Monday, December 10, 2012

Photos are Important; Good Photos are Better

Even 10 years ago most emails were picture-less---all text. Now pictures are expected and  a whole lot of text is a sure way to be ignored. And before posting pictures to a website, blog, or email running through a photo editor can ensure your pictures won't be ignored too.

One of the best free editors available is Photoscape from  This editor allows you to re-size, brighten, sharpen, and apply additional contrast to your photos all in one batch which can be a great help making your work more efficient.

The main way to improve most photo's is to brighten and adjust the contrast. And remember that photos posted should be at a size less than 1000 pixels for efficient loading. I've been to some blogs where the photos posted took so long to load that I left before looking at the content. If you take the time to put up the content be sure to make it viewable.

And when taking product pictures be sure to get in close to your subject. A photo taken close, in good, natural light will shine and attract a lot of attention.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dream Posts

Over the weekend I happened on one of the greatest uses of Pinterest for marketing. A simple brilliant picture of a Quisinart Mixer---glowing a wonderful Christmas red. Under the pin were the words "I've always dreamed of having one of these."

It was posted by a retailer with a link back to the sale priced product on the retailers own website. Imagine the pins this would produce and how convenient for a spouse to simply follow that pin back to the website to make the purchase of the dream gift.

That's power.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Happy Cyber-Monday

Online, small businesses are on a more equal footing with the big guys than in the brick and mortar world. Shoppers don't have to physically go to another place to view what the small business has to offer and it is often simpler to find a phone number, email address, and get a response back from a small business than it is from a large guy if there are questions or if your customer is searching for a very specific holiday gift request.

So on Cyber-Monday, even if you don't have an online store, you can bet that with the right keywords, people will be visiting your site, viewing your information, contacting you, and coming into your brick and mortar store to buy what they need for a perfect gift.      

Monday, November 19, 2012

Small Business Saturday

Don't forget to get out there for Small Business Saturday, this Saturday, November 24th. With so many of the big guys open on Thanksgiving Day, it is more important than ever that small business differentiate themselves from the rest with family values and a saner way to shop the holiday season.

Through websites, blogs and social media this is a great opportunity for small businesses across the nation to tout their superior services, unique offerings, and their support of local communities and people. Local, small businesses are the keepers of values that never go out of style.

And don't forget to support your own local small businesses through your purchases this holiday season.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hosting that's Best for You

Where do you host your website? What are your options? When will you know that you need to upgrade?

Most websites are hosted with web hosting companies like A typical site is housed on a web server with many other sites. A web server is just an ordinary computer with special software and security set up. The cheaper hosting is cheap because the resources required (ie: gigabytes, bandwidth, software,etc.) are shared with many other sites.

Once your site requires more band width or storage space, dedicated web servers can be purchased. Some web hosting companies also require a dedicated server if you need to install an SSL certificate for additional security. A dedicated server isn't necessarily a server that is physically separate from another server, but may be partitioned separately virtually on the same computer hard drive. Because this requires separate software and software licences, hosting on a dedicated server can be quite expensive.

Another option is hosting on your own hardware. This requires a dedicated computer; not one that you or your staff would normally use. You'll need to make sure you have a good broadband connection and in most cases a dedicated IP address assigned by your internet provider. You'll also need to install the web software necessary and make sure the system is properly running at all times and backed up. The software should be updated when necessary. This option is best when you have IT staff with time on their hands.

Websites can provide marketing, sales, customer interactions, and customer service at reasonable costs. Keep in mind bandwidth needed, storage space for your site to expand, and security requirement as you shop for hosting.        

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cheer Leading on Social Media

Social Media for business is all about creating your brand recognition and engaging your customers. So what are customers looking for?

  • A social club---customers want to belong, be on a first name basis with your business, to be part of your inner circle
  • Tips and/or give-aways---a 20% off coupon, a tip that allows customers to save money, or something totally free, delights and surprises and customers love it.  
  • Exclusivity---customer's want to claim you and let others know that you belong to them.   
  • Entertainment---a joke, a story---something that allows customers to identify and have a "me too" moment.
  • Information on your business, your attitude towards customers, your products---be sure you have links back to your own website once you teased a contact's appetite for more information through social media.
Social Media, whether through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or others, is cheer leading for your business. It's a nice demonstration of just how dedicated you are to your customer base and allows your customers to join you in the cheer.   

Monday, October 8, 2012

Stats---Only Half the Story

Viewing stats of your website or blog? Figures are available on number of views, locations of viewers, browsers you should be building for, view times, and connection speeds of your viewers.

But those statistics only tell you half the story and they increasingly are telling less and less about the total views of your site. Most statistics are driven off of cookies. Cookies can be accepted sometimes, accepted never, or accepted always by your viewers. Most customers don't worry about cookies and will accept them. Yet there are some customers who believe incorrectly that cookies store personally identifying information, so they won't allow them at all.

Some devices, though, don't deal with cookies. Some mobile devices won't give you any stats. Also there is the issue of the news reader that is used to view your blog, for example. Some readers will not produce a view statistic.

As a result, while using statistics generated is useful, it's important to keep in mind the other ways a view of your site could be generated and test and build for your whole audience.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Facebook Gifts

Businesses have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor and partner with Facebook Gifts. Facebook is offering a way for people to buy friends gifts for birthdays, special occasions, and just for the heck of it. Gifting can be private or posted to timelines.

But before you jump on the bandwagon there are a few things to consider. For example gifts bought but not picked up within a certain time frame get returned. And as new rules of etiquette evolve there may be more returns for other reasons. But if your business can offer something like an online gift card, this may be an revenue building avenue to look into.    

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fifteen Minutes a Day to Social Marketing

So you think that you have no time to maintain a social media marketing policy.

Consider allotting 15 minutes a day to research and post to  Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest pages. Business Posts greater than 3-4 per week are intrusive and too much for most people. Quality not quantity rules on social media. With an initial goal of 2-3 posts per week you can keep quality in your posts, insuring that your audience is engaged and not ignoring what you've got to offer.

Perform your research for future posts on days when you're not posting. Open up a personal Pinterest page and post ideas to your personal page. This gives you a preview of how popular your posts may be once posted to your business pages.

