5 Reasons Active Website Content Is Critical to Growing Your Business

Editor’s note: This article was originally posted n 8/18/16 and has been updated with the latest trends and statistics from this year’s B2C survey results. 

There’s no denying—content marketing is here to stay! A recent update to the annual survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs generated 480 responses from B2C marketers from multiple industries around the globe. Of these respondents, only 40% said they have a documented content marketing strategy.

 

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These marketers know their audience and what will get them to read online content—blogs, web pages, social messages, etc., all optimized for search engines using key words that trigger the search. Their ultimate goal? To generate new business by creating content the reader actually wants to consume when he wants to consume it, as opposed to interrupting the consumer as ads, emails or cold-calling often do.

They are attracting readers with interesting articles, helpful tools and relevant information. The result? Readers are “following” them online. Soon after, they become leads. And ultimately, new customers. This steady traffic makes fresh, active content on their websites not only good, but critical.

Active content speaks for itself. It’s new stuff—recently added, changed, fresh. And why is this so important to the success of your business? If you keep your audience coming back to your website for more educational and inspiring content, they can learn more about you and what you offer.

“Content has been one of the most important reasons we have traffic to our website. Our content works hard for us, thanks to VistaComm.”

Richard Stinson, Communications & Media Manager
ProAg®
Amarillo, TX

Active website content is critical to your business because:

1. It helps drive traffic to your website.

Every time you post something new, it’s one more cue to search engines like Google that your site is active. In addition, the SHARE option grows your audience and traffic, too.

Fact: 53% of US companies surveyed by HubSpot listed blog content creation as one of their top priorities for growing their inbound marketing efforts.

2. It helps you generate more leads for your business.

A reader finds your site through a great blog you’ve posted. You propose more help or expertise through a free offer. They click, fill out a form, send it and receive a free gift. Now YOU have their contact information! Once you have that information make sure you are engaging with them through a mix of marketing channels to stay top of mind when they are ready for a purchase.

Interesting: 89% of B2C marketers use Facebook to distribute content which is tied with email for the top spot (Content Marketing Institute).

Channels B2C Marketers Use to Distribute Content

3.You will be considered an expert authority.

Many customers will search online before coming into a store. If they’re finding answers to their questions, they’ll think of you first. They’ve come to know and trust you online. According to Google 81% of shoppers conduct online research prior to a purchase. And when a sales opportunity arises, you’ve have laid the groundwork for great opening conversation.

Good to know: Usage of visual infographics as a tactic is on the increase: 51% in 2014 to 67% in 2016 (Content Marketing Institute).

4. Your content has a long-term effect.

You post a blog or a new piece of informational material one day and it lives—in fact, it builds, gathering more and more potential customers for you. According to HubSpot 1 in 10 blog posts are compounding, meaning organic search increases their traffic over time.  What’s more, when you write something, you own it and can repurpose it in several ways for your own use accross multiple marketing channels.

Food for thought: For print ads and billboards, you’re merely renting the space. 

5.You can post product releases and event information.

Once you’ve built up traffic to your site, post product announcements, valuable promotions and event information, too. After all, this constitutes new information and it stands a far better chance of getting seen where the traffic is. If you have been capturing customer information along the way, this allows you to target specific customer groups with products and promotions that are most relevant to them.

Who knew: Americans are launching social apps an average of 17 times a day—or at least once every waking hour.

You know why you need to keep your website content current. Now, where do you turn to get the content? One great resource might be already-written information from your print or e-newsletter publication. Simply post these articles to your website’s blog or news section as new and relevant content. Here are some great topic ideas that not only work for newsletters, but your website, as well. If you still find yourself stuck or in need of help request a consultation, from one of our marketing experts to get you started!

See More Here: 5 Reasons Active Website Content Is Critical to Growing Your Business

By the Book: Darcy’s 5 Recipes for Making Your Messages Irresistible

A Culinary History of Iowa“Wow, you’re legit now.” It’s a curious comment I’ve heard more than once since I’ve published several non-fiction books of Iowa history focused on farming, small-town life and food. In a lot of people’s minds, a book makes a writer authentic, I guess.

