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Author: Bj jha

Featured in Forbes: Is Your Small Business Website Secure?

Business owners have more options than ever when it comes to creating their own websites. What once required extensive coding and programming knowledge can now be accomplished through a drag-and-drop visual tool. However, while template-based and DIY websites are becoming more popular, they can also open businesses up to significant security risks.

Daniel Griggs, founder and CEO of ATX Web Designs, discusses some of these risks in an article recently published in Forbes, Is Your Small Business Website Secure?. The article outlines some of the common ways that hackers can infiltrate a small business website as well as some of the steps business owners can take to secure their sites.

These include:

  • Upgrading to a secure server with an SSL certificate. If you collect private information from site users, you need a hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS), which prevents the interception of data. Additionally, SSL will encrypt information so that it cannot be breached.
  • Requiring complex passwords. Requiring all users to use complex passwords when signing into your site will help prevent their accounts from being hacked. For example, you can require users to use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters and special characters in their passwords.
  • Putting a firewall in place. Firewalls can block duplicate internet protocol (IP) addresses automatically, which prevents spammers and hackers from registering multiple accounts from the same computer.
  • Using custom coding. Unfortunately, website templates built through CMS like WordPress can be more susceptible to hacking. Custom coding is much more difficult to breach.
  • Updating plugins. Failing to update your software and plugins can result in security vulnerabilities and issues on your website.

To read the full article on the Forbes website, click here.

Questions about how content marketing and web design strategies could elevate your brand and improve your bottom line? Schedule a consultation with one of our digital strategists by clicking here.

3 Branding Tips for Solopreneurs

Solopreneurs—or entrepreneurs who run a business on their own—are on the rise in the United States, numbering more than 40 million. Whether by choice or by necessity, solopreneurs wear every hat in their company, from CEO to accountant to customer service representative to marketing rep.

As busy people who are often operating on a tight budget, solopreneurs and small business owners sometimes overlook the importance of marketing their product or service in the digital space. There is a common misconception that digital marketing requires a large financial investment, so many solopreneurs see strong branding as a luxury rather than a necessity.

Regardless of the size of your business or ad budget, you can build a brand of your own. You may not be a Coca Cola, but you can still think about your message and how you want people to remember your service or product.

Here are three branding tips for solopreneurs that won’t break the bank.

  1. Create an emotional experience. Branding has largely to do with the type of emotional experience you create for customers and potential customers. How do you want your audience to feel? Safe? Excited? Elite? Entertained? Use this emotional experience to determine everything from the look and feel of your logo to the tone you use on your website and social media posts.
  2. Make it personal. Two advantages solopreneurs and small businesses have over larger competitors are personality and personalized attention. By making personal connections with customers and giving your digital content a strong personality, you can develop a strong brand that users are eager to follow and engage. Be sure to reinforce your brand personality across multiple platforms (such as website, social media and printed materials).
  3. Use keywords. What terms or words perk your audience’s attention? What phrases do potential customers use to search the internet for the type of product or service you offer? By honing in on keywords you can achieve a better search engine ranking and more effectively engage your target audience.

You may not have a $250,00 ad budget, but as a solopreneur, you can still work on building organic traffic and generating attention for your brand. This, in turn, will lead to more leads, sales and brand loyalty.

How To Find Your Customers’ Hidden Pain Point

The old saying tells us that “the customer is always right,” and successful brands know that there is a lot of wisdom in putting the customer first. After all, the reason your company exists is to provide a solution for some sort of problem that your customer has.

In the business world, the term “pain point” refers to a specific problem that your target audience is experiencing. It is the reason they are looking to your company (or your competitors) for a particular product or service. However, it is easy for businesses to get the pain point wrong or misunderstand what will really engage a target audience member and convert prospects into loyal customers.

This is because the obvious, surface-level pain point does not always address the core customer motivation. To really understand motivation, we have to understand that every human has a core set of psychological needs—such as safety, connection, respect, autonomy and freedom—and that products and services are simply ways to meet those needs.

