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top of mind mrketing infographics

Using Infographics to Tell a Story

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I suggested to one of my clients that we create infographics for several fairly complex processes described on our website. “Great idea!” I started working in Apple’s Pages, then remembered someone’s telling me about Piktochart, an online tool for creating infographics, posters and presentations. I created an account, logged in and began designing.

What a nice surprise–this tool is ridiculously easy to use!

You can use the free version or upgrade to the paid version. I used the poor man’s version and found that there’s plenty of functionality.

  • You can choose from about eight infographic templates. Unlike some program templates, these are completely customizable—you can delete features, change colors and fonts and reconfigure.
  • None of the templates really worked for me. I’ve had quite a bit of graphics experience, so I created my infographicsfrom scratch. Take some time to Google for infographic designs that fit your needs.
  • There is a full complement of fonts. It’s easy to change font size, color and both line and letter spacing.
  • Something I really love: Text blocks autosize. When you add or delete text, the block automatically changes to fit the new space—no manual adjusting.
  • The site comes with a fairly robust library of images/icons and photos, though the number of business photo images is limited.
  • The drag and drop feature is a breeze. If you have an image on your desktop, just drag it into your infographic and it autoloads in the application’s Uploads section—a single, seamless step.
  • The line tool is a limitation.The free version provides only a dotted line that is a bit hard to manipulate, but it’s a small complaint.

I’m delighted with my infographics and plan to add these to my own website and suggest them to other clients. It’s not surprising that infographics, the visual representation of data, have surged as such an important medium. Good marketing tells a story, and infographics help make our messages clear and accessible.

Infographics work because 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual

According to a report by a New York visual communications company, Infographic World, visuals are known to improve learning and retention by a whopping 400%. This is due to our frighteningly short attention spans and the fact that we absorb information faster by reading and seeing concepts with corresponding graphics. Images also trigger an emotional connection.

A few more reasons to love infographics

Infographics help break down large chunks of data into coherent, manageable content bites and simplify complex processes.

  • They answer specific business questions and facilitate decision-making.
  • The chance of an infographic’s going viral is much higher than that of plain text content.
  • SEO value. The viral nature of an infographic means that Google will index your website higher due to Google’s page-rank algorithm, increasing the importance that search engines place on your site.

Infographics don’t replace well-written content; rather, they’re an adjunct. Infographics facilitate learning and foster greater understanding of complex concepts. Now, they’re easier to create with Piktochart.

Need help creating infographics for your website and social media posts? Contact Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing specialists.

 

top-of-mind-marketing-construction-growth

Sustained Marketing Campaign Helps Construction Firm Double in Size

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It can be difficult to commit to a sustained marketing effort

We’re impatient and want to see immediate results. But I’ve been working with an Oakland construction company for more than five years and they’re an example of the way in which a thoughtful, committed marketing effort produces results. We began our relationship as we all were digging out of the recession. The economic downturn was particularly hard on the construction industry—many contractors simply closed their shops and walked away.

Making the most of our marketing dollars

Our challenge was making the most of our small marketing budget. We did some market research and were gratified by the responses:

  • We had good name recognition and were recognized for doing high-quality work.
  • Our clients spanned sectors, but we were recognized more for residential remodels than for the commercial, nonprofit and public works projects that were our new business focus.

Using a good-sized email list, we began doing a quarterly newsletter. We wanted to remind existing clients that we were still out there doing a wide range of work, including structural upgrades.

Showcasing our work

We know that showcasing our work is an important investment. It is a line item in our budget, and we include a photoshoot with every project, adding descriptions and images to our website. We found a wonderful local photographer who is delighting us at every shoot.

Supporting key nonprofits

We identified a few local nonprofits and help support their annual fundraisers. The investment is relatively modest, and we’re courting our demographic—small commercial and high-end clients.

Updated website

Along the way, we converted our website to a mobile-friendly version. Better, but a Band-Aid rather than a solution. Last year, we finally upgraded to a beautiful new WordPress site. I wrote new content, and we reengineered the navigation to showcase our projects. We keep our News page updated with our press releases and community activities.

