The very first web page went live 30 years ago. It was dedicated to Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web project. While it was bland and uninviting, in retrospect, we know that this first URL opened the door to today’s websites, which virtually open the door to the whole wide world.
With nearly two billion websites in existence, the competition to attract the attention of the 4.72 billion web users across the globe is staggering. Unless you’re Craigslist or Wikipedia, whose unattractive physical look is so embedded in public awareness it would be foolish to change design, a modern website needs some curb appeal – and a whole lot more.
Four years ago, we blogged about the all-important home page. A killer home page is still paramount, but let’s take a fresh look at the multiple characteristics of a truly outstanding website – one that visitors will remember and return to time and again, one that builds trust in your brand and leads visitors to take action.
For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on the senior living industry. Indeed, most of the features that make a great senior community site apply to all websites, but the onus on the senior space to provide an exceptional online experience is particularly great. As literal doors have been closed to visitors, virtual doors must do the lion’s share of the work attracting prospects.
Ten Things That Make Your Website Outshine the Rest
- Virtual tours. Because COVID has severely restricted (if not completely prohibited) in-person tours of senior communities, virtual tours of indoor and outdoor spaces, common areas, amenities, and individual apartments are absolutely essential. Engaging online tours are more than still photographs; they are interactive, three-dimensional, and offer a 360-degree perspective – as close to the real thing as if one were walking through your property.
- Navigability. Getting lost in an illogical, disorganized website is like driving in a strange city and not knowing your way around – with one major difference: you can immediately click out of a website, never to return again. A move to senior living is one of life’s major decisions and, unfortunately, one that is sometimes made during crisis. The first point of entry should be an easy, orderly glide through your community. Studies have shown that the eye tracks text in a certain pattern, and visual hierarchy in the arrangement of your site’s elements points to what is most important and how to seamlessly find subsequent content. Main and sub-tabs designed with first-time visitors in mind guide prospects through a well-organized, stress-free visit.
- Clean, simple design. An unfussy, uncluttered design throughout your entire site, but especially on the home page, makes for a pleasant, positive user experience. Simplicity in design is fresh, timeless and soothing. There’s also great business benefit in a simple design, as several studies have shown that minimalism garners more conversions by establishing legitimacy and confidence in a brand. Endless clicking and scrolling is distracting and comes off as amateurish and “salesy.” On that note, if at all possible, avoid sponsored ads on your site.
- Uniform branding. Along with a clean design goes visual uniformity across your entire site, including color schemes, typography, logo, and other graphic elements unique to your brand. “Cookie cutter” designs are a dime a dozen and will do nothing to distinguish you from the nearly 30,000 other senior communities in the U.S.
- Animation and interactivity. Today’s Internet users are seeking an “experience,” particularly now when in-person visits and events at your senior community are limited. Animated and user-driven interactive elements bring life to your site and create memorable journeys throughout your pages and in your visitors’ minds. These elements also increase engagement with your community and more clicks to discover what’s around the next corner, so to speak.
- Readability. Small type and hard-to-read fonts are a no for any website, especially those serving older adults whose eyesight may be compromised. A simple, legible font scheme (consistent across your entire site) will serve your visitors’ needs and keep them engaged. It will also lend a more professional, sophisticated appearance, establishing trust and credibility in your brand.
- Great Content. You can use the most awesome typestyle and graphics in the world, but without great content on your site, it may as well be gobbledegook. At its core, the “king” – content – is information that benefits your audiences on its own merit – a takeaway, so to speak, that is meaningful regardless of a lead. Great content creates a positive connection between you and your visitors, the ripple effects of which can be boundless.
- Response Time. Sites that load slowly will be abandoned quickly. Optimal load speed is under three seconds; 40 percent of consumers will reportedly abandon a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load. Response time is a function of underlying infrastructure (e.g., a good content delivery network) and design element choices, among other things, and it is essential not only to keeping visitors on your site, but good SEO.
- Mobile friendly. A whopping 90 percent of Internet users across the globe access the web from their mobile devices. Websites that adapt to whatever device one is using allow for significantly greater reach and more shareability among visitors. In essence, you can’t survive without a mobile friendly website.
- Expert designers. Achieving all of the above is a tall, but very necessary order. It is not a layman’s endeavor, nor the work of a pre-fab template. Professionals trained in web design and management on both the front and back ends are a must for a truly outstanding website.
IVY’s team of experts in the senior living space can bring excellent web content and design to life, bringing prospects to your virtual community and in your literal doors.