Posts can pass on items of interest related to your business from around the web, events that your business is having, and news about your area. The ultimate goal of social media for business is  keeping the audience engaged, making your business an indispensable source of knowledge and information, keeping you in front of the competition.        

Monday, September 17, 2012

Listing on eBay

If you opt for an official store on eBay you can take advantage of the Turbo Lister program. This program allows you to create your listings while you're offline and then upload the listings to eBay at your convenience.

And the program works slightly faster than creating listings on the eBay site. For example pictures load a bit faster, although not quite as fast as they really should. One of the best features, though, is that you can create listings that use the same format each and every time.

One of the most disconcerting and confusing issues that new users may experience with eBay is the lack of uniformity with forms; go into a listing via the catalog and you get certain data, go in another way and you get another set of data to complete altogether. Sometimes you are required to set your listing and then go back through to get all the fields that are necessary for the listing to appear in the search engine properly.

Not so with Turbo Lister. Each and every time you are presented with the data fields that you need to complete the listing and it's efficiently on just one page---all present for your preview. You can make templates, keep track of items for sale, and monitor sales records. And the program creates a database that you can use to generate all sorts of information.

There are some issues, though. If you make an error for example, and try to list something with the same title, the program doesn't generate an error message, but simply crashes. If you have trouble with the program crashing it is more than likely a problem with the listing that you're working on. This is, hopefully, something that will be fixed in future versions of the program.

If you manage an eBay store, the Turbo Lister is worth a try.      

Monday, September 10, 2012

Google Search

I read with concern a report this morning that stated that Google was going to start charging for placement on Google search. The report, that appeared in a national newspaper, seems to have been misleading.

Google does have certain paid advertising that you can buy to receive highlighted placement at the top of the search page, but if SEO is done your business can more than likely appear near this prime real estate for free. So it's up to you if you want to pay extra for that top space. Personally, when I search for a product, I don't usually go with the top spot just because it's the top spot.

Google also has Google Product Search, a place where you need to go in separately and list your product. This is a free component and gets your product listed in the search results when a potential customer clicks on shopping on their Google search page.

And then there is the paid advertising that helps with adwords in local Google searches. This is for a fee, although most of the time you can try it for free. I've been told by a manufacturer with a limited and unique market that this is worth the money. Again, you are paying for the top spot, not to be the only listing.

To pay or not, is a decision that depends on your product, your competition, and how your business appears on the search engine after doing diligence with SEO.  If you have a local market where your competition is stiff, it may be worth the expense to be on top.  

But keep in mind, you will only be affecting those potential customers who do Google searches not those who use other search engines like Bing.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tips and Tricks

Most people love feeling like insiders, part of an exclusive club that has exclusive privileges. Your customers will flock to be part of your exclusive club when you offer.

And in a combination of website, email, blogging, social marketing, and face to face events you can create and expand your brand's club and increase sales. And the best part is it costs very little to brand your business this way.

Create excitement for a new product with advance notice to your newsletter subscriber "club." After a couple of days you can announce it on your website, blog, and in social media. Invite participants to an in store event demonstrating the wonders of what your product can do for your customers and why they just can't live without it.

And your club members will be informed enough to tell their friends about your product and your business. And others will join your exclusive club. Everyone wants to belong.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Creating Social Media Engagement--tell a story

There's much written about engaging customers on Facebook and other social media and every medium has its own quirks. Whether it's Facebook or Pinterest or another, one of the best posts tells a story and asks the customer to join in and contribute to the tale. One thing I've noticed is that customers who receive great service can't wait to tell about it.

Take the opportunity to solicit positive feedback without asking for it. Tell a story.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Search Engines---what you get when you Google it

What search engine do you use when you ask a question in your address bar and press enter? Chances are you barely notice if at all. And chances are, if you have a smart phone, you'll be using a different search engine than what you use on your laptop.

Each browser comes with its own default, too. So unless you've changed the defaults, if you're using IE you are probably searching with Bing, Chrome users will be using Google, and Firefox users will be defaulted to Google with a handy button near their address bar that allows them to select another engine with a drop down box that includes Yahoo, Babylon, and

Each search engine allows you to ask the same question and receive different answers back. If you're a small business owner with a website, you'd like to come up close to the top when a search is done for your product and the more local that search is the more likely that you will hit that mark. But the top is paid real estate in some search engines. And does it really pay to purchase the top spot when you're coming in second with a resounding customer recommendation to boot?

Most customers searching for a product such as yours are used to doing online research to help make their decisions. When you search do you go to the first ad and stop there to make your purchase? Probably not. It's the content on the pages attached to the search result that really matter in the long run. And in the long run, it is important that your business shows up upon a search for your product and that you've got spectacular content that proves to a potential customer that your business is the one for them.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

So You've Signed on to Pinterest---Now What to Pin?

Pinterest is made up of boards and pins. Boards are made up of pins. Pins are pictures accompanied by a very short amount of verbiage. Pinners will peruse pins and come across your posted Pin. If the picture captures imagination, interest, love, pinners will like the pin, comment on it, or even repin that pin back to their boards.

And so your pins go forward. So what do you pin? And how to arrange your pins?

Pins need to be knock out photos or graphics. The picture needs to tell the story---accompanying verbiage is only secondary. Let's say you're a small business retail establishment. You sell a product. You have sales and events that customers might be interested. Your business has a lot of happy customers. Your customers use your product and get great results.

These are the things you post:

  • A board with great pictures of your products linked back to your own website for additional information. Customers will repin back to their own boards for future reference.
  • A board with great graphics regarding special events and sales that also links back to more information. Customers will add to their boards or calendars and share to other potential customers. 
  • A board that shows your happy customers. Your happy customers will share with potential customers.
  • A board showing the results of using your product. Whether it is a garden from your garden center, a meal from your restaurant, or a great book from your bookstore, your product gets results---post them. They will be repinned and passed on. 
Make the pictures great. Keep the verbiage simple. And provide links back to additional information. Generating excitement about your small business couldn't be more simple.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Power of Pins

I've got to tell a consumer, I am hooked on Pinterest. Pinterest allows me to make a scrapbook of my interests. I can keep track of a reading list, my favorite music, projects for home and family, future purchases and products, things I'd like to do for the holidays, places I want to go...the list goes on and on.

