#5 Things Your New Website Should have and #5 Things It Shouldn’t

This post should begin like a horror movie….

BASED ON TRUE EVENTS

That’s all the effort i’m going to make to jazz up the post intro because i have used most of my time on the title 😛

OK, cut to chase! lately I have been directly, indirectly, passively and aggressively involved in building content for some websites. So, I can safely say that this post is based on my experience and thorough study of what a good website should and should not contain in terms of CONTENT. Now to lay the foundation correct, in this post I’m talking only about the content components which includes written, pictorial and visual form of information on your website. A website though contains many other factors like being device adaptive, SEO friendly and responsive but I will refrain from including these factors in this post. So here we go…

Your Website SHOULD Have:

#1 YOUR STORY

Now why would you say things like “to know more about us check our website www…” It’s not just a catch phrase. If you want people to know about you on your website, please tell them! I strongly feel that sections like About US, Our Story, Vision, Mission don’t get much attention (content wise) and end up being a drab part of the website that only has innovative adjectives to describe the business, company and leadership. But if you think of it, this part of your website is like a whiteboard where you can tell your story to the world in the most engaging way possible!

So don’t just use words…use keywords (all relevant ones), include real images ( not models) that prove your story and walk them through your journey using videos.

#2 CLARITY & FRESHNESS 

At times there could be a lot of things that you might want to tell your visitors like how you are different, what special offering you have, latest promotions, the new mobile app you just launched and so on… Having all details inside your world wide web identity does make sense but a clear distribution of content is a must so that your consumer is not lost in the clutter. Always include a site map that charts out the website’s contents for clear and easy navigation for the user.

Using fresh content in a variety of formats like a mix of text, infographic, image transitions and videos can cut the redundancy and monotone of content heavy websites making it an easy experience for the visitors.

#3 CALL TO ACTION

Loading your website with data and no proper call to action will end up making it an online repository of information that people can at best refer to. If you want people to use your website and use it regularly then add one click actions that they can take to get what they want! start by providing different means to contact you like phone, email, instant chat, contact form, etc. Invite them to join you social media community to be up to date with your offerings. Be proactive and lead them to the next actions by giving reminders, directions, multiple options and support services.

This obvious component of a website is not always obvious for developers who are masters of the subject. If possible, know from a sample of your target audience if the call to actions are clear, simple to understand and not misleading before going live.

#4  VISITOR’S FEEDBACK

The process of developing and finalizing a website can be overwhelming and so its completion might seem like a good riddance at first. But no! do not consider your website as a state-of-the-art creation that does not have a scope for improvement. The best part of websites with friendly content management systems is that you can change the content, images, videos, articles as seem fit even after your website is live. So why not change it basis your visitors’ feedback?! It is highly advisable to take a quick feedback from your users before they exit the website to be sure of their experience. It is also an effective way of making an otherwise static website more interactive and engaging.

#5 ORIGINALITY

This definitely does not deserve the last position here but I want this point to remain out there for us to ponder. There is no substitute to original content on your website! because you can only add value with original, authentic and helpful content that your users can rely on and look forward to. If they welcome your content…then you have arrived. Even in this context, content takes into account not only what you write but what everything that else that supports your writing like visuals. Include pictures from your life, work, pass time depending on the theme and purpose of the website to connect with people.

Refrain from using stock images with models who reside on multiple websites representing different things. Such attempts hamper the trust of your users even if the rest of your content is original. Use of videos to make your content personal and provide a gateway for users to know you better and relate.

 

Your Website SHOULD NOT Have:

#1 DEAD LINKS

This is borderline offensive you know…alluring someone successfully to take interest in your content and promising them a lot more at a click of the mouse only to show them – THE PAGE DOES NOT EXIST – really? Make sure your links exist and lead somewhere helpful. Having dead links can be frustrating for your users and can leave them with a bad experience on your website.

#2 DISTRACTIONS

There is text loaded….there is cluttered information and then there are distractions on website. Imagine sliding banners, flash screens, pop up screens, auto chats, audio offers, auto-play  videos all happening at the same time on your website. It will surely scare your user and the instant reaction will be to close the tab and move on. It is OK to have a variety of content on your website but try to emphasize on one or two at most at one time.

#3 DATED INFORMATION

Always be sure that the information being shared on your website is correct and up to date including the contact details, address, team members and news updates. Correct information is the cornerstone of authentic content on your website which the users can not only believe in but also rely on. Not updating the correct contact number or office address will not only reduce the users trust factor but can also hamper the business significantly.

