Customer Service is the New Marketing

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou

Have you ever wondered why customer service is more important than ever?

Do you wish you could use social media can help you improve your customer service?

Have you ever thought, ‘how can I surprise and delight my customers?’

We all have! These are common challenges for all of us in business.

Mel Kettle has a Master of Business in Marketing, has run her marketing practice for 11 years, and is a highly sought after speaker and mentor. She has helped clients from around Australia, as well as Canada, England, and USA to communicate effectively and authentically so they attract, engage and retain customers.

We were lucky enough to feature Mel in a recent webinar on why Customer Service is the New Marketing, which you can replay here:

We do business with people we know, like and trust, and Mel discusses how it’s possible to utilise social media to have conversations with our customers and build trust in us and our brand.

Organisations that use social media to engage positively with customers have a higher rate of trust and, research shows that a higher rate of trust can lead to 76% more engagement for a business.

We know that it costs more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer, so how can we can work smarter at keeping our existing clients happy? Customers generally decide how they feel about a business based on their customer experience. They tend to talk about a business publicly when their experiences are a) terrible and b) awesome, but not when they’re just average. Better service isn’t unique, but a better experience is.

There are three ways we can give customers a positive experience – we can provide great service, have conversations and provide opportunity. It is in the intersection of these three vital elements that we are able to truly engage with our customers, communicate well and individualise their experience and give them a positive experience with our business. Mel explains this in more detail in the webinar.

Mel offers a number of practical examples of how businesses have surprised and delighted her as a customer, including her recent experiences at Weber and when the owner of Dello Mano reached out via Twitter after Mel had experienced the sudden loss of her mother. It is due to the positive experiences with these businesses that Mel continues to talk about them publicly, and thus the one seemingly small act of excellent customer service has led to very positive marketing benefits.

Social media expert Mark Shaefer says we need to “Be more human. In every engagement and comment.” We need to make our customers feel valued. These days, people expect a timely response to their comments on social media. Some organisations manage their client’s expectations on social media really well. Royal Dutch Airlines has a banner on their Twitter account that is regularly updated (every five minutes) with the length of time in which you can expect to receive a response to any tweet.

How can we fall more in love with our clients, rather than our own business and products? Research shows that just a 5% improvement in customer service can lead to significant increase in profitability. Going above and beyond for our clients can go a long way. GE had a great response to their #healthyshare campaign, sending surprise gifts to their customers and generating goodwill for the company. While this is a big budget example, even just a handwritten note to a customer can serve to surprise and delight them.

After a terrible, drawn out experience when his guitar was broken flying with United Airlines, Dave Carroll wrote a catchy tune called ‘United Breaks Guitars’ which led to a subsequent PR disaster for United Airlines. As a great example of a business being open to opportunities, guitar manufacturer, Taylor Guitars, responded by providing a new guitar to Mr Carroll and reminding customers that they offer a repair service.

Mel concluded the webinar by discussing how just saying thank you to our clients can be a simple yet powerful communication to enhance their experience of our business.

Speaking of thank yous, we are very grateful to Mel Kettle for her time in preparing and presenting this webinar and sharing her insights and knowledge on customer service.

Six Marketing Strategies You Can Action to Drive More Traffic to Your Website

This is a guest post by Lucy Benton.


Even if you have the most helpful and interesting content in the world that is beautifully optimized for SEO, there is no guarantee that a lot of people will be visiting your website.

Does it mean that your website just sucks? Well, if it has a responsive design and loads quickly, then maybe the problem is something else. How are you currently driving traffic to your website?

If you feel that a lack of great marketing ideas is the problem, then keep reading. We’ve gathered a list of strategies and resources that you can use to drive more traffic to your website and build your business in the right way.

1. Post Content More Frequently

According to Neil Patel, the frequency of posting content on your website’s blog plays a huge role in generating more traffic there. For example, when he started posting high-quality articles six times per week instead of five, he saw an 18 percent increase in the blog traffic.

Patel stresses the importance of maintaining the quality of the content when increasing the number of articles on your blog. Simply producing more low-quality content will not help to achieve more traffic.

2. Automated Emails

Email marketing is among the most effective ways businesses can get traffic on a regular basis, and, consequently, obtain a great return on investment (ROI). In fact, the National Client Email Report by DMA reports an average return for each $1 invested in email marketing can bring a return of up to $38. Many larger businesses now use marketing automation software, such as Hubspot and InfusionSoft, that sends unique one-to-one messages based on customers’ preferences and actions on their website.

The key to using this powerful method is to build a database of email addresses for your leads. There is no perfect size for this list, but the more quality leads it contains, the better. But how can one build this list quickly? See the next tip.

3. Content Marketing Strategy for Social Media Page

Assuming that you have a social media page for your website (if you don’t, create it right away!), you can utilise its power to generate a collection of leads’ email addresses. The following are the content marketing ideas that you can apply for that:

  • Offer promos where visitors have to provide an email address in exchange for a lead magnet – here are some examples of opt-in offers as an incentive for leads to leave you an email address.
  • Run contests where the only condition of entry is the provision of the email address: creative photo contests, biggest fan photo contests, product customization contests, location-based contests, guessing games, and suggest a new product contests – check out this list of 50 ideas to get you started!

