If your company is struggling with a complex design challenge it's probably time to seek input from someone on the outside. Corporate culture too often becomes insular, a team focused on internal objectives becomes self-reinforcing and a multitude of stakeholders with their respective agendas who all need to feel comfortable with the outcome end up with a watered-down, homogenized solution. Rather than looking through the window to get inspiration from the outside world, the team finds themselves looking into a mirror for what's familiar and efficient.
You need outside perspective. That's where an agency like Slim Kiwi comes in.
Design agencies, on the other hand, are born to think outside-looking-in. Not only do design agencies bring together radical talent and methodology that's difficult to maintain in a closed corporate environment, they have another advantage that's seldom talked about: Their ability to reflect across industries and companies and to form their opinion based on such experience. They have a role in creating many products, join many different teams, and can reflect, in hindsight, about the success or failure of certain ideas. That agency worldview cannot be counted in sketches, models or dollars--it is an invaluable trove of experience that is underutilized by both the agencies and their clients.
Our job goes beyond just executing a design. We're hired to provide critical insight and to evaluate your business and marketing efforts, provide you feedback, help you incorporate that feedback into your strategy, and then execute based on that strategy.
That might be a lot to sign onto. In the coming weeks, we'll be announcing a new service that will allow you to get an idea of what steps you should take and where we can contribute: Usability & Marketing Analysis Reports. You point us to your web site, pick a level of review to engage us on, and we provide you a report on what's working, what isn't, and what it would take for us to get you where you should be. Our goal is to give you a taste of our value, shake things up a bit and empower you to make an informed decision on the direction of your efforts without the big upfront commitment.
Outside looking in. Whether you're the corporate team that needs reinvigoration or just looking for expertise that isn't practical to maintain in-house, we're at our best when we're charged with bringing our outside perspective and our unique blend of expertise across industries, from consumer to business-to-business channels, for companies large and small, to the table to provide you fresh ideas. With this new offering, our goal is to let you opt for a first date rather than jumping into a relationship, while identifying where your organization can grow and optimize your efforts.
We’ve always sought to be more than an agency that just gets the job done. That should be expected of every agency you hire. Instead, we’re succeeding at showing clients that we have a genuine heartfelt interest in helping them succeed spectacularly. For this reason we get really excited when we see a client like Zeo, and others, get national attention with featured articles in the Wall Street Journal and making the front page of the business section of the New York Times. Zeo approached Slim Kiwi for online brand consulting, messaging and design after investing a lot of time, money, research and talent into building a consumer product that tracks and transmits brain waves wirelessly to a bedside clock while the user is sleeping and then charts and coaches that user on how to accomplish better nightly sleep.
We had many animated discussions with Zeo about their online strategy and design at myZeo.com. It was clear to us that they were carefully contemplating our advice and we made it clear to them (we hope) that we had a great amount of respect for the work they had done up to this point. We love the type of client relationships that we have with Zeo, where even amongst different opinions about strategy they can see we are more interested in their long-term success than their immediate happiness. We think the end result accomplished our task and plays a part in Zeo’s ongoing success, delivering a site that serves as their single largest point of sale for a new product that has achieved national attention.
The incoming Obama administration is seeing green, and it’s not cash. It’s a plan to transform and stimulate America’s economy through initiatives that support clean energy and sustainable, smart technologies.
We’re fans of all those things and look forward to seeing these new industries flourish and grow. We foresee an army of entrepreneurs empowered by federal or VC funding and increased demand. If you’re involved in a new business in this new era—one that creates or manages green products, renewable energies or sustainable solutions—we want to help you leverage branding expertise and marketing strategies that will help your business succeed. And if your idea involves a web application, we can help build that too.
The time to get in touch? Before your product hits the market. Before it’s hit the assembly line or landed its first customer. Let’s talk brand strategy, online marketing opportunities and ways to put the web to use. Email or call 617.507.4686.