#4 NO CAPTION IMAGES

Highly recommend including captions to the images that go on your website. This does not just make it easy for the visitors to related the images to the text but also believe in those images as real and conveying a message. When using pictures to tell a story with timeline always add the year and date if possible to showcase the legacy of your business or company.

#5 REPEAT CONTENT

This happens all the time and I’ve figured out why! The latest website templates and designs are more like an assembly of placeholders for your content. It definitely makes it easier for us to chose the right slot for the right information but then the situation comes when you are out of content and the slots are empty. And we commit the crime of repeating the same content to fill the empty spaces and justify it as repeat “visibility”.

2 things though – repeat content is more likely to spoil user experience and you can get rid of the extra spaces! customized templates allow enough moderation to use only what you want and remove the rest.

Hope this article is helpful. Let me know your thoughts and happy to learn more about websites 😀

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Merchandising Basics for Beginners

The genesis of this post is a long-standing debate with my colleague on a topic that can be safely put as “Marketing Vs Merchandising”.  To begin with, I feel  that there cannot be a debate/discussion on Marketing “Vs” Merchandising because the latter is a very important subset of the former which also consists of several arenas including pricing, promotion and sales lead generation. If I were to present an analogy, consider marketing division as a human body and the different marketing functions as its organs that operate on their own to keep the human body up and alive! so you see now a debate on kidney Vs Human body is kinda ridiculous.

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who is the brain you ask?! well…most often it is the marketing head of the company 😀

But the best part of any discussion is the information exchange that happens (sometimes to win a pointless argument) and this time I got to learn about the merchandising basics that will help you close the gap between marketing, sales and operations that sadly work in silos in most organizations!

Merchandising is defined as the act of promoting the sale of goods, especially by their presentation in retail outlets. The keyword here is presentation. Not to sound shallow, but the presentation of products, goods, services, offers, sales reps, furniture and displays inside your store is a testimony for the standard of your store.

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So watch out for these merchandising basics to make your store look like picture 2:

#1 STORE LAYOUT 

Spending a lot of time with the store layout to figure out the most optimum store setup is highly recommended in the case of new outlets. 3D layout and dry runs should be done before you actually start setting up the store units. This step can make or break the entire shopping experience in your store for the customers. During the dry runs where you approach the store from the eyes of the customer…figure out the high visibility areas, congestion areas, navigation challenges, placement zones which would be best for the store.

store layout
example of store layout for a pharmacy

the grades A,B and C in the payout are a part of the “Visibility Grading”. A being the most visible areas followed by B and C. Again, this here is the final layout which was finalized after a lot of permutation & combination of the display unit arrangements.

#2 MERCHANDISING SEGMENTS

Merchandising segments are defined to maintain the uniformity or uniqueness of each product category and hence maintain the overall look and feel of the store. merchandising segments are also mean to make the in-store shopping experience of the customer a lot more convenient. Let’s continue with the pharmacy example…so there will be broad product categories like skin care, hair care, feminine care, eye care, OTC medicines, vitamin supplements, baby care , etc. For a merchandiser it is very important to different each of these product categories in a visible manner so that the customer knows exactly where to find what.

Also, each merchandised segment should be have a line of connectivity for the customers to move from one product category to another without even realizing it. so having wall units for skin care, hair care & feminine care in a continuous line will make more sense than skin care, baby care & vitamins.

#3 STORE DISPLAY 

It is what it means! make your store look good…for which all the efforts are being made. But here are some sub points that will simplify your understanding of the display in a store:

  • Counter display – Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) should be displayed at the counter. The area of the counter display is graded as a high end visibility area in the store and are meant for handy products that might slip out of a customer’s shopping list. e.g chewing gums, candies, hand sanitizers, wipes and so on.
  • Free Standing Display Unit (FSDU) – or a Floor Stand is an integral part of  store display.  Utilizing floor display in a correct manner not only increases the likelihood of impulse purchase but also the willingness of shoppers to switch between brands.
  • Window Display – It is important to keep window display area tidy at all times as this signifies your store reputation. Do not stock up products in front of the window display as it portrays a disorganized viewpoint of the store. But window display is crucial for promotion material to entice the customers.