4. Create a YouTube Channel

As surprising as it may sound to some, YouTube is the most effective social media platform for driving the most engaged traffic. According to Shareaholic, the average number of pages visited by referred visitors from YouTube is 2.99 (for comparison, Facebook’s result is just 2.09).

As a starting point, have a read of this great guide to building a successful YouTube channel from QuickSprout.

5. Ask a Popular Blogger (Influencer) to Guest Post

Influencer marketing is huge these days. According to Influencer Orchestration Network, businesses generate an average $6.50 for $1 invested in influencers. The secret to utilizing the power of this strategy is to approach them in the right way and utilise the power of collaboration.

Here are the steps you need to follow to ensure a good relationship with an influencer:

  • Follow his or her account on social media
  • Engage with their content by leaving positive comments (don’t mention your business!)
  • Ensure that your product or service is a good fit for their audience before you approach. Are the values of your audience and theirs in alignment?
  • Send them a friendly message, or get an introduction from a person they trust
  • If they are keen to collaborate, make sure you are both happy with the agreed terms so it’s a win-win for both parties.

6. Start a Podcast

Today, the popularity of podcasts continues to grow. They are especially popular when they are related to professional topics and hosted by experts in their fields. In fact, the number of people who listen to podcasts on a regular basis has been increasing since 2013, according to BI Intelligence and Edison Research.

Lifehacker’s guide to starting a podcast says that that it’s best to start out with proper equipment such as a decent quality microphone and audio editing software, but you don’t need to spend a fortune. Also, you should narrow down your topic and find your niche to increase your chance of success.

Tools for Creating Your Content

If you need some assistance creating the content that will help drive more traffic to your website, here are some handy online sites you can try:

  • Audacity – free, open source audio software for recording and editing that allows to produce podcasts of professional quality.
  • If No Reply – an easy-to-use email marketing automation software that works with Gmail and provides personalization and follow-ups.
  • Assignmenthelper – if you need some assistance with writing, this is a handy tool for content creation that can be tailored for your audience.
  • Omnistartell – with this tool you can create a referral program and integrate it with your website. Once integrated, customers can start to refer your business to their family and friends.
  • Canva – create some awesome graphics to give your website some pizazz using this free website.
  • For planning out your blog posts and podcasts, and to keep track of your tasks, you could use Google Calendar and Trello.

Final Word

Building website traffic can take time, but don’t underestimate your power to make big changes to your website stats by starting with just one strategy listed above and taking consistent action. What small change can you begin today and increase your chances of success?


Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist and business consultant who currently works at Awriter. She helps people to turn their dreams into a profitable business. Lucy studied Creative and Professional Writing at the Maharishi University of Management. Now she is writing for marketing and business resources. If you’re interested in working with Lucy, you can find her on FaceBook and Twitter.

10 Online Writing and Editing Tools to Help You Produce Quality Content for Your Website

This is a guest post by Gloria Kopp.

In the not too distant past, websites were the exclusive domain of huge multinational enterprises, and not particularly necessary for small or medium sized businesses. However, those times have changed very quickly, and now businesses of all shapes and sizes maintain an online presence, whether they are making the most of social media, websites or a business blog. While it can be hard work to maintain an online presence, the following web-based tools make creating quality, polished content for your audience much more simple than ever before.

1. Ginger Software

Ginger is being used by students, professionals, and amateur bloggers alike as an efficient way to polish their written content. The real beauty of this software is that it can be used on multiple devices, so you can post amazing content even from a mobile device, when you’re on the go.

2. Paper Fellows

When you first start posting online on behalf of your business, it can be incredibly difficult to know where to begin, or if you’re doing anything right. Fortunately, there are some great courses and forums in the Paper Fellows free writing community that can help you gain both skills and confidence.

3. Readability Test Tool

Every business has an idea of the main demographic they target. Their audience will likely have similar interests or tastes, and so you know the appropriate style and tone when you address them. This is a great tool to assess if your writing is too complicated or simple, depending on the academic level of your target audience.

4. Assignment help

Both SEO and your audience are fuelled by perfect spelling and grammar – you look authoritative and competent. One of the best ways to ensure your writing is perfect is to engage the services of a qualified editor or proof reader from this website.

5. Keyword Density Checker

Stuffing your content with keywords will make your business look spammy, and may make your audience think you’re a scam. However, using too few keywords is also bad for SEO, and could make you hard to find. This tool helps you find the perfect balance for your keywords.

6. Pro Writing Aid

This is one of the most comprehensive editing tools available as it reviews your style, and offers you a multitude of suggestions on how to improve your phrasing. This tool ensures that your tone, style, and syntax are a perfect match for your content and audience.

7. Spell Check Plus

Sometimes, we need to post for our business from a mobile device or on the fly while we’re commuting. However, it’s still important to ensure your posts are of a quality standard, so having an online spelling and grammar checker to use before you post can be extremely helpful.

