2019 will be the year of the website

Volatility and uncertainty in today’s digital world are revitalizing the front door of today’s businesses. Websites are more relevant than they’ve been in a decade, since social media hit the scene in full force. Websites are back—but with a few new twists that require companies to do a bit of reinvention.

What to keep doing

1. Stay strategic

“The best websites have always been the ones that are carefully designed to support business strategy,” says Ann-Marie Harrington, a partner at Embolden. Ann-Marie founded a custom web app development firm in 1998, when websites were new. “When websites were emerging technology, it was easy for some companies to get caught up in thinking that if you just had a website, that was good enough. That has never been the case, and it certainly is not the case now. ‘Any old website’ will fail to perform. A website must be developed by applying high-level critical thinking and business strategy, or it won’t do anything to help a business grow.”

2. Design must support content, and vice versa

Websites will continue to do the heavy lifting for businesses when the graphic elements and words work hand-in-hand. This is easier said than done. “It’s not all that hard to put words on a page,” says Ann-Marie. “It’s also not that hard to source beautiful images and graphics. But what does it all mean? Why are the words chosen and what are they designed to accomplish? How do the words support the goals of the business? How are the images and design reflective of the desired user experience? These are the questions that will make or break a website. That’s always been the case, and that won’t change.”

3. Stay focused on target audiences

Even though it is the front door of a business and must be welcoming to a wide variety of people at the “top of the funnel,” a website still needs to be built for someone, and not built for everyone. “Make sure your website is designed and created with the help of people who understand business development, market dynamics, the sales process, and how today’s buyers make decisions,” says Ann-Marie. “If you are outsourcing all or part of your web development, this means you need to make sure the people you are working with are enthusiastic about learning how your business works, how you and your clients think and feel, and how your business makes money by delighting your customers.”

What to do differently

1. More streamlined and concise

Technology is changing rapidly, and website platforms are no exception. Today’s businesses have many options for hosting and maintenance. “With the emergence of high-quality platforms-as-a-service,” says Ann-Marie, “businesses can rely on more predictable safety, security, and performance of their websites without needing to hire developers or worry about code.” Ann-Marie and her team wrote thousands of lines of code when they built some of the first websites 20 years ago. “Now,” she said, “it’s my responsibility as an owner of our firm to stay on the cutting edge of the best technology tools available, and then make sure our experienced team applies business strategy, content, and design to leverage those tools to achieve the desired result.”

2. More human

Human behavior has changed, right alongside the technology. Most people now expect websites to give them the information they need, right up front. “People don’t want to dig through a lot of information. Give them what they need in a visually compelling way, quickly,” said Ann-Marie. “Gone are the days when a website needs to have hundreds of pages to look credible. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.” Ann-Marie said there is still plenty of room for white papers and other thought leadership materials, in the form of blog posts and other real-time website features. “Subject matter expertise is as important as ever. But don’t clog up the website pages that need to be accessed and absorbed within a 10-second timeframe.“

3. Faster production

Building a new website used to be a lengthy and often expensive exercise. No more. “Six months and tens of thousands of dollars once was typical for a website project,” said Ann-Marie. “Companies today don’t have that kind of time, let alone the desire to invest that level of budget and human capital into a website.” Today’s businesses usually want a new website as soon as possible, she says. “They expect a web development partner to have the business development savvy and go-to-market grit to produce a top-notch website in a short amount of time and at a reasonable price. This allows more running room for the important consultative conversations about how the business will grow. That’s the true ROI.”

Net net? Keep the best from the past, but don’t miss an opportunity to reboot your website to grow your business for the near-term future.

Four jobs that need to know Social Impact Culture Type

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We're all taught that emotional intelligence is critical to success in any career. But in a handful of key positions in high-growth industries, it's more important now than ever before to get inside the hearts and minds of the people you are leading, engaging, or cultivating for business.

What's going on? We are living in a social impact culture where work, life, community, and wellness have converged. This means everything is on peoples' minds, everywhere, all the time. Whomever it is you're trying to influence, the chances are good you'll need to adjust your approach to motivate and inspire the behavior you want.

