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The Rise and Fall of BlackBerry

blackberry_logo-brokenWe all remember the “CrackBerry” craze during the early 2000’s. Everywhere you went you saw both business professionals and everyday people typing away on a small device, the BlackBerry. The company had all of America in the palm of their hand, so what happened that we don’t all have Blackberries in the palm of ours? The fall of BlackBerry is still a wonder to most people. How can a company with almost 50% of the smartphone market in 2010 fall all the way to a measly 5% in just a matter of 5 years?

Blackberry was formed in 1984. Originally named Research In Motion (RIM), they worked in the market of wireless point-of–sale equipment as well as modems and pagers. RIM was the first to make the transition from pager to handheld computer and eventually to the smartphone we came to love.

In 1998 the first “BlackBerry” was launched. The name Blackberry came from the appearance of patented keyboard design which was easy for typing with thumbs. This first BlackBerry caught the attention of not only consumers but other companies such as IBM and BellSouth (which eventually became AT&T).

The craze continued to build as they launched devices slowly resembling more and more the Blackberry that commonly comes to mind when thinking of the company. With the launch of Apple’s iPhone in 2007, BlackBerry made their first mistake that lead to their fall. Co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin viewed the iPhone as a toy and not as a serious competitor, saying that consumers don’t want to type on glass when they can type on real keys. They felt as though they had secured a loyal fan base of both business professionals and everyday consumers.

BlackBerry peaked in 2010 with an estimated worth of $77 Billion and a 50% share of the smartphone market. In this year they launched their first touchscreen phone as well as their most popular phone, BlackBerry Bold.

In 2011 Apple launched the original iPad which tested the potential of the tablet market. Trying to get a piece of that market, BlackBerry made their second mistake. By assigning more engineers to work on developing a tablet of their own, the development of phones slowed. Unfortunately, their tablet, the PlayBook, was launched and instantly flopped. This started the never ending game of catch up which ultimately caused their downfall.

In addition, BlackBerry delayed the launch of their new operating system, BlackBerry 10. Originally planned to be released in 2011, it was pushed back to 2012 which didn’t actually launch until 2013. Although BlackBerry had more experience over their iOS and Android competitors in the smartphone market, with this delay they had lost their lead. By this point, Android devices were into their fourth major generation and Apple iOS was on its sixth generation of operating system.

It is currently unknown what BlackBerry plans to do. It is rumored that they are on the search for a buyer, which raises more questions. Who would buy a company that has fallen so far behind? Will the company be sold as parts or as a whole? What will the buyer plan to do with the company? All these are likely to be answered soon.

As for now, we can sit back and learn from the rise and fall of Blackberry. There are clearly more than a few things that lead to their demise but we’ll focus on a few of the big mistakes and see how they can apply to any business.

  • They ignored the competition Keeping an eye on your competitors is very important. When you don’t pay attention to what they are doing you lose track of the direction the industry is heading.
  • They didn’t focus on their bread and butter – Every business specializes in some area. In the case of BlackBerry it was their smartphones. By taking away resources from their specialty and trying to focus on another aspect (the tablet market) they fell behind and lost what made them a successful business in the first place.
  • They didn’t stay up to date – The biggest and most obvious mistake BlackBerry made was not staying up to date. They felt that they had a large and loyal fan base and didn’t have to worry about having the newest, flashiest technology and products. Meanwhile, their competitors were making large advancements. By the time BlackBerry realized this it was too late to catch up and they had lost many of their “loyal” customers. A business can never assume that they have loyal customers. By constantly striving for improvements the chance of losing client base is greatly reduced.

In all honesty, it’s sad to see a company lead an industry and rise to the top only to be taken down by a series of poor decisions. But there are lessons to learn from the misfortune of BlackBerry. Keeping an eye on the competition, focusing on what makes your business special and keeping up to date with the industry we’ve all learned to be crucial.

Is it time to update your site? Contact us with any questions and we will be happy to help you.