8.  Assignment writing service

When posting for a business, it’s often tempting to ask colleagues to review the content before you post. However, they might be too busy, provide too subjective an opinion or may be worried about offending you, at which point it can be much more effective to hire a professional proof reader or editor from this website to provide an objective opinion.

9. Easy Word Count

It’s now acknowledged across the web that your SEO benefits massively from content that is over 1000 words long and that engagement is optimised by posts that are 1500 words long. You can monitor this aspect of your content using this user friendly tool to count your words.

10. Language Tool

In this global economy, very few businesses now exist in a national vacuum, and almost every company has some kind of international element. If you need to post or write in another language occasionally, this editor is a great way to check over anything that’s not in your mother tongue, as it can accurately proof read over 20 languages.

Maintaining an online presence for your business can be a lot of work, however using the above tools, you can ensure that you are delivering content of a very high standard to your audience via your blog, website and social media.

Are there any writing or editing tools you use regularly?


Gloria Kopp is an digital marketer and an e-learning consultant from Manville City, USA. She graduated from the University of Wyoming and started a career of a web content writer and an educator, now she works as a content manager at Academized company. She is a regular contributor to such websites as Engadget, Boomessays, and Huffington Post.

How we audited our website

Hi everyone!

Bronte here from the Grassroots IT marketing team. Today, I’m going to show the simplest way to audit your website. As you know, it’s common practice for a business to have a website. With tech-savvy consumers, a website is almost always the first point of contact between you and potential clients, so it’s important to have a website that is appealing, informative and an accurate representation of your brand. A website isn’t something that can be created and forgotten about. If it’s been a while since you really looked at your website, here’s the process we went through to audit our online presence:

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1. Map out your website

First things first. I grabbed a stack of post-it notes and started mapping out our websites’ layout. I mapped out the tabs on the homepage in one colour and the sub-pages in another. As you can see below, I stuck my post-it notes to a window in our office and with whiteboard marker I wrote notes about changes I thought we should make.

Visualising your website like this can be a surprisingly powerful exercise. For example, we discovered that we had a couple of pages that weren’t actually linked to a menu anymore. We also found other pages that, when visualised like this, made more sense in an entirely different section of the website.

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2. Identify each pages Google Page Ranking

If you don’t have a Google Analytics account hooked up to your website, you really need one. It’s free and can provide some amazing insight into how people are using your site. Page Rank is a quick and easy way of seeing which pages your visitors are most interested in. I used this to determine if my pages where in the right position on the website based on their page rank.

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3. Assess your content (and question everything)

Next thing I did was hop onto the Grassroots IT website and I actually READ all of the content. I asked myself whether the content was still relevant to the business? After 10 years of operation, we’re in the process of better defining our business values and motivations (like all businesses do), so making sure the content on our website matched this process was so important to the Grassroots IT brand.

This can take some time to do, but whenever I go onto the website, I’m always reading the content over to make sure it is still relevant and up-to-date. Sometimes it’s a good idea to have someone else read through the content through fresh eyes to give you feedback.

I’d also like to mention here that in your “about us” or “services” pages, the content shouldn’t use the words “we or us”. It’s not about you, it’s about your clients and prospects, so it needs to be worded about THEM.

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4. Make the changes

Once the initial auditing part was over, it was time to implement these changes. We use WordPress, so making changes is super easy (as you can see in the video below). To communicate changes to another person you could even print out the page in question, and mark your changes with pen. If the instructions are clearly outlined there shouldn’t be any problems with these changes.

However, it is so important after changes have been made, that you jump back onto the website and double check that you’re happy with these changes. I spent a lot of time making sure the changes I had made were still user friendly. I suggest working with the person who looks after your website and making those changes together.

After a couple of months, I made a point to jump back on the website and repeat the auditing process to be sure the changes were taking affect. And success, I’m happy with the results!

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Other things to think about:

Does your website have SEO?

When I search for IT Support Services Brisbane on Google, I want to know that Grassroots IT is going to be close to the top of the first page. To achieve this, each page of my website should be set up with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). This is makes it easier for prospective clients to find your website based on their search keywords.

What’s the layout like? Is it easy to navigate?

I always put myself in the shoes of the client or anyone who will use my website. If I have trouble navigating the website, it’s likely my clients will also have trouble. Consider making a change to the layout if you’re not happy with the usability of your website.

Do links work? Are there any pages that don’t open?

Always, always check the links. If pages don’t open or links don’t work, it will reflect badly on your business. If I can’t access a certain link, I’m not going to be inclined to come back to the website (or the business).

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How often should this be completed?

Ideally, a complete website audit should be completed every 12 months.

However, every time I visit the Grassroots IT (which is daily), I’m always scanning over the content or the layout to see if everything is working the way it should be.  If your business is anything like ours, it is likely that your business is always evolving and your website should evolve with it.