For example, when John subscribes to a meal catering service, it’s not just because he wants to eat delicious food (although that might be part of the motivation). He subscribes to a meal service because he values his free time and autonomy and doesn’t want to spend hours cooking in the kitchen every week. His pain point is likely a lack of freedom and flexibility in his schedule or perhaps feeling overworked and overwhelmed.

By speaking to this hidden pain point, a meal service is much more likely to get John’s attention and convert him into a loyal customer.

To discover your customers’ hidden pain point, start with the obvious pain point and ask yourself what motivations might lie underneath. Then survey your target demographic and create audience personas so that you can confirm your predictions and narrow in on the core needs and desires your brand fulfills.

Have You Been Thinking About Business Value Wrong?

What value does your business offer?

Many entrepreneurs and business owners are accustomed to talking about the Unique Value Proposition (UVP) of their business. A UVP, also called a Unique Selling Proposition, essentially describes the benefits your company offers and how you differ from the competition. While it can be very useful to define your UVP, there is another way to think about business value.

Customers don’t actually buy products or services for the products and services themselves. This might seem like a bizarre statement, but it’s true. Customers purchase things that will meet a core, underlying need or desire for them, and these needs and desires are tied to the customer’s value system.

In other words, Jim doesn’t subscribe to a laundry service because he needs his laundry done. He subscribes because he values time and freedom—two things he will have more of if he outsources his laundry to a company. Similarly, Jill doesn’t buy a name brand purse because she needs a bag to hold her items. She likely purchases it because she values the respect and feeling of importance she will feel owning a designer handbag.

Coca Cola is a great example of value-based marketing. Coke commercials rarely try to sell soda. Instead, they sell a feeling of community, togetherness, and happiness. Their marketing motto is “creating brand value through content excellence,” and their campaigns certainly reflect that statement. For instance, the Share a Coke campaign encouraged customers to share a Coca Cola with a person whose name was written on the side of the bottle. Not only did this campaign produce viral video content, but it traded on the individual consumer’s personal connections to boost sales.

Companies that know the deeper value of their product in addition to the top level, immediate benefits can market and sell their brand far more effectively. Identifying and targeting core customer values and needs is the key to convincing them to invest in your product or service.

How to Scale Your Small Business Sustainably

“Sustainable growth” has become a popular phrase in the business world. Startups and small businesses in particular are focused on scaling their companies quickly yet dependably. After all, a company that grows too quickly without the proper structure and processes in place might risk burnout or the inability to match supply to demand. On the other hand, a company that grows too slowly may lose momentum and squander all its capital.

Digital technology has allowed for the exponential growth of small businesses, particularly in online spaces. The startup trend reflects just how easy it is to launch a venture with limited capital and grow it steadily in a short period of time.

However, scaling a small business sustainably is easier said than done. There are many pitfalls and challenges that entrepreneurs and small business owners face. Without proper guidance and strategy, they may find their company either stagnating or becoming unstable.

Here are five best practices for scaling a small business in a way that will encourage reliable growth for years to come.

  1. Focus on the problem you are solving. At the most basic level your product or service presents a creative solution to a common problem. Whenever you’re planning a new step for your company, you should keep this problem at the top of your mind. What is best for your customers and what will make their lives easier? Keep your audience in the center of your business decisions.
  2. Start small. Before you worry about developing every single bell and whistle of a new product or campaign, you need to start with the proof of concept—in other words, the proof that your vision is feasible and achievable. Does this actually work? Could this idea be turned into reality? Start with small “experiments” and when you see what works, follow that path.
  3. Know your benchmarks. What is success to you? Whether it is sales, site visitors, bounce rates, support calls, SEO ranking, brand engagement or otherwise, know the signs you are looking for to indicate your company is ready to move to the next phase or level. Make sure you are documenting and tracking this data so that transitioning to future phases becomes smoother and easier.
  4. Give it time. Any time you introduce a new way of doing things it will take your target audience some time to warm up to the idea. It will take catering and hand-holding to help users adjust to your platform and processes. If a new idea doesn’t land right away, give it time and make small tweaks and adjustments before you abandon it completely.
  5. Make sure your team is happy. High company morale is one of the biggest factors of success for a small company. If your team members feel connected and like they are making a difference, they will be more productive and more creative, allowing your company to innovate and grow.

