Hot Ideas Were on the Bayou for the 2017 CCA Institute

Editor/Communications Specialist Talisa Wager and Creative Services Assistant Danny Andrews.

Earlier this month, my coworker Danny Andrews and I ventured down to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for the annual Cooperative Communicators Association (CCA) Institute. While there, we participated in educational workshops, networked with other communicators from the cooperative world, enjoyed the sights and tastes of Baton Rouge, and tried to stay indoors as much as possible. (Let’s just say the humidity was a bit much for two Midwesterners.)

This was my third year attending CCA Institute. Why do I keep going back? Because every year I come away with new skills I can apply at work, a refreshed perspective on why I enjoy working in communications, and new network connections I can reach out to. The opportunity to travel to different cities and enjoy new sights is a bonus!

Merger postcard series for CFS.

One honor I had while attending this year’s institute was accepting two awards on behalf of VistaComm. I’m proud to say our team worked hard to earn first place website and third place in direct mail. The website that received first place was NuWay Cooperative. And in the direct mail category, we were recognized for our work on a merger postcard series for CFS. I’m very proud of our talented team for being acknowledged by a group of communicators that are the best of the best.

In conclusion, this year’s CCA Institute did not disappoint. The sessions were educational, there was hands-on learning, socializing, and many opportunities to enjoy the “spicy” culture Baton Rouge offers. Perhaps, we’ll “saddle on up” and head to the Lone Star State for the 2018 Institute in Fort Worth!

 

Baton Rouge riverfront at night.

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The Facebook Pixel: If You’re Not Using It, You’re Doing It Wrong!

Why should the Facebook pixel be an essential part of your online advertising and marketing? To answer this question, you must first understand what the Facebook pixel is and how it can impact your online advertising.

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It is surprising, in the age we live in, how few marketers I talk to are implementing this tool in their marketing mix. Facebook has over 1.2 billion active users each day. Facebook captures loads of data about your customers, where they live, what they like, their career, what they follow and much more. This data combined with the Facebook pixel allows you to target your advertising better. Because of this, I want to start with the basics and walk you through some of the ways you can implement the Facebook pixel to create higher converting ad campaigns that better target your customers and their interests.

What is the Facebook pixel?

Pixels are found across most advertising platforms. They are used to drop a cookie onto a visitor’s browser when they come to your website so that you can advertise to them later. In this regard, if you are spending money on pay-per-click advertising and not using the pixel you are not maximizing your budget. The pixel allows you to retarget website users based on behavior, optimize ad performance, and track leads and conversions on your site from Facebook ads.

To set up the Facebook pixel, you need to have a Facebook Ad Manager account. If you don’t already have this, you’ll need to set one up.

Once you have your Ad Manager account, you can set up your Facebook pixel. Open your Ads Manager in the main menu and click on “Pixels” under the “Assets” menu.

Facebook Pixel Setup under Assets

You will then be prompted to either generate the code to place on the website or use a tag manager to place this code.

Install your Facebook pixel

Depending on how your website is set up and the platform you are using, this step will vary. For many, simply work with your developer to follow the steps outlined in the Facebook instructions. HINT: Enabling “advanced matching” allows you to identify similar audiences on Facebook based on website users email or phone number they may enter during registration or checkout

Install Your Facebook Pixel Code

 

Once the code is placed on your site, verify everything is working by checking the status of your pixel with the Pixel Helper.

Check your Facebook pixel status using Pixel Helper

Once you have the pixel in place and have verified it’s working, there are three ways you can use the Facebook pixels to maximize your Facebook ad campaigns.

1. Custom audiences and retargeting

Create Facebook Audiences

When creating a new audience, the first thing you do is select “Create a Custom Audience”. The Facebook pixel allows you to identify and advertise to audiences that have visited your website. The base option allows you to target all visitors to your website, but there are many customizations to choose from to create multiple audiences.

Create a Custom Audience in Facebook

You can choose to target based on certain pages visited or how long it’s been since they visited your site. You can even target based on what page they visited. For instance, if you have an audience who completed a request-for-info form and doesn’t complete a purchase, you can serve a different ad to that group. This allows you to serve dynamic ads to audiences based on where they are at in your sales process.

