Ideas, musings and inspirations.

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

Truthfully, we have heard a ton of stories from other skeptical prospects where their new websites did not liberate 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

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 one of us at Elliance – which is what brings joy to us and prosperity to clients.

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!

2016-12-09-12016-12-09-5 2016-12-09-2 2016-12-09-4

 

Happy Holidays from all of us!

Come January 20th hate will have a new home. It’s called the White House.

Not every person or even the majority of people who voted for Donald Trump is hateful, but haters do love him.

They see a guy who is now leader of the free world, and they believe that deep down he’s just like them. They feel empowered. They’re emboldened. And they’re starting to act out.

At a lunch counter a few days ago, I met a priest who told me that spray-painted swastikas are already springing up on churches near his home of Carlisle, PA.

Just over a week ago, student demonstrators at a high school in York, PA could be seen and heard shouting “White power!” The moment was captured on You Tube and prompted our Governor to convene Pennsylvania’s public school’s leadership for a special strategy session.

It’s not even Christmas yet, and haters are overjoyed.

They’ve been busy on the brand front too. Last week, Digiday reported that a writer for the Neo Nazi blog called Daily Stormer endorsed New Balance as the “official shoes of white people.” New Balance is spending a fortune trying to undo the damage to its brand.

In addition, thanks to the brave new world of overly automated media buying known as Programmatic, beloved brands like Nissan are advertising on Breitbart. This has caused some loyal drivers to question Nissan’s values and second-guess their choice in a car.

You better hope like hell that hate doesn’t take a liking to your brand.

Normally, I wouldn’t recommend that any business wishing to remain in business for very long take a hard political stand, but this is not business or politics as usual. This isn’t about just getting along and hoping for the best. Hope is not a strategy.

In times like these you need a plan and here’s what I suggest you do:

1. Know who you are and what values you hold most dear. While you’re at it, make sure your employees know who you are and what you stand for too. Be very clear on how you expect them to behave as ambassadors of your business.

2. Lead with your values. Don’t just talk about them. Do something about them. Frankly, if I were New Balance I wouldn’t be fighting some skinhead’s endorsement of my products with reactionary words alone. I’d put new soles on every pair of New Balance shoes that left a footprint that reads #Stamp Out Hate. Then I’d donate a portion of the proceeds from every pair sold to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

3. Lastly, carefully consider whom you give business to. No individual or organization should ever profit from a belief system that marginalizes and instills fear in the diverse people who have made America great.

Brands have always battled for hearts and minds, but we are entering a new kind of war. It’s not just about profit and loss and market share. It’s not just about ring around the collar, or just doing it.

It’s about proactive leadership, and making it clear where you stand.

My last blog post I wrote about the future of web grids by using CSS Grid Layouts. Recently I have been finding a lot of inspiration off of the grid. Finding a way to incorporate some more organic or random elements on the page.

Over the weekend I visited the home page for one of my favorite photography social media and mobile app called VSCO  and was surprised to see a very unorthodox homepage (figure 1, 2, and 3) The site looks normal at first glance, a simple nav and a list of recent blog posts, but on hover (at large desktop sizes) the post items will load images from the post behind the text in a somewhat random order and position.

Screen Shot 2016-11-26 at 9.29.38 AM

Figure 1 (vsco.co)

Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 1.23.19 PM

Figure 2 (vsco.co)

Screen Shot 2016-11-26 at 9.29.53 AM

Figure 3 (vsco.co)

 

The interiors are more structured (figure 4) but still give the appearance of a random placement for images and text.

screencapture-vsco-co-explore-entertainment-collection-1-1480357897425

Figure 4 (vsco.co)

It is easy to keep the web in a grid structure using frameworks like Bootstrap, Foundation, or others. Intentionally moving an element off this grid to draw the attention of the user or just for some design flare is easier said than done. VSCO’s site might be a stretch but sites like this (also see a wealth of interesting layouts check out Site Inspire and Brutalist Websites) could inspire you to reach outside of the box on your next project.

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As the band Led Zeppelin aptly put it—way back in 1969: “Communication breakdown. It’s always the same.” Truer words may have never been spoken; or wailed.

Man hole cover reading "communication"

Just search the phrase “communication breakdown in an organization” and you’ll get over a million results. Given the amount that has been written on this subject, it clearly effects many organizations and people.

The photo on the left is meant to illustrate one cause of communication breakdown in (or between) organizations: lack of transparency. This can happen for a number of reasons, both innocent and otherwise.