One thing I know for sure: The techniques I applied to write my books (“Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More,”) include five basics I use when writing newsletters and magazines for all my VistaComm clients’ projects. These recipes for writing success are:

  1. Focus on the audience first. Any message that revolves around you, rather than your audience, will fall flat. Learn to speak your audience’s language and show how you can meet their needs, whether that’s educating them, entertaining them or solving a problem they face.
  2. Ask the right questions. Writing that works starts with asking targeted questions. Posing the right questions during interviews and background research helps uncover the most compelling information that will resonate with your audience.
  3. Apply effective storytelling techniques. No one likes to be sold, but everyone likes a good story. Storytelling is an art and a skill that takes time to develop. VistaComm’s experienced team knows how to bring your best stories to life.
  4. Add compelling photography. Don’t underestimate the power of intriguing images. Photos and other graphics offer a powerful way to attract your audience’s attention.
  5. Mix in a little marketing flair. Whether it’s a newsletter, online content, magazine articles, advertisements or other communication tools, storytelling combined with an effective marketing message can help you build stronger relationships with clients and prospects and ultimately drives sales.

VistaComm journalist Darcy MaulsbyTake it from a book author—let VistaComm help you put these 5 proven “recipes” to work for you, and you’ll be well on your way to creating authentic, irresistible marketing messages. Now that’s legit.


Editors’s note: Maulsby 15-year VistaComm veteran and has served ag clients across the country. Her books, including a Culinary History of Iowa, Calhoun County, and Dallas County, are available on Amazon.com.

Original Post Here: By the Book: Darcy’s 5 Recipes for Making Your Messages Irresistible

What is the Real Lifecycle of a Website?

Does your website have a “final” version?

It shouldn’t.

A website is like a garden: there’s always something to work on. The real lifecycle of a website requires periodic and dedicated pruning, weeding, and cultivating to make it work best. Simple practices like linking relevant articles, updating online catalogs and updating content can help not only your SEO ranking, but show users that you have a dedication to your business and your customers.

Changes shouldn’t be made at random, however. Instead, take the time and follow the simple lifecycle for a website to ensure success.

  1. Analysis – Visit your site like you’re a first-time viewer. What are you there for? Can you easily find the information you need? Does your site load quickly? How does it look? With these questions in mind, decide what updates and improvements you need to make. Create a map of what the website will look like, a list of what needs to be done and steps showing how to get it done.
  2. Content Design and Creation – Prepare your updates. News articles need writing, pictures need taking and pages need designing. If needed, there are professional content developers like VistaComm who can write relevant, industry-specific content for your site.
  3. Implementation – Post your content online, making sure all the pieces fit and support each other. Get your developer or content management system to test all your links, pages and options. Make sure your site loads quickly and your changes look great on all devices. Ensure that there are no issues for visitors to your site.
  4. Optimization –Where do you appear on search results? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ranking is an ongoing process, with regular changes to requirements and strategies needed to stay relevant. Is any of your content out of date? Do you have new services or products to offer? Websites should be frequently updated to keep them interesting and fresh.

The lifecycle above is just a rough framework and you’ll find yourself jumping around from step to step throughout the process until your site is ready to launch.

But the launch of a website is not the end—it’s just the end of the beginning. Once your website is up and running, the process starts all over again. Where are people going, where are they not going? What needs to be massaged along, what is doing great on its own? All these questions and more should be asked as often as possible to keep your website healthy and growing.

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Original Post Here: What is the Real Lifecycle of a Website?

Things to Think About When Planning a Website

Are you planning for a new or updated website? Building a new website doesn’t have to be an impossible task. A multitude of website-building tools have made launching and updating a website easier than ever before. But, keep in mind there’s more to a website than putting a few pictures and words up on the Internet. Here’s five things to consider before investing in your digital future.

1. Who should you partner with?

We’re all familiar with the adage ‘you get what you pay for.’ While, you may save some money by hiring a freelancer or even building your site yourself, thinking of your long-term needs up front could save you money down the road. Consider all the steps involved in producing a website: from planning to content to design to development to launch to post-launch support. Do you have the talents and time within your existing staff? Will a freelancer meet your deadlines? Would you benefit from working with a full-service web design firm that can guide you through this process and support you after launch?

