Does Major League Soccer have the secret recipe for driving attendance?  For the third consecutive season fans have attended matches in record numbers. When a league is young, this type of headline is an every season occurrence, however MLS has been around since 1996 (1993 if you want to get really technical). They are still growing their supporter base after 20 years. MLS has added quite a few teams since its inception, and even a few more in the last five years, but teams that have been around since the early years are still growing those attendance numbers. 

Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for increasing attendance. Yes, all fans share some similarities, but when trying to increase the number of people attending a sport that usually does not rank in the top three (and sometimes four) of favorite sports in the United States, you are going to have to work for it. 

Let’s take a look at some of the things MLS has done to help increase those numbers.

Investment -This is an obvious requirement for sports organizations. MLS had to invest in a few different areas. Most importantly, they are starting to build more and more soccer-specific stadiums. Personally, this is one of the reasons I was not attracted to MLS when it first started getting games on TV. Trying to watch a soccer game with the yard lines from football in the background made for a terrible experience.

Farm System - MLS has worked with United Soccer League (USL) to setup lower leagues and build their support as well. This may not seem like it has a direct correlation with the increase in attendance in the MLS, but it helps. There are USL teams in places like Austin and Laredo, Texas where it is unlikely an MLS team will actually set up, but having these teams in the area helps the sport grow and helping the sport grow helps increase attendance.

Designated Players - Another aspect that should be mentioned and is often discussed when considering the growth in the fan base of the MLS is the designated players. The league has a salary cap, but teams are allowed to have “designated players” where only a portion of their salary goes against the cap. Probably the most famous example of this policy is David Beckham. He definitely brought attention to the league as he played out the twilight years of his career in Los Angeles. Now, most teams have at least one designated player. More often than not, they are similar to Beckham in the fact that they had a successful career at the top of the game in European leagues and then moved to the MLS once they were past their prime. Hard core soccer fans bemoan the fact that the league only gets the old guys who can not play at the top levels any more, but to the everyday fan getting to see players like Beckham, Frank Lampard, David Villa or Didier Drogba is a huge draw and gets people to buy tickets. In a perfect world, you would want those players when they are in their prime, but at this point in the league, butts in seats trumps just about everything.

Embrace Your Fanbase - Fans of this league are different from most and the MLS has learned to capitalize on that uniqueness. They do not try to fit their fans into the model that works for the NFL. They have embraced the differences. Most stadiums have sections for the hard core fans that are going to chant, scream, and yell during the matches. Teams have also realized that a lot of their following will come from the younger generation that is playing soccer on Saturday mornings. Most teams have youth areas before games and involve their players in local leagues or more grassroots marketing efforts to reach those kids. Some teams have gone even further to work with their city to make sure transportation in and out of the stadium is a pleasant experience for fans.

Major League Soccer provides an interesting case study due to its relative youth. They worked hard early to utilize what was available to maximize their impact. As they have grown, they made the improvements necessary to keep their fans engaged. Now the league is entering its third decade and experiencing quite the renaissance. I think the founders of the league would be quite happy to see what the league has become and where it is headed.

Play hard. Play smart. Play together.

Okay, so I borrowed that from the Runnin' Utes...but how can you argue with that philosophy? While it is meant for the basketball team, it most certainly can be applied to our projection video creative process.

Play hard.

A project of this scale is not something you can just throw together last minute. For an October release date, we started the planning and concepting last June. We had weekly phone calls with Grant at Utah to discuss our plans and how we could best execute what he was looking to accomplish. We talked about how many versions would be needed, what kind of effects to use, key moments and players to feature, coach's philosophy, music, and even crowd participation. Grant spent time with his team to provide a story board outlining the videos and providing content. We then took those initial story boards and brought them to life in production. New 3D effects and concepts were created to show the court falling away into darkness, the Block U logo matching the beat of the music, and the court rippling and waving to name a few.

Play smart.

