On June 29, 2007, the first iPhone was released, and the rest, as they say, is history. Flash forward over 15 years, and mobile devices have become one of the top ways in which we receive information and make buying decisions. This has naturally had huge implications for businesses. To keep up with this changing customer behavior, it is essential to optimize content for smart devices regardless of the channel you’re using. Here, we will look at how you can ensure your content is picture-perfect for audiences who are more connected, agile and mobile than ever before.
Your digital front door
An organization’s website is one of its most important digital assets – acting, in a sense, as its digital front door. Logically, this makes it a natural place to start your mobile optimization efforts. The good news is that, unless your website is a digital dinosaur, it likely is already functioning properly for mobile. For nearly 15 years, “responsive design” has been a standard practice for web developers, but it is still worth reviewing how your website’s content is rendered across a wide variety of devices. Some important things to keep in mind include:
- Review your website’s layout changes depending on the device on which it is being displayed.
- When viewing your website on a mobile phone or tablet, make sure the main navigation switches from every main tab are visible in a simplified format, typically consisting of three lines stacked upon one another.
- Be sure pictures and videos are displayed correctly and are not cut off horizontally.
- Note whether forms are rendered appropriately and displayed in a simple and straightforward fashion.
- Determine whether website pages load quickly and efficiently.
These are all standard website functions that modern buyers expect to see, so if you find issues with one or more of these elements, consult your web developer to make the necessary updates.
After you’re positive that your website is in tip-top shape, it’s time to move on to your other digital assets and take it channel-by-channel. Start with your email marketing software. Even in 2024, email remains one of the most popular marketing channels, making it a valuable place to begin. As with your website, most of today’s email marketing software implemented responsive design practices long ago. Still, it never hurts to verify that you are providing your audiences with the best possible user experience.
Keep the following in mind as you do:
- Double-check to see if you are building and sending emails with mobile-friendly templates.
- Be careful with the fonts you use and keep your email content short, snackable and to the point.
- Reduce the size of any imagery to ensure that your emails load quickly and cleanly.
- Conduct ample testing to confirm whether your emails are displaying correctly across devices and email applications.
- Keep your overall design simple by avoiding things like columns or code-heavy features.
Once your website and email are ready to go, give some consideration to remaining channels like social media. As with email, most major social media sites have the infrastructure in place to ensure users’ content will be mobile optimized. Agencies would still be well-advised to take the following actions to reduce the possibility of something problematic turning up in their audiences’ feeds:
- Review your profile to ensure that each element will appear on your audiences’ screens in the best possible light. That includes using a logo and banner image whose details can still be seen even on a very small screen.
- Take particular care regarding your call to action (CTA) element. As the most important part of any given post, it is essential that your CTA is visible and legible.
- Be aware of where you are linking your social posts. While your social media profiles will typically render well across devices, you cannot extend that guarantee to other areas of the internet where you are trying to direct traffic.
The advent of the smartphone changed the marketing game forever, with increasing emphasis being placed on delivering a crisp, clear and powerful digital experience across any device. Thankfully, many marketing platforms are designed to facilitate responsive design and do not require additional technical skills to execute. That doesn’t mean you should just set and forget your marketing campaigns, though. It’s worth taking the time to double- and triple-check your materials to provide an ideal viewer experience. That’s the way you’ll win in today’s marketing environment.
Gaining leads is thrilling. It means that something you’ve been doing has worked; and hey, that feels pretty good. But before you market to your leads, it’s best to step back and ensure you are compliant with all relevant regulations and guidelines.
What is a lead?
What exactly is a lead? Basically, a lead is any individual who may have an interest in your products or services. Leads can be broken down into subcategories:
- Hot leads – A hot lead has significant awareness of your company and is likely ready to make a purchase.
- Cold leads – A cold lead has shown little to no interest in your company.
- Qualified leads – A qualified lead has not only expressed interest in your company but has characteristics that align with your buyer personas.
Businesses collect leads through their various marketing channels, and once you gain them, it can be tempting to immediately launch into aggressive marketing campaigns. However, it’s important to consider the rules and best practices governing lead communication.
