I know that Facebook‘s groups are the rage and I think it’s a dandy tool. But what if you have a group of people that aren’t heavy Facebook users?
For many years, I’ve used Yahoo Groups whenever I was part of a small group that needed to stay in touch, share files/photos, and by using the designated e-mail address, could talk to everyone at the same time.
I was recently asked how to set up a Yahoo Group and created this step by step PPT presentation. So I thought I’d share it with you too, in case you want to go old school with me!
I’ve been writing about and using QR codes quite a bit of late. I think the potential of this technology is staggering and we’ve only begun to imagine what is possible.
Take a look at what New York City’s Central Park did last Arbor Day and begin to ask yourself… how could QR codes serve my customers, my employees and my business’ growth. I suspect you’ll find some pretty fascinating answers.
In your online store — you want to show a photo of a family room, filled with your products. You want people to be able to click on each of the items (maybe a lamp or blu-ray player) to purchase them or read reviews. With ThingLink, you can.
On your static website, you want to include some customer testimonials. So you post their photos…but you want people to be able to click on them to hear exactly what they have to say. With ThingLink, you can.
You’re a musician and you want to create a website where beautiful imagery is connected to specific songs or you want to create an online flyer for a concert, offering song samples that people can post on their Facebook page. With ThingLink, you can.
What’s Thinglink? It’s brand new technology launched today by ThingLink and SoundCloud. For the first time, it is possible to link a SoundCloud waveform player to any photo or picture, thereby connecting the subject to sounds, music and effects, voice annotations and narrations.
Users can also include links to social networks, blogs, news and commerce web sites, as well as email. You can also add up to 250 characters to a hover over so you can describe elements of a photo or a product.
This is brand new stuff so there aren’t a lot of examples yet. But check out these photos from the Stockholm Furniture Fair (click here) or musician Shambhu’s site. (click here)
What’s even cooler is that the links/sounds travel with the images, as they’re passed along. So imagine the reach that testimonial or band’s flyer can have on Facebook or Twitter!
About 12 months ago, people thought I was crazy for launching the Drew McLellan app for both the iPhone and the Droid (download it for free by clicking on the link in the sidebar) but I was just jumping on a trend's tsunami of a wave — all to get my ideas and recommendations out to you.
If you prefer to access information with your smart phone, I want to be there too. It's that simple. Is your company thinking along the same lines?
The trend's wave, if anything, is getting larger. The usage numbers are staggering and I think we're at the tip of the iceberg here. Watch this short video and imagine the numbers in 2 or 5 years. (e-mail subscribers, click here to view the video)
If you haven't asked yourself and your team these questions — you'd better get to it:
How are we going to reach our customers, prospects and/or employees via mobile?
How quickly can we get started?
Are our competitors already using mobile? How far behind are we?
If we'd be first — how far ahead would we be?
Experts predict that by 2020, most of us will be using our mobile device as our primary tool for accessing the web.
The whole world is abuzz about Groupon. And who doesn't love $10 worth of Cold Stone Creamery ice cream for $5? But is Groupon right for your business?
Groupon and other social-coupon sites (like LivingSocial and SocialBuy) all work the same way — a specified number of people have to pre-purchase the coupon for the deal to be activated. In theory, that's how everyone wins. Groupon makes a prescribed amount, the buyers get a super deal and the retailer gets a guaranteed influx of cash and in theory, new customers.
But…is it right for you? Here are the big pros and cons, as I see them.
Big advertising boost. Groupon subscribers number in the tens of thousands or more in most cities. This is a very efficient way to generate a significant word of mouth buzz, especially if you get creative in your offer.
Exposure to many new customers. It stands to reason that you're going to see a lot of new people coming through the door. Impress them and hopefully they'll come back again and pay full price.
A way to test a new product or service. Want to know if the market is interested in something new? If the Groupon coupon tips — you might well have a winner!
Does the math work? Keep in mind that Groupon takes a pretty good sized cut. Half the rate charged plus 2.5% interest per transaction. (Here's a Groupon ROI calculator you can use). So depending on your cost of goods and how many people actually redeem the coupon, you could lose your shirt like Posie's Cafe.
What does it do to your customer/vendor/employee experience? Can your business handle a huge influx of buyers? How will the increased traffic impact your loyal customers? Your vendors? Your employees? Be sure you take all of that into account before you sign up.
What does it say about your brand? Do you want to be seen as a deep discounter? Does offering a 50% off price say something about your quality, margin or pricing strategy? How will your regulars feel about the fact that they've been paying full price all this time?
Lots of opinions out there but really, it's something you need to examine for your specific business. Use the ROI calculator, weigh the pros and cons… and make the call.
Running a website can be a challenge. But today, having a website that works hard for you 24/7 is a business given.
Here are three things every business owner must have on their website.