2. Know what you want from your users.

It’s vital to have a firm grasp of what you wish to gain from your new website. When planning a website around your users there are key questions you have to ask. Who is your audience? Why are they visiting your site? Why do they come to you? Your site should catalyze your customers to buy a product, ask a question or learn more about your business. Focus your attention on the needs of your customers.

3. Content comes first.

To match your site with an interested audience, search engines index your website content. How much thought have you given to content? How many pages do you need to have? What do your customers need to know about your business? This is about showcasing your brand personality through videos, pictures and well written words. If you don’t have the resources or expertise on staff, it might be worth having your content written professionally.

4. What platform provides the versatility you need?

There is a wide range of content management system (CMS) and hosting options available. Some are free, others require more time, knowledge and investment. For example, a proprietary CMS can only be used and supported by those who built it. These could be barriers if you later choose to move away from the platform or provider. At the same time, it may offer already-built tools that fit well with your needs. Alternatively, open source platforms like WordPress tend to have a large community with many contributors keeping them up-to-date and available to anyone. They can also be leveraged in powerful ways through custom development. Work with someone you trust to have the knowledge and understanding of your needs to develop the best solution for you

5. What’s your post-launch plan?

Launching a website is big accomplishment—but the work doesn’t stop there. A website is an ever-evolving piece of communication that continually grows with new content and tools. Not only are search engines ranking you based on current content, today’s web users expect it. Have a plan for reviewing your website analytics and publishing content regularly post-launch.

 

See case study: Carbon Green BioEnergy

 

Whatever path you choose, remember to take your time, do your research and partner with someone who can grow with your digital needs. Reach out to our team of experts to determine if VistaComm is the best web partner for your organization.

Original Post Here: Things to Think About When Planning a Website

Are You Missing the Most Powerful Marketing Tool?

It happens all too often. Well-meaning ag companies are excited to share updates about their grain marketing tools with their clients a­­nd prospects, but they stop with the dreaded “data dump.”

When this happens, a laundry list of every contract available is presented in a newsletter article or online update. While this is important information, it’s overwhelming. It’s often confusing. It’s like making your clients wander aimlessly through a big-box store, with no assistance in sight, when all they want is to find a package of AA batteries.

It happened to me recently when a VistaComm client wanted to share a complete list of every grain marketing contact available from this ag cooperative. I was concerned all this data would be hard for readers to wade through. The biggest risk? Readers might skip the article entirely.

I thanked the client for compiling all this information and suggested we try a slightly different approach. Instead of detailing every contract available, I encouraged the client to let me tell a story and showcase a different grain marketing contract in each quarterly newsletter.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful content marketing tools available. It’s an inviting way to inform customers and prospects about your products and services. A story is fun to read when it’s written right. An effective story positions you as the expert. Best of all, a story doesn’t sound like a sales pitch, yet it can help grow your business.

Your story told in your customers’ words

The most compelling stories are often best told through your customers’ own words. When my client decided to focus on decision rules contracts (DRCs) in its summer 2017 print newsletter, I asked the grain merchandisers which one of their clients might be willing to put in the good word about DRCs.

They loved the idea and connected me with a helpful corn and soybean grower. While I’ve changed the names for this example, here’s how I started the story:

Farmer X knows how daunting grain marketing can be. “You’ve never heard any farmer say they’ve done the best possible job with their marketing, right?” said the northwest Iowa corn and soybean grower.

Farmer X and his father had traditionally made cash sales at fall delivery and used a little forward selling. “You question your decisions, though,” Farmer X said. “You don’t know when to pull the trigger.”

Customer stories are powerful content marketing tools

That’s why Farmer X decided to attend a grain marketing seminar that the co-op offered this winter. He was intrigued by the co-op’s grain marketing tools and made an appointment with one of the co-op’s grain merchandisers to learn more. Merchandiser X helped him tailor a marketing plan for his needs, including Decision Rules Contracts (DRCs)

“He explained that DRCs aren’t a once-and-done, where you’re trying to hit a home run,” Farmer X said. “It’s like hitting a series of doubles and triples, which made a lot of sense to me.”

