Joanie Ferguson

Our Latest Launches

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, Millennium Medical Publishing, and Goya Foods. Our talented teams of designers, developers, and account executives have collaborated to produce final products worth checking out. Read on to hear about our latest projects and the challenges we met along the way.

Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation is committed to alleviating the suffering caused by mental illness by awarding grants that will lead to advances in scientific research. The organization tasked us with telling their story with greater clarity, and more compelling, artful engagement. Their goal was to think of new and better ways to display information and to improve the donor flow on their existing site. We began by conducting audience research and performing a content audit to ensure content supported goals, added value, and targeted the correct audience. We then developed 10 user flows, enabling us to group and prioritize content and site functionality according to the site’s most frequent visitors. This informed the direction we took on the site redesign, with a modern visual interface and optimized touch points including page leads, video, navigation, and donation opportunities to drive engagement. Our research led us to discover that users were primarily visiting the site to gather information on mental illness. Because of this, we worked to illuminate the compelling science and transformative research of the BBR Foundation through elevated online communications and a blog. The modernized design and site architecture along with improved content development led to a highly immersive web and user experience.

The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science

The American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science develops funding for and educates the public on the Weizmann Institute of Science, a research institution located in Israel. We’ve worked to update their website using the Umbraco content management system in order to tell a better story, engage more people, and to facilitate donations. Because the Committee’s work is so widespread, we concepted a site architecture that would establish a hierarchy with six different achievement buckets:
  • Fighting Cancer
  • Advancing Technology
  • Enriching Education
  • Protecting Our Planet
  • Improving Health and Medicine
  • Exploring the Physical World
Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 12.33.08 PM We designed the corresponding iconography to help tell the story of the Committee’s ongoing solutions to the respective causes. An important goal for the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science was to simplify the fundraising process and to encourage more donations. Donors prefer giving money when they know exactly where their donation will be going. Because the Committee’s causes were so differentiated, we created project-based fundraisers to bring clarity to each individual cause. Project-based fundraising allows users to set up fundraisers in Crowdrise so users can donate to their project of choice — from cancer research to energy innovations. Project Toolkits walk users through the steps needed to support a cause that matters, then to invite friends and colleagues to join the cause through peer-to-peer fundraising. The new site tells a compelling narrative that attracts donors and encourages cause-driven donations.

Millennium Medical Publishing, Inc.

MMP is a medical publishing company with more than 40 years combined experience in the publishing field, with a specific focus on hematology and oncology, and gastroenterology and hepatology. We set out to design a responsive WordPress website that leads with content and offers a clean and simple user experience. Site visitors select the issue they’d like to explore (Hematology & Oncology or Gastroenterology & Hepatology) then browse through content from the latest issue. Both sites make it easy to explore the magazine’s archives and supplements, with a simple navigation and straightforward display of articles. We designed the new sites with the user in mind, so content can be consumed and discoverable on the MMP site.

Goya

The culture of food and family is meant to be shared. When we dove deep into the Goya heritage, we found true emotional currency not just in the rich culinary traditions but also in the desire to share these traditions with the world. We built a comprehensive online recipe catalog to drive social sharing, repeat website visits and encourage product sampling. We migrated Goya to the Umbraco CMS to allow for simple monthly updates by site managers. Images of delicious food cater to digital appetites, and quick and easy recipes help household chefs find tonight’s mealtime inspiration. Additionally, we improved recipe and product backend architecture to encourage recipe/product cross referencing. The Goya experience packages useful information – recipes, product details, and interactive shopping lists for busy, on-the-go users. Vibrant social platforms, promotions, coupons, and contests offer enticing rewards and drive traffic to all digital hubs. Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 12.47.41 PM We’re pleased to have these websites completed and are excited for the projects to come. If you’d like to discuss a project with a Flightpath representative, feel free to reach out here.]]>

Take a Bite out of the New Goya Website

Increasing user retention

  • Lowering bounce rate
  • Employing a modern, responsive design
  • With these goals in mind, we set out to create a plan to leverage the brand’s existing digital presence to achieve their goals with a cross-functional platform just as diverse as the brand itself.

    The Umbraco CMS

    At Flightpath, we’re Umbraco Gold partners, meaning we have a number of developers and designers in-house who are experts on the Umbraco content management system. We selected Umbraco over other CMSs in order to provide the client with the simplest editor experience. The Goya site is a 1:1 multilingual site, so for every piece of English content on the site, there’s a Spanish translation. We were able to do this with the Vorto property editor, an Umbraco package that allows fields to store multilingual content. For SEO purposes, we decided to host this on a single domain with subdirectories for each language.

    An optimized user experience

    To improve UX and increase engagement, we incorporated faceted search with suggestions into the site, allowing users to explore information by applying filters. We implemented this by integrating Umbraco with Azure Search, a cloud search service. With the site’s extensive content and design features, we wanted to ensure it would load quickly, so we put the entire site (rather than just the media) behind a content delivery network. Moving the site to a CDN also ensured a speedy site for a primarily North American audience despite Umbraco Cloud hosting from Europe. Additionally, we used the ASP.NET Identity Umbraco package and OWIN middleware to enable Facebook and Google authentication for a simplified user experience. Users are now able to create an account to receive offers and save recipes with the click of a button.

    Creating evangelists

    One of Goya’s primary goals was to increase user retention. Many users were one-time visitors, so we wanted to create an experience that would turn one-time users into loyal customers. We added to the experience by syncing products with recipes to allow users to search by product. For example, a user could search for salad recipes that incorporated chicken and rice. The easy-to-use search capabilities encouraged users to surf the site for recipe information according to ingredients they already had.

    Encouraging engagement

    Prior to the redesign, the website had a relatively high bounce rate. Users were visiting the site for a recipe, printing it out, then exiting the site. While Goya was happy to be a trusted recipe source, we knew there was an opportunity to engage site visitors to stay longer and explore the site’s other offerings. Our product/recipe syncing encouraged users to explore other recipes with similar ingredients. The website’s featured recipes section showcases the recipe’s main ingredient to provide further product information and cross reference other recipes. We also added a ratings and reviews section that’s encouraged users to engage with the recipe and product content. Social media integrations allow users to share Goya recipes and blog posts with friends and family.

    The end result

    The new site offers parallax scrolling and bright, colorful imagery sure to make any site visitor hungry. Migrating Goya’s site to the Umbraco CMS greatly reduces the time it takes the client to update content, and we’ve already seen a steep decline in bounce rate after making these adjustments to the site. The end result is a dynamic, multi-faceted initiative that tells the Goya story in a fashion that’s rich, fun, informative, and engaging.]]>

    How a 150-Year-Old Museum Became a Marketing Leader

    webinar on digital trends, where we spoke about rising customer demands and the emergence of new marketing technologies. When looking for great case studies, companies like AirBnb and Snapchat came to mind. But we were surprised to find inspiration in a historic New York attraction: The Museum of Natural History. In its 150-year-old glory, the museum has adapted and grown to be more than just a museum. The 5-story building spanning across four city blocks has evolved into an immersive educational experience. Catherine Devine, the museum’s Chief Digital Officer, can be credited for a large amount of their success. Devine reworked the museum’s digital strategy and developed the Explorer app, which has completely reinvigorated the museum experience.

    High expectations and the move to mobile

    Consumer preference continues to evolve as mobile usage expands. It seems the more we focus on creating a positive customer experience, the more demanding customers become. This evolution of expectations due to technological advancements has brought forth an opportunity for brands to revamp the way they work. Devine has made it a priority at the Museum of Natural History to enhance user satisfaction by improving usability, accessibility, and pleasure.