3 Tips for Upgrading your Legal Website

Lawyers are like plumbers. We’re always going to need them. Through the ups and downs of the economy over the past 10 years, the legal industry has been steadily growing, but it’s also been going through some massive changes.

The truth is, even though demand is consistent, the legal industry will not be immune from the digital revolution. More and more people are searching for legal help online, and most clients will check out a lawyer’s website before hiring them. Millennials are driving a lot of this—they’re getting older, buying houses, running businesses, getting married, and getting divorced.

Legal professionals need to level up in the digital space if they want to compete. The Baby Boomer generation is aging out and the new generations have higher standards when it comes to online presentation and services. The sooner firms realize this and start investing in digital tech, the better chance they have at success.

Here are 3 tips for upgrading your legal website:

  1. 1. Make sure you own your website. If you don’t have 100% ownership of your law firm website, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. If you created your website through a generic legal marketing site, it’s going to be hard to update and customize your site, and transferring to a new host down the road will be a nightmare.
  2. 2. Invest in SEO. It’s all about the search engine rankings. Your website isn’t doing you any good if clients can’t find it. You need a solid SEO strategy and an experienced team that can implement it.
  3. 3. Focus on mobile. Most people use their phones to search the internet. Yes, you need a great website, but you also need it to be optimized for mobile devices so that people who land on your site can find the information they need and know what to do next.

If you’re not seeing a steady increase of traffic, leads and conversions through your law firm website, then it’s time for an upgrade.

7 Strategies that Smart Credit Unions Will Have in 2021

A lot has changed over the past year. We were already living in a digital age, but the COVID-19 pandemic has issued us into a new era where online business is not only popular—it is crucial. In fact, nearly 51% of small businesses have increased online interactions with their customers and about 36% are doing sales online, according to e-commerce support platform Oberlo.

Consumer habits and the global economy are changing, which means that the financial industry will be majorly affected—and credit unions in particular. As member-owned, non-profit organizations, credit unions will need to adapt to the times if they hope to compete with large banks and financial institutions.

Here are seven strategies that smart credit unions should incorporate if they want to stay relevant in 2021 and engage their target customer base.

  1. Audience research. Consumers in 2021 are looking for different things than they were in previous years. If your credit union has researched your audience and created target demographics and customer personas, it is time to go back to the drawing board. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way consumers think and operate. If you want to make sure you are reaching your target audience, you will need to reevaluate who you are reaching and how.
  2. Website upgrades. First impressions matter. The average user will leave your website after 10 to 20 seconds if they can’t find the information they’re seeking. To capture the attention of potential customers in 2021, your credit union website needs to have a responsive design, be aesthetically pleasing and connect to the user’s values and tech-savvy lifestyle. Simple factors such as typography and intuitive interface design may make or break your chance of engaging millennials on your website.
  3. Mobile-first design. Today’s online consumers are much more likely to use a mobile phone to access a website than they are to use a desktop computer. They are also selective about their mobile app experience. For example, 43 percent of millennials have at some point abandoned mobile banking activity due to a poor user experience. Top reasons millennials may discontinue using a mobile banking app include lengthy processing time and complicated forms.
  4. Social media. Social media accounts aren’t just a way to promote your product, they are channels for direct communication with clients and potential clients as well as a tool for building brand trust. The average consumer spends more than six hours each week engaging with social media, and the majority view social media as the most effective advertising medium.By directly engaging with followers, answering questions, commenting on posts and asking for feedback, your credit union can build trust and credibility.
  5. Video capabilities. In 2021, more and more consumers are attending virtual events and communicating through video conferencing software. In the absence of in-person interaction, video is the next best medium for communicating the emotional and visual appeal of a product or service. The only thing worse than a lack of live and pre-recorded video content is poor quality video content—whether from a technical or production standpoint. Your credit union’s video capabilities should be on-trend and technically on-par with banks and large financial institutions in order to stay competitive.

