Current trends and techniques in the world of website design and development.

passengers mobile on bus

Going Mobile: Information on Mobile Marketing

Still think traditional marketing is enough?

Mobile marketing is still relatively new when it comes to most business’s marketing mix. Nevertheless, based on consumer reaction and user adoption mobile marketing is a sensation that has become a must-have amongst any size business’s marketing strategy.  Just to prove my point: there are 7.45 BILLION unique mobile connections in the world, but only 7.2 Billion people on the planet. Ignore the significant percentage of the population that doesn’t have proper internet connection, mobile service, or the means to afford either, and that means that an even more significant portion of the population has more than one device.

Stats don’t lie.

To further drive home the point of how widespread mobile use is, and how effective mobile marketing can be for your business, consider these stats: 75% of US citizens over the age of 13 own a smartphone. 2014 saw a 28% increase in mobile commerce. And 83% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 say their smart phone plays an integral role in their lives.

What else makes mobile marketing so important?

Using the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 as the starting point for the mobile revolution, mobile has absolutely caught fire. From smartphones to tablets; people have an almost insatiable ability to adopt mobile technology into their lives and welcome mobile marketing into their buying decisions.

Just think for a second about how quickly mobile has progressed over time. Remember your first cell phone? It doesn’t seem like that long ago that you were playing snake on a black pixelated screen and sending rudimentary text messages to friends!

In just a short amount of time, mobile has evolved to be a central mode of communication for consumers. 75% percent of people say they do product research on their phones before making a purchase. Being tied to a mobile device is now the norm and not the exception. The standard mobile phone’s capabilities have expanded to replace almost every other peripheral device—from maps, to calendars, to desktop computers. And, mobile continues to grow – now including devices that help consumers monitor and streamline aspects of their lives from fitness, to smart cars & homes, to appliances.

But how can marketers effectively market on mobile devices?

Because mobile devices are very personal—44% of cellphone owners sleep with their phones next to their bed so they don’t miss a message, call, or update—marketers need to be thoughtful about how they deliver marketing messages. Consumers are looking for communication that is personalized, and marketers must deliver tastefully or risk being seen as an interruption or simply deleted. Still, successful mobile marketing is about the same thing traditional marketing is about: trust and relevance. But to build that, marketers must look beyond mobile devices and create long-term, personal conversations with their customers across all available channels. There is no substitute for being genuine.

Statistic Sources: Marketo Mobile Benchmark Survey | Pew Research | census.gov/popclock | gsmaintelligence.com

Questions about how best to reach your audience via mobile marketing? Give us a shout!

holding model home in hands to show real estate marketing

7 Real Estate Marketing Tips For Agents

Real estate marketing, unlike almost any other industry, is extremely competitive. In this day and age, there are a lot of independent agents as well as corporate giants out there, and each one is doing whatever they can to dominate the market. With accelerated corporate funded marketing efforts from giants like ReMax, Greenridge Realty and more; this means that for you to excel in an independent world, you have to be innovative. You have to find ways to market that don’t break your budget but that get you visibility both in your geographical location and online – others have done it and so can you.

Here are 7 of the best real estate marketing ideas that you can implement right away to help your business grow:

1. Use social media…correctly.

If you ask most real estate agents they will tell you that they have Facebook and Twitter accounts but not many of them use them correctly to grow their business. Set up a Facebook business page and then invite your email list and friends to join. These pages, however, have a stigma with some real estate agents as being useless. Truth be told they are useless if you cannot get your audience to “Like” things that you have posted. This means that you have to post interesting content on a regular basis. Mix things up – it becomes boring when all people read about from you is real estate information. Find interesting links from time to time – community news, tips on maintaining your home or boosting curb appeal, etc. Combine efforts to share relevant information, while continuing to affirm your expertise in the industry.

Also, don’t ignore the potential virality of posting your listings on social media. People want people they know to live in their neighborhood. If they see a listing down the street from them, many are likely to share and re-post.

2. Get your SEO right.

Ok so you have a good website. So does every other real estate agent competing with you. The trick is to make your website visible and the only way to do that is through Search Engine Optimization. We wouldn’t recommend trying to do it yourself – it is complicated and it can take a significant amount of time – even for an professional – and requires expert precision. Instead, look into hiring an SEO expert who has the experience and time to get the job done right. Find and focus your SEO on niches you specialize in – I.E. Luxury Homes or Vacation Homes. If they’re unique enough categories, the competition will be lower, and that will mean a more expedited advancement to the top of search results.

3. Give people the kind of information that they are looking for.

Real estate agents are in the business of selling a property as quickly as possible. Often it can be difficult to explain to clients that it is more than your skills that get a property sold.  When it comes to property, clients actually do want to know how they can stage their homes for sale, how they can get homes to sell faster, who the best valuers are and so on. Organize this kind of information into blog posts or an email newsletter that you release once a month and you will find that more and more people come to you to buy or sell properties for them. Not to mention, those blog posts will show up for search engine results if you optimize them.

