Website Strategy

A technical recommendation; a long-time client just lost several months of medical data from a crashed hard-drive and has to re-enter it from printout.  It will cost them $1000’s.  I hate to see that.

If you are *not* running a web-driven backup solution then go set one up now; they are reasonably priced, effective and protect from exactly this problem. Here’s my favorite.  I am paying about $17 a month for over 350gb of backup and online storage.  There are plenty of other services, I researched quite a few, and in my assessment, this one was the best.

Live-Drive is cost-effective, easy to set-up, works on both mac and pc, and allows web-based access to files.

http://www.livedrive.com/?tid=3XJRWCF7

Live Drive offers Back-ups and BriefcaseOnce installed, it has a pretty easy to use control panel with two major services:

The briefcase service maps a web-folder to your computer as a network drive, works with mac or pc…or even FTP, so if you use Linux (like I sometimes do), you can set up a script to ftp to it as well.

Plus, there is a web interface on livedrive.com that will allow you to access, download or even view some files on-line.  So, if you are ever at a client’s site, or friends, and forgot something, its there if you can get to an internet connection.

We are most interested in the back-up services.  They are pretty easy to configure.  At install, a wizard will walk you through set-up, and if you ever need to change settings you can open the “live drivecontrol panel” from your start menu and modify the backup settings in the services tab.

Select files from the tree.Click the “manage backup settings” you will get a file tree.  To make sure that you get proper back-ups, you need to know where your various software stores the information you want to back-up.  In current windows software most information is stored under the user directory under “appdata” but some older programs (like the medical billing program this client uses) store data in directories off the C: drive or elsewhere.  You can usually find out where data is stored by looking in the software’s preferences or settings.  If you have trouble, contact the vendor, or let someone like me know, who can probably find it by remote desktop if needed.

The first back-up may take several days to run, so just leave the computer on, after that, it runs small changes and goes much more quickly.

If you don’t like LiveDrive, use something, just make sure you back-up your work.

So the girl “Jenny” quitting her job was a hoax. Check out http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/11/elyse-porterfield/

How interesting. What I find most interesting is that this still illustrates my point. In this case actress Elyse Porterfield has become that HOPA actress who did the hilarious skit on Chive. She has over a million Facebook friends and has probably created career opportunities for herself as an actress – so long as she’s willing to leverage this image. She didn’t know what the stills were for when she took them.

Illustrates the point. In this day and age, you are what you publish on-line. If anyone out there has publications that haunt them, I would like to hear from you. I want to start a consulting service to help clients clean up past publications that cause them troubles – and good service starts with understanding the problem well. Give us a call or an email.

I am going to reiterate this idea from a post last month because of something my wife just showed me.

In the modern age of social media, we are what we publish. If you apply for a job, its common practice to research you on the ‘net.  So, I give you the case of a girl, Jenny, who quit her job yesterday morning by emailing a series of photos to everyone in her company.

http://thechive.com/2010/08/10/girl-quits-her-job-on-dry-erase-board-emails-entire-office-33-photos/

Over 30k people know how Jenny quit her job, more to come, and when bloggers find out her last name, these series of photos could easily come up connected with her on a Google search.  So, when Jenny applies to her next job, this is what could easily come up when the HR manager checks her out on Google before bringing her in for an interview.

Not that Jenny is in the wrong.  Sexual harassment is a serious HR issue, and if she had a boss who yelled at her and made inappropriate remarks, she needed to deal with that, or quit.  The problem here isn’t that Jenny was wrong to quit; the issue is how she quit.  Granted its funny, but lets look at the impact on her career opportunities.

If you owned a firm and had somebody like this fellow Spencer managing it for you, would you want to know from an employee about their concerns directly?  Or would you rather read it on Facebook? As an HR manager, would you rather present a candidate who has a quiet, professional history to a hiring manager, or a HoPA who reacted bitterly and quit without notice in public forum?  Would you rather have a quiet level-headed broker working for you, or someone who reacts unprofessionally to unprofessional situations?

Here’s another note to think about; when you post something that someone else did online, you wield a great and terrible power over their life.  Jenny sent this to her office, which wasn’t well thought through, however, somebody in her office posted it online for her, which was simply cruel and may have affected Jenny’s career for years and years to come.

Remember that Star Wars Kid video?  Funny, yes.  In interviews that kid said the video haunted him for years and ruined his adolescent life…and somebody else posted that for him.

Again; with great power, comes great responsibility.  Having the power to post to the Internet and get the immediate attention of millions is great power.  If you use it irresponsibly, then, eventually, that is how you may be known…if you use it responsibly, it can have great impact on your life.

