December 08, 2009

8 SEO Danger Signs


Attention all business owners:
Keep a link to this site and always refer back to it before employing an SEO consultant or web developer.

An entire industry of scam artists has cropped up and is preying on small business site owners: SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, “experts.”

I’m writing this article as one of our customers has recently fallen victim to one of these SEO “experts.” When he told me of this, I realized I did not fulfill my role of educating my valued clients and friends on the many myths and dangers of Search Engine Optimisation.

For that, I apologise. My penance shall be to share with all of you 8 SEO Danger Signs…


#1 - Guaranteed results
Any company that guarantees results is trying to trick you. Typical methods of this trickery include:

Setting up an AdWords campaign, where you -- not they -- pay Google to appear in the "Sponsored Links" that appear on a page.

Or they have some sort of criteria that they will meet but will not be of value to you. For example, I can guarantee that we will be #1 for www.1300webpro.com.au -- because Google will always put a URL (address) as an exact match first. Click here to see my example, or Google your own website URL.

So if someone says they guarantee results, ask them how while slowly backing away.

I may sound a bit forward on this point, but I feel safe doing so since Google themselves tell "No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google."


#2 - We only do SEO
If the company only does SEO, and doesn't actually create websites, they are probably shady operators. Not definitely, but probabaly.

The reverse does not, however, apply. There are plenty of web development companies who employ shady, or "black hat", SEO techniques which will result in Google delisting sites.

In fact, I know of at least two Toowoomba web development companies that use "black hat" techniques. It is happening in your backyard!


#3 - Not answering the question "How do you do it?"
There are no "trade secrets" or "proprietary methods" in SEO. If a company chooses not to tell you how they intend to improve your site, then they are probably using methods that will result in your site getting delisted by Google in the long run.


#4 - Using any "tricks" to make Google see something different
Sadly, this is an example of what one of our customers was told to do, by an SEO "expert":


"He suggested that in the blank area on the sides of our site that we have our keywords listed in white so they wont be seen by visitors but Google will still pick up on them."

Google's job is to find sites that are relevant for a human being, so they take a very dim view of techniques like this which are aimed at providing different content to the search engine than a human would see.

And by "take a dim view" I mean they will go as far as removing sites all together from their indexes.


#5 - Not requiring access to edit the website's content
An SEO "expert" who does not intend on modifying your website's content is like a mechanic who says they don't need to physically have your car to fix it.


All legitimate SEO techniques require access to your site. The main one is "look at each page on your site and make sure you actually use the words that describe who you are, what you sell, and where you are." Also known as keywords. And don't overdo it so that it sounds like gibberish to humans!

To make sure that no underhanded content, methods, or links are employed, ask the SEO "expert" to give you the content to update and do it yourself. If you don't understand why you are doing something, walk away or seek a second opinion.


#6 - You'll get results in 24 hours
Going back to my mechanic example, I would not be satisfied if my mechanics, The Motor Shoppe (who are fantastic by the way), told me "Your car will run really well tomorrow."

It is easy, using underhanded "black hat" techniques (the ones Google hates and will penalise you for), to get a site bumped up for a short time.

What a site owner should really be interested in is long term results.


#7 - How is AdWords involved?
Often times, SEO "experts" are setting up Google AdWords campaigns on behalf of site owners. AdWords are the "Sponsored Links" that appear above and to the right of Google search results.

If an SEO "expert" is using AdWords as part of an SEO campaign, he or she should make it very clear that they are recommending AdWords, give you a choice as to whether or not to use it, discuss maximum budgets per click and per month, and implement tracking to see if it is worthwhile.

AdWords is the source of 95% of Google's $24 billion revenue, so there are certainly people that see value in it. However, it is something that your SEO "expert" should be educating about and guiding you with, rather than hiding from you.

On a similar note, if you have an AdWords campaign as part of an SEO campaign, be sure you are paying Google directly rather then the SEO "expert" who will simply be adding markup for doing nothing. Pay for the time they are helping and advising you.


#8 - What "linking" is involved?
If you are expected to link to random people, then walk -- nay -- run away.

Linking between websites is an important factor in Google's PageRank technology. Because of this, we should all link, but do it only to companies we know and trust. Remember, you are potentially losing traffic to a site when you link to it, and are effectively giving a word of mouth referral.

Link, but link carefully. 



Summing Up
Hopefully this list of SEO danger signs will prevent a few of our valued customers and friends from getting involved with shady SEO "experts" or web developers.


If anyone has any other experiences or danger signs to share, please share in the comments section. Please also share this article as you hear your clients, suppliers, and associates pondering the use of an SEO "expert."


Further Reading

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

December 05, 2009

Quick introduction to Salesforce.com


A customer wanted to know a bit about Salesforce.com CRM, which we use at 1300 Web Pro. I wrote the following reply to him, and thought I would post it on our blog in case it is of use to anyone else...

Salesforce.com is an American, publically listed company and is part of the S&P 500. In other words, it isn’t going anywhere. Their flagstone product is the Software as a Service (meaning hosted by them and charged by the month) CRM product.

A few qualifying points before deciding to use Salesforce.com CRM:
  • If you already have a CRM system in place, consider carefully switching. A lot of historical data cannot be transferred (or can be difficult and time-consuming to do). 
  • If you have more than 5 users, the price goes up substantially. I am looking at switching to an Open Source web-based system (either vTiger or SugarCRM) as we are going to hit that 5 user point soon. The main downside of these other systems being you have to host and support them yourself. I'm not saying it is not worth the money after 5 users... just putting all the cards on the table.
  • Being web-based, you need a fairly reliable and quick Internet connection. We have ADSL2+ at the office which is sufficient.
Access to Salesforce CRM is entirely web based, with the exception of an Outlook Sync plugin and a Microsoft Word mail merge template plugin.

