Caught between your agency and budget cap? A studio resource might be right for you.

If you have a large volume of smaller graphic design updates that occur on an annual basis—e.g: updating dates or product/item numbers throughout catalogs, creating new sales materials or web pages within existing templates, or, creating multiple variations of pieces for regional or franchise use—incurring standard agency fees can quickly add up to a large budget item.

Some marketing managers turn to freelance designers or production artists to reduce hourly rates, but what happens when the volume of work makes managing multiple freelancers cost efficient but time prohibitive? That’s when it’s time to find an agency studio resource. Agency studio agreements can fit in that space between freelancers and your creative agency.

Freelance rates with single-point-of-contact service

Many creative agencies (ours included) have created in-house studio resources that leverage higher-level project management processes, protocols and efficiencies clients expect from a larger agency, but use studio production artists versus the agency’s higher-level creative directors, art directors or graphic designers. But it is important to understand what of your workload is right for a studio resource.

How do you know if it’s “studio” work versus “agency” work?

The simplest way to understand what work belongs with the studio and which with the agency is to answer the question, “Is there an unambiguous deliverable?” Put alternatively, you know what the end product will be, and can you provide all necessary resources needed to complete that deliverable before you send the assignment. Need to create version of a flyer with 40 different regional office addresses? Studio. Need a new campaign idea or have to solve a prickly user interface problem? Agency.

Maybe it’s not your budget. Maybe it’s your current agency.

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you.

Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?

Sign up for our newsletter.

Mobile website, mobile app or API? A 5-minute primer.

50% of average global mobile web users now use mobile as either their primary or exclusive means of going online. And 48% of users say that if they arrive on a business website that isn't working well on mobile, they take it as an indication of the business simply not caring. Now, let’s say you have 6 months and a limited budget to overhaul your company’s online mobile presence and prove to users that you do, in fact, care. Further, let’s also say you have five minutes to decide whether to develop a new mobile website, a mobile app, or an API. What’s the right choice? The short answer is, “it depends.”

The longer answer (if you consider five minutes, “longer”) is that each technology can deliver great results depending on how you want users to experience your brand and how you think they will want to consume your content or data.

When does a mobile website make the most sense?

Ask yourself these three questions:
  1. Is most of your content static or informational, e.g.: “about us”, business hours, maps, and addresses?
  2. Will limiting accessibility to only those times when a data connection is available be acceptable to your users?
  3. Do you have a homogenous user base—every user wants/expects/requires the same levels of information or service?
If you say “yes” to all three, then a mobile website will likely suit your users’ and your businesses’ needs perfectly well.

When does a mobile app make more sense?

Ask yourself these three questions:
  1. Is there a high intensity for client side processing, e.g.: manipulating graphics/images, multi-input calculators, or estimating?
  2. Is there a need for users to have full access to all functionality offline?
  3. Are there data or storage requirements larger than 25MB?
If you say “yes” to just about any of these, then a dedicated app will offer a much higher level of performance and superior user experience.

When does building an API make sense?

Ask yourself these three questions:
  1. Is your content valuable as raw data or in context of your distribution partners’ UX, e.g.: Amazon showing UPS tracking status inline with order information, or a mortgage bank providing real-time interest rate data for brokers’ online calculators?
  2. Are you trying to make your content/data more transferable or shareable, e.g.: embedded YouTube videos or syndicated through existing platforms like Flipboard?
  3. Will you want to use the same data or content for driving a variety of disparate experiences, or you sense the portal to that data is likely to change radically in the near term, e.g.: the expanding and changing adoption levels of mobile websites, dedicated apps and wearables?
Again, if you say “yes” to just about any of these, investing in an API could provide maximum exposure for your content/data while creating a code foundation that makes every future development more efficient.

When does meeting a new strategic partner make sense?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you.

Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?

Sign up for our newsletter.

A 3-minute guide to doubling your website conversions

Tell them what you want, what you really, really want.

In a study of small business web sites, 70% (of the 200 sites evaluated) were missing one simple thing that could have easily doubled their online conversions.

What were they missing? Clear calls-to-action linked to a conversion mechanism right on their home pages—such as special offers, e-mail newsletters, how-to guides, demos, and interactive tools. So, here are a few quick steps anyone can take to update your home page and dramatically boost conversions.

Define the most important metrics for the success of your business

Whether it’s direct sales of promoted products, downloading content and materials, or simply completing a “contact us” form so you can continue the customer conversation, you might be surprised how many websites were built without anyone addressing this basic business requirement. If you are going to take the time to build a website, it makes sense to exert your efforts in improving the type of conversions that are most likely to drive more business.

Determine what behaviors drive those metrics

There is no universally “best” conversion behavior. If your sales process is complicated and requires intensive human interaction, then perhaps your best conversion is a contact form that delivers a pre-qualified lead your sales team can follow up on, personally. Or, perhaps, your products or services are highly technical or complex? In that case, your most desired behavioral outcome may be an increase in viewing a posted demo video to help shorten the sales cycle.

