Click here to access free resources to help you develop and communicate your COVID-19 pivot.

The Top 2 Best Free Graphic Design Tools of 2020

Whether you are a business owner, freelancer or you work in the fields of marketing and advertising you know how important it is to portray the right image for your brand. There are countless graphic design tools that can create beautiful images and logos, however, not everyone has the time, budget or technical skill to feel comfortable in software such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign. In 2020 there are many tools available for graphic design and finding the right tool can seem daunting. 

Luckily, our team of talented designers and marketers have compiled a selection of their favourite, free design tools. Now you can quickly and easily make quality graphics, and stay inspired by the many featured layouts and templates available in these platforms. There are several different factors that went into our rankings and you can bet our team put these tools to the test. 

Each platform is ranked based on what it offers, its ease of use, flexibility and design options, storage space and existing, pre-designed templates available. These free tools create equal and even greater results than some of the best, high-quality design systems on the market today. So let’s dive in and explore the top 2 graphic design tools in 2020. 

How to Choose the Right Design Tool

There are so many design tools available today and it can be difficult to narrow them down. Therefore, it is important to define what you are looking to do to find a tool that meets your needs. Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish. Are you creating display ads, social media posts, video thumbnails, blog post images or you’re looking for a multi-use tool? Once you have defined your goals, it should be easier to determine which tools are available to meet your needs. 

Secondly, it is very important that you find a tool that you are comfortable working with. If you are looking to create a quick social media post for your small business, for example, a tool like Photoshop may seem a bit daunting, but an alternative may have everything you need to create a quality post quickly. Do not settle for tools that interfere with your workflow, it’s important to use what’s best for you. 

In our research for the top graphic design tools of 2020, we identified 2 platforms that have a clean workflow, easy-to-use interface and quality results. Head to head Crello is our runner up, it is incredibly easy to use, but as far as flexibility is concerned, our winner Visme allows for way more customization. These two platforms tie for storage availability and as far as pre-made templates go, Visme is the winner there. Visme also appeared to have a larger asset library within the platform but both platforms allow you to upload your own image assets. Let’s examine these two tools more closely.

1. Crello

This was certainly a difficult decision as both of these platforms are filled with free tools, tips and templates. Crello is our winner. We found that Crello really excels for those looking to make templates with minor edits and visual adjustments. It is an excellent tool for those with little to no design experience and there are both free and paid versions of this program. Crello’s headline reads “Anyone is a designer with Crello” they have made high-quality templates for those who are just starting out in the world of design. The program is free and simply requires an email to sign up. 

free design tools: crello

What it Offers

Crello offers over 13,000 free, pre-defined templates for the most popular social media platforms in use today. These templates are pre-sized to fit Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. It also has a variety of digital assets such as pre-sets for infographics, e-books and presentations. Crello offers templates for print media as well such as coupons, posters and business cards. 

In addition to pre-sets, Crello allows for design editing as well. You can choose from a wide selection of stock images in their photo library, which is also free to use. You can select objects as well such as badges, shapes, illustrations, stickers, lines, masks and frames. Crello offers a wide variety of additional elements such as text style templates and upload options for custom fonts and backgrounds. 

Flexibility, Storage and Other Assets

We tested each platform on their ease of use, flexibility, storage, templates, and assets offered. Here’s how Crello measured up. 

Ease of Use

Crello is a very user-friendly tool, their website has plenty of tutorials available to guide first-time designers through the platform. The templates and asset libraries are very clear and easy to use. The tools in Crello are useful for those with a beginner to intermediate skill level. Overall this platform is ideal for beginners.

Flexibility

The only downside to Crello from a designers standpoint is it slack of flexibility and options for customization, there is not much freedom in the free account. However, for those who are interested, there are a lot of integrated tools in the pro version, these include animations as well as videos. Crello has stock video templates, or you can upload your own. 

Storage

Crello allows for free, unlimited storage for upload and designs. It has an easy to use folder structure which is ideal for organizing your final visual assets. 

Assets

Besides offering thousands of templates, Crello offers additional, free content and image assets. Choose from a massive library of stock photos, as well as video animations. Adding your own video animations from a library requires a pro account, but Crello allows you to do so much without a membership.

Final Thoughts 

Crello is an excellent way to quickly and easily create eye-catching designs. Their template library is very well made and allows for a moderate amount of editing. It is perfect for people with little to no design experience, as well as those with intermediate design levels that are looking for inspiration as well as strong templates. The key takeaways are that Crello is great for those who are just getting started or those without any design experience. It’s simple and easy to use with the one downside being that it is slightly limiting in the level of customization available.

Perfect for social media posts and quick visuals.

2. Visme

Visme is our runner up and a very close contender, this powerful design tool has both free and paid options. The free account lets you choose from a pretty good selection of templates, use different tools and access a large library of visual assets. The tool is also very flexible and allows for customization, unlike Crello. With that being said, you may find yourself slightly limited with templates and storage on a free plan.

What it Offers 

Visme offers a wide range of templates including layouts for presentations, infographics, documents, print media, web graphics and social media posts. You can use these templates on their own or customize them using the platform’s editing software.

Visme offers more freedom and design customization than Crello, while still having pre-made templates and image assets available. They offer pre-made graphics such as icons, shapes and photos. You can also upload your own video and audio files in the free version of this platform. 

Visme is excellent for business presentations and they have suggested layouts and theme colours available. You can store and upload files into the system and access themes that you have recently used. Visme also has an excellent network of resources for those just learning how to use the platform. These include an in-depth blog section, video tutorials, webinars and e-books

Flexibility, Storage and Other Assets

Ease of Use 

The Visme asset library is very well organized. The platform has a lot to offer but due to a large number of options available, there is a bit of a learning curve to fully understand the capabilities. Visme comes across as much more business-oriented and it is excellent for those who are looking to put together a presentation for management or clients. One of the more unique features is the data option which is great for displaying infographics and other stats. 

Flexibility 

Visme is incredibly flexible and it allows beginners and designers alike,  plenty of freedom, even while using the free version of the tool. 

Storage 

You can save designs you are working on and choose from recently used templates in your account. The free version offers 100 MB of storage with more storage available in the various paid plans*The free plan limits you to 5 designs. If you are working on more than 5 designs at a time, you might want to consider a pro plan or a full fledged design tool such as Figma.

