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May 13

Using proven templates in our design

Posted by Ray Sanford

Since the mid-80s, we had specialized in fast and efficient print production projects. We’d followed the evolutionary page layout path of PageMaker, Quark and then InDesign. And Photoshop and Illustrator since the beginning. But we weren’t designers. Instead, we did the work designers hated doing…the production and pre-press part. Technical, precise and very expensive if you made a mistake.

For precision and consistency, we used (and still use) templates (aka master pages) and styles; character, paragraph, objects, etc.

For the past 10 years our business has, like most, been evolving from print to web. It’s now to the point where our web business exceeds the print production side. And the web side is growing much faster.

We work with ad agencies, graphic designers, photographers and others in the creative field, so we started with a simple website. We built it using RapidWeaver, which uses templates. It was successful and we got calls from our clients asking if we could build their sites. The business grew, but we were always looking for a better way. A way to add features, benefits and functionality that were missing in the RapidWeaver platform.

We’d build a site and invariably our client would ask for us to add a client database, web forms, widgets, email marketing, and reporting.

When Adobe came out with Business Catalyst, we became a Premium Partner. We trusted Adobe and, while it was a steep learning curve, we started producing websites with the kind of functionality and flexibility we’d been needing.

But one of the things we liked about RapidWeaver was the ability to purchase a template with a great design and adapt it for our client. There were lots of sources for templates, but they all needed to be re-worked or “wired in” to the BC system.

When TribeVita was announced a year ago, we were one of the first to utilize their templates. The designs were what first attracted us. They were sophisticated and current. And they had built-in features and functions that appealed to our clients as well as mobile versions.

What we’ve really come to appreciate is TribeVita’s dedication to quality; both in design and the underlying code. Having templates that comply with industry standards means we have very few problems with the site working in all current browsers. And if by chance something is amiss, they usually have a fix within hours.

TribeVita templates are very cost effective. We build the template cost into our bid. And once we purchase the template, we can replicate as needed with no additional cost. We’ve done that numerous times: replicate, tweak the CSS and voilá… a new look and another satisfied client. This is especially handy if we have a client with a very low budget or if we’re doing the work pro-bono.

TribeVita has become our trusted source for high-quality templates that are all designed to make our life easier. Where once we tried to hide the fact we were using a commercial template, we now point out to our prospective clients the advantages and cost savings. We focus and position our company around building online businesses, not designing custom sites.

Work Example

Here is a link to a successful project using TribeVita Templates:

http://www.dentalcareforchildren.org/

Feb 12

Brands vs. Logos

Posted by Ray Sanford

When you mention "brand" to most people, they think of logos. The Nike swoosh, Coca-Cola's script, etc.

Few realize that while a logo is part of a brand, a brand encompasses much more. It’s the sum of all customer experiences. So how can you measure a brand? The easiest way is to pay attention to all the stories, comments, myths, and feedback that are circulating. With the Internet, it's much easier than it used to be. You no longer have to hire an expensive research firm to conduct surveys. Jut pay attention to what's being said.

Use the internet. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Subscribe to Google alerts and other services that can make searching easier. Then simply pay attention to the conversation.

Feb 05

Who needs a website…when you can have an online business

Posted by Ray Sanford

In the past, the focus of many web-development teams was directed at the visual appeal of the site and, depending on the business, a SEO strategy to increase page rankings. Considering that most of the business folks just wanted to leave the website to the techies, this was a natural development. The problem with this method is that users who landed on the site didn’t always see a lot of substance behind the graphics. Without engaging material, they quickly moved on.

At the same time, the “real” business behind the website didn’t really get a lot of value from these websites either. The attractive pages did serve to give the company an online presence and a cool URL to print on business cards and company letterhead, but no one was sure what else it did. Without a reliable measurement tool, it was a shot in the dark for many operations.

The Adobe Business Catalyst platform is changing how the world thinks about websites. In fact, its mission is not to build cutting-edge websites like so many other products promise; the goal of the Business Catalyst platform is to achieve your ultimate goal: building a thriving online business that attracts customers and generates revenue. With this plan, you won’t sacrifice a thing. Because Adobe, the leading provider of design-related software, is the driving force behind the Business Catalyst, your website will still look great!

Let’s take a look at what your business will get when you go with a hosted E-Commerce system created by Sanford Web Systems powered by Business Catalyst:

  • Integrated Content Management – With this feature, you can concentrate on delivering just the right message to your customer without worrying about how you will deliver it. Again, you don’t compromise a thing – you’ll still get all the benefits of SEO strategies, Flash, CSS, and more but without the coding hassles.
  • Turn-key E-Commerce – This is what you’re really looking for! Setting up an online store can be a complicated process. With a fully-hosted platform, you’re up and running right out of the box. In addition to making your life easier, a smooth-running online business will make your customers happier and more likely to purchase from you time and again.
  • An Integrated Customer Database – Of course, you want to get to know your customers like any good shopkeeper. With this user-friendly customer database, you’ll know everything you need to know without a lot of clutter to get in your way – all without the first bit of coding on your part.
  • Seamless Email Marketing – Who just waits around for their customers to return? Even brick-and-mortar stores send out special offers and promotional material. This email tool integrates with that great customer database to put this important information to work. With a little reminder about how great your products are, your customers will keep walking through your online door to make new purchases.
  • Reporting and Analytics – Analytics is more than just the hot new buzzword in the E-Commerce game. Without the right information organized to tell you what you really need to know, you don’t have a firm foundation of knowledge to use as a basis for your decisions. With this tool, you’ll always be sure about your future direction.

Isn’t it about time that you made the jump from a mere website to a full-featured online business?

