Backstory on Barfoot’s World Masters Games advert

I saw the Barfoot & Thompson’s advertising sponsorship of the Auckland World Masters Games and was stunned by the ingenuity of the imagery.  Here’s a poster near my office.

Barfoot And Thompson sponsorship of World Masters Games

Barfoot And Thompson sponsorship of World Masters Games

And this prompted me to want to find out more about the context for the campaign.

Barfoot’s Chief Marketing Officer, Jen Baird, kindly answered my questions and also introduced me to Joe Holden, the Creative Director.

Why did Barfoots take on the sponsorship of WMG?  

Jen Baird, CMO, Barfoot & Thompson

Jen Baird, CMO, Barfoot & Thompson

Sponsorship has become a larger part of our strategy over the years – a large part of our business is residential property sales – most people do this every 5-10 years.  We want to stay relevant in their lives when they’re not thinking about real estate.

Being involved in the community is key – we have always been very involved because real estate is about community and people.  WMG was an opportunity for us to be hugely about this amazing place where we all live.  Our over-arching objective is to make Auckland an amazing place to live, work and visit.  We are an Auckland-only real estate firm.  Bringing the event to Auckland is about us giving back to the City.

Our sponsorship helped WMG happen. 

What was the brief ?

The brief was quite broad – this is the largest sponsorship that B&T has undertaken.  The event fits nicely with our philosophy of supporting the local area and also sports – we have  backed sport with sponsorship before.

We wanted brand awareness, and also to continue to build awareness of us as a strong community partner. We have a philosophy of being a family-run business.  This is all about Auckland, a celebration of sport and Auckland tied together and made relevant for us.

We sent a full brief about what the WMG event was all about and what our sponsorship means to us as an organisation and what our goals are.  It’s about celebrating the games and also the City and making the city amazing and creating great events that bring visitors here from overseas.

We felt that when the creative team came back with such as strong concept – we felt we didn’t need lots of iterations – it was so strong on its own and so we put everything behind it. 

All the space has been booked by us.  It was launched beginning of February with light touch digital – there’s more this month and again in April, it’s largely digital and outdoor media.

What next?

One of the things we’re excited about is an activation using a Cheer Squad – visiting competitors entered a draw to win their own “cheer squad” – we have 7 winners and they will have their very own squad to support while they are competing. … we did a Skype interview with the first winner, she’s a Professor from Yale University.  She was entered in Softball with an Australian team.

The athletes who have won are competing in cycling, golf, hammer throw, triathlon, softball and 2 x athletics.

We are doing lots of local promotion with staff in our branches and local schools. One of the legacy goals is to get kids involved to try out sports.  There are 42 venues across the region – we are also down at the entertainment hub at the Cloud.  We’ve got a sports arena set up there, for try-outs for a load of sports.

And the medals are also branded in corporate colours, Blue and gold,  blue and silver, blue and bronze.

[Watch out for Jen in her running shoes as she will be doing the 10k run from the Cloud to Orakei and back.]

WMG time lapse

Take a sneak peek behind the scenes of our World Masters Games campaign video! Each of the events in the Games has been represented here – can you find your sport?

Posted by Barfoot & Thompson on Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Joe Holden talks about the creative process

What was the brief you received?

This was sold to us as the biggest sponsorship Barfoots had ever done.  We needed to really reflect that as in the past these sponsorships have had ideas that have tied in with selling real estate. This time the brief was more open – the background to the sponsorship is that B&T love Auckland, and giving to the City, and enabling Aucklanders to benefit from the big events, which may not come here without their sponsorship.  They did it in the past with the Triathlon World Wide Naming Sponsor for 2 years. 

This is all about participation – not spectatorship.  It’s a massive event and unless they’re participating the people in the street won’t know much about it.  Awareness is mainly with the competitors but Day 1 on April 21st everyone is going to realise something massive is on.

How did the team set about brainstorming the concepts?

We kicked around a lot of different thoughts – upfront normally when you brief a campaign it’s a minimum of three different executions.  But we did come up with a lot of multi-execution ideas.  So we struggled in a way – there are 28 different sports and sub-events within them.  We couldn’t use ideas that only showed one sport because that would be ignoring 27 others; so multiple executions would not be possible. 

