As a business, it's easy to get caught up in all the messages that we are trying to push out to our respective audiences—the selling and telling of our own story—and forget some of the most basic yearnings humans have.
Why are the JOB page and the ABOUT US page so frequently lackluster on business websites?
For most, it's probably a practical reason. Once that content is developed, there's generally little reason to revisit it. It falls into that perilous category of important but not urgent, and there it languishes—missing untold opportunities to persuade, compel, and sell.
Creating a new website can easily slip into the “not today” category, and for good reasons.
It’s easy to get caught up in a flurry of worries like: What if I can’t find the right vendor? How can I be sure that I’ll get a website that helps grow our business? What if there are cost overruns? What if there are delays? What if I haven’t managed an outside web vendor before? Or where do I even begin?
Creating a winning website is one of the most exciting and high-impact marketing tools you will make. And getting more than you paid for is the best outcome!
As a client, you don't often realize how much you can do to help make this happen. The place to start is with an understanding about how web vendors estimate their costs and manage the project. Your web vendor typically allocates a set number of hours to create your new website.
You already know the importance of telling your story.
But do you know how to make sure your story will lead to that “ah-ha” moment with your audience? Do you know how to make it rise above so-so storytelling and leave your audience touched, persuaded, or engaged?
At the heart of great storytelling are two things: identifying the right story, and telling it well.
Image matters. In fact, sometimes it isn’t even the best idea that wins in the marketplace, but the idea that is told in the most compelling way and reaches the right people.
As an entrepreneur or small business owner, it’s impossible to have expertise in every area of your business—legal, human resources, finance, marketing.
The Definitive Guide to Video Marketing
While colors are trending towards bright, vivid hues, the hard-working neutrals—white, gray, black, and brown—have a staying power because of their flexibility. They might not be your favorite color, they don't tend to steal the show, they aren't usually even noticeable, but they are the bedrock of strong design.
Custom Video Packages to Grow Your Business
Video is more likely to be viewed and remembered than all other media. It’s powerful, easy to share, mobile-friendly, and suitable for many different types of uses, from in-person events to social media.
We offer several video packages designed to grow your business and build your brand.
Build your brand internally and externally with the most effective tool available: video. This package can take many shapes—from showcasing your produce or service to a CEO message that unpacks the most powerful ideas behind your brand.
Mission, vision and values
Video is exploding as a tool for inspiring employees and customers with your company’s mission, vision or values. And for good reason: As Simon Sinek says, people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Starting with the "why" is the best way to inspire both sales and employee engagement. This video package can feature your own employees, customers or donors talking about what your mission, vision and values mean to them—and brings your aspirations off the shelves and into the lives of real people.
Studies show that today’s consumer trusts his or her peers more than they do experts. So parlay this into making your business more successful by showcasing how you’re helping your customers. In this package, we capture a series of customers on-camera sharing their own experiences about why they love your company.
Ads aren’t the only way to engage your customers. Stories that show—rather than tell—what you’re about, why your work matters, and how you’re helping others create a powerful connection with your viewers. This package is ideal for showcasing stories that reveal compelling truths about your business.
Promote a service or product
Opening a new business? Launching a new service? In this video package, we showcase your product or service in ways that compel viewers to buy from you.
Need to explain a new service? Help customers get answers to common questions? Create content that establishes you as an online expert? Our explainer video package features whiteboards and similarly styled videos to make complex subjects simple and easy to follow.
CMBell offers individual custom videos in a wide variety of price points and styles—as well as the packages listed here.
You can grow your business
What's up with design trends anyway?
Let’s start with novelty. It turns out, we're wired to seek out new experiences. A chemical reaction takes place in the brain when it encounters something new. The brain releases dopamine, which prompts us to seek more new experiences. Thus, novelty is not only pleasurable, but actually pushes us to learn and grow.
On the flip side, we also tend to follow trends for less sincere reasons. For some, the need to keep up with the "Joneses" (or at least appear to be keeping with the times) is paramount. And like it or not, we’re also motivated by the need to fit in and conform to the group.
So what does this mean for design trends? Are they making our brains grow, or just appeasing our pride? Probably both. Advances in technology, the predominance of mobile and a voracious appetite for content have pushed design to change and grow. And there are a couple of possible reactions. Ride the waves of trend, keep it traditional and solid, or innovate. At the end of the day, a designer who understands the needs of her client will get it right.
1. Material Design
Although not a trend itself, Material Design cannot be ignored in a discussion of design trends. Pioneered by Google as a visual language, Material Design uses graphics and motion to cue viewer responses.
