Why Responsive Design Is Marketing’s Greatest Challenge

ALT="Mobile Friendly, Soulati Media"On April 21, 2015, Google will begin to label websites ‘mobile friendly.’ That means your website must be responsive and work on all sizes of screens and most of all smartphones and tablets. As is customary, Google is highly likely to label a site ‘non-mobile friendly’ in SERPS and ding your traffic, too. Is your site mobile friendly? You can test your site if you don’t know; click the link I just shared.

Two years ago, the call to make websites mobile responsive was rampant; yet, few truly new what that meant. I can tell you from experience two years later only a handful know the inside and out of responsive design. Responsive websites are marketing’s greatest challenge.
In my blended marketing firm, websites are one of the service offerings. From message mapping and copywriting to photography and design, a website is a critical component of a company’s marketing. And then there’s the backend of the site that now includes responsive design. It’s the latter that’s wreaking havoc among all businesses because it’s so new.

Perhaps the biggest developers for the largest corporations know what it takes to execute responsive design right, but what about the little guy?

There are thousands of businesses of all sizes caught in the responsive-design maelstrom right now. We consultants MUST do a better job communicating the intricate details and requirements of this burgeoning arena.

The Basics of Responsive Design for WordPress

In WordPress, a responsive design means your site will automagically resize for the 80+ screen sizes throughout the world. You know – all the smart devices and tablets, plus computer screens and now internet TVs. And when the user visits your website from a mobile device (not from a hardwired computer), your website is presented with all the navigation and calls to action neatly positioned on top.

If you elect not to take the plunge into responsive design, then you lose. You turn away traffic, you will not convert leads, you are ignorant of mobile marketing, and basically the finicky and demanding consumer will pick your competitor down the street.
Responsive design is here, now. It’s the ONLY way to code a website today; yet too many companies are still saying NO.

Communicating About Responsive Design

When you migrate your website from a WordPress template to a responsive template or custom build, there are a ton of coding, testing, sizing, more testing on all the devices, hosting, and security issues. How do you vet a web designer who has this knowledge? Is there any way to tell if you’ve hired the right team? What about the actual template selected? How do you know if it’s the right one?

Let me share the lightbulb moment:

Your clients DO NOT UNDERSTAND RESPONSIVE DESIGN. Guess what — NOR DO YOU.

Now that we’re all on the same page with utter chaos, let me share a few examples why I’m qualified to write about this topic.

Soulati Media Can Do 90 Percent Of Your Website

That’s an astonishing statement, right? If you hire me to do your website, I can do 90 percent of it extremely well. The other 10 percent not so much. When you read the examples below, you’ll see what I mean about that 10% that won’t go according to plan. It’s the gray area that no one has control over, and it’s the area causing the most headaches.

Client 1
A client recently spent $20,000 to get a website designed from scratch in WordPress (I know, crazy, right?). Turns out that spend did not include responsive design although it was promised. The team hired used coders in Brazil and each time they touched a page it was developed in a hodge-podge way. Two years later, the client agreed to spend another $2,000 to redesign the site into a mobile responsive custom build. The designers, BlueHost Design, did a phenomenal job. Alas, the client did not like how the new site looked although it was nearly the same as the original site, and she demanded her original site be restored. The site is now no longer responsive, and the new responsive site is sitting dormant on a development server.

Client 2
A small business had a six-year-old dormant website being hosted with a reseller. The reseller refused to turn over access to the domain registrar to transfer the site to a true host and has convinced the client this is not necessary. Upon the build of a new website using a WordPress template and its uploading to the business’s host, the site was the subject of a total hack attack from Turkey. At one point the entire site was replaced with Islamic music and Turkish gobble. The hackers left their identity on the site, and I reported them to Facebook and government agencies. The original team installed an older template that was not properly responsive. It took a second developer team to uncover all the issues with the site and recode the backend. Once the security plug in, Wordfence, was installed, the site did not work with Internet Explorer/Bing, and the developer had to call for technical support to fix this. The client insists on using IE as their preferred browser, although among the four browsers, IE is the least reliable and is being rebuilt. The site was tested on all the screen sizes, and it took two weeks to consistently test and recode parameters to address all the responsive issues. For now, the site is secure, quiet, responsive, and stable. It works on all screen sizes and with all browsers. It took my team three weeks to fix design, update code, work through a 7-day hack attack, improve security issues, and address daily issues with the technology.

Client 3
I have consistently rebuilt my website and invested in advancing my brand to follow industry trends. The point is that everyone is learning at the same time. When I thought I bought a responsive design, it turns out it was merely mobile ready. So, it was back to the drawing board to re-invest again to add the appropriate bells and whistles. My website has gone through about six iterations each with new back-end upgrades demanded by technology disruption.

My biggest piece of advice is what anyone will tell you – you get what you pay for. If you try to scrimp on the edges, then the inside deflates. Please invest the proper amount of budget into your website and be very happy with the outcome.