We had different views of Auckland – Bean Rock as a shuttlecock and North Head was a cycle helmet…. but that iconic view of downtown from the water with the key things like Sky Tower and Vero Tower we felt that was the strongest one. 

To do it well, we realised we needed to put all our eggs into one basket – it was a craft job and had to be done really well to work on any format – you get prolonged enjoyment by seeing more detail. 

I’m really happy with the standard of the execution. There aren’t many jobs where you don’t have a thought about how to improve it afterwards.  With this one we had a long time to do it and we had ultimate control and we could control all the variables 

How did you shoot the image?  

There was no photographic shooting – it was all done by 3D modelling.  All the elements of the sporting equipment pieces were sourced as 3D models and skinned, lit and textured and coloured and logos removed.  Or they were created from scratch.  You can buy models of sports equipment e.g. Nike shoes – but it’s a rudimentary model and you have to put the colours and textures into it.  So you start with that and build each one of them and then have the arguments about what goes where!

For example, the concrete texture in the front of the picture – we felt it should not be water.  It’s not a photoshop collage, it’s a representation of Auckland but isn’t Auckland.  So it’s concrete.

We got every sport represented – all 28.  Some sports are covered off by one element in the image e.g. Cycling is also Triathlon and running shoes also cover a couple of sports.

Which were the hard ones to do?  Rowing was a challenge for us (it was going to be a bike end-on as the Sky Tower but it didn’t look right) then we thought why don’t we use a sculling skiff?  We couldn’t find a model of that – we had to do it from scratch.  There were endless arguments about the Cloud – we used bike helmets which do approximate to the right shape even though they don’t look exactly like the City. 

I hope you all agree this is a wonderful piece of work – congratulations to Barfoots team and also to all the competitors.

lightbulb creative agency secrets content marketing

A Masterclass In Content Marketing – When You’re Out Of Ideas.

I was reading my Facebook feed and a US based content marketer of my acquaintance posted this request.

“OK, we write blog posts every month for a beach client. We’ve been writing for him for several years and the team is getting a little brain dead trying to drum up fresh ideas. Would love your help. They are a family-friendly vacation rental company (houses for a week, no weekends). Please leave your brilliant suggestions below & thanks!”

I couldn’t resist the challenge – but first, I started to read the answers she’d already garnered from her community.

What did I find out?

That there are a ton of creative folks whose minds are happy to help out when asked.

And so instead of stunning you with my amazing insight, I’m going to reproduce below the long list of suggestions made about what content to write about for a beach client.  And show you how you can adapt and learn from this list for your own business content marketing. 

How to use this content insight for your business

  • First, print out this article onto paper (old-fashioned, but helpful for this exercise).
  • Pick up a writing instrument (mine’s a fountain pen with liquid ink).
  • Draw two columns alongside the list of articles.
  • Go though the list and in the first column write down the underlying theme of the article title.
  • Then in the second column write down what an equivalent theme would be for your business.
  • Lastly, brainstorm 3-5 topic titles for each theme you write down for your business.

Have you got over one year’s worth of content already?

Here’s how to make the most of your archive and to lock good content into strong keywords and hashtags that convert.

The goal of content marketing is to get your website found, your brand recognised and aligned with the reasons people buy from you.  Creative Agency Secrets does local marketing.  I have many local marketing keyword phrase-laden articles on our website.  So when the local “grease monkey” in Pukekohe (don’t try to pronounce that if you’re not fluent in Maori) searched online for a local marketing agency, we showed up in the list, he called us; we’re meeting on Friday.  This is a marketing tactic that works and starts dialogue. And you can do it.

But if you think that ‘build-it-and-they-will-come’ is the tactic, you’re wrong. 

You must understand why people buy, what attracts them and then double down on the tactics and topics that already work for you.

Get canny with advanced content marketing

Make a keyword theme map with a few hundred keywords you’re probably not targeting. The keywords should dictate the content you write.  Use an independent, non-Google, non-Bing keyword discovery tool like SBI (we have an account and can do this for you).

Now you have that keyword theme map, which of the keywords are on page 2 of search results that could benefit from relevant, internal backlinks on your site? 