    Starting with the audience

    The museum has turned into a navigable treasure trove of endless information with the Explorer app in hand. And it’s all because Devine started with defining the customer’s needs. “When creating the Explorer app, we decided to shift our thinking around how the visitors think,” Devine said. She started by identifying problems that visitors face when visiting. Among the problems that needed solving were:
    • Where can I get coffee in the museum?
    • What should I see while I’m there?
    • What if I miss out on something?
    • I want to find out more about that exhibit when I get home.
    • How do I get there?
    • How much are tickets?
    • Do I need to print my ticket?
    • And perhaps most importantly: where are the bathrooms?
    Putting the audience first allowed Devine to identify problems that visitors face on a daily basis. She was then able to establish a strategy focused on solving these problems.
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    Creating an experience

    The most forward-thinking brands create engagement because they have an innate understanding of their audience and what it takes to get their attention. Devine accomplished this by putting herself in the customer’s shoes every step of the way. “The point is to add value to your prospects and create an experience,” Devine said. “That’s what gets them to engage with your brand in the modern digital era.” With the Explorer app, Devine’s goal was to get away from the idea of ‘content for everybody,’ and get to a granular and predictable type of experience. She did this by first, reducing friction in the experience. “Location services prompt tickets to popup on mobile devices when a visitor is closeby,” Devine said. “Explorer makes the museum easy to navigate and answers all FAQs related to tickets and recommended exhibits. There are also turn-by-turn instructions in the museum using Beacon technology.” But reducing friction is just the beginning. People expect to have a seamless experience, and it’s important that brands go above and beyond what’s expected. When a user opens the app, he’s able to select topics that interest him so suggestions are tailored to him. Explorer also features augmented reality, quizzes, and social sharing capabilities, making it a highly interactive experience. screen696x696

    Micro-moments

    The user journey has become fragmented across different devices and locations, creating many separate decision-making moments, or micro-moments. The Museum of Natural History has taken this as an opportunity to reach consumers in more locations and situations. Devine identified the idea that there are multiple moments in every visit to the museum, and emphasized the importance of considering the user’s intent and context at all times. Devine used these micro-moments as opportunities to surprise and delight museum visitors.

    I-want-to-go moments

    One type of these micro-moments is the I-want-to-go moments. A Google search like ‘best dry cleaner near me’ would qualify as one of these moments. It’s important that brands are aware of these searches and make themselves relevant when their customers are searching. Devine anticipated these moments by making mobile tickets available when visitors are nearby. While a visitor may purchase a ticket on desktop, the ticket will still appear on the user’s phone if the app is downloaded. She was not only considering the visitor’s location, but also their purchase process. These moments don’t just occur while in the museum — the app allows users to plan out their visit to the museum beforehand by viewing and selecting exhibits they’d like to see. She also took into account situational data. If it’s raining the day they plan to visit the museum, the app will notify the user to bring an umbrella. screen696x696

    I Want-to-know moments

    The Explorer app appears where people are searching and connects people with what they’re looking for in real time to provide relevant information when they need it. For example, if a visitor was especially interested in the blue whale exhibit, he would immediately be provided with additional exhibit information after opening the app. Location services allow the user to access relevant information at any given time without searching to find it. screen696x696

    The Era of Infotainment

    In the era of infotainment, consumers need to be entertained in order to pay attention and digest information. The Explorer app was developed as a complement to the museum, so that people who come and use the app find the museum more thought-provoking than those who didn’t. Devine took a historied museum and put a modern twist on it with the Explorer app. By starting with the audience’s needs and taking into account situational and location data, she was able to create a unique experience for museum visitors.]]>

    A Comprehensive Guide to Umbraco

    Comprehensive Umbraco Guide

    Microsoft, Carlsburg, and NFL trust Umbraco as their content management system of choice.  

    See if Umbraco is Right For You
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    Why a CMS?

    The primary reason to use a web content management system is to allow non-technical editors to manage content. Without a CMS, one would need to have technical skills like HTML to create and update content on a website. Content Management Systems offer a variety of other functionalities, such as versioning of content, asset management, site search, and form building. They can also support more advanced features such as content personalization and e-commerce, and integration with customer relationship management systems like Salesforce. A good CMS is not just an application for editing content, but a development platform that allows your site to innovate and adapt to your specific needs.  

    Why Umbraco?

    There are a lot of web content management systems on the market. Different systems have strengths and weaknesses and no one system will be ideal for all situations. As a digital marketing agency, we’ve found that Umbraco provides the right balance of power and simplicity for both users and developers. We have a number of reasons to back this up, but we’ll highlight five:
    1. Umbraco is free and open source
    Anyone can access Umbraco’s source code in any way so you can’t be limited to what’s available from the product. It also means no financial overheads or lock-in, and a lot of flexibility and freedom for creativity.
    2. The editor interface
    Umbraco has a great interface for editors to manage their content. Editor Simplicity is the overriding tenet of Umbraco, and the Umbraco core team continues to enhance the editor experience as it evolves the platform. Hartvig put it perfectly when Umbraco HQ released Umbraco 7 in 2013: “This is the beginning of a new era for the Umbraco project. It’s the culmination of 18 months of dedicated work, focused on bringing the project back to the roots of Editor Simplicity & Developer Happiness.”
    3. Customizable
    Umbraco is a blank slate. Unlike many other CMSs that have rigid templates and limited design capabilities, Umbraco can be adapted in any way to fit your needs. It was built with ASP.NET MVC, which provides the ability to build custom apps with Umbraco. There are also many great free and open source plugins available. We’ll go into more detail on packages shortly, but for now, check out six of our favorite Umbraco packages.
    4. Performance and scalability
    A well-built Umbraco site performs fast. Umbraco provides built-in caching for content and can easily integrate with content delivery networks (CDNs) for improved performance. Furthermore, Umbraco makes it simple to configure a site to run on a load balanced environment including on auto-scaled cloud services such as Azure App Service.
    5. The community
    The Umbraco community is comprised of great people who are passionate about Umbraco. Umbraco wouldn’t be everything it is without its friendly and dedicated community of 220,000 people. The Umbraco community can be found at:
    • Our.Umbraco.org – Forums, Packages, Documentation
    • Conferences – Codegarden, uWestFest (and other regional festivals)
    • Meetups – Flightpath supports the local community by hosting the New York Umbraco meetups
    • Twitter, Blogs, Skrift.io and a Slack community channel
     
    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for you?
    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for you?
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    Some of our favorite packages

    Umbraco has over 1,098 packages of all different sizes and prices that make the CMS much more powerful. The best way to understand the value and benefits of using Umbraco is to look at some examples of how we use Umbraco to meet specific requirements. The following packages will give you a better taste of how Umbraco works from a marketer/editor as well as a developer standpoint:
    1. Rich content
    Archetype: An Umbraco 7 property editor that wraps other installed property editors. By wrapping the other properties, Archetype allows for custom and repeatable fieldset mashups. Nested Content: A property editor that uses the power of doc types to define the list item blue prints. With Nested Content, you can reuse all the standard data types as field editors rather than being limited to a subset of “allowed” types. Grid Editor: Gives the editor the ability to insert different types of content in a flexible, responsive layout. (Note: the grid editor started off as a package and is now built into the core of Umbraco.)
    2. Blog
    Articulate: Provides basic blog functionality such as categories, tags, and RSS feeds.
    3. Site search
    Examine: Examine allows you to index and search data easily and wraps the Lucene.Net indexing/searching engine. Lucene is super fast and allows for fast searching on large amounts of data. (Examine is now built into the core Umbraco package.)
    4. CRM integration
    Forms: From basic contact forms to multi-step questionnaires, form building is easy with Umbraco Forms. The interface is intuitive and allows for workflow creation as well as validation rules and conditions.
    5. E-commerce
    Merchello: Merchello is a high performance, designer friendly, open source Umbraco e-commerce package built for store owners. uCommerce: uCommerce is an e-commerce offering fully integrated with Umbraco for building online stores. Unlike Merchello, Ucommerce isn’t open source, though a free version is available.
    6. Multilingual sites
    Vorto: Vorto wraps any existing property editor and converts it into a multilingual property, allowing for seamless site translation.  

    Umbraco Cloud

    It’s not good enough to build a great website – it also needs to be deployed and maintained. Umbraco works pretty much anywhere you can run ASP.NET and SQL Server. With Umbraco Cloud, all-in-one Microsoft Azure hosting makes manual upgrading and painful deployment a thing of the past. Umbraco Cloud provides hosting for up to three environments (development, staging and live) and a content migration process called ContentFlow. ContentFlow allows editors to work and review on a staging environment and deploy content when ready, while developers can easily pull down the latest content and build new features on a development environment and push to staging for review. The Cloud also allows users to reuse existing project components using Baselines so they can spend less hours in project setup, and more on the project itself. Umbraco Cloud automatically upgrades to the latest patch version of Umbraco CMS. For minor upgrades (such as 7.4.x to 7.5.0), when there is a chance of a change negatively impacting your site, the portal provides an upgrade button, allowing you to test first and decide when to upgrade. Umbraco Cloud includes unlimited storage and bandwidth and licenses for the commercial add ons like Umbraco Forms. Umbraco Cloud has helped those who don’t even use it. It allows Umbraco HQ to gain insights in running production Umbraco sites, and allows them to identify and fix issues with Umbraco Core faster. Umbraco Cloud also helps fund Umbraco Core.  

