Greater Artists Improve

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Steve Jobs popularized the saying, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Over the years, it seems that the saying has been stolen by many greats, from Pablo Picasso, to T. S. Eliot, to Jobs himself. We may not know exactly who uttered this saying first, but it doesn’t really matter; we don’t think the saying is good enough.

Here’s a better saying: “Greater artists improve.”

It’s the next level of the Picasso/Eliot/Jobs saying. When we are designing a website, building online software, or crafting an online marketing strategy, we take inspiration from what has been done before and improve it until it is best-in-class. We don’t strive to produce a good copy or a great steal, we strive to produce the best.

The obligatory Apple comparison

Since we’re improving on a famous Steve Jobs saying, let’s use Apple as an example. On a surface level, some think Apple’s success is thanks to its “innovative” nature. Others think Apple’s success is more directly tied to Jobs’ propensity to “steal” from others. But really, Apple’s rise to success had almost nothing to do with being truly innovative, and little to do with being full of ruthless idea-pirates.

The iPod, one of Apple’s early stupid-successful products, revolutionized how people carried and consumed music. Its sales really took off when iTunes revolutionized how we got music from the Internet into the beautiful little hard drive MP3 player. The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player and iTunes wasn’t the first outlet for purchasing MP3s. Apple’s later stupid-successful products, The iPhone and iPad, weren’t the first in their categories, either.

These products were all game-changers, but not because Apple invented these products and not because they stole and marketed them better than anyone else. Apple improved on them until they were best-in-class products.

Jobs created a company where the end user was the most important stakeholder. Every aspect of their products were tested, scrutinized, and improved until they offered the best experience for their customers. Millions of consumers have clearly seen this attention to detail and appreciated it enough to justify spending more money for more and more Apple products. As a result, Apple became the most valuable company on the planet.

Pump’s best-in-class approach

At Pump, we’re always focused on improving your online presence and offering the best online experience for your users. Our best-in-class web design, online software development, and online marketing services are born from our belief that greater artists improve. We always want you to look better to your customers online, to gain you more leads, to serve your customers better online, and to make your business more efficient through custom-built online software.

Our long-term relationships with our clients have allowed us to do this for them. You can read our case studies to see just a few examples of the results of our partnerships with our clients, and how we helped improve their businesses.

Once you’re done reading, get in touch with us to discuss how we can help you improve your online presence.

Google’s “Mice” Update

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Or as some are calling it, Google’s "Mobilegeddon"

On April 21st Google is set to make a big change to the algorithm it uses to determine where your site is ranked in its mobile search results. This change is focused entirely on the mobile usability of your site and Google’s mobile search results. Since mobile devices have accounted for more and more of the share of total website visits, Google is making sure that its users have the best possible experience on their digital appendages by showing only sites in their search results that they deem to be mobile-friendly.

What does mobile-friendly mean to Google? Mobile-friendly is a pass/fail metric that you can easily measure for yourself using their Mobile-Friendly Test tool. If your site passes the mobile-friendly test, then your site is eligible to be seen within search results on a mobile device, but if not your site just plain won’t show on mobile searches.

Of course, your site’s position on mobile search results isn’t guaranteed to be stellar if your site "passes". Your site will be in competition with the other sites in your market that pass and are eligible to be shown on mobile search results. Through Google Webmaster Tools you can get more detailed information on the usability errors that affect your site and fix them to increase your site’s ability to rank well. Just some optimizations your site may need, even if it passes the mobile-friendly test are: using appropriate font sizes, touch elements sized and spaced properly, the absence of Flash on your pages, your website’s viewport being set for mobile devices, and the viewport being properly configured.

Responsive Design

All of the factors that Google will be looking for on your site after the "Mice" update can be taken care of with a well-crafted responsive site redesign. Responsive sites present your site in different layouts for different devices and it is the method recommended by Google to make your site mobile-friendly. A responsive site is the clear winner among your options for delivering a good mobile experience to your visitors because:

  • It’s flexible. It adjusts to the screen size of all types of devices. When we design a responsive site, we have control over how it is displayed in each of these screen sizes and make design choices to benefit the viewer.
  • The user experience is fantastic. Since each “breakpoint” is explicitly designed by our creative team, the user experience is fine-tuned to fit each device and how visitors interact with your site on those devices. On a mobile breakpoint buttons are usually larger to accommodate finger-focused navigation, navigation elements are structured to readily display the most important actions, and graphics are optimized to load quickly over a cellular data connection.
  • It’s cost effective. Rather than building and maintaining multiple different versions of your sites, which was a popular approach when smartphones were novelties, you only need one version of the site. Content is posted only once making maintenance of your site far easier, and new features are easily implemented for all visitors no matter which device they use.
  • Google recommends it. Many people experience the web through Google. Over 88% of users worldwide rely on Google as their primary search engine. If Google recommends it, there is a good reason for it; because they’ve figured out that it’s a good experience for their searchers.