One example of a seemingly innocuous situation is where an employee of Company ABC communicates directly with an employee of Company XYZ. Together, they begin to make decisions which allow them to complete their individual tasks. Unfortunately, these independent decisions are unknown to their respective organizations, so the effects go unheeded until they surface at a later time. The ramifications of these decisions can come in the form of sullied relationships, loss of respect, or loss of time — all of them costly.

One Oxford Dictionary definition of the word communication is “The successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings.”* Organizations must work to ensure that their employees (well-meaning as they may be) are aware of the hidden costs associated with lack of transparency and unilateral decision making. Employees must also consider the needs of the larger organization before taking action.

Skeptics should go talk to their project manager.

*https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/communication

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Are you still debating whether blogging and content creation is beneficial for your business/higher education institution or not?

Here are four reasons why blogging matters for inbound marketing strategy:

  1. Higher exposure and more ranking opportunities: Google algorithm updates in recent years have made fresh content on a website a crucial ranking signal. As a result, blogging on a regular basis allows us to add fresh content on a website. This results in better rankings which leads to higher traffic to the website. Also, as each page added to the website or blog is indexed by search engines, each blog post provides an opportunity to rank in search engine results. This provides more opportunities to get found by visitors on search engines.
  2. Content relevance = authority: The more content a website has on a specific topic the more authoritative they are deemed by search engines. Thus resulting in higher rankings for searches related to that topic. In order to build this kind of credibility, blogging becomes a very important tool. Blogging allows us to add more relevant content for a subject, without adding navigational/content bloat on the main site.
  3. More opportunities to retain visitors and build a following: Blogs allow us to add more in-depth content on your social networks without allowing users to leave your site. It’s a tool to retain visitors on your networks, be it the website, social networks, blogs, etc. It provides a variety of content so visitors can get useful content all in one place.
  4. Conversational, less formal content with higher shareability potential: Blogs are generally less formal allowing for more flexibility. Readers of blogs also understand and expect the more casual tone and structure, which is why they can be created and added more frequently than deeper articles, keeping in line with today’s fast moving, mobile culture.

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Manufacturing Day Logo 2016

Manufacturing Day, an annual event held on the first Friday in October, “is a celebration of modern manufacturing meant to inspire the next generation of manufacturers.” Each year, hundreds to thousands (this year 2,200 and counting) of manufacturers open their doors to students and educators to showcase their business and to develop relationships with the community.

A few goals of the nationwide initiative are: to display the potential in manufacturing, to generate interest in manufacturing careers, and to set right public perception of the industry.

In his 2014 presidential proclamation addressing National Manufacturing Day, Barack Obama declared, “With ingenuity and a determined spirit, hardworking Americans are creating products and unlocking new technologies that will shape our Nation and grow our economy.”

In honor of these innovators of the future, we’re featuring several Manufacturing Day champions from the rust belt that are opening their doors and putting a face on the industry. Read on to learn about these organizations, and the common threads that keep them participating in Manufacturing Day year after year.