Tread carefully with email
Marketers must adhere to regulations prior to pushing out commercial messages in a digital context, the most pertinent being the CAN-SPAM Act.
Enacted in 2003 at the dawn of Web 2.0, CAN-SPAM is most associated with email communications and includes several provisions:
- Don’t harvest – It is never wise to buy bulk lists or collect email addresses from websites for the purpose of mass emailing. It is true that there is no real “opt-in” feature to CAN-SPAM. Unfortunately, when you mass email a list, you run the risk of mailing someone who has already opted out of your communications,[i] which could result in a violation of over $50,000 for every single email.[ii] Other potential consequences include getting banned from your lead’s email inbox or even from your email marketing software itself.
- Affirmative consent – Because of the problems inherent in sending out mass messages to large, unverified lists, many marketers pursue what is known as “affirmative consent.” Getting explicit consent from your contacts means they have articulated a desire to receive marketing messages from you.
- Clearly identify yourself – All email communications from a commercial party should be clearly labeled as such. Emails must list your company’s physical address and the headline should mesh with its body content. Lastly, fields like the “From” field need to be accurate and align with the sender’s identity.
- Allow them to opt out – You are required to give your email recipients a clear, digital-based way to stop receiving communications from you. Under the CAN-SPAM law, you need to also process opt-outs in 10 days or less.
- Compliance must be comprehensive – All of the requirements we’ve just discussed also extend to any vendors or third-party providers.
What about social?
For years now, marketers have also wondered whether the CAN-SPAM law also applies to social media communications. While mostly designed to govern email messages, some federal court cases have interpreted the scope of the law to also include social media platforms.[iii]
Even if direct solicitation on social media won’t necessarily result in CAN-SPAM trouble, it is wise to emulate the statute’s spirit:
- Be transparent – Do not try to hide who you are on social or attempt to obfuscate the reasons for contacting someone.
- Adhere to platform rules – Each social media network has its own community guidelines and site rules. Before engaging in any direct messaging, familiarize yourself with any relevant codes of conduct to avoid being banned.
- Respect consumer privacy – Many social media platforms allow users some control over how their data is used, who can contact them on the site, and which parts of their profiles are publicly available. Be on the lookout for any signs that your messages won’t be received well and act accordingly. For example, if you are thinking about contacting someone who has set their profile to private, think again.
A better approach
Gaining prospects and leads is exciting, but before you send additional electronic messages, ensure you are compliant with regulations and adhering to platform codes of conduct. Failing to do so can land you in a world of hurt, which is why taking things slow and steady is often a better approach.
Instead of utilizing mass emails and social media advertisements, prioritize creating a content marketing strategy that delivers value and nudges leads toward actively consenting to receive further messages and campaigns. That way, you can develop more organic, impactful relationships with leads, close more deals and keep your nose clean all at the same time.
Take the next step! Read Alliant National’s other blogs on writing effective email campaigns and making your marketing more authentic.
[i] Candid answers to CAN-SPAM questions | Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov)
[ii] CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business | Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov)
[iii] The CAN-SPAM Act Applies to Social Media Messaging, Rules Federal Court in California (pillsburylaw.com)
You’ve heard the rumors. Let’s dig into the facts businesses need to know.
You may have heard about the dark web before. Accessible exclusively through third-party tools, the dark web is mostly known for its association with unsavory activity. One study, for example, pegged almost 57% of all dark web content as being illegal. It is also estimated that over half of the 2.5 million daily dark web visitors have engaged in criminal behavior.[i]
Businesses can’t afford to ignore the risk represented by this hidden swatch of the internet. Let’s explore what you need to know about the dark web and steps you can take to prevent it from being weaponized against your agency.
The internet iceberg
But first, let’s flesh out the structure of the internet so we can better orient ourselves to what we’re talking about when we discuss the dark web.
Just for a moment, imagine the internet as an iceberg. Many people know that the visible portion of an iceberg represents only a tiny fraction of its full size. The same is true for the internet. That visible portion includes the sites indexed by search engines – that is, any site you can visit by typing its name into a website like Google. Below this level is what is known as the “deep web,” which should not be confused with the dark web.
