Thursday, October 3, 2013

Web design and branding case study

The blog on Bear Creek Web has a new post up on branding and web design.  We've syndicated here for our readers on Blogger to check out. The post is a short case study with one of our clients on the simple process we went through to create a logo and website that best serves the clients needs:

Skyline Maintenance Services came to us with an existing brand and website design that had multiple challenges in terms of engagement and brand awareness. Among the many challenges: their logo was too generic to be memorable, and the website was not optimized to engage their target audience. You can see where they were at this stage below:
Bc _skyline _blog _home _1
In addition to the design challenges, there were technological issues as well. The old site was running on a slow and unreliable server, leading to slow page loading times which negatively impacted their SEO efforts.
With a huge sense of urgency, we updated that website and brand to the one below:
Bc _skyline _blog _home _2
Fast forward to today. They are growing aggressively, taking on bigger and better clients, and broadening their market and services offered. With a new focus on growing their market share, it was time to start fresh.
The first step was to change the name of the company to be more in step with today’s focus. Skyline Maintenance Services became Skyline Mechanical, and it was time to begin the formal branding process.
The next step was to create buyer personas to identify who we were trying to attract and what we wanted the brand to convey to them. We then looked at their competition, and discussed the effectiveness of those brands.
Lastly, we looked at brands in other industries until we really understood what they were looking for, and what they wanted to communicate. That information was then used to create a brand blueprint that serves as a guide for our design team. The initial brand presentation is below:
Bc _skyline _blog _logos
We talked through the attributes of each, and what our thought process was when creating. They fell in love with #1 and #3, and asked for a few tweaks to them. Below you will see the results of those tweaks:
Bc _skyline _blog _logos _2
They fell in love with #2, and the brand was born. Here is a sample business card and electronic letterhead:
Bc _skyline _blog _letterhead
Now that the brand was solidified, it was time to start on the website design process. We looked at their top three competitors’ websites and discussed what they liked and disliked about each. We also asked more questions to better understand how they are positioned vs. those competitors, and what makes Skyline Mechanical remarkable and unique.
Lastly, we talked about their sales process, and what we wanted their buyer personas to do once they arrived at the website. Just like with the brand, we then created a design and development blueprint that leads our process. Here are the design concepts that were presented:
Bc _skyline _blog _home _3
Typically at this stage we get comments such as I really like design concept 1, but prefer to have the phone number at the top. Or I really like design concept 3 but love the orange bar element on conept 2. In this situation, they loved #2 as is, and were ready to move forward. Next step was to select two more stock photography images to use, and then begin the coding.
The new site is currently in development and is on target to go live in the next week or so.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Umbraco vs. WordPress – Which is Better for Your Business Website?

While many people who spend time online have heard of Wordpress, very few have heard of Umbraco.  Unfortunately, this may be their loss.  Umbraco similar in some ways to Wordpress in that it is a user-friendly CMS and therefore, a relatively easy entry into the world of web design.  In a recent post from our blog, we compared Wordpress to Umbraco:

What’s the difference between traditional web development and a site built with Umbraco, WordPress, or any other content management system? Websites built on Content Management Systems (CMS) generally have their functionality divided into three components: content, design, and programming.
The separation of these three components allows anyone with basic online proficiency to make changes to the content of a website built on a CMS without compromising the look and feel of the site. This creative flexibility makes the use of CMS ideal for SMBs and professionals who perform regular website updates.
There are several obvious advantages to using a CMS versus traditional development:
  • Consistent look and feel across multiple sections, regardless of internal ‘ownership’ of pages
  • Faster development time as core functionality is pre-installed
  • Companies can update the site themselves, without waiting for a development team
  • SEO-friendly URLs are easy to generate and maintain
  • Increased content security (when the CMS is properly configured)
Because of its perceived ease-of-use, many SMBs and professionals turn to WordPress first when deciding on a CMS. However, there are many compelling reasons to choose Umbraco over WordPress, particularly if you do not have in-house developers.

