Friday, July 25, 2014

We need more brains!

 No, this is not a post about zombies. Sorry if you thought that!

Have you ever had a great idea, but after pondering it for a little while, you are not quite sure if it will fly or not? It happens to me all of the time. I get all excited about some business or plan and then once I think about it for a day or two, I lose my momentum. Instead of letting great ideas fall by the wayside, why not bounce ideas off of another person and see what they think about it?

Brainstorming sessions are valuable in business. If you have someone you can trust with your secret business ideas, ask to have lunch, dinner or even coffee with them. Let them hear your idea and come up with ways it might work, or reasons why it won’t. Either way, you should take advantage of this significant resource.

The name Social Squids, came from such a meeting. My friend and I got together for coffee and I told her that I needed to come up with a name. She’s an illustrator, very talented and creative in her own right. 

The starting point was the fact that I like animals, so we decided the name would have something animal-related in it. We brainstormed great name ideas, terrible ones, silly ones and eventually one of us – I’m not even sure which one of us it was – came up with Social Squids.

I kept doing this thing with my hands, wiggling my fingers and moving my arms outward. I was thinking about how social media reaches out into cyberspace. Not only did we come up with the name, we came up with the tag line too – We have far-reaching tentacles.

Paying someone for their opinion has its value, but brainstorming with one, two or a small group of people, will help you find problems, solutions, more in-depth ideas or sometimes cheer you on for your amazing business proposition.

So, find more brains. Bounce ideas off of your friends in the business community. Sometimes these ideas might seem impossible, but give it a try anyway. It can be an incredibly valuable tool for your business. Just be careful you share your ideas with people you trust and who are not going to take your idea and use it for their own.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Is your web contest too complicated?


I received an email from a company the other day about their upcoming contest. I’m going to show the actual steps you need to take to enter the contest, but also change any identifying information.

1. From DATES OF CONTEST visit our COMPANY Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts to gather a daily clue
2. Use your clue to find the hidden ITEM on our website
3. Click the ITEM to receive the secret words
4. Collect the words of the day for all 5 days to create the winning phrase
5. Enter your submission on our website between DATES OF CONTEST for your chance to win 1 of 10 prizes!

I don’t know about you, but by the time I got to step three, my eyes glazed over and that was the end. I understand that this contest was developed to get people to engage in the company’s website and social media sites, however, most people are not going to spend that much time trying to win something. Maybe if the prize was a couple million bucks, people might do it. But this was for a basket of products that are worth a few hundred dollars at best.

Many companies use the “find the hidden item” idea on their website in order to get people to look at the entire site. That’s a great idea in itself, but adding all of the other rules of this particular contest makes it a little too complex for the average person. You would have to be totally devoted to the product in order to do this. And those people are already customers!

People may click on the first link and then lose interest. Once you complete all of the steps, you still only have a small chance of winning. Website visitors might find this scavenger hunt frustrating. That is not an emotion you want prospective customers to feel.

Sure – have a contest! That is a fantastic way to get people fascinated with your site and products. Intriguing people is the name of the game for online sales. But, when designing the contest, try to engage without annoying your page viewers.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Why my dog is named George Karl


Going way off topic for this blog, but since it has been on my mind I decided to share.

I lost my retired racing greyhound, Andy Warhol, to cancer in early February. It was sudden and shocking, and I'm still trying to get over it.

I started to foster a new dog and my life got turned on its ear. He is mischievous, curious and wants to lift his leg all over the place. To add to the confusion, the poor animal has been walking around with no name for over a month now. He will respond to Dog or Doggie, because he's been called that for so long. He came with the name Coji Love. I have had four other greyhounds and I do not like to keep their racing names. It seems like he has a new life, he should have a new name. Finally inspiration intervened.

For the past month every time people visited my house, they came up with 10-20 different name ideas. I even tried an online survey where over 60 people voted and still was not satisfied. Most of the name suggestions were pretty good, but I couldn't find the one that sold me.

While watching the Washington Wizards game on TV the other night, a name popped into my head. And that name was George Karl.
George Karl is an inspiration to everyone he knows and millions he does not know. He battled cancer twice and won. He is a former NBA player and coached five NBA teams in his career. Years ago, he coached Sean Kemp when he was with the Seattle Supersonics leading them to the NBA finals. More recently he led the Denver Nuggets and Carmelo Anthony. Last year, George Karl won Coach of the Year with Denver, and yet they did not renew his contract. He now works doing commentary on ESPN. It would be great to see him coaching again some day.
While undergoing cancer treatment a few years ago, his girlfriend Carol, kept a blog, that I read faithfully to follow his progress. The blog is still there to inspire others.
Out of the four greyhounds I have owned, three have died of cancer. My hope is that with a name like George Karl, cancer will be frightened away from this guy.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Common bonds and business growth


I met a prospective new client last week and we found out we had a lot in common in our personal lives. That can make a deeper connection with a client, better than simply making a sales pitch. And, she hired me on the spot. That does not always happen.

Finding a niche market might for your business could incorporate discovering new business associates with common interests. As an entrepreneur, you should always think about any social occasion as a networking occasion. Without being “salesy” or pushy about it, you can talk about what your business does with people anywhere at any time. You might find new avenues to marketing your business.

