Reality Check: New Website Still “On The Way”

Best Laid Plans . . .

The idea was to rebuild this website and learn to self-host at the same time.  My clients are awake to the opportunity–no, the NEED to have a good website in this age of the Internet marketplace.  I have enjoyed playing in the free versions of WordPress for a few years and I thought I was ready to move forward.

My first site took about three or four hours to set up and fill with content.  It was easy and fun to add more pages and keep going.  Kind of like driving an automatic transmission–you stick in the key, have a basic knowledge of how to move a car forwards and back and take off.

So what could possibly go wrong with building a site based on a template and hosting yourself?

Here’s what I’ve found so far . . .

Themes Have Graduated to a New Level . . .

Yes, there were hundreds if not thousands of themes when I started.  But those numbers seem to have exploded.  And now, you want to choose your theme not only on what looks good as you scroll through, but on the quality of features and performance.  Is the theme “responsive” meaning that it easily adjusts to the various devices on which it will be seen? Is the theme developer well-known and trustworthy?  How are updates and upgrades handled?

From the usability side, are there features and plugins for the industry you serve?  If you sell things on your site, there need to be plug-ins for shopping carts, login and security features, and more.  “Brochure sites” are still okay, but trying to keep them updated and changing is a constant concern. There are now “magazine” themes, “catalog” themes, “real estate,” “corporate,” and more.

Content Remains a Concern

Long posts are out, but only for certain media.  Supposedly the “ideal” length of a post is about 1,500 to 1,600 words. In old typewriter talk that’s roughly six pages of text.  You can say a lot in that amount of time.  My personal experience, though, suggests you could cut that to 1,000 words and put in graphics and illustrations for a stronger post.

The posts I’ve done for All Abuzz have averaged 800 words, and I find them text heavy.  In my updated site, I’d like to put in more visuals.  Even though I’m not a photographer, and my budget for “clip art” is limited, it is important to have good illustrations, so my commitment is to add those to the updated site–when it comes.

Taking This Update Seriously

It was perhaps foolish to say I’d begin with a fresh new website in a month’s time.  I was filled with the confidence of inexperience and hope.  Now I know better.  It would have been terrific to have you visit one Friday and voila! A whole new site would be before you.

But this is also a great opportunity.  You can come along with me as I rebuild my site.  I am an old dog trying to learn a new trick.  Maybe you can help.  I’d appreciate your thoughts and suggestions as I work on this site, and will keep posting on the process until we’ve built a place that you can feel comfy visiting.

I still see myself as an excellent marketing person, but for now, I’m committed to “stepping up” my game and buying into the world of new tools.  Just as we seldom write a letter any more, put a stamp on it and hope it gets to the right person at the other end of the mailing, marketing professionals can’t sit back and blindly follow the “me-too” rule of sticking  up a site and waiting for the world to come knocking at our door.

I’m excited to step into the world of SEO, email blasting, and virtual business. I hope you’ll journey with me.

Until next week . . . wishing you well.

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Pardon the Dust

Hello Marketing Friends,

It is a joy for me to reach out to you each week and share my marketing experiences with you.  But I realized recently that this blog needs some work.  Not just a little tweak here and there, but some review of purpose, categories, visuals and more.  As a sole proprietor, both my time and my funds are limited for such a project.  Therefore, I’m going to take a break from posting for a few weeks.  While I do, the All Abuzz site will remain up, but I’ll be focused on cleaning up, freshening, and finding better ways to serve this community.  I hope you’ll keep visiting to watch the progress, make suggestions, and enjoy the fun.  Meanwhile, I hope to give you a leaner, cleaner, more fun site by October 31st, when I’ll resume regular posting.

Wishing you a great September!

Liesa

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When You Want A New Website . . .

Let’s face it.  The brick-and-mortar shop, while not precisely a thing of the past, is limited in its ability to reach markets.  Yes, local shopping is still important, and I continue to enjoy going to stores near me.  I love to impulse buy as much as the next person.

But what if your business is a service you operate from your home or industrial area office?  Then a website becomes hugely important.  There once was a time when most websites were developed by the geek who knew more about HTML than about marketing, and it showed in clumsy sites with little “sex appeal.”  Today, with WordPress, Joomla,  Drupal and other template-based websites, having a great looking site becomes easier all the time.  But there are still things you need to consider before jumping into the website world:

PRE-INTERNET EDUCATION

While young people are getting stronger all the time in using social media (and yes, I include websites in this term), there is a difference between “using” the Internet and “managing” your presence on it.  Templates you may use for your website are not very flexible without someone who can code.  Even if you purchase WordPress’ upgrade and can play with your CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), you will have limited access to change the format of your site.  This sounds bad, but if you can work within your templates, you’ll have your site up faster.  It is a choice.  Launch speed belongs in the realm of templates, but flexibility of design takes longer and may cost you more. Customization of sorts is available in the different templates, but at different costs.  As a consumer wanting your website up, be aware of this limitation.

