For businesses and non-profit organizations, this iconic quote from the 1989 film Field of Dreams conjures images of customers or donors flocking towards you intent on giving you money.

“They won’t know why,” says the movie, but it implies that customers will simply gravitate to you because of this accomplishment. Whether that goal is launching a new website, starting a new marketing campaign, or rebranding, customers should be flocking to you. Shouldn’t they?

No.

There are plenty of questions as to why this iconic misnomer fails, but we’re going to settle for three.

  • How do consumers know you’ve built something?
  • Why make the community come to you? You should be there with the community.
  • Did good data help you build it or are you “trusting your gut”?

How Do Customers Know You’ve Built Something?

Short of Silicon Valley secret startups or VC-backed apps designed to disrupt, the whole idea of a business doing anything in “stealth mode” or in secret is a bit ridiculous. Even when the project is complete, do you want to start at square one? Nope.

Let’s use the example for a new e-commerce website. You’ve spent the better part of six months (likely more) on design and development. Tens of thousands of dollars. All the testing. All the organizing. You’re in the theater, the curtain rises, your investment is live and center stage. Except there is one problem—no one is in the audience. No one knew to come.

Here are some tips on raising awareness in your community about your project, in this case, your new website.

  • Share the story of the new website; why you are building it, what features were needed, etc.
  • Use your existing website to announce the new one with blog updates and graphics.
  • Send special invites out via email blast — maybe even give them an incentive for first purchases.
  • Share blog posts, design screen shots, and other new features on social media.

Where Is the Community? Build It There.

What makes the “they will come” portion of the quote even more difficult is the fact that your business or organization’s community is already located somewhere.

In the movie, you see a line of headlights stretching to the horizon. Flocking towards the field, drawn by some unknown force.

Don’t expect your community to flock to you. Go to them.

From injection molded motion transfer parts and stainless steel tank trailers to posh waterfront resorts and vacation destinations — your industry or organization has an interested community.

Does your community congregate at trade shows? Is there a popular trade magazine either in print or online? Does LinkedIn have a group discussion? Does the community use popular #Hashtags?

The point is, make sure you go to your community. Don’t try to make them come to you.

Did Good Data or Your “Gut” Decide?

If you build it. Then they will come. This is a classic IFTTT statement. While IFTTT (IF This Then That) is primarily a coding concept, the same principle applies to marketing logic.

The age of guessing is done. The dangers of habitual marketing with a mindset of, “This is how we’ve always done it,” are well documented.

Simply choosing a marketing scheme based on your “gut” or your intuition is the equivalent of marketing blindfolded.

With Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and other monitoring tools, guessing about your website data is a thing of the past.

Facebook and other social media channels support detailed reporting. Email distribution platforms deliver critical open and click-thru rates.

Current marketers should be swimming in data.

Being awash in data also means you need to separate the signal from the noise. Understand the data and use it to formulate actionable business intelligence. Outline your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and understand what data from each tells you.

When the time comes to make a marketing decision, the decision needs to be backed by data and not “gut” feelings.

Conclusion: My Community Showed Me What to Build. Data Showed Me How.

If you build it, they will come. The phrase sounds great, but like most marketing ideas it represents the tip of the iceberg.

If your business or organization is about to “build it,” let’s talk about some ideas on how to gather community insight and evaluate predictive data.

Engage Your Community

Regardless of your industry, there is a community of people interested in talking about it. From trade shows, community groups, or online forums, find out where they’re talking and join the conversation.

  • Ask the influencers. While sounding overly simple, identifying your industry’s online community leaders to get insight or feedback can be a huge help.
  • For broader input, don’t be afraid to create a survey. Exchange opinions for something of value. Coffee gift cards, product samples, or other branded rewards can go a long way.
  • Get social. From asking your Facebook community to open questions in a LinkedIn Group, social media is meant for sharing. Encourage your community to share their insights.

 

Evaluate Data

There is a mountain of data available. Tap into it. However, be smart about the weight you assign each data point and assign a goal each metric is meant to measure.

  • Learn to love data. Dive into your Google Analytics, create and evaluate funnels, find the beauty of Search Console, and always compare apples to apples.
  • Trust, but Verify. Google is great, but not the only provider of data. Use other evaluation tools to like Piwik or Kissmetrics. Other great data sources are Pingdom and W3Counter.
  • Visualize Your Data. One of the most helpful insights to online behavior is tracking. We recommend services like Mouseflow or Hotjar to get a highly visual insight into your user experience. Click maps, experience sampling, and surveying all help to give a crisper image.

 

By staying connected to your community, listening to your customers, and remaining in tune with your data you won’t say: If you build it, they will come. You’ll say: Our community is looking for it, they’re already there.

For more information on how Signalfire’s website design and development services can benefit your business or organization, contact us today!

It’s true that almost everything we interact with on a daily basis uses some form of fuel. Our cars need gasoline, our phones need battery life, and our bodies need nutrients, in order to perform well.

So, when it comes to our companies’ marketing efforts, why would it be any different? Truth be told, it’s not.

But before we dive into the why and how, let’s first examine the what of the issue.

What is Marketing Fuel?

The best answer to this question is simple: Content.

In an age where media has become more and more personalized, the old ways of pushing marketing messages out to your target audience are all but over. We now have more ways than ever to avoid advertisements on traditional media.

For an explanation, let’s turn to TV and Radio. Users no longer flip to a channel/station and enjoy whatever happens to be playing. They now have personalized DVR viewing and satellite radio stations.