Contact us today at 630-790-2531 or visit www.ivymarketing.com.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
In Part I of our series on good listening for great marketing, we opened with what makes for poor listening and, thus, less effective marketing. We noted that less than sensitive listening is also bad for interpersonal relationships.
Here in Part II, we’ll focus on how good listening leads to good storytelling and, therefore, great marketing. Because, after all, everyone loves a story and people buy a story, not a brand.
Many businesses and companies retain marketing/PR agencies on whom they rely to capture and share their unique stories. If these agencies are doing their jobs well, they employ a team of curious, thoughtful writers, designers and media specialists who know the right questions to ask, with their clients’ audiences in mind, and can cull a great story that resonates with them.
Even small firms with small budgets, or no budget at all for marketing and PR, can benefit from employing the listening skills that lead to standout stories. But it’s not easy. So much goes into the storytelling process, long before the first word is said. In fact, though skilled writing and graphic rendering is essential, it’s the groundwork that determines the quality of the finished product.
Let’s explore something we at IVY call CLIQUE, the basic elements behind a great story:
At its core, content marketing is storytelling. Still, some companies and organizations are unconvinced that blogs, social media, press releases, feature articles, email campaigns, white papers, case studies, newsletters, direct mail, and other manifestations of a story are as critical to successful marketing as they really are.
The belief still lingers that the mere existence of a product or service, along with traditional advertising and a website, is sufficient. “We’re here; they’ll come to us,” is sometimes the mentality. But, more often than not, that statement becomes a question: “We’re here; why aren’t they coming to us?”
In this age of content marketing, consumers are “prosumers,” active and reactive participants in the buyer journey, and only content that is personally meaningful will inspire them.
And the only way to motivate consumers is to commit to a robust content marketing strategy. Modern marketing requires a change in paradigm and a resolve to reach ears and eyeballs through the hard work of creating content into which audiences choose to insert themselves.
Imagine you are tasked with telling someone what someone else said. What’s needed to do that? Active listening. As we noted in Part I, listening is a skill, not a physical ability. It requires rapt attention without agenda, pre-occupation, judgment, insincerity, impatience, trivializing, or interruption.
Only by truly absorbing what is being expressed can it be accurately and effectively conveyed. This is where a marketing and PR team is key. Professional writers, designers and media specialists are trained listeners whose keen attention to detail and ability to discern what is pertinent, central and unique to your story is invaluable.
Between listening and questioning is introspection – that period, however brief, during which skilled listeners internalize what’s being conveyed to them and mentally prepare for the next phase of outgoing questions that will further shape a story. Among many, some of the questions they will ask themselves are: What is the heart of this story? What is special about this person or enterprise? What information is critical, and what is less relevant? How can I share this story in a way that will move audiences?
The process of introspection is extemporaneous, yet highly acute. No matter how much preparation is devoted to an interview or session with someone whose story will be told, conversations can go in any number of directions, and trained listeners must have the ability to think, guide and digest information on their feet.
While experienced storytellers can make it appear that their questions are off the cuff, they’re anything but. Their inquiries are made only after they’ve listened attentively to their subject(s) and practiced the introspection discussed above. People are endlessly busy, and time is of the essence. Trained listeners do not waste precious face or phone time by asking questions that a) can be answered by a Google search; or b) will not benefit the story in a meaningful, purposeful way.
Asking the right questions is a crucial part of the storytelling process, and questions cannot be squandered. Knowing which ones to ask is the art of a great listener – and a great storyteller.
Great listening leads to real understanding. In fact, “I understand” are some of the most affirming words. A gifted storyteller has not simply heard, but deeply grasped, the details, nuances and significance of the story he or she will craft. They “get it.” It is only with genuine understanding that the heart of a story can emerge.
The final phase of storytelling is the actual telling of it. Today, there are more channels through which to tell a story than ever before, and to have real impact, marketers need to leverage them all. This takes time, talent and a constant finger on the trends and changes not only in the marketing industry, but in one’s own vertical as well.
Beginning with a commitment to employ a content marketing strategy that enables the immeasurable power of storytelling, today’s businesses and organizations can begin a new and very exciting chapter in return on investment.
Let our team of skilled listeners and experienced storytellers share your great story with the world.
People buy a story, not a brand. In the current age of content marketing, this has never been more true, yet so many tasked with hearing their audiences fail to truly connect with them. Why? Because they fail to listen, and no matter how much time and money is spent in the effort, meaningful consumer engagement is compromised. There can be no good storytelling without good listening.
Effective listening applies to everything from big business to private conversations. Hearing is a physical ability; listening is a skill.
