When you think about web design what do you think of? Perhaps functionality comes to mind. You want something that works. You want a site that will give your views the right information to drive them to become a consumer. With web design the way a website functions and the information shown is so important.

What is Design?

Design is creating a new and unique solution to a problem. Creating logos, branding, websites, wireframes, and all other components needed to give a company, and idea, or a person a visual presence that people can see and connect with. Something that a consumer looks at and knows the brand in question.

With that being said every issue one may come across has to be handle in a very different way. The same rules don’t apply to every element of design and knowing what to do and when is a very important key to successful design. When designing a brand identity, you want to be something that very closely capture the business. The feel of the business, who they are, what they stand for, and in the end something that is going to resonate with customers. You want it all to be visual, you want someone to be able to look what you have designed and understand why you did what you did. With web design its as visual as it is informational. You need to tie in the pre existing brand identity with all the information someone may need while on a website.

You know a design is good when the problem you set out to solve has been solved. You were handed an issue and were trusted to fix it and you know you have done your job when you leave with happy customers and can see that your work has helped create a solution to their problem. The result you aim to achieve may be purely functional, measurable with hard data, or just for experience, which is hard to measure with numbers but you’ll know.

What is Graphic Design?

Well, by dictionary definition, Graphic Design is the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books. This makes the job of a graphic designer seem simple and very easy for someone to complete on their own and see results. That’s not always the case. Graphic Design is a very complex field. There are so many parts to making design work, and when wanting big results branches purely off of your design it is best to let someone in the field do your work for you. They are going to better understand what all needs to go into your design for you to see the best results for your specific issue.

Graphic design includes logos, websites, tattoos, sketches for fashion, industrial design, typefaces, hand lettering, print, animated characters, advertisements, cd covers, flyers, movie credits, newspaper headlines, beverage labels, and so much more. This is just a small part of what can be designed graphically. What they have in common is output that will be consumed through visual media.

What is Web Design?

Web design creating a solution to an issue one has based around web presence. This may mean building something to draw in more customers or simply building the first website because there is no web presence. It also includes graphic design, but it goes further than the purely visual. It stretches to incorporate every aspect of a web experience.

For example, knowing how to lay out the pages in a way that is easy to navigate. Knowing how to place content on each page to draw in customers and keep them on each page long enough to read what’s important. Knowing how to incorporate photos into your site to break up the content and make is more visually stunning.

In the end all of these things are crucial to success. Having a good branding to visually represent your company. Having a great online presence to allow people to see who you are before making contact. Graphic design and Web design go hand in hand. You have to be able to present good graphic design skills to be able to create a visually pleasing website that is going to draw in an audience and increase business. Without graphic design web design just wouldn’t be the same.

Social Media & Reputation Management

What if I said you could eliminate a lot of customer service headaches by using social media?

Imagine going to your favorite fast-food joint and getting home noticing your hamburger doesn’t have the pickles you ordered on it. You love this place so you don’t make it a big deal, you simply go back and have them correct the order. A week goes by and you’re craving a juicy burger again so you go back. Low and behold, you get back to the house and they didn’t put pickles on your burger again. This time you go back, but you’re a little upset considering this place has always made good food and provided great service. What do they do? They correct the order and give you a gift card to use at a later date for the inconvenience. Ever since, your favorite place to get burgers have never messed up an order. They corrected the problem and you’re back to living the good life. Now let’s say you had the same problem at your favorite bakery, but they never corrected the problem and were quite rude to you during the process. Do you think you’ll go back to that bakery? Probably not; you might even write a negative review. Hey, you might even write the review on social media.


Use Social Media as a CRM Tool

Clearly, social media holds some weight and can be used in many different ways. The use of social media has limitless possibilities, one being a tool for customer reputation management. If a person or company has done business with you for a lengthy amount of time, but been having similar issues with your product or service as you did at the burger joint, they would want the problem to be corrected. Social media can be a valuable customer service tool so you can make things right with your customers and make sure they keep doing business with you.