Engage those behaviors early and often

Don’t bury your desired actions at the end of a multi-step user journey. Let’s look at the salesforce.com home page. While they make it easy to find contact information—phone number and email contact information front and center at the top—the design telegraphs quite clearly the conversion behavior that drives their business: getting users to try salesforce.com.

With a “free trial” button at the top in a contrasting green and two conversion items located at the center of the page, “watch demos” and “try for free”, salesforce.com overtly promotes two forms of trial, one vicarious, the other direct.

You have the room. Add the ability.

Your assignment for the last 15 seconds of this three-minute lecture is to take a screenshot of your home page, print it out and count how many places you could add suggested behaviors/conversion opportunities without compromising your design.

Class dismissed.


Ready to interface with a new strategic partner?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you.

Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?

Sign up for our newsletter.

A 3-minute guide to B2B social media success

We’ve all heard the excuses (and probably said them ourselves)—B2B sales cycles are too long or that the buying process is too complex for social media to be used as an effective driver of inquiry or sales.

But the truth is, as any marketing professional would attest, whatever medium B2B buyers are spending as much as 65% of their online time using is a valid medium for selling to those targets—as long as you tailor your approach to the strengths of that medium. And social media has plenty of strengths any B2B marketer can take advantage of to build brand awareness, position against your competitors and, more importantly, generate valuable business leads.

Of the B2B firms that are active on social media, most limit activities to customer support functions or to push links to company press releases—usually mirroring efforts across all of their social channels. But this effort is minimally useful, if not negative, in its value to the business.

Each major social channel offers unique opportunities to connect and inform, and businesses that tailor their approach, tone and content to those channels generally see more and higher quality engagement. Here’s your 3-minute guide to B2B social success:

LinkedIn

Make one-on-one connections with potential prospects, join and engage with industry groups, and use the blogging functionality to share your custom content. If you have a budget for paid advertising, LinkedIn offers highly efficient methods for micro-targeting users based on industry, company affiliation, geography and more.

Twitter

In addition to basic social listening and customer support, B2B companies can use the platform to build brand awareness by sharing quality content, following industry-related hashtags, engaging in discussions around those tags, and positioning your brand as a thought leader by sharing both your own editorial content as well as “found” insights.

Facebook

Of course, Facebook can be used for basic brand awareness. That’s the easy part. What opportunity most B2B marketers miss are the retargeting capabilities available in the Facebook advertising platform. You can serve paid ads and sponsored posts to only those users who have engaged with your content previously on other channels—improving your frequency of engagement with little to no waste.

SlideShare

A properly annotated and tagged, high-quality presentation deck can “pre-sell” a prospect (premium account users can even add a “get in touch” link to the end of their presentations) and help minimize the time and resources your sales team expends on each transaction.

YouTube

Most B2B buyers (especially younger buyers) prefer not to be, “sold to,” and to educate themselves prior to ever contacting a potential vendor. Using YouTube to share product demos, explainer videos, and tutorials can provide extensive amounts of contextual and background information in an easily consumed (and easily shared with superiors) format—perfect for highly complex B2B.

Wondering how you’ll find the time and resources to get it all done?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than advertising agencies. More strategic than digital marketing shops. More creative than management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you.

Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?

Sign up for our newsletter.

UX: 7 trends that will change UX design forever.

When nearly everything we own is a computer, the idea of what is and where we find UX design expands geometrically.

Add to that connectivity, context sensitivity and data-driven personalization and you have a recipe for what any technology-focused marketer or I.T. department can tell you is potentially budget-breaking complexity.

But as we all know, the first step to maintaining control of scope is creating an inventory and setting priorities.

So here’s a rundown of what we think are the most important technology trends that every UX designer or brand marketer should be thinking about in the coming year.

1. Ubiquitous computing

It’s not simply that computers are almost everywhere, it’s that almost everyone has a computing device with them at all times. And those devices are connected and location aware. UX designers who can tailor experiences by device type, size, location, and context will be able to improve the relevance of the experience they place in front of users.

2. The Internet of Things (IoT)

We published a blog post on the looming security risks of IoT.

And regardless of whether or not product manufacturers are addressing, or consumers even care about any of those concerns, IoT is coming in a big way. With these “things” comes alternative methods of interaction, like voice recognition, control and output (e.g. The Amazon Echo), as well as sensor-based automation (e.g. the Nest thermostat).

Increasingly, these things don’t simply connect to the Internet or your mobile device, they connect to each other. They connect to the Web. They connect to data aggregators.

Whether that means something as simple as creating an Amazon Echo-readable data stream for their web sites or utilizing users’ available data streams to personalize a more standard screen-based user experience, this trend will surely complicate the marketing and design landscape in ways none of us has yet imagined.