Assets 

Visme offers a large library of photos, icons and even illustrations. The assets are also customizable when placed in the working frame so you can build upon the existing content available. Visme has limited sizing when it comes to templates when using the free account.

Final Thoughts

Visme is excellent for beginners and professionals alike. It gives you the opportunity to be more hands-on in the design process with its many customizable templates. It gives intermediate and advanced users more control over their visual designs. The downside to Visme is that there are limited templates available in the free account.

Perfect for infographics and presentations.

Choose What’s Best For You 

Ultimately, choosing between these two platforms was difficult as they are intended for slightly different audiences. Crello was perfect for beginners with a straightforward user interface and easy to use pre-defined templates. Visme, on the other hand, provides much more flexibility and the free asset library outweighs anything Crello has to offer. It is ideal for those who are more advanced with some design experience, looking to customize the content available. If you have extra time to learn how to use Visme, you will be rewarded with the freedom and flexibility to create any visual asset you desire. However, if you are working within a tight timeframe and need inspiration or a beautifully designed visual asset, Crello is a fast and easy way to get the job done. 

Graphic Design Services at ElementIQ

If you are looking for graphic design services in Coquitlam, BC, the team at ElementIQ has the experience and skill to create something eye-catching for your business. Whether you are looking for a new logo, a brand guide or infographics and a site redesign, we have the knowledge it takes to turn your ideas into a reality. Contact us with any questions you may have about our graphic design services and we would be happy to meet and discuss your goals.

6 Powerful Real Estate Marketing Tactics Used During COVID-19

6 Key Real Estate Marketing Tactics Used During COVID-19

While many companies were forced to pivot dramatically during the COVID-19 quarantine, the real estate market in Vancouver, BC remained largely stable. It lulled to a brief pause, before skyrocketing back during phases 2 and 3. In BC, construction was deemed an essential service, and developments continued as planned, despite the province-wide lockdown in the spring. 

With multiple offer situations occurring daily on the market, the lowest mortgage rates in decades, and developers looking to expand throughout Lower Mainland, there is little doubt that the real estate market was able to adapt quickly to the changing times and thrive with effective forms of real estate marketing. 

The Vancouver market has always been a bit of an anomaly, however, there are some interesting channels that agents leveraged to market themselves and their listings during this global pandemic. Let’s dive in and explore some of the key real estate marketing tactics Vancouver professionals used to capture an audience of interested buyers remotely, effectively convincing them to buy homes which they had never set foot in. 

1. Remote Video Tours 

With open houses out of the question and strict social distancing measures in place, the real estate market needed to adapt and cater to a completely online home buying experience. Video real estate marketing was already in use, as several listings included 3D tours before COVID-19 occurred.

During the quarantine, buyers could not go to open houses and sellers were hesitant to show their homes. It became the new standard to include a 3D walkthrough of all listings that were posted during the first phase of the pandemic. 3D rendering software like Matterport created an immersive experience for interested buyers. Sellers with 3D tours had a competitive advantage when buyers were no longer able to visit their listings in person. 

Realtors leveraged 3D tours and remote video software to give buyers a sense of the home, simulating a traditional open house. Buyers were able to make decisions based on these virtual viewings which generated offers on properties, site unseen. 

2. Social Media Marketing 

Realtors and developers also turned heavily to social media channels to not only promote themselves and their personal brands, but also to communicate remotely with prospective clients. During the midst of the pandemic, different firms and independent realtors posted video updates, virtual tours and full photoshoots of homes to their social media channels in order to engage viewers and sell homes remotely. 

Social media strategies helped to build local awareness and established a sense of community and human connection during the quarantine. Social media channels saw a sizable increase in active users in general and realtors were able to use these platforms to place themselves directly in front of their active, interested audiences. 

Paid social media campaigns were and still are excellent resources for realtors. At ElementIQ our team has extensive experience in high-end luxury real estate and developer marketing and one of our recent projects focused on growing clients for a boutique luxury development in Nanaimo, BC. The campaign focused heavily on paid social media marketing campaigns, which in turn fuelled a lengthy list of interested subscribers.

3. Email Marketing 

Email campaigns became a vital part of communication between realtors, clients and pre-sale developments in the Lower Mainland during phase 1 of the pandemic. Websites like Vancouver New Condos continued to email detailed market reports and updates on upcoming local developments available. Emails acted as a constant reminder that the market was still moving forward. Likewise, websites such as REW allow buyers to subscribe to email notifications which let them know as soon as new listings become available within their price range. 

In the case of our development project, our client wanted to gauge interest in their presale condos in order to predict their potential sales. We used an email campaign in order to communicate with interested future buyers and connect those ready to purchase with a sales team. 

Our client saw a 43% increase in leads in just a few short months as a result of tailored email marketing campaigns. 

4. Website Creation 

Most companies that did not have websites prior to COVID-19 jumped to set them up quickly. Realtors and developers were no different and they used websites to convey their brand, listings and message during COVID-19. Some presale developments even utilized simple landing pages to monitor interest and traction, and collect emails from interested prospects.

At ElementIQ, many clients have reached out during COVID-19 with web design projects. We completely transformed the website for a luxury real estate development. The client’s website was not up to the standard of its competitors and the team at ElementIQ helped the client revamp and launch a website that rivalled competitors in the market. There has never been a better time to create your digital presence online as a realtor. 

5. Content and Market Updates 

Monthly market updates kept buyers interested, informed and confident in uncertain times. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver released monthly market reports and blog content updates that kept their audience informed. Many reports mentioned the positive outcomes of the pandemic, including historically low mortgage rates. This spiked interest and buyer confidence in a time of financial uncertainty. 

They communicated the changes caused by COVID-19 and helped to educate buyers and sellers so they could navigate the market in changing times. Despite the drop in inventory, the market was still buzzing as buyers encountered multiple offer situations in the early summer months. Buyers were feeling confident, equipped with knowledge and reassurance from the market reports. 