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There’s nothing complicated about a website audit. It’s simply about making sure your website has fresh, accurate, up-to-date content, is easy for visitors to navigate and find what they want, and using all of the right words in the right places so search engines can find you. Don’t think of it as a technical exercise, just put yourself in your prospective client’s shoes, and see if your website is sending the right message.

If you want to get the most out of your websites function, visit our friends at Five By Five. Jon has written a book that explains what a good website looks like and how high performing websites are recognized by Google.

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winding back the clock

Winding back the clock

We all know that technology is a rapidly changing industry and we are constantly being told we need to keep up. Today, I want to do something different. I want to take the time to go through 10 of my favourite Grassroots IT blog posts. I’ve raided the library and chosen the ones I think are still relevant and useful to you. These are the ones you may have forgotten about, or may have never read, but they might just be coming to you at the right time.

So. Sit back. Relax. Grab that mid morning coffee and have a read. All below for your reading pleasure.

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How to get the most out of your IT support team

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How to get the best from your IT Support Team

It’s fair to say that you’ve invested a lot in your IT support team. If you have an IT support team in house, then you’ve spent time and money recruiting them, training them, and developing them with the hard and soft skills necessary to perform at a high standard. You’ve spent money on computers, software, desks, all sorts of gadgets you may not understand, and of course plain old (but not plain cheap) floor space in your office.

Keep reading here!

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The 3 things every business owner needs to know about their backups

 

Brisbane and large parts of Queensland were hit recently by Tropical Cyclone Marcia, with extensive damage and destruction left in its wake. Thankfully none of our clients across greater Queensland suffered any real damage, and by the time the weather reached Brisbane, although it brought with it a heap of rain, there was no real damage or destruction beyond some minor flooding.

Keep reading here!

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Need to know about your backups

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How to Identify Malicious Phishing

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How to identify a potentially malicious phishing email

There’s a lot of risk these days with emails arriving in your inbox, spam that’s essentially carrying some sort of a malicious payload. It’s dangerous in the sense that it will potentially risk installing some bad software or virus or malware … something like that on your computer.

Keep reading here!

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Announcing our free downloadable BYOD Policy Template

The Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) trend is well and truly here to stay, with employees pretty much expecting these days to be able to bring their own personal choice of mobile device to work with them, and use it to access corporate data and systems, usually starting with email.

Keep reading here!

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BYOD Policy

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How Hipchat can solve your internal communication problems

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How HipChat solved our internal communication problems

Our team cover various functions such as technical support, administration, finance and marketing, and just like more and more businesses don’t necessarily all work from the office, at least not at the same time. It’s normal for us to have at least one or two people working remotely at any one time, either from home, or from a client site.

Keep reading here!

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Going to ProBlogger? Here are our top travel tech tips.

The tickets are booked, clothes are in the suitcase and we’re humming the tune of “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (actually we’ll be driving, but you know). But what about the gadgets, widgets, and other technology to make life a little easier whilst in transit? We asked some tech-savvy business travellers what their top travel tech tips.

Keep reading here!

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Top 3 tips to reducing your IT costs

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Top 3 Tips to Reduce IT Costs

Years of IT consulting have taught me where and how people spend unnecessary money on IT and lose their competitive edge. My goal with Grassroots IT is to help small to medium businesses get the most value from their technology investment. Here are three simple tips that can help you reduce IT costs and take charge of your technology today.

Keep reading here!

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Is Your IT Health Check up to Date?

You see, while technology appears to be solving all of our problems, they still suffer from some of their own. With a little forethought and a little TLC, there are ways and means to minimise the impact when technology does fail. There are also ways to improve their function and monitor their health. Simple checks on servers and network systems can save you much time and money in the long run.

Keep reading here!

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Is your IT health check up to date

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how we collect client feedback

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How we collect Client Feedback

From the day we opened the doors at Grassroots IT over 10 years ago we have had a passionate focus on our clients, and how we can best help “keep the light green” for them, so they can focus on growing their business and not be held back by technology problems. We obviously need certain technical skills to help deliver on this, but just as importantly we need to effectively engage with the people involved. Thus our tagline – “IT Help for Humans”.

Keep reading here!

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How to successfully deal with IT problems

Technology can be an amazingly powerful business enabler, pretty much everyone agrees on that point. But it can also be bloody frustrating at times. Its ok, I get it. Even though we’re the experts it happens to us too. In fact not only do we get to deal with our own frustrations with IT, we also get to deal with our clients annoying IT problems!

Keep reading here!

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How to successfully deal with IT problems

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Crafting the perfect Web Marketing Strategy with Jon Hollenberg

A good web marketing strategy doesn’t have to be hard, in fact, it can be quite simple. You’ve just got to know where to start. Our good friend and digital expert, Jon Hollenberg from Five by Five, answered all our questions and gave us some really awesome and useful tips to get us crafting the perfect web marketing strategy.  You can watch the webinar below and to make sure you get all the notes, they’re all below for your reading pleasure.

Crafting the perfect Web Marketing Strategy from Grassroots IT on Vimeo.