Testimonials, new collateral and targeted advertising

Once a project is completed, I follow up with clients to ask them for testimonials, which I post to our website. Every client with whom I’ve interacted has been happy to help us; our clients rave about their professionalism, craftsmanship, well-run job sites and on-budget, on-time delivery. We belong to our industry’s national networking group and we hosted one of the monthly events—good food and wine help to build relationships and open doors. I designed and printed new collateral to use when meeting with potential new clients. We’ve also begun advertising in a small local publication that targets our audience. We’ll swap out this ad every few months to keep it fresh. This has been a cumulative effort that has steadily increased the visibility of a company that is doing superb work.

The results?

They’ve doubled in size this past year. We’ll continue our current efforts as we look at new marketing opportunities that are a fit for our business.

Struggling to develop a strategic marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing specialists.

top of mind marketing_learning about running a business from Santa Claus

What Santa Can Teach Us About Running a Business

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No one ever thinks about Santa as an experienced business owner, but he’s been running a wildly successful enterprise for well, forever. So before the holiday crunch, I invited Santa to sit down over cookies and cocoa. I wanted to pick his brain for the secrets to his long-running success. I’m a pig. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, so I also asked for a red Tesla. I’ll let you know about the Tesla at a later date, but here are some thoughts from that great entrepreneur now.

Find a niche. Define your audience

“When we started out,” Santa explained, “I wanted to deliver a gift to every person on the planet. Mrs. Claus wisely advised that I was thinking too big. ‘Don’t try to be all things to all people,’ she said. ‘Focus on a smaller group.’ We settled on children who celebrate Christmas and were well-behaved.” Great advice. You have a much better chance of succeeding of you identify a specific market segment. Everybody is not the right answer.

Start lean. Identify your core product or service

“I had dreams of developing all kinds of toys, I was seriously undercapitalized,” said Santa. “Being cash-strapped actually worked in our favor. It forced me to focus on launching one core product first–just basic wooden blocks. But that established my reputation. Over time, we expanded, based on feedback from real customers. When you start out, get your product or service out the door and later make improvements. Those blocks are still a hit, especially with our youngest demographic.”

Develop a business plan. Make this a working document

Part of Santa’s wild success stems from his careful planning, ability to execute and remain nimble. “When kids started playing on digital devices,” said Santa, “I lost weight, I was so worried. How was my workshop going to survive?” Santa and Mrs. Claus sat down and came up with a plan. They hired a team of tech elves to develop electronic devices and apps. He’s been so successful that both Mattel and Hasbro gave Santa buyout offers. “I don’t want to sell out, and I’m already a spokesman for Coca-Cola.”

Watch your cash flow. Make realistic projections

“We do 100% of our business on one day, December 24th. But we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and months preparing for that day. We have a very detailed and aggressive production schedule. We purchase our materials in August, the elves start crafting toys in September, and despite my best efforts, I always end up getting killed with overtime in December. I also have fair amount of overhead. I have to board the reindeer year-round, Rudolph’s nose keeps shorting out, and vet bills are crazy.”

Santa’s tips for managing your cash-flow

  • Make cash projections of money coming in and going out.
  • Be careful with inventory; this can become a sinkhole.
  • Get a line of credit ASAP; it can be your lifeline and pay for expenses when income lags
  • Save during high-income periods and invest money back into your business.

Think green. Embrace renewable energy sources

“Up here in the North Pole, we’re already living with the dramatic effects of climate change,” lamented Santa. “It’s breaking our hearts to watch our magnificent polar bears dying because their food sources are no longer available, but my beloved reindeer  are affected as well. Learn from me. In your startup, seek renewable energy sources, low-waste or no-waste production methodologies, ways to reduce shipping use and expenses. You always need to be thinking about saving money and the environment—it’s not only my future—it’s everyone’s.

