How to Know When It’s Time to ‘Dump’ Your Old Website

13 10 2011

Dumping your old websiteYou know that girlfriend who’s been playing discus with your glassware, or the boyfriend who encourages friends to wipe Cheetos-fingers across your white couch? Sometimes it’s so easy to know when they’ve simply gotta go.

But websites that misbehave, misrepresent or just completely miss the mark are surprisingly agile at ‘dump’-evasion. The reason? Time.

Business owners and entrepreneurs are, by definition, time-deprived. Clients, dilemmas and opportunities are constantly (and rightfully) laying claim to the limited landscape of our schedules. So, an ineffective website can, and frequently does linger online for years past its expiration date, while our attention is elsewhere.

When’s the last time you combed through your website? Heck, when’s the last time you even visited? It’s easy to get hyped at its initial launch, then forget it’s there as the years go by. Too many sites are filled with irrelevant, expired or inaccurate information. And, unfortunately, those inconsistencies are making your company look bad.

Facing the reality of how critical an online presence is these days, we have a mission: Determine if our existing site is destined to go the way of the dinosaur. Here’s how you can tell if it’s time to ‘dump’ the old site:

1) When it no longer accurately represents your business. It’s important that your website reflects the look, the feel, the culture, the clients, the mission and the message of your company.

2) When it’s difficult to use. If your navigation is clunky, your website resembles an advanced level maze, there’s acres of page scrolling or your customers can’t figure out how to get past the home page, it’s time to let your old site go.

3) When user response is negative or non-existent. If your customers don’t like interacting with your site or, worse yet, AREN’T interacting with your site, then it’s definitely on its way out.

4) When its out of date. This warrants refreshed content at the very least and, optimally, a fresh, new design. Retro can be cool, but not when it means that your website looks like it was built in a prehistoric, glitchy edition of Publisher.

5) When you can’t update it yourself. This is something I feel strongly about. With today’s technology, you should always have the ability to tweak your own site content. Hours change, prices fluctuate, images need refreshing. If you prefer to leave that in the hands of experts, as a web designer, I applaud your decision. We designers can apply our creative skills toward making those updates look exceptional! However, you should never be locked out of your own site’s maintenance, particularly when frequent updates may benefit your website’s traffic flow.

6) When it’s not multi-device friendly. With the rise of hand-held devices – iPhones, iPads, iPods (yep, I’m an Apple fan), Droids, Blackberries, etc – your website has to at least be viewable on a variety of different systems and screens.

7) When it can’t grow with your business. This goes along with the updatability of #5. Your business is constantly evolving, so the needs of your website, the needs of your customer and the needs of your company are going to change. Your website should have the flexibility to grow, morph and support those changes along the way.

8 ) When it’s no longer benefiting your business. If it’s not serving the purpose it was intended for – whether that be an online brochure, e-commerce store, resource center or place for customers to connect – then it’s time to ditch the site.

DMT Challenge of the Week
Give your website a once-over for potential problems. Then run through it again with a customer’s perspective in mind. Was it easy to navigate? Does the ‘look’ suit your business? Is it welcoming? Are the text and photos all current and correct? Do you have administrative access, so that you can easily make updates, as needed?

Jot down the issues, and decide whether it’s time to ‘dump’ your old site and launch your company back into online orbit with a fresh, new website.

You know what I do. You know I can help. Please feel free to browse samples of DMT web designs, and contact me for a quote. It would be a privilege to light the spark of life under your online presence!

Dawn M. Tomczyk  |  DMT Artistry LLC  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com

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Putting a Paper Bag Over Your Head: The Importance of Good Design

8 09 2011

Bad design is like putting a bag over your headBusiness Number 1 is decked out in a magnificent tower of dramatically dazzling headgear.

Business Number 2 wears an equally stunning hat in more classically elegant lines.

Business Number 3 has a paper bag over its head.

1 and 2 are attracting all sorts of positive attention. 3 is hiding its light under generic grocery brown. What happened?

The difference is in the design.

As a small or start-up company, it’s easy to conclude that personally managing your own branding, online presence and print marketing will save you a bundle. Because it will… up front. But at what cost to your future?

The gift of the true entrepreneur is to think in terms of future value. And this is where a graphic designer can help.

Businesses 1 and 2 have recognized the value of working with a professional designer to create an image that draws eyes and interest. Their designer helped them build continuity across all marketing to make them memorable and instantly recognizable in a crowd. Their designer also helped them express the personality and culture of the business with unique marketing materials. Their ads visually and psychologically target the right audience. Their message comes across with clarity. Their branding suits both who they are now, and who they want to become.

In short, they’re wearing some pretty cool hats.