3. Analytics. Analytics. Analytics.

Historically, we used retrospective analytics (Where did users come from? What did they look at and for how long? How quickly did they leave?) to help optimize UX designs.

But the scale and pervasive nature of analytic data available will make real-time UX customization and personalization a viable option, if not a competitive mandatory.

4. Contextual Responsiveness

Increasingly, our devices “know” where we are, how and if we are moving, what time of day it is, whether we have plane reservations or a meeting coming up. Progressive UX designs should take into account that contextual information and supply the most relevant information (and as important, hide contextually irrelevant information).

Better yet, as Google Now so deftly demonstrates, a great UX would, with a bit of conservative caution, proactively present relevant information to users before they know they need it.

5. The Cloud

Definitely the buzzword of the past few years, Cloud computing has permanently altered the client/server equation on the web. But what does that mean for UX design?

It shifts the priority from maximizing the value of information delivery to maximizing the value of a service delivery.

Performance trumps ornamentation. Think of moving from page-load times to activity-completion times and service reliability metrics.

6.  Wearables

Whether it’s a smartwatch or the ill-fated Google Glass, we will all either adopt our own flavor of wearable, or, if the industry has its way, have some type of wearable thrust upon us.

And this, more than any other category, will be made or broken by the quality of the UX at both the OS level and the application level. Unprecedented restrictions on scale and complexity will challenge UX designers' ability to maintain a coherent UX and brand experience across platforms.

7. End-to-End Security

Users have historically traded security for convenience.

But increasingly, we should see greater demands from both consumers and service providers for greater security and user authentication across the OS and application stack.

However, consumers have rejected readily available security measures such as PGP encryption because the implementation was deemed too cumbersome. And the current state of certificate management leaves much to be desired from an end user perspective.

The market will be demanding a better, more secure, seamless process in the very near future and UX design will be critical to the ultimate success of this industry-wide endeavor.

No technology is too complicated if you have the right partner.

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences.

We’re more digital than your advertising agency. More strategic than your digital marketing shop. More creative than your management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you.

Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?

Sign up for our newsletter.

Five ideas in three minutes for building a stronger brand.

Apply your brand holistically.

One of the key factors in brand strength is its ability to be applied across the organization consistently. Time and time again, we see brands that have one identity for consumers and a completely separate (and usually dated) one for the B2B audience . Smart marketers realize the fluid nature of brand experience across the B2B and B2C worlds  and develop strong brand architectures that apply across the entire enterprise—not just across product lines.

Make your brand an authentic representation of your organization.

“Authenticity” is one of the most overused words in marketing  today, and yet it remains one of the most critical components in creating a strong brand. For decades, marketers worried about brand as it related to advertising instead of developing brand positioning founded on the true ethos and identity of the organization.

With today’s technology-enabled transparency , brand messages and content that are not aligned with the true nature and values of the organization risk being “outed ” and negatively received by audiences (or worse yet, ignored). If you haven’t performed a brand positioning audit and analysis recently, we’d advise you to do so soon.

And if you have performed an audit and analysis, be sure that you’ve validated it and communicated it to the entire organization (see point #1).

Confirm your brand truly differentiates you from competitors.

Under pressure from sales, many B2B marketers  create brand messages that promote product features and benefits without creating a point of differentiation for the brand. Although this may meet the need to increase awareness of a specific product or service, in the long term it does very little to enhance the strength of the brand.

And what if the truth reveals that you really aren’t different from your competitors? That’s where a thorough positioning exercise, incorporating the needs and perceptions of your target audiences, can help you craft an authentic identity that helps separate and distinguish your brand from the rest of the market.

Align your internal and external brand.

One of the most overlooked brand channels is your employee base. You can activate this base more effectively by making sure you’re aligned with your human resources and marketing communications teams and that your brand positioning is applied across both of these channels. At a minimum, this includes graphic identity, taglines, and imagery.

Being more effective involves making sure every employee knows your organization’s elevator pitch. Remember, the more your employees understand and relate to your brand message and positioning, the more likely they are to share them with others. Depending on the size of your organization, that can be a lot of WOM applied toward strengthening your brand.

Create an agile brand that works across all channels.

Social media can be the most direct line between a brand and its customers, yet many B2B organizations  don’t recognize the value of applying brand positioning and identity to this channel.

Aside from editorial calendars and content that reinforce your brand positioning and messaging, B2B marketers should consider creating social media graphic templates for posts and ensure that graphic standards are applied consistently to creative content, including infographics, videos, and photography. In today’s sharing environment, it’s easy for content to be isolated from the original brand platform it was posted on; make sure your brand message is still applied, regardless of where a viewer might see it.

Looking for additional ways to pump up the strength of your brand?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences.