We have seen a significant amount of fresh business from startups and new businesses over the last few months, with this past month being the most dramatic. Mark has already written briefly about Your marketing budget and a slow economy, which talks about maximizing your return on investment, and I want to reflect a bit on the entrepreneurial spirit. I see two major factors contributing to our spike in business from this group.
Innovation is Recession Resistant
At a public bi-weekly coffee get-together of smallish business owners and entrepreneurs here in Providence, a grad student asked if any of us had seen a significant hit in our businesses during the downed economy. One business owner turned to him and said that good ideas and innovation will always succeed. He was right on. As we see large sections of our economy crumbling, the pieces that are in high demand are good ideas, refreshing new products and tools that increase efficiencies and add value. History concurs. Wired.com’s Daniel Roth writes that out of the turmoil of the Great Depression rose numerous inventions, including the now ubiquitous nylon and television. The 1969-70 and 2001 recessions saw the advent of the pocket calculator and the ipod, respectively. Innovation never sleeps.
Layoffs and Dead-End Jobs are Breeding Grounds for Entrepreneurship
Sometimes it takes a little shove from the nest for some entrepreneurs to focus back on the things that they were once passionate about, or to implement an idea that has been percolating for some time. There’s also nothing like layoffs of your colleagues and friends in your company to knock creativity and optimism out of you. I went through this with the first .com bubble back in 2001. Try motivating a creative team when they come to work every day packed to be fired and thinking every conversation with your boss is going to end with a pink slip. It just doesn’t inspire confidence. Recessions and layoffs release many undervalued employees to do what they have always wanted to do. They go back to their basement or garage and think up the next best thing.
Slim Kiwi is not in the mortgage business or in investments, and we’re not unionized American car makers. We partner with our clients to bring their idea, their product and their small business to market. From what we have seen, it seems that now is a great time for small businesses to get ahead of their competition. If you know us, you know that we just love working with people starting up businesses. We love their enthusiasm, their pragmatism, their creative thinking, the speed at which they move, and their collaborative spirit. These are the tools for success in a challenging economy.
We paid a visit to the exhibition hall at Greenbuild 2008 in Boston not only to check out the products and thinking on display, but also to make some connections in the architecture community. While there, we captured a few of our thoughts on architect web sites, portfolio design and site management tools on video to share.
More of our clients are beginning to ask for, or about, SEO. That’s a wonderful thing. As online marketing professionals, it makes us happy when our clients or prospects understand what the Internet can offer their business and, if built properly, the traffic their web site can drive to their door.
There’s one point we want to stress, though: When it comes to SEO, you don’t need to ask. The best SEO is what we call organic SEO; the kind that happens on its own. In two ways:
Good code. HTML, the code we use to build your web site, should let your content shine. Behind the web page you see is a file with your content wrapped up in tags, like <p>, which denotes a paragraph. Those tags should be as lean, efficient and appropriate as possible. When search engines crawl your site, they don’t just read the page the way you do, they read those tags and process the content they’re reading based on how it’s defined, and rank your page based on how much sense they can make of your content. Clean, optimized code = better-ranking pages.
Good content. In many cases, your content is up to you to provide. We’ll certainly help guide you in the right direction, though. Clear, succinct language, appropriately linked words or phrases, matching up content in different parts of the page — it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it that elevates you above the competition.
So, yeah, when it comes to SEO, we do that. We do it on every project we launch. You won’t see a line item on your invoice or ask for an additional service. It’s all part of doing our job right and ensuring that your web site delivers ROI for your business.
My wife stays at home with our 18 month-old son. It’s not an easy job. One can understandably go a little crazy spending every day, one on one, with someone demanding entertainment non-stop. There has to be a plan to get out of the house most days. Two close friends have children. One’s a full year older than ours and mom works in Boston the latter half of the week. The other is a newborn, one year younger. With different ages, weekday schedules and nap schedules, the network just wasn’t big enough.
There are pre-established networks around. You get in touch and you get matched up with other moms near you with similar schedules. My wife was a bit wary, though, of setting up a playdate with a bunch of moms she didn’t know.