And I have noticed that men are just as likely to have and maintain a Pinterest page as women are. The benefits of Pinterest for small businesses are enormous. But first---Pinterest is not another Facebook. Unless you have a pin that I think will add to my scrapbook I won't follow you or repin you onto my Pinterest page. Give me a great picture of a product I'm dreaming of or something that will help solve a problem I have and I'll pin it to my scrapbook. Give me an idea that I can add to my own project list and I'll repin it to my page. That pin will have a link back to your page and/or website. That pin, if it has enough value, will be repinned over and over again; hitting audiences that your small business never dreamed of.

A picture is worth a thousand words. And on Pinterest your picture can have a major impact.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Newsletters and Value

As part of my web consulting job, I purchased a copy of CorelDraw. The program is great, easy to use, and equally as useful but much cheaper than Adobe's $1000+ program. But this post isn't about trying to persuade you to purchase a program. It's about adding value to newsletters.

When I registered my version of Corel I was offered a newsletter. I signed up thinking I would not only get news on updates but also tips and ideas about how to use my product.

I couldn't have been more disappointed. What I initially received was an email per day advertising the product that I already owned. The emails were poorly designed with outdated graphics; hardly inspiring from a company that was trying to sell graphic design software. Later the graphics got somewhat better. But when the new version came out there was no explanation of why I should upgrade; no demonstration of what the new product could do. In fact the announcement itself was plastered on the old graphics.

These emails continued to come until, after a couple years of deleting them everyday without any value added tips, hints, or information, I signed off of the mailing list.

Corel lost the opportunity because they didn't add value or give customers a reason to stay signed on.

Monday, July 16, 2012

That Little Extra Goes a Long Way

I had an opportunity to give a customer an unexpected surprise the other day. Just a tiny thing but it went a long way in making the product I was selling special, unique, and just for that customer. There are thousands of ways to go the extra couple of steps to make your customer feel good and most cost little in time or money, making them perfect for small business to take advantage over the big guys.

  • Add designer labels to products
  • Throw in a freebie
  • Take a picture of your customer with the new product and add it to your customer appreciation wall.
  • Add a discount on accessories.
  • Add free classes or support
  • Personalize
  • Free samples of complimentary products

Tiny, unexpected gifts can make even the most mundane products special and your business transaction more memorable. 



Monday, July 9, 2012


If you're familiar with iGoogle then you know that an iGoogle page is made up of widgets. And if you also manage a business blog you may have even attempted to make a widget of your own to submit to Google so that your blog posts could be included as a widget on your customers iGoogle pages.

IGoogle is going away but widgets are part of the web and will continue to be part of the web as a convenient conveyor of news. And it's extremely easy to use Netvibes to make a widget of your site---place it in a box for your users to import into their home pages.

Better yet build a Netvibes page that you can use to monitor news regarding your products and services. You can even build a public page for your users to follow and incorporate it into your website. This is just another marketing tool to stay on your user's desktop so that when they need services and products that you sell, your business is right in front.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Facebook Posts for Business

You can now post your Facebook content for a more convenient time for your audience. By clicking on the clock icon on the bottom of your post box you can choose the best time and date for your posts.

And what time is optimal for your posts? This takes a little of experimentation and a review of your Facebook metrics. You'll want to time your posts so that your post appears at the top of your customer's news feed. So the best time to post really depends on what you're posting and who your customer is. If you are posting to a younger crowd who is likely to be online between 11PM-12AM then you might try a post at that time.

But if your customers are likely to be early risers a post at 7AM to 9AM may get you better results. And whatever time is best for your business, it's now easier to tweak and schedule with the new Facebook timer.      

Monday, June 18, 2012

Checking up on Four Square

What is Four Square? It's an app that is growing with popularity that allows users to check in at local businesses. Why would a user check in? To tell their friends where they are, what they're doing, the meal they might be having, their favorite coffee. And users also get rewarded by earning badges, becoming a mayor, becoming experts.

If you own a business and have a web presence you probably are already part of Foursquare. But, like most sites where your business listing shows you need to claim your business on Foursquare before you can interact with your customers and receive demographics regarding those customers.

You can also set up specials to reward customers for checking in with your business. Customers who check in reward your business with word of mouth recommendations that often get shared across Facebook and Twitter accounts.

And the best thing about this is that all it costs is the time to set it up, claiming your business, and setting up the special. For more information click here.  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Integration of Social Media and Website

Search engines continually evolve and it is never so apparent when you search for something online and then receive a blanket of ads for something you were trying to get rid of; not something you were interested in purchasing.

For example, I recently was investigating the worth of a cash drawer that a customer wanted to unload. Several week later I still receive ads for websites that sell cash drawers. They follow me from search engines, to game sites, to Facebook.

Then there are the times when the ads are truly helpful---searching for a hard to find item and you are suddenly helped by one of those Facebook side items---directed to a website that has exactly what you are looking for at a great price.

And this is an example of why you should make sure that your Facebook page, Twitter, Pin It, and any other social media leads your customer to your website. If I find you on Facebook and your website is lost in your timeline, I leave without paying you a visit. The best use of Facebook has the company website right there at the top.  And be sure to make it easy for people to share what you offer online and pass the word on about just how great you are.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Product not as Described

If you're planning on selling on eBay then you need to know that eBay can and will hold your funds from a sale sooner or later. Your funds will be held even though your shipping costs have been paid out of your own pocket. And even if you are in the right and even though your customer has not contacted you regarding the problem or issue first.

Most customers don't realize that filing a claim with eBay freezes funds in the sellers eBay account. A customer who has difficulty using a product will file a claim stating the "product is not as described." EBay then freezes the money and sends an email to the seller stating that the matter should be resolved. This leaves the seller out the cost of shipping and without the product in the interim.

The more detailed and complicated your product, the more likely you will receive this type of claim against your eBay store. A customer receives the product, can't get it to work properly, and files the claim without contacting the store for help first because they feel more protected through eBay.