Using it is fairly self explanatory. The main types of records are:
  • Leads — People you are hoping to win business from. Our website consultants enter people they meet at networking events, people who ring in, etc. as leads. Any forms submitted through our website also go directly into Salesforce as a lead. 
  • Accounts — A business that you have a relationship (ie. Supplier or customer). When you sell something to a “lead” you convert the business to an account. 
  • Contacts — People associated with an account. Each contact must have one (and only one) account. For example, you might have 1300 Web Pro as an account with two associated contacts, Nury and Monita.
The Outlook sync plugin allows you to push the contacts to Outlook (and in our case this in turns pushes them to our iPhones). I find this useful, especially since it pushes the entire company’s contacts, not just yours (optionally). This way, if Monita adds “Brad Ison” from Instyle Homes and Loans it will appear in my iPhone next time I sync Outlook!

There is a fairly powerful reporting engine. There are a number of built in reports, or you can build your own. I generally build my own. The process of building a report is straightforward. You select the type of record you want to report on (eg. Leads), the columns you want in the report, and limiting criteria (eg. Created in Dec. 2009) and away you go. You can view the report online or export to Excel.

There is also a very good mail merging system for both Microsoft Word and e-mail. To use the Word system, you install the Salesforce.com Word plugin which will provide you with access to mail merge fields (note: these are not the same as the Microsoft Word merge fields). You then save the Word document and upload it to Salesforce. From there you can run the merge from any record. E-mail merging words similarly, except you just build the template within Salesforce. Because e-mails are sent directly from Salesforce, they don’t appear in your Outlook sent items.

There is a calendar and to do list for each user, cross-referenced with leads, accounts, and contacts. We don’t use this as extensively as we could. I believe this integrates to Outlook using the sync plugin.

My suggestion would be to create an account using the 30 day free trial link that Salesforce always seem to have.

I have a copy of Salesforce.com for Dummies, 3rd Edition. It gives a good overview of things.

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

November 25, 2009

Cooperative marketing will increase sales, instantly!

Cooperative marketing is a surefire way to drum up additional business. Simply put, cooperative marketing is when businesses with a common theme cooperate to market each other’s goods and services.

For example, an electrical contractor may join forces with a plumbing contractor and produce fridge magnets bearing both business names and contact details, and leave one of these co-branded magnets at each job either business goes to.

Another example is when you visit a hotel to find menus and advertisements of local restaurants in the compendium.

The Trust Factor

One of the key reasons that cooperative marketing works is due to the “trust factor.” Each business is putting its reputation in the hands of the other businesses within the marketing cooperative, at least to some extent.

If you had the electricians from the above example come and fix a fault, and they were on time, courteous, and cleaned up, you would naturally assume the plumbers on the shared magnet would demonstrate the same behaviors.

Another example of the trust factor playing a role is in direct mail campaigns. A cold postal mail out, perhaps without even the recipient’s name, will have a much lower success rate then a mail out to a cooperator’s database bearing their logo and a personal introduction.

Everybody Play Nice

Naturally, the flip side of the trust equation is that if a cooperator does the wrong thing, it can reflect poorly on all the members of the marketing cooperative. Be sure to pick your friends wisely, and more importantly, clearly define the relationship and agree on ground rules.

These ground rules may include determinations on:

  1. Cases where members offer a common product or service
  2. What to do when a dispute or complaint arises
  3. How hard a sell should be
  4. How costs associated with any printing, postage, promotional items, etc. will be split
  5. Who is responsible for content, artwork, etc. and what the approval process is before distributing

A Match Made in Heaven

For obvious reasons, businesses whose products and services overlap may not make the best bedfellows. Where products and services do overlap, ideally the businesses should be targeting different markets, for example geographically, price-wise, or business sized in a B2B situation.

The best outcomes however, occur when business owners start to think laterally about whom they could partner up with.

Here are a number of potential common denominators that could yield a good marketing cooperative, with examples:

  1. Physical location – the La Porcetta in Cairns is next door to the cinema, so they offer a “Dinner and a Movie” package deal.
  2. Income bracket – a luxury car dealership could partner with a high-end jeweller.
  3. Point of difference – an after hours medical centre and late night pharmacy can direct patients to one another.
  4. Complimentary services – at 1300 Web Pro, we work with Shayne and the guys from Evolution Studios to get high quality video on customers’ websites.
  5. Age bracket – a day care might share their database with a children’s clothing store.
  6. Unique type of customer – a vet surgery might partner with a pet food store, or a gym might partner with a health food store.

Another way to think laterally about potential matching cooperators is to think about your typical customer and their buying habits.

In the end, you need to find a business that doesn’t necessarily sell the same thing as you, but does sell to the same group of people!

Ok, Now What?