6 Signs It’s Time For a New Site

The speed that technology advances is getting faster and faster. Once you actually get the hang of the phone you have the next model is already out. The internet is no different. From social media to SEO, it is changing daily. Website designs change to comply with the increase in mobile traffic and incorporate social media, content needs to be changed as visitors expect more and more visual content. If you’re wondering if it’s time for a new site here are some key points to take a look at.6 signs

  1. It doesn’t work well on mobile- Many older sites don’t load correctly on mobile devices. It is often hard to read the content or difficult to navigate the site. With around 50% of site visits being on mobile devices this means if a site is not mobile friendly, users get frustrated and a site may lose about half of it’s potential visits/conversions.
  1. It’s slow- Let’s be honest, we love instant gratification. Studies show that a page with a load time of 4 seconds resulted in a 25% drop in traffic. That may seem a little crazy but when it comes to the internet we want and expect it in the blink of an eye.
  1. It’s hard to update content- Content management systems have come a long way over the years. They now make it easy for anyone to go in and change content and keep the information current without needing a whole team to edit code to update.
  1. You’ve outgrown the site you have now- This point is by no means a bad one. If your business has outgrown your site congratulations you’re running a successful company! There are different reasons you may have outgrown it. Maybe you made the original site shortly after startup and have since added more services or products. It may be more difficult to navigate the site with these added items. Or perhaps you’ve changed the image of the company or shifted the primary focus. A revamp of the site to more accurately represent the business is a great plan to continue to grow.
  1. Users aren’t converting- The whole point of having a site for your business is to generate leads or make sales. If your site isn’t getting either of these but is getting decent traffic it may be time to consider a redesign. High bounce rates, short time on site, and low page views are pretty good indicators that the time has come.  There are different reasons why users may not be converting. Poor landing pages with content that doesn’t give users the information they were looking for, a lack of calls to action, or it could simply be because there haven’t been and conversions set up.
  1. No social media- Social media has become a huge part of business. It not only helps generate leads but keeps current customers up to date on what the business is doing. If your site doesn’t have links to the company’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. you’re missing out on a great opportunity to interact with users.

If you’re having any of these issues, or if your site was made in Windows 95, it may be time to ditch it and consider a redesign. If you need some help or have any questions we are more than willing to assist you.

What I’ve Learned at TKG

I have been interning here at TKG for a little over two months. Sometimes it feels like time has flown. With just a few short weeks left I thought now would be a good time to reflect on my time here and what I’ve learned.

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With this internship brought many firsts. My first internship, I couldn’t have asked for a better company to intern with. As anyone would be, I was a little nervous to start the job. From day one each and every employee was kind and helpful. It also brought my first look into the industry. We learn all about business in school, but learning isn’t doing. The Karcher Group set a good program for a first time intern to lead me into the world of marketing and web design. Being that all my previous jobs were outdoor labor intensive jobs (such as grounds crew on a golf course) this is my first office job. For those who have worked both types of jobs you know how different they are. There was a period of adjustments and a learning curve.

Since being here I have worked on various projects ranging from social media libraries for clients to assisting in the development of a new site. With these I learned programs to complete the project including content management systems and Google Analytics and have become Google Analytic certified. With each project I find it becomes easier to know exactly what we want the end result to be and how to get there. I’ve also been able to see which parts on the industry I love and which parts maybe not so much.

They say that happy employees are hardworking employees. At The Karcher Group I’ve been able to see how true that really is. There seems to be something going on almost every day. With employees riding scooters through the office, playing foosball, darts, and pool it’s clearly a fun work environment. At a glance it may look like it is all fun and games but employees here play hard and work harder. In fact, each month an employee is elected by fellow employees and awarded the brain award for outstanding work and get to spin for various prizes from gift cards to extra vacation days. This is just one of the ways they show appreciation for the hard work put in by their employees.

As a first time intern I really had no idea what to expect. Going based off the stereotypical intern I thought I would be getting coffee and doing all the stuff around the office no one else wanted to. Within the first week I knew it was anything but a typical internship. I was already being taught programs and tools on the first day and was given projects shortly after. Although I only have a few short weeks left I have really enjoyed my time at TKG and am excited to see what I can learn in my remaining time.

