I’m a huge fan of 37Signals and have followed them ever since they were a usability company through their transformation into a product company. Anyway about a year ago I heard they were working on a CRM product called Sunrise, which they have apparently agonized over, scrapped, and reworked. I think we can safely assume that Highrise is the next instantiation of that product.

Homeshot Dashboard

I heard about this through the webworkerdaily which has a pretty good write up about it. Love to hear peoples thoughts, I have yet to check it out.

It’s been clear to me since just doing two podcast episodes on a business related topic that I am not in Kansas anymore. The “production value” if you like, has got to be higher on a podcast, and not only that but the level of intimacy/connection with the audience/community has got to be higher as well. Sure, my personality comes through somewhat in my writing, but as Joe Jaffe has said on occasions on his AcrossTheSound podcast (and i’m paraphrasing) when your voice is in someone’s ear it’s another level of attention. Ironically writing is my Achilles heel, I am totally word blind and make amazingly obvious spelling errors all the time. In fact if any of my friends read my blog, the first thing they do is tell me there’s a typo somewhere. On my podcast on the other hand you get to hear my English accent which has been proven to make me sound 20% smarter than I am :-)

Anyway, what inspired this post are some pretty astounding statistics for number of business people and IT people that listen to podcasts.

Some 41 percent of business and IT professionals say they have listened to podcasts on more than one occasion, while 13 percent say they frequently download or listen to them, according to a KnowledgeStorm and Universal McCann joint research study on the emerging role of new media, particularly podcasts, on B2B technology purchase decisions. Moreover, 32 percent of survey respondents said their use of podcasts has increased or significantly increased in the last six months, and 65 percent said they listen to podcasts for both personal and business interests.

Podcast Listeners 02

Stacy Malone, vice president, interactive media director, Universal McCann, says “podcasts have moved into the Top 10 most frequently accessed types of online content.” She adds, “Podcasts are no longer being used only for pure entertainment value. They are turning into an indispensable, business-critical information tool.”

via MarketingVox: Research: Podcasts Penetrate B2B Mainstream

Needless to say it points to the fact that podcasts are a great communication medium.

I wonder what the top ten types of online content are?

1. Porn
2. Spam
3. Google

I’m kidding

4. youtube
5. myspace profiles
6. movies of Zidane

Oddca Swag

What is Zooomr? Well, it is very much like Flickr, except Zooomr is very interested in “where” you take pictures, and provides tools for you to Geo tag your photos. So it’s sort of like a flickr+Googlemaps+frappr mashup. Ahh, ok, got it….. Oh except it allow for audio comments on its photo’s as well, so you can sort of have a podcast embedded in your photo…. ok, wow. Oh, did I mention the photo’s have trackbacks as well…

And did I mention that they are going to give me and any other bloggers a pro-account who serve up 1 image from zoomr by putting a link in this comment thread.

Nice.


Picture 45 01
An example of the GeoTagging, see the thumbnails for “photos around this location”, quite frankly this has got some mind boggling implications that I have not wrapped my head around. Time to experiment.

Tip Of The Hat to Mashable

Update: close to 600 comments, and therefore 600 linkbacks, those lucky devils :-)

Most small businesses have to take some horrible compromises when trying to get into ecommerce and sell products online, it’s either a crappy looking yahoo store, or an ebay store, which in the end marginalizes your identity. So if you want an ecommerce store just made for small business check out shopify.com, it’s easy, it’s beautifully designed, and it won’t turn you upside down and shake all the money out of you. It’s made by a company called JadedPixel which is very much in the same mold as 37signals, and focuses on usability and design.

Now I just listened to a podcast about it on the MarketingMonger and it’s great to listen to the founder, and hear a bit about their philosophy.

This is also an interesting example of how podcasts are great ways to get to know companies. I listened, and I can safely say that I would trust this company with my money, and if I wanted to sell anything online I would be going here first. A great example of Micromarketing at work.

(I have no association with these guys, but I love there approach to business and marketing)

Keep up the good work folks.

Karl

This seems like a very interesting company, it’s a tool that allows a businesses to create locally targeted coupons that customers can find online, print, and bring into the business.