Umbraco vs. WordPress: Site map and Structure

Deciding on website structure – how pages link to one another as well as the overall hierarchy of the website – is the first step when developing a website. These linking structures are critically important, both from a usability standpoint and an SEO standpoint.
Website visitors will be more likely to find what they are looking for if the website structure and menus follow an intuitive and logical progression. Through the use of keywords in URLs, companies can see a boost in their search engine rankings and overall “findability” on the web.
To create this overall website structure requires development on the back-end of the website, and that’s where things can get complicated. Ideally, a good CMS should offer the ability to manage all content in one section and all media in another, regardless of the actual location of the content within the website itself.
When developing the workflow of a CMS, a developer will create a separate form for each type of content that is to be entered. This is so they can control the fields shown to the user as well as dictate how the server will display the content that is entered.
Umbraco and WordPress handle website structure in completely different ways:
WordPress has two basic content types, Post and Pages. To create any more, the developer needs to install a plugin or write additional PHP code.  To add, edit, or delete content, users are required to go to separate screens where the content is listed. This can lead to confusion and frustration in larger sites where there are often many posts and pages that must be updated.
Managing the menu in WordPress starts out as a straightforward process. Create an item and a menu item is created for you. But what happens when you need to have the menu item name shorter than your page title? Or you need your menu items to appear in a specific order? Or have a blog category or even specific blog post, appear in the middle of your dropdown menu?
For these very common scenarios, WordPress offers a menu manager, which is again in a separate location from pages, posts or other content you create. Each menu then requires its own separate entry in the manager.
Umbraco takes a much simpler approach. All the content, regardless of type, is listed in the content tree. The type of content is chosen at the time of creation. The menu order is determined by the order of the content in that tree.  The menu items, including titles and location, are handled by filling out the content form.
In addition, Umbraco automatically creates URLs that are based on website structure. While this feature is available in WordPress, it must be manually activated, and requires mod_rewrite on the Apache server where WordPress is installed. In addition, it requires tweaking the .htaccess (security) file in order to function.

Umbraco vs. WordPress: Scalability

A small business website may have dozens or even hundreds of pages, especially those that have a catalogue of products or services. As your website grows larger and more complex, the speed and stability of the underlying platform becomes even more critical
Google includes website speed as one of its ranking factors. Human website visitors are also accustomed to speed – most will only wait a few seconds for a website to load before moving on.
With WordPress, when you add more plugins to increase functionality it can bog down your webpages with additional code in the form of .CSS or JavaScript. This additional code negatively impacts page load times. Use too many plugins, and your website may slow to a crawl, making it unusable for website visitors and search engines alike.
One WordPress plugin in particular is often installed to aid in search engine optimization. The purpose of the plugin is create site maps (both human and search engine readable), add meta tags, and connect various 3rd party applications like Google Analytics. Umbraco doesn’t need this kind of plugin. Both types of site maps can be created automatically

Umbraco vs. WordPress: Practical Considerations

Overall, one of the biggest selling points of Umbraco is its simple user interface.  People who are used to filling out web forms and surveys can intuitively grasp the nature of content management within Umbraco. And because the developer has greater control over how the input forms are laid out, it can be customized to suit business needs in almost any situation.
Business owners in the midst of choosing a CMS should take into consideration all of the factors – features, functionality, scalability, etc. as well as price.  While WordPress is great blog software that can be used as a CMS for very small sites, its core functionality just doesn’t stand up to the offerings of a dedicated CMS such as Umbraco.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What Makes Good Web Design?

What truly makes good web design?  There is a lot of talk about quality, image, text, coding, etc., but when you are looking to hire a designer or make a website yourself, what are the fundamentals you really need to take into consideration?  From our blog:

Good web design is about more than just pixels on a screen. The best web designs focus on UX first and foremost, but where to start? Here are our top four considerations when it comes to making solid web design choices:


People are no longer content to access your website from the desktop – mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets now make up more than 23% of online browsing, and the numbers continue to climb.
Your website must be accessible to website visitors in multiple formats, and you need to plan your web design accordingly. Styles that look good in a typical desktop format will need to be adjusted for tablet and cellphone screens. Likewise, certain design elements will have to be sacrificed in order to make up for the limited visual real estate for these devices.
For example, a large hero image may look great on a larger desktop, or even some tablet screens. But large images with no functionality are a waste on even the largest cellphone screens, where minimalist designs should be the rule and not the exception.
Bringing in more “mobile friendly” design elements is a notable trend in web design of late. Recently, the email marketing company MailChimp redesigned their entire user interface to make it more accessible to mobile users, merging the desktop experience and tablet experience into a single design.

