Ideas, musings and inspirations.

Anyone who has ever suffered through a migraine knows the symptoms: headache, distorted vision, irritability, dizziness, nausea, etc. Anyone who has ever gone through a website content migration has probably experienced some of these same symptoms.

Whether we all like it or not, in the world of digital media content migration is a necessary evil. Actually, strike that, it is a necessary good. Without the ability to perform a migration, all content would have to be manually copied from the current content management system (CMS) or entered manually into the new system.

As with migraines, the key to a headache-free migration is prevention. The most important preventative steps are to understand:

  • how your content is represented in the source system;
  • how you would like it represented in the destination system; and
  • how you will you need to process or transform the content while moving it.

Once you have defined these three points in detail, you have essentially defined your migration path.

We recently performed a migration for a client and, while considering the above steps, determined some other things you might want to consider:

  • images, documents, and other static assets;
  • comments to any posts or articles you’d like to preserve;
  • users (site users, bloggers, comment authors, etc);

With careful planning and a well-considered migration path, a lot of work (and headaches) can be avoided.

Know the tell-tale signs. If you are changing domains, hosting providers, or replacing your CMS, you may be headed for a migration. If you feel the onset of a migration, don’t panic. Seek professional help. You don’t have to go through it alone.

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I live for stories. Simply being in the presence of a good story being told or lived right there in the moment sends adrenaline pumping through my veins.

In what is one of the most inspiring TED Talks I have heard, novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shares about the impact stories can have, as well as the dangers that come with sharing a single story — or one side of the whole story.

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize.”

She discuses how, especially in our younger years, we are wildly impressionable and vulnerable in the face of a story.

Here at Elliance we are responsible for articulating the story of our clients and expressing the soul of their institution — through images, phrases, video, design, copy and more.

To be able to give a true account of who you are, we must first spend time listening and observing. We call this discovery and it is all about taking in the sights and sounds and stories of a place and its people.

We of course conduct preliminary research, but the goal of discovery is to gain a deeper understanding than the questionnaires or articles can provide. To get the honest perspectives, and hear the stories of the people that bring your brand to life.

In higher education this means stepping foot on campus, taking a tour and getting a feel for the atmosphere, and holding interviews with students, administration, faculty and alumni to gather as many perspectives as we can. It is only in the diversity of stories that we can begin to get a true feel for the spirit of a place.

I couldn’t agree more with Adichie when she says: “I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

We’ve seen that many prospective students form preconceived notions of a university before ever stepping foot on campus — perhaps from the single story they were told by a friend who had gone to school there or toured the campus.

It is our job to tell the whole story, to the best of our ability. The collective view —the bigger picture of that place made fuller and stronger by the greatly varying stories of many. It is these diverse stories that allow prospective students to relate and see a character like them in that place. One specific, narrow story does not give opportunity to account for many. It is not inclusive of the population at large.

“That is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become,” said Adichie.

We owe it to our clients and to prospective students trying to find their place in the world of academia to share the whole story, the bigger picture and all its pieces.

“I would like to end with this thought,” Achichie says in closing. “That when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

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A new year is always the perfect time to evaluate personal and professional goals. Which explains why the article, 10 Resolutions Marketers Should Make —And Keep — In 2017 caught my eye. I thought this article included some good advice:

  1. Marketers should resolve to prioritize the mobile customer experience.
  2. Marketers should resolve to stretch and exercise more.
  3. Marketers should resolve to stop combating ad blockers.
  4. Marketers should resolve to create seamless experiences.
  5. Marketers should resolve to partner more closely with the startup community.
  6. Marketers should resolve to spend more time actually interacting with customers.
  7. Marketers should resolve to leverage mobile location data.
  8. Marketers should resolve to invest more in video.
  9. Marketers should resolve to truly get to know their customers.

Three of these resolutions, prioritizing the mobile customer experience, investing more in video and getting to know customers are topics Elliance often discusses with our clients.

Instead of making resolutions at work or in your personal life, consider focusing on one single word. Fast Company wrote about the one word process and says that, “The one-word technique isn’t just for people; companies have adopted the process, too.”

