Category Archives: From the Desk of the President

Twitter Branding – Forced compliance?

Most people would recognize the icons above. Most associate the cute little bird and the lowercase blue “t” with Twitter. For a company that has done little advertising the world seems to know and recognize the Twitter brand; even when it is contorted, stretched or incorporated into another image. Part of the fun with Twitter is that you can add your own personality. Your twitter feed is about you and your reactions to the world. Well, Twitter is finally starting to reign in the creativity when it comes to their logo use. I received the following email this morning:

You may have noticed that our marks have changed.  It seems that you are using an outdated version of the Twitter marks.   Please update using the guidelines and images available at www.twitter.com/logo.

If you have any questions about the use of the Twitter brand or trademarks, please let us know at trademarks@twitter.com.”

A couple thoughts went through my head when I read this email; the first was good luck. If you do a Google Image search for Twitter Icon, you’ll get 428,000,000 search results. All different takes on the Twitter logo that both professional and novice designers have created for personal or business use. Forcing compliance on 300 Million + users will be a full time gig for an entire department at Twitter. Becuase I happen to like using the lowercase “t” instead of the bird to promote our twitter account (@nsna or @pcvalentine for those interested) I inquired as to what the consequences would be if we decided not to update the Twitter logo across our websites, email signatures and blogs. The response I got only indicated that the update was “mandatory”.

I get that Twitter is trying to enforce their brand. I am sure for consistency and legal purposes it makes sense for them to do so. How can they battle someone in court over copyright infringement if they haven’t attempted to force compliance? So I get it Twitter, and I will (reluctantly) update our icons, as for the other trillion websites… good luck.

If you need the updated Twitter icon to use in your email signature or on your website, we have provided them here for you to download. Get the latest Twitter icon.

domain registration scam

There are so many unsavory people out there… occasionally we get a call from a client wondering if an email or letter is legit. When we get one ourselves, we try to post them here so you know to be on the look out – Here is an email we got a couple days ago:

Dear CEO,

We are a domain name registrar centre in HongKong which mainly deal with the domain name registration and dispute internationally, we have an important issue to confirm with you.

1. On the July 14,We received a formal application from a company named ” Honor Overseas, Inc. ” who are applying to register ” netsolutionsna” as domain names and Internet keyword.

2. During our preliminary investigation, we found that these Domain Names’ keyword is identical with your Trade Mark, this is why we inform you.

3. I wonder whether did you consigned ” Honor Overseas, Inc.” to register these Domain Names and Internet Keyword with us? Or is “Honor Overseas, Inc.” your business partner?

4. If you do not have any relationship with this applicant, we assume that they have other purposes to obtain these Domain Names and Internet Keyword.

Currently, we have already postponed this company’s application temporarily. Pls let the relevant principal make a confirmation with me ASAP.

Thanks & Regards,

JoJo Wang

If you get something like this, don’t respond, just trash it. It is a scam. More info on relevant scams can be seen on this blog- http://www.cyveillanceblog.com/domains-icann/domain-registration-scam-picks-up-in-volume

Servers down…

Our Data Center performed a physical move of our servers last night. The maintenance window was to be from 11 PM Pacific until 1 AM Pacific. With an expected down time of 20-30 minutes. Had all gone as planned this window is the lowest traffic window for our servers.

Unfortunately, all did not go well. And one the Windows Apps server did not reboot. Technicians are working on the problem but I do not yet have an ETA for the servers to be back on line. The contingency plan is to install a new server but that will take time to bring on line as all of the sites will need to be restored from backup.

We will let you know as soon as we figure out the failure point.

Sorry for the inconvenience this is causing you.

Please check back here as I will be posting as more information is available.

Is “Live” phone support the next big thing?

NSNA CEO Bob Reynolds and I recently traveled to Nashville to take part in the CPrint Sales Summit. (Read the Press Release) We were pitching our ProFusion Dealer Program to these CPrinters which would essentially allow them to sell a technical product (websites, hosting, email marketing, etc.) to a non-technical audience. The printing industry has been hurting over the past several years with more and more companies opting not to print brochures and with more of them moving items they would traditionally print, to the web. So we saw the print industry as a natural fit to be resellers of our Web Services. 90% of them have graphic artists in house which makes them well suited to sell the ProFusion line of products.