#4 LEVEL PLACEMENT 

There are few important things to consider when placing products on the shelves, such as:

  • Placing your most profitable items at eye level
  • Placing products for children and pregnant women at eye level
  • Placing your popular or targeted products in between eye and knee level of visibility

#5 PLANOGRAMS 

Once you have decided which products are to be placed on which shelves basis the best visibility plan, it is important to consider how the products have to be arranged on the shelves too. A planogram is a visual diagram, or drawing, that provides details on the placement of every product in a retail store. These schematics not only present a flow chart for the particular merchandise departments within a store layout but also show which aisle and on what shelf an item is located.

while I have tried to superficially touch upon the basic merchandising practices, there is a lot more that goes into making a store look flawless and customer friendly. But these pointers will definitely lay a strong foundation in your learning about merchandising and will surely make your views count in “merchandising Vs. marketing” discussion 😛

 

 

 

 

 

Email Marketing – Yes, No or Maybe? 2 minute survey

You know a work place discussion is really important when it continues to bother you even after work! The topic that has been populating my mind and browser tabs lately is Email Marketing and this is how my mindset and activities evolved during the past few days:

  1. Questioning the importance & impact of email marketing
  2. Spending hours digging email marketing stats
  3. Believing the stats
  4. Preparing and executing an email campaign
  5. Analyzing the response

and Bam!!! back to step 1 – still questioning the importance & impact of email marketing

I need answers…if not a resounding Yes/No, at least a “certain” maybe. But before I ask your help here is the definition of email marketing  – “Email marketing is the targeting of consumers through electronic mail (email). Often associated with data mining, email marketing can be used to impact consumers in a variety of ways. In general, email marketing is a more evolved, digital form of traditional direct mail marketing.”  Source: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/1658/email-marketing 

Kindly take this 2-minute survey and help me move on from step 1 😀

https://sonali65.typeform.com/to/KqEI6n

I will be sharing the outcome of the survey to continue the discussions 🙂

 

Silly Me @ Times

Past couple of weeks I have been “dismissing” the morning alarms (yes, plural) on my phone, which once used to be snoozed to death before I would even consider calling it a new day. With eyes wide open, I wondered what could be wrong? Did I finally satiate my body and mind with the slumber that it had been craving for all these years OR am I an insomniac now? The plethora of possibilities and webMD did not present a good picture…the endless web of internal links landed me on the most dreaded page called “cancer symptoms”. Time for some positive thoughts, I said to myself, and decided on a very generic prognosis for my unusual sleep pattern – STRESS. Surrounded by scented candles, essential oils and green tea mugs (both empty and filled) I thought the de-stressing game was on point…at least the Instagram pictures would make you think so.

As I crashed after a soulful day, the thought of waking up just in time to manage looking like a human for office made me smile. Next morning with eyes wide open and the phone screen shining bright on my face, I had two questions on my mind…What is wrong with me? And Why is green tea so over rated? It was then, 4:30 in the morning, that an email notification which read ‘win a diamond ring’ made me go AH HA! While I was still connecting the dots in my mind and working out a possible cause, a series of email notifications started a frenzy of vibrating fits on my phone. Diamonds, grocery free codes, discount coupons, mall offers, season collection…you name it and I had it in my inbox at 5 o’clock in the morning! That’s like 2 hours before my first alarm goes off, are you kidding me?

This ‘vibrating-ping-pong-notification-fest’ has been keeping me awake all this while. Pheww…it’s not insomnia but now I’m definitely stressed about how to stop this noisy morning ritual which I don’t even recollect starting in the first place. For the first time I was opening emails that were either ‘too good to be true’ or ‘too much to be real’. And the irony…as a marketer I often work on content for email marketing and newsletters and being on the receiving end of it was not quite pleasant. With a heavy heart and serious doubt for my profession I decided to unsubscribe and stop receiving these emails and newsletters.

The first was an online apparel site where I have never bought anything but I do like to check out what’s in store so I gave this one a pass. Next was an online grocery which had a coupon code and some simple steps to use it. After I was done grocery shopping and efficiently using the coupon to avail discount, there was no way I was going to unsubscribe this one. It took me 2 hours to realize that I could safely unsubscribe 2 emails that were completely useless in my inbox the rest (13 of them) were in fact of some use for me. This was a bitter sweet moment for me… when I appreciated my profession that allowed communication of such life changing offers and also dreaded the sleepless early mornings.

I was startled by the “nothing else matters” ring tone on my husband’s mobile phone when he said those golden words that would change my mornings forever…. “can you put that on silent please”.

Duh! right 😛

Are you asking the right questions??

OK, this has happened with me many a times. I’d spend so much energy and time scheduling meetings with clients, preparing the presentation, confirmation emails to and fro and of course navigating to the office location. But all of this is a prep work for the final few minutes (depending how much you have been granted) that you get with the client. Once you are through the usual greetings, one liner puns to ease the tempers (for being late in my case :-/) and exchange of business cards….the time starts ticking for you to make some sense before its time to wrap up. Now you know how important this topic is??…and realize how easily you can turn a crucial meeting into a futile exercise if you DO NOT ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS!