6. Paid Advertising and Remote Lead Generation 

Pre-sale developments and real estate firms often use a combination of paid advertising as well as signage and traditional marketing in order to spread awareness and generate leads that are interested in buying. With the onset of COVID-19, paid advertising took the lead as an incredible tool for remote lead generation. This highly targeted form of recruitment created awareness in order to generate interested prospects and subscribers. This is an excellent tool moving forward for those looking to generate interest and capture potential buyers online. 

real estate marketing for developers

Contact ElementIQ for Real Estate Marketing

Unfortunately, this global pandemic is not yet over. Despite moving into phase 3 of COVID-19, the numbers are still rising in BC. Moving forward, a second wave is entirely possible and realtors must be ready to adapt their marketing efforts further to thrive in these changing times. Now is an excellent opportunity to look into real estate marketing services for your business. Whether you are an independent realtor, a builder or a developer, the right marketing team can put you in front of your desired local audience using safe, remote and digital marketing tactics. 

Our team of consultants are ready to assist with your marketing goals. We streamline the marketing process, saving you time and money while generating data-driven, tangible results for your company. Real estate marketing tactics are shifting in these changing times and with ElementIQ you can rest assured, you have an entire team to help you succeed. Contact us or call (604)-909-3750 for a complimentary consultation.

Using Social Media to Rebuild Trust with Your Customers

Social media

Social media usage has skyrocketed globally during the COVID-19 pandemic. This rapid shift to digital media prompted businesses to adapt and find ways to communicate with their customers and prospective clients online, rather than in person. As government restrictions begin to lift, and businesses begin to re-open, it is essential to share updates with followers on social media. 

As a business owner, you may be wondering ‘how do I communicate new office hours, restrictions, and new rules to followers?’ Many companies have turned to social media to alert their followers about updates to their business. There are several ways to send the message out, and we suggest experimenting with multiple social channels to determine what works best for your business. 

Determine Your Message 

It is important to outline a clear message of what you want to convey to your customers before you post on social media. Ask yourself: “What are we doing to adapt to the current situation?” “What steps are we taking to keep our staff and customers safe?”

For example: if you’re a dental clinic, do you need patients to come in with a mask in order to attend them? 

It is essential to be transparent with your clients and let them know what has changed and what to expect. You can use social media to inform patients about your weekly schedule, things they need to bring, and any precautionary measures you are taking during this time. 

Create or Update your Social Accounts

There have been many changes going on during COVID-19 and several are actually quite positive. Businesses that previously did not have social media accounts have created them to share updates and information with customers. We highly suggest you create social media accounts for your business if you haven’t already. Here are the key social channels that every business should have in 2020: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Youtube, and Linkedin. 

Communicate Updates on Social Media  

Once your social media account is set up and you have customized it to your business, it’s time to get started and share your message with your customers. 

Publish a Welcome Video

In a time of social isolation, social media has become an incredibly important source for digital, social interaction. An excellent way to put your customers at ease and share information ‘face to face’ is by posting a video update on your social media channels regarding your new operating hours, rules, and restrictions your clients must follow. 

You will immediately establish a connection with your following and you mimic an in-person interaction, which will come as a welcome change to isolation. Face to face interaction helps to rebuild trust with your customers during this time. If you have never filmed a video to post on social media before, we have some helpful tips to get you started. Visit our blog to learn the “8 Best Practices for Recording Videos With or Without Professional Equipment.”

Go Live

In a similar vein to video, you can use Facebook and Instagram stories to communicate with your customers. Leverage stories to update them about your changes or if you are open. Instagram and Facebook stories appear at the top of your users’ screen when they are posted, so you get their attention right away. 

You can also use the stories platform to ‘go live’ on Facebook and Instagram. Your stories do not need to be overly complicated. Check out the examples of two Instagram stories we created for a local restaurant below for ideas: 

Instagram stories

You can also go live on Facebook and Instagram to talk directly to your customers. Let them know you are there and that you are doing your best. Use Facebook and Instagram lives to update customers about changes your business is undergoing or updated for opening dates. It is an easier way to share lots of information all at once. If you are unsure about how to go live, both Facebook and Instagram make it very straightforward to do. Here are their how-to steps “How to go live on Facebook and Instagram.”

Publish Updates Directly to your Feed

Once you have a clear message you want to convey, you can share it as a post on all of your social media channels as well. Below are some examples of what your message might look like: 

Post Updates if you are Open“We are now open! These are the measures we are currently taking…call to book appointments…we will be doing health assessments before you enter our premises (temperature)…use a mask”

Post Updates if you Aren’t Open Yet “We are currently closed to ensure the safety of our customers, however, we are expecting to open on such and such date. Keep an eye out for updates…sign-up here if you want to receive our updates.” 

  • Posts to feed – **pro tip – don’t forget to pin your post to the top of your Facebook page.

Dental Facebook post

Update Your Bio Information 

Your bio is the first thing your clients will see when they visit your social media profiles. It’s essential to keep your profile up to date during this time. That way, new clients visiting your page will be aware of your current situation. Be sure to update your bio information on each of your social media profiles to ensure that your message is consistent across platforms. Check out the example below: 

Instagram Bio

Likewise, if you are not opening yet make sure you let customers know what you are doing to provide your services remotely. This could be through virtual consultations or by offering delivery services – be sure to inform them in your bio.

Dental Facebook post

Pro-Social Media Tip from ElementIQ 

As a team of Digital Marketers, we have been working to keep our clients’ social media profiles up-to-date with new information regarding COVID related changes. Here is our key pro-tip when it comes to social media; it allows you to share more information with your clients, all in one place. 

Linkin for Instagram 

At ElementIQ we have started implementing LinkIn Bio’s for instagram accounts. It’s a new way for Instagram profiles to share organic content on Instagram. Instagram limits businesses to share links on their platform. Links shared on posts are not clickable and they limit you to one link on your bio. LinkIn Bio allows businesses to share links to website blogs, YouTube videos, service pages, pretty much anything. This is done through a Landing Page that users can access through your Instagram Bio. 