So we went to Nashville, we made our pitch, and now we are in the follow up stage. We do have some competition in this marketplace. A little company called Adobe has a product that they call “Business Catalyst”. They were also at the Summit pitching their reseller program to the CPrinters. After speaking directly with over 50 of the CPrinters, and outlining all the Pros and Cons of both programs, it appears that the biggest difference between the two products in the resellers minds is that we (ProFusion) offer telephone support, while Adobe does not. Now trust me, there are many other major differences between the two applications, however, this seems to be the biggest pain point with the resellers. They want to know that if they have a problem or needs some sales advice that we are just a phone call away. Seems simple enough, but phone support is one place that a lot of companies cut out when their budget gets tight.

I was doing a little research to see if phone support was a big deal in other industries and came across this website http://gethuman.com. It is a site dedicated to telling consumers how to reach a live person when calling some of the major corporations out there. I think this is awesome. 🙂 If a little company like Net Solutions can provide phone support for their customers, why can’t the big guys? Furthermore, why do we tolerate the big companies not having phone support? My customers would raise hell if I said that we are operating on email support only, however, the larger corporations get away with it all the time.

That’s my rant for the day. Call me if you want to discuss it 🙂 360.738.8188

Useful tools for PC users

People often ask me what tools I use to make my life on a PC easier… well here is a list of some of my favs.

1. PixResizer (http://bluefive.pair.com/pixresizer.htm) easily allows you to resize one or multiple images. Please, please use this or http://profusionproducts.com/resizer/ to resize your images before you load them onto your website.

2. TweetDeck – I manage a few Twitter and FaceBook accounts and TweetDeck makes this simple from one interface

3. Pixie – (http://www.nattyware.com/pixie.php) ever wonder what the hex, RGB, or CMYK value of the color on your favorite website is? Well wonder no more, Pixie is a great little tool that will tell you the codes for any color on any website, document or image.

4. PowerPoint – I am a PowerPoint junkie. I don’t just use it for presentations, I use it to do rough schematics and rough mock-ups. I can do amazing things in PowerPoint. Many website designs have started with me and a client sitting down and mocking something up it PowerPoint. I am sure other web designers will laugh, but this works and my clients are happy.

5. I had been using GoTo Webinar for our online training sessions and have been relatively happy with them. They are somewhat pricey ($99/mo). My biggest complaint is that the recordings are not very high quality. I have posted many of them on the NSNA website and they are hard to read. I have been trying out Camtasia and Screencast.com for a couple quick responses to clients (see http://www.screencast.com/t/YTIwZDMzMTkt as an example) but I have not used it enough to make a full review. I’ll let you know.

6. We use IM (instant messenger) like crazy to communicate quickly. Call me lazy, but there are many times I will IM the CEO of our company even if he is sitting in the office right next to me. For me, I like having a written answer to my question. If gives me something to go back and read if I ever forget the answer (which I do a lot… prego brain). I still have two accounts, Yahoo and MSN, and use both messengers. I know there are tools that allow you to consolidate to one IM, but I like having both. Sue me.

7. CutePDF – again, PC users need a free way to make PDFs too. See my earlier post on how to do this.

8. Pandora.com – For me, I work much better with good tunes. Since I can’t hire DJ Maynard to spin in my office all day, I listen to Pandora.

What am I missing? What can’t you live/work without?

But I’m not technical… and other excuses that will cripple your sales.

My degree in psychology does not qualify me to sell a technical product. When I first got in this industry (almost 6 years and 2,300 websites ago) I thought, boy, do I have a lot to learn. And that was true, and I almost let it cripple me.

