Archive for February, 2008

Building Valuable Business Relationships in the Virtual World – Podcast?

Its a good job Northern Voice is taking place in Vancouver this week. The event, slated as a blogger’s un-conference is a two day whirlwind of blogging and social media information that every company or digerati needs to know, covering everything from wikis to microblogging, widgets to tagging.

Its perfect timing for Out-Smarts. This week we will publish our first podcast. We’re hoping that Northern Voice experts will come to our aid to make this possible for all to enjoy.

The podcast is ready to go (we promised it at the PWN event last week and we’re always good to our word). Using Garageband to create the audio and link to the deck, the creation was relatively painless. Here it is:

Building Valuable Business Relationships in the Virtual World

What was difficult was working out how to publish this so that people like you, and you, and you could easily download and listen. Let us know if/how it works (apologies in advance if it craps out). We’re still playing around with iTunes and hope to publish it in the iTunes store soon: probably sometime after we’ve schmoozed the appropriate people at Northern Voice this week.

Watch this space for developments….

Love Your Landing Page: Tips to Increase Ecommerce Conversion

I remember trying to sell an e-commerce platform to Cotton Ginny back in 1995. At that time the main issue we had to convince them of was that people would actually be willing to buy on-line despite the perceived “security” risks. Thankfully, ecommerce has come a long way since then. I am always fascinated to hear news from this sector and am a regular attendee at Elasticpath’s webinars. I was excited when I was invited to live blog today’s webinar – Love Your Landing Page: Tips to Increase Ecommerce Conversion featuring Ayat Shukairt, Managing Partner, INVESP Consulting. In listening to the discussion, its apparent that many of the factors I preach to clients when considering their web presence are also very valid for retailers using online stores such and that some issues haven’t changed in the last decade or so. When creating your retail landing page be aware of the following points highlighted during the webinar:

  • understand your audience very well and their personnas and hone in on them (cater for emotional buyers as well as logical);
  • keep it visually simple with impact (by making good use of white space);
  • as soon as someone comes to the page it should be obvious to them what you are selling so use that top left section of the page for impact;
  • make it easy for prospects to navigate the store;
  • create urgency – use incentives to encourage your audience to act and buy (percentage incentives often work better than dollar amounts);
  • product images should be clear and impressive – showcase the product well;
  • focus on what the product is going to do for the prospective buyer and not just on its features;
  • test, test, test – don’t be afraid to start small (say 500 products and see what works and what doesn’t);
  • deal with anticipated concerns – yes security is still an issue. Counter their doubts and make prospects feel secure by using messages regarding the security you have in place or anti hacking guarantees;

I see that 13 years on Cotton Ginny still doesn’t have an on-line retail store which is a pity but no surprise. I find Canadian retail organisations woefully behind both the US and the UK in their ecommerce adoption. This was mirrored in today’s presentation as most if not all of the examples provided were US based organisations. At Christmas I had to resort to shopping at LL Bean for North American purchases and Mark and Spencer’s for UK gifts because I couldn’t find any Canadian retailers offering a suitable service. Sad but true.So come on Canada! – check out Elasticpath or similar ecommerce offerings and start taking advantage of the vast opportunity that on-line sales brings and save me some money in customs fees when you’re at it!

11 Tips for Safe On-line Business Development

Here’s blog post 2 in the series following up on my Building Valuable Business Relationships in the Virtual World presentation.

The Internet is an ideal way to grow your business and expand your network but their are risks that you should be aware of. Here are 10 tips that will help you do it safely:

1. When networking on Facebook or other social forums always use the privacy controls to limit access to your information (usually you can find these by clicking on “account”).

2. Use Facebook, LinkedIn and other networks to make people aware of what you do or want to do.

3. Google yourself to see what’s being said about you and do the Granny test on the results – if Granny wouldn’t approve then perhaps the content isn’t appropriate to enhance your business profile.

4. Don’t put up any photos, videos or images that compromise your image.

5. Portray yourself professionally as appropriate to your industry in all forums.

6. Be true to who you are, transparency leads to trust. If you have a good reputation people are more likely to do business with you.

