I Need a Website: How to Get Started

Have you ever looked for a business or service online and been shocked there’s no website to visit? You can’t find the information you need, so what do you do? You move onto another website to find what you need. Imagine that your company doesn’t have a website or doesn’t have a digital footprint. How will potential customers find you online? They won’t. But they sure are finding your competition. Here’s why you need a website and how to get started with one.

Do You Need a Website for Your Business?

If you’re still wondering if your business needs a website, consider these statistics for a moment:

If you’re not being found online and your competition is, no wonder you’re missing out on potential customers. You’re not online for them to find you in the first place.

I Need a Website: Where to Start

Unless you have a marketing department or know an experienced web developer, chances are you’ll want to choose a digital agency to build your website. Here are the basic steps that an agency will take and work with you on to develop a powerful, authoritative, and conversion-friendly website.

How Much Does a Website Cost?

A website build will start in the thousands depending on the size and scope of the project. If you have a simple, five-page website, you’re going to spend much less depending on who builds it compared to a large e-commerce website with hundreds of products. Agency pricing on websites fluctuate so much. It’s hard to give a good range you can expect without sitting down and going over the details.

A reputable digital marketing agency will sit down with you and go over the scope of the project and what your website needs to beat the competition. From there, they’ll put together a proposal that outlines what needs to happen before the build starts, what happens during it, and anything additional that’s required to complete the website. This will include the overall cost of the project. Extra fees may be needed, such as graphic design, logo development, a branding guide, or content.

A good rule of thumb is if the pricing seems too good to be true and the turnaround time is quick, it may be a sign that your website won’t be what you need to succeed online.

Set Website Goals for Your Business

Before a website build even begins, your agency will sit down with you and go over your business goals online. Understanding what you want your website to do is key to building a website that meets those goals. It could be as simple as people filling out your contact form or giving you a call. It could be as broad as building your brand authority as an informational source in your niche.

Choosing a Platform for Your Website to Be Built On

Once your goals are cemented, choosing a platform to host your website on will come next. There are many content management systems out there, including WordPress, Magento, Shopify, and Wix. Many web hosting companies even have basic platforms to build simple websites. The functionality you need will determine the best platform your website should be built on for future updates and growth.

Securing a Domain and Hosting for Your Website

Every website needs a domain. Most businesses nowadays snag their brand name as a domain when they get started. Sometimes they go with a catchy domain to get people’s attention. If you don’t already have a domain, your marketing agency will help secure that for you. If you can get your business name or use your brand name, do it. Brand recognition online is crucial for success. Leverage a .com domain whenever possible, stay away from .biz and other kitschy top-level domains (TLDs) like .business or country-based ones unless you’re in that country.

Domain.com, Namecheap, and Name.com are a few examples of where you can register a domain. Some domain registrars double as hosting companies, too.

Find a Hosting Company for Your Website

Your website needs to have a “home” on the web, and that’s what hosting does. Hosting comes in many shapes and sizes depending on how big your website is and how many resources it takes to run. Your agency will make recommendations based on the above to give you the most reliable and affordable solution to keep your website up and running. Companies like GoDaddy, WPEngine, Bluehost, and Host Gator are some examples of hosting companies you can use.

Hosting can be expensive. Most companies offer a cheap option where you’re on what’s called a shared server. A shared server is stuffed with as many websites as possible. The problem with this is that if one website gets a lot of traffic, it slows down the speed of every other website on a server. If your website is too slow or doesn’t load, potential customers will be turned off and look for an alternative.

Take the time to examine the different hosting options and pricing. Your agency can help you figure out what’s right for your website that doesn’t put it at risk of not being available when customers are looking for your service or product.

Get Creative with Your Website’s Design

If you’re building a website yourself, you can use pre-made templates and themes to get the look and feel you want. If you’re going with an agency for the build, they’ll sit with you and go over what you want the website to look like. From there, they may use a theme or build out a custom design to meet your vision. Then, they’ll work with you side-by-side to continue to tweak it until it’s perfect. When working with a digital agency in this capacity, they’ll be able to integrate web design best practices to increase conversion rates.

It helps to know what type of websites you already like and why. If there are competitor websites you like, that’s a good starting point, too. The more direction or context you can give your agency, the easier it will be to design a website you’re proud to call your own.

Launch Your Website

Once you’re happy with your website, you’ll want to work with the agency or designer to make sure it functions before launch. The quality assurance (QA) process is essential to make sure your website is ready. Once all issues are addressed, your agency will work with your web hosting company and domain registrar to get your website online. Make sure to share the news on any digital channels you’re leveraging, like email marketing, social media, or video.

When you launch your website, it’s time to celebrate! Consider having a small get together at your office to unveil the new website. It’s a big step to invest in a website or get started with a new design that will change how you do business and how you grow online.

If you’re still scratching your head wondering where to start with your website, reach out to Altitude Agency today. Our goal is to help potential customers find your website and become fans of what you do. Don’t waste time pulling the trigger on getting found online – your competition is already there, and they’re already stealing your customers. Don’t let the competition beat you at what you do best. Build a website that crushes them online with us.

9 Tips for Choosing a Digital Marketing Agency

One of the most important decisions you make as a business owner will be choosing a digital marketing agency. The right agency can impact the lead your business can take on the competition. When deciding, reflect on the cost of your time and money spent if the agency isn’t the right fit. It is essential to take the time to research each digital marketing agency you’re considering and leverage the nine tips below to find the perfect fit for your business to grow online.