Get help. Develop and cultivate a team who can grow with you

Most people don’t realize that Mrs. Claus is not only Santa’s wife but also his CTO (chief toy officer), a hardworking member of the organization. He relies heavily on her, his team of well-trained elves, and of course, his reindeer. In your startup’s early stages, you try to do everything yourself, but you need to scale if you are to grow. Hire the best people you can find and let them to do their jobs. You don’t have to completely let go of the reins—only Santa gets to fly the sleigh, after all, but at some point, you must learn to delegate if you are to grow and be successful.

Do you need help developing and managing a marketing plan that will help you prepare for growth? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and marketing experts.  

top of mind marketing back to basics for web trends 2017

Web Trends 2017: Back to the Basics

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I recently worked on a website for a construction company; one member of our team kept suggesting things to make the site “pop”. I, on the other hand, was looking for great navigation and classic design that would endure, lots of white space that would serve as a backdrop for well-written content and project pictures. I wanted our work to capture audience attention, not gimmicks.

It’s been an evolution

We’ve spent years adding stuff to our websites—frames, sidebars, headers, banner ads, sidebar ads, calls to action, comments, popups, social media buttons, signup boxes, etc. Now we’re taking them off–all of the elements that cluttered up our websites, detracting from the primary message, which is the content.

Back to the basics in 2017

In 2017, websites will start moving back to basics, placing more emphasis on content. Keep in mind that a big driver for many of these changes is mobile users who increasingly rely on their phones to transact business and access information. To accommodate these users, sites have had to simplify—a growing trend over the last few years. Mobile use has had a significant impact on navigation, color palettes, typography and the way we deploy images and other assets.

Geometrics

It seems as though the use of geometric shapes, lines, and patterns have really taken off in the late part of 2016, and this is expected to continue through 2017. The use of circles around images, photos that are geometric heavy, or the overall design of the site relies heavily on the use of lines and patterns.

Creative headings

We’re starting to move away from the basic, boring heading style seen on websites (san serif, all caps, centered heading) and moving more toward imaginative or creative headings. Look for a change in the layout, justification or websites without a heading at all.

Animations and gifs

Animations are starting to be used more heavily on websites as they easily communicate how things work and are more lightweight than several images or even a video, which is good news for mobile users—animations generally load quickly.

Putting navigation on a diet

More people are now accessing the web on their phones than their computers, which has had a significant impact on navigation. Drilling down through complicated schematics on a phone is a complete turnoff; it’s much easier to scroll through pages than click and wait. Restricting the main navigation bar to four to five items is becoming the norm and it’s challenging organizations to think critically and strategically about how they organize information.

More emphasis on landing pages, less on a home page

In 2017 we will likely see a rise in landing page designs—not just home page design. While you still need a home page, as content marketing spreads, marketers will want to direct traffic to dedicated landing pages to better target their visitors and their needs. It makes sense: The idea of content marketing is to increase awareness and conversions, and what better way to increase conversions than to have visitors land on a page strictly made for them. These pages will be as well designed and thought out as others on the site, but target the visitor much more.

Are you thinking about a new website for 2017? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. Building online brands.

4 Tips for More Compelling Case Studies

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I’m a longtime fan of case studies. They’ve always been an important way to showcase your expertise. These days, when content marketing is all about telling stories, case studies have never been more important or more relevant.

Top of Mind Marketing_case study

Here are 4 tips for making case studies more compelling.

1. Dig deep and find the meat of the story

Before diving into your case study, ask yourself: where are visceral parts of this story that will reach my audience on an emotional level? Case studies are often written like instruction manuals, when they’re actually very compelling success stories about real people.

2. One word: edit

An estimated 66% of B2B marketers say case studies are the most effective means of attracting their target audiences. When people go to your website, they’re likely to read your About section and Case Studies. Don’t disappoint them by providing endless details that don’t get to the core: Challenge, your Solution and the Results. Make it easy for your reader to understand what you’ve accomplished.

