Wednesday, February 29, 2012

GooglePlus Identity Card

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pinterest Bashing new sport of lonely male tech pundits

It's quite odd to see so many male tech pundits rushing to attack Pinterest, the fastest growing social network in the world.

Sexism? I think so. And the main complaint these frustrated, loveless tech pundits have is that Pinterest is so loaded with recipes, shoes, jewelry, and other female-oriented items.

But Pinterest was developed by three men: Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra, and Evan Sharp. The idea was to make a website that specialized in collections of items. Collecting, displaying, and interacting with other collectors is the basis of Pinterest.

Why are so many males being cruel and abusive toward Pinterest? Do these patriarchal pigs fear women? Do they beat up on Pinterest just like they love to punch their girlfriends or wives?

Do they feel more manly by scorning anything that women flock to? Are these macho dorks angry that nobody's paying any attention to them, ever since Pinterest invaded the scene?

Why don't they just go over to Gentlemint and strut around with their chainsaws and chili recipes, their flabby muscles and big trucks?

Watch your feeds. Note the male tech pundits who are jumping on the bandwagon of mocking Pinterest and anyone who likes Pinterest. Observe how abusive, insulting, and ugly they are getting. Their true misogynist colors are showing through, eh?

Pinterest Bashing -- practiced by insecure males who don't want women to have anything of their own in the web world.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Micro Course on Business Fundamentals

This is the place that use to be, as the sign proclaims, "on Main." But now, it's off Main.

It's a tough business environment for many. Every business, no matter how "unassailable" they may feel about their market position, should sleep with one eye open, focused on the morphing milieu. Changes, often revolutionary and difficult to keep pace with, are proliferating constantly. Unpreparedness or laxity can be fatal. Sweeping transformations are here, leaving no business unscathed.

Even the top companies, with a legacy of long-term success, are closer these days to the brink of disaster, the precarious precipice. The commerce dangers are frequently due to large-scale forces beyond their powers to predict or direct, including domestic policy, evolving technology, and overseas turmoil.

What must be done is focus resources on what can be controlled, improved, and promoted more effectively. Treat customers better. Beef up your advisory mode. Be a teacher and guide, not just a seller of stuff.

Every business has obscure products or special services that are unclear to customers. If customers understood how they could benefit from these, what are now murky or ignored, more customer needs would be met by your organization -- and more revenue generated.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Garner's Pizza and Wings

I visited the new Garner's Pizza and Wings location on Forrest Hill and Gale. Lunch buffet with wings upgrade = $11 (pizza, drink, salad, plus wings). Delicious.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fundamental Concepts of Content Strategy

You hear this phrase, "Content is King", along with "Build It & They Will Come", which means approximately the same thing. 

No. They will not come. Content must meet certain criteria and be promoted effectively. Tons of "great content" sits in abandoned websites that nobody cares about.

Content is a slave to user needs -- and you'll find that out soon enough. If content struts around in kingly robes, the court jester will be laughing his you-know-what off. Consider what makes content appeal to users and makes them want to share it with their friends.

There are specific requirements that content must adhere to in order to be perceived as valuable, interesting, and worth sharing with others.

You can have the greatest content in the world, and get nowhere. Content must be developed with a target audience in mind, an audience that you really care about and understand. Just cranking out content is not going to make your blog or website successful.

Often "great content" means material the author or originator cares about, but nobody else does. You see that often in self-indulgent personal trivia blogs. Or corporate websites that go on and on about how great they are, but don't address the needs of customers.

Online content needs a strategy. Without an intelligent understanding of the goals and parameters of content, your marketing will fall flat and not do the job it was meant to do.

Web content development begins with identifying what you have that helps customers solve a problem or enhance a lifestyle. 

How do customers use your products? What do actual customers say about your product? What are the problems they're trying to solve? How is your product better than the competition? What makes your company special, in terms that relate to user satisfaction and repeat purchases?

Grinding out content for self-congratulatory aims may be okay for a personal blogger who just wants to document their life activities and things they like, but it's not the key to business success. You must study carefully customer reality and what customers place a value on -- rather than droning on and on about how great you are and how much you love your own products.