What Can Using Social Media as a CRM Tool Do?

  1. Stop negative reviews and save face with your consumer
  2. Let you be where your customers are (this definitely goes for B2B companies as well. Whether you’re dealing with consumers or companies, everyone is on social media.)
  3. Help you listen to what your customers are saying
  4. Answer questions quickly without making people wait on the phone
  5. Provide transparency to your business, which people like!
  6. Shall I continue?


Final Thoughts

Social media is here to stay and should be a significant part of your marketing campaign. As you can see, social media can play a pivotal role for customer service as well as many other ways too.


How do You Get People to Review Your Business?

For most industries, it can be difficult to get positive reviews. This is most certainly something to focus on considering Google’s algorithm penalizes your company’s organic search results if you have negative reviews.

Bounce Back From Negative Reviews

Have you ever went to Amazon to buy something but looked at the reviews and because most were negative, you decided not to make a purchase?  Most of the time that’s because your customers don’t usually review their gym, grocery store, retail store, and most especially, B2B companies and their products. Most consumers typically review when they have a negative experience.  So what does that mean exactly? Is your company and/or products tarnished for life or will those negative reviews hurt your sales or reputation? The truthful answer is that it absolutely can, but there is also good news: you can bounce back from it. All you have to do is ask for positive reviews from happy customers. Sounds easy, right? Well, let’s take this one step at a time.  

Tip The “Review-Scale”

Capitalize on your happy customers and have them fight on behalf of your brand. As mentioned earlier, i’m sure you have been to Amazon and saw a product or company that had a significant number of negative reviews. I’m also certain you saw negative reviews at one time, but you decided to purchase anyway because the positive reviews drastically outweighed the negative ones.  It’s all about tipping the scales back in your favor and making sure the bulk of your reviews are positive.

Ask for Reviews in Person:

The best way to get reviews is by asking in person. Asking for reviews in person is much more personal than an online initiative, especially if you and the customer had a great experience. For example, let’s say you walked into a health and wellness store, but you don’t know what products would be best for you. When you ask an associate for help, they steer you in the right direction and you two have a lengthy conversation that included anything and everything. If that customer asked you to give an online review so it helped him and  others who are researching where to shop, you would probably be more inclined to do so.

Another way to gather positive reviews is by providing incentive. Research has shown most people respond to free incentives and give-a-ways. For instance, you could start a campaign that gives the customer a chance to win $100 (You may want to do something else, but that’s a start.)

Ask for Reviews via Email

Another way is by asking via email. If you already met the customer, there shouldn’t be a problem reaching out through email. Obviously, if the customer wasn’t happy with the experience then it’s best to leave that person out. You can find out by pre-screening your customers by survey so you don’t rack up the negative reviews (though, let’s hope that never happens.) Email may not perform as well as asking in person, but is still a valuable option to gain positive reviews.

Here are some of the best practices for your email request letter:

  1. Have the email come from a real person’s email address (Even better, have it come from a name they’d recognize, such as someone they worked with).
  2. Have the email written as a personal request from that same person.
  3. Have a very clear call-to-action link/button. Remove random social media or website footer links — just as with good conversion rate optimization, have a singular goal of users clicking the review button.
  4. Test using a plain-text email versus an HTML email.
  5. Test different subject lines: We’ve found that using the person’s name in the subject line works well in many instances but falls completely flat in a few others.
  6. Test different email copy to see what performs best.

One way to ensure success of any review-gathering initiative is to make sure everyone in the organization is on board and stress its importance. Ways you can do this is by:

  1. Making better reviews a top-down focus; executives need to communicate the importance.
  2. Obtaining organizational buy-in on the importance of reviews by helping employees understand the direct impact they have on the business.
  3. Training key employees on how to ask for reviews.
  4. Developing a scorecard that tracks reviews by locations (similar to our SERP score, but for reviews).
  5. Providing bonuses and awards for the locations that have the best online reviews.