Ease of Use

The harder it is for a web visitor to use your site, the more likely it is that they will look for answers (and take their business) elsewhere. Even if you are selling a relatively complicated product or service, don’t make it difficult for users to find what they need.
Areas where web design can excel in ease of use include creating an intuitive sitemap, having readily visible (and consistent) navigation, and using images to effectively communicate instructions and concepts.


Poor functionality is one of the biggest frustrations that can cause users to abandon your site in droves. Website visitors expect certain conventions to be followed – for example, if text is underlined and blue, it’s generally accepted that this will be a hyperlink.
Break that convention, and you will have web visitors who think that your website is broken instead. This reduces trust, and can make it difficult (if not impossible) to drive conversions. When it comes to mobile devices, functionality is even more important. Users who are on the go won’t waste time trying to get your site to work, and a negative mobile experience translates into a negative perception of your company as a whole.
Successful functionality in web design can be summed up in two simple points:
  • Stick to established design conventions
  • Offer full functionality based on the platform – desktop or mobile


You can have the best website around but if visitors don’t return, your investment is wasted. That element of web design that encourages repeat visitors – “stickiness” – is harder to quantify than the others. It is part of the iterative improvements that all good web designers must make.
In terms of the basics, you want to be sure that:
  • Your social media campaigns are successfully merged within the website design to encourage social interaction
  • Updates such as blog posts or new products are given proper prominence on the site
  • User-generated content is showcased effectively
  • Your web design encourages participation and a sense of community
While color choices, fonts and other elements are important in good web design, these aesthetic choices must be guided by the above elements in order to ensure your website attracts and retains your target audience. What’s the one biggest web design question you have? Let us know and we’ll publish our answers to your questions on the blog or in future newsletters. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

How to Develop Personas for Your Online Marketing

In a post from the Bear Creek Web Blog from July, we discussed cultivating an effective and high quality personal in order to best represent your business brand online.  Read it below or check it out on our blog:

Earlier this year we discussed ways to build a winning online marketing plan. The first part of that discussion included a brief overview of developing personas and using them to customize your messaging for your target audience.
Today we take a deeper look at personas and show you exactly how to develop realistic personas that will help your messaging resonate with your best customers and prospects.

Start With Your Data

If you keep track of demographics and other customer traits within a CRM tool, then you’re already ahead of the game when it comes to developing realistic personas. Look for trends that you can readily identify by answering these types of questions:
  • What demographic traits do my customers share? (If you sell multiple services/solutions/products then separate out the demographics accordingly
  • (For B2B) What role(s) does the customer have in his or her company?
  • On average, how many touch points does a lead require before they become a customer?
  • What do these touch points involve?

Analyze Behaviors

If you don’t have a CRM solution, there are still ways to get solid background data for your personas. Customer and lead behavior can be tracked through email campaigns, web analytics, social media engagement and more.
Analyzing the behavior of website visitors who convert into customers will give you a clearer picture of who you need to address in your messaging.

Buying Cues

Step backwards through the conversion funnel and look for common traits. What actions early in the funnel predict a successful purchase or sale? For example, are most of your clients also newsletter subscribers? Which actions do they take most often: downloading whitepapers and case studies, or chatting with a sales rep?
Making a purchase takes trust, and trust has to be built gradually through many interactions. If customers are consistently downloading materials before purchase, you can be sure that they are conducting research before they buy, and the same can be true of conversations with sales reps.
The difference is in the types of questions they want answered. A case study for a particular industry may be highly valuable to others in that same industry as it answers questions about how you’ll work with others in the same niche. A chat with an online representative zeros in on specific needs and has more immediacy. Also, a real-time chat may be used to gauge your responsiveness and expertise “on the fly”. All of these interactions are glimpses into the needs of a particular persona when properly aggregated by the type of purchase that is ultimately made.