With a number of high school friends on Facebook who have had children in the past couple years as well, I suggested to my wife that she look for a function on the site to create a group, that she could administer, and arrange playdates among friends.
It’s been a great success.
Every week someone posts a message letting the group know when they’re up for a playdate and a suggestion of where to get together. New moms outside my wife’s immediate circle come into the group, and everyone’s acquainted through an existing friend. My wife’s not even a part of every playdate, conflicting schedules do still pose an issue, but on a weekly basis she and the other moms find themselves with new options and opportunities to get together, with an easy tool at hand to get the word out.
Are you putting these tools to use?
Granted, this is a small-scale success story, but the point is: Are you using social networking tools to get the word out and bring people together around your brand? Are you using sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, or MySpace? Is your profile branded to match your business? Does your profile clearly link back to your web site? If you arrange sessions or events are you broadcasting them to your network? Are you registering them on Upcoming.org?
What’s important here is to identify a goal (more playdate options) and tap into the network you know (immediate friends on Facebook) to gain access to their network and get the word out. You stand to get more people involved in your business’s growth, gain free advertising (your friends spreading the word to their friends) and perhaps generate some buzz that will boost your message to higher prominence.
We’re right in the middle of a presidential race where one candidate has a clear advantage: His campaign is an efficient, optimized marketing machine. Candidates that win elections are typically, among other things, great at marketing themselves.
There are three key components to marketing a political campaign that can be applied to business. Winning campaigns:
Build a brand that stands for something. Pretty self-explanatory, but you also need to stand behind your brand.
Harness soundbytes. Winning campaigns create and own phrases that resonate with their target audience and are a unique value proposition. What differentiates your business? How can you distill that down to a short, succinct phrase that will stick in people’s minds? Winning campaigns are also flexible enough to improvise, but stick to script on their talking points. Practice answers to common questions so that your message is authoritative and consistent.
Harness grassroots efforts, harness data. Winning campaigns mobilize enthusiastic volunteers to build buzz and get the word out. The web is rife with communities that are ready and willing to be fans of what you’re doing. Get those folks on board with your brand and they’ll be advertising for you. Winning campaigns also put to use demographic databases that know what you do, how much you make, where and how you spend your money. They use that data to communicate with you in a targeted manner that speaks directly to you, and increases your likelihood to respond. Start building that database today so that you can do the same. Incorporate tracking and analytics in your communications so you can assess how your campaign is performing, and better respond next time.
Succeeding in a competitive marketplace isn’t all that different from succeeding in politics. Your customers cast a vote with each purchase they make. As in politics, your success is based on your ability to distinguish yourself and build a strong customer base. A strong marketing campaign will keep you in the lead.
When the economy slows down, perhaps dramatically, do you stop spending on marketing initiatives? Or do you spend your marketing budget more wisely?
We want to see your budget spent wisely and ROI maximized. We don’t just slap pictures up on web pages. We include tools and features that make your site come up higher in search engines. We design sites that engage users and encourage them to stay on the site longer, and share the site with friends or colleagues.
We build tools that automate sales efforts for you. We enable tracking that lets you know who you’re reaching and how interested they are. We make updating your site so simple that it takes you less time, gets updated more frequently, and provides more fresh, relevant content for visitors and search engines alike. All of which give you an edge over the competition.
If you’re a small business with a tight marketing budget, you’ve probably considered updating your site yourself, or you’re already doing so. But building web sites isn’t the business you’re in. Whether you’re an architect or a photographer or a financial planner, you’re in business to do what you’re passionate about and get paid for the time you spend doing it.
And if you’re a bigger business with a modest budget, one that pays for some time but not an employee or team, the same applies. You need to assign that budget to a team who doesn’t consider their job done when the site launches, but when it grows your business.
It’s about growing your business despite economic contractions. It all comes down to ROI. Don’t believe us? Ask Gary.