Why the Responsive Design Trend Is Becoming the New Industry Standard
According to SearchEngineWatch.com, mobile Internet usage increased by over 73% in the year 2014 and now exceeds PC Internet usage for the first time in history. This means that businesses should consider responsive web design as a solution to ensuring their website is compatible across any and all devices.
Responsive Web Design is often misunderstood as a term to describe any website that appears “mobile-friendly”, but there are many differences to an actual responsive site and a site that merely appears mobile-friendly. Responsive websites use one single HTML code that fluidly changes the size of the site using CSS as the size of the user’s device changes. The key difference is in the amount of HTML codebases: a responsive site will always have only one, while a dynamically-served site will have multiple codebases that a server will choose from depending on the size of the device detected.
With so many mobile users in the world, it is critical to have a website that responds to the variable screen size rather than scaling down to a lower resolution. A website must appear beautiful on all kinds of devices - from a 50” television to a tablet, a laptop and every phone in between. There are many strategies for developing a mobile-friendly website, but choosing a responsive web design offers additional benefits that increase user-experience and aid in business:
- Flexible web page rendering: the user will always experience a 100% width website that is adapted to their particular screen size. There will never be a need to zoom on a responsive website because the site has already adapted to the user.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): Google, the largest search engine to date, dictates what search engine optimization practices websites need to adhere to in order to be found. Google has clearly indicated that it prefers responsive web designs to mobile templates because there is a single website URL to crawl and index the website. Likewise, there is a greater reduction in search engine optimization errors because all occur only once rather than for desktop and for mobile.
- Easy long-term maintenance: using one HTML file structure for the entire site means less development on the backend. Less development means time efficiency and a lower cost when making changes and maintaining the site.
- Bounce rate reduction: User experience strongly dictates your business’s bounce rate. If there is a consistent user experience among devices as well as an ease of navigation, the website is considered more trustworthy to the user. The easier to navigate, the longer a user is likely to stay on your site.
- Easy sharing: Instead of detecting multiple URL’s (such as m.title.com and www.title.com), responsive web design only uses one URL that allows for consistent and easy sharing among all users, devices, social marketing platforms, and experiences.
As technology evolves, websites- how they are designed and how they are built, will adapt further, (perhaps even into 3D?). 5.1 billion people in the world of the 6.8 billion-world population are now smartphone users. While responsive design may not be feasible for every business, it is a great option to consider when considering your customer base.
What Does This Mean for Your Social Marketing Strategy?
In November 2014, Facebook announced that beginning in January 2015 they would be killing the organic reach for business page posts in user’s newsfeeds, meaning businesses cannot offer promotional deals via a post for their business such as:
“Huge sale on Mother’s Day bouquets! Use the code FacebookMOM for an additional 15% off.”
Posts like this will no longer show up on an individual’s newsfeed. Instead, the business will have to pay to advertise on the site to show up as promotional. While this is good for the every day user who was tired of ads, what does this mean for your small business and your social marketing strategy?
Facebook is unclear about what their algorithm will consider “overly promotional”, so a few months of data will be necessary to completely determine the impact of this change; however, businesses are already reporting a significant decline in their organic reach, some up to as much as 75-90%.
A few ideas to consider to adding to your social marketing strategy in light of this Facebook change:
- Add social relationships and interactions to your own website. Write blogs that your users are interested and want to share. Encourage a direct relationship with your customer because their organic reach can be far more powerful than businesses ever could.
- Don’t make Facebook the center of your businesses marketing strategy and interaction with your customers. Encourage them to sign up for newsletters to stay in contact with your business. Newsletters delivered by email are served 90% of the time while Facebook posts are served 2% of the time. Fostering a relationship via newsletter is going to be much more effective in the long run than relying on social marketing.
Facebook killing organic reach is going to be unfortunate and costly for businesses, so reconsider your 2015-2016 social marketing strategy in order to maximize the effectiveness of both your website and your social media for your customers.
Is your website successful? Does your site support your brand, drive business growth, and bring in sales leads? If not, it’s time to consider upgrading your business website. In the age of technology an informative, appealing, and accessible website has a direct correlation to business growth and credibility.
Marketpath CMS is the web content management and content marketing solution that can convert your website from a static billboard into a valuable marketing tool that can drive business growth. Here are just a few of the reasons why your business should choose Marketpath CMS:
Great Tool Set-
Marketpath CMS provides the perfect toolset to manage your website updates and content marketing. Our software gives your business a stress-free way to manage and update your site even for non-technical people. All updates and additions to the site happen in one place, via the web! Whether one is updating text copy, adding images or videos to a gallery, or creating calendar events, Marketpath CMS does it all! Businesses have the ability to create event registration pages, to build surveys and web forms via our form builder, to work with SEO tools, to create and publish blogs, and more. With Marketpath CMS’s breadth of tools and ease, it makes confusing and tricky website marketing effortless!
Selecting Marketpath CMS means you’ve chosen one of the easiest and highest rated content management systems available today – one that is currently used by hundreds of other large and small businesses. But that’s not all; you’ll all receive the constant support of the Marketpath team. With your Marketpath CMS subscription, you’ll receive unlimited support for all your website and content management needs. You can call or email at any time and we’ll be eager to help with any questions or needs. Need help uploading a case study or document for the first time? We can walk you through it. Forgot how to add a video? We’ll help you out. But it isn’t only technical support Marketpath can provide. We’re also available to provide marketing assistance and guidance when desired. Need advice on creating a landing page or on how to optimize a new page for search? Just ask and we’ll gladly provide marketing advice. For many small businesses, with limited technical or marketing resources, Marketpath can be a valuable partner that supports your internal team. One of our strengths is our availability and dedication to our customers.
Website Monitoring and Hosting-
In addition to our support, Marketpath meets all your website monitoring and hosting needs. We track your site to make sure it is up and running and our alerted if any issues arise. We also monitor your website to ensure it is always working at an acceptable speed, so that your users have a positive experience. As a small business it can be difficult to have enough technical resources that have both the time and experience to handle your growing website needs. When you work with Marketpath, you won’t need any internal technical support - Marketpath manages it all.