While both internet levels are inaccessible through search engines, the deep web includes many sites that you and I use every day. Your email inbox, for example, is part of the deep web, as are pages detailing sensitive information like bank accounts and medical records. While the numbers vary, it is estimated that the deep web encompasses a stunning 90-95% of the internet and is 400 to 500 times larger than the surface-level internet.[ii]
Underneath all this hidden yet perfectly legitimate content is the dark web. Not only is the content not crawled by search engines like Bing, Google or Chrome, but to access it, you need to employ a specialized internet browser called “Tor.” Designed for total anonymity, Tor lets users access the internet’s most hidden and illicit content while shielding their identities and locations.
A hive of scum and villainy
In the classic 1977 space epic Star Wars, Obi Wan Kenobi’s and Luke Skywalker’s mission to defeat the Empire begins by going to the Mos Eisley spaceport to recruit the roguish smuggler Han Solo. Prior to entering the town, Kenobi cautions the young farm boy about the potential dangers they will face, referring to the location as a “wretched hive of scum and villainy.”
In many ways, the wise jedi’s words are an apt description of the dark web. While the computer network can have legitimate applications, it is teeming with illicit activity. Bad actors frequently use the communication network for all sorts of crimes, including:
- Fake IDs
- Credit card fraud
- Selling business EIN numbers
- Offering trade secrets to the highest bidder
- Publishing hacker tools
- Buying and selling prohibited items like drugs or weapons
- Engaging in human trafficking
If that wasn’t enough, the dark web can be a minefield of cybersecurity risks including malware and other viruses.
Keep your business clear of the dark web
As with most cybersecurity threats, when it comes to the dark web, prevention is the best medicine. You can do a lot to keep your agency safe by deploying strong cybersecurity protocols and safeguards. Here are a few examples:
- Enact multi-factor authentication.
- Require your staff to adhere to best practices for creating and maintaining strong passwords.
- Consider using a dark web monitoring service.
- Update your programs and ensure you have strong anti-virus software in place.
- Instruct your staff to use a virtual network server or VPN whenever they are working remotely, which will prevent data interception by cybercriminals.
Final words Although most people will go their entire lives without having to worry about the dark web, it remains a significant threat to businesses, particularly in industries like ours that handle large amounts of personal data. Taking preventative measures now can decrease your risk profile and keep your firm’s sensitive information out of th
[i] 5 Dark Web Trends in 2023 | LMG Security
[ii] Difference Between Dark Web vs. Deep Web | ExpressVPN Blog
What can edge computing offer us?
In recent years, cloud computing has exploded into the mainstream, with companies across different verticals moving swiftly to transition to cloud networks. However, there is another technology called edge computing that is not as well-known. This is unfortunate because edge computing can also bring benefits to companies that want to accelerate their growth and increase efficiency. In this blog, we will look at this form of technology, how it differs from something like cloud computing, and whether you should consider incorporating it into your IT stack in the future.
What exactly is edge computing?
As its name suggests, edge computing occurs at the edge of your business’s network. More specifically, it refers to computing adjacent to end users or data sources – such as sensors, mobile phones or other connected devices.
Edge versus cloud computing
Edge computing is related to cloud computing in that edge resources can be shared across a distributed cloud network, but they can also be separate entities or processes. Another way to conceptualize the difference is to think about edge computing in terms of time and volume. Typically, businesses deploy edge solutions when they need to deal with data quickly and efficiently, and where accessing the data over the cloud is not practical.
The edge can offer big benefits
Smaller businesses can gain from making edge computing part of their IT business stack. Edge computing helps businesses process data and applications faster. By not relying on the cloud, companies can also improve efficiencies, while enjoying peace of mind through enhanced security. In addition, edge-powered businesses can keep operating and serving their customers even when internet connectivity is limited. And these advantages can translate to sizable cost savings.
What about for title agents?
For those working in the real estate and title insurance industries, edge computing has a lot of potential benefit. The real estate industry is notoriously document-heavy, dealing with contracts, deeds and other legal documents. Edge computing speeds up document processing significantly, allowing agents to deal with certain workflows locally rather than relying on cloud computing.
