Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Are online coupons an effective marketing strategy?

 We’ve all seen them, and most of us have used them at one time or another, but are online coupons really worth it?

The simple answer: yes. Coupons are a win-win situation; the customer feels especially good about the purchase they’re making and the seller is more likely to make the sale or even multiple sales. According to research done by Harris Interactive, 34% of web consumers now will wait to make a purchase until they have a coupon, which is up from 30% last year and 27% the year before.

According to AllExperts.com, 5.7% of consumers look for coupons online, 4.4% of them receiving them via email. They found that nearly 22% of respondents want to receive coupons via email. Online coupons can translate to offline activity, they’ve found, and the key to effective online coupons is correct targeting.

They report that “the combined 32% of those who prefer to receive coupons on the Internet and via email jumps to 55%, provided the coupons are specifically tailored to the interests of the consumer. Targeting your audience properly will allow you to deliver greater value, and in turn, a higher open rate of your e-mails.”

According to the Etsy.com seller handbook, discounts and sales can be effective for a wide variety of reasons:

  • Coupons can help to introduce and establish new customers who are then likely to become repeat customers.
  • Discounts like “buy one get one for $5 off” encourage additional purchases while offers like “10% off total purchase” will often entice customers to buy in greater volume.
  • Coupons are an excellent way to reward your best customers and maintain an excellent, mutually beneficial relationship.

In an uncertain economy every little bit helps, and with websites catering specifically to distributing them, it is easier than ever to spread the word about your coupons and by extension your company. These sites work in several different ways:

  • Groupon offers amazing deals, often 50% off or more, and consumers have the option of purchasing these deals. This guarantees volume purchases, which are the biggest benefit of offering coupons for the seller, because unless a pre-set number of people purchase the deal it is void.
  • SmartSource and RetailMeNot are organized resources for printable coupons for everything from groceries to dental screenings. These sites allow registered users (registration is free) to choose stores, categories, and brands they prefer and to receive email notifications of coupons which fit their preferences. Users can also search using many different criteria including location and percentage of discount in order to find the best deals.

 

Because they are an easy and relatively cheap way to bring in business, and because the use of online coupons is steadily growing, it is becoming increasingly necessary for businesses to offer at least occasional discounts and coupons. Keeping a continuous flow of time-sensitive discounts can increase the dynamic feel of a business and entice the on-the-fence customers to make purchases.

The C.R.A.P. Principles

C.R.A.P. (terrible name, infinitely useful) is an initialism which stands for contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. The term was coined by Robin Williams (author of The Non-Designer’s Design Book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice) and has become a basic principle of design. Utilizing the C.R.A.P. principles allows even the most inexperienced amateur designers to avoid the dreaded wall of text and instead create dynamic and attractive web content.

The basics of the C.R.A.P. principles are:

Contrast – Elements that aren’t supposed to be the same should be very different. Making the only slightly different confuses the eye and causes the reader to see a relationship that doesn’t exist. Using differing elements on a page draws the eyes to appropriately grouped elements and allows for proper scanning.

Repetition – Continuing formatting and styles for the entire document to create and maintain a cohesive feel.

Alignment – Everything on the page needs to be visually connected to something else, nothing should be out of place or distinct from all other design elements. Clean lines create peace.

Proximity – Proximity creates related meaning: elements that are related should be grouped together, whereas separate elements should have enough space in between to be easily distinguishable. Never underestimate the use of white space.

For more information and examples, visit:
http://www.webcredible.co.uk/blog/revive-the-crap-principles
http://thinkvitamin.com/design/how-crap-is-your-site-design/

Long live email!

You may have heard that the use of email is shrinking due to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Add to that the deluge of spam or virus-infected emails floating around the net and the prediction starts to look promising. In addition, other technologies are gaining more and more ground such as skype, texting, and online calendar programs.

There are many reasons for the increased reliance on social media, including increased control over which messages you receive, the one-stop-shopping experience of an outlet which includes businesses, groups, clubs, and your entire social circle, and of course, let’s not underestimate the draw that an ever-changing platform like facebook can have for users simply for the sake of flashy new features.

So I have to ask, is email, once the height of information transfer technology, going the way of the pony express?

Email is by no means a perfect system; between spam (whether virus-infected or not), repetition or boringness of information in emails, and the sheer volume of messages that can accumulate when using a free instant digital medium for communication, lots of problems are likely to arise. Most internet-savvy users are able to control the settings of their email programs and personalize them so that they don’t encounter these issues, but for those who don’t know how or just can’t be bothered to do so, email can sometimes be more of a hindrance than a help.

One important thing to remember is that the trend of increasing reliance on social media is not, generally speaking, a trend among businesspeople. While some smaller businesses do exist solely on sites like facebook, the vast majority of businesses that have a facebook page also have a main website and the facebook is simply an extra outlet for users who choose to recieve information primarily that way.

Despite the longevity of these predictions, email is still winning out. A study by iModerate Research Technologies found that 86% of consumers who send information over the Internet do so primarily through email. Facebook and Twitter, however, are dragging behind with 49 and 4 percent respectively. One reason for this high number of emails may lie in the age of the users; consumers over 35 are overwhelmingly favoring email at 93% usage, while even among the most Facebook-savvy age group — 18-24 years — 70% of users are still preferring email.

One reason for the continuing dominance of email may be its usefulness in online marketing. 37 percent of shoppers prefer email as the delivery method of promotional offers with only 9 percent favoring social media, according to eMarketer. In fact, social media is dead last on the list with Mailers in second place at 23 percent followed by text messaging and in-store with 18 and 11 percent respectively.

While the numbers will likely continue to grow in the favor of social media as it continues to grow, the fact that email is still by far the dominant form of online information transfer suggests that it will remain so for a long time to come.

