Is it good to use stock photography on a website?

It is hard to find the right images to showcase your business and your products, especially if your business is a service. Hiring a photographer can be expensive, more if you don’t know exactly what you want, paying for a photographer to wait for hours for you to come up with the right idea is not a good use of money. But you still need images.

Stock photography is a great alternative to hiring a professional photographer AND models. Can you take the pictures  yourself and use a couple of friends as models, sure you can. Will they have the crisp quality and excellent presentation of a professional photo? Most likely not. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you are not a great photographer, just that in my experience, I’ve only seen three people take great pictures that could be used in a website, and they all were professional photographers themselves.

But, can people tell that you are using stock photography? Maybe, but a true commissioned professional photography will look as polished as a stock photo too. People look at those pictures and think they look professional and help the website, if they pay much attention to that fact at all. Pictures are used to enhance and define a message, but what users on the web really care about is information. What is your business about? Who runs it? What makes you better than your competitor? Etc.

So, should you use stock photography? Absolutely. Just remember to be ethical about it, don’t go around saying your product or service is shown in a picture where its not! Use them wisely and more importantly, hire a professional web design firm that knows how to use the images and will create an overall feel to your website.

So, don’t be shy, google stock photography and you’ll find some great examples of companies that provide professional photos at accessible prices.

6 great online marketing tactics to increase your leads

Every day, week and month there are a series of inbound marketing strategies that a business owner should know to increase the number of leads. The top 10 tactics are right here:

Redesign the sales process

Seems obvious, and yet, when a business is not generating enough leads, the sales process is often overlooked and as a result, the little leads your business has are lost for an inadequate sales process. Users’ behaviour has changed in a drastic manner, if adjustments are not made to the sales process so that it matches the way your potential clients want to purchase, your business is at risk of loosing qualified sales.

Create a memorable experience

What is a memorable experience on a website? It starts with the very first interaction with your brand, a user needs consistency and reliability to gain trust in your products and services. A memorable experience is simply one that can be remembered, either because it was shocking, easy to go through or fun. Make your brand stand out or be forgotten.

Lead Nurturing

Expert engagement
The power of a team of experts

Lead Nurturing is key to keep your business in front of people that has shown interest in your product or service. Investing in attracting leads is great, just don’t let them go away that easily. If a potential client has reached out, there interest and need, it is only logical that with more opportunity success can be achieved. Have customers sign up for your newsletter, send promotions and important news. Follow up on inquiries and add useful information with regularity.Keep in touch, remember birthdays and important dates, all of these pays down the road.

Content Creation

A good solid flow of educational content is a powerful way of keeping your website visitors engaged and coming back. Creativity and good writing skills go a long way. It is also beneficial for your SEO strategy to keep fresh content.

Your Website

Get a great website! It goes without saying that having an excellent website with attractive and well-planned web design is as important as adding gin (or vodka) to your martini. Your website has to touch your clients rational and emotional side as needed and in the right balance. How much rational or emotional will depend on the products and services you sell and the type of sales process being developed.

Use data to improve your work. Having a great looking website is just the beginning, make sure to check analytics to verify the direction where things are going. Assuming all things are good is not the right way to have a business. It is better to know what is wrong than to not know how it is doing at all.

Optimization and promotion

SEO, social media, bookmarking, feeds and other methods of making your website known are important to increase your leads. Without visitors to your website, you will hardly generate contacts and leads, so grow that number by having well executed SEO campaigns and a thorough promotional set so that people know you exist.

In conclusion

These tactics are great and can help your business grow exponentially. Online marketing is an ongoing job and can not be left forgotten. Remember to review and improve your marketing strategies frequently.

Preparing your ecommerce website for the holidays

The holiday season of 2015 is getting closer every minute. We are about 1 month away from the beginning of the busiest period of the year for retailers. In 2014, ecommerce sales had a record year and the expectations are that in this 2015, sales online are just going to keep increasing. With billions of dollars at stake, you want to be sure that your online store is ready for the most important season of the year.

Mobile ready, responsive, or whatever, but be mobile!

Not even going to try to convince you about the benefits of being mobile. Everyone holds a smartphone now, it is not 2008 when smartphones were still some sort of a high end thing. Smartphones and superphones are just phones now, it takes real effort to want to go back to a flip phone or a mobile that is just a phone. So, why is it that many ecommerce sites are still not mobile friendly? This year, mobile purchases are expected to grow in at least 32% compared to last year. This is almost double the growth since 2014. Get moving and hire someone to build your new web design with mobile in mind… now.