3. Play to the herd

If you’re not paying attention, people no longer buy things without checking out what their peers have to say on the matter. This is the millennial profile, but it’s not just the kids who are doing this. Who doesn’t read reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp, consult with friends and knowledgeable colleagues before making major purchases. Case studies help validate you. They provide instant credibility:

  • Case studies humanize your brand. They put your solutions into context.
  • Case studies are your customer success stories. They directly influence your prospects, attract high-quality leads, build trust and boost revenue.
  • Case studies provide third party endorsement—motivate potential clients by showing them how you can help and why you are their best choice.

4. Case studies endure

Good case studies retain their value, year after year. Blogs may become irrelevant, depending on the topic, but a case study that highlights business fundamentals–your ability to solve problems, build relationships, meet deadlines and budgets and help your clients grow their businesses—these endure.

Are you ready to outsource your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts. 

12 Ways To Dramatically Improve Email Open Rates

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top-of-mind-marketing_subject-linesEmail marketing never gets any easier

The competition is fierce, and your subject line needs to be clever and attention-getting, yet sincere and compelling. Mobile has made it even harder as we struggle to constrain subject lines to 50 characters. I recently drafted up a few potential subject lines for a client and asked for her feedback. Her response? “Does it matter?” Are you kidding? A subject line is everything! 33% of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on subject line alone, and frankly, I’m surprised that the number isn’t higher.

Here are some subject line tips:

  1. Short and sweet. A whopping 40% of emails are being opened on mobile first, so 50 characters is now the rule. Editing is a skill. Write your blog and subject line, then come back later and you may have new clarity. Take out those words which are nonessential and see if you’ve altered the meaning.
  2. Use a familiar sender name—people are afraid of viruses and they have little interest in spam. If they see an email from info@something.com, they’re less inclined to open it than if it is coming from a real person or someone they recognize.
  3. Personalize. This is a list thing. Include the first name of your contacts so you can address them in your emails. Who doesn’t want to get a personal email rather than Dear Friend?
  4. List segmentation. This may/not be relevant for your audience, but if it is, spend the time to do this. Your clients will thank you for tailoring information just for them.
  5. Be truthful. Do not make a cheesy promise in your subject line to encourage open rates, then not deliver on that promise. When there’s a total disconnect between the subject line and the subject, you have deceived your audience.
  6. If you’re offering something special in your email, use your subject line tell your audience.
  7. There are a gazillion schools of thought on this one. It used to be 10am on Tues or Wed, but now that everyone’s online 24/7, the rules have changed. Some recommend sending when people are likely to have time to read it—Sunday afternoon or evening, for instance, when many of us settle in to do some work to get ready for the week ahead. If you’re sending out an email about a new bar’s happy hour, the best time to send it is might be 4:30 or 5:00.
  8. Concise language. You only have 50 characters. Put them to work. Use action verbs; try to create an image for your audience.
  9. Make them feel special. Who doesn’t want this one? “A special offer just for you”, etc.
  10. Create a sense of urgency. Subject lines that create a sense of urgency and exclusivity can give a 22% higher open rate. Using deadlines like “today only” or “24-hour giveaway”.
  11. Use a question. Make it compelling—it can be thoughtful and make people think.
  12. NEVER use all caps. Enough on that one. It’s difficult to read and is perceived as shouting.

One more thing . . . 

Rather than just deleting all those blasts you get from others, start paying attention to them, including the subject lines. I end up reading a fair number of marketing emails because I’m always interested in potential blog topics. You may be surprised what you will learn.

Are you thinking about outsourcing part or all of your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts. 

Time to Dump Your HTML Email in Favor of Plain Text?

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When it comes to email marketing, you’ve probably tried a number of applications, from Constant Contact to MailChimp. You kill yourself coming up with snappy, attention-getting subject lines. You add clever graphics, agonize over content, how to making it relevant and accessible. You’re constantly tweaking subject lines, calls-to-action, images, headers, layout, link positioning, copy, length, tone, content. The list is endless. Yet your open and click-through rates remain stagnant. What are you doing wrong?

