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Your Website Checklist

You’ve just hired someone to design and program your new website and they’re asking you Checklistto give them all the things they will need to create the site. The problem is you don’t know the first thing about it, so what do you do?  You can start with this list of  things that most if not all website designers and programmers will need in order to create a new website:

 1)      Unformatted digital text – be prepared to give your development team all of the text for your website in one UNFORMATTED, Microsoft Word or Word Pad document (or other digital word processing file).  Be sure to label each section of text with the page names that the text goes on (so put “About Us” at the top of the text for the About Us page and so on). Make sure that the headers for each page in this section match the names of each page.  These page names should correspond to and match the primary navigation tabs on the home page and any sub tabs or links that may be included with your site. Don’t forget to include all the headlines, sub headlines, and other text that you want used through the site (you may want “pull quotes” to be used on side bars, for example or quotes or captions to be used on photos; also include all the contact information, copyright dates, email addresses, names of employees.)  To ensure you don’t forget anything use your initial “site outline” that you should have created when you asked for the quote for the job, as a guide for the text you need to write and prepare.

2)      Website Instructions – First let me say that there’s nothing more dangerous and confusing than receiving 35 emails each with a snippet of text or a photo with a name like “25944GP.jpg” or other files that are not properly named and prepared to be handled by the development team.   Be sure to include any and all instructions for the website in the above “Digital Text” document (these instructions can be before or after the text for the site). Be sure to make a clear differentiation between the web text and your instructions, perhaps by writing the instructions in colored text or a different font.

3)      Correctly prepared and formatted Images – The exact size of photos that your team will need won’t be clear until AFTER the design phase of the web development is File format imagesdone.  For that reason it’s just better if you give your team the biggest, highest resolution images you have. If you have those images on your computer, do not try to email them to the team by embedding them into a word document or an email.  You CAN send them as an attachment to an email OR better yet use a service like “drop box” or see if your team has an “FTP” server that will make it easier for your to transfer files that are very large.  If you try to email these images they may clog up your email software’s outbox and even if they go out of your own email system, you won’t have any way of knowing if the client can accept files that are that big.  For that reason it’s just better to upload them to an FTP server or use a system similar to Drop Box.(to use an FTP site, someone from your development team will have to send you the instructions and log-in information separately).  Be aware that not all images are “ready to go”…and your design crew may have to do some photo retouching, cropping, resizing and other word that may or may not be included in your initial website quote.  If you have a choice to send your images in a variety of different file formats, most designers would prefer .jpg images (pronounced J-peg).

4)      Image and file Naming – Be careful how you name the files and  images that you give to your development team because it’s REALLY hard and very confusing when they get files or images that are named “qap239r809.jpg”.  If you could name the photo or file WHAT it is……that is very helpful and avoids unnecessary delays.  If the image you are sending is a photo of “Mary Smith” then you could just name it Mary Smith.  It would be even better if you could add the name of the page where you’d like that photo, for example marysmith_pricing.jpg  (don’t forget you can’t ADD a period in the text name…. you CAN add an underscore OR a dash, without a problem – no other characters can be inserted into a file name and the .jpg part is added automatically so you don’t need to worry about that part…just name the first part of the file name (before the period) as I’ve explained here.

5)      Captions – if you would like a caption on or above any of the images, please provide the information to your team by creating a list using the Image file name (see above instruction about naming your files) plus the text that goes with that image next to the name. You can include this list with the text for the website (with the instructions, before or after). If your website is going to have a series of photos with captions, you’ll want to consider how those photos will look next to each other and try to keep any text or captions that go with the photos in a similar style and length.  It’s better not to have one photo with a big, long sentence under it while another photo has two words.  Also remember that if your site is going to have any moving images or text, which are usually programmed with FLASH instead of HTML, for example, you will want to have those captions of similar length and style as well.

6)      Forms – if you plan to have a form on your website, be sure to include the text for the form (or the field names, in other words) with the unformatted digital text that you’ll be providing to your development team.  Also you’ll need to include the email address where you want the form information to be sent to (so for example if you have a form on your “contact us” page, then whenever someone fills out that form, your team will need to know what email address you’ll want that information to be sent to).

