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Top 5 Best Practices in Franchise Website Design

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Franchises have an interesting dilemma when it comes to search marketing and website design. The corporate hub usually maintains overarching control of the brand, but local franchisees need a relevant website that connects with their nearby customers. To ensure that local franchisees are able to develop a robust presence in their market while adhering to corporate mandates requires a delicate balance. Below are the top 5 best practices for franchise website design and marketing.

  1. Defer to Corporate on Branding: Your franchise has likely built its multi-million dollar brand through years of trial and error. Though you have rights as a franchisee, even minor changes to the logo, color palette, vision statement, and font can have repercussions. You need to leave those elements alone and focus on the regional aspects of your positioning.
     
  2. Franchise Website Development (Marketpath, Inc.)Assess the Local Market: After you’ve accepted that there’s little you can do with company brand, you can focus on the pieces that will draw customers to your local franchise.  Make sure your website has a section specific to your local market, where you can provide content that may be specific to your geographic region.  Having the flexibility to easily feature different products or services can go a long way towards local success.

    You may also want to build online campaigns that speak to problems and solutions in your area. If your business is an auto maintenance and repair company, for example, consider the value you can provide customers specific to your climate. Perhaps your organization sells water filtration systems. You could build a campaign around where your water is sourced. Or if you own a restaurant franchise, consider campaigns that connect to local events, teams or themes.
     
  3. Everyone Likes a Deal: The corporate franchise may have national offers, but as a franchisee, you probably have the leeway to offer specials specific to your market. When designing your website, make sure your franchisor includes a section for deals exclusive to your city or region. Consider including a subscription form to collect visitor email addresses for newsletters and coupons.
     
  4. Keep Control of Social Media: Headquarters will have its own content marketing collateral, which you should be able to use. Yet engaging with your local customers is even more important. If a customer uses social media like Facebook or Twitter to discuss your local franchise, you need the ability to respond and to develop ongoing communication with your customers and prospects. It’s corporate’s brand, but it’s your business and specific customer.
     
  5. Employ a Flexible CMS: Your website and content marketing system needs to meet the needs of both the franchisor and the franchisee while maintaining across the board consistency.  Whatever website management or content management solution you choose should offer the flexibility to streamline corporate branding while enabling local franchisees to manage and update content related to their location or territory.

To learn more about ways to maximize franchise website design and marketing, contact Marketpath today.

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Responsive Web Design versus Dedicated Mobile Sites: What’s Right for You?

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Nearly 20 percent of web traffic comes through mobile devices. As smart phones become even more ubiquitous, that number will only increase. As a result, companies are compelled to create mobile-friendly versions of their websites. The debate that’s arisen from this growth is whether an organization should use responsive web design – creating a site that works similarly on a PC and a mobile device – or opt to create a dedicated mobile site.

What’s the Difference?

A responsive website is exactly how it sounds: It shifts and scales based on the vehicle the user is employing to see it. Large desktop monitor or small phone – the design is fluid and, well, responsive. A mobile site is built within a mobile framework. It’s a custom development designed to be experienced specifically on a smartphone. So how do you choose the right option for your company’s mobile presence?

The Case for Responsive Design

Responsive Web Design (Marketpath, Inc.)The number one reason to opt for responsive web design is overall simplicity. Regardless of where the customer decides to look at your site, they’ll be able to see it as it was intended. On the developer side, responsive sites, though more complex to create up front, are also easier to maintain down the road because the code doesn’t need to be modified to fit various formats.

Responsive design is also the preferred choice of Google, so that’s a big plus, too.

For a content-heavy site, responsive design may be the best solution.  You create your content once and can publish it everywhere.  You also spend less time on mobile-specific development because the site is built to accommodate large and small screens, and you have more time for content development.

We recently developed a micro-site for KSM Consulting (www.ksmconsulting.com/careers) and wanted the same basic content to be visible on all devices. But we also wanted a positive user experience, where the content was easy to read, regardless of whether you viewed it from a desktop or a mobile phone. Responsive was the perfect approach.