Instead of talking about the technicalities of bushel enrollments, floor prices, priced bushels and more, this article goes on to explain the basics of how DRCs work and how they solve farmers’ real-world marketing challenges.

The goal? Show what DRCs mean to real farmers in terms of more effective grain marketing, less stress and greater peace of mind.

More fun, less worry, better results

To me, this is the unique value the VistaComm team can offer you. Know that we’re not just order takers. We’re professional marketing consultants who offer proven solutions to help you reach your marketing goals.

We may take an approach you hadn’t thought of, like skipping the data dump and opting for a powerful, well-told story. Rest assured we’re drawing on years of experience working with ag clients just like you.

First, we listen to understand your unique marketing goals. Then we’ll work together to determine the best route to help you reach these goals. Prepare for more fun, less worry and better results as we help you uncover your stories and work with you every step of the way to share them in a way that resonates with your target audience.

Let’s talk

Ready to unleash your most powerful marketing tool? Our storytellers are here to help. Contact VistaComm today at 800-657-8070 to start the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.

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See Full Article Here: Are You Missing the Most Powerful Marketing Tool?

Hot Ideas Were on the Bayou for the 2017 CCA Institute

Editor/Communications Specialist Talisa Wager and Creative Services Assistant Danny Andrews.

Earlier this month, my coworker Danny Andrews and I ventured down to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the annual Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA) Institute. While there, we participated in educational workshops, networked with other communicators from the cooperative world, enjoyed the sights and tastes of Baton Rouge, and tried to stay indoors as much as possible. (Let’s just say the humidity was a bit much for two Midwesterners.)

This was my third year attending CCA Institute. Why do I keep going back? Because every year I come away with new skills I can apply at work, a refreshed perspective on why I enjoy working in communications, and new network connections I can reach out to. The opportunity to travel to different cities and enjoy new sights is a bonus!

Merger postcard series for CFS.

One honor I had while attending this year’s institute was accepting two awards on behalf of VistaComm. I’m proud to say our team worked hard to earn first place website and third place in direct mail. The website that received first place was NuWay Cooperative. And in the direct mail category, we were recognized for our work on a merger postcard series for CFS. I’m very proud of our talented team for being acknowledged by a group of communicators that are the best of the best.

In conclusion, this year’s CCA Institute did not disappoint. The sessions were educational, there was hands-on learning, socializing, and many opportunities to enjoy the “spicy” culture Baton Rouge offers. Perhaps, we’ll “saddle on up” and head to the Lone Star State for the 2018 Institute in Fort Worth!

 

Baton Rouge riverfront at night.

Read Full Article Here: Hot Ideas Were on the Bayou for the 2017 CCA Institute

The Facebook Pixel: If You’re Not Using It, You’re Doing It Wrong!

Why should the Facebook pixel be an essential part of your online advertising and marketing? To answer this question, you must first understand what the Facebook pixel is and how it can impact your online advertising.

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It is surprising, in the age we live in, how few marketers I talk to are implementing this tool in their marketing mix. Facebook has over 1.2 billion active users each day. Facebook captures loads of data about your customers, where they live, what they like, their career, what they follow and much more. This data combined with the Facebook pixel allows you to target your advertising better. Because of this, I want to start with the basics and walk you through some of the ways you can implement the Facebook pixel to create higher converting ad campaigns that better target your customers and their interests.

What is the Facebook pixel?

Pixels are found across most advertising platforms. They are used to drop a cookie onto a visitor’s browser when they come to your website so that you can advertise to them later. In this regard, if you are spending money on pay-per-click advertising and not using the pixel you are not maximizing your budget. The pixel allows you to retarget website users based on behavior, optimize ad performance, and track leads and conversions on your site from Facebook ads.

To set up the Facebook pixel, you need to have a Facebook Ad Manager account. If you don’t already have this, you’ll need to set one up.