The faster the issue is resolved the better---eBay doesn't release your money until the issue is resolved and eBay reserves the right to arbitrate. You'll then receive a letter stating the good news that your seller rating was not affected and your funds are released.        

Monday, May 21, 2012

Promotion on Pinterest

I've just joined Pinterest---hard to believe but I'm currently exploring this product for the first time.

I buy products that I need from one of my web customers and recently pinned a product I loved as a reference on my personal Pinterest page. The product pinned was one that I wanted to save as an idea for a future product.

I was surprised at the impact this pin made. It was re-pinned almost immediately by others and the pin included the original link back to my customer's page in an easy unintrusive way. It will be interesting to discover if this type of action results in sales or inquiry activity. It certainly has increased interest in the product.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Like all small business owners I am sometimes overwhelmed by all the information I have to keep track of just to make a dollar. If you own a smart phone you'll find where there's a need there is an app for that. Here are a few I like.

  • Triplog - GPS Mileage Tracker by ESOCIAL ----this app keeps track of your mileage vs expenses and allows you to download a monthly report. Some features, like receipt uploads require payment, but most of the outstanding features are free. Just set up the GPS to track at the beginning of the trip and at the end click the end trip button and the mileage is tallied for you and added to the monthly report. This outstanding and easy to use app will allow you to maximize all that mileage at the end of the year.
  • Business Calendar---I've imported all my important calendars into one place---all color coded so that I know what everyone is doing and when. Great if you need to work around different client schedules or need to know what the customer is doing for web information and coordination.
  •  Inkpad Notepad---I searched a while and tried several before I found this wonderfully simple to do list app to keep me organized and on task. Maintain multiple lists, cross off tasks as they are completed so that you always get the satisfaction of being productive. And you can back up your lists to the server if you want that option.  
  • Bar Code Scanner---Uses your phone's camera to scan bar codes. Great if you are in retail because you can do a bit of inventory with your phone if need be.    
These are just a few of mine. What are yours?       

Monday, May 14, 2012

Pininterest Anyone?

According to a poll done by people on Pininterest buy more and spend more (double) when they buy than the folks on Facebook.

83% of U.S. users of Pininterest are females and the average age is 35-44; a demographic not to be overlooked.

And the site could be addicting. And it has potential to give small business an edge. Let's look at a couple of examples.

  • Florist, nurseries, farmstands---posting fresh additions to stock as it comes in. Do you have a specialty item I'm looking for? I'll get on my laptop or phone and pull up all those delectable pictures.   
  • Selling something visual---jewelry, purses, crafts? Pin it and sell it.
  • Is your business a restaurant, bakery, or yummy shop? Wet some appetites with some Pininterest.
  • Does your business create art or help someone to create art? Pin all those wonderful creations to your board---letting everyone share that they were made with your tools.
Double the Facebook sales...that's something to consider.      

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Picture Size

Photographs are a crucial components for websites, blogs, and emails. Photographs not only need to be crisp and close up but taken in the most natural lighting conditions possible to preserve true color, although there is no guarantee that true color will be preserved on whatever device that your customer views the photography.

One issue overlooked is the size of the pictures posted to the web page, blog, or email. Experts are conflicted on the size. Even the big ecommerce sites like etsy, eBay, and blogger differ on the optimal size of photographs.

Photographs uploaded to eBay are advised to be at the largest possible size. There is no maximum size here---just a minimum.

Which means that if you're posting the same photography to your business site, etsy or blog, you'll need to make another batch of photo's that are quite a bit smaller---roughly around 900-1000 px  at maximum. In emails thumbnails or photo's not bigger than 300 px might work better.

Most experts advise posting the picture size to your web coding so that your customer's browser doesn't have a choice to resize and the web page loads faster. Most importantly, include alt and name verbiage so that even your pictures pop up into the search engines and bring more customers to your site.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Way Your Customers are using Social Media

Meeting at a store, making dinner plans, shooting a photo of a great buy or meal, or drink; all ways that Facebook and other social media can be used for your business by your customers.

This weekend my small group of friends made me thirst for a drink, after posting a photo of a Bloody Mary during a brunch, introduced me to a new restaurant, and notified me of a special offer and event that a store, that I barely knew about, was having.

When the new restaurant was suggested I promptly pulled up a mouth watering menu on the restaurant's website and weekly specials posted on the Facebook page.

I can testify that the two restaurants will receive real sales over the next week. I'm still considering the offer and special event from the store. But I'm still thinking about it.

Thus is the power of just a bit of Social Media.    

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I've had good luck shipping with the USPS and I hope making that statement doesn't jinx me.

Not so with UPS. Not only are UPS rates much higher than shipping USPS, there is a reason why they offer free insurance.

Recently we shipped an item from Indiana to North Carolina. The item was trackable and made its speedy way from the Midwest to the southeast where it promptly disappeared. We were notified by the customer that the item had not reached its destination even though the tracking information indicated the item had been delivered.

UPS claimed that they had delivered to the next door neighbor and records showed that a "Blake" had signed for the package.

There in was the problem---there was no "Blake" living next door to the customer. After further investigation revealed that the UPS driver had deposited the package with some one loading refuse left street side by the neighbor, I contacted the UPS supervisor in charge of the area.

The UPS supervisor was neither appalled or apologetic. In fact in all my correspondence and contact with UPS, UPS was more concerned that the claim was paid rather than this situation should be rectified so that it would never occur again. When told that I had always had professional service from the USPS, the supervisor told me "well, then you should ship with them."

Having worked in customer service positions all of my life,with an understanding of what should have occurred, I was appalled by the lackadaisical attitude. If I was the company covering the UPS losses I'd be upping my rates.             

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sooner or Later You'll Need to Ship

If you have a small business sooner or later you'll need to ship. You will soon discover that fees are all over the place, regulations are many and can be difficult to wade through, and service can be non existent.

After several years of experience, my shipping company of choice is still the good old USPS. Nothing beats the Postal Service's prices, the service, once you're out of the post office, is reliable and consistent, and most rules and regulations are easily found on their website.

Just about everyone can come up with a horror story on any shipping service, but I don't have one yet on the USPS. They won't leave something with a neighbor. They won't leave a package on the doorstep. They will only get a signature from an intended recipient.