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5 elements of a high performing website

 

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Crafting the perfect Web Marketing Strategy (5)

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When someone comes to your website, we want to give them the best possible chance of getting in touch. So what should your website look like at first glance?

From a design perspective, this is what you should be doing with your website:

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  • Phone number top right hand corner of each page
  • Be really clear on what you do in the headline
  • Video on the homepage
  • Benefit ridden copy
  • Testimonials
  • Communicate proof and build trust through logos
  • Capture their details
  • Use guarantees
  • Team members photos & videos
  • Load time

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Crafting the perfect Web Marketing Strategy (1)

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Mobiles are generating upwards of 60-70% of traffic, so you should be thinking of a mobile first approach. Ask yourself if your website has a mobile responsive design ? Test it.

Grab your phone and look it up. Is it easy to read? Are the web forms easy to fill out on your phone?

You can search “Google mobile friendly test” and use that as a guide to know exactly what your website needs to be mobile responsive.

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Crafting the perfect Web Marketing Strategy (6)

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Content is King.

Creating and sharing your own content can lead to online traction. Using good quality content can build your brand image and brings leads directly to your website.

Content ideas:

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  • Blog posts
  • How to videos
  • FAQs
  • Product Reviews
  • Industry News
  • Lists

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Crafting the perfect Web Marketing Strategy (7)

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You want some level of interaction with your audience. You want contact details to continue the conversation and ideally in an automotive fashion bringing maximum leverage for you.

Here are some ideas:

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  • Give away something valuable
  • Opt-in
  • Build a list
  • Build a quiz

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Crafting the perfect Web Marketing Strategy (8)

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Everyone has a story to tell. Tell your audience why you get out of bed everyday and do what you do. There is a power to telling a story through your website because it builds an intimate, personal connection with your audience, before ever meeting them in person.

Examples of how you can tell your story:

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  • https://www.nqtc.com.au/
  • https://www.gallantplumbing.com.au/
  • https://www.missowealth.com/
  • https://www.tardisadvice.com.au/
  • https://www.justincoulson.com/

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Can’t get enough of Jon? Neither can we!

Listen to our podcast with Jon here.

Learn how to create a brilliant website with Jon here.

Visit Five by Five’s website and contact Jon here.

Get a copy of Jon’s book, Love at first site: How to build the website of your dreams, here.

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How we use MailChimp and Canva

We believe having active and effective communication with our Grassroots community is an imperative part of our business. We love to share our ideas, current events, and announcements and we want others to do the same. Here is how we design and distribute our newsletters.

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How we use MailChimp

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There are many different systems that you can use to distribute your newsletter, but we like to use Mailchimp. We love using it for its simplicity to design, edit and track the effectiveness of our newsletter.

With Mailchimp, you can design your own email newsletter or use the service’s professionally designed templates. There are hundreds to choose from. Add your own images to your email and customize the template to your satisfactions. You can save the template and come back to it at a later date, or even send a test email to see what the reader will see when they open it.

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With regard to the database, Mailchimp can easily import your contacts and sort them into Lists so you can send out different types of emails to different groups of contacts. If you need an email to go out on a particularly date and time, you don’t even need to be sitting at the computer – Mailchimp can easily schedule a newsletter to be sent at a convenient future timeslot.

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After you’ve sent out your email, MailChimp will collect and analyze your data and provides excellent visual representations of that data in several formats. You can view subscriber activity, social stats, click performance and advanced reports, or look at an overview of all information. You can see easily view all sorts of information, such as which countries your readers are from, what time they opened the email and even which links they clicked on.

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How we use Canva

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More often than not, people get scared when it comes to designing marketing collateral for their business. They think they’re not creative enough or just simply do not have the skills. If this is you, do not fear – we have a secret to share with you!

Canva is another simple tool we use to design all of the imagery we use for our business. All our social media posts are designed with Canva. Posters, invitations, email headers…the list goes on. Canva has a template for everything and even has step by step instructions on how to maximise their tools to suit your marketing needs.

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What’s more, is that there is an awesome upgrade for businesses that we use called Canva for Work. The key features of this upgrade include being able to use our own brand colours, logos and fonts to brand all of our images. Canva allows you to save in either a digital or print format so the quality of the image is right for its use.

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Not only are these two programs super easy to use, they are huge timesavers for our business and allow us to engage and connect with our community more frequently and easily.

Memorable End-Of-Year Experience

How We Create a Memorable End-of-Year Experience for our Small Work Team

It has become a tradition for the Grassroots IT team members and their partners to gather at the end of each year to celebrate their hard work and reflect on the year that has passed. In our first year of business, our ‘team event’ consisted of Ben and I having dinner with our solitary staff member, but as our team has grown and changed, our event ideas have needed to as well. While going out for dinner is great, we do that fairly regularly throughout the year so we like to create more of an ‘experience’ for our team to end the year on a memorable note.

This year, we invited our team members and their partners (18 people in total) into our home and organised a private chef through At Our Table to cook us dinner. It was a really beautiful night and the food was delicious!