The Best Time is Now

A responsive website has always been a good idea, but the urgency to give your users a responsive experience has never been higher. Luckily, the Google "Mice" update will be a realtime update, meaning that as soon as your site is made responsive and mobile-friendly Google will pick up on it and start allowing your site to rank in its search results again (unlike some other manual updates like Panda which are updated infrequently, meaning penalties last until the next manual update).

We recently completed responsive redesigns for some of our clients, and each site was approached in a slightly different way.

Green Drop’s recent full-site redesign included a responsive layout. We also added many new features and improvements to the way the site was designed and managed, since it is a core part of their business, but we made sure the mobile and tablet user experience is great, and that the site has every possible opportunity to rank well on mobile search.

For Tourism Canmore we made their existing design responsive without changing the look and feel of the site. Only the keenest visitors to the desktop version of the site will be able to notice a difference, while visitors on a smartphone or tablet will have a much better experience with the all-new layouts optimized for their device.

Every site and every client has different needs, and we can help get your site where it needs to be based on your needs. If you have questions about your site’s design and how it could be improved, get in touch with us and we will take the time to work with you to identify what can be done. We can help you right now with "Mobilegeddon" looming, and in the future to help grow and improve your online presence.

Clearing up the Consent Confusion

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What is CASL Consent?

CASL defines two types of consent; express and implied. Even within our offices we’ve had many discussions about what each type of consent means and how it will apply once CASL comes into full effect. We’re sure you’ve probably had these same discussions on what consent is and how it applies to your practices, and you’ve likely also heard differing explanations and opinions on how it should apply to you.

We fear what we don’t understand. So, as an addition to our previous post on  Ensuring CASL Compliance Using MailChimp, we want to take a moment to help you understand what consent is and how it applies to your email marketing efforts.

Disclaimer: Although we have been in close contact with lawyers who are very familiar with the upcoming laws and their implications, we are not lawyers and nothing in this post should be considered as legal advice. For advice on legislation compliance, please consult with a lawyer.

From CTRC:

Express Consent

The most desirable type of consent is express consent. These are the people who have put up their hands and said, “Yes! I would like to receive promotional emails from you!” Not only are you completely compliant with CASL when you send these people messages, they are also more likely to take action on the messages you send than recipients with only implied consent. These recipients have explicitly stated that they want updates and promotions from you, and you can send them updates forever (until they ask you to stop sending them).

Existing Express Consent is Valid

Luckily, if you obtained express consent before July 1st, 2014, your existing express consent is still valid. You need to be able to prove that you have this consent if it’s ever requested, so make sure you keep good records of who you obtained consent from, how you obtained it, and when. Ideally this is all managed in one place, and it makes sense for that one place to be MailChimp since that will be where you send your messages from, and it’s the place where your subscribers will unsubscribe if they choose to. You can also easily export your MailChimp lists at any time and those exports contain all of the information you need to show express consent, such as the date they confirmed their subscription (using double opt-in) and the IP address where they confirmed from.

Express consent is really the easier of the two consent types to understand. Implied consent can be a little more confusing.

Implied Consent

Implied consent allows you only a limited amount of time to send out messages. Like express consent, implied consent is only valid until a subscriber specifically states they no longer want to receive communications from you (unsubscribes, in the case of a newsletter managed through MailChimp). 

Consent can be considered implied in a few different scenarios:

  1. If you have a current business relationship with the recipient and the message you send is relevant to their business, or their role or function within the business.
  2. The recipient has specifically given you their electronic address and the message you send is relevant to their business, or their role or function within the business.
  3. The recipient has conspicuously published their electronic address and the message you send is relevant to their business, or their role or function within the business.

NOTE: In the second and third scenarios above, you only have consent if these recipients haven’t stated that they don’t want to receive commercial messages at that address.