Probably nothing. There’s one hard truth: nothing boosts opens and clicks as well as an old school, plain-text email. What? Yes. Forget fancy layouts and graphics. Forget the HTML emails you’ve been slaving over for years. Remember that mobile has altered the landscape dramatically. Everything these days calls for simpler and more accessible.

top-of-mind-marketing_plain-text

People say they prefer HTML emails

In a 2014 survey, HubSpot asked more 1,000 professionals whether they preferred HTML-based or text-based emails, and whether they preferred emails that consisted of mostly text or mostly images. Nearly two thirds of the respondents said they preferred HTML and image-based emails.

HubSpot experimented with varying degrees of HTML-richness — plain HTML templates, snazzy and sleek HTML templates, beautiful headers, different sized and positioned images, various call-to-action buttons, and GIFs — to see which would have the best result. The result? They Actually Prefer Plain-Text.

In every single A/B test, the more simply designed email won

The emails with fewer HTML elements won with statistical significance. Go figure. This doesn’t make sense, does it? Every other marketing channel is moving towards incorporating visuals and seemingly getting positive results. Think the overwhelmingly greater response to your Facebook posts that include an image, the trend toward videos, surge of social media sites that are image-centric, including Instagram, Snapchat, etc. People NEED to be entertained these days. Why, then, were emails performing worse when HubSpot attempted to make them more visual appealing?

The results confirmed original assumption: HTML emails decreased open rates

One thing that HubSpot noticed was that HTML and plain-text emails were both receiving the same deliverability rate. So if they were getting delivered at the same rate, how were HTML emails underperforming? To understand the full scope of what happened, HubSpot A/B tested their email sends. They tested various segments of their database in multiple regions to get a better picture of HTML vs. plain-text emails.

What was interesting, however, was that not only were HTML emails receiving lower open rates than their plain-text counterparts, the more HTML-rich an email was, the lower its open rate. Simpler HTML emails had better open rates than HTML-rich emails and plain-text emails performed best of all.

HubSpot’s conclusion: It’s all about deliverability

Just because something says it’s been delivered doesn’t mean it’s actually in a noticeable place of someone’s inbox. Email services are increasingly filtering emails (especially commercial ones) to provide a better experience for the user. We all know about Gmail’s promotions folder–it automatically filters what it deems “commercial” emails out of the main inbox unless the user changes the settings—and no one in his/her right mind does that.

The simple explanation is that image tags and HTML-rich templates seem to be getting flagged by email providers as commercial email, which means they get filtered out of a recipient’s main inbox–and people can’t open them. They’re delivered all right, but they’re not getting opened.

We’ve come full circle . . .

We’ve all spent years and considerable effort making our HTML emails more graphically enhanced, clever and enticing. We’ve come full circle. The message is still important, but it may be time to get back to the basics, focusing on making them simpler and more accessible.

Are you ready to outsource your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts

How to Become a Premium Brand: Provide Value & Charge for It

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Brand is something we used to talk about all the time, before websites, apps, SEO, algorithms top of mind marketing_brandand social media dominated the landscape. While brand may no longer be included on the list of hot topics, it has never gone away or diminished in importance. A company’s brand is fundamental to every other marketing effort. Without a strong brand, these other marketing efforts are simply gimmicks. Your brand represents your expertise, your work and your integrity, the way you interact with your clients and your ability to deliver measurable results for your clients.

Building a premium brand

But here’s something else to consider: those of us who have been in business for a while have built a reputation that keeps clients coming back through referrals and repeat clients. Now wee want more than just a brand, we want to be a premium brand.

And why not, for crying out loud?

Many of us have paid our dues. We survived the worst economy known to man; not only are we still standing, but we’re flourishing. We’re well educated, generally with advanced degrees. We have years of real-life industry experience. We’ve transcended the old way of doing business and embraced the new. We understand the power of technology and leverage it. We’re seasoned and savvy. We’re professionals who not only produce deliverables but become trusted advisers to our clients. That’s our brand, and we should be charging for it.

Consumers equate value and quality with a high price tag

If you charge a lower price, they question the value of what you’re providing. One of my clients is a legal document preparer service—they do things like uncontested divorce and probate, living trusts, deed transfers, etc. When they began charging more for one of their services, their business shot up. People clearly identified legal knowledge with a higher price tag.