Know some other basics as well:

  • A blog is meant to be updated regularly.  Set a schedule and stick with it.  I normally suggest my clients post 500-800 words a week. This means you should have an “editorial budget” with a few articles backlogged and available for “emergency” fill-ins.  Be sure to add graphics when you can, and links to other sites.  That’s part of the “social” in social media.
  • You can add as many pages as you’d like in most of the template-based websites, but remember that more and more people are finding you on their smart phones. Try to keep your site simple enough to navigate on these smaller devices
  • Logos are great–but they’re only graphics.  Even if you have your company name in your logo artwork, the Internet robots, or “bots,” will not be able to search the graphic itself.  You can use the title, description, and alt text to help, but don’t count on the graphic itself. You need the bots to find you in order to come up higher in the rankings and place your link on search engine first pages.
  • There is a difference between setting up a website and search engine optimization or SEO.  Often your webmaster can launch your site for you and make your site “searchable” for the bots, but you as the client are going to need to put in the time necessary to get up on things like Yelp! and Google+.  It is your responsibility to make sure your site is linked in these tools.  If you assume your webmaster has the time or inclination to do this for you, please also assume you’ll be writing extra checks for this service.

PRE-SITE DESIGN

This is a topic that I’ve read whole books on.  For the small business owner it can be overwhelming.  Still, there are some basics you may want to consider when working with your site designer (who may also be your webmaster):

  • Contact Info needs to be easily accessible.  Put your preferred form of contact in two or three places on each page.  This can be set up in your CSS so that you don’t even have to think about it.  Generally people have a phone number in their header and footer.
  • There is a lot of talk about “ad words” and “stuffing your copy,” but essentially if you go with a content-rich approach to your copy, you’ll be better off.  What I mean here is that when you write copy, have a list of things your prospects are most likely to be searching for and turn them into topics for either blog posts or pages.  For example, if you sell corn husk pipes and you know your current customers ask you constantly for corn cob pipes, be sure to write about both “husks” and “cobs” in your text.  Easy.  It not only shows you’re listening to your customers, but that you’re speaking the language of your market.  People will find you.
  • Color is always a big issue.  My personal thought is to limit it.  These days the template sites will help by giving you pre-set color sets.  You can change them as you see fit, but take the time to get comfortable with the concept of colors labeled by hexidecimal numbers.  Once you’ve selected that perfect green for your background, you may want to jot down its hex number and use it again in the borders of pictures or headline text.  Just be consistent.
  • Page layout is where we run into murky waters.  If you select a template and then say, “but I want the columns to be shifted this way” or “I need to have this picture push over that one in the header section” you are essentially asking for customization that requires coding. Ask yourself how much this is worth. Again, think in terms of time and cost.

THE LAUNCH

Sometimes people think that with a launch of a website, bells will ring, whistles will blow and the world will stop to take note.  The launch is, unfortunately, less of an event and more like jumping into the river that everyone else is already in.  Your site may take as much as three or four weeks to be “found” by the bots. You can force them to find you with help from your webmaster, but think of this extra time as your own space to test your site and tweak it.  The more often you work on your site, the more “findable” your site becomes.  Be patient.  If things aren’t happening a month after launch, definitely contact your webmaster and go over the settings in your site that optimize the Internet’s ability to find you.

These are just a few of the things to consider when you dip into the world-wide web.  Use them and enjoy, but the key to your success is in your continued commitment to play, learn, and grow your site as you see fit.  Good luck!

TODAY’S BEE BIT

Bee logoWhen bees decide to move to a new home and begin a new colony, “scouts” head out to find a location. These bees are able to travel many miles form the original hive but still find the way back to the colony. Wild bees usually prefer rock crevices, hollow trees and other small, enclosed areas for hives.

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/how-does_5215297_do-bees-build-hives_.html

 

On Vacation

Hi Marketing Friends,

I’m taking a break for a couple of weeks for some important personal commitments.  Thanks for your patience as I will return to this blog on Friday, September 12 with many more marketing thoughts.

Meanwhile, wishing you a fabulous close to your summer weekends.

 

Liesa

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Tele-prospecting in a Modern World

Yesterday, I had the chance to speak with a great group of people about tele-prospecting–the act of using the telephone to prospect for new connections in your industry, hoping to find active buyers and decision-makers.  This may seem old-fashioned in a modern world of email messaging and on-line shopping, but to me, the tele-prospecting professional is key to many companies’ continued success.  Here’s what I learned in that discussion:

  • People are still enthusiastic about using the phone–when it’s done well.
  • Many face-to-face sales closing professionals dread picking up the phone–it’s like the writer with nothing but a blank page for inspiration.
  • Buyers are overwhelmed by the “spam” they’re receiving–one woman said she receives over 300 emails per day, and spends a good deal of time hitting select and delete without thinking of opening them.
  • Tele-prospectors tend to have not only a passion for the phone, but a deep desire to help customers and leads find a great solution.

