Balance Blog

June 24, 2014
Posted by Kizaan Knapp | in Technical Consulting | Comments (0)

Having worked with associations for several years now, one topic that continuously arises during most strategic conversations is how to accommodate corporate sponsors; not only as an organization, but also how the organization presents itself publicly (including digital marketing). One recent example comes to mind - a large health-based research association based in Washington DC. While membership remained steady for this organization financially, member dues was not a significant revenue generator. To continue to grow as an organization, and to grow member services, the association is now tasked with attracting more industry partners to support its work. While sponsors are eager to get involved with the organization, the organization's members are often resistant to their presence.

How does an organization use marketing and communications to accommodate the wishes of its members; while courting the financial support of industry partners to grow its reach and provide additional member value? This is a question many associations face and the answer very well lay in the ever-changing landscape of digital technologies.

An association's online presence is no longer simply focused on its website. While the website may be central to organization, its no longer the only online channel for your members to connect with your organization. Most associations now have some combination of a central website, social media channels, mobile apps, and campaign microsites.

One way to fold in corporate sponsors, while respecting the domain of the organization's central site as a repository for member information and services, is to craft an online experience through a range of channels that connect back to the organization's site. The health-based association, used as an example in this article, provides a great case study on how this can be done. This particular organization is approaching a 100 year anniversary - a significant milestone. They have done an excellent job at capturing their rich history in photos, video, and content (a member is currently writing a book on the history of the organization). As part of a strategic consultation with this organization, we proposed several ideas for them to consider that would help them leverage their digital ecosystem while accommodating corporate sponsors and provide member value.

Ideas included:

  • An interactive kiosk that would feature a timeline of their 100 year history. Visitors to their office in central DC would see this kiosk as they walk into main door. The kiosk could include video, interactive quiz, and today's agenda at the organization (anchoring in the present in the overall history of the organization).
  • A mobile app that would allow the association members to type in the year they started their professional career and then see what was happening during that period in the history (both of the field, as well as history in general).
  • Targeted to industry partners, we encouraged the organization to launch a campaign microsite on industry's role in the evolution of the field. Industry played a very important role in the growth of this particular field and this idea would not only attract strong corporate support, but would also show to the association members the positive role industry has on the fields evolution.

With this example, one can see how an organization can find opportunities outside of its central website to allow corporate sponsors to get involved, provide member benefit and support the overall awareness of an industry and its role in positively shaping fields of specialty.

June 6, 2014
Posted by Ann Herndon Eskew | in Web Strategy | Comments (0)

Goals are a versatile way to measure how well your site fulfills your target objectives. It enables clients to not only see what users are doing on their site, but also target their actions for quicker conversions. Goals give the website owner a peek into user behavior. For example, are users finding the page for which they are looking? How many pages are viewed before exiting? Are users following a specific path set by the website, or are they straying off path and getting lost?

Since each Goal type measures different content and actions, there are several things to know about Goal types to ensure that the correct tracking is in place. There are four goal types: Destination, Duration, Pages/Screens per Session and Event. What is the difference? How do you decide which type is right for your goal?

Destination: This type is specifically for a funnel goal – or a multi-step goal that the user should be following. For example, a user comes to a site to get a quote for home owner’s insurance:

  1. The user lands on the initial page > next page
  2. The user clicks on the get a quote button > next page
  3. The user fills out a questionnaire page > next page
  4. The user enters their email address and submit > next page
  5. The user sees a thank you page

Did the user fill out the questionnaire and then not fill in the email address? Did the user leave before filling out the questionnaire? With the Destination/Funnel set, one can see exactly where in the process the user is turned off or loses interest.

Duration: This type measures the minimum and maximum amount of time a user is on a page; set by you, the owner. Is the client on a help page for 20 minutes? Or are all their questions being answered in two minutes? The goal sets the minimum and/or maximum time the user should be on the page: one minute, 30 seconds, etc.

Pages/Screen per Visit: This goal types measure pages seen per session. So instead of setting a specific amount of time, you can set a minimum number of pages. If a goal of five pages is set and the user visits four pages, it is not completed. If the user visits 5 pages or more, than the goal is completed.

Event: Event tracking though goals has to be set through events first, and then it can be added as a goal type. Event goals can measure social media clicks, video plays etc.

How do you decide which goals are the most important? Which goals will be the most useful to your organization? This is a hard decision and one that takes thought as well as planning. Google Analytics already supplies so much data, the last thing you want is more data that doesn’t resonate with the bottom line.

Some essential metrics that are on most sites include:

  • lead generation
  • trial signups
  • account creation
  • newsletter signups
  • RSS signups
  • white paper downloads
  • brochure downloads
  • memberships
  • donation pages, etc.