Call to Action
Visitors need direction. With ever-shortening attention spans, you have moments to engage your visitor and guide them to the next step in the sales process. Determine what you want your visitors to do (submit a contact form, sign up for your newsletter or purchase your product) and make sure you have a prominent call to action on every page of your website. This could be your phone number in the header, a newsletter sign up form or a big green “Buy Now” button. Whatever it is, it needs to be obvious.
A clear call to action isn’t just about adding a big button, it’s also about reducing clutter. Strip away any irrelevant content and links, and stick to the essentials.
Copy is what helps drive your visitors to take action. Without an effective headline or explanation of your value proposition, most visitors won’t make it past the homepage. Compelling copy should be short, simple and motivating.
Short – As I mentioned earlier, your visitors have a limited attention span. Try to communicate your message with as few sentences as possible. When paragraphs are unavoidable, use headlines, bullet points and section headers to organize text.
Simple – Use simple language and short sentences. Every message should be boiled down to its core, avoiding industry jargon and acronyms. Always write as if you are speaking to a class of 6th graders who have never heard of your product or service before.
Motivating – Your copy should drive action! Replace dry mission statements and boring product specs with emotion and humor.
Consistent User Experience
Creating a “consistent user experience” is a little less concrete, and in some cases more difficult to achieve, but it is an important concept to be aware of. User experience is the way users feel about your company while interacting with your website. Several factors influence user experience:
Design – Your design should reflect your brand. It should also resonate with your prospective customers. For example, a home improvement website targeted at middle-aged men, should “feel” like a place where men want to buy tools, tile and hardwood.
Credibility – Design also plays an important role in website credibility. It may be shallow, but a visitors first impression of your company is formed within seconds of landing on your homepage. Credibility isn’t just about having fancy seals on your checkout page, it’s about creating an environment that is transparent, professional and forthcoming.
Ease of use – Visitors should be able to navigate your website without getting frustrated, lost or confused. This includes adhering to web standards, providing clear, consistent navigation and creating an intuitive user interface.
Not sure where to start? Fortunately there is an abundance of affordable, easy to use online tools that can help you identify areas of your website that need immediate attention.
UserTesting.com (starting at $39/user) offers videos of real users completing tasks on your website.
Concept Feedback (starting at $99/expert) provides website evaluations from experts in design, usability, strategy and copy.
ClickTale (paid plans start at $99/month) allows you to watch your visitors browsing your website, as well as analyze heatmaps and conversion funnels.
Have a tool or technique of your own? Let us know in the comments!
This guest post was by Andrew Follett, the founder of ConceptFeedback.com, a website feedback tool offering fast, affordable website evaluations from design, usability and strategy professionals. Evaluations provide specific recommendations to grow revenue and increase conversion rates. You can follow Andrew on Twitter, or by reading his website optimization blog.
Note: The Concept Feedback links are affiliate links.
MailerMailer released their 10th study about 6 months ago on e-mail open rates and some of the findings are worth thinking about.
As you can see in the chart below, the average unique open rate is dropping. Image blocking, the increased use of mobile devices for e-mail and list fatigue were listed as key reasons for the drop.
One of the more ponder worthy facts was that the day with the highest open and click rates is Sunday. (with Tuesday in 2nd) I found myself wondering if that's the day business people clean out their inbox to get ready for the week.
When they looked at open rates by industry, no surprise — medical was at the bottom of the barrel at 7.3%. Sadly for me and my brethren — marketing was right there with the magic pills at 7.4%. Ag had the highest at 25.3%.
E-mails with shorter subject lines were opened 52% more than the long-winded versions.
So…how might you tweak your e-mail strategy to take advantage of these results? Here's what we're going to do with our weekly e-newsletter:
Stick with Tuesday deliveries
Shorten the subject lines
Keep sharing value and not being self promotional
Maybe mention a tractor or crop now and then! (not really!)
We’ve just started working with a client who launched his own blog about 6 months ago. We’ve re-designed his website (with the blog on the home page) and are just about to go live.
As one of the last things on the To Do list, I was taking his old blog posts from his original effort and moving them to the new site.
God love him….but yikes! As I was preparing a document for him on business blogging basics, it occurred to me I should share it here too.
These are by no means all inclusive, but they are the cornerstones that we preach at MMG. (with a nod to Mike Sansone, who taught me all of them when I started blogging back in the stone age!)