Also, does your business-model actually need new content? What does any single, new piece of content do for the business? Instead, how about focusing on the 20% of content that is already producing results and instead of writing more – promote that content more aggressively?  

Re-purpose the content that converts and share each piece more often also put it into every format (i.e. image square, image rectangle, video, audio, cinemagraph, infographic, ebook, slideshow, podcast guest) to maximise both its impact and its re-useability.

If the location is a very small place that is not overly commercial use the social content which is already being shared by visitors by searching “nearby” or local name hashtags.  The smart folks at from Socialize.co.nz demonstrated this to the Paeroa Chamber of Commerce members.  They brought up content on social media that tourists and visitors were sharing.  This already had the place name tagged on photos and other socially shared content.  If local business owners re-shared that content, while tagging each other, they could build up some serious momentum around the town name on social media.  And all this without creating any original content at all.

So thanks to Karen, she has helped us write your masterclass on advanced content marketing. 

46 Content Article Suggestions for a Beach Client

  1. What to pack (by season, by age of child, when Grandma is staying) 
  2. Activities for road trips 
  3. Kid friendly restaurants/ attractions 
  4. Road trip checklist to make sure your vehicle is road ready
  5. Beach fashion
  6. What to do when the weather is less than perfect
  7. First aid tips
  8. Disaster relief while on vacation at the beach
  9. Books to read on a beach
  10. Local beach walks
  11. Easy meals
  12. Meals using local ingredients and where to buy them
  13. Newest spots to check out this year… There are always new restaurants opening
  14. A feature on Oregon inlet fishing charters… My next door neighbor will be on the newest edition of wicked tuna, on fishin’ frenzy.
  15. The history of the area is also very interesting… And there are a wide array of topics, from casinos to shipwrecks, to boat building.
  16. The different types of architecture you can find out here is neat, too… Flat top houses (there is a tour each year), nags head style cottages (what do each of the different ornamental elements on them mean?), life saving stations, etc
  17. Beach nourishment is coming to the northernmost beaches this year, too. What is beach nourishment?  They are dredging sand from the ocean and pumping it onto the beach to widen them.
  18. Top reasons people didn’t go to the beach, but should have
  19. How to make the best sand castles 
  20. Top 5 reasons not to bury a sibling in the sand 
  21. Food that goes best with sandy fingers 
  22. Beat the heat with these 3 things 
  23. How to avoid sand spurs
  24. Top 3 things kids really want in a beach vacation 
  25. Top 3 things adults really want in a beach vacatio, 
  26. Don’t leave___ until you have eaten the____ 
  27. What NOT to do when you’re at the beach (leave the work and technology at home) 
  28. What to do when you want to sit on the beach and your spouse doesn’t
  29. Fun stuff off the beaten path
  30. Volunteer options when you’re staying at the beach (relax and do good at the same time)
  31. Best place to get coupons to save money on local attractions
  32. Do this, not that (places to go, places to avoid, etc.)
  33. Top movies to watch on netflix while you’re at the beach
  34. How to tell if you shouldn’t wear a bikini or speedos
  35. Top reasons to visit in seasons other than summer. There are lots of events in the spring and fall 
  36. Sea glass and shells are best found in the winter months
  37. The Secret to finding the best shells and sea glass
  38. Best places to take your kids out to eat
  39. Which restaurants are best for a date night
  40. Art projects for the beach
  41. 10 things to bring with if driving to save $$
  42. What to do in the rain
  43. Playing card games for 5-8 year olds
  44. Camps or other activities they can do
  45. Fun community activities if you want to meet others
  46. Where to shop for food
  47. Best source of local restaurant discounts
Printed direct mail promoting a printer

Preparatory work for direct mail lowers costs

Direct mail is a highly effective marketing technique that delivers sales revenue in a short time frame.  

Some direct mail is poorly conceived and so does not achieve its potential.

[WARNING – this is not always true].

Printed direct mail promoting a printer

Printed direct mail promoting a printer

I received three mailers from a printing firm which serve as a great example of a campaign that could have been much more effective with some pre-planning working with an expert in direct mail campaign structure such as us.

Direct Mail campaign structure

Using a mailing list of marketing agencies, three print pieces of DM were posted out.

