A Digital Marketing Framework for Executing More Effectively


We often find that marketers are under such pressure to create and execute campaigns that they often don’t take a step back to clearly define and optimize their marketing strategy. Completing this fundamental step establishes a strong foundation for your entire program. Having this foundation allows you to build faster and more cohesive campaigns and to realize better results.

Signal developed a digital marketing framework to help our clients consistently showcase the value and benefits of products and services across key digital channels. This framework is designed to ensure campaigns are planned strategically and monitored consistently for maximum efficiency.

Completing this process will help your team:

  • Establish your marketing program goals and define priorities
  • Focus on the most effective use of your limited time and budget
  • And forecast and evaluate campaign performance and ROI.

Step 1: Define Campaign Goals, Objectives & Constraints

Tools used: Program Summary, Program Map, Content Outline

Start by creating a Program Summary to catalog current and future campaigns:

Name Purpose Budget Start End Channels
General Awareness Promote overall company awareness $50,000 Jan 1 Dec 31 Website, Email, LinkedIn, Search
Product X New product intro
Product Y Education Product Training


Establishing this bird’s eye view of your entire program clearly highlights your internal constraints (resources, budget, time) and can help your team prioritize campaigns and identify which dials to turn up and down. You’ll define the channels approach for each campaign, determining timing and assigning budgets.

Next, take inventory of what you’re doing and analyze any gaps.

Create a Program Map to give you a more granular and actionable view of your current marketing program. This flow chart will illustrate your marketing channels and how they are connected – how social, search, email and offline channels lead to landing pages and websites, and how those integrate with your marketing automation and CRM platforms, as well as other tools in your marketing technology stack.

Create your Content Outline, a simple catalog of your existing marketing assets – landing pages, print collateral, videos, case studies, and so on. This allows you to quickly see what content you can leverage and what gaps may exist, which is instrumental as you plan and build future campaigns.


Item Name Type Related Content Description URL
ABC General Landing Page Website/Landing Page Product X, Product Y Category homepage abc.com
Product X Landing Page Website/Landing Page Product Y Features and benefits abc.com/productx
ABC Infographic Infographic Product X, Product Y Infographic abc.com/graphic
Product X Brochure Brochure Product Y Download from landing page abc.com/downloadx
Product X Sales Presentation Presentation Product Y Links to all arterial sub-pages abc.com
Product X Solution Article Blog Product X, Product Y Product copy + features graphic abc.com
ABC Corporate Video Video Product X, Product Y Capabilities video abc.com

Step 2: Define Featured Offerings

Create a spreadsheet that lists your company’s products and/or services. Add positioning and categories for quick reference. This tool will allow your team to quickly prioritize campaigns with internal stakeholders.

Product Category Product Priority Related SKUs Description URL
Category X Product X 10 6 Insert positioning and benefits
Category Y Product Y 5 2 Insert positioning and benefits

Step 3: Identify Target Audience

Tools used: Personas and Customer Journey Maps


To be successful, you must thoroughly understand and connect with your audience. Creating customer personas and customer journey maps are critical to this process. These documents can be as formal as you want to make them, however, we recommend keeping it simple. Know that they are fluid, working documents and you can continue to refine them.

We suggest first talking with internal stakeholders to paint a picture of the target customers. If possible, also talk with actual current and potential customers to validate any internal assumptions.

Mapping the Customer Journey goes hand in hand with defining your sales funnel. A Journey Map typically includes stages and corresponding types of content:

  • Awareness Stage: blogs, infographics, social media posts, podcasts, short videos
  • Interest Stage: eBooks, white papers, explainer videos, conversion landing pages, paid/display ads
  • Consideration Stage: case studies, customer testimonials, sales emails
  • Purchase Stage: on-location and in-studio video testimonials, sales collateral

The Journey Map also captures the customer’s goals, process, problems and KPIs at each stage of the journey to ensure the customer’s needs are clear and highlight key opportunities.

UXPressia Persona and Journey Mapping Tool

Step 4: Identify the Competition

You won’t know how to stand out in the market until you have a clear picture of the competition you’re up against. Understand the landscape, including market share and activity. The first time you do this, you can focus on keeping it high level.

  • Positioning
  • Visual impact
  • Digital properties
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • Calls to action

Doing this research will help you determine how you can compete and excel in branding, messaging, program offerings and content strategy. When you get into individual campaigns, you can begin to drill deeper into competition for that specific offering.

Step 5: Define How you will Measure Success

Tools used: Measurement Plan


How will you know if your marketing campaigns are successful? You need to define clear goals, determine KPIs and set specific targets to measure performance. Without a Measurement Plan, it will be difficult to monitor and optimize your campaigns to achieve the best possible results. Having a Measurement Plan also helps you set realistic expectations for the ROI of marketing efforts vs. simply focusing on increased sales revenue.

See Our Post on How to Create a Measurement Plan

What’s Next

Once you’ve completed these 5 steps, you have the necessary digital marketing planning framework and tools in place to chart your path forward. Now it’s time to confidently move into tactical campaign planning and execution.

Plan and execute each campaign by completing the following steps, referencing and continually refining the tools you’ve created:

  1. Select campaign channels
  2. Determine tactics and timing
  3. Prioritize budget across channels
  4. Set campaign goals and align measurement plan
  5. Develop campaign content and creative
  6. Launch
  7. Monitor and optimize


Ready to take your company’s digital marketing framework to the next level? The Signal team is here to help.

Employer Branding Playbook

Employer branding, and the work culture that supports it, make a real difference to employees and to your bottom line.

Are you having difficulties recruiting in a competitive market? Seeing more employee turnover in critical roles – or across the board? Experiencing employee engagement challenges? All of the above?

A company’s employment branding is critical not only to employee recruitment, but also to the retention of current employees and their level of engagement in the organization. That engagement of employees – new and old – makes a real difference in success. According to the consulting firm Towers Perrin (now Willis Towers Watson), companies with the most engaged employees outperform those with the least engaged employees by 10 percent in customer loyalty and engagement, 21 percent in profitability, and 20 percent in productivity.

At Signal, we believe that the employee experience drives the customer experience. We look to employees to deliver great experiences to our customers, yet many of us miss the opportunity to create great experiences for them. If you think that employer branding sounds like a “soft” activity, think again. With its focus on engagement, employer branding plays a leading role in creating the climate for a company’s financial health.

Step 1: Assess the current state

The first step in Signal’s process is to examine the current state of an organization’s employment branding to identify opportunities. There are many potential sources of good information.


Glean insights from current data

During your review, note positive themes for focus or expansion, and opportunities for improvement, for example:

  • Areas scoring the highest (or lowest) in exit interviews
  • What new hires say they are looking for in a company
  • Data from employee engagement surveys


Take the temperature

A two-pronged approach can give you invaluable insight into the employee experience of your company and culture – helping you to determine what drew current employees to your company and what keeps them there. First, interview subject matter experts such as executives and team members from Marketing, HR and Talent Acquisition. Then, conduct a short online survey of a similar representative group of employees.

Sample survey questions

  • What first attracted you to the company?
  • What sets the company apart from other organizations you’ve worked for?
  • What one word best characterizes your company’s culture?
  • Describe the opportunities you’ve found at the company and how you have charted your career.
  • Describe the support you get for your work at the company (coworkers, supervisor, tools and technologies, etc.).
  • What makes you proud to be part of the company?

Conduct competitive analysis

In addition to determining what employees think of your company, it’s important to get an idea of how your online presence stacks up against competitors. Take a detailed look at:

  • Branding on the homepage
  • Design, messaging and navigation on careers pages
  • Branding language in job postings
  • Reviews that may be available on review sites like Glassdoor
  • Messaging and presence on various social channels

Step 2: Create a value proposition

A clear and engaging employee value proposition, or EVP, can help you communicate and shape your work culture.

What’s your WHY?

Very few organizations know WHY they do what they do. WHY is not about making money. That’s a result. WHY is a purpose, cause or belief. It’s the very reason your organization exists!

In his viral TEDx talk, which has now been viewed over 43 million times, Simon Sinek talked about the cosmic shift that is happening between companies and their clients – why some companies are struggling and some are succeeding on a massive scale – the difference is “the WHY.”

When thinking about your EVP, consider that people want to work with people and companies who have the same ideals that they do. When we communicate our purpose or cause first – our WHY – we communicate in a way that drives decision-making and behavior. It literally taps the part of the brain that inspires behavior.

“People want to work with people and companies who have the same ideals as they do.”
– Phil Stephens, VP Client Services, Signal

Employee value proposition

The EVP describes the total value the company offers to its employees in return for their hard work. It answers why a candidate should come to work for your company – as well as why current employees should be engaged and stay. Your EVP is also a great starting point for creating a short, impactful statement about your employment brand: the tagline. While the EVP encapsulates the company’s competitive advantage, the tagline is your “rallying cry.”

Read our feature, “Improving Employee Recruitment and Retention,” for details on how to create your employment value proposition and tagline.

Step 3: Define your messages

Once your EVP and tagline have been created, the next step is to develop a new messaging framework meant to align communications and help communicate the EVP to candidates and employees. Consistent messaging helps you communicate what’s unique and special about working for your company.

“Technological advances have made it much easier for companies to understand customers on an individual basis. Even so, engaging with customers is still undertaken largely through personal contact. And there’s no shortcut to creating emotional connections with customers; it requires ensuring that every interaction is geared toward leaving them with a positive experience. That takes more than great products and services—it takes motivated, empowered frontline employees.”

Source: McKinsey


Develop communications

Now that you’ve got your new messaging platform, it’s time to think about different audiences. Do you need to carve out specific messages for certain employee groups such as IT or Sales? From a talent acquisition perspective, you may want to define messaging for early talent / recent grads, experienced candidates and even alumni of your company who you want to win back.

Using your messaging platform as a starting point, you can step off engagement and recruiting pieces for both internal and external. Examples include:

  • Landing pages
  • Executive presentations
  • Internal documents
  • Video recommendations
  • Social assets
  • Tradeshow assets
  • Event assets


Talent acquisition

Your new messaging platform can help to create a consistent understanding of the value of working for the company, providing key messages for candidates. Giving all recruiters and hiring managers the same “source of truth” arms them to more effectively:

  • Build familiarity with the company.
  • Promote consideration of employment with the company.
  • Create a preference for working for the company.
  • Move candidates to acceptance of a position with the company.
  • Foster trust, loyalty and advocacy with employees so that they will tell others about the company.

Give ‘em proof

When stepping off your recruitment collateral, make sure to back up your claims with proof points to make a more convincing argument for the attractiveness of your company.

Meh: “Our company has very low turnover and is a great place to work.”

YES: “Our company has been recognized as a Great Place to Work and our average turnover rate for the past 3 years was 13% on average.”

Step 4: Help cascade your brand through the organization

A new employer brand isn’t just about the posters, slogans and lapel pins – it’s about bringing it to life within the organization. All the collateral in the world won’t make a difference unless you align your culture with the new brand. This means a fundamental shift in how the organization operates from the top down to demonstrate authenticity and vulnerability. People managers are your greatest asset here, and training these leaders on your new employment brand will effectively spread the information.

“Determine what behaviors & beliefs you value as a company, and have everyone live true to them.”
– Brittany Forsyth / VP of HR, Shopify

Questions to ask when thinking about your manager training

  • How can you bring your new EVP and supporting messaging to life?
  • How should the new information be embedded into HR processes such as recruitment, performance management and training?
  • What supporting tools do people managers need?

Step 5: Measure your efforts

As with any communication campaign, the final step is to circle back to the success metrics you defined at the beginning of your process to see how your efforts have moved the needle. This step will also help you plan for the evolution of your employment brand.