Sure, the 3D effects are awesomely cool, but it means more when there is a story to tell. We took the time to artfully script the video to flow as nicely as possible. Other things to consider include crowd participation and timing with the pre-game festivities. We also follow our well-tested process of providing smaller segments at a time for approval so we can be as efficient as possible. 

Play together.

There's no way this could have been done without the help of Grant and his team at Utah. They understand what they need to provide regarding direction and input and trust us to do the rest. Our editing team has so much fun with these 3D projection videos. While we have gained valuable experience and learned a lot over the past three years of projection videos, the sky's the limit as to what we can do next!  

Here's a look at this year's Runnin' Utes intro video:

Using some of the same 3D elements but different player features, here's the women's basketball intro:

At the 2016 NACMA Conference, Old Hat lead a presentation on marketing automation. We highlighted the success of RaiseUpCarolina.com, a ticket sales website built for UNC that has helped increase ticket sales revenue by more than $500,000 and aided in selling out their premium seating areas for the first time ever. Marketing automation is one of the tools we used as a part of that project. We took a uniquely positioned website with a great user experience that built excitement for a specific program and turned it into a ridiculously effective sales tool.

A lot of people think of marketing automation as a ticket sales tool, in and of itself. I disagree. I don't think of marketing automation as a tool any more than I think of the handle of a hammer as a tool. The handle of a hammer is only effective if it has the head and/or claw of the hammer. Without one or both of those, it's completely ineffective in achieving its goal. Marketing automation is no different. Without combining marketing automation with other elements to drive results, you're stuck with something as ineffective as the handle of a hammer would be in driving nails.

Some ticketing companies are starting to offer marketing automation as a part of their platform. First, fans visit a school's primary athletic website, navigate to the ticket portal and then their activity is logged and put into the automation system. That information is segmented into audiences and communicated based on their interest on the site. However, there's one major problem with this approach: It's predicated on the idea that people are already interested in coming to those events. If they already want to come, attendance wouldn't be an issue in the first place. 

Think about it this way: using marketing automation on a ticket portal through a primary athletic website (goheels.com, for instance) is like putting a ticket sales phone number on a blank, white piece of paper and posting it on a telephone pole on a street corner. It's boring, uninviting, really hard to find and once you do find it, it does nothing to actually make you want to attend the event.

Marketing automation is an amazing way to help increase ticket sales and attendance, but tracking fans' activity on a ticket portal that no one is coming to doesn't take advantage of the power of marketing automation. If no one is coming to your ticket purchasing pages, you're not going to have anyone to track. 

Marketing automation is simply a piece of a ticket sales tool. And here are the three things that render it completely ineffective.

1. Dedicated Ticket Sales Site

Again, the problem isn't that people don't know when/where the games are. The problem is that they don't want to come. Simply providing information is not enough. You have to create an interface that builds excitement. Look at your primary website real quick, select any sport, click to purchase tickets and determine if there's anything about that page that actually makes you excited about that sport. If the answer is yes, you're a step ahead, but you're still faced with the issue of forcing people to have to navigate through information about 25 other sports before they find the one they want to buy tickets for. There's a reason the producers of The Avengers built a website just to build excitement about that movie rather than just making it one of many options to look at on the production company's website. And there's a reason that every other major movie does the same thing. Using your primary athletic site to drive ticket sales is a mistake.

2. Off-Season Marketing Campaign

Most of the time, the marketing that takes place for a specific sport happens in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. It will typically continue through the season, but once the season ends, the marketing ends. Sure we send out ticket renewal letters and other information, but most of the time we cease to continue to make them excited about that sport. What we should be doing is actually ramping up our marketing efforts as the season comes to a close and keeping those marketing efforts going the entire off-season. One of the reasons RaiseUpCarolina.com was so successful is because it launched right at the end of the football season. Then, throughout the winter and spring, we were consistently pushing people to that site through a comprehensive marketing campaign. Because we were continually driving traffic to the site, marketing automation was able to do what marketing automation does. If you're not continually driving traffic to your site, you're not getting the most bang for your buck in what you're spending on marketing automation.