I am going to write about some of my meetings with clients and how to I prepared to ace it. As a marketing professional I meet clients who are looking for marketing and branding solutions, and that’s what I am going to talk about here. Believe me…its the worst feeling coming back from a meeting and saying this↓↓↓ to yourself 😀

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Scenario I:   Introduction Meeting

There are times when the agenda of the meeting says “get to know”. do not fall for the trap and take it as a typical networking meeting where you exchange cards and check out the other person’s clothing (#judgemenot). If the client wants to “get to know ” you there is always some scope of work which s/he does not want to disclose straight away. And so it becomes your onus to get that scope of work out of them during the meeting. Think of it as an interrogation only set up in a corporate environment and no gansta talk 😛

So here are 5 questions that you MUST ask when meeting your client/prospects for the first time.

#1 About the organization

well i know the name says abc motors or xyz construction…so its pretty obvious. But do not shy away from asking the client about their company because then you know what and how they describe their business. believe me they always gives away a lot of additional information that you will not find in their ‘about us’ section of the website…like what are their business priorities, expansion plans, subsidiaries and so on.

Also, read between the lines when they say we are planning to set up a team, acquire some business or maybe shut some part of the business. That is where either you are required or you can pitch for your services.

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#2 How did you come to know about our company?

The benefits of asking this question is twofold…here’s how. My company’s marketing investment is focused on Google SEO and Adwords. So if we get to know that companies are reaching out to us after they see our ads or spot us in the top rankings of Google search, we know its money well spent. If companies are hearing about you from other industry players…then you must be doing your job right!

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#3 How can we help you?

Its simple and straight forward. Up until this time in the meeting the two parties have “known” each other quite well so let’s stop the dilly dally and talk business. Of course before you ask this question introduce your company and all the services that you provide. So that the client/prospect is not wondering if you are the right person to ask for help. It is always better to have a company presentation, brochure or profile so that the client gets to see your work.

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#4  Do you want to know more?

It is like breadcrumbs you leave behind to let the conversation flowing. Yes the client needs something that you can provide as a one time job. But if you see more scope of business where you can definitely impress the client, here is you chance. Talk about how you can send them some more information via email of schedule another round of meeting to discuss in detail. The client’s response will also tell you about his interest level in doing business with you. So think of it as a litmus test of your performance so far.

Also if the client is interested and wants to see what you have in store, take a note of all that you gotta share and please do not forget to share the same!

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#5  What next?

This very question prompted me to write this post. Only that I asked this question to myself  on my way back from the meeting…What am I supposed to do next? You know the meeting went well, there is scope and it would be great if you could do business with them…but what do i do immediately after this meeting so that all of the possibilities become come true!

It is no good asking yourself this question…it is rather too late. Confirm the next set of actions before you sign off. Be on the same page and make a note of what key information/communication has to be exchanged between the two parties. You will be surprised as to how much a even a short meeting can lead to.  It is also a good practice to share minutes of the meeting (MOM) to have a record of the points discussed and it can accompany the ‘thank you/pleasure to meet you’ email.

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I hope this helps your next meeting 🙂 and don’t fall asleep during one 😉

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Festive Season Marketing

It is my fourth month in Doha, Qatar and my first ever experience of staying and working in the middle east. Coming from India, where i got my education and started my career in marketing, I am now excited to explore this new part of the world and know it’s culture and traditions from of the eyes of a marketer.

Living here you cannot stay untouched from the flow of emotions during the holy month of Ramadan. It did not come to be as a surprise because a multi culture land like India certainly opens you up to different religious belief and practices. But here Ramadan becomes a part of your every day life during this one month.Be it the early morning work hours, the way you greet people, the sense of oneness in having a meal together…it leaves you feeling loved and blessed irrespective of who you are and where you come from.

While most people practice austerity and charity during this time, one cannot miss the loud festive marketing that lures you to the amazing sales and offers in the mall. When you step out on the streets there are ‘Ramadan Kareem’ wishes all around you…and they are mostly coupled with some great offer details that you wouldn’t want to let go. But this is not new, it is exactly the same during Diwali in India…from electronics to automobiles to gold… every store front is wishing you a prosperous Diwali and selling you stuff to make it prosperous.

But its not just material…Emotions are the driving force behind every festive season marketing. Case in point is surf excel ad, a well known and used detergent brand all over the world. Most surf excel ads beautifully capture how stains are effortless…both getting one and getting it off. But here is their Ramadan ad which instills in our mind the importance of kindness during this holy month. #NekiEkIbadat being the core messaging for this ad, I love how this ad pulls all the right strings of emotional attachment with the occasion and the brand.  It is inspiring to watch and learn…