With Marketpath CMS your business doesn’t have to worry about keeping up with the latest technology trends and changes. We’ll add new functionality (new tools, enhancements, etc.) at least every quarter to your software. Your website will never get outdated technically because the Marketpath team works with evolving technology, constantly building it into our software, to improve your digital marketing capabilities. Any new functionalities or technology are automatically made available to your company, so you won’t have to worry about it. That's the benefit of Marketpath CMS's Software as a Servive (SaaS) or On-Demand platform.
Web/Digital Marketing Services-
Marketpath not only gives you a great software toolset and support, but also becomes your partner and expert in digital marketing strategy. Regardless of your online marketing needs, Marketpath is there to work with you. With expertise in web design (including responsive websites) and website development, content marketing, site optimization (SEO), and social marketing, the Marketpath team is there to give your business the online presence it needs.
In an earlier post, I talked about the benefits of using Instagram for your business or not-for-profit. Using Instagram as part of your social marketing strategy is a way for your business to visually market products and services, establish your company’s personality, create trust within clients, show expertise in your industry, and drive more traffic to your website. However, simply creating an Instagram account won’t do these things for your business. Here are some ways on how to best market your company on Instagram!
How your small business should use Instagram:
Hashtags- Just like twitter, Instagram has hashtags. Utilize hashtags! They are a great way to connect with users interested in your industry and for new people to find your business. Think of hashtags as keywords or search terms used by certain social media sites. Using hashtags is a great way to create followers—as people will find your business and photos, based on hashtags that tell users what your content is about.
Interaction- The best way to create a strong follower base on Instagram is to interact with your followers. If a user comments on your post, reply to their comment. If you get a new follower, follow them back. This shows respect and interest in the people that follow you. As a small business these interactions are a great way to display positive customer relations and the attention you give to current and potential clients.
Creativity- One of the great things about Instagram is how easy it is to be unique and creative. Share what your company does in a new light. Each photo can easily be filtered and edited— providing a different view or perspective on your products and services. With tools right at hand, display your product or service in an aesthetically pleasing way. This will instantly catch a user’s attention and interest in your company.
Personality- Your Instagram should be more than just posting pictures of your company’s product or service. Instagram gives your business the opportunity to really show how your different. Display the whole process of your work. What happens before the finished product? Who you are? What makes you unique? Showing the whole process of your business or client success stories can be a great and easy way to establish your business’s personality and make potential customers feel more connected to your company, employees, and work. Show the early stages of your product or service. Show members of your business at work, at play, or involved in any community activities your organization supports. Ad hoc, fun photos allow followers to look at your company as real people. Personal photos on Instagram are also a great way to humanize your business, establish trust within viewers, and make your small business stand out.
Credibility- Another great way to utilize Instagram is to display your expertise in your field. If you’re a landscaping company, post tips on how to keep up a garden. If you sell organic food, share tips on healthy eating. If you sell clothing to be worn during outdoor recreation, post pictures of different local hiking spots. By posting tips, fun facts, or anything related to your industry you convey your business’s credibility in an easy and fun way. This displayed expertise in your field causes your company to seem reliable and knowledgeable.
Who are you-The easiest, but most important thing to do for your Instagram is to give followers and viewers a way to find your website! When setting up your account, give a short description of what your company does and link your website. This provides easy access to your site so after your posts have sparked someone’s interest, they can click on the link to learn more about what you do. Indy CD and Vinyl's simple, but descriptive profile invites one to visit their store and website.
With a few tips to get you started, create an Instagram for your organization and make it your own. Instagram is a unique and manageable way to visually connect with potential customers, develop customer relations, share your company’s story, and establish trust. Only a few minutes each day are needed to snap a shot of your product, a new member of the team, or a work in progress!
The amount of social networking is immense and ever growing. To market your business it seems more and more social sites must be created and managed. How is it determined which are necessary? With Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+, Instagram does not seem to be a front runner. Yet, Instagram has grown and quickly. With 200 million active users monthly, Instagram has more user engagement than Facebook or Twitter. With this social network’s widespread popularity and the growth of visual marketing, every small business and not-for-profit needs to consider Instagram for their social marketing plan. Instagram opens a marketing door full of opportunities not offered by other social networks.
Why your small business should use Instagram:
Visual Marketing- Images instantly draw viewers in and gain their attention on any social network. Solely dedicated to images, Instagram drives constant intrigue of a user. With popping images, easy creativity, and filters Instagram is an easy and unique way to showcase your products and services.
Personality and Trust- One of the top reasons to use Instagram is the personality it gives your company. Connection on a social network creates familiarity with users. Small businesses stand out because of the relations they can provide to customers. All social media precipitates better customer relations; however, Instagram has an edge. Posting personal and behind-the-scenes photos and interacting with those who follow and comment on your account can help customers get to know your business as the people in it and the work they do. Humanizing your company establishes trust with viewers, making them more likely to work or keep working with you.
Credibility- Digital credibility is critical for your online success and Instagram is a great way to establish credibility in your industry. Share your vast knowledge of your field on Instagram through tips, fun facts, or the excellence of your work. As an interior decorating company, a great way to show your credibility would be to post pictures of a spacious living room. Along with your photo, your caption can share tips on how to best place furniture to make one's room look bigger. Whatever your business, Instagram can be a great way to share your expertise.
Traffic to your Website- Images you post on Instagram will leave viewers wanting to know more about your work. A link to your site on your profile and references to specific pages on your site in photo captions will bring more traffic to your website! Additionally, relevant links to your site from Instagram and improved social rankings will help to improve your site’s search rankings (SEO) via Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Determining what social media your business should use can be difficult and tedious when they all seem to provide similar benefits. Along with the networking and broadcasting that all social networks provide, Instagram gives your small business personality, builds trust, displays your products/services, establishes credibility, and draws attention to your business and traffic to your website. If you have a strong visual component to your organization (visual products, services, events, etc.), you should especially consider adding Instagram to your social plan. It’s vast and exponential popularity along with unique touch make Instagram a social network that cannot be dismissed.