What Do Digital Agencies Do?

Digital agencies focus on helping your business succeed online. This could include ensuring you have a top-notch website, excellent website content, your search engine optimization (SEO) is properly in place, your social media channels are reaching the right audience, and your email marketing is targeting the right customers. This list touches on a few of the many ways a digital agency will help your business grow in the digital landscape.

Read More: What Makes Up a Digital Marketing Campaign?

How Do I Find a Good Marketing Agency?

As a business owner, you have to do your diligence to ask questions, learn a bit about digital marketing, and stand your ground when demanding results to find a good marketing agency. With the tips below from Altitude Agency, you’ll be prepared to find the right agency to work with to get the results your business needs to thrive.

Remember if finding a good marketing agency was easy, we genuinely believe more businesses would find success online. Unfortunately, many agencies are quick to take a client’s money with little efforts to show for their investments. By the time the business realizes it, it’s too late. They’ve potentially wasted thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars.

Tips for Choosing a Digital Marketing Agency

Define Your Goals

Before you start shopping around for a digital marketing agency, you need to have an idea of what you want to do online. Try not to over think this, it can be as simple as you want to beat competitors x, y, and z online, or that you’d like to get back in sales what you spend on digital marketing each month. Simple goals will help you express what you want the agency to do for you.

Focus on Value, Not the Lowest Price

One of the biggest struggles you’ll face is trying to figure out how much you should spend on your digital marketing efforts. When it comes to picking an agency, your decision should lead with adding value to your business. Don’t limit yourself budget-wise with your digital efforts. Doing so can leave you in the dust of your competition, resulting in them driving around you in circles with what they are spending on their marketing efforts.

Do Your Research, Then Do More

Research the companies you’re looking to go with thoroughly. Check out their websites. Read their reviews. Browse their social media channels. Are they active online? Do they have recent testimonials from clients or reviews on Google My Business? Make sure that the marketing companies you’re looking into are marketing themselves the best way possible. After all, if they can’t sell themselves, will you have confidence they can market your business?

Ask Questions (and Get Answers)

Ask questions about the agency. About the people that work there. About successful campaigns. Ask questions you have no matter how big or small. If an agency can’t answer your questions or tells you that what they do is proprietary, run the other direction. Any agency worth its salt will have no issues walking you through their process, who they are, what makes them different, and why they do what they do. If they seem to be hiding something, they probably are.

Strategy vs. Execution

Depending on how involved you want to be in your digital marketing efforts, discuss your digital strategy and how it will be executed while exploring different agencies. For example, if you have a web developer on staff that maintains your website, will the agency provide the strategy to you of what you need to do to optimize your website for SEO? Or do they want to do it themselves? If you don’t have time to manage some of your efforts, let the agency do it – but if they don’t have a solid plan for translating strategy to execution, this may be a red flag that they don’t know as much as they say.

How Communication Works

Communication is key! Knowing what’s going on and how impactful your digital marketing campaign is essential to track your return on investment (ROI.) Ask how the digital agency will communicate with you once you sign on the dotted line. Watch how and what they communicate from the beginning, if they go radio silent or aren’t answering your questions promptly, this may be a sign of what to expect if you choose them as your agency.

Always Meet Face to Face At Least Once

Before you make your digital agency choice, meet face to face with the agency. Meet the team and visit the office. This meet and greet will give you insight into how they operate, if they’re truthful about how big their company is, and whether you’ll build rapport and trust with their team. This can also tell you if they’re doing work in-house or outsourcing it overseas or to another agency, which can delay progress on certain aspects of your digital marketing campaign. This is a crucial part of choosing an agency, because if you don’t trust the people working on your account, why would you choose them to begin with?

Request References

You’re about to spend a significant amount of money on digital marketing. You need to consider if others have had success with that particular agency you’re now looking at for your digital solutions. Ask the marketing agency for references. They should be willing to provide these immediately for you to follow up with, ask questions, and get a general feel for what you can expect when working with them. Any agency can send reports or take snapshots from marketing dashboards. If you’re not seeing this data in real time, how do you know it’s accurate or truthful? Request references and talk to other business owners to see how the agency has helped their business grow. If they hesitate to give references to you, don’t waste any more time on them.

Get Multiple Proposals

Don’t make the mistake of just talking to just one digital marketing agency. Identify two to three local agencies that you can meet with in person, speak with during business hours, and who seem to have a feel for what they’re doing. Get proposals from each so that you can compare against your goals for growth and your annual marketing budget. You may find that one agency is better than the other or even offering more bang for your buck than another. You can also leverage these proposals to get the best value for what your business needs to succeed online.

Choosing a digital marketing agency will change the way you do business and how quickly your company grows. Keep in mind where your potential customers spend their time online, you need to be there, too – front and center ahead of your competition. The way people find what they need online continues to evolve. Make sure they can find you by choosing a digital marketing agency that will be you every step of the way. Choosing Altitude Agency for your digital needs will make it easy for your prospective customers to find you every step of the way.

Where Should I Spend My Digital Marketing Budget?

One of the most important questions any business must ask itself is: How much should I spend on digital marketing? With all the reoccurring expenses it takes to run a business, it is important to have key marketing tactics working for you and not against you. When it’s time for a company to invest in digital marketing, they’re usually playing catchup against the competition and struggle because they don’t know how much to spend to make an impact in their market.

Altitude Agency wants to explore why it’s important to focus on how much a business should spend on digital marketing in order to dominate your niche online.