Because of this, our biggest challenge as marketers is to create content for our intended audience without sounding pushy or showing up where we aren’t welcome.

The most effective way to achieve this goal is to plan ahead.

Four Advantages to Planning Content

Content Planning

1) Be proactive, not reactive

Not only is this a great way to control the direction of your marketing efforts, but it also gives you the ability to manage expectations and stay a step ahead of your competitors.

2) Come up with better, more creative ideas

Our first ideas are rarely the best. Planning ahead allows time for new, groundbreaking ones to rise to the surface.

3) Allow time for updates and improvements

Just like with idea generation, it takes time to make updates and improvements to even the best content.  It is, however, crucial to utilize this time to enable your content to reach its full potential.

4) See improved performance

According to Content Marketing Institute, “While content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, it generates more than 3x as many leads.” Why would you want to pay more for less?

How to Plan Content Successfully

Now that we’ve discussed content marketing and the advantages to planning ahead, let’s take a look at some best practices for how to plan content effectively.

Branding

A vital piece of the puzzle that’s easily overlooked is evaluating how your business or organization is perceived in the marketplace. Developing and implementing your brand principles into your marketing efforts will help produce consistent, targeted results.

Brainstorming

Once you know your brand inside and out, you can begin brainstorming content topics to support your marketing goals. Consider some questions your clients are asking. This may help identify subjects of emphasis.

Creating a Content Calendar

Content Calendar

A content/editorial calendar is a tool used to organize your list of topics, curated articles, and original content over a set period of time.

This is the single, most beneficial tool for content planning and development. By creating a content calendar, you’ll be able to strategically match your strongest content to the time of year it will be most relevant to your clients and most effective for your goals.

How frequently you create and post content depends on several factors including your budget, sales cycle, and industry need. It can be tricky, but the results will be well worth the effort.

Integrating Content

Once your content calendar is put together, the next step is to implement it. In order to make content worth your investment, it should be used throughout a variety of marketing pieces within your campaigns.

The use of consistent messaging and imaging across multiple media types is called content integration.

Maintaining consistency throughout your marketing efforts will fuel brand recognition and reinforce messaging. In turn, this will increase your conversion rate and boost sales performance.

Fuel Your Marketing with a Guide

No matter your industry, planning your marketing messages ahead of time with a content calendar will improve your overall marketing efficiency.

At Signalfire, we’d like to help guide your business/organization to achieve your goals.

Our proven methods of content development, planning, and implementation can help your marketing campaigns become more profitable.

If you’d like to speak with us in more detail, please feel free to give us a call: 262-725-4500 or reach out via email.

This year’s Big Game was, of course, one for the record books.

Although extremely popular among football fans, America’s most watched game has also historically been the setting for some of the most iconic and effective TV commercials of all time.

Bearing all of this in mind, our office was looking forward to marketers pushing all of our emotional buttons to make us laugh, cry, and also…buy!

But when the Big Game arrived this year, we felt the advertisements fell fairly flat.

Compared to the glorious past filled with “Mean” Joe Green, Terry Tate: Office Linebacker, and “Where’s the Beef?” – this year’s crop simply didn’t stack up.

Despite the lack of transcendent ads, we still came up with a few that strongly resonated with us, as audience members. Here’s #TeamSignalfire’s Top 3:

1) “Go Further” – Ford

Our first favorite was Ford’s “Go Further” commercial. The way the scenes bounced around showing the progress of each person (or animal’s) “stuckness” was frustratingly funny. It was relatable to us, as we all had the “We’ve been there” feeling.

#TeamSignalfire agreed that the big winners in this year’s ads seemed to be the car manufacturers. Ford was able to connect well to their audience, while successfully launching their vision for the future of their brand.

Well done, Ford. “Go Further” also earned itself the top choice of Project Manager, Lisa Oren.

2) “Born the Hard Way” – Budweiser

Our team felt this ad really stood out.

With several of us in the office being lovers of history, anytime a well-written story showcasing a struggle to succeed comes across the screen, there’s a good chance we’ll like it.

The largest pull factors of “Born the Hard Way” were the quality, the depth of story, and just the overall grittiness of the ad.

Of course, there is some debate over how factual it really is, but the same could be said of any Hollywood-made historical piece.

Overall, nice job, Budweiser. You earned the top choice of Project Manager, Bryan Giese.

3) “Not So Pee Wee Football,” – Buick

An over-arching theme this year was quasi-political nature of many of the ads. With “No So Pee Wee Football,” the light-heartedness called us back to simpler times.

A few of us having experience with coaching, we could humorously relate to the situational comedy in the ad.

Buick still has a long way to go to appeal to Gen X’ers who still see the brand as Grandma and Grandpa’s vehicle of choice. However, the new designs and placement into the ever-familiar youth sports arena helped appeal their case.

Of course, the deal was sealed with Miranda Kerr. “Not So Pee Wee Football” earned the top choice of Owner and President, Matthew Olson.

Honorable Mention) “#AvoSecrets” – Avocados from Mexico

While the ad was clever and funny (a bit of a stretch with the secret society thing), it was the jingle that resonated the most.

Matthew’s 11 and 9-year-old boys spent the rest of the night repeating the jingle over and over. And over. And over.

Sometimes the catchiest jingle wins the day. It’s because of this that #TeamSignalfire decided to dub “#AvoSecrets” as our choice for honorable mention.