Need Help with Your Digital Strategy?
In a previous post, I wrote how website credibility, or creating credibility with your website, should be a small business’ number one objective. In my post, titled Credibility is Paramount for Small Business Websites, I suggested that creating credibility for your organization should be a significant part of your website strategy, possibly even more so than site visibility (via search engine rankings) - although both strategies should be connected. The basic reason for this is that credibility can dramatically impact not only your online conversions, but offline conversions as well, which can lead to greater sales and enhanced brand perception.
So if credibility is so important, what can you do to positively impact your organization’s credibility on your small business website? The truth is I have no idea. OK, I do have some idea, but as each business is different, so too will each plan be to create credibility for your organization. And, as I don’t know your organization like you do, I also can’t create a credibility plan that will completely fit your business – at least not until I learn more about your organization and your dealings. So, as you read through the rest of this article, use it as a starting point for your own organization’s credibility plan or something to get your creative juices flowing. With that said, here are three (3) main components to creating credibility on your home page and throughout your entire website.
- Have a Professional Looking Site:
As I mentioned in my previous article, your website is the new yellow pages for your business – it’s the first place any prospect will go when they want to learn more about your organization and what you do. With that said, you don’t want them arriving to your homepage and immediately having a poor experience (and opinion of your company). That’s what will happen if your site is old, outdated or poorly designed – even if you have good content within your site.
If your site looks unprofessional or unorganized, a prospect may never even take the step of browsing your site for specific content. If you have a high home page bounce rate, this could be the reason. Think back to the last time you went shopping in a new mall for the first time. You walk around and stick your head in a few stores to see if they quickly interest you. If they don’t quickly grab your attention, you don’t walk in and browse – instead you move on to the next storefront. Same thing with your website – make a positive impression in the first five to ten seconds, or the user will move on to other options.
Now days you also need to make that positive impression regardless of the device (desktop, tablet, phone, etc.) your audience is using. If you don't have a responsive web design or mobile friendly site, odds are that smart phone web viewers will not have a positive experience.
- Feature Content that Shows Your Expertise:
When I visit a website for the first time, my mental processing works like this. First, can I tell what the organization does in the first few seconds and do I get a generally favorable impression from the site’s overall appearance? If so, I then move on to my specific need or reason for searching or visiting that site. Does the organization offer the product, service, or information I’m looking for? If the answer is “Yes” again and I quickly see that high level offering (product, service, etc.), then I move on to specifics that will make me more comfortable in taking some next step (conversion), whether that next step is buying, making a call, or downloading an article.
So depending on what your organization does, what type of content will portray you as an expert, provide credibility, and make me more comfortable so I will take that next step (conversion)? Certain content, such as awards, press releases, membership in associations, or featuring well known customers, will provide basic confidence that your organization is credible. Different types of content can really hook me and drive me further down your purchasing or conversion cycle. If, for instance, I’m searching for a service offering, my next thought process may be whether your company has specific experience with my type of company or industry. Testimonials, case studies, project galleries, or white papers – specific to my industry or more specific needs (project type for example) – give me a much greater level of comfort that you are a viable option. Specific blog posts that touch on details (examples, industries, specific types of projects, etc.) can also provide that same level of reassurance I’m looking for, while positioning your organization as a leader in your space.
- Reinforce Leadership via Social media:
The third way to create web credibility is directly related to the strong content I discussed above. A strong social media presence can reinforce the positive impression your website provides, while allowing you to leverage some of that compelling content across multiple channels that encourage sharing and that will drive more eyes to your site. Nowadays, you may have certain individuals that start their search via different social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Google+, or even Pinterest or Instagram if you have robust visual content. Having a strong presence on these sites will drive visitors to your website, but will also provide yet another level of comfort for those prospects that use that particular social marketing site. Reviews via sites like Google+, Facebook, Yelp, or Citysearch can also enhance credibility and help drive conversions, especially in certain industries (restaurants, service business, etc.) where reviews are prevalent. With that said, most small organizations don’t have the resources to have a positive presence on all the sites I mentioned. I’d recommend starting small and doing one or two social sites well, rather than trying to manage too much too soon. Remember, a poor impression on a social media site can be much worse than not having a site, and will hurt your credibility.
Whether you are designing a new website or just updating your current site, you should spend some time developing a content strategy that focuses on creating credibility for your website and your overall business. If you need help developing your social media or content strategy, contact Marketpath today. ,
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.
The 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The typical business owner has a fairly stable gauge for assessing success. Solid revenue, a strong sales funnel, and opportunities for growth. Sure, there are plenty of other metrics you can apply, but these form the core. How a business owner goes about establishing that foundation, however, is open for discussion. At the very least, passively waiting around for the phone to ring is a bad idea. You have to proactively get business.
For many companies, hard sales tactics don’t work. Small businesses frequently can’t afford a dedicated sales team. In many cases, the owners know they’re just not good at it. But one way that any business, regardless of size, can create opportunities is through content marketing. As business models continue to change, a good content marketing plan may very well be the tool that keeps you in business.
Content marketing is the practice of brands developing and curating content that communicates a story which resonates with customers. Readers find the content useful or entertaining and worth sharing. As a result, the brand, product or service highlighted in the story reaches several audience layers. Decision makers who reside within those layers and have need for your services could then pick up the phone or contact you via your website.
Now, before you go throwing every random piece of content up on your website, you must first consider your audience and intent.
- Who do you want to read your blog?
- How would you define the ideal person you want to click on your video or read your email?
- How and where will your audience find your content?
Beyond that, after your intended audience reads or views your content, what do you want them to do next? Share it on Facebook or Twitter? Pick up the phone and call you? Sign up for your newsletter? You need to identify your strategy. You should also make sure your content strategy is directly related to your search engine optimization (SEO) objectives – if done right, strong content is the best way to drive improvements in search rankings.