Next up, we will do a summary review of analytics, Facebook pages and marketing strategy, going over the posts for the past few months to put them in context before moving on to building traffic.

Google Analytics provides a wealth of information about website traffic; how many visitors are coming, where they comes from, and what they do while on a site. We will set-up Google Analytics, show how to install trackign code into a page, Wordpress or Joomla, and talk about how to read the information.

First, you need a Google Account. Analytics is accessed through a Google Account, so if you don’t have one, sign-up for one.

To start with Google Analytics, log-in to http://analytics.google.com with your Google Account.  If this is your first Google Analytics account, you’ll see the sign-up screen:

Analytics Sign-Up ScreenClick on the “Sign Up” button.  Fill in the address of your website, name your account (you can call it whatever you like) and pick the appropriate time-zone (make sure you do, so the reports are properly configured).

Sign-up For Google AnalyticsThe next few steps are pretty straight-forward; contact name, country, agree to the terms of service…and then you get your tracking code:

<script type="text/javascript">

 var _gaq = _gaq || [];
 _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-17149732-1']);
 _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);

 (function() {
 var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
 ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js';
 var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
 })();

</script>

You want to keep that code.  I would suggest selecting it, and pasting it into a notepad text file or an email to yourself (not a word doc, do not use word to store web code).  At the bottom there is a button “Save and Finish” click that and you are done creating the account.

Now, to add this code to your website, either you use a text or html editor and paste this code right over the tag that says </head> in your html file, as suggested by the instructions Google provides.  Or, you install a Word-Press or Joomla plugin and put just the account number into the plugin.

The part you need for that out of the code above is the account number that starts “UA” – so this; “UA-17149732-1” – everything else is standard code, so your WordPress or Joomla plugin will create the code for you.  I have a favorite WordPress plugin but there are a great many, if you search for “Google Analytics” on either extensions.joomla.org or within the plugins section of your WordPress interface, you will find many options.

As usual, if you have trouble, you can contact Techivity for help.  Next up; getting into Google Analytics, the basic information.

Part II of a basic overview of online marketing and tracking.  This segment is a high-level overview of the concepts involved in lead-generation marketing.

  1. Craft a message (basic brand marketing is important here)
  2. Find an audience (adjust message for audience)
  3. Reach out to the audience (call this a “program”)
  4. Track your responses (Analytics is a MUST for this)
  5. Gather contact information
  6. Close sales

If you are interested in basic branding and marketing ideas, check out Part I.  As with Part I, this is only an over-view.  Most of these steps and topics could be multiple posts on their own, but I think it helps to have a high-level perspective in place first.

These 6 steps are not necessarily linear, especially in the case of the later steps, #5 and #6; you may gather contact information and make a sale later, or you might make a sale and then gather contact information.  Also, steps 1 and 2 could be reversed, the point is that these are the basics to cover for web marketing.

The most important thing about lead generation marketing is to track responses.  There is no point spending money on a marketing campaign if you cannot tell how many people came to check out your business from it, or whether you made any sales from it.  If you have an advertising, or a marketing opportunity that doesn’t offer tracking, like print advertising, then create a way to track, such as a coupon, special offer, or unique web address.  Make a way to track the program.  Don’t ever compromise on that.  Ever.  If you cannot find a way to track the program, don’t spend the money, or even better, contact me, and I’ll help you find a way.  Just do not spend precious money on lead generation programs you cannot track.

You deserve to know who is responding, how many there are, and if the program earned you any revenue.

Steps 1 & 2. Crafting the Message and Finding an Audience

I mention that brand marketing is important to crafting your message for a program, that’s because to effectively appeal to people, you need to clear state what you can offer them.  The reason that steps 1 and 2 sometimes might be reversed is that sometimes for a program, you’ll select your audience before revising your message to appeal to them.

Crafting a Message

The basic idea of crafting a message is to as clearly and concisely as possible explain what you can offer someone.  Its always better when  your message is specific to an audience, for example, lets say you have a software product that allows listings on a website, like classifieds.  It also has some cool features, like being able to pull from the real estate MLS database easily, so if your audience for a particular marketing program is real estate agents, whom you know are always pressed for time, you can state “Add real estate listings to your own website in minutes by pulling directly from MLS.”  Those unfamiliar with the real estate industry won’t even know what you mean, so if you don’t know your audience, you probably want to say “Create new listings in minutes easily using existing online databases.”

Ok, so maybe that example was technical.  Lets try one less technical.  Lets say you have a better cake pan that cooks cakes with electricity, never burns the cake batter, requires less fat and oil and comes with 5 shapes.  Your message needs to say what your pan does for people.  Good key points might be; Never burn a cake, Cook 5 different shapes, and Make better tasting healthier cakes.