Is your content relevant to customers? Prove it.

Is your content credible? What makes it so?

Is your content usable? Test it with typical users.

Is your content readable? No light gray text on white backgrounds!

Is your content interactive? How do customers respond to it?

Is your content truthful? Trust is hard to achieve and easy to lose.

Is your content entertaining or informative? Boring content is shunned.

Is your content presented with good design? Bad presentation kills good content.

Keep these factors in mind when posting material to social networks, websites, and blogs.

Pin It

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Simplicity and Speed

Don't let this happen to you: "retail space for lease."

Another failed business. I can guess two things they may have done wrong, that business that used to be here. They may have had a problem keeping things simple and doing things with tremendous velocity.

Simplicity and speed. Keep things simple and easy for your customers or clients, start and finish projects quickly, without sacrificing quality, do these two things, and you'll stand out from your competitors.

You will seem extraordinary. Smarter. More sophisticated. More adept at what you do. Doing it fast is perceived as doing it with better understanding. You know exactly what to do, you do it, you're done.

Simplicity and speed.

When selling your services, stress simplicity and speed, assuming your company and product are first rate.

You should be selling only what you honestly feel to be the very best in the field. If you're selling yourself, as a consultant, freelancer, or outside contractor, then you are the product. Make yourself be the best product available: keep improving and expanding and enhancing what you do.

The best products are easy to use and give desired results quickly. They are fun to use and they get the job done swiftly. No problem. Like lightning. Simplicity and speed.

Your clients, once they realize the severity and urgency of the problem that your services solve, will want a remedy in a big hurry. They don't want to sign the contract, hand you a check, then sit around waiting for something to happen. Days go by. Weeks maybe. Still: nothing.

Keep it uncomplicated. Do it fast. Simplicity and speed.

Make your client feel relaxed, happy, confident in your professionalism, which is proven by your simplicity and speed. They turn the problem over to you, and aside from a few minor modifications or the distribution of material explaining new procedures and goals, the client does nothing. You take care of it all.

"Once you sign these papers, after looking over them, we'll get started on it right away."

Say those exact words, especially "right away."

"Right away" is breathtaking, it sweeps you off your feet, it's a magic carpet ride, off you go into the wild blue yonder -- snap! The program is up and running.

"...and best of all, we can get the basics all lined up immediately."

The client will know you don't mean "instantly" or "right this very second." You will be understood to mean by "immediately" something like within a few hours after returning to your office. If you're really organized and disciplined, barring any unexpected intrusions or interruptions, you'll get on their project within minutes of arriving at your place of business.

You'll send the client an email, letting them know you've already begun, and as you wade into these new waters, some questions and concerns arose, and now you'd like to present these issues to the client, and get a response to each one of them.

Create the impression, credible because it's true, that you are such a seasoned expert, you can get the project done with astonishing speed. Your client will consider you to be smarter than the other fellows or gals. You'll stand out as the super professional expert with all the right information and smooth moves.

Even if you must ask the client to participate on some level, don't make it sound like more work, yet another load to bear. Make it seem like something he'd demand to be allowed to do, and you are going to be gracious enough to read his mind and deliver this opportunity to him.

"Mr. Client, since I know you'll want to optimize the effectiveness and maximize the results of this program, I look forward to your limited, sporadic participation, to set a good example for your staff, and get a feel for what to expect out of your people. By experiencing the system, spending a few moments engaged in the process, you'll understand it better, from the inside out. That intimate understanding will automatically cause you to be more authoritative in regard to its value and importance."

Words like "limited", "sporadic", "good example", "experiencing", "understand", "intimate", "automatically", "more authoritative" are used to both convey the reality of the situation, and at the same time, soften it so it doesn't seem so abrupt, disruptive, or uncomfortable.

You come up with a more targeted set of words for your own sales situation.

But you get the idea.