We’re more digital than your advertising agency, more strategic than your digital marketing shop, more creative than your management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world and some of the most exciting new start-ups. And we’d love to talk with you. Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?

Sign up for our newsletter

B2B Marketers Can No Longer Ignore Their Mobile Strategies

For B2B marketers, it’s officially “Mobile First” time.

For years, B2B marketers have watched mobile slowly take over the B2C space, telling themselves, “My customers don’t shop that way.” Capterra  recently surveyed 130 B2B software marketers  about their mobile  plans for 2015, and a shocking 41 percent  said they had zero mobile plans in the works for the next twelve months. 

But even if you were among that 41 percent, when you learn the latest statistics about how B2B buyers are using mobile, you will, most assuredly, change that opinion.

Mobile has surpassed the PC as the dominant consumer of bits across the Internet.

Most of the population experience just over 50 percent of their lives online through the screen of a mobile device. And 18 percent of millennials declare themselves “mobile only.”  The fallacy most B2B marketers succumb to is thinking that their customers consume information differently in their work capacities than they do in their “civilian” lives.

Online behaviors don’t change at work.

Just like consumer product buyers, more than 56 percent of B2B customers[SSS1]  read reviews on their mobile devices, and 50 percent compare features or prices. Meanwhile, 30 percent of IT buyers use smartphones to conduct research, and 49 percent do their IT buying research on tablet devices. And those numbers are growing. That’s why B2B mobile Web traffic [SSS2] (10 percent of overall B2B online traffic) will soon push ahead of B2C mobile traffic (currently at 22 percent).

The C-suite are early adopters.

Company executives and C-level people are more likely to use tablets or mobile devices in B2B purchases. According to 2013 data from Google[SSS1] , 14 percent of executives had made a direct business purchase from a mobile site, and 90 percent had used smartphones to research business purchases. And 34 percent said that they actually didn’t purchase because of a non-mobile friendly interface.

Check your server logs.

Statistics compiled by third-party researchers are great. But if you still need convincing, start with your own Web site analytics. Look for the number of mobile users.

More importantly, look for the behaviors of those mobile users. Do they stay? Do they complete tasks? Do they transact? If they do, great!

If those numbers leave a little something to be desired, it’s time to get serious about your B2B mobile marketing strategy.

Make small (screen) plans

The good news is that if you’ve been waiting for the day when you could use mobile as a significant part of your B2B marketing strategy, you’re in luck!

That day is now.

If you’ve been dreading the day mobile becomes part of your marketing mix, you’re likely not so pleased. But no matter how you feel about it, B2B mobile marketing is here to stay.

Not sure where to start?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences.

We’re more digital than your advertising agency is—more strategic than your digital marketing shop is—more creative than your management consultants are. And we’re a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world and some of the most exciting new start-ups . And we’d love to talk with you. Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?

Sign up for our newsletter.

Sources and Further Reading.

B2B Marketers Coming to Grips With Mobile

Mobile Software Trends: Why B2B Marketers Can't Afford to Ignore Mobile Anymore 

WPP Infographic

Will mobile video upend your media mix in 2016?

Mobile video is the fastest growing advertising medium

In terms of views, time spent, and marketing spend, the growth of mobile video is outpacing that all other media. It makes sense. We are visual creatures. We all carry high-definition video production devices in our pockets.

And it seems all of our favorite text- and photo-based mobile content sharing tools and sources—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter—are adapting and offering native video playback and sharing capabilities. But is this a case of the leaders creating or following a trend?

Mobile versus TV: It’s David and his billions of cousins versus Goliath

The economics of TV are built on garnering a critical mass of views all at once. The worst-rated show on a major broadcast or cable network can reach millions of eyeballs within minutes of airing.

Marketers loved it. With the exception of a few breakout hits like House of Cards most online video content would likely take weeks, months, or years to reach those kinds of numbers—if it ever even came close. That made planning, buying, and verifying mobile video advertising seem like a far more complicated affair.

That’s why the growth in CPM commanded by mobile and online video advertising has historically lagged behind the growth in viewing rates. Marketers don’t like to let their budgets steep like a fine tea; they want it to pop like congratulatory champagne. But now mobile video–watching habits are reaching a critical mass that could flip that entire dynamic on its head. Let’s look at the numbers.

Most mobile Internet traffic is video.

Within five years, the world could have more mobile devices than it does people. And those devices will increasingly be the portal through which the majority find and consume video.

It is projected that by 2018, mobile video will represent 69 percent of all mobile traffic (up from 53 percent in 2013). Furthermore, most of the population experiences just over 50 percent of their lives online through the screen of a mobile device. And 18 percent of millennials declare themselves “mobile only.”  

But is mobile video a great advertising medium?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Yes, but much of the advertising industry is getting bogged down in the collective growing pains having to do with counting and measuring views and impressions.

Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of the global advertising agency holding group WPP, seems to think that content distributors such as Facebook and Google are overstating views, thereby overestimating their effectiveness and value. The truth most likely lies somewhere between the two warring factions’ opinions. But there is no denying that mobile video represents an increasingly powerful way to connect with consumers. Take a look at WPP’s own chart.

Curious how you can get dialed-in to mobile video?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences.

We’re more digital than your advertising agency. More strategic than your digital marketing shop. More creative than your management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world and some of the most exciting new start-ups. And we’d love to talk with you. Just drop us a note.

Like us but not ready to talk?

Check out our blog

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?

Sign up for our newsletter.
 

Sources and further reading:

Mobile Traffic Will Continue To Rise, Rise, Rise As Smart Devices Take Over The World

At Least One Advertiser Thinks the Value of Facebook Video and YouTube is "Overplayed"

 

The Three Common UX Oversights Killing Your Brand

Most businesses commit a great deal of time, human capital and money crafting their brands. They invest in style guides. They test positioning statements and taglines. They pay an advertising or marketing agency to develop creative messaging that cleverly communicates that mission and positioning to the marketplace. So, you might find it surprising that even some of the best marketing companies make the same UX design mistakes and put all of that investment in their brand at risk.

1. Thinking a great UI is the same thing as great UX.

We hear UI and UX used interchangeably all the time. But while UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) are two sides of the same coin, they require decidedly different modes of thinking and address distinct issues within the design process. UX design is a process not of colors or graphics, but one of organizing and prioritizing information and actions to create the shortest paths between users and desired behaviors (the user’s and the company’s).  Great UI requires a designer and photoshop.

UX usually requires an information architect, a UX designer, maybe a business analyst, long sessions debating the numbers of clicks required to achieve a goal, a ridiculous amount of post it notes, flow charts, notepads, impassioned pleading and Diet Dr. Pepper. UX is more the how, and less the what a user encounters when interacting with your brand, digitally. All too frequently, companies skimp on investing in analyzing and optimizing the user experience and jump straight into adding a pretty face to their existing UI.

This is UI

 

This is UX

IMG_0086.jpg

 

2. Not leveraging what’s truly important to your users.

The second major UX oversight occurs when marketers–even when they go through the entire process of creating a refined and streamlined UX–don’t take the time to understand what their users want. Users can’t tell you how many clicks they’ll tolerate on their way to some goal, but they can tell you what drives them to choose your brand over competitors, what they’ll expect to accomplish from their mobile experience and, what they’ll forgo. And most importantly, they might tell you what no one is offering that could be a competitive advantage. It’s the kind of market intelligence that informs each UX decision. And it’s the kind of intelligence that can move a user’s experience from positive emotion to positive action. In the end, if users come to your experience and don’t perceive it as aligned with their needs, they’ll move on to the next available experience that is.

3. Not aligning user goals with business goals.

For all of the time we have just spent talking about what the user wants, needs and expects, the ultimate task master in UX design is the business itself. Determine ahead of time what the key performance indicators (KPIs) are that ultimately determine whether your digital experience (be it a website, mobile app, or game) is successful for the business. Do you need to drive registrations? Then design the shortest most attractive user path to lead users to the registration form. Does the creation of sales leads drive growth? Then design at least part of your UX as an experience for which users are willing to trade contact information.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, a brand is as a brand does.

In the end, our increasingly digital marketing environment means that outside of a traditional retail experience, a business’ UX is the only significant exposure most customers will ever have to the brand. If you can address these three issues, it won’t necessarily mean you’ve nailed the UX challenge, but you’ll be farther along than most.

Want to talk further about how UX can drive better business results?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than your advertising agency. More strategic than your digital marketing shop. More creative than your management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them. We’ve helped some of the largest corporations in the world, and some of the most exciting new startups. And we’d love to talk with you.

Just drop us a note.

Like us, but not ready to talk?
Check out our blog.

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?
Sign up for our newsletter.

Is your mobile site killing your business?

Google has 5 critical questions for you about your company’s mobile strategy.

Do you have the answers?

85% of all purchase decisions involve word of mouth recommendations, and 57% of consumers say they won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site. But what constitutes a well-designed mobile experience? Well, Google has used their treasure trove of both search and analytics data to provide direct insights into what your customers want and expect. They created a 40-page web site, called the Mobile Playbook, covering the five questions (along with Google’s answers) any marketer should ask when evaluating their mobile site.  If you have time to read the entire Google site, enjoy. If, like most busy marketers, you don’t…

Here’s a quick synopsis of the questions and our easily-digestible answers.

Question 1: How does mobile change your value proposition?

Short answer: What mobile users value in their experience may differ greatly from general customer needs. You need to prioritize (or limit) your user interface items based on specific, most-common use cases.

Question 2: How does mobile impact your digital destinations?