7. Remember that you have a valid and unique opinion. Don’t be afraid to voice it.

8. Always be respectful of others, its okay to disagree but be polite about it.

9. If you are young and looking for a job be aware that a party boy or girl image may seem cool to your peers but it won’t help you get a job or grow you professional network.

10. On-line networking is a vital tool for anyone trying to build a career but don’t get sidetracked or sucked in. Avoid this by scheduling time for on-line networking and sticking to it.

11. Don’t make friends with everyone and anyone. Be selective. It will help you manage the volume of information and will also expose you to less risk.

Internet Networking Hubs

I had the pleasure this evening to present at an event co hosted by the Professional Women’s Network, the YWCA Mentoring Program and the Downtown Networking Association aimed at introducing mentors and mentees to professional growth strategies to help you realise career goals. My topic: “Building Valuable Business Relationships in the Virtual World”.

As promised, I am going to blog over the next few days about some of the issues I touched on at the event, the first of these being Internet networking hubs.

Internet networking hubs are great forums to expand your business network and extend your reach. Obviously those you use will depend on what it is you do. For example a photographer would likely use photo sites like Flickr to showcase their experience. Someone in the music industry is likely to benefit more from MySpace than Facebook. And a lawyer might is more likely to join a law forum than a web development forum. Its up to you which you choose but Internet networking hubs are great places to grow your on line network and in turn your business. Here the handout I gave out tonight:


Yahoo snubs Microsoft

Just wanted to quickly follow up on me post a few days ago regarding Microsoft’s attempt to buy Yahoo. News in today is that Yahoo is rejecting the bid as it “under values the organisation”. The search engine and Internet advertising industries will remain on tenterhooks to see if Microsoft will up their $45b bid (as expected by analysts) or if a hostile take over is on the cards. Yahoo’s share price dropped following the disclosure – no surprise there.

The Internet has Eyes

The Internet and especially the blogosphere is a breeding ground for plagiarism. People like the idea of blogging but can’t come up with good content so they steal from others. Now that’s usually okay as long as you credit the source and link back but in some cases that simply doesn’t happen.

I witnessed exactly such an event this week when Monica Hamburg’s posting Behold the Power of Facebook for Business appeared on another site on 1st February. How did I find this out? Every time another site links back to mine it shows up both in WordPress (if they link to this blog) and in other sites like Technorati. I noticed the new link, clicked to read and follow up in true blog etiquette form only to discover no mention of the true author.

On alerting her, Monica immediately went into action with a great email she offered up on her site that others can use in dealing with situations like this:

I can see that you “added” my name, but this most certainly does not make it clear that the content is mine, nor that I wrote it. Please remove the post immediately – unless you are prepared to do the following:

1) Begin the post by CLEARLY STATING that it was written by me

2) Giving a link to the actual postIn this exact manner: “This article was written by Monica Hamburg on her blog, Me Like the Interweb,

I will be taking appropriate action if this is not performed in 2hrs.
Monica Hamburg

It worked and the piece has since been removed but it just goes to show how blatant plagiarism on the Internet has become. The good news is that due to the transparency of the web, its hard to avoid being caught out – so copycats beware get with the programme and write your own material or at the very least have the decency to link back to the rightful author!

Know Your Audience

Lets get something straight here first and foremost – I am female: I look like a woman and I sound like a woman but yet I have been called Mr. on two separate occasions recently.

The first was an e-mail following up on a booth I visited at CES – the e-mail actually mentioned how much they had enjoyed meeting me!.

The second was in a voice mail left from someone referred to me by a service provider. The person listened (but did not hear) my message and yet still called me Mr. To spare these people the embarrasment I won’t actually mention their names or company (although they probably deserve it for their blatant ignorance) but these occurrences served to remind me how important it is in business to know your customer.

What do you think the chances of me doing business with either of these companies are? I’d say somewhere less than zero. Not only did they offend me from the start but the first had the gall to blatantly lie in their communication (enjoyed meeting me indeed) – it did nothing for their credibility.