How Much Should a Small Business Spend on Digital Marketing?

Digital and print marketing dollars should have a return on investment (ROI), no matter how small the impact is. Ask yourself: Do you have a specific way to track these dollars? What is your current ROI? Working with a digital marketing company can lay out an effective digital marketing campaign. Using these goal tracking resources on your campaign is the key to business growth and online success.

Before you ask how much you should spend, you should be asking: What should we be doing?

So, let’s start there.

What Should I Spend My Marketing Budget On?

Every business is different. Every market is different. You may be in a highly competitive niche, but the market is less competitive, or vice versa.

Here’s a simple blueprint for identifying where you should and shouldn’t spend your digital marketing budget on:

  • First, you need to determine what your competition is doing right and emulate that.
  • Then, you need to do it better.
  • Next, you test the waters in different digital marketing channels that your potential customers are using daily.
  • Finally, you need to continue to invest in what’s hitting the mark with potential and recurring customers. Ditch what’s not.

A digital marketing agency will identify what your competition is doing and what you need to do to do it better. This will be the starting point for figuring out exactly where your digital marketing budget should go and what projects you should tackle in order of impact.

Where Your Digital Marketing Dollars Should Be Spent

Website

Your website is one of the first impressions potential customers get of your business, brand, and reputation. Is your website outdated? Does it look like something from the 1990s? Chances are this will turn off someone visiting your website, and they’ll run away to a competitor with a more modern-looking, easy-to-use website.

Content Marketing

Your website is only as good as its content. Content bolsters the trust and authority that comes with providing genuinely useful information to a potential customer and is often what converts them to a lifelong one. Content marketing can be thought of as a multipurpose tool for your website with the ability to generate a better ROI. As you develop more relevant and knowledgeable content for your website, think of ways you can repurpose it for social media, email marketing, and more.

PPC

With Google taking more and more “real estate” on page one of the search results, ads may be the only thing potential customers see when looking for your business online. A good rule of thumb is that if you see that your competitors are doing PPC, you should be doing it too. Put yourself front in center, so you don’t fall to the sidelines. If you’re not first, you’re last in the eyes of potential customers.

Reputation Management

Reputation management is more critical than ever online. Google values brand authority, awareness, and trust as do your customers. Online reviews have become a staple of Google My Business and big online directories like Yelp and Yellow Pages. Like PPC ads, Google My Business listings, are often shown above organic listings, which means if you don’t show up locally with good reviews, you may be overlooked for the competition.

Video

It’s more important than ever to leverage video in advertising or on your website to capture new customers and showcase why your business is better suited to help them than anybody else out there. According to Blue Corona, “U.S. Internet users spend an average of 15 hours each week with digital video, and Cisco predicted that video will even make up 82 percent of all internet traffic in 2021.” 15 hours each week! If you’re not using video, your digital marketing budget is being wasted.

SEO

Google currently holds more than 70 percent of search engine market share. If you’re not found at the top of search results in your industry, you might as well not exist. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the only practical way to ensure your website competes organically against the competition. By investing in on-going SEO, your website is positioned to stay at the top of organic search results into the future which will only increase your lead generation and digital growth.

How Much Should I Spend on Social Media Marketing?

Before spending a single dime on social media marketing, your digital marketing agency will do research to determine where your customers are – those are the only social networks you should invest time and money into. Any marketing agency that says otherwise is wasting your digital marketing budget. Its mileage will vary depending on your industry. Some businesses create social profiles, and that’s it, they don’t need to use them. Other companies may need to focus on one or multiple social networks to reach potential customers.

How Do You Calculate a Digital Marketing Budget?

We’ve used this quote before as a good starting point for businesses. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends at least eight percent of your gross revenue should be spent on marketing. They suggest that up to 20 percent of your gross revenue be spent on marketing if your business is just getting started or trying to play catchup in your market.

If you don’t have the budget to do it all from the start, work with your agency to begin with what will make the most impact. Work your way down that list until you’ve grown enough to invest in all the digital marketing channels your potential customers are using. Remember you want to be front and center as the choice on all levels of your digital marketing campaign.

While the growth may be slower from the start, the initial growth will help you generate the revenue you need to keep investing in bigger and better from new and improved digital marketing campaigns for your business.

Keep in mind that most agency pricing will vary based on your industry, the marketplace, competition, and your location. If you’re a local business vs. a national company, the costs associated with running a successful digital marketing campaign can start in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

Work with a digital marketing agency to let them guide where those dollars should be spent based on your business’s unique goals and competition. Don’t just throw digital marketing dollars around if you’re not sure where to spend them, especially if you’re not tracking your ROI. Your digital marketing budget is best served by being focused.

Your digital marketing budget shouldn’t be defined by an “all in” mentality by you or your digital marketing agency. Your budget should be defined by where your customers are lurking on the web. By hyper-focusing on where your customers are, you’ll be able to capture qualified leads quicker and more efficiently with your digital marketing efforts.

Don’t rely on fancy “marketing calculators” or gurus online to tell you how much to spend in a blog post or a YouTube video, rely on an agency in your corner understanding your business, your competition, and your customers to help you determine the best digital marketing budget to grow your business online.

What Makes Up a Digital Marketing Campaign?

You must have an online presence if you are serious about growing your business. Your competitors are already there. They’re building trust with your potential customers while you’re nowhere to be found. More than 70 percent of consumers research a business before buying from them. If you’re not found online now, you might as well not be seen at all by potential customers.

