Thursday, July 31, 2008

Don't Forsake Your Marketing Home Page - Laurie Swiryn

Yes, Web 2.0 and beyond is here to stay and site visitors are more tech savvy than ever before. It's prudent to develop Web sites that have all the bells and whistles for your visitors who have all the time in the world...However, it is vital for your company to develop and maintain a state-of-the-art, frills-free marketing Home Page as well.

Nearly 20 years after most companies developed their first Web site, it is more important than ever that your main corporate URL, the one that you print on every invoice, flyer, promotional product, brochure and sales rep's forehead...the one that is, deliver your company's elevator pitch with a punch. This is your Home Page and if you look at it through the eyes of your customers or prospects, you may just find that it’s become a big mess!

Certainly, your Home Page can link to more sophisticated Web applications, however, too often companies forget that the main goal of your company’s marketing Web site is to instantaneously provide new and returning visitors the assurance that they have landed on a company whose products and services are just right for them.

Your marketing Web site represents the "face" of your company to the world at large on the World Wide Web. It's foolish and a bit narcissistic to assume that most visitors who come to your Web site already know what your company can do for them. Forcing them to wait while gratuitous dancing bears and other gorgeous but otherwise useless graphics parade across their screen is akin to answering your phone promptly and then putting the caller on hold to listen to your favorite iPod song list. Many, even most, will hang up or click away...and once they are gone, it is very difficult to get them back.

Perhaps it's not a lot of flash and fancy graphics that deter visitors when they come to your Web site. It can be any number of other Web elements that deter visitors and throw them off course.

Here’s a short list of things to look for when applying a critical eye to your company’s Home Page…

• Include a call to action on your Home Page. This a Web basic, the simplest form of interactivity and most companies ignore the opportunity. Some easy-to-implement examples include:
- Call us for your Free Quote today
- Signup for E-mail Updates (forms based with text that says "Why your information is safe")
-Download our…brochure, price list, product list

• Good writing makes Web sites successful. Copy, not content is king for your Home Page.

• Be certain that there are no typos or grammatical errors on your Web site…you are marketing to educators!

• Accessibility is vital for your Web site, but more important for your Home Page. Sites are accessed today from web browsers, email clients, news readers, podcast feed readers, podcasts…make sure yours works with all of them!

• Refrain from asking visitors to sign-in, sign-up or register in any way other than a small link or sign-in box in a discreet area on the Home Page.

• Use rotating and other moving graphics judiciously. Their presence on a page makes it difficult to find and read the real meat of your message.

• Update the content of your home page frequently but don’t move around the essential navigational elements because your returning visitors do not want to have to re-train their brains every time they visit your site.

• Make sure all broadcast email you send your visitors complies with the CAN-SPAM act and that send only relevant and timely information, not more often than once every 8 weeks.

• Make sure that your company’s phone number is on every page of the Web site – even better if it’s in the same location on every page.

• Provide an easy-to-use form for requesting more information. Don’t ask for too much information… just enough to be able to respond to their requests.

This blog was written by Laurie Swiryn, VP Education Markets at Cuesta Technologies -- Cuesta is a full-service Web development company that has specialized in developing custom Web sites for the K-Adult education market since 1995. Laurie can be reached by calling 888-255-9085 or at

Monday, July 7, 2008

Marketing in Tough Times - Carol Ann Waugh

Marketing in Tough Times

Copyright 2008, Carol Ann Waugh

With all the emphasis on the federal government’s "No Child Left Behind Act,” we sometimes tend to lose track of a very important point. State and local governments provide the overwhelming majority of funds to support the K-12 market. The latest NCES statistics for school year 2004-2005, reported that the state provides 47%, local governments provide 37%, and private sources provide 8% (primarily from private schools) while the federal government's share is only 8%.

Why should this concern us? Because it is difficult to pick up the newspaper lately and not find an article on how states’ budgets are being slashed due to reduced revenues. In addition, the housing crisis will seriously affect the collection of local property taxes – a major source for local school funding. We can see the writing on the wall. State and local funding for K-12 education is going to be reduced in the 2008-2009 school year and perhaps for several years after that.

As schools receive less money, they are going to have to make some difficult choices. And putting off or reducing technology and supplemental purchases may become a necessity as districts struggle to balance their budgets.

Chances are, you’ve already been thinking about how to pare down your marketing investment for 2009. So what’s a smart marketer to do in the face of this forecasted downturn? Here are some practical strategies for doing more with less.

Reduce Your Spending on Unqualified Prospects

This strategy calls for a renewed concentration on targeting your most lucrative prospects. It’s sad but true, but approximately 25% of the market will never buy from you. Identifying prospects with little potential can help you focus more attention and time on the prospects who might turn into customers in the near future. This is not only a strategy for selecting direct mail marketing lists, but one that can apply to other marketing investments such as advertising and exhibits. It doesn’t mean that you should eliminate advertising or exhibits next year, but it does suggest thinking about creative ways to pare down the time and effort spent in these venues with unqualified prospects.

Shorten Your Horizon

As strategic marketers, we like to look three to five years down the road and plan our marketing investments accordingly. But in tough times, a smart tactic is to shorten your timeframe to one to two years. Why? Because surviving in times likes these means getting an immediate return on your marketing dollars. So before you spend even one dollar, ask yourself the question, “Will this marketing investment pay off within the next two years?”

Negotiate Aggressively

Being from New York, this strategy comes as second nature to me but now that I moved to Denver, I can see that being aggressive is not a national trait! But in these difficult economic times, smart marketers realize that everything is negotiable – printing, ad space, and yes, even creative costs like copywriting and design. In this market, your suppliers are also having a hard time and will be more anxious to get your business. And don’t forget to ask, “What’s free?” Many suppliers are offering “free” services such as banner ads on their Web sites, extra circulation of their magazines, and three different catalog treatments for the price of one.

Remember, the education market is cyclical and schools will always need instructional materials. They just might buy less of them this year or delay their purchases. And tough times always evolve into better times. Marketing smarter now will ensure that your company is around for the good times ahead!


This blog was written by Carol Ann Waugh, president of Xcellent Marketing (, a Denver-based consulting firm specializing in the K-12 education markets. Carol can be reached at or by calling 303-388-5215.