Ready to take your company’s employer branding to the next level? Wondering how to help your organizational culture work for you? The Signal team is here to help.

user-centered design case study

User-Centered Design Playbook

Website case study

User-Centered Design

The world’s largest independent distributor of Toyotas called upon Signal to audit and optimize their finance website to provide customers with an improved user experience for managing their vehicle leases and loans.

Their goals were to improve navigation and usability issues, and to personalize content based on where customers are in the life cycle.

In this new case study, you’ll learn about the steps our team took to enhance the customer experience (CX).





Our UX optimization approach typically follows a 4 step process, tailored based on client needs. With this project, our first step was to understand current website performance and identify opportunities using existing data and information. Evaluating basic website metrics and internal feedback is an efficient way to gain insight into the present state of affairs.

Planning and Research

Put a measurement plan in place

Don’t forget to set your goals at the outset of the project. For a website, this may include things like fewer clicks, faster actions, reducing call center support or fixing reported usability issues. You’ll want to be able to measure improvements on these key metrics later.

We find that more companies are using an organic approach to UX optimization for their websites – meaning they replace full website redesign efforts (every few years) with continuous improvements to ensure the best possible customer experience.

Scrutinize website analytics

Your next step is to take a close look at your website analytics. It’s important to know which pages are getting views, so you can focus efforts on those that are most visited. As Forbes notes1, web analytics:

  • Allow you to personalize things to frequent visitors’ distinct tastes
  • Reveal what’s working – or not – from a UX / CX perspective
  • Enable you to proactively fix site issues before they escalate
  • Inform the customer journey – if you take time to use and listen to the data!

Analytics for our client revealed a couple of major action items. Their Home, Account Summary and Login pages carried 80% of the visitor traffic, and they needed UX attention. Analytics also revealed more mobile users than previously known – a critical point to keep in mind when redesigning web elements.

Investigate hot site search terms

We always recommend looking at search terms / keywords, because while some people use search as a primary means of navigation, most are using it because they are having trouble finding the information they need. The following top search words helped us prioritize certain information on the site:

Search image


  1. statement, statements
  2. payment history, pay
  3. interest rate, refinance
  4. payoff
  5. extension

Listen to the call center

Employees who work in the client’s call center are on the front lines fielding customer questions – especially those that could be answered by an effective site structure and relevant content. CSRs told us there were a number of areas which needed to be built out on the website. Based on their feedback, we improved instructions and UI to ensure that customers:

  • View the status of pending payments
  • See their outstanding balance, payoff amount, due date and interest rate prominently featured
  • Find an easy selection area for invoice preference (paper or paperless)

Look at customer survey data

Like website analytics, your customer survey data is another fertile source of information about pain points. Dig in and see if there’s anything relevant.

Cool tools for deeper dives

Heat Maps

Heatmaps and recordings

helped us see users’ movement within key pages, giving us a more accurate idea about engagement.



allowed us to be mindful of users’ key characteristics and needs.

Customer Journey Map

Customer journey maps

broke down the steps and phases, so that we could clearly see pain points and capture ideas for improvements.

GET THE DETAILS on these methods in our UX Demystified white paper





If you’ve ever gotten lost, you know about the importance of having a good map to steer you right! The concept extends to the sometimes twisting, turning paths of website navigation. As the Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) points out2:

Information Architecture

“Structure and navigation must support each other and integrate with search and across subsites. Complexity, inconsistency, hidden options, and clumsy UI mechanics prevent users from finding what they need.”

Audit website tasks and content

Our first step in thinking about information architecture – that is, the organization and labeling of website information – was to conduct a thorough audit of the client’s current site. This allowed us to create a comprehensive catalog of content and user tasks, segmented by stages of the customer lifecycle.

Action / content Onboarding 1 – 3 months 3 – 12 months 12+ months
Register for an account X
Learn about my vehicle’s features X
View my balance X X X
New lease rates X X
Monthly service coupons X X X
New vehicle offers X
View my payoff X

Use card sorting to optimize information architecture

Using the information gleaned in the audit, we conducted open and closed card sorting sessions with 25 users on a digital platform called Optimal Workshop. Card sorting is an easy UX research method that allows users to categorize content and tasks – as well as to develop intuitive navigation labels. The chart below answers3 some of the questions you may have.

When is card sorting helpful?
  • To find out how users expect to see information on a website
  • To organize a sitemap
  • To organize submenus
  • To classify products or services
How do you do card sorting?
  • Use a digital platform, such as Optimal Workshop, to categorize items and allow session participants sort them into groups that make sense to them.
What is the difference between “open” and “closed” card sort testing?
  • With open card sorting, users can create their own categories or add missing information. This helps you categorize and prioritize tasks/content and label groups.
  • Closed card sorting limits participants to using only those cards provided. The goal is to optimize and confirm your chosen navigation categories and labels.

Card sorting matrix

Develop a new site map

The Signal team combined all the feedback from user research along with IA best practices and testing to create the final site architecture, removing redundancy and making paths more relevant and intuitive to the tasks at hand.





Usability.gov defines user interface (UI) as a focus on “anticipating what users might need to do and ensuring that the interface has elements that are easy to access, understand, and use to facilitate those actions.”4

Based on our findings from research and testing, we worked with a number of methods to show our client the new user flow, functionality and layouts.

User Interface

Wireframes: a quick and cost-effective way to prove concepts

These low-fidelity iterations connected the information architecture we created to its visual design, helping us:

  • Prioritize content
  • Allocate space to given items
  • Decide where to locate items


Clickable prototypes: conveying intended functionality in the interface

Don’t build it – “fake it” first! Both wireframes and prototypes are mockups of the proposed site or application, but we recommend prototyping to experience functionality. The clickable site prototype gave us something to test, so we could work iterations faster than with fully functional code.

Higher fidelity mockup: the final step before the site build

Finally, we applied styles and branding to give users a preview of what the site would look like. The goal: improve design first before moving into (potentially) more time-consuming coding and development.

High fidelity layout

Agile development

At Signal, we operate from a place of “customer first.” And for us, that means thinking about what’s important to the end customer – our clients’ clients. This is a cornerstone of the Agile methodology, an iterative design process that aims to get the work into the hands of the customer as early and often as possible. It can be applied to any project, from websites and marketing communications to digital apps.

Learn how we do Agile at Signal!





Conduct user testing

The last step of the process is to test the new design with real website users to ensure optimal UX / CX. User testing doesn’t have to be as daunting – and expensive – as the traditional focus group in a lab environment. There are many digital platforms to help recruit volunteers and conduct tests. We chose Usertesting.com, a site that uses crowdsourced testers who are ready and waiting. You can even define your target attributes such as age or gender.

Testing and Optimization

For our client, we assembled 10 tester volunteers for “think aloud” user testing, using Usertesting.com’s easy online platform. (For the user experience design geeks out there, “think aloud” testing is one type of remote unmoderated usability study.5)

A remote unmoderated usability study is when participants complete pre-determined activities using a design or interface. The participant decides when and where they would like to complete the study, and uses an online tool to participate, provide feedback, and record the session.”

The male and female testers ranged in age from 18 – 65 and were average computer users. We tested the client’s current design against our new design, using simple tasks such as “Find your payment history” or “Change your user/password.” Listening to real users narrate their way through web pages was incredibly valuable.

  • “Hey, it’s not popping out at me…” [OLD DESIGN]
  • “I’m confused about vehicle vs. account maintenance…” [OLD DESIGN]
  • “Yes, this is where I want to go…” [NEW DESIGN]

Listen to a few clips from the live user testing sessions.

The UX experts at NNG call think aloud testing the #1 usability tool, and for good reason. The benefits include6 being:

  • Cheap, because you don’t need special equipment to gather insights
  • Robust, because it’s easy to get good findings (without a lot of statistical expertise)
  • Flexible, because you can use it any stage of development
  • Convincing, because clients love direct insight into how their customers think and act


  • Improved “time to task”
  • Validated label names
  • Prioritized better navigation and page layout
  • Tone and attitude changes from frustration to confidence from old to new design

Improved key metrics from the measurement plan put in place at the beginning of the process

Final thoughts

User-centered design principles can improve the overall customer journey, which helps you:

  • Better compete in the marketplace
  • Turn happy customers into repeat customers
  • Shorten the customer lifecycle

The UX / CX process we outlined in this case study can be scaled to fit your needs. The deeper you go, the more you can uncover and fix.


Signal’s multi-disciplinary team of writers, designers, strategists and technologists won’t lean towards a one-size-fits-all solution – we’ll craft one just for you.


  1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2017/04/04/improving-customer-experience-through-customer-data/#e020a8a4e64d
  2. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/top-10-ia-mistakes/
  3. https://uxplanet.org/improving-information-architecture-through-card-sorting-730a66b7bdda
  4. https://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/user-interface-design.html
  5. https://help.usertesting.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003379332-Remote-unmoderated-usability-study

Website Accessibility 101

Reduce your legal risk & increase your reach

The World Health Organization estimates that more than a billion people in the world today live with a disability.1 And those people want and need to use the internet in their daily lives. Web accessibility makes the entire web more useful to everyone. It’s become even more critical thanks to the recent Gil v. Winn-Dixie Stores case, where the court ruled that the supermarket chain’s inaccessible website violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This landmark ruling could have implications for future lawsuits – and sets an important precedent for other digital accessibility cases. The bottom line is that businesses without accessible websites and mobile apps are now exposed to greater legal risk. And while things are still evolving in this space, there are steps you should take to cover your bases today.

The Winn-Dixie Ruling

Landmark case puts website accessibility front and center

On June 13, 2017, a federal judge in Florida ruled that Winn-Dixie’s website violated a blind man’s rights under the ADA. Juan Carlos Gil was unable to use screen reader software to use coupons, order prescriptions and find store locations on the website – depriving him of the access that the store’s sighted customers have online.

Why is this so significant?2,3,4

  • Digital accessibility lawsuits are on the rise, with a dramatic increase in the past two years. There were more than 6,600 lawsuits in 2016. Winn-Dixie is the latest – and most noteworthy – case in this arena.
  • Winn-Dixie must meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.05 in making its website accessible.
  • Winn-Dixie must provide accessibility training to all employees who work on its website – and ensure that linked third-party vendors, such as Google and American Express, also offer accessible websites.
  • Additionally, the court ruled that Winn-Dixie is even responsible for those parts of its website that are operated by third-party vendors.

It’s interesting to note that Winn-Dixie redesigned their site in 2015 and refreshed it in 2017. They admitted that they never thought about making their website accessible during the redesign process.6 This is a regrettable error that certainly cost them – both in dollars and in reputation!

Your websites should be accessible to disabled users or you could potentially be sued for ADA discrimination. You could also be held responsible for the web accessibility of any third-party vendors who interface with or operate your website.

Access to physical space… or electronic space?

Another critical piece of the Winn-Dixie ruling was the confirmation that Title III of the ADA applies if the website is “heavily integrated” with and serves as a “gateway” for physical stores. We know what you might be thinking: “We’re not a retail business. We don’t have stores, just offices!”

The courts ruled on this point in the National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corp. case, noting that people with a disability “have a right to access the services OF a place of public accommodation and not services IN a place of public accommodation” (emphasis added). The ruling went on to say that the “purpose of the ADA is far broader than physical access as it seeks to bar actions or omissions that impair a disabled person’s full enjoyment of the services or goods OF a place of public accommodation” (emphasis added).7

Translation: You don’t have to have physical “stores” for your website to be subject to Title III of the ADA.

