Website Features You Don’t Really Need

That barrage of options and possibilities can be hard to resist, which is why so many websites begin to look more like Frankenstein’s monster than Prince Charming. All of those website features — the widgets and toolkits and plugins — begin to add up.

You may think you’re a marketer by day and a consumer by night, but considering the number of marketing tools, services, experts, and ideas we’re bombarded with every day, we’re consumers even while wearing our marketing hats.

That barrage of options and possibilities can be hard to resist, which is why so many websites begin to look more like Frankenstein’s monster than Prince Charming. All of those website features — the widgets and toolkits and plugins — begin to add up.

It’s true that some live up to their promise, but all that noise these features create can blunt the effectiveness of your site.

Put more bluntly, you think you want website features. What you really want is effectiveness. Here’s how to keep your website on track.

Evaluate Web Marketing Tools Individually

Begin by evaluating any new feature you are tempted to include against your goals. Which goal(s) will it help you reach and what effort and resources will reaching those goals require? In other words, establish an expected ROI for the tool that you can measure its contribution against.

Evaluate Web Marketing Tools as a Whole

Examine the effort and resources mentioned above should also lead you to reviewing the new tool in relation to existing tools already in place. Is the new tool a 1:1 replacement of an existing tool? If so, can you A/B test them against one another?

Will the new tool work in tandem with an existing tool? Will it have an impact on that tool’s effectiveness? Is there still a net gain overall?

Evaluate Web Marketing Tools from Your Audience’s Perspective

Part of the ROI calculations above have to include audience attitudes and expectations. It would be great to know each prospect’s budget right from the start, but a new tool that asks for that information is going to drive your traffic down. Way, way down.

Real-world examples aren’t going to be that cut-and-dried, which circles us back to the idea of testing new tools whenever possible before implementing them across your entire marketing plan.

The One Feature Your Website Really Needs

More than anything else, you want a nimble website. One that helps you present a relevant message to each audience segment. One that speaks to prospects at each step in their buying cycle. One that encourages engagement and provides you with the opportunity to connect with prospects as they near their decision point.

Add all the bells and whistles you think will be effective, but track their impact on your web marketing metrics and make sure they support your ultimate goal — conversions.

Why Google Going to the Dark Side Is Bad for Advertisers

Over time, the simplicity of Google’s results page has clearly eroded. In the beginning, Google’s clear user interface was beloved to search users for its ease of access and clarity. It was easy to spot ads, because they were clearly marked. The Google SERP today is visually very noisy, with lots of distractions.

Over time, the simplicity of Google’s results page has clearly eroded. In the beginning, Google’s clear user interface was beloved to search users for its ease of access and clarity. It was easy to spot ads, because they were clearly marked. The Google search engine results page today is visually very noisy, with lots of distractions.

Google rolled out its new UX on mobile several months ago, and — in mid-January — applied the changes to desktop search. Contrary to the company’s claims that the new design “puts a site’s brand front-and-center, helping searchers better understand where information is coming from, more easily scan results and decide what to explore.”

But the change, in fact, blurs the user’s ability to easily differentiate ads from organic listings. These most recent changes have taken the desktop search engine results page into the dark side, for its UX exhibits “dark patterns” in how it differentiates advertising from organic results. This has a significant downside for advertisers, organic search marketers, and their audiences.

Dark Patterns

Coined by Harry Brignull, a London-based UX designer in July 2010, “dark patterns” are user interfaces that are carefully crafted to trick users into taking an action. Although the current layout places a bold “Ad” indicator next to text ads, and shows favicons next to organic brand listings, it is easy for the user scanning a search page quickly to overlook the ad notation or confuse the ad notation with the similarly placed favicons. Many users choose not to click advertisements, preferring to skim the listings for the page that most clearly suggests the answer to their search query. Savvy users know that the ad may not, in fact, deliver the most relevant page for their query and are wary of paid advertisements.

Google has made it harder for the user to rapidly differentiate, particularly on noisy desktop pages, paid ads from organic content. This new layout is not as distracting on mobile, where the small screen makes each listing stand out. The smaller screen visually reduces the clutter, forcing the user to focus on each result card.