Conduct Interviews

Interviews are the most effective means of getting the information you need to build a proper persona, but they are also the most expensive and the most time-consuming.  One way to integrate persona interviews into your current online marketing plan is to make them a part of your typical sales meetings and discussions with prospects.
This works remarkably well because many of the answers you need to build a successful persona are the same as those you need to close the sale. Instead of focusing solely on demographics and other “basic” information, take the time to dig deeper with value-based queries such as:
  • Why is the person or company looking to make a purchase right now?
  • What problems/challenges does this lead face?
  • Why are the solutions to these problems/challenges important?
  • What are the consequences of not having the right solution?
  • How will they select the vendor/provider to provide the solution?
  • Why were the selection criteria chosen?
  • How do they prefer to interact with the vendor/provider?
  • What do they absolutely not want in a provider/vendor/solution (i.e. deal breakers)?
Pay particular attention to the answers to the “why” questions, because these will give you the reasons behind their needs, which are reasons you need to address when marketing to each persona.

What’s Next?

After you’ve conducted all the research, analyzed buying trends, and gotten answers to your interview questions, what do you do with all that research? In a word: categorize. Start grouping customer profiles based on the kind of solution they need, the kinds of problems they have, their goals, or any other common factor that makes sense for your business.
Once you have your customer profiles in specific groups, start looking for commonalities – not only in demographics, but in other traits as well. For example:
  • Do these customers rank their problems in a similar way? (i.e. 85% of customers who purchase X are looking for an answer to problem Y)
  • Which factors most influence the buying decision?
  • What questions do these customers ask, consistently?
  • Why are these customers choosing us over the competition?
Your persona will initially look something like this:
Persona: Janie Doe – 35 years old, works in customer acquisition, management role
Chief problems/pain points: Client needs a fast, simple way to keep track of lead interactions, past conversations, and sales for previous customers. Because of constant travel, client must have an integrated mobile access to any solution.
Ideal Solution: Mobile application that provides seamless integration with web and desktop apps. Triggers alerts for specific lead statuses as selected by the client.
Preferred Method(s) of contact: Social media – Twitter – or email
Most likely to purchase when: Quarterly sales numbers are coming due – two to three weeks prior
This is a solid starting point for both sales conversations and messaging for your online marketing. Already we see that this is a potential client who thrives on mobility. This means several things:
  • The mobile website for your company needs to be easy to navigate – chances are, this client isn’t going to be doing research at her desktop
  • Marketing copy needs to focus on the benefits of your app’s mobility, and custom alerts.
  • Your online outreach needs to include social media (Twitter specifically) and your email marketing campaign needs to demonstrate clear value.
Over time, as you get a more nuanced refinement of each customer persona, you will likely find other important details that can make or break a sale. It’s up to you to address these details both in person and in the marketing copy you use to attract leads.
Building personas takes serious effort and attention to detail, but the end result is a tighter, more effective marketing campaign. When you reach out to your leads, do you have a specific persona in mind? If not, it’s time to create them!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Incorporating Social Media into Your Workflow: Four Steps to Success

Can you imagine a world without social media?  These days everything is becoming integrated with social media - even your real world (in the store) shopping.  But how do you efficiently manage incorporating this into your daily routine?  On our blog at Bear Creek Web, we covered some basics:

For many small business owners, the first hurdle to overcome is finding the time to engage via social media. While there's no one-size-fits-all solution for the perfect social media workflow, that doesn't mean you can't develop a solution that's perfect for your business. Follow these four steps for a smooth start to your social media campaigns:

Step 1: Confirm Your Processes

In our first post we discussed the importance of coming up with a plan for your social media marketing campaigns. Now is the time to take another look at your plan to be sure you didn't forget any critical details. Be sure you have answers to these questions (at minimum):
  • Who will monitor social media conversations concerning your company?
  • What are the policies in place for what is acceptable for social media posts?
  • How will you handle misinformation or mistakes? (Tip: Mistakes are less important than how your company handles them. Prompt responses will leave a good impression.)
  • What are the policies in place for dealing with legitimate complaints?
  • What about compliments?
  • Whose responsibility will it be to compile the data from your social networks and report back on your goals?
To make it easier for everyone to be on the same page, set up a flowchart or some other visual depiction of how you will handle responses. This community management flowchart created by David Armano shows various process flows based on user sentiment in the conversation.  An organized strategy ensures both efficiency and a consistent response from the people handling social media engagement.
For acceptable social media use policies, you don't need to get complicated. A list of common sense guidelines, such as this social media policy from Best Buy, can work well to ensure that employees are informed about what is allowed, what isn't, and the consequences for breaching company policy.

Step 2: Integrate and Centralize

For Posting:
Even if you are starting with our recommendation of 2 or 3 social media channels, it can quickly become tedious having to log in and out of each one separately to make your posts. A social media management platform such as HootSuite or Viralheat can drastically cut down on the time you spend switching back and forth.
By adding your company's social media accounts to one platform, you get a more holistic view of how well you are engaging with your audience. Since many of these platforms also come with analytics, you can even pull together basic reports quickly and easily.
For Content:
If you intend to focus on content curation, you can apply the same concept to finding interesting articles and resources to share with your audience. You probably have various online resources and websites that you use to stay informed and current on topics relevant to your business.
Use a feed reader or press aggregator to pool all of these sites into one centralized location. Feed readers such as Google Reader will even allow you to search out new feeds based on your topics of interest, letting you uncover new sources you may not have realized existed.
Scanning a list of headlines and summaries for the most interesting articles takes much less time than surfing from website to website in search of engaging content. If your social media platform has posting capabilities integrated with your browser, publishing interesting links for your audience will take only a few clicks at most.
When it comes to content production, you can save time by thinking of ways to repurpose content you already have on hand. To be clear, repurposing does not mean serving up the same content again and again – that quickly gets boring and you will lose your audience.
Rather, you should think of different angles and ways to create new content around data and resources that you already have. For example, a company that specializes in skincare products could create a blog post about winter skincare. The same research that goes into this blog post could be used to extract salient data points for use in an infographic depicting the most common skin problems in winter. And the same research could be also be used to inform a podcast or video review about specific products designed to treat winter skin ailments.

Step 3: Incorporate Organically

Most people have a typical routine that they follow during the course of the business day. Add social media to your routine tasks such as checking email and responding to phone messages. By thinking of social media as a conversation and grouping it with tasks that are similar, you will be more productive.
When there are multiple people responsible for social media, try to create a flexible schedule that allows for staggered social media engagement. This ensures that someone is always monitoring online conversations around your brand, and that someone "owns" the social media channel throughout the day.
Employee contributions through official channels such as blog posts, whitepapers and eBooks can provide a boost to social engagement while still providing a measure of management control. The key to safely engaging this way is to be sure that all content is reviewed by management before it is posted publically.

Step 4: Be Flexible

Social media moves quickly, so flexibility is essential to maximize your engagement. Timely responses to questions, prompt posting of new and interesting content, and linking to new and potentially viral content may require that you step outside of your set scheduling from time to time. Don't be afraid to do this if the information or conversation is relevant and timely.
It is just as important to keep in mind that you are speaking with real people. Politeness can go a long way to building fans:
  • Thank people for their questions and set a timeline for resolution.
  • Ensure prompt customer service and tech support follow-up for legitimate complaints.
  • Let your followers know when you need to end the conversation for the moment.
You don't need to be too detailed. It can be as simple as posting: "Thanks for all the great questions. I'm going to take this back to the team and get you some answers in the next week."  Letting people know that they've been heard, and then following up as promised will help you to gain a loyal following.
Our next social media marketing post will focus on building your audience, and how to ensure that the interactions you have through your social media channels put your company in the best light possible.
Do you still have questions about social media marketing integration? Our team of experts is always ready to assist. Get in touch with us, and we'll help you to create a workable plan to reach your social media marketing goals. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Grow Your Social Media Audience: Building Successful Brand Interaction