Once you have your Ad Manager account, you can set up your Facebook pixel. Open your Ads Manager in the main menu and click on “Pixels” under the “Assets” menu.

Facebook Pixel Setup under Assets

You will then be prompted to either generate the code to place on the website or use a tag manager to place this code.

Install your Facebook pixel

Depending on how your website is set up and the platform you are using, this step will vary. For many, simply work with your developer to follow the steps outlined in the Facebook instructions. HINT: Enabling “advanced matching” allows you to identify similar audiences on Facebook based on website users email or phone number they may enter during registration or checkout

Install Your Facebook Pixel Code

 

Once the code is placed on your site, verify everything is working by checking the status of your pixel with the Pixel Helper.

Check your Facebook pixel status using Pixel Helper

Once you have the pixel in place and have verified it’s working, there are three ways you can use the Facebook pixels to maximize your Facebook ad campaigns.

1. Custom audiences and retargeting

Create Facebook Audiences

When creating a new audience, the first thing you do is select “Create a Custom Audience”. The Facebook pixel allows you to identify and advertise to audiences that have visited your website. The base option allows you to target all visitors to your website, but there are many customizations to choose from to create multiple audiences.

Create a Custom Audience in Facebook

You can choose to target based on certain pages visited or how long it’s been since they visited your site. You can even target based on what page they visited. For instance, if you have an audience who completed a request-for-info form and doesn’t complete a purchase, you can serve a different ad to that group. This allows you to serve dynamic ads to audiences based on where they are at in your sales process.

Set Custom Audiences based on web pages viewed

Once you have identified your audiences for retargeting, it is very easy to create look-alike audiences. Facebook will match other targets that have similar interests to those that have visited your site already. This allows you to scale your advertising to a broader audience based on which campaigns and audiences have already proved successful.

Create Facebook lookalike audience

2. Conversion and lead tracking

One of the most useful features of the Facebook Pixel is in tracking actions through custom conversions.

Set up custom conversion in Ads Manager

Through the pixel, you can track specific actions and tie them back to your Facebook ad campaigns. This allows you to know how many sales, or how many new lead signups were generated from these campaigns or even specific ads.

Create your custom conversion

When creating your custom conversion, you want to tie the conversion to the success of an action. Such as a thank-you page on your website that follows a contact submission, or you can even tie the conversion to a specific event such as a click to call from a mobile phone.

Facebook custom conversion by event

After you select the specific URL or tracking event from the drop-down menu, you will need to select what category this conversion falls into. This is for your classification, so just make the selection that makes the most sense to you.

create custom conversion based on URL

Once this is set, you can name your custom conversion in the following screen and assign a dollar value to it. If you don’t have a monetary value to assign you do not have to enter this, but if there is a purchase tied to the conversion I would highly recommend doing so. This will allow you to better assess your return on the ad spend.

Name your Facebook Custom Conversion

To begin tracking your conversions, check “track all conversions” on your ad campaigns and Facebook will handle the rest.

Track all conversion in Facebook

Viewing the conversions does get a little more complicated, as Facebook doesn’t put this in plain sight. From your Ads Manager screen, select the “columns” drop down and go to “Customize Columns.”

Custome columns in Facebook to view conversions

From here, you can search for the name of your custom conversion and view the number of conversions, the cost of those conversions and (if you assigned a dollar value) the value of those conversions.

Search for your custom conversion to display in columns

3. Optimizing your campaigns

By setting up your custom conversions, Facebook can help you optimize your campaigns. Whenever you create a new campaign, Facebook will ask you what your marketing objective is. You will almost always select the conversions option.

Optimize Facebook campaigns for conversions

By selecting this option, Facebook will recognize users that are converting based on the custom conversions you set up (such as a sign-up thank you page). Facebook will then optimize your campaign for other people who are most like those that have already converted on your site.

That’s a wrap! You should now have a better understanding of how to utilize the Facebook pixel to increase the effectiveness of your Facebook advertising. From reading this, I hope you see how crucial it is to implement this to make your ad dollars effective.

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Original Post Here: The Facebook Pixel: If You’re Not Using It, You’re Doing It Wrong!