The basic idea is that visuals and motion should have predictable behavior that is based on reality. Material Design employs deliberate color choices, edge-to-edge imagery, large-scale typography and intentional white space. It also plays heavily with grid, and employs "cards" to serve as entry points to larger groups of information. And where Google leads, everyone follows.
2. Semi Flat
Skeuomorphism: a digital object that demonstrates the attributes of it's real world counterpart. Drop shadows! Gradients! Textures! Everyone loved it.
Then everyone hated it. And designers reacted by introducing flat design. Flat design took the world by storm. No more shading or gradients or textures. It felt more...authentic.
Skip ahead. Flat Design became Flat 2.0, then Semi Flat. Don't get me wrong, it is still flat design, the goal is not to create illustrations that appear to be photographs. But for the sake of dimension and movement, a bit of light has been added back in, as well as subtle shadows. Even gradients are sneaking back in, along with subtle complexity (think pattern and print).
And yes, Google Material Design has the full set of "rules".
3. Bold Colors
Color trends are being affected primarily by two factors. The first is the move to mobile. We're interacting with technology in every environment now, and designs on those screens need to pop. This is leading to a rise in brighter, bolder colors. You probably wore it in the '80s and '90s. So look out for vibrant duotones and color transitions everywhere.
Secondly, we're all facing technology burnout. The more we surround and immerse ourselves in technology, the more we want to pull away. Pantone nailed it when they named the 2017 color of the year: Greenery.
4. Geometric Shapes, Patterns, and Lines
Oh the '80s. Squiggly lines, geometric patterns, and shape confetti. A resurgence of this trend started in 2016 and looks to continue.
5. Dramatic Typography
At this point, it should be no surprise that bold typography is also on the rise. In a realm that is increasingly saturated with graphic input, any small advantage is sought. Daring type treatments can be achieved through size, color, texture and arrangement. With small screens and even smaller attention spans, viewers have come to depend on bold fonts in high-contrast bold colors.
And while the strictly hand-lettered trend has probably peaked, we'll still be seeing traces of organic influence on type.
6. Custom illustration
Brands are no longer just looking to have their own fonts and colors, but their own illustrative style. And the less corporate, the better. We're seeing organic and hand-drawn custom illustration everywhere as companies try to make themselves appear fun and make their products more accessible.
7. Original Narrative Photos
As consumers encounter the constant barrage of new content, our desire for truth increases. And photos that appear candid, unfiltered, spontaneous and gritty feel more original and genuine. Anything viewed as stock has come to represent what is wrong with the corporate world.
The perception is that anyone with an iPhone can take a great shot. Viewers are looking for cues like simplicity, movement, flash to convey reality, raw emotion and the ordinary. So while professional photography will not be going away, we will seeing a more subtle use of post-production tools.
8. Integrated Motion
We'll be seeing motion everywhere: paralax scrolling, animation, looped video headers, cinemagraphs and a predominance of GIFs.
Whether subtle or complex, they not only capture interest, but quickly convey emotion. And they help tell stories.
Digital Communication Channels
Video outperforms all other media in getting viewed and remembered.
People remember 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, but 70% of what they see and hear. So it's no surprise that video is the most powerful communication tool there is. Video can combine arresting visuals with sound and motion, making it more engaging to the human brain than any other form of communication.
Video is versatile for internal communication too, because it comes in all price points and many formats—from whiteboard explainers and motion graphics to interview-driven or cinematic stories. It ranks fourth among most-used digital channels, with 81% of companies surveyed reportedly using it for internal communication, according to Gatehouse.
This is why video is becoming a central part of internal communication plans.
A microsite is a simple website that is highly focused and makes it easy for the viewer to find exactly what they came for. This is in contrast to a general company website that is designed to deliver many different messages and risks losing the viewer before they find what you want them to read.
We highly recommend microsites for targeted large-scale internal communication initiatives for several reasons: They are quick to produce, effective, highly focused, and provide great analytics.
For example, a microsite would work well to explain a merger or acquisition by featuring the primary content on the landing page—and having links that unpack the message in more detail.
Blogs are a versatile internal communication channel and come from leaders as well as employees and departments. The challenges are to keep it real, to keep it in the voice of the leader (if ghostwritten), and to keep the content coming. Most blogs fizzle when writers begin to see the work involved.
Still, they offer an inexpensive and personal way to communicate with employees—and can target special interests ranging from IT changes to personnel issues. They're also a good way to create more personal connections with a leader.
