In the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to look at hundreds of WordPress themes for my clients. Generally the client has a smaller budget and a WordPress pre-designed theme is an affordable alternative to a more expensive custom design.
Wordpress themes come in two categories: free and premium. The free WordPress themes are decent, and this is a great option for startups and newbies who just want a web site up fast. The downside is that the selection is fairly limited.
Premium WordPress themes, however, are generally of much higher quality and have better customization features. And there are lots more of them. So if you want a custom web site design, but can’t afford the pricetag of a custom site design, a premium WordPress theme can at least make your web site look like it’s got a custom design. Most premium WordPress themes cost about $35, and there are a bunch of good web sites that offer them. You can see a list of web sites that offer premium WordPress themes on the E-Marketing Connection web site.
At least, that’s the intention.
Recently I’ve been noticing that the vast majority of WordPress themes, even the premium ones, are all starting to look alike. They all appear to offer some variation of the following sequence: header, navigation, image slider, feature boxes, content columns, and a big thick footer. That’s the home page. Beyond that you get a gallery or portfolio page, some basic content pages with two and three columns, a contact us page with a built-in form, an about us page, a blog page, and sometimes a separate products and services page.
It would seem that all the newest WordPress themes are targeted to design firms or other creative types. If these firms or individuals are so creative, why don’t they create their own custom web site designs? Because they don’t have the skills to code it, that’s why. They’re artists, not developers. I get that. My concern is that not all people who want a pre-designed WordPress theme are creative types. Forget the gallery, my accounting firm client doesn’t need it. They don’t need the slider or the portfolio. They need nice-looking, easy-to-read content pages and a way to put stock images on those content pages — that’s all.
This is simply yet another manifestation of the shiny new object syndrome. Image sliders are the cool thing, so everyone wants one. Even one of my clients who is a career development coach wants one, even though the site doesn’t need it. It might even be a distraction from the important content on the site. It’s just cool-looking, that’s why web site owners want it. So that’s what the theme designers are making now. What will the next fad be? Whatever it is, when it comes around, these slider-heavy web sites will be overused and boring, like the pop song that plays over and over on the radio until you can’t stand hearing it any more.
It could be just me, because I look at so many of these. It’s hard to say. You, the consumer, someone who’s not “in the business” may not notice this. If so, let me know, because I want to give my clients what they want, but I also want to give them what they need, whether they realize it or not. It’s hard to argue with cool.
I read an article on Biznik yesterday about one author’s experience with a bad web designer. It was a very good article and it’s on my to do list to comment on it.
But that’s not what this post is about.
It occurred to me long after I read it that the author crafted the title of the article in pretty clever way. He’s clearly an experienced writer (or he had an experienced writer come up with his title.)
The article is about the lessons he learned about web designers, using a painful experience to illustrate them. It’s a great article topic all by itself, but the piece could have been lost by a boring title. The full title is “Formerly frustrated website virgin learns 11 things you should do when choosing your website developer” which, to me, is just a tad too long. But, I’m not an experienced article title creator, I’m just a consumer (at least in this instance).
But the point here is to illustrate for you how the title gets people to read the article. It gets your attention, makes you laugh, and makes you curious — a great combination.
Another thing to note is that the title alone does not make it. The article delivers on its promise. It’s cleverly written, humorous, and informative. It satisfies. It gives you what you expected when you read the title.
So read the article, and then let me know whether you agree.
Earlier this week I told you about our new “E-Connect Your Business” program and why I developed it. Now I will explain it in more detail, and how it might benefit you.
First of all, this is clearly a service that businesses need. The first week after I announced it I had two businesses sign up. I’m almost afraid to send out the mailing I had planned for fear we’ll get overrun with phone calls! Sounds like a good thing, but it’s a new program and I want to do it right.
E-Connect Your Business uses a collaborative approach to implementing a company’s e-marketing programs. Nobody knows the business better than the business’s owner and its key staff. Blindly handing over your marketing to somebody without having input into the detail activities is not likely to succeed. That’s why an important part of our program is that the business client needs to commit to a certain level of involvement in not only the strategic direction of their e-marketing program, but also in the creation of the content that will get distributed throughout the various channels.
The business needs to assign internal resources to work with us in several key roles:
The real underlying success factor here is that the business resources have a stake in the program, but our staff takes care of all the technical details and manages the entire program. This takes all the hassle out of it for the business! We do the work, and you get the results.
It’s really a beautiful model. Everybody does what they like to do best. You run your business, we do your e-marketing. You get the results (more business for you), and we get another happy customer (more business for us). Everyone wins!