Set Custom Audiences based on web pages viewed

Once you have identified your audiences for retargeting, it is very easy to create look-alike audiences. Facebook will match other targets that have similar interests to those that have visited your site already. This allows you to scale your advertising to a broader audience based on which campaigns and audiences have already proved successful.

Create Facebook lookalike audience

2. Conversion and lead tracking

One of the most useful features of the Facebook Pixel is in tracking actions through custom conversions.

Set up custom conversion in Ads Manager

Through the pixel, you can track specific actions and tie them back to your Facebook ad campaigns. This allows you to know how many sales, or how many new lead signups were generated from these campaigns or even specific ads.

Create your custom conversion

When creating your custom conversion, you want to tie the conversion to the success of an action. Such as a thank-you page on your website that follows a contact submission, or you can even tie the conversion to a specific event such as a click to call from a mobile phone.

Facebook custom conversion by event

After you select the specific URL or tracking event from the drop-down menu, you will need to select what category this conversion falls into. This is for your classification, so just make the selection that makes the most sense to you.

create custom conversion based on URL

Once this is set, you can name your custom conversion in the following screen and assign a dollar value to it. If you don’t have a monetary value to assign you do not have to enter this, but if there is a purchase tied to the conversion I would highly recommend doing so. This will allow you to better assess your return on the ad spend.

Name your Facebook Custom Conversion

To begin tracking your conversions, check “track all conversions” on your ad campaigns and Facebook will handle the rest.

Track all conversion in Facebook

Viewing the conversions does get a little more complicated, as Facebook doesn’t put this in plain sight. From your Ads Manager screen, select the “columns” drop down and go to “Customize Columns.”

Custome columns in Facebook to view conversions

From here, you can search for the name of your custom conversion and view the number of conversions, the cost of those conversions and (if you assigned a dollar value) the value of those conversions.

Search for your custom conversion to display in columns

3. Optimizing your campaigns

By setting up your custom conversions, Facebook can help you optimize your campaigns. Whenever you create a new campaign, Facebook will ask you what your marketing objective is. You will almost always select the conversions option.

Optimize Facebook campaigns for conversions

By selecting this option, Facebook will recognize users that are converting based on the custom conversions you set up (such as a sign-up thank you page). Facebook will then optimize your campaign for other people who are most like those that have already converted on your site.

That’s a wrap! You should now have a better understanding of how to utilize the Facebook pixel to increase the effectiveness of your Facebook advertising. From reading this, I hope you see how crucial it is to implement this to make your ad dollars effective.

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Source Here: The Facebook Pixel: If You’re Not Using It, You’re Doing It Wrong!

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Stay Competitive: 4 Game Strategies to Play Like Pac-Man

A late spring snow storm. Rain for the whole month of April. Finally, warmer weather and May breezes. The soil dries out. OK, the crops are in—bring back that rain. Summer storms, stay away.

No matter what seasonal agricultural conditions you face, as a producer, you’ve got to be able to change strategies and pivot at a moment’s notice. Things don’t always go as planned when your business depends so much on Mother Nature.

Julie Deering in her December 2016 article for Seed World magazine likens operating in today’s agribusiness circles to playing a game of Pac-Man. Remember Pac-Man? You’ve got to be in constant motion searching for the next move to put you ahead in the game. Thinking fast. Staying away from an enemy who could gobble you up – these are KEY!

Released in 1980, Pac-Man was the best-selling arcade game in North America. It grossed more than $1 billion in quarters within a year.

It’s not only the individual “little guy” who must stay on his toes. If you’re a producer who’s joined forces with other producers in a cooperative, the terms merger, acquisition, consolidation, joint venture are very much part of your vocabulary, and happening all around you. Re-structuring the way you do business is not necessarily bad — but always an adjustment — in order to stay in the ag game.

Over the past 4 decades, the number of co-ops in the county has dropped from 6,445 to about 2,100, and the pace of consolidation is accelerating.

So, IS there an answer to “staying in the game” or even WINNING! For valuable tips to consider, I return once again to the Seed World feature where Deering, following her expert research, sites four strategies. You may have heard them all before, but they are truly worth repeating—over and over again.