While Marketing 101 traditionally dictates a focus on the positive, sometimes we understand better what to do when we know what not to do, especially if we recognize the undesirable behavior in ourselves. (What’s more, neuroscience suggests that humans are more influenced by bad than good.) Therefore, let’s outline some qualities of poor listening that can also translate into poor marketing.
How to Lose an Audience in 10 Seconds
- Push your own agenda. Angling for your own motive or gain, whether you’re embarking upon a widespread campaign or simply chatting with your neighbor, is not listening. It conveys that you’re not really interested in the needs, desires or concerns of whomever you’re communicating with; you’re mainly in it for yourself.
- Steal the thunder. We all know that person who barely lets you get a word out before they jump into their own experience. Marketing efforts can have the same self-preoccupied effect. Brands that boast about the sales they’ve made or lists they’ve topped demonstrate that they’re more interested in touting their own accomplishments than knowing and meeting consumers’ needs.
- Preach/judge/mock. Few people share a story or experience with someone so that person can shame them or tell them what they should have done instead. Yet, some folks take that opportunity to chide, advise or even ridicule, rather than to simply listen, sympathize or offer real solutions. That mentality has infiltrated more than a few marketing campaigns, too, particularly those that showcase clueless fools whom others can laugh at or feel superior to. Intelligent, thoughtful consumers are turned off by these cheap shots that appeal to the lowest common denominator.
- Be ingenuine. Consider the many ads featuring actors saying things no one would really say, least of all consumers. Contrived, out-of-touch messaging does not resonate with real audiences. It is insincere, ineffective and shows that you have little grasp on your target market. Perhaps this is why campaigns that humorize true self (think Progressive’s “we can’t save you from becoming your parents” and CitiBank’s voice-throwing identity theft campaigns) are so well-received.
- Rush things along. Has anyone ever checked their watch or a text while you were talking? Likely, you were less apt to continue at all than to continue more quickly. Marketing and sales efforts that push people to act before they’re ready have the same dissociating effect. Issuing a call-to-action is an important feature of a solid campaign, but it must be done with a keen sensitivity to where people are on the customer journey. That can only be accomplished by listening to what they’re saying – and sometimes what they’re not. For those with the opportunity to meet prospects in person, body language says a lot.
- Trivialize. Just as it’s rarely wise to tell someone “it’s not that bad,” or “you’re making too much of this,” it’s equally isolating to make light of consumers’ needs and concerns. Consumers respond to brands that acknowledge the gravity of a pain point and don’t try to pretty it up, as if all is right with the world. Any brand that promises they hold the key to eternal happiness will likely be met with great skepticism. As prescription drug campaigns have increased dramatically, it’s hard not to notice the litany of side effects, some arguably worse than the original condition, juxtaposed against all those “shiny, happy people.”
- Interrupt. Cutting in on someone who’s talking implies many things, first of which is, “what you’re saying is so unimportant, I’m just going to rail right over you.” Indeed, modern consumers can feel railroaded by the barrage of sponsored content, particularly online, that yanks them away from their train of thought. A much more effective approach is to create content that is intrinsically meaningful, customer-centric and organically share-worthy.
In Part II of this blog, our team of experts will share how to employ the good listening tactics that define not only healthy personal connections, but also outstanding storytelling and successful consumer relationships.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Have you ever been in a business meeting when someone used an acronym you didn’t know? Did you sit there with sweaty palms, hoping your part of the meeting wouldn’t require you to know what it stands for? Did you ask what it means? Or did you quickly and surreptitiously look it up on your device at hand?
While the word “acronym” was first coined by Bell Laboratories in 1943, acronyms themselves are nothing new. Even the Romans used them (as in the roll-off-your-tongue SPQR for Senatus Populusque Romanus), but more are tossed around these days than ever before.
New ones are born seemingly every day, in every industry and social arena. You’d have to be a walking urban dictionary to know or remember them all. So, forgive yourself your FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and accept that you’re never going to keep up.
That said, there are some acronyms that marketing professionals simply CNK (Can’t Not Know, and we just made that up). But first, why is it important to know and use them?
Why Use Acronyms?
- You’re going to look like a dinosaur if you don’t. Remember that business meeting, when CMO Joe kept dropping DKA (Don’t Know Acronyms), and you felt like a dope? You felt that way for a reason. Anything that’s used in the normal lexicon of your industry should be second nature to you. Otherwise, you and your company look well behind the times.
- They’re efficient and convenient. It may not seem like such a big deal to type out “as soon as possible” one time, but multiply that by the number of times you convey that sense of urgency in a week, and you’ve added several minutes to your precious time.