Featured in Forbes: How Tech Can Revolutionize The Music Industry

Last month, ATX Web Designs Founder Daniel Griggs was featured in a Forbes article titled How Tech Can Revolutionize The Music Industry During the Pandemic. ATX the Brand is based in Austin, Texas—the live music capital of the world and a burgeoning tech hub. The Forbes piece explains how the tech and music industries can join forces to help preserve arts and entertainment during a time of significant loss and change.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

One of the biggest lifestyle disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the loss of live music and entertainment. For an industry that relied heavily on ticket sales and sponsorships from live performances, the restrictions on large gatherings and congregating indoors were a heavy blow. Some venues and artists attempted to find loopholes or work around regulations by hosting socially distanced events, but the concert industry still forfeited more than $30 billion as a result of the pandemic. The BBC estimated that musicians lost two-thirds of their income in 2020.

Enter the techies. As the owner of a web design and digital marketing agency, I have seen the demand for web-based solutions and virtual alternatives explode during the Covid-19 pandemic. My company is based in Austin, Texas, which is both the “Live Music Capital” of the world and an emerging tech hot spot that has outranked Silicon Valley for the past two years. It logically follows that Austin would lead the way in discovering new ways to optimize the convergence of technology and live music.

Austin’s annual music festival, South by Southwest (SXSW), typically takes place in March, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe and generating more than $300 million in economic impact for the city of Austin. The festival was canceled in 2020 as a result of the pandemic but has reemerged in 2021 as a virtual event.

As a tech entrepreneur, I was excited about the possibilities of a digital SXSW experience, but as a music lover, I wanted something more. I was missing the raw, unfiltered, exciting nature of intimate live performances and underground events — that feeling of walking into a bar and discovering my new favorite local band or artist.

To read the full article on Forbes’ website, click here.

5 Ways Franchises Can Dramatically Improve Their Online Brand in 2021

We were already living in a digital economy before COVID-19, but the global pandemic has emphasized the need for companies of all types to improve their online presence and prioritize digital marketing.

Studies show that in 2021, nearly 50 percent of consumers are avoiding leaving their homes and also predict that 2.14 billion people will buy goods and services online this year. After a year of lockdown, many companies have discovered innovative ways to market and offer their products and services online—and some are making the switch to virtual operations permanent.

While COVID-19 cases are decreasing and businesses in some states are reopening their doors, marketing will never be the same. It is time for brands to upgrade their digital presence or risk becoming irrelevant.

Franchises in particular can benefit from investing in their online branding. Franchises face a unique marketing challenge. To succeed, franchisors need to support the independence of individual franchisees while maintaining a brand continuity. Online marketing efforts need to be both creative and consistent.

Here are five ways franchises can upgrade their online presence to stay competitive and thrive in 2021.

  1. Create a style guide. If your franchise doesn’t already have a style guide, then creating one will be essential to improving your digital marketing and branding. Cohesive branding is crucial when it comes to franchise marketing. Even if local branches have a lot of diversity, brand messages and brand personality should be consistent across local franchises and should match the corporate vision. In your style guide, you’ll want to determine the feeling or emotional experience you want to create through your brand, select a content tone, identify your key phrases and hashtags, and determine the unique visual components of your brand (colors, logos, etc.).
  2. Conduct audience research. Consumers are looking for different things in 2021 than they were in previous years. The world has experienced widespread trauma and loss and has gone through social and structural changes that affect consumer priorities and behavior. Even if you think you understand your target demographic, it is time to conduct a new round of research to better understand your audience’s pain points and priorities. By understanding your audience more thoroughly and holistically, your franchise will be able to develop digital marketing strategies that are efficient and effective.
  3. Utilize SEO. It is important for brand uniformity and visibility that each franchise location appears on the first page of search engine results. Many individuals do not scroll past the first page of Google results. While franchisee landing pages should be consistent and contain keywords that pertain to the target demographic, it is crucial that landing pages do not duplicate content. This could cause your company to be penalized by Google or other search engines. Also note that franchisee websites under independent domain names may take longer to be ranked by search engines than sites housed under a corporate domain.
  4. Develop a comprehensive social media strategy. Social media can be a challenge for franchises. Since the medium is more personal than websites or traditional marketing materials, each account will inevitably vary in voice, tone, aesthetic, and frequency of posting. Franchises should develop a cohesive and comprehensive social media strategy that is controlled at the corporate level or develop a social-media-specific brand and style guide for franchisees. This style guide can be developed in-house or with the help of a marketing and branding agency.  
  5. Integrate domain names. It is essential for franchises to present a united front and remain consistent across platforms. The landing pages for local franchise branches should either all be hosted under the main corporate website or they should have parallel, independent domain names. If a franchise decides on independent franchisee domain names, it is critical for each site to reflect the same brand personality. Franchises should decide on a domain name strategy and make it consistent for all franchisees. It may be helpful to host group trainings with franchisees to explain the strategy and reinforce consistent brand messaging.

