Matt Dickman: A solid, digital foundation is the key to new media success

November 23, 2007

Pardon the idiom, but if you don't have your marketing ducks in a row it's hard to make a move into emerging media.

Too many companies try to jump to Web2.0 and skip many important steps in the process. This makes for a hard sell internally and an even more awkward transition.

This post focuses on what you're already doing online and how to make a smooth transition to 2.0.

For the sake of this post, I'll assume you have a website. You've probably invested a pretty good amount of time and energy into it as well. But for most marketers, once a site is up and running, it is often left unattended.

Technology and design patterns change constantly, if a site has gone more than 18 months with no changes it's probably stale.

The best way to create a strategy to take advantage of the concepts behind Web2.0 is to build a solid foundation in the following areas. For each area, I will show how to get up to speed and set up the foundation for a 2.0 move.

User Interface: As I mentioned, design tastes and patterns change constantly. If I asked you to describe the visual essence of Web2.0 I bet you would say things like, "shiny", "plastic" or "chrome". The real shift in the next version of websites is a move more toward application-like interfaces. Technology like AJAX and XML is making it easier for designers to make the web work easier for users. Instead of making people step through multiple pages of a form, it can load questions dynamically on one page. Users can move content around a page to see what they want where they want it (think iGoogle).

The value proposition here for the users is that they click less, get more and connect with you faster. Take a good look at your homepage.

  • What can you change today to help people connect with you?
  • Is the contact information obvious?
  • If you provide them a lot of data, can they manipulate it and take it with them in the way that adds the most value?

Have you sat down with a customer and used the site to see how they do their job? Getting the experience right, making sure that every click adds value and letting people take it with them are great starting points to push into Web2.0.

Engagement: This goes along with user interface. Engagement is the new metric buzzword. Page views and clicks are becoming less valuable as more ads are blocked and less pages are created. Engagement is spoken of in terms of time on site, repeat visits and content creation.

Engagement, however, is unique from site to site. What is considered engaging on a blog is not what is engaging on a manufacturing or a non-profit site. Don't be afraid to create your own set of metrics. Look at what is valuable to you and what is engaging to the user and build something new. If you're using message boards on your site maybe a new metric is "comments per thread".

Customer Service: This is the most overlooked opportunity on 99% of sites out there.

If you have an email on the site that goes to customer service, what is your policy on response?

  • What is the message that is sent to the user?
  • Does the policy include a personal response or a form letter?
  • Is it easy for users to reply back or does it go to a trash bin somewhere in cyber space.

Every single contact point is a sales opportunity and too many go unanswered. If you have a customer service email or contact form, make sure it's routed to a service rep. Set expectations and communicate them to the users (response in 24 hours). Create a template that has re-contact information as well as a brief marketing message. Unanswered emails are deadly in a 2.0 world.

They turn into angry blog posts, message board threads and a rallying point for people to gang up on you. Once the emails are returned you can move on to more advanced community-based support.

Business Support: Let's face it, most sites out there are not e-commerce driven, but they all have a business purpose. Brand awareness, information dissemination, regulatory compliance, etc. What is the goal of your site? Do you have multiple goals? Are you accomplishing them? Here is a drill that I use to visualize the contrast between where companies place their value on their site and where users actually spend their time.

step1.png Draw a map of your current site. You can use Visio, Word, pen and paper or anything else you have at your disposal. Just treat each page as a block and show them in their hierarchy.
step2.png Now, create a copy of the map and color code each page so that is aligns with your business goals. For this example we'll say red is a top tier page that generates revenue, orange is a second tier support page, yellow is a third tier information page and blue is non-essential.
step3.png Now, create a copy of THAT map (with the color coding) and roughly scale each section with your page view metrics so that pages with more views are larger and less views are smaller. Try to keep them in proportion. This is where people go on your site compared with your business goals. In our example, we need to create tactics that shift more views to the red blocks and less to the blue. (Note: you could also scale based on time spent on each page)

Hopefully these points shed some light and allow you to plan for growth into new media. Only with a strong foundation can you build to reach the next level.

What other points would you add to this list? What's on your must-have list to "graduate" from 1.0 to 2.0?

Drew's Note:  Matt Dickman is an interactive marketing strategist with DigiKnow in Cleveland.  He blogs at Techno//Marketer and is always the guy who offers a helping hand on projects big and small.  Like Greg, Gavin, Cam, and Mark…he's a rock solid good guy. 

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Web 2.0 meets Print 2.0

September 10, 2007

Eric Kintz, VP of all things fun at HP, is videoblogging from HP's NYC Print 2.0.

At this event, they unveiled some very cool printable mashup books featuring Gwen Stefani, Hannah Montana (from Disney) and others.  Go on, print out a book that makes it look like you and Gwen were on the same tour!  Or check out what designer Paula Scher has to contribute to your company's brand.  Not your cup of tea?  How  about what snowboarding expert Jake Burton says about knowing your customer?