Stay Competitive: 4 Game Strategies to Play Like Pac-Man

A late spring snow storm. Rain for the whole month of April. Finally, warmer weather and May breezes. The soil dries out. OK, the crops are in—bring back that rain. Summer storms, stay away.

No matter what seasonal agricultural conditions you face, as a producer, you’ve got to be able to change strategies and pivot at a moment’s notice. Things don’t always go as planned when your business depends so much on Mother Nature.

Julie Deering in her December 2016 article for Seed World magazine likens operating in today’s agribusiness circles to playing a game of Pac-Man. Remember Pac-Man? You’ve got to be in constant motion searching for the next move to put you ahead in the game. Thinking fast. Staying away from an enemy who could gobble you up – these are KEY!

Released in 1980, Pac-Man was the best-selling arcade game in North America. It grossed more than $1 billion in quarters within a year.

It’s not only the individual “little guy” who must stay on his toes. If you’re a producer who’s joined forces with other producers in a cooperative, the terms merger, acquisition, consolidation, joint venture are very much part of your vocabulary, and happening all around you. Re-structuring the way you do business is not necessarily bad — but always an adjustment — in order to stay in the ag game.

Over the past 4 decades, the number of co-ops in the county has dropped from 6,445 to about 2,100, and the pace of consolidation is accelerating.

So, IS there an answer to “staying in the game” or even WINNING! For valuable tips to consider, I return once again to the Seed World feature where Deering, following her expert research, sites four strategies. You may have heard them all before, but they are truly worth repeating—over and over again.

STRATEGY #1:
Focus on Your Customer and his “Pain Point”

If you’re a small- to medium-sized individual producer, you’ve got to know your end-user—the consumer who will give you the best possible chance of making a profit in a given year. You can’t plant everything you’ve ever wanted to grow or feed and market every live food source there is. You’ve got to focus—determine your niche products and go big with just a few—the few that are in most demand by your end-user.

For agribusinesses, this means you’ve got to know your target audience (customers) as well as you know your own family. In the movie classic Field of Dreams, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella follows a voice no one else can hear with memorable results. Among the messages he receives: “Ease his pain.” Do you know your customers’ pain points? What keeps them up at night? The agribusiness that does the best job of making life easier for customers will likely gain more of them. Word travels fast in the country. 

STRATEGY #2:
BE READY TO CHANGE

In any business, you must be forever conscious that failure can happen. Be prepared to FAIL FAST. What do I mean by FAIL FAST?

PIVOT. Pam Moore of Marketing Nutz calls pivoting the art of recognizing that the pursuit of a specific idea, direction or product—in which you’ve invested significant time, money and energy—is no longer the correct path to follow.

In Western Kansas on April 30, 2017, a rare spring snow storm wiped out 40% of the wheat crop in the state. But after a quick melt and dry-out, the hearty plainsmen in this area were out making plans to till, then plant the damaged fields with milo — a crop that could still make them a good profit in 2017. That’s a pivot!

“Be agile,” says Moore. “Develop processes that reward quick decision-making. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Learn to FAIL FAST and learn from each success and failure along the way.”

STRATEGY #3:
DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

As a small- to medium-sized agribusiness, you’ve got to make yourself stand out by being different from your competition. This is sometimes quite hard to come up with when your annual process seems so cut and dried: planting — irrigating — pest and weed controlling — harvesting — moving — storing — etc.

Troy Schroeder, a management consultant with Clutch Performance, Inc., says business success that’s sustainable is all about the customer experience, and making sure that every function of your organization is based on customer-first thinking:

  • Better customer service
  • Added value for your customers
  • More knowledge
  • Better delivery
  • Tailored sales approach based on specific customer needs
  • Better application of your products
  • Ease-of-use of your products that’s better than anyone else

What can you do better than your competitors?

STRATEGY #4:
LEVERAGE BIG DATA

Analytics. Agricultural consultant, Jim Thrift, is convinced that effective data management will drive the future of agribusiness. He says, “A smart person with the most information wins!” He feels that agribusinesses that can transform complex data into actionable information can make effective business decisions.