3. Digital Marketing Strategy

As discussed, marketing automation is only one part of a much larger puzzle. It is a force multiplier, much like the handle of a hammer. A hammer's head will drive a nail if you hit it hard enough. Add a handle to that head and it amplifies the force exponentially and makes driving that nail a lot easier. Marketing automation is the piece of the tool that makes your efforts exponentially more effective in driving ticket sales. What can make marketing automation even more effective? Other digital strategies that augment marketing automation. One example is geofencing. We can identify an area where you have a potential base of ticket purchasers and target them by geofencing that area and serving them digital advertising through whatever site or app they spend most of their time on. For instance, let's say you have a loyal and passionate fanbase at your basketball games, but those fans aren't coming to your football games. We geofence your basketball arena and all your fans have to do is use their phone to access the web in any way during that event. Once they do, we can then serve them ads on Facebook, Google, etc. to drive them to purchase. These ads will push them to your website where they then enter your marketing automation platform and now you're hitting them from all angles.

 

There's no question that marketing automation is powerful. A $500,000 increase in ticket sales at UNC is enough to prove that point, but it took a lot more than marketing automation to make that happen: A good program, a great marketing staff, a ticket sales team, a dedicated ticket sales website, an off-season marketing campaign and marketing automation. This season we'll be implementing a comprehensive digital marketing strategy including geofencing and hope to add yet another force multiplier to the ticket sales effort.

Want to know what (and how) your peers at other schools are doing when it comes to attendance, game experience, ticket sales, and marketing? Here’s your chance to find out!



You’re invited to participate in our State of Sports Marketing survey. It only takes a few minutes to complete, and individual responses will be kept confidential.

What’s in it for you?

  • The inside scoop. Participants will have the option to receive a special insiders’ report with full survey results that won’t be shared with the general public.
  • Gift cards! We’ll be giving away Amazon gift cards with values up to $100 to 15 lucky survey participants. All you have to do is opt in for a chance to win at the end of the survey.

So share your thoughts, score some free stuff, and find out what’s really going on in the industry. And share it with your friends who also work in college athletics.

Why share the survey? The more people who take it, the better you'll be able to see what's going on in the industry in terms of attendance, marketing techniques, game day experience, and more! Anyone who takes the survey is eligible to win one of the gift cards we're giving away (get up to $100 on Amazon!) and receive a copy of the exclusive Insiders' Report.

Take and share the survey now! It’s only open through Oct 21st.

Click here.

 

A few of us went to a digital marketing conference recently, and one of the speakers talked about storytelling. It kind of took us by surprise. A digital conference should be about high-tech stuff, right? And storytelling has been around since before any kind of tech existed.

But here’s the thing. Engaging your fans online is like telling a story. You get people interested in who you are and what you offer with the story you tell through digital and social media. You get them to come back to your website time after time through storytelling. If you do not tell the right story, in the right way, consumers lose interest.

So how do you tell a good story in the digital world? These tips 7 tips for digital storytelling will help you capture attention and build trust.


1. Be genuine.

Marketing can be tough. All marketers are liars, right? That’s what some people think, so it’s your job to convince them otherwise. You have convey your brand’s message in a way that is honest and appeals to people. Spend a minute thinking about the recent stories that have been proven to be false and how that worked out for people (cough, cough…Lochte).

2. Utilize your resources.

Not sure you have a story? There are so many around you that you can tell. Use them! You have access to the locker room, to the players, and to the coaches in one way or another. Tell those stories. Most of your fans or players probably won’t take the initiative to share their stories on Facebook or other social media outlets. Seek their stories out and share them.