And I'm currently finding why UPS gives up to $100 in insurance free on their shipments.

Stay tuned...more to follow.        

Monday, April 23, 2012


How does your business show up in Google Places? Places is an app that can be accessed from mobile phones. Used mainly for restaurants, gas stations,  and coffee shops the app can be used for any product and service.

If a potential customer's car breaks down out of town---Places can help them to the nearest service center. It's important to review information periodically when you find your business on Places. Anyone can enter information regarding your business---customers and employees both. You, as business owner, need to claim the business and keep information like telephone numbers and hours of operation accurate. From a mobile phone it's simply a click on a telephone number and the customer has you on the phone.

And as more and more people use phones to search for products and services, the local search on places will be used to locate home repairs and services and many products that we turn to the Yellow Pages today. In fact, when was the last time you turned to the hard copy Yellow Pages?              

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Getting the Word Out

One of my favorite stories to tell is when I was looking for a bicycle to buy. I love buying local and supporting my local economy---I've always viewed it as a mission to support my local small businesses even before it was fashionable to do so. 

I was having difficulty finding the particular bicycle that I needed and ended up doing an internet search. I went to another state to make the purchase because there were no businesses listed with the brand that I wanted locally. It is important to have the word out on your business in various ways on the internet otherwise your customers could be going to the next state over and passing you up. 

Every now and then you can get the word out on your products and services for free. Bing currently is offering a free mobile site for businesses complete with a QR code for you physical location so customers can scan the code in to phones and easily locate that mobile site.

On the mobile site you can add monthly/weekly deals, product photos, events, and hours. It is a handy (and handsome) website widget that can help your customer and can even be easily emailed to friends or shared to Twitter and Facebook.

To contact you by phone the customer simply hits the button. This is how the mobile web was designed to work---easy and fast, with a "meet you at the store or event" sharing ease of use.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Product Descriptions

Selling online can be a bit challenging. Even if you spend a lot of time writing an accurate description of an item, you may not include everything a potential customer needs to decide to make a purchase and most people will not stop to ask questions but will go to the next shop that may have a better description.

And once they've left your site, chances are you've lost them. So your product descriptions are important. When you're writing descriptions you should use all your senses to examine your item:

  1. What does it really look like? Does it shine? What color is it? If it's vintage or used are there defects or patina? Accurate descriptions will include all the details
  2. Does the item have a feel to it? If it's a machine is it heavier than it looks? If it's a sweater, is it soft? 
  3. Does it smell? Has it been used in a smoky environment?---fess up unless you can get rid of the smell (Febreze doesn't do it). If it's vintage does it smell musty?
  4. What about sound? 
  5. Don't forget about taste if that applies.
Some customers will only look at the pictures---so make sure they accurately show the product. These customers will usually ask questions that are already answered in your posting---that's OK because then you have the opportunity to expound on why you and your product is the best that they can buy.

So when you are listing online don't forget to create an atmosphere for your customers to make them feel as if they are physically right there with that product and they just might stick around for a purchase.    

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Making Emails Mobile

More and more emails are being opened on mobile devices first. According to one study desktop clients are falling by the wayside while mobile clients are being used 20%+ more.

Products can really shine on a mobile phone and customers can zoom in on the details. In addition phone numbers in the body of the email can be clicked on making it easy for customers to connect with your business for answers to questions.

Mobile customers are also more likely to share and pass on the emails too, many people handle social media on their phones.

So while you design your emails for desk top clients, web mail clients like Google, Yahoo, and Hotmail, keep those phones in mind---they're the future.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Expectations---Your Plan

Nurturing customer relationships in the hope of creating or attracting new customers is a great social media marketing goal.

Let's say you have a product that has hit saturation point in your current local market. You have current customers who are using your product but the product has a lifespan of 5 plus years. And while your current customer base will provide incidental sales of services and accessory purchases, there won't be any more big ticket items for at least another 5 years. You need more customers and you can get the word out with social media and interaction with your current customers.

Social Media is about nurturing your current relationships, interaction with your customers, demonstrating customer service, and demonstrating just how wonderful your business is.

Your website then moves on to being the authority regarding your business. Customer leads who find you through social media proceed to your website to learn more about your services and products. They find your store policies, detailed location and event information, and hopefully, just how much of an expert you are in the area your business is located. The more detailed the information is, the more likely the lead generated will take action and a sale will be made.

Social media becomes a fine complement to your website generating new curiosity and excitement, complements and customer interaction and new paths to customers who are already thinking about your products and services.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Giving Your Customers Plenty of Room

Today's online environment allows even the smallest business to give customers plenty of room to comment and love what you do. It also allows you to handle any issues, explain and amend any contrary comments.

Many sites that come up on search engines allow businesses to be entered by customers who then go on to comment and rate the business. I've seen good comments and bad in my research of businesses that I'm in need of--everything from veterinary services, to dog grooming to dentists.

The good comments are worthwhile if there are more than one or two.

The bad comments only hold weight if they go unanswered. When the customers concerns are acknowledged and diffused the negative comment can become a huge marketing opportunity to show just how responsive your business is to customer service.

Monitoring the web through a weekly search of your business name and genre on search engines, in addition to using web tools offered free by Bing and Google allows you to uncover just what customers are saying about you. And this needs to be done whether you have a website or facebook page or whether you have even placed your own business information on the web yourself.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Video on Your Website

Video's are easy to add to a website--- simply host on one of the major video hosting sites and you can embed directly into your webpage any movie whether it's a short video demonstrating your business, services, and products or a how to video so customers have a reference on how to use your product once they get it home.

If you're a retailer, many manufacturers offer product videos that you can mine and embed right to your site to help demonstrate and sell the products you need to sell the most. Just copy the code and add it directly to the coding of your page.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when posting videos and the most important is to resist the temptation to have the video auto play as soon as your customer lands on your page. Give your customer the option to play the video by providing a full range of controls and leave the customer in charge of when or not to play.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Facebook Pages Change Over this Week

Expect your Facebook page to change whether or not your business is ready for it by the end of the week. So what is the minimum that you need to do?