Short answer: Build mobile first. Optimize the web experience for mobile and then decide on expanded opportunities for desktop. Build a dedicated app for your best customers if it will improve transaction completion or raise switching costs.

Question 3: Is your organization adapting to mobile?

Short answer: If no one is responsible or accountable for the success of the mobile experience, then it is likely your organization is not adapting to the changing digital environment fast enough.

Question 4: How should your marketing adapt to mobile?

Short answer: Use contextual markers (where/when) to refine UX in real time. Understand how mobile can drive behaviors in the real world, e.g. directing users to retail stores for transaction completion. Support your brand messaging with small-screen-friendly video and rich media.

Question 5: How can you connect with multi-screen audiences?

Short answer: Change your perspective—you should realize mobile (not TV) is the first screen in multi-screen campaigns.

 

Looking for more hints about marketing in the mobile era?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than your advertising agency. More strategic than your digital marketing shop. More creative than your management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

horizontalSquiggle.png

Like us but not ready to talk?
Check out our blog.

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?
Sign up for our newsletter.

5 Ways Modern Marketers Can Build Brand Awareness

It used to be that awareness was one of the key measures of a brand. The logic was that as long as your brand was included in the consumer’s consideration set, your marketing efforts would generate a predictable number of sales, therefore, generating brand awareness was paramount.

But with advances in technology and data capture over the past decades, brand awareness has been eschewed in favor of sales conversion measures. This makes sense, because ultimately the goal of marketing should be to drive sales.

However, it’s not entirely possible to increase your sales without first establishing and then maintaining some sort of brand awareness. What’s a marketer with a limited budget to do?

1. Focus on the influencer not the end user.

This seems simple, but you’d be astounded by the small amount of emphasis the B2B portion of a sale gets in marketing organizations versus broader, less targeted B2C campaigns.

Yes, you absolutely need a strategy for selling more product once you get sold in, but if your product never makes it to the shelf or in the consideration set in the first place, all of your packaging and end user marketing efforts make no difference.

The relationship between your sales force and your distribution partners is critical. That goes for existing relationships as well as new ones.

2. Look bigger by thinking smaller.

Own and dominate a single channel.

Whether it’s a single trade show where you can rollout your own industry awards and virtually “own” the event by placing all of your paid media during a critical time period, or taking a more fractured multichannel strategy by purchasing a dominant spend on a single social or media channel, using a targeted approach can be more efficient to manage and give you greater brand presence with your key audience segments.

3. Capitalize on real-time events.

Smaller organizations are more resource starved, yes, but it also generally means they can execute more quickly than their larger competitors.

Focus on industry events you attend and don’t passively participate. Use event hashtags or connect with influencers through social or digital channels.

Likewise, be mindful of trends that are impacting your industry influencers and broadcast your POV via social channels and digital media while they are relevant and more likely to be found.

4.  Measure your awareness (both aided and unaided) annually.

Don’t just rely on your sales data. It will allow you to get a sense of your market positioning in relation to your competitors and can help you uncover potential industry shifts and opportunities.

5. Consistently execute messaging and brand positioning to ensure differentiation from competition.

It’s not just about being included in the consideration set, it’s about creating value in the eye of the customer. This goes across all channels – your mobile presence, your digital presence, your social channels and your sales materials.

Seems like a no-brainer, but every week we meet someone who’s got some legacy materials hanging around that aren’t just irrelevant, but eroding what they’ve worked so hard to accomplish.

Looking for more ideas to help make the most of your limited marketing resources and spend? Sign up for our newsletter, email me or check out our website and blog.

 

Like us but not ready to talk?
Check out our blog

Want a quarterly dose of marketing facts, delivered to your inbox?
Sign up for our newsletter.

The Modern-Day T-Shirt Test

Why creative development should begin with social.

Back in the day, there was a commonly used proxy for evaluating the effectiveness of any tagline or slogan: the T-shirt test.

Limited to seven words or less (the same word count limit as outdoor boards), the idea was that any really good copy idea should be simple and engaging enough to make anyone want to wear it on a T-shirt. This elemental test is something that we’ve employed in creative development at our agency for years.

But, decades later, that’s changed.

Forget T-shirts. Instead, before we spend hours (and the client’s money) fully developing a new creative campaign or detailing a brand style guide, we now think, “Does this work on a social post?” Not just on a clever tweet, Facebook post or Pinterest pin – but all of them.

Here’s why.

We are finding that there is no other advertising/marketing medium that requires a well defined brand and marketing strategy more than social media. Possibly the most expensive “free” exposure you have in your marketing arsenal, social media mandates specific limits on characters and imagery. Unlike traditional advertising (print, outdoor, radio and digital), it doesn’t allow you time to develop deep narratives or stories.

Yes, you can do sequential posts, however given the usage of social, you also have to assume your audiences may potentially only see one, or at best, one post at a time. Quite simply, if you can’t convey the idea of your campaign in a single post, it may be that the creative idea behind it isn’t strong enough to pull your brand message through all of your channels.