The Case for Dedicated Mobile Sites

Indianapolis Mobile Website DevelopmentConsider your average customer. Do they expect a custom experience when accessing your site via mobile? If so, a dedicated mobile site may be the better option. One example of this would be if the primary function of the site, or portions of the site, is meant to act as an application or connect with separate applications. On Amazon, for example, the primary action is for a user to purchase items while housing secure customer data.  A native app would be able to integrate directly with a user's personal mobile device, which is easier for the end user if they want to securely open the app and buy something.

Another reason you might go with a dedicated mobile site, would be when special custom features or advertising are required. Responsive design sites typically don’t allow for the inclusion of advertising banners or other custom features. If graphic calls to action are a necessary aspect of your marketing plan, a dedicated mobile website is a wise choice.

The biggest reason to go with a dedicated mobile site is the user experience. Are you content with providing visitors the same interactive result no matter how they navigate to your site, or should the mobile experience be different fundamentally because of your brand or a unique service offering? If the latter, the choice is clear.

A final reason (and probably the most common) to go with a dedicated mobile site, might be that your business already has a well-designed website (non-responsive) and isn’t ready for a full site redesign.  In that case, it may make more sense to develop a simple mobile site than trying to fit a responsive approach into a site that wasn’t designed that way.  In some cases, this is a more economical approach, until your next major redesign.

Still Not Sure Which Approach Is Best?

Are you trying to determine the web design strategy that’s right for your business? Contact Marketpath today to learn more about our mobile design capabilities. Click here to see some of our latest responsive web designs and mobile web development projects.

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Top Reasons Your Small Business Should Use Google+

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Google+ for Small BusinessThe number of social media outlets continues to expand. Because of its quantity of users, Facebook is a must for most businesses, especially if they are consumer focused (B2C). Beyond that, the debate opens up. LinkedIn is extremely important to building professional relationships and for business to business (B2B), Twitter is the most dynamic, and YouTube has a sizable portion of the video market. But the social network with the most significant expansion is Google+ (or Google Plus).

Here are the top reasons your small business should use Google+.

  1. The primary reason your business can’t afford to ignore Google+ is its impact on search rankings (SEO). As the number one search engine, Google has incorporated Google+ into its algorithms. Here’s why this matters: Suppose your organization is on Google+ and posts content through its account. When one of your connections on the network does a search, your content is more likely to have a higher ranking in the results. Countless studies have been done on the value of page placement. Bottom line – the higher you appear, the better.
     
  2. Google+ is growing. The latest data indicates, with hundreds of millions of users, it’s the second largest social network behind Facebook, with just over 50% of internet users with a Google+ account. A business would be hard-pressed to ignore that many potential customers.
     
  3. Google’s integration is far reaching. Google Places and Maps, for example, impact local search results. When a potential customer does a search for a service – say, content marketing – a local firm with an active Google+ profile is more likely to appear near the top of the results. And let’s not forget Gmail – how long will it be before there is a closer connection between Google’s email users and Google Plus?
     
  4. One of the most valuable, new aspects of Google+ is its integration of Authorship. By linking a small business employee’s Google+ account image with, for example, a company blog post, early studies have shown an increase in conversion of as much as 150 percent.

    Google Authorship
     
  5. Everyone’s a critic and Google realizes that. Google+ Reviews are now showing up in search activity, which impacts leads and, ultimately, conversion. A small business can take advantage of this feature by proactively soliciting reviews about its product or service from their customers - see Flat 12 Bierwerks example below. The result – better control of the perception of your brand.

Flat 12 Bierwerks Leverages Positive Reviews

Many organizations and individuals have had their fill of social media networks and are content to stick with already established accounts that have delivered results. But the growth of Google+ can’t be ignored, especially when valued customers are at stake.

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Garbage Content In = Garbage Results Out

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Today is trash day. Every home in my neighborhood takes their trash out to the curb and a service comes to pick it up so we never have to think about it again. It's also recycling day. Next to our trash, with no less than three feet of space between adjacent objects, we place our oversized recycling bin. This is always full, which typically leaves us with only half of one trash can.

Every week I notice how some of our neighbors always have 2-3 full trash cans and often additional bags beyond that. These folks don't recycle, which is fine. Everyone has their own M-O. I do believe in it, though, and it boggles my mind how they have so much garbage, especially when many of them are empty nesters. Then it dawns on me - fast food or frozen, packaged foods.  I know several of them eat quick to prepare garbage food which equals lots of garbage at the curb. Food that is not terribly healthy for your health's bottom line. Lots of garbage coming in = lots of garbage going out.