How do you run a successful Social Media campaign, or even, build an interactive community for your business?  Social Media can be time consuming and a dead end, but it can also be a great way to manage your brand online.  In a post from our blog at Bear Creek Web Design, we go into some basics to help you delve deeper into the world of Social Media:


There are two types of social media users that you need to attract in order to see the biggest gains in ROI for your company's social media efforts: social influencers and potential customers. Social influencers are just that – people with large followings or fan bases that can influence how other users perceive a brand. Combine these with people who are a good fit for what your company sells, and who are interested in what you have to offer, and you have the basis for a social media audience with a solid ROI.
Ideally, you also want to gain brand advocates among your social influencers. Brand advocates are the "super fans" of social media, spreading positive messages about your company's products and services to their online audiences.
However, even those followers who aren't brand advocates can be worth more than the typical customer. American Express conducted a study last year on social media and customer service and found that customers who use social media are willing to spend 21% more on companies that provide great service. Customers who don't engage through social media are only likely to spend 13% more on average.
These same customers will tell nearly three times as many people about their positive experiences – 42 on average versus only 15 for those who are not socially engaged.
With that in mind, we've come up with the following 5 tips to help you grow your social media audience:

Always Listen First

Think of starting out on social media the same way you think about going to conferences or other public gatherings. Rather than talking to everyone around with no context, take the time to listen to the conversations going on within your target audience and find a place where your company will fit well.
In particular, pay attention to complaints and questions – especially if they pertain to you or your competition. Complaints are a goldmine of information that can tell you not only about what customers don't like, but about what they need and expect.
For example, if you notice a lot of customers venting about slow customer service or poor response times, you know that in order to create a great experience you need to be faster and more responsive than the competition.
Likewise, pay attention when people are asking questions about how a particular product or service works, and take note when there is not a lot of available information. Put together a guide on your website to answer those questions and you've taken an important step towards becoming a trusted resource that social influencers can refer others to when they need answers. 

Establish Trust

Effective listening makes it much easier to build trust in your target audience. Start interacting by offering ideas, answers, and questions of your own once you have a feel for the community.
If you decide to engage by soliciting feedback from customers and potential customers, be prepared to respond to any valid criticism in a positive, proactive way.
Trust is built gradually in online communities. You can help the process along by always being transparent in your communications. Follow-up and follow-through are particularly important. Always get back to people within timeframes promised, even if the conversation has moved to a private channel such as email. Always deliver on your promises and provide clear reasons for any delays or setbacks.
You can be sure that your followers and potential customers will be watching to see how you interact with current customers as they decide whether or not to engage with your brand. Give them a reason to trust you with their business.

Take Advantage of Tagging

Here's a brief, but important tip: Use tags to help you get found by people who are interested in what you have to say. This can be anything from hashtags on Twitter to the keyword tags on your blog posts. By consistently and thoughtfully tagging your posts, you can help your company grow an audience of interested users.
That being said, don't overuse tags on third-party social media as it can be perceived as spamming. Choose only a few relevant tags to include on those social media sites that support the practice.
For blog posts, you may want to include more tags to help users find related posts that will increase engagement. How many will vary based on the topics you cover, but choosing 3-5 relevant keywords will help boost visibility, especially if website visitors are able to search for posts via tags.

Be Genuine & Unique

Your customers come to you because your company offers something unique when compared to the competition. Keep true to your brand in your social media messaging, whether that is upscale and professional, quirky and fun, or anything in between.
A consistent company voice across all marketing channels – blog posts, tweets, Facebook and Google+ posts, etc. – will help you to gain more followers, and to come across as more genuine than the competition.
Another way to look at being genuine is to treat your followers and fans like "real people". Say thank you for positive feedback and mentions. Apologize and offer assistance when customers aren't happy. Offer feedback and suggestions for improving their experience with your products and services, and always be ready to go the extra mile to resolve issues before they become major incidents.
Being genuine in your social media interactions will do more than grow your brand, it will grow your business – 83% of social media users walk away from bad service.

