Tim Christian, Digital Department Manager, Production Manager

Tim Christian

Digital Department Manager
I’m Tim Christian. I’ve been with KW2 since 2005. I worked at Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis before joining the KW2. I run. Even when not being chased. I play music. With my kids. In a band. I live in the only Waunakee in the world.
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Shut up and talk to me: 4 steps to finding the sweet spot between your business goals and what website visitors want

Do you find yourself buried in analytics, data, ROI numbers and so many stats that it would make John Nash’s head spin? If so, let’s make sure we don’t forget the one person that tends to get overlooked in all those numbers: the visitors to your website. The customer behind the click. The human being that bounces off your site and, guess what?,  Analytics data doesn’t tell you why. As singer Guy Clark tells us in his not-so-hit song, ‘I’m not that hard to please, shut up and talk to me’.

It’s actually quite easy to reach your website users and let them tell you what’s most important about your site. Maybe more importantly, what really annoys them about a visit to the site. How?

Define the business goals of your website.
Why does your website exist? Sounds like a ridiculous question, right? Make sure you understand the business goals your website is meant to serve. Bringing warm leads to Sales? Increasing the number of customers buying a certain product? Retaining repeat customers?
This is critical to understanding what role the site plays in running your business. When you’ve got a handle on the true business purpose of the site, reach out to real users to determine what they most use it for.

Create an online survey.
Write down a user task list of all the different things users could accomplish on your website. This is really important. Yes, it will be long. That’s OK. There are a heckuva lot of things a user could possibly need from your website. Write them all down. Organize them by broad topic areas and put them in a survey tool such as Survey Monkey. It should only take about 7-8 questions in the survey to get a great deal of actionable feedback from real users of your site. Hopefully, you’ve got a way you can reach those users. You could tap into your CRM or just gather some of your users the old-fashioned way by reaching out to them and asking if they’ll take part in a quick survey to help improve your website. Most of them will appreciate that you’re asking their opinion on the topic.

Get input from users.
Ask your users to select the top 5 tasks they generally need to accomplish when visiting your site. If you can get a decent number of respondents (greater than 50), you’d be surprised how closely aligned many of the users will be on those top 5 tasks. As a bonus, we’ve found that users almost always provide some great insight through the one free-form question we put in the survey. Be forewarned, they’ll be brutally honest with you about the site’s shortcomings. It comes with the territory.

Align user tasks with business goals.
Here’s the fun part. Pull out those business goals we discussed earlier. Compare the user responses to the defined business goals of your site. Literally layer them on top of each other in a visual way. Sometimes, we just use the ol’ reliable Post-It Note to do this. That sweet spot on the Venn diagram is where the content on your site will benefit both your users and your business goals. The insights gained through this process usually lead to new content ideas, website structure and possibly new products and services.

We’ve made this simple approach work for every type of business model and website you can think of.

So, the next time you’re buried up to your knees in Google Analytics and none of it is actually helping you make actionable decisions about what content on your site to devote more time and energy to, just take Guy’s advice again…

You can rattle on about
Why, who, what
A little conversation
Wouldn’t hurt that much…

Shut up and talk to me.

And because we don’t want to be that rude… say please.
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On baseball, business and managing your team

As the smell of freshly-mowed grass reaches these parts of the upper Midwest, my thoughts often turn to baseball. Baseball. Seems like a sport that should have gone the way of the passenger pigeon. How can a sport that’s as slow as the spring thaw still draw millions of fans to the stands? My humble opinion is that much of the success of baseball is due, in part, to the methodical approach and strategy of the leader of the ball clubs – the manager. Before the first pitch is even a wisp of a thought in a the pitcher’s mind, the manager has prepared a plan for his team to follow and he’s most likely played out multiple scenarios in his head so he can be prepared for all nine innings. One of the best to ever manage a team was Tony La Russa. Mr. La Russa retired in 2011, but not until he had brought my hometown St. Louis Cardinals another World Championship trophy. And so, in honor of Mr. La Russa and our nation’s favorite past time, I’d like to share with you some tips that work for managing baseball clubs as well as managing business teams:

You can only take advantage of what you have
Play to your strengths and manage your strategy around those strengths. Take an honest look at the people representing your organization. What are they best at? Write it down. Where can they use improvement? Write it down. Study it. Plan around their strengths, but also have a pathway to address improvements that are needed.