The list goes on. Figure out the top priorities for the web site, then sit down and start creating the goals. Once the goals have been added and tracked, create a benchmark.

Then the fun begins!

May 30, 2014
Posted by Carolyn Tate | in Web Design, in Web Development, in Web Strategy, in Web Trends | Comments (0)

In my most recent blog post, Responsive Design: What it Means for Your Website in an Increasingly Mobile World, we discussed oral hygiene and responsive design, and what they mean for your website. (Key point: responsive design is much more important to your website than its overall oral health.)

Now that you know all about responsive design, let's talk about what you should be thinking about when you think about your website and responsive design.

At Balance, with all of our clients, we recommend considering these five key points when deciding how to build your new website.

  1. Review site data. Look at your numbers: find out from your analytics how many of your visitors come from mobile devices.
    • What percentage of your site visitors come to the site via a mobile device?
    • What kinds of activities do those visitors perform on the website?
    • Are they reading reports, registering for events, making donations, viewing a conference agenda?
  2. Ask your audiences. What are the most important tasks and topics that visitors want to do on your website? Send out a survey to your most engaged members and ask them to rank the importance of these tasks and activities. This will help you decide what content is most important, which determines physical placement of content on your site design.
  3. Be holistic in your approach. Above all else, think about your content, what your visitors want, and how they want to consume it. A whiz-bang site simply for technology's sake is not a good website. Plan for content first, and the technology will follow.
  4. Look at your budget. You may think that a responsive website is expensive. Trust me, it will be, if it is done the wrong way! Beginning with responsive in mind, from content strategy, to wireframes, design, and development, will save time, money, and effort in the long run. It also means that your code will last for much longer than if you were to build in the traditional sense, eliminating the need for customized templates on a per-page basis, which gets very expensive very quickly each time you need to convert a page to “look good” on a mobile device. Building responsively means that you code once, and the entire site – every page – will respond to different devices in the same way. Which brings me to the next point …
  5. Think about longevity. When you start with cutting-edge coding, you're already ensuring the future of your site success. A responsive site in 2013 or 2014 will go a long way in “future proofing” against inevitable changes in development and programming standards. You wouldn't buy a new car built with decades-old safety features, would you? Follow the same logic for your new website.

These are all crucial considerations to think about when it's time to decide on responsive design. And when you're ready to get responsive about your new website, give us a call or sign up for a webinar to learn more. We'll help you make the right choice for the long run.

May 13, 2014
Posted by Beth Yezzi | in Social Media | Comments (0)

Your target audience is busy. Capturing their attention and engaging them in your private online communities can be can be a daunting challenge. To start, you must build awareness of your private community. Once you've captured their attention, you must engage them with content that is valuable and that encourages conversation. Now that they are engaged, you need to make sure you have a process in place to drive them back to the community on a regular basis.

So how do you write to drive engagement?

  • Offer value. You must offer something useful, unique, and valuable in order to compete. A key component to value is exclusivity. If the content on your private communities matches what you offer on your corporate channels or on your website there is no value to sign up for a private community. Exclusive content that drives engagement and sharing (because it is useful) can include helpful and educational videos, how to's and instructional content, photos from events, infographics, data, and charts.
  • Keep the content fresh. Think about how often you want community members to engage when you're developing a content schedule. If you want to create engagement on a daily basis then publish new content on a daily basis. Set up a schedule and assign a community manager to make sure you stick to the schedule.
  • Write for the space where your goals and your audiences' wants and needs overlap. This space can be small at first, but you will likely find that as your community develops that space will become larger as discussions pave the way for new opportunities.
  • Don't write in sales-speak. If you have an agenda your audience will see right through your content. Provide content for content's sake.

So now that you're writing exclusive, useful content, how do you drive conversation?

  • Explain why your content matters. Don't be shy about telling members of the community why you think something is important. Tell them what they will learn and why they should pay attention.
  • Invite comments. Ask questions. Ask for opinions, suggestions, thoughts on how something might be done differently or better. Be humble – suggest to your members that they likely can contribute in very useful ways to the conversation.
  • Connect. Make your audiences feel you understand them. Speak at their level and address their pain points.
  • Don't be afraid to give things away. Providing templates, worksheets, checklists, and other high-level content is a great way to get members to expand your community through sharing, keep them coming back, and make your organization a trusted authority in your field.

Once you have the conversation started, track the success of your content, test varying types, and adjust your approach as you progress. Communities are constantly evolving – keeping a close eye on what is relevant to your audience at the time, as well as what is important to your organization (and how they overlap), requires constant attention. Again this is where your community manager plays an important role. What you say in your communities has a deep impact on the perception of your organization so before jumping in make sure you have clearly defined processes and goals, have the right set of tools, and most importantly, have a community manager assigned to keep an eye on the big picture.