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quality Tag

5 Ways Your Website Could Be Damaging Your Credibility

There’s nothing more liberating than starting up your very own business. To cast aside wage slavery and a corporate pay structure that’s actively working against you to insulate its own bottom line. To shake of the shackles of a job and a career that were not only letting your talents go to waste, they were slowly sapping your will to live. When you secure the funding to build up your own business from scratch and transform your idea into a reality, it can seem as though anything is possible. But the reality is that your business is just one of legions of similar enterprises, all vying for the attention of the same customers. And these customers know that in a buyer’s market they can afford to be fickle, no matter how hard you may try and earn their loyalty.

Thus, the savvy entrepreneur knows that in order to draw custom towards their business and away from their competitors that their reputation must be absolutely beyond reproach. Of course there’s a lot that goes into your business’s reputation. Every customer interaction in the real world and on social media, every telephone query, the quality of your products and service and even the design concept of your logo can influence your reputation. Here, however, we’re going to look exclusively at your website. Your website is, for many businesses, the first and last chance they will get to make an impression on potential leads. If your website does not reflect the values or quality of your brand, it can seriously undermine your credibility. And credibility is extremely important. Credibility determines whether or not prospective customers can trust you, and it’s vital that your website earns it.

What a bad website can do to your business

We’re long past the days when merely having a website was considered a boon for your business. While an online presence is somewhat taken for granted, whether your business uses eCommerce or not, a bad website can make an impression in the worst possible way. It can;

  • Create a poor or misleading first impression
  • Provide inaccurate or outdated information
  • Scare away leads and reduce conversion rates
  • Undermine trust in your brand
  • Send customers running into the arms of your competitors.

So, what could your website be doing to undermine your brand and damage your credibility? Well, if you haven’t given much care to the building of your website, it can actually be damaging your credibility if it has…

Outdated or amateurish design

Like the world of fashion, web design is subject to trends which come and go in accordance with technological changes and the cultural biases of users. As such, while your website may look just fine to your eyes, savvier users may find your web design to be outdated or lacking the professional veneer offered by others. In an age where most people now consume online content and make eCommerce purchases through mobile devices, the most egregious sin you can make is failing to ensure that your site design is responsive so that it looks great on a screen of any size. Moreover, a WordPress site that’s built using a ready-made theme can make your website look cheap, amateurish or homogeneous to the more practiced eye, no matter how great it looks to you. Look at the online presence of businesses you admire and work collaboratively with a talented web designer (here are some tips for finding one that’s right for you) to build a website that looks beautiful and professional while explicitly tailored to your brand.

Bad UX

Even a website that looks beautiful can undermine your credibility by providing a bad experience for the user. User Experience or UX is an important discipline which nascent brands can tend to overlook. A gorgeous looking website that’s hard to navigate or takes forever to load (keep in mind that a page load of just 7 seconds can increase your bounce rate by over 30%) can potentially be more damaging than a website that looks passable yet is a joy to navigate.

Poor quality content

Most new entrepreneurs understand the value of content marketing but fall victim to an overly simplistic mode of thinking. They know that content is king and that posting fresh content on a regular (ideally daily) basis is the key to getting an edge over the competition in terms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). However, this is not to say that quantity trumps quality. In fact, it’s the opposite of the case. Outsourcing your content to poor quality, low cost click farms overseas might seem like a cost effective solution, but the increased likelihood of poorly written, grammatically incorrect or (worse still) factually inaccurate copy will seriously damage your credibility and authority in the eyes of users.

Moreover, it might not even give you the SEO boost you were expecting. While search engines don’t share the minutiae of what affects rankings, it’s widely believed that measures of genuine engagement like scroll depth and time on page are of value to search engines. If users click off your content in seconds, it could do more harm than good to your SEO.

Your images

A picture is worth a thousand words. But if you’re personally responsible for all of the images that go into your content, it behoves you to brush up on your photography skills. We human beings are visual creatures and rightly or wrongly we make value judgments based on appearance all the time. Either outsource your images to a talented photographer or take the time to improve your skills in image capture and post production photo editing. Cheesy stock images are not recommended as they can cheapen your brand and make your content look like that of an amateur blogger.  

Outbound links

Finally, while link building is an important part of SEO, it’s important to remember that not all links are created equal. Some links can actually harm your search engine rankings and leave you with less than reputable and credible associations. This is why you should never link to an outbound source or site without first doing your homework and ensuring that your brand is in good company with theirs and establishing that they are both reputable and credible.

Remember that you only have a few seconds to make a very important first impression. All of these factors go into making that impression count.

How to Look After Your Customers More Efficiently

If you operate a company then you will know more than anyone how important it is for you to look after your customers. After all, if you don’t take the time to really give them what they need, then you can’t expect to run a fully successful business. If you want to really take the time to give your customers the best quality experience working with your company, consider these following tips.