After finding a good partner, or group of partners, to launch a cooperative marketing campaign, you simply need to come up with the campaign itself. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking in the right direction:

  1. Shared mail piece to the collective database (flyer, magnet, whatever)
  2. Common loyalty program (how many ways can you collect Qantas points or Woolworth’s discount vouchers these days?)
  3. Invoice footers or bag stuffers (include a plug for your partner business on the bottom of your invoice, or as a flyer in the customer’s shopping bag, and vice versa)
  4. Running a joint fundraiser for a community group
  5. Offering discounts to one another’s customers
  6. Offering first dibs on hard to get items (luxury brands frequently arrange early access to theatre tickets and sporting events)

Wrap Up

Only a few weeks left before Christmas, which happen to be some of the highest grossing weeks for retail businesses annually. Have a quick brainstorming session in the office and think of two or three businesses that could participate in a cooperative marketing campaign to ensure you are maximising those holiday sales.


Has cooperative marketing worked for your business in the past? Please comment and share your experiences.

We had great feedback last week; thanks to John Gray from John Gray Marketing, Chris Thomas from Dream Machine, and Dave Granfield from Star Gardentown Café for your input. Click here to see what they had to say.


James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

Image credit: lumaxart at flickr

November 16, 2009

What's your opinion on Virgin Blue's mass e-mail stuff up?

As more and more businesses use mass e-mail as a marketing tool, we are seeing more and more stuff ups which put a serious dent in the sender’s credibility.

For example, about one year ago, a local law firm sent me a bulk e-mail with every one of their contacts visible in the “cc” field. To make matters worse, the recipients were identified by their relationship to the law firm, as in “Client – James Deck.”

Virgin Blue committed a major snafu last Friday. They sent an e-mail to a large number of their customers saying that because they were so close to reaching the airlines “Gold” status, they have been given a complimentary upgrade to “Gold.”

Hours later, Virgin Blue sent a second e-mail retracting the original e-mail, blaming Friday the 13th. While the e-mail offered the apologies of Virgin Blue, there was no further compensation.

All weekend, writers for new sites, blog sites, and Twitter have been afire with posts ranging from humorous to downright angry.

Yesterday at technology news site Gizmodo, Nick Broughall admits he is “unsure whether or not [to] be bemused or outraged at the mixup,” and asks readers “to suggest an emotion” for him to take towards the incident.


This week I would like to know:

What's your opinion on how Virgin Blue should have handled their huge mass e-mail stuff up?

Do you think they should have honored the offer? Do you think that customers should forgive them, because “everyone makes mistakes?”

Please visit the comments section on this blog post to share your opinion, and read what others have to say.


How do we prevent embarrassing mass email sins in our business?

Every week I receive e-mail newsletters that clearly originated in Microsoft Outlook. Indeed, the law firm mentioned at the beginning of this article used Outlook.

Using Outlook has several major drawbacks. The two biggest are:

1) The likelihood that you or your staff will eventually inadvertently cc: your mailing list instead of bcc:
2) In Australia there is anti-spam law that legally requires things like “double opt-in” and easy methods of unsubscribing. Outlook may not satisfy the anti-spam regulations.


The solution is very simple, and in many cases, free for small businesses!

There are a number of mass email providers that allow you to lodge your emails via a website, providing features like list management (covering all the anti-spam requirements), detailed statistics, sign up forms for your website, and send scheduling.

At 1300 Web Pro, we use Mailchimp. Mailchimp is free for databases of up to 500 subscribers. It is a very powerful platform and very easy to use. We have recommended it to other businesses, such as Star Gardentown Café, who also have great things to say about it now.


Wrap Up

I look forward to reading the responses to my question – what would you do if you were the Virgin Blue CEO? Remember to visit the comment section and share your opinion.

If you send mass e-mail to your customers, please consider using a tool like Mailchimp.

If you don’t send mass e-mail to your customers, it might be a good thing to start thinking about…

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: http://www.1300webpro.com.au/
Twitter: @1300WebPro

Image credit: Nick Broughall's article at Gizmodo

November 10, 2009

Here’s a quick way to protect your organisation’s name online


Cybersquatting” is a term that is used in the Internet world to describe one party registering another party’s name without permission, specifically to prevent the rightful owner from registering it.

There are several different types of cybersquatting. One of the most popular is domain squatting. This deals specifically with domain names (web addresses) ending in .com, .com.au, etc.

In the last few years, as sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, (collectively referred to as “Social Networking” sites) have gained notoriety, cybersquatting has spread to these mediums.

Companies such as Telstra, Jetstar, Dominos, and iiNet are actively engaging with their customers through Twitter. While we won’t be able to determine the true long term traction or adoption for at least another 12 months, it is very important to register a business or organisation’s name now to avoid being cybersquatted.

Below are the places every business owner, school principal, and non-profit coordinator needs to visit to register their names, along with the cost of doing so. Note, it is not necessarily to start using the names immediately, so don’t let the technology scare you. For those who are interested in actually using these tools, stay tuned to future posts on the issue.



.com Domain Names
Cost: $20 per year
To check availability: Visit our parent company, NGE
To register: Ring us on 1300 932 776 or e-mail me



.com.au Domain Names
Cost: $60 per 2 years
To check availability: Visit our parent company, NGE
To register: Ring us on 1300 932 776 or e-mail me



Twitter
Cost: FREE
To check availability and register: http://twitter.com/signup



Facebook “Fan” Page
Cost: FREE
To check availability and register: http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php



Google Local Business Centre
Cost: FREE
To claim your listing: http://www.google.com/local/add


YouTube
Cost: FREE
To check availability and register: http://www.youtube.com/create_account


With .com and .com.au domain names, at 1300 Web Pro we always recommend purchasing both where possible. If you only own one or the other, please be sure to check and see if the other is available and register it before your competition does.

If any of my Internet savvy readers have other registrations they see critical to protect oneself from cybersquatting, please post a comment with your suggestion.