A single search for “high heels shoes” on a desktop yields a cluttered page that includes “sponsored” shopping ads, ads (marked with bold Ad indicator), a set of accordions with “People also ask,” a map and local listings box, and finally organic results.

With all of this distraction, the user is likely to click unintentionally on a poorly differentiated ad. In the future, it will be easy for Google to slip more ads into the pages without creating user awareness of the volume of ads being served.

Why Is This Bad?

When the user cannot clearly differentiate an ad from an organic listing, the advertiser pays for clicks that are unintentional. This depletes the advertiser’s budget, without delivering sales conversions. It is too early to tell the exact levels of the unintentional clicks, but it is my clear bet that there will be a significant volume of them.

Contrary to claims, the new UX is not good for the user. It forces the user to slow down to avoid making a perhaps erroneous decision. Rather than enhancing the user experience, the user will be less satisfied with the results delivered.

For organic search marketers, the redesign makes it imperative to have a favicon that works and clearer branding in the search Titles and Descriptions — because the actual link has been visually downgraded. It is now above the Title.

It is expected that Google will continue to test new ways to demarcate ads from content, but the continued blurring of paid and organic results only really benefits Google.

Site Redesigns Don’t Always Improve Search Results

Many e-commerce sites redesign and relaunch with a new look in the fall to capture the attention of holiday shoppers. One of the stated goals of most site redesigns is the endless search for … improved search results. In this article, I’d like to provide some cautionary observations on why these efforts sometimes fail.

Many e-commerce sites redesign and relaunch with a new look in the fall to capture the attention of holiday shoppers. One of the stated goals of most site redesigns is the endless search for … improved search results. In this article, I’d like to provide some cautionary observations on why these efforts sometimes fail.

A clumsy redesign can cause a decline in search results; however, here are four less obvious reasons for inadvertent failure: Putting old wine in a new skin, larding up the optimization, rushing to judgment, and neglecting the infrastructure. Let’s explore each of these in a little more detail.

Old Wine in a New Skin

It is an error to assume that simply changing the look of the site’s templates will yield improved search results. Unless there are changes in the code, a rerouting of the customer journey, and reordering of the presentation, the site has merely undergone a “reskinning” not a redesign.

If the site simply has new imagery slapped on the same old site, the old wine has been poured into a new skin.

It is the same old wine, and no improvements will ensue. It is unwise to expect improved search results when nothing has changed that directly influences what a search engine (or a customer) encounters. For improved search results, changes must be made to the elements of the site that provide search signals. If there are no changes to any of the elements that signal relevancy, Google does not really care that your site templates are a new chic color with pretty graphics.

Relevancy signals might include:

  • Improvements to the customer journey that reduce bounce rate.
  • Recoding H1s and H2s can highlight the content that is significant for search.

Since search is signals-driven, there is no reason to expect improved results — unless the signals change.

Larding up the Optimization

Just adding content is not, in itself, a winning search strategy.

Yes! Today, content is king. And content provides the most essential signal for search. Adding content that is over-optimized, larded thickly with too many keywords, and offering nothing of value, is a recipe for harming the site’s search results, not improving them.

As I have previously written, sites perform better when the content is regularly refreshed and pruned to improve the search signals. Simply adding a large volume of new content without reviewing, trimming, and pruning the existing content will not yield the improvements in search results that can be seen with the use of a more strategic approach that views each piece of content as a signal flag. A large field of jumbled flags will not provide the same clarity that fewer more prominent flags will.

Rushing to Judgment

In almost 40 years working in technology, I have hardly ever worked on a project that was completed ahead of schedule with every planned element completed. If there are elements of a redesign that will influence search, skipping past them or only partially completing the tasks invites poor results.

In my experience, it is sometimes wise to focus keen attention on those elements of the redesign that will influence search ahead of other less sensitive areas. If tradeoffs must be made, it is important to focus on the search-sensitive elements (recoding, rerouting, and strengthening the search signals) as opposed to those elements that are visual only.