Test your Tech

Even though all websites are expected to perform perfectly without question, it doesn’t mean you should trust they will. Test your website and your ecommerce. Make sure everything is working 100% and have other people test it too. Don’t trust your IT guy or your developers (regardless of how good or nice they may be), test everything yourself. The worst thing that can happen is that you invest money in getting people to your e-store, they love the products and are ready to buy just to find out that your shopping cart is broken or your credit card processing is failing. Got an update pending, get it done. Spend a little time and money to ensure all is in working order.

Also, speed. Fast websites are a must. Your ecommerce web must be speedy or else. Users can’t wait, they want their products now and your website is slowing them down. Unless you are the only business in the world that sells blue widgets, it is easier to look for a faster competitor and buy it there. Don’t let that happen to you, optimize your website speed, it helps for conversion and SEO.

Start marketing today

A month is not nearly as much time as you think it is to prepare for a busy holiday season. Planning alone may take most of the time left. Get going right away and plan your campaigns and promotions for the whole season. Develop a pre-season campaign, some branding and awareness do help improve sales when the time comes.

If you haven’t worked on your SEO, do so immediately. PPC ads can be run to test promotions or advise people of a big launch coming. Why do you think important video games are launched in December? They are great holiday’s gifts for kids and teenagers (and many adults). Run a pre-season campaign to make people aware of your business and when the time comes, turn it into a promotion and make the sales.

Are you Ready?

Do you think you are ready now? If the answer is no, don’t wait a second more and start working. Remember to test everything and make sure the website is up to snuff, it can be the difference between a happy new year and a sad one.

How to become a Trusted Sender

Email deliverability. It is a common problem, you start sending business emails, doing some email marketing and using your business email. Suddenly, someone tells you that your emails are going to the junk folder or are being labeled as spam by their email software (Outlook, Thunderbird or whichever the person happens to use). Your business depends on being able to communicate with its customers, so you go into crisis mode. Start calling your hosting company, your web developer, and start asking everyone you know about it. Congratulations, you now have an “email deliverability” problem. Continue reading “How to become a Trusted Sender”

Starting a business in Ontario

Many people find themselves with a great idea for a product or service. Even though the prospect of starting a business seems daunting at first, many attempt it. The learning curve is long and difficult, however, success is always at hand.

The most important thing to keep in mind when starting your business, is a clear understanding of your product or service and how you plan to market it, in other words, how you plan on getting the word out so that people come to you.

In any case, below we give you some basic pointers to consider when starting your own business in Ontario:

  1. Time and effort are the two biggest tools of an entrepreneur. Starting a business and running it can be a lot of work. Take time to consider all it will take and your willingness to work for it. Are the risks associated with business’ ups and downs something you can manage?
  2. Structure. What will be the structure of your business? Will if be a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation?
  3. Marketing. Consider a budget for marketing. Many businesses are started without any consideration for marketing, it is important that you take some time to research the potential and evaluate the best marketing options. Who are your competitors and what are they doing? Why should a customer prefer your products over the competitions? Do you need a website?
  4. Financing. How much money do you need to start? Plan your budget realistically and decide whether you need financing. Keep in mind your overhead, every cost including staff, office/store space, marketing, tools and operating budget. Can you support your business and yourself for at least 2 years? Most businesses only find out if they succeed after the second or third year, the first one is usually the hardest one when starting.
  5. The Law. Learn about taxes, licensing, health and safety regulations, etc. Understanding your local and federal legal obligations is important, particularly taxes.

This is a primer of what you should think about when starting a business in Ontario. It is by no means an exhaustive exploration of each element and each one deserves special attention and consideration. Take your time to plan and work hard, good planning and resilience  are trademarks of successful business owners.

A picture from a road in La Mancha, Spain
The road ahead

Another complexity is if you are trying to start a business in Ontario (register it), but that operates at another location outside of the province. When we were asked by Water Dreams Costa Rica to do their web design, we faced an interesting situation. They provide surf camps in Costa Rica and wanted to attract people interested in surfing and SUP. Their main customers are in Canada and particularly from Ontario. Their marketing had to consider several law complications, licensing matters in two countries and business structure and management. A simple idea of having a surf school where people can learn to surf and do SUP, became quite complicated. Fortunately, they were able to sort through the complications and people are enjoying great surfing experiences through the Water Dreams team.

When you are considering starting your business, look at all angles before opening the doors. Digital marketing can do a lot for your business, but do not rely on it to make your business, it is still marketing and as such it is just one component of a much more complex endeavor.