But it all sounds so hard!
The above links are mostly free, and the signup processes are very straight forward, but if you still don’t have the time, inclination, or are a wee bit scared of the Internet, give us a ring at 1300 Web Pro on 1300 932 776 and ask us about giving you a hand.


James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

November 03, 2009

The Secret to Successful Brochures

During the last two weeks, we have been helping a new business get off the ground. Being entrepreneurs at heart, at 1300 Web Pro we love working with startups!

In addition to a website, 1300 Web Pro has created a logo, business card design, and brochures for this particular client. When it came to brochure design, I provided a few basic tips. None of these things are rocket science. It’s one of those situations where we all know what to do, but when it comes time to execute we ignore all the rules!

Use the following seven points as a checklist when creating your next brochure.

Be Brief

Particularly for initial sales material, where the customer is still a “cold” lead, keep the word count to an absolute minimum.

Dot Points

Putting items in a bullet list allows the reader to quickly scan through the concepts. It also forces the author to “get to the point” (no pun intended).

Headline Is Key

The headline should be big, bold, in a catchy color, and should be more prominent then the advertiser’s logo.

Making the logo the sidebar is sometimes a difficult pill for a business owner who is proud of his or her brand to swallow, but consider which is more powerful:

Option 1)

Some Crazy Bank

Make 30% Interest

Option 2)

Make 30% Interest

Some Crazy Bank

Focus on the Difference

Open up the Yellow Pages to your organisation’s category. How many dot points are repeated through several of your competition? Make sure that every point made is genuinely unique to the business, and something the readers care about.

Don’t be Afraid to Format

Liberal use of color, font size, bold and italics, and lots of white space are perfect for drawing attention to key points.

In the brochure for our startup customer, we changed the color of three words to improve the point’s impact:

“We turn bad debt into cash.”

Use a Designer

Using a professional graphic designer will always provide a more professional appearance that will translate into better campaign results.

If you work out what you want to say, and how you want to lay it out, in advance, then using a professional designer is generally not very expensive. Designers charge by the hour, so if you don’t waste their time, you save yourself money.

Don’t Depend on a Designer for Marketing Advice

Remember that designers are trained in making things look “nice.” Whilst some designers may have marketing experience as well, don’t assume that all professional designers are capable of advising on how to lay out an advertisment.


Wrap Up

At 1300 Web Pro, we regularly use our design and marketing skills to assist customers in producing a raft of promotional material. Next time you design a brochure, utilise these seven points to create a great layout, then give us a ring on 1300 932 776 or e-mail us for help with getting it ready to print.


Do you have any “golden rules” for creating effective brochures? Please post your suggestions for other readers to enjoy.


James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

October 27, 2009

The Word of Mouth Marketing Manifesto

Close friends of mine will know that I have a bit of a business book fetish. I even list a few of my favorites at www.discountbusinessbooks.com.au.

Last week I sent a 1300 Web Pro customer home with a copy of Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking by Andy Sernovitz.

Half way through the book, Sernovitz shares his "Word of Mouth Manifesto," which every business owner should read and reflect upon:
  1. Happy customers are your best advertising. Make people happy.
  2. Marketing is easy: Earn the respect and recommendation of your customers. They will do your marketing for you, for free.
  3. Ethics and good service come first.
  4. UR the UE: You are the user experience (not what your ads say you are).
  5. Negative word of mouth is an opportunity. Listen and learn.
  6. People are already talking. Your only option is to join the conversation.
  7. Be interesting or be invisible.
  8. If it’s not worth talking about, it’s not worth doing.
  9. Make the story of your company a good one.
  10. It is more fun to work at a company that people want to talk about.
  11. Use the power of word of mouth to make business treat people better.
  12. Honest marketing makes more money.
Referrals by word of mouth can be the least expensive and most productive tool in a business' marketing toolbox. Follow Sernovitz's advice, and not only will these referrals increase in number, but your business will be a fun place to work and do business with.


For more information on Sernovitz's book, visit www.wordofmouthbook.com. To order your copy at a 20% discount in Australia, visit Discount Business Books.

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

October 21, 2009

Tom’s 5 Keys to Business Success

The inspiration for today’s article comes from Tom Esplin, owner of Signs on Time and Tint-A-Car in Toowoomba. During a presentation this morning, Tom shared his personal “5 keys to business success.” He has graciously allowed me to share them with my readers…

  1. Refer to people who have been where you want to go
  2. Know your strengths and weaknesses
  3. Back yourself
  4. Make small improvements often
  5. There is no substitute for discipline and hard work


1) Refer to people who have been where you want to go

Take time to reflect on people in your life whose example is worth following and learning from.

In a basic example, an apprentice will refer to their supervisor for the correct way to erect a wall or bake a cake.

However, that apprentice might also learn to manage money by observing an uncle who was able to retire young, and how to stay organised by observing the businesses’ receptionist.

As you choose these mentors, in addition to observing them and reflecting on what makes them great, consider talking to them and use them as a sounding board.


2) Know your strengths and weaknesses

Be sure to identify, and address, both the strengths and weaknesses in yourself, your business, and everyone in your organisation.

At 1300 Web Pro, we have a variety of individuals involved the production of a website. We have designers who are known for their keen eye, customer service folks who are known for their personality, and back office staff who are known for their thoroughness and technical skills. The business is structured to take advantage of the strengths of each individual, and to marginalise the weaknesses.