STRATEGY #1:
Focus on Your Customer and his “Pain Point”

If you’re a small- to medium-sized individual producer, you’ve got to know your end-user—the consumer who will give you the best possible chance of making a profit in a given year. You can’t plant everything you’ve ever wanted to grow or feed and market every live food source there is. You’ve got to focus—determine your niche products and go big with just a few—the few that are in most demand by your end-user.

For agribusinesses, this means you’ve got to know your target audience (customers) as well as you know your own family. In the movie classic Field of Dreams, Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella follows a voice no one else can hear with memorable results. Among the messages he receives: “Ease his pain.” Do you know your customers’ pain points? What keeps them up at night? The agribusiness that does the best job of making life easier for customers will likely gain more of them. Word travels fast in the country. 

STRATEGY #2:
BE READY TO CHANGE

In any business, you must be forever conscious that failure can happen. Be prepared to FAIL FAST. What do I mean by FAIL FAST?

PIVOT. Pam Moore of Marketing Nutz calls pivoting the art of recognizing that the pursuit of a specific idea, direction or product—in which you’ve invested significant time, money and energy—is no longer the correct path to follow.

In Western Kansas on April 30, 2017, a rare spring snow storm wiped out 40% of the wheat crop in the state. But after a quick melt and dry-out, the hearty plainsmen in this area were out making plans to till, then plant the damaged fields with milo — a crop that could still make them a good profit in 2017. That’s a pivot!

“Be agile,” says Moore. “Develop processes that reward quick decision-making. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Learn to FAIL FAST and learn from each success and failure along the way.”

STRATEGY #3:
DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

As a small- to medium-sized agribusiness, you’ve got to make yourself stand out by being different from your competition. This is sometimes quite hard to come up with when your annual process seems so cut and dried: planting — irrigating — pest and weed controlling — harvesting — moving — storing — etc.

Troy Schroeder, a management consultant with Clutch Performance, Inc., says business success that’s sustainable is all about the customer experience, and making sure that every function of your organization is based on customer-first thinking:

  • Better customer service
  • Added value for your customers
  • More knowledge
  • Better delivery
  • Tailored sales approach based on specific customer needs
  • Better application of your products
  • Ease-of-use of your products that’s better than anyone else

What can you do better than your competitors?

STRATEGY #4:
LEVERAGE BIG DATA

Analytics. Agricultural consultant, Jim Thrift, is convinced that effective data management will drive the future of agribusiness. He says, “A smart person with the most information wins!” He feels that agribusinesses that can transform complex data into actionable information can make effective business decisions.

Forward-thinking agribusinesses are getting onboard with this strategy. A recent survey reveals that 73 percent of companies have invested, or plan to invest in big data during the next two years—a number that has risen from 64 percent in 2013. Business investment in analytics is increasing at an average annual rate of almost 30 percent.

This strategy requires a real commitment. Once you start collecting relevant data from within the ag industry you must constantly analyze what you’ve got to see if your tactics are holding up and paying off as you would like. You’ll be making numerous tweaks along the way—that’s just how it works!

In conclusion, everyone needs planning and strategy. I hope these four I found in my reading will find a place in your marketing plan, whether you are a farm operator or a small- to medium-sized agribusiness. Just be smart, agile, reactive and ready to play the game — like Pac-Man!

Resource: How to Power Ahead in a Competitive World, Seed World, December 2016.

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Strategic Planning? 10 Tips to Improve Your Outcome

Whether you’re refining your plans, charting an entirely new course or overhauling your brand, strategic planning is an essential step in the life cycle of a successful business. Some tackle the process on their own, while many bring in planning experts to facilitate the process. In either case, here are 10 steps you should take to prepare your team and achieve the best results from the time and resources invested.

1. Invest in the front end

Your team must believe in the process, understand the outcomes you hope to achieve and be prepared to contribute. Meeting with your team members before you begin the formal planning process will help get everyone on the same page and prepare them to bring their expertise to the table.

2. Research

Research your industry to find common market trends you want to identify with or avoid. Consider your company’s strength and the particular industry niche you occupy. Is this where you want to reside in the future?

3. Know your target audience

Who are you trying to reach? Your marketing messages need to be crafted to suit your audience’s specific needs for maximum impact.