The copy promoted “digital by nature” and a new world of digital printing.

The positives

  • Each card had a number to show where it came in the sequence
  • Each one showed different paper colours front and back
  • Each card had the print specifications for the front and back detailed which was cute
  • All print was beautifully executed
  • The 3rd card showed how to set up artwork to work with digital White Toner
  • The 4th card showed how to set up artwork to work with digital Clear Toner

The negatives

  • I did not receive the first card so the campaign opener was lost
  • My agency does not buy print or do graphic design, we are not a good prospect for this service
  • No landing page for the campaign on the website
  • When I first visited there wasn’t a mention of the campaign on the homepage, there is now.
  • This goes to a landing page which has the wrong link in the contact us button.

    wrong link

    Wrong link – testing would have showed this up

How I would have improved the campaign

  1. Combined telephone canvassing with direct mail
    1. Checked the database by phone first asking one question “Do you design for print?”
    2. This would have reduced the downstream print and mailing costs, focused the campaign
  2. Published a landing page URL on the collateral
    1. Tested all the links so the contact us URL was correct (it currently references the same page it’s on)
    2. Included a “behind the scenes” video to show the inside track of the skill Valley Print used to create the mailers and the challenges they faced e.g. printing white on black for the envelope
  3. Used a courier delivery not NZ Post to improve delivery success
    1. This is particularly important for a posted print direct mail series
  4. Followed up by phone with
    1. an invitation to watch the video
    2. stay in touch
    3. subscribe to news updates
    4. further qualify for future work opportunities
  5. This would have built a mailing list, fully up to date and ready for in-house new business sales team to continue to work in the coming months
  6. Planned follow up campaigns including more of the excellent tutorials for designers

Ready to talk direct mail with us?

Give us your challenge and let the creative team loose!

bad linkedin, location obscure, fake profile

Do Consumers Need to Know Where Our Business is Located?

Today’s always-on global world could make your business location seem to be an irrelevancy.  But the opposite is true.  Local marketing is now the fastest-growing part of online marketing specialisms.  And it matters.  Let me explain.

So here are 3 examples for you to use when considering international website domains. 

Feel local but act global

A client asked “We operate in Australia and New Zealand and not sure whether our NZ target market (women 25+) will find our Australian connection appealing or a turn off, given how very passionate and patriotic us Kiwis are! I’m getting mixed messages when I ask around.

We don’t want to hide our Australian connection, as it’s very important and where the business was born, with a fascinating story behind it, just not sure whether to include “Australia” and “New Zealand” optional buttons on the landing page to split off there, or if it should perhaps only appear as an option when you need to click on “events” or “locations” etc. that have information relevant only for each country?” 

What should she do?

My advice is to use a single web domain as the master site for both countries and then to have separate pages for the two locations. Here’s why.

Aussies versus Kiwis – Broadly they are correct, New Zealanders want to think they’re seeing local information (and importantly local currency and phone numbers) and of course small differences in language and rugby club orientation may also come through in brand communications over time.  Do Australians eat afghan biscuits?  Do Kiwis eat chiko rolls?

Your Website Strategy

Ultimately the solution you choose MUST be driven by the strategy for each country.  Is the website a place where people find out about you, get news on specials and what’s new, will they email you, will they phone you?  If yes, then the website must facilitate separate information for each site.

Set the strategy for the website first, then worry about the technical implementation.

Take a look at this case study of some work we did for a client who needed his visitors to quickly split up into pages best aligned with their needs. 

apartment specialists website redesign

Driving visitors to the right landing page focuses traffic

A strategic solution

The home page says what the business brand is all about – the owners, your values and passions.

Then you have a “What’s On NZ”  and a separate “What’s on AU” button that take visitors to what is effectively a home page for that location……

I would treat the NZ page effectively as your local domain and give it a really simple URL and so all links to the New Zealand business go there first.

An alternative to this location split is to have parallel websites which have slightly different domains e.g. nz.yourwebsite.com and au.yourwebsite.com   You often see this device used by international law firms and accountants.  This can be set up by your web hosts.

In practice this means few visitors go to the home page…. but that doesn’t really matter as long as local audiences are being served.

A poorly executed country strategyPerth-or-Thailand

By contrast, we got approached by a Perth business asking to do some content marketing with us.