Laws & Standards

Most legislation is primarily targeted at governmental entities, which must offer web accessibility. But as the recent Winn-Dixie case and previous cases such as National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corp have shown, private companies are not necessarily exempt from having ADA-compliant websites.

Major legal requirements for website accessibility in the U.S.8
The Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Requires information, programs and services be available to people with disabilities unless the provider can demonstrate it would be an undue burden to do so.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Prevents the federal government from purchasing technology that is not accessible.
  • States have smaller versions of 508 that are intended to guarantee accessible state purchases.
  • Federal and state laws requiring equal employment opportunities also impact digital content for employees.

Winn-Dixie is “the first decision to hold, after a full trial, that a public accommodation violated Title III of the ADA by having an inaccessible website… this decision makes the possibility of an adverse verdict much more real.”9

The Benefits of Accessible Web-Design

Corporate social responsibility

It’s not just about avoiding legal issues. Providing digital access is simply the right thing to do. Can you imagine your life without the internet? It’s a critical resource everything from commerce to healthcare, from government to personal interaction – and disabled people must not be excluded. The World Wide Web Consortium (the group who devised the WCAG standards) notes that an accessible web:10

  • Provides equal access and equal opportunity to people with diverse abilities
  • Fulfills a basic human right to access to information and communications technologies (per the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities)
  • Supports social inclusion for not only the disabled, but older people, people in rural areas and those in developing countries

Seen in this light, web accessibility is required of any good corporate citizen.

1 in 5 adults in the U.S. has a disability.11

Good business sense

Web accessibility also dovetails with web management best practices you’re probably already implementing – things like creating a positive user experience (UX) and focusing on mobile web design and search engine optimization. It also significantly increases your audience reach.

Website_Accessibility_101 infographic

WCAG 2.0 guidelines are your best way to minimize legal risk for now.

What is it?

WCAG 2.0 is a complex set of guidelines14 outlining a set of success criteria that websites must meet to conform. There are different conformance levels15 – A, AA and AAA, kind of like minor league baseball.

Section508.gov offers a great summary of conformance levels:16

  • Level A (minimum) – the most basic web accessibility features
  • Level AA (mid-range) – deals with the biggest and most common barriers for disabled users
  • Level AAA (highest) – the highest level of web accessibility

In a nutshell…

Confused? Your website should address the following:17

Perceivable Available to the senses (vision and hearing primarily) either through the browser or through assistive technologies (e.g. screen readers, screen enlargers, etc.).
Operable Users can interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the mouse, keyboard, or an assistive device.
Understandable Users can interact with all controls and interactive elements using either the mouse, keyboard, or an assistive device.
Robust A wide range of technologies (including old and new user agents and assistive technologies) can access the content.

See Your Next Steps for the best WCAG 2.0 resources!

Implementing an ADA-Compliant Website

Wow, this sounds hard. Will it be a costly hassle?

The WCAG guidelines may look daunting, but accessibility is not difficult to implement if you plan accordingly. We’re talking about some extra attention to web design, content and functionality to meet specified standards. In most cases, accessibility won’t change the look and feel at all. And remember, you’ll likely save money due to the greater reach and efficiency of your accessible website.

Accessible web design best practices

If you’re wondering exactly what to DO to make your website accessible, we’ve assembled this checklist to help you get started.18,19,20

  • Pair images, video and audio with text for visually impaired people who rely on screen readers or people who are hearing-impaired. Text can include captions videos, text transcripts of video content and descriptive alt tags coded on images and graphic elements.
  • Insert headings, lists and other structural elements to help users navigate within a page.
  • Provide headers (the <th> element) for data tables to help users navigate and understand the data.
  • Ensure users can complete and submit all forms and that every form element has a label. Elements include text fields, check boxes and drop-down menus.
  • Make sure that links make sense out of context. People using screen readers can choose to read only the links on a page, so position your text links on adequately descriptive phrases. Break the habit of saying “click here.”
  • And make sure you have working links! Broken links and improperly embedded resources can be a challenge for disabled users.
  • Include download links for media players, so users don’t have to hunt them down online.
  • Ensure the accessibility of non-HTML content – including PDF files, Microsoft Word documents, PowerPoint presentations and Adobe Flash content.
  • Don’t rely on color alone to convey meaning – those using screen readers and those who are colorblind will be left out.
  • Make sure content is clearly written, easy to read, and in a friendly font.
  • Make sure that JavaScript doesn’t require use of a mouse and that your page does not rely on JavaScript to function.
  • Avoid using strobe effects or repeatedly flashing images. These can trigger seizures in those who have epilepsy.
  • Make sure Java applets, scripts and plug-ins are accessible. Disabled users rely on a host of assistive technologies to help them with computers: joysticks, trackballs, screen enlargers, speech synthesizers and screen readers are a few examples.
  • Give users a way to request accessible information or services by posting a phone number and/or email address on your home page (or throughout the site in a fixed position). Ensure that anyone reaching out through these posted channels gets a quick response.
  • Consider conducting periodic user testing with disabled groups to test your pages for ease of use.

Remember, the adaptations you put in place will make web content accessible to users with a range of disabilities. But everyone will benefit from things like good organization, well-written content and clear navigation. It’s the proverbial win-win!

Should I try an accessibility evaluation tool?

There are many tools available21 to help you determine if your websites are accessible. These tools can save you time but they are no substitute for conducting a manual evaluation.22

At Signal, we often use the WAVE tool23 to double check a website’s accessibility. WAVE was developed by WebAIM, a top provider of website accessibility expertise. The tool is easy but meticulous, requiring users to go through every page of the site and fix issues individually. The red “errors” highlight the most egregious issues.

Your next steps

Next steps Resources
1. Familiarize yourself with WCAG 2.0.
2. Audit your websites and mobile apps.
  • WAVE tool or other evaluation tool
3. Complete updates.
4. Create a plan to help you manage ongoing efforts.
5. Conduct regular audits and training of all web staff (and vendors)

Final thought

Are you at risk? Do your websites need to be compliant? There are no hard lines but with the landmark Winn-Dixie ruling, it’s clear that businesses without accessible websites now run a greater risk of violating the ADA. And apart from any legal requirements, accessibility makes the web available to people of all abilities and offers great business benefits. Let the Signal team help make your websites accessible.

Please note that this paper is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice. 


  1. http://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/en/
  2. http://www.adatitleiii.com/tag/winn-dixie/
  3. https://www.law360.com/articles/934358/winn-dixie-loses-ada-fight-over-website-accessibility
  4. Level Access webinar on July 11, 2017, www.levelaccess.com
  5. https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/
  6. Level Access webinar on July 11, 2017, www.levelaccess.com
  7. https://www.americanbar.org/publications/gpsolo_ereport/2014/january_2014/internet_title_iii_ada.html
  8. https://www.paciellogroup.com/accessibility/
  9. http://www.adatitleiii.com/tag/winn-dixie/
  10. https://www.w3.org/standards/webdesign/accessibility
  11. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0730-us-disability.html
  12. http://etc.usf.edu/techease/4all/web-accessibility/what-are-the-benefits-of-web-accessibility/
  13. http://www.adatitleiii.com/2017/01/wcag-2-0-aa-is-the-new-accessibility-standard-for-federal-agency-websites/
  14. https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/Overview.html
  15. https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/conformance.html#uc-levels-head
  16. https://www.section508.gov/content/build/website-accessibility-improvement/WCAG-conformance
  17. http://webaim.org/intro/#people
  18. http://www.aid.org/blog/three-steps-getting-website-ada-compliant/
  19. http://webaim.org/intro/#people
  20. https://www.ada.gov/websites2.htm
  21. https://www.w3.org/WAI/ER/tools/?q=wcag-20-w3c-web-content-accessibility-guidelines-20
  22. https://www.w3.org/WAI/eval/selectingtools
  23. http://wave.webaim.org
  24. https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/Overview.html
  25. http://webaim.org/standards/wcag/checklist
  26. https://www.w3.org/TR/mobile-accessibility-mapping/
  27. https://make.wordpress.org/accessibility/useful-tools/
  28. https://www.w3.org/WAI/gettingstarted/tips/index
  29. https://www.w3.org/WAI/impl/Overview
  30. https://www.w3.org/WAI/impl/expanded.html

Unleashing the Power of CX

Positive customer experiences drive greater engagement

Positve CX

According to leading experts, customer experience (or CX) is the “next competitive battleground,” one that will stand as a critical measure of business success in a world of increased consumer power.1 But what exactly does CX mean? Customer experience is the sum total of what your customer wants, does, sees, thinks, feels and likes. And delivering positive experiences to your customers across all touchpoints on their journey translates into greater engagement and ROI.



Taking a holistic view

CX is made up of direct contact (the general course of business, usually initiated by the customer) as well as indirect contact (such as word-of-mouth referrals and reputation). About half of the CX equation is subconscious, driven by how the customer feels about your company.

It’s important to note that CX is not the same thing as customer service. CX is composed of many touchpoints during the entire customer journey and relationship. This includes ads and marketing, conferences, social media, proposals, project status reports and invoices. Customer service is but one of those touchpoints, focused on a specific point in time.

Logic vs. emotion

Price, quality, expertise, dependability, reputation: these are the familiar metrics by which customers evaluate companies. But emotion actually plays a more significant role than these rational yardsticks. People tend to do business with companies they like. Offering the best product isn’t enough if customers don’t enjoy working with you. Companies that achieve likeability and a sense of shared values attract more loyalty and longevity among their customers.

Read on to learn about how you can increase the quality of the customer experience with your company with these three steps:

1. Understand your “WHY”
2. Understand your customers
3. Use emotional marketing techniques


STEP #1:



Research on customer journeys shows that organizations “able to skillfully manage the entire experience reap enormous rewards: enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction.”2

What’s your WHY?

As a marketer, you naturally think “customer first.” To improve CX, your first impulse is most likely to start by gathering information about your customers to understand them better. However, we contend that companies must know themselves first. Remember, it’s all about the feelings: customers are looking to buy into your deeper purpose. So when you’ve done this initial legwork to understand WHY you do what you do and what you stand for, it translates into more positive CX. Think about beloved and wildly successful companies like Apple, Netflix or Amazon – their purpose strongly resonates with customers, creating loyal fans.

Why How What
Leaders and organizations with the capacity to inspire think, act and communicate from the inside out, starting with WHY. When we communicate our purpose or cause first, it literally taps the part of the brain that inspires behavior. Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action


The nuts and bolts

Every company can easily explain WHAT they do, and most have no trouble explaining HOW they do it. But relatively few companies can readily put into words exactly WHY they do it. “To make a profit” and “To stay in business” aren’t reasons, they’re results. Those companies who can best articulate and embody their WHY – and get their customers to understand and value it – tend to be the most successful. Simon Sinek presents this simple but powerful idea in a TED talk.3

What does your company believe? What gets leaders and employees up in the morning? How is your company making a positive impact? The answers to these questions form the foundation for understanding your WHY. A company with a strong grasp of its purpose can more readily connect with its customers on a personal level beyond logical and rational appeals. Instead of relying on dry lists of features and benefits to win over customers, you can begin to persuade customers to “feel” that you know what you’re doing, you are committed to doing it right, and they will find satisfaction when they choose to give you their business.