    Umbraco vs. other top CMSs

    Over the years, we’ve worked with a variety of web content management systems, and have found that Umbraco is the right solution for most projects. But in some cases, other content management systems prevail. Here’s a quick comparison between Umbraco and other top CMSs:
    Umbraco vs. Sitecore
    Sitecore is a commercially licensed product with fees starting at about $15,000. Sitecore is an enterprise solution and gives users the ability to track real-time visitor behavior. Like Umbraco, Sitecore has a large and active community that’s constantly evolving the service.
    Umbraco vs. DNN
    Like Umbraco, DNN is free and open source. DNN is one of the most popular open source .NET CMSs, and powers over 800,000 websites worldwide. DNN can be used as a CMS as well as an application development framework. DNN is easier to get up and running while there’s a learning curve with Umbraco. But Umbraco’s flexibility allows for a leaner and cleaner output.
    Umbraco vs. Sitefinity
    Sitefinity is a paid .NET CMS that has a task-oriented user interface. It uses .NET standards like MasterPages and Controls for template management, which simplifies the setup process for a website’s frontend. Sitefinity has community forums similar to Umbraco’s, but their tech support is typically quicker to respond that Umbraco’s.
    Umbraco vs. Kentico
    Kentico is a .NET CMS that offers free and paid options. It doubles as a Customer Experience Management System and is great for small websites. Kentico has a simple plug-and-play UI, though it’s limited in its design customizability.
    Umbraco vs. WordPress
    WordPress is the most popular CMS and is a PHP based system (whereas Umbraco is built on .NET). What started as a blogging platform grew into a full CMS with a range of plugins that allow for simple website building and design. If you just need a blog or don’t have a budget for a custom designed site, then you might want to go with WordPress and buy a prebuilt WordPress theme.
    Umbraco vs. Drupal
    Like WordPress, Drupal is a PHP based system. Drupal has an extremely active community online and in person at events and meetups. While Umbraco can be used for large and small sites, Drupal is typically used for larger sites. Microsoft developers gravitate toward Umbraco, as Drupal isn’t supported by Microsoft. If you’re a Drupal user and haven’t updated to Drupal 8, check out our article to see when you should upgrade.  

    Finding an Umbraco partner

    Now that you know a thing or two about Umbraco, talk with your team to see if it’s the right CMS for you. At Flightpath, we’re happy to be one of Umbraco’s Gold partners. This means that we have certified Umbraco experts in-house, and support the core Umbraco CMS. Our dedicated team of developers and designers is well versed in Umbraco — no project is too complex. Umbraco has 468 registered partners and 55 Gold partners. We’re proud to be the only Gold partner in NYC. If you’d like to chat with our team to see if Umbraco is right for your project, you can reach us here.
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    Is Umbraco the Right CMS for You?

    Is Umbraco the right CMS for you?

    Coleman Research Group and Bway Zone. We love the open-source CMS because it gives us the ability to develop easy-to-manage sites for our clients, and it’s constantly evolving and improving. Umbraco is one of the most deployed Web Content Management Systems on the Microsoft stack. Just last week, Umbraco surpassed 400,000 active sites worldwide. Umbraco can be used for a website of any size, from a small local business to a Fortune 500 company. In addition to the CMS, Umbraco offers Umbraco Cloud, a fully managed hosting service tuned for Umbraco. Read on to learn more about what Umbraco CMS and Umbraco Cloud have to offer.

    See if Umbraco is Right For You
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    Umbraco CMS

    As we mentioned, Umbraco is an open-source CMS, which is why the service is constantly improving upon itself. The huge community of Umbraco users works together to evolve the service, and Umbraco listens. We’ve outlined a few notable features of the Umbraco CMS below:
    Powerful editing capabilities
    Umbraco’s editing tools are highly intuitive. Media management, responsive views, and approval workflows make for a seamless site management experience.
    Open source
    Anyone can access Umbraco’s source code in any way without licensing or copyright requirements. This means you can’t be limited to what’s available from the product (every developer’s dream). It also means no financial overheads or lock-in, and a lot of flexibility and freedom for creativity.
    Media management
    File management, easy drag-drop media insertion, and responsive cropping make any site editor into a designer.
    Safe, responsive preview
    Avoid errors with Umbraco’s preview mode, where editors can preview pages on any device before hitting the big red button.
    Painless integration
    Umbraco can be easily integrated with any 3rd party service using the fully extensible API. Lots of packages already exist for these integrations.
    Freedom in design
    Designers have full control over markup to make your website look exactly as you like, with no Umbraco specific knowledge needed. It’s easy to incorporate 3rd party HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
    Granular user permissions
    Get granular with your user permissions to ensure control over content and actions to avoid the risk of user errors.
    Multilingual capabilities
    Umbraco’s multilingual capabilities make it a breeze to duplicate websites in multiple languages.
    A Comprehensive Guide to Umbraco
    A Comprehensive Guide to Umbraco
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    Umbraco Cloud

    Everything mentioned above plus all-in-one Microsoft Azure hosting gives you access to clever and simpler workflows, frees you from manual upgrading, and makes painful deployment a thing of the past. Read on for more benefits from the Umbraco Cloud:
    All-in-one hosting
    State-of-the-art managed hosting on Microsoft Azure saves time on IT tasks like server setup, version upgrades, and painful deployments.
    BaselineFlow
    BaselineFlow allows you to reuse existing project components with one click, rather than repetitive project setup. This ensures consistency and quality across sites, and helps accurately predict project cost and time.
    Content flow
    Content editing and publishing can occur alongside feature developments in separate environments with Umbraco’s ContentFlow process.
    Scalable solution
    Flexibility and predictability in projects means Umbraco is scalable for use on 1 project or 100, for both low and high scale information and campaign sites.
    Central user management
    Permissions and preferences are centrally controlled by you — perfect for managing your team, working with external collaborators, and giving clients access to review, test, and provide feedback along the way.
    Platform independent
    Umbraco Cloud can be used by Mac and PC developers.
    Solid infrastructure
    Umbraco Cloud was built on a proven solid infrastructure with guaranteed 99.9% uptime.
    Automated upgrades
    Umbraco Cloud automatically upgrades to the latest version of Umbraco, so no work is required to stay up-to-date.
    Live support
    When the Umbraco community isn’t able to help, you can chat with an expert with Umbraco’s live support.
    Strong community
    Umbraco wouldn’t be everything it is without its friendly and dedicated community of 220,000. At Flightpath, we frequently host Umbraco Meetups to get together with other developers from across the board to talk about challenges and ideas related to Umbraco. Visit this page if you’re interested in attending an Umbraco Meetup.

    Umbraco Gold partners

    At Flightpath, we’re happy to be one of Umbraco’s Gold partners. This means that we have certified Umbraco experts in-house, and support the core Umbraco CMS. Umbraco has 468 registered partners and 55 Gold partners. We’re proud to be the only Umbraco Gold partner in NYC! If you’d like to chat with our team to see if Umbraco is right for your project, you can reach us here.
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    How to Use Micro-Moments to Your Advantage

    Showing up in micro moments

    “A good guiding principle is this: be there across all stages of the consumer journey, not just when someone is ready to buy. To accomplish this, consider four key moment types that represent the full range of user needs,” Think with Google said in its whitepaper. Learning about micro-moments opens the door to new tactics for your brand that you didn’t know existed. We’ve gone a little deeper in explaining what these moments are, and how your brand can appear in these moments in a positive way. Read on to get inspired.

    I-want-to-know moments

    People search Google over 40,000 times per second. And when they do, they want an answer fast. How can you make your brand relevant here? Answer any potential question that could arise that your brand can answer effectively. For example, let’s say you work for S’well Bottles. Think of questions your potential customers could be asking. Search Google with queries like ‘are S’well water bottles,’ and see what questions appear in autocomplete. This will give you a great starting point. Google search query Also, scroll to the bottom of the search engine results page after searching for your product to see relevant searches for more content ideas. Google search query 2 These are some of many ‘I-want-to-know’ moments related to your brand, and the perfect opportunity for you to provide the necessary information to move your customer down the funnel. Write blog posts, promote user testimonials, or create FAQ landing pages that answer these questions and more. Most importantly, talk directly to customers to see what questions they need answered that you might not have found on Google. Think about sending out surveys to customers or talk to your company’s sales or customer service teams. The employees that are in contact the most with customers are extremely valuable for this research. Lastly, think outside your brand. You should be able to answer every question a potential customer has about your brand, but what about your industry? Think about searches like ‘best birthday presents for healthy friends,’ or ‘workout accessories,’ or ‘how much water should I drink everyday?’ The goal is to become a trusted source in your area of expertise to eventually build a relationship and drive sales. Start building out a content idea list based on the questions that arise in this research to make sure your brand is showing up in the “I-want-to-know” moments.

