The world was quite different then. It was 1985 and Madonna just made history for most cassette tape sales. Floppy disks were at the forefront. Phone books were tangible. “Please Be Kind and Rewind” was a slogan printed on every VHS cover in Blockbuster. Disposable cameras were cutting edge. And, the only time a computer was used in school was to play The Oregon Trail. It wouldn’t be for another 10 years that the “internet” would become a household term. And, even still, it was seemingly limited to a jovial You’ve Got Mail greeting after five minutes of ear-piercing dial-up.
While I most definitely am dating myself, I appreciate inherently knowing a world before Wi-Fi. A world where direct mail advertising was king and “word of mouth” promotion was queen. I’ve since seen targeted print campaigns become overshadowed by online strategy. I’ve witnessed Facebook mainstream into newsrooms and businesses. I’ve watched Twitter change the real-time dissemination of information. And, I’ve observed search engines shape the very landscape of website presence and design.
While I’m still a closeted ‘80s girls at heart (donning a scrunchie and admittedly listening to New Kids on the Block time and again), I also have had to evolve right beside it. I’ve studied it. I’ve adapted to it. And, now I’m helping clients stay ahead of it. The it being a world whose axis now spins on digital enterprise.
As we head into 2016, it’s mission-critical for every company to be foundationally optimized in order to successfully launch branding initiatives that are palpable for mass consumption. Here are five things that your company should be doing now in order to not be “so last year” when the ball drops at midnight:
1. Identify your Unique Selling Proposition
Long gone are the days where you could be found just by having a website and a few relevant search terms. Now you’ve got competitors to contend with, alongside their paid PPC campaigns, social media initiatives and content strategies chalk full of SEO. If you’re not up to snuff on the latest search trends released by the Google gods, there is a strong chance you can actually be hindering your overall branding strategy rather than moving it forward. Taking a step back and identifying your unique selling proposition (USP) is a crucial first step for any company before they begin to navigate the endless possibilities of the .com. How do you want your company to be perceived? How do you want your qualified end user to find you? What is your unique voice in a saturated online marketplace? Once you can truly answer these questions, you will be able to really hone in on the long-tail keywords and strategic campaigns that should be created in order to attract the appropriate end user to your website.
2. User Experience
The user experience (UX) is a heavily searched and sought after term that shouldn’t be taken as a light suggestion. Nowadays, it is imperative for your website to be responsive and laser-focused on how your end user navigates. Aimlessly pushing out blog content or social media campaigns may guide the appropriate end user to your website, but if it doesn’t have the “stickiness” factor, your bounce rates may go up, your search ranking may go down and your qualified end user may be long gone on a competitor’s site.
3. Customized “Calls To Action”
Right in line with your USP and UX is another pertinent acronym: The call to action (CTA). This tool is crucial for user engagement and, if positioned and promoted correctly, should help with overall website conversion. Your CTAs should be dynamic and reflect your target audience’s different needs, interests and demographics. Don’t limit your strategy or campaigns to a “one-size-fits-all approach.” Consider your USP and how a CTA can help guide that qualified lead down the funnel.
4. Social Media
It seems most everyone is on social media. Heck, my grandma even has Facebook (or, as she calls it, Spacebook). But, despite its widespread prevalence in our daily lives, social media shouldn’t be used in the same capacity as our personal accounts. And, furthermore, just because you have it, doesn’t make you an expert in it. In fact, just like a blog or a targeted content stream, social media should be nurtured, strategically executed and pushed out at certain days or times of day and based on your company’s overarching USP and goals. For instance, if your targeted audience is women from the ages of 25-45, understanding their algorithms, when they’re online and when they’re most likely to engage could mean having more of an impact with one targeted push rather than posting at random during the week.
5. Get Integrated
If there is anything you take away from this list of recommendations, let it be this: Get integrated. To survive, rank and be successful, your company can’t just have a PR campaign, or just a blog, or just a social media channel, or just a list of long-tail keywords or just a gated CTA. Everything should work in concert with one another — ebbing and flowing from the core of your company’s USP and guiding qualified users to certain areas of your site for conversion. As we enter into what is sure to be an exciting new year for digital strategy, remember that while site traffic may be important, the quality of the traffic, the engagement and the steps you take to make your site seamlessly navigable is key.