Put people in the best position to compete
Establish a solid relationship with each member of your team. Get to know their strengths and weaknesses and set them up for success. They’ll come to work each day knowing they are supported and that their success is at the top of your list.

Know when to give players the hook
If someone on your team is consistently underperforming or not bringing their A game, make the move earlier rather than later. Chances are the first time you have a question about an individual’s performance won’t be the last. So pay attention, and give the issue the time it deserves so you can make the decision whether to continue with that player.

If you need too many meetings, your club is in trouble
Mr. La Russa believed there were few times throughout a season when meetings were needed, but if you need too many of these, you’ve got people not paying attention or you’re not getting through to your team.

Those devilish details
Make notes about your game. Your players. Your successes. Your failures. Review them often enough to remind you of changes you’d like to make.

And finally, the three things every manager should remind themselves of each day:
Preparation and process. OK, so that’s only two.The third? Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Repetition is key to making your team as effective as possible. Heck, each of these could be its own blog post, but that’s for a different time and maybe another baseball season.

Now, enough reading about the game; get out there and make some of these changes happen! Go, Cards!

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The Top 23 Digital Marketing Conferences in 2015

Each year, I like to take a look at the year ahead and look at what digital marketing events we should be paying attention to in the year ahead. As you all know, picking appropriate conferences are a subtle dance of budget, location and training needs of your team. Given the explosion of worthwhile events out there in the digital marketing landscape, I thought I’d share some of my research with you. Of course, you could spend the time Googling all of these yourself, but wouldn’t it be easier if you just download our handy PDF of the top digital marketing events of 2015? Yes! We’re hopeful some of these events can help you and your team get smarter in 2015.

As for KW2, we’re checking out Confab, a CMS conference and some of the PPC conferences. They all hit areas of deep interest in the services we provide for our clients. I’m hopeful this reference guide can help you plan your training calendar around the events you want to go to. Here’s to a successful 2015 and here’s to getting smarter while we do it!

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Mobile Website Traffic Makes the Case for Responsive Design

The need for your website to display responsively to smartphone and tablet traffic is increasing month over month and the trend isn’t going away anytime soon, or dare I say, ever. So, how do you respond to responsive? When it comes time to redesign or start your new website, what steps do you take to assess whether or not you should design responsively? Here at KW2, we assume responsive design on most projects but we’ll also do a more detailed business needs analysis during our Discovery phase to determine whether we should plan and design a responsive website.

First, we establish the need, if your analytics hasn’t done the job for you. According to the quarterly mobile traffic report from Walker Sands Communications, almost a third of global internet traffic – 31.3% – to North American sites in Q4 2013 came from smartphones and tablets. That’s up 34% from the Q4 2012 report. These numbers will only continue to increase over time.

Your analytics is telling you to pay attention to mobile traffic.
Your customers are accessing your site more and more through mobile devices.
So, how do you tackle this responsive design need? Here are a few steps to get you headed in the right direction.

Discovery
During the Discovery phase, it’s crucial to make sure all key stakeholders understand what responsive design is and the impact it will have on the design of your website. Sometimes, our clients ask about responsive design without understanding what it means and the implications responsive design can have on process, timing and budget. A thorough Discovery process will give you clear documentation on how the site will be built – responsive or otherwise.

Planning and Concepting Process
Responsive design projects tend to take on more of an agile workflow as opposed to a traditional waterfall process. Collaboration amongst the UX designer, art director, strategist, marketing and technical folks is essential to making this work efficiently and effectively. At KW2, we like to establish a conceptual design framework for the website before delving too deeply into the responsive menu and display structures. Once we have client approval on a concept, we can quickly create the mobile display menus and designs to move onto programmers.