4. Take advantage of real estate seminars, conferences, expos.

These are gatherings of the top minds in the industry and for you they will not just be a great learning opportunity – they are an excellent way for you to network. You will meet lots of people and although you are all trying to do the same thing – sell the most real estate – you will also learn how the best in the industry get it done. What’s even better, when you become a familiar face you start to build trust and you may soon find yourself invited to partner in bigger deals.

5. Participate in local events.

Showing properties is good but if you want your community to know that you exist, you’re going to have to do more. Attend local events frequently – high school football games, charity events, neighborhood clean-ups, parades and so on. The more your community sees you the more they trust you and the easier they find it to do business with you. At the end of the day, people still buy people.

6. Get proper testimonials.

Most real estate agents have testimonials that go something like this: “He was great. He helped us sell our house.” That is all well and good but what perspective does that give a prospective client: that you did your job? Kudos to you, you’re now on par every other real estate agent, ever. Do everything you can to help your clients give detailed testimonials. They need to be able to give the kind of information that would persuade a new client to seek you out. Prepare a short questionnaire that you give clients when you ask them for a testimonial. Ask the questions like how they feel about how long you took, how much you charged, the quality of the property and so on. About 5 questions should flesh out enough detail for a good testimonial. Don’t forget to ask them if they mind you publishing their feedback on your website or in other marketing efforts…a detailed, classy testimonial will be the difference maker.

7. Be memorable.

Find that something about you that is unique enough for people to remember you. It can be as simple as something that you hand out when you meet new people to something about you – maybe you dress in a particular style. Have a personal brand on social media, and post things you find interesting – help potential clients get to know you personally. By branding yourself this way people see you as confident and self assured and someone that they would be willing to hire when they need their next real estate agent.

These 7 ideas are just the beginning; we have way more. Contact us today to find out more…

organizing content with a pad of paper and pen on top of a keyboard

Organizing Web Content

Here at Paramount: we’ve built a lot of websites for almost every kind of company. Without fail, organizing web content is the most challenging part of the process for even our most organized and dedicated clients. With often varying pages of content and more and more elements that are easily forgotten – almost inevitably – there is either too much content or not nearly enough! We’ve created this guide to give you some tips on organizing your website content into a meaningful and productive process. But sorry, you still have to write the content yourself.

Locate Your Assets

The first step in organizing your content is to make sure you take an inventory of everything that is both existing contributions to the new site & those needing to be sourced.

For Example

  • Your Current Website: It can be your best friend. Sometimes all you need to develop NEW content is to refresh what’s already there.
  • Your Search Engine Metrics: At Paramount, before we redesign a client’s website, we have our software “crawl” your site like a search engine would and return a list of all pages, what they stand out for (good or bad) as well as specific on-page SEO Elements. Your current digital footprint shows you where your new content can, or should be the most impactful.
  • Marketing Assets: Look through any and every piece of marketing you’ve ever put out. What messages were most successful and how were they presented? What messaging is your personal or marketing team’s favorite? What presents itself as tired or non-experiential? Combine elements that align with your online and company goals, and ensure those that don’t aren’t anywhere near your content.
  • Images: To show up well on today’s MANY different devices, digital images need to large, high resolution files. Look through old marketing, ask employees, and if you just know finding images is going to be a struggle, there are many places online – paid and free – to find high quality imaging for almost any industry.
  • Inspiration: When starting a new project of any kind, inspiration is truly an asset. In content creation – inspiration is crucial. Look at your competition, go back and read other websites or Facebook pages you’ve connected with or web offers that made you want to buy.

If you’re a new company, with little in terms of marketing materials, or branding statements – don’t be ashamed in looking to your competition, or even other companies you respect for inspiration. You’ll often find you have more at your disposal than you think.

Lay It Out

In whatever way makes the most sense to you, outline your pages into a list. Don’t worry about categorizing yet, just list every Page. If you can only think of subjects right now, that’s fine. Actual titles will come to you. Once you get this list – get that many blank pieces of paper and write your page titles or subject on the top. Use these individual pages for brief descriptions. Organize each page consistently. Think: Title? Check. Image(s)? Check. Copy? Check.

If you’re writing All New Content….

The Power of a Pad & Pencil  (yes, pencil):

Even though we’re a digital agency, you’ll find many of us prefer toting around our pads and pens over a laptop or tablet. Though this may seem counter intuitive to an efficient content writing process – there is something about handwriting that slows our minds down enough to actually think. We don’t get as ahead of ourselves and have more time to stay with our current thought. When you make a mistake (which is reason to use a pencil), use the time it takes you to erase it, to think about what you’re going to write in its place. Slowing your writing process down to a handwriting speed will craft you richer, more relevant content – as well as speed up the creative process in the long run.