Certainly, there are times when you walk in the door, present your information and the client will either hire you or not. But when making a deeper connection with the person, you feel more like friends and less like business associates.

According to some business coaches, you need to make the prospective client know and like you before they will hire you or buy your products. Finding common ground is a great way to persuade them that you are worth hiring.

Personally, I prefer to work with clients whom I like as people. It is only natural to feel that way. I’m an animal lover, other animal lovers make good clients for me because there is an understanding that goes beneath the surface of the business relationship.

Does that mean you should never work with individuals or companies that share nothing with you? Of course not, common ground just makes the relationship easier.

I have many clients whom I have never met. We communicate solely through email and I know nothing about their personal lives. I get along with them just fine, however we do not share a deep connection. If they found a better deal, they would probably drop me in a heartbeat. Not so for people with whom I have a more personal connection.

Get to know a little bit more about your prospective clients and you just might end up with more business.

Monday, January 27, 2014

To trade or not to trade...

I am currently trading services with a client and considering doing it with another. Over the 26+ years of being in business, I have had the opportunity to trade with a lot of people. It does not always work out to be an even trade, and it doesn’t always end well.

So, trade or no trade?

Personally, there have been things that I could not afford that I really wanted. Every now and then, I found a situation where I could do work in exchange for whatever it was. Sometimes my clients had the same issue. They needed someone to write a newsletter or create a logo or for their company, but didn’t have the money to pay for the service. Usually, these were fledgling companies, like my own at the time.

Back when I first started my freelance business, I could almost always work a trade to my advantage. I traded for veterinary services, pet supplies, baseball tickets and plumbing work. Once I traded for maid services for about a year. That was beautiful, except the woman was always complaining that my house was dirty. Really? Isn’t that why you need a maid? I admit, I definitely got the better end of that deal!

Once I traded typesetting work for restaurant gift certificates. I used one gift certificate to take out a friend for her birthday. I used another to take another friend out to dinner. In exchange, she gave me a tv, a garden hose caddy and a tetanus! Yes, she was fully qualified to administer a shot (I had no insurance at the time). Things were a lot simpler back then. Ah, those were the days…

Not sure if trading organizations still exist, but I was a member of a one in the early ‘90s. The problem was, the monthly fees were due in cash and there was a cash charge for each transaction. I never did very well within that organization. I had hoped to trade for a chain link fence, but that didn’t work out for me. Direct trades worked better for me. The IRS says you have to pay taxes on any income, including trades. You are supposed to declare the value of the traded item.

Trading is a little different for me now. I rarely do it and only do it when I really want or need something. You might considering trading for your business, it can be a way to buy something when there is no cash handy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Social media for business in 2014


One of the biggest changes in the past year in social media has been advertising. Now there will be video ads on Facebook, ads and sponsored tweets on Twitter and sponsored posts on Instagram. Many apps, like ESPN, have added small banner ads across their pages.

People, especially the 18-35 demographic, are using their cell phones more and computers less. Ads are showing up everywhere in the mobile realm.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram are leading the pack for social media right now. Of course, that can change almost overnight with social media. Because of the nature of the beast, things happen in an instant.

To keep your business on the cutting edge of the social media revolution, you need to be active. Whether or not you advertise on social media sites is up to you, but you should get involved in some way if you are going to keep up with your competitors.

What will happen in the coming months? No one really knows. Little apps or sites that no one uses now, might just be the biggest thing since Facebook. Social media users are fickle.

Check your Klout.com score. See how you stack up against your competition. Get analytics for your website and see if your clients are coming from social media sites and whether they are using computers or phones to reach you. Look at your website on a mobile phone and see if it looks the same as on your computer.

Let’s say goodbye to 2013 and welcome faster, more sleek apps, social media and mobile sites in the coming year.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Use images to your advantage

In cyberspace, much like real life, image is everything. Do you have your logo or a photo on all of your social media pages? The black silhouette on LinkedIn or Facebook and the empty egg on Twitter give people the impression that you are either new to the site or inactive.
A professional studio photo is best, but really just having some kind of image is better than nothing. Put your business logo if you do not want to show your face. If you do not have a logo, use a photo, illustration or icon of something that relates to your business.

If you repair cars, you could have a photo of a car. A chiropractor could show an image of a spine. Computer programmers can have an image of a computer. You get the idea.

Let your clients and prospective clients see that you are an active business and post on your page often. People love photos, videos and infographics. Instead of posting a statement, add an image to pique the interest of your audience. These images help to shape your brand. This is not just for your Facebook page, your website should have images as well. 

You have only a few seconds to get the attention of your prospective client. Photos work really well to help grab people and keep them on your page.
Do you have Google Analytics? I’ve talked about this before. If you do, check out your website’s bounce rate. That is when a person only looks at your main page and “bounces” rather than looking at other pages on your site. In print media, this is the equivalent of someone reading a front page news story and then going to the page where it is continued. If they “bounced,” they would only read what is on the front page.

Are you grabbing people’s attention? If you are, you will have a low bounce rate. If not, you need to figure out what your prospective clients want to see and give it to them. Add images that relate and add them often to get the best response to your website, social media pages and blog.