Just a thought…

Time for Social Media

Posted by on 8:50 pm in marketing, news, planning, social media | 0 comments

clock-vm-social-mediaOne of the services we provide clients it social media support. This great article: A Six-Hour Social Media Management Schedule talks about some of the key management considerations for anyone providing social media expertise and support. Some of the time allotments are worth a little debate, for example, we tend to plan on a monthly, not a weekly basis.

For a thought provoking combo, take a quick look at the article Social Media Usage over a lifetime. The amount of time that social media can absorb from our lives is signficant whether that time is spend creating or accessing it.

Scary Marketing Comments and Questions

Posted by on 4:00 pm in marketing, news, planning, websites | 0 comments

I recently had the opportunity to make a presentation to the Thursday morning Connections Meeting for the North Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.

In the spirit of the Halloween season, I decided to pair pictures with ideas to take a humorous look at the challenges of marketing.  The presentation also covers some issues often discussed when talking with business owners. On the lighter side, the presentation pays homage to some Halloween traditions and two great Halloween movies, Young Frankenstein and a local favorite, Night of the Living dead. Enjoy!

2016-halloween-presentation

Click on the image to view PDF of presentation

If you have any questions about the ideas or would like to meet to talk about your marketing plans and activities please contact us by

  • phone at 724-473-5543
  • online web form

We would be delighted to talk with you!

A different route…

Posted by on 8:39 pm in Photography, planning | 0 comments

I have plenty of leg room, complementary beverages, a fascinating view, free wifi and I don’t have to worry about traffic. An added bonus, this trip includes a view of the Pennsylvania’s Horseshoe Curve. Yes, I am on The Pennsylvanian, the train that runs from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia.

As we gently rumble across the landscape I am reminded that the best path to any destination may not be imagethe most obvious one. Most people fly due to time constraints but when you add up the time to get to/from the airport, checkin/security time, air time (not including inevitable delays) the difference is less than you would think. To my delight my train trip is proving vastly more comfortable, relaxing and productive than any recent flight. Better than a movie, my train window offers me an endless selection of scenery which include cities, industrial sites, small towns, farms, forests and winding rivers. Early spring sunshine makes the rivers sparkle, encourages the first green on trees and highlights the first flowers on trees and shrubs.

Swept along by the hectic elements of daily life it can be easy to forget about the journey or savour it’s details. Finding balance and perspective (while juggling time, family, clients, and personal needs) seems to be the real holy grain of modern life. Maybe we need to look at the more of the options available instead of taking the obvious route. Just like my train ride, the routes/decisions which require a pause and extra thought really might enrich our journeys in addition to better using our time.

In addition to trains I have always loved the poetry of Robert Frost, the last lines from one of my favorites (The road less traveled) reads

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Taking the train reminded me to make sure I at least pick the road and that will make a difference.

Having a voice.

Posted by on 5:52 pm in communication, marketing | 0 comments

Because I have a right to be heard! I have a voice!

George-VI-Queen-Elizabeth-blitz

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth while reviewing damage done to Buckingham Palace during the Blitz.

This quote, from the King’s Speech, was made by from George VI as played by Colin Firth. The King’s Speech is one of my favorite movies because it sports an excellent cast, contains quite a bit of history and tells a excellent story.  Americans love following the adventures of the British Royal family but I wonder how many Americans appreciate how deeply revered and loved George VI and Elizabeth were.   George VI overcame personal challenges and faced the rising menace of Hitler by personal courage and the support of his wife Elizabeth,  known to most as the “Queen Mum”.  He found his voice and became a symbol of wartime strength.

Though the story focuses on the Royal family I firmly believe that it has a message for us all.  We all have voices and stories that need to be heard.  It is just the medium that differs.  As a marketing professional I try to learn what stories my clients need to tell and find the best way to give voice to those stories.  If they are heard and can make a connection with clients then their businesses will prosper and grow.

Our duty as business professionals is three-fold.  First, we need to accept the challenge to selectively find and promote useful voices and stories.  Second we need to sift through the growing cacophony of noise to help both colleagues and clients.  Third, we need to make sure we don’t add the to noise.  Think about all the places voices can be heard: elevator speeches, one-on-ones, networking events,  websites, blogs, journal articles, seminars, etc.  Consider all the stories you have heard.  The more genuine the story, the more resonance we feel.  Personal stories with useful information, (e.g. those that move beyond the corporate standard  line/agenda) are far more likely to draw us in an engage us.