Forward-thinking agribusinesses are getting onboard with this strategy. A recent survey reveals that 73 percent of companies have invested, or plan to invest in big data during the next two years—a number that has risen from 64 percent in 2013. Business investment in analytics is increasing at an average annual rate of almost 30 percent.

This strategy requires a real commitment. Once you start collecting relevant data from within the ag industry you must constantly analyze what you’ve got to see if your tactics are holding up and paying off as you would like. You’ll be making numerous tweaks along the way—that’s just how it works!

In conclusion, everyone needs planning and strategy. I hope these four I found in my reading will find a place in your marketing plan, whether you are a farm operator or a small- to medium-sized agribusiness. Just be smart, agile, reactive and ready to play the game — like Pac-Man!

Resource: How to Power Ahead in a Competitive World, Seed World, December 2016.

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Post Source Here: Stay Competitive: 4 Game Strategies to Play Like Pac-Man

Strategic Planning? 10 Tips to Improve Your Outcome

Whether you’re refining your plans, charting an entirely new course or overhauling your brand, strategic planning is an essential step in the life cycle of a successful business. Some tackle the process on their own, while many bring in planning experts to facilitate the process. In either case, here are 10 steps you should take to prepare your team and achieve the best results from the time and resources invested.

1. Invest in the front end

Your team must believe in the process, understand the outcomes you hope to achieve and be prepared to contribute. Meeting with your team members before you begin the formal planning process will help get everyone on the same page and prepare them to bring their expertise to the table.

2. Research

Research your industry to find common market trends you want to identify with or avoid. Consider your company’s strength and the particular industry niche you occupy. Is this where you want to reside in the future?

3. Know your target audience

Who are you trying to reach? Your marketing messages need to be crafted to suit your audience’s specific needs for maximum impact.

4. Have an honest perspective of your company’s current brand image

You know how you want your company to be perceived, but is that the image held by employees, current customers and prospects? Don’t assume you know the answer—ask representatives from those three groups how they perceive you. Does your brand messaging need to be adjusted, or does your brand need to be completely repositioned?

5. Be willing to share ideas

There is no such thing as a bad idea when you’re working through the planning process. Everyone involved should be willing to share their ideas—and this should be a safe environment in which to do that.

6. Set some intermediate deadlines

Have a realistic picture of when you want assignments completed. Know who has tasks to accomplish and be prepared to keep them on schedule. Continue to stress the importance of this process, and reflect it by scheduling process assignments on equal footing with client-related work.

7. Use examples

Find and share examples of marketing pieces, campaigns, slogans, positioning statements and other similar materials that you find appealing. Be ready to explain why you like them. This is particularly important when working with an outside firm, but is also helpful in internal discussions. Your customers and prospects have a wide range of tastes, and those should be reflected in your process as well.

8. Keep an open mind

Refer to #7. Because you have a variety of personalities (hopefully) on your team, some of the ideas presented may seem “outside the box” to you. This will be particularly true if you’ve brought in an expert. Don’t settle for comfortable solutions that keep you doing what you’ve always done. After all, you’re looking for solutions that will set you apart from your competition.

9. Think forward

Your goal is to grow your business, so be prepared to think “down the road.” You’re working on a roadmap to navigate from where you are to where you want to be.

10. Trust the experts

Finally, if you’ve brought in a specialist to help with your planning process, you did it for a reason. This is what they do best. Trust their input and conclusions.


VistaComm has participated and facilitated the planning process for many clients as they sought to grow their business and strengthen their brand. If you’re looking for an expert partner in your strategic planning process, contact us to find out how we can help.

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Originally Published Here: Strategic Planning? 10 Tips to Improve Your Outcome

10 Great Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website

Research shows that when business owners are asked what they’d like most, they respond first: More customers. Following in close second: Drive more traffic to my website.

Well, I’d like to summarize here what I’ve learned about #2: Driving traffic to your site, because, to me, it’s the #1 way to gain more customers—the #1 “want most.”

Who is your audience?

The first step in marketing in any medium—including online and digital—is KNOW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE. Who are you talking to and trying to appeal to? What makes them tick? What do they care about? And who are their friends and business associates?

