytelling website for the ThinkTV Network, also in the Public Service category. The Bronze Hermes were all awarded to Atomic for design in the category of Interactive Media for the following website designs: Bullen Ultrasonics, Siesta Key Vacation and MacTown.

Currently, our Hermes Head is proudly displayed in our Downtown Dayton office. It will serve as a reminder to all of our employees of the fun time had at the awards ceremony and as an incentive for creating websites in the future that are also deserving of the Hermes Gold Award.

Designer Sketchbook

One of the things that we’re proud of at Atomic is that we’re not just a bunch of development geeks. We’re also … design geeks! And part of design is creating logos.

Sometimes we’re working with a new company that doesn’t have a logo yet. So we’re starting from scratch. Other times we’re working with an established company whose logo may be outdated, or just not as strong as it could be.

Whatever the case, we help our clients with logo development whenever it’s needed. A logo is the heart and soul of a company’s brand identity, and when someone’s building a great new website, they usually want to make sure a great logo is part of it.

Creating a logo isn’t easy. You have to blend a company’s products, personality, and presence together and somehow distill the mix into a single image. When I’m working on a logo design, here are some questions I ask to help determine whether or not the design is working.

  1. Is it clear? This refers to both visual clarity and conceptual clarity. On the visual side, can a viewer tell what the logo represents? Can it be scaled larger and smaller and still be readable? Is the typeface legible? And on the conceptual side, what message is the logo supposed to convey? Will viewers clearly understand it?
  2. Is it unique? How well does the logo create a unique identity for your company? Does it set you apart from your competitors? Does it help you stand out – but without being so off-the-wall that it confuses or offends viewers?
  3. Is it clever? In a nutshell, does the design make you smile? Does it have a hidden image, like the arrow in the FedEx logo or the Golden Gate Bridge in the Cisco logo? Does it have a hidden message, like the sun inside the BP logo that suggests renewable energy?

Asking these questions isn’t a magic formula. Logo design is still more art than science. But it can help keep you on the right track, and help you spot weaknesses in a potential design.

Want to talk about your logo or site design? Contact us anytime.

Often when I’m talking with a potential customer, they get stuck one question. Is improving their website really worth the investment?

They might want a good website in theory. But paying for it can seem like money spent on overhead, without much return on investment.

That’s why I help customers figure out clear business goals for their website, before they get started. Goals intended to help their business grow.

Those goals could include things like having more customers:

  • Fill out a “request for estimate” form
  • Click a “chat with a salesperson” button
  • Download a brochure, sales flyer, or white paper
  • Watch a sales video
  • Download a coupon
  • Sign up for a mailing list
  • And, of course, make a purchase!

Once we set goals for a website, its value becomes more clear. And our job as web developers also becomes clear: design a site that will achieve those goals.

We do that in a lot of ways. By creating a professional website that lends credibility to the business. By building intuitive navigation that lead visitors through a desired “path” in the site. By making contact information easy to find. By creating easy-to-use forms. And by designing effective calls to action.

The proof in the pudding is when we measure results against the goals. We can measure just about anything using Google Analytics. But we also love to hear firsthand results from our customers. Like when HotSpring told us that the majority of their sales were now coming in through their website. Or when K12 Gallery told us that online donations were starting to roll in.

From my perspective, a beautiful website is great. But if it’s not helping your business grow, it’s just so much ink on … well, a screen.

I won’t give away all our secrets, but I will say that submitting the site to a number of directories was part of our strategy.

For those who don’t know, directories are websites that categorize and list other websites. Business.com, for example, lists business websites in categories such as accounting, construction, and healthcare. Submitting your website to directories helps build links to your site and increase your search rankings.

You can’t submit your site to any old directory, however, and expect to get results. There’s some strategy involved. Here the approach I took for SlickPlan. The same approach can work for you.

  • Submit to niche directories. It’s better to submit your site to a directory that relates to your industry rather than a general directory like Yahoo’s. Doing so increases the chance of your site being accepted by the directory. And, niche directories have a more targeted readership, so you’re more likely to have qualified leads find your site and click over to it. We submitted SlickPlan to makeuseof.com and webappers.com, for example, both of which cater to web designers and developers.
  • Submit to directories with a high Google page rank. Having your site in a highly-ranked directory increases your site’s page rank. It also means that the directory gets lots of visitors, which improves your chances of getting referrals. In addition, sites with a high page rank are generally better made and better respected than sites with a low rank. Being in those directories helps enhance your reputation as well.
  • Include links to your site in the directory’s “description” field. Some directories don’t allow you to do this. But if you can sneak a link in, it provides readers with a quick, easy path to your site and helps your organic SEO.

Remember that it won’t help to submit your site to every directory under the sun; in this case, more really isn’t better. Take a targeted approach to directory submission, and you’ll get better results for less effort.