Have a Can-Do Attitude

People don’t contact the customer service department because they want to chat or even because it is fun. They do it when they have an issue that they need some help with. It doesn’t matter what has happened or even how it happened, because they just need some support with the matter. When a customer comes to you with an issue, it is important that your team resolve it as soon as they possibly can. If you can’t resolve the matter quickly, then try and take the steps required to bring that problem closer a solution – and keep your customer informed! For example, if your customer needs a product and you don’t have it, find out if it is in stock at another location or suggest another similar product that might be a suitable replacement, rather than just saying that it is not available.

Keep Your Customers In the Loop

There is absolutely nothing worse than your customer left wondering if you received their message. They may think that you are ignoring them and they may also wonder if you are actually dealing with their request. No customer should feel this way at the end of the day, so make sure that you are always updating your customers and also make sure that they are up to date on the latest news regarding their situation. If you just don’t have the time to do this, consider looking into a third party so that they can provide the highest level of customer service. Every industry is unique in its approach to customer service and there are many solutions to serve each. For example, if you work in the healthcare industry then hub services pharma may be a fantastic solution.

Always Pay Attention to Customer Feedback

The internet and even social media has given your buyer much more power. Ninety-two percent of customers will buy something based on word of mouth, and as you probably know, social media is one of the most powerful word of mouth tools out there. Customer feedback can be a good thing, regardless of how negative it is. Try and make sure that you are gathering as much feedback as you can and then group it into different actions. When you have done this, you can then find out where your company is lacking. For example, if they don’t feel as though you are providing them with enough support regarding their product troubleshooting then this is an area that you need to work on. So many companies sweep things like this under the rug because they think that it is easier to ignore it, but if you do this, it will most certainly further upset your customer and their complaint will only grow stronger and more valid. A company that develops a habit of ignoring their customers will surely have major issues in the future. Pay attention and be responsive to your customers!

Is your business developing proactive habits to improve your customer service? What tips and tools do you have to share? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

 

3 Qualities of a Great Photograph

Photography, just like any other form of art, is subjective. Individually, we each have our own preferences which can be seen in the type of photographs we take as well as the art we choose to hang on the walls in our homes.

So how can you select an image to represent your business or brand that will appeal to the majority of your target audience?

Speaking from a public relations and marketing perspective, there are three common qualities that make up a great photograph that you should keep in mind when selecting the images you use to grow your brand. Take a look!

Lighting Quality

Lighting is critical to taking a great photograph. When possible, opt for natural lighting to create a soft ambiance. Flash photography can also produce some stand out images when used correctly. After all, photography literally means “painting with light,” so learning to master your lighting is key to producing a great photograph.

For this photo, lighting is part of the object itself, making for a unique shot!

For this photo, lighting is part of the object itself, making for a unique shot!

Composition and Attention to Detail

The best photographs have an element of visual balance. Guidelines like “the rule of thirds” are helpful for knowing how to spot an image with great visual balance. Why does composition matter so much? Because it helps to create an image that is stimulating and captivating. When seeing such an image, your audience will spend more time looking at it which means a greater opportunity for them to connect with your brand. Once you know “the rules,” you can also choose to strategically break them to capture an photo that is different from what we’re used to seeing, thus making it more memorable.

This photo follows the "rules of thirds" which results in a great visual balance.

This photo follows the “rules of thirds” which results in a great visual balance.

Your Subject Makes a Statement

Finally, a great photograph does more than just capturing the image of an object or scene; it makes a statement. Some of the simplest photographs, when shot creatively, tell a story far more fascinating than a lesser-quality photograph of something far flashier. It’s really not so much what you’re photographing as it is how you photograph it. Dare to look at something from a new angle, position it in a unique way and make it something someone wants to know more about!

An image like this is great for sparking interest and getting readers to want to know more about what it represents.

An image like this is great for sparking interest and getting readers to want to know more about what it represents.

Are you a beginner to intermediate photographer? Did you find these tips helpful? Please let us know by adding a comment below!

Stop Using These 9 Metrics to Measure Success

Stop Using These 9 Metrics to Measure Success

Having worked with many, many different clients over the years, I’ve had the benefit of learning how they each run their business and how they quantify success.

As you might expect, this is as unique as a fingerprint. However, one thing I did find to be common among the happiest and healthiest businesses was that they did not focus their measure of success on any of the following nine metrics I will soon discuss. To say the least, these metrics are false and misleading. They also create an imbalanced company culture which can snow ball into bigger problems down the road.

Take a look at the nine metrics for success that we all need to stop using right now!

How long you spend completing a task

Imagine how long it would take most of us to change the oil in our car. Just because we devoted hours of (frustrating) labor to this task, doesn’t mean we were any more successful than a skilled mechanic who can complete this same job in a fraction of the time. How long someone spends completing a task is not an indicator of success.