    I-want-to-go moments

    According to Google, “near me” searches have grown 2X in the past year. This is a big opportunity if you have a storefront or consumer-facing location. How can you make your business known when people are searching? Use location signals to highlight your store location or inventory. Your store’s location should be clearly stated on your website and app, and you might even provide directions to take it a step further. Consider buying AdWords for your store’s location or popular products. When searching lululemon on my phone, I’m served an ad that provides nearby locations with hyperlinked addresses and phone numbers. lululemon search results But like we said earlier, think outside your brand. Using AdWords to take advantage of “near me” searches can be great for people who are searching with less specific intent, like ‘yoga clothes near me’ rather than ‘lululemon.’ yoga clothes near me google results Play with AdWords and make your location and inventory known to make your brand relevant in “I-want-to-go” moments.

    I-want-to-do moments

    These are the “how-to” moments. An obvious example would be a company that makes chocolate chips providing chocolate chip cookie recipes on their site. And, though obvious, it works. To provide an example from our agency, we produce content around the search phrase “when should I redo my website.” When users come to our site to view these blog posts and download whitepapers, it provides us with valuable lead intelligence in addition to giving us the ability to help out our potential customers. The number one goal should be helping out whoever’s reading your content, but the lead intel is an added benefit. When we know who’s looking into redoing a website, we can segment them and provide more relevant content to continue nurturing them down the path to purchase. Google suggests creating video content for these moments, as more than 100 million hours of “how-to” content have been watched in North America already this year. We recommend providing subtitles as many people don’t use audio when watching videos. Recently, I searched for ‘how to remove Macbook battery.’ It resulted in many helpful videos, but none of them were branded. If a local tech repair shop created their own how-to videos, I’d likely come to terms with the fact that I shouldn’t be removing my battery myself, and take it to the shop so they could handle the repair. Regardless of type, your brand should be prepared for these “I-want-to-do” moments with how-to content.
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    I-want-to-buy moments

    The “I-want-to-buy” moments can happen anywhere, but these are your top-of-funnel users making purchase decisions. These moments can happen in store, at home, at work — anywhere. So it’s important that you consider location and time of search to provide the most relevant content for users. Last week, I searched for “best moisturizing face mask” while I was at home. This search resulted in an ad for a mask from skincare company Glossier. I then searched for user reviews and shortly after purchased the product online. It was that simple. An ad with the right keywords and some positive user reviews convinced me to purchase. Note that this ad is for a product and not a brand. In this case, the product ad was much more effective than an ad for the skincare brand would have been. best moisturizing face cream google results People are constantly looking for help deciding what to buy. If your brand can help people make that decision, you should do everything in your power to make that happen. The opportunity you can’t afford to miss: when people are comparing products before making a purchase. Take advantage of this opportunity by encouraging your users to leave product reviews on your website and making these reviews easily accessible on mobile. This is also an opportunity to reach out to influencers relevant to your industry who will review your products on their own site or YouTube. Aside from ramping up your user reviews, make sure your brand is answering the questions your users are asking before making a purchase. This goes back to the ‘I-want-to-know’ moments, but with a higher purchase intent. Your messaging should be relevant according to the time and location of a search. It should also be easy for a customer to purchase on your site. Any hiccups in the purchase process will likely deter customers. Being prepared for the “I-want-to-buy” moments will likely make or break a business transaction.

    How to win in micro-moments

    You probably noticed that all of the search examples we mentioned in this article are actionable. A user is asking a question because she wants to buy something, make something, or do something. That’s what differentiates mobile search and defines the opportunity for marketers to take advantage of these micro-moments. A user is looking to be influenced in some way, and that’s your opportunity to engage. [Tweet “A user is looking to be influenced in some way, and that’s your opportunity to engage.”] So how do we win in these moments? First, consider the user’s intent and context. Make sure you’re appearing where people are searching, and provide relevant and useful information that will direct their decision. Finally, make it seamless to complete the sale on mobile and desktop. In short, the brands that are able to answer questions in a fast and useful way are likely to get the business if the purchase process is as simple as the research process.]]>

    5 Essential Chrome Extensions for Designers

    5 of the best Chrome extensions

    Steven Louie, so rest assured it’ll be worth your while to try them out. Enjoy!  

     PerfectPixel

    What is is: An extension that helps develop websites with per pixel accuracy What we use it for: We use PerfectPixel to place a semi-transparent image overlay on the top of developed HTML for a per pixel comparison Download it here  

     GetThemAll Video Downloader

    What is is: Universal video and file downloader What we use it for: To find all downloadable files on a web page and download multiple files at once Download it here  

     What Font

    What is is: Font identifier What we use it for: Hover over web fonts to discover the font type, size, weight, and line height Download it here  

     Window Resizer

    What is is: Google Chrome window resizer What we use it for: Quickly view different window sizes to test user functionality Download it here  

     Full Page Screen Capture

    What is is: Makes for easy full page screenshotting What we use it for: Ever tried to scroll while taking a screenshot to capture the whole page? We use this app often to turn full web pages into images Download it here Did we miss anything? Tweet at us @Flightpathny to share your favorite Chrome extensions for designers.
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    Digital Trends You Need to Try in 2017

    2017 Digital Trends

    1. High expectations Customer experience has been a hot topic for the past year, and it seems the more we focus on creating a positive customer experience, the more demanding customers become. Companies like Casper and SoulCycle are setting the bar high by putting their customers’ happiness first. When Casper unexpectedly ran out of mattresses during their initial launch, they ordered air mattresses on Amazon for the customers whose mattresses were backordered. They even put some people in hotel rooms while they waited for their mattress to arrive. Though costly, this was a smart move because a.) it was the first move of many that’s declared Casper’s customer service over-the-top, and b.) they kept customers that they otherwise would have lost to a competitor (and mattress purchase lifecycles are typically six years or longer-making it worth the effort to beat out mattress competitors). If a customer doesn’t enjoy her experience in a SoulCycle class, they’re given a free class credit to try it again. SoulCycle does this because a bad experience could keep a customer from returning, but a free class provides a second chance for a better experience, which raises the likelihood they’ll return. After all, retaining customers is cheaper than attracting new ones. Aside from delighting existing customers and bringing in lots of new ones, companies like SoulCycle and Casper have set a standard for companies to go out of their way to see to their customers’ needs. Focus on delighting your customers in 2017. Whether it’s developing an easy-to-navigate app or website, or hiring cheery customer service representatives, your customers will be expecting their experience to be seamless, so make it a priority for 2017.

    2. Authentically mobile experiences

    Do you have any apps on your phone that you’ve never accessed on a desktop? Think: Uber, Snapchat, Pokemon Go. These are authentically mobile experiences because they were designed with a mobile-first mindset. You can easily navigate the apps on your phone, no pinching and zooming necessary. There also aren’t too many options in these applications. A simple menu or settings screen is all that’s necessary to complement the app’s primary function. If your business or service can’t be converted to a standalone mobile experience, there are still plenty of opportunities to prepare your company for the mobile-first world. Focus on making your customer journey as simple as possible on a mobile device. Responsive website design and large form fields are good places to start. Take some time to explore chatbots and mobile payments to see if either could be a fit for your business. As Google has begun testing its mobile-first index, mobile optimization should be at the top of your list this year.

    3. Video everywhere

    Video continues to dominate as the format of choice. Adults are spending an average of 1 hour and 15 minutes consuming video each day. Video has proven to be effective in email and on websites in driving conversions and increasing customer loyalty. Just seeing the word ‘video’ in email subject lines leads to an increased open rate of 19%, according to Hyperfine Media. So what can you do to keep up with the trend? Explore new video formats like 360 video and livestreaming. Give Facebook Live or Periscope a try, and if Snapchat is a good fit for your brand, now’s the time to get on the platform. Just making videos isn’t going to drive conversions and boost sales, though. Your content should be relevant and entertaining. We live in an era of “infotainment,” a response to consumer demands for better content over ads. Think: Tasty and GoPro. Consumers need to digest information but be entertained at the same time. Finding a balance of entertainment and information engages users, grows awareness, and develops trust.
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    4. Marketing automation

    The use of marketing automation software like HubSpot, Marketo, and Salesforce is continuing to grow. For those who aren’t familiar, marketing automation is a category of software that streamlines, automates, and measures marketing tasks and workflows so companies can increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster. Ease of building landing pages, creating emails, social media distribution, and CRM integration allow for marketing and sales alignment and lead generation and segmentation. While there are important differences between marketing automation platforms, success is often primarily determined by strategy and process, content and lead flow, and lead quality. Having enough content is often the most underestimated challenge for successful marketing automation. Original, high quality content is a must-have for consistent lead generation and nurturing. This content should be based on a solid understanding of your target personas so that messaging resonates with your audience. While content marketing can be low cost, it requires a large amount of pre-work (persona research) and maintenance. For a step-by-step guide on creating a content strategy: Download our workbook “How to Create a Purposeful Content Strategy.”