3) Back yourself

Having absolute confidence in oneself is a key in business. A strong business requires strong leadership, so pick a direction and follow it. If a mistake is made, fix it and move on.

That said, be sure to analyse outcomes objectively and don’t be afraid to change direction when necessary.


4) Make small improvements often

One of the biggest sources of innovation in a business is the “small stuff,” and you absolutely should sweat it.

Recently we had feedback from our website consultants that we had no process for issuing a tax invoice on the spot when presenting a quote, if the customer wants to pay their deposit and get their website under way.

We created manual receipt books, and it instantly improved our cash flow and offered a more fluid experience for our customers.

How often have you gone into a business and said, “Jeeze, that’s a bit silly! Why do they do it that way?”

Ask customers, employees, and yourself, if there are any little annoyances or improvements that can be made in your business, and put one or two in place each week.


5) There is no substitute for discipline and hard work

Someone once told me, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” There is simply no substitute for discipline and hard work.

Having said that, be sure to have some fun too!


Please feel free to forward Tom’s 5 keys to success to your family, friends, and business colleagues.

We’ve recently had great feedback and discussions take place in the comment section of the blog. This week, how about sharing your keys to success?


James Deck

1300 Web Pro

Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

October 13, 2009

Discover why more than 2/3 of customers leave a business

According to Betsy Sanders, author of the customer service book “Fabled Service,” 68% of customers who leave a business leave due to Perceived Indifference.

In other words, the products, price, quality, service, and the customer’s own personal circumstances have not changed… The customer simply feels that the business doesn’t appreciate their patronage anymore.

In most businesses, the customer’s perception could not be further from the truth; with all of the uncertainty of running a business, the existing, loyal customer base is a business owner’s saving grace.

An easy way to reduce the number of customers that distance themselves from your business, therefore, is just to let them know you haven’t forgotten about them.

Five simple ideas to get you started:

  1. Institute a loyalty program (eg. a “frequent sipper card” for a coffee shop)
  2. Create an e-mail newsletter
  3. Send “reminder” cards when the purchase cycle is predictable (eg. for a mechanic)
  4. Institute problem to reactivate lapsed customers (could be as simple as e-mailing people you haven’t seen for a month and sending them a special offer)
  5. Resist “New Customers Only” offers!

Remember, attracting new customers is the hardest business to get, and will cost the most to get.

If you have any other ways to show your existing customers you appreciate them, please comment on this blog post so others can benefit.

As always, your feedback, questions, and topic requests are appreciated!

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

October 06, 2009

Have A Brand You Can Be Proud Of

Driving to work you will see sign-after-sign with a business name written in COPPERPLATE font. If you actually read a few of them, chances are you will see a business you drive past every day but didn’t know existed.

This article is for the owners of all those non-descript businesses. My message is simple. Get yourself a nice looking logo, and create a brand you can be proud of.


What is a brand?

The concept of a brand itself is somewhat abstract. There are many great books out there on this subject. A favorite of mine is Brand Simple.

To me, the brand of a small business consists, at a minimum, of:

  • A name
  • A logo
  • A consistent look between your website, business cards, signage, etc.
  • A consistent experience for customers and prospects


What’s in a name

Since most of my readers are already business owners, I won’t go into much detail here. However, if you are looking at starting a business, consider the following points:

  • Include what you do. For a new business, including or at least alluding to what you do will help. Do you think in 1972 people asked, “What is a Nike?” (Actually, it is Greek goddess of victory).
  • Check availability of domain names, 1300 / 1800 numbers, business names, and trademarks.
  • Google the proposed name, and similar names, to see what else it is used for.
  • Make sure it is unambiguous – can it be spelt multiple ways? When you write the domain name out and the words are added together does it form other strange words?


A good brand needs a good logo

A few reasons a good logo is essential to a creating a memorable brand:

  • Serves as a memory aid – a picture is worth 1000 words, remember? Chances are, you instantly associate the Golden Arches with McDonalds.
  • The logo can tell a story. In Woolworth’s new logo, we have a picture of an apple to confirm they are the “The Fresh Food People.”
  • Businesses with a cheap and nasty logo will be assumed to provide a cheap and nasty product or service. If Godfrey’s gave out pens that broke in a day, what would you think of their vacuums?

For the sake of a few hundred dollars, be sure to get a clean, professionally designed logo if you don’t already have one. It is essential part of the branding exercise.

Does it work? At 1300 Web Pro we regularly find people thinking we are a large national company. Why? Because they’ve heard of us and seen our logo. Our branding has been so successful, we now need to focus on another element of our branding – that we are a local Toowoomba based company.


Consistency in look

Most of the points made about logos apply to all types of marketing collateral as well, from business cards to websites. When a businessperson approaches me with a nicely designed business card, with a matte finish on heavy cardboard, I immediately think, “Okay, these guys are professional.” Likewise, when I get handed a homemade ink-jet printed slip of paper trying to be a business card, I think, “Hmm… Will their product be this flimsy? Will they not invest in 500 business cards because they are concerned they might not exist long enough to distribute them?”

The main thing with consistency is that customers and prospects see businesses as a join the dots picture. The logo, the website, the products and services themselves, the customer service, and the staff are all connected (and the list goes on!). If any of these dots are out of alignment, the customer or prospect’s perspective on the entire business changes.


A consistent experience

If you ring 1300 Web Pro at 7PM, we’ll probably answer the phone. It’s always diverted to a mobile. If you visit our office, you’ll probably leave with pens, rulers, and stubby coolers, and we’ll probably have offered to send you a restaurant gift certificate on your birthday too! Hopefully you’ll feel a part of the 1300 Web Pro family.