Final Thoughts

As with any good campaign, you must strategize and go through a series of tests. See what works best for you and your customer base. Just make sure you’re focusing on gathering  positive reviews, you’ll thank yourself that you did.

Should your B2B company be using social media?

The answer is a resounding yes. I hear this question all the time, especially when talking to companies about their marketing. Most B2B companies have hopped on the social bandwagon and know social media is a valuable marketing outlet, but they don’t know how it fits into their business model. Most B2B business owners or presidents make the mistake of thinking they don’t need to be on social media because they sell products that aren’t for the everyday consumer. When thinking this, they are forgetting some of the crucial ways why social media is important. It’s not all about selling a product or creating brand awareness, it’s about much more.

It’s About SEO.  

I’m sure you have all heard the term SEO before; some marketing person telling you something about Google and how it’s important. In defense of the marketing person, it is important – better yet, it’s imperative. Despite being a B2B company, social media can be used in correlation with SEO. SEO is all about getting your website and other media on the first page of Google. This is important because it pushes your competitors media and website farther down the page and provides more outlets for your customers to contact you. There’s much more that could be said, but let’s move to the next reason.

It’s About Your Brand Story.

Utilizing social media allows you to push your brand out to the digital landscape and let people know exactly who you are and what you stand for. It’s somewhat difficult to show why you’re different and why companies should be doing business with you just from your website. With social media, you can create and push out content that is engaging and shows why companies should do business with you and only you. That’s not all though, there’s more.

It’s About Brand Integration

This may go without saying, but Integration on social media is key. Look at your website as your foundation or digital hub of sorts. Your social media allows you to have other outlets to funnel or lead the customer to your website. This gives you more opportunity to capture leads and make sales.

Final Thoughts

These are only a few ways how social media can benefit and be used by a B2B company. Just remember, simply creating social media isn’t enough and if not used properly, it can actually hurt you. It’s also a problem If you create social media and post, but the consumer doesn’t find the content valuable. Making sure you utilize the platforms and provide content that engages the audience helps with SEO, funneling your consumer to your website, and ultimately leading to more sales and business overall. Don’t be left behind while your competitors take advantage of what’s out there. Be better than your competition!

Should I Do My Company’s Marketing?

So you’re a business owner who wants to boost sales by doing some marketing. You don’t know whether you should do this yourself, how to do it, or where to even start. You have so many various tasks that need done each day so there’s no way you can take upon the task of marketing your company as well. I understand though, it’s difficult to let someone else take the reigns of your company’s image and sales strategy, but you want to focus your time elsewhere and make sure it’s done correctly. Let’s face it, you probably don’t know how to do graphic design, computer programming, write a blog, or properly manage social media accounts. It’s not that you can’t learn, you just don’t have the time for it. Well, you’re not the only one. Most business owners seek out marketing professionals for several reasons: to save time, make money, and to make sure their “baby” is marketed the way it should be.


Should I Hire an Employee or Marketing Agency?

Business owners who don’t have the time or resources to learn how to properly execute marketing strategies are left with a decision: Should I hire an employee to handle the various marketing or an outside agency? Typically, companies hire an employee so they have someone in-house and feel agencies will be too expensive. In reality, agencies can be significantly cheaper than hiring an in-house marketing manager. Shocking right? Well, let’s break it down. One reason why hiring a marketing agency is the better choice is because most business owners will hire someone with a base salary rather than hire agency with an hourly rate, which is a huge mistake. Hiring someone with a base salary includes taxes, health insurance, retirement plans, vacations, sick days, training costs, etc. The average income of a marketing manager is around $80,000. If you combine that with all the other costs mentioned above, you will be spending well above $100,000. A marketing agency averages $40,000 a year for all different types of marketing. For the sake of argument, let’s say you hire in someone at $40,000, with all the additional costs you’re still spending more than if you were to hire a marketing agency. Not to mention, by hiring a marketing agency you’re able to have an entire company dedicated to growing your business, which means more resources and expertise without all the additional costs.