Getting a digital marketing campaign started isn’t easy if you’ve never done it before or don’t know what channels will be successful for your business. Let Altitude Agency explain what digital marketing is, what a campaign is made up of, and how to start outgrowing your competition today.

What is Digital Marketing?

Digital marketing is any marketing effort on the internet. Some examples of digital marketing include having a website, leveraging social media, sending out email blasts, running a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, content marketing, creating video content, or investing in search engine optimization (SEO.

Do you know what digital channels work for your business? Do you know what channels would be effective for your business to grow? If not, a digital marketing campaign is essential for your business to be successful online.

What is a Digital Marketing Campaign?

A digital marketing campaign is the strategy and approach laid out to ensure your online business grows. This is a step-by-step guide created by a digital marketing agency. This guide will include the digital marketing channels being used to meet your goals – no matter how big or small.

Common Digital Marketing Campaigns

Here is a breakdown of some of the most common digital marketing campaigns and why they are important to online growth.

SEO

Google makes up more than 94 percent of all organic traffic on the internet. SEO increases the quality of traffic to your website by focusing on your website’s business’ location in organic search results. The goal is to keep your business on the top of the search results. Anything lower could result in losing potential customers.

Content Marketing

Content marketing can increase lead generation 3x quicker than paid search. Content marketing focuses on creating quality content about your business, its services, and the marketplace that potential customers find compelling. These customers will become your biggest advocates because they understand you’re a helpful, trustworthy source of information.

Social Media Management

More than 79 percent of people use Facebook online. Instagram hit over one billion users in 2018. Pinterest users spend 50 percent more on average vs. other social networks. These are a few of the stats to show how powerful social media is to reach your audience. Why not connect with potential customers where they spend their time online?

Video Marketing

Fifty percent of potential customers look for videos on a business before visiting a store or giving them a call. Did you know that 72 percent of people would rather watch a video about a product or service than read about it? Video is one of the hottest digital marketing trends and doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon. By leveraging video about your business and services, you’ll get in front of potential customers and convert them into paying ones.

Email Marketing

With active email accounts across the globe to hit 5.6 billion by the end of 2019, almost everyone on the planet has an email account. By leveraging email to reach out to your past customers and connect with future ones, you can encourage them to give you a call or visit your website by sending out a single email.

Digital Advertising

More than 64 percent of Google users click on ads when looking to buy a product online. Digital advertising in all its forms – PPC, display, social, video, and more – are a powerful way to connect with new customers no matter where they spend their time online.

Your business’s digital marketing campaign will outline what the goals are of each channel, along with how to measure the return on investment (ROI) or spend with each of those channels. This roadmap will ensure you’re hitting your goals at set intervals, such as monthly or quarterly, and allowing you the flexibility to adjust if something isn’t quite working.

Digital marketing agencies will work with your business to understand it before creating a digital marketing campaign geared for successful online growth. Some of the steps they’ll take before they create a campaign for your business include:

  • Marketplace Analysis: When your digital marketing agency understands your business and the competition you face, they will be able to determine where you fit into the competitive space and what it will take for your campaign to succeed.
  • Business Objectives: Setting business goals for digital growth is essential to measure the ROI of any digital campaign. Working with you to set realistic goals will translate to success when implementing a digital strategy for your business.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): KPIs allow your digital agency or marketing director to set goals to show whether a campaign is working or not. These KPIs also help us the digital marketing agency understand when we need to adjust, scrap or think outside the box once a digital campaign starts.

Marketing stats provided by HubSpot.

What Are the Best Digital Marketing Strategies?

Once you and your digital agency understand your business and its goals online, they will put together a digital marketing strategy and campaign to start dominating your competition.

Here’s what few digital marketers will tell you when getting serious about tackling your online competition:

  • You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to do it all at once.
  • There is no one best digital marketing strategy.
  • There are no “one-size fits all digital marketing campaigns.”

The best digital marketing strategies are centered around your business, your niche, and what your competition is doing. They start with focusing on building your brand authority and trustworthiness, which are essential for long-term online success. By earning the trust of potential customers, they’ll leverage your services or products when they need them the most. This type of relationship building is missing from most marketing online and offline, which is one of the primary reasons many businesses fail to succeed.

There are many quick fixes in digital marketing that will lead to short-term growth but won’t sustain you into the future. You want to avoid these where you can and look to the long game to overtake and stay on top of your competition.

Your digital marketing agency will work with you to understand your business and marketplace, then develop an action plan that covers what will work for you. They won’t waste time or money on channels that aren’t going to drive customers your way. They’ll look at each digital channel and determine where your customers are to capture their attention and bring business your way.

Here are some examples of the best digital marketing campaigns and strategies from some of the world’s biggest brands geared towards their voice, their place in the market, and how they want to reach their audience from Single Grain.

Where Does Budget Fit into Digital Marketing Campaigns?

Many businesses have no clue how much to spend on digital marketing. This is one of the reasons they don’t give it a shot. They may spend too much money on channels that aren’t where their customers are spending their time. It’s also one of the reasons why their efforts to reach qualified customers fail.

The United States Small Business Administration recommends spending seven to eight percent of your gross revenue should be spent on marketing costs. Fifty percent of that should be spent on your digital marketing efforts to be competitive.

The snake oil salesmen in the industry will tell businesses they can succeed on minimal budgets and disappear when it turns out this isn’t the case. When working with a reputable digital marketing agency, they will be upfront with what it will take to grow your business. If it costs more than you can afford, they will tell you that, too.