Google Tag Manager

TagManagerRecently I have been putting quite a bit of effort into rolling out Google Tag Manager for many of our client sites. It has been a rewarding process and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

First, what is Google Tag Manager?

One of the foundational building blocks of a website is the tag. It is a way that functionality can be added to the site in a fairly simple manner. The functionality can range from tracking activity and usage to adding features like chat to a site. Each one of these tags is generally pretty simple and easy to understand, but as the number and complexity of the tags increases the challenge of keeping track of them and making sure they are on the correct pages also grows. This is where Google Tag Manager comes in. It allows us to place a single tag called a container on the site and then add and remove tags to that container based on a variety of rules.

Once the container is in place tags can be added to the site without needing to touch the templates or source code, which greatly reduces the risk that something can go wrong when adding a tag. It also makes it much more simple to change or update a tag when needs change.

There is another benefit that I really appreciate: the ability to test tags before they are rolled out. This allows a set of tags to be tested on the site before they are rolled out to all users. This has been especially helpful when trying to troubleshoot complex tags.

This is just scratching the surface of what can be done with Tag Manager, but hopefully it is enough to give a glimpse into why I’m so excited about using it. If managing tags is something that you could use help with, get in touch with us, we would love to help you out.

It’s Not You, It’s Facebook…

If you manage a Facebook business page, you may start seeing a decrease in likes over the next few weeks (or maybe you have already seen it). But don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong!

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Facebook recently made an announcement that it will be removing page likes for any memorialized or voluntarily deactivated accounts. So if you saw a significant dip in your numbers, it was because this action was done all at once and not slowly over time. This isn’t a bad thing; Facebook is just making it so that your message is reaching people who are actually USING Facebook. So what does this mean?

A Deactivated Account

A user can choose to temporarily deactivate a Facebook account at any time. This does not delete the account; it just sets it in a state of suspended animation if you will. All of the information is preserved so if the user chooses to reactivate the account, all of the information previously listed on their profile will still be there when they get back (including liked pages).

What this means for you?

When a user deactivates their account, it will appear in your Facebook insights report as a page “unlike.” Once the page is reactivated, it will show up as a new like. No harm, no foul.

A Memorialized Account

Another new feature rolled out by Facebook is the Memorialized account. Memorialized accounts are a way for people on Facebook to remember and celebrate those who have passed. A living user can actually identify a legacy contact that can access a person’s Facebook account in the event of their death.

A legacy contact will have the option to share a final message to old friends and respond to new friend requests. Legacy contacts cannot log into your account, remove or change existing posts or read your direct messages.

What this means for you?

When a Facebook account is confirmed as memorialized, it will appear in your Facebook insights report as a page “unlike.”

In short – Facebook wants to make sure that you are speaking to your real audience. By eliminating deactivated and memorialized accounts, you now have a more accurate representation of your actual audience.

Are you interested in expanding your Facebook reach a little further but don’t think you have the time? Send us a message – the brains here at TKG can put together an entire social management strategy to help support and grow your business.

 

ARE YOU MAXIMIZING YOUR WEBSITE FOR LEAD GENERATION?

Lead-GenerationBusinesses are focused on using their websites as a source of new customers. In fact, nearly 50% of B2B buyers indicate that the most likely way they find sales information is to go directly to a supplier website. As a result, companies are investing in site optimization to ensure they have user-focused content designed specifically to convert visitors into inbound sales leads.

Powerful content may include benefits of what you offer, case studies of your products and services, customer testimonials and lots of answers to the key question of ‘Why you?’

So, how well is your site performing in lead generation? Assume that a potential customer has explored the entirety of your website content. You have them excited about starting a sales dialogue with you. How do you translate that excitement into action? Below are several simple guidelines to maximize your inbound lead opportunities on your website.