Look at the above list of marketing resolutions, does the last one, ‘resolve to truly get to know their customers’ make you pause? If so, consider how you interact with your clients and/or co-workers and you might realize you need to focus on the word, Listen. Make that word your mantra and it could improve the service you provide your clients and also open your eyes to the contributions of your team members.

Or, perhaps you’ve been stuck in a marketing rut and have been doing things the same way for a million years. If that sounds familiar, you might want to embrace the word Change. By devoting 2017 to exploring new options and being open to change you could bring a fresh approach to your marketing.

Whatever way you choose to meet your Q1 goals, know that Elliance strongly believes in the first resolution – ‘marketers should resolve to strive for greatness.’

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dribbbble training

Founded in 2009, Dribbble has quickly become one of the largest digital platforms for designers to show and tell, promote, discover, and explore design. With over 500,000 users, 300+ of which call Pittsburgh home, Dribbble is changing the way designers share their work, find new clients, make friends and expand their skillset.

Exclusivity has been a key factor in Dribbble’s success. Borrowing terms from basketball, players must be drafted by existing members in order to upload and share their work. This maintains a level of quality among the work shared, setting Dribbble apart from other portfolio websites, like Behance, that are free to anyone with a computer and access to the internet.

But Dribbble is more than an exclusive portfolio sharing resource. It’s user testimonials prove that users can, and have also:

  • Landed dream jobs
  • Scored new clients
  • Found endless inspiration
  • Received constructive feedback
  • Made network connections
  • And now they can acquire career training

Dribbble Training is the most recent addition to Dribbble’s arsenal of exclusive community features. They’ve partnered with design educators from leading institutions like Parsons, Stanford d.school, and practitioners from the Dribbble community, to bring high-quality online design education to their players.

Open enrollment for the first training program begins soon.

This first session, Master Real-World UX and Process with Top Designers will feature 7 coaches from Facebook, Dropbox, Creativedash, Balkan Brothers and more. With 67 videos, 6 one-on-one sessions, and 178 real project files. Lessons include sessions about finding right fit projects, research a discovery phase guidance, wireframing and continued growth and development.

Dribbble Quote

The course is designed for freelancers, small agencies, start-ups and large companies.

But hurry, there are only 300 available spots on the roster. You don’t want to get caught riding the bench.

Neuroscientists would disagree with Juliet’s famous words from William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

Smell as sweet? yes. Perceived the same as a rose? Probably not. Brain scientists can prove with imaging techniques that different words evoke vastly different responses in our brains, and possibly in our souls.

Wall Street investors, the neuroscientists of business, certainly prove that the right words liberate corporate prosperity. But well-intentioned words alone don’t change corporate destiny.

From the brand marketer’s perspective, a brand positioning line has a very specific job to do.

What must a brand positioning line do
Let’s take a look at four brand stories.

What motivated Nike to create “Just Do It”?
Nike Just Do It

Once upon a time, Nike was a brand that only served pro-athletes. Then Phil Knight decided to change its brand aspiration to serve not only pro-athletes but also all athletic-minded people. “Just Do It” was created to appeal to this expanded market.

Adding three simple words to Nike’s marketing repertoire expanded Nike’s market share of the North American domestic sport-shoe business from 18% to 43%, (from $877 million to $9.2 billion in worldwide sales) from 1988 to 1998.

How about Apple’s “Think Different”?
Apple Think Different
Introduced after Steve Job’s return in late 90’s, it was launched to mark the return of the prodigal son, the overthrow of establishment-minded John Scully, simplification of Apple’s product lines, and a signal that things will never be the same again at Apple. And they weren’t.

Apple turned the computer into an appliance and then revolutionized the phone, music, publishing, retailing and software industries. All this catapulted Apple into the most valuable company on the planet.

In b2b space, why would GE change their long-established position “We bring good things to life” to the new brand position?

GE Imagination at Work

As GE diversified itself and moved deeper into industrial services powered by the internet, financial services and media, it needed a positioning line makeover. The new GE was going to be more innovative, more enterprising and more creative. The new positioning line would help ultimately propel GE into the future as one of the most profitable and respected companies.