Take a peek at Eric's thoughts on how HP is shifting from printers to printing and how those of us who spend time in the digital world are about to discover some new and very cool ways to integrate traditional print with our speed of light digital world.

Eric also blogs over at The Digital Mindset.

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Are you being held hostage by your web developer (part 2)

September 1, 2007

HandcuffA couple weeks ago, I wrote a post asking the question “are you being held hostage by your web developer” which garnered some excellent and lesson packed comments.

They’re just too good to take the risk that you feed reader users might have missed them.  So read carefully and heed their hard earned warnings.

Look for a web developer who gets both function and fashion

“Finally I would list to suggest to anyone looking for a web developer to look for a company committed to both Design and Development. Some companies do a really good job of creating a great looking or flashy site but it has limited backend functionality. A lot of people are tempted to go with a service because of the “look” they can provide. The most important aspect of “design” is usability across platforms and devices.

Look for a company who is committed to good programming practices that can accommodate future changes and security concerns. We are big believers in giving in giving our clients RSS functionality so their message can go to their customer/reader base instead of making them go to their site manually ever time.”


Ask your developer for key information BEFORE you need it

“You should always get the FTP information, user name, password and hosting information in writing. Put it away somewhere safe.

I also provide clients with a CD back up of their site at least once a year or more frequently if they want one.”



Don’t let them scare you into staying

“She has a very small business and a small footprint on the web, so the only way she’s getting all this spam is because her current website is plastered with her email address. But her company never told her this before, or advised her about how to prevent spam–despite the fact that her spam is incredibly high for what she does on the web–they happily let her get deeper and deeper into spam-hell.

And now that she wants to switch, they’re trying to frighten her into staying.  Very frustrating!?

Katie Konrath


Be ready to do it yourself in a pinch

“Make sure you have someone in-house who can update, manage, and add content to the site. There’s nothing worse than having to rely on external sources for something you could easily do yourself.”

Ryan Karpeles


Don’t overlook blogging software as a website content management option

“For a couple of non-profits, I’ve built sites using hosted (free) WordPress blogging software (some of the templates are nicely set up to create pages/tabs that resemble regular websites). Tied into those sites are Google calendars (free), and storage of files at (free). I’m not a programmer, but with these kind of tools, as long as the web presence is not too extensive as far as information and use of forms, it’s do-able. And, of course, maintenance is a breeze – no need for a programmer, just train the user on how to use the free tools for administration.”

Steve Woodruff


Get references

“Ask around… a lot. I almost went with someone who was very nice and very helpful but in the end she realized her work and time might not be a good fit for me. She referred me to Mike Sansone and Sandra Renshaw. I consider that to be entrepreneurial divine intervention. With the right tool and their help, another star is born. Ask around…A LOT!!!”

Sherry Borzo


Ask smart questions

1. How long have they been in business?
2. Who are some of their other clients?
3. How do they deal with customer service issues?
4. What kind of training/information will they provide when the site launches?
5. Can you select the hosting provider, with their help?



You don’t have to be a techie to maintain your site

“It has mostly been said here but I want to add my vote for users insisting on control of their content. Simple software such as Contribute allows even the most tech-disabled of us to manage our content easily. And changing content frequently is the best way to grow visitors to our site.”

Lewis Green


Document your details

“In other words the vendor should supply a notebook of all critial passwords for everything about the network. I am a small shop (3 people) and when we build out a new network we supply all relevant info about their network.”

Loren Nason


Begin with the end in mind

“I always advise folks to make sure that whoever they select to develop their site or blog understands that it’s a marketing tool and should be an element of their marketing plan, not a standalone project. I just got a call from a company (referred to me by a client) to help them understand why their web site wasn’t coming up in the search engines. I took a look at the site and source code and it was very obvious that the site was not designed or developed with search engine marketing in mind (even though they told the client that SEO was part of the project).”

Debra Murphy

Thanks to all these experts for sharing their good counsel with us.  Remember…there are lots of good web developers out there.  Don’t settle for anything less.

Related posts:

Questions to ask BEFORE you hire a web developer

It’s not art, it’s a website

What’s the matter with you people?  You’re supposed to be marketers!

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Facebook gets the door slammed in its face

August 23, 2007

Picture_1_3 Shhh….listen for it.

It's happening all over the world.  Companies are slamming the door in the face of Facebook.

Citing productivity and security, corporations from Australia's largest telecommunications company, Telstra to many ma and pa store fronts, are banning the growing social networking tool.

According to London's Telegraph, more than 2/3 of UK companies are making Facebook off limits and visiting it during work hours is a sackable offense. (I so wish I spoke UK)  Interesting that London was just identified as having more Facebook members than any other city in the world.

According to a survey by Sophos, over 50% of workplaces are now "FaceBlocking" and the ones who have not are afraid of employee backlash.

And it's not just corporate America.  Colleges and public access points are also blocking or considering blocking the site.

What do you think?  Smart?  Paranoid?  An over-reaction?  Justified?  If you were the CEO of an organization, what would you do?