They sounded like a good prospect and we fixed a phone call.  I rang, answerphone with an English man’s voice…. so I looked him up on LinkedIn and it turns out the business name is BusinessName (Thailand) Co.  Which rang a few alarm bells.

And his stated location was Manchester, UK.  Clearly a disconnect.

When we spoke he said although their phones were VOIP and used Australian numbers; he was actually based in Thailand and he couldn’t make outbound calls to international numbers like mine in New Zealand.  As any Aussie or Kiwi business will tell you, it’s extremely odd not to be able to phone the other country while doing business.

Now let’s look at a third scenario

Nimbus Portal Solutions are a client and they trade in five jurisdictions – Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, USA and South Africa plus “Global” to pick up the rest of the world.  

Their chosen solution to the website location question is to locally identify the IP address of the visitor and to quietly re-set the website version to the domain best suited.  So my default goes to NZ.  You can check this top right in their website where a country name displays. 

The main goal for Nimbus is to ensure all the currencies are local and bank account / trading entities switch to match.  Which is important for their business as jurisdiction for secure document storage matters – borders and locations of server hosting are aligned to the local country to stay within data protection laws.

In summary – set the website goal first and the supporting strategy will then drive the solution which works best for your situation.

This article first appeared in Marketing Online Magazine

New business development year planning

New Year Marketing Planning – resolve to do this!

Ready for next year?  No, of course you’re not.  This is normal.

But you intend to get ready and to plan your marketing, don’t you?

Make those resolutions happen by booking in to our January 2017 Marketing Year Planning Workshop.

Join us for a Marketing and  Business Development Workshop to help you get your year plan sorted!

What Will I Get Out Of It?

We’ll walk you through our 8 Step Business Development Methodology, which will create a detailed plan of activities for the year that will drive new leads into your business and position you to achieve your goals for 2017.

You’ll also learn tips, techniques and marketing tools for your business which are vital to your modern marketing success.  These are tried and tested as we do them ourselves and for our clients.

Join our Group Workshop Session on 26th January 2017 in Auckland for $500.00 + GST.  This fee is per business and so you can bring 1 colleague with you.

Build your business development plan for the next year and guide your business towards success.

This workshop is for business owners and managers who are responsible for finding new clients and growing revenues.  It will show you the practical, tried and tested techniques that the Creative Agency Secrets team uses for its clients.

You will learn:

  1. How to create a unique company profile.
  2. A check list of marketing activities .
  3. New business pipeline analysis and tracking template.
  4. What you need to do to get better known in your industry.
  5. Learn relationship building for getting and keeping long term clients.
  6. How to spot opportunities for new business sales.
  7. The business process that delivers leads.
  8. What to measure to track progress.

Each attendee will take home a high level plan for their business – planned through the year with month by month activities.

Testimonials from Nov 2016 attendees

“It was good to be in the group and to feed off Rebecca’s comment and experience. I don’t record leads and whether they were successful and that will definitely be useful in future.” Nicola Manning, Nicola Manning Design

“I enjoyed it.  It was definitely worthwhile.  I thought it was a good bunch of people and it was very interesting.” Dave Sauvage, Sauvage Design

It was really good and I will do a strategy accountability partner each month.  I am going to leave my paid mentor group and do this instead. I have to get into the headspace to actually go back and review everything and set goals for each month. The wide range of people was very good especially the male female diversity. Jo-Anne Hitchcock, H Architecture

“I thought it was useful and when people are at different stages that’s interesting.  I could do a few things differently which is partly a time thing. Beneficial – I got out of it as much as I could.”  Jeremy Sutton, Jeremy Sutton Lawyers

Testimonial & Case Study from Apartment Specialists realtors

We worked with Creative Agency Secrets to streamline our website and the customer experience.  We have two major client types – buyers and sellers.  The team helped us to filter website visitors so we could present different messages to each audience and drive engagement with the right team member from Apartment Specialists.

Andrew Murray, Apartment Specialists after a website assessment, CRM implementation and re-write of marketing communications (ebooks) to capture email addresses from website visitors and drive traffic to key landing pages.