Bill Marriott's blog Marriott on the Move is a good example of a blog that carries a definite personal imprint of its author. DocInTheD is a physician and the CEO of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. You likely have blogs you follow that can inspire you with possibilities as well.
Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter are among the highest-traffic social media channels and can be targeted by interest groups, departments, or topics. These interactive channels can be suited to sharing ideas and issues and for monitoring feedback from employees.
The downside, of course, is that social media cannot be controlled, which means it remains one of the most challenging channels for communicators to monitor and influence.
Enterprise communication apps that are dedicated to employee communication are on the rise, and for good reason. They provide a customizable channel for delivering text, audio, and video content to employees throughout the company—allowing employees to communicate beyond email and phone calls.
Apps vary by vendor but can allow preference settings and be used to deliver:
Access to mission-critical sites for employees
While willingness to download an app for internal communication is growing, the issue of using one's personal device for work remains a challenge.
According to Gatehouse's annual State of the Sector report, email is still the most frequently used channel for internal communication (96% use it).
It can be challenging, however, to reach those whose inboxes are full or who don't have desk jobs. Here are some tips on getting your internal communication emails read.
1. Start with the main point in a single sentence.
We’re sometimes tempted to start at the beginning to tell the whole story, thinking that a reader needs to understand what led to the point. In some cases, this requires too much work for the reader to get to the point, so they abandon ship. Start with a summary statement that gives them enough information if they go no further—or a reason to proceed.
2. Invest in writing a good subject line.
This not only helps someone decide if he or she should read it, but helps them find it later. Retrieval of emails later can be time-consuming and downright frustrating if the subject line isn’t clear. Examples:
New vacation policy starts Friday
Here's the annual president's address to employees
Announcing the addition of new partner
3. Make it easy to browse.
Use subheads to help the reader find the section pertinent to him or her.
Use bullets instead of paragraphs.
Underline, highlight, or change font colors on the key point (deadline, cost increase, action needed).
Make action items and next steps stand out visually (in the subject line, when appropriate).
If more detailed backstory is imperative, indicate where the reader can find it. Title it clearly and put it at the end, so only those who want it can find it.
4. Give your reader just-in-time information.
Many readers prefer to focus on just the next step, rather than the next 10 steps. Most don’t have time to save it and review it over a period of months as it becomes relevant.
See four more tips here.
Podcasts are being used for internal communication because they fit nicely between text and video—giving employees content to listen to while engaged in other activities that don't require visual focus. Whether doing chores, or exercising, people increasingly crave content to enrich life's more mundane activities.
Can be authentic and believable
Can feature voices of employees
Can personalize leaders
Podcasts are a versatile tool, but companies that use them will need to have an effective delivery channel (think apps and e-letters).
E-letters are more sophisticated versions of emails that aren't used for daily interactions, but for important messages. And according to Gatehouse's internal communication State of the Sector report, 84% of companies surveyed report using it, making it third among most-used digital channels by employees.
Because e-letters are developed using third-party services, they offer vastly better design options, great analytics, and mailing list management. Their ability to preserve the look of an email is higher than regular emails, making them much more engaging once they are opened. But like all email, they must compete with an increasingly full inbox.
Here are the first three of 14 tips we offer for creating e-letter emails that employees will engage with:
Use a third-party tool. It would be nearly impossible to create the essential features that these tools now offer, from sophisticated designs to insightful analytics, automated features that help you manage and grow your lists, and mobile optimization. We use Campaign Monitor, but there are others to choose from, as well.
Use great design. A reader makes a split-second decision about whether to engage with your email based on how it looks. Good design will absolutely increase your readership.
Curate content with care. Make sure that your distribution lists and topics are right for each other.
Want to learn more? You can find the rest of the tips here.
An intranet is a website that is only accessible to authorized viewers—usually your employees. Ninety-three percent of companies report using their intranet as a channel of communication, making it second only to emails, according to Gatehouse.
An intranet can be a solid framework for employee communication—allowing your teams to share content like news, blogs, forms, messages, team workspaces, directories, and training material.
Although an intranet has the ability to reach your entire workforce, because the quality varies widely its effectiveness is highly impacted by the user interface, design, and content.
Yes, your walls can talk! They are free communication channels that can reach employees and customers many times a day. Think of them as ideal places to communicate some of your most timeless messages—your mission, your history, your values.
Walls are versatile and suitable for digital as well as traditional messages. If your main traffic areas aren't delivering your signature messages to your team, it's time to make use of these targeted channels.
