Category Archives: Small Business Marketing

Team bonding. It works.

Last week I dragged the team along to meet with Alan (business coach extrodinare) for a team strategy meeting. The others are used to my weird ideas and I believe they were a tad hesitant to believe that spending an afternoon away from Photoshop would be, in any way helpful.

I think Alan converted them.

Outside of all remarks as to how wonderful and nice he was in response to our (well probably ‘my’) stupid questions, the process of sitting down around a big table and figuring out what we are all about was hugely eye opening and really beneficial.

Out of the 2 hour meetup, we came away with some stuff that we have blatantly been just plain stupid about, some stuff that we realised about each other, and some easy, quick ways to restructure the whole business to sort them out:

  1. Have daily team meetings. Yup we are a small business, we thought we were too small to need them. But there is a difference between yelling at each other across the room (or skyping each other) and moving away from our keyboards, facing each other and plotting our day’s plan for world domination. The latter is much more effective for resolving issues, staying on track and knowing where each other is at.
  2. Setting daily goals. Why think big, when you can think small? I think we’ve probably knocked out 25% more work today than any other day in the past few months. Knowing what’s on your plate and setting aside time to fully explain it to each other prior to kickoff is saving us huge amounts of valuable time.
  3. Time tracking. It’s not the time tracking that really matters (although it’s a helpful tool to aid in understanding pricing levels and profitability). It’s the way you automatically re-structure your day into more productive blocks when you manage you time. Gone is my 5 second attention plan. Now I focus on one thing for at least 15 minutes and set aside TIME TO DO SMALL TASKS in a block. Which means NO MORE DISTRACTIONS.
  4. Work with people you like. I rave about my co-workers daily. I enjoy going to the office because I KNOW I get to catch up with some interesting people and work on cool projects with talented designers. I also like how we share the same philosophies on sleep, money and ethics. It means we are on the same page and we have a clear idea of who will and will not be working with us in the future. We may even get together a list of interview questions for the next hire!

Every time I go to meet with Alan, I convince myself I have 900 more important things on my plate at that exact second. Every time I leave, I’m convinced that there was nothing more important.

Does Search Engine Optimisation just Equal Good Marketing?

Quite often customers ask me to make sure their site ranks at number one on Google.

After Ronan heard my reply one too many times, he sent me an article that rips apart the notion of SEO. I agree with basically every part.

Unless SEO experts partake in some of the more ‘dodgy’ SEO activities, what they generally do is good web marketing.

As I tell my customers, good SEO is not necessarily the best and/or only strategy. Many websites sell products and services that people probably don’t even search for, rather they find referrals from trusted sources – i.e other complimentary websites.

If you take a 3 pronged, manual approach that relies on your genuine interest and knowledge in your chosen topic, then you can boost traffic from not only search engines, but from others sites that your audience go to:

  1. Frequent content updates on your website – This could be to a news section or blog, but any updates help Google see that the site is active help. This is also good website practice to encourage return visitors and avoid a website that is static and uninspiring.
  2. Research and use Targeted keywords – This requires determining the terms that are most frequently searched for to find products like yours and using them throughout the website AND on any links you make back to the website.
  3. Links to your website from other relevant websites – Quite often these can be added by searching for websites that talk about complimentary services. If these are blogs, you can add insightful, relevant comments to articles and link back to your website. This is a good way of getting traffic both from the website and boosting your search engine visibility

There are still a lot of misconceptions about SEO, and I think one of the big ones is that Google is your only option for driving traffic to your site. You do not have to be listed at the top of Google to get good quality leads to your website… The ‘invention’ of blogging has long since proven that. If you treat the web as an overall marketing tool, Google will appreciate your efforts, but you will also get traffic from potentially better sources.

Censorship in the age of the blog.

Following the Mumbai attacks late last year, there was apparently scathing criticism of the news reporting.

One blogger has been sued for claiming a TV station used ‘shoddy journalism’ and has unpublished his post and issues a retraction statement.