Jan 29

“But”

Posted by Ray Sanford

How many times have you heard "I like your website, but…" 

Or, "I like your products/services, but…", "I support the troops, but…"

The rule of thumb I like to use is that everything that precedes the word "but" is bullshit. 

'nuf said.

Jan 22

Doing what you love

Posted by Ray Sanford

When I was a teenager, my Dad took me aside and said “You know, I don't care whether you want to work in the family business or do something else. I just want you to pick something that you love. Whether it’s being a ski bum or a scientist, it’s more important to discover what you love to do than to look for a job.”

“If you love what you do, you'll do it well. And there are so few people in the world who do things well, you’ll be well rewarded.”

After a few false starts, including working in the family business for awhile, I started doing what really excited me.

My Dad was a wise man.

Jan 15

Permission Marketing with Tip Sheets

Posted by Ray Sanford

By Roger C. Parker

Use tip sheets to encourage clients and prospects to sign up for your e-mail Newsletter. Permission Marketing, a marketing concept popularized by Seth Godin, is based on obtaining your client's, prospect's, and web site visitor's permission to communicate with them via e-mail.

Often, the hardest part of a Permission Marketing program is developing an incentive to persuade clients, prospects, and web site visitors to send you their e-mail address and permission for you to send them your e-mail newsletter. That's where tip sheets come in! Tip sheets are short, formatted, documents that contain non-selling information your market will find useful. Clients and prospects appreciate tip sheets because they contain helpful information that helps them save time and avoid mistakes.

Advantages

Tip sheets are easy to prepare and can be distributed for free as electronic files. You don't need many words, and you don't need fancy graphics to communicate a credible, competent, professional image. Clients and prospects like tip sheets because they contain helpful information presented in a short, concise, easy-to-read format which saves them time.

Steps to success

  1. Create your tip sheet. Choose a topic that either helps your market achieve a goal— save time or money, increase sales, win a race, etc.— or avoid making a mistake, like a bad buying decision. Ideas include: frequently made mistakes, questions to ask when buying, trends, symptoms, installation tips, usability techniques, shortcuts, and workarounds. Support each point with one or two short, concisely edited, paragraphs. Write as you speak, in a conversational tone. Format your tip sheet using subheads set in a typeface that forms a strong contrast with adjacent body copy. Add extra space between lines, and above subheads, to enhance the professional image your tip sheet projects.
  2. Promote your tip sheet. Promote your tip sheet everywhere: on your business cards, in your e-mail signature, in your ads, article bylines, and search engine advertising. Mention your tip sheet when speaking or attending networking events. Always describe how to obtain your tip sheet by visiting your web site. Use tip sheets and print-on demand postcards to convert postal mailing addresses to e-mail addresses. Tip sheets promoted with postcards can efficiently reactivate previous clients and reach out to prospects who have not yet given you permission to contact them via e-mail. Using postcards to promote tip sheets avoids the many problems associated with unsolicited e-mail, i.e. spam.
  3. Sign-up. Make it easy for web site visitors to locate your tip sheet. Your tip sheet and newsletter sign-up offer should be prominently placed at the top of your home page. Describe the benefits your newsletter offers subscribers and stress your privacy policy. Set up your web site so autoresponders will deliver your tip sheet, add the recipient's name to your newsletter mailing list, and inform you of the new contact.
  4. Track your results. Experiment with additional tip sheet topics. Use different e-mail addresses or web site landing pages to determine which topics and media generates the best results.
  5. Expand. If desired, you can use tip sheets as the basis for in-depth treatments of each topic. You can expand tip sheet topics into newsletters, special reports, e-books, presentations, speeches, teleconferences, and audio recordings.

Read more: http://www.articlesbase.com/newsletters-articles/permission-marketing-with-tip-sheets-2043.html#ixzz0qIPvkCGB
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Jan 08

Using BC to outperform your competitors

Posted by Ray Sanford

What if you had a website that would:

Let you update and manage it yourself without having to learn any technical stuff. Announcements, blogs, forums built in.

Manage your online store, complete with integrated order management, shipping and payment collection.

Let you reach your market with built-in email marketing tools right out of the box. Automate a campaign to email a string of newsletters to be sent out at intervals or even link the delivery to specific dates such as birthdays or anniversaries.

Build your customer base with an integrated system that tracks every action your customers make.

Helps you make informed business decisions with up-to-the-minute reporting and analytics working for you 24/7

How much would it be worth?

That's the kind of capabilities built in to Adobe's web hosting platform, Business Catalyst.

Dec 13

Meaningless Mission Statements

Posted by Ray Sanford

If your organization has a mission statement, make sure it means something. Take this one, for instance, from Albertson's:
Guided by relentless focus on our five imperatives, we will constantly strive to implement the critical initiatives required to achieve our vision. In doing this, we will deliver operational excellence in every corner of the Company and meet or exceed our commitments to the many constituencies we serve. All of our long-term strategies and short-term actions will be molded by a set of core values that are shared by each and every associate.
It doesn't sound human. It sounds like it was written by a consultant who's never worked in the grocery business. It could apply to almost any company. In other words, it's worthless crap.

Instead of self-important pontification, deal specifically. Make it mean something. Inspire yourself and others.

Contrast the one above with the one from Nike:
To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
Which company would you rather work for? 

Answer these: Who do you serve? What problems are you solving? Why does it matter? 

Write it out. Then simplify. Get it down to as few words as possible. Say it out loud. See if it rings true. Say it to others. Note how they respond.

Do they repeat it back? Do they get jazzed? If they don't buy it, why do you think your clients or customers will?

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