Much like a personality test for commercial decision-making, a "Social Impact Culture Type" diagnostic gives you quick insights into how your target audiences are making decisions about whether and how to engage with you and your business.

This matters especially if your job is:

1. C-level and human resources

You're responsible for attracting and retaining talent.

C-level executives and human resources leaders know it's critical to get the right people--and keep them. The success of your employee engagement programs, especially programs related to wellness and community, depend on how well those programs reflect the Social Impact Culture Type of your workforce. It's also critical that you celebrate success in a way that resonates with the predominant Social Impact Culture Type of your talent base.

2. Marketing and client development

You need to unlock insights about customers.

It's getting harder to differentiate your products and services from competitors, especially for high-growth sectors such as financial services, wealth management, and consumer goods. A data-driven understanding of customers' Social Impact Culture Type can give you an edge in getting new business and retaining loyal customers for many years and across generations.

3. Foundation executive

Your role is to increase the impact of your philanthropy programs.

Corporate foundations, nonprofits, family foundations, and community foundations are all in the business of making a difference. How are you communicating your impact in a way that truly resonates with the contemporary philanthropic mindset? No longer is "doing good" a function of simply writing checks to charities. Today's social impact footprint now spans a wide range of "prosocial" behaviors that your stakeholders expect will not only make a difference in the community, but also add meaning to their own lives. Social Impact Culture Type is a determining factor in how well your stakeholders will align and engage with your initiatives.

4. Healthcare marketing

Your priority is to increase consumer engagement to improve health outcomes and reduce costs.

In today's social impact culture, health and wellness are intertwined with a consumer's community experience. Research continues to show links between volunteering, for example, and lower blood pressure, as well as the health benefits of regular social impact activities ranging from giving to charity, serving on boards, to purchasing products that support a cause. What this means for healthcare is that consumer experience strategies must take social impact behaviors into consideration. Social Impact Culture Type provides an instant window into new data that can influence health outcomes and costs.

Let's guess your type!

Use Embolden's free tool to get a quick read on your type. (Only the full diagnostic can tell you for sure!)

Embolden’s research has revealed that each person--regardless of what hats that person wears--leans toward one of the three Social Impact Personality Types: Investor, Activator, or Connector. One of the best ways to get inside the minds of your stakeholders is to first get in touch with your own Social Impact Culture Type. Then, you will be better equipped to appreciate the perspectives of your audiences and in turn develop more tailored, effective strategies to engage and build loyalty with the people you care about.

Start your own charity--or not?

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Tomorrow's philanthropists are fast becoming today's philanthropists. That means the millennial mindset is a rising force in emerging charitable giving behavior. Has starting your own charity ever crossed your mind? If you've got the millennial mindset, the answer is probably "yes."

Thousands of new charities are started each year by people passionate about a cause. Millennial or not, if you've got a cause you're passionate about, how do you know whether starting your own charity is right for you?

Here are two key questions to ask yourself before you get started.

First, do you really want to start a charity, or is a for-profit structure better for you? The answer starts with what you want to accomplish. And then you can see what revenue model is best. Either way, you have to ask for money--either by selling a product or service, or by asking for people to give to support your cause. Be sure to review the pros and cons of a nonprofit versus a for-profit.

Second, find out whether an existing charity is doing something similar. There are more than 1.3 million charities in the United States, so chances are pretty good that there is a charity already doing what you're wanting to do. Competition for dollars is high. Requests for charitable contributions are filling up everyone's inboxes, not just yours! A great idea is to consider incubating your idea as a volunteer within an existing charity to test your concept and get early traction.

Remember, starting a charity is just like starting a business, with the added twist that it's governed under a section of the tax code containing rules relating to the deductibility of donations and the exemption from taxation. You still have to make sure ends meet and that your expenses don't exceed your revenue.

Three people. One social impact culture.