Give your audience “good stuff.”

Did you know that today there are 164 million blogs online? BUT 71% of these get fewer than 5,000 visitors per month. What’s the problem? CONTENT. If you’re not putting good information out there that your audience cares about and wants to read, they’ll just click on by.

Download website optimization ebookSo, what is good content? It’s news, data, statistics and facts that position you as an expert in your field—someone people want to buy from. It’s reliable information that generates online traffic, leads and sales. It’s not just great content, but the right content that readers want to share with their business associates. And can you guess what happens next? YOUR website traffic grows because of all these new visitors. WIN! WIN!

Once you know your audience and the information they’re looking for, it’s time to dive in and start creating the great content that positions you as the expert.

Now, here are my favorite 10 ways to drive traffic to your website using that great content you created.

1. Start blogging and never stop!

I just want to emphasize this one more time. Blogging works. It does drive traffic to your website. Wordstream.com recently ran an experiment and increased their blogging from twice per week to over 10 posts per week. The result was a 300 percent growth in traffic in just two months. Get EVERYONE in your organization writing blogs and supplying ideas for content.

2. Vary the length and format of your content.

Despite what some would have you believe, there’s no secret recipe for online content. That’s why it’s important to mix it up, trying different lengths and formats to appeal to different kinds of readers. Use video, infographics, news posts, graphs and data, shorter and longer pieces to keep your readers attentive and coming back.

3. Grab ‘em with your headlines.

Without a great headline, even the best blog post will go unread. Master the art of headline writing. The best writers often write more than 20 different headlines before finally settling on the one that will drive the most traffic, so think carefully about your headline before you post.

4. Optimize, optimize!

SEO is not dead. Optimizing your content for search engines is still valuable. Are you creating internal links to new content? Optimizing for on-page SEO doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and it could help boost traffic to your site. 

Drive traffic to your webiste using SEO

5. Attract visitors through advertising.

Paid search, social media advertising and display advertising are all excellent ways of building your brand and getting your site in front of people. Consider your advertising objectives. Do you just want more traffic, or are you looking to increase conversions, too? Each paid channel has its pros and cons. If you’re hoping for more sales as traffic to your site increases, you’ll need to focus on particular keywords in your search strategies.

6. Don’t forget email.

Good ole email. Traditional, yes, but still a powerful marketing tool. You’d be surprised that even a simple email blast can cause an uptick in your online traffic. Word of caution: Avoid relentless emails about every single thing that’s new at your business. Email today must be targeted and relevant. Send a friendly, appropriate email reminder to those already enjoying or familiar with your products and services—chances are much greater for them to engage instead of filtering you to spam or opting out.

7. Make sure your site is responsive.

Today, mobile-friendly sites are a necessity! Don’t lose sight of this. Make sure your visitors can access your site from whatever device they’re holding in their hands. And, if you force upon them an uncomfortable experience—pinching and scrolling around your site—they’ll go elsewhere. Make your website accessible and easily viewable across a range of devices, including smaller smartphones.

responsive website design

8. Research your competition.

Find out what people are reading (and talking about), and emulate that type of content to bring traffic to your website. There is special software that gives you an at-a-glance view of what content is popular with readers. Find out what your competition is putting out there.

9. Make sure your site is fast.

When was the last time you waited 10 or 15 seconds for a webpage to load? Not worth it, is it? If your site takes forever to load, your reader will move on. Kissmetrics has an excellent article showing how load time affects your bottom line. Your website pages need to be technically optimized. This means you need to check your image file sizes, the structure of your pages, and more. The faster your site loads, the better.

10. Examine your analytics data.

Google Analytics is an invaluable source of data for any company with a website. And you really DO need it! The information it gathers—from your most popular pages and visitor demographics to when and where your site traffic is coming from—is invaluable to your efforts to stay up-to-date with your promotional and content strategies. Pay attention to what its telling you and make adjustments.


Want to read more about this topic and others related to growing your business online? Download our free e-book about growing your agribusiness with a hard-working website. Give VistaComm a call to discuss elevating your presence online today.

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