Displays and Banners
Portable displays are good for targeting specific messages that need to be shared in different locations. Celebrating a prestigious award? Reinforcing your new mission statement? Announcing a new service for employees? A display can make the rounds to departments and employee events to spread the word.
Screens dominate our workplace—and provide an affordable way to deliver messages, so it only makes sense to use them as an internal communication channel.
Whether it's repurposing videos or infographics on a wall monitor or showcasing your mission or values as screensavers, never underestimate the simple, hard-working nature of using your company's screens to deliver signature messages.
We don't need a study to tell us that in-person communication is the most effective channel.
But did you know that communication from direct managers is the most effective channel for reaching employees, according to a CEB survey of more than 1,000 employees?
Since so much of communication is conveyed in nonverbal cues, in-person message delivery provides more information to take in like eyes, body language and voice tone. And, we know that emotions are contagious—and much easier to deliver in person than in print.
Companies that are serious about internal communication should focus on training and resourcing their managers and leaders in communication.
Live Forums and Meetings
Forums and meetings are effective ways to deliver your ideas because of their ability to combine in-person communication with other effective channels. They offer the increased efficiency of one to many, maximizing the time of busy leaders.
But like other channels, this one is only as good as the content. So here are some tips on making live meetings work better:
Coordinate messages: If you have multiple speakers, have someone review all of them with an eye toward the entire event—and edit out redundancy.
Focus: Leaders have a tendency to want to share a great deal of content, so create time limits and help them focus on unpacking their one big idea. Too much content can prevent hearers from remembering the most important ideas.
Variety: To work, events like this need to be created with a nod to theater and experience, engaging the senses with variety, taking breaks, involving the audience, and creating time for reflection and personal application.
Include video: This provides a welcome break to talking heads.
Newsletters, magazines, and other print channels aren't dead, but complement your digital channels.
Help reach non-desk employees
Are easily shared
Are good for the pick-up-since-it's-handy impulse
Can be repurposed digitally
Since they can be more costly than other channels and are harder to measure than many digital options, use them in situations where other channels aren't effective.
There are times when a simple letter from a manager is actually effective—like when the message itself is compelling and doesn't require a lot of visual support. Think things like a positive change in benefits or other things that have a high personal impact on employees. It can be easy to forget this lowly channel, but its affordability and suitability for certain kinds of communications should keep it on your list as an option for occasional use.
To make this effective, however, personalize the letter as much as you can. If it's truly from the president, it won't need much added visual treatment.
Upon occasion, it will make sense to send something to your employees' homes. Whether it's a reminder postcard, a newsletter, an invitation, or a simple letter, employees have more time to read at home than they do at work. And, if it's a high-impact message, it won't hurt to have it available for other members of the family who might be interested.
What does the word "video" evoke for you? Do you see a talking head? A staged, corporate piece? A Hollywood production?
Today, video production styles vary widely—opening the door to countless ways of expressing your message in this powerful medium. If you're developing content designed to get viewed and remembered, take a moment to see what's possible beyond the traditional videos you might be used to.
In this blog post, we're focusing specifically on some trends in motion graphics—a fun and versatile type of video production that can range from very affordable to cinematic.
Flat design is a minimalistic design approach that emphasizes usability. It features clean, open space, crisp edges, bright colors and two-dimensional illustrations. Simple images convey messages more quickly than detailed illustrations. Images like icons can indicate universal actions or purposes so that everyone can easily understand them.
On the creation side, there is an increase in 4K related video production, video editing and motion design products. Hardware producers (projectors, displays, televisions) are pushing hard to get 4K into the mass market.
Hand drawn hybrids
Blending hand drawn elements with CGI components is a great way to give the audience a sense of wonder. This concept is powerful when trying to explain how a complex design came to life. It makes it easier to understand and appear more tangible. It’s a powerful marketing technique that makes it easy for the target audience to fall in love with a desired look.
This year there are more animations turning up in which organic shapes transform in a liquid way.
Shapes are smeared and splash back together, often at the moment of a peak in the action, moving in slight slow motion, with twists and bends. It resembles the psychedelic shapes known from the 60’s.
Abstract drops and smears, swirling typography, and even characters whose limbs are being stretched and swirled. It may be a counter movement against the downward trend of geometrical squares, triangles, and circle-transitions.
What was once an uncommon occurrence, is now becoming more and more prevalent. Many motion graphics today successfully combine mixed disciplines to create a more graphic, stylized, and illustrated look.