Digital agencies will work with you to determine if a smaller budget might help you grow, but the turnover might take longer than you’ll want, resulting in losing business to your competition. If you’re going to succeed online and grow your business in the digital space, you have to be willing to take the chance and spend the money on a competitive digital marketing campaign.

As you can see, what makes up a digital marketing campaign comes down to what your business is and how you want it to grow. Each digital marketing campaign will be different depending on your audience, what your competition is doing, and how quickly you want it to succeed.

Working with an experienced digital marketing agency like Altitude will help you understand what it takes to elevate your business above the competition. Let us help your business grow by contacting us today.

Why You Should Cater Your Digital Marketing Needs to Your Business

It is easy to get consumed by the details of digital marketing and completely forget about your business strategy. Digital marketing strategies often involve so many moving parts that they can become overwhelming or just distracting enough that you end up taking your eye off of your ultimate goals.

To address this, here are some points to consider as you navigate the digital marketing landscape.

Business Strategy Alignment

The business strategy. This is your overall plan – the growth objectives that take into account every aspect of your entire business. Maybe you call it your 3-to-5-year plan.

It could be that the bank asked for your business plan at one time, and so it’s terrifically formal. In other cases, an exceptional business strategy can be a series of doodles on the back of a napkin. It’s no matter; your business plan represents the big picture. And, it’s important to everything. Really important.

Your business strategy should include vital steps on how you go about positioning your organization within your chosen market to:

  • …successfully compete in your industry.
  • …satisfy the expectations of your customer base.
  • …achieve positive business performance.
  • …to make a profit.

How Business Strategies Get Lost in Digital Marketing

Lots of digital marketing is cool. Very, very cool. If you are not doing it all, perhaps you think you’re missing out. Well, maybe you are.

There are so many options available for digital marketing that it is easy to get lost in the maze. There’s just so much technology. Then, there are the technical choices – should you be focusing on SEO or social media? PPC or organic growth? Throughout these decisions, it is vital to keep in mind your target audience and the purpose of each campaign or marketing strategy.

When you are in the midst of growing your business, the ever-changing digital marketing landscape quickly becomes overwhelming. You are already busy enough. How are you supposed to develop, fine tune, and then maintain a modern, agile, effective digital marketing strategy, too?

Imagine that digital marketing as a business discipline is like a quiver of arrows designed to hit a target (your audience) so you can win a contest (making a profit). When the arrows are shot into the air – instead of towards the target – no matter how well and with how much style you shoot, you are not going to win. This is just like implementing digital marketing that is not in tune with your business strategy. It might be fun to watch, but it is not going to move you toward the ultimate goal.

Bringing Digital Marketing to Your Business Strategy

When your digital marketing does not align with your business goals, you may notice:

  • You either spend a lot of time or not at all deciding on what digital marketing to do. Because you have no real criteria to make the decisions, it is either very difficult or you “do everything.”
    Campaigns seem to go on and on with little or no results.
  • You spend money, but you can’t tie it directly to results that matter. Perhaps sales go up, but, strangely, profits go down.
  • Digital marketing often involves multiple strategies, different goals, and complex objectives. Dealing with all of these moving parts can distract even the most dedicated entrepreneur from the real goal: your overall business strategy. The team at Altitude Agency can help you stay focused by catering your digital marketing needs directly to your business strategy.

Contact us today to get started.

Are Chatbots the Next Big Thing Your Business Should Get Behind?

Maybe you’ve heard the news: chatbots are becoming ultra-popular among e-commerce businesses. The dawning of the chatbot era may very well be upon us. More and more companies have begun developing chatbots of their own, customizing their behavior to increase sales, solve customer support challenges, and try to get closer to the customer.

This is happening not just among e-commerce companies, but across almost all other verticals. From health insurance companies to automotive manufacturers, chatbots appear to be invading the digital landscape. But are they here to stay? And, if they are, should your business get going on having your chatbot developed? We probably wouldn’t be asking these kinds of questions if chatbots hadn’t already proven themselves to be effective tools for so many; they’re here to stay.

A.I., Purposefully Repurposed

Since the term ‘chatbot’ was coined in 1994, this unique method of interfacing with customers has spawned a thriving cottage industry complete with niche companies dedicated to the strategic use of AI-assisted conversational programs that mimic the function of a human being. Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana represent two fantastic examples of high-quality chatbot-based customer interaction systems that have enjoyed broad adoption among their target user base. What has made them such exemplary successes has to do with their usefulness for the customer combined with their integration with so many different platforms and applications for use.

  • “Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?”
  • “Cortana, find me a good recipe for banana bread.”
  • “Ok, Google – what was the top pop song in the summer of 1997?”

With the advent of fancy AI programs, conversations between humans and computers are taking off with unprecedented velocity. Digital marketers are falling all over themselves trying to get in on the action, too, because chatbots and AI-assisted customer portals are easy to sell. They’re still fairly new within the overall timeline of the internet, so they’re still drawing quite a bit of attention from companies who want to gain an edge with their online presence.

Charting New Territory

Should you consider developing a chatbot for your business? Is it worth the investment? Building chatbots for a specific purpose can be a complex and time-intensive effort, or it can be remarkably simple, depending on what you’re after. The most common kinds of chatbots used today are inbound message handlers, set up with four goals in mind:

  • Connect. Good chatbots facilitate a connection between a business and its customers.
  • Understand. The chatbot must be able to obtain user input from the user effectively.
  • Refine. Based on preset conversation paths, the chatbot should be able to refine its communication based on continued user input.
  • Deliver. Chatbots need to be able to provide real utility to the user through the delivery of information or the completion of a task, like booking a reservation or scheduling an in-person meeting.