7)      Logos – you development team will also need any and all logo artwork that you use for your company and possibly the name of the font that goes with your logo and business package (some companies have a typeface or “font” that they use for all of their outgoingfavicon 1 materials and some organizations even have instructions or rules that go with those fonts & logos, that a marketing team would have to have in order to use those items correctly).  Be sure to send your logo in the highest resolution possible and if possible send the version that’s color and the one that has a clear background or no background.  If you are not sure which logo to send, then I’d suggest that you send  them all the logos you have (you can include these files with the images you will be emailing or posting to the FTP site or putting into “Dropbox”).

8)      Social Media Links – if you want social media links on your website please send 20-social-media-iconsthe links or web addresses to each of your social media webpages.  Try to avoid telling your programmers “can you link my website up to my Facebook page?” because this opens up a whole new can of worms and a number of opportunities for the programmer to connect your website up to the wrong Facebook page.  If you want your site to be developed quickly and correctly, make it as easy and clear as possible for your team so that you minimize confusion and maximize the chances of things being done right the first time.

9)      Contact info – Don’t forget to include any and all current contact information with the content for the website including all the email addresses you want listed on the website (and where you’d like those items to be listed or located).

I often hear horror stories of companies who have hired someone to work on their website, only to have that person drop off the planet or stop working on the project abruptly with no explanation.  I’d wager to say that these people get frustrated asking for materials, waiting for them, asking for the next thing, then waiting for that item and so on….only to lose time and money and ultimately any and all profitability on the project.  This isn’t inevitable however and you’ll greatly reduce the likelihood of having any major issues if you will take the appropriate amount of time on the onset of the project in order to prepare the materials that your team is going to need.

Finally, don’t forget that your development team is most likely made up of a number of people – you may have a marketing person who is helping you plan and outline the site, a copywriter who will help you to write the text, a designer who will develop the design of the website, a programmer who will program the basic site (an HTML programmer or WordPress Programmer, for example) and possibly other programmers who will do specialty programming such as FLASH, database or E commerce programming.  Finally you may have someone to help you after all that’s done to market your website and get it listed on the quality management teamssearch engines.  You may not need to send all the above information to each person who is working on the site, but it will be helpful to you and certainly the initial people working with you to be able to see all the information in one place – well-organized and clearly thought out – before they start on your web development project.


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Why does it take so long to create a website?

I cannot tell you how many times my clients have commented on how much work is involved in creating a website. I think that when anyone sees a finished product, no matter what it is, the tendency is to think about how simple things look, but the fact is that any intelligently developed product or project requires time, thought and effort (and experience and education don’t hurt either).

The fact is that a website cannot be created in a vacuum. And as much as I hate having to say this before I get a job from someone,  I have to have SOME input from my client about what they do, who they want to target, what TYPE or style of website they like and want, etc.  Of course I can and will help them to think through all of these types of things (called “Ad Strategy”) but sometimes it’s hard to get the clients to give me ANY time to talk about their businesses and what they want to accomplish with their marketing.  This isn’t a step you can overlook – all good advertising starts with strategy.  Strategy is thinking about who you are, what you do, how you want your market to perceive you, who your competition is, what their advertising looks like and on an on  Way too many people hire independent graphic designer or web programmers and think they are going to provide them with everything they need. What they don’t know is that those people are just one part of a bigger team that works together to make excellent advertising products and websites.

A website starts with strategy first and then moves on from there to “site structure”.  Site structure thinks about what pages a website will have and how they will be organized.  Clients sometimes don’t recognize how their site’s structure is tied to their design.  You may want to have three basic areas of the site, one each for each category of product you sell, and so the site structure and site design have to consider that. For example, if you sell widgets and you have three different categories of widgets…let’s say Widgets for kids, Widgets for Adults and Widgets for Dogs, then the site design might have three columns.  If you plan on adding 3 new product categories later, then the designers will keep this in mind and find a way to set things up so that more categories can be added to the site later.

After developing a site’s structure the client or the ad team will need to write the text.  If the client opts to write their own website text, I have to get that text from them and that can take a while.  Then I have to proof the text and edit it and send it back to the client for their approval.  The website development project will usually go faster if you hire us to write your text for you, but that still takes research time and multiple drafts before the content is ready to go.  The text is essential to any project because it tells me how many pages we’ll need and how much space is going to be need for that text. In a time crunch, I might be able to get the development team started on the site with JUST an outline of the text, but it’s always better to have the full text before proceeding.