 

Although this year’s ads weren’t as potent as in years past, we’ll be interested to see how this impacts brands’ ad placement in 2018.

Will marketers continue to pay top dollar for the largest viewing audience of the year, or will more customized viewing habits begin to take their toll on a time honored tradition?

Only time will tell.

 

Learn more about #TeamSignalfire, and visit Our Team page.

Every New Year promises a renewed passion for self-improvement. The same goes for marketing your business.

2016 proved to be a telling year on many different marketing fronts. From entertainment viewing patterns, such as binge watching, to the “brick and mobile” consumer trend — 2017 shows no signs of being a stabilizing year.

So which trends should you watch, and which of them will impact your business or organization? We’ve found the three most important for the upcoming year.

1) Embrace Mobile __________

Mobile Everything

Insert your marketing word of choice in the blank. 2014 and 2015 were tipping point years, but 2016 solidified the presence of mobile. Mobile what? Mobile everything in 2017.

Mobile Video Skyrocketing

Google points out mobile YouTube video touts more primetime viewers than all of broadcast and cable combined. Users are turning to their small screens for everything from entertainment to how-to videos.

How does this translate to B2B or B2C? 68% of YouTube users consulted YouTube prior to making a purchase decision. (source)

Your best bet?

More short (45 seconds or less), topic-driven videos, and avoid long (over 2 minute), general videos.

Keep it short, on topic, and put someone in front of the camera versus voiceover.

Mobile-Enhanced Shopping

Mobile Enhanced Shopping

Mobile isn’t just involved in pre-purchase decisions anymore. It rules the in-purchase decision process, as well.

Strolling through stores this past holiday season, you could see shoppers engaging with mobile devices.

They aren’t just texting or scrolling Facebook, either. They’re checking competitor prices, looking for coupons or in-store loyalty specials, reading peer reviews, – even ordering online versus grabbing off the shelf!

Your best bet?

Embrace “brick and mobile” shoppers. Provide Wi-Fi for a great mobile shopping experience. Make it easy to shop, donate, or investigate.

Mobile First Content

Mobile-friendly gave way to mobile responsiveness. Mobile responsiveness gave way to mobile first. Today, it’s just mobile.

The unquenchable thirst for mobile information will not stop in 2017. Over 75% of searches are done at the office or in the home, where a computer is within a few feet. (source)

Search engines are now answer engines. Users ask their mobile devices questions instead of plugging keywords, so your website needs to answer those questions to drive great results.

Your best bet?

Make sure your web content displays well on mobile devices. Many websites built with a content management system have pre-developed templates that are mobile responsive.

To find out if your website passes Google’s test, drop Signalfire a line. We can assess your current site and offer improvements.

2) Break into Social Media Video

Social Video Obsession

Mobile video is a monumental topic, but how video is evolving between different social media platforms is a great focal point.

Native Video

2016 saw every social media platform develop a native video player. This means Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many others now have in-app videos that are uploaded and handled directly by each platform.

Native video also means the different social platforms prefer their own video front and center, so don’t be surprised if your YouTube link gets poor results.

Plus, different social platforms have different attention spans. Know your platform and the community it’s connecting with to decide video length.

Your best bet?

Develop a social media plan for next year, including social video in a significant role.

Learn to use Facebook Live, Periscope, or other platforms’ video feeds for real-time happenings. Stay aware of live video opportunities to engage your online audience.

If you’re not sure which social media platforms are right for your business or need help developing a plan for social video, Signalfire can help.

3) Map Your Customers’ “I Want To” Moments

Micro-Moments

There’s never been a better description of search engine users than Google’s 2016 “I Want To…” research study.

Google describes current users’ interactions with the web as a series of “I want to” events called micro-moments.

Consumers’ behavior and web use intersect with mobile across a series of micro-moments. Understanding this behavior and how it applies to your B2B or B2C strategy can give you a significant edge over your competitors.

Google provides a wealth of information, case studies, and graphics associated with the micro-moments discussion. However, reading and understanding is just the first step.

Every business has a buying cycle (process, funnel, etc.) and every organization has a donation cycle. Pinpointing and planning a strategy specific for your business must play a factor in your 2017 marketing efforts.

Your best bet?

On paper or on a whiteboard, map out your own company’s micro-moments aka “I want to…” moments, and understand how mobile impacts your own sales efforts

Once you know (or even if you don’t) your critical brand touchpoints, Signalfire can help formulate and implement a plan for your unique business.

Your New Year’s Marketing Resolution

2017 promises to be an incredible year for both B2B and B2C businesses.

Being available and connecting with your customers (especially on mobile) must be a priority for your business or organization. If you’d like to know more or need help making any of the above happen — give Signalfire a call.

We’ll discuss how to make 2017 your marketing success story.

What are we most resistant to as human beings? You might say a trip to the dentist or visiting your in-laws, but most of us would agree that we’re most resistant to change. This spills over to all aspects of our lives – including our businesses, brands, and websites.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking a good website should never have to change. The unfortunate reality of our day is that things quickly become obsolete.

Now, we aren’t suggesting you throw out your company values or unique selling points. We’re focusing more specifically on your website.

When was your website designed?

This is the easiest bit of oversight for many businesses. Let’s say you are a medium-sized manufacturer, and your website was designed in 2007.

You think: 2007? That wasn’t so long ago. Think again.

In 2007, the top-selling mobile phone looked something like this.

Old Cell Phone

Technology has progressed exponentially since that time.