Neglecting Infrastructure

Site speed and a positive mobile experience are important for search results, as well as customer interaction. Therefore, it is important to include improving site speed and the mobile experience as part of a redesign or relaunch. If it is slated for post-relaunch, the search results will not necessarily improve. Fix infrastructure first, then improve the signals, and finish with the visuals and you can expect a successful relaunch.

Don’t put old wine a new bottle, Google is a connoisseur of site content.

Digital Marketing Strategy Involves Knowing When to Seek an Outside Perspective

In deciding how to tackle a marketing problem, you should consider whether insider expertise, an outside perspective, or a combination of the two will lead to the best possible outcome.

Tackling digital marketing tasks — as with just about any other business task — can lead you to solutions under your own roof or to bringing in outside help.

Primary motivators in that decision-making process are likely to be cost, of course, or expertise. Do you have someone with the necessary skills and enough bandwidth to take on the project?

There should be another consideration, as well: would an outside perspective provide value that an in-house resource can’t?

The situations below provide some possible paths with which you might approach your own marketing conundrums, even if they aren’t an exact match for these examples.

Website Architecture and Navigation

For all but the most complex of websites, structure and navigation look deceptively simple. (Most sites with overly complex navigation could probably be better organized.)

And of course, most of us spend a fair amount of time on the web, so we feel we can tell a good experience from a bad one.

But just because your team members have their opinions doesn’t mean they can translate them into a useful set of recommendations that fit your website’s needs. That’s where applicable experience becomes valuable, though that experience doesn’t necessarily require an outside perspective.

The real value an outside perspective provides is an ability to more easily view your message and content in the same way your target audience will. An outside expert is not saddled with the deeply ingrained knowledge that any well-versed marketing employee will have.

An outside perspective here can mean the difference between a site that is set up to mimic your firm’s org chart or business units, and a site that is organized to appeal to each of your most important audience segments and gather the information they’re likely to be most interested in.

Content Strategy and Content Development

But an outside perspective doesn’t always win the day. For example, when it comes to content development, we encourage our clients to devote skills and resources needed to generate content themselves, in-house. Nobody will ever know your business as well as your own team does, though a long-term “permalancer” can come very close. In that case, though, they’re not really providing an outside perspective. Quite the opposite; they are outsiders who are essentially assimilating your culture.

There are exceptions, as with problem areas that seem like they should be producing a positive marketing ROI but are not. An outside perspective can be all that’s needed to make the adjustment that get the results rolling in.

Same Old Wine in a Brand New Jar

(Bonus points if you can name the song from which that line comes. Hint: It’s by The Who, but it’s not one of their big hits.)

Finally, there are instances where the combination of an outside perspective and inside knowledge are an unbeatable combination. We see this during the discovery process we run before website design or coding get underway.

As we seek out input from a wide range of stakeholders, we get an incredible range of perspectives, from the marketing team, as you’d expect, but also from top-level executives, as well as entry-level customer-facing employees.

An outside perspective alone wouldn’t provide any great value, but when combined with great insights from the inside team, the outcomes are incredibly powerful. The outside expert may not add any new thinking; they simply help the internal team view the insights they themselves have from another angle.

These three paths — inside knowledge only, outside perspective, and the two working together — should all be considered as you address your everyday marketing tasks, as well as the thorny issues we all face from time to time. Putting the right kind of team together is an important part of crafting the best solution.

Striving for Continuous Website Marketing Improvement

Taking small actions on a regular basis are likely lead to more meaningful improvements to your website marketing than a large investment in a website “refresh” or relaunch every two or three years.

It’s a mistake to think about your website marketing efforts as set-it-and-forget-it investments.

You’re probably thinking, “Well, yeah. That’s pretty obvious!”

It’s unlikely that you aren’t aware of the value and importance of a steady stream of fresh content on your website at this point in the maturity of the web as a digital marketing tool. And you’re almost certainly already aware of the necessity to integrate your website into your marketing more broadly, from your email marketing to your social media efforts to your CRM system.

All of which means you have a pretty dynamic website. It doesn’t look the same today as it did six months ago.

But that’s not where your growth-focused thinking should end. If you seek to continually improve your marketing performance, you have to implement incremental changes to your website on a regular basis.