3. Seek out stories and write them down.

This one seems simple enough, but most of us forget to do jot things down…which means we forget about them. Keep a running log of things you can use in the future. If you overheard an employee talking to a fan and felt the message was great, write it down, record it, do whatever it takes to get a record of that story so you can retell it down the road. It’s not every day that you get to share how your athletic department helped make someone’s dream come true. But if you look for these stories, you might be surprised at how often they actually do happen. Write them down so you can remember to share your story with the community. That also helps you avoid those social media upkeep panic moments, because you’ll always have a good story to use.

4. Ask others to share their stories.

This one goes with the one above. Sometimes you are not going to be able to tell a story as well as the person who originally experienced it. If that story helps further the community you are growing or helps engage your fan base, ask the individual to come out and tell their story. You can’t get more genuine that that. Plus, everyone else sees a fan who cares enough or had a good enough experience to share their story with the world. That’s powerful!

5. Pick the right moment.

This is probably just a general marketing rule, but even the best stories will fall on deaf ears if they are not told at the right moment. Think about it and plan. You want the right message, in front of the right people, at the right time. There’s nothing wrong with using tools to schedule part of your digital engagement, but if you forget to monitor what’s happening in the world you could accidentally make your brand appear insensitive, self-absorbed, or just tuned out of what’s trending.

6. Be creative.

Again, this is marketing 101. In addition to being creative with how you tell your story, the whole process needs to be creative. You need to look in different places to find the stories. Of course take the obvious ones that come your way, but don’t forget to turn over a few rocks or dig a little deeper so you can deliver something unexpected every once in a while. Then challenge yourself to find new and interesting ways to share those stories instead of doing the same thing every time.

7. Pick the right medium

Some stories can only be told in person, face to face. Others can work well in a video or as a speech. Some have the greatest impact when paired with an image, making them good choices for channels like Instagram or Facebook. Some are easy to tell in a few words, while others take a little more explaining. The point is, you need to find a way to deliver your story that fits the story and your community. Choosing the right medium will help you maximize the impact of each story and get it in front of the most relevant audience.


When it comes down to it, a lot of the work we do is storytelling. One way or another we are trying to help our clients tell their story to the world. Your brand has a story. As a marketer, part of your challenge (and opportunity!) is to find all the different chapters, scenes, and memorable lines that make up that story and share them with the world. If this is done correctly, it will help you grow your community and engage your fan base in a way that improves the relationship.

EUGENE, OR - University of Oregon Athletic Department officials announced Wednesday that they have ended their long-standing relationship with Nike and have signed with Walmart's Avia brand to provide all athletic apparel and shoes. 

"We appreciate everything Nike and Phil Knight have done for the University of Oregon and respect the organization immensely. However, we feel that it is time for a new era in Oregon Athletics and we are confident that Walmart is the right organization to represent the Oregon brand," one official stated.


Okay, did anyone believe that for one second? Did anyone truly believe that Oregon, a major collegiate athletic program, would drop Nike in favor of Walmart? Of course not. 

But why?

A lot of reasons, most likely. For one, Nike and Phil Knight have given so much support to the University of Oregon, they'd never dream of going with any other apparel company, much less Walmart's Avia brand. But let's swap out Oregon, and let's say Michigan instead. Or Bowling Green. Or UConn. Or East Popcorn State University. Would you have believed the headline then?

East Popcorn State drops Adidas; Walmart's Avia to provide Colonels Team Apparel

 

Would that headline be any more believable? Probably not. 

But why?

Avia makes fine apparel. I have a pair of running shorts from Walmart, and I don't run any slower when I wear them than when I wear my Nike shorts. In fact, I can't tell the difference. My favorite pair of running shorts are BCG brand, not Nike. Avia could provide athletic team apparel to the Ducks that feels pretty similar to what Nike provides. The Ducks could take the field in apparel provided by Walmart and they wouldn't run any slower, throw the ball any less accurately, shoot with any lower percentage or hit with any lower of an average. 