Short and Sweet: A blog post should hover around the 300 word mark. Yes, you can occasionally go much longer or shorter, but in general, people have the tolerance for a good 3 minute read. Which means you must stick to…
One and only one message: Lots of reasons for this but if you’re going to stick to the word count and put some meat on the bone, you can only dig into one topic. So stay focused. And, it makes the post easier to read and remember. It also helps you to…
Write often: Our client was posting about once a month. At that rate, you might as well not bother. Business blogs are chock full of perks (SEO, define your expertise, attract new customers, etc) but only if you write on a regular basis. 3-4 per week is really what you should shoot for, if you want to build a legitimate blog. Now if you want actual readers…
Go out and find your readers: This is not a “build it and they will come” sort of deal. You have to be willing to step away from your own blog and go talk to the readers you want. Where are they? Odds are — at other people’s blogs. Go comment, share, and get elbow deep into conversations on blogs that parallel yours in terms of topic. If you’re smart or interesting there, they’ll come visit your blog as well. Another way to draw attention…
Link out: When you’re writing about a specific topic or person — link out to them. Especially bloggers who track their links like bloodhounds. You should try to include at least one link out in every post. Not sure where to find relevant writing? Use a free tool like Zemanta to help.
Of course, there’s much more, but these are the training wheels of blogging! From your experience either as a blogger or reader — what would you add?
Whether you work for someone else, are a serial entrepreneur or anything in between — in today's world, you can't afford to ignore the idea of personal branding.
A generation ago, employees often stayed with one employer for the lion's share of their career. Today, most professionals will not work for several companies — but they will most likely change their entire profession.
And even in the unlikely case that you do find the employer of your dreams right off the bat — you still want to distinguish yourself by standing out from the crowd.
Enter personal branding.
By the way, I don't think personal branding came about thanks to the internet. It's been around for generations. Abe Lincoln certainly created a personal brand. So did Hitler. But, the internet certainly makes it easier for an average joe or jane to create a credible, spreadable personal brand.
But to do it right, I believe it takes intention.
When I speak to college classes, I warn them. What you put out into the world via Facebook, blogs, Twitter, MySpace, FourSquare and whatever comes next — stays out there. And it's incredibly findable.
Two relevant facts:
No matter what we want to know, we Google it. (So imagine what the next generation of managers, business owners and reporters will do).
Google never forgets anything.
So given those facts…how do you intentionally build your personal brand?
Decide what you're all about.
Note I did not say…create your brand. Just like with a company — a brand comes from your heart and soul. So dig deep and figure out who you are — that is relevant to the world. (We're many things, some private and some for public consumption — your brand is the world's view).
There are lots of ways to figure it out. Write your own obit, do Strength Finders, Myers Briggs or put together your own little brand task force who knows you well and loves you enough to be honest.
Determine what your personal brand looks like — off-line:
No matter who you are or what you do, odds are that you spend more time off the computer than on. So be sure that you can live the brand in your daily life, 24/7. How does it come to life (remember, this is from other's perspective).
If your brand is that you're a developer of others — how would a developer behave? Think of all the touchpoints you have with other people — meetings, networking, on the phone, in an employee review, etc. How does the developer brand come to life?
Evaluate your existing on-line presence:
Google yourself. Does your brand show up? Is it the most prevalent message? Scan through your old Facebook updates. Is your brand there? Are the other themes complimentary to your brand or do they feel off? What types of things are you retweeting? What do your recommendations say on LinkedIn?
Don't just look at the subject matter. Look at language, tone, replies to others, what you do and don't talk about, play, share with others and the online/social media tools you do and don't frequent.
Step back and be as objective as you can. If a stranger Googled you — what would they think and know about you? Does it align with your brand?
And don't forget your traditional old website. It may be the most content rich place for your brand to live. Do you own your own domain (like www.drewmclellan.com). If not — grab it quick if it's still available.
Decide where you need to be online:
Depending on your brand, your presence might be expected on a certain social media tool. Should you be writing guest blog posts for a specific site? Is tweeting resources a part of who you are/want to be perceived to be? If you're the developer of others…how does LinkedIn figure into your plans?
Don't overdo this. Most people do not have the time or patience to establish a deep presence on every social media site, so don't try. Be active where you want to invest the time and where it makes sense.
Off line, on line. Be your brand. Think about your choices. If your brand is about being the consummate, buttoned-up professional, should you be playing mafia wars or farming on a Facebook account that links you to your customers?
If your brand is about being very intellectual and deliberate — should you be firing off emotional responses to negative comments on your blog?
If your brand is about being gregarious and generous, should you be the wallflower at the networking event?
Like most things, if you did the prep work — it shouldn't be difficult to live your brand, once you've gotten in the habit of keeping it top of mind. If you find that you can't live your brand consistently or it feels fake — you probably have to go back to the drawing board and dig deeper.
Be consistent and be patient:
This isn't going to happen overnight. The more consistent you are, the quicker your brand will not only rise to the surface but stick. But it takes time to influence opinion and influence Google. Remember…we're living in the age of cynics. Don't try to be something you're not. Don't try to force it.
Your genuine brand will come from within. All we're trying to do is make sure that brand stays in the spotlight so you can do and be all that you're capable of.