Finding the Right Frequency for Marketing-Focused Website Updates

How frequently you make these changes will depend on your site’s traffic volume and the resources you have to identify opportunities for improvement and to make the necessary changes .

Regardless of frequency, the key is to make changes systematically and track performance so you know what’s working and what isn’t.

The improvements you make should be based on three kinds of data:

  • Straightforward analytics metrics
  • Feedback from prospects, clients, your sales team, and other client-facing staff
  • Your gut

That last one is sure to be either a shock to your system or to make you sigh with relief. Even with data-driven marketing being all the rage — and justifiably so, in most situations — there’s no reason not to lean on your years of experience and what your inner voice is telling you.

For example, a client of ours didn’t have a lot of data to back up the changes she wanted to make to a section of her website that was neither outperforming nor lagging behind other content. She just had a hunch that changes would have an impact on engagement and lead generation.

We helped her update the presentation of this particular content in a way that made it more useful beyond the website, easier to connect to through her email marketing, and far more sharable on social media.

We also worked to update her analytics so that future updates in this areas could be based on metrics, as well any hunches the client had.

What Will Move the Marketing Needle?

Not sure what might move the needle? The best places to start include these:

  • Calls to action
  • Content gating strategies
  • Progressive profiling parameters
  • Page layout and design
    • Colors
    • Pull quotes
    • CTA placement

Changes to any one of these could yield measurable improvements in engagement or conversion rates. And taking small actions on a regular basis are likely lead to more meaningful website marketing improvements than a large investment in a website “refresh” or relaunch every two or three years.

Overall, the key to continuous improvement in your marketing is measurement. Experimentation and adjustment can easily become change for change’s sake, if you’re not measuring impact.

I would also caution against chasing after the latest shiny object. That’s a real danger, if you implement a policy of incremental changes without a long-term plan documented and agreed to by your entire team. Know where you want to go in the long-term and take short-term actions to move you closer to your digital marketing goals.

How to Keep Your Website Designs From Becoming Hot (Visual) Messes

Your CMS should support your website design by allowing content editors the control they need without unfettered access to the site’s look and feel.

Put 10 graphic designers in a room and they’ll have 50 stories about beautiful website designs they launched that looked just awful six months or a year later.

That’s the double-edged sword of modern content management systems. A CMS gives content managers a tremendous amount of control. Used wisely, that control can help make a website even more effective as a marketing tool over time.,

Without forethought and planning, though, marketing effectiveness plummets as brand identity is lost and the site’s message is muddied by design inconsistencies and outright errors. Here are some ideas on ways to short-circuit that decay.

Plan for Distributed Control

It won’t always be you and your development team with tight control of the site and its content. In most organizations, a broader team is going to be invited to participate. And even on smaller teams, staff turnover is nearly always inevitable. New faces can mean new priorities.

To keep those new faces from wreaking havoc, even accidentally, coordinate between the coding team and the design team during discovery to define what content elements should be automatically styled and laid out on the front end.

For example, your team page is likely to see a fair amount of change as team members come and go or are promoted. If you create automatically styled fields for name, title, credentials and bio/personal statement, you won’t find a mish-mash of colors and fonts, as people neglect to refer to your style guide or website user’s guide.

Don’t forget to define parameters for headshots, either. A formal headshot will look out of place on a grid of more casual shots and vice versa. An incorrectly sized photo can wreck the grid layout entirely.

Plan for Exceptions

Narrowing the possibilities for errors due to inattention to lack of knowledge also means introducing some measure of inflexibility. That can create problems, if the site is made too difficult to use and incapable of adapting to changing circumstances.

For example, on the team page example above, you may have a type of employee who has professional credentials, as well as titles. A checkbox could allow content editors to activate the “Credentials” field when necessary. The positive action required to use the field makes it less likely that it be used inappropriately than if the field is always available.

Make sure the marketing team is part of the planning conversation so they can identify likely exceptions to the rules you’re creating and options can be built in.

Automate Styling

Assumed in the work above is that the fields you create for different pieces of content are styled automatically. Do not give content editors control of WYSIWYG or code-based editors except for long-form content where they will likely need control over bold, italics, bullet points, etc. Otherwise, any edits they make will override the styling you’ve set site-wide and result in that mish-mash we want to avoid.