  • Implementing LinkIn Bio from Later has allowed us to share valuable resources within Instagram for us and our clients. Users can now access your blog, resources, and videos from your Instagram page. It is pretty simple – LinIn Bio makes your posts clickable, allowing businesses to send traffic to their website. 
  • In our case, we have used LinkIn Bio to share valuable COVID-19 resources for businesses to use. 
  • This is what our Instagram page looks like:

Linkin Instagram Profile

  • When users click on the link displayed in our bio; they are sent to a landing page, where all our linked posts will be displayed:

Linkin Instagram images

  • From here users can navigate to the home page and access our resources and blogs. As you can see above we have been able to share COVID-19 resources with our Instagram community quite readily and easily. 
  • LinkIn bio can be used in different ways, businesses can send their followers to their COVID-19 update page, to their contact page, to their contact form, to their virtual consultations page, resources, YouTube videos, and their blog. 

In the end, it is important to experiment and determine what your users respond to. If you find that you get the most engagement on Facebook, consider focusing your efforts on that platform. Or, if you have a high YouTube following, that would be the place to target your message. If you have any questions about social media marketing, the team at ElementIQ is also always ready to help. 

Contact ElementIQ for More Information 

Whether you are just getting started with social media, or you are an industry expert, now is the time to be using social media to build trust with your customers. ElementIQ has helped several companies pivot, adapt, and thrive during this time, and social media marketing has played a large role in making this possible. 

Our team of Marketing Specialists are committed to helping your business grow and prosper during this time of uncertainty. If you are interested in learning more about what social media management can do for your business, give us a call or contact us for a digital consultation. 

How to Re-Open Your Business Post-COVID

Woman in an office

Restrictions are lifting as we move into phase two of COVID-19. It is an exciting time, with a hint of normalcy in sight, however, it is also important to keep health and safety in mind. There is no doubt that many things have changed during this pandemic. Now, some businesses are allowed to gradually re-open, with restrictions. As a business owner, it is important to communicate with your clients and let them know about your new policies, office hours, and health measures you have in place to ensure their safety.  

We have created some helpful tips to communicate your message in a friendly way and keep your clients informed. Customers will feel more at ease coming to visit your business when they know what to expect. Of course, all businesses will differ in protocol and requirements, and naturally, this global situation is constantly evolving. This is a general outline that can be adapted to and modified for your unique field. 

Send out the Message 

Your clients are likely waiting to hear updates about your hours, availability, and new guidelines. As soon as you decide to re-open, it’s a great idea to send out the message. Let your clients know you’re ready for them.  

A fast and simple way to market your business is through email marketing and social media updates. Send out an email to your subscribers and update your social media channels with a consistent message, directing your clients to call and book an appointment. Be proactive and get the message out as soon as you know you’re re-opening. 

Advanced Scheduling 

Once you’ve let everyone know you are open, it’s essential you prepare for high demand. Whether you are a dental clinic, salon, or restaurant, you can expect an influx of customers. 

Many peoples’ lives cannot be fully put on hold and things like dental health, haircare, and dining out have simply been postponed, rather than canceled entirely. This means that there may be an influx of clients looking to book with you. Put yourself in their shoes and understand that they have been patient, waiting for your reopening. 

A great way to stay organized and keep your clients happy is to use an advanced scheduling platform. There are some businesses, like gyms and walk-in clinics that have come out with apps, where a client can book a timeslot in advance. This is an excellent idea, but for those looking for a more simple solution, there are many existing platforms that can make scheduling easy. For example, Calendly is a free appointment scheduling software that allows clients to see your availability and book with you in a simple email. 

In-Office Screenings 

If your place of business is open and receiving customers, it is a good idea to have a member of staff available to perform customer screenings. This person should ask your customers about whether or not they have experienced any COVID symptoms recently. In some fields, you may even be required to check clients for fevers before entry. It’s best to communicate with your clients beforehand if you are doing in-office screenings and temperature checks so that they know what to expect when they arrive. 

Increase Cleaning 

As mentioned in the Times Colonist’s business guide to re-opening “the main safety issues revolve around the general principles of maintaining distance, not just between workers but with members of the public as well. The principles also include good sanitation and hygiene, cleaning, and rethinking business practices.” 

Thorough cleanings are an essential part of re-opening your business during phase two. Cleanings should be performed multiple times throughout the day. It is suggested that professional cleaning crews clean high traffic areas after hours. 

Reduced Hours

Many companies are re-opening with reduced office hours. This gives staff the opportunity to clean thoroughly in-between scheduling and it allows for reduced staff on-site; which improves social distancing. Operating at reduced hours may seem tedious at first, but it is a very effective way to ensure a clean, safe, and sanitary work environment. 

Personal Protective Equipment  Personal protective equipment

The Government of Canada encourages the use of Personal Protective Equipment or PPE such as gloves and masks at work. Although medical-grade PPE should be reserved for healthcare workers and related industries, PPE is a great way to protect yourself, your employees, and your clients. 

Use PPE if your employees must work within close proximity. Due to the shortage of PPE, it’s acceptable to make your own masks and homemade devices, given you understand the limitations involved. 

Increased Distance 

One of the most important aspects of re-opening your business is ensuring both your customers and your employees are a safe distance apart. WorkSafe BC suggests: “Consider reducing the overall number of workers at the workplace at one time. This may be done by implementing work-from-home schedules or rescheduling some work tasks.”

Depending on your industry, this may mean moving desks apart, having fewer people on staff at once, or monitoring those coming and going. Either way, you must ensure that your customers and employees are a safe distance apart (2 meters). If closer proximity is required, install physical barriers such as plexiglass. Promote the use of masks and other forms of PPE to prevent the spread of germs and particles. 

Be Sure Employees are Up-to-Date

It’s so important for you to ensure your staff is up-to-date with regards to your COVID policies. If you are operating with reduced hours, ensure all employees understand their schedule and follow social distance requirements while working. Have a clear COVID safety plan outlined to share with your employees.

You can meet with your staff digitally; have them share their concerns and ideas regarding operations and sanitation upon re-opening. It’s a great way to ensure everyone in your business is on the same page. 

Display Your Safety Plan

As noted by WorkSafe BC  “before reopening, businesses need to ensure they have a COVID-19 safety plan to protect workers and it must be displayed.” Your safety plan does not have to be fancy, it simply must be clear and easy to understand. It should be posted in a place where both your customers and employees can easily see and reference it. 

Stay Up-To-Date with the News

This situation is constantly evolving and now more than ever, it is essential to pay attention to the news and updates regarding COVID. There are many helpful online resources that can help you stay up to date with general and industry-specific guidelines. 