So if Walmart were to come to the table and commit to providing everything Nike provides and a financial incentive far greater than Nike, would any major university be willing to announce that they've dropped Nike or Adidas or Under Armour in favor of a Walmart brand?

Not a chance. But why?

The answer, of course: Perception. Pride. Respect. Quality.

There's no coach or athletic director in the country that is going to send their team on the field wearing Avia or BCG or C9. And even if they were, how tough would it be to recruit kids to come play for a school if they know they'll be trading in the swoosh for the... uh, "I" with a little arrow thingy on top? The coaches, the department personnel and the kids would be embarrassed to compete in anything but a top name brand. And why? Because they'd look ridiculous. It's the same reason NBA players don't shoot free throws granny-style, despite the scientific data that shows they'd make way more shots that way. They'd get laughed at. And no one wants to be laughed at.

I'm not arguing that this is a bad thing. I jog in cheap jogging shorts. But rest assured that if I were going to be on national television, I'd go buy some brand new Nike shorts. I'd also probably try to drop a few pounds. Because on the national stage, we all want to look good. And no disrespect to Walmart, but running out of the tunnel wearing the Avia logo on your chest is not an idea that gets anyone excited. It all makes complete and total sense. I get it.

But there's something I don't get. 

There's something I don't understand at all.

This philosophy of looking good and only being willing to wear what looks the best or shoot the way that looks the best... the philosophy that we all think makes complete and total sense... why does that not apply to everything that represents our collegiate sports teams?

Why are we willing to let our team run out of the tunnel after an intro/hype video that doesn't actually build any hype? Why do we show videoboard prompts that are cheap, canned reproductions that don't match our brand? Why do we promote the sport that has the highest potential and greatest need for ticket sales revenue with marketing collateral that is just "good enough," has no research behind it and isn't positioned to actually drive attendance? Why do we not even consider for one second letting our teams wear something that isn't absolutely first-class, but when it comes to promoting those sports, driving attendance and building a game experience, we often settle for what is least expensive? This isn't the case everywhere, of course, but there are so many times at so many major universities that an athletic department will choose the Walmart version of a creative service over the Nike equivalent.

A glaring example of this is most universities' online ticket buying portals. Every school in the country wants to sell more tickets. Every school in the country wants to drive attendance. Yet if you look at the online ticket purchasing experience at those schools, the user interface is terrible, it's impossible to find the information you need, it takes way too many clicks to purchase and the pages are bland and boring and do nothing to actually make a fan want to come to the event. Everything about these portals depend on a fan already wanting to come to the event so badly that they're willing to jump through hoops to buy a ticket. And not even cool, exciting, flaming-hoops-of-fire. Boring, bland, unexciting hoops. 

Promoting our teams with poor quality marketing isn't just as bad as sending them onto the court in Walmart brand shoes. It's like sending them onto the court with no shoes at all. We wouldn't be giving them the tools to succeed and by relying on the least expensive option for marketing, we're not giving ourselves the tools to succeed in driving attendance. 

So all that said, I'm not ignorant to the idea that sometimes the least expensive option is the only option. Budgets are tight in collegiate athletics and sometimes you can control the amount you're given to promote your sports. So here are some practical tips that you can employ to help drive attendance at your events.

Ticket Sales Portal

Count the Clicks - How many clicks does it take to buy a ticket on your website? On the high end, we sometimes see that it can take up to 7-8 clicks to make a purchase. Some have streamlined it down to as few as 3. Obviously, the lower the number, the more likely people are to purchase. And most of the time, you can make changes to your site to bring that number down. Count the number of clicks it takes to make a purchase and see if you can cut that number in half.

