Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bye Bye Blogger

Since we started Online It ALL Matters, Aha Media has grown from a freelancer trying to grow a business to a team of more than 16 strong.

You can find our old blog posts and our new blog here: http://ahamediagroup.com/our-blog/

Thank you for your loyal readership and shares. We hope we will see you in our new location often.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The 3 Hallmarks of Bad Content

Much has been written about what makes content good. But, what if there were a way to recognize the hallmarks of bad content, so you could plan for better content? 

Besides the obvious, like high bounce rates and lack of conversions on the page, how can you tell when you really need a heavy-duty rewrite of your content?

3 Signs Your Content is Tired

When we evaluate content for rewrites, we look for these three things:

  1. Frankenstein content: We’re all familiar with content that has been pulled from so many places—a brochure here, a microsite over there. It no longer reads as a cohesive piece, but instead sounds like something out of a fantasy land where they speak in non-sequiturs and magical spells.

    How to avoid: Editing may not be the answer for your content. You may need to dig in and rewrite whole sections, plotting information flow and developing content architectures to ensure pages are consistent.

  2. Where does this belong?: Have you ever read a web page and thought, “This is in the wrong place.” It’s almost as if the writer(s) were not sure what to do with that piece of information, but they were sure it belonged somewhere. To the reader, it’s obvious that something is awry because those two odd paragraphs stick out like adults chaperoning a teenage pool party. #awkward, as my 12-year-old would say.

    How to avoid: Create strong information architectures and content roadmaps by plotting your personas, identity pillars and messaging points. Think through your different target audiences and what content they need to know to move to the next phase of the buying cycle.

  3. Flabby content: This is my personal favorite. Here’s what it sounds like, “We are the best brand for you. Our professionals are the best at what they do, and then we use a lot of really fancy words that don’t mean anything to prove that point without backing it up with any facts.”

    How to avoid: You cannot be the best unless you have solid facts or independent qualifications to back up your brand’s superiority.  And maybe your brand isn’t superior. That’s okay—find the things that DO differentiate you in the marketplace and talk about those things. For the right audience, those points will convince them to convert.

What do you think? What are the signs of bad content to you? Please email Ahava your examples.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

6 Tips for Engaging Self-Pay Patients

Despite The Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance mandate, a recent study shows nearly 1 in 4 people are still uninsured. These findings underscore a growing movement among patients who would rather pay for care only when they need it. What’s surprising is they’re having a hard time finding hospitals willing to work with.

Nine out of 10 consumers consider receiving upfront price estimates nearly as important as receiving an accurate medical diagnosis. Many would-be self-pay patients searching for this information are instead finding chargemaster data, which is inflated many times over to cushion the administrative burden of working with third-party payers.

While implementing a self-pay program isn't easy, some early adopters are taking the plunge. For example, UCLA Health (a client of Aha Media’s) recently launched a cash pricing program. As one of the first academic medical centers in this arena, their program offers cash pricing for more than 50 procedures, with plans for soon adding more.

Accessible Price Information is Key to Engaging Self-Pay Patients

As more hospitals develop similar programs, competition will get stronger. Help your hospital stand out with these tips:

  1. Use consumer-friendly language. No one is going to spend a lot of money on something they don’t understand. Help self-pay patients feel confident about their purchase by using simple language to describe:
    • The procedure they are paying for
    • What services are included and excluded in the listed price
    • Your billing process
      This report from the American Hospital Association offers sample definitions and tips on communicating price transparency information to consumers.
  2. Seize your golden opportunity. Make price information available to patients at teachable moments, such as when they are considering an elective procedure. Make it easy to close the deal by linking to your price information on after visit summaries.
  3. Get them there in as few clicks as possible. Many patients, millennials in particular, want easy access to pricing information from their mobile device. Interactive features such as an easy to use interface of the human body, like UCLA uses, instead of a list can ensure a positive user experience. Want more mobile engagement strategies? Read 4 Mobile Strategies for Your Business.
  4. Know your audience. It’s not enough to report prices for your most common procedures as most states already require this by law. Consider the specific health needs of your self-pay population, keeping in mind that most are likely under 65 years of age. Family planning and childbirth services are a great place to start.
  5. Don’t let them bounce. Use your pricing information page to draw potential patients deeper into your site and closer to conversion by strategically linking to relevant clinical program information and online appointment request forms.
  6. Give more information than they ask for. Chances are your self-pay patients want to know more ways to save. Add links to cost saving programs and services, such as reduced cost generic prescriptions, clinical trials for new treatments and free patient education programs, from your price information page.