    5. Data attribution

    The consumer decision journey has been fractured into hundreds of tiny decision-making moments at every stage of the funnel. Many companies have worked to engage the customer in all category-relevant micro moments. But 2017 will emphasize the importance of measuring and attributing that data. Consumers take a multi-device path to purchase, and with advancing technology, we’re able to see those touchpoints. Enhanced attribution analysis can enable us to truly understand our customers’ experience. This year, work on understanding the interplay between multiple channels and devices. In a strong modeling methodology, values are assigned to marketing touch points, helping you quantify your marketing returns. Improving your data attribution can inform your marketing mix.

    Register for the webinar

    We hope reading through this list has helped open your eyes to what your company should focus on in the new year, and inspired you to start a project or two. Take a deep dive into these trends and others Register for the webinar 2017 Digital Trends | Thursday, January 26  ]]>

    How Often Should You Redo Your Website?

    How often should you redo your website?

    “Is my website continually producing satisfactory results?”   If your answer to the question is “yes,” and you haven’t updated your site in 5 years, or just redesigned last month, your decision should be obvious. To put it plainly: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Most likely, your answer to the question is ‘no.’ Your sales could be declining or your leads could be lowering in quality. Maybe you’ve never gotten great results from your site. In which case, it’s probably time to redo it. Regardless, if your website isn’t yielding the results you want, you should make some changes. This list of indicators can help you decide whether or not it’s time for an update, and help direct your focus to the parts of your site that need to be improved. If you’re suffering from any of the following, your site could use some improvements.  

    1. It’s not helping you drive demand

    Like we mentioned earlier, if your lead generation is low, it’s time to revamp your website. If this is the case, find the source of the problem. A ‘redesign’ just for the sake of it won’t help anyone. Is your homepage lacking clear CTAs? Does your homepage pass the 5-second test? If someone seeing your site for the first time can’t guess what your company does from glancing at the homepage for 5 seconds, prioritize clarifying your value proposition on your site’s homepage. You should also examine your user journeys. Odds are, that experience could be improved upon to help drive demand.  

    2. Your visitors are bouncing

    If you get decent traffic, but all your visitors are bouncing, it’s possible that your site’s appearing in irrelevant search results. For example, if you’re running Google AdWords for ‘dress shoes’ but only sell children’s dress shoes, you’d bring in visitors that don’t belong on your site. Make it clear what people will be getting before they get to your page by utilizing titles and meta descriptions and optimizing on AdWords. Also, make sure your website passes the 5-second test mentioned earlier. If people are brought to the website they’re intending to visit and they land on an easy-to-navigate site with clear CTAs, they’ll be more likely to stay a while.  

    3. Your users aren’t converting

    This is similar to the above issue, but in this case you know you’re targeting the right audience. Your site visitors spend time on your site on multiple pages but then never convert. This probably means that you need to focus on your customer journey when redesigning your site. Your customers should be able to navigate their way around your site in their preferred medium, at their preferred time, on their preferred device. Focus on your user’s experience to bump up that conversion rate. Your objective is to help users find what they didn’t know they were looking for, which can be accomplished by creating enticing content and improving your user experience.  

    4. Your buyers aren’t finding you in the first place

    If you aren’t appearing in searches or are having trouble bringing in your target audience, it’s time to do some search engine optimization and persona research. First, do you know your buyer personas? This is required research before redoing a website. You must learn who’s visiting your site and why, and what interests and inspires those people in order to build a site that properly serves them. If this is news to you, have no fear. We’ve created an effective and actionable workbook that goes through the whole process of researching and building your buyer personas. Complete the workbook “How to Create a Purposeful Content Strategy” to build out your buyer personas. Now you know your target audience. But you’re still having trouble getting them on your site. This is where SEO comes in. Google’s latest update favors original, high-quality content. Make sure your company has a quality blog that offers relevant thought leadership and be sure to update it often. If you think you’re behind in more ways than just a lack of fresh content, it may be that you need to redo your website with current SEO trends in mind to improve your site’s ranking. Check out the comprehensive SEO checklist to see if your site is up to speed. Search engine optimization and persona research can massively improve the quality of the leads you’re attracting on your site. But these both must be done before designing your site. Think about SEO and persona research like blueprints for your website. SEO will help determine your site’s architecture, while your personas will be who you build your website around.  

    5. Your site is not optimized for a mobile device

    With Google’s recent updates expanding mobile friendliness as a ranking signal, it’s clear that mobile is the direction we all should be headed. Even if you have a B2B site and few users are tracking from mobile devices, your SEO is still going to suffer without an update. The time has come to bite the bullet and optimize your site for mobile, no matter where your customers are coming from.
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    6. You can’t update your site easily

    If you’re not using a Content Management System, it’s likely that your site isn’t updated with fresh content often, and there’s probably some outdated content on there too. When you redevelop your site, take a look at Umbraco or Drupal as CMS options. Because of Google’s tendency to favor sites that are updated often, switching to a CMS is necessary. Your site’s managers will be grateful for the ability to quickly and easily swap out content without needing to use code.  

    7. You aren’t using HTTPS

    HTTPS used to only be used by e-commerce sites and other websites that handled secure information. Nowadays, however, it’s becoming increasingly important that every site use HTTPS for SEO, increased page speed, user perception, and security. If you aren’t convinced your site should be using HTTPS, check out the 5 Reasons You Should be Using HTTPS. While beginning to use HTTPS won’t require redoing your website, you will have to purchase an SSL certificate and set up 301 redirects, so it will require involving your tech team. In short, it’s time to update your website if it isn’t accomplishing what you want it to accomplish. And if it isn’t, pinpoint the problems and get down to the source of those problems. Your conversion rate might be lower than you’d like, so focus on improving the customer journey to solve that problem. Your redesign should revolve around fixing the problems you’re facing. With a clear direction and thorough research, the resources that go into redoing your site will be well worth it for your business.
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    ]]>

    Are You a Content Marketing Master?

    Content Marketing Quiz

    You’re a blogging machine, but your content don’t seem to making a big impact. Or maybe you’re hard at work at producing ebooks and other valuable content offerings, and still, not seeing a lot of success.

    It takes a complex recipe to create a successful content marketer. Your content production could be in great shape, but there’s no point in producing if you aren’t distributing properly. Are your resources low? There could be a lot of opportunities you’re missing if you aren’t recyclying old content to increase your blog traffic.

    Take the Content Marketing quiz to find out your level of expertise, and learn what you can do to be even better.

    CONTENT MARKETING MASTER QUIZ

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    The Questions to Ask Before Redesigning Your Website

    The questions you should ask before redesigning your website

    If you think it’s time for a website redesign because you’re not getting enough quality leads, you’re probably right. But before hiring a branding company to redo your logo, consider this: you probably don’t know your buyer well enough to attract them in the first place. You may even be targeting the wrong audience.

    Making your website look nicer isn’t going to bring in more leads or drive more conversions — bringing in a loyal audience will. It’s easy to get caught up in appearances, but before thinking about how your website looks, think about who you’re selling to.

    It’s necessary to figure out not only who your potential buyers are, but also what they care about. What problems do they have (that you can potentially solve?) and where do they hang out?

    Is your company’s site lacking a differentiating factor? Odds are, whatever issue you’re having, all of them lead back to personas. The most helpful thing you can do before redesigning your website is to start with persona research.

    The first question to ask yourself when redesigning a website is “who is this website for?” Your answer shouldn’t be an aspirational one – it should tell exactly who your current buyers are. It could be that you’ve researched your buyer personas before, but you don’t know enough. Period.

    It’s important to note your personas are constantly changing. If your website isn’t performing like you’d like it to, reworking your persona targeting is the place to start.

    Knowing your audience

    Let’s say you own a flower shop. Your ideal customers may consist of wedding planners and big businesses – people who put in large orders and spend lots of money. But in reality, your most common customers are one-bouquet-buyers on anniversaries and Valentine’s Day.