Garbage Content In = Garbage Results OutThe same can easily happen with your blogging and content marketing effort. If the content you write and share with your audience has little to no value and only serves the purpose of filling a void or a schedule then it is very likely garbage content. And with garbage content, you'll get garbage results.

 

 


Don't "Just Write" - Write to Engage

There are many advocates of the "just write" philosophy which essentially means don't worry about the quality, just write as much content as you can to gain more search engine visibility and eyeballs. I don't subscribe to this. While its important to gain visibility through search engines, their models of determining what content is important and what is not changes monthly. And in the end, you have real people who read your content. If you put out garbage, they will become Tiggers and bounce away quicker than you can say "Bouncing is what Tiggers do best!" 

There is also something to say about frequency and this is where content writers often get tripped up. If you don't write often enough, then it's like a guy standing in a crowded place and only once yelling "I have the answers!" Some people will probably throw a glance but they won't stop. But if he yells "I have the answers" every few minutes, people will eventually stop. And if he truly has the answers and provides reasonable value, the word will spread and more people will stop to listen.

That balance, where content engages on a regular basis, only comes with practice, monitoring results, and tweaking. Practice is at the foundation of the "just write" mindset. But don't let that fool you into writing garbage content, or in other words, content that really has no value to your target audience. People don't like listening unless it is valuable to them and engages their attention. Your "practice" should be more about writing style and flow where the underlying topics hold real value.

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Why Metrics Matter for Small Business

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Marketing doesn’t work without measurement. It’s a simple concept, but one that frequently gets overlooked. Ensuring that limited marketing resources (dollars, people and time) are used wisely is critical for all organizations. But metrics especially matter for small businesses because the margins for error are small.

Online Marketing MeasurementYour company should, at the very least, have a website and Facebook page. These are the first stops for a potential customer looking to find out more about your business. Now consider whether these online storefronts are adding value for your organization. Are they increasing visibility for your brand? What impression are your sites portraying? How are you assessing whether visits are converting to sales or at least moving the prospect further down the purchase funnel? That’s where metrics come in. By measuring metrics, you can collect information on page views, click-throughs, registrations, and more. You can then modify you efforts based on this data.

Below is an outline of online marketing data a small business should be trying to measure:

  1. Website Metrics – These include site visits, time on site, number of pages visited, and conversions (email address registrations, downloads, purchases, and other general contacts).
     
  2. Blog Metrics – These include the number of posts per week or month, the resulting traffic from those posts, search rankings of posts, and the leads generated from those blog posts.
     
  3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Metrics – These include measurement of keyword rankings and subsequent traffic from the search of those keywords on major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
     
  4. Social Media Metrics – These include numbers of followers per social networking site, social sharing of your content, conversions to website traffic via those networks, and the number of leads generated from those hits.
     
  5. Email Metrics – These include open and click-through rates, subscriptions, and the resulting leads from those emails.

If you haven’t been gathering data about your online marketing efforts, never fear! Plenty of tools exist to help you collect that information. Contact Marketpath today to learn how your small business can take advantage of these features and begin collecting valuable data.

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What are the Right Social Media Networks for Your Business?

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How does a business choose the right social media platforms? Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have been around for several years now. Pinterest and Instagram are gaining traction. But many businesses are still trying to figure out ways to leverage the technologies.

Social Marketing and Content Marketing StrategyThe first step in choosing the right social media platforms for your business is to identify your goals. Consider why you want to use a particular network. Do you want to increase customer engagement? Is your primary focus establishing an audience? Maybe it all comes down to sales? Take some time to work through the reasons your business could benefit from launching into social media.

After you’ve determined the triggers for your social strategy, you can then establish a process to reach those goals. Social media for businesses requires a plan to succeed, and that plan needs to be driven by content marketing. Regardless of the social channel, you need to determine what content provides value to your prospects and customers, while adding credibility to your business. You need time to build an audience, followed by studying analytics to determine ways to improve the plan.