And, oh by the way, the content should be good. A house painter wouldn’t throw a sign in the yard of a home where he butchered the job with unclean lines and painted shut windows. A blog post with bad grammar, absence of style, and lack of thought gets you nowhere. But a well written post might provide credibility and turn a prospect into a lead – a lead that looks at your company as an expert in your field.
Is your organization currently employing a content marketing strategy? If so, is it working? If not, what are you waiting for? Contact us today to find out more about the benefits of content marketing.
It's 2013, you've survived the zombie apocalypse, and with the new year comes an opportunity to inject fresh energy and ideas into your content marketing. So let's get back to the basics a bit and walk through the fundamental elements of a good content marketing initiative. I think it's a good idea to occasionally review the basics in any project, especially as the project evolves into a bigger, more complex animal. This ensures you don't fall off course and that you stick to the general guidelines.
Content marketing is the essential ingredient for Marketpath's three pillars of effective website marketing - Visibility, Engagement, and Conversion. It is creating high quality content to be read and shared by others in order to get them to do something. Content creates the foundation for all website marketing efforts.
Without good content you only have a framework. Not having good content in your marketing mix is like having a football stadium without the football games. So, how do you get started or back on track? You answer the questions below to formulate a plan and then you write, or hire a writer to do it for you.
What do you want your visitors to do?
Before you write anything, you need to understand and define what you want your website visitors to do. Do you want them to call a phone number, fill out a form for more information, download a case study or white paper, purchase a product, make a reservation, join a group, attend an event? This is your conversion - when an anonymous visitor becomes a known visitor or a customer. This is the beginning of your relationship with that individual.
The first conversion, however, may not be the only conversion. It might be a series of small conversions that lead up to the conversion that actually affects your bottom line - a purchase or new project. Compare this to a man courting a woman. He didn't jump out of a cake and make a marriage proposal upon first sighting. There were a series of efforts involved in getting to that point. The same may go for your visitors.
Are you a professional services firm? Then you probably need to establish expertise and rapport with your future clients. This happens over many interactions. Are you a retailer of low-cost furnace filters? Then your initial conversions are probably a purchase by new customers. Whatever your business, you need to understand the series of events involved with how new customers engage and convert.
Equally important, you should evaluate how existing customers continue to make purchases, kick off new projects, or simply maintain their current level of business with you. This may involve ongoing content that keeps their interest and maintains your prominence and expertise in the industry. This takes me to our next big question....
How will you persuade visitors to convert?
This is the engagement portion of Marketpath's three pillars of website effectiveness. What sort of content should you provide to initially engage or maintain the interest of your constituents? Great content leads to great conversions. If you cannot capture the attention of your website's visitors then you're not going to convert them. It's that simple.
You can maintain a blog about best practices, put together quarterly white papers, create a video series, or write how-to's that demonstrate your products. Content comes in many forms and you need to understand (and experiment) with what motivates your audience to read, watch, or listen to the content you provide. This will be an evolution and probably not something you'll get right the first time.
Your content can be educational, entertaining, inspiring, etc. Again, this depends on your audience and knowing what will motivate them to engage.
Once you begin pushing content you should check your website analytics and measure visitor counts (new vs. returning), time on site (narrowed down to individual pages), referrers (where visitors come from), and bounce rate (visitors who land somewhere in your website and then quickly leave). These are the basics that will lead you in the direction of providing better stuff. You'll want increasing visitor counts, increasing time on site, increasing referrers, and a low bounce rate.
How will you get visitors to your site?
Your content may be well written, highly engaging, and exude your expertise. But without people reading or watching it, who cares? This is where the visibility portion of Marketpath's three pillars of website marketing comes in. You must promote your content before you get followers. Eventually, if it is good enough, people will help spread it for you. But you should always include some content promotion in your plans.
If you haven't established a presence within social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc), then you'll want to do this as part of your content marketing efforts. I won't get into specifics regarding social media here but with established social media connections your content will reach the eyes of current and prospective customers. If interested, they may read your blog post, and even more important, if your content engaged them and provided some benefit (learning a new skill, laughing, etc) they may even share it within their network.
Other ways to promote your content may include adding it to a regular email newsletter, submitting to local news agencies, presenting it during seminars or webinars, or asking others in your industry to read it and share it. Regardless of the channels you use you will always need to promote.
Who creates the content?
You. Or Sam from sales. Or the CEO. Or everyone. Whoever you choose make sure they want to. A couple years ago I ordered everyone in our office to blog. Some were required to write a post only once per month, some twice a month, and others once a week. Most of my staff complied, some grudgingly, others never contributed a thing. I don't think it was because they were intentionally ignoring me but likely because they just aren't writers and couldn't tackle the job.
The point is, you need to have serious buy-in from whomever provides content. If they are on staff, volunteers will outperform those mandated. Some people just don't want to be public. They enjoy being behind the scenes. Others want that publicity, to be recognized, and to be a more visible piece of the company.
Don't cast aside the possibility of outsourcing your content creation. There are numerous online copywriting services and you probably have a slew of agencies in town happy to assist. Video writers, producers, and actors are also more and more available. These should be an option to individuals with little time. Just make sure the resulting content is representative of your organization.
When to start?
Now. Building visibility, engagement, and conversions takes time and consistency. The longer you wait, the longer it will take you to build and maintain your audience. And the longer it will take to see results, if any.
Good luck and remember, you survived the zombie apocalypse so you can conquer just about anything now, especially a non-threatening content marketing effort.
I’m not all together sure there is a more dynamic industry than online marketing. With new tools, networks, tactics, and things to pay attention to debuting every day, how can anyone keep up? It is a full-time job just staying on top of the latest trends, let alone rolling them out into a marketing campaign. Gone are the days of launching a website with some keywords in the title tag and getting results. Gone are the days of paying an SEO firm to "magically" gain rankings. Gone are the days where this stuff was, well…easy.