Smart Phone

Even if you knew everything there was to know about search engines in 2007, new trends are always arriving. Google is constantly tweaking how they rank websites.

Although we’re happy to help you redesign an old site, we’d like to share a few basic tips for improving your SEO. Follow these do-it-yourself steps for great landing pages and blog posts.

Optimize for user experience

In the old days, it was all about cramming as many keywords within your pages as possible. Now, optimizing for the user is the most effective strategy.

Depending on your industry or business model, your user experience and web strategy will be different.

If you’re a manufacturing company selling steel to large manufacturers, your user experience will look very different than a tourism council building awareness of local hotspots.

Google values user experience

It’s more important than ever for a visitor to your site to easily navigate your pages and find the content they’re looking for.

Your site needs a straightforward home page with well-organized tabs and strong, visual content to keep visitors engaged.

It’ll also need a fast page load speed, since Google gives special treatment to sites that load in less than three seconds. To evaluate your speed, use an online tool, such as Pingdom or GT Metrix.

Optimizing your site’s user experience will reduce bounce rates and improve your search engine rankings.

How to spot areas to improve user experience

The easiest way to identify roadblocks within your website is to ask your clients. Find a customer you trust and ask them their honest opinion of what they’d like to see changed.

This may not represent your whole client base, but it will help you understand what’s important to your clients.

Make sure your website is mobile-responsive

Mobile Responsive

A few years back, Google decided to penalize websites that were non-responsive to mobile screens. This gave privilege to sites with better user experiences.

For non-responsive sites, this hurts. It could be seriously limiting your online visibility, restricting access to potential customers.

How to fix it?

If your website is 4-5 years old, your best bet is to redesign it. It’s often cheaper to develop a new, mobile-responsive website than to try and adapt an outdated one.

Additional reading: Madison Chiropractic Group Launches Mobile-Responsive Website

Update your content regularly

This SEO tip is commonly overlooked but has become increasingly vital to search engine success. This effective strategy for the web called content marketing.

We recently wrote a piece on why your website needs unique content marketing, so we won’t go into great detail here, but it’s important to remember is that search engines are looking for website activity as a ranking factor.

The more active the pages, through adding content consistently, the better you’ll rank on Google. Consider adding a blog or keeping names, dates, addresses, and contact info as current as possible.

Include internal and external links

Links

The art of backlinks is a tricky one because you’d prefer to keep visitors on your site, rather than sending them for information elsewhere.

If done right, however, links on your web pages improve your site’s user experience in Google’s eyes.

When to link internally

Internal links are used to redirect a visitor from the page they are viewing to another on your site.

This can be a call-to-action link to your contact page or a redirect to information located on another page to streamline navigation and improve user experience.

When to link externally

Adding external links to your web content works best if the link is to a high-traffic website.

A good starting point is to link industry keywords that may be difficult to define to their Wikipedia definitions.

Wikipedia is a high-traffic site that won’t direct too much attention away from your own, as visitors are likely to return to your site after checking the word’s definition.

Once you feel comfortable with external links, experiment with industry-specific sites – just be very selective.

Include quality images with title and alt-text

Quality Images

Quality imagery doesn’t directly improve your search rankings, but it should still be a priority for your website.

Including visual content on your pages keeps users engaged and less likely to leave. This will increase the average time spent on your site, which improves your search rankings.

When uploading images, optimize them by adding alt-text and title text. Use a relevant keyword that describes what the image depicts.

When will I see results?

SEO results require patience. You may not see any large leaps in the numbers for a few months, especially if you don’t have a redesigned site.

Keep in mind that improving your search rankings is an ongoing commitment – especially in today’s mobile climate – to draw customers to your online storefront.

 

For more tips like these, subscribe to our email list up in the right sidebar.

If you’re considering a website redesign, give us a call at 262-725-4500 or drop us a line.

The National Bank of Waupun (NBW) contacted Signalfire in 2016 to assist in their marketing efforts for the current year and beyond.

The former NBW logo and branding had been in place for many years and was in need of an update. NBW was seeking a fresh, new look, along with a website and coordinated marketing materials to launch their refreshed brand.

The major challenge of this rebranding effort for Signalfire was keeping current customers informed that the local bank was changing its look, but not its ownership group.

Rebranding for Modern Solutions

Initially, Signalfire presented three different logo concepts to the board of directors. After a series of thorough discussions and revisions, NBW and Signalfire agreed to move forward with a fresh, sleek logo.

The updated design incorporated a new color pallet, while maintaining the existing shade of red.

NBW’s new logo demonstrates the bank’s ability to be modern, yet celebrates the three centuries of business they have enjoyed.

Updating Marketing Materials and Brand Awareness

With a new logo design agreed upon, Signalfire worked with NBW to create new stationary and branding materials. Updated business cards, envelope designs, letterhead, and brochures were then laid out to integrate the new logo concept.

NBW utilized print ads with a consistent feel to help promote the new look and placed billboard displays in high traffic areas surrounding the banks location. These billboards were used to further emphasize NBW’s great, new logo and maintained the stability of a great local bank.

Radio ads were also written and recorded, helping to further inform current and potential customers of the updated brand.

Redesigning a Website for Online Banking

In tandem with rolling out a new logo, Signalfire redesigned the NBW website. The updated site was created with the best user experience practices in mind.

Large slider images were used to promote the many services offered, and easy to find log-in areas were placed on the homepage for customers to utilize their online banking options.

Also included was user-friendly navigation to more naturally help users determine their personal or business banking solutions.