I’ve been telling my clients for years, “Don’t get too comfortable with your Social Media marketing, it’s going to change tomorrow.” You may have noticed Facebook’s recent plethora of changes. They’ve changed the newsfeed (again), added a timeline (questionable usefulness), and they’re reducing the value of the Like button. Wait… what was that???
That’s right. The ubiquitous Like button, which has become so much a part of our online lives, is evolving into more of a voting mechanism. In my opinion, this is great news.
So what does this mean to you? You’ve spent countless hours and maybe thousands of dollars, increasing your “Likers” on your Facebook business page. It always seemed almost ridiculous to me, that we as marketers should be practically driven into a frenzy of getting people to “follow” our brand. 90% of our messages get ignored anyway. This is why small business marketers say their Facebook page doesn’t work for them. At least not in the sense that it gets them any business.
Users will now have a way to “vote” on content. To me this makes a whole helluva lot more sense. It means the boring, all-about-me promotional content that we see so much of can now get voted down into oblivion, while the interesting cool stuff will get promoted to the top.
This is one Facebook change I can hang my hat on. From both a consumer’s side and a marketer’s side. From a consumer’s side I will no longer have to tolerate crap on my Fb feed. From a marketer’s side I will have a lot less competition, and my truly authentic and valuable message will clearly shine amongst the drivel.
Not that I think for a moment that the spammers won’t come up with some way of getting around it. Like hiring legions of $2/hr off-shore teenagers to Vote Up the crap content they post for their clients. Black hat will always exist, but somehow the brains behind the beasts (Google, Facebook, etc.) will continue to find ways to combat it. Good for them. And for us.
I invite you to read Mashable’s blog post, which was my source for this post, at: http://mashable.com/2011/09/22/facebooks-changes-marketers
[This is part 9 (the final installment) of the series "Debunking the Myths of E-Mail Marketing."]
The number one thing I hear from business owners when I talk about email marketing is “I don’t want to annoy my customers.” Neither do I! And the good news is it’s REALLY EASY not to do this.
Permission marketing is a term made popular by Seth Godin with his book of the same name. At it’s very basic level, it simply means you ask for and get explicit permission from people to market to them.
This concept manifests in many ways, but most poignantly in e-mail marketing. This is where the concept not only makes a lot of sense, but absolutely shines!
So picture this… you walk up to a person at a networking event and they ask you, “What to you do?” You tell them, “I am a small business accountant,” or “I help businesses with their Internet marketing,” or “We help homeowners going through life changing events to de-clutter their homes in order to cope better.” Then you ask “Would you like to learn more about what I do for my customers?” If they answer yes they have just given you permission to deliver your marketing message to them.
The same goes for electronic marketing. If a visitor on your web site enters their email in a form and clicks the button that says “Add me to your newsletter,” you can safely assume that they want to hear what you have to say!
So as long as you only add people to your email list who have given their explicit permission you will not be spamming them when you send out your emails.
Another very important point is that you have to make good on your promise. The people on your list have said they trust you, and you need to protect that and respect it. You need to add value to their lives, not just sell to them. Nobody wants to walk into a place and get pounced on by a sales person. It’s creepy and annoying. Help people, they will learn to trust you, they will respect you and they will buy from you.
Once you have proven that you are trustworthy and have earned their respect, more and more people will want to join your list. Your list will grow… and you will do it all without annoying anyone.
Emailing your customers every day is probably going to be too much, and you will definitely annoy them. Unless of course that is their expectation. For example you might offer a daily tip of some kind. As long as your subscribers signed up knowing that’s what they were getting, then it’s a perfectly awesome way to stay in front of them!
However, if you are offering a newsletter, you want to be more discerning. Besides it’s time consuming and unless you have 4 hours a day to write newsletters, it’s not practical. I personally send my big robust newsletter once a month. I know folks who send theirs once a week. Both are fine, do whatever you can handle and your customers want/need/will accept.
On the other end, you can’t wait too long between emails. Some of your subscribers, especially the new ones, will forget they signed up for your list if you wait three months to send them the next one. They may even think you added them without permission and report you for spamming them.
So be practical and respectful of your audience. Somewhere between twice a week and once a month is reasonable.
My definition of spam is “Repeatedly send people irrelevant, ad-filled junk e-mail without their permission and without giving them a way to unsubscribe.” (Here’s the Wikipedia definition if you’re interested.)
You probably picked out the key components…
3. without permission
4. without an unsubscribe option
The bottom line is if you avoid all of these nasty things, you will be on the right track. Go for it.
Thank you for reading all 9 installments of this series. It was a lot of fun to write and I hope it helped you ignite your desire to do e-mail marketing. Truly it is the number one way to do effective internet marketing, and no small business should be without it in their e-marketing mix!
If you have any questions at all, just post a comment in the box below and let me know, and I’ll be happy to answer you. Or email me privately.
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