Hallelujah! Design and storytelling is back. Responsive web design changes everything.

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Click this image to see what the fuss is about.

Responsive web design is nothing new. For those unfamiliar, responsive web design (RWD) is what you see practically everywhere now. It’s a web design approach aimed at crafting sites that offer optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with minimal resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors).

But, from a marketing communications standpoint, it’s so much more than just cool technology.

As a designer and a marketer, who has built dozens of wordpress websites since 2006, I’ve always been a little frustrated with the traditional website art form…a banner, blocks of text, lots of links, and lots and lots of text, that’s there primarily to impress Google that you’ve a done a great job of organizing your content around a particular subject. With responsive, and its commanding full-width jquery sliders, galleries and other features, you can put on one hell of a visual show. You can tell your brand story in ways you never dreamed of.

New technology meets old school storytelling.

Back in the day, when we created print ad campaigns, you followed simple design fundamentals. Find or create an arresting image, add a tasty headline that leads to a strong call to action, and viola, you’re in business. With responsive web design, using the full width of your screen, you can use bigger pictures and less text that tell your story much like a print ad, and persuade the viewer to continue to go deeper into the site, and ultimately take the next step.

If you click on some of the examples of the first responsive sites I’ve created in the past six months, you’ll see what I’m talking about, and hopefully why I’m so jazzed about it. It’s been a lot of work, and a steep learning curve at times, but definitely worth the effort because I feel responsive is changing things for the better.

Soon to come, zoselco.com in responsive.

As the old saying goes, the cobbler can’t afford shoes, and in this case, I need to make the time to get this done.

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NiceMug website, allowed me to describe a unique product quickly.

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Again, another hard to describe product comes alive using words and pictures.

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Locally branded home reseller gets a new brand and an easy to navigate website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few inexpensive stock video clips, a cool music track, some good copy, and presto, instant 60 second promo video.

Yes, it truly is that simple in this day and age. With the help of Apple Final Cut Pro, any garden variety graphic designer/copywriter like myself can morph into a video producer without too much effort. I would estimate that this little promo video below probably took eight hours or less, and the stock clips cost about a couple hundred bucks, maybe.

Anyway, it’s not too difficult to create a really cool, and effective .60 second spot that tells your story in a way that traditional words and pictures just can’t. Just keep your message simple and don’t get too crazy with the graphics and videos.

Waterstone Mortgage: the ultimate lead generation kit for lead generation geeks.

Obviously, Waterstone Mortgage is in the mortgage business, but in this fiercely competitive arena, it’s more like they’re in the lead generation business. When you meet with their people, you rarely hear them talk about mortgages, real estate or other stuff you’d think they’d talk about. But no, it’s all about keywords, conversion rates, remarketing, landing pages, and on and on.

So this website I created for the domain specific http://twincitieshomeloans.com/ (can’t use the main domain for a variety of reasons I can’t go into) along with a boatload of Adwords display ads, pack a nice little one-two punch that yields enough leads to keep a office full of hungry mortgage brokers busy.

That’s the intent anyway. Word on the street, it is converting quite nicely.

 

Streetwise Reports: getting the brand focused in the right direction.

Streetwise Reports feature interviews with industry-sector experts–analysts, money managers and newsletter writers–backed by the latest research summaries, news and company profiles. It’s a combination of information and insight investors can’t get anywhere else.

I was hired last winter by partner Bill O’Neal to help get some some focus on the branding elements is these different websites, working each individual logo, and making sure the sub brands of the various reports did not overshadow the main brand of Streetwise Reports. Fun to work with Bill.

Passionate entrepreneur spreads the word about Thea Holtan’s amazing writing tools.

About a year ago, I met a young gentleman at a MESA group meeting named JJ Parker, Co-Founder of an outfit named Tightrope Media Systems. Long story short, JJ is a highly energetic and passionate guy who was looking for help building a wordpress website to help tell the story of a woman named Thea Holtan who devised a brilliant writing instruction system for kids. Apparently, JJ was one of Ms. Holtan’s pupils back in the day, and swears by her methods for teaching the fine art of research and writing.

To create a website to help JJ spread the word about this, the primary task was telling the story, really breaking down why kids can’t write, and how Thea Holtan’s Thinking & Writing Process can helps kids learn in a simple, logical manner. In a nutshell, the process offers helpful Teacher’s and Writer’s Guides with clearly illustrated instructions that lead the student through the research, organization and writing phases. By following each step, students learn to think logically, and write coherently.

It is very cool to note, however, that the Thea Holtan Website was not a for profit venture for Mr. Parker, at least not what I gathered. But rather, it’s just a project that he wanted to pursue to give something back, or simply create something of value. That I can truly appreciate.

I wish him the best of luck!

Olup & Associates: setting the gold standard for family law in the twin cities.

When an affluent Minnesotan is ready to cut ties with a spouse, attorney Linda Olup usually gets a phone call. Because, when the assets are considerable and things get contentious, Linda is the attorney you want in your corner, not your spouse’s. You definitely don’t don’t want her playing for the other team.

Linda and her firm have been practicing family law for over 36 years, with countless victories to their credit.

Linda heads up Olup & Associates, LLC,  one of the Twin Cities leading family law firms. I was hired by her firm to do some minor re-brandng, and a major overhaul of a site that had close to 70 pages. Having worked with many attorneys in the past, I’m familiar with the somewhat black and white nature of many law websites. In my estimation, many law websites are very grim, bleak, cold even. To really help Olup & Associates stand out, the job was to really breathe some humanity into this site, so that when prospect landed here, they would quickly understand the focus on family law, and the care and sophistication the firm could bring to this highly contentious area of law.