But, what if you’re like most of our clients, who don’t have large advertising budgets and worry more about maintaining brand integrity and consistency, while having limited programs in social?

It doesn’t matter - if you are a brand competing for attention and engagement in any market today, you need to ensure your brand style guide and identity works as well (if not better) in social.

Why? Because social media standards force a simplification of message, which ensures your messaging isn’t too complicated for your audiences to understand.

Quite simply, if your brand identity can’t be distilled down into a single social media post that successfully reflects your positioning and differentiation, you need to examine if it’s too complicated for today’s oversaturated marketing environment.

So, the next time you’re evaluating a creative campaign, or developing new brand standards and guidelines, think social first. Odds are, it might be more of a challenge than you anticipated.


Curious about Magnani?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than your advertising agency. More strategic than your digital marketing shop. More creative than your management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

The Great Hamburger Debate

If you’ve never had the pleasure of participating in a user experience (UX) planning session, you’d likely never suspect the near-religious fervor with which certain interface navigation elements’ relative merits are evaluated. And no element is more debated than the seemingly insignificant hamburger menu.

A 34-year-old idea

When Norm Cox designed the interface for the famous Xerox Star computer (well famous to nerds and geeks as the progeny of the Xerox Alto, the computer that inspired Steve Jobs to create a computer with a mouse and a graphical user interface), the main menu was hidden under the exact hamburger icon we use today.

The earliest incarnation of the hamburger icon, as seen on the Xerox Star.

The earliest incarnation of the hamburger icon, as seen on the Xerox Star.

Popularity born of the (necessity) of responsive web design

As one scales a traditional desktop design metaphor down to smaller and smaller mobile screens (which ironically have massively higher pixel counts than their desktop counterparts), one loses the option of having the names of every potential navigation channel splayed out without making that said navigation the only thing one could see on a device. So, at a certain screen dimension, the entire navigation was condensed to three stacked rounded rectangles, a.k.a. Norm Cox’ “hamburger.” But as space-efficient as this adaptation is, it has not found universal love in the UX community. So, to borrow an inflammatory phrase (but use it properly), let’s review some of the prevailing opinions on this element and “teach the controversy.”

Does less obvious mean less effective?

As ubiquitous as the hamburger icon is as a replacement for an actual menu in responsive (and adaptive) design, it may not be as clear as simply using the word “menu.”

An interesting, large-scale A/B test (240k users—but limited to a single web site) showed the “menu” button was clicked almost 20% more than the straight hamburger.

Not so fast

The other side of the table will tell you, that using simpler UX elements, like a traditioan; a traditional hamburger icon (no text), is less visually distracting, which can actually increase conversion rates among users.

One Christian children’s entertainment site went as far as to hide all of their main navigation under a hamburger, even in standard desktop viewing. They found, after A/B testing the new navigation with their old site, a 105% increase in conversions with the less distracting UX. 

To hamburger or not to hamburger?

So, what’s the takeaway? With the exception of Norm Cox original icon, nothing about the hamburger menu is strictly black and white. Without question, it provides a straightforward method for reducing the screen footprint of your navigation system. But there is also no question it does so at the cost of loss of information presented to the user.

What you have to assess is whether that trade off will have a net positive or net negative effect on user engagement and/or conversion. You can certainly make educated assumptions based on what you know about the sophistication level of your user base or the nature of your content.

But, as we saw in the two examples above, the best way to be sure is to A/B test any significant user interface elements. Opinions are great, but the user is always right.

Curious to learn more?


Curious about Magnani?

Since 1985, Magnani Continuum Marketing has made it easier for organizations selling in highly technical and complex markets to deliver the most effective and seamless traditional and digital brand experiences. We’re more digital than your advertising agency. More strategic than your digital marketing shop. More creative than your management consultants. And a heck of a lot easier to work with than almost all of them.

The top 7 UX trends in 2015.

Are you experienced? Top 7 UX trends you should know about in 2015

Today, your online user experience (UX) is your brand. When your customers experience your brand online, do they see you as efficient, helpful and smart? Or do they see you as cluttered, difficult to navigate and dated? As time spent online increases, so do the UX sophistication and expectation levels of your customers. Gone are the days when the set-it-and-forget-it website would suffice. Creating and maintaining a compelling user experience that drives your company’s business goals is a continuous, active challenge.

The good news is that UX technology and design has not only kept pace with consumers' expectations, the current crop of tools and techniques are forming the foundations for dramatically new opportunities to connect with customers and generate measurable positive results. That’s probably why 84 percent of companies surveyed in 2014 say executives are fully committed to their company's customer experience goals and are expected to increase their focus on customer experience measurements and metrics.