As an example of tailoring message to audience; if you plan to market your cake pan on a website about health, you probably want to stress that the cakes are healthier over that they never burn.

I hope you get the idea.  Feel free to post questions or contact me for help.

Finding an Audience

This is a whole topic in and of itself.  There are all kinds of ways to reach an audience, like purchasing an email list (make sure you get opt-in people, people who asked to get emails, spamming is bad for business), purchasing banner ads, social networking ads (like Facebook ads), reaching out on Twitter, using Google Adwords with key phrases and more.

So, since there are so many options here, there’s just a few general things I’ll say about finding an audience.  You want to look for an audience of people who have self-selected, which means they asked for information.  This can mean that you’re using key words in search marketing, that you purchased an opt-in list, or even that you’re purchasing advertising in a print magazine with an appropriate audience.

Steps 3 & 4: Reach out to the Audience & Track Responses

This is the part where you actually craft your program.  You’ve clarified your message, have your audience selected, and have hopefully adjusted your message to appeal to the audience.

What’s next is putting together your marketing pieces and deciding how you are going to track responses.

If you are using an electronic advertisement, you can track responses through an affiliate software program, by analytics, or through an account management interface that might be provided where you advertise.  The specifics of tracking is left for another post – perhaps the safest thing to do is make sure that you have a good analytics program and know how to read the traffic sources report.

If you’re dealing with print advertising, or any kind of live promotion, you will need a coupon code in your store system, or a special offer to track your promotions.  Its not perfect, but offering something free to register, or offering a limited time discount is a must to know if a live event or print advertisement generated any business.  Following the principle of no program without tracking, do what you can…

Again, marketing program design and planning is a great topic to cover, but we’re not going to cover it all here.  The gist of it is that you want to get your message clear, present it clearly and get it in front of people who might want what you offer.  Be clear about the problems you can help them solve.  Later on, I’ll share some books and materials on the subject.

So, in future posts we’ll talk about reading analytics and what the various reports mean, focusing on Google Analytics since they are free and easy to set up.

Steps 5 & 6: Gather Contact Information & Closing Sales

At the very least, you want contact information from anyone who comes to your site.  Give them a quick and easy way to get in touch with you.  Get a web form, not just one of those you@mail.address links because robots can pull that email from your site, unless you do some slick javascript stealth stuff and keep it current.  With WordPress, Joomla, or any similar system, there are numerous web form components.  If you are not running a system to manage your site, you should probably consider it, but even so, there are plenty of hosted email form systems ranging from free systems that show a small ad, to salesforce.com and/or similar customer relationship management system (yes, we will talk about those in the future as well).

Make your web form simple, prominent, and minimize the required fields (name, email and permission to contact them are the standard).  If you plan to contact people with any frequency instead of just once, make sure you ask them if you can do so, and respect that.  You want customers, not one-hit wonders.

If you are running an e-commerce site review the steps between product selection and checkout carefully and make them as simple as possible.  As few steps as possible.  You want your clients to actually get all the way through check out.

If you can set-up funnels for google analytics (yep, another future post), they are great – they let you tell how many people fell out where in the checkout process to help determine if you have any issues.

Well, that’s about enough for an overview – not like this was a short post of anything.  And remember, feel free to contact me with questions.

A bit of a generic/strategy about web marketing and tracking to set a foundation for future posts about methods.

A web page isn’t much help to anyone unless someone sees it.  Every small business needs marketing, and every website needs traffic.  If you are a small business, and you want to leverage a website, you need a marketing plan.

I’ve spent the past 20 years switching between technical, management and marketing fields in the software industry, and one thing that I’ve learned is that being clear about the benefit marketing provides is essential to being successful.

From my perspective there are basically two types of marketing:

Mind-share / Branding Marketing (Positioning)

Trying to capture a potential customer’s mind, so you can occupy a space in their world in my assessment is a form of positioning.  A lot of television and print advertising is focused on this type of marketing, and there’s a lot of push among small businesses to do this well.  The catch is that it can be very hard to track effectiveness for this type of marketing, so as a result, we rarely are able to measure return on investment for our marketing money.  For small businesses without a huge marketing budget, I do not recommend investing a lot of money into this type of advertising, even on those local yellow pages ads or heavy branding concepts and videos.

For most small business owners a few cost-effective positioning and branding concepts work well.

  • Clearly communicate what you offer, what you do for clients, and how you help them.
  • Use a logo or design that sticks with people, something memorable.
  • Use naming, identity and images that are easy to understand and remember.