 Another great example

One of my clients owns two companies, and we’re developing a marketing plan for both. High on the list are new websites. I’ve gotten quotes from three web developer/designers who do excellent work, are responsive and able to turn projects around. I’ve worked with these companies and all three are terrific project partners. While their bids varied, they are approachable and all work in WordPress–it’s become the industry standard and has many advantages. My client wanted to solicit one more bid from his old developer, who is also a friend. Her bid was $10K more than that of my highest bid. My client’s reaction: “She must be doing something really great to be charging that much more.”

The reality? I read through her proposal, and she’s not doing anything differently or better. In fact, I think she’s doing some things that are unnecessary and are not a good use of my client’s marketing dollar, and this is always my goal. I pointed this out to my client, but he’s a very loyal guy, and ultimately the decision is his, despite my reservations.

The takeaway: price is a measure of quality and validation

Raising your prices is always a little scary, but let’s go back to that seasoned and savvy proposition. Being paid what you’re worth transcends the dollar value; it validates you as a professional. Remind yourself that you’re providing a wide range of services and knowledge, which translates to a lot of value—and people expect to pay for value. No one is going to respect you more because you charged him/her less.

Thinking about outsourcing your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and content marketing experts.

Mobilegeddon: It’s been a Year . . .

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 If you don’t remember when Google rolled out the algorithm change that we couldn’t ignore, it was April of 2015. This change, Google promised, was the one had big implications for websites that were not mobile-enabled—if you weren’t accommodating your mobile users, Google would punish you by restricting traffic to your desktop site.

top of mindmarketing.com_mobilegeddon

Google created a mobile-friendly test website

Drop your url into a field and click “Analyze”. Google will quickly tell you whether you pass or fail. If you’ve failed, Google tells you what’s wrong with your website. But whether your site passes the test or not, there’s a good chance it’s not really accessible for mobile users—at least 60% growing. If you’re a desktop user, you’re the minority and you’re not paying attention. Go anywhere—an event, to lunch; stand in line at Starbucks or Peets in the morning. People are accessing everything on their phones. And think about those in jobs that don’t allow folks to sit down at a computer—these people rely on their phones for information delivery—anyone in sales, healthcare, transportation, etc. It’s endless.

Oddly, there wasn’t a scramble to create new websites

For those of us in the web or internet marketing business, we talked about Mobilegeddon to our clients, we blogged about it and tried to make people understand the implications. But let’s be realistic. Creating a new website is a huge initiative for any company. It requires a budget, committing resources and hiring a web design developer and content developer and buying images. All of this takes time, and most folks already have their day jobs and they’re drowning. It’s important, but it’s a website, and it’s just one communication channel.

Mobilegeddon: less apocalyptic than expected

Now, with almost a year’s worth of data, the impact of Mobilegeddon has been less apocalyptic than expected. Most online analysts now believe Mobilegeddon lacked the finality its name suggested. In the days after the mobile-friendly update, content marketing company BrightEdge  tracked more than 20,000 URLs and suggested that the number of non-mobile friendly pages on the first three pages of the SERPs was down 21%. Other reports suggested the concentration of non-mobile friendly URLs in the mobile search results dropped by as much as 50%. Yet research is showing that non-mobile friendly sites weren’t suffering as much as everyone predicted.

If the effect on traffic hasn’t been significant, was the mobile-friendly update really worth it? From a user-experience perspective, the general consensus is yes. Serving more mobile-friendly websites more often in mobile search results is a no-brainer. The sales of smartphones is increasing, and if you’ve stood in a crowd of millennials recently, you know the answer to this one.

Take a pragmatic approach and simplify

Regardless of Mobilegeddon, a website has a shelf life and it’s not unlikely that yours is due for an update, and you’re going to want to be thinking about responsive design—that which will translate seamlessly across all media—desktop, tablet and smartphones. All of the platforms have themes, or templates, that feature responsive design, including WordPress, Wix and SquareSpace.