  • Effective lead capturing requires a proactive mindset – Provide focused attention on the conversion goal right on your home page. Don’t force your visitors to initiate contact.
  • Provide more than your ‘Contact Us’ page – Many websites don’t have effective paths for customer prospects to start the dialogue. By default, it’s often the ‘Contact Us’ page. In many instances, the ‘Contact Us’ page is largely reactive and inadequate as a customer acquisition path. To increase more inbound leads, consider adding more navigation links to your ‘Contact Us’ page as well as strategically place ‘call-to-action’ options on sales-focused content pages.
  • Give visitors a reason to contact you –If the only inbound leads you are getting from your website are from the ‘Contact Us’ page, you might want to consider offering more call-to-action paths. Examples of lead generation call-to-actions include scheduling a sales demo, joining a webinar, getting a quote and signing up for a special offer.
  • Don’t rely solely on form submissions – Adding call-to-action (CTA) options such as call tracking or live chat can be very effective in generating incremental leads. In fact, many consider it a competitive advantage for visitors to have multiple contact options to consider when converting interest into lead generation.
  • Respond promptly – Once customer interest has been sparked, it’s up to you to respond and satisfy the initial itch. If you don’t, then a competitor eventually will.

Your inbound website leads are like gold, and there are simple measures to consider assuring you’re maximizing lead engagement on your website. First of all, make sure you’re utilizing every possible CTA option in maximizing lead generation opportunities on your website. Secondly, make sure you’re enabling your sales team to capitalize on the inbound leads you’re generating. Be proactive with your website so it delivers the results you’re looking for.  Maximize your lead opportunities!

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Parallax Web Design: What I Think

parralax scrollingThe other day I was chatting with one of my buddies and he asked me, “hey Andrew – as a web guy, what do you think of the moving scrolly stuff that sites are doing now?”  He was speaking of the emerging design technique called Parallax scrolling as seen on some new highly visible websites such as Spotify, Sony, and dare I say, Google?  So I gave him my 2 cents and thought, “I should write that down.”  So here I am, writing it down!

Generally speaking, I like Parallax Scrolling.  I believe it’s taking web design to the next level and raising the bar, forcing agencies to rethink their “best-practices” and to continue innovating with the web.  However, I also believe there are right and wrong situations to use Parallax Scrolling.

First, let me speak to the technical side of this new technique.  It uses HTML5 and javascript to achieve a vertical, scrolling, storytelling experience.  Usually, content is presented to the visitor in a linear fashion displaying one topic at a time and in the order that’s the most intuitive depending on the subject matter.  HTML5 is key here in maintaining search engine credibility as it allows content to be separated into <section> tags, each section allowing their own <h1>’s to head each topic.  This allows search engines to take into account each section as a relevant topic of content that this web page covers.  It’s almost as if HTML5 were built for this kind of content presentation!  What this also does is keep a very consistent experience on any device.  Mobile devices work best when scrolling top to bottom, so this allows desktops to adopt the same usability and presentation via the “mobile first” design trend.

So from a technical standpoint, there aren’t any hangups in my book.  This brings us to the question, “when should Parallax Scrolling be used?”  I find it to be most effective under several circumstances:

  1. When content is more important than functionality
  2. When controlling the order by which content presented is of particular importance
  3. When there’s a definitive conversion required at the end of the presentation

Put simply, Parallax Scrolling is best used when the page is dedicated to telling a story of some kind.  If we look to our examples above, we see just that.  Sony is telling the story of their new “Be Moved” campaign.  A visitor may not know anything about it at the start, so Sony can safely present the information one topic at a time to fully explain the story bit by bit, without confusion.  Similarly, the Google Nexus 5 page tells the story of their new Nexus 5 smartphone and what makes it stand out from the crowd.  Google highlights each point of the new phone starting with the basics, then getting into each aspect of the phone that consumers are looking for, ordered by importance. Lastly, Spotify – if a visitor doesn’t know what Spotify is or how it works (for shame!) they can simply scroll down to learn all of the bullets that make it great without being overwhelmed with blocks of text and competing elements.