- They save money and trees. If you’re printing hard documents, acronyms take up less room and, thus, use less paper.
- They’re quicker and easier to say. Consider the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Emergency Guidance Abort Destruct System, for example. Isn’t it just a lot faster and simpler to say NASA’s EGADS?
- Their brief, snappy character lends itself perfectly to texting and social media, especially on hand-held devices.
- They’re hip (think young) and fun to use, as in the EGADS example above.
The acronyms one should know off the top of their head depends largely on the business one is in. Because you’re reading a marketing blog, we’re going to focus on that arena, along with its first cousins, social media and email. Keep in mind that the same acronyms can have multiple meanings, depending on the industry. Therefore, it’s best to specify that industry when searching acronyms. For example, “AMA in healthcare.”
We’re not going to include the acronyms that are familiar to the lay person, such as FYI, OMG, ASAP, TGIF, LOL. If you’re not familiar with those, here’s a good primer.
Top Marketing (and a Few Sales) Acronyms You Need to Know
B2B: Business to Business
B2C: Business to Consumer
CRM: Customer Relationship Management
MAP: Marketing Automation Platform
RSS: Really Simple Syndication
HTML: Hypertext Markup Language
CPC: Cost Per Click
CPL: Cost Per Lead
CTA: Call to Action
CTR: Click Through Rate
PPC: Pay Per Click
BR: Bounce Rate
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
RFP: Request For Proposal
SAAS: Software As A Service
PR: Lest we insult your intelligence, PR stands for Page Rank as well as the better known Public Relations
SMM: Social Media Marketing
ROI: Return On Investment
Top Social Media Acronyms You Need to Know
AMA: Ask Me Anything
IDK: I Don’t Know
DM: Direct Message
LMK: Let Me Know
IMO/IMHO: In My Opinion/In My Humble Opinion
SMH: Shaking My Head
YOLO: You Only Live Once
JSYK: Just So You Know
ELI5: Explain Like I’m 5
LMAO: Laughing My Ass Off
NSFW: Not Safe For Work
Top Email Acronyms You Need to Know
NRN: No Response Necessary
EOD: End Of Day
EOM: End Of Message (allows you to put your brief message in the subject line so email doesn’t need to be opened; e.g., “Meeting at 4:00 – EOM”)
BCC: Blind Carbon Copy
CC: Carbon Copy
OOO: Out Of Office
OT: Off Topic
YTD: Year To Date
We at IVY have enjoyed sharing this sampling of common marketing acronyms with you. We ask you to remember one more: our MAPS approach to all your marketing needs. Let us help you make the most of your campaigns in the following areas of expertise:
If you have a favorite acronym(s) that is not on our list, please let us know what it is and what it stands for. Please share this blog on your social media for even more feedback!
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
- Content Marketing IS Marketing
Of all the developments on the horizon for content marketing in 2019, it is perhaps a shift in paradigm that is most significant. Simply put, content marketing is marketing. Whereas 10 years ago, content was a good thing for marketers to have as an aside to traditional strategies, it is now synonymous with marketing as a whole. Without quality content, marketers cannot establish the two-way communication that is essential to today’s successful consumer relationships.
- Video Is Vital
Video has enormous capacity to capture and keep consumers’ attention. Marketers of the future cannot survive without it. In particular, YouTube (where all marketing videos should land first) has become the second largest search engine, with Google in the first place position.Consider these recent statistics:
Clearly, the production and distribution of video content is vital to a viable content marketing campaign. Even if your content is generated by a smart phone, any “action!” is better than none. You can become more sophisticated when time and funds allow, but get rolling now!
- Personalization Is Paramount
According to Psychology Today, feeling understood is even more important than feeling loved. Knowing who your audience is and what makes them tick is the heart and soul of successful marketing. Marketers who employ highly targeted content are far more likely to create lasting relationships with their customers and prospects than those who are taking stabs in the dark. A 2017 study showed that 79% of companies that exceeded their revenue goals had a personalized digital media strategy in place.No matter how things change in the digital marketing realm, the guiding principle is sure to stay the same: reach the right audience with the right message at the right time in the right way. Personalized content does that best, and not only do consumers welcome targeted messages, they expect it.