All this has to be considered BEFORE any design work is done or it will take twice as long to do the project when things have to be redone.  Many times a client is just figuring things out as they go along and as a result the job specs change in mid-stream.  This can be very frustrating for the web development team….not because we care if you change your mind, but because we’re losing time and money if the job takes longer than what we have originally estimated.  I can tell you that I try to do many of these mid-stream changes without charging extra, but what happens is we reach a point where we’re losing money.  If I haven’t mentioned the negative impact of these changes before that point, then the client usually gets frustrated or mad because they’re not considering all the other “free” changes that have come before.  Just keep in mind….that if you don’t mind paying for extra changes…..then we don’t mind making them for you.

Once the client gives us the text they want on their website (preferably 100% ready to go and in a digital format with little or no formatting like bold words or bulleted text, etc.) I can start assigning all the different aspects of creating a website, which includes:

  1. Outlining the text
  2. Formatting (or unformatting) the text
  3. Determining the page names
  4. Creating the site structure
  5. Considering the functionality of the site and loading the plug-ins or creating the custom programming required to integrate these functions into the site.
  6. Hiring the appropriate designers and programmers for each aspect of the job.
  7. Designing the site or searching for and selecting a site design template (depending on if you’ve paid for a custom designed website or a template designed website).
  8. Searching for, getting approval for and buying the images from a stock photo house.
  9. Acquiring the product images and logo artwork from the client.
  10. Editing the photos or other images.
  11. Selecting the site fonts.
  12. Programming the basic site – which can include many different types of programming and multiple different programmers who work in HTML, WordPress, PHP (the native language that WordPress uses),  CSS, Javascript and on and on.
  13. Programming any ancillary functionality to the site (such as E commerce/Paypal, membership only access, databases, etc.)
  14. Proofing the site
  15. Making the customer’s changes
  16. Writing and programming the site Metadata (title, description and keywords)
  17. Marketing the website (I could make a whole new list for this item).
  18. Web marketing – none of that even considers the work that is required after the site is built to market the site and get i t listed on the search engines.  That is a whole other article!!!!

I recognize that once you see this list, that developing a website can seem like an insurmountable pain in the neck.  It may be somewhat of  a pain (as everything worth doing is) but it’s not insurmountable because we know what we’re doing.  If you’ll let us, we’ll guide you through the project to completion and satisfaction and you’ll end up with a top-notch website that will make your company look great to the public and make your target market WANT to visit your site.  For more information please don’t hesitate to contact me at emily@mdept.com.  I am more than happy to offer up advice and answer any of your questions, whether you do business with my company or not!!!


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What is Public Relations?

Public Relations uses “the media” and/or “the press” to deliver stories about your company, product or service creating good relationships with the public, product users, investors, other writers and many other target markets.Press conference

Public relations or “PR” is really the opposite of advertising because with advertising you pay someone to print an ad or broadcast a commercial that you create for your product (for example). But with Public Relations, writers or journalists write stories in various media based on press releases that you submit to them and other information they research (via the web, interviews, research studies, etc.). Sometimes they print the story exactly as you submit it to them and sometimes they rewrite it based on what you’ve given them.

PR can be less expensive than advertising because you don’t have to pay a publication to release the story and if the media your story appears in is national or international, you can reach a much larger audience at a lower cost. You do however, have to pay someone to spend some time creating a plan, developing an “angle” (aka “a hook”) and determining the best day or time to release the story (there are special PR event & editorial calendars that PR Pros use to evaluate timing). You’ll also need to pay someone to write & edit an intelligent press release (which is completely different from writing advertising copy, by the way). You will also have to pay for the release to be distributed (which is not cheap these days, if you want it done right). You’ll also pay someone to follow-up on the release by emailing, calling and going to events to interact personally with writers, editors and other influencers in an effort to get them to run you story. That’s why many times when you hear someone talk about PR you hear them talking about “relationships” or wanting someone with a “Rolodex®” (i.e., a list of media or industry contacts that they know well enough to be able to pick up the phone and talk to them).