STEP #2:



It all starts with personas

Now that you’ve taken a look at what drives you, it’s time to turn to your customers. Personas are representations of ideal customers based on your market research and data about existing customers. They provide insight into where to focus your marketing time – and they can help guide your CX efforts. Elements that help craft a persona include customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals. Personas are valuable because they give you the ability to hone in on the needs of specific users rather than “everyone.” At a minimum, personas typically address your ideal customer’s:

  • Job title
  • Company / industry
  • Pain points
  • Preferred communication channels

The customer journey map

For even more insight into what customers are thinking and feeling, the customer experience map is the perfect tool. It outlines the customer journey from the initial contact through the process of learning and engaging – and into long-term trusted relationship with a company. It identifies key touchpoints and the customer’s perceptions and questions during those touchpoints, which helps marketers convert data into a story to share and use throughout the organization to improve CX.

No one-size-fits-all recipe

Now you may be wondering: is there a program I can use to build my map? What’s the most effective structure? While there is no formal template for what a customer experience map looks like, one tool we use is uxpressia. No matter what tool or method you choose, the most important thing is to include both analytical and anecdotal research for a robust representation of what the customer goes through.
Path Graphic
Assembling and combining the data – operational, marketing, and customer and competitive research – to build your customer journey map may sound complex. The Harvard Business Review notes that “the reward is well worth it, because the fact base that’s created allows management to clearly see the customer’s experience of various journeys and decide which ones to prioritize.”2






Feelings, nothing more than feelings

Humans don’t just consider rational factors when making decisions. Studies show that emotions greatly influence consumer choices.4 We don’t think our way forward – we feel it. Developing an emotional connection elevates the customer experience, helping you break through the static and create a loyal customer base willing to talk positively about your brand – and deliver repeat business.

Antonio Lucio, the new CMO of HP, says “Brands that are able to transcend the rational dimension of their product and build a place in consumers’ hearts, will remain relevant for a long time.”5

Keep it positive

Negative emotional marketing can indeed create a sense of urgency (scare tactics to prevent dangerous behaviors like smoking or drunk driving, or using anger to spur solutions for injustice, for example) but positivity increases sharing and engagement. A 2010 study of the most-emailed New York Times articles found that emotional articles were shared more often, and positive posts were shared more than negative ones.6

Tugging the heartstrings: not just for B2C

Emotional marketing is mostly considered the province of consumer marketing, but the principles can apply to B2B as well. Business decision-makers may tell themselves they are driven by facts and hard numbers and logic, but the truth is that their feelings about companies very much sway them as well. It requires more subtlety for marketers to work this angle in B2B compared to gushy sentimental ads, but it is a totally valid area to consider.

Make the most of effective emotional triggers.7



Be transparent. Play up the company / product track record. Incorporate proof points to show that you have substance behind the style and are in it for the long term.


WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) is a powerful force. Don’t just talk about why your company is awesome – tell customers how they will benefit.


Tap into the human need to be a part of something: a movement, a family, a social network, a specific feeling.


Once you’ve addressed a customer’s pain points, attend to the features that will satisfy and delight them. And of course, highlight speed.


Own your space. Be a trend-setter. Create industry standards. Most importantly, be clear about your “why”8 – your organization’s purpose – to inspire and connect with an audience.


As marketing expert Graeme Newell says,9 Coke isn’t in the “beverage” business – it’s in the “good times with close family” business. You can see this formula over and over in their marketing: friends and family coming together to celebrate. Coca-Cola’s feeling is joy and a sense that we are all one. What do people feel when they deal with your company? You’ll know if you’ve done the work to determine your WHY.

All about how you say it

It’s easy to inject good CX into your standard marketing copy. Focus on the customer and their needs.


Customer-centric / good CX copy, friendly

Buzzwords, corporate speak, all about you / low CX copy, arrogant

In today’s changing world, you face new challenges. ACME understands how to shape your strategies and uncover your opportunities. Together we will guide your path forward. ACME is the world leader for innovative solutions. No one else can match our 100+ years of best-in-class experience. We have the top experts and most robust integrated global capabilities. ACME is always #1.


And keep it conversational and clear. Avoid long, super-complex sentences. Choose more active and direct wording. Talk their talk by using words your customers prefer (which means you need to know your customer!).



Elevating CX across channels

Consult your customer journey maps and personas: what are the critical touchpoints for your customers? What do they care about? No matter how you’re communicating or what your industry, there’s a way to inject some emotion. A few examples we love:10

Gaylord Hotels
Gaylord Opryland hotel found out that a customer loved their alarm clocks, which played light music. She’d been searching for one on social media. The next time she arrived at the hotel, two alarm clocks were waiting in her room. Score!
Lego sent a young longtime fan of the toys a new action figure when he lost his favorite.
Morton's Steakhouse
Mortons delivered a man a porterhouse steak as he arrived at an airport when he jokingly tweeted about it at the beginning of his journey. The staff member drove 23 miles there. The company was rewarded with super-complimentary tweets.
Trader Joes
Trader Joes made a special grocery delivery to an elderly man in inclement weather. They even recommended additional items to fit into his special low-sodium diet.


Parting thought

Price, quality, expertise, dependability, reputation: these are the familiar metrics by which customers evaluate companies. But emotion can actually play a more significant role. Let Signal put our collective skills to work improving your CX.



  1. https://www.gartner.com/doc/3069817/customer-experience-new-competitive-battlefield
  2. https://hbr.org/2013/09/the-truth-about-customer-experience
  3. https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/inside-the-consumer-mind/201302/how-emotions-influence-what-we-buy
  5. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kimberlywhitler/2016/02/14/developing-an-emotional-connection-with-customers-insight-from-hps-cmo-antonio-lucio/#69b6d4512e24
  6. http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/emotions-in-advertising-examples#sm.00000crtjo5feldppq63dh2njeis3
  7. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/205240
  8. https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en
  9. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0r33zUmjftQ
  10. https://www.helpscout.net/10-customer-service-stories/

Improving Employee Recruitment and Retention

The value of communications across the employee lifecycle

Human Resources

The competition for talent is intense – especially in thriving industries such as life sciences and biopharma – yet there are many smart and skilled people available for those who know how to attract them. Once these awesome people are onboard, you need to retain them to maintain morale and performance – as well as to avoid turnover costs. The good news is that communication is a critical lever for finding and keeping employees.

CEO Chart

73% of CEOs

are concerned about finding and keeping the best talent.1

Calendar Graphic

It costs 6 – 9 months’ salary

on average to replace a single employee.2

Skilled employees who fit a company’s culture are the foundation for strong organizational performance. Employees who support and reflect your core values, attitudes and behaviors have greater job satisfaction and better job performance – and are more likely to remain with you.3 The first step for supporting cultural fit is an employment brand that clearly communicates who your company is and what it’s like to work there.

Success doesn’t just rest on finding great employees – it’s about taking steps to keep them. The impact of employee turnover is significant and includes both hard and soft costs such as:4

  • Recruiting
  • Search firm fees
  • Onboarding and training
  • Lost knowledge
  • Overworking remaining staff
  • Lowered morale and productivity

In this feature, we’ll walk you through what we’ve found out about smart communications and savvy employment branding strategies to attract, hire and retain the best employees for your organization.

Some companies take cultural fit very seriously. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has baked core beliefs into every step of the recruiting process to find people who are “naturally living the brand” on and off the clock. Zappos pays those that turn out not to be a fit $2,000 to leave after their first week of training!5

Finding Great Employees

Your employment brand

Today’s job candidates expect a high level of transparency into potential employers. They want you to tell them what it’s like to work with your company. And they’ll follow up on social media to confirm, gathering feedback from past and current employees. Your employment brand is hugely important to conveying the value of working for your company. Great employment brands often have these characteristics:6

  • Creates excitement about working for your company
  • Emotionally engages candidates
  • Outlines what your company does – and why
  • Provides a clear, compelling reason to work for your company

3 steps to an employment brand

  1. Gather insights. First, understand how your organization is currently perceived and what its unique employment brand attributes are. Research may include surveys, interviews with key stakeholders in the organization, or even a review of existing employee survey data.
  2. Define how you’d like to be seen. Based on what you learn, assess your strengths and differentiators and translate them into an employee value proposition (or EVP) and core talent messaging framework.
  3. Bring your brand to life. Step off your key messages into communications across multiple channels – both internally and externally.

What’s your employment value proposition?

Let’s spend a little more time on the employment value proposition, or your statement about the “give and get” of your employment deal – what employees will contribute and what your company offers in return.

An awesome EVP can be articulate and detailed: Or incredibly hip and concise:
Bristol-Myers Squibb EVP
At Bristol-Myers Squibb, we’re committed to helping physicians and patients fight serious diseases. The success of our endeavor depends on people who are bold, focused, innovative and passionate – people who can work as a team, yet bring unique and individual talents to bear in a variety of areas. We want people who want to change lives.7
Google EVP
Do cool things that matter.8


…But it must showcase your organization’s distinct selling points and personality.

What about a tagline?

Once you’ve developed your employment value proposition, use it as inspiration to create a succinct statement about your employment brand essence.

Executing on the employment brand

After creating your employment brand, EVP and messaging platform, you’ll want to develop communications to share and build your employment brand, including:

  • Executive presentations
  • Job posting templates
  • Career portals
  • Manager talking points
  • Company fact sheets
  • Interview guides
  • Banner ads
  • Social assets
  • Videos

Your strategy should be geared externally towards target candidate pools and internally, towards existing employees. Why the internal focus? Consistently communicating the EVP to current employees helps retain and engage them. It affirms the brand to foster advocacy – and when that happens, employees become authentic champions for your company both at work and on social media (helping you attract great external candidates!).

Signal Tip:

Ensure that all those who interface with candidates – including recruiters, marketers and hiring managers – use the core message framework to represent your company consistently. When everyone sings from the same sheet of music, candidates get a consistent impression about the value of working for your company.

Make it real with videos

Cisco projects that by 2018, video will account for 84% of all online traffic!9 Keep up and create a short video to showcase what’s special about working for your company and create a positive reputation among candidates and employees.

Cisco projects that by 2018, video will account for 84% of all online traffic!9 Keep up and create a short video to showcase what’s special about working for your company and create a positive reputation among candidates and employees.


Keeping Great Employees

Engaging employees in who you are and where you’re going

Companies employ many familiar HR programs for retaining employees – including compensation, training and development, or flexible work. These are outside the scope of this paper.

However, Entrepreneur magazine says that to keep your employees, you need a communication strategy “that’s structured to inform, emphasize and reaffirm to employees that their workplace contributions are having an impact.10 At Signal, we’d have to agree because we’ve learned that communication is essential to retention.

5 steps to keeping employees looped in

  1. Gather input from executive stakeholders on possible communication topics.
  2. Review employee engagement survey and other data for clues to what employees value hearing about (and from whom).
  3. Create core messages / message framework.
  4. Develop a phased communications calendar.
  5. Distribute messages from executives, with follow-up messages from line managers.

It may seem like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many companies don’t give communications the time it needs – especially given the ROI. The more employees feel they’re in the know, the more likely they are to stay with an organization. Especially if leaders are the ones doing the communicating. People want to feel valued, be recognized for good work and they want to know where the organization is going.

Cater to your audiences

Internal communications are just marketing for employees. Just like in traditional marketing, the more you shape your message to a niche audience (site, department, geography…), the more effective it will be.11

Examples of communication topics that increase employee engagement:
Career pathing Employees are hungry to know how they can move ahead. Do a communications campaign to teach them what they can do to get promoted and develop themselves (training and development options, career path tools, etc.)
The excitement of new strategies Trying to integrate an acquisition? Build out a new geography? Reorganize operations? Send employees a drip-feed of communications – across many internal channels – about this new direction and how they can play a part.
Showcasing new products Launching a new product is a great way to communicate with employees. You can leverage content already developed by marketing and spin it for the company intranet.