The goal from day one, was to communicate that Olup offered the Gold Standard in all areas of family law. And with over 70 pages of family law content, all carefully edited by Linda Olup herself, the site hits the mark with flying colors.

It was time for a facelift, and new SEO plan. Fibercare gets both.

Several years ago, we built a website for a local company named Fibercare who specializes in hotel cleaning services for national hotel chains like Marriot, Sheraton and the like. This past Summer, I rebuilt the site in wordpress to refresh the brand, and create a more up-to-date CMS using wordpress. This is a pretty straight forward website design, incorporating a form on the home page for easy lead generation, and links from the home page widgets wot each of the site’s main pages.

But at it’s core, there lies a really solid Search Engine Optimization plan that accounts for roughly a dozen solid leads a month based on their primary keywords…hotel carpet cleaning, hotel cleaning services, etc.

I also shot and edited a promotional video that plays on the front page that tells their story of their cleaning capabilities. Finercare is a great client, super easy to work with. A pleasure doing business with them.

Writing effective sales copy can’t be piecemealed. It’s all or nothing really.

A prospective client recently approached me about writing some copy for his website. He wanted me to give him a bid to improve on his selling copy. He had originally approached me about creating a new website, but for whatever reason he chose another vendor.

This is what I told him:

Writing copy as a one-off is not something I usually do. The copy I usually create is part of an entire brand…a unique, and compelling point of view that grabs the reader, and invites them into the scene. From there, once that comfort is established, a transaction takes place.

That’s what I do. That’s how I help clients generate response. It’s hard to do that in a piecemeal fashion. Let me explain how I work, just a bit.

I’ve looked over his website, his documents, and there was some really good information there. But to be honest, there was just too much of it, and it was all features. I didn’t really see a single benefit in his websites, or landing pages. As a prospect, I just don’t really understand why I’m supposed to buy from this company. As a prospect, I have to assimilate all the information, and then make the leap as to ‘what’s in it for me?’

Good copy leads with ‘what’s in it for me?’

The phrase…’Develop High-Performance Managers’ just doesn’t get me too excited. It’s not specific enough as to how it will relieve my pain.

If a client is interested in moving prospects down a conversion path, first I need to know a couple things:

  • What are your goals? I assume it’s lead generation.
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What is their pain?
  • How do you relieve it?
  • And what does it look like when the pain is gone?

Once I understand this, then I can write great copy.

Below is a great example of a recent landing I created for Unimax that leads with ‘what’s in it for me?’

 

 

 

I’ve most definitely created a monster, and it’s name is Tony Scott.

These days, just about anyone who really wants to be a media star, or internet star rather, can be one. All it takes is a HD video camera, some decent lighting, and lots of nerve.

About a year ago, I teamed with my brother Tony to create a high-traffic blog that covers youth hockey here in the great state of Minnesota. It was no surprise that YouthHockeHub.com (YHH) was an instant success, largely due to Tony’s passionate efforts. As of today, as hockey fever builds in Minnesota, YHH attracts upwards of 50,000 visitors a month. And that number will surely swell to over 75,000 by the end of March.

Back to our budding media star Tony Scott, my brother’s internet alter ego. With my assistance, Mr. Scott produces a weekly videocast for YHH in which he gives his ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ on certain topics, promotes a featured player of the week, and shills for current and potential advertisers. If you have the stomach to go back and view Mr. Scott’s body of work, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to notice gradual improvements in his on-camera demeanor. His natural charm and passion is truly beginning to reveal itself. Whether he is creating a fan base forhis weekly offerings remains to be seen, but he will continue plunking himself down in front of the camera, and taking his shot at internet stardom.

With nearly a dozen videocasts under his belt, Tony Scott’s zeal for becoming an internet personality is building with each new video offering. And while he needs to invest in some better lighting, he has no shortage of nerve…that rare quality you find in one of thousands of today’s internet YouTube stars.

At this moment, I have to take my leave, as I have another edition of YHH Weekly Videocast to edit.

(Flip ahead to the 2:40 mark to see Tony smash an egg against his face, narly)

Homework assignment for the Lemon Network: ‘start kicking ass.’

My Nephew David Zosel attends the prestigious St. Thomas University just across the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN. He’s majoring in entrepreneurship. Didn’t even know that was a major. Interesting.

One of David’s first assignments in the entrepreneurship program is to create a start-up company and generate real revenue by semester’s end. Real revenue, can you believe that? Anyway, David approached me this past Sunday about helping him design a wordpress website for his social media marketing company. His positive energy for the project, and entrepreneurship in general, was quite captivating. I was sold.

Step in the elevator, start pitching.

But before I spend 20-30 hours creating a kickass website that will likely get his team an A on the project, I gave David a little homework assignment. This is the same homework assign I would give any client looking to create a brand that cuts through the clutter, and speaks to the customer right where they live.

Here’s what I asked David this morning to really make the site/brand rock:

1. Unique selling proposition – many call this the elevator pitch. In 25 words or less (50 max), describe why someone would buy from you. Hence, if you were in an elevator, and someone asked what you do, how would you tell your story in 30 seconds? Why is LN different from the burgeoning array of so-called social media marketing companies? Do you work harder? Are you cheaper? Do you keep it simple? Do you make it simple for me, the business owner, who has no clue how to leverage SM?

What makes you different? That’s branding. Everything else is bullshit.

2. Pricing / Packaging – If I’m potential customer, how do we work together? What do I get for my money? How do contracts work? What results should I expect? What am I paying for? What am I not paying for? Would your service work well for my business (B2B or B2C?) You need to clarify these details (and any other ones you can think of) so a customer can quickly decide if they would like to move forward.

When I get more specifics on items 1 and 2, I will design David a kickass branded web presence. Without clarification on points 1 and 2, there’s no point designing anything.