If you’re NOT writing all new content….

The Power of your Customers and Colleagues:

Make a notecard for every page you listed. With all of your (even handwritten) cards, go to your colleagues and ask them to organize each card into groups and make notes about what pages are typically grouped together. You’ll quickly start to see that 1) most people group things in similar piles and 2) a few cards always switch between groups, depending on who is grouping them. Once a person has made their groups, have them name each group something they think fits. Maybe after you doctor up the pages a bit, try this with your customers too.

What you’re doing here is trying to understand how different people think of your content. Obviously colleagues may be more biased with how things should be organized based on department, etc. But why did they group “about us” with “history”? If there are cards that people struggle to group together, you may want to consider removing those pages from the site completely. Alternatively, you might want to take the content on those pages and combine it with another page.

If you don’t have the type of customers or colleagues to do this with you, take a look at your current website’s visitor flow. It will show you amazing things about how people get to your site, and where they travel within it once they’re there. You’ll quickly see eliminable pages in addition to content you may not want to change a bit.

Sort it out

After you have your groups named and you know the pages inside each group, you just have to put together the content doc. We just use a spreadsheet to document it all, which allows us to add some on-page elements to each page. It’s a nice way to keep everyone on the same page. When you get to this stage, let us know.

In Summary

Planning your site architecture can be a challenging task – especially when you’re converting legacy content! But, if you begin by taking an inventory and then enlisting the help of your colleagues and customers, you can pretty quickly decide what content should stay and where it should live inside the site.

man on a journey walking in the mountains overlooking a sunset

The User Journey: This Way for Adventure

Welcome to adventure and the world of marketing.

Maybe my son has been watching it too much lately, but as I write this, I can help but think about Sesame Street. So in true analogous fashion: “The word on the street is Monomyth.” Today we’ll be looking at your company’s user journey using the monomyth model.

The term monomyth – coined by the late and world reknowned mythol­o­gist Joseph Camp­bell – is a word used to describe the tendency for literary epics to have congruent story arcs. For our purposes, think of it as the uncommon hero’s common jour­ney. It’s a spe­cific nar­ra­tive pat­tern found time after time in the sto­ries of cul­tures span­ning every con­ti­nent and cen­turies. Think Odysseus, Gilgamesh, Hercules.

They all go through similar yearning, reluctance, acceptance, embarkation, evaluation, and often repetition.

Mar­keters can use the mon­o­myth nar­ra­tive for every­thing from craft­ing brand mes­sag­ing to design­ing user flows, traffic patterns and lead generation.

“The User with a Thousand Faces”

The hero’s jour­ney struc­ture is so famil­iar most of us don’t even notice it. Spiderman, Luke Sky­walker, Nemo, and Kat­niss all under­take the hero’s jour­ney; and so can your audi­ence. In the words of Camp­bell himself:

hero ven­tures forth from the world of com­mon day into a region of super­nat­ural won­der: fab­u­lous forces are there encoun­tered and a deci­sive vic­tory is won: the hero comes back from this mys­te­ri­ous adven­ture with the power to bestow boons on his fel­low man.

Camp­bell calls this uni­ver­sal story “the hero with a thou­sand faces.” When faced with the chal­lenge of cre­at­ing com­pelling cus­tomer expe­ri­ences, remem­ber that your users have a thou­sand faces too. The hero’s jour­ney isn’t about tak­ing a one-size-fits-all approach to con­ver­sion paths; it’s about tak­ing a deeply res­o­nant nar­ra­tive and uniquely apply­ing it to each user segment.

Have your User’s Choose Their Own Journey.

Neil Patrick Harris, of “Doogie Howser, MD” lore (and many acclaimed roles since) has recently published an autobiography in which his readers can choose their own path through the story of his life. In this interactive age full of mobile apps, video games, and subscriptions to streaming movies, what a genius way to encourage engagement with something as mundane as a plain ol’ book.  The subtle irony is that almost all of the prepublication marketing was done by offering advertisements online. It fed fans multiple interactive ad experiences and trailers. Through this variety of enticement, a broader audience was able to be reach, assuredly impacting book sales (even if it is the digital kind).

Opti­miz­ing mul­ti­ple, unique user flows is an exer­cise in big pic­ture think­ing. You’ll drill down into the end­less details of test­ing land­ing page graph­ics, reg­is­tra­tion form word­ing, email tim­ing, and call-to-action place­ment later. First you need to put your­self in your users’ shoes and map out the unique journeys to be found within your marketing.

The goal of con­ver­sion opti­miza­tion is to move vis­i­tors from their first point of con­tact (might be an email link or land­ing page) to pur­chase, sub­scrip­tion, or mem­ber­ship. To trans­late this into the lan­guage of the hero’s jour­ney, we want to move them from their first “call to adven­ture” to a tri­umphant return.