    If your website homepage features deals on orders over $1,000 and flower arrangements for big events, you’re going to see a high bounce rate and will lose a lot of potential buyers. There’s an opportunity to create an ecommerce site to automate the order process and launch holiday campaigns when small orders are in demand. If you miss that opportunity because your focus is on big buyers, you’re missing out on a large portion of your potential revenue.

    You need to get real about who your buyers are. Then everything you create should target that customer directly. It all boils down to knowing your audience.

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    Building a buyer persona

    Researching your customers will eventually answer the question ‘who’s my website for?’ Send out surveys, make calls, read comments, conduct interviews, and start conversations. Getting to know your customers on a deeper level will help you understand their pain points and eventually, how your website can be developed to help solve their problems.

    Get to know what kind of jobs and positions your customers hold. What are their interests and hobbies? Building buyer personas will take time, but it will be the framework for the strategy behind your website.

    For a step-by-step guide on building buyer personas

    Download our workbook
    “How to Create a Purposeful Content Strategy.”

    The multiple audience dilemma

    It’s possible your company markets to multiple audiences. Say, for example, your website handles B2B and B2C transactions. How do you make your website target both audiences at once?

    First, find your primary target. Your homepage should cater to that audience without causing any confusion for the secondary audience. Clear calls to action will make this possible.

    If your primary target is the B2B audience, your website’s homepage should be designed around their needs. The calls to action are what prevent confusion for your B2C customers. Both B2B and B2C visitors will be able to easily navigate their way around your site if your home page has a single focus with clear calls to action. A website with one focus is significantly easier to understand than a website with multiple.

    Who are you up against?

    Researching competitors can help clarify what others are doing right that your company could improve upon. Does your primary competitor’s website provide a better user experience than your company’s site? Why is that experience better? Pointing out the differences will help inform your priorities when redesigning your website.

    Beyond inspiring design strategies and functionality improvements, competitive research is necessary to find a significant area of distinction your company can promote.

    Finding the whitespace

    Does your company have an ownable space? Or are you in a crowded market with a lot of competition? When researching your competitors, determine what area each of your competitors owns. Then, you’ll be able to find the whitespace, or area of expertise your company can own.

    If your competitors dominate in size or technique, your whitespace could be attention to detail. Find that differentiating factor and own it.

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    Mapping the customer journey

    You’ve done your persona research and found your whitespace. Now that you have an ownable space, it’s time to figure out how to convey your message to the audience. You have an idea of who is visiting your site, but how are they doing it?

    Using Google Analytics, map out common user flows on your website. What are the pages people are visiting most? Are those pages optimized for your sales cycle with clear calls to action?

    Use this data to compose a series of user stories to demonstrate how a given user will be able to access and interact with your site. This will help you group and prioritize content and site functionality.

    Industry differentiation and lead generation go back to persona research

    After some thorough persona research, customer journey mapping, and discovering your whitespace, you should have a good idea of what your new website should accomplish. If you’re looking to bring in more leads, improve your conversion rate, or find your company’s differentiator, all goes back to your buyer personas.

    Knowing so much about your customers allows you to design your website around their wants and needs, creating a personalized user experience for your buyer, and increasing the likelihood that they’ll convert. Now, get to designing that site!

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    How Brands Should Use Pinterest for the Holidays

    Pinterest Marketing for the Holidays

    When I first started experimenting with Pinterest in 2010, I was inspired to plan, shop, and get organized. I also saw quite a few missed opportunities. The early days of Pinterest featured a lot of broken links, 404 Errors, and links to blog posts that took up to 10 seconds to load. Here I was, an eager shopper with my credit card balancing on my laptop keyboard, unable to locate the product I was ready to purchase.

    Fast forward six years and Pinterest has really grown up. The platform has evolved from a lookbook of sorts to a natural extension of e-commerce sites. Pinterest convinced brands who before saw social media as just a ‘brand awareness play’ that it could be much more than that. Pinterest is a platform that directly drives conversions when done right.

    With the holidays underway, now is an ideal time for brands to ramp up Pinterest marketing to meet Q4 goals. Pinterest is a platform for planners (say that five times fast), so it’s likely users are going to be flocking to the site this holiday season to search for gifts, decorations, and the perfect holiday party outfit. Before you dive in, check out our tips to get you ready to market on Pinterest. We’ll cover design best practices, search intent, audience demographics, and the Pinterest customer decision journey.

    Ask and you shall discover

    Pinterest is both an “answer engine” and a “discovery engine.” Brittany Richter from iProspect spoke about this on a recent webinar held by AdWeek. While I may search for ‘Vince Sweaters’ and get the answer I’m looking for: a display of this season’s fall sweater line by Vince, I may also stumble upon a similar-looking sweater from a different brand at a significantly lower price point. Hence the ‘discovery’ aspect.

    Pinterest screenshot

    These are the results displayed on my Pinterest account when searching ‘Vince sweater.’

    Pinterest screenshot

    While most of the results from the search “Vince sweaters” displayed Vince sweaters (typically a $250 price point), there was a Promoted Pin from Azbro with a similar looking sweater for $20.99.

    Pinterest screenshot

    The Pin drives directly to the product page on Azbro’s website. Talk about a direct path to purchase.

    A place where brands fit in

    Unlike all other social media platforms, Pinterest is a welcome place for brands. While a well-produced ad can get positive feedback on Facebook or Instagram, a lot of what brands put into those platforms is invasive and unwanted.

    Not unlike the other platforms, Pinterest ads must be done right to serve their purpose. But the majority of content on Pinterest comes from brands, and users take no issue with it. This is because users are typically searching pinterest with intent. But more on this later. First, we’re going to jump into some Promoted Pin hits and misses.

    Fit in without blending in

    Just like on Facebook, your Homepage on Pinterest is tailored to your specific taste and behavior. A typical mix of content on my Homepage these days can feature home decor, fall fashion, beauty tips, and dogs. The screenshot below features all of these in both organic and promoted posts.

    Screenshot from Pinterest
    Promoted Pins from Casper and Honest Beauty fit into the feed seamlessly.

    The two Promoted Pins in this screen grab, from Casper and Honest Beauty, fit into my Pinterest dashboard seamlessly as far as aesthetic. While Casper’s ad is a product feature, the imagery is simple and stylized to fit happily into my feed.

    Honest Beauty takes a less direct route with their ad by providing a free skincare trial instead of featuring products in their advertisement. Rather than using copy like ‘free offer’ or ‘get free skincare products,’ the Pin asks the user to choose their skin type. This content is fit for Pinterest because it’s personalized to the user.

    When it comes to advertising on Pinterest, it’s not a matter of blending in. Of course you don’t want a user to scroll past your ad. The ideal ad doesn’t look like branded content but also is relevant, eye catching, and visually pleasing. Casper and Honest Beauty do this successfully with their two ads.

    A quick note on sizing

    We wouldn’t want to give you advice on aesthetic without mentioning image sizing. The optimal image size for a Pin is 600px wide x 900px high. Since Pins are organized into columns, vertical Pins take up more space, and the 600 x 900 size is ideal so that the Pin doesn’t get cut off. Feel free to download our social media ad sizes cheat sheet to keep this and other ad image sizes on hand whenever you need them.

    Be careful to avoid over-branding

    The above two examples feature Pinterest-friendly products. Mattresses, while not exactly glamorous, are products Pinterest users may need. While a user may not search Pinterest directly for a new mattress, Casper knew people who are planning to move or redo a room on Pinterest will likely be looking for a new mattress as well.

    Beauty products and makeup tutorials are often among top searched topics on Pinterest, so Honest Beauty was able to advertise their brand without displaying a product shot and getting lost in the clutter.

    Pillsbury also is a Pinterest-friendly brand, as people constantly visit the site to search for recipes. The screenshot below shows an ad from Pillsbury that doesn’t look much like the other content in my feed. This is the invasiveness we referenced earlier. There’s no need to slap a logo on a Pin to get noticed. In fact, eyes are likely to glaze over when encountering a large logo on Pinterest.

    Pinterest screenshot
    The Pillsbury ad doesn’t quite fit in with the pictured feed’s organic content.

    In this case, the ad could have done without the logo, label, and copy. It’s important that people know content is coming from your brand, but be careful not to over-brand. We think the photograph linking to the Thanksgiving pie recipe page on the Pillsbury website would have sufficed.