You need a graphic---851px x 315px. If it's not the right size it will be cut by Facebook's program and sometimes that doesn't look so great. Once the photo/graphic is uploaded it can be moved around if necessary to get the photo at the best advantage.

You'll also need a square image 180px x 180px. Your logo or picture that you have been using may be something that you can continue to use. Or this is may be an opportune time to update your images and make sure that your whole front page reflects your branding and what you do. 

Updating these images is the bare minimum that needs to be done. There are a many things that you can add to the body of the page and many things you can do to manipulate the information on your page to make a better experience for your visitors.  


Monday, March 26, 2012

More on our Facebook campaign

The Facebook campaign for our client continues to garner likes and added benefits. Customers are coming to the page to provide complimentary comments on products and services. They are complimenting staff---making everyone's day better. They are visiting the website, signing up for newsletters, and making the business their own.

So far the campaign has added benefits unforeseen.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More on our Facebook Rollout

Giving away $10 in merchandise, no strings attached, increased activity on Facebook by 300%.

A newsletter sent out to a subscriber list solicited likes to the page. We had postings and fliers for the store. And with all the happy customers, the word is getting out that the local store is a premier place to shop and do business. We've gotten unsolicited positive feed back posted to our timeline regarding store personnel and service. We've taken advantage of opportunities for enhanced service.

The magic of the campaign is that it is reasonably priced advertising that connects directly with the customer---giving value to the people who are directly important to the business as customers  and rewarding those who love the business through word of mouth---a win--win connection directly between business and customers.

And you really can't beat that.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Facebook and Small Business

We're doing a Facebook start up for a small local business. Over the next few weeks we'll be engaging customers, recruiting likes, tweaking the pages.

In the last few days what has become most apparent is that, for the initial start up anyway, it is imperative that an in store program is developed to launch the program. Fliers, a way for customers to log on in store and post a like, and posters for windows and doors announcing the Facebook role out help get the word out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Your Facebook Profile Picture

Facebook's new format places that Profile Picture at even a bigger premium than before. In a square 180 pixels by 180 pixels you need to tell the world who you are---your brand. And some of the biggest brands miss the boat.

I cringed when visiting one of my favorite congressman's page and found that his profile was a picture of him at a podium---several feet back from the podium. It's even doubtful if anyone could make out who was at the podium with 3000 pixels---a missed opportunity.

There is no mistaking Coke's profile picture though, even as they are adjusting the branding again. Amazon, Tide, Target, and Kmart all cram their branding into 180 pixels by 180 pixels that is easily identifiable no matter how small the image is reduced---a challenge well met.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Facebook Timeline

We're busy re-doing Facebook pages this week. I've looked at many of the big guys pages to get ideas--see what they're doing; they, after all have huge staffs.

I like Walmart's page the best so far. They're page is bright and fresh---the framed pictures are representative of Walmart customers and products, yet the cover photo still complies with Facebook guidelines. Brand identification is Walmart's sunny logo---not quite what I'd pick but it is growing in identification.

The "about" section includes a quote from Sam Walton that personifies Walmart's mission---an excellent subtle marketing effort for this area. I would have added a link to the Walmart website to this area.

But the best part of this page is what they did to the links section. A spot for photo's, a local Walmart locator, feedback link, and meal recipes are sure to draw customers in to socialize, engage, and share in Walmart's space.        

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Coco's biscuits

An addendum to Monday's post:

One week later I received an email back from the dog biscuit company. I received the information, the company kept a local customer, and Coco has a supply of biscuits.

So don't forget about those patient web customers---they may be your best customers yet. If you decide to implement a website, make provisions to keep it up to date and staffed to insure your customers get the service that they deserve, ensuring future sales.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hello? Are You Still in Business?

The other day the store that carried my pooches favorite brand of dog biscuits quit carrying them. My dog has been pleading with me to find another supply. Looking on the packaging as I doled out the last biscuit I noticed a website address. I thankfully emailed the company with a request to send information on other suppliers.

That was over a week ago. My pooch, Coco, is so terribly sad.

This happens all the time with all sorts of services and products. I've emailed a manufacturer of a specialty device, with the same results. Companies that, for whatever reason, post a wonderful, informative website; then don't maintain it and, worse yet, provide contact emails and web forms and don't allot resources to respond to inquiries.

A growing segment of the population likes communicating via email. Email (and email via web forms) is a great way to avoid telephone tag. It is a pretty efficient way of communicating for both parties. Not only can someone send a message during 2:00 A.M. insomnia, but the answering party isn't required to respond during that Monday morning rush period and can provide responsive service back at a more convenient time.

But even companies with the most responsive telephone service often fail miserably when it comes to email. If you are doing your first website or revamping your current site, take a moment and commit resources to answer that most convenient of customers---those willing to wait for your convenience for an answer to that question---your email/website customer.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We've Added New Services

If you haven't visited our website at point your browser and head right over, we've added some new services.

Many times when I'm out canvassing the area for new business I see business owners being pulled in all different directions. The market place is changing. How customers find you is changing. If you are a small business relying on the hard copy yellow pages you are missing out on business opportunities---and that's alright if you are happy with the amount of business you currently have and you're confident that you can hang on to your current customers.

But more than likely you are looking for ways to weather these tough economic times and looking for ways to economically compete.

When I need a service or product, I look on the internet. I couldn't tell you where my most recent copy of the phone book is---I probably don't have it any longer. It is much simpler and less time consuming to hit the search button and find the information I need. Most websites give more info on what services a local business offers, I get to learn a little more about just who I might be doing business with and a bit of the history behind that person.

Being on top of the search engines is important but even more important is that connection you have with your customers and having your own customers letting others know how great you are and why they chose you over your competition.

So we've added Social Media Management and Newsletter/Email Campaigns to our mix of offerings. For a small amount each day we will help you drum up interest and connect with your customers in ways to get you in front of potential customers. We'll help you with those newsletter designs and campaigns and subscription management.

So, if you and your staff just don't have the time to engage your customers online, and uncover all those potential customers, we're here to help.          

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why do Social Media?