  • WorkSafeBC has a detailed overview to help employees and business owners return to safe operations. They go in-depth if you are looking for more industry-specific information. 
  • Google My Business offers an in-depth support page for businesses looking for guidance during this time. Google includes helpful tips and walks business owners through updating their profiles with modified office hours and much more. 
  • The Government of Canada website as well as the public health sector also releases information frequently, as soon as it is known. They also have an email sign up so you can be notified of any changes or public updates. 

Get More Advice from ElementIQ 

The team at ElementIQ has worked remotely throughout the COVID pandemic to ensure businesses are equipped with the information and technology they need to pivot and succeed. If you have any questions about marketing your business during this time, our team of experts is here to help. Whether it’s an email marketing campaign, social media strategy, or website redesign; we want to help you get ahead in this time of unprecedented change. Contact us or call 604.909.3750 to see what we can do for your business. 

 

Re-opening Marketing Checklist

re-opening signage

Many businesses are getting ready to re-open as COVID-19 restrictions around the world begin to lift. This is excellent news for many as both customers and owners are excited about getting back to some version of normalcy. Naturally, it won’t exactly be ‘business as usual’ for many companies. Client and employee safety is still incredibly important and many companies have updates that they need to share with their customers. 

With reduced hours, personal protective gear, limits on occupancy, and social distancing measures still in place, it is vital to communicate your company’s new policies to your clients. Marketing plays a vital role in communicating this new information. There are many different ways in which you can utilize marketing resources to let people know that you are reopening. 

Here is a quick checklist to be sure your reopening goes as smoothly as possible. 

1) Update your Social Media Channels 

As you may have noticed, social media has played a powerful role during this period of isolation. Many people have turned to social media to interact with family and friends and keep up to date with what is going on in the world. 

Many companies have also made use of this rapid shift to social interaction online and pivoted their marketing to cater to the digital world. Clients use social media as a way to get information and updates about their favorite local businesses. 

One of the first things on your marketing checklist should be to update all of your social media profiles and let your clients know that you are re-opening. It’s best to act early and let your followers know as soon as you plan to re-open. There are several excellent ways to spread the message on social media, here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • Go live on Instagram and Facebook, or post a video to update your customers 
  • Post to your Facebook and other social feeds with information about your new schedule. Include any changes you plan to make and any new rules your clients must follow. 
  • Post to Instagram and Instagram Stories to alert your followers 
  • Update your bio on all of your social media channels (this is the first thing your followers see when they see your page) 

All businesses are different so it is important to target your message and focus on the social media channels that are most effective for you and your followers. 

2) Update your Google My Business Profile ElementIQ Google My Business Profile

Your Google Business Profile is a free resource that Google provides. It lets you appear on Google Search and Google Maps. As a business owner, you can customize your profile and add up-to-date information for those searching for your company. 

It’s your digital, local business listing online. Log in to your Google My Business profile and add your updated hours, and update your COVID-19 post. 

When clients search your business name, your profile will show with up to date information, so they will know you have reopened.

3) Send Out an Email Campaign 

Your mailing list is an excellent way to alert your followers and let them know that you are open. The best way to do this is to set up a series of emails that inform your customers of any new policies you have regarding health and safety, as well as new operating hours. 

Make sure to add a call-to-action at the end of the email – it can be to call you, buy/book online, or to take advantage of a special offer 

If you are unsure about how to get started, you can learn “How to Create a Great Email Marketing Campaign” for new ideas and guidance. 

4) Update your Website

Your customers will visit your website to learn more about your operating hours, book appointments, and send general inquiries. If you previously created a pop-up, a banner, and/or a site page devoted to your COVID-19 message, you should update the content there. 

This will let people know that you are open and ready for business. It is also the perfect place to share in-depth details about your new operating hours and policies that your clients must follow when they visit you. 

5) Use Outdoor Signage Outdoor Sign

If you have a storefront in a high-traffic area, you can use a “we’re open” sign to let any local clients know you’re ready for business. 

A simple sign in the window can also go a long way, and it’s visible to both foot traffic, and those driving by. This is a small detail, however, it can make a big difference for certain businesses that rely on walk-ins and visitors walking by. 

6) Update Your Yelp Profile 

Lastly, just as you updated your Google My Business Profile, it is essential that you update any additional online company profiles you have. For many companies, this means updating your Yelp profile. Update your operating hours and the COVID-19 message on your Yelp profile to let users know the latest status regarding your business.

Yelp is a platform that often ranks quite high on Google when prospective clients search for product/service providers, so it is likely that your Yelp profile will show up when someone searches your company online. It’s therefore important to have your Yelp profile updated and informative. 

Overview: Your Marketing Checklist

  • Post to all social media channels, update your profile and let people know you’re open
  • Update your hours, COVID-19 post, and additional information on Google My Business 
  • Send an email campaign to your subscribers and tell them about your business updates
  • Update your website banners, chatbots, pop-ups, and COVID-19 policy page
  • Use outdoor signage to indicate you are open
  • Update your Yelp profile 

Contact ElementIQ for Marketing Support 

ElementIQ is here to support you and assist with any questions you may have about marketing your business during this time. We have helped many businesses pivot their marketing strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic

Contact us to book a digital consultation with our team and learn about how you can go above and beyond to stand out and market your business as restrictions begin to lift. 

An Interview With Jason Smith – Co-Founder of Klue

Man working at desk

Have you ever wondered how to stay ahead of your competitors, while creating more sales opportunities for your business? Klue, a software platform founded in 2015 from Vancouver, BC lets you do just that.

In an ever-changing technological world, having insight into your competition helps your brand succeed. Whether it is an updated website, a new CRM system or email marketing campaigns – your online presence can make the difference between keeping a client or losing them to the competitor. In the age of inbound, client-focused marketing, the company that makes the buying process easy and seamless for the client gets the sale. 

According to a recent article by BC Technology, “Thirty percent or more of deals are lost directly to a competitor.” Whether they offer better content, more streamlined information or a user-friendly platform, it is absolutely vital in the age of technology to monitor competitors. 