Are you ready for it?
It has finally happened. Consumers are becoming smarter each and every day. Search engines are changing ranking factors every month (or so it seems). Has your business taken a step back and accessed strategy lately? If not, you’re behind the curve. Consumers are well aware of what SEO is. Just ranking highly for competitive keywords doesn’t cut it anymore. What value are you providing? Why should I buy from you or fill out that form on your website?
You see, even SEO firms are realizing the game has changed…the good ones anyway. Tactics are changing. The process is much more client facing and transparent. And guess what…that’s a good thing. It means that anyone and everyone can play in this space now, not just the guy with the deepest pockets. Being the richest doesn’t mean you’re the best or that you deserve to gain customers online. You must provide value. You must provide content. And most of all, you must do it often.
Stop worrying about linking strategy and start worrying about creating link-worthy content. Stop worrying about ranking for competitive keywords and start worrying about ranking for more keywords. Stop worrying about the technical side of SEO and start worrying about providing value to your potential clients.
If you can do these things, you’ll be able to absorb changes in online marketing industry. You won’t have to worry about dropping one spot in Google for your top keyword. You can get back to doing what you do best…serving your customers.
On June 20th, TJ Furman from Marketpath was lucky enough to join Lorraine Ball and Allison Carter of Roundpeg on their weekly small business marketing podcast, More Than a Few Words. The topic was content creation strategies and why just having a blog might not be enough.
If you're struggling to come up with content ideas that are interesting, we urge you to listen to the podcast and formulate a plan. You can listen to the full show here:
If you have any additional ideas or want to join the conversation, make sure to leave your comments below.
Maintenance is a topic that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Maintenance of my lawn, house, vehicles, finances, children, diet, relationships, hair, and clothing are just a few of the things that must be maintained on a regular basis. Marketpath also requires regular maintenance of our finances, infrastructure, culture, client relationships, custom software, and much more. The key to success is maintaining items in small doses on a regular basis (i.e. performing small tasks here and there). The more consistent I am with regular maintenance, the more likely major problems won't appear. Failure to maintain each item in my life leads to neglect, which leads to me having to spend a lot more time and a lot more money which leads to great frustration.
Part of the reason I've been contemplating the importance of maintenance is that I've been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (yes, I stole the title for this post) - a philosophical novel that blends an attempt to define "Quality" and the importance of regular maintenance of our environment and our individual self.
Website marketing isn't all that different than anything else in our life. At Marketpath, we maintain our relationships with our customers and audience via our blogs, email blasts, social platforms, webinars, phone calls, and in-person meetings. I'm always pushing the importance of touch points and, if regularly maintained with good quality content, those touch points will result in a future sale or referral. Failure to regularly maintain those touch points leads to a complete fall off of our audience engagement and an evaporation of sales and referrals.
Most marketers maintain a giant calendar with all the activity planned over the next few months. This is obviously important for the big items (trade shows and campaigns) but it is also import for the smaller, more easily maintained activities like blogging, social engagement, email sends, phone calls, etc. While these tasks may become slightly mundane or monotonous, they are still very important collectively over time.
If you fail to keep up your house it will fall into disrepair. Bringing it back to a normal state then requires more money, more time, and more frustration. Neglecting your website marketing efforts by not keeping a consistent schedule and constantly tweaking your message to keep your audience engaged will cause your marketing to fall into disrepair just as well. Then rebuilding the level of engagement you once had, or almost achieved, will require more time, more money, and more frustration. Keep it human, keep it consistent, and keep it meaningful.
As a small business owner, you’ve probably asked yourself this question. With so many social networks out there, and more joining the list every day, it can be downright intimidating to choose the right one(s) and get started. This post will focus on the big 5 – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and the relative newcomer and everyone’s favorite right now, Pinterest.
Without a doubt the largest social network on the web, with something like a gazillion users, a major motion picture detailing its rise, and now a $100 Billion IPO, everyone in the world has heard of Facebook. So, as a business owner, you think more eyeballs = better ROI…right? Well, maybe not. Typically, Facebook is utilized by individuals connecting with friends and colleagues. This mindset of person-to-person, casual interaction, limits the effectiveness of most B2B efforts on Facebook. B2C companies on the other hand have more success with this, as it’s not uncommon for Facebook users to Like their favorite consumer brands…it’s basically a status symbol. Millions of people Like Coca-Cola, BMW or their favorite handbag brand, not their HR Company or their web development company.
Twitter has grown exponentially since its inception. Users share ideas, links and images 140 characters at a time. While the majority of tweets are utter nonsense or completely useless, B2B and B2C companies have found success here. Connecting with thought leaders within an industry, interacting with competitors or customers, and giving clients the ability to gain instant feedback have all helped Twitter become a necessary part of a content marketing strategy. The time it takes to run and monitor a twitter account can be pretty nominal with the right tools (and the right company to set it up for you), so it’s a good bet for any business. Remember, twitter shouldn’t be used as a 1 way megaphone…nobody will care. Share useful articles, talk about others, and participate in conversations.
Without a doubt, LinkedIn is strictly a B2B social network. Professionals use LinkedIn to connect on a business level with colleagues, clients, and people they have worked with. Because users are in a business mindset when they are on the network, B2B efforts can be effective and useful. The important point to remember here is that you’re not selling while you’re on this network. Answer questions, solve problems, become the expert in a group of people and your efforts should be rewarded.
Google+ is Google’s social network. Depending on which articles you read, it is either dying or thriving. It’s hard to say what the network will become, but it is important you keep an eye on it. Google is using data it gathers from the network and plugging it into its search algorithm to help craft search engine results pages. The more you share on Google+, the better the odds of ranking for particular terms…or at least that’s what it looks like so far. All signs point to the fact we'll see more and more integration in the future, so it is probably wise to set up your account now.