Distinct challenges in life sciences and biopharma

The landscape for these sectors continues to evolve at a breathtaking pace. Companies in every geography are retooling and increasing development pipelines in response to major drugs coming off patent and to meet robust demand for new therapies. At the same time, global healthcare is becoming more complex – both from a regulatory standpoint and trying to meet the demands of diverse stakeholders such as patients, physicians and healthcare systems. There is a high demand for those with the capabilities to succeed in the new environment, so it’s tough to find and keep talented people.

Global healthcare is becoming more complex – both from a regulatory standpoint and trying to meet the demands of diverse stakeholders such as patients, physicians and healthcare systems. There is a high demand for those with the capabilities to succeed in the new environment, so it’s tough to find and keep talented people.



Tying it all Together

It’s time to up your talent game!

If you’re targeting this audience… …consider these channels first
Early talent Social plan: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram; outreach to university career centers
Experienced hires Job sites, LinkedIn
Alumni Industry conferences, magazines and other publications

Food for thought: there will always be some turnover

  • There are a certain number of people who have a “nomadic” personality. We’re not talking about someone who works remotely, but someone who job hops – for mental stimulation or to gain new skills and experiences.
  • This is more pronounced in Millennials, who tend to leave if they feel they’re no longer growing, being paid attention to or when feel that your strategy no longer aligns with their values and ideals.
  • Some strategies for addressing the nomads / job hoppers are to have active mentoring programs for knowledge transfer; engaging nomads as freelancers or consultants to keep the talent working for you; and negotiating with them to see what it would take to have them stay.


We’ll leave you with the thought that communication is an invaluable component of your attraction and retention programs – design these programs well and they will make a difference in your bottom line. Then stay agile, rolling with the changes in your company and industry to keep your communication fresh and stay ahead of the curve in finding and keeping great people.

Let us know if we can help you improve recruitment and retention with smart communications and savvy employment branding. Get in touch.



  1. http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/ceo-agenda/ceosurvey/2015.html
  2. https://www.zanebenefits.com/blog/bid/312123/Employee-Retention-The-Real-Cost-of-Losing-an-Employee
  3. https://hbr.org/2015/07/recruiting-for-cultural-fit
  4. http://www.inc.com/suzanne-lucas/why-employee-turnover-is-so-costly.html
  5. http://www.fastcompany.com/1657030/happiness-culture-zappos-isnt-company-its-mission
  6. http://www.recruiting.com/blog/the-case-for-employment-branding
  7. http://www.bms.com/careers/Pages/home.aspx
  8. https://www.google.com/intl/en/about/careers/lifeatgoogle/do-cool-things-that-matter.html
  9. http://tubularinsights.com/2018-internet-traffic-video/
  10. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/76456
  11. http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2016/08/12/best-practices-for-effective-internal-communications/#2eadc1db7d1d

Creating a Measurement Plan

Your Blueprint for Marketing Success

Measurement Plan

If you have spent some time in Google Analytics, Piwik or Adobe Analytics, you’ll find the power of website analytics can be jaw-dropping. You will quickly realize how your company uses analytics to report on and inform your strategies and marketing efforts can be arrived at from an infinite number of paths. In short, your implementation and incorporation of website analytics is very unique to your business and your goals.

There is one aspect of analytics, however, that remains an absolute necessity for effectively using analytics, regardless of which of those infinite paths you end up taking: creating a Measurement Plan.

What is a Measurement Plan?

From our experience in marketing and analytics across a wide variety of industries, we’ve seen how a surprisingly large number of businesses operate in the dark when it comes to website analytics. That’s not to say that these businesses had necessarily lost sight of their company vision, value proposition or profitability requirements. But the resources invested to accomplish these initiatives and measure their effectiveness were largely unaccountable and included mere estimations at best.

Not too long ago, such a lack of accountability was to some degree unavoidable. Whereas the ROI of traditional television and print ads could be estimated by the impact on overall revenue, customer size, etc., a definite correlation between a given initiative and its results was impossible. In the rapidly evolving world of website analytics, businesses no longer have an excuse to operate under such impairment. Analytics not only has the power to correct your eyesight, it can give you x-ray vision. The tremendous value of a platform like Google Analytics and its relatively recent addition to what we would include as a business requirement make it both one of the most pivotal components of profitability and a source of unrealized potential.

Making sure you’re equipped to reap the benefits from your website analytics is simple – all it takes is a well-thought-out Measurement Plan – a document that clearly identifies the core objectives of your business and supports them with the metrics necessary to communicate how aligned those objectives are with reality.

Next we’ll walk through the 5-step process of creating this plan to ensure every action you take is accountable to specific, data-driven indicators of effectiveness.

Step 1: Defining Your Objectives

Whether your website is an ecommerce store, a blog, or a marketing website, it was created for a specific purpose. When creating your Measurement Plan, you will want to take a step back and adopt the frame of mind you were in during the business planning phase. When pitching the business model, investors or partners needed to know what your concept offered to the relevant market(s). Successful businesses create customer value by solving problems. Defining the objectives of your Measurement Plan should mimic this process.

During the Objective definition phase of this process, start by asking yourself what is the primary purpose of your website. This may seem straightforward, but it’s critical to establish clear purposes which dictate all marketing, branding and content creation efforts. This step will usually require more thinking than you may initially suspect. If not, stop and make sure you’re touching on all aspects of the business, not just the obvious.

A basic (and incomplete) approach for the three different types of websites just mentioned might look like:

  • Ecommerce: sell golf equipment
  • Blog: acquire emails from readers
  • Marketing Website: drive traffic and convert into leads

While not incorrect, this fails to adequately represent the key components of success. Yes, the website should sell equipment, gain a following and generate ad revenue, but what other aspects are inherently critical for success? A more accurate approach might look like:

  • Ecommerce: 1) sell golf equipment; 2) become a nationally recognized brand; 3) generate preowned trade-ins
  • Blog: 1) acquire emails from readers; 2) establish voice of authority across social media; 3) generate affiliate revenue; 4) serve as a resource for a specific audience
  • Marketing Website: 1) drive traffic; 2) engage prospects; 3) generate leads

For simplicity’s sake, let’s stick with the first example as a model for the remainder of this post: an ecommerce site that sells new and used golf equipment.

Sales, certainly, is going to be one of our main goals. For the purpose of creating a Measurement Plan, we also want to consider secondary objectives that go hand in hand with revenue, and should be equally as important to measure.

The basis of a good Measurement Plan might include the following objectives:


Step 2: Goals and KPIs

Now that the business objectives have been defined, they need to be represented by the specific strategies and tactics employed to achieve each objective. In other words, how are you going to accomplish A, B and C?

To illustrate, our golf etail site might associate the following KPIs for each objective.

Objective KPI
Increase Sales
  • Increase revenue
  • Reduce cart abandonment
  • Increase cart totals
  • Increase upsell and cross sell
  • Improve cart effectiveness
Establish Brand Familiarity/Awareness
  • Increase searches for brand
  • Improve social presence
  • Increase referrals
  • Increase sales from affiliate marketing
Gain Market Share of Preowned Equipment
  • Increase procurement of used clubs from manufacturers
  • Increase procurement of used clubs from customer base
  • Increase organic traffic for “used” and “preowned terms”
Acquire New Customers
  • Increase traffic
  • Increase new customers
  • Build email list
Build Customer Loyalty
  • Reduce customer dissatisfaction
  • Increase repeat customers
  • Improve reputation

After these KPIs have been established they should be approved by the key stakeholders to confirm relevancy, and by the board to ensure they are in alignment with vision and expectation.

Step 3: Measurement

When consulting with businesses, the area we often see most neglected is an accurate system of measurement. Often times, objectives and goals are believed to be generally understood or obvious, and therefore a Measurement Plan is never created. Without one, not only is it unclear what strategies will be used and how they are connected to the key objectives, but nothing is ever put in place to track the performance of the efforts surrounding those strategies.

With analytics, there’s little that can’t be measured for the purpose of tracking performance. At this point in the process of your Measurement Plan, you already have a clear understanding of your business’ primary objectives and the key performance indicators that will inform how aligned they are. Now it’s time to define what the specific metrics are and how they will be measured. This is also the point to incorporate any targets you may have.

For ecommerce, the overarching goals are going to be tied to sales. Setting up Google Analytics’ ecommerce capabilities with your shopping cart has become quick and easy from a technical point of view, and typically involves just a few lines of code. Once integrated, the ecommerce section of Google Analytics arms you with a robust suite of reports out of the gate. This is where we’ll go for top line revenue as well as key performance indicators like average order value, category performance, conversion rates, funnel exits and more.

Going back to our golf equipment website, our Measurement Plan would develop into something similar to the following.

Goal: Increase Sales
KPI 1: Increase Revenue Measurement: Sales
Measurement: Transactions
KPI 2: Reduce Cart Abandonment Measurement: Cart Abandonment Rate
KPI 3: Increase Cart Totals Measurement: Average Order Value
KPI 4: Increase Upsell and Cross Sell Measurement: Average Items Per Transactions
KPI 5: Improve Cart Effectiveness Measurement: Conversion Rate

For the goals we’ve identified that are not necessarily tied to a purchase, we can measure through any number of data sources.

Goal: Establish Brand Familiarity/Awareness
KPI 1: Increase Searches for Brand Name Measurement: Branded Traffic
KPI 2: Improve Social Presence Measurement: Social Following
KPI 3: Increase Referrals Measurement: Backlink Profile
KPI 4: Increase Sales from Affiliate Marketing Measurement: Affiliate Marketing Revenue

On a final note with respect to the measurement aspect of your plan, this is the phase where you’ll want to include any targets you have defined for your KPIs. You may find that for some KPIs you don’t have specific targets for that year, month or week. But for those areas where you do, there’s no better place to consider them than in your Measurement Plan. Yes, your targets could and should be dynamic (in that they will fluctuate based on time of year, promotional activity, etc.), which is all the more reason to report on them within a stable construct. Your plan will be updated to account for changes to historical data and current targets, but the structural pieces will remain static.

Step 4: Segments

For most of your objectives, you’re going to want to associate a particular audience, or segment. As with any type of business or website analysis, segmenting your data is a critical component of gaining insights and turning that knowledge into actionable comprehension. In most cases, we recommend reporting at the aggregate and segmented level. This establishes a baseline, or average at the aggregate level, which provides context for the segmented perspective.

When defining your segments, think of each as an additional component that empowers the data you’ve collected thus far. For example, it’s extremely valuable to understand that Q1 sales are up 20% following reduction in cart abandonment, thanks to a shopping cart redesign – but when we’re able to apply segmentation by device and see that 80% of that lift came traffic on smart phones, we’ve moved beyond reporting on key data points and can now attribute, predict and plan on a much more accurate and sophisticated level.

Segments are most effective when developed as part the KPI identification phase of your Measurement Plan. For the KPIs related to our Customer Loyalty Objective, we might choose the following segments:

Build Customer Loyalty

With this level of detail, our KPIs for Reducing Customer Dissatisfaction, Increasing Repeat Customers and Improving Reputation, we’ll be able to take our data one step further when we slice into that information from the Acquisition Source and Geographic Location: being able to tie brand ambassadors to the source from which we initially gained that customer might reveal untapped opportunities for partnerships; positive reviews from customers within a 25-mile radius of our brick-and-mortar locations might justify bid adjustments based on location for an AdWords campaign.