Competitive Intelligence for B2B Companies 

Klue tackles this problem head-on – the software utilizes machine learning to collect, and compile information shared by your competitors online. The platform displays the information collected in easy-to-understand dashboards that provide active tracking on all B2B competitor activity. Klue

Jason Smith is the co-founder of Klue. He and his partner Sarathy Naicker created a solution to a problem most B2B companies have – primarily, “How do I get ahead of the competition?” 

This is the founding idea behind Klue, Smith comments  – “ There were no real solutions that could keep a monitoring eye on all of my competitors. Nor, actually, reduce all of that intel into a manageable set of information for my salespeople. So, we went ahead and built that and ended up with a collection curation distribution system that helps companies understand what’s going on with their competitors.” 

Smith and his partner were able to find a gap in the market; one that would prove incredibly important in the age of technology and corporate monitoring. 

Klue takes a three-pronged approach to market intelligence: 

  1. It tracks competitor activity 
  2. Centralizes the information 
  3. Enables sales with the information they need. 

Never before have we seen a platform that takes abstract information gathered from competitors online and centralizes it to track how your brand and online presence measures up with the competition. This tool provides groundbreaking market intelligence. It utilizes bot and machine learning to filter through web content so your team is always aware of your competitors’ next move. 

The incredibly fast success for Klue saw the company double in size in the past year. The extensive growth for Klue is certainly not the result of overnight success, the team found a pain point in the industry and created an incredibly powerful platform to overcome the problem. 

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A Lesson In Start-Up Success 

Jason Smith, Co-Founder of Klue, is a self-proclaimed “geek” with over 20 years of entrepreneurial experience in start-ups. He was kind enough to share a few tips with the team at ElementIQ and invited us to visit the Klue head office in Vancouver, BC. 

As a young, tech-savvy entrepreneur, Smith is not new to the start-up industry. He and his partner previously founded a successful web development company called Columbus Group, which was acquired by Telus. He currently is also focused on investing with start-up companies both locally and internationally. 

Smith describes his success in marketing and business innovation as a result of his fascination with branding from an early age. “I was always thinking about things from somebody else’s perspective. And that is fundamental to branding and marketing, it’s thinking about how others are gonna perceive your company or person or asset.”

He notes that the key to start-up success is perseverance. “I think that’s one of the core things that you need to succeed is the determination and grit.”(Smith) 

Klue was born out of a problem – the need for transparency in a competitive market. Smith was able to see that gap in the industry. He and his partner worked tirelessly to develop Klue as a platform, once B2B companies saw the inherent value of the product, there was no going back. 

From an investor’s standpoint, Smith notes that the key to success as a startup is the product itself – “The marketing and branding side is secondary to the product and the people and the technology.” Indeed, Klue stands out as a successful startup, due to the solution it provides. At its core, it is a valuable product, with a powerful marketing team to back its success. 

Klue shares profiles of your competitors
Klue gathers competitor updates and swiftly shares them with your sales team

The Future of Klue

Klue was recently named a Gartner Cool Vendor in an article released by Gartener for its success in sales enablement. It is used by millions of companies daily and things are only looking up for the platform. 

In the words of Jason Smith, “we think we’re on to something that a hundred million companies need, and that is providing them with insights around their competitors and their market that, once understood, can help them accelerate their own business.” 

Klue provides a unique answer to the needs of millions of companies worldwide. It gives companies a lens and insight into their competitors’ markets. As Jason Smith mentions “Our mission is to make sure that every company is well equipped with not just the alarm monitoring, but the functions that enable them to accelerate their business by understanding that competition.” 

Indeed, Klue has provided an unmatched solution to help businesses gain insight into their competitors. Klue helps to bring your sales and management teams the confidence they need to navigate and dominate their markets while keeping competitors in check. Click to learn more about Klue today. 

ElementIQ and Klue

At ElementIQ our team aligns with the core values that Klue promotes. Klue helps businesses grow by giving them the tools to stay one step ahead of their competitors. Likewise, at ElementIQ it is our job to enable and empower our marketing clients; so that they can succeed in a modern, competitive, digital world. 

Like Klue, our team has changed the lives of hundreds of small-medium sized business owners. We ensure they are equipped with the latest technology, to help navigate the modern world of marketing. Learn more about what we can do for you by visiting our case studies page. 

Both ElementIQ and Klue value entrepreneurship, knowledge sharing, transparency in business, and technological collaboration. Our team was honored to meet Jason and the staff at Klue. It is always a pleasure to connect, collaborate and share ideas.

Using BirdEye For Reputation Management

Take a look at the some of these businesses:

Search Term: Laser skin treatments Vancouver
Search Term : Implants clinic LA, Koreatown
Search Term : Best hair salons in Yaletown

Which ones you would consider purchasing a service from?
We showed these images to 10 different people. Here are the businesses that got the most votes from each search term:

  • CüR Laser and Skin
  • LA Dental Clinic
  • Pink Lime Salon and Spa

Does that ranking match your choices? Do you see what’s common between the 3 top choices? Their customers love them and it shows in their reviews.

Your clients might be fans of yours, but does it show in your online presence? If not, then you should consider reputation management software to manage your online reviews. At ElementIQ, we use and recommend BirdEye.

Why Reviews Are Important

As per this Local Consumer Review Survey conducted by Bright Local in 2018, here are 3 charts that explain the growing importance of online reviews among various age demographics:

Chart #1: Do You Read Reviews For Businesses?

Key finding: 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses.

Chart #2: What Is Your Typical Next Step After You Read A Positive Review?

Key finding: 50% of consumers visit local businesses’ websites after reading positive reviews (including 69% of 55+).

Chart #3: How Many Online Reviews Do You Read Before You Can Trust A Business?

Key finding: Consumers read an average of 10 reviews (up from 7 in 2017).

Insights:

  • Online reviews are important to your customers – they are looking to interact with businesses that have a strong review profile.
  • Online reviews are important to customers of all age groups – albeit not equally.
  • The trend of consumers researching a business by reading reviews is on the rise – more people are reading a higher number of reviews before deciding if they want to further research a local business.

Why You Should Use BirdEye For Reputation Management

There are a few different review management tools out there, but BirdEye is our preferred choice because it’s credible, effective, and simple to use!