Winner: Marketing Agency

With a marketing agency, you’re able to know exactly what you’re paying and determine how many hours you’re willing to devote to a marketing plan. The point is, there are so many other variables that prove why hiring a marketing agency is better than hiring an employee to handle your company’s future. If your goal is to save time, money, and have assurance the job will be done correctly, then hire a marketing agency; it’s a no brainer!


Do You Know How Your Customers Shop?

Let’s face it, you don’t always buy a product the first time you hear about it or look at it. Usually you go through several different buying stages. Most commonly those stages are awareness, consideration, and decision. Consider for a moment if you just decided you wanted to buy a car, you wouldn’t go to the first lot you see and buy the first car that catches your eye (unless you were a billionaire, which hats off to you if you are.) Realistically, you would research and become aware of the different types of vehicles, such as SUVs, coupes, trucks, etc. Afterwards, you would narrow down a few options and consider only those. Finally, you’d go to the best lot and buy the car you decided on. It’s all about process, but unfortunately so many sales and marketing teams don’t incorporate a process. Most sales teams want to go for the jugular right off the bat, which hardly ever works. I’m here to help you teach your sales team the proper way to classify and market to your potential customers by automated marketing.

Are You Failing at Sales?

The whole objective is guiding people through the sales funnel and ultimately deciding to do business with you. However, most sales and marketing teams make 3 huge mistakes.

  1. They lack proper and engaging content to last the entirety of the sales cycle.
  2. They repeatedly use the same content for each step of the sales process.
  3. They send emails one time and never follow through.

Most sales teams don’t always see they’re making those mistakes, but with automated or “drip” marketing they can make sure they send content at the right time and capitalize on every opportunity.

How Automated Lead Marketing Can Help You

It is common knowledge that nurtured leads increase sales, but it’s typically a long process and labor intensive. As mentioned above about buying a car, most buying processes are long and complex. Therefore, every piece of content should be tailored for the 3 buying stages of awareness, consideration, and decision.
Automated lead nurturing allows for detailed tracking of lead engagements with your content and site, and accurately placing your customers in the correct stage of the buying process. That means you can drip feed appropriate content at the right time and to the right people.

Key Points How Automated Lead Marketing Can Help:

Your sales team doesn’t put in efforts that could be best used elsewhere nor waste their time going over the benefits of your product or service. With automated drip marketing, your leads are already informed so you can use your efforts toward closing the sale.

  1. Automated lead marketing takes time, but if done well you can see significant sales growth.
  2. Create relevant content to support each buying stage and track your information along the way.
  3. Automated lead marketing can show where in the funnel your leads aren’t “biting,” and allows you to develop your content based on such.

Automated lead or drip marketing can do wonders for your business. Never again let your sales team make rookie mistakes and in turn, capitalize on your leads. I mean, who wouldn’t want to give their sales team resources to save money and time. As always, go get em’!

Imagine your toughest class in college. You had a choice: take notes and study throughout the semester—or wait until the last minute to cram before the final exam. Studying little by little might have taken up time when you’d have rather been out with friends. But by the time the final rolled around, you had a bank of clean, organized notes to use as a study guide. You probably sailed through the exam, no problem.

Or you went the other route. Skipped assigned reading and blew off study sessions. Left the hard work for when it really counted: finals week. Problem was, since you weren’t building knowledge and checking your understanding over time, you didn’t even know where to begin. You were starting from scratch—and between caffeine-fueled all-nighters and potential nervous breakdowns, you spent the same amount of time at work as the person who studied all along (although your final grade might have said otherwise).

I won’t ask which student you are in this scenario—but it’s pretty clear which is the better strategy, right? Put in a little extra effort now to make life easier later.