Step 5: Implementation

You’ve just finished defining your segments and are ready to put your plan into action. Awesome! The last level of detail you’ll want to include as part of your plan will include any details related to the tracking implementation. There are of course an endless number of analytics and reporting solutions out there, and each has its proper time and place. But in our experience, a solid Measurement Plan can be built for 99% of websites using Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. The former gives you an enormous amount of highly intelligent data and data insight with a simple script include. The latter fills in any gaps to allow for customized tracking solutions for just about any action or event one could possibly take when visiting a website. The combination is a zero-cost, comprehensive analytics package.

Depending on how your business handles the implementation of similar projects, it will likely be useful to include a breakdown of the implementation into the specific details for the IT team or whomever is involved in setting up the required tracking framework. This will be especially helpful for measurements where implementation is more complex.

For example, implementation details for our “Increase Sales from Affiliate Marketing” KPI might include the following:

Steps Task Owner Completed
1. Enable ecommerce tracking with the following code:
var _gaq=_gaq | | [ ];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-XXXXX-X’]);
Bob Yes
2. Create workflow for inclusion of utm parameters for all affiliate creative Bob Yes
3. Add custom defined variable for condition segment:
Bill Yes
4. API call for revenue from source=affiliate Betsy No

The Final Product

With the addition of implementation details, you’re officially done with your Measurement Plan. This diagram shows how the plan ended up looking for our golf equipment website. Yours may look different, where the Objectives are the columns and the details the rows, or each Objective is a tier in a Smart Art diagram. As long as there are KPIs, Measurements and Segments for each Objective, you’re ready to fully benefit from your website analytics.

Objective KPIs Measurement Segment Target
Increase Sales Increase revenue Sales Product category 20% increase
Reduce cart abandonment Cart abandonment rate Reduce to 15%
Increase cart totals Average order value New vs. returning $150 non-iron set, $225 average
Increase upsell and cross sell Average items per transaction Product category 1.4 iron sets, 1.3 average
Improve cart effectiveness Conversion rate Device 2.4% desktop, 1.9% mobile
Establish Brand Familiarity/Awareness Increase searches for brand Branded traffic Source 20k searches/month
Improve social presence Social following Social network 20k Facebook
Increase referrals Backlink profile 150,000
Increase sales from affiliate marketing Affiliate marketing revenue Condition $20k/month new, $25k/month used
Gain market share of preowned equipment Increase procurement of used clubs from manufacturers Open box inventory
Increase procurement of used clubs from customer base Trade-ins 1,200/month
Increase organic traffic for “used” and “preowned terms” Sessions Traffic source 10k searches/month
Acquire new customers Increase traffic Sessions Traffic source 20% increase year over year
Increase new customers New users Maintain 40% monthly average
Build email list Email list size Acquisition source 1.2MM
Build customer loyalty Reduce customer dissatisfaction Return rate Acquisition source Reduce to 5%
Satisfaction rate Increase to 90%
Increase repeat customers Repeat customers Geographic location Increase to 12% or total purchasers
Improve reputation Negative reviews Reduce monthly average by 18%
Issue resolution Keep response time to 24 hours

Maintaining Your Plan

While the bulk of the work is done at this point, you’re not all finished just yet. In fact, maintaining your Measurement Plan is – to a degree – a never-ending task, due to the following two reasons.

1. Your Measurement Plan has helped solidify your business’ strategies and the methods behind measuring their efficacy. In order for it to hold you accountable, you have to keep the supporting data current.

The frequency and method of collecting that data will vary between businesses. Neither matters as long as the method of collecting the data is accurate and the frequency is adequate to alert your team of trends, patterns and anomalies that have the potential to impact the success or failure of achieving your goals and the specific targets for each.

A simple yet completely adequate way of doing this is to add two additional columns to your Measurement Plan – one for reporting the actual metrics for a given time period, and one that shows the percentage of the target achieved. Remember, deviation from baseline or forecasted metrics is not always represented literally by the data. This could also indicate that there is something wrong with your tracking/measurement. Typically, these situations are much easier to resolve but just as important as reacting to actual fluctuation in performance metrics.

2. The second part of maintaining your Measurement Plan involves the plan itself. Business needs and technical environments change over time, and your plan needs to adapt to these alterations.

While the basic structure will remain, this is not a set-it-and-forget-it deal. Perhaps there’s a change to the API you’re collecting your data from, or there’s an update to the Analytics platform. As a perfect example, Google Analytics’ decision to stop providing keyword data for organic traffic created a situation where your Measurement Plan would need revisiting. On the other hand, it’s possible that after a few months of reporting you’ve found that the KPIs being used haven’t proven to be the best way to measure performance, or you are consistently exceeding your targets.

In any of these cases, actions would be required to update the API call, find another way to measure keyword traffic, replace a KPI, and redefine your targets. As long as data is being reported to the stakeholders and your Measure Plan is adaptive to change, it will maintain and exceed its initial value to your business.

Mobile Sales Enablement 101

Mobile Sales Enablement 101: Adopting mobile tools to improve sales performance and redefine the selling experience

Mobile Enablement 101

Printed fact sheets and brochures are no longer the mainstays of sales presentations. Today, mobile sales enablement tools are creating new and better ways for salespeople to engage and sell to their customers, while increasing efficiencies, reducing costs and streamlining the process. The bottom line is, mobile technology offers unmeasured potential for increasing sales success.

Benefits of mobile for sales teams

Following are some of the key reasons why enterprise business organizations are looking to mobile for their sales teams:

  • enabling field sales and service teams to sell anytime and anywhere
  • reducing hardware cost by replacing more expensive laptops with tablets
  • reducing traditional printing and distribution costs for sales materials
  • streamlining content updates and enabling sales teams to remain in sync with up-to-date content
  • offering multimedia, interactive features, data capture and tracking

Setting the stage – the proliferation of the tablet

In July 2015, technology research firm Gartner, Inc. reported 2014 worldwide media tablet sales at 226 million units. Compare that to 2010 sales of only 17 million units.

According to Gartner VP David Willis, “Leaders are finding legitimate business use [for tablets] and redefining processes for ‘ready at hand’ moments where other computer types are not as well adapted. CEOs often prefer tablets for distributing material for board of directors meetings. Salespeople are using them in client-facing situations; sales configuration tools help close more business and reduce error rates; sales and marketing leaders are using them as dashboards to their business; and marketers are designing campaigns around them. Doctors and nurses are carrying them; they are even being used on the manufacturing floor. Anywhere you once saw people carrying a clipboard or lugging printed reference material, you’ll find an application for a tablet.”


In fact, Gartner names the #1 commercial business application category for tablet devices as sales automation systems for customer collateral, sales presentations and ordering systems.

Aberdeen Research cites 23% more firms meet team sales quotas when employing a sales mobility strategy. IDG research shows 73% of firms who built mobile enterprise applications realized a gain in productivity.

Per Aberdeen’s Mobile Sales Enablement: Fulfilling the Promise of Untethered Selling, “Best-in-Class organizations place significantly more emphasis than under-performers on arming their remote and field-based sellers with an ‘anywhere, any time, any device’ toward filling their pipeline and closing deals.”

IDG research shows 73% of firms who built mobile enterprise applications realized a gain in productivity.

At Signal, we’ve witnessed this trend as well. We’ve recently created tablet apps for organizations that allow:

  • equipment dealers to show customers product features that are difficult or impossible to demonstrate in on a showroom floor.
  • medical device representatives to house all brochures, images and videos in one convenient and updatable device.
  • sales representatives in the field to receive timely updates to their interactive presentations in a centralized and coordinated manner.

So how do you begin?

First, you need to ask yourself a lot of questions, and by this we mean more fundamental thinking than concerns like “iPad or Android?”

Rather, take a look at your sales process now and ask your sales team questions:

  • What does the current sales interaction look like?
  • At what point in the sales funnel do they get involved?
  • Are your salespeople just serving to close the deal, or are they tasked with generating awareness and interest, detailing the benefits and features of your offering, and answering questions with relevant proof points?
  • How can mobile support this interaction?

Remember that you don’t want to replace sales, but ask reps how mobile might help them streamline their process and be more effective.

Face to face

Perform a communications audit of all marketing materials the sales team is currently using. Compare those assets to the story sales is telling when they’re in front of a customer, and see if there are any gaps that a new mobile solution can help fill.

Next, ask your marketing team how mobile might help them.

  • Does technology resonate with your target audience?
  • Is their primary messaging making it to the end customer during a sales call?
  • How often do the marketing materials need to be updated?
  • Are salespeople running around with outdated print materials, or creating their own?
  • Would centralized content management and rapid push updates help better connect marketing and sales?

Bring in your IT team.

  • Do you need offline access for sales presentations in remote locations?
  • Are there hardware cost savings you could realize by replacing traditional laptops with tablets?

Answers to these questions will help dictate the path you take and the technology you use.

Supporting the face-to-face interaction

There are many mobile solutions that you can put in place for a sales team. For the purpose of this discussion, we will focus on how an iPad app can be used as a tool to help your field sales team when they are meeting face-to-face with a potential customer.

Here are two scenarios that Signal was involved with, as an illustration of how different client needs and circumstances led us to unique development strategies.


Fully Customized Sales App

GEH iPad App

GE Hitachi wanted to create an engaging iPad app showcasing their service offerings in nuclear plant safety and maintenance. In lieu of bringing their customers to see actual on-site equipment, our client wanted compelling informational material to support the sales team, beyond their conventional printed collateral. Signal audited their existing assets and drew up a plan to create rich, interactive visuals demonstrating the benefits of their service offerings across several categories. The delivered iPad app takes advantage of dynamic multimedia content like splash screens, demo animations, scrolling technical diagrams with interactive hot spots, video clips, 3-D renderings, photo galleries, fact sheets and ad slicks.

Because many of the sales meetings take place in remote locations, all content is embedded within the app. This means the salesperson is not dependent on an Internet connection during the sales call and there are no buffering delays for multimedia content.


Sales Briefcase App

One of our clients sells irrigation products through a nationwide dealer network. Although a comprehensive arsenal of traditional collateral materials is available to support their sales effort, keeping the large volume of product fact sheets and videos current and organized has presented a continual challenge. With organization as the central objective, Signal created an iPad app that serves as an interactive library of marketing materials. Users can read brochures or watch a variety of videos, all categorized by product – no more fiddling around to find the right video or printed sales sheet.

Updates and time-sensitive campaigns are typically a concern in sales materials across the board, and this app allows revisions to be pushed to the entire sales team by means of a version update, similar to version updates we are familiar with installing for personal apps.


Combination Presentation and Organization Sales App Utilizing Web-Based Platform

Medical Mutual desired an iPad app to help its salespeople to better engage and sell to prospective physicians. Unlike the app described in Client #1 above, this one did not require fully immersive, rich media. However, they did need a professional animated presentation and the ability to organize a full library of marketing materials using a web-based content management system.

Signal created an interactive presentation in PowerPoint format and utilized a third-party platform called Showpad to publish the content to a native iOS app format. We chose the Showpad sales enablement platform because of its ease of use and professional presentation. These platforms offer a variety of functionality using a monthly subscription model, including the following:

  • Content management and delivery
  • Some branding and customization
  • Publishes to any device (iPad, Android, etc.)
  • Sales team communication via announcements
  • Web apps

For this scenario, what you lose in branding and customization, you gain in functionality, all at a reduced investment.

Enterprise or App Store?

In the above three cases, the apps were internally deployed as an enterprise app only, but you may find that it does no harm and can actually be a benefit to publish your app for general downloads on the iOS and Android app stores.

In a further example, we developed an app helping dealers of a prominent lawn equipment manufacturer to showcase certain product features that are hard to demonstrate on the showroom floor. The app uses video, 3-D imagery and animations to engage potential customers and help them decide whether a lawn tractor or zero turn mower is the best fit for them. Originally planned for dealer usage only, the app was later released on Apple’s App Store as a means to help create awareness and boost sales beyond the scope of a limited dealer release.

