Sparks April 2004 -

Sparks April 2004

In the News

How to build your brand
Some think of “branding” as simply another word for “marketing,” but your brand is larger than that: it’s your customer’s emotional conception of your company. A poorly built brand leaves no impression on the customer. The most effective big-box brands (Nike, Saturn, Apple, etc) have fiercely loyal customers who feel strongly about their products. How can you create those kind of results? By recognizing “brand touchpoints” and leveraging them throughout your company.

Brand touchpoints are all the places your customer interacts with your company. These are generally pre-purchase, purchase/usage, and post-purchase. Each touchpoint is an opportunity to build the brand, giving your customer the confidence that your offerings are better than the competition’s.

Pre-purchase is generally in the purview of Marketing, including all advertising, word-of-mouth, Websites, etc. Purchase/usage is where customers decide whether to buy and actually engage with the product or service. The most common touchpoint here is Customer Service. Post-purchase is a frequently overlooked brand-building touchpoint, and can involve both Customer Service and Marketing through activities such as loyalty programs, rebates, or, as in Saturn’s case, special events for customers who have purchased the product.

In order to build your brand effectively, align all three touchpoints around your company’s promise. For instance, if your brand promise is excellent customer service, all touchpoints should make it easy to connect with a friendly and helpful representative. Extended hours, quick e-mail response time, individualized rather than canned answers, and offers to share additional information reinforce the brand promise. Contacting your customer after the purchase to follow up and get product/service feedback and share helpful tips is another way to reinforce the brand promise, and will definitely help you stand out in customers’ minds. It’s that type of holistic approach which unlocks the power of branding, turning passive customers into brand evangelists who promote your business themselves.

Learn more about brand touchpoints

Use modifiers to improve search engine rankings
As any Web Smarts attendee knows, the first place to start when optimizing a site for high search engine rankings is to define your best keywords. Keywords are the words people enter into a search engine in order to find your site. Generally you want these keywords to show up in multiple places on your home page and throughout your site, especially in page titles and the main copy.

However, many businesses focus only on general, highly competitive keywords, such as “hotel” or “health.” It’s unlikely that a small business site will rank well relying only on general terms. In most cases it’s best to add modifiers to get more targeted results.

Modifiers include:

  • Geographic: If your hotel is in Bloomington, make sure “Bloomington” and “Indiana” are included on your page
  • Adjective: Rather than just “healing,” you might use “alternative healing” or “natural healing”
  • Noun: “Graphic design” is a highly competitive keyphrase, and seekers may be looking for a design firm or just general information about design. In this case, add “firm” or “company” to focus your results.

While many businesses are tempted to use the word “free” as a keyword (“free info,” “free advice,” etc) in order to generate traffic, it may end up attracting only those people looking for freebies, not paying customers.

Each situation is different, so it’s best to be clear about your search engine performance goals. Learn more about keyword modifiers or get help with keyword selection using Overture’s keyword suggestion tool.




This month’s winner: Alicia Carroll!
In addition to the satisfaction of winning this prestigious contest, Alicia wins a T-shirt featuring this one-of-a-kind design. Have a favorite quote or saying? Send it in! If your quote is chosen, you’ll receive a T-shirt with a custom design! Check out your competition here.

Client Spotlight

Monroe Bank
Monroe Bank is a Bloomington-based community bank with a well-deserved reputation for customer service and community commitment. Their existing Website did not reflect their brand or meet their changing business needs as they reached out to new markets throughout South Central and Central Indiana. After conducting a thorough analysis of their site and business goals, Monroe Bank hired Design for a complete site redesign.

Working with the amazing and talented Danise Alano, Vice-President and Marketing Director, we overhauled the site from the ground up. Our first concern was to create a look and feel which matched Monroe Bank’s reputation for high quality and customer care. Our design built on the Monroe Bank brand by using its signature green along with warm accent colors. While many banking sites feature “lifestyle” photos where the visitor observes generic people interacting with laptop computers, we selected photos where people are looking directly at the visitor. With rich textures, classic colors, and friendly faces, the photos create an immediate emotional connection and demonstrate how Monroe Bank’s people make all the difference.

Our navigation system “chunked” information into major and minor categories. In accordance with good usability principles, we narrowed navigational choices on the home page to key categories, and then offered visitors access to a wealth of information one click down. One photo was assigned to each category of information so visitors can easily tell when they’ve switched from one category to another. We also created a series of ads for the site which educate the visitor about related product offerings in other categories, creating multiple opportunities for in-site navigation.

The redesign also allowed us to greatly expand site content. Products and services are described in greater detail, and helpful account comparison charts and other tools help visitors decide which product is best for them and contact the appropriate staff. In addition, the bank now has the opportunity to more easily promote special programs such as their banking and travel club, special seminars, and community events. We specifically wanted to promote online banking, so we created both visual and textual aids to drive people to that product.

Response to the redesign was immediate and overwhelmingly positive, and has already led to more sales. We’ll be developing the site further with database-driven tools so site maintenance is simplified and Danise’s team can focus on getting the most out of the bank’s Web presence.

View the site created by Design