- Artificial Intelligence Fosters Real Relationships
While it may seem counter-intuitive that a machine could help form real bonds, nothing could be truer when it comes to marketing with artificial intelligence. Not only does AI (robots, chatbots, algorithms and, eventually, the Internet of Things) shoulder a lot of the “grunt work” traditional marketers had to do, freeing them up to focus on consumer relationships, it also facilitates a more personal, “human” customer experience.Among other capabilities, AI-based marketing can:
- Customize one-to-one with consumers’ demographics, timing and intent
- Offer audiences personalized website and social media experiences
- Enable natural language processing (voice search)
- Gather and catalog large quantities of data to create accurate customer profiles
- Identify valuable leads
- Personalize up-sells and cross-sells
- Serve relevant messages to prospective customers
- Generate personalized emails based on customer preferences
- Judge and respond to human emotions in real time through affective computing technology
- Data Is Compulsory
Analytics will play an even greater role in 2019, as increasingly sophisticated tracking reveals pinpointed consumer insights that marketing budgeters have come to demand. Knowing exactly who is engaging with what content, for how long, on which platform or pages, and when, is invaluable information that businesses now require in determining their marketing ROI. Marketers of the future must be able to supply this information on a regular basis, not only to produce the highly personalized content discussed above but to satisfy client expectations.
- Strategy Is Key
As marketers come to embrace the reality that content marketing is marketing itself, they must also define goals specific to their content. This calls for a guiding, documented strategy. Sixty-five percent of the most successful content marketers have a documented strategy, identifying goals such as lead generation, thought leadership, and SEO. But, as different companies have different goals, no one content strategy fits all. Once unique goals are identified, a documented plan keeps content on task, on track, and intentional about achieving objectives. A documented strategy also allows team members to see what content is and is not working. “Documented strategy is self-correcting,” says content strategist Michael Brenner.
- Customer Journey Leads the Way
Have you ever engaged with a brand to the point of purchase, only to feel abandoned after your wallet entered the picture? That’s a common experience among consumers and one that content marketers must eliminate. The traditional marketing funnel that starts with anyone and everyone and ends with a monetary transaction is moving toward a more fluid, sustainable model. This new version emphasizes customer success throughout the buyer journey, regardless of purchase. It’s about relationships; appropriate content allows marketers to transition from vendors to partners, earning lasting consumer trust and loyalty.
- Topic Clusters Boost SEO and Consumer Trust
As much is known about search engine optimization, there is still so much to learn and understand. (Read our two-part primer on SEO.) But one trend is emerging that deserves particular attention: topic clusters. For brands to position themselves as trusted, respected thought leaders, they need to build content around certain core topics. Deliberate information architecture clearly and methodically demonstrates that owned content is authoritative and attention-worthy – gaining valuable notice from both search engines and consumers.Topic clusters center upon pillar, or hub, content to which more granular sub-topics are connected via hyperlinks. As for SEO, when one cog in the wheel does well, the entire cluster gets a boost in the rankings.
- Distribution Drives Success
What good is great content if no one sees it? Distribution is as important as content itself. As long as there are multiple channels of dissemination, casting a wide net continues to be good practice. While social media has gotten the lion’s share of powerful reach, marketers need to remain proactive, open and enthusiastic to all forms of distribution. Perhaps your content could benefit from email marketing, special events, speaking engagements, print, TV or radio ads, or even direct mail (yes, it’s still worth the cost and effort). As author and marketing expert John Hall puts it, “Passive distribution – or worse, distribution you do as an afterthought once you realize no one is engaging with your content – won’t cut it.”
- Quality Content Is King
“Content Is King” is well on its way to becoming a cliché. But just because a glut of content is out there doesn’t mean it’s all good. In fact, much of it is not good at all. No matter how far technology takes us, there is still no substitute for quality content creation and sensitive application to products, services and niche expertise. Just as poor, irrelevant content will drive a wedge between B2B and B2C possibilities, truly meaningful, engaging content that speaks to audiences where they are – or where they want to be – will build bridges that lead to lasting consumer relationships.
Our team of experts is here to help you navigate the future of content marketing – today.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.
Consider these compelling facts and figures about the power of video marketing:
- There are over 73 million video viewers every year
- 50% of online traffic comes from video viewing
- 92% of video viewers share videos with others
- Consumers are at least 64% more likely to purchase a product or service with video representation
- 75% of business professionals watch promotional videos of relevant products and services at least once a week
- Videos bring a clearer understanding of product and service benefits
- Facebook’s algorithm is said to favor videos over other content marketing
- Videos offer an immediate association to and connection with products and services
- Visual media gives consumers greater confidence in their purchases
- Videos lend trust and credibility to the companies and organizations that display them
- Video content increases sales conversion rates
IVY’s team of experts can create live-action or animated videos like the one here to tell your unique story and bring more traffic to, and engagement with, your website, social media and marketing collateral.
Top photo credit: Complete Business Online
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.