Even the most subtle errors in design regarding logo quality, spacing, and even paper choices can negatively affect how people react to your marketing efforts or correspondences.
I recently received a letter in the mail from a business that was claiming to represent my insurance company. The letter requested some personal information regarding a recent claim. Immediately, it gave off some red flags that caused me to question whether the letter was legitimate or a modern-day phishing scam.
After several phone calls to my insurance company, I finally learned that the company that sent the letter was, indeed, legitimate. But, the company was so poorly represented by their letter that one would never know it was actually a credible organization. The representative at my insurance company said that she’d received a number of calls asking about the validity of the letter but she wasn’t aware of the exact issue until I explained to her the unprofessional appearance of the correspondence.
Good use of whitespace is very important, not only for text legibility, but for directing and guiding the reader's eye through a page.
Here are the elements of the letter that made me suspect foul play:
1. Poor Logo Integrity Two logos were used in the letter, the logo of my insurance company and the logo of the company sending the letter. Both logos were a faded gray color and were low resolution/low quality images. The logos were blurry, pixelated throughout and the edges were jagged. They looked as though they had been copied from another source, rather than inserted as original company logos.
A good way to instill trust in your audience is to use a high resolution logo in full color. The logo should look crisp, clean and flawless. If you are using another company’s logo for your print materials, always ask for a high resolution, digital copy for print. Never download a low resolution copy of their logo off the Internet for use in print.
2. Generation Loss Along with the faded gray logos, the letter, as a whole, appeared to be washed out. This was a result of generation loss, or loss of quality from making a copy of a copy.
To obtain full quality copies, always print from an original digital document, never from another photocopy.
3. Spacing Issues There were many spacing issues and inconsistencies throughout the letter, but the one thing that caught my attention the most was that one of logos was pressed up against the company address without any space in between.
Whitespace is very important for readability and organization. It’s a place for the reader’s eye to rest between design elements and/or text. Good use of whitespace is very important, not only for text legibility, but for directing and guiding the reader's eye through a page.
4. Inadequate Signature The signature was a low-quality, digital signature with a jagged appearance.
I realize that handwritten signatures are not as common as they used to be. And, under many circumstances, it is perfectly acceptable to use a high-quality digital signature. However, if you need an extra level of trust and authenticity, a handwritten signature is essential.
5. Insufficient Letterhead The letter did not come on company letterhead. It was printed instead on an undistinguished sheet of white paper and the ink smeared easily when handling the letter.
Letterhead is part of a company’s brand identity, or another way to carry out or market a company’s image. It should contain a company logo and basic contact information. Letterhead should be printed on a good quality paper to further convey a message of professionalism.
6. No Link to Brand Identity I was able to do a Web search on this company and I did find a website, but, the letter was not, in any way, consistent with the website.
The letter was black and white while the website was very colorful. The fonts were different. The website looked as if it had been designed professionally and the letterhead looked like it had been put together by a novice.
What are your letters and other marketing materials saying about your image? Do they add up when it comes to quality and integrity? Does your website coincide with your marketing materials?
Everybody knows about PowerPoint, but not everybody knows about one of the best kept secrets concerning PowerPoint or other slideshow presentations:
They can be great online tools for marketing your company and your website.
Slideshows, posted to your own website and to sharing websites like http://www.slideshare.net (which averages 60 million visitors a month), offer the opportunity to:
Engage prospects through interactive features
Illustrate complicated ideas
Improve search engine optimization
Boost your SEO
Slideshows can offer a nice SEO two-fer: Posting your slideshow on a slide-sharing site can give you a valuable link back to your site, and a properly optimized slideshow has its own chance of performing well on the search engines, giving prospects an easy way to find you.
A properly optimized slideshow shares many of the same features as a well-optimized web page:
File name– Just as with the file name and h1 tag of a web page, use a keyword or search phrase in the title of your presentation. Description– These descriptions work the same way as a meta description tag on a web page: the first 150 or so characters will appear in your listing in Google’s search results. Be sure to write a snappy description that includes your targeted search term. Tags– You can think of these like the meta keyword tag on a webpage, although they’re really more similar to the types of tags used on other social media sites. Make sure to include your keywords here. Content– Properly optimized with the appropriate search term and synonyms, the presentation’s content should be useful, clear and concise. Links – The judicious use of links back to relevant pages of your website helps ensure viewers – and the search engines – know where to go for more information.