4. Have an honest perspective of your company’s current brand image

You know how you want your company to be perceived, but is that the image held by employees, current customers and prospects? Don’t assume you know the answer—ask representatives from those three groups how they perceive you. Does your brand messaging need to be adjusted, or does your brand need to be completely repositioned?

5. Be willing to share ideas

There is no such thing as a bad idea when you’re working through the planning process. Everyone involved should be willing to share their ideas—and this should be a safe environment in which to do that.

6. Set some intermediate deadlines

Have a realistic picture of when you want assignments completed. Know who has tasks to accomplish and be prepared to keep them on schedule. Continue to stress the importance of this process, and reflect it by scheduling process assignments on equal footing with client-related work.

7. Use examples

Find and share examples of marketing pieces, campaigns, slogans, positioning statements and other similar materials that you find appealing. Be ready to explain why you like them. This is particularly important when working with an outside firm, but is also helpful in internal discussions. Your customers and prospects have a wide range of tastes, and those should be reflected in your process as well.

8. Keep an open mind

Refer to #7. Because you have a variety of personalities (hopefully) on your team, some of the ideas presented may seem “outside the box” to you. This will be particularly true if you’ve brought in an expert. Don’t settle for comfortable solutions that keep you doing what you’ve always done. After all, you’re looking for solutions that will set you apart from your competition.

9. Think forward

Your goal is to grow your business, so be prepared to think “down the road.” You’re working on a roadmap to navigate from where you are to where you want to be.

10. Trust the experts

Finally, if you’ve brought in a specialist to help with your planning process, you did it for a reason. This is what they do best. Trust their input and conclusions.


VistaComm has participated and facilitated the planning process for many clients as they sought to grow their business and strengthen their brand. If you’re looking for an expert partner in your strategic planning process, contact us to find out how we can help.

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Article Source Here: Strategic Planning? 10 Tips to Improve Your Outcome

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10 Great Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website

Research shows that when business owners are asked what they’d like most, they respond first: More customers. Following in close second: Drive more traffic to my website.

Well, I’d like to summarize here what I’ve learned about #2: Driving traffic to your site, because, to me, it’s the #1 way to gain more customers—the #1 “want most.”

Who is your audience?

The first step in marketing in any medium—including online and digital—is KNOW YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE. Who are you talking to and trying to appeal to? What makes them tick? What do they care about? And who are their friends and business associates?

Give your audience “good stuff.”

Did you know that today there are 164 million blogs online? BUT 71% of these get fewer than 5,000 visitors per month. What’s the problem? CONTENT. If you’re not putting good information out there that your audience cares about and wants to read, they’ll just click on by.

Download website optimization ebookSo, what is good content? It’s news, data, statistics and facts that position you as an expert in your field—someone people want to buy from. It’s reliable information that generates online traffic, leads and sales. It’s not just great content, but the right content that readers want to share with their business associates. And can you guess what happens next? YOUR website traffic grows because of all these new visitors. WIN! WIN!

Once you know your audience and the information they’re looking for, it’s time to dive in and start creating the great content that positions you as the expert.

Now, here are my favorite 10 ways to drive traffic to your website using that great content you created.

1. Start blogging and never stop!

I just want to emphasize this one more time. Blogging works. It does drive traffic to your website. Wordstream.com recently ran an experiment and increased their blogging from twice per week to over 10 posts per week. The result was a 300 percent growth in traffic in just two months. Get EVERYONE in your organization writing blogs and supplying ideas for content.

2. Vary the length and format of your content.

Despite what some would have you believe, there’s no secret recipe for online content. That’s why it’s important to mix it up, trying different lengths and formats to appeal to different kinds of readers. Use video, infographics, news posts, graphs and data, shorter and longer pieces to keep your readers attentive and coming back.

3. Grab ‘em with your headlines.

Without a great headline, even the best blog post will go unread. Master the art of headline writing. The best writers often write more than 20 different headlines before finally settling on the one that will drive the most traffic, so think carefully about your headline before you post.

4. Optimize, optimize!

SEO is not dead. Optimizing your content for search engines is still valuable. Are you creating internal links to new content? Optimizing for on-page SEO doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and it could help boost traffic to your site. 