Seamless transitions are nothing new nor revolutionary when it comes to motion graphics but they have gained in popularity only recently. They create a feeling of fluidity and allow one scene to flow into the next without any interruptions or cuts between them.
Although GIFs aren’t a new thing, they have recently gained traction after Facebook and Twitter allowed embedding and sharing. They are a great way to convey a message in a precise manner and are often used to add a touch of humor.
Which of these trends speaks to you?
You already believe in the power of story. You’ve seen how it can sell, persuade, compel, inspire—even better than a well-crafted argument. But are your stories helping you build your business?
If not, here are some possible reasons—and tips on what you can do about it:
You aren't being strategic about what stories you tell
Maybe you have a great patient story, for example, but it’s for a service line that isn’t a current area of strategic focus. Or maybe you have a story for your employees that doesn’t reinforce your key strategies, vision, or values. Prudent use of marketing dollars requires a direct link between the stories you’re telling and your business goals.
To create stories that grow your business, create a table and list all your core messages and strategies—then beside each list a high-level story idea that directly links back to each. For example, if you want to convey your commitment to quality, look for an area in your organization where your quality is impressive.
Use this list to scout stories and to identify specific customers, employees, or events that fit your story idea. Maybe it’s the journey of an internal team to improve a process, or a client story about how the quality initiative impacted them.
Track progress on your table and do a year-end review to see what worked—and where you want to improve.
You don’t have a story scout
Before a story is told, it has to be found. Most companies don’t have a person devoted to this important excavational work—and, very often, people in the midst of a good story don’t even realize it is one. In health care, we see this all the time. This sacred interchange between patient and physician is just what the physician does. She does not see it as noteworthy. Someone with fresh eyes has to awaken this mindset in an organization, teach its teams how to recognize a good story, and provide a way to get it from the front lines to your storytellers.
Assign the task of “story scout” to one of your in-house marketing or communication professionals, and give them the goal of creating the plan (above) and reporting on its progress each month.
Make a list of possible story ideas and share them with your front-line people, to help them think like a story scout.
Make it easy to submit story ideas—and offer some small reward for ones that are published.
You aren’t using the right medium
Video is the most visually rich way to deliver a story. It takes the words from the page and brings them to life with motion, sound, and images—giving the viewer’s brain a rich experience. We know that the addition of motion alerts the human brain, and this is activated in video in ways that text and still images cannot compete with.
If budget is a concern, set aside some of your communication and marketing budget for video production—even if it means shifting resources from other good projects. Today’s consumer demands it.
Shop for a video package rather than a single video. You can save thousands of dollars by shooting several videos over a day or two—rather than doing them one at a time. Videographers often require a half-day or even one-day minimum for a shoot, and by batching projects you can save money.
You don’t have an expert storyteller
A story can be inherently good, but tell it poorly, and it will not do the work of conveying the message you want. Storytelling is an art that requires experts who have devoted their careers to it, so finding the right talent to do this is imperative. Not all writers are storytellers. Not all video editors are storytellers. A storyteller can use different tools, but good ones understand the arc of an effective story and know how to deliver it in their medium.
Identify talent within or outside of your organization. The best way to judge this is to see their work—if the story keeps your interest and produces the desired emotional response, it’s been done by a storyteller you can trust.
Engage them for one trial assignment, to see if their process and product works for you.
Have them do a pre-shoot phone interview with the person they’ll be interviewing on-camera, to be sure the story is solid.
Be clear on your goals, budget, and timeframe—before you start the job.
You aren’t getting the story to the right people
All too often, a video is produced and put up on your website—and it is left to chance whether the right people will see it. To get the most for your investment, look for ways to repurpose it. How many social media outlets can you use it on? Are there other areas of your website—like recruiting—that could use it? Are there events, staff meetings, or retreats for employees, board members, or customers where it could be shown? There are multiple tools and methods to help you with the digital promotion of a video, as well, so if you don’t have the expertise in-house to help with this, hire someone who does. It will pay off in increased traffic.
When your video story is done, don’t call the project done until you make and execute a plan to get it in front of the right people.
Make a list of every social media channel you have that you could post your video on.
Make a list of events where the video could be shown. Consider employee forums, departmental meetings, employee events, orientation, board meetings, and fund-raising events.
Review your website to see if the video can be used on multiple pages. For example, a video about quality could be on a recruiting page, an "about us" page, a quality page, and a home page.
Work with an expert—in-house or outside—who can help you create digital strategies to improve traffic to your videos.