Now, for those of you who do not know me directly, I am not short on confidence. My parents told me I could do anything, and I believed them. So when given the opportunity to start a company selling web solutions, I said why not and jumped in with both feet. Unfortunately, the first few meetings I had with potential clients were disasters. I wasn’t prepared to answer their questions, I didn’t know what I was selling, and I couldn’t provide them with any value. I was shell shocked. I had just invested over $60,000 into a business that I didn’t know the first thing about.

My initial reaction… RETREAT, FULL RETREAT! Hide your head in the sand until this passes and then pop back up as a blond and hope no one noticed. Unfortunately that strategy didn’t work. I had to get back on the horse, I had to make my investment work. So then I took on the attitude that I had to learn everything there was about web technologies and websites. The next meeting I went into, I was going to be the biggest web nerd in the room. I started reading books and other websites that I could find. I tried to devour as much information as I could.

But what was happening to my sales and leads while I was doing all this learning? Nothing. I had no sales, I had no income, I had nothing in my pipeline. That was even scarier than being laughed out of a meeting. So I knew I had to find a healthy balance of learning and selling. I took on the attitude that I have now… I may not know everything about technology, but I know we (NSNA) can do just about anything any client wants on the web.

And more importantly, I realized that my potential clients don’t care if I know everything about the web or not. They care about what I know about their business. They care about how I can help them make more money, spend less time at work, manage their own site, learn a new skill, etc. That is the value I provided them. My clients enjoy the fact that I do not speak geek. They like that they are speaking with another business owner that understands that making payroll can be a bitch sometimes and that sometimes at the end of the month there are a lot more bills than cash.

So now the important skill that I bring to the table when meeting a client is that I listen. I listen to what they want, I balance that with what I know works and how our products work, and the result usually is a happy client with a new web solution. The point is, don’t let your fear of not knowing paralyze you into not selling. If you are a ProFusion Dealer, spend time building your website on the tools you were given when you first signed up. Show your clients what you are doing, show them how you can add pictures to your website with a few mouse clicks. Show them how you can turn a boring business website into an Italian Restaurant site in less than an hour. Show them how you can make your new product dance, and I guarantee they will want to do business with you and they will tell their friends about you.

So stop waiting, start selling!

Bringing back the hopper!

Once upon a time in a land far far away, I attended in intensive 5 day marketing training in Texas. Seems like forever and 2 company start ups ago, so I kind of dismissed the things I learned there as old knowledge. Well, I was just cleaning out my desk and I found some of the materials that I took home from that class and I came across the idea of a hopper system. A hopper is a system that captures leads and automatically sends response pieces to them so they won’t “Fall Through The Cracks”. When I learned about this system years ago, they placed big importance on doing “fax” blasts to people who had requested information from you. Well, faxes may be archaic, but the idea of regular communication with people who have reached out to you is still excellent.

I think all business owners intend to do this. Every January at NSNA we swear to write a weekly email to send out to our current customers. We intend to segment the list by industry and send them targeted messages, but somehow we never seem to get past the first mailing. I know we are not alone in our failure to launch a well intended, good idea.

So what do we do about it now? Start small. With the form tool on the ProFusion Ultra Internet Solution, you can send auto-responders. An auto-responder is an automated email that is sent to someone once they have filled out a form on your website. The autoresponder can be unique for each form on your site. I just went through the NSNA site and only one of our forms was using an active auto-responder. Shame on us! So this weekend, I am partially implementing the hopper with a small step. I will be writing unique auto-responders for each one of our forms. My next step will be to put together a series of responses and send them out on an automated schedule via the mailer… but that may be too much for one weekend. I’ll let you know how step 1 goes.

Why most websites don’t work – a simple way to evaluate your websites effectiveness

I wrote this article back in 2004. I was going through my archives and found that the points I made 6 years ago still plague many websites today. For anyone who missed the article when it was first published, here it is again:

Why most websites don’t work…

The Internet is a huge opportunity for small and medium sized businesses for many reasons.

1. The Internet does not recognize size. If you are a small 2 person accounting firm, the Internet won’t know that, you can compete online with the larger firms and have a better chance of winning the business online.

2. The Internet is flexible. You do not have to pay big bucks each time you want to add a new service offering to your website. You can update information, add promotions, and add full color pictures (ink isn’t extra online) and images for no additional charge.

