Ten Common Sense Marketing Tips That Too Many Companies Don’t Follow

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  1. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. This is so very important that I’ve made it number 1. This is not a David Letterman-style list in which the most important point is the last one. I’m a journalist trained in the inverted pyramid and this is online and I know about short attention spans, so the most important point is RIGHT at the top. 2015 was the year in which mobile overtook desktop on the wuh-wuh-wuh. Google updated its algorithm accordingly, sending mobile-compatible websites to the front of the line in search. Is your website mobile-compatible? Check it out on your device. Do you have to zoom in to see your menu? It’s not mobile compatible. Make it mobile compatible.
  2. Follow Through on Your Data. Is it important to you to understand your target market? (Nod here. Unless you’re wealthy enough to fill your hot tub with $100s or you’re about to retire so you just don’t care.) Whoever said the web is anonymous was either being ironic or didn’t know what they were talking about. If you have any online presence at all, chances are there is a truly scary amount of information about those interested in you available to you already. Dig that out. Use it. Add to it. This is FAR more efficient, FAR more reliable and FAR less expensive than a focus group.
  3. Open Source is the Way to Go. I view anyone pitching a custom-built website (aka not CMS and not Open Source) with deep suspicion. Is the website going to be updated? Who’s going to do it? How often and how much is that going to cost? And please don’t tell me that YOUR company is so special, your branding is so sophisticated, that it all has to be custom. If you believe that, you’ve been snowed, my friend. (Unless you own the agency, in which case you are doing the snowing.) What happens if your developer goes down in a fiery crash or heads off to the Cayman Island and there’s no internet connection? Think and prepare for worst-case scenarios.
  4. Look for TECK-KISS Principles. This is Part 2 of point 3. TECK-KISS stands for Teckys-Keepin’-It-Simple-Stupid. And it is the arch enemy of TECK-OFG — Teckys-Obfuscation-for-Gain, which is way too common. I have seen even WordPress websites built in such a way as to be almost useless and pretty much impossible to update unless you’re  (conveniently) a $200/hour coder. In addition to using Open Source software with CMS, your developer (if using WordPress) should be using Child Themes, as few Plugins as possible, and as little customization as s/he can get away with. Requesting that your designer ensure his/her expendability is kind of an awkward ask, to be sure. But you can keep an eye out for TECK-KISS, which I will argue is a key building block of trust and accountability. (Conveniently, that’s how I work!) On that note. Know also that there is no Santa Claus. No matter how nicely your WordPress website is built, it will cost money to run. It will need maintenance—backups and updates—and it will not live forever. Just like your car.
  5. Know Who’s Building Your Website. Some developers outsource the coding offshore. I found this out on one site when I noticed that the coding notes were in Ukrainian. Made for an interesting conversation. Ethically, I feel this should always be disclosed, and you should know that your developer (who might actually just be a project manager and not a developer at all) is taking precautions to protect your security. Because it absolutely does increase your vulnerability. ASK. Ask early. Ask often.
  6. Own Your Stuff. Have your own server account. Own your own URL. Have your own YouTube account. Not owning these is like giving someone else your bank card and password and asking them to take care of things for you. Some will, some won’t. And if it goes bad it can go really really bad.
  7. Have More Than One Administrator — On your website, on Facebook, on your server, on everything. And by Administrator I don’t mean Editor. “Administrator” is the highest level of control.  See last sentence on point above. This is like having insurance in case your house burns down. You probably won’t need it, but if you do, you really really really do.
  8. Shit Happens — AKA it’s OK to Develop a Website [Somewhat] Organically. If you’re developing a website, it used to be that you were supposed to have it all figured out, laid out, thought through, pre-packaged and wrapped with a matching bow before handing anything over to your developer. But I don’t care if you’re Coca-Cola; no matter how organized you are there’s going to be something you didn’t think of. I’m calling for a more fluid approach, one that acknowledges that there will be tweaks and changes will happen and are part of the process, not an unwelcome anomaly for which you pay through the nose and are made to feel guilty.
  9. Fill in Keyword and Alt Text Fields. Heard of Search Engine Optimization? You do not have to pay big bucks for specialized SEO. Just make sure that your developer fills in the fields as you go. It’s so stupidly easy that it often gets overlooked. You’re in a hurry and money doesn’t grow on trees. If you got an amazing deal on your website your developer is likely to be in a hurry too. I’ve seen websites with SEO plugins in which the fields were left blank.
  10. Get Your Working Files And Your Passwords. For everything. Too often, designers and agencies don’t share. Font names, working files, passwords. Sometimes it’s just an oversight. But it’s like asking for water at a restaurant. There’s no motivation for your agency to provide them, but one rainy day you are absolutely going to need them. Make it part of your plan to collect these, even if it’s only a couple of times per year, and keep them in a safe place. Because believe me, one day some rain will fall.

~Tamsen Tillson
January 2, 2016