A useful optimization tool on SlideShare is the ability to select categories where your slideshow should be listed. SlideShare visitors often use category searches to find presentations, so this is a good way to help viewers find your slideshow.
The PR Gift that Keeps on Giving
Posting a slideshow online also offers a major advantage in that you’re repurposing material that’s already been created, saving time and money. You can get even more mileage out of the same slideshow by:
Posting it to your company’s website
Writing a blog post about it
Tweeting a link to the version of the slideshow on your website
Posting the link on Facebook and LinkedIn
Depending on your topic, you may want to consider publishing a press release about the presentation on an online news service for an extra boost of visibility and optimization.
Even if you haven’t had to create a PowerPoint for a recent presentation, you can still take advantage of the SEO benefits of posting slideshows online simply by identifying a topic useful to your target audience, creating the slideshow and then publishing it on a site like SlideShare and on your own corporate website.
You can find good topics in the same places where you would publicize a slideshow: your corporate blog and news page, as well as your company’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts already feature a lot of great info about your organization. Repurpose some of that in a PowerPoint and share it with a whole new audience by posting it online.
Here are some great examples we’ve published for Pilot Fish clients:
The next time you create a PowerPoint – or write a blog post or a new FAQ for your company’s website – get the most mileage out of your efforts by publishing the presentation online. Your website, your prospects and maybe even your bottom line will thank you.
Every business understands the value of posting testimonials from their clients on their websites. Testimonials provide added credibility to a business, particularly in an age where many transactions are conducted exclusively online, via websites, e-mail or on the phone, without ever meeting someone from the company with which you are doing business.
But, have you ever considered the value of your testimonial on one of your suppliers’ sites?
Your suppliers, like you, understand the value of including customer testimonials on their websites, and they’re likely willing to pay you for yours. Paid? What’s that about?
Here’s a way to use your genuine feelings of satisfaction with a supplier or vendor to provide them with a testimonial they can use on their site AND get a valuable inbound link to your company website in return.
Payment won’t come in the form of cash or a gift card. Rather, it will be in the form of a link, a link to your company website. If you’ve been involved in your company’s SEO activities, you probably understand that links from third party websites have value because they contribute to your website ranking more favorably on the major search engines, like Google.
And, if you’ve been involved with your company’s SEO activities, you also understand that it can be challenging to find and obtain worthwhile inbound links. So, here’s a way to use your genuine feelings of satisfaction with a supplier or vendor to provide them with a testimonial they can use on their site AND get a valuable inbound link to your company website in return. Sounds like a win-win, right?
The key is to selectively choose which suppliers to whom you’ll send a testimonial. Those sent to companies related to your core business will have more value as opposed to, say, your utility company. And, to avoid wasting your time with a testimonial that doesn’t get posted, it will be important to establish with your supplier that you’d like to provide a testimonial that they can post on their website and that you would just want to make sure that your company name is hyperlinked when they do it.
You’ll also want to be sure your testimonial is very descriptive with regard to why you’re a happy customer. Generically written testimonials won’t impress your suppliers and may be viewed as spam by search engines.
But done well, a client testimonial not only will provide a good backlink for your site, it will help your business relationship with the supplier too. Can’t argue about that!
A website’s navigation is a roadmap to finding pertinent information, a product of interest, contact information, a form, a site’s shopping cart, or all of the above. But, whatever it is we, as visitors, are looking for, we want to find it as quickly and as easily as possible, no matter where it is we have entered a particular website. If we suddenly become lost or frustrated due to an insufficient navigational structure, we are most likely going to leave the site we are visiting to head to a site that is easier to maneuver.
The same is true for our own website. We want to be able to navigate, and more importantly, we want our customers to be able to navigate with ease and we want them to find exactly what they are looking for in a timely manner.