Drive traffic to your webiste using SEO

5. Attract visitors through advertising.

Paid search, social media advertising and display advertising are all excellent ways of building your brand and getting your site in front of people. Consider your advertising objectives. Do you just want more traffic, or are you looking to increase conversions, too? Each paid channel has its pros and cons. If you’re hoping for more sales as traffic to your site increases, you’ll need to focus on particular keywords in your search strategies.

6. Don’t forget email.

Good ole email. Traditional, yes, but still a powerful marketing tool. You’d be surprised that even a simple email blast can cause an uptick in your online traffic. Word of caution: Avoid relentless emails about every single thing that’s new at your business. Email today must be targeted and relevant. Send a friendly, appropriate email reminder to those already enjoying or familiar with your products and services—chances are much greater for them to engage instead of filtering you to spam or opting out.

7. Make sure your site is responsive.

Today, mobile-friendly sites are a necessity! Don’t lose sight of this. Make sure your visitors can access your site from whatever device they’re holding in their hands. And, if you force upon them an uncomfortable experience—pinching and scrolling around your site—they’ll go elsewhere. Make your website accessible and easily viewable across a range of devices, including smaller smartphones.

responsive website design

8. Research your competition.

Find out what people are reading (and talking about), and emulate that type of content to bring traffic to your website. There is special software that gives you an at-a-glance view of what content is popular with readers. Find out what your competition is putting out there.

9. Make sure your site is fast.

When was the last time you waited 10 or 15 seconds for a webpage to load? Not worth it, is it? If your site takes forever to load, your reader will move on. Kissmetrics has an excellent article showing how load time affects your bottom line. Your website pages need to be technically optimized. This means you need to check your image file sizes, the structure of your pages, and more. The faster your site loads, the better.

10. Examine your analytics data.

Google Analytics is an invaluable source of data for any company with a website. And you really DO need it! The information it gathers—from your most popular pages and visitor demographics to when and where your site traffic is coming from—is invaluable to your efforts to stay up-to-date with your promotional and content strategies. Pay attention to what its telling you and make adjustments.


Want to read more about this topic and others related to growing your business online? Download our free e-book about growing your agribusiness with a hard-working website. Give VistaComm a call to discuss elevating your presence online today.

Contact us today

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Perfecting Your On-Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

As I begin this blog, I’m reminded of my days teaching high school English. Addressing my sophomore composition class. Desperately trying to remember all the “tips” I learned in college education classes. A memorable theory comes to mind: “Assume they know nothing!”

Pretty good advice, actually. Advice I’ll take to heart as I begin this little tutorial on Perfecting Your On-Page Search Engine Optimization (SEO). (Whew! A real mouthful!) This subject can be overwhelming and complicated, so I’m going to start at the beginning with the simplest of concepts—keywords—and hope you’re not offended by the elementary approach.

What are keywords?

When you sit down at your computer to find information on a topic of interest, you go to one of the many search engines—Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.—and type into a search box words or phrases you hope will connect you to the information you want. You receive particular results because they’re related to the words you typed in the box. These keywords triggered the information you were looking for.

OK. You already knew this! Let’s move on . . .

Why are keywords important to your business?

Now, we’re going to switch hats. You’re no longer searching for information online. You—or your company—are the one being searched for. It’s very important to the success of your business that searchers can find you. By using the right keywords within the content on your website, you ensure that potential customers can find you when they start looking.

Download website optimization ebookPretty simple explanation, and you might have known this, too. Stepping it up a little . . .

To optimize means to improve, enhance, elevate or boost.

I’ll bet you can guess what Search Engine Optimization means now—or you might already know. It’s using the BEST keywords in all the RIGHT PLACES so search engines will automatically move your site to the top of the list when an online user is looking for you.

Search engines play a primary role in this whole process as they rank your websites. In addition, they are always working to improve site-ranking RULES they use in order to improve their user experience. With an all-out effort, you can learn these site-ranking rules and USE them to optimize your website.

On-Page SEOHere are the on-page SEO rules that search engines and their users love.