As a franchise, it isn’t enough to have a polished corporate website. It is also vital that franchisee sites and social media accounts are consistent, are optimized for search engines, and reflect your corporate brand. Remember that a better digital structure will create more brand value, visibility and credibility, and will ultimately help your franchisees increase sales and retain customers.

ATX Web Designs offers branding strategy and digital brand development services. For more information, drop us a line!

5 Social Media Tips for Small Businesses

Running a small business requires the ability to multitask and wear many hats. Entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t always have the resources to hire staff or assistants to complete the tasks that many larger companies dedicate whole departments to. A small business owner often has to handle the administrative, marketing, customer service and financial aspects of the company in addition to providing or organizing the delivery of products and services.

One aspect of small-business ownership that can feel daunting and overwhelming is social media management. While large corporations have teams of people researching, posting and responding on social media platforms, small companies don’t always have the time to prioritize engaging on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other sites.

If you are a small- or medium-sized-business owner and aren’t able to dedicate a lot of time to social media management, here are a few tips to help you keep up with the trends and get the most bang for your buck when you are able to post.

  1. Schedule your posts. Scheduling your posts weeks or months in advance will save you a lot of time and stress in the long run. Instead of worrying about what content to post each week, you can block out a few hours of time each month to plan social posts ahead of time. You can schedule posts through the social media platforms themselves or upgrade to a paid post scheduler like Buffer  or Hootsuite for an even easier and more streamlined experience.
  2. Post consistently. Studies have shown that consistency is key when it comes to social media posts. Whether you’re posting daily or a few times a week, maintain a regular pattern so that your followers know what to expect. The most recent surveys show that posting at least once per day on Instagram and Facebook will garner the most engagement, but posting consistently is more important than posting every day.
  3. Add value with your posts. Your social media feed shouldn’t read like an advertisement. If most of your posts are promoting your products or services, you will lose engagement and followers. Instead, make sure about 70-80% of your content is something that adds value for your followers. Examples are educational information, tips and tricks, freebies and contests, or humorous content that provides a much needed chuckle.
  4. Interact with your followers. Consumers are more likely to purchase and promote brands that interact with them on social media. Set aside a day or two each week to respond to comments and questions so you can show your followers that you are active and engaged.
  5. Look at your analytics. Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites offer users data about posts, followers and engagement. By viewing your insights and analytics you will be able to gather useful information, such as which types of posts get the most engagement and when your followers are most active. This information will help you maximize your social media efforts.

Featured in Forbes: Digital Transformation is About Process, Not Products

On May 21, ATX Web Designs Founder Daniel Griggs was featured in a Forbes article titled Digital Transformation is About Process, Not Products. ATX the Brand is based in Austin, Texas—one of the fastest growing tech hotspots in the country. Some experts predict it may eclipse Silicon Valley as a hub for digital innovation. Tesla founder Elon Musk is opening a factory outside the city and tech giants Intel, Apple, Oracle and Facebook all have headquarters or offices in the area.

As a web development and digital marketing agency, ATX the Brand works with many tech companies in the Central Texas area, as well as local entrepreneurs and startups. Our team is able to observe trends within the industry and speak to the ways businesses can successfully capitalize on new developments related to digital branding and marketing.

One of the biggest trends we have seen among Austin-area business owners is a push for the “digital transformation” of their companies in order to stay relevant and competitive in the rapidly evolving digital economy.