The last point was key to me.  So often we think of tele-prospectors as dim-witted folks with thick skins who don’t know how to take “no” for an answer.  After all, haven’t we become used to the sales pitch in the middle of our dinners, the tirade from the political party activists, the “opportunities we can’t afford to miss?”

Thing is, there’s a difference between telemarketing and tele-prospecting.  The former can be done with scripts, auto-dialers, and even recorded robo-dialers. There is no passion, knowledge, or real story to share.

But the tele-prospector is different.  This person has a name and a face and a passion for the work his or her company is doing.  These pros don’t have any desire to harass, but want to create a meaningful connection with the buyers on the other end of the phone.  Unfortunately telemarketing programs developed by some volume-oriented marketing “geniuses” have made the tele-prospector’s job even harder.  After all, how easy is it for the average buyer to tell the difference between a cheetah’s and a leopard’s fur?

As I looked around the room, yesterday, I saw people who truly wanted to help others, who had expertise in their product and a driving passion to make every day successful.  Some people had backgrounds in law enforcement, some had wonderful hobbies, spoke second languages, or even

They were real, and had deep, meaningful lives beyond their work.

Perhaps it’s that these tele-prospectors were selling business-to-business and you and I may be dealing with the negative end of a retail marketing campaign. But I suspect not. People who use the phone to generate business tend to like people in general, want to help solve a problem–albeit through the product they have to offer, or just plain want to connect and get off the phone to let you get on with your life–and let them get on to their next call.

The next time you receive a telephone solicitation, why not try to buy into the process and let the prospector know whether you are “not interested,” or “interested,” and help them get their job done well?

Bee Bit ImageTODAY’S BEE BIT

California’s record drought hasn’t been sweet to honeybees, and it’s creating a sticky situation for beekeepers and honey buyers.

The state is traditionally one of the country’s largest honey producers, with abundant crops and wildflowers that provide the nectar that bees turn into honey. But the lack of rain has ravaged native plants and forced farmers to scale back crop production, leaving fewer places for honeybees to forage. Thanks to CBS News for today’s bee bit.

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News By Bumper Sticker

If you ever studied journalism, you’re probably familiar with the “inverted pyramid.” The uninitiated among us call it the “news story pyramid,” but that gets the picture wrong. An inverted pyramid would be an upside down object where the smallest corner is at the base and spreads outward and upward.  I think journalism professors may have created a better picture if they used the analogy of a clogged funnel for stories.  At the heart of all this misrepresented symbolism is the rude shout people want to expel toward a boring speaker, “get to the point!”  So I will–get to the point.

Every good news story (or press release) answers these five important questions:

  1. WHO – Who is your story about (people are drawn to stories about dynamic characters)
  2. WHAT – What’s happened that makes your story news? Remember, you’re competing as much with music, movies, and apps as you are with other news stories
  3. WHEN – When did the action occur? Sometimes when your story is old you’re only “yesterday’s news”
  4. WHERE – Often seen as a lesser question, “where” can bring you into the quirky side of a story (Where did the senator do that?!)
  5. HOW – How did the stock market fall apart in 2008? How do you recover from the loss of a loved one? How did ISIS gain power in the middle east?

Occasionally, in thoughtful editorials, Sunday editors used to take the biggest stories and ask “WHY?” as well.  Thousands of words flowed, and as many thoughts spread throughout our communities while giving people enough information to discuss, debate, and decide how they felt about what was happening. It gave citizens the information they needed in order to make informed decisions on who to vote into (or out of) office, know about shady business operators, or exciting new inventions. We were gripped by stories that lasted weeks and months about such figures as Bonnie and Clyde or Charles Lindberg. We made time for news, and public relations made the most of that opportunity.

Last weekend, a friend and I were talking at a party about the Hachette vs. Amazon struggle.  She is a public relations professional, and she told me that it’s almost impossible to get the whole story out in the news any more.  First, “the news” is mostly on television, so it needs to be immediate and visual. Pictures of company logos on the side of buildings only go so far.  And the fact that negotiations in business can last weeks and months behind closed doors makes it even harder to “sell” to a news editor. A minute of coverage by television news is an enormous amount of expensive time.

“Now tell me,” said my friend, “how much can you really squeeze into a minute?”