For newsletter purposes, ignore the last scenario. At first glance, it might seem that anyone who makes their email address public online is fair game to add to your newsletter, but this is definitely not the case. This allowance is likely to make it possible for people to send one-off emails with introductions, business proposals, etc. A great example would be where someone shares their email address on their LinkedIn profile and states that they are open to new business opportunities. This would allow recruiters to find a person’s email on their LinkedIn profile and send them a message about a potential new position without contravening CASL. 

MailChimp also has it’s own terms of use that are in some cases stricter than CASL. MailChimp only wants opted-in subscribers in their system, so that last scenario would be contradictory to MailChimp’s terms of use.

Implied Consent Expiration

Each type of implied consent has a slightly different expiration and you’ll need to be careful how you track and manage your records.

  • If you have an existing business relationship with a recipient, and for two years after the business relationship ends, you have implied consent.
  • If you received a request or inquiry from a recipient, you have 6 months of implied consent.

The intent behind implied consent in the second scenario is probably for you to be able to respond with relevant information related to their request or inquiry. Don’t abuse this, but use it as an opportunity to convert that recipient into a subscriber.

Transition Period for Implied Consent until 2017 – in some cases

There’s a section of the new law ( 66(b), if you’re curious) that gives us a bit of breathing room until July 1st, 2017. If any of the implied consent scenarios apply to a recipient before July 1st, 2014, or your previous business relationship includes the sending of commercial messages before July 1st, 2014 (such as people you have sent a message to in the past and haven’t unsubscribed), then you have implied consent until July 1st, 2017. The expiration of implied consent doesn’t apply until that date, regardless of how long the legislation states. 

But wait! You can’t just assume implied consent all the way through until 2017. You must have had this implied consent with a subscriber before July 1st, 2014 in order to safely use it until 2017. CRTC posted this clarification rather close to the July 1st deadline, but in it they made it clear that after July 1st, 2014, you need to start being compliant with the new legislation. 

Some examples to really paint the picture of how this might work for your business during the transition period:

  • If you had an existing business relationship with a recipient before July 1st, 2014, then you can assume implied consent until 2017. 
  • If you sent a MailChimp campaign to a list of recipients before July 1st, 2014, then you can assume implied consent  until 2017.
  • If someone makes an inquiry to you on July 2nd, 2014, you only have implied consent for 6 months, not until 2017!

Use the Transition Period Wisely and Convert!

Make sure you use this time wisely. Use it to convert as many of your subscribers as possible to express consent. Dream up some really creative strategies to persuade your customers to voluntarily sign up for your list and obtain full express consent. Make sure you are clear on the benefits of subscribing to your list and provide them with quality messages that deliver those benefits. You want them to feel like part of an exclusive membership that they can’t help but want to be a part of.

Some benefits you might want to highlight:

  • quality informative content related to the products and services you offer, such as important news in your industry that may affect your subscribers, product care tips, product updates, new offerings to solve your subscribers’ needs, etc.
  • notice of upcoming sales and promotions
  • coupon codes for products and services
  • subscriber prize draws
  • subscriber contests

If you’ve been practicing converting people from implied consent to express consent for the three years leading up to 2017, you’ll have a wealth of experience and tactics to use to attract people to voluntarily sign up for your newsletters.

We hope this article has cleared up the consent confusion and you have no more reason to fear what consent is or how to use it properly to turn your newsletter into a powerful marketing tool, all while staying compliant with CASL. If you would like help with your email marketing, we’re always here for you,  just get in touch!

Ensuring CASL Compliance with MailChimp

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A helpful primer on CASL and staying compliant using MailChimp

July 1st, 2014 is a big day. Not only is it Canada Day, but the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is also coming into effect. CASL is widely regarded as one of the strictest anti-spam laws in the world. This new law is great for consumers who are tired of receiving spam emails in their inbox, but it’s turning into a cause for concern for many businesses who don’t understand all of the implications and how they relate to their email practices.

Understandably, we have had many conversations with clients who are worried about what all of this means for their email newsletter practices. Fines are substantial and the details surrounding many aspects of the law are vague. Our clients are all wonderful people who don’t engage in spammy practices, but we have been spending time these past few months helping them ensure their practices are on the right side of the law to mitigate their concerns.

We want to help you as well. Here’s how you can use  MailChimp to ensure that you are collecting and sending emails properly so you aren’t bit by the new laws.