How early or late you’re accessible by phone or email

Our culture tells us that the longer we work, the more important we must be. Checking emails and answering phone calls from sunrise to sunset makes us feel like we are more successful than our peers who cut out at (gasp!) 6pm and let emails wait until normal office hours resume the next day. How early or late we allow ourselves to be accessible for work tasks is not correlated to success, but it is most certainly correlated to a work-life imbalance.

The size of your office

One of the biggest mistakes I see small businesses make is investing in a large office space they simply don’t need. There’s no denying my support of a virtual work environment for its efficiency and cost-savings. Yet, so often new entrepreneurs feel that their success must be validated with a commercial office space that is one more thing to manage and one more bill to pay. The size of your office is not an indicator of success. Many high-profile business owners and CEOs throughout history have worked from their home, out of a basement or garage or voluntarily took the smallest office space in their building.

The size of your staff

Similar to the size of your office, the size of your staff doesn’t indicate success any more than the size of an SUV indicates the stature of the person driving it. All of these items can be obtained by people who are barely able to pay the bills each month – all for the perception of looking “bigger” than what they are. Work to keep your overhead as low as possible and instead focus on the size of your profit margins.

Fancy stationary

One of my biggest pet peeves is working with a client who claims to have a shoestring marketing budget, but who then pays an invoice with a slew of unnecessary collateral materials that were certainly not cheap. Custom-printed checks, stationary, envelopes and embossed business cards will not be what (solely) seals the deal with your client – a good communications strategy will. Don’t mistakenly use this as a metric for success and instead smartly invest your marketing dollars elsewhere.

The number of business cards you hand out

Speaking of business cards, loading up on thousands of these paper rectangles and then tossing them out like confetti at a networking function will not build meaningful relationships with fellow professionals and may actually make a bad first impression. Handing out hundreds of business cards a day (without any strategy or follow-up) is not a useful metric for success. Anyone can do that – including small children and robots.

The clutter in your inbox

Busyness does not equate to productivity and a cluttered inbox does not equate to success. Hundreds of unread emails may look impressive at first glance, but when the majority of these messages are spam, promotions and auto-responses, you are merely trying to convince yourself you’re important. I tend to treat my inbox like my to-do list. The few messages I leave there require my attention and usually receive it within a day. All other messages are read, discarded or filed into their appropriate sub folder. To someone else looking at my inbox, I may look like I’ve had a pretty easy day. But I’m okay with that because I know that this is not an indicator of success.

The number of meetings you attend

During my time spent working in government, I experienced just how much time can be wasted in meetings. People loved to schedule meetings and conference calls to basically fill their entire work day. This would then give them the need to stay late to actually accomplish anything, perpetuating this false measurement of success. The number of meetings you attend does not equate to a successful day or your level of importance within a company. In fact, the people who often have important work to do find any excuse to get out of these meetings and get back to their computers.

Social media likes, followers and interactions

Finally, and this one may shock you, the number of interactions you receive on social media is not an indicator of success. You may say, “Well then why are we told to spend so much time and money on establishing a social media presence to build our business?” I’m not discounting the effectiveness of a strategic social media plan as part of a larger marketing effort, but I am offering a friendly reminder that you and your business are worth far more than the number of likes you have on your fan page.

Likes can be easily bought and interactions can be skewed to the point where it’s hard to tell what, if any part of your sales are a direct result of someone following you on social media. Stop making this the focus of every sales and marketing meeting!

What should be our metrics for success?

…Quality and productivity!

There is one philosophy all businesses would benefit from embracing, and that’s simply to “Get it done…right!” Quality and productivity are the two metrics that we should use to measure the success of our day and the overall success of our business. Did we deliver quality work in a productive manner? The businesses that embody this philosophy and promote this culture to its employees are the ones that are thriving.

Did you knock everything off your to-do list by 3pm? Great, see you tomorrow! Do you need to spend a few extra hours perfecting a project you know your client will love? Maybe you work a little late tonight, but you know it will pay off in the end. Stop comparing hours, square-footage, email count and boxes of business cards. Instead, “Work hard in silence and let success make the noise.”

Which of these metrics do you most commonly see misused to measure success? Share the outcomes by commenting below!

 

How to Get Comfortable with Getting Personal on Social Media

How to Get Comfortable with Getting Personal on Social MediaIf you’ve taken notice of how your personal social media accounts engage far more interactions than your business accounts – you’re not the only one. In particular, Facebook continues to make major changes to their algorithms that determine whether or not your content appears in people’s newsfeeds. The bottom line is that business pages are getting hit the hardest with the negative impact of these changes and personal accounts are becoming more and more valuable for reaching a broader audience.