In our business, in every decision we make, no matter how large or small, we try to remember to ask, “Is this the 1300 Web Pro way?”

Get in the habit of constantly asking, when walking around the office, factory, and sales floor, “Is this decision/product/policy/etc consistent with the business’ brand?” If not, maybe you need to experience the 1300 Web Pro difference and get your branding in line today.


Wrap Up

Last week, Mark Jocumsen of Better Business Outcomes added a great comment on Marketing without Money. He suggests using a risk reversal guarantee. If you have any comments on today's article, please be sure to post them!


James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

September 29, 2009

8 Ways to Market Without Money

Today I will touch on eight ways that a business of any size can market itself, without a huge financial outlay. We use many of these methods at 1300 Web Pro, and also assist customers in implementing some of them.

  1. Sponsor community groups and events
  2. Hold an open house
  3. Promotional items
  4. Improve your signage
  5. Share your database
  6. Networking groups
  7. Direct mail
  8. Add value to help the customer win


SPONSOR COMMUNITY GROUPS AND EVENTS

Not-for-profit organisations are the lifeblood of our communities. They provide schools for our children, organised sport, and look after the sick. These organisations all benefit from local businesses that are prepared to reach out and assist them.

On the flip side, community sponsorship is an excellent way to market one’s business. “Actions speak louder than words,” as they say.

Have a think about your social life – the sports you play, the groups your children are in, and think about how you might be able to sponsor the group.

In many cases, cash sponsorship is not the only option. Sponsorship in the form of contra (the goods or services one produces) can be used by a community group, if not directly perhaps as a raffle prize or something similar. Of course one can also donate time.

When presenting an offer of sponsorship, always be sure to ask for specific recognition in return, for example a listing on the groups website or permission to put up a banner at their next meeting or event (see signage, below).


HOLD AN OPEN HOUSE

Having an open house for clients, friends, and prospects is always excellent value for a business. People always appreciate being invited to an event with free beer!

The style and extravagance of an event aren’t really that important. If you are a home business, consider hosting a golf day or using a function room. In July, for example, 1300 Web Pro had a pancake breakfast in the parking lot at our offices to celebrate one year of serving Toowoomba, which was something a little different and a lot of fun. We combined it with community sponsorship by inviting Endeavour to join us in putting on the event.

Remember to invite your best customers and introduce them to prospects you are trying to get over the line. There is nothing live a “live” testimonial.


PROMOTIONAL ITEMS

Anyone who has visited our office will no doubt have walked away with a 1300 Web Pro bag full of goodies. We have giant pens, rulers, stubby coolers, and even little plastic containers with Redskins and Fantails that we made up and stuck our logo on.

These items are not terribly expensive, and one batch tends to last a fairly long time.

A customer of ours, Berlex Promotional in Toowoomba, has a great website filled with promotional item ideas.


IMPROVE YOUR SIGNAGE

This one is easy – take a look at a building’s exterior, any areas inside a building that customers visit, and company vehicles, and there will be a way to improve signage.

Remember, the design and content of a sign is as important (if not more) as the size.

In addition to increasing brand recognition around down, having a lot of great signage increases the professional appearance of the business. Consumers that see a business that is proud of its brand will have more trust in the business.


SHARE YOUR DATABASE

Whilst your customer’s privacy must always be a number one concern, consider how other businesses might benefit from marketing to your customers.

The best way to ensure a successful outcome when sharing your database is to:

  1. Ensure the customer is getting some sort of exclusive offer that they would not normally be entitled to. This way the customer is getting something of value rather than just being spammed with marketing material.
  2. Send out marketing pieces on behalf of the partner company, rather than simply supplying the partner company with a list. By sending out the marketing piece, the piece can be vetted. A customer will be more likely to listen to a company that they are already purchasing from, so it benefits the partner company also.

I have been speaking mostly about “sharing your database” with others. The marketing benefit to you is either because your customer gets something of value and appreciates it, or because you have access to the partner’s database in exchange (or both).


NETWORKING GROUPS

There are many networking groups out there. For example, three of the ones we attend are Women on the Move, BNI Toowoomba and the USQ Corporate Club.

Networking groups all vary in size, cost, commitment, and format. The best thing to do is try as many different groups as possible and find what works for you.

For example, some might find BNI to be too high a commitment and too formal, while others might find the task of introducing themselves to strangers at a Toowoomba Chamber of Commerce function daunting.


DIRECT MAIL

As our e-mail inboxes become more cluttered, direct (postal) mail campaigns are still very worthwhile. At 1300 Web Pro, we use direct mail to contact prospects and to keep in touch with existing clients.

Needless to say, the most important thing in a direct mail campaign is the mail piece itself. Be sure to spend plenty of time on the letter, postcard, or whatever it may be. Keep it brief, and be sure to run spell check!

Personally I avoid window envelopes and always put a “real” stamp (as opposed to franking or using a postage paid envelope) to make the piece more personal, and always use mail merge to produce personalised letters.

Direct mail can perform very well for a business marketing to its existing client base. We recently helped a solicitor with a direct mail campaign to clients that had wills more than five years old. The mail piece basically said, “remember to see us if your circumstances have changed.” They had an excellent result.

We use Send Out Cards a great deal, which is a web based direct mail program that allows you to send customised postcards and greeting cards, even one at a time.