Do you think your current website has an efficient and effective navigational structure? Or, do you think users could be getting lost and frustrated? Here is a list of some of the basic navigation guidelines that might be helpful in answering these questions.
Your website navigation menus should perform and function in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.
Although this is pretty standard by now, I think it’s worth mentioning. It is very important to keep your navigation consistent on all pages of your website. That includes menu placement, color, size and functionality. There might be some minor variations in the placement of the navigation, for example, a menu might have a slight shift in placement from the homepage to the sublevel pages, but these changes should be seamless and intuitive to the user.
Keep your overall navigation as clean, clear and as simple as possible. Having too many buttons can be overwhelming, so having fewer buttons and keeping your button names short and concise is important from a usability standpoint.
Although your buttons should be simple and easy to read, they can still have some personality to them. There is still a lot that can be done using subtle colors, borders and rollovers without over-doing it. Your menus should work as accents and nicely complement the rest of your website.
In order for users to be able to easily read menu items it’s important to do the following:
Use a font that is easy to read
Choose a point size for the font that is large enough to read
Be sure there is enough contrast between the button name and the button background
Allow enough spacing between each button so the buttons are not crowded
In your text-based buttons, choose a type font that is a web-safe font (not all fonts are)
This seems self-explanatory, but be sure all of your links are working at all times. Pages come and go, but when pages go, be sure the navigation button gets deleted as well. This way, you won’t have a button linking to a dead page.
On the other hand, one thing you can run into, especially with older sites, is adding more and more pages and, consequently, more and more buttons over time. Eventually, if you’re not careful in rethinking the organization of your navigation, your menu bar can accumulate too many buttons, which again, can be overwhelming for users.
Usability Have someone who is not familiar with your website click around and test your current navigational structure. Ask them how easy or hard it is to navigate to find information, products, etc. Ask them to assess your site in each of the areas listed above.
Efficiency Your website navigation menus should perform and function in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.
Hopefully your navigational structure is working as effectively as it should, but if you need any help or further assistance, contact Pilot Fish for ideas on how to improve your site navigation.
Remember the days of the animated cursor? You know, when the little sparkly stars would follow your cursor around the page. Wheeeeeeee …… this is fuuunnnn!! It’s like a magic wand!! That was soooo cool, wasn’t it? Yeah, maybe for about five seconds. Then, the proverbial “magic” was gone. Those sparkly little stars became very annoying VERY quickly. “Abracadabra!!! How do I make these awful stars disappear??”
Or, how about the cursor that was shaped like a football or an animal or had an adorable little face? “Hey, check this out, my cursor has cute little eyeballs and TEETH. Awwww! Neato.” Well, soon that novelty, too, wore off and now it was time to do some serious browsing. “Hmmm, how do I get back to my plain old arrow cursor? Send out the search parties. I want him back!”
Oh yeah, and then, there was the time when Flash first came on the scene. You remember that time, right? It seemed that every website you visited was spinning, blinking, moving all over the place. “Hey, I just want to click on that button, but I can’t seem to catch it. Ugh, I’m getting dizzy. I think I’m about to lose my lunch.”
The latest and greatest bells and whistles might not always be what’s best for your customers.
Yeah, I’m exaggerating. A little bit. But, the truth is, from time to time, we are all guilty of being sucked in by the awe of new technologies. You might think these bells and whistles are “cutting edge”, but it’s important not to jump the gun and, just because something looks new or different, doesn’t mean you should put it into your website.
What could go wrong, you ask? Well, a number of things. If a technology is brand new, chances are, it’s not fully supported by all of the popular browsers or widely-used versions of those browsers. You wouldn’t want 75% of your visitors to come to a broken website, or, to be so annoyed by your website that they have to leave, would you? I didn’t think so. And, don’t forget the possibility that new technology could be damaging your SEO efforts.
So, the lesson is, the latest and greatest bells and whistles might not always be what’s best for your customers or for your business as a whole. Before strapping your website with the latest cursor with eyeballs and teeth, (no matter how cute he is), be sure to check with your web developers and SEO experts who have already done the latest research for you.
Hey, you never know, the technology you are wanting could be completely feasible. Just remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.