Case study of realtor website improvements

What was neat about the solution we found for Andrew is a quick way to filter the website’s visitors using prominent buttons on the home page.  The image below shows the percentage of website traffic going to each of the three destination pages.  46% of visitors want to buy an apartment – these folks don’t need to discuss how to sell or value an apartment.

apartment specialists website redesign

Driving visitors to the right landing page focuses traffic

And now look at the previous attempt to segment the traffic – it’s still on the site but the most valuable customers (those wanting a valuation prior to selling) are not clicking on the links at all.

Ebooks drive fewer clicks for Apartment Specialists

Ebooks drive fewer clicks and nobody clicks the online valuation box.

So why is the offer of an ebook not compelling?

We analysed the website traffic and sought to understand the “buyer personas” of visitors.  When an apartment owner is thinking of selling the first thing they do is to get their property valued. Hence the need to put valuation front and centre of the offer.

But an ebook explaining the process and showcasing the skill of the team is not enough in itself to get visitors to click.  Many don’t want an ebook – but they do want other things.  There were no clicks on the left box which offered valuations.  This was a problem for the firm.

Creating a landing page with ALL the information a buyer, a seller or a seller wanting a valuation needs was the solution – the ebook is also offered there but so is a tonne of other useful data including podcast episodes, contact details and other resources appropriate for their needs.

Interestingly, the top menu includes a link to “buy” but this gets only around 3% of all clicks whereas the big button has 300% more.

Result?  More clicks, more valuation enquiries.

Marketing segmentation icons

How to use brand icons to drive sales

My philosophy of marketing is that every part of your marketing toolkit that you’ve spent money developing should be working hard to generate sales for your business.

Creating a strong visual identity is a given.  But what about extending it into other marketing areas?

We have been experimenting using content marketing to reinforce visual identity branding and the USPs (unique selling points) and key points of difference of the brand.  Here’s how.

Your business philosophy

When applying content marketing tactics we find that the effectiveness is enhanced when the content is aligned with either buyer personas, pipeline stage, business philosophy or point of difference.  These all help to bring a prospect closer to purchase.

A strategic marketer will help you define a positioning can demonstrate continual advantage and which you can defend against competitors.   

Helping your prospective clients to recognise this positioning and then to relate their experience or their expected buying experience to it is the job of the tactical marketer.

Once you’ve established the philosophy positioning, identifying each part with an unique visual identity or icon is a neat way of enabling the customer to recognise elements in your content marketing and their relation to each other.  From this, they can navigate to find other related content pieces on the same theme or topic.

Case Study – the sports coach website

This client identified five buyer personas and now has a unique landing page for each one.  Their website has over 20,000 pages because they have been blogging since 2007.  This means new visitors find navigating the site challenging.  We identified a deep resource of ‘evergreen’ content which was not getting traffic and so not getting read by visitors.  From this we evolved a segmentation strategy built around a landing page and a visual icon for each visitor type.

Rowperfect Customer segmentation as icons

Customer segmentation as icons

The landing page includes links to the most popular evergreen articles and also gives guidance for the visitor on where to look for similar content. 

Case Study – the marketing agency

At Creative Agency Secrets, we have 8 icons which are all steps in the new business development process. On the blog sidebar are our list of categories – the first eight are numbered and each relates to one step in the process. 

Working on our own blog, we needed to reduce the bounce rate and encourage deeper browsing.  And so we leveraged our 8 Step New business Development Process.  This identifies a clear set of stages for a tactical marketer and a framework for their marketing year planning.  Each stage has a small icon and links to all the blog posts written about that topic.

Marketing segmentation icons

Marketing segmentation icons

It’s easy to read, easy to cross-link articles and also to reference more than one icon in each blog post.

Case Study – the financial advisor

Selling services is often harder than products – defining a clear point of difference is even more challenging for the marketer.  Collaborative Consulting was set up in response to the same-ification of the financial advisory marketplace.  The founder, John Milner, uses his long experience to advise clients differently from others – he calls these the Six Max Factors.  And using a simple graphic, each one is named and ordered.

The goal is to enable readers to become familiar with each icon so they quickly recognise them and can relate to the marketing content more easily.