Given the sensitive nature of the information title professionals routinely deal with, having robust security measures in place is an absolute necessity. By keeping data closer to its source and not having to run it through the cloud, agencies can reduce their ecosystem’s potential attack surface and minimize their vulnerability to cyberattacks or breaches.
For agents who operate in the field, having the right mobile solutions can make a real difference in productivity and customer experience they provide. Edge computing is a catalyst for enabling mobile efficiency and linking employees to the data, applications and information they need to unlock anywhere, anytime connectivity.
Last but certainly not least, edge computing has been associated with sizable cost savings by reducing storage, networking and downtime costs.
Take things to the edge
Edge computing can help agencies overcome some of the cloud’s limitations. By bringing computing closer to its source, the edge often results in higher efficiency, lower costs and greater productivity. And in doing so, it helps forward-thinking agencies become more innovative and obtain additional market share.
Bryan Johnson is Alliant National’s IT Director and can be reached at email@example.com
Don’t miss out on this unique marketing opportunity.
When thinking about how to market your agency, it can sometimes be helpful to take stock of your “digital real estate.” It’s simple. Every company has a certain amount of media that they “own.” Some well-known examples include social media feeds, websites and blogs. In any marketing campaign, maximizing your digital real estate is key, and that includes looking for marketing opportunities in unexpected places.
One opportunity that often goes overlooked is email, specifically your firm’s professional email signatures. More than 330 billion emails get sent every single day[i], and each one of these represents a chance to create a unique touchpoint with potential customers. Here is how you can start optimizing this part of your digital real estate and get your key messages in front of more people.
Make them complete and unified
The first and easiest way to optimize your staff email signatures is simply by including all relevant contact information. Typically, this includes:
- Full name
- Professional title
- Email address
- Work phone number
- Company website
- Company logo
- Company social media feeds
Of course, it is not enough to merely include all relevant information; you also want to ensure that each staff member’s email signature is formatted uniformly. To achieve this, document each element of your agency’s email signature format and circulate it accordingly. Consider working with a graphic designer on a mockup that new employees can refer to as they onboard.
Fold this mockup into your firm’s style guide. Like any other piece of digital collateral, the signature needs to be aligned with and reflective of your overall brand.
The rationale for taking these steps is two-fold. You convey a stronger sense of professionalism. You also verify that interested prospects will have all information they need to connect with you and perhaps do business in the future.
Promote, promote, promote!
While completing your signature is a great first step, it is only one part of a larger process. Email signatures can be much more than basic contact information. They can also be a place to promote your events, products and special deals.
The best way to do this is by deploying a visual element like a logo, image or GIF. Typically, these visual elements appear in a long, rectangular format, often around 700×200 to be precise. Once again, working with a graphic designer can be helpful here, as they assist you in making sure your graphic is attention-grabbing, branded and sized correctly.
Get those clicks
Perhaps the best part of optimizing your email signature is that you can embed hyperlinks to achieve key marketing objectives. For example, if growing your social media following is an important goal for your agency, include logos for each social media site where you have an account and link them back to your firm’s profiles.
Repeat this process for other objectives. Want to expand your newsletter distribution list? Place a link in your signature. Running a promotion? Include a banner image and hyperlink it to a special landing page on your website.
The data suggests that taking these simple steps can pay off handsomely – with some figures showing an increase in your email marketing CTR (click-through-rate) of up to 10%.[ii]
Don’t leave money on the table
These days, every company must be on the hunt for untapped marketing opportunities. After all, finding innovative, appealing and unobtrusive ways to message your initiatives is essential to standing apart from the competition. Your firm’s email signature represents a golden opportunity to reinforce your brand’s professionalism and competency, and message your products and services. Doing anything less is leaving money on the table.
[i] 75 Incredible Email Statistics : How Many Emails Are Sent Per Day? – Zippia
[ii] How to Run a Successful Email Signature Marketing Campaign [Step-by-Step Guide] – NEWOLDSTAMP