ADD VALUE TO HELP THE CUSTOMER WIN

Simply put, by seeing how your product or service is commonly used you will know some hints, tips, and best practices. Share these with your customers! Help your customers get the most from their purchase.

Coca Cola have been doing this for years. Coke commonly provides a big red refrigerator to shops and takeaways so those businesses can keep the product chilled and well positioned.

On a smaller scale, at 1300 Web Pro, we often assist customers with ideas for website content, and ways to promote their websites. Both of these things increase traffic to our customers’ sites, therefore increasing our customers’ sales, and therefore making 1300 Web Pro look pretty good in our customers’ eyes.


WRAP UP

Hopefully you came across a few ideas in here to implement in your business. I purposely excluded Internet based ideas, for a bit of variety. Of course, websites and e-mail marketing are two other items that could well have appeared on this list.

Please continue to contribute topics and provide feedback on these blog articles. You can now publically comment on The 1300 Web Pro blog website.

Have a great week!

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

September 25, 2009

1300 Web Pro article in "The Chronicle"

The Chronicle included an article on 1300 Web Pro in today's edition.

Click the below thumbnail to view in full size:



James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

September 22, 2009

Secrets to a successful e-mail broadcast

Business people with successful websites are usually doing one thing very well: content.

Ensure that the content on your website is not purely sales material, and adds value for the person taking the time to read.

Everyone who owns a business is an expert at something (hopefully). For 1300 Web Pro it is websites, for Aden Lawyers it is law, for The Motor Shoppe it is vehicles, for Between Two Rocks it is wine, and so on and so forth.

If a customer visits our 1300 Web Pro blog on a regular basis, they will both learn from the free expertise we put out every week, and will hopefully feel more comfortable in using and recommending our business since we seem to know a lot about websites. This opportunity exists for any business when writing about whatever it is they are an expert in.

So, we have established that content is important.

Each week when I hit "Publish Post" on my blog, I immediately go out and tell people that there is something new to read. I do this by posting on Facebook, on Twitter, and via an e-mail broadcast. All three of these methods is intended to reach a different target audience. The method I use to target business people is the e-mail broadcast.

A successful e-mail broadcast is a very effective marketing tool. Open your inbox, and you are likely to see examples of this. Whether it be "Daily Dealers" for the shoppers, "Cinebuzz" for the moviegoers, or "Harvard Business Publishing" for me, we all have e-mail broadcasts we receive regularly and pay attention to.

Here are a few tips to keep readership up:
  1. Use a "double opt-in" subscription system. Basically this is a "are you really, really, really sure?" process. Most e-mail broadcast systems will have this. There is no point in sending your message to someone who doesn't want to hear it.
  2. Use a e-mail broadcast system. Don't just send e-mails from Outlook. Subscribe to a service like gCast, MailChimp, CampaignMonitor, Constant Contact, or Attain Response. There are many reasons for this, but perhaps the most important two are to facilitate "opt-outs" (people wanting to leave your list) and so that you don't accidentally CC: your entire customer list to each other. We have had a law firm and (last night) a financial services business do this, which compromises privacy and is unprofessional. These applications also provide statistics, which is useful.
  3. E-mail at a consistent day and time. Whether you send your e-mails daily, weekly, or monthly, keep it consistent.
  4. Ask your subscribers what they want. Incidentally, e-mail me if you have a topic you would like to hear from me about in a future blog post!
  5. Minimise the hard sell. Send information people will enjoy and find useful.
  6. Use images sparingly. Most e-mail programs block images these days, at least until the reader clicks a button to allow them. Make sure that the content is visible even when the images are blocked.
  7. Make it easy for someone who receives the e-mail as a forward to subscribe. It's word of mouth marketing.
  8. Include the information in the e-mail. Don't send a link to your blog, send the actual text.
If you want any more information on e-mail marketing, please give us a ring on 1300 932 776 or send us an e-mail through our website.

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

September 15, 2009

Beware of "Domain Slamming"

Approximately once a month, we have a customer who falls prey to domain renewal scams. The most common one comes from a company called Domain Registry of America.


Be warned that most legitimate domain registrars do not go to the expense of posting out invoices in the mail. However there are lots of scam companies that send you a “renewal invoice” which is actually a transfer authorisation in disguise (or more simply put, a scam).

Once you pay, they take over your domain and potentially cause problems for you such as:
  • Charging above market rates for renewing your domain
  • Changing the "DNS entries" (information on how to find your web and e-mail servers) causing website and e-mail outages
There are a number of companies doing this, but the most popular one is Domain Registry of America. This company's entry in Wikipedia outlines their deceptiveness.

The term used to describe this scam is "domain slamming":

"Domain slamming is a form of scam in which an internet service provider (ISP) or domain name registrar attempts to trick customers of different companies into switching from their existing ISP/registrar to the scamming ISP/registrar, under the pretense that the customer is simply renewing their subscription to their old ISP/registrar."

More about "Domain Slamming" at Wikipedia.

Whilst domains can be "rescued" from these registrars, it often take a great deal of time, and sometimes a great deal of money.

It is important to know who your domain registrar is, and only pay attention to e-mails from them. In the case of 1300 Web Pro customers, if we registered or manage your domain name, we are your registrant and any notices will come by e-mail from NGE or 1300 Web Pro.

If a site owner ever has any doubt as to whether a renewal notice is from their legitimate registrar, the safest thing to do is to contact your web hosting company as they will generally be able to assist. For 1300 Web Pro customers, even if we did not register the domain we can help you determine who the correct person to see for domain renewals is.

