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.

Contact us today

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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.

Contact us today

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Perdue Passes Through Confirmation Process

When the U.S. Senate confirmed a new Secretary of Agriculture today it affirmed the nomination of a former governor, a veterinarian, an agribusiness entrepreneur…and a pilot. As a young man, Sonny Perdue flew a crop duster and, after college but prior to earning his DVM, served as an Air Force pilot.

George Ervin Perdue III still flies, and he qualified as a helicopter pilot while serving as governor of Georgia from 2002 to 2011. He’s been called Sonny since his childhood on a diversified Georgia crop and dairy farm and will be sworn in as ag secretary using the nickname.

Sonny_Perdue

Sonny Perdue giving a press conference in Montevideo, Uraguay. Photo Credit: US Embassy in Uraguay

If Sonny Perdue approaches his new duties in the same way he fulfilled his responsibilities as Georgia governor, expect him to emphasize steps that make the USDA run like a well-maintained combine. Before he left the governor’s office, Perdue told reporters he’d want to be remembered not for some monumental accomplishment but for “making government work.”

Perdue’s record as governor is strong on trade. He established Georgia’s international trade office in Beijing. During his administration, traffic at the port of Savannah increased from 24th busiest in international shipments to 6th. Sonny Perdue led trade delegations to Cuba (a major consumer of Georgia’s poultry) and to South America.

After leaving office, Perdue and cousin David Perdue (a former Dollar General Stores CEO) founded Perdue Partners, an Atlanta company that facilitates exports through “trading, partnerships, consulting services and strategic acquisitions.” (David Perdue was elected to the Senate in 2014 and serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee.) Sonny Perdue’s record on trade could resonate with legislators who initially hoped for a Midwestern nominee.

The last three ag secretaries were from Iowa, North Dakota and Nebraska. As a result, farm policy has focused on corn and soybeans. Southerners would prefer subsidy programs more favorable to rice and cotton. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse said he wants to help Perdue understand “the unique interests of Midwest agriculture.”

Nevertheless, Republican leaders from the Midwest express optimism about working with Perdue. Backers point to his time on the board of the National Grain and Feed Association and as managing partner of AGrowStar, which operates elevators in Georgia and South Carolina. According to North Dakota’s Senator Hoeven, who met Perdue when they were both governors of their respective states, says “he knows how to work with everybody.”

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Is Your Digital Marketing Hitting the Mark? This checklist can help.

Effective digital marketing is a moving target. The speed of change presents an ongoing challenge to every business serious about maximizing their digital presence and impact. Google, for example, continues to change how they present search results—both paid and organic.

The transition to mobile use in the digital arena is rapidly accelerating. Mobile use now accounts for almost two out of every three digital media minutes, according to a 2016 comScore study. This opens up a whole set of considerations that didn’t exist when desktop computers dominated the digital landscape.

So…how can you increase your digital marketing effectiveness in the coming year? We’re offering this basic checklist as both a place to start the planning process and a way to assess your progress.


Digital Marketing Checklist

Digital marketing checklistStart with your websiteDownload website optimization ebook

  • How did your site perform last year? The better question may be, do you know how to determine site performance?
  • Pretend your site isn’t your site. Try to imagine you’re a first-time visitor and assess how easily you can find your way around. Better yet, recruit a friend or family member—someone who truly is a first-time visitor—and get their feedback.
  • View your site on a tablet or phone. Is it mobile-friendly? If not, what’s your plan to make that transition?
  • What are your competitors doing? Did you like their content? What can you learn from what they are doing—and what do you want to avoid? Again, get input from a third-party visitor.

Consider your content

  • Are you blogging? If so, are your blogs scheduled or created as an afterthought? Do the messages support your overall marketing goals, and do they provide true value to your target audience?
  • Is your content professionally written, or does it fall to the team member who draws the short straw? Do all content pieces (online and offline and external sites) include intelligent, meaningful Calls to Action?
  • Is there a comprehensive content strategy? If not, take the first step and set up an editorial calendar and writing schedule.
  • Are you repurposing your best content to use in multiple channels—web, print, e-news and white papers, for example?

Are you social?

  • Do you have a plan for social media marketing? Is your social media presence the responsibility of a dedicated individual on your staff?
  • Is the content on your social platforms consistent with your overall marketing emphasis and branding, or is it a lonely island?
  • Do you know how to analyze your metrics to determine engagement trends?

Can they find you?

  • Do you have a working knowledge of SEO concepts, or is it a bit of a mystery?
  • If the answer is yes, are you analyzing search phrases that bring traffic to your site? Are you developing web content to connect with these interests?
  • Are you maximizing key SEO items in each blog post?

You’ve got mail

  • Is your email capture strategy growing your list?
  • How was your email marketing performance for opens and clicks?
  • Were you communicating regularly? Are you using your best repurposed content to increase your impact?

These are basic questions that will help point you in the right direction, and really just the tip of the iceberg. They may also reveal some areas in your digital plan that you have overlooked or underrepresented. If you need additional guidance, have questions or believe a fresh perspective would be helpful, contact us. This is what we do every day.

Contact us today

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3 Ways Employees Can Help Protect Your Brand—Compliments of United Airlines

Sometimes, the best way to learn what to do is by observing what not to do. Case in point:

United Airlines overbooked a flight. Offered passengers $800 travel vouchers to get off the plane and take another flight. Not enough people took the bait, so a passenger was forcibly removed from the plane. The video exploded on social media. United Continental Holdings (UAL) market value dropped $250 million in the next day’s trading.

This incident goes to show how one false step can cause major headaches for a brand. And while your company may not have the brand name recognition of United Airlines, there’s something to be learned from their situation.

3 ways employees can help protect your brand story

  1. Share your brand story with employees
    Make sure employees understand that your brand story is more than just the products and services you sell. It encompasses everything customers believe and feel about your business. Take advantage of company gatherings to share your brand story with employees. Make sure they understand your organization’s overall purpose, and what this means to the people you serve.
  2. Task employees with sharing your brand story
    Employees are your brand ambassadors. They can promote (or devalue) your brand by how they interact with people and what they say on social media. So, it’s important employees understand their vital role in communicating your brand story. Give them examples (such as the United Airline story) of how their actions can impact your brand … for better or worse.
  3. Empower employees to use common sense
    Your company has policies and procedures, and employees are expected to abide by those rules. Yet, it’s important to empower supervisors and frontline employees to use common sense.

Getting employees on board after a merger

Companies often spend considerable time educating their target audiences after a merger—but perhaps not so much time educating employees. Even though employees have new business cards or wear new uniforms, they don’t necessarily understand or embrace the merged company’s brand story.

United Airlines has struggled with its image ever since it merged with Continental Airlines in 2010. Perhaps the most recent incident is just one example of employees not knowing what United’s brand story is … or how to communicate it.

VistaComm has 20+ years experience helping agriculture businesses and farm cooperatives develop and share their brand stores. Contact us for ideas to help your business.


Want help sharing the brand story for your ag business?

That’s VistaComm.

START THE CONVERSATION–TALK WITH US TODAY.

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