James Wynne is Director of User Experience for Sandstorm and has been in digital product development since 1996. He has worked as a UX designer for a myriad of clients including large eCommerce brands, mobile device manufacturers and integrated marketing agencies.
Social media marketing successes are strategic - now say that 10 times fast. Every client and prospect we're in front of now a days wants to talk about social media. It's the buzz, it's been the buzz, and now every B2B company is ready to do something... but the big question is what?
I think the bigger question is why? And do you have the capacity in house to either drive the strategy or execute on it? And what is the strategy or purpose for including social media into your integrated marketing campaign - because at the end of the day social media is yet one more marketing tactic you can add to your marketing mix. And it could be fun, and it's exciting, and more and more companies are playing around with it. But who is successful? And why are they successful?
My social media marketing tip for the day is to do your research and study your competitors and companies in the marketplace that you believe are successfully utilizing social media. It's one of the first steps in planning a strategy, and social media should be no different. So start your competitive analysis and start gleaning some insights from those that are further along.
Ready to conduct some usability testing because you have no budget and something is better than nothing? Then read on my friend...
You only need 5-6 participants to catch 80% of your problems (Jakob Nielsen, March 19, 2000), so what are you waiting for? Assuming you don't have access to your end user, grab a coworker or two (who isn't on the project) and watch their expressions and their navigational habits complete a series of tasks that you have deemed most important. It's basic, and rudimentary, but it's a start. And you've just started the beginnings of a task analysis - which will be important when you start to implement your web analytics.
I once heard that there were 2,000+ web design companies in Chicago alone. And the average staff size for these web design companies were a mere 4 people, with the majority being 1 person shops. I know only 4% of the companies in the U.S. ever hit $1M in revenue, so that basically means that of the 2,000+ web design companies out there, less than 100 hit that mark statistically speaking. A creative magazine once published that only 1 out of 7 designers held a salaried job, but that seems pretty low so I either misread the statistic or have a memory block. So I did some research on my own...
According to the bureau of labor statistics, graphic designers held about 286,100 jobs in 2008, and they consider everyone in interactive media to be graphic designers as well. I couldn't find anything on web developers other than computer scientists (28,900 jobs recorded) or computer support specialists (565,700 jobs recorded). So maybe 2,000 Chicago web design companies is actually a low number. If anyone finds the stat somewhere, please post a comment. Would love to know...
According to Wikipedia, user interface design is the design of computers, appliances, machines, mobile communication devices, software applications, and websites with the focus on the user's experience and interaction. Utilizing the same source, web design is the skill of creating presentations of content that is delivered though the web.
I searched google to see if I could find anyone debating the two terms as they are used often interchangeably, but I don't necessarily agree that they are one in the same.
Our agency is a user interface design firm that utilizes a user-centered design approach to improve the user experience in a creative and conceptual way. Google searches done today are looking for a web design firm in Chicago, but are they really? Hmmm...
We've had companies tell us they feel like there is less risk with a big interactive agency player (like Razorfish, IBM, Ogilvy). But as a business owner of a solid, stable, and growing firm I think the challenges are different, but the risk level is the same.
Boutiques get a bad rep sometimes due to being one client away from going out of business, or shutting down because of cash flow issues. Big agencies have a bad rep of being "fat" or over managed, of missing deadlines, and blowing budgets. I had a grad school teacher tell me that clients are won because of the relationships they build. So when we hear that a potential client went with a bigger agency with multiple locations, we clearly didn't do a good enough job building the relationship and easing their concerns. A lesson learned and we move on. I would love to get to know a CEO from one of the larger interactive agencies mentioned above to see how they see companies like us.
As a boutique interactive marketing agency, we're always keeping an eye out on the big interactive players in the marketplace. Forrester's report for Q2 this year includes Sapient, imc2, Razorfish, IconNicholson, and IBM Interactive as the star performers, with a few of our Chicago locals also being noted including Critical Mass, Whittmanhart and Ogilvy Interactive. These companies have multiple locations - and often are found in NY and CA, in addition to Chicago. Take a slice of one of them, and you have us here at Sandstorm...
We've gone head-to-head with Whittmanhart, Sapient, and Ogilvy in the past, but the reality is that we're a great example of a boutique shop and they represent the bigger players. So when the time comes, companies have to first make the choice to go boutique or go big - and then they get a short list from there.
Go boutique agencies!!!
Can marketing and design firms in big business cities (like Chicago and New York) be leading indicators for the upswing in the economy? I think so. And here's my theory. We are getting flooded with a ton of interesting, exciting, and good sized RFPs from a lot of the large and mid-sized businesses in the area. Companies that were holding their budgets close are starting to explore how they 'may' want to spend their money Q3 and Q4. Which is so exciting - it almost feels like 2006 - 2007 again!
So we're not going to get too excited too fast, because we've seen RFPs sit and sit, but the fact that they are increasing so rapidly (and all of them needed to be finished yesterday) that I am optimistic for the future, and my friends, and family who are looking for a marketing or design job.
So I struggle with web awards. Are they more for the creative team, the client, or the ego? Or are they a great way to celebrate innovative design work and share creative uses of technology and social media? The answer is most likely yes to all, but for some reason they still kind of sit funny with me. I am proud when we win, and I know our clients are proud too - but I know inside that I feel more pride when our marketing efforts really help grow our clients' businesses. That's my own personal mini award. :)
I'm in Colorado this week, on a 'working vacation'. Living an oxymoron. So who came up with this idea of a working vacation anyway? USATODAY wrote an article on top 5 destinations for a working vacation, yet CNN wrote 5 ways to stop working on your vacation.
So do we or don't we work while on vacation? Is it to stay ahead, or is it to survive? Is this a U.S. Phenomenon? Either way, it's a personal choice, and I often have to remind myself that I make the choice every time I open up my laptop or answer my cell phone. I am choosing to let my work life enter my vacation. And this week I'm good with it. My next vacation I might not answer that cell, nor that email, and I'm comfortable with that as well.
One company may beg to differ. We beg to write.
I'm talking website copy for the clients of our marketing and web design firm. We'll beg, we'll plead, we'll keep our fingers crossed - just for the opportunity to write the content. And here is the number one reason why... so we can hit our deadlines. When we meet with a new client and they ask "What do you see that will hold up our deadline?" I'll respond, start writing your content.
To help with this, we're starting to put together content templates to help mitigate the random copywriting we get when multiple SME's write for the same company. Erin Kissane wrote a great blog entry on content templates that goes into detail on how to use them. Thanks Erin!