Ongoing Marketing Solutions

As the partnership between NBW and Signalfire has grown, preliminary work on the creation of an ad campaign for the coming year has been initiated.

After researching regional and national trademarks as well as other usage restrictions, Signalfire vetted the “your solutions bank” campaign tagline for NBW.

The goal of this tagline is to create a brand image that will differentiate NBW from other banks, and – so far – it has been met with a very positive response.

 

If you’d like to know how Signalfire can help your business refresh its brand or develop a new website, we’d love to chat. Give us a call at 262-725-4500 or send us an email.

Remember two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun? McDonalds taught us, early on in life, that something as simple as special sauce could catapult a brand ahead of its competitors.

We understand that businesses have to differentiate themselves from others in their industry. And although individual companies may seem similar on the surface, each has something unique to offer – a special sauce, if you will.

This begs the question: Do you know what makes your brand different, better, or more enticing than your competitors’ brands? Or better yet: Are you effectively conveying it to your target audience within your digital content?

Google craves great content.

Picture this. Your brand is a Big Mac, and your content is all the juicy, delicious, flavorful ingredients that go into it. Add some unique selling points (aka special sauce) and you have some powerful pull factors to drive customer engagement and search engine performance.

Search engines look over the words, the photos – the meat of your website. They scan your content searching for the best, most relevant answers to the many questions people search for each and every day. How your content marketing answers those questions will land you either higher or lower on Google’s results pages.

In order to rank higher than your competitors, you’ll need to reveal some of your special sauce. No, this doesn’t mean you have to give away the proprietary information that makes your company different. What it does mean is that you should be placing new content on your website on a regular basis.

Manufacturing marketers with content marketing

What goes on your burger?

Adding unique content can come in a variety of forms, and deciding the types content to create depends on your own, unique selling points.

Are you a non-profit looking to add a personal touch to your organization? You could add employee bio pages to showcase your talented team members. Are you a large manufacturing corporation launching a new product line? Highlight its main features and advantages in a blog post or news release.

Updating your site with fresh content on a weekly, monthly, even quarterly basis (depending on your industry) helps search engines find you, distinguishing your brand in front of potential customers. By tailoring your content toward the most searched phrases in your industry, you’re actually feeding Google the types of food it desires.

Content marketing

Sounds great! But, who has time for this?

If you’re thinking, “I have no clue where to start, and I don’t have any extra time to dedicate to content generation,” you’re not alone. Like many of us, the staff in your office may already be feeling the pressure to get their work completed on time.

So, how do companies create effective web content?

Traditional solutions would be giving the responsibility to a current employee or hiring a new one. But if you’re a small business, it may be difficult to justify hiring an additional worker to focus on website and social media updates. Can I afford to pay them, and where would they sit?

On the other hand, keeping it in-house could overload a current team member, bringing down their quality of work – or morale. Luckily, there is a third option.

We’ll work alongside you to create an effective content marketing plan, helping your website perform the way you need it to and highlighting the special sauce of your brand.

Pay a professional to do it.

Signalfire can help. We’re available to sit down with you on a regular basis and learn more about your business and industry. Our digital content specialists have the tools to improve your SEO (search engine optimization) and help you stand out among your competitors.

We’ll work alongside you to create an effective content marketing plan, helping your website perform the way you need it to and highlighting the special sauce of your brand.

Signalfire also specializes in social media management and email marketing to help open new avenues of communication between you and your potential customers.

Why not give us a shot? Find out how Signalfire can help grow your business by reaching out via email or phone at 262-725-4500.

No matter which way you voted in yesterday’s U.S. Presidential election you were concerned with how everyone else was voting. Like you, I wanted to know what polls were still open, where the Electoral College tally fell, and granular vote return details about other battleground states. I had an unquenchable thirst for data. I wanted all of the data in my hands and in real time.

Whether it started with my love for Google Analytics, a 24-hour cable news cycle, or the nature of the web in general, I have become a fiend for finding the “purest” data and interpreting it myself. I don’t like the talking heads on the news stations. I obviously cannot trust a poll—not even from FiveThirtyEight.com or RealClearPolitics.com it would seem. Where could I get reliable data that wasn’t tainted by Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC?

The New York Times delivered. They understood two critical words: DATA. VISUALIZATION. Their election night portion of their website was more than a phenomenal display of data, but the user design created an environment where the tidal wave of numbers made sense to an Excel-impaired creative like me.

Storytelling Worked For Visualizing Election Data

From metered dials and county-level maps to precinct reports and probability percentage of a specific outcome was both addictive and intoxicating. In short—the data told a story. It was a story that captivated me and was continually being refreshed.

Presidential Election Data Dials

From national level “outcome dials” to more local results, the New York Times delivered easy to understand visuals.

State of Michigan Presidential Election Breakdown

Critical battleground states (MI shown) were mapped, but were just the prelude of the data storytelling.

Presidential Data Visualization in Michigan

Clickable county-by-county returns showed more than just vote counts, but also the number of precincts outstanding. This brief historical perspective helped give context to the data.

Michigan Predictive Dials

Easy to understand forecasting data dials gave users the ability to draw their own conclusions based on returns.

Why Does Data Visualization Matter?

A professional colleague and phenomenal technical communicator once impressed on me the difference between data and information. Data is the raw material. Information is the finished product. Data visualization is important because it lays out the raw materials in an effective fashion allowing you to develop your own finished product. The faster and easier you arrive at the finished product or conclusion the more valuable the design.