Always Provide Value

It's important to realize that some people will follow your brand across multiple social media platforms. You can easily lose followers if you are careless about the way you post.
Don't mass-publish the same information on every platform. Keep your content fresh and your posts insightful and relevant.  However, this doesn't mean that you can't include posts on the same topic across multiple social media channels.
For example, you might announce a surprise sale through your Facebook page and via your newsletter. As the sale is winding down, you might tweet a reminder to your followers that they only have 24 hours left to take advantage.  Although all of these posts are promoting the same sale, your followers and fans will still gain value from each one. If you keep in mind the idea of providing value with each post, you'll be well on your way to establishing your company as one worth following in the social media sphere.
We'll wrap up our social media marketing series with a post to help you understand social media attribution and what you should track to determine the ROI of your social media campaigns.
If you still have questions about social media marketing, we're always happy to assist. Contact our team of social media marketing experts, and we'll help you to create a workable plan to reach your goals. 

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Take the Step from Passive to Active Thought Leadership

On our blog, the most recent post from last week deals with thought leadership in the digital marketing world.  What makes a thought leader in online marketing?  Read more here:

It’s one of the golden rules of online marketing: Establish yourself as a thought leader in your niche. With so much content being produced on a daily basis, it’s inevitable that a few essential “best practices” tend to get repurposed and repackaged over and over.
How then, do you establish yourself as a leader in your field, when most of the so-called “experts” are saying the same things across every online platform? The answer lies in becoming active in your thought leadership approach. Specifically, it’s the ability to demonstrate your expertise in a way that is unique, accurate, and quotable by others in the field.
With that in mind, here are our top four recommendations for becoming an active thought leader and a “doer” within your field.

Conduct Research & Share Reports

Everyone loves to quote statistics, and those numbers have to come from somewhere. If you have a sizable number of clients, web traffic, or other actionable data, you can put it to good use by crafting insightful reports.
Even if you don’t have data on hand, you can put together a questionnaire that will allow you to gather data that is relevant to your niche. Remember, the best reports:
  • Help to solve problems
  • Provide actionable insight
  • Are easy to understand and digest
  • Are easily sharable
  • Provide data that is relevant

Analyze Trends

If you don’t have a large audience to poll or a statistically significant amount of data to rely on, you can still generate very effective and insightful reports by analyzing trends. Think of this as a “meta” report – you examine data from multiple credible sources, combine it with your own expertise and draw relevant conclusions for your audience.
The same rules apply when analyzing trends – you want to provide analysis that provides actionable insight and is readily sharable/quotable by others in your niche.
Additionally, you want to make certain you cite all of your sources and back up your conclusions with the data you’ve used. In this way, you ensure that your analysis is considered highly credible and valuable to others in your field.

Share Original Tips and Tricks for Success

Your personal expertise is the foundation your brand is built upon. Capitalize on that by sharing what you’ve learned with others. While it doesn’t pay to share all of the innermost secrets that make your business a success, providing tips and tricks unique to your industry is a sure way to be noticed as an innovator in your field.
If you want the best response, you have to move past the typical “best practices” that most other companies share. Instead provide anecdotes of your own experiences and things that have worked for you, personally. This brings us to our final tip…

Be Engaged & Share Success Stories

One thing that thought leaders have in common is that they are more than the “company”. Thought leaders have a distinct personality and are always ready to share the passion for what they do with others. They tell stories and they engage with their audience on a meaningful level.
When talking about your success, stay away from the bland generalities and move into specifics. Talk about the time you helped a client figure out a complicated problem, and you demonstrate that you understand your niche and that you care about the success of your customers – two very important traits of leadership in any field.
What are some of your best success stories? Let us know in the comments about how you’re becoming a thought leader and we’ll pick some of the best stories to share in future posts and newsletters.
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