In terms of preparation for the event, we put three trestle tables together to make one long banquet table and just had enough room to fit 18 comfortably in our open-plan lounge/dining room. We hired in the chairs, table cloths, napkins, crockery, cutlery and glassware from a local hire company for the evening. Our place settings looked a little like these Pinterest-inspired napkins with hand-written name labels, and I created the very simple table centrepieces with some jars we had at home and a selection of flowers from a local flower market. I ran out of time to print off the menus, but I had created them using Canva.

Our ‘Chef’s Table’ evening began at 6pm in our backyard with drinks, and some pre-made cocktails and canapés that Ben and I had whipped up and our waiter, Ana, served. Meanwhile, Chef and his assistant Shelly were in our kitchen busily preparing the entrée for our guests.

At 7.15pm, we invited everyone upstairs to be seated for dinner. Entrée was served in an alternate drop, and guests received either a lime crusted lamb rump, sweet potato puree, with garlic spinach and cabernet jus, or sugar cane king prawn rice paper rolls, with fresh coriander and chilli lime dipping sauce. We had a number of dietary requirements, including vegetarian, gluten, grain and dairy free, which Chef happily catered for.

For our main meal, we dined on roast pork belly with creamy mash, Asian salad, apple compote and honey soy glaze; or local King Snapper, with lemon, parsley and pecorino risotto, crisp prosciutto and pineapple salsa.

Dessert consisted of either a chocolate vanilla sable with Frangelico cream and raspberry, or a mini fresh fruit Pavlova, with passionfruit and chocolate filigree.

We kept all the drinks readily available in big ice buckets on the sideboard beside the dining table and our wonderful waiter, Ana, did a great job of keeping us all hydrated throughout the night. Chef and his assistants washed all the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen while we were all happily chatting and feasting on the delicious food, finishing up their official duties and leaving us about 9.30pm. But the festivities weren’t over yet!

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Let the games begin

Each of our guests had been asked to bring a Secret Santa gift (to the value of about $10) to dinner. After all the eating had concluded, we launched into our Secret Santa gift game. Have you played it before? My family started playing it years ago on Christmas day for a bit of fun and it’s been good at giving some giggles at our end-of-year gatherings for the past few years too. Years ago, I used to buy all the gifts myself but as the team has grown, we now ask the team members to bring their own – I actually think this is better as everyone has more of a vested interest what they have purchased. Here’s the general rundown on the game plan:

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      • All gifts (which are wrapped) are placed on display in the middle of the table.
      • One team member begins (we started with the youngest member, but maybe you could go in alphabetical order or something different) and picks a present from the table to open.
      • Once the first present is opened and everyone can see the item, the next person is allowed to either open a brand new present or take an already-opened present off a previous recipient.
      • If someone has their gift taken off them, they are allowed to open (or steal) another present.
      • Our rule is that no present is to be stolen more than once by the same person (however, there are no rules to say that person’s partner can’t steal it so that the desired present makes it home by the end of the night… just sayin’ ;), but you can make up your own rules.
      • The cycle continues until all presents are open.

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This game kept us entertained for at least a good hour – I think it was definitely the most fun we’ve had in all the years we’ve been playing it!

Our end-of-year team gathering finished up around 11.30pm, with loads of fun had by all. I love watching how the event morphs and develops over time, depending on the number of team member and the different mix of personalities.

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How we have celebrated over the years

Here is a list of other activities we’ve done over the years:

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          • Cocktails, dinner and a magnificent view on the balcony at Topiaries of Beaumont, with private group transfer each way.
          • Lovely lunch on the river at Watt, New Farm. We’ve also hosted lunch at the Hundred Acre Bar at the St Lucia Golf Course.
          • A winery tour at Sirromet, followed by lunch in their signature restaurant, Lurleen’s.
          • Cocktails on the river at Byblos, followed by dinner at the now-closed Restaurant Manx, Portside.
          • The Story Bridge Climb at sunset, followed by drinks (and getting dressed up) in the room of a nearby hotel and then dinner at a local restaurant.
          • Cooking class and lunch at James Street Cooking School, followed by cocktails at Cru Bar, New Farm.

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(Cocktails seem to feature fairly strongly on this list, don’t they??)

I also have a list of ideas for future team events, but I’m going to keep those under wraps for now 😉

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How to create your own

Here are the steps you can follow to create a memorable experience for your team:

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      • Well in advance, give your team members a short list of available dates and find a date when everyone can attend. Ask all your team members to lock it in with their partners too. As the year often gets a bit crazy with social events and busy-ness towards Christmas, we usually plan for a team gathering in November. Obviously the more time you have, the easier it will be to book your chosen activity/event on that date!
      • Brainstorm a list of ideas. Let your imagination run wild. What do you want the event to look like? Will it be during the day or at night? Fun and festive, or a more formal event? Will you have a theme?
      • Write a list of criteria. How many people will be attending? What’s your budget per person? What’s the age group of your team? Do you have any limitations based on who’s attending – e.g. If you really want to skydive, will everyone on your team feel comfortable doing this activity?
      • Focus on one particular idea and write a list of everything you need to organise. Book in any elements you need to outsource and pay deposits. Have you arranged a venue? Catering? Beverages? Decorations? Music? Equipment hire? Group transport?
      • Make invitations for your team members. Are the details of your event a surprise, or can they find out specifics in advance? While our team has the date locked in fairly early, we usually leave more specific details until the week or two before. That way, they get a chance to look forward to all the fun we have in store.
      • Finalise the finer details of your event. Do you want to give out any awards to your team members on the night? Do you have a speech to prepare? Do you need to advise a venue of any specific music or dietary requirements?
      • Attend the event and have lots of fun!