Taking the Internet by storm, Pinterest exploded onto the social networking scene due to its visual nature and simplicity. The user base has grown extremely quickly, so one again may fall into the “more eyeballs = more leads” mentality. Before you go jumping into Pinterest though, make sure you have a clear strategy and understanding of what is typically successful here. Highly visual elements dominate, so your content may need overhauled to fit. There have been stories of B2B and B2C success here, but the majority of those all revolve around certain industries. Arts and crafts, recipes, fashion, and home décor are among the top items here, so tread lightly if you’re outside of those industries.
A few key things to remember about getting into social media:
- Be consistent with your updates and conversations
- Be real
- Likes and retweets don’t pay the bills, conversions do…Can you get your followers to take action?
What are your tips for success on these networks? Join the discussion below.
Traditional outbound marketing and advertising have taken a backseat to “Content Marketing.” Instead of buying ads, banners, and search rankings, companies all over the web are turning to this relatively new form of attracting and gaining clients and customers.
Content marketing is the creation of unique content for use in
blog posts, videos, white papers, images (infographics), how-to guides,
case studies, to gain more leads and acquire more customers.
If the content is unique and interesting, the message can spread across the web quickly. Users and search engines alike have begun to pick up on this trend, bringing their purchasing power or rankings with it, respectively. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Dedicate the Time
Just seeing the words “unique content” might make small to medium sized business owners & marketers cringe. Creating something that is unique and interesting is the most difficult task of the entire process, so don’t try to skip over it. It is important that your message is clear, concise and entertaining.
Once you have content to market, repurpose it in many different forms. Often times a blog post can be turned into a short video. Add more data to the blog post and turn it into a case study. Take that case study and make it visual, via an infographic. The same topic can be used throughout multiple channels, minimizing the time it takes to create new topics and content.
What good is shareable content if nobody can find it in the first place? None. Don’t make the mistake of putting up a blog post and expecting people to get there. Create an email newsletter and/or tweet out links to it. Have a video? Put it on YouTube and share it across your social channels. Have an interesting infographic or image? Pinterest and Facebook should be your targets.
So, why is it important?
With the ever evolving search engine algorithms valuing different tactics, having unique and interesting content has always remained important. Now more than ever Google is focusing on bringing these content creating websites to the top of their rankings.
More content equals more visitors which usually equals more leads (assuming your website isn’t a complete dumpster fire for conversions).
There is a certain level of pleasure that comes from making new connections about our history and the social web. Most people think this whole socialization thing on the Internet is new and sometimes it takes a short post by a well known Author to say otherwise. The only part that's new is the Internet. The socialization piece has always been around.
Seth Godin's post today is titled "The most important page on the web is the page you build yourself." It's about user generated content and the demise of mainstream mass media. Read it. It's short.
I recently had a meeting with an auto dealership and they discussed putting together a series of videos that would talk about the great features and conveniences of the cars they sell. After much debate and discussion about how much it would cost (tens of thousands) to produce and edit the videos, I stood up and suggested they have their customers produce the videos for them. First, it's free. Second, it's more honest and believable if someone other than the dealer tells the story.
We're seeing this more and more in marketing where customers produce their own content. Whether it be interactions with others by commenting on a blog, guest blogging, writing product reviews, or producing videos, the job of the marketer is changing. No longer is their sole responsibility to write, design, and produce every bit of content to be puked out to prospects and customers. Marketers now have to build the playground where their constituents can voice themselves and then coordinate those interactions without intruding upon their freedom to contribute.
It's not simple, yet. It's a lot more work while we still hold on to the reigns of the past. The biggest challenge is designing and building the infrastructure that allows your customers and prospects to contribute and then making sure it gets used to its fullest. Once it is built, though, that job takes on a different shape. Customers interact, customers promote (if what you're selling is any good), and customers provide you a much deeper insight into your products and services than you would have ever had before.
Just don't expect that telling your customers what you want them to hear will hold water much longer. As soon as one of your competitors begins letting them into their social community, your legitimacy will begin to fade.
I'm sure this topic is going to rattle the cages of some self-proclaimed social media gurus, or social media ninjas (as some call themselves). There was a time, just a couple years ago, when many of these social media consultants proclaimed that traditional marketing and advertising was dead and that social media was the new way to reach your target audience. They were wrong.
We've had several years to gain insight into the power of social media and the best way to use it. What we've learned is that it isn't about customer acquisition. It's more about connecting with and supporting your existing customer base.
We are in a world where big corporations can take on a more human role by distributing connections to customers throughout their company and not leaving this job to just the marketing department, or just customer support. If you've never read Jay Baer's blog Convince and Convert, you should. One of his most recent posts is about using social channels for engagement and not blasting out more spam that will simply be ignored.
If you're using Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to only blast out deals and promotions, then you're blowing it. But if you're using these social channels to connect and interact with your customer community in a way that engages them as more than a customer then you are working the right angle. I'm not going to get into what you should be posting about but just keep in mind that your promotions and deals are ok as long as they aren't the bulk of your conversation. One quick way to get ignored or dropped is to come across as always trying to get the next sale.
Perhaps you're thinking, "But ACME Corporation (fill in the company name) gained 43 new customers with a social media campaign last summer!" ok, I doubt it, but let's say this was true. Just because your son has a swoopy haircut doesn't mean he's going to be the next Justin Bieber. Chances of that are next to nothing. And the chances of your company successfully acquiring a whole swath of new customers from your social media efforts is also as abysmal. Can it happen? Sure! But probably not in the way you hope.
Social media, more and more, is recognized as a powerful way to connect with your customers in ways never before possible. Use it as a way to engage people who already know and trust you and you'll get a whole lot more bang for your buck.
If you haven't followed the Netflix debacle, here's a quick overview:
- In July, Netflix announced it was raising prices on accounts that have both streaming and DVD rentals from $9.99 to $15.98. This actually reflected separate pricing for each service ($7.99 each). Customers were outraged.
- Netflix almost instantly lost hundreds of thousands of subscribers and was expected to lose a million total - mostly from the DVD-only side. By mid-September, the Netflix stock price was down 20%.