It takes nothing to pay a little attention to your customer, prospect or potential client and offending someone will be counteractive to your cause.

So next time you are planning an email or phone campaign or any marketing or sales activity for that matter, give a little thought to your audience:

1. Don’t dare to assume that the recipient is male when they could be female and vice versa. If you’re not sure if someone is male or female then its often best to avoid such a salutation.

2. If you’re not sure of the spelling of a contact’s name then omit it (you should see the collection of incorrect spellings I’ve collected over the years with a name like Mhairi).

3. If in doubt either don’t take the risk or take a little time to do some detective work to find out.

A little attention to detail can go a long way in helping you open the door to business so take heed and take time to know your audience. It will be worth your while.

90/10 Internet Marketing Rule

Yesterday I read an article called the 90/10 marketing rule that talked about how businesses often focus most of their time on creating a product or service but give little time to marketing it effectively. It linked in to an article that pointed out that Internet marketing is no different – how true that is.

We regularly come across businesses that have gone about developing web sites without giving an iota of thought to who they are trying to attract or how they can go about doing so effectively and they come to us wondering why their site doesn’t get much traffic.

Marketing, in case you didn’t know is all about understanding the needs of the customer and developing offerings that meet those.

When considering your website the first thing you need to do is put yourself in the shoes of your customer, think about who they are – get inside their heads as well as their shoes! If that is a challenge then ask existing customers or people you know who fit the bill.

Once you have a feel for who the customer is, its easier to work out what makes them tick – what they like and don’t like, and why. Ask yourself what attributes they have that make your offering compelling to them.

Finally use that information on your site to create a compelling environment that appeals to your niche. It should be clear and simple and obvious what your company does from the moment the page appears.

If you take time to do these simple marketing procedures before hiring that super duper web designer, your site will drive much more business – guaranteed!

Effective E-mail Campaigns – 11 Commandments

In a world of never ending SPAM it’s a real challenge to create successful e-mail campaigns but its not impossible. Here are some pointers to bear in mind:

RWD Ten Commandments

  1. Avoid the hard sell – people get so much spam these days that if you try to sell to strangers via e, you’ll hit the junk file faster than you can say spam;
  2. Better to use email to keep in touch with clients than to try to sell – newsletters are better than sales letters;
  3. Use a call to action title – one that is brief, catchy, intelligent that will entice people to open the mail;
  4. By adding an unsubscribe button, your mail is perceived as more professional – just remember to delete those who request it from your mailing lists – always;
  5. Drive them back to your website by including a link – you can then easily track click throughs to make follow up calls more targeted;
  6. Make it simple stupid – the old adage applies here too – don’t add too many fancy images or graphics – it will just clog people’s mail boxes;
  7. The body of the text should include some incentive to act but don’t overdo it or you will raise reader suspicion;
  8. War and Peace just isn’t appropriate in an e-mail. Keep it short and to the point if you want people to read;
  9. Think outside the box- content and topic should unique and should tell them something they don’t know about your product service or offering – something that makes a difference to them;
  10. Build your email list by encouraging visitors to subscribe online, and telling people about your newsletters in the real world;
  11. Don’t SPAM ever, ever. Always use valid e-mails from people you have actually met or who have given you business cards at events and shows. If you don’t its the fastest way to get an unsubscribe.

Microsoft eyes Yahoo

The Internet may never be the same again with the announcement today that Microsoft wants to buy Yahoo. In its ongoing battle to thwart Google, the software giant is willing to put out $45 billion dollars for Yahoo, an aquisition that would potentially be the largest in tech history.

With rumours swirling lately of mass layoffs at Yahoo and its declining stock price, the Microsoft offer (which isn’t its first) could be a lifeline or a nail in the coffin of the search engine giant. It would also consolidate further the SEO arena with 2 giant behemoths facing up.

It will be interesting to see what happens but for us punters it can only mean one thing: a viable alternative to Google for on-line advertising. A shake up in Internet advertising can only be good given their monopolistic dominance.