3. The Internet can extend your geographic reach. If you have a product that is not limited to the immediate Bellingham area, the Internet can help you sell in all other markets.

4. The Internet is cost effective. Having a professional website with necessary functionality does not cost tens of thousands of dollars anymore. In most cases you can see an immediate return on investment by adding information your sales people can refer potential clients to, having an time-saving informative FAQ section to free up your customer service reps, with appointment setting functionality, e-commerce and more.

This opportunity often goes untouched by business owners, even if they have a website. Too often businesses will put up a website with the following problems:

1. The website has no clear objective: when putting up a website you need to question everything. What would a website achieve for my company? Who is my company targeting and why would they visit our site? How will a website impact offline business? Start with a solid marketing objective and strategy.

2. The website is technology focused: Website development is often delegated to IT people. This does not ensure a superior web presence for your company. Your site will likely lose its marketing focus and may not be using technology that is user friendly. Develop a culture of designing customer focused online solutions.

3. The website is poorly written: Online, the written word builds relationships. Writing for the web is different, “corporate” or formal writing can come across stuffy or pompous on the web. Be flexible, but don’t be unprofessional. Always check and re-check your spelling and grammar. Bells and whistles may grab a customer’s attention, but words make the sale.

4. The website has a poor design: The design of a website can make or break a website. CyberAtlas reports that “65% of Internet users surveyed won’t patronize a poorly designed site – even that of a favorite brand.” Take a look at your website, is it easy to navigate (rule of thumb to use here is that no matter where a person is on your site, they can always make it back to the homepage within 2 clicks), are the colors appropriate, does it load quickly?

5. The website has no clear call for action: Do your visitors know what to do on your website? Have you given them a good reason to do it?

6. The website is invisible: 85% of Internet users start their search online with a search engine. If your website is not listed under the appropriate keywords for your industry your website is essentially invisible on the web. Having no traffic on your website is a huge missed opportunity.

7. The website doesn’t work: Choose your hosting environment carefully and test everything. Get other people to check it. Ask your hosting company for site logs to find pages that have errors, and check all of your links and forms regularly. Your reputation is at stake, demonstrate attention to detail.

8. The website has poor maintenance: Does your website say “Last updated September 2001?” Is it filled with under construction and coming soon pages? Your website should reflect your changing business. Update it often.

Having an Online presence is a necessity for any business that wants to be a major player in their industry. There are many ways to market your business online. Through Search Engine Optimization, email newsletters, high-touch relationship marketing and Search Engine Marketing you can make your website an investment that pays you dividends.

Use the 8 common problems above and evaluate your website. If you were a customer of your business, how would you answer the questions? If you are happy with your answers, congratulations, you are maximizing your investment on the web. If not, it might be time to revisit your website to make sure it is working for you and not against you.

Grammar Check – Are you making these common mistakes?

I don’t consider myself a grammar expert by any stretch of the imagination; however, I am consistently shocked at how often some words get misused or misspelled. Many of the gems below came from Tweets over the past few weeks. I get that a tweet is 140 characters long and is basically a stream of consciousness. However, for most of you, your tweets are public. That means a potential client or employer could be reading what you are writing and it never hurts to sound intelligent. Some of the biggest offenders are:

  • Lose vs. Loose – you are not going to loose your mind, you are going to lose your mind. And if people keep making the same mistakes over and over again, you may wonder if they have a loose screw. If you lose a screw, don’t worry, just go to Lowes and buy another one.
  • Irregardless – this just flat out is not a word. Regardless of what you think, irregardless does not show up in the dictionary (actually it does, though only to tell you it’s nonstandard, improper, wrong)
  • Site vs. Sight – we sell websites. So when we refer to the product that we sell, we talk about sites not sights. If you need better sights, you can check out some products from Nikon. If you need a better site, you can call us.
  • There vs. Their – this has plagued people since elementary school, but is really quite simple. There is a place, their denotes ownership. If we are going to a meeting together, you will not see me their, you will see me there. And if the meeting is at a friend’s house, we can go over to their place together.
  • Your vs. You’re – Anyone ever told you that your the best? It really should be you’re the best. Because you are the best and since you’re is a conjunction of you are, then you’re should be used. If we are going to your best friend’s house, then your should be used.
  • To vs. Too – you are invited to a party, can I come too? Both correct usages. Too is usually used as also when adding or including some additional information. Whenever you want to include something else, think of it as adding; therefore you also need to add an extra o.
  • Anyways vs. Anyway – Anyways is incorrect, anyway should not have an s on the end. Ever.
  • Mute vs. Moot (or Moo) – I can’t type this without thinking of Joey from Friends. If you didn’t see the episode about Joey’s Moo Point, watch it on YouTube. This would all be a moot point if people would use this term correctly.

And while I have you all thinking about the words you are using, be on the lookout for these sneaky words that look very similar when typing a message, but have very different meanings.

  • Out and Our – the t and the r are right next to each other on the keyboard, be careful which one you actually hit.
  • Now and Not – I have received messages from people that say “this is not a problem” when they actually meant “this is now a problem”. Obviously the words are very similar, but they have very different meanings.
  • You and Your – there is nothing technical about this one, just makes you sound less intelligent if you accidentally mistype the word you mean to use.

So take some time to actually read what you write. Read it out loud if you need to. If it is an important email or document, have someone proof read it for you. It never hurts to check your work

mixing old school and new school

My dad (Bob Reynolds, CEO of Net Solutions) and I have shared an office since August of 2009. Not a big office, probably 12′ x 12′. At first this annoyed the crap out of me. He eavesdrops on my phone calls, he types loudly and we definitely operate with two different internal thermostats. After I got over the initial minor annoyances of sharing an office, I started to realize that there could be some real benefits to this new situation.

Bob has been in business forever. As far back as I can remember he and my mom have owned and operated their own business. As a kid, I saw first hand the dedication, hard work, and tenacity that it took to be a small business owner. Sharing an office with someone who has 30 + more years of experience than I do has taught me a lot of things.

  • Before you know why John Smith buys what John Smith buys you have to see the world through John Smiths eyes. – As I now eavesdrop on Bob’s conversations with people, I hear that he has an uncanny ability to relate to people about their business. Within a matter of minutes, he knows who their clients are, what their clients are afraid of and what that means to the business owner. To the business owner, this brings great peace of mind. It gives them the feeling that this guy actually understands my problems and my issues. Translating those pain points into marketing plans, website content, and new processes has allowed NSNA to help many small business owners.
  • Take sales calls – I am a 20-something and rarely take calls from people that are obvious sales calls. My theory? If I needed your service I would have sought you out. Bob’s opinion is totally different. He’ll listen to your sales pitch but it had better be good. Many young salesmen have cut their teeth talking to Bob. I am sure many of them quit after they get off the phone with him, but others became better because of the conversation with Bob. We also now have access to many products and applications that we wouldn’t have if Bob had not taken these calls.
  • Think through all the possibilities – we had a recent phone call with a large potential partner that could mean many changes for the growth pattern of NSNA. In preparation for the phone call, I had one scenario that I played out time and time again. To me, this partnership would only work one way. That is, until I talked to Bob. Bob then gave me a litany of other possibilities that could come from this partnership. On the call, we were able to mention a number of ways we could work together which made the partner very excited.
  • You can do it – above all, I am learning the power of saying yes and feeling super confident that we can deliver on whatever I say yes to. With proper planning, a thorough understanding, a large heap of good sense, and persistence anything is possible.

So while I may miss my private office, the lessons I am learning by eavesdropping on my dad’s conversations have actually catapulted my understanding of general business operations. Plus it is fun teaching him about the new ways of doing business. Showing him Twitter and Facebook and explaining why people care what I had for lunch is quite entertaining. Also showing him the real time feedback that we get when I post a question on the various social media outlets is pretty great. The combination of the tried and true business methods mixed with the latest and greatest trends of our time have created a nice symbiotic environment in our little office.