Not much. People speak at an average of 120 to 150 words per minute. Tell me how you can answer the five big questions of any news story in that amount of time or word use?  How can you build thoughtful evaluations of the information provided? How can you even think in terms of “why?” And perhaps this is what big business is counting on.  If people have gaps in the answers to journalism’s five golden questions, you won’t be able to think of asking why? And unless a story has immediate impact (i.e. 2000 Americans were killed in the 9.11.01 attack on the World Trade Center) you may not hear about anything until it’s too late to form an opinion, and much too late to act.

We have become a society of news by bumper sticker. Bumper sticker? You know. Those pithy little sayings that become equal opportunity offenders with their surface level politics and hit-and-run philosophies.  I particularly like the “My dog is smarter than your honor student” or “NO bama,” “Coexist,” and “Bumper Stickers will save the world.” As a writer, I cringe. As a regular person, I have to laugh.

So here’s your challenge.  Find out what you can about Amazon vs. Hachette. Then pick a side–either one will do. Then try to write a news piece that fits on a bumper sticker.  Here’s my attempt:

Amazon v Hachette–What are our Wordsworth?

Sheesh.

Bee logoTODAY’S BEE BIT

“Because honey bees are social insects that live in a colony, they have to communicate with each other. Honey bees do this by using odor cues, food exchanges and certain movements so they can share important information about food sources.” Thanks to Hive and Honey Apiary for today’s bee bit.

 

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PR between Hachette and Amazon

I want to be honest with you up front.  I am not a Public Relations expert.  And this is a think piece on PR in a world growing more transparent all the time.  I cannot imagine the stress for PR agencies and professionals when “information” is seldom dished out in thoughtful 5,000 word articles in revered magazines anymore, but is tweeted in 160 characters of constant flux and change.  So, why am I tackling a topic I shouldn’t have a say in?  Because in this day and age, everyone has a say in just about everything.  And all the “voices” out there on the Internet are teeming with conflicting views and missteps.

Right now, I’m working on an article for a blog that looks into the conflict between Amazon and Hachette Book Group.  If you don’t know about this, please do a search on-line, because this conflict affects you.  Basically, from what I understand, the two giants in book publishing and distribution have come into conflict over–you guessed–money. How should the small profits in book and e-book publishing be divided? Same old, same old. Organizations that count their profits in hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter can’t decide who gets what share of the pennies profit per book sold.

BUT  . . . from where I sit, the early rounds in public relations wins are going to Hachette.  They’ve played the victim card well.  Someone has leaked all the underhanded things that Amazon has done to Hachette books and their authors.  They’ve removed “buy now” buttons, delayed shipping, disallowed pre-orders on big name books. Hachette’s authors, including Stephen Colbert, have brought the fight to the media.  Will this be the unraveling of super-giant Amazon or just another speed-bump on the road to universal domination by the company once known for its book sales? BTW: those sales supposedly only make up 7% of Amazon’s profits now.

As humans, we are gripped by the struggle between life and death.  As Americans, we tend to root for the underdog naturally.  This makes the PR person’s job for Hachette quite straight forward. Messages like “compared to Amazon we’re so small” and “Amazon has targeted us with underhanded business practices” blossom and take hold of the imagination of consumers everywhere.

The bigger PR question is, what can Amazon say and do to combat this onslaught of negative publicity? They are bigger than Hachette.  They are using the tactics Hachette accuses them of using.  Those tactics may be being employed in order to stay true to the philosophy that got them on top in the first place (best prices for consumers), but they don’t shine well in the bright light of public awareness.

Warren Buffet has been quoted in the past as saying “It takes twenty years to build a  company’s reputation, but only five minutes to ruin it.”  In today’s world, I wonder if it takes as long as five minutes. Hachette’s authors are real people, with real families to care for using income that has dried up because Amazon is “punishing” a publisher.  Those authors are talking–loudly–about the dangers of having only one source of distribution for books (Amazon sells approximately half of all books sold in the US currently).  The authors are concerned about the dangers of a single distribution (i.e. editor) in an area known for expanding human thought.

And Amazon? Who’s supporting this Titan of business online? Does anyone need to? Just two years ago, Fortune Magazine named Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, Business Person of the Year.  He was quoted in the article as saying “Other companies have more of a conqueror mentality. We think of ourselves as explorers.” Perhaps its time for Amazon to explore better public relations, because right now they pretty much look like every small company’s worst nightmare.

Bee Bit ImageTODAY’S BEE BIT

“A newly discovered species of bee has been observed to invade the nests of other bees while they’re out collecting pollen. It’s during this opportune time that the female members of these newly dubbed “cuckoo bees” lay their eggs in the hive. And because invader eggs hatch early, the immature bees are able to get rid of the host bee eggs — leaving the pollen and nectar reserves for themselves.” Thanks to io9 for today’s bee bit.

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