Now, for the sake of full disclosure my company Local Zing Inc. is an affiliate, in other words if I do refer them business I will get paid when they eventually start charging for it in 2007. Anyway, that being said Zixxo.com is the web site and it has two purposes, a place where customers can go an find coupons for businesses in their area, and a tool for local companies to create those coupons. It’s such a great concept i find it hard to believe that no-one has done it before.

Now when people think of coupons they usually think of pizza etc. but this is a great venue for proffesional services as well because it allows you to define the critiera of your offer. Lawyers, designers, dentists, doctors, can all create coupons that can be for first time customers.

It is currently free, although it does require a 1c payment to prevent fraudulant coupons and spammers, and the company will start charging in 2007, and from what I can tell it will be based upon how many coupons are printed.

Other mentions:
TechCrunch
Emily Changs Ehub
Duct Tape Marketing
Interview with the founder of Zixxo

I’m happy to report that even though this site is only 6 months old it is now on the front page of google for my chosen key phrase which is “local internet marketing”. I actually only checked because I noticed a spike in traffic from google, and I thought I would investigate. It took over a year for me to get the #1 spot on google for my site that focuses on customer experience , so it looks like LocalZing is doing quite well.

Thing I can attribute this success to are:

  1. The blog format
  2. Focus on a realistic key phrase
  3. Attracting incoming links by with original writing

Blog Format

The blog format is absolute magic for SEO, because it’s regularly updated, it’s extremely easy for search engines to consume, and it has lots of built in meta-data and link building tools. One of the often overlooked technologies on blogs is “trackback”. Trackback is essentially a technology that automatically detects incoming links from other blogs and creates reciprocal links (I wrote more about trackback here: What makes the blogosphere so…. spherical.

Realistic Key Phrase

When picking your key phrase you should try and pick something that is realistic, is somewhat niche, and includes a broader key phrase that you would like to win. With Local Zing, ideally i’d like to be found under “internet marketing” but that’s a very competitive field, so I worked on a more focused phrase “local internet marketing”. I admit, Local Zing is a pretty easy one. But take my “customer experience” blog, there I started by focusing on winning “customer experience strategy” and once I had got that, customer experience was sure to follow.

Original Writing

Ok, well this one is not quite so formulaic or easy. First you should make sure you get familiar and read other blogs that are talking about the area you want to play in. Don’t fall into the trap of only reading popular blogs about “blogging”, then you’ll just end up getting caught up in the incestuous, self referential blog maelstrom, and that won’t do you any good. You’re much more likely to get linked to by like minded bloggers that are not inundated, and are actually interested in expanding on topics relevant to your business.

Biznik is a business networking site, based in Seattle, started by Dan McComb, focused on encouraging F2F networking, and referring business between members. One of the very interesting aspects of this is that “good behavior” like referring people business gets you kudos and builds your reputation.

biznik kudos

Hmm, imagine that, rewarding people for behavior you want to encourage, sounds revolutionary. Well I’m being facetious, but it’s amazing how many web sites and especially community web sites that fail to reward the right behavior.

Biznik is pretty small right now, and I hope that they can grow and still maintain the good vibe. Right now it’s a lot of Seattle folks, but the model is just waiting to get taken into other cities.

Along the same lines, well at least social networking that claims not to suck, but without my own opinion of it, i’ve recently heard about collectiveX a “group-focused professional social network” tool. TechCrunch says, “CollectiveX is what LinkedIn should have been.”

Looks like google has finally unvieled some product/service specific searches that have spawned from “google base” (googles answer to craigslist).

The google real estate search can be seen here

and

The google auto search can be found here

hat tip

Shel Israel, co-author of naked conversations had this to say after giving a talk to the Seattle chamber of commerce:

What inspired me the most, a little to my surprise, were the folks at the Chamber of Commerce. These were folks, as Robert puts it, who were hungry to learn. I met a wedding planner who blogs, and an architect and carpet cleaner, among others, who plan to soon follow suit. This is heartening for me. The day has finally come where small businesses can use technology tools to elevate and differentiate themselves and it is heartening to find so many in one room plunging into the blogosphere.

See the full post here at Naked Conversations

Many forward thinking businesses, big and small, are discovering blogs as a tool to connect with customers, and give customers a way to connect with the business. IMHO any business blogging is engaging in a form of Micromarketing, a way to connect with customers using alternative media. I use the term micromarketing as a way to differentiate from mass marketing, because blogs enable companies to literally connect with one customer/prospect at a time, in a conversation and not a sales pitch.