The result?

Fairly obvious really. The entire blogosphere erupts, people re-publish the post on their websites and the overall publicity for the news station is hugely negative.

What can they do now? Sue thousands of bloggers?

One thing I love about blogging is the mass movement for freedom of speech and opinion. I agree that slanderous comments and those based on nothing but a desire to cause harm should carry repercussions, but the right to express a well-reasoned opinion is something we’ve all finally stood up to defend.

And there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. Natural justice will ensure that the unfounded rumors eventually die an undignified death, but that bullying can no longer be used as a tactic to ensure only the good stuff gets published.

At the risk of also being sued, I would have to say that was a stupid move from the TV station :)

(Thanks Jack for the link)

Ferrit’s gone bust – what a surprise.

Twitter was buzzing with the news this morning, so I imagine I’m a little slow on the uptake.

Since the launch of Ferrit a couple of years ago, the generally accepted wisdom in the NZ tech community is that the site didn’t stand a chance. I’m still not 100% sure what they even do, other than aggregate products from various shops in one place. Lance, as always has all the stats and details behind it, but I thought I’d add my two cents:

Startups and corporates are two VERY different things.

Telecom is one of NZ’s biggest companies and from day one they went against almost every normal technique to nurture a startup into profitability. To name a few:

  • They spent a FORTUNE on advertising
  • They made their business hard to understand (I went there once and gave up when I felt stupid because I didn’t ‘get’ it
  • Their value proposition was kind of unclear – I’m still not sure why I’d go there over going to a store directly

We always hear about the necessity of entrepreneurs to leave their startups behind when they reach a certain stage. At that stage the skillset needed for success is entirely different. Apparently it works in reverse too. It must be hard to think small and simple when you are part of a massive complex corporate.

Balance your spending with your income

Yes, when you start out, your expenses WILL be above your income, but lets keep things in proportion. I’ve seen this exact problem before – money thrown continuously at a product that doesn’t make enough to justify it. I’m not sure what the strategy is behind this because I can’t think of any that make sense other than a lack of confidence in the strategy of the company and the desire for money to fix everything.

The Ferrit ads were stupid. They appealed only to the likes of my mother who doesn’t DO internet shopping. So the money was probably wasted anyway, but also made them the laughing stock of the very people who should have been their core initial customer base – techies and raked up expenses that ensured it would take years to even break even.

Listen to advice

I’m not sure who was giving advice to the CEO of Ferrit, but I am yet to read an article (from the past few years) from a NZ tech expert raving about the probability of Ferrit’s success.

Most of the advice was actually pretty relevent and most people tended to agree. However all I’ve heard from the Ferrit end is that the company was performing as planned… Which may well have been the problem.

Telecom may be a large company but it doesn’t meant they know this stuff. I think this was their first foray into the internet world. They would have been a lot more successful if they followed the strategy I’ve since seen another corporate take and gather as many movers and shakers in the web community around them to pump for advice.

Admit failure and move on

I was pointed to an article on Ireland’s current economic woes the other day. The guy who wrote it was very smart. He openly talked about what Ireland is doing wrong and ways to improve it.

New Zealand is similar in size to Ireland, we need to learn to accept when we have done stuff wrong and how to improve, if we have any chance of becoming more internationally competitive. When a website fails, after years of people questioning its validity, the worst and most pathetic excuse is
“The Recession did it.”

It’s not an excuse, but it gives us an excuse for mediocrity.

Imagine if Ferrit came out and gave us a list of what they did wrong. It would never happen ( I suppose that’s the role of the rest of us), but maybe the attitude of cover bums at all costs is one we need to change.

Yes it is embarrassing, but the web is still in it’s relative infancy. You will be forgiven for getting it wrong, but the mistakes are what we all learn from.

Getting your point across stylishly

I had the pleasure of being involved in the Frocks on Bikes event at the 350 Climate change action festival in the weekend.

Bikes in Welly are a contentious issue. There aren’t really any bike lanes, and when cars and bikes share the same space, road rage appears inevitable.