Disclaimer: Although we have been in close contact with lawyers who are very familiar with the upcoming laws and their implications, we are not lawyers and nothing in this post should be considered as legal advice. If you have concerns about these new regulations, make sure you get proper legal advice before implementing an email campaign or changes to an existing email campaign related to the new anti-spam laws.

CASL Requirements

First, a bit about the CASL requirements. The CASL applies to commercial electronic messages (CEMs), which are messages sent to an electronic address (such as an email address, a direct message sent through social media or chat, or a similar account).

There are three main requirements for sending a CEM:

  1. You need consent to send the CEM,
  2. you need to provide identification information, and
  3. you need to provide an unsubscribe mechanism for your CEMs.


Consent can be implied or expressly given. Express consent is the preferred type of consent and ensures that you are acting within the new laws. Luckily, it’s very easy to obtain and later prove this consent using MailChimp.

MailChimp already requires the preferred form of opt-in consent from your subscribers which makes it easy for you to later prove this consent. MailChimp’s “double opt-in” signup process means that two steps need to be taken by the subscriber before they are added to the list.

  1. The subscriber provides their contact information on a form or newsletter sign up page.
  2. After submitting their information, they receive an email asking them to click a link to confirm their subscription.

Only after clicking the confirmation link are they considered a subscriber and able to be emailed as part of your campaigns. This double opt-in process has many benefits over simply adding the email addresses of all of your clients to a list and starting to send them newsletters.

  • Your campaign’s unsubscribe rates are more likely to stay low. MailChimp works to protect their business model by ensuring their servers don’t get flagged for spam, so they review accounts with high unsubscribe or complaint rates, and will potentially suspend accounts if they feel these metrics are too high.
  • It’s possible that someone’s email address can end up on your list without their knowledge. With double opt-in each subscriber receives a confirmation message before you can send to them, so it’s unlikely that people will be surprised to find out they are on your list.
  • When a new subscriber clicks on the link in the confirmation email they receive as part of step two of the opt-in process, MailChimp logs the date and time that the subscriber opted-in to your list, as well as the IP address of the device they used to confirm their subscription. If needed, you are always able to export this information at a later date to prove that you received express consent.

** NOTE: CASL states that subscribing to receive messages must be done on an opt-in basis, rather than an opt-out basis. The subscriber must take a positive action to be added to your list. For example, a pre-checked box on an account signup form saying, “Yes! Please sign me up for the mailing list” would go against the new anti-spam laws. The same form design would be fine, as long as they have to click the box to be signed up, rather than click the box to avoid being signed-up.

UPDATE: We’ve written a follow-up post detailing more about each type of consent and how they may be used. Read Clearing up the Consent Confusion.

Identification Information

You need to provide identification information in your CEMs. To be completely safe, ensure that all of this information is included in each message you send:

  • Your business name,
  • a mailing address that will be valid for at least 60 days after sending your message, and
  • your website URL.

An email address or telephone number can be helpful as well, if this information is not readily available on your website. Basically, if a recipient of your message has any desire to contact you, they need to be able to do that without too much investigative work.

This basic contact information is already required by MailChimp for each list you create. Make sure that the contact information you provide is always valid for at least 60 days from the date you send a mailout, and make sure it is included in your message template. MailChimp allows you to quickly enter this information in your messages using merge tags such as *|LIST:ADDRESS|*. Pop that tag in the footer of your template or message design and MailChimp will replace that tag with your list’s address automatically.

MailChimp Merge Tags in Action

Unsubscribe Mechanism

The last requirement is that you provide recipients with a straightforward way of unsubscribing from your messages. It has to be free of charge and requests to be unsubscribed must be taken care of right away (within 10 business days).

Unsubscribing is a simple process with MailChimp. MailChimp manages all aspects of the unsubscribe process quickly, so you don’t need to worry about managing this aspect of your campaign. Just make sure you include the *|UNSUB|* merge tag in a link somewhere in your email (usually the footer, along with your contact information and website links). Like the address merge tag, this tag will be replaced with a link that allows subscribers to unsubscribe from your list with one click, and state the reason why they are unsubscribing. This can be helpful to determine why people no longer want to hear from you and allow you to strategize ways to provide them more value.

Don’t make it a chore for people to unsubscribe. Make sure the link is not hidden, buried within other content, or so small that it can’t be read. This has always been a best practice, and people who want out but can’t figure out how to are not valuable subscribers, anyway. Holding people hostage to your email list is just not nice, and on July 1, 2014, it will become illegal.