Lastly, what about IBM’s adoption of the new “smarter planet” positioning line?
IBM Smarter Planet
In the mid 2000’s, technology changed the world in ways that has few parallels in history. The convergence of affordable mobile devices, cheap sensors, cheap storage and faster networks unleashed a new world. As a result, everyone appears to be carrying a mobile device, the app economy has become the new normal, cars are computerized and connected, buildings are equipped with sensors, cities are wired at all levels, personalized medicine has become possible, and competency-based online learning is the new normal. Big data is being produced and accumulated at a dizzying pace. IBM’s new positioning line was created to take the world head-on through big data and smarter interconnected everything.

Is IBM the leading company behind smart cities, smart buildings, smart logistics, smart cars, smart medicine and smart learning? Certainly not, but it certainly feels that they are ahead of the curve.

If you are a B2B professional in marketing, sales, communications and management, attend our webinar on Jan 26th, 2017 at 2pm ET. You’ll learn some rules of thumb, techniques and strategies for uncovering the words that will help propel your growth plan. You’ll also hear a case study of how one Fortune 500 company’s business unit experienced an inflection point with a new brand positioning line.

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In our 20+ year history of building websites, almost all our clients were initially skeptical about the return on investment from a website redesign; they underestimated the impact the new website would have on their business. After a year or two of relaunch, almost all the clients became converts. They shared comments with us that had three recurring themes. Here they are:

1. A great website creates a strategic inflection point, whereby a business starts experiencing a major change due to clarity realized during the website strategy development process:

Creates an Inflection Point

2. A great website changes organizational trajectory, when a business sheds an old skin and puts on a new skin which re-energizes the prospect, customers and the team:

Changes Organizational Trajectory

3. A great website realizes a new organizational destiny, whereby the organization musters the courage to unapologetically pursue its vision:

Realizes a new organizational destiny

We often hear stories from skeptical prospects about their new websites not liberating prosperity. What’s the difference? We believe the difference is our approach to website redesign, which is equal parts an exercise in business strategy, creative strategy and search engine ranking strategy – all fused together into a single website redesign project. i.e.

Website Redesign = Business Strategy + Creative Strategy + Search Engine Ranking Strategy

In the websites we build, these elements are “baked” into every aspect of website experience redesign i.e. discovery, website strategy, information architecture, design, copywriting, storytelling, persuasion, search engine optimization, development and launch. God is truly in the details and details matters to each of our craft-minded professionals at Elliance.

Learn more about our website design services.

In our professional lives, we’re constantly in motion. We serve our clients by solving tough problems, meeting their needs through strategy and innovation, and often under shorter and shorter deadlines. Amidst all of that lies the research, experimentation, client collaboration, endless tweaking, and production – all leading to myriad deliverables that everyone can be very proud of. Intertwined in the demands of work life, is our life outside of work: our personal passions, our charities, our deepest held beliefs, and of course, our families.

This is the life we lead – our visible, active life. And those of us, who haven chosen advertising and marketing as their life’s work, know it all too well. We thrive on it. After nearly 40 years, I still love what I do. But there is another, arguably more important, life – our invisible, contemplative life. It’s where our imagination lives and our creative thoughts are born. This life fuels our active life, and it does so expecting nothing from us at all – except that we pause every once in a while to consider it.

Our contemplative life offers us beauty – for no other reason than something within our mind’s gaze is beautiful. It offers us mindfulness – for no other reason than we deeply care about something. And it offers us perspective – for no other reason than because we have taken time to stop, to think, and to appreciate all that we love, and all that we know to be true. Our contemplative life is the wellspring of our active life. It fills our active life with inspiration, motivation, and intention. It can teach us, guide us, and propel us forward. If we let it. All it asks is a little of our uninterrupted time to care for its well-being.

Designers know and appreciate white space. Copywriters understand the power of a properly placed pause. This art director’s hope is that everyone in the coming year will make a practice of living a rich contemplative life. Your active life will thank you. Especially at this the time of year, when it seems we can all use a mental break. Let’s please remember to take it.

online marketing surveys for feedbackFor the past nine years, I have been planning and promoting Elliance’s educational seminars and webinars for university administrators and business executives as an avenue to share knowledge and build relationships.