Sometimes those stories are very personal.  At the Chamber Meeting last Tuesday afternoon we heard from Julia, the first person to complete LifeSteps’ Transitions program.  LifeSteps provides services and programs for individuals and families with special needs.  Julia is a young woman with Down’s Syndrome. Just like George VI, she overcame personal challenges and she has a voice which needs to be heard. Julia told us of her plans for the future, I wish her the all the best as she works to make them come true.

What story do you need to tell?

Authenticity

Posted by on 3:19 pm in communication, marketing, Photography, websites | 0 comments

Do you ever have a conversation and an idea sharpens the focus of you thoughts and lingers in your consciousness? Like a bobber on a fishing line or a weather vane, the idea reminds you to make sure you have your bearings and be sure you understand what is happening.

This summer I was part of a panel discussion about building better websites and one of my colleagues raised the issue of authenticity. It was not a new notion to me but sometimes you just hear the right thing at the right time. A few years ago my career changed course; I switched from working in the marketing department of a large multinational firm to working with small businesses. Making sure that my work was authentic in a more diverse and changeable environment is critical to my clients and my business’s success. The word authenticity focused the element of my consciousness that always wanted to make sure the work we did was personalized for each client and their business.

Authenticity is not a hugely common or pervasive element of modern society, especially during election years. Moreover, while there are many ethical and honest marketing professionals it is not the first term associated with our industry. Personally, if I think about the purchases I have made and been happy with, much less the things I enjoy or are proud of they are all based on authenticity.

IMG_1677

Kayaking on Raquette Lake in the morning

Authenticity can apply to many elements of life, both personal and professional. For example, on a personal level

  • I would rather kayak down an Adirondack Lake than go on a beach holiday
  • I love the smell of coffee, I can’t stand its taste and prefer tea or hot chocolate

On a professional level it is includes:

  • trying to always use local images instead of stock photography; if I have to use stock photos making sure the photos have a theme and aren’t just appropriate shots for the page’s content.
    making sure conversations with fellow business people are about more than just getting business.

I firmly believe that real growth, personal or professional, comes from authenticity. We seek it and will return for more if we find a source. Though I work in the digital realm I readily admit to an addiction to books, a favorite is Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Just for fun I look to it for inspiration and was surprised they only have one quote for authentic, but it is a good one:

But as when an authentic watch is shown,
Each man winds up and rectifies his own,
So in our judgements
–Sir John Suckling, 1609-1641

Have you weeded your web site recently?

Posted by on 2:19 am in marketing, planning, websites | 0 comments

From the website: Beauty of Nature

Much as I enjoy my work, I love to spend time outdoors.  Much to my surprise, gardening has become a favourite past time.   I enjoy being outside, taming the small green space around our house, playing in the dirt, and eating the occasional ice cream cone as a reward.

On Sunday, reflecting on progress made outside I thought about the week ahead and my indoor/work goals.  I was a bit surprised to realize how much gardening and web sites have in common. Both need to have the weeds removed, the ground improved, and plants added or moved.  Like my garden, a web site can be useful and beautiful but only if properly tended.

Have you weeded your web site recently?  Website information should be reviewed and tweaked as needed.  Weeds in your website can diminish the integrity of your online presence and hurt SEO.  Make sure your website isn’t weedy by regularly

  • taking care of  typos, out-dated information, and comment spam
  • making sure internal links in your site and those going  to external sites are not broken or link to out-dated information

Improve the ground!   The soil on our property contains quite a bit clay, so we have spent time improving our soil.   You can do the same for your website:

  • add functionality which will help users obtain the information they need, accomplish a task, or make a purchase
  • update your site’s design to make your site more user-friendly and current

Can you add/move material to make things more attractive or useful? Moving plants can make them healthier.  Adding plant material can add colour, habitat for wildlife, or fill a bare spot making your property a place to linger.  Make your web site a place visitors wish to linger and explore by

  • making sure your content is well-organized so visitors can enjoy your site instead of spending time figuring the site out
  • adding new content to educate or enable customer activity
  • highlighting or moving important content or functions that users are not finding or using

A well-tended web site:

  • shows users that you are serious, engaged, and have expertise in your chosen field
  • engages users with relevant content and functionality to help them obtain the goods and services needed
  • will be seen as a resource for others and you will garner links and social media shares which will raise your online profile
  • ranks better in search engines which look for relevancy,  currency, links and shares among other factors

Cultivate your website so your business can grow!