For small businesses, I think this is enough.  Actually, last year, I went to a lecture by the founder of one of the largest online retailers of outdoor gear, and it was his lecture that solidified this opinion for me – beyond design money, he never spent a dollar on marketing he couldn’t track…and he still had one of the #1 brands.  That convinced me of my opinion.

If you are interested in reference material on positioning, I suggest these books.  Al Ries & Jack Trout’s book is the classic – a must read for any marketing professional. You can find them in the strategy section of my recommendations, and here:

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, 20th Anniversary Edition (by Al Ries and Jack Trout)

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! (by Al Ries and Jack Trout)

Lead Generation / Relationship Marketing

The second type of marketing, this is when you run some kind of a program, sometimes called a “lead generation” program, designed to reach out to people and bring in potential leads for your business.  Any advertising program that specifically targets people with whom you want to do business.  This is probably 90% of the marketing most small businesses should do online, and I would categorize even Twitter, Facebook and social networking into this category…because essentially what we’re doing is building relationships to people, connections to people, who are interested in what we have to offer.

The magic combination in this type of marketing is called “name, number and permission to call (or email)” – once you’re in contact with the people, closing business is a function of sales work, which is different (we will talk about good sales techniques and where to learn them in a future post).  What we are after here is our potential client’s name, their contact information, and permission to contact them because they are interested in what we have to offer them.

The really great (and important) thing about Lead Generation Marketing is that we can track return on investment pretty clearly and effectively, and this is where good web statistics come in.

Lead Generation Marketing breaks down into steps (not entirely linear, some may be concurrent, such as #5 and #6):

  1. Craft a message (this is where your basic brand marketing is so important)
  2. Find an audience
  3. Reach out to the audience (call this a “program”)
  4. Track your responses (Analytics is a MUST for this)
  5. Gather contact information
  6. Close sales

Now, you may close sales from the first point of contact, like when someone responds to an online program with a purchase, its really great when that happens, but we need to make our business model work without that because unless you’re in an “impulse-buy” business where your product and/or service is cheap and easy to buy right away, most people take time to make a decision, even if they are interested.

In Part II of this series, we will talk about each of these steps and what makes good business sense in each step.

This is an incredibly long blog post that shows how to link a Facebook Page to Twitter, and a WordPress Blog to a Facebook Page so that when you update your blog, it automatically updates your Facebook Page and your Twitter account.

I had to do something similar for a client and decided it was cool enough to want to do a blog post about how to do this.

This took a lot of experimenting to because there are so many different WordPress plugins and options to connect WordPress to Facebook or Twitter.  Honestly, I think this is probably the easiest way.  Here are the requirements that I followed:

  1. Easy to learn and use, neither I nor my clients have lots of time to invest.
  2. Automatically update a Facebook Page and Twitter from WordPress
  3. Not update my personal Facebook profile, just my Facebook Page.

Seems simple enough, right?  It wasn’t.  I think because of the number of plugins and options available.

So, here’s what I did, with what I hope are fairly simple screenshots and steps to help those of you along inclined to do this.  Of course, if you want some professional help, feel free to contact or call me (801-274-8490 is the office line ;-).

These instructions are for linking a Facebook Page to Twitter, and then a blog to your Facebook Page.  They are more oriented for a small business owner than for a personal blog.  If you don’t have a Facebook Page, and you want one, check out the post on creating a Facebook Page.

First, get your Facebook Page talking to Twitter

This was pretty easy.  There’s a Twitter application that Facebook put together to link a Facebook Page to Twitter.  It does not work to link a personal profile (you have to add it to a Facebook Page).

So first, log into Facebook and open your Facebook Page (note that if you want your personal profile to talk to Twitter, you can add this application to your personal profile.  These steps add it to your page.)

Log in to Facebook.

Make sure you have, or create a Facebook Page

In the search bar up top, enter “Twitter”

The first link that comes up should be an application, click on it

Search for "Twitter" on Facebook
Select the Twitter App

Selecting the Twitter Facebook App will open the Twitter application page and you’ll have to select on the left side to add the app to your page.

Click “Add to my page”

A web pop-up will open showing a list of pages in your Facebook account.  Click “Add to Page” for each page you want to send its wall updates to Twitter.

Now you will need to navigate back to your Facebook Page and click on “Edit Page” in the upper left.

Under the “Applications” area if you scroll down, you should see the Twitter Application, click “Edit” under the application and if you get the page asking to Allow the application, click the Allow button.

This will open up a Twitter login screen within Facebook (if everything has gone well so far):

Log in to Twitter within Facebook

At this point you will have to allow the Connection in Twitter. You still need to allow your page into Twitter.