Here is a sample scam "invoice":


James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

September 10, 2009

Simple eBusiness to increase website enquiries

Every website we create at 1300 Web Pro resides within a Content Management System – a system that allows the site owner to quickly and easily edit the site’s content through a web interface.

One of the types of content a site owner can create in the Content Management System is a Contact Form. Basically, the site owner defines a number of fields and the visitor is then invited to answer them. The result is sent via e-mail to the site owner.

In every site, this function is used to create a “Contact Us” form. The standard type, with fields such as Name, E-mail Address, and Message.

On some sites however, when creating the initial content, we create an additional form, for instance to:

In these cases, the form doesn’t actually insert the customer into the reservation system or contact database. Again, the site owner is simply sent an e-mail that they will follow up as necessary.

eBusiness is a term used to describe a website that performs some function to the business, as opposed to being purely an information resource for your customers.

eBusiness implementations need not be complex. Of course Qantas’ real time online booking system and Ticketek’s online box office are examples of eBusiness, but so to is the “Request a dentist appointment” contact form.

In a “request an appointment” example, it is not even necessary to allow the customer to dictate the desired time. The form may read:


There is no doubt that eBusiness websites generate more leads for a company than an informational form with a traditional “Contact Us” form. Clients of 1300 Web Pro that have some form of eBusiness receive more enquiries through their website then clients who do not.

I believe the reasons for this are very simple:

  1. You are giving people a reason to contact you. A “Contact Us” form is fine if they want to ask a question, but most people would not think to use that form to request, say, a room booking.
  2. People are spontaneous. This is why TV shopping infomercials have the “call now and receive a bonus” offers. Striking while the iron is hot is most likely to achieve results.
  3. Site visitors can submit the form after hours. Even if the site owner needs to ring or e-mail for confirmation or payment, the ball is out of the visitor’s court.
  4. Fence sitters will respond to a specific call to action where they otherwise may have retreated.

Remember that, for our customers at least, there is no cost to have an eBusiness form on their website. They can simply log into the Content Management System and create one.

A final note on eBusiness is that it should not be limited to the sales process or the customer side of business processes. eBusiness may mean a private area for staff to read procedures, resellers to file return requests, or collecting customer feedback.

Every business should evaluate how a simple eBusiness contact form could benefit their business. If you need a hand, give one of our website consultants a ring on 1300 932 776 (that’s 1300 Web Pro) and we’ll see if we can come up with some eBusiness strategies for your business!

For more information, visit Electronic Business at Wikipedia.

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Web: www.1300webpro.com.au
Twitter: @1300WebPro

August 31, 2009

Customer Service for Dummies

"Any time that any person in your organization has any form of contact with your clients or prospects, they are performing a marketing function." -- Customer Service is Marketing Too

In every business, on a daily basis, one encounters customer interaction that is beyond the simple buying of goods. These encounters may be complaints, enquiries, or requests outside the scope of what the business typically does.

Do yourself a favor, and train your staff to take advantage of these situations, rather than become annoyed with them.

During the last 24 hours, I have been at the customer end of two of these situations. In one case, the business surprised me with their lack of flexibility. In the other, the business went above and beyond without me even asking them too.

Situation #1
For Sunday breakfast we needed a loaf of bread. I walked up to the corner store, accompanied by my puppy who is always keen for a stroll. When I arrived at the store, there was nowhere to affix the lead, so I carried the puppy in my arms into the store.

I was taking the loaf of bread off the shelf when one of the staff members started yelling at me over the counter to "get that dog out of here."

I asked if I could just quickly buy the single loaf of bread. The answer was a stern "No, you need to leave now!"

Don't get me wrong... it is the business owner's prerogative not to allow pets on the premises.

However upon walking out of the store (without my bread) I was thinking of all the other ways the shopkeeper could have handled the situation. Naturally she should have come in front of the counter and still been polite.

After calmly explaining to me that they do not allow pets in the store, she could have said "however today, so that you can get your loaf of bread, I will..."Take your money, and meet you outside with your change and your bread, orsee if one of the other staff members can hold your puppy outside for a minute.The outcome for the shop would have been the same (puppy outside). It would have taken minimal effort/time/expense, and would have been a positive experience for me, the customer.

I'm not going to say that we'll "never go back," but that incident has definitely lowered my opinion of the business and it will likely reduce the lifetime value of me as a customer to that business.

Situation #2
I am currently writing this post on a Mac. I'm not a Mac-fanatic -- I have PCs as well -- but I do like using a Mac for casual browsing as it is quick to start up and to get online.

Apple released the Snow Leopard upgrade to their Mac OS X operating system today, and it only costs $39 to upgrade!

I rang a local Apple reseller that opened recently in Toowoomba, to find out if they had any copies yet.

The shop assistant informed me that they did not have them yet, but they were due to be delivered by courier sometime this morning.

She then asked if she could take my phone number and give me a call as soon as the courier comes!

At $39 retail, there cannot be much margin in it for the reseller, and it is not exactly the kind of thing you would line up outside the shop at 4AM to purchase. She had no idea who I was, and if she did she would know that I have never purchased anything at that shop before.

Therefore, her offer surprised me.

Once again, it will not take her very long to give me a quick ring and say "James, the discs are here," but the experience has been positive enough for me to blog about it and will certainly increase the lifetime value of me as a customer to that business.

In summary...
We spend so much time, effort, and money finding new customers. Make sure your staff understand that customer service is absolutely a marketing function, and treat it as such.

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Twitter: @1300WebPro