Tips to Communicate With Clients About Responsive Design

To wrap this up, here are my tips on how to prepare a client for a responsive design project. Each is very important and this should ensure everyone is tracking and prevent misunderstanding.

1. Ensure your client knows the definition of responsive design and why it’s a requirement
2. Let a client know that the entire site is going to be rebuilt with new code
3. Ensure the web host is qualified to handle new site designs, has server security, is accessible to the web team 24/7 for support, and all passwords are in hand to access cPanel and ftp
4. Discuss each step in the process to migrate an old site to a new template or custom build
5. Review the budget required for re-coding and migration; testing; security
6. Review the timeline for this migration and ensure additional what-if time is built in
7. Address the browser issues and ensure all browsers are up to date among all users
8. Ask the client to test the site and help find broken links or unresponsiveness
9. Review the budget and ensure there is enough to accomplish all of the above!

Questions Marketers Should Ask The Web Team

These are the basic questions to pose with ANY web developer team you hire. If the answers are not to your satisfaction or your instinct is flaring, then please trust yourself and move on. Finding the right web partner is so critical.

1. How many WordPress responsive design websites have you built?
2. Were they template migrations or custom builds?
3. How do you know a template is the most current version for responsive design?
4. How will you inform me a template is out-of-date, supported by a developer or ready for responsive design?
5. Are you a designer only? Who on your team is the developer? How deep is your web team?
6. How long have you been in this business?
7. Have you ever managed website security issues – hacks or malicious files?
8. Are you accessible for crisis management evenings and weekends if there’s a hack?
9. Once a site launches live, what do you do immediately following during transition?
10. What security plugins do you recommend for WordPress sites?
11. Share the most challenging responsive design project you’ve ever completed
12. What are the top three risk areas you will be watchful for?
13. How will you bill for this project? At what point are you going to nickel and dime and what’s the best way to make this relationship mutually beneficial?
14. I don’t want my site held hostage because you’re waiting for money. This happens all the time and I need to hear your philosophy and work ethic.
15. Why should I hire you over another developer?
16. What size of customer are you comfortable working with?

These issues will continue to plague marketers and clients. Only when everyone can get on the very same page and understand all the ins and outs will an experience go well. Over communicate and over explain and overdo the due diligence.
The reason above are real and true and based on solid, direct experience. Managing that 10 percent gray area is where the headaches reside. And, here’s the final nugget — it’s technology, folks! It’s going to break and get fixed.

Real-Time Marketing Is A Snappy Technique

alt="24-hour news"

One of the undisputed advantages of the Internet is that it runs 24/7. Internet time means that things happen faster than they do in real life — conversations continue ‘round the clock, information is continually compiled and ideas appear at any time. Internet time is advantageous to marketers because you can participate in discourse in your industry, build awareness and aggrandize branding efforts by putting up content.

Technology is apparently a limitless tool, but what about connecting with customers and prospective client right now? Real-time marketing is a snappy technique that takes advantage of Internet time and the far reach of the medium via various platforms. Real-time marketing, or RTM, is a method of participating in Internet news and trends by fitting the topic to your own marketing needs.

Newsjacking

Whether or not you’ve ever heard of RTM, the concept is a similar one to newsjacking, a term conceived by David Meerman Scott. Newsjacking refers to the adoption of a piece of news as a vehicle for driving a marketing agenda. This agenda may include a particular product or service, or simply relate your company in a more general way. Newsjacking is a common enough practice that can be applied across online media, from the company blog to social media networks.
[Read more…]

Is Twitter’s Messaging Enough For Wall Street?

ALT="Twitter Wordle"Twitter, my former-fave social media app, is suffering from low mojo amongst Wall Street analysts. Since its IPO one year ago (November 2013), the honeymoon is over and tough questions are more the norm.

Twitter has had a recent spate of lackluster messaging being disseminated via tweets and blog posts versus the accustomed 1:1 analyst interview.

Message Mapping By Soulati

Perhaps Twitter should’ve engaged Soulati Media for a message mapping exercise? Hey, Twitter, it’s not too late to give me a shout!

That’s my shameless plug, and why not? Don’t forget to see my infographic on message mapping here!

Back to Twitter

Upon review of The New York Times Nov. 13, 2014, “Twitter Speaks Up With Growth Strategy Intended to Soothe Wall Street,” it seemed Twitter’s dog and pony for financial analysts had the right messages. What also seemed to be the problem was the reception of those messages.

Revenue is weak; plans to raise revenue are average; users aren’t visiting as much as prior; there is management turmoil; the future looks bleak for the company (according to the story); and, new features aren’t being launched fast enough.

In my view, Twitter really messed up by not communicating in the last 12 months about its plans to shore up the publicly traded company and keep share price growing to investor satisfaction.