In the end, PR generally costs less than advertising and it has the added bonus of having the unspoken “endorsement” of the publication or the journalist who wrote the story. That’s not always the case because a good journalist doesn’t just take the word of the person who wrote the press release. If upon further investigation they discover that your widget pollutes the local rivers or your pill doesn’t cure cancer, there’s no telling how negative the story could be. So be careful not to overstate your message and don’t forget that a Press Release is not supposed to be so obviously written by the company itself. It’s supposed to be have been written by an outside, unbiased observer who is giving the outside world an impartial appraisal of the subject matter. Far too many times the people who own the company (and who naturally love and praise their own product) write their own press releases. In that case, it’s next to impossible for the journalists who read those press releases not to wonder how much of their story is overstated due to the writer’s overly enthusiastic perspective.

One last thing….as with any marketing related effort, don’t expect a couple of stories to save your company. Any business communications must work with all the different aspects of a marketing program to create product awareness and to generate demand for a product. If you run an ad or two, you cannot expect that to generate enough demand to salvage a business. In the same way, if you run a press release or two, it will be good for you, but don’t expect the phones to ring off the hook. If a magazine runs an article about you and someone sees it, that’s great; but if that someone visits your website as a result & the website looks like hell, well, then your sales efforts will very likely fail. Your target consumer doesn’t have the patience or the forgiveness to overlook the elements of your marketing program that have been thrown together or that are essentially broken.

Make sure that each piece of your marketing “puzzle” is as good as it can be and THEN you can expect to receive the best results. If you don’t have the budget to create & maintain a comprehensive marketing program [with each and every piece being just the way it should be]…then consider selecting 2 or 3 marketing projects or areas (PR, Web & Social Media, for example) and make THOSE segments as good as they can be.

Here’s an article on LinkedIn that talks about the difference between Advertising & Public Relations – LinkedIn Article  


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Does Social Media spell Traditional Advertising’s Demise?

This is a post that I made a while back that didn’t make it onto this blog.  It follows a slightly different stream of consciousness (than my more recent posts)….but I think you’ll still find it interesting. 

Nothing’s hotter than Digital Media and Social Web Marketing, no one would argue that point.  But does the incredible growth of digital media spell the demise of print advertising?   

There is no doubt there’s a credibility gap between print & digital media for one reason: consumers know that almost anyone can create a professional looking web presence without a particularly huge investment. How many times have you wondered what kind of company is really behind a fabulous website?

However, whenever you hand your customer a printed brochure or ad, they can immediately recognize when that printed piece has been well designed and professionally offset printed (or digitally printed as my colleague so kindly pointed out the other day). When that happens, the clients senses that the company “must be legit” and must have the corresponding budget to have been able to produce that item. As a result, printed materials exude credibility in ways that digital media does not.  Whenever I distribute marketing materials digitally (for my company or for a client) I still often feel like I should send a printed brochure out in order to “reinforce” our legitimacy in the minds of consumers.


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The Secret of the Sales Cycle: REVISITED

The Sales Circle

The 4 secrets of the sales cycle

I’ve rewritten this article and elaborated on each of the points for a more comprehensive article. I hope this will help you to determine how and where to spend your advertising & marketing dollars and the importance of supporting your sales cycle.

Not everyone knows this but there is a secret formula to success when it comes to marketing: Every business MUST follow 4 basic steps in order to be successful.

First you must create & establish a memorable corporate identity. A corporate identity, also known as your brand, is made up of a consistent look and feel and a cohesive message, both of which contribute to your target market’s ability to remember you and your product or service name. A potential client has to be able to remember you when it comes time for them to purchase your product or service and a memorable, unique and consistent brand helps them to do just that.

Second, you must have a way to bring in leads. A famous entrepreneur once said “you won’t even be able to sell $10 bills for $5, unless someone hears your message”. In order to sell anything, you have to be able to present your sales message to someone and for that you need leads. A lead is simply someone who’s willing to listen to what you have to say (your sales message).

Third, you have to qualify and sell those leads (or sort out the bad ones & keep the good ones). In any group of potential customers there will be some that are interested but not ready to buy, some that are interested that are ready to buy and others that aren’t interested at all. To move your potential client through the sales funnel, you need to present your message and then sort out those that are interested and ready to buy from the rest of the pack.