So much has changed since we started offering these events that the only way I can evaluate the evolving needs of our audiences is by asking them.  That’s where online surveys enter the picture.

If you haven’t used an online survey recently, you’re missing out on a quick and affordable way to gain valuable insights about your prospects and customers.

With 2016 winding down, now is a great time to send a survey. Here are some pointers that will help you avoid common mistakes and create a survey that will yield accurate, measurable and useful information.

The Top 12 Survey Tips

  1. Before you write your first question, clearly define your purpose and know exactly what you want to measure. This will help to create a survey that includes only the most essential, well-framed questions.
  2. Inform respondents how long the survey will take, especially if it’s lengthy and time-consuming.
  3. Clearly state the deadline for completion.
  4. State the purpose of the survey upfront. In my case, I explain that the feedback will help Elliance develop new educational programs that fit their needs and interests.
  5. Arrange questions from simplest to most complex to get respondents engaged and create a sense of progress.
  6. Ask questions in as few words as possible and keep language clear. Avoid jargon and acronyms that may be unfamiliar or confusing.
  7. Avoid leading, biased questions that steer respondents to a desired response. Leading: How happy are you with the latest Elliance seminar? This question implies that the respondent is happy. A better question is: Please rate your level of satisfaction with the latest Elliance seminar.
  8. Avoid double-barreled questions that ask two questions at once. Example: Please rate your level of satisfaction with our seminars and webinars. Instead, ask two separate questions to measure  the level of satisfaction with EACH distinct item.
  9. Write as many close-ended questions as possible with yes/no, multiple choice and rating scale responses.  BUT be sure to include a comment field, which often leads to some of the most valuable and surprising insights.
  10. Word questions in a way that will yield the most measurable, quantifiable feedback.  Instead of: Do you like our new program? ask respondents to rate it, which will allow you to gauge the level of enthusiasm or lack thereof.
  11. Research indicates that an incentive can boost response rates by up to 50 percent. However, overly generous incentives can threaten the integrity of your data so choose wisely. For large pools of respondents, consider a lottery type drawing for something like an iPad or bigger ticket item. For smaller pools, $10 gift cards, a free product trial or white paper may be adequate. For instance, following our live seminars, we provide survey takers with a downloadable, abbreviated version of the presentation.
  12. Want more responses? Send out a few friendly reminders.

Surveys are a simple, low-cost way to learn about your market, but they’re only as good as the questions. Be clear, be concise and be wise.

There are a lot of survey products on the market today that will fit your needs and budget. If you’d like to learn about our own Ennect Survey tool, click HERE. http://www.ennect.com/survey/pricing.aspx

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Constructing a fresh, effective higher education marketing plan can feel overwhelming. There are so many tactics, messages, and advertising and social media outlets to consider. With appealing options and promotion tools available at every corner, there is one in-house strategy that can be easily overlooked: thought leadership.

Educators are experts in their fields of study, and they are also closest to students. Showcasing their knowledge and passions makes for genuine, thoughtful content that is attractive to current and prospective students, parents, and industry leaders alike.

For every college or university that struggles with thought leadership, there is an institution or educator that excels in content development. Many of these thought leaders publish their writing and findings on LinkedIn – sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful discussions.

In celebration of these thought leaders, LinkedIn published its second annual list of “Top Voices.” This list, compiled from post-engagement data, highlights influencers from a variety of industries. Some of the higher education “top voices” include:

  • Tom Davenport – Professor; Research Fellow, Babson College; MIT
  • Andy Molinsky – Professor and Author, Brandeis University
  • Bill Boulding – Dean, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

If thought leadership is a weakness at your institution, or you’re looking for inspiration, you may want to follow the education top voices on LinkedIn. For a comprehensive list of influencers from all industries, click here.

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Elliance held its annual employee holiday bash last night. It was tons of fun. And we had a lot to celebrate — It’s been a great year! We are so thankful for our awesome clients and freelance talent!

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Happy Holidays from all of us!