This tactic will serve to reinforce the firm’s investment philosophy, remind readers why they chose Collaborative Consulting as their advisor and set the firm apart from competitors who are less explicit about the foundations of their advice and investing activities.

How to spot an opportunity to use icons

The key insight a marketer needs to bring to using logos as a sales device is to discover

  1. Is the company able to articulate its USP?
  2. Can you split that USP into several subsidiary elements?
  3. Does your content marketing strategy allow the use of visual and written elements?
  4. Can you measure changed customer and prospect behaviour as you make these changes?

That’s a great starting point – off you go!

Hanging Gardens home page

Your home page is failing its purpose

I had to write to a client recently to tell them that their home page was failing.  It was not delivering value, it was not doing its job and was actively causing problems for the business.  And this made me realise that few businesses understand the job a home page does.

Hanging Gardens home page

Hanging Gardens home page

What should a good home page design do?

If you are an online shop, the home page has the job of showing the specials for the month or new product lines.  It is often a straightforward design to implement. 

If you are a software company, the home page is usually a sales page promoting and explaining your principal products.

But most business websites have a different challenge, especially those who do not sell by ecommerce.  They have had a website for a few years; they may have had a couple of redesigns and the business website has probably grown to tens, hundreds or thousands of pages over this period.  The priorities of the business shift over time and the website home page needs to support the new business goals and objectives. 

This throws up questions

  1. How often should I change my home page?
  2. Should the home page have all the information about the business?
  3. What should the home page prioritise?

The job of a website home page is to get the visitor to her destination in as few clicks as possible.

Why do visitors come?

Your entire website comprises a heap of different information, advice, products and services and a visitor may be interested in all, one or none of them.  So how can you guess what the latest web visitor wants? 

This is where intelligent home page design comes in. 

Home page as sign post

The principal task of the home page is to signpost the visitor FAST to where she wants to go.  So let’s work out what this means for your website.

Go to your web analytics account and find two reports created from your actual visitor traffic this year.  These are

a) the pages visitors went to on the site.  This shows which are the most popular

b) the search queries people typed into Google which had your website showing up in search results (this comes by linking Search Console to Google Analytics – here’s how to set it up).

Your job is to line up b) with a) so we get the maximum number of people coming to the site and getting quickly to the exact page they are looking for.

Designing for Destination

You now know the top two to five pages on your website (after the home page itself).  I’m going to offer some advice here which will help you brief your designer on the changes you need to make to your home page. 

Firstly – simplify the main menu.  Can you remove any of the top menu items?  Give the visitor as few choices as possible, stay focused on those top destination pages.  Can you reduce your menu to 5 options?  (Home, About, Contact Us plus 2 others?).  Can you remove sub-menus or drop-downs?  We advised Armour Safety to put icon images of their popular product groupings on a side menu; ordered by popularity.  Clicks followed immediately we made the change.

Secondly – highlight popular destination pages in the home page design.  Make it very obvious in the home page design elements what these are.  You can use images, boxes, icons, buttons, large text – all are useful devices to focus attention. By repeating these popular destinations in the home page design and the top menu, you increase the chances that the visitor will choose an already popular pathway.  Coxmate.com.au now does not show its products on the main menu – they send visitors direct to the shop which has its own home page and details all the categories.  Similarly, Apartment Specialists has 3 buttons on the home page, I’m Buying; I’m Selling and I want a Valuation.  All three are on their menu, but the buttons make it easier for visitors to quickly decide where to click.

Thirdly – you have to reinforce the already popular page destinations – this may sound counter-intuitive.  Don’t try and encourage traffic to pages that are not already popular i.e. double down your bets on the well-performing pages.  This is the 80:20 rule in action.  For the visitor who does want something unusual if they cannot find it from your menus, be sure to make it very clear how to get in touch to ask the question. 

So go check how your home page is performing in its duty as a sign post – and don’t be afraid to make changes iteratively – one small change at a time so you can measure the effect before altering other elements.

We use our 8 Step New Business Development process and each has a category – this blog post is related to Step 1 – State your Business.

Click on the icon to see more posts in that category.

8 step new business process. Step 1 Who are you?