So when should we NOT use Parallax Scrolling?

  1. When functionality is essential.  I suspect that you won’t be seeing any workable Parallax user interfaces for some time.
  2. When several different topics need to be presented at once.  I don’t believe you’ll see any popular news website benefit from this technique.
  3. When ads need to have a home.  Parallax is so clean, ads just muck up the whole idea.

I’m certain that there are more reasons pro and against using Parallax in certain situations, but these should cover the biggest areas for concern.

So, back to my conversation with my buddy.  As I relayed this information to him, he was unimpressed and is thoroughly set on hating Parallax scrolling in any incarnation.  Ah well, not everyone can be convinced!  Let me know what you think about Parallax scrolling in the comments below.

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5 Ways Businesses Are Using Creative Content to Increase Engagement

If you are a business on social media, chances are you are always looking for new ways to boost engagement. When you want to increase your likes, shares and comments without increasing your social media budget, your best bet is to develop creative and unexpected content.

Here are five ways that successful brands have leveraged creative content to increase customer engagement:

  1. Dove tugs on your heartstrings – The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty utilizes creative advertising strategies like the ultra-popular Real Beauty Sketches video to change women’s perceptions of beauty.These viral marketing tactics are more than just shallow ploys for likes and shares. Dove delivers sharable content that shows a profound understanding of its target audience.
  2. Lays wants to know what you think – The original Lays Do Us a Flavor contest was one of the most successful and recognizable examples of user-generated content in social media history. The contest asked users to invent new potato chip flavors and vote to keep to best flavors around.Although the Do Us a Flavor campaign was great at generating engagement, the caveat to user-generated content is that it typically requires a pretty hefty incentive for participation (In this case, a $1 million cash prize).
  3. Coca-Cola stops you in your tracks – The Coca-Cola Happiness Machine surprises customers with free drinks and other unexpected gifts. This unique vending machine forces customers to stop what they are doing and share some happiness with the people around them.Coca-Cola brilliantly uses hidden cameras to document these happiness exchanges and publishes the videos on YouTube. These videos help spread Coca-Cola happiness and engagement in the social space.
  4. Arby’s and Oreo watch what you watch – Real-time content creation helps users see brands as more relevant members of their social communities. Who can forget the Oreo dunk in the dark tweet, or Arby’s genius response to Pharrell’s hat at the 2014 Grammy’s?The catch with real time marketing is that you should only interact during events that make sense for your brand; otherwise you might end up confusing your audience.
  5. Taco Bell has a life of its own – When brands have strong personalities on social media; they are able to build lasting relationships with their target audience. Taco bell knows that it is a fast-food restaurant and its audience is not super interested in gluten or calorie counting. It embraces this persona and runs with it in all of its communication.A little personification can go a long way in developing brand loyalty. Customers and social media users want brands to post content they can relate to, and Taco Bell totally nails it.

Social media users won’t engage with content just because a brand follows best practice guidelines. Users want to engage with brands that understand them, and produce content that makes them feel something. Creative content is a quick and effective way to boost engagement, as long as you do it in a way that makes sense for your brand.

Google Analytics Basics: What Devices Are Your Site Visitors Using?

Knowing whether your visitors are using a smartphone or desktop computer to browse your site is an extremely important piece of information. Analyzing device data in Google Analytics can provide you with helpful insight regarding how you should lay content out on your site as well as how it should be developed.

Want to know how to get this data? Follow these quick steps!

  1. Login to your Google Analytics account and go to the profile you’re interested in viewing.
  2. Click on the “Audience > Mobile > Overview” tab in the left hand column. This overview tab will tell you whether your visitors are using a desktop computer, mobile phone or a tablet.

If you want to dig deeper, click on the “Audience > Mobile > Devices tab in the left hand column. This devices tab will break down the mobile traffic down by specific device, i.e. iPhone vs. Droid.

