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July 2009

Liz Strauss' The 25 Words of Social Media Wisdom Project

On the Successful & Outstanding Blog(gers) blog Liz has started a new 25 words writing project: share your thoughts and wisdom in 25 words with the world.

(follow the link to the invitation)

My contribution:

Questionmarkspeople Questionmarksfonts

In this brave new world
of follow and followers,

follow the question

and provide the needed answer

That truly puts the "Social" in the "Medium".


Does your business have a website or a webpresence?

During the last week I have had various very interesting discussions (online and off-line) about businesses and their use of the World Wide Web (offically E-commerce). In the early days "all you needed" was a web site and an email address. It's like placing an advert in a weekly paper and never changing the content because having an ad in the paper is all you need to get "exposure". As long as someone keeps seeing the ad, eventually they will decide to buy from you.

Does your web presence portrait trust? Nowadays, even with the increase of all types of Social Media platforms, that's still the only item most businesses have: one web site and I've lost count of small businesses' websites I've seen which are still the same as the moment they were built years ago.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that anymore - and it stopped working a while ago. Not just because of the Social Media 'craze' but more due to the advances in search technology. If your website is not found on the first two or three result pages you can forget any traffic, it is said. Getting ranked high in the generic search results especially on Google takes either a lot of time or a lot of money and there are plenty of SEO wizards out there claiming they can get your website on the first page, guaranteed. A lot of money is wasted this way, because even if they succeed in getting your site "up there", what is all that extra traffic going to find? Last year's special offer? (Like the banner ad I saw this week on one of the forums we frequent as part of our web presence)

One of the offline discussion I had - which continued "online" per email - was just about that: in this day and age of multiple electronic platforms: websites, facebook pages, YouTube, Squido lenses, blogs, twitter accounts, autoresponders, LinkedIn profiles, forums - have I left something out? - what is a business to do? Choose only one platform or opt-in for all, because you never know what platform one of your prospect is using and you don't want to miss out on any opportunity to be found (or to be regarded as "old-fashioned" because you haven't jumped on the latest internet craze where loads of others are making the big bucks).

But again, what is your prospect going to find when he/she follows you, becomes a fan, watches your video, reads your blog article, lands on your website, connects on LinkedIn, submits a name and email address in the box of your autoresponder? Do they find a consistent presence? A representation of you business that encourages trusting the presence your business portraits?

Because IMHO that should be the focus of any "WebPresence" your business is establishing, trying to establish: building trust with your prospects. No matter which platform you select or how many: all should work as "an invitation" to start a conversation, an invitation for arranging that next cup of coffee to keep the interest and relationship alive.

Every business should have a web presence, not just a website. The choices are plentiful indeed, but be wary of those choices that does not help you built trust. Ever left a comment on a business blog, tweeted a question to a business and never received a reply? Submitted your name and email address in the box only to receive a sales letter - every other day?

Social Media platforms are not "number games": look at how many followers, fans, subscribers, readers I have.
It's what quality you are able to give to those numbers. Focus on quality relationships instead of quantities in short term "profit", quality is what pays your bills in the end - it always has and always will.

(Maybe I should change the name of my E-training, from The WebMarketing ToolBox to The Web Presence ToolBox - something to ponder about this coming week.)

Why your documentation is useless and how to make it Useful

Documentation. Done. Right!

There are three software programs our business has come to learn, love and can't do without any more: Typepad blog platform, AWeber the autoresponder and email marketing and ScreenSteps The multiple media publishing machine. All three involve turning content into (marketing) documentation, are mainly so-called 'online' software programs and are a great tool/help for us to interact with our prospects/clients.

Funnily enough one of those three can be used in combination with the two others. ScreenSteps (Desktop) publishes some of our documentation without any problems into Typepad (this post for instance) and in AWeber.

On this Kiss Business 2 and on the 1 Plus 1 Makes 3 blog I've praised this software program since the moment we started using it. I've tried to explain many times why it is such a great, versatile, simple and multifunctional program any business creating documentation should use.

In their latest webinar "Why your documentation is useless" Greg and Trevor DeVore, founders of Blue Mango Learning Systems and the creators of ScreenSteps have done a much better job - of course! - of explaining why creating your documentation, manuals and even training instructions should be considered a process instead of a project.