The New York Times has a great history of recognizing great design. I believe this risk-taking by developing a great user experience for their data paid off. From being used by cable news stations to being my second (primary, really) screen during the returns demonstrates that being a data source can be even more critical than being an information source.

Conclusion— Be a Data Storyteller

I believe the New York Times just set a high bar for election data visualization. However, data is used by so many industries in countless ways. Look at your own business. How could your data tell a story? Not all data needs to flow in real time, maybe it is a bit more static. Whether it comes as an infographic, a dashboard, or an interactive app, make sure your data visualization is telling a story your community would like to engage.

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are now followed by Giving Tuesday, a day dedicated to charitable giving. Made popular by social media, this philanthropic effort is gaining wide popularity and participation by businesses and non-profit organizations alike. For 2016, Giving Tuesday falls on November 29th. Read on to learn how non-profits and businesses can get involved.

 

What Is Giving Tuesday?

In 2012, New York’s 92nd Street Y, a Jewish cultural and community organization, partnered with the United Nations Foundation to begin Giving Tuesday as a global day of giving. Three years later the day is growing in popularity and becoming more recognizable.  As the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving approaches there are ways to get involved.
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Digital Content Specialist

Signalfire is pleased to announce the addition of Mr. Ian Harris as
Digital Content Specialist.

This new position will be in charge of strategic content planning, content development, and writing online content. Duties will include managing social media platforms, writing company blogs, developing website content, and implementing email marketing campaigns for clients in a variety of industries.

“It is the Digital Content Specialist’s responsibility to develop great lines of communication with clients,” says Harris. “I’ll strive to share each brand’s unique story and tell it through a variety of digital channels.”

Ian graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism with an Advertising emphasis. He comes with experience as a Marketing Assistant in the construction and service industry. Previously he consulted for a small music company helping to enhance and build its digital brand through blog writing, social media management, and email campaigns.

“Ian is passionate about helping businesses achieve their marketing goals,” says Matthew Olson, founder and owner of Signalfire. “His belief that ‘every brand has a story worth sharing’ perfectly fits Signalfire’s client-driven culture.”

To learn more about Ian or the rest of Signalfire’s team, visit our team page. If you’re looking to develop some fantastic web content for blogs, social media, or most any other outlet—ask for a quote.

Bryan Giese, Project Manager at Signalfire, will be a volunteer escort for a Korean War veteran on the September 17th Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to Washington DC. Volunteers who escort Stars and Stripes Honor Flight veterans, also called Guardians, go through a stringent process and are required to cover their own expenses—including air fare.

“I applied to be a Guardian three years ago,” says Signalfire’s Giese, “at the time, I doubted the chance would come.”

All of that changed over the summer when Giese received a voicemail from Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. (more…)

Madison-based LSM Chiropractic coordinated with Badger Group of Fort Atkinson and Signalfire of Delavan to launch an award-winning, mobile responsive website. Launched in Spring 2016, LSM Chiropractic’s new website is easier for visitors to navigate, provides more options for potential patients, and mobile-specific features helpful for users driving to or making an appointment.

“The user experience is critical,” says Sarah Lobdell, Project Manager at Signalfire, the Delavan-based digital agency who designed and constructed the website, “A great mobile experience was LSM’s priority.”

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10 Things Your Marketing Outfitters Want You to Know Before Developing a Great Website

1.) Websites Are Born

Successful websites are born. Websites need care, attention, and a steady diet of content to make it on the web. We strongly advise against building a website and just letting it sit.

2.) Build Your Website Right, The First Time

No half-baked plans or development shortcuts with Signalfire. It might take us a bit longer and our budget might be a bit higher, but we build websites for the long haul.

3.) The Cost to Develop A Website Is More Than Programming

Developing a website is more than programming costs. There are four main segments in planning your website budget. Domain name, hosting, development, and maintenance. Read about them here.

4.) Content is Everything

Great website content powers successful websites. Clients are responsible for writing the content. If you need help writing content, we can help. While you know your business best our writers can sit with you to create fantastic written content.

5.) The Power of Photography

Impactful websites also need stunning photography. If you don’t have photography, we can recommend some great photographers. Stock photos will work in a pinch. Don’t just pull images from Google Image Search. You will get a lovely cease and desist letter from the image owner or a bill from the photographer. Yes, they win in court.

6.) SEO Is Not a One-Time Thing

Being successful with search engines is a priority for every website owner. Good search performance takes time, a lot of content, and keeping your website up to date. Nothing happens overnight.

7.) Live and Die By Metrics

Learn to love data. Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console will give you in-depth insight into the customers coming to your website. This is where the real search engine performance happens.

8.) Your Computer Versus My Computer

No two web browsers are alike which means your website will display slightly differently across different browsers and operating systems. From the wide variety of devices to the even wider variety of user options, understanding that few users will see the website exactly the same way is important.

9.) Murphy’s Law

When you have a website, stuff happens. Hosting will go down. Your website might get hacked. You will lose your password. Please stay calm. It will happen to everyone at some point. Signalfire can help address stuff when it happens.

10.) Even Websites Have a Shelf Life

A website will be ready for a redesign in about two (2) to three (3) years. In about that much time, enough will have changes for mobile devices, browsers, and user behavior that a redesign will make sense. Plan for it by making a list of websites you like and websites you don’t. Assemble a list of features and functions that might become crucial to your marketing efforts. Most importantly — never stop updating your website.