So why do Social Media? Just assume that your blog post about your Spring sale generates 25 likes and that those 25 customers have just 25 friends who receive that information. Your business potentially receives attention like this:

And where else can you get your storefront out like that? 


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't Miss Opportunities

If you have a website you have a storefront on the Internet where your customers come to visit you 24/7. And with those visits come certain expectations.

Posting closings outside of regular business hours is important. Customers expect to be notified on your web pages.

And as mobile phones are used more and more, phone friendly pages, not necessarily completely mobile sites, are required. Let me give you an example:

On President's Day I remembered the library and post office would be closed, but didn't consider that the bank would be closed also. On the banks site that morning there wasn't a mention of closing; I marched off to the bank that afternoon. The first branch I passed was closed. The second branch had closed at 12:00. Pulling up the website on the phone I searched for a list of the branches in the area---found the list---but without phone numbers.

If the phone numbers would have been on the webpage just one click could have gotten a branch on the line so that I could discover if the branch was open.

Instead the bank lost the opportunity to service a customer, even though the bank was closed. Simply by using resources the bank was already paying for a customer could have been served---it wouldn't have costed much additional to post hours; certainly not to post branch phone numbers.        

Monday, February 20, 2012

Prize Deserving Websites

Graphics covered with cupcakes the other day had me hankering for a cupcake. I discovered a local place right down the street from me---a place full of delectable cupcakes in a tempting array of flavors. And I found a website that has everything that a website should have.   I just wish I would have had the opportunity to build it---I can't take credit.

The number one thing about the site is its match to branding. The business' physical building, interior, website, even its Facebook page all match the business branding.

As a potential customer, I needed to learn a few things from the website:

  • Do they have cupcakes?
  • What flavors are available?
  • Where are they located?
  • What hours are they open?
  • A little bit about who owns the business and who I would be buying from help
Fortunately, through some convenient site wide navigation I was able to find out everything I needed to become a customer. I even got a close up picture of the several cupcake flavors available that made my mouth water in anticipation of my visit.

This site demonstrates every reason why a small business should have a website. To gain customers, give product information, and allow customers to become comfortable before that first visit...this site can't be beat.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Website Design

Have you ever Googled a product you were interested in purchasing? You may have found the information you needed on the manufacturers website and then searched for a local retailer to see the product in person. Or maybe you continued on the internet for more information, maybe a better price?

When you looked for the information and product did any website design persuade you to make a purchase simply due to that web design itself?

Chances are no. Customers searching on the web are looking for information---clear, concise, searchable, and if they find that information they need a way to return to that information later. Good web design does all these things well.

Sure an attractive, eye pleasing interface is helpful. But web design should be about the product, not the design.  First time web planners and small business owners often love to add a bit of flash to their websites. A cartoon character moving around the screen can be entertaining, but unless your product is graphic animations you are better off using your space to highlight better pictures and explanations of your own product.

In the long run, the mechanics of the site---navigation, search boxes, and information are why that customer is there. And giving the customer what he or she wants, as fast, efficiently, and professionally as you can is the only way to provide good customer service---whether in the physical or virtual worlds.          

Monday, February 13, 2012

Nudging that Word of Mouth

Do you find yourself going online to check out reviews on products you're thinking about purchasing? Increasingly word of mouth advertising is nudging customers to buy one product over another---choose one business over another. And you can use this word of mouth to promote your business forward as the premier place to do business through social media and your own website.

Planning to buy a car this year? The first place you'll probably check is the online reviews. You might even visit a Facebook page or two, visit a couple of dealer websites to uncover service and product lines available---research customer comments posted.

Increasingly word of mouth advertising and social media is making deals for you and all you need to do is nudge it along by facilitating the discussion between your business and those happy customers that have connections to those potential new customers who you need to bring into the conversation to move your business forward.      

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Testing Email Campaigns

Email is its own animal separate from the rules of the Web. As far as coding---well, email is basically back in the dark ages. And there are as many ways an email can be rendered by the various email clients as there are programs.

An email sent to a Yahoo address, for instance, can be viewed in different browsers, each browser will add different criteria---rendering spaces where spaces should not appear. The same happens to Gmail and Hotmail. And then there is the possibility that the email will be viewed on a phone---rendering links differently; for example a PDF will be downloaded instead of opened.

What this means is that each and every newsletter and email needs to be tested on a variety of browsers, mail processors, and devices. And this applies no matter what email client you are using to process your newsletters.

In addition make sure that you send tests to the major carriers like Comcast. There have been times when emails sent through to Comcast have gone undelivered with no trace or rejection sent for failure. Missing a good portion of your customers because of a fluke in Comcast's system is not the optimal results you want for your marketing campaign. And, again, each and every email should be tested. There have been times when an email program has been set and working for months when all of the sudden, seemingly for no apparent reason, Comcast's mail go undelivered.

So once you have that eye catching email---make sure it catches the eyes of all your customers---test, test, test.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Search for Your Business and What do they find?

Periodically it pays to search for your own business on the internet. Not only does the search tell you where you are coming up on the search engines but it also gives you a chance to clean up old and incorrect information on your business and gives you the opportunity to thank all your customers who took the time to complement your business.

Some sites allow anyone to enter a business name and information. It then becomes the business owner's responsibility to "claim" the business. As a result there can be all sorts of  lacking and incorrect information on your business. So whether you have a website or want to be on the internet at all, it pays to see what information comes up on  your business and make updates and corrections if necessary.        

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Don't forget Valentine Email Marketing

Now that January is over there's still time to have a Valentine's Day campaign. Think your business doesn't apply because your products are not in the romance category?  Do you have products that are red? How about small, impulse purchases? Can you re-package a product in Valentine's paper; making it speak the language of love?

Things are often slow this time of year for most business. But your business can join the candy and flowers businesses and offer romance and hearts to lovers this year with an email campaign highlighting a special product that gets customers into the store to browse your other products too.    

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


E-commerce isn't for every small business, but if things are slow in your physical locations, you may want to consider getting your feet wet with a few product offerings that you can post at good prices.

If you're ready to start offering products online, you'll need  an option to merge your physical location to your online offerings. Blue Heron Moon Web Consulting has an E-commerce option that melds an in house software with a web presence. We can help you with a software that handles inventory management, newsletter subscriptions and promotions, blogs, news, and forums.