Make Staying on Message Easy

This isn’t just about fonts and colors. Anyone who has access to your website’s administrative dashboard should also have access to and be familiar with your branding guidelines and the website user guide.

The branding guidelines will help keep everyone on the same track in those areas of the site where more flexibility is needed. Don’t forget to include guidelines on stock image usage. That’s an area that is often not addressed and one where many content editors may lack experience.

The user guide will provide information on how the site is intended to be used and how they can best prepare new content to work within the system you’ve designed.

Plan for Evolving Needs

Understand that the site you build today will not be the site you need tomorrow. That’s not a knock against websites or digital marketing or technology more broadly. That’s just the nature of business (and marketing) in a fast-paced world.

Budget for quarterly reviews of the site and yearly updates. Or, adopt a message-driven approach and budget for incremental updates on an ongoing basis. That can be easier to do from a budget standpoint and can make your marketing even more effective. You’re effectively shortening the cycle between updates.

Most importantly, let people know this matters. Someone will always choose expedience over effort, at some point; but if you make the process easier, your systems will win more often.

And that’s important, because this is not just about skin-deep beauty. It’s about keeping your site’s marketing effectiveness high.

website designs secondary

Improving Website Engagement Means Getting Your Site Visitors to Stay

Getting website visitors to stick around is critical in moving them through the buying cycle. Here are the aspects of your site to focus on to increase engagement and conversion.

On Saturday mornings, the station my clock radio is set to play “Living on Earth,” a show about environmental topics. After a brief intro on the show’s topics, the host Steve Kirwood says, “Stick around!” before cutting over to the local news.

I’m not sure if his jaunty delivery makes more people stay tuned in through the news break, but it sure has stuck in my head. And it comes to mind today, because getting visitors to stick around on your website is a critical component in your site’s marketing and lead generation success. Here are some tips for encouraging deeper website engagement.

What’s in It for Them?

Make it impossible for your audience to miss what’s in it for them. Forget your years of experience and and your awards and how great you are. That’s not going to get them to stick around. (Yet.) More on this below. Make sure your value proposition is front-and-center.

Be Entertaining

Often overlooked in the focus on being informative — which clearly is critical — you should also pay attention to whether your content that is fun to read, view or listen to.

B2B shouldn’t mean “Boring to Boring.”

We’re all people — even when we’re in the office — and we all like to enjoy even the mundane moments of our day. No, you’re not likely to make your B2B site as bingeworthy as the latest Netflix hit, but you can make people smile. And that’s going to help keep them engaged.

Be Informative

Because you can’t be Netflix, you have to be valuable. It’s just that simple. People aren’t coming to your site primarily to be entertained, anyway; they’re coming to learn more about how they might solve a business problem. Help them do that, and they’ll not only stick around longer, they’ll be back more frequently.

Write Well

All of the above implies good writing, but it’s worth pointing out that your content has to compete with a lot — not just other firms offering the same service, but all the fun stuff on social media and everywhere else. You have to craft more-than-passable prose.

If you can afford to hire a good writer, do so. Work with her or him often enough so he or she knows your company and your products inside and out and can craft a strong story.

If budget is an issue and you have to do the writing yourself even though you’re not 100% confident in your skills, go against your instinct to write less. Write more. The more you write, the more quickly your writing will go from questionable (or wherever it is now) to captivating. That’s your goal.

Perspective Matters

In your writing and the way you organize your site, think from your prospect’s perspective. If you’ve presented your value proposition properly, you’re well on your way. Keep that value central to all your writing, as well as your site’s navigational controls and structure. Even your calls to action should follow this principal and answer the question, “What would someone who’s just consumed this piece of content be interested in next?”

Ask for the Sale

Speaking of calls to action, find the balance between overdoing it and never doing it. You may not be literally asking for a sale, but you should be asking your audience to take the next step in building a relationship with you. Get them to take that next step by making the next step logical and rewarding.

Track Engagement

With these ideas implemented on your site, you should see an increase in engagement metrics, like average session time and number of pages viewed per session. You are tracking these data points, aren’t you?