Related posts:

Social Media isn't just for kids

MySpace holds first primary

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Are you being held hostage by your web developer?

August 19, 2007

Handcuff We just guided a new (pro bono) client through an absolute nightmare.  They were being held hostage by their web developer/IT provider.  I wouldn't wish what they went through on my worst enemy so here are some warning signs and tips.

Who registers/owns the domain name?  Whoever controls your domain name, controls your site.  Be sure the domain is registered in your name.  You want to own your own domain.

Is it built so you can update your own content?  With all the software solutions out there, there's no reason in the world (unless you have more money than time) to pay a web developer to update your content, once your site is complete.  That doesn't mean you have to. Many businesses choose to retain their web developer to modify content.  The question is — could you if you wanted to?

Is the site built on proprietary software?  If you count on your site and get sideways with your web developer, what happens?  Could you move your site?  How about your databases?  Could you do it even if the web developer shut you out?

Software and technology has completely changed the way websites and blogs are built. In the olden days (late 80s and early 90's) no one but the web gurus understood coding and the like.

But the world has changed and now you can control your own destiny.

The good news — most web developers are completely above board and honest.  The problem is that the people hiring web developers that glaze over as soon as they hear HTML or WYSIWYG are the ones who are least equipped to pick out the good guys from the bad.

So let's help them out.  Come on – add to my list.  What else should neophytes know or watch out for when looking for some help with a web presence?

Related posts:

Questions to ask BEFORE you hire a web developer

It's not art, it's a website

What's the matter with you people?  You're supposed to be marketers!

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Legal marketers get new resource

August 18, 2007

Legal Legal Marketing Reader,, creates a one-stop destination with easy access to the latest information on law firm business development topics by collecting the best on-line resources and constantly updated headline feeds from the industry's leading experts.  It's launch was announced yesterday.

"The idea is to create a trusted, no-nonsense tool for time-starved professionals that effectively filters out much of the spam and clutter encountered in broad web searches or traditional surfing," said Legal Marketing Reader editor and publisher Amy Campbell.

I went to check it out and was pleasantly surprised.  Instead of articles written in that legal beagle English — there were articles like "Facebook: Blocking and Tackling" and "Market or Die."

Looks like the new world of marketing has even reached the hallowed halls of justice!  I'm no lawyer (nor did I ever play one on TV) but there were several articles that caught my interest.  So…attorney or not, check it out.

Related posts:

Questions to ask before you start to market
Why we have to brand ourselves or compete on price
Creating a marketing plan — does it matter?

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Want a 24/7 employee?

June 23, 2007

Picture_5 One of the more interesting of viral marketing tools is the idea of using avatars in place of live employees.  Let’s face it, an avatar is never going to be sick, have to take their son to the dentist or want vacation time!

According to a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University, "characters (avatars) can express social roles, emotions, and organized personalities that match learning goals, company brands, and transaction needs. Characters can increase the trust that users place in online experiences, in part because they make online experiences easier."

Avatars are also being used for in-house training and many other applications.  And your avatar doesn’t have to be human.  Remember’s monkeys?  Odds are you received one of their Monk-e-Mails.  This is one of the ones I created.  Picture_6

A new viral campaign they’re running is Age-O-Matic — what will your job do to you.  And before you dismiss these are just fun and games, the Monk-e-Mail campaign increased traffic to by 25%.

Certainly one of the most "famous" avatar driven marketing efforts is Second Life, the 3-D virtual world those boasts participants like Dell, the American Cancer Society and one crazy agency who announced their beginnings there.

Picture_8 Again, in case you think it’s all cute cartoons, according the the economic stats on Second Life’s home page, in the past 24 hours, $1,895,494 (U.S. dollars) was spent in world.

Want to check it out for yourself? You can create an avatar of your own, on SitePal’s free trial.

So, I’m curious.  Is this technology beyond your clients or your business?  Does it feel like this is only the territory of the big, retail businesses?

Is this one of those "cool, but not for me" things or have you used this sort of technology already?

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What is the matter with you people? You are supposed to be marketers!

June 12, 2007

Photo You are marketing people.

You are blogging or have a website so that people (potential customers, the media, etc.) can learn more about you, so that they want to talk to you. Right?

So why in the name of all that is holy do you NOT have your e-mail address on your website or blog??

Some of you are laughing…but I challenge you.  Physically go to the blogs in your feed reader.  Or pay attention to the 10 blogs you visit every day. 

You will be astonished at how many professional business/marketing blogs give the reader absolutely no way to get a hold of the author, except in the comments section.

As I’ve worked on the last few collaborative projects, I’ve had to reach out to many bloggers. I’ve spent countless hours trying to track some of them down.

And don’t give me the SPAM or bots excuse.  Come on…if you have to, spell out the e-mail address with the word "at" in place of the @ sign.  But for the love of Pete, give us a way to start a conversation.

Isn’t that why you’re blogging in the first place?

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