Looking for more help to get ready for your website development? We’ve created several worksheets to help. Otherwise, request a quote from Signalfire.

Small Business Website Development Worksheet

Small Business Website Development Worksheet

E-Commerce Project Worksheet

E-Commerce Website Planning Worksheet

Building a Website Involves More Than Just Development

When planning website development, don’t overlook the details that fall outside traditional website development costs.

There are a lot of considerations when building a website. Most small businesses and non-profits immediately look to the programming and design as the only elements that impact budget. There are additional considerations that can have a huge impact on the development process. Considering details such as choosing a domain name or selecting the right maintenance plan can give you a more realistic outlook for budgeting.

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Signalfire, a Delavan-based branding and digital agency, announced the new tourism website for Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center (www.sturgeonbay.net) in Door County and the website for Madison-based Chiropractic group LSM Chiropractic (www.lsmchiro.com) have both received Graphic Design USA’s 2016 American Web Design Award.

Graphic Design USA’s annual American Web Design Award received over 1,200 entries in 2016. Winners were selected based on design, user experience quality, and quality of web development.

“We’re honored to receive recognition,” says Signalfire’s owner Matthew Olson, “our team of designers and developers worked hard to make both websites a real success. This award recognizes their creativity, expertise, and passion.”

Sturgeon Bay Door County Website DevelopmentSturgeon Bay Visitor Center Website Sets Standard for Tourism Promotion

“The Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center website needed to deliver an incredible user experience,” says Lisa Oren, Signalfire’s project manager for tourism-related clients. “From our initial creative designs to the details of the customized business membership experience—the website has been an incredible example of what Signalfire can do.”

“Signalfire has been our marketing partner since 2007,” says Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center’s Executive Director, Pam Sieler. “When the time came to develop a fresh, new website, we knew Signalfire was the best choice.”

The Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center is a fully mobile responsive website and features a sortable, searchable business directory; a printable community calendar; a member support system that allows every business member to login to make edits, renew subscriptions, and place calendar events; and a host of other features to make it a premier tourism website.

Madison Website DesignLSM Chiropractic Website Meant for Mobile

“Mobile users were the priority,” says Sarah Lobdell, project manager at Signalfire. “From brainstorming the first sketches to rolling out the finished website, keeping a great mobile experience was our primary goal.”

LSM Chiropractic needed a website that helped patients make appointments, find a chiropractor that accepted their insurance, get directions to the nearest location, and provide a library of useful information ranging from exercise videos to product suggestions. Each feature had to function and look beautiful on mobile devices.

“It’s a compliment to our creative team and our development team,” says Olson. “LSMChiro.com has become the website we showcase for mobile user experience.”

Signalfire continues to develop a reputation for creative marketing, website design, and brand strategy.

“We’re known for our website design, but we’ve also won awards in logo design, graphic design, and video production,” says Olson. “We’re a full service design agency serving clients in numerous industries across North America.”

Signalfire provides award-winning design and creative services that include logo design, graphic design, web design, social media management, email marketing, content management, and video production. To contact Signalfire, click here or call (262) 725-4500.

Signalfire’s Matthew Olson will be presenting a special breakout website marketing session at the Walworth County Business EXPO and Career Fair on Tuesday, April 19th at 10:15 am. The presentation, “NOW WHAT? What to do with your business website AFTER launch” will offer small businesses and non-profit organizations insight into website maintenance and marketing strategies to make the most of their web presence. Discussions will include search engine strategies, email marketing, social media, and blogging.

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Website Design For Industrial Vacuuming and Environmental Services Company Focuses On Great User Experience

Great Lakes Power Vac’s new easy-to-use website focuses on delivering content to its visitors. Through educational materials like blog posts and white papers, visitors can familiarize themselves with the many services the company provides.

Great Lakes Power Vac (GLPV) contracted with Signalfire, an award-winning digital marketing agency in Delavan to develop the website. Signalfire began with an extensive needs analysis of GLPV.

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Newest edition showcases over 250 members and countless activities in Door County’s largest city.

Signalfire is proud to announce the publication of the 2016 Activity Guide for Sturgeon Bay, Door County. Working in conjunction with the Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center in the heart of one of Wisconsin’s busiest tourism regions, the 2016 Activity Guide contains useful travel and destination information for Door County’s largest and busiest city.

“This represents the tenth year Signalfire has coordinated with Sturgeon Bay Visitor Center in developing this activity guide,” says Signalfire owner Matthew Olson. “We’re thrilled to be part of SBVC’s team in promoting such a dynamic city.”

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Many small businesses have been using social media wrong. Very wrong.

Small businesses and many non-profit organizations have been trying to build audiences on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and likely several others. Growing the number of fans, followers, and subscribers is a mission because it is an easy metric to measure. Small businesses see audience building as a way to increase customers or leads. Increasing engagement on social media brings about more leads, so naturally a business will want to engage as large of an audience as possible.

And it’s here where you’ve been getting it all wrong.

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Whether your small business is manufacturing tight tolerance sanitary pumps or offering bookkeeping services to fellow small businesses, improved search engine performance requires getting good content on your website. Regularly.

For years, most businesses labored under the misconception when it came to search performance that great content didn’t matter as much as some secret lines of programming. Search engine optimization (SEO) was this secret wizardry that was only shared with a select few at an astronomical price. Nothing is further from the truth.

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Delavan Website Launch

Aram Public Library in Delavan announces the launch of a newly designed logo and interactive website. Both logo and website were designed by Signalfire, an award winning creative agency also located in Delavan. A colorful logo will begin to be distributed in the coming weeks. The website features a design friendly to mobile phones and tablets as well as easy access to Aram’s many inter-library programs.