    Circling back on search intent

    Earlier we mentioned search intent, which we consider Pinterest’s greatest advantage over other social media platforms when it comes to brands. We covered the topic with our earlier example of Vince sweaters. If you work for a company that makes sweaters, your ad will be relevant to people looking for fall fashion, fresh outfit inspiration, and searching specifically for sweaters. The common theme here is that people are searching with intent. In other words, at the end of their web searching sesh, they’ll likely purchase a sweater.

    This is why branded content on Pinterest has such a huge advantage over that on other platforms. It removes the hurdle of convincing people they may need your product and goes right to the easy part: showcasing why your product is the best. Search intent is simple enough to understand, but the trick is to keep it top-of-mind when creating ads.

    Search intent fail

    The example below shows a Pinterest ad fail. Tiny Tea did a great job producing unobtrusive imagery. The photograph of a woman in a slouchy sweater holding a mug fits nicely with the rest of my feed.

    Pinterest screenshot
    Pinterest Homepage search results for ‘comfy sweater’.

    The issue here lies with intent. I searched for ‘comfy sweater’ on Pinterest and scrolled through organic and branded content looking at tons of sweaters. Upon clicking through one of the Promoted Pins though, I was taken to Tiny Tea’s website. If a user is searching for sweaters, there’s no reason they’d be interested in tea. Aside from not being relevant to my search, the ad ended up being a source of frustration during my experience.

    This seems like common sense, but is a mistake made by brands quite often. It’s possible that a user would buy a pair of jeans rather than a sweater when searching for a sweater. But tea is a big jump. Tiny Tea should focus on ‘holiday beverages’ and ‘detox drinks’ to capitalize on their users’ search intent.

    Video ads

    Pinterest debuted video ads in August. The ads have sound, providing a great opportunity for tutorials. More importantly, though, Pinners have the ability to purchase directly from the Pin with six Buyable Pins beneath each video. According to Pinterest, 67% of Pinners say the new video ads have inspired them to take action.

    As is common with premature advertising opportunities, Pinterest’s video ads come at a high price point. But the great news is that Pinterest is making it easier for brands to market and for users to purchase on the platform. We predict that the cost will lower when Pinterest focuses on making video ads more mainstream.

    A little about the audience

    Most people know that Pinterest is made up of a mostly female, mostly young adult audience. We’re throwing in some demographic information here because the stats have evolved over the past couple years, and we want to emphasize the importance of focusing on your audience when creating ads.

    Last month, Pinterest announced on it’s blog that the platform has over 150 million monthly active users. Also according to Pinterest, over 40% of people who join Pinterest are men — up 70% from October of last year. More people, more men, and more users in countries outside the U.S. means a lot of new opportunity.

    Mini infographic from Pinterest.
    In October, Pinterest reported 150 million monthly active users. Image via Pinterest blog.

    Looking beyond the numbers, it’s important to know the types of people who are using Pinterest. Pinners are planners, creators, organizers, idea makers, and shoppers. Think on this when creating advertisements on Pinterest. Your ad should in some way inspire, delight, or make a Pinner’s life easier.

    The Pinterest customer journey

    Pinterest is extremely advanced in its ability to target people at different points of the buyer journey. An advertiser can target people in the awareness stage (CPM), the intent stage (CPE – cost per engagement), and the conversion stage (CPC). Check out the different targeting tactics Pinterest makes available for different stages of the buyer journey below.

    Awareness stage

    • People are attracted through two paths in the awareness phase of the funnel: keywords and interests
    • Keywords are used to reach shoppers in Search and Related Pins
    • Interests are used to reach shoppers in their Home and Category Feeds

    Intent stage

    • Advertisers have the ability to target audiences on Pinterest. You can target site visitors, CRM contacts, Actalikes, etc. to capture people in the intent phase of the purchase funnel

    Conversion stage

    • Buyable Pins (including video Pins) target users with intent to purchase

    Chart from eMarketer

    Pinterest users visit the site in different phases of the buyer journey and advertisers are able to deploy different tactics on Pinterest to capture their customers at every stage.

    Going beyond social KPIs

    One of the most important parts of an ad campaign is measurement and optimization. Your efforts on Pinterest (and all social channels) should always tie back to your business objectives, so it’s important to look beyond the typical social KPIs. Sure, getting a lot of shares is something to celebrate, but did anyone actually click through? How many conversions did your ad drive?

    Like on Facebook, Pinterest has conversion reporting. A user can create a tag then add it to their site to track website conversions from Pinterest. The platform also has cross-device reporting, which is useful to track where users are engaging and converting (i.e. a customer may interact with a Pin on mobile and purchase that item on desktop).

    With your proper tracking in place, and business objectives defined, you’re able to properly measure the effectiveness of a campaign. A helpful piece of advice is to keep your budget somewhat fluid to give you the ability to make adjustments to drive optimal performance.

    Let’s get going

    By now you know enough about Pinterest audience demographics, design best practices, and customer targeting to launch a successful campaign.

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    April 2017 Social Media Ad Image Sizes Cheat Sheet

    Social media ad sizes cheat sheet

    The number of social networks that offer advertising grows every day, and it can get confusing formatting ads for each specific platform. The bottom line: looks are everything. In order to get the best ROI on social media ads, your ads must have stunning, well-formatted images optimized to display on mobile and desktop devices.

    Facebook does a great job of making specs available and easily accessible for Facebook and Instagram advertising. And why wouldn’t they? The better your ads look, the better they perform, and you’re likely to spend more money with their platform.

    It’s a mystery why it’s so difficult to access ad sizing information from Pinterest, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but we’ve put together this handy tool to simplify the process. We’ve done the digging to get the most up-to-date information so you can bookmark this infographic and get to designing.

    This cheat sheet was last updated April 2017.

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    Need New Leads? Try Creating a Content Strategy

    The sales cycle has completely transformed over the past decade – that much we know. Customers don’t want to have a conversation with sales reps anymore, and why should they? What information can we provide about our product that they haven’t already found online?

    The new sales process is defined by the customer. And with the customer in the driver’s seat, marketing and sales teams have to work together to create content specifically for that customer in order to grab their attention.

    That’s why we can’t emphasize the importance of a content strategy enough. We need to devote time to defining buyer personas, identifying their problems, and creating content to solve those problems. Without this process, we don’t even know who we should be talking to.

    What your content strategy will mean for the sales team

    A well-researched content strategy will draw in customers at different stages of the sales funnel with content that directly answers their questions and solves their problems. This content consumption allows the sales team to gather valuable lead intelligence.

    Is a customer reading about search engine optimization? As it turns out, your company is full of SEO experts. See what we did there? This lead intelligence is what will start a sales conversation with your prospects.

    Content should build interest and add value for the customer, but also should be relevant to the products and services that your company sells. The content strategy is the new starting point for sales conversations.

    If set up correctly, your content strategy will harness the opportunity created by the buyers’ position as the director of the marketing process. It will propel a dialogue between your sales team and the buyer that allows your team to demonstrate not only that your product or service can solve the buyer’s problem, but that you are a trustworthy expert who understands the buyer’s needs and responds to them.

    [Tweet “It all starts with your content strategy. This is the conversation that drives conversion. “]

    After creating a content strategy, you’ll be armed with a full spectrum of quality content, and will be able to meet opportunities wherever they are in the sales funnel with that purposeful content.

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    Gaming the System: How Some Companies are Engaging the B2B Channel

    Image of Home Depot Gloves lying on an iPad displaying a marketing game

    One of today’s greatest marketing challenges is capturing an audience’s attention. How can we be expected to create content that engages users with an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish?

    Videos, gifs, and cinemagraphs are great, but the challenge is keeping people interested and absorbing your content instead of scrolling past it. Sure, likes are something to celebrate (whose life isn’t defined by the number their last Instagram received?), but a real success story is determined by long engagements and mindshare.

    As marketers, we know creating content based on user behavior is the place to start, and that’s exactly what Jim Wexler, president of Experiences Unlimited does everyday by creating game-based experiences.

    Gaming as a marketing tool

    We don’t often hear of games used as a marketing tool. They’re a different breed than what we’re used to, as they require the user’s full attention and spur long engagements. Where do we sign up, right? But to create a game experience and expect people to play, you must carefully balance fun, learning, and incentives.

    Games are particularly useful when it comes to B2B marketing. When roofing giant GAF approached Wexler looking for help educating its channel partners at The Home Depot, he knew exactly how to go about helping.

    The case study – how GAF educated channel partners

    The Pro Desk employees at The Home Depot must cover an overwhelming array of products, so it’s a challenge for GAF to make sure the employees know enough about them to properly sell their roofing product line.

