What are those funny squares?

 

It used to be that the only thing that stayed the same was the pace of change but now that has increased so rapidly that nothing stays the same. Yesterday’s innovation quickly becomes yesterday’s news. Nowhere is this more true than in marketing. Some things are just fads and disappear overnight and some things stclip_image002and the test of time. Technology used to be the arena of the young—and now the young are middle aged. If you are not connecting with them, you are missing your market and in this day of rapid change, even short-terms mistakes in marketing can be fatal. All of which leads us to QR codes.

If you start looking around you will see QR codes everywhere—they snuck up on us. Similar to a bar code the QR code is a pattern that can be read by any “smart phone.” It does require an app (hope I’m not losing you here) but the app is free. Search for a “QR Code Reader” and download the app. Using the app, you position your phone over the QR Code and your phone is immediately taken to the web site of the code. The QR Code above takes you to The Fremont Group web site. Now start imagining the possibilities—put your web site code on all your materials—business cards, bids, literature, your email, door hangers, advertisements, brochures—anything that people will see. You now will have people going directly to the web site of your choice.

Two more good things—first the QR Codes are free. Google QR Code generator and you will be taken to a free web site. Enter your desired web site and the code is immediately generated for you to download and save. (A hint—use the small version where you are given a choice. The large ones are really large. They can however be manipulated by sizing the text box when you insert them into copy.) Second good thing—it creates incredibly simple tracking of hits. Create a web site that merely redirects one to the desired web site and you can track the number of hits on coming from the code. Use different codes for different products or services to direct people to exactly what you want them to see. The bad news is, if you have a lousy web site you might not want to direct people to it! On the other hand this is a strong reason to bring you web site up-to-date. Ask yourself—what do I want people to see when it comes up on their phone? That will determine what you want from your site.

QR Codes could become an extremely strong marketing tool—or they could be a fad. Frankly it doesn’t matter. Your company must take advantage of this technology immediately if for no other reason merely for the image of being ahead of the curve. I am told that they have been around much longer in Asia and are now commonplace. Given their flexibility and simplicity and given that they are free, I expect them to also become a mainstay here. Try it, you’ll like it.

Are you still trying to sell like it’s 1999?

The world is changing. Are you positioning yourself in front of the curve or behind it?

We have all heard about the information age. We all bought computers and created web sites and figured out how to use email. Then we waited; and waited for the great change that was predicted. Finally we decided that we have waited long enough and this great change that was predicted was nothing but hype. Sure we now have to move faster and we have to spend additional time filtering out the spam from the email we have to answer but in general the predicted change was a dud. Or was it?

Companies began to assume that if they were not technical firms, the information age had merely improved their accounting and reporting while changing the way we communicate. But what about our customers? How have these changes impacted the needs and wants of our customers? The value added of the information has dropped as it has become more of a commodity. Our clients will pay for a relationship with an outside expert who can help them work through issues and provide perspective. In other words, they are willing to pay for the expertise but not for the information. This same metamorphosis is now apparent in places you would never expect—construction, services, and many other small businesses.

As we have counseled thousands of firms, your first responsibility in building a sales plan is to identify your USP—unique selling proposal. Identify in 25 words or less what is unique about your business that should cause a customer to buy from you instead of from a competitor. That USP is what you should be selling. The advice has never been timelier. The explosion of information available to your customers has “commoditized” many things that were formerly unique. Commodities are price-sensitive and carry lower margins. Small businesses cannot compete on a commodity basis.

The sales efforts of small businesses go through three stages. The first stage is the Survival Stage. In the Survival Stage business is attracted by price and the ubiquitous claim of Quality. Ask these people for their USP and the first thing out of their mouth is “price” and “quality.” There are two problems with this response: first, building your company around price is a recipe for disaster; second, “quality” is claimed by everyone and therefore has no meaning in the marketplace. These companies must learn to sell without selling price and they must more clearly define “quality” and sell that from the customer’s perception—not their own.