QA Testing Time
Testing time will increase a bit when putting a website through its paces on not only the browsers and OS desktop platforms but the mobile devices as well. It’s key to identify and agree on the devices you will use in testing your website. Neither you nor your agency can test on all devices – it’s just not possible. Agree on the most important ones. Your analytics can tell you what devices access your site most frequently. Obviously, test on the devices you and your marketing team use as well. You will be spending a lot of time on your own site during the process so make sure it’s looking good on your own device. Oh, and don’t forget your boss. Make sure the site looks good on his or her device because that’s probably the only device they will view it on. Gotta make sure it looks good for them!

Device Testing
One piece of advice having been through many QA testing projects here: test on real devices. While some websites and services can help you get a topline look at how your site looks when accessed by the most popular devices on the market, the rubber meets the road when you actually access the site using the device and its native OS platform.

Put your site to the responsive test right now
If you’d like to see how your site looks when being accessed by many of the top mobile devices on the market, you might find the following tools handy – Responsive Design Checker, Responsinator. Just punch in your site URL and the results will show you how you look to multiple devices without having to actually hold those devices in your hands. This internet thing is pretty neat, right?

Here’s a topline summary to get you up and running on responsive design for your site:

Do your homework to determine the need for responsive design – data, analytics
Create planning documents with the mobile experience in the forefront
Appropriately plan time for QA testing

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Top 23 Digital Marketing Conferences for 2014

As 2014 kicks into high gear, it’s time to assess your marketing goals for the year. Part of that assessment should include a look at what digital trends and tools your marketing team should be paying attention to. We’re all too busy to plan for these events, right? Knowing this, we’ve gathered a Poster of 2014 Top Marketing Training Events that we know will help make your team even smarter in digital marketing.

Maybe you need help understanding your analytics so that marketing and sales can work as a more unified team. Or perhaps you need to know the latest ways to measure ROI on a social media campaign. Maybe you’ve got a question on the trendy topic of responsive design for websites. Searching for all of the different marketing conferences that can help you learn these things can be time consuming. So, the good folks at KW2 have done some of the legwork for you. Click here to download an infographic of the top marketing conferences in 2014. This reference guide can help you plan your training calendar around the events you want to go to. To help you get an easy view of the events that might interest you, the poster lists the location, date and  hot link to each of the event websites. Some folks from KW2 will be at Confab in Minneapolis in May. We’ll also be attending BOLO in Scottsdale in the fall. Got any good training events you think should be added to our list? Let us know and we’ll update it and re-post to our blog. Happy conferencing!

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Why your marketing department needs Steve Jobs (and that guy from Office Space with the red stapler)

Who are the people in your company that drive your decisions?

Who are your team’s neophiliacs – the ones that push things forward and say ‘let’s try something new’? These are the seekers, full of energy and continually pushing people and business processes into unknown territories for your marketing and business teams. Who are your team’s neophobes – the ones who like the safety of the current business model? They consider the marketing plan that you ran last year to be just fine for the year ahead.  If it worked, why change? They trust in the routine and the safe routes.
I’ve always been curious about these two distinct types of people that you see at almost any business meeting. How can they both co-exist in the world? A recent NPR podcast featured Winifred Gallagher and her book New-Understanding Our Need for Novelty and Change. Gallagher delves into these two opposing approaches and concludes that our evolution has depended on both types.  So must your business and marketing plans.  She says you need Steve Jobs constantly pushing new ideas, but you also need that guy in the basement office with the red stapler.  He keeps the trains running on time and just might be the guy who carries out the visionary ideas of Steve Jobs.

For the record, we favor the neophiliacs. Of course vision needs to have grounding in a customer need. Do your homework. Learn what your customer really wants from you. Learn what you’re really selling. Then set a bold vision that even the neophobes can get excited about.

Just remember that your customers are the one surefire way to determine if what you’re doing is good for them or not. They cast their votes every time they purchase or don’t purchase your product.  Each of those customers is telling you something about the tools you’re using to reach them. Listen.

Find out what type of person you are by taking this quiz.

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