Strategy in place, you can move on to choosing platforms. Below are some of the most prominent social marketing channels:

  1. Facebook – Whether it’s perfect for your business might be irrelevant. Facebook is the biggest network so your organization probably needs to have a presence, especially if your business is consumer focused. Internally, you must determine how to best leverage the system, and at what level.
     
  2. Twitter – Twitter moves quickly, so your audience will determine how effective it can be for your strategy. In terms of ease of use and efficiency, however, Twitter can’t be beat.  If your business has a lot going on (news, new products, events or promotions) Twitter is also a great way to communicate on a daily basis. Finally, Twitter is a great way to leverage a strong content marketing strategy, attracting new audience members to your blog, case studies, white papers, videos, etc.
     
  3. LinkedIn – All businesses need to establish a presence on LinkedIn. Professional relationships form the heart of this network. As a result, it’s the most business-to business (B2B) focused of the social networks. If you sell to other businesses (B2B), you should be on LinkedIn.
     
  4. YouTube – Video, along with blog content, is rapidly becoming the backbone of any content marketing strategy. In today’s business environment, an impactful one to two-minute video clip can deliver exciting results. If you have content that is conducive to video, you should develop a YouTube strategy.
     
  5. Google+ -- Though it’s still gaining audience, Google’s social network is important for one key reason: search engine rankings. Because of Google’s importance in how anyone finds your business, I’d suggest having both a personal and business Google+ page.  If the type of business you’re in is impacted strongly by “reviews” – such as a restaurant, having a Google+ presence will be even more important.
     
  6. Pinterest – Pinterest is getting a reputation as the social network for housewives, but it can be useful if your business features a strong visual component. Pinterest, for example, may be useful if you want to promote a wall of products. Do your products visually sell themselves? Are influencers such as designers or decorators involved in your business (remodeling, furniture, home products, art, etc.)? If so, then Pinterest may be a great way to visually promote your products and brand.
     
  7. Instagram – The photo-sharing network has become the go-to place for creating a visual diary. That alone doesn’t make it that valuable for business. But the recent roll-out of the platform’s short video capabilities adds a new level of applicability. Another short video network, Vine, was beginning to grab hold, so it will be interesting to see how the two battle it out for that segment. Instagram can also offer similar benefits as Pinterest for businesses with visual products or services.

Still not sure what the best social media channels are for your company? Marketpath can help you build an online marketing strategy to capitalize on these exciting technologies.

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Blogging – The Small Business (Not-So) Secret Weapon

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Small business owners may find themselves unsure where to focus their online marketing resources. Email endeavors, newsletters, and the plethora of social media options (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest and so on) – the number of channels can be overwhelming. And finding the time to dedicate enough resources to those efforts adds another layer to the puzzle. That’s why the simplicity of business blogging – the not-so-secret weapon of a small business – is so appealing.

Blogging may seem unsexy compared to some options, but it works. Here’s how:

  1. Blogging - Small Business' Content Marketing WeaponBlogging creates credibility – Potential customers are looking for expertise. Blogging offers an easy way to convey your stature as a key thought leader in your industry. And those customers are likely to tell their cohorts about their new source of expertise.
  2. Blogging gives your company a voice – As an extension of building the perception of expertise, blogging enables you to position your organization. It also provides a channel to talk about services or products your company offers, the latest industry news, and upcoming events.
  3. Blogging allows you to begin conversations with potential customers – Marketers are always looking for ways to speed up the sales cycle. A blog gets that relationship started by increasing online activity. Companies that blog generate 55 percent more website visitors, 97 percent more inbound links, and 434 percent more indexed pages. In addition, 7 of 10 businesses believe blogging has led to an improvement in their lead generation success.
  4. Blogging on a consistent schedule builds a library of content to share across other social networks – Your social media audience is looking for valuable content. By pushing blog posts through these channels, you’re pulling people back to your company site and encouraging your network to share your blog posts with their extended networks as well.
  5. Blogging improves search rankings (SEO) – The more you blog, the more often Google will recognize the value of your content in its overall algorithms. As long as the content is of high quality, your ranking will improve.

Blogging is here to stay. More than one-third of companies now use blogs for marketing purposes, and those companies that do blog receive 55 percent more website traffic than companies that don’t. More traffic leads to more opportunities for sales. For the small business owner, ignoring the value of blogging as a marketing tool is a poor business decision.