How can you put vis­i­tors in charge of their jour­neys (i.e., their paths through your site) so they become deeply invested in your company story?

Three Stages of the User’s Journey

The stages of the hero’s jour­ney as outlined by Joseph Campbell have strik­ing par­al­lels to the con­ver­sion cycle. I will intro­duce the three stages today.

“Call to Adventure”

In the hero’s journey, the main character is living a seemingly ordinary life when suddenly an event happens to the hero, or he or she receives new information that changes everything.  This infor­ma­tion is a calling our hero to set out into the unknown in search of some­thing more. (Think Luke Skywalker when he comes back to his Aunt and Uncle’s farm to find it destroyed, and his family murdered.)

As dig­i­tal mar­keters, it is our goal to issue a call to action that would change how your cus­tomers see your brand.

Here’s a tangible example: For Mother’s Day, RedEn­ve­lope cre­ated a #What­MomWants cam­paign and part­nered with blog­gers to write spon­sored posts fea­tur­ing $500 gift card give­aways. Blog read­ers were asked to leave com­ments, fol­low RedEn­ve­lope on social media accounts, tweet with the hash­tag, and visit the company’s web­site. This call to action offered strong incen­tive for a sim­ple first step from vis­i­tors, and acti­vated a whole net­work of pop­u­lar lifestyle blog­gers to rep the brand. Fol­low­ers of Whoorl trust her take on every­thing from beauty to par­ent­ing, and the #What­MomWants cam­paign got the blog­ger to help shape how peo­ple see RedEnvelope.

When vis­i­tors encounter your brand for the first time, your con­tent should attempt to cast their lives and needs in a new light, com­ing almost like a rev­e­la­tion, and not merely infor­ma­tion. The user may refuse your call at first, but if you can strike them with a bit of insight, or intro­duce them to a new solu­tion, your mes­sage will stick with them.

“Ini­ti­a­tion”

After the hero accepts the call to adventure, they are commonly challenged by a journey of trials. These tests often initiate the hero, and annoint him/her, through new experiences, in a new version of their identity.

This may seem counter intuitive for my analogy, because no marketer has aspirations of challenging their customers. In fact, it is sort of our job description to minimize the challenges of connecting with our brands. Nevertheless, in this case, we as marketers are not actually installing those challenges because all visitors already bring their own with them on their journey. Cautious users may need you to help them overcome a per­ceived risk in the con­ver­sion process. Oth­er users may have long­stand­ing rela­tion­ships with your competitors and may need to be persuaded away. Still oth­ers may even debat­e the value of your prod­uct or ser­vice with themselves or with another decision maker in the household or company.

An AWESOME Example: XAPP Media developed an inno­v­a­tive way to help dig­i­tal radio lis­ten­ers over­come the con­ver­sion fric­tion in audio ads. Typically, when you hear a radio ad, you have to stop what you’re doing and get to a store or com­puter to take a next step. With Web radio, you may even see a pop-up link to click on the radio station’s site. But the challenge is: most peo­ple are lis­ten­ing through head­phones con­nected to their smart­phones, which are likely in their pock­ets. Solution? XAPP cre­ated “voice clicks.” When an ad plays, the lis­tener can say a prompted phrase and be imme­di­ately con­nected to a down­load, coupon, call, or purchase—hands free.

Use various chal­lenges as an oppor­tu­nity for ini­ti­a­tion. If you suc­cess­fully assist your cus­tomer on this journey, you will win their loyalty. This means you need to anticipate user challenges, and step in when they need you most.

“Tri­umphant Return”

After dis­cov­er­ing a greater knowl­edge and the success and joy that comes with that discovery, the hero often returns from the jour­ney to the place of origin. By returning, entirely changed, back to their ordinary life, they can share the lessons and rewards with oth­ers. Basic point here: Give your cus­tomers an expe­ri­ence so awesome, they’ll want to share it with their friends.

The tri­umphant return is an impor­tant part of EVERY user’s jour­ney. Online, your users should ALWAYS have an opportunity to review their experience, send you feedback, share a promotion with connections, post to social platforms, and more. In this phase, users become your nenw-world word-of-mouth; effectively ini­ti­at­ing new customers into jour­neys of their own.

Sharing Epic Jour­neys Lead to Truly Fruitful Bonds

When strategizing and mapping possible user jour­neys, try each jour­ney your­self. Start with where exposure to your brand starts, and attempt to experience those first doubts or chal­lenges through the eyes of your user. End with the reward. Users’ expe­ri­ences should cul­mi­nate in some­thing meaningful and worth sharing with their friends. Take vis­i­tors on an adven­ture narrative, from start to fin­ish, and you’ll certainly forge a deep bond with them.

In the following few posts I’ll explore the smaller (though just as impor­tant) details that hap­pen within each stage of the user’s journey.