The second stage is for companies that are established in the marketplace and are now in a growth mode. This we call the Growth Stage. These firms tend to use phrases that focus upon their customers—“customer first” or “we treat our customers better” are recited. They have learned to sell without selling price and understand that their USP has to focus upon the customer rather than themselves. You can reach this level and have a comfortable existence, but it does not take you to your full potential. That is reached at the third stage.

The third stage is a complete shift. At this stage customers come to you. You attract more “negotiated” work. You are able to increase both your volume and your margins. You now control your volume through your margins. This is the Market Leader Stage. The Market Leader Stage has been greatly affected by the information age. In our current environment the requirements of this stage have shifted. What was formerly the distinguishing “value-added” that moved firms to this level have become commoditized. The internet has created commodities out of many functions that were formerly the highly sought value-added. To reach this level you have to understand what you are selling.

Almost without exception, the product of all firms in the Market Leader Stage is the ability to solve the problems of their customers. You no longer are selling the hardware or the service, you now recognize that you are in the business of solving the problems of your customers. To accomplish this there is a sequence of realizations which must be reached:

1. Who are your real customers and what are your customer’s problems? When was the last time you asked them? It is no longer “all about you.” It has to become “all about them.”

2. What will solve their problems? This might require going beyond your current products—is it a “turnkey” approach? Is it a billing or invoicing change? Is it financing? You better find out.

3. Combine this solution with expertise. You need to become the place where your customers go for answers. You become who they turn to for information—advances in advances in technology or advice in unique information.

4. Lastly you must adapt your sales and marketing to this level.

We are in the information age and we have to take advantage of it. This does not mean gimmicks or making simple things complicated. It does mean being the information source for your customers. Through a series of exercises we help you move your organization to that “next level” but, true to our focus, our “value-added” is the facilitation of the change. You don’t need consulting to get there. Consulting would write up the systems, procedures and controls for you—coaching causes you to do it yourself. Isn’t the information age fun?

Blog for Increased Sales

How a Blog Can
Seriously Help Your Business

By Jason OConnor (c) 2009 The Net Gazette

If your business website doesn’t have a blog, get one. A blog, if done right, can act as a direct and indirect mechanism that brings large amounts of qualified visitors to your site, many of whom may become customers.
This is mostly related to the way blogs interact with search engines and the traffic I am speaking of will come from search engines, mostly Google.
Before I explain how you can do this to help your website, let me first give some background on how search engines work, Google in particular.

When it comes to optimizing your website (or blog for that matter) for search engines you must always keep in mind two things: on-page optimization and off-page optimization.
On-page optimization is the elements of a Web page that better optimize it to be found and ranked well in the search engines. These elements can include on-page content such as the actual sentences and paragraphs on the page, the headlines (or headers or Hx tags), the links, the links’ text, the title tag and much more.
Off-page optimization means the things that are done on sites besides your site, namely link-building. Off-page optimization is the process of creating links (or causing others to create links) on other websites that point to your site. Inbound links as these are often called have a major impact on how well you rank in search engines. Generally speaking, the more inbound links, the better. But the quality of the sites with these inbound links, or the way the search engines perceive the sites, is even more important.
To rank on the first couple of pages on the search engines requires work on both on-page and off-page optimization.
Two additional and important pieces of information that you’ll need to understand are related to site content and internal links.
Search engines also very much love new, original and quality content, and they like to see your website regularly adding this kind of new content. You don’t need to add pages every day, just add pages at the same rate over time. So if you add a page a week to your site, keep it at around that same pace, or increase or decrease gradually.
A website can be considered a living entity in a sense. It certainly shouldn’t be static. It should grow over time. And the fantastic thing about content is that the more of it there is on your site, the more chances you have of getting found in the search engines.