  1. Choose a rich, target keyword.
  2. Use a shorter URL, one that includes your target keyword.
  3. Start your title with your keyword.
  4. Ensure meta tags for pages are completed and contain keywords.
  5. Add modifiers—best, valuable, top—to your target keyword.
  6. Use header tags and include your target keyword in at least one of your subheads.
  7. Be sure images contain alt tags—be sure to include keywords.
  8. Use outbound links to related pages on other websites.
  9. Insert two to three internal links to other areas of your website.
  10. Increase your page speed – visitors won’t wait more than four seconds for your site to load.
  11. Include the social share signals for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc.
  12. Post long content—“length is strength” for a higher ranking.
  13. Engaging content—not only long content, but engaging content keeps people reading.
  14. Use video, great images, infographics on your website to engage the visitor and increase the time they spend on your site.

Want to read more about this topic and others related to growing your business online? Download our free e-book about growing your agribusiness with a hard-working website. Give VistaComm a call to discuss elevating your presence online today.

Contact us today

Resource: backlinko.com

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10 Ways to Avoid Web Design Disaster

Developing a website design that is both visually stunning and effective at meeting business objectives is no small feat. It requires a productive collaboration between client and web design team, with both playing a vital role in the outcome. Here are 10 ways you can improve this partnership to ensure a positive—and business effective—outcome.

1. Focus on problems, not solutions.

Yes, that sounds wrong. But if you want to get the most from your designer, that is where your focus needs to be. For example, if you are worried that the color choices won’t sit well with your audience, tell your designer—along with the reason for your concern. Then let the designer come up with a solution. In that scenario, both of you are playing to your strengths—you are employing your knowledge of your business and audience, and your designer is utilizing creativity and knowledge of the medium.web design layout

2. Remember: Your web design should focus on user needs and business objectives.

Don’t get bogged down in the details of the design. It’s the designer’s job to worry about the details. Instead, ask yourself two questions. How will users respond to this design? Will it meet my business objectives?

3. Always ask, “Why?”

When people tell you what they think of the design, always ask them why they feel the way they do. Why don’t they like the color? Why do they think the logo should be made bigger? Ask yourself the same questions. Often there are underlying reasons for a reaction towards a design. Giving the designer more than “I just don’t like it” will help find the most appropriate solution. Which leads us to our next point.

web design consult

4. Recognize your personal bias.

Design is very subjective. We all have our opinion when it comes to design—a mental list of images, colors and combinations that we like (or hate). And so does your boss. At the end of the day, it’s not about whether you (or your boss) like the design. The question is, will the prospective user like it?

5. If in doubt (or even if you’re sure), test.

 Let’s revisit personal bias. If you find yourself unsure about the design direction or disagreeing, test the design. And if you love the way things are going, test the design. There are loads of ways you can get feedback from a bigger group of people and none of them need to be time consuming or expensive. Testing the design will give you the confidence, and some hard evidence, that things are heading in the right direction. This blog by Kissmetrics goes in-depth about the way s you can test a website design prior to launch.

6. In the digital world, nothing is permanent.

Unlike the print medium, the web can be changed at any time. Making a design decision doesn’t have to be a life or death choice. If something goes live and users don’t approve, it can be altered with relative ease.

website designer's desk

7. Listen to the research.

Designing a website is not the same as producing a piece of art. There is a considerable amount of science and psychology behind the discipline of digital development, as well as a steady stream of research. Where possible, build on best practices and avoid working from hunches or personal preference.

8. Resist the urge to copy.

There is nothing wrong with looking at your competition, or any other website, for inspiration. In fact, we encourage it. However, blindly following what other people do is usually a mistake.  Your business, goals, customers and prospects are different.  Design a site that reflects who you are, what you want to say and how you plan to do business. Designing a “me-too” site just puts you one step behind.

9. Context is everything. Always consider it.

You and your design team will spend hours discussing the right approach for your website. As a result, you will have a firm grasp of why certain decisions have been made. The danger comes when you present work to colleagues who don’t share that knowledge. Make sure you thoroughly brief anyone viewing the design for the first time so they know the rationale behind what they are seeing.

10. Choose your decision-makers wisely

Because design is subjective, showing it to too many people can muddy the decision-making process. Instead, keep the number of people involved to a select few. Then, canvas their opinions individually to avoid the dreaded “design by committee.”


If you’re looking for a talented web design team, someone to guide you through the process, or both, that’s what we do at VistaComm. We provide next-level marketing services for agribusinesses. Contact us at to learn more.

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