This is a lot like the choice developers have to make between unit testing and overall testing of their code.

Unit testing: Getting down to the nitty-gritty

Unit testing means isolating the smallest possible elements of a program’s source code, then testing them one by one to be sure they work like they should. It’s different than the overall testing you probably do just before releasing software, which simply tests that a program behaves correctly.

With unit testing, if there’s an error anywhere in the program, you don’t have to work back through all of your code to sniff it out. You can see which test failed, and from there, isolate your error and make a quick fix.

One of the more popular unit testing tools out there is PHPUnit, used to test code written in PHP. PHPUnit saves all of the unit tests you’ve previously written, making your code easier to maintain over time. (Think of unit tests like lecture notes you can refer to before a big exam.)

Just say “no” to skipping unit tests

Surely this is a part of every developer’s coding toolkit, right? Not exactly. Just like some students choose cramming over studying in chunks, many developers shrug at the idea of unit-testing their code. Why? Chris Cornutt at Sitepoint offers a few reasons: They think it takes too long. Or that their code is fine the way it is. Or that it’s just plain boring.

Those things may be true. But think about the alternative: You’re down to the wire and ready to send a program to a client—and you discover a bug. You have no way to figure out when or how it popped up, nor any way to verify exactly which parts of your code it affects. Better hope you’ve got some Red Bull handy, because you’re in for a long night.

Refactoring without tears

The other great thing about unit testing is that it makes major code changes, or refactoring, a breeze. For many developers, refactoring can feel like playing Russian roulette with your code. You don’t want to make too many changes for fear of undoing your hard work.

But if you’ve been adding unit tests to your test suite all along, refactoring is no big deal. Simply update your code, and then run your old unit tests against the changes you’ve just made. If any tests fail, you know exactly what to fix.

It’s the surest way to get your clients to give you an “A.”

Still not convinced that unit testing is the way to go? Learn more about PHPUnit here, or listen to this talk by Professor Richard Buckland on why smart programmers test in units.

Need code that works right, every time? Contact Atomic for help with your next web development project.

I’m this close to earning my project management professional certification. After months of study and 11 grueling tests, there’s just a final review standing between me and PMP status. So yeah, project management best practices are pretty much seared into my brain for good.

I’m going to spare you the hundred-page readings and lost shut-eye. Here are the steps I’ve learned to guarantee project management success.

• Define your project’s scope. Meet with clients to get a crystal-clear understanding of what the project should accomplish. Consider presenting a project histogram, with data pulled from similar, previous projects, to show down to the minute how your team’s time will be spent.

• Determine available resources. For Atomic, this means meeting with developers and designers, and getting clarification from our sales team on budget specs.

• Check your timeline. Our target duration for web design projects is 13 weeks. But sometimes clients need sites sooner. That may mean asking developers to work weekends. Give your team the heads-up as soon as possible, and adjust the schedule accordingly.

• Summon your team. For us, that’s a designer, a developer, and an SEO lead. Talk about expectations for the project, and decide who’s responsible for what. Address any concerns team members might have.

• Make a checklist. Here, you’ll rely on your team’s expertise. Divide the project into “programs” (design, development, SEO), and create a detailed list of what needs to happen at each stage.

• Develop a plan. Now that you know everything that needs to get done, who, and how they’ll do it, it’s time to get planning. (We like to use Basecamp for this.) Establish milestones for accomplishing big tasks. Give clients an idea of what to expect when—and if increased budget or time will be needed.

These steps will give you a solid starting plan. Now you have to actually stick to it. A few tips to aid you in your quest:

• Know that things will go wrong. Your project plan is your guide—but it’s okay to stray from it when hiccups happen. Just keep your project’s overall scope and resources in sight.

• Document everything. I mean everything. If you stray in the slightest from your master plan, write down what changed and why. This will help you convey time and budget changes to clients—and help you plan better for future work.