How are you engaging self-pay patients? Tell us about your experiences in our Comments section.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Why You Might Want to Manage Only 1 Social Media Channel

Are you spending your time and resources on multiple social media channels?
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, flickr, Instagram and Pinterest?
How much ROI are you getting from each channel?
Do you know? Exactly?
We all make choices about priority. But Web 2.0 has muddied the waters. What if we’re not on every channel? What if our customers can’t find us?
Here’s a better question: What if they don’t care?
If you truly want to be effective in social media, you need to set priorities and discover ROI. In other words, you should act like a pumpkin farmer: You need to make a determination about which social media activities grow you the biggest fruit.

Act Like a Pumpkin Farmer

In the business book, The Pumpkin Plan, A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field, author Mike Michalowicz explains that you must prune your business in the same way a farmer prunes his pumpkin patch. When baby pumpkins grow, the farmer assesses the vine and cuts away certain smaller pumpkins to give the bigger pumpkins the best chance to grow.
Social media strategy is no different. Take a long, analytical look at which tactics are driving your engagement, and therefore your revenue, as well as the tactics that are faltering.
Perhaps you don’t need to create an infographic every week, or post to Instagram four times a month, or create a $10,000 video once a quarter. If that content doesn’t actually do something to drive your revenues, you are simply wasting your time, giving equal sunshine and care to pumpkins that may not grow to true maturity. Then, what will you sell at harvest?
Prune the social media efforts that are not growing fruit. Spend your time mastering one or two channels before moving on to other efforts. It’s your job to convince your executive leadership team that being strategic means using resources in a thoughtful manner to maximize output.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What Harvard Knows About Consultants That You Don’t

Researchers at Harvard Business School sought to understand what makes change and transformation efforts successful. Based on research of strategy models at a variety of a global companies*, they found that 70 to 90 percent of internal execution efforts fail. It seems that companies have a hard time getting internal strategy projects completed.
To boil it down, that means seven to nine of your strategic projects are going to fail this year if you try to complete them in-house.
Let's find out why.

Outside Eyes Give You the Competitive Edge

According to the report, most internal strategists approach strategic projects in the following manner:

Step #1: Identify an opportunity—not hard to do, when you’re constantly swimming in the sea of your own challenges

Step #2: Attain buy-in from executive leadership—challenging, but possible for most internal strategists

Step #3: Execute on the strategy

Step #3 is where most internal strategists can’t bring it home. It’s not that they are at fault—they are simply too busy with all of their other responsibilities to execute on a new strategy.

Get the Competitive Edge

Too often, we think we can do it all ourselves. We don’t want to get outside help, or look to a consultant for an outside opinion, because we think we know our business better than anybody else. But the truth is, outside consultants often give you the competitive edge. They know your market landscape and can provide expertise on how to solve your unique challenges.

This is true for content and content strategy. Often, we are asked to step-in on a project that someone thought they could write internally. Or a social media or content marketing project has been stalled for months, until clients reach out to us for help with implementation. The best part is we see ourselves as your consultative partners, who can help you think through your strategy AND execute on your behalf.

Don’t let 2015 be the year that goes by with seven to nine failed strategic projects.  Reach out to a strategic partner who will lend a fresh set of eyes and a perspective that will position you for big wins this year.
*Kotter, John P. “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail.” Harvard Business Review, January 2007.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Spring Cleaning Your Marketing Strategy: 6 Practices to Shed

With Daylight Saving Time around the corner, many of us are eagerly awaiting the sense of renewal that comes with spring. Along with decluttering closets and planting flowers, now is also a good time to let go of marketing beliefs and practices that are no longer serving your brand, or anyone else’s brand for that matter.