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.

Family owned and operated

I was listening to talk radio yesterday morning (like I do every morning) and heard 2 separate ads that made all the standard claims “best quality, lowest price, etc.” but then they both ended with “Family owned and operated for XX years.”.

I wondered if anyone cared about this anymore? If all things were equal and you were making a purchase, would you opt to go with the product that was manufactured by the Family Owned and Operated Company? Does family owned and operated somehow equate to good service and tangible value? I’m not sure it does.

I think the 5 seconds wasted on saying “family owned and operated” could have been better spent on making an actual claim on why you are better/different from your competition. Lean economic times means business owners need to get smarter and their advertising messages need to hit their consumer right in the pain points. Telling me that you are family owned and operated does not help me make a buying decision.

If you disagree with me, and doing business with a family owned and operated company is #1 on your list, then you will be happy to know that Net Solutions is a family owned and operated business. 🙂

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!

Tips for a successful trade show

The very words Trade Show make some small business owners shudder. A Trade Show can take a lot of time and most of the time that’s something a small business owner just doesn’t have. With some careful planning however, a trade show can not only be fun they can be profitable as well.

Here are 10 tips we’ve picked up from attending a lot of shows, not only as vendors but participants as well. They may be basic but the best tips usually are pretty basic.

1. Set clear goals of what you want to achieve at the show. Do you expect to sell products, launch a new product or promotion, or possibly meet suppliers? You can set more than one goal but be clear and focused on what your participation will involve. In our business (selling web solutions) we don’t expect to sell a site on the spot. What we do look for is hot leads. At each trade show we attempt to identify 3 – 5 hot leads. We do this by gathering business cards from participants. When someone hands me their card, I quickly look for a web address. I then ask them one of two simple questions. If they don’t have a site listed on their card, I ask why? If they do have a site listed on their card, I ask them how happy they are with the performance of their website. Based on their response, I quickly note on the back of their card how “hot” they are. If they expressed some sort of displeasure or unsatisfaction with their website, I mark them as “hot” and follow up with them right after the show is over.

2. Find out everything you can about your space in advance. There’s nothing more frustrating than showing up to a show only to find that your booth is too big or too small to fit the space. Finding out the location of your booth in advance prevents you lugging around boxes and products in search of the right spot. Finding out everything that is included (table, table cloth, electricity, etc) in advance is a big time and headache saver.

3. Have everything you need, like extension cords; tape etc with you when you arrive to set up your booth. It prevents last minute searching for items needed to set up your booth which, if you’re in a strange town can quickly turn into a nightmare. We have a trade show box that stays with our booth that contains a hammer, thumb tacks, pens, rubber bands, notepads, band aids, extension cords, replacement light bulbs, tape, breath mints and much more in it. It has been used at every trade show we’ve been to and always comes in handy.

4. Make sure your display is appropriate for the group you are targeting. Who is your target market with your trade show display? Different audiences go to trade shows differently and have different needs.

5. Advertise in advance of the show. Let the public know that you are participating in a particular trade show. Invite your clients, customers, suppliers and be sure and give them your booth number. Advertise your attendance to the trade show on your website as well.

6. Stand out! Don’t just be another booth and vendor at the show – find something different and unique and use that to draw visitors to your booth. Arrange your booth strategically so that everything can be seen quickly by visitors. Put larger items in the rear and shorter items up front. A table runner on top of the table cloth is an effective way of making your table stand out. Be creative with your booth, include pictures if possible and be sure your company name and logo are more than obvious.

7. Should you give something away? Most people who attend trade shows are expecting some giveaways and food is always popular. Make sure you package your food in a way that allows you to have your company information on it. Gift Certificates for some of your services are another great Trade Show giveaway – there’s nothing better than getting a deal on your services. And when they redeem their certificate, they will learn how great your services are and come back for more. Offer a drawing for a prize that complements your business and appeals to everyone. Have visitors and guests sign a guestbook, fill out a form or drop their business card in a bowl. You can then use this information later to make a follow up contact. We gave away a Wii last year at a trade show and we were one of the most popular booths at the event! We collected over 300 business cards and have closed 7 deals from that show alone.

8. Arrive early enough to the trade show and make sure everything is set up correctly and that everything works. Wear comfortable clothing and shoes – you’re going to be on your feet!

9. During the show, never turn your back to the crowd and don’t sit down unless you’re having a conversation with a guest and you both are sitting. Stand in front of your booth, if possible, saying “Hi” to those that turn and look toward your or your booth. Have your elevator speech ready. More importantly, is being ready to listen to what your guests have to say, you may learn a lot about them and be able to fill a need that they have.

10. A portfolio or display of your work should be on hand for visitors to see. A digital photo frame is an excellent way of showing your work or placing a Power Point® presentation on a laptop – your visitors will find this visually appealing and it will draw their attention. Offering a brochure with your best work for them to take with them will serve as a reminder once the show is over.

These 10 basic steps to Trade Show exhibiting will make your booth stand out, draw visitors so you can gather their contact information, save you time, money and stress. The most important thing about a trade show is to have fun!

How to convert any document to a PDF

For us PC users, there is no pre-loaded software application that allows us to turn any document into a PDF. I’ve heard that this is easy to do on a Mac, but have not verified it (any Mac users out there who wish to post the instructions here would be thanked profusely). The easiest application I have found to turn any document (Word Docs, Publisher files, PowerPoint Files, Images, etc.) into a PDF is a Free download call CutePDF. Once you have downloaded and installed CutePDF creating the document is pretty easy. Follow these steps:

1. Open the document that you want to turn into a PDF

2. Go to File > Print

3. From the printer drop down, instead of printing to your default printer, you will want to print to CutePDF instead.

4. Select where you want to save the PDF, name it and you are all done!