There are chatbot builders that can be used to develop chatbots on the cheap, but their functionality is limited, and you might be less than impressed with the final product. If you do decide to invest in a chatbot for your business, know that you’re not alone – chatbot development and adoption has increased more than five times from January 2017 to January 2018. It’s time to get on board with chatbots or be left behind.

We are living in exciting times, and Altitude Agency is committed to staying abreast of the latest and greatest developments and leading-edge ideas in digital marketing. To begin crafting your online branding strategy, contact us today.

What is Influencer Marketing and Is It Worth Doing?

In 1998, when the manufacturer of a breakfast cereal needed a way to appeal to more families throughout the country, they looked to then-superstar NFL quarterback Doug Flutie. The result was Flutie Flakes, a Doug Flutie-branded breakfast cereal that used the popular sportsman as a clever way to get more market share. It worked incredibly well.

This is an excellent example of Influencer Marketing, which is a decades-old marketing technique aimed at tapping into the power that well-connected social influencers have within their follower, reader, or fan base. This tactic is almost as old as advertising itself, and recently, many influencer marketing successes are seen by using Internet-based platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

What Exactly Is an Influencer and Influencer Marketing?

An influencer can be said to be any person or organization that has access to an established audience. Radio hosts are influencers. Twitch.TV streamers are influencers (in fact, some of them make up to $10,000 an hour for their paid promotions). YouTube creators are also influencers. It could be said that there are millions of influencers currently providing content for their audiences. The better influencers are the ones with credibility among that audience, and the best influencers not only have credibility but persuasiveness as well.

So, who do you know that has access to a large number of captive consumers who also view the influencer as credible? Is this person or business capable of selling an idea or experience to their audience? If so, you’ve found yourself an ideal influencer to work with as part of your overall marketing strategy. You might think that the next step is to start writing checks to them in exchange for their promotion of your product or service.

But, there’s a better way to approach influencer marketing.

Help Influencers Help Themselves

There’s a difference between celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing. Endorsements only deliver as much in results as the money will afford. Alternatively, influencer marketing is more of an ongoing partnership that seeks to lift both parties up – the influencer and the product or service provider.

Influencers know that to curate and grow their subscribers, viewers, listeners, or readers, they need to provide them with thoughtful, valuable content. If you can work with them to achieve this, financial compensation might not even need to be a part of the discussion.

Here’s an example: let’s say you’re a manufacturer of hiking gear. Boots, backpacks, camping stoves, that sort of thing. A quick search on Twitter reveals thousands of outdoorsy types like to connect with that would be interested in your brand. By engaging influencers like this, offering to have them review products or mention brands in exchange for cross-promotion, an organic business relationship can be forged.

Before long, tweets about your product can be retweeted three times over. YouTube views of videos praising the build quality of your sleeping bags can reach into the thousands. People start talking more and more about your products, and the next thing you know, your website traffic skyrockets.

All the while, the influencer grows in her credibility, content value perception, and overall social media presence. It truly is a win-win.

Want to learn more about influencer marketing and other best practices related to growing your business online? Get in touch with Altitude Agency today.

Why Your Business Needs a Brand Guide

If you’ve ever walked into a grocery store and felt the frustration of not being able to find the brand you’ve always bought because they changed the look of their packaging, you already know why a brand guide is important.

When a brand, a unique color scheme, or a logo makes its way into the collective mind of the consumer, it can be hard to change course. Constant repetition of familiar graphical elements combined with fonts, styles and other themes make it easy for your company’s individuality to stand out from the competition.

If your company doesn’t have a brand guide, it needs one.

What is a Brand Guide, Exactly?

We’re glad you asked. Simply put, brand guides are sets of rules, formats, voicings and messaging styles that attempt to keep a brand message consistent across all media. This goes for print ads, radio spots, product packaging, and anything else that might contain a reference or suggestion to the brand.

The simplest style guides can include just the basics, like logos, color palettes, and specific vocabulary to be used in messaging. At this point, it’s important to distinguish design guides from writing guides, as the two are often conflated. Because of this, many companies unify their brand guides into one, an all-encompassing guide that covers everything.

For now, we’re going to focus on design guides above writing guides, even though there can be some overlap between the two. As one of the best examples of a unified design style, let’s have a look at the iconography used in Google’s G Suite brands, like Gmail, Drive, Docs, and more:

Google brands
Credit: Google

One of the first things you should notice about the above graphic is that each icon has an intentionally simple structure with minimal depth. When you analyze these different G Suite icons, what you find is that shadowing or dimensional effects are only applied to about five to ten percent of the icon image at the most. Many of the icons remain in 2D for the express purpose of maintaining the brand presentation at lower resolutions. Genius!

Another key feature of these different G Suite design style is their use of the same four colors that are found in the Google logo itself: blue, red, yellow/orange, and green. This wasn’t done on accident: Google wants to be sure that when you see this specific set of colors, you think, “Aha! Google.” And, it works.

Time to Act

Perhaps you’ve realized that your company needs a brand guide of its own. Now that you know the basics of why they’re used, it’s time to start thinking about what to include in your guide. Think about fonts, graphics, color tones, and overall impression. What is the emotional response you want your brand to elicit? What styles, themes, or templates might be best to achieve this?