Credibility – It’s one of few such tools that is fully integrated with Google. It also has one of the widest selection of websites that you can manage reviews on, including Facebook, Yelp, ZocDoc, Homestars and many more. We have seen Google and Yelp remove a number of reviews for various businesses when they are unable to trust the authenticity of a review – this is less likely to happen when reviews are generated using BirdEye.

Simplicity – BirdEye makes it really easy to ask for a review, analyze trends using available data insight charts, and, respond to reviews on different places from one central platform.

Effectiveness – Each of the 3 businesses highlighted at the beginning of this blog post have built a stronger review profile than their immediate competitors. Need we say more?

Features We Love The Most

While being simple, there are a few awesome things you can do – like responding to reviews from within BirdEye and measuring the effectiveness of your review management initiatives from an insightful dashboard. Let’s elaborate. 

Responding to reviews – We already mentioned that BirdEye is fully integrated with Google. This means BirdEye users are able to respond to Google review from within BirdEye. When you click on ‘Reply’ for other platforms like Yelp and Facebook, you will be directed to your listings where you can post a reply.

Microsite – BirdEye automatically creates a microsite for all registered businesses. The microsite contains basic business information, live reviews from multiple platforms and a form users can use to book appointments. This also has positive SEO effects, as we have seen the microsite make top 10 search results for business name search phrases.

Get Your Business To Become Your Customers Preferred Choice 

Imagine that you are trying to pick a place to get a laser skin treatment, or dental implants or a haircut or a pizza. Would you go on Google and search for ‘best ___ near me’? Who would you trust with your health, time and money?

Your customers screen their choices when they search for service providers like yourself – make sure you appear in top search results and ensure that your businesses review profile is compelling buyers to choose you! Contact us and we’ll help you set up your online persona in a way that lets your reviews shine and attract new business!

The Importance of Call Tracking

What is call tracking, and why should you care?

You’ve probably heard that call tracking is important for your business, but why is this the case?

Online marketing campaigns typically drive traffic through multiple channels, such as paid search, email marketing, and social media. These channels work together to drive people to your website, where they can take any number of actions.

As a business owner, you want these people to eventually become your customers. However, when they reach your website, this probably won’t happen right away. Instead, they might show their interest or try to do more research before determining if your business best addresses their needs. Only then will they hand over their hard earned cash.

To understand and improve your marketing efforts, you need to be able to clearly visualize what is working for you and what isn’t. You need to know what activities are causing people to show more interest in what you have to offer, as well as understand their behaviours and how your internet presence can influence these behaviours.

One way of capturing marketing data is by tracking content form submissions. Almost all websites with contact forms will automatically track them. So why don’t we do the same for calls?

Despite the fact that we are living in an increasingly digital area, people are still calling businesses, especially when they’re interested. In fact, the number of calls to businesses is only increasing as smartphone capabilities improve. Phones now, making it easier to call a business than ever before. As well, according to digital marketing expert Neil Patel, calls convert 10 to 15 times more often than web leads.

If you don’t track calls, you are losing valuable data. Calls are far more important than you think.

How Does It Work?

Call tracking provides you with data that shows which marketing efforts are driving calls to your business. In fact, if you don’t track calls, you might not be tracking up to 80% of your conversions. Without accurate conversion data, you can’t appropriately allocate resources towards your most effective marketing efforts. You’re basically throwing money at all sorts of channels, with no idea of which ones are giving you the best ROI. You won’t have any idea which pages, tactics, and campaigns are effective and ineffective, as you will only be seeing part of the picture.

Check out this handy infographic we made to visualize how this works:

To track calls from different sources, digital marketers use something called dynamic number insertion. What this means is that your leads will see a different phone number to call, based on the channel and geographic location they are on. All of these numbers will lead back to your actual number, so the visitors will contact you directly. However, the usefulness of this is that you will receive data about the referring URL, search keywords, landing pages, and ads the caller came through. As well, the tracking code will remember the original channel for each visitor, so they will see the same tracking number each time they visit your site.

When Is It Useful?

Unlike traditional marketing, online marketing has the ability to clearly demonstrate which activities are yielding specific results. When you have this information, you can then make adjustments as needed and optimize your activities.

Imagine you’re working on an email campaign for your business which redirects visitors to a unique landing page. There might be a form on there for visitors to fill out, but there might also be a phone number at the top. If you only track the form submissions, you’re completely missing data about the email campaign. You won’t know how many people called your business because of that specific email. Call tracking will give you that data so you can see how successful the campaign is, and learn and make improvements for the next email campaign you do.

Call tracking can track calls from a wide variety of platforms. If someone calls your business from directly accessing your website, an ad campaign, Google My Business, or even from Yelp, you will know and be able to see exact data. This data will then allow you to better understand your consumers, drive conversions, and help your business flourish.

State of Local Search in 2018

The Gamut of Changes to Google My Business

In less than 2 years, Google has relentlessly rolled out a series of updates to Google My Business features. In 2017, they had added a featured post feature, Q&A section and introduced a messaging option. In December 2017, we wrote about a post on some of the new Google My Business features. In 2018, they have added a business description section which allows businesses to capture user attention with a 250 character message about the business. Clicking this description shows a longer description, up to 750 characters.

What does this reflect?

One thing is clear – Google is devoting a lot of resources towards Google Local. This particular segment has been identified by the search giant as one of its most important segments. To continue being the most popular search engine, it must deliver the most relevant results to users.

Finding service providers is a BIG part of user search behaviour and includes all kinds of queries like restaurants near me, plumbers in Vancouver, dentists, plumbers and so on. In fact, the device you search from would know your location and if one searches for pizzas, one expects Google to show pizza places near me. So we, the users, are even going to stop saying things like ‘near me’ or ‘in Vancouver’ but expect geographically relevant search results for a variety of queries.

This indicates two things –
1. Businesses need to make Local SEO a bigger priority in their marketing plans
2. Google Local is expected to be an important revenue generator for Alphabet

How Significant are Organic Search results now?

Take a look at the Google search engine results first page real estate for the query – ‘Dental Implants’

As you can see, one organic search result popped up right below the top 4 paid ads and then the rest of the organic results are buried half way down the page. For some queries, these results are going to be higher up in more prime spots but for a variety of searches, they are getting pushed as far down as shared in the example above.