Freshen Up Your Marketing Strategy by Letting Go of These 6 Practices:

1. Organizing content in a Z-shaped pattern: As users’ online viewing habits are becoming more sophisticated, eye tracking studies show they are scanning pages using five distinct patterns. To make sure your most important content gets the exposure it deserves, chunk it out and make sure you favor the left side of the screen.

2. Thinking your app is a marketing strategy: Digital platform guru Josh Clark says it best, “An app is not a strategy. It’s just an app.” Think of your app as a container that helps you deliver content. You can use it to strengthen brand loyalty by applying content in ways that help meet a specific user need, but an app alone does not a marketing strategy make. Check out the healthcare app that Aha Media wrote for a client.

3. Cramming too much information above the fold: Gone are the days of building content for users who don’t scroll: we now know that users are spending as much as 66% of their time below the fold. Your new challenge is to make sure above the fold content is compelling enough to encourage scrolling down for more.

4. Assuming your mobile users are distracted: With 58% of American adults using smartphones, mobile interactions are just as likely to occur from a user’s couch as they are on the go. With features that desktops don’t have, such as cameras, microphones and GPS, mobile users are not only focused, they have tools to interact with your brand in new and interesting ways.

For example, allowing current customers to augment product reviews with their own pictures adds depth, and affords potential customers a first-hand account of what they can expect from your brand.

5. Overestimating the value of homepage traffic: Given advancements in search behavior and search engine ranking algorithms, users who don’t know your brand are far more likely to find your site from blog or video content than your homepage. Use Google Analytics to learn which pages are drawing the most traffic and optimize them to encourage maximum visibility for your brand.

6. Eliminating extra taps and clicks whenever possible: Today’s users want to engage with brands in a meaningful way. When your website encourages them to breeze through using the least possible number of taps and clicks you’re passing up interactions that can strengthen customer loyalty. In fact if you can hold a user’s attention for just three minutes they are twice as likely to return.

Do this by building your site to encourage touch interactions:
  • Building your site to support the ergonomics of using a device with one hand (it’s all about the thumbs!) 
  • Sizing touch targets so they’re easy to use
  • Adding speech recognition capabilities for important features such as search

Did we miss anything? Share your tips with us in the Comments section.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why Your Web Pages Alienate Your Customers

Did you know we use five different coping strategies to scan a web page? It's just a simple fact of neuroscience: The human eye is built for scanning on digital screens. But you need your customers to read. You want to build web pages that encourage scanning, but also invite them to commit to reading.
There are five different scanning patterns that people use when scanning web pages: F-shaped, Layer cake, Bypassing, Spotted and Commitment. But there are three types of pages that will cause your customers to bounce like rubber balls right off your site. Learn how to avoid them below.

3 Web Moves to Avoid

  1. Don't Shout: You know those web pages make everything important? They assign no visual hierarchy to pages so that the customer has no idea where to look first. These pages are cluttered with too much content, not enough use of different types and sizes of fonts and no focus. Clean up your pages by working with excellent web designers who understand how to create white space and anchors for the eyes.
  2. Organize: What's the most important thing you want your customer to know after scanning your page? Where's the call to action? Are you using words your customers know? Organizing information for the reader is the most important thing a web writer does. Too often I read web pages where the lede is so buried, it would take 1,000 archaeologists and Indiana Jones to dig it up. Elevate your main point and lose the rest.
  3. Prune: The most beautiful spaces in the world understand the balance between too much and too little. Americans are bombarded by 5,000 messages a day. Your job is to help your customers focus.  So prune out unnecessary side bars or calls to action.
P.S. You can learn more about the 5 patterns we use to scan pages, as well as how to create fantastic web copy that converts by taking one of Ahava's digital copywriting classes. These workshops are custom designed for your company and take your team from a group of print writers to digital writers who understand organic SEO, how to construct and write powerful web pages and calls to action and how to design content marketing campaigns that convert.