Spruce Up the Joint - Unfortunately, most ticketing companies provide a portal that is boring and unengaging. They don't do much to actually make a fan want to purchase. But there are typically at least a couple of things you can to do customize that page. Take advantage of those opportunities by bringing your marketing campaign for that sport into the headers and other graphics on that page. In a perfect world, add some video content to those pages, even if it's just your stadium intro/hype video. Fans love to watch those things and if the only place to watch it is by going to your ticket sales page, that could go a long way toward driving ticket sales. Best way to sell a ticket to someone is to give them the opportunity to buy when they're most excited about it. 

Marketing Collateral

Forget Your Die-Hard Fans - I wrote an article a few weeks ago about how we need to start looking at schedule posters as advertisements rather than promotional tools. Because most of the time, they don't do much to drive attendance. But every advertising campaign starts with research to determine who your audience is. Maybe you don't have a budget for research. That's fine. You know your area and you know who has the most potential to become new ticket purchasers. Spend some time thinking about who those people are and develop a campaign that targets those people. The die-hard fans are going to come regardless of what the poster looks like or the tagline that's on it. So think about a way to appeal (both through messaging and through the visuals) to a different group. You'll probably find that putting all the seniors on the poster with a generic tagline isn't the best way to appeal to those people. Be bold and put something unique out there. Because like I said, the die-hards are coming anyway. And by trying something unique you just might appeal to a totally new group.

Game Experience

Take Advantage of Your Friends & Family - The best thing I can advise for improving your game experience is to identify where things are lacking. And the best way to do that is to engage a firm to do a comprehensive gameday audit. But if your budget doesn't allow for that, make your friends and family work for those tickets they begged you for! Give them a checklist and have them rate every experience on a scale of 1 to 5. Ticket takers, concessionaires, ushers, intro video, band, cheer, etc. You may not get a comprehensive report from industry experts, but you'll have more information than you started with. And sometimes it's good to have input from people who aren't immersed in collegiate athletics 24/7. At the very least, you'll have a unique perspective outside your own.

 

We might have mentioned it once or twice before, but last spring, we conducted a Sports180 with SMU Athletics. We met with SMU's staff, did the research, and decided how to strategically and visually approach this year and drive attendance at SMU events on campus.

Last weekend, SMU hosted Liberty University for the first Mustang home football game of the year. I #GotThere and watched the game in person! I love being able to see the work our designers created in real life. Usually I only get to see it on my computer screen.  Thanks again to the SMU staff for having me!

As a part of the Sports180, we've created many many pieces for SMU sports all following a consistent brand.  For football specifically, those include:

A dedicated football ticket sales site: GetHereForGameday.com

This HUGE poster:

Schedule Card:

Billboard:

Season Tickets:

Snapchat Filter:

Social Media Templates:

Stadium Souvenier Cup:

Yard Sign:

Fire Box Graphics - they shoot fire when the team runs out of the tunnel, and we designed this for the boxes.

Intro Video: 

Mustang You - Get to Know's

Player Features

 

Here's some photos of our video board graphics actually on the video board!

The article I posted earlier in the week has caused some negative, yet understandable feedback. It comes as no surprise to me that some feathers were ruffled by the solution I proposed to the new Federal Labor Standards Act. Below is an expanded version of a response I posted to a comment on the original blog post.

I would like to reiterate what I stated in the article which is that, "If you love your current creative staff or freelancer, don’t fire them just because you can’t afford to pay them enough to meet all your needs." The idea that we are advocating widespread layoffs leaves me wondering if people actually read the article or just the headline. I clearly stated that I do not feel changes should be made if an athletic department has a good creative staff in place. 

What some people may not realize is that I was once on an internal creative staff myself. And if I felt that someone were advocating that I get fired, I'd be quite upset. However, the FLSA rules are estimated to have a $1.5 million impact to the average mid-major athletic department. While some can absorb that, others will have to make cuts. That's just the reality of the situation. I would love to think that rather than cutting anyone, departments would increase everyone's wage to the new threshold. I just don't believe that's realistic. Departments will have a greater need than ever to get fans in seats to increase revenue and honestly, I've never seen a situation in which using Old Hat wouldn't save an athletic department vast sums of money over having in-house creative. I've run the numbers many times and the fact of the matter is, a department could save themselves thousands of dollars annually by using Old Hat for their high level creative rather than an in-house crew. 