Does your company need assistance creating a blog and putting together a content marketing strategy? If you are planning an upcoming web design or website development project, don’t forget to include a business blog.  Marketpath can help get you started. Contact us at our Indianapolis office today!

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Credibility is Paramount for Small Business Websites

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When discussing website strategy, everyone likes to discuss visibility and conversion, but for many small business websites, generating credibility may be the most important factor in your online success. Your website is the new yellow pages for any small business – it’s the first place any prospect will go when they want to learn more about your company and what you do.
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What is the Value of Your Time? The Case against Open-Source CMS

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The debate has raged on for years now about the value of an open-source Content Management System (CMS) versus the on-demand Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) CMS model. Yes, Wordpress, which holds a large chunk of the market, is free. Anyone can pick a template and toss something up on the web. And everyone likes things that are free, right? Perhaps, but you also get what you pay for.

Marketpath CMS - Efficient and Effective Website MarketingThe concept of a free CMS is a bit misleading. Yes, it’s true that open-source code is developed by a community of people who offer it to users at no charge. But just because a technology is available doesn’t mean you’ll know what to do with it.

Suppose you get through the basic steps of getting a site up and running. Now what? Who do you turn to when you have a question? What happens when it’s time to update the source code? Free technologies don’t come with award-winning 24/7 customer service departments. Your likely options are suspect online documentation and Wikipedia. Not too comforting. How much time do you want to spend digging for answers? What’s that time worth to you?

Take the lack of help desk support a step further. Basic technical support is one thing; get hit by a virus or hacked, and you’re looking at a whole other set of problems. Security should be a primary concern for anyone carving out online real estate. Open source plug-ins can solve some security issues, but they’re not a guarantee. Worst case scenario, you get bugged, information is compromised, and the site comes crashing down. Again, who do you call? How much time do want to spend trying to fix the problem?

How about new functionality?  With open-source systems you can find free plug-ins that add new capabilities to your site.  But you’ll need someone to install them and hopefully understand them from a technical perspective.  With Marketpath CMS, upgrades are included with your subscription and you receive them automatically – no hassle. 

Take a few moments to consider the overall potential for frustration. If you’re a business owner, your focus needs to be building the company - and your website should be a strategic component of your plan to do so. You can’t afford to be bogged down in technical minutia. Marketpath’s on-demand, custom CMS eliminates these concerns so you make the most of your time, increase revenue, and reduce costs.

Contact us today to learn more about our content management, web design and website development services..

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Why You Need a Mobile Website

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The internet is inundated with statistics about the growing importance of mobile websites. If you haven’t gotten the message by now, you haven’t been listening. So, for the benefit of those who’ve yet to grasp the full implication of this trend, we’ll state it one more time: Smartphone usage has exploded. If you want your brand to cut through the clutter, be accessible, and look good to the hundreds of millions of people checking out your company or product on their device, you need a quality mobile website.

Here’s why:

  1. Indianapolis Mobile Website DesignMobile is Immediate: When users hear about your product or service, they don’t have to wait until they park themselves in front of their laptop to get a glimpse. They flip out their phone, tap their browser and get to work. The Will Rogers quote still applies: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” State your case and make your contact options – email and phone – obvious and easy.
  2. Mobile Removes the Fluff: The average mobile web surf lasts less than a few minutes. Your mobile audience wants you to get to the point. They expect simple, direct, memorable, and concise calls to action. Content is valuable, but make a user wade through the morass of excess copy and large images and you risk ticking them off. They don’t want to have to modify images or tweak resolution. Put yourself in the user’s shoes. Make it easy for them to understand your sales proposition.
  3. Mobile Means Forward Thinking: A potential customer wants reassurance that you’re at least on pace with the industry curve. If they bring your business up on their smart phone and find something archaic – or nothing at all – that leaves a negative impression. A quality mobile website indicates that you’re thinking not just about the current state of your business, but where it’s headed going forward. Perception is critical.

What’s the current state of your company’s mobile website? Would you like to learn more about optimizing your mobile presence? Contact us today to find out more about designing your website and implementing a quality mobile website.

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