Even the stills from the Webinar already tells you the essence of the story:

Is your documentation a:


Is your documentation connected with:


Do you plan a documentation project or:


The video recording of the Webinar tells you much more about the principle of seeing your documentation as a progress instead of a project. Due to the time the webinar was planned I couldn't attend, but I watched the recording this morning and thought: yes, this is exactly what I've been trying to explain to others why ScreenSteps Desktop (and Live) is such a great and IMHO essential tool in these modern days where prospects and clients expect adequate and easy accessible information from many businesses - even from a specialised retailer like we are.

Watch the Webinar recording here and all the slides here.

The whole pricing structure of ScreenSteps Live (now in combination with ScreenSteps Desktop licenses) has made it even more worthwhile to start using both programs and for every business - customer service department, technical support, to function as tour guide for their clients by creating, publishing and distributing all your documentation the right way.
Very quickly you will see that the number of follow-up questions asked by prospects/clients to your customer service or technical support will drastically reduce (and the number of "Thank You!" emails will increase).

ScreenSteps - Documentation Done Right

A true calling for the Dragons Den?

Dragons-seated Yesterday saw the return of one of my favourite programs on BBC 2: Dragons Den.

And boy, were we in for a treat! The program makers left the best for last: Steve Smith with his "True Call" a 'cold-call' blocking system with a difference. Most phone companies have 'services' you can use to block certain numbers but these will block callers indifferently and will cost you between £ 3.50 - £ 4.00 per month.

The "True Call" is a device which is (at the moment) plugged in between the phone socket and your phone and screens every incoming call. Meaning you as user have multiple options when the phone rings. If the caller is on your 'friends list' the call is let straight through to your phone, if the caller is 'unknown' the True Call will ask him/her to identify themselves and then gives you, the user, 4 options:

  1. accept the call 
  2. accept the call and add number to the 'friend list'
  3. direct the call to an answer machine
  4. Zap the caller

During the demonstration Steve Smith did just that and the cold-caller hears a 'standard' message we are all eager to be able to tell one of those callers:

"We're not interested in your call. Please hang up and don't call again"

in the most cold voice you can imagine. It had the Dragons in stitches too.

It was a great pitch, straight forward and to the point. And then it became even more interesting due to the almost eager reactions of the Dragons to get a 'piece of the action'. 

Truecall It does not happen often in the Den what happened yesterday - or at least was broadcasted yesterday, today saw plenty of very surprised tweets about how quickly the product seemed to be available in the shops.

There in front of 5 of the most renowned Entrepreneurs UK has come to know (and appreciate) stood an entrepreneur with a proven track-record, a proven product, an almost perfect pitch and a believable financial forecast asking for an investment of £100.000 for 7.5% equity.
They almost tripped over each other to get in.

James Caan set the benchmark by offering 1/2 for 12.5% - Deborah Meaden went straight over him by offering the full amount for 12.5%.
Duncan Bannatyne was really clever IMHO to simply state he would underwrite every offer made by Peter Jones (who as we all know is THE man to have as Dragon for any product even just slightly related to tele-communication).
Peter did indeed make it known that he could add the most value most quickly and offered the full amount for 15% or would share 3 ways with Duncan and James.
Then Theo Pathitis threw in his retail acumen: he could have UK distribution in seconds and matched Deborah's offer.

I'm not going to spoil it any further for those who haven't seen it yet, just watch the 13 minute video of the broadcast here. I must confess I was sitting on the edge of my seat at the end - which offer would this proven entrepreneur go for?

In all the years I've been watching Dragons Den it is rare to see a fight like this and offers in so quick (and so low!).

One thing that did cross my mind at the end was: which cold call business will find a 'cure' for the True Call blocker?
And that my friends, is what keeps the economical world turn round and round and round:

act and counteract

Dear AWeber

Dear AWeber

Iloveaweberbutton Greetings from a big fan of your autorespond and email marketing software. Your functionality enables our business to start an ethical and long-term conversation with those prospects who opt-in to receive information about many of our ranges. It even enables prospects to request personalised advice on any subject of our trade they can't find quickly enough on our site or anywhere else online. We can even use you as instant delivery vehicle of "how-to wood-guides" in combination with Paypal secure payments. And everyone on our many retails business lists receive our monthly newsletter when we broadcast it every first Monday of the month.