The idea that inbound links help your search engine rankings that I explained above can be extended to your internal pages as well. In other words, the more links to a particular page coming from other pages within the same site will boost that page’s rank as well.
Think of it this way. If you had a ten page site, including a product page and every page on the site contained a link to your product page and, if all other things were equal, your product page would rank higher than the rest of your site’s pages (besides the home page which is given a little extra weíght).
Now let’s consider what would happen if there were only you and your competitor in your industry (if only that could be true!) and your site still had those ten pages while your competitor’s site contained one hundred pages. Furthermore, your competitor set it up the same way as you where he added a link to every page on his site that pointed to his product page. If all other things were equal, his product page would outrank your product page every time. Why? Because he had 100 internal links pointing to his product page and you only had 10.
If you put all these pieces together now, on-page optimization, off-page optimization or link building, content creation and internal linking, can you begin to see why a blog may be a good thing? A blog helps with all of these.
A blog that is regularly updated is providing a mechanism for adding fresh content on a regular basis. Plus, it’s so easy to use a blog that anyone can use them, so even if you or your employees don’t know a thing about Web pages and HTML, you’ll still be able to add new content to your site.

Consider this. If you add fresh, quality content to your blog on a regular basis by writing posts, something the search engines love, and within each post you link to an important page within your site, let’s say your product page for instance, you’re now building links to help your rankings using your blog. With this additional link your product page gets that much more boost in the search engines.
Remember how I explained that links from within your site help your rankings? Adding links within your blog posts pointing back to your other important pages that you want to rank well is a great way to help your rankings.
And every time you publish a new post, you’re giving the search engines one more entry point into your site. Your site will quickly get bigger, and with each new page your site gets more visible.
Keep in mind that the links you make within your blog posts should be relevant. Only link to your product page from a post that has to do with your products. And also, blog posts ought to be useful to your site visitors. The less you talk about your products and instead offer useful, free information that people can use, the more traffíc and repeat visitors you’ll get.
Remember that people really don’t care about you, your website or your products, they only care about how you can help them. If you sell furniture, a blog post about how to find the best deals on furniture would be far better than a post about how your chairs are the best in the world.
One important thing to remember is that if you plan on creating a new blog for your business as a way to augment your website be sure you put the blog on your actual domain. This means that you would not use a remote service like Blogger.com. Instead, you must have the blog on your business website’s address (or domain). For example, if your website address is http://www.yoursite.com/ then your blog should be located at http://www.yoursite.com/blog or http://blog.yoursite.com/
By adding a blog to your business website you are creating a way to get additional traffic. You’ll get direct traffic from your posts, which get indexed by the search engines and drive traffic to your site from searches. And, you’ll get indirect traffic from your other site’s pages ranking well in the search engines because they have links pointing to them from your blog posts.
You’ll be regularly adding fresh content to your site, which search engines love, thereby creating more ways to be found in the search engines at the same time. And each post provides a new chance to create a link or two to other pages and blog posts on your site, thereby boosting those pages’ rankings.
Like I suggested at the beginning, if your business website doesn’t have a blog, go get one.

Your Web Site

This article was referred to me by a fellow “twitter.”  Follow us on Twitter @TheFremontGroup

Your Website
As Persuasion Machine

By Jerry Bader (c) 2009

The combination of the Internet, the Web, and technology has democratized business almost beyond recognition. Today the small, nimble, clever adaptor has the competitive advantage over their bigger, slower moving, ‘we’ve-always-done-it-this-way’ competitors; but the confluence of the Web environment and digital technology is one thing, how to use it effectively is another. Not every trendy social networking gimmick, user generated irrelevance, and pointless viral voyeurism is a productive business communication tactic.

The Day Dinosaurs Died
Like the dinosaurs that once ruled the world, the giant behemoth corporations that once dominated the business landscape have become fat and lazy, relying on muscle rather than brains, on statistics rather than understanding, and on technology rather than insight. As these companies got bigger, they became top-heavy, corrupt, and stagnant, throwing their weight around rather than innovating and adapting. Oh yes, the big boys are still around, still doing what they’ve always done, jumping on every trend ‘du jour’ promoted by the ‘blogosphere’ without any real understanding of what it can accomplish, but hell, they figure if they throw enough you-know-what at the wall some of it is bound to stick, or so they hope.
But the handwriting is on the wall, the giant Internet meteorite has already hit these corporations right in their balance sheets and they are tumbling into irrelevance. The list of extinct corporate giants grows, and the march to Chapter 11 continues unabated.
So how does the smart, fearless, innovative thinking, business decision-maker take advantage of the Web’s ability to even the playing field? The answer lies in their ability to use the Web as a persuasive communication medium.