The map results are the result of Local SEO and those have become extremely important for businesses to generate phone calls and website leads. These map results can also include paid ads in certain cases. E.g. for ‘Dental Implants Near Me’ –

WHAT IS ONE TO DO?

The Local Search Optimization includes actively managing the following –

  • Citations – business listings across various online business directories
  • Reputation – soliciting and responding to customer reviews across important directories
  • Map listings – updating business information on Google My Business (Bing and Apple listings are less important to maintain as regularly)

SEO For Homebuilders

home in a hand

What is SEO and how does it apply to my homebuilding business? It can be difficult to determine exactly what your new website needs in order to reach your audience of interested homebuyers. In digital marketing, the word SEO is used frequently and it’s often not entirely understood outside of the industry.

SEO is the shortened version of Search Engine Optimization. This is the term used to describe the factors required for your website to appear readily on search engines. When you optimize your homebuilding website in compliance with good SEO practices, it will make it easy for your prospective clients to find. Here’s how to optimize your homebuilding website for SEO.

Top SEO Elements For Your Homebuilding Website

Optimize Your Content For SEO

Your content makes up the majority of your website. Content includes every written, visual or video asset you have online. Content is a very important factor in SEO and ranking status because it tells your users and search engines what your website is about.

There are a few techniques you can use to optimize your content for search engines. As you may know, search engines like Google do not read in the same way that humans do.

Google wants to help searchers find the most relevant information quickly, it does this by scanning keywords on your website. When an interested buyer searches keywords that match the keywords on your site, your site will appear in their search results because Google has determined that your page is a good match for the information that they search.

Google will crawl your entire website, but the important areas within the content that are significant for SEO are your page URL, titles, and headings on the site, meta descriptions, keywords, and images. In this post we will discuss each of these SEO aspects and how they apply to your homebuilding website.

Appeal To Your Target Audience: Use Keywords

Define A Clear URL

Each page of your website has a URL. You want your URL to appear as clean and easy to understand for your readers. Aas well as for Google.) When a URL is specific and to the point, it clearly displays your website name and any brief, additional page keyword information.

Messy URL: “housingcompany.5678234_78/8”
Clean URL: “housingcompany/houses-for-sale-vancouver”

Your URL should contain the name of your homebuilding company and the essential keywords for your specific site page. If your page is about a housing development in Vancouver for example, the URL should contain the name of your company, the name of the development and the location of the development. This type of URL format makes it easy for Google to read, as well as easy for searchers to understand.

If you do not create a custom URL for your site pages, your site will auto-generate URL addresses. These often appear messy and are difficult for users to understand. They often lack keywords and this makes it difficult for Google and other search engines to read as well. Never create two pages with the same URL, make sure that each is unique and specific to the page, just like an address.

Add Title Tags

When prospective clients are searching for your housing developments, they may not know specific terms like the name of your housing company. Clients that live locally may search specific terms, however, the large majority of interested buyers will begin by searching general phrases in Google.

Example of phases users search:

“Homes For Sale In Vancouver.” “Apartment Developments In Langley” “Custom Homes In Burnaby” “Vancouver Real Estate”

There will only be a small number of searchers that know the specific name of your company or development. There will be many more interested searchers who type phrases like “Homes For Sale In Vancouver.” when you include both the development name and the location in your headings and title, you are telling Google that your page has information relevant to both possible search methods. As a result, you will show up more frequently in searches as your title content indicates that your page is informative.

The headings and subheadings on your pages help Google, as well as your site visitors, understand what your page is about. When they search these general terms, your content will appear if it has the same keywords in the title. Just like in your page URL, specific keywords are important in the titles and sub-heading of your housing company page content.

Your heading should match the keywords that you use in your URL as well as your page title.

Write Captivating Meta Descriptions

You want to take every opportunity possible to catch your prospective client’s attention in a sea of other real estate listings and housing developments.

Your meta description, although not an official ranking factor by Google, plays a very important role in your ability to grab your viewers attention.

In the search results displayed below, the meta descriptions are the grey text under the page title and the site URL. When a viewer is scrolling down a page of search results, they are quickly scanning the meta descriptions to find a page that stands out to them. Google helps your searchers along by highlighting their key search terms in the meta descriptions. In this case, the search was “Housing Developments In Vancouver.” Those keywords are highlighted in the meta description below:

seo for homebuilders

This means that when you are publishing a page, you should take the time to edit the meta descriptions. Write a captivating preview of what your page is about. It’s a good idea to incorporate the keywords that you used in your page URL and your title as well.

Optimize Your Images For The Web

Your home building company is likely to have many images and visual content of your homes and developments. Images are an excellent resource for your website and when they are properly optimized for SEO, they can be a great way to gain visibility and rankings on search engines.

  • Use Alt text that is relevant to your images
  • Name your images differently using keywords specific to the image content
  • Write an image description wherever it’s relevant
  • Ensure your images are properly condensed (Large images can slow your housing website down)

Competitor Analysis and Link Building

A major factor in SEO ranking is the number of links that point to your website. Google and other search engines place a high value on content. When your content is credible and helpful to others, businesses and other websites will link to your content. Google takes these links or “backlinks” as they’re called in SEO, and uses them to determine the credibility of your website. If you have several different, credible and related websites linking to your pages, Google will deem your site as helpful and important.

A great way to determine your backlink profile is by performing an SEO audit. It’s also important to understand how your homebuilding company ranks when it’s compared to your top competitors. If you have a company that is competing closely with you for rankings on Google search results, chances are, they’re one of your competitors.

Eventually, you may want to rank above your competitors. In order to do this, you must first assess your competitor’s websites. You can perform a competitive link analysis in order to gauge the level of authority your competitor’s website maintains. A link audit helps you understand what companies and websites your competitors are associated with.

Contact A Digital Marketing Agency

Many developments and housing companies hire an external digital marketing team to help organize and implement an effective SEO strategy. If you are looking to optimize your website for prospective clients, a digital marketing company could be beneficial in helping you achieve these goals.

It also gives you time to focus on your homebuilding business! ElementIQ is a full-service digital marketing agency located in Vancouver, BC. They have worked with housing companies as well as developers to help create a clear brand image and increase visibility for home builders.