This article first appeared in Marketing Online Magazine 

Marketing and Cash Flow

How to Cash Flow your Marketing

Finance people see marketing activities differently.  They may be blocking spend that you perceive essential.  To understand the Chief Finance Officer’s perspective on marketing, we decided to interview expert CFO Trish Love about how she makes decisions to spend money on Marketing.

Marketing Activities versus Cash Flow

Trish has an 8 step process she uses to appraise marketing budgets and to prioritise spend. She explains “these steps are not sequential but there is a loose logic I follow.”

  1. Budget the Activities In – both the time and money.  As a CFO you must have a budget before you commit spend.  If you mentally allow for some cash to grow the business – later you can refine the spend detail.
  2. Budget for contingencies – there WILL be some.  If it’s in your budget it’s easier to make a decision – if it is not in a budget it needs a higher benchmark of certainty in order to justify the spend commitment. We have 90 day planning and strategy cycle.  And so the next step is whatever you think the budget is going to be, double it.  Do this for money and also often for time budgets.  For contingencies – there will be some. Things to remember: contingencies happen.  If you are wrong about the $10k budget and right about $5k spend then you’ve got $5k more profit but your budget was conservative.
  3. Take a “can’t afford to get it wrong” approach – have measurable results. You can’t afford frivolous spend – your CFO will ask for measurable results as often as possible.  Not all these will be very refined e.g. it can be difficult for some campaigns to map directly to winning a customer.  As a CFO, I take this approach as often as I can without being overly focused on it.
  4. Consider alternatives – choose wisely via expert advice.  This is part of your decision making process.  Review your options – what are the best high level strategy? the best tactics? who should deliver? when? should this be internal or external?  All these give a flow chart or mind map to demonstrate your decision making pathway.  In my experience, while drawing these together a natural path illuminates.  You can see which route is best.  An example I had recently was a review where I could see we may not be able to afford $20k but we can get 80% of it done for $8k.  This told me that this path is be the better one for our business.
  5. Plan – time in your calendars, money in your budgets. This is self-explanatory – book marketing meetings and time to do the work as a regular diary event.
  6. Prioritise – time, money, outcomes.  To illustrate this, let me ask you a question. “If you took advice from a marketing expert one day and each day you took their advice you got $5k revenues in return. Then how many days of the week would you meet your marketing expert?  If the results from marketing is cash flow positive why wouldn’t you do more of it?”  I find business decision makers choose not to do marketing because of a lack of trust, a lack of competency, a lack of time or a lack of know-how.  If you to spend the first $500 to make $1,000 or to spend $1k to make $2k… the “scaffold-up” method of spend and results is one approach for a small business.  This enables you to afford marketing as you grow.   My advice to marketing people who are pitching for more budget is this:  you have to bake the marketing cake with all the ingredients – if you miss out the baking powder and eggs, you’re blown. the cake won’t work without key parts – your marketing expert should help explain this to you.  This conversation tends to get people stuck.  You are in a situation is when it’s so obvious to the expert but they forget to frame the outcomes in a way that resonates with the business owner.  It’s the advisor’s role to have that conversation.  CEOs in NZ are money- and time-conscious so know what the deliverables are – scaffold up.  Systems, general operations, finance, marketing – are the 4 area of a business.  Then remember to give each of the 4 turn about for budget and attention.
  7. Sequence – also in parallel and cross pollenating effects.  Once we’ve got the plan now put in the ongoing sequence….I look for the easiest way to do things.  Do a marketing activity once and use it 3 separate times.  The sequence has to be carefully thought through so you can do work in parallel with cross pollenating effects.  Do a newsletter – look for different vantage points for the reader depending on which part of your business is writing the article.  How will it resonate?
  8. Some activities are not negotiable – decide what these are and hold the boundaries – too easy to let them slip otherwise.   You need to know what these are.  Make a conscious decision if you have an inverted pyramid you must know how far way down you can go before you run out of money… each strata reflects a different activity and cash.  Know which you can do before you run out of money and time.  Decide to hold the boundaries of the things which are critical; don’t let them slip.  If something is insidious you may not notice.  If it’s intentional it still may slip but you know it’s happening.  Agree up front what is in this bucket.

 Getting along and working effectively for the good of the business is the outcome we all seek.  So there you go.  I hope this summary helps marketing folks to understand finance folks and vice versa.