Think about mobile users as you start planning your new website

Mobile has had a tremendous influence on the way that websites are now being designed. The format is simplified—gone are columns, complexity and multiple moving parts. There’s less drilldown because scrolling is more efficient when using mobile devices. Navigation is simplified, along with color palettes, design and images. Make sure that the “hamburger” navigation element is prominent at the top of the page and that contact information is accessible on all screens. Make adjustments if phone numbers and email addresses are in tiny fonts and difficult to read. Try to avoid reverse type—it’s often difficult to read as well. Remember that not everyone is a millennial with 20/20 vision. Make it easy for people to get information.

Are you planning a new website for 2016? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re content marketing experts.

Piktochart: Great New Tool for Creating Infographics

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I moved to St. Helena a few months ago and I love the serenity of this little village in the heart of the California wine country. Moving to a new town can be lonely, so I joined the Chamber of Commerce. I was motivated by a workshop that was jointly produced with the Calistoga Chamber. I figured this would be a great chance to make new business connections. The format consisted of a series of speakers, divided into four categories, with presentations from local companies.

top of mind marketing_infographics

Their goal was to provide information about what you’d need to know if you were doing business here. I assumed this would be a huge snooze, but boy, was I wrong. Each presenter had a PowerPoint and exactly 5 minutes. The slides were timed, so believe me, it kept the presenters on the move. This was information delivery in a speed-dating format. The team who worked on this event did a superb job—I’d lost faith in Chambers of Commerce, but this program was relevant and expertly produced.

The St. Helena Chamber President, Pam Simpson, used her five minutes to talk about some of the great tools she and her team had been using to streamline their communications and upgrade the quality of their presentations and web postings. She named five applications, and I hadn’t heard of any of them. Let’s face it—we’re all busy, doing more with less. There are approximately a gazillion social media applications that all do the same thing and more standalone apps than we know what to do with. When I hear about fabulous new applications I groan and think about the time it takes to identify and ramp up to using them. I don’t care how easy they are to use—there’s ALWAYS a learning curve!

Pam knew what she was talking about

But Pam assured us that these were both easy to use and had become terrific productivity enhancers for her team. I went home and tried one of these, Piktochart. Happily, Pam was right.

Piktochart: Infographics made ridiculously easy

If you’ve been paying attention, infographics have become an important part of information delivery for social media and other forms of electronic delivery. They’re clever, fun, colorful and provide easy assimilation of key facts. But if you’re not a graphics whiz kid, or if you don’t have a graphics program, creating an infographic can be laborious. I’ve had some good ideas, but I knew I’d be using Apple’s Pages to create my high-res image, and this application is cumbersome, and it would require a significant time investment. The result? My infographic has been on hold for a long, long time.

Piktochart’s self-contained library makes this a breeze

Just as Pam promised, all you do is create a login and this app opens up a world of easy possibilities. There are some very workable free templates, drag-and-drop technology, images and fonts. You can import your own logo and images to customize this, of course—you’re not stuck with what they give you as a default. You can change the color palette, and something I really like—as you work, Piktochart autosaves so you don’t lose track of time and end up losing your work if your browser craps out.

Piktochart: more functionality available 

There are also templates for presentations, posters and flyers. Since statistics are the heartbeat of infographics, many of these templates come with readymade stats that I’m going to assume are correct. I googled a few of these to doublecheck, and they were spot on, but would always want to confirm them before using in any product.

  • The free version has 13 templates that are fully customizable.
  • If you want more options, you can pay $15/month and access more than 400 templates and more features.
  • If you want even more functionality, you can opt for the Pro version, at $29/month.
  • What may make these advanced options attractive for some users: turnkey infographics. I searched the comprehensive library of 400 templates for content marketing and came up with an infographic that was excellent. If I were a pro user, I might be tempted to use this as-is, or make only minor adjustments.

Infographics have become an important medium for information delivery. I’m delighted to have discovered Piktochart and can’t wait to try out the other applications that Pam recommended at the Chamber of Commerce event.

Are you interested in creating infographics for your content marketing program? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and marketing strategists.