Because of its functionality and ease to use I'm also using your software for my second career business 1 Plus 1 Makes 3, where combined expertise gives you triple value. There you are, amongst other usages, also the instant delivery vehicle of the E-training I created on "The Best AWeber Strategies and Tactics for Small Businesses".

For this Kiss2, the 1plus1makes3 and our retail FAQ & News blogs you alert subscribers when a new article (post) has been published so no one misses out on news, be it on new ranges in our retail business, on business and marketing books I've been reading or software programs that can make small business life simpler and effective.

And recently we're sponsoring our village community by hosting and managing the CharingKent website and use your software to inform every local business and villager of all the activities that take place in our lovely Kent village.

All in all we are very happy with your software, your first class deliverability and your excellent support team. Since recently I and others can even tweet with you in 140 characters at a time and receive a relevant tweet back.
There is however one thing that would make my life - and I'm sure many other AWeber account holders who use your software for more than one purpose (various departments, locations, targeted groups and/or volunteer work) - even more simple. Explaining this in 140 characters won't do in this case I'm afraid, hence this 'old-fashion' format of a blog post.

Db_Blocks_1_1The last time I counted our AWeber account contains 23 lists for our retail business, 7 for 1 Plus 1 Makes 3 and 2 for other purposes. No doubt this will continue to grow - a new division in our retail business is about to be launched. For every single list I have to fill in the From/Reply email address and name, the Company branding details and global fields with specific signature per purpose. I know it doesn't sound like much, but I would be very grateful if you could make this task more simpler.

 Can't you give us 'department defaults' options where the above details are filled in only once per department (business, organisation, purpose)? And then in the List Settings you give us the option to select either

  • Use "Department defaults" - with a drop down menu to select which department the new list belongs to and which then fills in the From/Reply address and name, the Company branding details and the Global Fields automagically
  • Or create list specific details and manually fill in the above settings.

I've come to know AWeber as very tuned in to its clients and always willing to improve the software. So could you do me and I still believe many others this favour?

Yours truly

Karin H. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

In the world of free, everyone can play.

Perhaps you too read (about) Malcolm Galdwell's disagreeing review on Chris Anderson's new book: “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” and perhaps you agree with Seth Godin's opinion of the review: "Malcolm is wrong".

Digital-divide-2 I've been thinking of the concept 'free' even more since I've read Seth's post and Glaswell's review. According to Anderson's new book (not free ;-)) because of enhanced and advanced technology, IT infra-structure more and more products/services can be offered for free. Gladwell states that's rather utopian thinking: IT infra-structures aren't free (he points towards YouTube), nor is the infra-structure to deliver cheaper and cheaper power.

Seth on the other hand points towards the unlimited advancement of 'free' information: "In the world of free, everyone can play".

I've read Gladwell's Tipping Point, Anderson's The Long Tail and plenty of Seth's books. I also read Dan Ariely's "Predictable Irrational" (great read, really recommend it to everyone). This book is mentioned too in Galdwell's review of Anderson and in Anderson's new book. What Ariely's experiment shows IMHO that even free has a perceived value, depending to what the free item is compared.

And it is that perceived value I think will always be "top of the bill" - not "Free":

  • perceived value of free advice: if it's free there is hardly any commitment to implement the free advice, no matter who gives it out
  • perceived value of that one single precious item that will never be infinite: time.

Seth states:

People will pay for content if it is so unique they can't get it anywhere else, so fast they benefit from getting it before anyone else, or so related to their tribe that paying for it brings them closer to other people.

In my humble opinion and experience as retailer of physical products who sees a tremendous increase in the sale of our 'digital products' (digital delivered PDF guides on various aspects of our trade, how to... etc) it is and always will be:

People will pay for content if it is perceived coming from an expert and saving them time to find and implement quickly what they are after (advice or training).

In the world of free, everyone can play is correct: where 'everyone' are those who are able to turn free information into knowledge and they can now play and profit in the world too, where before only those with expensive publication channels could play (and profit).