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Today’s work-life-community-wellness mindset has become a part of who we are in our personal and professional worlds. “Doing good” is now an integral part of our healthy, well-rounded lives.

Perspectives from three people in Embolden’s cast of fictional characters will give you a feel for how contemporary social impact culture is influencing millions of Americans, both at work and at home.

Elizabeth Bandera

  • Age 29
  • Financial advisor
  • Avid golfer, lover of sunsets, and vegan
  • Embolden Archetype: Investor/Accelerator

What Elizabeth says when she wears her professional hat

“To fulfill obligations to my clients, I need to be aware of the wide range of tax-savvy charitable giving vehicles. This is becoming even more important as philanthropy increases as a powerful connector across generations. I need that connection to retain my client base for the long term.”

What Elizabeth says when she wears her personal hat

“I want to be sure the dollars I am giving to charities are making a real difference. I want to see impact. Over the years, I have started to focus my giving on two or three causes instead of spreading the dollars across a dozen or so organizations. That’s helped me have more time to ask good questions of the charities I support.”

Steve Cowless

  • Age 47
  • CEO of a growing software company
  • Woodworking enthusiast and world traveler
  • Embolden Archetype: Activator/Interactor

What Steve says when he wears his professional hat

“It’s a priority as CEO for me to make sure company leadership is fostering a positive workplace culture where people love their jobs, and this includes offering community engagement opportunities and empowering our associates. At the same time, I am ultimately responsible for ensuring that the company is doing a good job as a corporate citizen. And frankly, I need as many associates as possible to get involved in our corporate philanthropy programs.”

What Steve says when he wears his personal hat

“I enjoy community-based social activities that involve the opportunity to get together with friends and family members. I am an especially big fan of 5Ks and concerts to support good causes. To me, it’s not about the money I give at these events, if any. Instead, it’s about the overall experience and demonstration of collective support for an organization that’s helping people in need.”

Alice Fiorella

  • Age 33
  • Executive director of family foundation
  • Fashion blogger, gardener, and swimmer
  • Embolden Archetype: Investor/Accelerator

What Alice says when she wears her professional hat

“I am constantly seeking evidence of ‘impact’ for the grants we make. It’s my responsibility to make sure we get the right reports from the nonprofits we support. I always try to think about what my grandparents would say about the data and documentation I’m gathering. It’s thanks to their business savvy and civic commitment, after all, that the foundation and its assets are here today to serve the community.”

What Alice says when she wears her personal hat

"I am doing a lot of good already by volunteering and serving on boards. Plus I try to purchase products from consumer brands, restaurants, and vendors that support a cause. So, I am immersed in ‘’doing good' every day of my life. I am not alone! Everyone I talk to these days feels the same way. This personal experience makes me realize that our family foundation needs to shine, and the quarterly foundation meetings I organize are where it all must come together for my siblings and cousins."

* * *

Understanding the perspectives of Elizabeth, Steve, and Alice are just three of many examples of how Embolden’s methodology and archetypes can help you get inside the minds of clients, consumers, donors, employees, and business leaders—or any combination thereof as roles collide in the changing marketplace. Armed with that information, Embolden can help you activate those perspectives to capture new data and create loyal engagement. Our team would love to support your success.

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"It's not working," she said, frustrated. "This is not the way it's supposed to look." The first grader sitting in front of the mirror today was pouting. And studying the crown on top of her head. "These triangles are supposed to stick up. And mine are bending over. This is not the way it's supposed to look." I stood behind her and studied the reflection in the mirror. It looked pretty good to me. A crown, cut out of white printer paper. And decorated with colored Sharpies. And then taped into a circle. "It looks good," I reassured my daughter. First graders are so cute, I thought. Really, anything a first grader puts on her head looks pretty good. "It's supposed to be a Statute of Liberty crown," she explained. "But mine doesn't look right." Ah. I smiled. "Well," I said, "a crown like that can be whatever you want it to be. Which means your Statue of Liberty crown is perfect."

And it really was. After all, isn't that the whole point?