We can't forget that the mission of an athletic department is anything other than educating the student-athlete and giving the opportunity to as many young people as possible to compete and get an education. The FLSA rules are going to have a major impact whether we like it or not. We are simply recommending an option that will help contribute to a department's ability to continue that mission.

Big changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will take effect on December 1, 2016. That means you have the first half of the school year to: (a) get as much overtime out of your current employees as possible while you still can, and (b) figure out how the heck you’re going to make things work when the new rules go into effect. 

Here’s the issue in a nutshell: you won’t be able to afford to keep doing things the way you do them today. 

We all know that there’s no such thing as a 40 hour workweek for employees in collegiate athletics. Especially not for employees at the lower end of the pay scale. Right now, you don’t have to pay overtime rates to professional, administrative or executive employees whose salaries are $23,660 per year or more. But come December, that threshold jumps to $47,476 per year. So here’s the question: can you survive without all the overtime hours your lower-paid employees currently work, or can you afford to pay them a lot more in the future? 

It’s not like you have a bunch of extra money laying around. And if you’re a Division I school, you may already in a budget crunch thanks to recent changes related to food service and scholarship rules.

Unfortunately, your practices, games, and related activities are not going to magically start fitting into a tidy little 40 hour workweek…no matter how many of you write letters to Santa. 

Something’s gotta give.

Here’s our advice: cut your creative staff.

Yep. You heard that right. 

Drastic times call for drastic measures. 

So yeah. Your graphic designer. Your video production specialist. Send’em packing.

We’re not saying you don’t need marketing support. Of course you do! It’s just that you don’t need to keep those individuals on your staff as yet another piece of your salary and overtime puzzle. And even if your marketing team isn’t working overtime, we all know they’re still a likely target when budget cuts come around.

The way we see it, you’ve got 3 alternatives to consider.

#1 – Hire Freelancers

If you’ve never tried it before, this might sound like a good idea. But most of you who have been around the block once or twice are cringing right now. Most athletic departments haven’t had a lot of luck with freelancers providing consistently high-quality work that’s on time and on target. Unless you have a freelancer who has worked with you before or who came from the collegiate athletics marketing industry, you’ll probably find they lack the expertise and insight you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you’re lucky enough to have found a really great freelancer, that person is probably working a lot more than 40 hours for you at an annual salary that’s lower than the new FLSA threshold…which means in December, you’ll have the same problem with your freelance rock star as you would with your own in-house staff.

#2 – Two Words: Student Internship

Hey, look around. In your neighborhood, there’s no shortage of young soon-to-be-professionals eager to build their resumes and score some real-world experience. And most of them don’t want to work anywhere close to 40 hours a week anyway. Assembling a low-cost creative staff will be like shooting fish in a barrel! What could possibly go wrong? Well, other than lack of experience, inconsistency, the need for a lot of oversight, not having any of the aforementioned industry expertise, some pesky rules or limitations… Reality check: you get what you pay for. There’s a reason you haven’t relied on this type of manpower to serve as your creative staff before. Sure, you may have some top-notch students who help you out from time to time, and that’s great. But as a year-over-year strategy, trying to rely on them to fill the gap FLSA is about to create won’t earn you a barrel of Gatorade over the head.

#3 – Outsource It

If only you knew somebody with a wealth of industry experience, mad design skills, a deep bench of talent, and serious strategic chops that you could hire and rely on without having to even think about overtime or paying a higher salary. Oh, wait. You do. All joking aside, Old Hat can provide everything you need from a creative standpoint. From design to video production, project management, strategic planning and copywriting, we offer a full range of creative services. We’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like us. If you don’t have your dream team in place right now, take them off your payroll and let us be your creative staff instead. Want to have a designer right there on campus with you? No problem – we can be the one to hire them, pay them, and worry about their hours, plus we’ve got the capacity to absorb any excess work. 