Have you checked your stats?

Posted by on 4:15 pm in analytics, planning, websites | 0 comments

fitbit-snapshotHow are your stats?

I have been looking for ways to be more active. A friend loaned me their unused Fitbit so I could test it out. It is an interesting little gadget that provides little data nuggets about my activity levels, calories burned, sleep, etc. The Fitbit also allows me to set goals and gives me “badges” when I achieve certain levels of activity. Since it is new to me, I have to admit I check it throughout the day to see how I am doing. In a philosophical moment this little gadget and my interest in data brought me back to web sites…

When we build websites for our clients we always include Google Analytics so clients can review their site’s activity. Much like a Fitbit’s data, site analyitcs can help you see how your website is doing.  Some key analytics include:

  • How many visitors are coming to your site?
  • Where are site visitors coming from?
  • How long do people stay on the site?
  • What pages are being viewed, is there any content that is particularly popular?
  • Are users finding the information you think they need to see?
  • Are you calls to action effective; do they read highlighted content, fill out a form, buy something online, or contact you for more information?

The great thing about a website is you can change it!  Site analytics can guide the development of your site to make it more attractive and useful to customers.  Looking at your website’s statistics might lead you to:

  • improve SEO/SEM so customers can more easily find your site
  • add more or develop popular content
  • add more images or videos to better engage site visitors
  • improve navigation
  • add calls to action and code them to track conversion points

So, have you checked your web stats lately?  What are the goals and changes they suggest to achieve the level of activity needed to help your business grow?

What’s your email address?

Posted by on 8:49 pm in communication, marketing | 0 comments

I am not asking as a matter of curiosity but as someone who works with businesses to improve their visibility and customer communications. An email address is more than just a simple contact tool, it helps identify you and your business. An email address pops up in many places including business cards, promotional flyers, correspondence….what kind of impression does your email address make?

I am always surprised when a business has a domain and website but is using a generic email address, e.g. Gmail, Yahoo or their local ISP.  Many hosting packages come with email accounts so there is probably no additional expense.   Yes, it may take a little time to set up email accounts and configure them on mobile devices or laptops. You might even have to call tech support or recruit some help from a local tech expert. However, there is so much to be gained by spending just a wee bit of time to to make your online presence more complete. Using email accounts which match your domain/website will:

  1. make your company look more more professional, consistent and valid since emails are going to an official company account instead of something that looks public or personal.
  2. reinforce your company’s identity/branding by making your web address easier to remember.
  3. provide you with an email address that makes sense. If you own the domain name you can have the email address of your choice instead of some_name@gmail.com.
  4. separate your professional and personal correspondence. Keeping personal and business communications separate is important for security and continuity.  Separate addresses will also allow you to focus on the tasks at hand and avoid inbox overload.

So, what is you email address or what should it be?

Becoming visible…

Posted by on 2:33 pm in news | 0 comments

In 2007 we started Visible Mission, Inc. because we wanted to provide passion-driven organizations and businesses with visual communication tools to share their missions with the world.  Graphics, web design, multimedia, and print medias are the tools that can make any group more visible and ultimately more viable.    Though it sounds trite, we work to help  people build their brands and grow their organizations.

Seven years later we are still going strong and growing.  Our clients have included faith-based organizations, public libraries, artists, and community support groups.  As you can see from our portfolio we have worked with individual artisans, regional companies and even larger national organizations.   Geographically, our customers are  primarily on the East Coast, but they have hailed from locations farther afield such as Texas and North Dakota.  We haven’t advertised much since more than 50% or our business comes via personal contacts and referrals.  

This space, in particular, is going to be devoted to a regular article about the work, expertise, and issues we see facing those who see to grow their businesses and become more visible.  Topics will include web design, photography, print media, layout, multimedia and more.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Elizabeth Blakely
Co-founder and Vice-president