Just remember:

  • Micromarketing is not selling
  • Micromarketing is conversational - if you have comments and trackback turned off it’s not a conversation
  • Micromarketing is about being open and informal - tell readers something they wouldn’t get from a press release
  • Micromarketing is talking about shareing experiences and telling stories

Originally published at customersonfire.com - Microbrands and Micromarketing

The SEO Book posts a thoughtful article on the topic on “Mixing Organic SEO and Pay Per Click Marketing“.

The one thing I really value about a PPC campaign is the measurability. As your paying for every click-through, you can tie some pretty hard numbers together that will describe the effectiveness of your ad on attracting click-throughs, and then the effectiveness of your site in converting a visitor into a customer or at least an enquiry.

I tend to focus on service based businesses, doctors, lawyers, etc. and in those businesses it is the leads that matter, its the email enquiry or phone call that is generated when someone hits the site that is really valuable. It only takes one campaign to get an understanding of how the web site is performing at converting visitors into leads, and the great thing about that is it gives a solid argument for investment to try and improve the conversion rate of visitor into lead.

Most service based businesses couldn’t tell you if the several thousand dollars they put into their web site a year ago was a good investment or not. A web site shouldn’t be a “nice to have” or “we need one to seem legitimate”, it should be driving business, it is a marketing channel and it should be converting visitors into leads or customers.

Paid search continues to provide excellent ROI for marketers, and a recent survey from ad:tech finds that 52% of marketers stated it was “great—outperforms other tactics”

Article on BtoB online
and
Article from MarketingVox

http://www.foldera.com/ - This is a limited beta of what looks like a killer business tool. Too much to describe so I added a screenshot of the features:

screenshot of foldera, sharepoint killer

The benefits of an online spreadsheet is not that its going to be better and more feature rich than excel, but the fact that several people can be involved in editing it, without the need to 20 copies of it to end up clogging up your email. It’s also got integrated chat, so you can collaborate on it “live”.

Besides, its a cute name Numbler.com and is as simple to set up and get going on as the wonderful collaborative writing tools from 37signals called writeboard.

I setup a demo spreadsheet here if you want to try it out: http://numbler.com/LIwJf5VYcIpPZQA8

null

So what’s missing?

  • Cut and paste, no spreadsheet can survive without that
  • Dragging cells
  • Highlighting cells to insert them into a formula
  • Runs a little slow on firefox on the mac

Cheers,

Karl

I just came across a very good review and introduction to Google Analytics, which is essentially a tool to help you analyze who is viewing your web site, and what they are doing. Sounds simple but way to many small businesses do not pay enough attention to what is happening on their web site. Your web site “should” be an investment, you spent $X on developing it, you should understand the value it provides. I’m afraid that I have spoken to many small and medium businesses that spent several thousand dollars on their web site a couple of years ago, and they still don’t know if that was a good investment or not. With no measurement of “return on investment” for the web site, investing in redesign, or updating becomes another exercise in faith. You wouldn’t keep a salesperson on for 2 years if you didn’t know if they were making sales? For most companies the web site is a very important salesperson, probably the first one that any customer meets, it might not close the deals but it’s getting the appointments.

Google Analytics review on Urban Semiotic

Some VW dealers are going to get a bump in publicity with this little bit of self promotion… selling their “Fast” on eBay.

fast on ebay

With only 600 of the little creatures avalable, 1 per dealership apparently, any dealerships selling their “Fast” are sure of some extra attention. Two have appeared on ebay so far, the bidding is over $300, and the page views are around 1000. This could prove to be a pretty viral advertisment, certainly in its early stages.

Hat Tip

Related:
VW’s Quirky Campaign to Revive US Sales - New York Times

ProjectFast.com

A friend just pointed me to a book called Go It Alone - by Bruce Judson, and you can read the whole thing for free online if you like.

I’ve read the first couple of chapters and it is a first class read, and a must have for anyone who wants to start their own business, and anyone who has one. Here’s a little snippit about where business ideas come from:
Where do good business ideas originate?

The answer turns out to be far simpler than most people imagine. Over and over again, successful go-it-alone entrepreneurs find their inspiration in solutions they developed for their own real-life problems. They typically encounter a problem, solve it for themselves, and then conclude that “if I needed this, other people probably do as well.”