Business 3, on the other hand, presents generic marketing messages that are muddled and non-representative of the business. Its designs are unprofessional and make the business appear unprofessional by extension. There’s nothing particularly memorable about its ads. Its branding is non-existent.

For all intents and purposes, business 3 has pulled a paper bag over its head.

Understand, professional doesn’t mean cold or corporate. In fact, it takes ingenuity, expertise, enthusiasm and warmth to create marketing materials that intrigue, attract and build empathy and rapport.

Just as books are judged by their covers, business are judged daily by the marketing “hats” they wear. You hire professionals to prepare your business taxes, manage your legal contracts, replace the roofing, install your security system, ship your products and protect your profits. The all-important image of your business deserves the same professional treatment.

DMT Challenge of the Week
Look through your 2011 marketing materials – logos, ads, websites, posters, etc. Challenge yourself to view them from a potential customer’s perspective. What kind of message are you sending about your business, your level of professionalism and your expectation of success? Is there a consistent style across your materials?

Compare your marketing to your competitors’. Is yours distinguishable from theirs? Is your branding unique enough to not only be memorable, but to attract more attention, as well?

Now compare your marketing to a company in your field that’s at the level of success and profitability you ultimately want to achieve. How does yours measure up? Is your image holding you back, or driving you forward?

Ready to ditch the paper bag? DMT can design your business to the next level:

Dawn M Tomczyk  |  DMT Artistry LLC  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com

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Bagels & Bites: A Foodie Favorite Gets a Website Makeover

9 02 2011

Ask just about any local and, guaranteed, they’ll have met a friend, cut a business deal, staved off post-exercise hunger, launched their morning or grabbed lunch-on-the-go at Bagels & Bites of Brighton, Michigan.

Talk about a local hot spot. This café/deli has everything a hungry patron could want: fresh, wholesome food; rich, gourmet coffees; and the friendliest staff you’d ever want to meet. And did I mention their bagels? Yum. Just yum.

In short, Bagels & Bites Café and Deli is a business that has built a fanatically devoted fan base (a few pointers on how to do this!) on the sheer excellence of their products and the way they make you feel like you’ve come home.

Bagels & Bites former website - sterile and unwelcomingThe Dilemma – Online / in-store disconnect

Bagels & Bites previous web presence (left) was limited to a bland, rigid website that the owners Roger and Marie Barrow described as “corporate”. It was built from a generic, sterile and unremarkable template – in fact, a polar opposite of the actual Bagels & Bites shop culture. Their website wasn’t the destination spot or online “hug” that it needed to be.

In short, Bagels & Bites website was just itching for a personality infusion.

The DMT Solution – A scrumptious website makeover

Bagels & Bites website

First on the list: scrap the generic, dead-pan template, and build a custom design from scratch. Their website needed to be warm and inviting – like a cup of Bagels & Bites steamy Café Mocha on a shivery, Michigan winter morning. It needed to be lively – like the cheerful banter of the Bagels & Bites staff. It needed to evoke hunger – we wanted stomachs to growl as visitors perused the site. Here’s how we made it happen:

  • Rich, caramely chocolate colors warm the site, while fresh white spaces represent the cleanliness that their customers expect and appreciate.
  • The straight, rigid boxiness of the former site was ditched for an organic,  round-edged design that exudes comfort and bonhomie.
  • A “life-size” background image sets the scene, and makes you feel like you’re actually there!
  • Blocky photos? Forget about it! The photos used in Bagels & Bites new website were designed to look like you can reach in, pluck them off the page and taste them.
  • Personality radiates from the fun graphics, charming verbage and image-rich pages.
  • A bit of HTML cleverness allows the owner to switch up his vast store of wonderful sayings on the Home Page “Chalkboard”.
  • Additionally, every page contains morsels of food to whet the appetite.
  • A blog page gives the owners a chance to keep the website fresh, and to post specials, food photos and other fun tidbits of information.
  • We also optimized their website with keyword integration for more effective searchability.

The Result

Whoa, nelly. We’re accustomed to a positive response, but this one takes the cake for sheer volume of responses! Bagels & Bites enjoyed a positive slew of fan commentary on Facebook, phone calls and emails of congratulations to the Roger and Marie, business to the shop, new customers, and fresh “fans” of the Bagels & Bites Facebook page.

We’d like to add our own accolades here: Congratulations, Bagels & Bites, for a successful launch and a well-earned spotlight on your business. We’ll be by for lunch!

We’d love to design personality-packed marketing materials for your business! Contact us:

Dawn M. Tomczyk  |  DMT Artistry, LLC  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com





Business, Meet Pleasure: The Facebook Conundrum (Part II of II)

2 02 2011

Launching your posts into social media orbitSo, social media. It’s a marketing tool. Let’s move on…

Last week, I gave you some ideas about how to post responsibly, and how to hold yourself accountable with regular posting. This lays the foundation for your social media marketing success.