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Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are now followed by Giving Tuesday, a day dedicated to charitable giving. Made popular by social media, this philanthropic effort is gaining wide popularity and participation by businesses and non-profit organizations alike. For 2015, Giving Tuesday falls on December 1st. Read on to learn how non-profits and businesses can get involved.

Save-the-date-blue2

What Is Giving Tuesday?

In 2012, New York’s 92nd Street Y, a Jewish cultural and community organization, partnered with the United Nations Foundation to begin Giving Tuesday as a global day of giving. Three years later the day is growing in popularity and becoming more recognizable.  As the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving approaches there are ways to get involved.
(more…)

Delavan Lake Boat Shed Launches New Website

Delavan Lake Boat Shed, a wooden and classic boat repair and restoration company, has launched a new mobile responsive website showcasing their specialized craft. The website features extensive imagery of their craftsmanship and finished products ranging from classic wooden Kingfisher kayaks to Chris Craft pleasure boats from the 1920’s. To develop the website, Delavan Lake Boat Shed turned to Signalfire, an award-winning agency also based in Delavan.

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SF-Headshot_Giese_300Signalfire welcomes Bryan Giese as a Project Manager for the award-winning creative agency based in Delavan. Bryan will bring added value to an already strong team of professionals. As a recent marketing graduate from Madison College (formerly Madison Area Technical College), Bryan brings fresh ideas for social media and inbound marketing strategies.

While a recent graduate for marketing, Bryan brings over a decade of experience in the health care industry as an operating room / emergency room nurse, EMT, and volunteer fire fighter. His marketing experience has been with Andretti Sports Marketing as well as freelance work with small businesses.

“I’m thrilled to join Signalfire,” says Giese. “Signalfire’s range of services and fresh approach to small business marketing is exciting, but the collaborative culture made me want to be a part of the team.”

“From our first interview, we knew Bryan would fit right in,” says Matthew Olson, Signalfire’s President. “We’ve got a tight-knit team and we sought someone who had the right skills but also the right personality. Bryan’s people skills, organization, and experience all clicked with the entire team.”

Giese will be focused on overseeing new clients as well as working with existing clients in the manufacturing and construction industries. Bryan can be reached by email and (262) 725-4500. You can learn more about Signalfire online at www.Signalfire.us.

Signalfire, a Delavan-based award winning creative digital and branding agency, has won two 2015 Telly Awards in collaboration with Drywater Productions and Lakeland Animal Shelter. The Telly Awards has honored the very best film and video productions, groundbreaking online video content, and outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs for 36 years.

Telly Award WinnerSignalfire was awarded the 2015 Award for Fundraising Promotion Online Video Online Webisodes, Segments, or Promotional Pieces- Charitable Not-for-Profit and the 2015 Award for Fundraising Promotion Online Video-Online Webisodes, Segments, or Promotional Pieces-Fund Raising. The video was entitled Lakeland Animal Shelter’s Extreme Shelter Makeover and was produced to promote the capital campaign for Lakeland Animal Shelter, located in Elkhorn, WI.

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Signalfire launches WCEDA website

Walworth County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) has launched a newly redesigned website created by Delavan-based digital marketing agency, Signalfire. WCEDA is the county’s lead economic development agency that works with the state, regional and local business development organizations to create customized solutions supporting economic growth.

WCEDA was created in 2003 with the mission statement: Walworth County Economic Development Alliance is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Walworth County residents by working with public and private sector partners to advance efforts that create jobs and build private sector investment in our communities.

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On Friday May 8th, Lakeland Animal Shelter unveiled a new video during the Second Chances Dinner, the non-profit organizations premier fundraising gala at The Abbey Resort. The eight-minute video was produced by Signalfire, a Delavan-based award winning digital marketing agency, and was shown to nearly 300 attendees. Signalfire was asked to produce the new video after the success of the Extreme Shelter Makeover promotional video, which launched earlier this spring.

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New Camp Edwards Website

Camp Edwards, a historic YMCA camp in East Troy, Wisconsin, has launched a newly redesigned website, www.CampEdwards.org, to better communicate with camp attendees, camp families, and organizations. Built with WordPress, one of the leading open source content management platforms, the Camp Edwards site boasts a variety of customized features that will showcase the amenities and staff that has been hosting campers since 1929.

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Five Ways To Make Your Content Awesome

Content is what powers marketing. Imagine that all of your marketing tools are vehicles. Search engines, social media, email marketing, blogs, traditional media, advertising, and everything else out there are vehicles driving traffic to your website. To make each of those vehicles run, they need fuel. Content is fuel. The better the fuel, the better your marketing vehicles run. Well tuned and fully fueled marketing vehicles mean success for your business or organization.

Here are five quick rules f0r taking your online content from ho-hum to search engine magnets.

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Facebook has rolled out a new feature for your business or organization page, and it could make an impact to your use of the social media platform. If you haven’t visited your Facebook page recently, you might notice a new button in the top cover image area. This small button prompts the user to click more than just the “Like” button.

The “Create Call to Action” button is a small addition that will give the user the ability to be linked to an outside website. The “Call to Action” button may sound like common sense from a marketing perspective, but this button represents an important shift in your relationship with Facebook. Instead of just being able to drive traffic through post links, you now have the ability to drive traffic directly from your Business page. (more…)