Yes, social media is a vast unknown and a very public forum. It can be intimidating to think about how the content you put out on your social profile will live on for eternity. So while it’s more important than ever to be smart about what you post, it’s becoming equally important to be personal and genuine. This type of content is rewarded with far more views. Additionally, people feel more compelled to comment, like and share content that feels “human” – and not like a sales pitch.

If we want to better promote our personal brand, engage our core audience and grow our business, we need to shift our focus away from trying to “outsmart the system” with shady SEO tactics and tricky automated posting and toward quality, genuine content posted by us – a human. Moreover, we need to open up, get more personal and allow our fans and followers to connect with the person behind the business.

Let’s take a look at 9 ways to get comfortable with getting more personal on social media – in a safe and professional manner.

Speak to your core audience.

For the vast majority of us, we have far more connections on our social media profiles than we will ever have friends in real life. This is part of the beauty of social media, but also part of the downfall. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of your content reaching thousands upon thousands of people.

Who are these people, really? What do they think about me? Why do they even want to hear what I have to say? These doubt-filled questions can really do a number on your self-confidence and your willingness to share personal and genuine information about your life. Forget about these “unknown” followers and rather focus on your core audience – the people you know in real life or with whom you have built a meaningful relationship online. Talk to your supporters, your cheerleaders and ignore the opinions of all the rest. If they don’t like your content, they’ll weed themselves out.

Showcase more than just your “brag reel.”

Social media is fun because we can carefully frame all of our life events so that they appear far more fabulous and perfect than they really are. Not to mention how we are able to completely crop out the mistakes, bad days and blunders we don’t want people to know about.

But in order for people to get to know the real you, you have to share the good with the bad. This means letting people know when you’ve made a silly mistake, have a “case of the Monday’s” or are just in a bad mood. Not only does this make you more genuine, it helps people connect with you on a deeper level because, guess what, they’ve been there too! Best of all, you will find that your core audience will rally around you in support and help move you on to a more positive moment.

Be positive.

In sharing both the highs and the lows on your newsfeed, be sure to stay positive. Don’t rant or throw someone/some business under the bus. I have yet to see a scenario where this is ever justified – maybe between you and a close friend in a private conversation, but never on social media. Stay classy and stay positive. This will draw in other positive people and create a welcoming and uplifting environment in which you feel comfortable getting personal.

Mix in quotes with photos.

There are only so many selfies or photos of your food, pets and kids that you can share in a day without overdoing it. Mix up your social stream by sharing images that capture people’s attention and inspire them. Use quotes! Pinterest is a great source of quotes for any topic you can imagine that are already formatted into images. Build a small library as you have time so that the quotes are ready to go whenever you want to share them. Inspiring people is a powerful way to connect with them on a deeper level and build a loyal following.

Interact with your audience.

This one is so important! If you want to engage people on social media, you must give to receive. This means setting aside a finite period of time each day (and don’t go over!) when you browse your newsfeed and like, comment, share and follow content that interests you. Leave meaningful comments or ask questions. I can’t say enough about how important it is to be “social” on social media.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

No matter how you slice it, selfies are always going to feel a little awkward, cheesy and narcissistic. Just have fun with your social media content! Make a funny face, crack jokes, be sarcastic and make fun of yourself from time to time. All of these things will help to make you real and relatable to your audience.

Not everyone has to be shared in real time.

Some days lend themselves to countless opportunities to share updates on social media. Vacations, holidays, weekends, birthday parties and other celebrations provide far more content than what our audience likely wants to see in a day (or an hour). Enjoy the moment, take those snap shots, but save some for later. Thanks to #ThrowBackThursday and #FlashBackFriday (or any day of the week, if you’re feeling bold), you can use these photos as content for another day. Whether or not your audience connects with your content really comes down to the caption, so make it clever and relevant!

Don’t tolerate trolls.

Even if you post genuine, uplifting content that shows your personal side, you will inevitably run into social media “trolls” who have no problem leaving biting comments while hiding behind their social media mask. This is my advice on how to handle such situations. If a comment contains a personal attack, profanity or untruthful information, you have every right to delete it and black the user. Just as you wouldn’t put up with being bullied in real life, don’t tolerate hateful and hurtful comments that are unsolicited.

Be personal while still being appropriate.

Finally, and most importantly, carefully walk the fine line of being personal while still being appropriate. It’s possible (and we’ve likely all seen it) to get too comfortable with sharing personal updates on social media. I’ve had everything from family feuds to detailed medical information voluntarily shared by members of my network. The best rule of thumb is to assume your grandma can and is reading everything you post. Make her proud by building a strong personal brand that is engaging and professional!

Do you choose to share personal photos and updates on social media? What are some of the reasons behind your decision? Join in the conversation by commenting below!