Now, in this second part to my “Facebook Conundrum” blog, let’s talk content. Of all the questions my clients ask with regards to social networking, this one tops the charts:

“What the heck do I post about?”

There are a couple things you want to keep in mind here. First, Facebook and MySpace and Twitter (etc.) are, above all, about fun. It’s fun to indulge our mildly voyeuristic desire to peek into people’s daily lives and activities. Many users recognize this on some level, and spruce up their posts with fun commentary, fun links, fun pictures and fun videos. It makes THEM appear fun, and we all like a fun person, right?

On the same bent, businesses who are attempting to market their product or services can tap into this “fun”ness to ramp up their like-ability and memorability.

However, you wouldn’t get very far with your marketing if you blasted funny videos and cartoons all day, every day. You’ve got something to sell, and that somehow needs to get across to your readers. Hard sells aren’t “cool” in these most sacred of online “escape from the daily grind” institutions.

Let’s take a look at some launching pads for post possibilities, shall we?

Resources: You’ve got something we want, and that’s in-depth knowledge of your field. What do you know, that we might need or want to know, too? Links to helpful content? Recommendations? Tips and tricks? Professional advice?

Imagery & Videos: “A picture is worth a thousand words” isn’t just hype. Visuals garner more attention than plain-jane text. If you sell a cool product, have readers contribute photos of them using it. If you offer a first-rate service, post videos of the process. Think creative.

Fun Stuff: The occasional dancing elves video, funny quotation and tongue-in-cheek cartoon are acceptable, too, when used in good taste.

Soft Sells: Don’t beat people over the head with your sales spiel; sometimes it’s okay to beat around the bush. Invite them to store barbecues. Laugh about a funny situation at work. Share your joy over a super-satisfied customer. If you’re genuine, people will respond.

Questions: One of the best ways to figure out what your potential customers like or want is… drum roll, please… to ask!! Go figure! Throwing out the occasional query gives you a good gauge of who’s reading, and helps you direct future content toward what they want to know.

If you’d like to see five of my favorite examples of businesses, local and otherwise, that are doing a phenomenal job of social media marketing, check out the following (click their name to visit their Facebook page). A measure of their success is how often people post or respond to posts on their page. Take a look:

Disney

Hometown Bicycles

Old Spice

Shi Lessner Photography

Photojojo

There are, of course, manymanymany more not listed here that are equally noteworthy. What’s your favorite? Your own business perhaps? Share it here!! You may very well pick up a few more Facebook friends!

“I take my business seriously. I don’t take myself seriously.”  ~Candice Olson, Divine Design

Dawn M. Bhajan  |  DMT Artistry, LLC  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com





Living by the Lakes is Looking Good

9 12 2010

Christina Ehli is the type of person you would instantly describe as “genuine”. She’s warm, witty and quick to smile, and carries a work ethic a mile wide.

It’s the sort of personality you’d love to see in any industry, but it just so happens that Christina is in the real estate business.

Christina, along with her husband Jeff, launched Living by the Lakes, a Keller Williams Realty company. Living by the Lakes serves Commerce and a large diameter of surrounding communities in this lake-rich region of Southeast Michigan.

The Challenge
Christina’s existing websites were incomplete and stuck in a rigid “corporate” template. She wanted a site that would generate repeat visitor traffic, be a resource and show some vivacity. Most importantly, she wanted to be able to maintain the website herself.

The DMT Solution
We gave Living by the Lakes a customized, real-estate-specific blogsite. The lake theme is front and center, while rotating graphics and ever-changing blog posts keep the website lively.

Her pages are packed with bonus bytes of helpful information, links and calculators for buyers and sellers alike. Cool home/property search features are an additional resource that bring visitors back again and again.

Best of all, after a couple consultations, Christina was confidently posting and updating on her new blog! (Click the image below to visit her website.)

Living by the Lakes

Want to translate your professional passion into a website that spotlights your company’s “awesomeness”? Contact us today for a complimentary quote on your website design or redesign!

DMT Artistry, LLC  |  Dawn M. Bhajan  |  810.923.4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com





Permission Marketing: Please and thank you!

11 08 2010

Spam or Junk Mail - It's all the same garbage.Show of digital hands… how many of you spent precious minutes this morning clearing out junk mail from your inbox?

Forget about the viruses, do-it-yourself diploma mail, fake job offers, and inevitable “enhancement” garbage; I’m talking about legitimate business emails, newsletters, solicitations and sales announcements that you did NOT sign up to receive.

How do these people track our information down? It depends. They may yank it off your Facebook page and assume that an accepted friend request means you desperately want their e-news and solicitations. They could pick it up through mass emails from a non-savvy sender who isn’t acquainted with Blind Carbon Copy (bcc). They can also be unscrupulously “scraped” from various internet sources.