By they way, if you’re wondering why I have an alarm set on Saturday mornings, so am I. Our dogs always have me up before the alarm goes off, anyway …

The Easiest Part of Building Websites

Building websites doesn’t have to be painful or frustrating. Proper planning and air-tight documentation will make the process smooth — and the results much more effective.

I was recently in a meeting with a prospective client. We’d made it to the final cut: just us and one other firm still being considered. During that meeting, I mentioned that my job building websites was easy, which got a laugh, as intended.

Really, beyond the fact that I love what I do — which makes just about anything easy, even raising kids or puppies — what I meant was that what most clients think of when they think of building websites — the coding and programing — is the easiest part of the process.

Planning and prep make website success more likely

Based on the horror stories we’ve heard from clients who have war stories to tell, that’s not always the case. And the only reason the coding is the easiest part of my job is because of all the work we do before the coding ever gets started.

Before all the coders and programmers out there send me bags full of hate mail, let me qualify my claim of “easy.” Coding and programming isn’t really easy, but it’s a whole lot harder if you don’t have a plan.

We create our plan through our discovery process, where we do a deep dive into what the website needs to do. Armed with that information we develop a series of documents that lay out

  • who the target audience is
  • how we’re going to attract that audience
  • what action we want site visitors to take
  • and what content, features, and functionality we need to achieve our goals

In other words — the really tough part of the job happens before coding (and design, for that matter) are even beginning. It’s the discovery process, in which we create planning documents that lay out exactly what we need the site to do in order to succeed, that makes other steps so much less painful.

Those documents are:

  • Strategy Brief
  • Site Map
  • Wireframes
  • Functional Specification
  • Design Brief

With these core, critical documents, you create a framework that provides guidance to the team that will be down in the trenches doing the design work, copywriting, and coding.

To these documents we can also add outlines for KPIs, integration with other marketing efforts, and maintenance and security protocols.

Too often, we see clients balk at the process, feeling that they “just need to get the new site up” rather than “waste time with all of these planning exercises.” (Which always brings to mind the snarky thought, if you don’t have time to do it right, when are you going to find the time to do it again?)

If you’re tempted to forego proper planning because it’s just a small update or because time is of the essence, I urge you to reconsider. You’ll never regret the time you invest in thinking through your goals in something more than a perfunctory way.

And if your web development team looks at you like you’ve got three heads when you suggest a process that creates the documents above, press the pause button and reconsider your partnership.

Digital Marketing and the Importance of Not Going It Alone

If you build a coalition of champions for your digital marketing as you’re building your website, you’ll find them an extremely helpful group once your marketing is underway.

I talk a lot about how important a thoughtful and comprehensive planning process is for successful web development projects — particularly if you have expectations for your new website to contribute to your digital marketing efforts.

One aspect of that planning process worth keeping in mind even after site launch – throughout the life of your digital marketing efforts, in fact – is getting buy-in and building consensus. In other words, it’s a mistake to go it alone.

There are a number of ways that it’s beneficial to get your colleagues to buy into a shared vision of what your new website should be. The two that I want to address for on-going attention are

  • Getting the Best Information
  • Building Believers

Spotlighting the dream team

Getting the Best Information

It’s incredibly difficult to view the world from someone else’s perspective. (See Washington, D.C. and just about every state capitol …) So perhaps the most important reason we have for getting our stakeholders involved early is to get as much pertinent information from them as possible. Instead of struggling to pretend you’re someone you’re not, get those people to contribute their thoughts on how your digital marketing will best serve their needs.

Obviously, this makes perfect sense as you’re building your new site. It can be just as helpful post-launch, when your goal is to adapt your efforts as data begins to tell a story about how well your site is working. They’re the experts and have the knowledge you need – product knowledge, client knowledge, market knowledge.

Building Believers

An added benefit of seeking out stakeholder opinions as you’re planning your site is that you frequently can give those stakeholders a feeling of ownership. Rather than feeling forced to use a tool that’s been delivered from on high, they are more likely to feel a sense of ownership and put in the effort required to use the tools you’ve created.