Email marketing

Is email marketing dead?

We recently saw a post on this topic, and it made us stop and think. If you can get Twitter and Facebook updates from your favorite companies, do you really need to get email from them too?

We put our thinking caps on, and we thunk awhile, and we decided . . . yes, yes, you do need email marketing!

Here’s why.

  • Email marketing reaches customers who haven’t jumped into social media. Plenty of boomers get email from their kids and shop online. But not all of them have started using Facebook, let alone Twitter. Email remains a useful way to stay in touch with them and let them know about sales and promotions.
  • It’s a way to establish expertise. Many companies send out email newsletters just like this one on a regular basis. These newsletters aren’t pushing direct sales. Instead, they share information about topics that are important to your customers. This knowledge-sharing can help establish you as an expert in your field – whether you’re a catering firm writing about how to host a great event, or a golf pro offering weekly tips on improving your stroke.
  • It’s a way to get the word out about sales and specials. It’s no big news that putting products on sale is one of the most effective calls to action available. That’s why mega-retailers like J. Crew and Land’s End have aggressive email marketing campaigns. Each company promotes a wide variety of sales throughout the year – sometimes it’s free shipping, sometimes it’s end-of-season discounts, sometimes percent discounts. But the sales are regular, and the emails announcing them can come weekly or even daily.

The rules of conduct governing email marketing are rigorous, and there’s no better way to ruin your reputation and get onto server blacklists than to violate them. But if you follow the rules, email can be a great part of your interactive marketing campaign.

Want to talk about your email strategy? Contact us today.

Email Marketing

Here at Atomic, we talk a lot about organic search – getting your site a high ranking on Google through strong website content, without using paid ads.

But paid ads do have a role in search, and pay-per-click is one of the best ways to utilize them.

Pay-per-click involves advertising your business on a search engine like Google. When people search for one of your keywords, your ad appears next to the search results. People can click your ad to make a purchase or learn more about you. The system is called “pay per click” because you’re charged only when someone clicks your ad, not every time the ad is displayed.

How do you know if pay-per-click is for you?

  • You need paying customers quickly. Maybe you just invested in a new location and need to start recouping your costs ASAP. You can’t wait a few months for customers to find you through organic search – you need customers in the door now.
  • Your business depends on web sales. Maybe you don’t have a storefront – you’re an online business. In that case, getting qualified buyers to your website is of prime importance, every day.
  • You’re targeting highly competitive keywords. If you’re one seller in a crowded marketplace, relying on organic search alone won’t cut the mustard. To stay on par with your competitors, you need the help of pay-per-click.
  • You have a changing product lineup. Organic search involves optimizing your site for keywords of ongoing importance – “DVDs,” for example. But what if you want to let customers know that you’ll have Star Trek in stock THIS TUESDAY? In that situation, organic search can’t get the message across quick enough. You need a pay-per-click campaign targeted to that specific release date.
  • You need to advertise a special sale or promotion. Maybe your business is having a once-a-year sidewalk sale, and you want to move as much product as possible. In that scenario, you want to take advantage of every advertising opportunity that you can afford – and pay-per-click is one of the most effective and most affordable options out there.

It helps to think of organic search and pay-per-click as dual strategies, working together to drive traffic to your website. Organic search is a long-term strategy that involves getting the best search results for your site over time. Pay-per-click is an immediate-term strategy that can get results quickly, when you need them the most.

Wondering if pay-per-click is for you? Talk to us today.

We mentioned in our previous blog entry that we’re a little bit obsessive about project planning. And we admit it—we are. But that’s because we’ve seen too many web projects derailed because of poor planning, or no planning. And that’s not what we want for our customers.

So we take planning and project management seriously. One critical step in those efforts is creating a wireframe for any new website.

What’s a wireframe? A wireframe is very simple design that lays out the essential elements that go on each of your web pages. A wireframe for a common webpage, for example, might include placeholders for a header, navigation, body copy, an image, a search function, a “call to action” box, and “contact us” information.

It would look something like this:

Why are wireframes so important?

  • Wireframes save time because they give web designers clear direction on what needs to go on each page of the site. With a creative brief in one hand and an approved wireframe in the other, a designer  begin developing a great visual image for your site – without having to worry that he might be leaving a critical functionality off of one of the pages. Too many web projects jump straight from creating a sitemap to beginning design, without creating a wireframe in between—and too much information falls in the gap in between.
  • Wireframes also save money because the basic elements of the site have been determined and approved before the creative design process ever begins. So there’s much less chance that a design will have to be torn apart and done over—which can drive costs up quickly.

Even though we’re a newfangled interactive firm, I guess we believe in the old-fashioned principle of “doing things right the first time.” We know that’s the right thing for our customers.

Want to learn more about wireframes and Atomic’s project management strategy? Contact us anytime.