But, however they managed to locate your email, the point is, you didn’t ask to receive what they are so eager to send.

Enter Permission Marketing.

Permission marketing is all about asking. It’s the “please and thank you” politeness that’s gone missing from the wham-bam world of mass marketing. There is a time and place for quantity-driven rigmarole, but I’ll give you a hint: unless you’ve got something that targets a ginormous demographic, and a marketing budget to match, this is likely not the way to win friends and influence customers.

Quality over quantity. That’s what we’re looking for.

Think about it this way – our inboxes are, in a sense, our virtual homes. Many of us spend as much time there as we do our own residences. If we didn’t invite you in, you are a trespasser. Trespassers not only make themselves and their businesses look bad, but they also turn people off, encourage viral spread of negative feedback, and are cruising for a Spam Complaint smack-down.

Spam complaints, by the way, are not just some pie-in-the-sky protective feature. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers (ICANN) is a regulatory board that carefully monitors abuse reports, and can boot your bottom off email marketing at lightning speeds. Get spammy enough, and you could even face criminal charges.

Not cool.

So here’s how you can legitimately gather emails in a way that increases open and click-through rates, optimizes your and your business’ reputation, improves interaction, builds a bond with your readers and – happily – is legal:

Ask first. Keep a sign up sheet at your office or store. Incorporate a “subscribe me” link or form on your website. Link to your sign up form via your email signature and social networking pages. Just make sure that your subscribers know what they’re signing up for.

Tell them verbally or in realistically readable writing what your e-announcements will include, how often you’ll be sending them, and whether or not their email address will be used for any other purpose (though, if “other purpose” to you means “sell or rent for profit”, please get off my site… we have nothing more to say to each other).

Better 10 die-hard readers, than 1,000 random and uncaring leads. If a reader OPTS IN to receive your emails, it is because they are interested in you, what you do or what you are selling. These are the people who will buy. These are the people who will refer your business to a friend. These are the people who will give you positive feedback. These are the people you want.

Now I’ll quietly step down off my soap box until my next blog. Please tune in… you never know what I’ll say next!

Need help with your permission-based e-marketing campaign? You’ve come to the right person! Feel free to contact me:

Dawn M. Tomczyk  |  DMT Artistry, LLC  |  (810) 923-4582  |  dawn@dmtartistry.com





That’s the power of Facebook, baby!

6 04 2010

He proposed!For those who are regular DMT blog readers, bravo… you are clearly people of great intellect, even greater wisdom and stunning good looks. Dedicated followers that you are, you perhaps noticed the absence of my regular client spotlight post on Friday.

As it turns out, having someone special kneeling in front of you with a ring in their hand instantly modifies all of your plans for the rest of the day – and the rest of your life. Yes, indeed, Friday was a very good day… and let me tell you how it exemplified what a brilliant application Facebook is…

Within moments of my floating – I mean, driving – home, I had Facebook up and cranking. There were so many people I wanted to tell. What better way than to say it once, and have it reach them all? Within half a moment of posting my changed “relationship status”, I received my first congratulatory phone call… he had seen my post on Facebook. No joke.

Moments later, a wonderful wave of felicitations washed through my Facebook wall. I was suddenly celebrating with not only myself and my fiancé, but with many of the people whom I admire, respect and care about. Incredible.

Can you pick up on the business potential here? If you can craft your messages so that they touch people on some significant level that triggers memories or emotions – good or bad – you will have earned the attention of your “friends” or “fans”.

And, P.S., they’re not called “friends” and “fans” for nothing. These are people who care about you or your business in some fashion… who, in fact, CHOSE to connect with you. For that reason, they will always be more willing to hear and act upon what you have to say.

I might also add that immediately upon changing my status to “Engaged”, 98% of my Facebook ads (the promotional blurbs along the right) turned entirely to weddings – wedding flowers, wedding venues, wedding dresses. And you know what? We DO have a wedding to plan, and I ACTUALLY APPRECIATE THESE ADS! They may be unsolicited, but that doesn’t mean they’re unwelcome. Why? Why because they’re timely and relevant, of course!

Think about who needs your product or service as you are crafting your own ads. The more targeted you get, the more return on investment you can expect to see. And keep in mind who your audience is as you’re crafting your ad copy and graphic. A punk rocker florist ad would not inspire me to click. Nor would a cake designer who writes like a kindergartner and uses clown colors in their ad.

Think about it. Your customers and potential customers are just a well-planned click away… that’s the power of Facebook, baby!

If you want to get creative with your Facebooking, but aren’t certain where or how to start, drop me an email: dawn@dmtartistry.com. I consult, I create, I design, and I would be happy to help your business make waves in the social media scene!