Mr. Trademark (www.MrTrademark.com), which provides online trademark searches and related services, is one example that illustrates this point. Joe Strahl, the founder of this business, was formerly the owner of Prison Life magazine. When copyright issues related to the magazine arose, Strahl found that rather than pay a lawyer, he could research existing trademarks for free through a database that was available at the New York Public Library. After completing this work, Strahl realized that the basic research to determine the existence of any trademark conflicts does not require a lawyer. He concluded that he could build a profitable business around this research service. The benefits Mr. Trademark offers include far lower costs than those of lawyer-guided trademark investigation services and guaranteed 24-hour turnaround.

Mr. Trademark’s beginning is far more the norm than the exception. In fact, the majority of the go-it-alone businesses described here started the same way: The founder solved a problem in his or her own life.

and

With few exceptions, these businesses share several core operating principles: These stand at the heart of every successful go-it-alone business. We’ve already discussed three of these: personal leverage, extreme outsourcing, and relentless repeatability, that enable founders to focus on what they do best.

ZDnet reveals some Gmail code that hints at more business centric email tool

Someone has been snooping around in the Gmail javascript code and found this little gem:

function vJ(){if(uy){;return’‘+”Manage this domain”+” | “}else{return”"}}

Essentially, if Gmail is enabled for other domains, businesses can update there own “MX Record” to point at mail.google.com, and google will handle all the email for that domain.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of work with small and medium businesses and I have been very surprised by the amount of @aol.com email addresses that small businesses and entrepreneurs are still using, even people with their own domains. Gmail will perform a hell of a lot better than AOL, that’s for sure.

Selling and marketing a service based business is a unique challenge that does not get enough attention, which considering services make up significant percentage of the US economy, is rather a problem.

I found this article on a favorite site of mine for marketing articles that lays out some of the differences between selling and marketing services as opposed to products. Four Factors That Distinguish Services Marketing at MarketingProfs.com

Many service companies often look at marketing as marketing, and often use marketing tools and techniques that are more appropriate for product companies. If you are a service business you should really be looking at “service marketing” not just marketing. It’s not surprising that product marketing techniques are the most well known, marketing as a discipline has only been around for 50 years, and the first 40 years were mostly focused selling products, differentiating cereal on a shelf of the supermarket, or getting you to try the other brown, sugary, fizzy drink.

I can’t recommend enough the book “Selling the Invisible”, if your in a service business you should own a copy.

The idea that “cheap, fast or good… Pick two” gets a kick in the pants from a company called 37signals.com. This small company has created four brilliant products that claim to do “less that competitors products”, and in the world of software that really is refreshing. It is by keeping things simple that this small company keeps getting so much attention. The four products they have out currently are great, but keep watching out for their new “CRM” product called Sunrise, which for me is probably one of the biggest gaps that needs filling in the marketplace here. A simple, easy to use, inexpensive CRM tool would be a godsend, and anyone who’s used Goldmine, or Act knows what i’m talking about.

The current products that 37signals puts out are:

  • Basecamp - a collaborative project management tool, perfect for any service based businesses that have to collaborate with clients
  • Backpack - an online informaiton organizer, perfect for planning an event, or business trip
  • Writeboard - a collaborative writeing tool, great for working on proposals as a team, or even writeing a business plan with people who are out of town
  • Ta Da List - as simple as a to-do list can possibly be, and free

Creating a blog for your business can be a valuable tool in your marketing toolbox, for some businesses more valuable than the website itself. I know many businesses equate “blog” with “confessional teenage diary”, and dismiss it as a trend, but it’s seriously good business. In the end a blog is just a very “simple content management system”, with some built in features that search engines like Google love. Imagine Google and all search engines are like hungry monsters that eat web sites and, well, produce search results, then blogs are like a never ending pasta bowl, connected to other never ending pasta bowls, and a regular website are like slices of white toast. Basically blogs automatically create a rich, interconnected, structure that would take hours to do by hand.

Anyway, the top ten things come from INC. magazine, which I highly recommend reading, the one caveat I will add is the section is sponsored by Network Solutions, and if you want to host a blog or anything that uses mysql, don’t do it there, it’s fantastically slow.