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  • Worst of the Worst

    We’ve all talked about good websites, and good design, and how important it is to have both in order to convey the right message to your customers. But what about the worst of the bunch?

    We’ve all seen them. Websites that are so loud, so obnoxious, or so poorly laid out that you can’t click away from them fast enough. Many of these sites look like they were designed by a kindergartener, or perhaps created back in the early days of the internet. Remember that time? When animated .gifs danced across your page, when loud colors and an array of different fonts lead a full-frontal assault on your eyes, when broken links were a common frustration.

    Take a look at the screenshot below. QUICK! What’s your first impression? Is this a company you’d want to do business with? If it were a doctor’s office, would you trust your life with them? If it were for a car dealership, would you want their mechanics working on your vehicle? Are you willing to open up your wallet and hand it over to these people for their products/services?

    If the answer is a resounding “no”, then you have met a contender for Worst Website. No one wants to be in this category. While there are plenty of options for someone to create their own website for free online, one has to ask if it’s really worth it if the end result winds up in this category. In fact, I myself have had clients who I would have nominated for the Worst of the Web. They had designed their own website, thinking it was going to save them money. In the end, a horrible design cost them more clients than it gained, since customers were unwilling to do business with them due to a web presence that was unprofessional and untrustworthy.

    So why are we talking about terrible websites? The answer is simple: a lot can be learned from the mistakes of others. You may be a business owner, but you are also a web consumer. Chances are that the types of websites you find annoying, your customers will also find annoying.

    As you cruise around the web, take a mental inventory of the sites you find most appealing, most trustworthy, or most compelling. What about that design speaks to you? More often than not, you’ll find a good, solid design at the core as a platform from which a great website arises.

    That’s where it starts: good design.

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  • But Who ARE You?

    Recently, my cat fell ill and had to be taken to the vet. Since my cat is strictly an indoor pet and had been healthy his whole life, he’d never been to the vet before, so I had to search for a new office to take him to. I found one, he received his treatment, and all was well.

    About two and a half weeks after this appointment, a postcard arrived in the mail. It had a cute dog and cat on the front, along with the words “Thank You”. I knew immediately it was from the vet’s office. But I turned it over, and was surprised at what I saw.

    Or, in this case, what I didn’t see.

    There was the standard “thank you for trusting us with your pet” and “we hope to continue to provide quality veterinary care” messaging. But nowhere on the card was any indication of who had actually sent it. No name, no address, no phone number, no email, nothing whatsoever.

    While it’s a safe assumption that the card came from the vet’s office I had recently visited, I couldn’t help but think that they had missed an important opportunity to make an impression with one of their newest customers.

    In the town in which I live, there are two options for veterinary care. Both of them have similar names, and can easily be confused with each other. In fact, while waiting for my pet at the conclusion of the appointment, another customer came in and approached the front desk, only to be told she had the wrong animal hospital. She had gotten confused by the similar names of the two businesses.

    Since my pet isn't a frequent visitor at the vet's office, I also wondered to myself whether I would remember the exact name of the business next time he needed care. Would I confuse the two, just as that other young lady had done, and take my pet to the other office?

    This is why branding your company name and making a strong impression with your customers is so crucially important. When they have a choice between you and your competitors, you want your name to be first on their list. The best way to do that is to frequently remind them about your services. In other words, effective marketing is key. What good are advertising pieces if they arrive anonymously?

    It is not enough to assume that your customers know about your company, your products, your services, your specials, etc. You have to go the extra mile to create a good first impression, and always, always identify yourself in any marketing pieces you deliver. A customer shouldn’t be left scratching their heads after reading your advertisement. Tell them clearly what you do, and most importantly, who you are.

    The more frequently you do this, the stronger impression you will create, which translates into new and repeat business.

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  • In the Blink of an Eye

    Everyone knows people make snap judgments all the time. About people. About neighborhoods. About cars, dogs and food. And yes, about businesses and websites too.

    What we didn’t know, until now, is just how quick those judgments are.

    Recent research by the Missouri University of Science and Technology revealed that it takes users less than two-tenths of a second to form their first impression of a website they are viewing for the first time.

    2/10ths of a second.

    That is literally “in the blink of an eye”, as that’s about how long it takes for the average human to complete the blinking process. This takes on a whole new meaning for businesses when we consider how quickly our customers are making judgments about what they see on our website’s landing page.

    Much like the 100-meter dashes and the 200-meter freestyle swims of the sporting world, which are won or lost by a mere 2/10ths of a second, customers can be won or lost by what they see on your website in that same amount of time.

    More than anything, website visitors want to be greeted with a friendly, welcoming site with a clean, attractive layout. If your site looks like it was made in the early days of the internet (remember Angelfire and Geocities?), you are not giving off a very professional image, and that’ll most certainly affect the judgments customers make about you and your products or services. Outdated type, confusing layouts, unreadable fonts, obnoxious animations and too much clutter are more reasons visitors turn off.

    Other no-nos? Bad grammar. Bad spelling. Too many fonts. Huge logos or pictures that take a long time to load (and remember, “a long time” here might mean an additional second or two). Dead links that go nowhere. A combination of colors and fonts that render the page unreadable (pink writing on a white background, for example).

    The familiar saying that you only have once chance to make a first impression is certainly true here, more than ever. Take an honest look at your website, and compare it with others in the same product category as yours. When you consider the limited amount of time people have to determine whether they trust you, your product/service, and your website, you need to make a great first impression very quickly. Try to be objective: does your website have that “wow factor”, or is it simply “good enough”.

    And is good enough ever really good enough?

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Thank you for stopping by Aspire Marketing Partners website and blog! I hope to share with you the insight I have gained in operating a small business, and I welcome comments from others with similar experiences. It's when we join together to form a vast collective of ideas, insights and experience that we will gain the most!

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