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Meeting the Crew

It finally happened. Oh yes, we met Justice Crew.

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From the moment we shared the exciting news with Sam that we would be meeting Justice Crew at the Arnott’s Family Fun Day, we spent a few weeks listening to JC songs on repeat and watching loads of video clips. I’m pretty sure even Nicholas knew the words to their songs off by heart by the big day!

13 September arrived and Sam was up at the crack of dawn, anxiously anticipating the big event.

Ben and Sam enjoyed a tour of the Arnott’s bakery with both sets of grandparents – the first time the bakery has been open to the public in 25 years. While they were on the tour, Charlie, Nicholas and I took the opportunity to explore the venue and listen to some of the entertainment.

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Our day was filled with balloons, slippery slides, face painting, jumping castles, far too many biscuits (but those Tiny Teddies looked so cute riding in TimTam cars), photos in antique Arnott’s delivery vans, music, getting up close and personal with some Australian wildlife, Cold Rock ice-cream… and then the big moment arrived. At 1.15pm, our little family was greeted by security guards and ushered through to the ‘green room’ to meet Justice Crew.

The JC boys were warm and welcoming, despite all of us being a little starstruck and finding it hard to get any words out. We chatted as photos were taken by the official photographer, then watched the crew practice a few dance moves and record a special message for Arnott’s 150th birthday. All the members of the band signed a CD for Sam, which he proceeded to hold onto for dear life.

Soon after a puppet show and dance party with our friends Kylie and Deano from Camp Quality, we were at the side of the stage, rocking out to the music and watching Justice Crew perform their amazing dance moves. There were lots of squealing tweens dancing at the front of the stage. I had a moment of pride when JC added “and a big thanks to Sam and the Love family” into one of their songs, and I watched the big smiles on Sam and Charlie’s faces as we danced along together to the familiar tunes.

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Some of our nearest and dearest friends and family members came along to be part of the day, and we were so thankful that they were there to share it with us. We are also grateful to the team at Arnott’s and Camp Quality who made the day happen, and especially to the State Manager of CQ, Theresa Scanlan, who went out of her way to make us feel such a special part of the proceedings. At the conclusion of the event, we heard that Arnott’s had raised over $40,000 for Camp Quality through the Family Fun Day.

It was a good day. An exhausting but wonderful, momentous, heart-filling day.

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* A version of this post appeared on Mummalove.
Jon Hollenberg Five By Five Grassroots IT

How to Create a Brilliant Website: Q&A with Jon Hollenberg

Jon Hollenberg Five By Five Grassroots IT

 

Choosing a web developer to work with can be an extremely challenging process for any business owner, complicated immensely by the vast range of price points available for sometimes seemingly identical products.

The cost of engaging a large agency could be enough to break many small businesses, while dealing with a $500 fixed price provider (in my experience) usually leads to disappointment. Jon and his group at Five by Five play in the important space between the two, providing high quality, effective websites at an appropriate price point.

I only met Jon in person quite recently, however I’ve been familiar with the calibre of his work for quite a while now. He’s a smart guy who knows his stuff, places the client front and centre, and delivers results. There’s so much down to earth, quality advice going on in that head of his that I could write a book on it (oh wait, he already did that…). Instead I threw him the top five questions on my mind about web design, which he has answered below. 

Hope you enjoy,

Ben

PS. I’m trying to get Jon to join me on the Podcast so we can get more of this great content from him, so stay tuned for that. 

With Facebook, LinkedIn, and all of the other social media platforms, why does my business even need a website anymore?

Your website should be home base. An asset you control and own.

As an example, say you spent all your time, effort and money on building up huge following on Facebook. All it takes is for Facebook to move the goal posts (i.e. not displaying your posts in their feed anymore) and all your efforts have been in vain.

Building a strong powerful website that have full control of is paramount.  Ensure all your content is housed on your site (ideally on your blog) rather than a social media platform.  The key is to use the social media platforms to drive traffic to your website.

Once a visitor is on your website, try to capture their details through a compelling opt-in or offer.  You can then build a direct 1:1 relationship which is not dependant on any other social media platform.

With so many easy DIY options now available like SquareSpace and Wix, why does everyone still recommend using WordPress to build my website on?