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Once you know what devices visitors are using to access your site, you can make smarter decisions about what kind of information might be important to them and how to best lay it out. TKG believes that all sites should be designed responsively, so that no matter what screen size or device someone is using, they will have the best possible experience on your site – and this data can help you figure out what that best experience is.

Want to learn more about Google Analytics? See my previous post on Sessions vs. Pageviews, and stay tuned for more great tips! Prefer an in person session? Join us in person at TKG’s Google Analytics Basics Breakfast Bootcamp on August 21st . Click here to register for this FREE session! I look forward to meeting you!

Epic Content Marketing: 5 Key Elements You Need to Know

joe pulizziI mentioned a few weeks ago the privilege I had to hear Joe Pulizzi speak at the Interaction Marketing Summit hosted by The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron. Pulizzi’s approach toward outcome merited its own blog post, but I wouldn’t ever want to discount the epic message that he conveyed during the event.

So if you have a website, you have content. But what exactly is that content doing? Is it sitting stagnant? Is it fodder for your next Facebook post? According to Pulizzi, 90% of all companies are doing some form of content marketing, but sadly only 40% believe that their content is successful. And let’s face it, at least 10% of those people are painfully optimistic (but that’s my own deduction).

So how DO you become a successful content marketer? According to Pulizzi, if you follow these five key elements, you will be on your way to successful content marketing.

  1. Sales, Savings & Sunshine – This is the WHY question that should be applied to your content strategy. Just because everyone else has a Facebook page doesn’t make it the best platform for your business. So as you are generating your content and pushing it out, be sure to ask WHY. Does your eNewsletter initiate sales, savings or sunshine?
    • Sales – content that generates revenue
    • Savings – content that saves money
    • Sunshine – content that makes your customers feel good
  2. Create a Content Marketing Mission Statement – Does your business have a mission statement? Are you living up to that mission? Are your content efforts supporting your mission?
    • Audience – Establish your core target audience and know your niche.
    • Delivery – What will your message deliver? Does it have a purpose?
    • Outcome – Add an outcome column to your content strategy. What is the outcome for the audience?
  3. Don’t Build Your Content Ship on Rented Land – Yep, we’re talking about Facebook (mostly). We’ve all seen our Facebook engagement drop over the past few months. But don’t turn Facebook into your content marketing scapegoat.
    • Customer Data – Know your customer base. Collect customer data, work with your IT department and learn how to gather that customer data that is so valuable to your content message.
    • Focus on your subscribers – What is the difference between those who subscribe to your eNewsletters and your one-off customers?
  4. Leverage Influencers and then Build an Audience – This doesn’t mean hire the mayor for your next car dealership commercial, but if the mayor buys a car from your lot, talk about it, tweet about it, blog about it. If you own a local business, don’t be afraid to tweet to local celebrities, a simple Retweet or Mention can lead to a big boost in followers and can help to spread your message.
    • Make a list – Find 5-10 influencers to target and find ways to incorporate them into your content strategy.
    • It isn’t all about YOU – We find this far too often with social media. Sure, your product or service is awesome and you want to shout it from the rooftop – but try to follow the 4:1:1 rule. Simply put, the rule means that for every one self-promoting tweet, blog post or status update, you should share four new pieces of content and one re-share.
  5. Open Up Your Wallet – This one kind of gave me shivers when I first saw it, but I get it.
    • Pay to Play – As much as we scoff at the idea of boosting our Facebook post just so people who ALREADY like our page can see it, pay to play is becoming the new normal. And do you know what? It’s working. People who pay to boost their posts are getting more engagement when they pay to play, even within their existing audience.
    • Build vs. Buy – Are you looking to expand your market? Before you start from scratch, consider a buy-out. Acquisitions are becoming more popular for brand expansion, even on the local level.

So this was a lot of information, right? Before you dive in head first and wind up flailing around calling for a life preserver, consider starting out slowly. Take one or two of these ideas and perfect them. It might take a few months, it might take a year. Once you have those tactics perfected, add another and another, until your content is truly epic.

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