Breathe… We’ll be okay

The purpose of this law is to combat spammy marketing practices, and we think it’s unlikely that a company sending out updates via their own newsletter will be targeted by the CRTC for contravening CASL. Nothing in CASL is entirely new, either. Just about everything prescribed by the new Canadian laws is already considered best practice for sending out newsletters, which we have always strived to work within for ourselves and for our clients.

We hope that this article is useful to you in the coming months, but we know that every scenario and application of a newsletter differs slightly. Using a combination of design and custom applications we are making sure our existing clients are compliant with these new laws, and we’d be happy to help you as well.  Please get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss how we can help you navigate these new laws.

You can also learn more about CASL and read frequently-asked questions at the Government of Canada’s website:

“Paid” is not a four-letter word

Okay, so there are four letters in “paid”, but you know what I mean.

More people are recognizing that there is a lot of value in social media and content marketing, but often they don’t fully understand these tools as marketing vehicles. Many of the people I talk to seem to think social media and content marketing are so great because they are toll-free highways to exposure, search engine dominance, celebrity, and riches. At the same time, they think that paying for any sort of exposure is a waste of time or some form of cheating. They’re convinced that getting the social/blog/content formula right means they should never need to spend any money on online marketing.

But “paid” doesn’t need to be a dirty word, because “free” doesn’t mean free and “paid” isn’t cheating.

“Free” doesn’t mean free

Just because you don’t have to spend any money to create a Facebook page, Twitter profile, blog post, or Google+ profile, doesn’t mean results come for free. It takes tons of effort, creativity, time, expertise, and insight to create and execute a proper social media and content marketing plan.

Before you even type one character into a tweet, there is a lot of planning that needs to go into finding your audience and understanding what their needs are to be sure you aren’t wasting time. You don’t want to waste your time, but more importantly, you never want to waste the time of your audience. First, you need to invest some time observing your audience. Where do they spend time online? What do they like doing offline, besides the obvious things that are closely related to the product or service you offer to them? What stage of life are they in? How much money do they make in a year?

With the answers to those questions you then need to start thinking about how you can use that information to help them. If you’re a bank and you want to attract young families, you can create a monthly email newsletter that provides them with quick tips and services to save them time and spend more of it with their children, for example. If you’re a realtor you could create an official definitive checklist of all of the things your audience will need to accomplish on moving day, such as calling the utility company, the cable company, ordering pizza for their “free” labour (see what I did there), etc.

Finally, you need to create a schedule and stay in front of them. You need a carefully considered content calendar, established tone of voice, and a suite of tools to make it as easy as possible for you to deliver. You need to brainstorm content ideas, things to write and tweet and Facebook about. You need enough to satisfy the schedule in the content calendar you’ve created.

All of this takes time, energy, and creativity. I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that time, energy, and creativity don’t grow on trees. And if something doesn’t grow on trees, it isn’t free. That’s what my parents taught me, anyway.

“Paid” isn’t cheating

After all of that hard work, hopefully you now realize that there is no dishonour in paying to put the value you’ve crafted in front of the people you created it for. It isn’t cheating to place ads on a site where your audience likes to get their entertainment news, browse for vintage dolls, or share their hatred over the way Apple changed the icons on their beloved phones. Actually, it’s pretty smart, and it shows you know your audience well enough to offer them the things they wanted in places they never thought to look for them. And they probably didn’t even realize they wanted those things until you showed them.

If you’ve taken the time to understand your audience enough and you’ve put the things you’ve crafted for them in the places they will find it, then your content will do well. You should be absolutely confident by this point that what you are doing is actually serving them, so why should you feel dirty for using your marketing dollars to give it to them? You should really be feeling like the most generous person in the world.

Here’s the thing: you are not buying “Likes”, clicks or +1s, you are buying the opportunity to earn these things at a faster pace than you would have if you worked to earn them organically, one by one, without any monetary intervention. There is nothing wrong with that.

Now that you know deep down you are spending that money to serve the right people, at the right place and time, you can eliminate all guilt you may have been feeling. All that research you did, the time you took to understand who you were trying to serve, that’s going to show in what you’ve produced for them. So get it out there any way you can. You want to build your audience by exposing them to your genius philanthropy, and if you have to—especially at the beginning of a campaign—pay for that exposure. They’re gonna love you for it.