Sites like SquareSpace & Wix are a good option for a business owner that is starting out.  The reason being is:

  • For the average punter, it is very quick and easy to get started
  • They are easy to use
  • It is low cost
  • The templates & designs they offer look great
  • Dedicated support teams

Like most things in life, there is a trade off being:

  • You don’t control the hosting (this is done by SquareSpace & Wix)
  • You can’t modify and customise your site
  • You are limited in features and functionality

WordPress is an ‘open source’ content management system. It is used by millions of businesses around the world. It is free to download and use and can be housed by most hosting companies. You can bolt in ‘plugins’ to extend the features of your website. All its files are free to use, customise and enhance. It can be packaged up and moved around with little hassle. This gives flexibility if a relationship with a web designer ever deteriorates.

WordPress started life as a blogging platform but has evolved to a full featured, fully customisable CMS. It is very common, driving about 25% of all websites on the internet.  Everything from complex websites, simple blogs and online shops can be powered by WordPress.

There are hundreds of thousands of web designers who use it as their primary tool of choice. Finding a web designer and developer to help with the ongoing support for your website is very easy. If you are technically minded and like to get your hands dirty you can even do the majority of the setup and configuration yourself. Utilising templates allows the majority of the behind the scenes heavy lifting to be done for you, whilst still allowing exciting creative input from your design crew.

Why would I hire a web developer to build my website when I can just do it myself with a free WordPress template? Surely it’s not that hard to do.

There are so many different ways to get your website built. And sure, you can try to build it yourself. Depending on your skill level, you might be able to get it pieced together.  Full credit to you!

As WordPress is infinitely customisable, the challenge will come when you hit a roadblock or technical hurdle.  In addition, WordPress requires ongoing maintenance and upkeep of the content management system and associated plugins to ensure they remain secure.

The other option is to partner with an established web designer or digital agency.

In my opinion, small business owners are best suited working with an agency due to the different skill sets a team can bring to the table. By working with an agency with a team, you reap the benefits of each person focusing on their individual skills such as project management, design, development, copywriting, photography and video. This gives you the leverage of a team and no single ‘break-point’.

If something breaks, you have a fallback of team that can solve your problems.

I need my website to bring me more clients. What are the key things that I need to pay attention to for that to happen?

Content, content, content!

Gone are the times when it was as easy as knocking up a pretty five-page website, inserting a few pictures, stuffing it full of keywords and hoping that you end up on the first page of Google.

Google has evolved. It is much smarter and can’t be manipulated. You see, Google wants to provide the best quality results and experience to its users. And that means filtering out all the junk websites and only focusing on sites that provide great quality content.

Search engine optimisation (the process of making your website more visible in Google) is largely down to two factors how your website has been constructed (on-site optimisation) and the content contained within.

A website gives you a platform to create and distribute content at virtually no cost. Google only wants great quality content and rewards websites that take the time and effort to educate around their respective products and services. This pulls prospects towards you and positions you as an authority.

Build your site full of great content which actually solves your customers problems and clients will naturally come!

What are the current design trends for websites in 2015?

Great question. But why bother with design in the first place?

People form an opinion about a company based on the signals it conveys. On the web, the window of opportunity is limited, with visitors choosing whether to stay or move on in less than three seconds. Good design is good for business and, in a competitive online environment, you have to make an impact.

Staying abreast of current design trends is critical to be seen as a market leader.  Here is what we are seeing flowing through our sites:

Big & bold images

Large background images utilising high quality photography are being used extensively across sites. This typically exists in a large “banner” style image area above the fold. There is a vast array of great quality, affordable imagery available. Alternatively get a professional photo shoot done for your business. Invest the time and energy in good quality imagery. Stay away from cheesy stock photography!

 

Boats

Flat design

Bevelled edges, gradients and shadows are all out!

Flat design is more focused around a minimalist approach to colour & layout. The primary purpose is to focus on the functionality of the interface. What is the one thing you want the visitor to do on your website or interface?

The end result is very clean, crisp and simple website interfaces.

Orbit (soon to be launched)

Focus on mobile

Mobile is booming.  And your site better be mobile responsive.

Responsive design reformats your website ‘on the fly’ to give the best viewing experience. Common characteristics of a website built in this manner are large fonts, easy to use navigation and not having to pinch and zoom.

The website adapts or ‘responds’ to the type of device which is accessing it. This means you only build one website that looks great and adapts gracefully to every type of device. From a large desktop monitor, through to a medium tablet-sized screen and then down to a small smartphone screen.

Mobile

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Video Backgrounds

There is no better way to tell your businesses story through video. Video is such a powerful way to build trust. Prospects can look down the lens and immediately form judgements on your business’ products and staff. They can see whether you are a person they would like to do business with. It is a great way to build rapport and leverage your sales staff many times over (without them having to give the same sales presentation over and over again). It allows for a more intimate connection and adds another touch point to the potential sale.

Shoot a documentary style two minute video about your business and have this front and centre on your homepage.

5x5

 

John Hollenberg

 

Jon Hollenberg owns Five by Five, an Australian web design business. He has delivered thousands of websites for clients such as Qantas, Jeep and the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. He is passionate about working with business owners to realise their potential by using online tools as a massive leverage point in their business.

 

 

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