Want yet more ways to up the amplitude on your digital marketing? Contact Altitude Agency today, and let’s forge forward, together.

Does Your Brand Need Reputation Management?

If you’ve heard of online reputation management, you’ve probably wondered if it’s something your brand needs. After all, the multi-million dollar reputation management industry has blossomed into a global phenomenon, and companies large and small have started adopting the best practices contained within it.

At its core, the intent of online reputation management is to defend a brand from potentially damaging, negative information that may crop up on the internet. This information can take the form of negative customer reviews, competitors statements or references, content on public forums, and posts on social media sites. Each of these areas needs its own approach, and not all businesses need equal effort in each one.

So, Does Your Brand Need Reputation Management?

To determine if you might need reputation management, consider what it’s done for other small- and medium-sized companies:

  • Reputation Management can help to build credibility. When potential customers search the internet for the products or services your company provides, you want to be sure they’re getting a good impression of you and your authority in the market. Attacks against your quality, business processes, or level of customer service can affect how someone new to your brand might perceive it.
  • Reputation Management can increase sales. By staying engaged with the conversations your customers are having about you online, you’re proactively setting the stage for sales growth. Reputation Management seeks to preempt negative information before it becomes a problem, through a multi-disciplinary approach that spans multiple online platforms. A cleaner online profile yields bigger, more sustainable sales.
  • Reputation Management provides deep insights into your brand. One of the best ways to get at the reality of how your customers are perceiving your brand is to analyze what they’re saying about you online. Because of how vast and complex the online landscape can be, this takes a detailed, well-planned strategy. But, once it’s in place, the insights gained can help you make informed decisions in an ever-changing marketplace.
  • Reputation Management is beneficial for recruiting and employee retention. When a potential employee is considering going to work for your company, they’re very likely to conduct their own research. This is where negative reviews, harsh customer feedback, and disparaging competitor information may impact the candidate’s decision. A smart reputation management solution can reduce this negative impact through precise, targeted actions aimed at making you look professional and trustworthy.
  • Reputation Management shows you where to spend your resources. After the successful implementation of a Reputation Management program, it’s likely that you’ll learn about areas for improvement in your brand. By analyzing what is being said by your customers and in what context, you can allocate your resources more strategically, resulting in more return on your Reputation Management investment.

When you consider the five points above, think about how they relate to your business. If you’re interested in increasing sales, improving credibility, safeguarding your brand and obtaining profound insights about your brand, you need reputation management.

To learn more about how to get started, contact Altitude Agency today.

How to Respond to a Negative Review Online

Regardless of how well your business is run, there will always be the potential for a customer or client to have a negative experience. And, because of how quickly word gets around on the internet, negative reviews of your business can become a problem sometimes overnight. In this post, we’re addressing this issue head-on by providing you with tips on how to respond when you are faced with a negative review of your business.

Before even beginning to draft a response to your negative review, remember that this is a unique opportunity for you to use the voice of your brand to engage with your customer base. Not only will you be communicating directly with the customer in your response; you’ll also be advertising your values and level of customer service for new and existing customers. So, view the review response as a chance to shine.

What to Do When Responding to a Negative Review

Politely Propose a Fix, Promptly

In general, it’s best to respond to negative reviews as soon as possible. This gives you the best chance at controlling the potential damage that might be done to your brand. It also shows that you’re responsive and alert to the needs of your customers.

In addition to acting soon (preferably within the first day or two), propose a solution or fix for the customer who submitted the negative review. For example, if you sell dog treats and someone reviewed them saying their dog didn’t like them, offer to refund their money. Even if they don’t take you up on it, it shows that you’re doing the right thing as the business owner.

As you enter this dialog with the customer, remember that this is purely business, and there’s nothing to gain from involving emotion or using negative wording. Assigning blame or guilt rarely ever helps the situation, and the more you can keep the communication polite and professional, the better the overall outcome will be.

Go the Extra Mile

Think about how you might go outside the box to please this customer. Perhaps you might think about sending them a message offline, to prove to them that you’re genuinely interested in resolving their concern. If you can locate the order number or customer profile, reach out to them as an order follow-up and try to agree on a resolution together.

If you’re able to salvage the customer even after they’ve had a poor experience with your company, it’s possible that he or she will go back and change their review for the better. What matters most in responding to negative reviews online isn’t who was right or wrong. What matters most is how you react. Think of every negative review as an opportunity to publicly showcase your commitment to 100% customer satisfaction. Your bottom line will thank you in the end.

Sound customer development strategies make for successful businesses, both online and in-person. At Altitude Agency, we know how to thrill customers with powerful digital marketing solutions. Contact us now to learn more.

5 Reasons Why Your Brand Needs Pinterest

It’s safe to say Pinterest is one of the fastest growing and most popular social media networks in the last decade. Where Vine and even MySpace’s resurgence have floundered and fallen to the wayside, Pinterest has picked up steam and continues to take over social media market share across demographics. If you’re a business, being on Pinterest isn’t just about being on Pinterest; it’s about so much more with referral traffic to your website and brand awareness being some of the perks.

Altitude Agency gives you five reasons why your brand should be on Pinterest and what it’ll do to help you grow your business online.

5 Reasons Why Your Brand Needs to Be Pinning

Drive Referral Traffic

The number one reason every brand should use Pinterest, even if it doesn’t seem like the right fit is referral traffic. Pinterest is one of the leading sources of social referral traffic to websites in the last three years, and this continues to grow for businesses who pin their content that is then re-pinned and shared by other users on the network. In just two to three hours a month, you can drive constant traffic to your website in most niches.