Seems to be Twitter’s problem may be its messaging and its messaging delivery; that’s called public relations. When you open the doors as a public company and invite all kinds of scrutiny, investor relations is critical. [Read more…]

Confused Messages Driving Catch-22 Brand Marketing

ALT="Pink Campbells Soup Cans, Soulati"The headlines in national newspapers and trade ‘zines are a mixed bag of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Consumers are taking the biggest hit amidst the confused clutter of brands’ messages.

Let’s take a look at several finger-in-your-eye examples and see if you agree:

Price Drop Tests Oil Drillers, Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014
In this front-page story, you already know the gist. If you’re like me, you’re likely ticked off about it, too. Consumers have not even realized the benefit of one week of under $3/per gallon of gasoline and the analysts that cover the oil industry are bitching. If oil being fracked in Bakken sells for less than $84/barrel, then fracking is uneconomical. What does that mean for consumers? Another squeeze in oil supplies due to the cease in fracking, the loss of jobs and a price increase.

It’s that supply and demand thing, and the consumer conundrum remains for marketers — do we continue to pinch the customer and force higher prices so we make our margins and keep stakeholders happy, or do we risk losing market share and influencing a nose dive in local economies dependent on the jobs created from oil exploration? The media love to report on oil companies emotions

Pay TV’s New Worry, “Shaving The Cord,” Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014
Do you subscribe to a television provider where the most favorite and in-demand channels cost the most money? Is your bill for satellite or cable television in the hundreds of dollars monthly? YES! Consumers are looking elsewhere for entertainment to try to cut frivolous expenditures. and the pay-TV companies are none too happy. Upon further examination, consumers are not totally ditching pay TV, they are shaving dollars off the monthly fee and leaving the big channels.

What’s the impact? No surprise, it’s the brand marketers seeking the subscriber base to feed us advertisements on CNN, USA Network and ESPN. If the subscribers aren’t there, ad dollars disappear and BAM! pay TV just got pricier as there’s no one left to subsidize programming. And, who’s responsible for the story behind this headline? A research firm probably dueling as an industry analyst seeking buyers for reports like this.

Smile! Marketers Are Mining Selfies! Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2014
Ahh, the ubiquitous selfie soon to grace a Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook near you. And, if that selfie is a smiler complemented by a brand logo, then look out consumer! You’ll soon get more advertising messages from the brand that bought the image catching you in the happy moment.

Guess how? [Read more…]

Digital Marketing Kicks My Ass

soulati-kick.jpgNo one said life was easy, and if it were we’d be at the beach partying all day. But, you’re not, nor am I, and that’s why you haven’t seen me here in awhile.

I’ve been in a rut as digital marketing has been kicking my ass, and it’s doing it so royally I had to put that A-S-S word in the headline. BTW, is A-S-S even a cuss word any more? I know no five-year-olds are reading this blog, so maybe I’m safe.

Meanwhile…

How do you feel when completely out of your element? Here are a few emotions I can share from first-hand experience – humility, humbleness, embarrassment, frustration, annoyance, anger, fear, and tears. Then comes the resignation that all these emotions are purely obstacles to success.

Indeed.

We (that means I) are our own worst enemies. If anyone is somewhat of a perfectionist (gulp, I’ve never admitted that even partially to anyone and I know it’s not true) who likes to be in control because that’s a true comfort zone, then things we don’t know are addressed with obstacles.

And, so, I found out right quick I don’t do digital marketing and to overcome my fear of it, I would just toss bricks in my way. I did, I am, I was.

I recently hired an expert to help me elevate my business to a new level. I had hit a brick wall on my own trying to grow my business online.

In the past I’ve worked with some really good people, but everyone reaches a point in their knowledge where there’s a deficiency; I had hit mine.

Digital Marketing Struggles

Digital marketing is a tough nut. Who are the people doing it well and making money at it?

It requires huge analytic thinking oriented to testing, sorting, list building (gah, my least favorite thing of all) and development of landing pages with calls to action and the software platforms to make it all work.

How copy is written is so different than a blog post and it requires short and punchy quip that entices but doesn’t sell.

Digital marketing is not for the feint of heart. You need to be trained as an expert to master it and you have to live it every day to know what the heck.

Here’s what happened:

  • My fear of failure put me in a deep, dark hole. I was unable to write like I was supposed to. I did not want to be judged. I did not like to be edited. The style of writing was foreign to me.
  • I wrote and it stunk.
  • I was edited brutally and hated it.
  • I wrote again and it stunk more.
  • More brutality and people totally rewriting my work.
  • I ignored everyone.
  • I tossed bricks in my way and cried about it. I whined some more.
  • Then I took a deep breath and finally wrote again.
  • It flowed and was acceptable to my utter shock and amazeballs.
  • The brutal editors and experts said they loved it, high five. (I secretly didn’t believe them.)

I wanted to quit, fire everyone and walk away from the challenge; exactly like I feel in Taekwondo every Tuesday and Thursday.

It’s a slow boat to China, and no one reaches it in a day. Yeah, Jayme, so get on a plane.

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