This solution works for those businesses with the need to manage inventory for purposes other than just website sales. Call us today for a consultation.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Top 5 Secrets to Coming up on Top of Search Engines

Seems like there are more experts than ever who can put your business on top of the search engines for a fee. And there are more businesses that are willing to dish out the dough to be at the top. Being on top isn't about magic; it's about work and depending on just how much competition your business has online it may require a whole lot of hard work.

So here's five ways that can help you begin:

  1. Put up a website, publish it properly and update it frequently. You will not do very well without fresh and up to date information. 
  2. Start a blog, make sure it's linked to your website. Blog regularly.
  3. Have a Facebook, Twitter, and Google page. Link them all to your website, blog, and each other. Post regularly.
  4. Yahoo, Google, and many yellow page sites offer free listings with links back to your website. The more of these entities you sign up with the more likely you will appear when someone searches for your products and services. 
  5. Make sure your location, your information, hours of operations, and any other information is up to date in all the sites where your business appears. You'll want to have this information managed and monitored.    
The internet is a web of information. The more that you contribute to the web the better your business shows up in that web. Not magic. Just hard work that any business can benefit from.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Profound Changes need to be Given more Thought

Government censorship of the internet is being discussed in Washington. The regulations being proposed have the potential to lock up data, information, and prohibit our ability to market, advertise, and demonstrate our products and services on our websites.

Read about the regulations here.

An internet protest is occurring on many sites today. Wikipedia is purposely down and is providing a convenient link so that you can voice concern to Washington. Access the link here.

Please join the voice to keep the information on the internet free and flowing since the government has other tools to use to prosecute the true copyright violators. Movie and Music Industries can and should use existing laws and not impose restrictions on small businesses that don't violate those copyright laws.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Search---flowing your Physical Service with your Web Presence

I like to shop locally; not only does shopping local provide local opportunities to all the locals, but I dream of a day when Main Street, once again, becomes that place where service is king, opportunity is abundant, and everybody knows your name.

Finding a new or unique product can be a corundum though. Take my search for a first time purchase of a package of fabric batting to make the center of a few potholders. My search lead me to a brand. I searched for that brand and the search resulted in 3 local stores within a few miles of my location as well as a couple of places to order online. Unfortunately when I got to store one they didn't have the product and seemingly had never heard of it. Not good. After I returned home, upon further investigation, the store in question had a larger, online presence where you could order online; apparently this corrupted my search for a local supply. I was disappointed in the retailer---they weren't that type of small main street business that I like to frequent anyway.

But this larger retail store is having problems and closing stores in this tough economy. A lesson it may be too late for them to learn is service is really the key to continuing business and customer loyalty---especially in today's changing retail world. They would have had a loyal customer as well as a sale if they would have had a knowledgeable staff empowered to get on their own website, order the product I needed and have it delivered to their store, saving me the shipping charge, as I would already be making two trips to their physical location.

Instead they received  no sale, no customer, and I am left with the feeling that, although the store was an icon of previous generations---one that taught me what good service is, this is a retailer that has seen better days and may deserve it's ride into the sunset.      

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cell Phones bring sales

According to a recent article on Market Watch the majority of cell phone users are searching for services and products online and these users feel the smart phone is a really handy device to use to make a purchase.

The good news is that most smart phones know where they're located. A phone will give information locally first and then branch out depending on where that phone's user is if that user allows for certain GPS location searching. This means that local small business can be on equal footing with all the big competition around as long as the proper keywords and web marketing is in place.

Because security is a concern for these online users it's important that your website offer a Paypal option for payment as it is viewed as more secure over traditional credit and debit cards. And for the 3 out of every 10 who don't feel comfortable making purchases online---be sure your physical location, phone, and hours of operation are prominently displayed on your website and are kept up to date.      

Monday, January 9, 2012

Making up that email

An email template may be something that you will be considering for the new year. Even if you use an email service like Constant Contact you can add your own code, graphic, and links so that each email is consistently yours. If you are considering updating your template you might considering adding these components for a more polished  and useful correspondence:

  • Each email should contain your name, address, email address for responses and comments, and your logo.
  • You can update your emails to include links back to specific areas of your website. Why not provide a link to your web calendar of special events, blog, and home page?     
  • Every email should contain a link for those wishing to unsubscribe.  
  • Do you have a gift for your customer? A coupon or piece of information---a how to or an "inside your industry" tidbit keeps customers opening and reading your emails. 
  • Advanced notice to events and sales creates an "insider's club." Everyone likes to belong.
  • Make sure that links to your social media are included. Customers will not miss a chance to find out what's going on with you and when you get that new product in that the customer didn't know they needed.
Your template can be copied over for each email you send out---meaning that you only do it once and simply add the specifics for each program. Using the same template also creates branding. When I see the Martha Stewart aqua-green color on a gray background I know the email came from Martha Stewart's companies---I don't even need to see her picture or logo. I also know she has something to give to me---a piece of information, a new product, a tip or event. And more often than not, no matter how busy I am, I take the time to open it up and see what she's got for me today.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Your customers are waiting for you to catch up

My hot water heater is on the fritz. I'm afraid it is long past time to replace so last night I searched online for a company to service it. The water heater has been so bad for so long I'm really serious about replacing and if I had found a company that allowed me to obtain an estimate and schedule an appointment online and they were reasonably priced, they would have had a sale for no additional work.

I like doing business this way---it saves a bunch of time and phone calls---back and forth and missed. It's easier to plan for my expense-----maybe the cost will be so much that I need to limp along with my old one for another month.

The only problem is that not one company came up with a website in my area. I'm a customer who is waiting for a company to fill a need. And there are at least 5 small businesses in my immediate area that missed an opportunity last night.

What are other customers doing? Probably going to a big box store....      

Monday, January 2, 2012

January Website Updates

January is the perfect time to update that website---make sure your copyright information is updating and replace those pictures of old products with the new 2012 versions.

Not only does updating your website keep it fresh but it also refreshes your position in the search engines. And with the weather outside being so frightful, your customers can shop with you from the couch.

Happy New Year!