  • Robinson Fans (@RobinsonFansInc) – Located in the quaint Zelienople borough of Butler County in Northwest Pennsylvania, Robinson Fans has over Robinson Fans100 years of experience in manufacturing industrial air movement equipment for the mining, pulp and paper, cement, chemical process, and steel industries. When asked about their involvement in Manufacturing Day, representative April Vitovsky explained, “We are excited to invite the community into Robinson Fans to see the daily process of manufacturing our highly engineered, custom-built industrial air moving equipment. Having been in Zelienople for almost a century, we very rarely have the opportunity to open our doors to the public and show them there are manufacturing jobs here at home.”
  • Miller Welding & Machine Co. (@MillerWeld) – Spread across three facilities in Western Pennsylvania, Miller Welding & Machine Co. has 50+ years of experience under its belt. What started as a company that catered to the mining and lumber industries, expanded into the steel industry, and eventually developed into a single-source supplier for every metal manufacturing need. Eric Miller, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, understands the importance of rectifying the public’s image of the industry through strategic opportunities, saying: “Manufacturing environments, which include highly trained, well-paid employees who work on state-of-the-art equipment, are commonly thought of as antiquated factories designed for low-skilled workers. Manufacturing Day addresses this misperception by giving all manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors and show, in a coordinated effort, exactly what manufacturing is and what it isn’t.”
  • Starwin Industries – Starwin Industries, headquartered in a 30,000 square foot facility in Kettering, Ohio, has served the aerospace and automotive industries for over 50 years. Providing specialized production parts, test rig components, instrumentation, and prototype parts, Starwin Industries commits to quality in engineering and production. President Rick Little added a personal sentiment to their motivation to participate in Manufacturing Day — “As a kid I loved science, understanding how things work, and making things. I started at Starwin as a machinist and have served as its president now for eleven years. I want to show young people that there is a good career path for others like me who enjoy making things.”
  • Projects Unlimited, Inc. (@PUIelectronics)Projects Unlimited in Dayton, Ohio, serves Aerospace and Defense companies worldwide as an electronics manufacturing services (EMS) provider. It has been described by clients as “the smallest big company” for its ability to remain flexible and efficient while providing the equipment and expertise frequently associated with much larger organizations. Speaking to the goals of Manufacturing Day, Projects Unlimited President and CEO, Chris Wyse, explained, “We’re very excited to show the future workforce that a career in manufacturing can be clean, safe, enjoyable, and fulfilling…There are plenty of manufacturing careers available that are interesting, rewarding, provide good benefits, and still allow your brain to be challenged.”
  • Hendrick Manufacturing – Founded over a century ago in 1876, Hendrick Manufacturing is a leader in perforated and fabricated metal products. With offices in Carbondale, PA, and Elgin, IL, Hendrick Manufacturing is known for American-made products, long-term reliability, and cutting-edge solutions. Representative Sandy Winkelman explained, “Manufacturing Day presents an opportunity to open our doors to the public and give visitors an up-close view of our daily operations and learn about the value of what we do and its impact on the community.  It also allows us to introduce manufacturing as a career choice to young people—who are key to Hendrick’s sustainability as a manufacturer in the future.”
  • ATAS International, Inc. (@ATAS_Intl_Inc) – Founded in 1963 and headquartered in Allentown, PA, ATAS International, Inc. also has facilities in Maryville, Tennessee and Mesa, Arizona. A leading manufacturer of metal roofing, metal wall cladding, metal ceiling panels, and metal accessories for commercial and residential buildings, ATAS International was also named as a Lehigh Valley 2016 Top Workplace. Spokeswoman Anne Hicks explained the value of the industry and Manufacturing Day to local communities; “The Manufacturing industry has been a part of the Bus heritage for 50+ years.  ATAS International’s family and staff know that manufacturing plays a vital role in the health of the Lehigh Valley and US economies.  We open the doors to educate students and the public to the advancements and ideal opportunities manufacturing has to offer.”
  • Pace Industries, Airo Division (@diecasting) – The Airo Division of Pace Industries, founded in 1975, resides in a 155,400 square foot facility in Loyalhanna, PA. Serving the automotive, motorcycle, recreational vehicle, and heatsink technology industries, the Airo Division specializes in operations including die-casting, tool design and construction, impregnating, pressure testing, chromating, and painting and assembly. Representative Ethan Robinson describes the skills gap, an issue facing the industry and a major motivation to continue Manufacturing Day: “America is facing what educators and industry alike call the ‘skills gap.’ With technology making huge advances every day, jobs are becoming more and more technical, thus requiring more education. The problem is that students aren’t seeking education in these areas, they believe that trade skill jobs are a dead end. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The skills gap refers to the high number of jobs that employers need to fill but not having enough qualified applicants to choose from. The reality of the situation is that students that have knowledge of these trade skills are more valuable than ever and capable of achieving high wages and explosive job growth potential. We want to educate students on what modern manufacturing has become. Pace Industries is dedicated to finding these students with knowledge of our industry and offering them an opportunity to begin an excellent career. These students are the future of Pace Industries.”
  • eRocketseRockets, from Dayton, Ohio, was formed when owner Randy Boadway’s rocketry hobby intersected with opportunity. After a right-sizing at hisSemroc Mars Lander Rocket organization left him unemployed, he launched what is now a flying model rocket retailer with the world’s largest selection of rocket kits. In addition, eRockets also manufactures 121 of its own kits under the Semroc brand. Boadway explains that their products allow students to mix fun with learning: “We participate in MFG Day because we feel kids today do not have the skills to actually build something!  Rocketry gives them that chance.  Not only are valuable construction techniques learned but also the engineering that has to go along with something that flies.  We like to encourage kids to select a STEM field and model rocketry helps introduce them to different ideas.”

Read more about Manufacturing Day 2016, including a full list of events, and follow the conversation online using #MFGday16.

Manufacturing Day 2016 InformationElliance, a manufacturing marketing agency located in Pittsburgh, PA, partners with manufacturers to strengthen their brand and to increase their digital footprint. We are pleased to express our respect and gratitude for the work manufacturers accomplish on a daily basis.

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