• Keep everybody in the loop. Monitor your team from beginning to end. And keep team members informed of the latest—successes and problems. Make sure everyone knows what everyone else is working on, so you can celebrate together when you’re all finished.

Follow these steps, and you’ll be on your way to project management success. You can take my word for it.

Got a beast of a project to take on? Never fear—Atomic’s project managers will see you through.

Designing—or redesigning—a site can be so much fun. (We understand. We get excited about this stuff, too.) But in discussions of content, design elements, and awesome interactive plans, it can be easy to lose sight of what should drive all decisions you make: what is your site’s goal?

As project manager, I’m reminding clients of this all the time. It’s my job to keep plans moving forward—and also on task. While this goal may elude you at times, it shouldn’t be too hard to come up with. Chances are, it’ll be right in line with the aims of your business overall.

For example, if you sell gourmet gluten-free cupcakes for dogs, you may want customers to visit your shop to admire your canine confections. If you’re a purveyor of bouncy castles for birthday parties, maybe you’d like interested party planners to call you up to check availability. Or maybe you want visitors to set up a meeting, request a quote, place an order online, or comment on your site’s content.

No matter what your purpose, you should define it—clearly—from the very beginning of a project. Make sure clients and design teams alike understand it, and know how to bring it to life. This ensures that every step, from sitemap to content placement, supports the goal you want to achieve.

If you want visitors to get in touch, place a simple call-to-action form on every page of the site. This makes it easy for readers to do what you want them to—without them having to search the site to find your phone number or email address.

(And please, please: keep contact forms short and sweet. If visitors have to spend too long trying to reach you, or don’t feel like giving personal information right off the bat, they’ll get out of there quick.)

When a site is built around a central objective, everything else just falls into place. It makes for on-task design teams, satisfied clients—and site visitors that find exactly what they need.

Are you sure your site is doing what it should? Contact Atomic, and tell us about your goals.

Hey, project managers! Now that you’ve got a degree and landed a job, you thought you were done studying for exams, right? Well, if you want to stay competitive, it might be time to hit the books.

Becoming a certified project manager can give you a serious leg up. It’s good for businesses, because it shows clients that their PMs really know their stuff. And it’s good for individuals, because it can mean the difference between getting a job offer…and getting passed over for someone who did get certified.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the proverbial gatekeeper of this coveted resume-booster. There are a few different levels of qualification, though the distinction of Project Management Professional (PMP) is the most common and most respected in the field.

PMPin’ ain’t easy

So what does it take to become a bona fide PMP? It’s not for the faint of heart (or of wallet). Before you can even think about taking the test, you’ll need a four-year bachelor’s degree, at least 4500 hours spent leading projects, and a minimum of 35 hours of professional education outside of work.

Between registration and testing, you can plan to drop about $1500—and that doesn’t include travel to seminars, extra test-prep help—or the coffee runs you’ll make while studying for the exam. When you pass the exam (or, should I say, if you pass—less than three-quarters of applicants do), you’ll have to keep your certification fresh by logging professional education hours every three years.

Working your way to the top

It’s a tall order—but the rewards are pretty sweet. On average, project managers with PMP certification make between $15,000 and $20,000 more than those without. Certification also means membership in the PMI—which gives you access to the latest industry insights, networking opportunities, and leadership positions in local PMI chapters. It’s more than just another line to put on your resume. PMP certification shows you’re serious about your work. (Would you spend years working towards the title if you weren’t?)

I, for one, hope the PMP is worth the hype. I’m still racking up hours, and then it’s exam time for me. For a small company like Atomic, having a PMP around is especially handy, because it shows we’ve got the credentials to compete with big-name firms.

If you’re a project manager and want to get noticed, go for the PMP. It’s hard work, but the payoff is worth it. My advice: pay attention to everything. You never know what could end up on the exam.

How does an (almost) certified PMP get things done? Give Atomic a ring, and witness project management panache.