Final Thoughts

Simply distributing tablet devices to your sales force is not enough. Once everyone has these wonderful devices, the really important step is to change your organization’s thinking about sales presentations and the very nature of one-on-one customer interactions. Custom mobile sales enablement applications represent a critical strategy for turning your mobile investment into tangible results.

We hope you’ve found this paper helpful as you think about the best way to incorporate mobile tools to improve sales performance. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

UX Demystified!

It seems like everybody’s talking about User Experience. You’ve probably heard about some sophisticated software package you should be buying right now to monitor or improve UX. Or maybe you’ve seen “UX” getting tacked onto job titles: UX Designer, Mobile UX Analyst, UX Strategist, UX Manager. What does it all mean? And what should you be doing about it?

Here’s the good news: UX doesn’t have to be confusing, expensive or difficult. UX is really about common sense steps that you can easily implement with a little pre-planning. A little effort and attention will pay off in solid ROI. Read on to learn more.

Smart technology is now commonplace, in the hands of discerning consumers with high expectations about functionality. Just having a great presence won’t get the job done. Brands also need to provide a great experience. A positive user experience (UX) is critical to capturing attention and loyalty – to ultimately increase engagement and revenue.

UX describes the quality of a person’s interaction with a system, product or service. We naturally think of UX in terms of technology – iPhones, tablets, websites and software. But it’s not only about our frequent interactions with beloved tech tools and toys. We have tons of daily “user experiences” – things like driving our cars, checking out at the store or microwaving a meal.1

These days, the satisfaction and ease of use with your company’s website and other online channels are most critical to attracting and engaging your customers. In an environment where most visitors will decide within seconds2 whether to stay on a page, you get a fleeting chance to make a strongfirst impression. UX matters.

In this paper, our team demystifies UX, giving you easy steps to positively impact your business.

Getting to know UX

“[The] primary function of UX is the development of an architecture that creates a delightful, emotional, and sensory experience. This is why it’s vital to customer experiences and engagement. UX is, among many things, designed to be experiential, affective, useful, productive, and entertaining.”3

– Fast Company

What about usability and user interface? Are those the same as UX?

Not quite. There are a number of terms that seem synonymous with user experience, when they are actually components.

What we now know as “user experience” grew out of the disciplines of human factors / ergonomics and user-centered design. Human factors / ergonomics looks at understanding “the interactions among humans and other elements of a system… to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”4 In his book The Design of Everyday Things5,Donald Norman describes user-centered design as designing products for people, instead of teaching people how to use products. This approach requires time on initial research on users’ needs and wants – which is a central focus for UX.

The Difference between User Interface, Usability, and User Experience

UX Increases ROI

Wow…UX Increases ROI

Did you know that good UX could help you increase your ROI? The oft-cited “300 million button” case is one drastic example.6
Amazon found that the prospect of having to register before purchasing an item was chasing users away. Changing a button from “register” to “continue” – along with a message saying that registration was not required to check out but might be helpful if you returned – increased sales by 45%. This brought the online retailer an extra $300 million in the year after the change was made.

User experience research company The Nielsen Norman Group says that paying attention to website architecture and design will help to increase ROI for a number of categories:7

Key performance indicator Average improvement across web projects
Sales/Conversion rate 87%
Traffic/visitor count 91%
User performance/productivity 112%
Use for specific (desired) features 174%

Top Tip

Making UX an inherent part of your design and development process is a best practice that pays. Read on to find out how to do it.

Test Always and Often

Keepin’ it Real – UX Tactics

Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty. We said that UX doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. It can be easy and scalable, with these basic steps.

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR USERS – Who are they? What do they want and need?

Conduct ethnographic research.

It’s helpful to understand users in their natural environment. The best way to do this is to observe users “in the wild.” Here’s an example. A marketing team visited five different retailers who sell the company’s crop protection products. They saw how the product was presented on the shelf, sold – and eventually, used. The team asked the retailers what was working and how they liked to learn about new products or features. From those on-site visits, the marketers learned invaluable information such as:

  • Growers speak English but many of the people actually applying the products do not. Bilingual instructions would be helpful.
  • There are certain times of the year when growers don’t use a laptop for weeks, because they are so involved with their crops in the field. Mobile only communications are a must for those times of the year. Conducting on-site research allowed the team to observe behaviors as they happened – and it provided an opportunity for follow-up questions on the spot.

Think you don’t have time for a deep dive into this step? When designing a sales app for a client, Signal team members sat down with the head of sales and watched as he walked through the standard presentation. Total time? One hour.

Gather user preferences/requirements.

There are multiple ways to find out more about your users. Use surveys for specific questions and easily quantifiable results (“Which of these six channels do you use most often to learn about our products?”). Consider one-on-one interviews to gather candid information and dig deeper (“Tell me what attracts you to our website.”). And don’t forget the focus group, when you have more general questions (“What kind of experiences have you had with our product?”) and want to stimulate an open discussion with a number of users.

“As an end user…I really may not even know what I need…if you could please,
please read my mind, anticipate my needs, and (above all else) just make it EASY for me to get what I’m looking for, without making me jump through hoops or wade through ‘junk’ I
don’t care about, I will be your loyal follower for life.”
– Usabilitygeek.com8

Use personas

Personas are representations of ideal customers based on your market research and data about existing customers. They provide insight into where to focus your marketing time – and they can help guide your UX efforts. Elements that help craft a persona include customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals. Personas are valuable because they give you the ability to hone in on the needs of specific users rather than “everyone.”

2. ESTABLISH BENCHMARKS – How are you doing?

Conduct ethnographic research.

Once you understand your users, gather existing data to flesh out your benchmarks for UX. Consider mining the following types of sources: customer support call data, expert feedback and analytics. Think about gathering information for the following categories:


Competitive website analysis

Now that you have an understanding of your users, you will want to understand the market as well by taking a look at the websites of companies that are competing with your company’s products or services.

This may consist of anything from a basic scan to an in-depth exploration – and it will help you to understand best practices and how you can stand out from the crowd.

No matter what level of analysis you choose to do, it should measure these types of things:9

  • Efficient navigation
  • Organizational clarity
  • Clear labeling
  • Consistent design
  • Matching user expectations
  • Effective visual design
  • Supporting readability & scanability
  • Facilitating user tasks
  • Providing help

Analytics, the right way

You can use analytics to see WHAT is happening (“People are leaving our website without signing up”). To understand WHY, however, you need to gather user feedback. Avoid making assumptions based on your analytics by pairing data with simple usability testing.

3. DESIGN, TEST, REPEAT – How is the design working? How can we improve it?

Once you’ve moved into the design phase, it’s helpful to identify issues as early as possible to make implementation smooth. Below, learn about the different ways to test that your users will have the best experience possible. As UX experts like to say, test early and test often.

Wireframing goes beyond the site map

The site map is a familiar bare-bones diagram of a website’s architecture. It’s a great way to show how information and functionality can be structured. However, it won’t explain how that information will be presented. Most importantly, it won’t show you how users can interact with the information.

To get an accurate blueprint, take a step up from the site map to the wireframe. A wireframe presents an interactive rough draft of a website’s interface that focuses on space allocation, content prioritization and functionality. It typically doesn’t include color, styling or graphics.

  • Wireframes connect the site’s information architecture to its visual design by showing paths between pages
  • Wireframes clarify consistent ways for displaying particular types of information on the user interface
  • Wireframes determine intended functionality in the interface
  • Wireframes prioritize content through the determination of how much space to allocate to a given item and where that item is located10

Why use wireframes? They save time and money. They’re a great tool for getting everyone on the same page and understanding how your site works – before a designer invests effort in refined layout and design. And, wireframes can show you where your site map is incomplete or faulty, so you can test it and fix it.

Usability testing

If you do nothing else to improve your UX, conduct usability testing to gather first-hand data from real users. Here are two methods to consider.

  • Single-user testing involves a design, a user and a facilitator. Jakob Nielsen, UX consultant, recommends the “thinking aloud” method of
    usability testing, where a user continuously verbalizes their thoughts as
    they use a system or product.12 This cheap, flexible method is a great way to gather useful qualitative information. Here’s a video example of the thinking aloud method.13
  • Group testing is usually more formal. Participants individually, but
    simultaneously, perform tasks with one or more moderators assisting. In
    one example, Signal partnered with a client to conduct group usability
    testing of two different options for a landing page – measuring success,
    errors and subjective satisfaction with the page.
85% of UX problems can be solved by testing with 5 users.11

Heat mapping

Information about how visitors interact with your website can help you improve your UX – and increase the chances that they will complete actions like signing up for a newsletter or clicking on critical links. Heat mapping software is one way to give you actionable insight into where people are clicking. With heat mapping, you can test the design of your site, see how readable your content is and improve conversions.14

The brighter the color, the more clicks (and attention) a specific area is receiving from users.

A/B testing

A/B testing is a technique that allows you to test one design / element against another to see which offers the better experience – and better results.
Many things can be A/B tested15 – it just has to be something that affects visitor behavior, such as:

  • Headlines
  • Links
  • Sub-heads
  • Images
  • Paragraph text
  • Content near the fold
  • Testimonials
  • Social proof
  • Call to action text
  • Media mentions
  • Call to action button design
  • Awards and badges

Many of you have heard about how A/B testing helped Obama’s 2008 campaign raise an extra $60 million16 – simply by testing the media (videos or images) and the call to action text (“Join us now,” “Learn more,” “Sign up,” or “Sign up now”) to find the most effective combination.

You don’t have to be a presidential candidate to get great results from A/B testing. And, it pays to test because sometimes the findings are surprising. When launching SimCity 5, Electronic Arts included a promotional offer banner on its digital pre-order page. EA didn’t see a large increase in pre-orders and decided to conduct A/B testing. Surprisingly, removing the offer banner drove 43.3% more purchases – people just wanted to get to the game!17

Don’t forget the emotionEmotions are a critical element in effective marketing – positive emotions even more so. In pleasant situations, people are more likely to want to interact with a product, even if the UX could be improved.18
Think about ways to evoke positive emotions with media, design and copy

Final thoughts

UX demystified: first, start by understanding your users’ needs and desires. Then, set and measure benchmarks – the WHAT that is happening which will drive the WHY you will test later. (You should know where you’re going before you decide how to get there!) Finally, design, test and repeat.

The tools and techniques outlined above are all part of Signal’s everyday toolbox – and we’re delighted to share them with you. Remember, everyone has a little UX expertise in them!

You already appreciate the value of UX if you…19

  • Love good design but not poorly designed instructions, menus, signage,
    maps and so on
  • Like to organize things
  • Like to streamline the workflow to make your workplace more efficient
  • Are the one who spots the typos on the restaurant menu
  • Want to design a better solution for problems you see around you

Thank you for reading. Our team hopes this paper has helped to demystify UX and give you some easy steps to positively impact your business. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

1. http://usabilitygeek.com/user-experience/
2. http://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-long-do-users-stay-on-web-pages/
3. http://www.fastcompany.com/1815756/why-user-experience-critical-
4. http://www.iea.cc/whats/index.html
5. http://www.amazon.com/Design-Everyday-Things-Revised-Expanded/dp/0465050654/
6. http://www.uie.com/articles/three_hund_million_button
7. NN/g Report: Usability Return on Investment (ROI)
8. http://usabilitygeek.com/user-experience/
9. http://boxesandarrows.com/competitive-analysis-understanding-the-market-context/
10. http://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/wireframing.html
11. http://blog.dashburst.com/infographic/ux-101-what-is-user-experience/
12. http://www.nngroup.com/articles/thinking-aloud-the-1-usability-tool/
13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJ2udLjdsx4
14. http://www.websitemagazine.com/content/blogs/posts/archive/2011/03/16/heatmaps-
15. https://vwo.com/ab-testing/
16. http://blog.optimizely.com/2010/11/29/how-obama-raised-60-million-by-running-
17. http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/a-b-testing-experiments-examples
18. http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/07/18/the-personality-layer/
19. http://www.nngroup.com/reports/user-experience-careers/

The Game of Gamification

Are you ready? Let’s PLAY!