Click on the Facebook App in Twitter Connections

Once you are logged in to Twitter, click on “Settings” and then “Connections.”

On the connections page, click on the Facebook app.

The next page will show a Facebook logo with an arrow pointing to Twitter and a large green button that says “Link a Page to Twitter”

Click on the large green button.

Again, a list of your Facebook Pages appears, with the pages on the left and a button “Link to Twitter” on the right.

Click the “Link to Twitter” button for your page, which will open the options panel for the Twitter Facebook Application

Ok — Finally, you should be all set.  Again, if this was confusing, and you want some help, don’t hesitate to contact me.

If you want to double-check, you can go into Twitter, click on “Settings” and then click on “Connections.”  If you see a Facebook connection notice there, with a “remove access” option, you’ve done it.

Connect WordPress to your Facebook Page with Networked Blogs

Now that we’ve finally got your Facebook Page updating Twitter, now we can connect your WordPress Blog to your FaceBook Page, for this we are going to use the Networked Blogs Facebook App.

Again, go to your Facebook account and log in (or stay logged in) and in the search bar type “Networked Blogs” – the first one in the list, where it says “Applications” is what you want.

Click on the Networked Blogs application

That should open the application page, and on the left, you should see a link that says “Add to my Page” click on that link to open a web pop-up with a list of your pages.  Click “Add to Page” for the page you want to link to WordPress.

Now, go back to your page (click on the word “Facebook” in the upper left to go back to your home page and click “Ads and Pages” again), and click “Edit Page” on the left.

Scroll down and look at the list of Applications.  Networked Blogs should be on the list.

In this case, you have to allow your blog permission to post to the wall, so click on “Application Settings” and open the “Additional Settings” tab and check the box that says “Publish recent activity to my wall.” and click “Ok”.

Now we’re going to add your blog to Networked Blogs.  Click “Edit” under the NetworkedBlogs Application.  If you are following along with these instructions, this is probably the first time that you are running this, so you’ll have to Allow it access; if you get a page that starts with “Allow Access” click the button that says “Allow.”

This should open the networked blogs setup page.

You will get a form to fill in with information about your WordPress Blog.  Fill out the information and click “Next”  – if you get an offer to check out a promotional widget, you can (and should) uncheck that box and click the next button.

NetworkedBlogs will ask if you are the author of the blog.  Click “Yes” (assuming you are), now you have to go through a verification step.

Choose to verify using the widget, open another browser window, log in to your WordPress blog and open “Appearance” and “Widgets”.  Put a text widget on one of your side panels.

Switch back to the networked blogs interface and from the “Copy the following HTML code” box, select everything, copy it, switch back to your blog and paste all that code into your text widget.  Save the widget.

Switch on back to the Networked Blogs interface and click “Verify Widget” – if you copied the code correctly, you should see a green box indicating you are verified.  Click that “Next” button to show the NetworkedBlogs configuration page.

We are ALMOST done here.  ALMOST.  This has been an incredibly long blog post, hasn’t it?  In the future I think we’ll choose smaller topics 😉

So here is the NetworkedBlogs page once you have it installed into your Facebook Account, and you’ve got a blog set up properly:

Ok, now you want to click on the right side where it says “Feed Settings” – this is the final step to syncing your blog with Facebook, and thus, with Twitter.

Once you click on “Feed Settings” you will see an interface listing all your Facebook Pages – pick everywhere you want your blog to publish its updates.

After you pick the options you want, Networked Blogs can publish a test post for you.  Go for it, you’ve worked hard, publish that test post.

If it doesn’t show up, step back through and check all the settings.  Feel free to post a comment here with questions or to contact me for some professional help.

Ok, so here at Techivity for the new 2010 year, we are launching a new site that will not only showcase our work, but will also share what we learn and know about conducting small business on the web.

Its our plan to share information about:

– Frameworks, such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, ModX and more

– Hosting services, such as xmission.com, bluehost.com and squarespace.com

– eCommerce options, such as VirtueMart, ZenCart, or hosted options like Volusion

– Search Engine Optimization, dispelling some of the myths about SEO, white hat, black hat, keyword research and so forth

– Social networking, like how to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more

The web has grown to be an incredible resource both for personal connectivity and business development, but its huge, confusing and has its own language and subculture.  Even those of us who are “plugged in” all the time don’t have exposure to everything, everywhere, there’s just too much.

So, this blog is going to be our journey at Techivity through our various client projects, the resources we find and set up for our clients, and how to review those resources.  We hope to use every day language and talk about technical options with a firm grounding in business strategy and practice.