- Immediately following the stock sell-off and mass cancelation spree, CEO Reed Hastings sent a letter to all subscribers explaining the reasoning behind the split. The company would be split into two entities, one for streaming (Netflix) and one for DVD's (Qwikster). That quelled some anger but others persisted.
- Today, amidst the continuing outcries, CEO Hastings announced that there would be no split and the Qwikster initiative would be killed off.
Now how's that for customer complaints turning the tides? Even ten years ago if a company made a major change like this you would have to assemble a small army of protestors and march on their headquarters to get a company to reverse course. Not anymore.
With Facebook, Twitter, blog comments, customer forums, and other social channels you can instantly create an army of a million or more who share your viewpoint. Protesting consumer brands can be incredibly viral. And Netflix' price increase and service changes are no exception.
Here are a few lessons to take away from Netflix' errors:
- Test, test, and test again. If you are a public company with a market cap of 5.8 billion dollars, test the Qwikster concept on a small segment of your subscribers. Keep it private and see how many from that group cancel their account as a result. It's insane to think that you would split your company with little input from your customer community. Granted, you're raising prices and that won't go over well anytime. But you never mentioned the split at the time so there was no correlation to the 60% price increase.
- Don't raise prices 60%. I used Netflix before they offered the streaming service and hung it up after I realized that I could only rent two movies every 8-9 days. That's three days in the mail, 2-3 days at my house, and another 3 days back to Netflix in the mail. Do the math and you can only get 4-6 movies a month.
About this time, Blockbuster offered their unlimited DVD rental plan for around $15 per month (2 or 3 DVD's out at a time). I could actually rent movies, watch them, and pick up new movies on my way home. I cut out six days between each change-up. Then they raised prices on this service to $24.99 per month. I dropped out. $15 of entertainment per month was worth it. A 60% increase to $25 was not. Perhaps Netflix should have read their business history books before they made the same change.
- Honest Communication. Netflix has been stuck in a reactive course of action since July. This would have been much simpler if they were more open and honest about their price increase and stagger the plan. Perhaps something like this:
"Dear Netflix friend, we are working hard to provide you high quality entertainment at a competitive rate. While our costs have risen over the last several years we've kept your fees unchanged. I sincerely wish that we could continue these rates but for us to continue providing great service and great entertainment, we must raise prices to cover our increased costs. We won't do it all at once. Instead we'll make those increases over the next six months to a year and here's what they will look like....."
See the truthful, planned nature in the response? It's proactive and addresses the issues honestly and straightforward. There will still be repercussions but you will have an informed customer base behind you. Those that love the service might even stick up for you.
With the new power of social media channels, and the potential of major influencers to raise a fuss more quickly than ever, I don't see why any company with an informed customer base would make major changes to their services without testing the waters first. The mass fury of Netflix customers could have been avoided if they had an approach that was less of a "screw them, they'll deal with it" approach and more of a "hey, we need to make some changes and would like to hear your feedback first" approach. This is all goes back to the 2nd website marketing pillar, engagement. Talk with your customers through the most active channels and don't puke your plans all over them without expecting a backlash.
Customers are the new shareholders. Through social channels they can make your world an awful place to live if you don't provide a good return on their investment.
Since the idea of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has been around for quite a few years, the benefits have become pretty well known. The SaaS proponents stand behind the lower cost of entry, the speed of implementation and availability of the software (not installed). I wanted to dig a little deeper and take a look at some of the lesser known benefits of the Software-as-a-Service model.
No IT Staff Necessary
Many small to medium sized business don't have internal IT staff, which makes them a perfect candidate for SaaS adoption. In the world of web content management systems, an often-used alternative to SaaS is the Open Source platform (Joomla, Drupal, Wordpress ,etc). While these programs have their place in the market, they are often written for "geeks" by "geeks". We have helped numerous companies and organizations migrate away from these platforms after they have become frustrated with their supposedly "easy-to-use" open source system. Without internal IT staff, simplicity should become a major factor in the decision making process.
Frees Up IT Staff Time
If you do have the luxury of having an in-house IT staff, they are probably strapped for time and bogged down with multiple duties. Off-loading some of the workload of maintaining a web hosting server and a website is a quick, and usually cost-effective way, to make your IT staff more effective. Utilizing an easy-to-use, SaaS content management system allows your marketing staff to take control of the most powerful marketing tool at your disposal, your website. Keeping your IT staff out of your marketing efforts is essential to your online success.
Eliminates Frustrating Maintenance
SaaS products can be quickly and easily patched and upgraded by the company responsible for the software, eliminating time-consuming maintenance for the customer. Because SaaS products are built around one central core, applying a patch to it remedies any problems that may be occurring for all of the users. There is no need to worry about software versioning, expensive updates, or in-house hardware problems.
Less Learning Curve (Typically)
Because SaaS products are web-based, users typically latch onto them faster than installed software. We all use the Internet every day, whether it be for browsing, shopping, or connecting with people, we have all become accustomed to web-based interfaces. SaaS products piggy-back off this familiar look and feel, making the learning curve much less intimidating.
Never Out of Date
Subscribing to a Software-as-a-Service platform grants you a free pass to each and every update that is released for the software. You can rest assured that you are getting the latest technology each and every time that you log onto the system. This allows you to focus on completing your tasks, not wondering if the system will work.
Which SaaS products do you utilize? What are some of the pros (or cons) that you see in the service offering?
Earlier this week, Wired.com ran a story about Google exploring the integration of the +1 button data into their search ranking algorithm. While this is something that most of us in the industry have expected since the launch of the +1 button, it is the first time (to my knowledge) that Google has confirmed it.
This isn't the first time, however, that Google has looked at social signals as ranking influencers. They have already begun to use the data received from Twitter to help determine rankings for websites. Facebook, on the other hand, hasn't allowed Google to have access to its data, which may be one of the reasons why the +1 button was created.
So, is this Google's plan to force everyone to utilize the +1 button?