Finally, you have to build relationships with those qualified leads…i.e., you must put some effort into keeping your name or brand in front of your potential & existing clients, so they don’t forget you. Whenever you push a lead through a sales funnel, they will need to hear your advertising or sales message more than once (aka frequency). During that time, you can build a sort of “business relationship” with that lead that will hopefully develop interest in your offering, cultivate trust in your product & brand and eventually lead to them recalling your name at the time of purchase.

It’s my job as a marketing & advertising professional to encourage our clients to invest in some advertising activities that support each of these four areas. If any one piece of the above “cycle” is missing or weak or unsupported by your marketing efforts, then your sales cycle will collapse and you’ll miss or lose sales. I could write a book on each and every one of the above “rules” because I’ve made a career out of understanding and implementing tactics that will achieve results in each of these areas, but that’s not the focus of this article. The main message of this article is to help you to understand that you can’t pick some advertising tactic arbitrarily out of thin air and then depend on that one thing to bring in fantastic advertising results. People do that frequently and that’s one of the reason’s why I always hear clients say “I placed an ad once and it didn’t work.” Whenever you embark on an advertising campaign, it’s important to recognize the steps that potential clients go through to locate and get familiar with a brand in order to make a purchasing decision. Then it’s up to you to make sure that your advertising efforts support the entire sales process to best support and encourage your target market to consider & select your product.

Here is a list of advertising tactics divided up by the sales area they will best support. Not all ad tactics are mutually exclusive….they often support more than one area of the sales cycle. When deciding how to spend your advertising dollars, make sure you have some “tactics” or projects in each of the following areas:

1. Corporate Identity/Brand DevelopmentCreate a unique & memorable brand

  • Marketing, Advertising, PR & Social Media plans
  • Name & Tagline creation
  • Logo
  • Campaign/look & feel
  • Business Package – letterhead, envelopes & business cards
  • Web URL – get your web address and host it so you can use that email account
  • Email signature
  • Uniforms
  • Signage

2. Lead Development Get leads coming in the door and collect basic lead contact info

  • Web Advertising:
  • Pay per click
  • Landing page (for banners & PPC ads)
  • Banner Ads
  • Web listings
  • HTML Emails
  • SEO/Site Submissions
  • Print Advertising:
  • Direct mail
  • Magazine Ads
  • Newspaper Ads
  • Broadcast Advertising:
  • TV Commercials
  • Radio Commercials
  • Theatre Ads
  • Trade shows/Trade show booth/promotions

3. Lead Qualification & Sales Once you’ve got leads, tell them who you are and sell them!

  • Website
  • Brochures – print or digital
  • Flyer/Product Spec Sheets
  • Product Packaging
  • Point of purchase displays
  • Presentations/PowerPoint
  • Product photos
  • Product samples
  • Client Bio Sheet
  • Corporate Background Sheet
  • Referral sheet
  • Quote/Proposal presentation format/design
  • Folder
  • Sales Pitch
  • Giveaways
  • Pricing Strategy

4. Relationship Building/Brand Promotion Keep your customers coming back for more

  • Social Media
  • HTML Newsletter
  • Referral Program/package
  • Promotions/Sweepstakes/Contests
  • Customer Loyalty Programs
  • Public Relations/Press Releases
  • Sponsorship of local sports teams
  • Join Chamber/Networking events
  • Uniform
  • Signage

Ok that’s it for today.  I hope this little article has helped you to get an idea about what has to be done to have a successful advertising campaign.  Of course the issue is way more complicated than this but this is a start.  Please feel free to contact me any time – we are here to help you and I am more than glad to spend a little time helping you figure out what you need to do to market your business.  Email me at emily@mdept.com.


Your Website Checklist

You’ve just hired someone to design and program your new website and they’re...
article post

Why does it take so long to create a website?

I cannot tell you how many times my clients have commented on how much work is involved...
article post

What is Public Relations?

Public Relations uses “the media” and/or “the press” to deliver stories about your...
article post

Does Social Media spell Traditional Advertising’s Demise?

This is a post that I made a while back that didn’t make it onto this blog.  It follows...
article post

The Secret of the Sales Cycle: REVISITED

I’ve rewritten this article and elaborated on each of the points for a more...
article post