Post-launch, these benefits continue as your true believers are likely to help you to continue shaping a tool rather than abandoning it if it isn’t quite hitting all the marks it needs to.

Your goals as as marketer can’t be limited to success within your department or metrics that are of limited value. (Likes, subscribers, and followers don’t pay the rent for most of us.) You have to aim to have business-wide impact as measured by business metrics – leads, sales, and revenue.

That’s much easier to achieve if you have a broader base to stand on and a broad coalition of champions helping you to help them.

The Power of an Open Mind in Digital Marketing

Whatever digital marketing problem you’re grappling with, an open mind and altered perspective can power innovative thinking and extraordinary marketing results.

An Open Mind in Digital MarketingAs I mentioned in my last post, I spoke at Wordcamp NYC recently. It was a great event, as an attendee and as a presenter. One of the experiences that made the day so worthwhile was, I must admit, a little bit of a shock. It came out of a conversation with a fellow digital marketer and web developer, Judi Knight, who has a completely different approach to wireframing than we do.

Since I was speaking just a few hours later on that very topic — actually, the whole design & development planning process — panic pretty quickly set in. What if everything I was planning on saying was wrong?! What if I looked like an idiot and there was general revolt amongst the audience?!

At least some of that was general pre-public speaking jitters, but it did bring to light the importance of an open mind. That is, there’s great value to not having the “that’s how we’ve always done it” mindset in your approach to digital marketing.

So after my initial freak-out moment, I realized that Judi’s approach, while clearly very powerful flexible, and cost effective for her and her team, was not a good fit for our clients and their expectations, for a variety of reasons.

 

But I continued to wonder whether that was really true or it was just my ego defending the “truths” I was already invested in. Without going anywhere near the current polarized political climate in the U.S., it’s easy to see how dangerous a closed mind can be to getting great digital marketing results.

So, I continued to wonder whether this new-to-me idea could be of value, and I am still thinking about how we might adapt her approach to our process. Could it help us attract different clients? Could it help us better serve our existing clients? Could it save us money?

I would encourage you to think about your own processes in the same way. That can be quite difficult to do without outside stimuli (AKA a kick in the ass) so it’s worthwhile to look for opportunities to refocus your perspective. Here are a few suggestions on doing just that.

Colleagues

Obviously, with my story above, colleagues at other firms really do need to be at the top of my list. That’s why it’s worth going to gathering of like-minded folks. You may not meet your next client, which is often our focus in attending events, but you may find a fantastic new way to win business.

For example, I actually had a second experience at Wordcamp with a colleague telling me about a tool she’s just started using as a replacement for one I’ve been dying to dump for nearly a year. I can’t wait to check it out as it could lower our costs for one particular service line and make it easier for us to attract new business there.

New Co-Workers

These are almost the same thing as colleagues at other firms. That is, that’s likely exactly what they were until you hired them. So ask them, as they’re getting oriented, not just to buy into “The Andigo Way” or whatever you call your company culture, but to examine it and offer ideas on things that just don’t make sense or seem inefficient. (And if they come from an entirely different industry, all the better. They’re even more likely to have a different take.)

The Experts

Coaches and consultants are typically far, far better at answering process-oriented questions than we are ourselves. That’s part of why they can be so valuable. They have the detached perspective that most of us lack, and they have the experience of helping organizations of all types. So even if they aren’t, say, experts in the wireframing process, they’ve probably dealt with many firms just like yours. They may not have the answers, but they are adept at facilitating the process in which you find the answers yourself.

The Collective

Despite conventional wisdom, the intertubes are good for more than sharing cat videos and spewing political invective at idiots. (Read: anyone who doesn’t agree with me. I jest … ) It’s also a great place to find a community of folks deeply passionate about just about any subject you can imagine. (Like, cat videos, for example …) And you’re likely to find a range of opinions from the most conservative to the most avant garde. From toe-the-line corporate thinking to roll-your-own risk taking.

Wherever on that spectrum you find yourself, and whatever problem it is you’re grappling with, one or more of these groups above can help you approach your digital marketing in a more effective way. The key, though, is in being open to new ideas and different ways of thinking in the first place. Adopting that open mindset can power innovative thinking and extraordinary marketing results.