    GAF needed to educate these The Home Depot employees so that when customers came to purchase roofing materials, the Pro Desk employees remembered to suggest GAF’s full six-product line.

    “Often a market communication chief in channel sales will think they’ve got to teach 40 things,” Wexler said. “But the real lesson is, boil it down to three or four things that truly matter, and that’s what a game can be good for.”

    So that’s exactly what they did. Wexler and his team created ‘Roofing System Challenge,’ a simple incentivized game to educate Pro Desk personnel on the six components to a roofing system.

    “We made Roofing System Challenge to hammer home the same message over and over again while delivering a fun experience,” Wexler said.

    The results – long engagements and mindshare

    The game turned out to be a success both in educating channel partners and keeping them engaged. Throughout the campaign, there was an average of 250 employees playing per week with a 30% rolling retention rate after the first month. And the people who were playing were engaging at an average of 10 minutes per session. Not too shabby.

    A 10-minute-long engagement is a huge accomplishment in today’s world of endless distractions. But it makes sense – what better way to engage a distracted worker than with something educational in the form of a distraction?

    Marketers are constantly striving to create a unique user experience, and gamification is proving to be a successful strategy for the right projects.

    “It’s about articulating a brand story,” Wexler said. “Everyone has a story. We just delivered it in an innovative way.”

    Could your digital marketing benefit from gaming?

    • Are you targeting a younger demographic?
    • Are you trying to tell a complicated brand story or teach a complex lesson?
    • Are you trying to activate a sponsorship or licensed property with customers?
    • Do you need to train channel partners?
    • Does your audience have mobile or PC access?
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    You Can Finally Zoom in on Instagram

    Hands holding iPhone taking photo of sunset

    Yesterday, Instagram released an iOS update allowing users to pinch to zoom in on photos and videos in the app. This is big news for avid Instagram users, but even bigger news for moms who have been trying and failing to zoom in on Instagram photos for years.

    We’ve pulled together some of our favorite tweets expressing the frustration experienced when moms try to zoom in on Instagram – now a sure thing of the past:

    https://twitter.com/allrik/status/746801559187623936

    This update comes shortly after the app introduced Instagram Stories, a feature similar to Snapchat Stories, causing both excitement and rage from users.

    The general mood resulting from the zoom feature is positive, with a lot of millennials reminiscing on the good ol’ days:

    https://twitter.com/lnhuck/status/771434376630456320

    And as for Android users, you’ll have to wait a few weeks for the zoom functionality to become available.

    Instagram’s update is leaving a lot of us with the phrase we say so often: ‘Wow, Mom, I guess you were right.”

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    How to Market to New Moms Online

    Mother shopping on laptop computer with baby on lap

    In the marketing world, our impression of new mothers tends to be outdated and inaccurate. Gone are the days of technologically confused moms who don’t know how to send a text or turn their phone on vibrate. Young moms and soon-to-be mothers are online and fully digital.

    This is great news for digital marketers, specifically those who work in the baby industry. Moms are researching, reading reviews, and shopping online everyday.

    But how do you make sure your brand shows up where moms are looking? Know your audience and their behavior, to start.

    Keep these tips in mind when marketing to new moms online:

    • Moms are millennials This may be surprising because a lot of us think ‘selfies and memes’ when we hear the word ‘millennials,’ but in reality, many of them are young moms. Women are about 26 years old when they have their first born, according to CDC. This doesn’t mean they’re not taking selfies or making memes though, so adjust your content accordingly.
    • They’re online Duh. Over 90% of moms are online, so we can’t think of them as people who don’t know how to check their email anymore.
    • They’re on their phones In fact, they’re addicted to their phones according to a BabyCenter report. This means your site should be mobile optimized, or you could lose a good amount of your potential customers.
    • They’re on Pinterest Moms are on Pinterest specifically researching and shopping for baby supplies. More than a third of Pinterest’s unique visitors are American moms, according to Nielsen. If you work in the baby industry, make Pinterest your social media priority.
    • They read blogs In fact, 1 in 3 bloggers are moms. New moms look to blogs for advice and tips. This is a great opportunity for brands to practice inbound marketing. Create content that answers the questions moms are asking to become a go-to trusted source.
    eMarketer chart showing social media sites used by US mothers, 2013-2016.
    The number of moms on Pinterest has been growing rapidly since 2013, compared to a more steady growth of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

    “I think Pinterest is undervalued by marketers when it comes to mothers,” Maria Bailey, author of ‘Millennial Moms: 202 Facts Marketers Need to Know to Build Brands and Drive Sales’ told eMarketer. “Marketers put so much effort into Facebook—and mothers do follow brands on Facebook—but mothers are actually making purchases directly through links on Pinterest. There’s a lot of potential there.”

    eMarketer chart showing attitudes toward product reviews/research according to US millennial mother vs. non-mother internet users, July 2015.
    New mothers are well-read and well-researched. Brands should take advantage of blogging and influencer outreach to market to moms.

    Though the ‘mom market’ is nothing new, the way they’re behaving sure is. With this knowledge, we can target new moms with great content in the right place at the right time. Focus your efforts on the platforms that moms are using to perform research. Take advantage of Pinterest and blogging to get your brand front and center when moms are ready to purchase. 

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    What the New Lifestage App Means for Marketers

    Teens taking selfie with iPhone

    They weren’t lying when they said video is the future of social. Facebook’s newest app, Lifestage, allows high school students to communicate and express themselves solely through video.

    Unlike Instagram stories, Lifestage isn’t a direct copy of Snapchat. The new app doesn’t allow for any form of communication outside of video. Rather than serving as a messaging platform, Lifestage will be used for self-expression through video bios.

    Lifestage was created for people 21 and under, and designed for high schoolers to “find out more about the people in their school community,” Michael Sayman, the app’s creator, posted to Facebook. “Lifestage looks back at the days of Facebook from 2004 and explores what can be done if we went back and turned the crank all the way forward to 2016 with video-first.”

    Did we mention Sayman is 19? How Gen Z is that? The teen has been at Facebook for about two years and had two successful apps under his belt prior to starting there.

    Aside from making us adults feel a little excluded, Lifestage has us wondering what potential opportunity could be in store for marketers.

    [Tweet “If Lifestage proves successful, this could be a platform full of Gen Z-ers and a lot of possibility.”]

    We could be getting a little ahead of ourselves, as the app was released just last week, but a new platform means a new marketing opportunity.

    Lifestage app screenshots on iPhones

    Here’s what we’re thinking Lifestage could have in store for marketers:

    Localized targeting: When signing up for the app, students enter the name of their high school. Talk about a hyper-targeting opportunity. While Snapchat’s advertising platform is nationally focused (and typically used for brand awareness), Lifestage could be used for local advertising. Who’s to stop a local pizza joint from posting an ad just around lunchtime? (Maybe a hefty price tag, but hey, we’re still in the hypothetical stage of thinking.)

    Demographic targeting: Brands that advertise on Snapchat are reaching an audience in the 18-34 range. Think about how much your opinions and behaviors changed in that age range. Lifestage is just for high schoolers, so brands can really get personal with their tailored content. Facebook’s ad targeting platform is pretty amazing with its targeting, but that can only go so far if this generation isn’t using the platform regularly.

    Native content: Remember the days on Snapchat before an ad would interrupt your peaceful story viewing? The subtler an ad is, the less likely you are to irritate your audience. Branded profiles could serve as a less invasive way to get eyeballs on your business or product. The platform asks its users to fill out a profile using only video. Profile fields include ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ as well as ‘my favorite song’ and ‘my locker.’  Brands could participate in a similar video profile that users could explore at their leisure.

    Screenshot of Facebook's new Lifestage app
    Lifestage users fill out a profile using only video, answering fields like ‘my favorite song’ and ‘my backyard.’

    Influencers: Gen Z relies heavily on their peers on social media to influence their purchasing decisions and shopping habits. Influencers use any form of social media to get their message across, but are particularly successful on Instagram and YouTube. Lifestage provides a new way for influencers to reach their demographic, so we’re thinking it will be flooded with influencers in no time. Aside from native content, utilizing influencers is a great way for brands to reach their audience more organically.

    Since Lifestage is still brand new, we’ll give it some time before joining the fun. But don’t let the fact that a platform is new (or the fact that you have to be under 21 to join) stop you from dreaming. Brands should be thinking on opportunities the moment a platform is released. That way you’re prepared with content that will blow users away when the platform does open up to brands.

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