Persuasive Communication
The Web is really a very simple concept: it is a place that allows you to communicate your message to your audience. What could be simpler, but like anything democratic, it’s messy: a jumble of the very good and the very bad, and a whole lot of mediocre in-between. And in today’s overcrowded Web-centric business environment there is little room for the mediocre.
In the final analysis all marketing, branding, positioning, advertising, and public relations is about communicating a persuasive message that attracts attention, generates interest, stimulates desire, triggers experiences, produces memories, and prompts action. And what Web-enabled communication tool gives you the best chance of delivering that kind of persuasive message? Web Video.

Persuasive Web Video Communication
The Web has some of the most effective creative video presentations you would ever want to see, and it also has some of the worst. Easy-to-use and relatively inexpensive technology has created a plethora of do-it-yourself efforts. Some DIYers do it because of cost, others do it because of ego, and some just figure they’re smarter than the people who do it for a living; and in some cases they may be right. Not all professionally produced Web-video is created equal. If your Web-video team is not pushing you to be bold with a focused, defining, differentiating message, then you’ve hired the wrong people.
Communication intended to persuade is a complex undertaking, one that requires a better understanding of how messages are communicated than it does the technical production issues. When people watch a video, what they see is far more susceptible to both intended and unintended nuance than a simple face-to-face conversation.

Every Move You Make, I’ll Be Watching You
Every move you make; every vow you break; every smile you fake; every claim you stake; I’ll be watching you.”
– From the song ‘I’ll Be Watching You’ by The Police
Everything a person does or says is a sign, not just a communication of the obvious intent but also of the underlying subconscious subtext. In person, people have a built-in monitoring system that filters-out irrelevant verbal and non-verbal distractions, glitches and eccentricities, but on your website, in a video, those performance issues get magnified and can destroy your entire presentation.
In his book ‘Messages, Signs, and Meanings’ Marcel Danesi states, “Humans convey over two-thirds of their messages through the body, producing up to 700,000 physical signs, of which 1000 are different bodily postures, 5000 are hand gestures, and 250,000 are facial expressions.”
If your website lacks a video presentation, and instead relies solely on text communication, you are handicapping your business’s ability to persuade, convince, and convert website visitors into clients. And, if you do have video on your site, but it’s not producing the intended results, perhaps the verbal communication is in conflict with the nonverbal message, creating confusion and distrust rather than confidence and understanding.
Forget all the things you think your website should be doing; its most important and most critical purpose is to deliver an effective communication to your audience.

A Recipe for Web-Video Communication
Persuasive Web-video communication is a complicated process that involves numerous creative and technical talents, as well as psychological insight into performance issues: scripting, casting, producing, directing, editing, music, and sound design, all complemented by communication psychology, emotional resonance, and business savvy are required to create effective presentations.

Ingredient One: Attract Attention
Job one is to get people to take their hand off the mouse and pay attention; it’s the equivalent of someone yelling, “hey you” in a crowded room, everyone stops and turns to find out what’s going on.
Mark Hughes author of “Buzzmarketing” suggests six criteria that provide the hey-you-pay-attention affect: the taboo, the unusual, the humorous, the outrageous, the remarkable, the secret, and the titillating. Which of these criteria you choose to use depends on your brand image, your audience, and your message.
All these elements individually or in combination can produce the stop-look-and-listen effect you want as long as they are appropriate for your target audience.

Ingredient Two: Generate Interest
Sarah Wood of Unruly Media, a company that specializes in paid viral seeding points to high value relevancy as an additional key ingredient; it’s what turns the viral-for-viral’s sake into a purposeful, persuasive, viral marketing communication.
High value relevancy is based on the connection made through your video presentation. If your video doesn’t resonate in some way, you will lose your audience. Resonance can be established through the performers’ personality, the delivery of the dialogue, the scenario presented, the subject matter discussed, the point-of-view perspective, and/or the emotional content.


Read the rest of Jerry’s article “Your Website As Persuasion Machine” at:
http://www.sitepronews.com/2009/08/13/your-website-as-persuasion-machine