In a way, yes. Google's never-ending search for data has led them to the social sphere. With people constantly tweeting, liking, and +1'ing, Google can gain more insight into the quality of the websites they are ranking. Hopefully, as the social influences show their importance, Google will begin to tweak the amount of importance they place on links, especially coming from lower PageRank sites that run rampant with link spam.
Is this a perfect solution?
No. Google will need to combat the creation of fake profiles used for +1'ing purposes. They have already shown their intentions for their new social network, Google+, by allowing users to report fake profiles, but this system may need overhauled if the +1 button becomes a major influencer to their rankings. Black hat SEO's will relentlessly attempt to scam the system, just like some link building services do today.
Keep in mind there are lots of ranking factors, not just the +1
Where does this leave you, the site owner?
Google changes their algorithm all the time. Most of these changes are minor, but some aren't. At the end of the day, you always know that Google is trying to rank the highest quality sites for the terms they deserve to rank for. Add relevant content to your site, interact genuinely through social media, create landing pages for marketing campaigns, and make sure your website can convert visitors to customers. Remember, you are the expert in your industry, act like it...but in the mean time I'd go ahead and add Google's +1 button to be safe.
Here are the instructions on how to do it: http://www.google.com/webmasters/+1/button/
A mobile website or mobile ready website is simply an internet site optimized for viewing on mobile devices or smartphones such as the iPhone, Android or Blackberry. Because mobile gadgets are smaller than computers (with smaller screens), full websites are often difficult to view and navigate via mobile devices.
Mobile websites provide a better way for consumers to learn about your organization when they’re on-the-go and typically consist of a “stripped down” version of a website, with less information, prioritized or more important to the mobile user.
So why should your organization develop a mobile site?
1) Because your current site doesn’t work well or look correct on mobile devices
I mentioned this briefly above. And while it may be obvious, it is also the most significant reason you should consider a mobile site. Maybe the fonts are too small, or the images too large, or the navigation and layout are too complex or awkward. Roll over menus that work and look great when viewing from a computer, might be tedious or impossible to use via mobile. Or, possibly, the site downloads painfully slow on a mobile device. Regardless of the reason, if your prospect or customer can’t easily use your site or find what they’re looking for (without getting frustrated), they may just try your competitor’s easier to use mobile site!
2) The needs & behavior of a mobile web user are different from a traditional Internet user
While it is critical that your site be easy to view and navigate via mobile, it is also important to realize how mobile users are different from traditional computer web users. Phone or mobile users are often away from their home or office (or at least away from their computers), with less time to spend surfing or looking for information. Many times, they have a goal in mind and are looking for very specific information such as a location, news or event, contact, map, product, or schedule. And often, they only have a few minutes to find what they want.
Because of these differences, your mobile design needs to focus on simplicity, presenting prioritized content that is relevant for the mobile user. The Mobile Marketing Association suggests a less-is-more design philosophy for mobile web sites, focusing on the 3-5 most important reasons someone will visit your mobile site, and making those items visible upon entry, at the top menu level. Eliminating side-scrolling and reducing down-scrolling also enhances ease-of-use via mobile.
Whether you like it or not, more and more people will be accessing your website via mobile devices. In fact, as of last month (July 2011), 50% of all connections to the internet are from phones and mobile devices.
Microsoft Tag recently developed the infographic to the right to summarize the explosion of the mobile web, which is already a large market, but growing more rapidly by the minute. If you are still skeptical as to the importance of the mobile web, I’ve included a number of interesting statistics.
- 70% of the world’s population now have a mobile phone; 87% in the U.S. (per Experian)
- U.S. children are now more likely to own a mobile phone than a book, with 85% of kids owning a phone as to 73% having books! (National Literacy Trust)
- 55% of US consumers who purchased a new phone in 2011 bought a smartphone, up from the 34% last year (Nielsen)
- 38% of US consumers owned a smartphone as of May 2011
- Daily internet usage via handheld devices jumped from 29% in 2009 to 43% in 2010
- In the last year Google has seen a 400% increase in the number of mobile searches
- The #1 access method for local information is now the mobile browser
Despite the growing importance of mobile, less than 5% of businesses have mobile enabled websites today. In fact, 50% of small businesses have never even checked the appearance or functionality of their site on a Smart Phone!
4) It’s fairly easy to create a mobile website
Assuming the functionality and content from your current site are up to snuff (you know what they say about ASS-U-ME), creating a mobile website is reasonably easy. This is especially true with tools like Marketpath CMS, or other web content management solutions, that allow you to leverage both your existing website content and content management processes, without having to start from scratch or add new processes to update your mobile site.
Marketpath allows you to easily manage your mobile websites within Marketpath CMS, updating content for both your regular and mobile sites at the same time, while delivering to traditional and mobile formats.
So why not give mobile users what they want and enhance your brand equity and reputation at the same time?
Marketpath is excited to be named as one of three finalists for the 2011 Innovation of the Year Award as part of Techpoint's 12th annual Mira Awards initiative. The Mira Awards, which recognize excellence and achievement of Indiana's outstanding technology industry performers, annually include some of the technology industry's leading companies and individuals.
Marketpath is being recognized this year for a comprehensive internet marketing solution for automotive dealers, developed in conjunction with DriveVelocity, a Marketpath partner who specializes in marketing automation for the auto industry. The solution, branded "Customer Relation Automation," seamlessly integrates a dealer's website, campaign management, and CRM into a cost-effective and measureable solution to dramatically enhance the dealer's communications and marketing. The groundbreaking system seamlessly integrates previously disparate systems and processes, to drive customer interactions and enhanced service, while more clearly measuring results. Customer Relation Automation communicates and gathers data at key touch-points, providing a personalized, multi-channel experience for a dealer's prospects and customers, adding value and enhancing their experience throughout the customer life-cycle.
Congratulations also to Exact Target and i2iConnect, the other finalists for this year's Innovation of the Year Award. Stayed tuned until May 7th, when the winner will be revealed at the Mira Awards Gala. Marketpath looks forward to developing more innovative web marketing solutions in the future.