So, when you get together 350 cyclists and they take over the entire road to spread the word about climate change… You expect fireworks.

But when you dress all the cyclists in fancy frocks and flowers and they are singing songs like ‘A Bicycle Built for Two’, apparently all anger dissipates and car drivers become open to the message… They even honk their support!

It got me thinking that making your message fun massively increases your chances of being heard. Great strategy!

Staring Blankly at My Screen

I have had a lot of conversations recently with people who I really respect, who have businesses I really admire.

They re all the types who help other people understand their business and grow it.

But all of them agree, when it comes to your own business, it is a million times harder to put what you do into a sentence.

Which is probably why, when faced with writing a one-pager about what we do this morning, I am instead staring blankly at my screen.

What Mark Does Your Website Get?

Courtesy of Lance Wiggs, I came across Website Grader (which I REALLY want to call Website GradR, due to it’s web 2.0ness).

It’s awesome.

There has been some controversy over whether or not the 6,000 odd links pointing to Decisive Flow are the high quality ones I think they are, or if they could in fact be (shock horror) junk. However, other than that, it’s a cool simple tool that gives you a nice insight into how well your website is doing marketing-wise.

As Lance points out, there are some things that should be taken with a grain of salt, but I reckon it’s worth the 5 minutes it takes to generate the report.

And yes, this post was written at 7.12pm on a Friday night. First time I’ve worked this late on a Friday in ages. Not sure I’m a fan.

Helping out during business as usual

Another weekend away (I appear to have no fixed abode) and we got talking about social marketing.

A friend of mine works for the organisation that is trying to bring our national smoking rates down. One of the services she provides is scouring magazines and offering the publications advice on how many positive smoking references they have and how to cut them back. Many magazines are unaware of the messages they are pushing in their editorial – messages that aren’t relevant to the story but that are promoting one of the ONLY products in this world, that if used properly greatly increases your chances of getting sick or dying.

Many people she talks to are worried that cutting out pro-smoking messages will adversely influence the editorial integrity of their mag, others are shocked to find the sheer number of messages in any one publication and are happy to get rid of them.

I like things like that. Business as usual, but joining a cause while you do it. It reminds me of the website I came across recently that is trying to get “Coca Cola to use their distribution channels (which are amazing in developing countries) to distribute rehydration salts to the people that need them desperately. Maybe by dedicating one compartment in every 10 crates as ‘the life saving’ compartment?”

A brilliant idea. Instead of creating NEW distribution networks, why not back onto those set up by companies who are making a fortune out of people who are in desperate need of other products as well? Good for Coke’s image (which is not all that positive, given the prominent rumors of their exploitation of these countries), good for the people, and it only requires a very slight change to business as usual.

I wonder if concepts like these will become more prevalent in business over the next few years – Real, sustainable help, that doesn’t require a lot of effort.

Knowing what you’re customers will jump at

I subscribed to the fishpond newsletter a while ago and receive regular updates. It struck me yesterday (while I was giving them my credit card details) that they have their target market sussed.

Fishpond regularly offer the top 100 books or award winning books for 50% off. This is kind of unheard of in NZ. They they email you to let you know. And since the people who subscribe to the emails LOVE books, we all sit there going ‘How can you POSSIBLY pass up a bargain like that?”

So we toddle to the website, where we get excited about exploring other books. We then see the big “Buy $50 of books and get free shipping” message. Since our 50% off book is now something like $15. We now get very excited about the sheer number of books we can buy.

So we browse the site, adding madly to our shopping carts, whip out the old credit card, add in our details and prepare to sit back for the 24 hour wait until our new books arrive.

And THEN they take you to a screen that tells you to signup 3 of your friends to give them a $10 book voucher.

So of course, you do.

Then the next day, you get emails from your friends saying ‘Wow, a $10 book voucher? That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me!”

Which makes you look great and gives Fishpond another 3 addicts.

And the cycle continues.