Build Brand Awareness

By pinning your content and leveraging other users sharing it, you can showcase your brand’s expertise online. For niches like home improvement, entertainment, and e-commerce, you’ll continue to show up in searches related to your products and services on Pinterest. As you pop up, more users will associate your brand with what they’re looking for and remember you when it’s time to buy.

Longer Exposure

The world’s attention span is changing thanks to social media. Everybody wants short bursts of information, but it’s quickly lost as something better or more interesting comes along. With Pinterest, high-quality images and content keep coming back for more as it’s rediscovered and re-pinned by users. This means your initial investment in Pinterest will continue to ebb and flow, unlike most other social networks out there like Facebook and Twitter where you’re quickly forgotten. This keeps you top of mind for potential customers when they rediscover your content on Pinterest.

Free Promotion

Unless you spend money on Pinterest Ads – which is worth it depending on the niche – Pinterest is free to use. Once you add pins and begin re-pinning, not only have you set your brand up for success but you’re also going to get free promotion for people sharing your pins. This is a win-win for the initial investment in getting Pinterest boards set up and running. Who doesn’t love free advertising that’ll continue as long as Pinterest is around for people to find you on?

Boost Sales or Generate Leads

According to Pinterest, 93% of its 200 million monthly Pinners use their platform to plan for purchases. By taking the time to make creative pins that reach out to your audience on the social network, you could boost sales or generate leads from the site itself in addition to sending people to your website to do the same thing. This gives you two funnels to drive growth for your brand. The return on investment on Pinterest is on-going, even though all the work to get started is upfront. This should be a no-brainer for businesses looking to drive more traffic to their website.

Pinterest continues to grow daily, and there’s no reason why brands shouldn’t be doing what they can to stay relevant on the social network. With a few hours a month, you could be driving traffic to your website, increasing your brand authority, and generating leads or sales. If you’re interested in seeing how Pinterest will work for your business, get in touch with our social media team and let’s talk.

9 Questions to Answer Before Building Any Website

Proper preparation prevents poor performance. That mantra rings true for any industry and website creation is no different. Before you sit down to craft a client for yourself or others, you need to be sure you’ve got the right building blocks in place. Read more to learn about nine crucial factors for website success.

Think About These 9 Things Before Building a Website

What to Name the Domain

A domain name is one of the first steps in branding your website so think carefully. You don’t want a domain name to be too long or hard to remember like www.jasonsbeagleemporiumwarehouseandboatstorage.com. You want the domain name to show the customer what you do right away and be easy to remember. www.jasonsdogstore.com works much better and can draw in more customers.

What Do You or Your Customers Want to Do?

Before putting any files or images in place or choosing templates, think about what you or your customers want to do with the website. Is it an online store? Is it an image gallery for someone’s artwork? Knowing exactly what the website is intended for and what customers can do with it is first and foremost. Deciding this will allow the other processes to run much more naturally.

Balance the Budget

If you could, you’d buy the best template on the market with premium software and plugins. Any smart website designer knows it isn’t about the money dumped into the website but the balance of budget and options. Be patient in your approach, set a budget, and put the money towards the best possible choices.

Call in the Pros

Can you design, create, and implement the website you want on your own or do you need professional help? If you’re setting up a simple website for your neighborhood, you might get away with taking care of business by yourself but if you need a website that’s going to wow potential customers and get the traffic you want, you may need to call in the pros. Let professional services take care of what you can’t including design, the underbelly of the website, hosting, search engine optimization, and more. If you need your website to be professional, generate leads, and grow your business – you need Altitude Agency.

Your Sitemap

The sitemap is your site’s skeleton or the blueprint for your website. You wouldn’t trust a confusing blueprint for your home so why would you want to put in place a wonky sitemap on your website? The sitemap helps properly direct the flow of traffic through your website and allows customers to navigate to what they need quickly and will let search engine crawlers know how to rank your site. A proper site architecture will keep clients on your website longer, which keeps your business churning.

Layout and Content Design

Matching the layout and content design to your purposes is a tough process but is essential to a great website. Before you start dropping articles and images randomly across pages sit down and design your site in your mind or on paper. The last thing you want is for your website to look likes it designed by a 7-year old. You also want the layout and design to match the type of business or website you’re creating. A formal website won’t do well with cartoony fonts, and a kid’s site won’t do well with rigid, formal, site design. Luckily many content management systems offer free templates and ideas to start you on the right foot.

Search Engine Optimization and Digital Marketing

How will you set your website up for search engine optimization (SEO) and other forms of online marketing? SEO strategy pushes your website up in search engine rankings for more views, clicks, and business. You can use third-party plugins to assist with SEO and use online resources for SEO beginners. If you’re serious about your website and want it on the first page of Google, you will need to hire SEO professionals. Also, consider your other marketing strategies like social media outreach and link building strategy.

Now, We Wait

Your last task before launching your site is patience and testing. Allow yourself and others to test the website on multiple platforms and allow any search engine optimizations strategies to start aging before launch. This can be tough, but it’s a critical step.

Before you begin pumping money and effort into a website, carefully think over these nine factors. A website is a lot of work but using these nine factors will help your website start out optimized, laid-out, and ready for any potential customers. Consult professionals when you need to and always be patient with new websites. With patience and effort, you can get the website you or your clients deserve.