#7 Material Design

Straight out of the Google user experience labs, Material Design is the search giant’s attempt to develop a set of graphic and usability standards that can work across device sizes (phones, tablets, desktops and wearables) and input methods (keyboard and mouse, touch, voice, or gesture). It’s a fairly comprehensive set of rules and considerations that, if followed, should keep even the clumsiest of UX designers on a path to clean design and simplified usability. Further, it represents the final nail in the coffin for skeuomorphism, the design philosophy that tries to make screens look like physical objects we are all familiar with, e.g.: a calendar interface that looks like a physical planner/portfolio, all the way down to the spiral binding. For a complete overview of the Material Design philosophy, Google has a thorough outline, here:

http://www.google.com/design/spec/material-design/introduction.html

#6 Invisible UX

When we say things like, “invisible UX,” you’d have every right to think it’s a term created by the tailors in “The Emperor's New Clothes.” But thankfully, the underlying principle is simple—users should never notice your design. Every control and interaction should simply support their efforts to accomplish whatever it is they are trying to accomplish. In reality, that concept means a couple of things. First, the user should be presented with only as much interface as make sense (no more, no less) in the context of who and where they are and what they are trying to accomplish. Second it means that the interface will adapt based on those same contextual parameters we described in the previous point. It may be easier to talk about it using contrasting UI approaches. Take, for example the difference between Microsoft Word, “toolbars” and “ribbons.”

Vintage Microsoft Word with toolbars

Vintage Microsoft Word with toolbars

The 1990s-era toolbar UI tried to make common functions more readily available by substituting menu choices with clickable icons. To have every possible function you may want to use available, you’d have to load up your screen with a number of dedicated toolbars. When Microsoft updated the controls to their ribbon UI in 2007, things improved dramatically. The controls displayed were updated dynamically as different content types were selected, e.g. text, pictures or tables.

Microsoft Word 2011 with ribbon

Microsoft Word 2011 with ribbon

Apple Pages on iOS

As helpful as invisible UX philosophy was on desktop, it is an order of magnitude more important for mobile devices. Whether it’s an adaptive or responsive web site or a native app, limited screen real estate requires a more invisible UX.

#5 Cards

Perhaps the best example of this trend is Pinterest. The entire UI was built around cards.  Twitter switched to a card style delivery in 2012. Cards are a response to the rise of personalization and aggregation of content on the net. They are a way to normalize the display of small chunks of content of varying types aggregated from a variety of sources. It’s not a new idea. Cards have existed in the physical world as long as we’ve been drawing pictures or writing text. But now, we can virtually sort, sift, stack, fold, flip, search and collect an infinite number of them, easily. Google Now, the intelligent information aggregator built into android phones and wearables, uses a card-based UX to allow for seamless display of a large variety of information types. So, why is this UX paradigm trending up? Pinterest leveraged the inherent uniformity of the format to deliver a UX with an elevated aesthetic that created market value above and beyond that of its sourced third-party content.

#4 Personalization

We all want what we want, when we want it, how we want it. And we expect our online and digital experiences to deliver personalized experiences. Users don’t differentiate that expectation based on whether you’re Facebook or an industrial supplier of widgets. Winning sites will be those that can recognize their users and provide them a fully curated and dynamic experience based on whatever information the user has provided (name, location, demographics, preferences, etc.) or was inferred by their behaviors (predictive analytics, presenting or suggesting related/similar content, etc.).

#3 Privacy

It’s no longer enough to let users understand what level of data privacy you offer. Increasingly, users are demanding control over that privacy. Further, watch for more and more insurance carriers to require higher levels of back-end data security, e.g.: encryption of user data and hashing of all account and password information.

#2 Smart Watches

Once again, Apple upends a category on release day. With an estimated 2mm watches pre-ordered on release day, the company sold more wearables than the rest of the industry had in the previous two years. Some analysts are predicting 20mm Apple watches will be sold in 2015. We will all have to watch (pardon the pun) this market and decide whether our brand experiences should extend to the wrist.

#1 AR/VR

AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) are often (and incorrectly) used interchangeably. Augmented reality is the effect of adding a layer of information over the existing real world around you. The best (worst?) example of this was the now-discontinued Google Glass. But AR technology is developing quickly. Microsoft Holo Lens or the Google-backed Magic Leap offer glimpses into the future. Virtual reality, as demonstrated by the Facebook-owned Oculus Rift, creates an immersive, self-contained substitute for reality. Much closer to being market-ready, this technology is already being explored by more progressive companies like Marriott, who use it to create virtual tours of destinations for guests and meeting and event planners.

No matter what enhancements or upgrades you’re considering for your online brand experience, it is clear that the bar is being continually raised in terms of user experience and expectations. How will these emerging trends impact your digital presence? We'd love to give you some ideas – contact us and we'll happy to develop some specific recommendations for how you can capitalize on these emerging technologies.