Here is an excerpt from the article on digital transformation:

The unfortunate truth is that many businesses equate their online brand with their website and see “digital transformation” as no more than a site upgrade or redesign. The fact of the matter is that digital transformation is about your company’s processes, not about your products. Your processes include your customer relationship management (CRM) system, your security, your marketing strategies and your administrative systems — and these processes are vital when it comes to sustainably growing your business. They are the pieces that your customer doesn’t immediately see or know to look for but will ultimately have the biggest impact on their experience with your business.

Your website and mobile app are important, but they are really just the tip of the iceberg. If your company hopes to stay competitive in the digital economy, you need more than a pretty website or trendy mobile app. You need to understand the mind and the values of the modern consumer and learn how to build your business processes around the needs of your target audience.

In focusing on the visual aspects of their brand, some business owners forget to ask themselves the following important questions:

• How do I manage bookings?

• How is customer data filed and organized?

• What is my process for following up on leads and inquiries?

• How are my services promoted and marketed?

• What is my process for gathering feedback and implementing changes?

The answers to all of these questions are critical for growing a business in a digitally competitive economy.

To read the full article on Forbes’ website, click here.

7 Ways to Stretch Your Marketing Budget

You’ve got to spend money to make money, according to the old saying, but how much should small and medium-sized businesses be investing into marketing and advertising? Whether your business is growing rapidly or you are just figuring out how to make ends meet, marketing is an essential component of company operations that you can’t afford to ignore. While some businesses do very well through word-of-mouth marketing, there is a limit to how much you can scale through organic referrals alone.

The U.S. Small Business Administration recommends that businesses generating less than $5 million a year spend about 7 to 8 percent of gross revenue on marketing and advertising. Other industry experts have suggested anywhere from 5 percent to 14 percent.

If these numbers seem high to you, or you are wondering how much you are realistically able to invest in marketing, here are five ways to stretch your marketing and advertising budget to get the most bang for your buck.

  1. Social media. Social media platforms are free marketing tools that can help you raise brand awareness and gain customer trust. While social media followers don’t necessarily equate to sales, building out your Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms can be an extremely valuable long-term marketing investment. Make sure you are using your social platforms to provide value to your followers and engage with them regularly.
  2. Experiment. Marketing is all about experimentation. Instead of sinking your entire monthly marketing budget into ads or cold email campaigns, opt for small, cost-effective experiments to see what type of messaging and content delivery strategies resonate with your audience most right now.
  3. Partnerships. Partnerships and collaborations with other businesses are an affordable way to build your brand and get exposure. When creating partnerships, you want to work with companies that target your same demographic but are not direct competitors.
  4. Media relations. Pitching your business to local media is a way to get free exposure for your company. When pitching, make sure that you provide a specific, timely angle or a reason that a certain publication’s audience would be interested in the story.
  5. Incentivize referrals. By incentivising your current customers to recommend your business, you can boost organic traffic and sales. Affiliate programs, giveaways and contests are some relatively inexpensive ways to increase referrals.

Is Your Small Business Website Secure

On July 2, ATX Web Designs CEO Daniel Griggs was featured in Forbes in an article titled Is Your Small Business Website Secure?. As website templates and DIY web design programs become more popular, they also increase the potential risk of security threats.

The article outlines several ways that small businesses in particular can help ensure their websites can protect customer information and company data, as well as preventing other security breaches.

Here are a few of the important security questions business owners should ask about their websites, as outlined in the Forbes piece:

Is your website hosted on a secure server with an SSL certificate? If you collect private information from site users, you need a hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS), which prevents the interception of data. Additionally, SSL will encrypt information so that it cannot be breached.

Does your website require complex passwords? Requiring all users to use complex passwords when signing into your site will help prevent their accounts from being hacked. For example, you can require users to use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters and special characters in their passwords.

Do you have a firewall in place? Firewalls can block duplicate internet protocol (IP) addresses automatically, which prevents spammers and hackers from registering multiple accounts from the same computer.

Does your website contain custom coding? Unfortunately, website templates built through CMS like WordPress can be more susceptible to hacking. Custom coding is much more difficult to breach.

Are your plugins up to date? Failing to update your software and plugins can result in security vulnerabilities and issues on your website.

To read the complete article, click here.