Or don’t cut your creative staff. Augment them the smart way.

If you love your current creative staff or freelancer, don’t fire them just because you can’t afford to pay them enough to meet all your needs. I mean, really. Do we come across as that callous or short-sighted? (For the record, we’re neither.) Instead, let us augment your team and handle all those extra hours you can’t afford to pay them for. Old Hat can provide you subscription-style creative support that will cost you a lot less in the long run than paying overtime rates or higher salaries, while delivering the highest quality results. We’ll work with you to come up with a plan that gives you all services you need, when you need them. We’ll even dedicate somebody to becoming your brand expert. Everybody wins! Want to talk it over? Give us a call.

 

When someone asks me to look at a website, there is almost always a disclaimer.  Usually, a “don’t be too harsh” or “don’t spend too much time, just give me some quick thoughts.”  For the most part, I assume this means they do not want detailed review of their site - just some top line things I notice, without an explanation.  While this seems simple, it is something I have spent years trying to get better at doing.  

Here’s the challenge. I have spent a lot of time studying websites, how they function, and how users interact with them.  Every website I look over, I approach from the perspective of someone who has been there and built something similar; someone who has had to deal with users not having a clear path or call to actions.  That’s because when Old Hat is working through a web project, I pick apart every detail during the initial phases of the project. 

Once we get to final quality assurance, however, I have to switch roles.  I have to step into the mindset of someone who has not viewed the website every day for the last six months.  Why? Because the person asking the question needs me to simulate someone who is interacting with the brand for the first time, not someone who has gone to over 5,000 websites in the last five years. This stage of the web development process calls for a fresh set of eyes.

Why am I telling you this? Because as a marketer who has been closely involved in a web project (or any project for that matter), you need to be able to do the same thing in order to see what you’re working on the same way an everyday fan would see it.

Here is my guide on how not to be an expert.  

1. Forget everything you know. 
Seriously, you have to take yourself out of the daily grind that is a long-term project and pretend you are viewing it for the first time. 

2. Forget everything you know, round two. 
It takes a lot to put your experience and knowledge to the side, but when reviewing a website, you have to take this unbiased approach. 

3. Change your habits.
You may not realize it, but you have developed habits in your day to day interaction with the project. This might be things like how you first view the page or which navigation you check first. Make a conscious effort to recognize these habits and then do something completely different.

4. Make yourself uncomfortable
Along the lines of those habits, you have a certain level of comfort. You have found the way you find easiest to get from point A to point B, but other users are going to find ten more ways to maneuver through the site. You need to find those ways and make sure they are a pleasant experience.  It will be uncomfortable at first, but that means you are approaching it the right way and reviewing your new site properly.  

5.  Think like your parents or grandparents.  
You have to be able to approach the site like it’s the first time you have ever seen it. For me, this involves sitting back and thinking about how I have seen my 92 year old grandfather use his iPad.  He seems to be trying to put his finger straight through the screen or like he is trying to punish the buttons he is clicking.  He only notices the things that have movement and will follow instructions on the screen to a T.  

6.  Think like your little brother or child.
I have watched my younger cousin fly through an entire site in with one flick of his wrist, missing everything but the footer and the header.  He missed calls to action and the meat of the site, but that was how he wanted to consume the content.  The best thing you can do here is watch how others consume that content, then imitate it the best you can when you go through the site. 

7. Click the first thing you see.
As you go through a project, you will start to notice more detail on the pages.  You will see things that were not there on first glance.  New users will often click the first thing they see that is remotely relevant.  You, on the other hand, have a bit of site blindness because you have been to it so often.  Try going through the site by clicking the first thing you see.  

 

 

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