Human beings are hard-wired to enjoy the competition and status that games provide. And the prospect of entertainment – and winning! – is an attraction that’s hard to resist. You probably felt a subconscious jolt of anticipation when you saw the above invitation to play. Adding game mechanics or techniques immediately increases interest and participation in any given activity. Gamification applies game design principles in non-game settings as a way to create engagement – which can increase brand loyalty and profits.

Whether you “gamify” your communications with points, rankings, badges, contests or interactive communities, gamification can help brands and messages stand out from the crowd. It’s perfect for B2C applications that resonate with consumers and help them move through the sales funnel. But gamification isn’t just for consumers. Game techniques can motivate employees to participate in – and spread the word about – corporate programs. B2B marketers should note that Autodesk successfully used game techniques to help convert in-trial prospects.1

What are the basics of gamification? How can game techniques be used? What are some examples of successful gamification in marketing campaigns? This paper provides the answers to these questions – and more.

Gamification on the rise

Gamification isn’t a new concept. Companies have long used points programs and interactive features to reward loyalty or create interest. However, more companies are considering gamification now based on high-profile success stories. In fact, in 2014 more than 70% of the world’s largest 2,000 companies reported that they expect to deploy at least one gamified application.2

Why do games engage us?

Game techniques build a connection to your audience that is based on visceral needs. Let’s take a look. The immensely popular Game Theory series on YouTube examines individual video games in great detail, explaining the appeal of each game in a historical, cultural and even philosophical context. The Game Theorists’ special “Why You Play Video Games” opines that the reason video games charm us is that they fulfill our basic needs for:

  • Competence – achieving mastery
  • Autonomy – being in control
  • Relatedness – connecting to others (in a sometimes isolated world)3

The factors that make video games appealing apply to other game formats as well, because games seduce us by meeting these core needs in an easy, low-risk way. As Steve Keil reminds us in his TED Talk on the benefits of play,4 evolution has selected for play. Animals who play have healthier brain growth and are more social. The more we play, the better our cognitive development and emotional maturity. Play is so powerful because it’s universal to the human experience.

Tapping into generational preferences

Games are incredibly appealing to Generation Y, those people born between 1980 and 2000 who now make up 25% of the workforce and will continue to increase in numbers.5 This demographic grew up online, is used to being hyper-connected and happens to love both online games and social media. So with this age group, gamified applications and communications are – if you’ll excuse the pun – an instant win. However, games also resonate with those over age 35 who enjoy connecting and competing. It’s that impulse to have fun at any age.

Game techniques build an emotional connection to your audience, leading to a longer relationship as opposed to simple brand awareness.2

What people are saying

“Gamification is as important as social and mobile.”

– Bing Gordon6

“The biggest mistake I see made is when marketers forget that the relationship needs to be mutually beneficial – meaning that they need to be acknowledging these messages and fueling them with rewards. One way to make relationships mutually beneficial is through rewarding consumers for sharing socially and making it fun and worthwhile to help share your brand’s message.”

– Kristin Matthews2

“The coming business cycle is sure to include many demographically driven changes and gamification presents a rare opportunity for companies to address the needs of next-gen employees, while also improving productivity, increasing collaboration, minimizing turnover, improving employee morale, more effectively leveraging social media and driving business opportunities.”

– Katherine Heisler5

“In every job that must be done there is an element of fun.”

– Mary Poppins6

How we like to play

Different players, different motivations

Game content should be geared to how people are motivated, because different groups have fun in different ways. Richard Bartle, a game creator and academic, developed a player typology during the 1980s.7 His well-known player classification system helps define design patterns in gamification. You may recognize these player types, for they describe both how we like to play games – and how we like to interact with the world.

Challenge: What kind of player are YOU?

Find out

What kind of player are you?

What kind of player are you?

Calling all players

To meet the needs of the various player types who make up the audience for your gamified communication, make sure you consider their personalities and the tactics that may work for them.7,8

Calling all players

Using game techniques

Remember, games are all about rewarding people. These are the basic techniques:

Player Rewards

Companies across industries have used the techniques above to their advantage. We’ve collected information about some real-world ways to incorporate gamification:

    • Recyclebank uses points to educate. Points have long been used to track and motivate. The familiar hotel and airline loyalty programs use points (or miles) as virtual currency to reward customers for business volume. Recyclebank has taken this classic game technique to the next level, offering points to users for completing interactive lessons about the importance of recycling.9 Users can redeem their points for discounts, gift cards, magazine subscriptions and more.


    • Badges showcase status. If you were ever in the Girl or Boy Scouts, you’ll remember the thrill of earning badges for skills like first aid or camping. Merit badges feed our adult need for achievement as well, denoting a certain level of accomplishment. Many websites including Amazon, Yelp and Rotten Tomatoes rate users’ activity with badges such as “Rookie,” “Top User” or “Super Reviewer.” Other users recognize and value top users’ inputs. And those users get the satisfaction of being recognized as go-to experts.
    • Milestones tap the power of incremental progress. Working through steps or levels towards a larger, meaningful goal is an incentive. The ubiquitous rewards cards that offer a free sandwich or cup of coffee after 10 purchases are a perfect everyday example. Pump up these basic loyalty programs with a quiz or task – like watching a short video – which users must complete to earn the prize.
    • LinkedIn incorporates rankings. Some companies use leaderboards or other rankings to add competition to the mix. Manufacturers have used leaderboards for some time to track and reward employees’ performance. But business networking site LinkedIn recently began ranking its users’ profiles by popularity – pushing people to engage with the site more to increase their standing in the eyes of valued business contacts.10
    • Nike creates an interactive community sensation. Nike+ is a gamified app so popular, it inspired an entire product line of accessories. This app lets users record pace, distance and run routes to train and challenge themselves. Nike+ also offers tasty social features, such as allowing users to instantly share their stats with Facebook and Twitter networks.11 The solution lets people challenge themselves – and family and friends.


  • Rypple’s performance review app offers real-time feedback – Wondering how to improve the standard employee performance review process? Digital music service Spotify uses mobile app Rypple to allow managers and coworkers to give feedback and recognition in real-time.12 This social approach meets its employees’ preference for instant communication – and helps everyone feel they’re contributing to the big picture.
  • The Samsung Nation social rewards program takes interactive websites to the next level – Samsung Nation is designed to help users discover the Samsung.com website. Visitors can earn badges and “level up” by reviewing products, watching videos and participating in user-generated Q&As.13 The combination of activities and rewards engages existing Samsung enthusiasts and creates brand new ones.


The power of group motivation

Crowdsourcing is harnessing the collective wisdom of a community to answer questions or solve complex challenges. Think of it as brainstorming on a large scale. Wikipedia is a well-known example of crowdsourcing, one where people volunteer their time and knowledge for the cause. To further motivate people to contribute to crowdsourcing initiatives, just add some competition and rewards. Here are a few notable examples where crowdsourcing intersects with the principles of gamification.

    • Volkswagen – To gather ideas for its new product line in China, Volkswagen used a crowdsourcing competition. Users submitted ideas into a virtual suggestion box and the top three concepts were presented at leading Chinese auto shows. Payoff to VW? 33 million website hits, a ton of inventive ideas and countless insights into the preferences of customers. Volkswagen continues the practice today.14
    • Lego – Ever had an idea for a new Lego set? On Lego IDEAS, your vision may become reality. Users share a project description on the site and gather online support. 10,000 supporters qualifies your project for Lego review, where marketing and design representatives choose new products to be manufactured and sold around the world.15


  • Syngenta – The global crop sciences company has developed various programs to encourage collaboration and new ideas from third parties. Syngenta Thoughtseeders reaches out to R&D scientists for partnership opportunities.16 The Good Growth Plan, an initiative addressing the challenge of sustainably feeding the growing global population, held a contest offering grants for the best idea submissions.17
  • Foldit – Games are not only providing a platform for innovation in R&D – they’re helping to cure diseases! Foldit is an online game that challenges players to fold proteins. The way proteins are folded – that is, their shape – determines their biological function and can give us clues about how to prevent or cure diseases. In 2011, gamers solved the riddle of an HIV enzyme’s structure (a challenge which had stumped scientists for a decade) in just three weeks – allowing researchers to target drug treatment.18

Gamification for B2B

Gamification is a natural for B2C applications where marketers are looking to build brand engagement. But what about B2B applications? MarketingSherpa outlines gamification tactics that can offer greater reach.19

  • Online communities allow participants – including employees, consumers and business partners – to share and interact about products and services. Drive online community engagement by giving users who help others badges or rankings.
  • Your company website is the first and best avenue for hooking a potential customer. Help them learn about your product with a series small tasks or “missions,” such as downloading papers, watching videos or answering quizzes for a chance at a prize.

Transform work into play for employees

Companies have traditionally used game techniques – such as levels, points or scoring – to motivate and help reward their sales teams. Organizations have now extended the use of gamification to the greater employee population. Imagine awarding points to employees for desired behaviors such as attending training, working out in the company fitness center, collaborating across functions or even carpooling. Giving virtual badges to those who complete the basic level in an executive education course. Or offering prizes for keeping calls brief and closing sales in a call center environment.20

Engaging students with games

Gamification and online learning are standard in today’s classrooms. These strategies increase student engagement by encouraging selfmotivation and building critical thinking, organization, time management and technology skills. The Chatham Charter School, in North Carolina, uses game mechanics in English classes.21 Students are put into groups and earn “gold” for their group’s average assignment scores. With their earnings, students can purchase perks such as bonus points on homework, collaborative test-taking or the ability to change a project topic.

Snapshot: National Geographic’s “Brain Games” Campaign

To promote its “Brain Games” series, which reveals the inner workings of the human brain, National Geographic launched a fully gamified website.22 Each episode of the series has its own dedicated page, where visitors can watch video clips, take challenges and test themselves with quizzes on that episode’s topic. The pages are colorful, interactive, engaging – and feature parallax scrolling and great large imagery.


B2B, B2C or internal communications. No matter your focus, there is a great game technique to help you reach your goal. Although game mechanics have been around for a while, companies are now finding that gamification is an effective – and expected! – part of their overall marketing and communications strategy. Games tap into our love of competition and connection and they create engagement through fun and reward. If you haven’t tried game techniques before, it’s time to play on!

Thank you for reading. Our team hopes this paper is a great resource on how you can effectively incorporate game techniques into your marketing and communications. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

Play again


  1. Marketing Experiments
  2. Convince and Convert
  3. The Game Theorists
  4. ‘The Benefits of Play’ Ted Talk
  5. Forbes
  6. Pinterest gamifcation quotes
  7. For the Win
  8. Growth Engineering
  9. Recyclebank
  10. LinkedIn
  11. Nike+
  12. Techworld
  13. Samsung Nation
  14. The New York Times
  15. Lego IDEAS
  16. Syngenta Thoughtseeders
  17. Good Growth Plan
  18. Scientific American
  19. Marketing Sherpa
  20. Wall Street Journal
  21. Open Class
  22. BrainGames