Avoid all negative words when asking for action, emphasize opportunity and normal operational assumptions ("you'll want to set a good example for your staff" and "you'll gain a more intimate understanding of how the process works"), and make the client understand that you will be handling the lion's share of the responsibilities and work.

The client should want to have direct experience with the process being implemented. There is no better way to understand it. He or she will then come up with their own words to explain and describe the project's inner workings. No memorization of any script is necessary. The client crafts an individualized narrative, based on personal involvement.

This experiential knowledge could come in handy when talking about it with the press, employees, family, friends, peers, colleagues, and the board of directors.

How foolish we look when a deep question is asked about methodology and we stumble around, unable to answer because we delegated the process and didn't see any reason to know the nitty-gritty details. At least a limited, sporadic engagement with the process provides a general orientation to the thorny, super specific query.

You can't just sell something.

You have to help the client come up with their own story about why your service is the ideal way to solve a problem the client may not have been aware of having. The client must explain what the problem is, why it's serious and needs immediate attention, and why you are the one to do it.

In some cases, getting the client directly engaged with the process is not possible.

You must provide the client with the correct words to use to defend and explain his or her decision to trust you and pay you money to provide them with something. You can't just let them wing it. You can't assume they can communicate clearly all the benefits and rationale for purchasing from you.
You must coach your client on how to describe what you're doing for them, why it's mandatory and urgent, and how you are going to deliver the needed solution -- with the utmost in simplicity and the greatest of speed. Simplicity and speed.

Drill that into your mind and the mentality of the corporation.

Simplicity and speed.

These two qualities will set you apart from other persuaders.

This will make you look vastly more professional.

Now live up to this high regard by actually being the best in the business. Be sure you really are fast, professional, expert, and happy to be providing a valuable service at a fair price to those who genuinely need and want it.

Let your competitors remain complicated and sluggish. Problematic and slow. Unresponsive and procrastinating.

You use the secret weapons of simplicity and speed.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Don't Be the Top Sign

Let's prevent your business from the fate that greeted the business that had the sign on top. It's just a blank now, an absence, another failed enterprise.

You need a seasoned pro to navigate the social media scene. One false move, and your online reputation is in big trouble. One great campaign, and you've gained a major competitive advantage.

You need an expert with long experience in direct marketing, advertising writing, web content development, blog design, and social network interactions.

Not someone who says they can manage your social media, but has no track record in marketing and sales.

What good is a social media strategy-- if it doesn't generate specific results for a tangible goal?

You cannot accept a mediocre, vague, "check us out on..." mentality. Your business deserves a strategy and process that achieves your corporate objectives, as you define them.

Go with a proven solution provider in the realm of web platform management and content delivery. Increase sales and enhance customer loyalty with a strong, smart social media presence.

Contact me now, while you're thinking about it.

steven [dot] streight [at] gmail [dot] com

Sunday, February 12, 2012

By What Method?

Does your marketing sound like this?

[QUOTE] These days, it is artlessly weird to find someone who did not take responsibility for with regard to your vigour ambien on, because it is so important. And so I bear a dispute how you can carry on your sparkle and tranquil prefer like in 20 years? [END QUOTE]

What was that? A bit of spam that was sitting in the comment moderation cue. The word "ambien" was a link. In this post, it has the blue color of a link, but it's not hypertext, it doesn't link to anything.

Does your marketing plan sound like the gibberish in that spam comment? To a marketing strategist, or worse, to your customers, it might.

When you think about increasing sales and improving your marketing, do you just list what you think could be done?

A list without a solid, sure-footed foundation is a waste of time.

When we consider what we do to promote our business, do we think a list of activities is a real marketing plan?

Even if the individual activities are relevant to your corporate goals, can you really call that mess of jumbled "I'm very busy" rushing around -- can you really call that an integrated, well-orchestrated, resource-optimized Method?

We like to thrust slogans and company-wide goal-setting, with a lot of fuss and fanfare, onto a problem in hopes that the magic of the wording and all the hoopla and gusto that accompany the introduction of the new initiative will seep into the employees and "by God get the job done".

It rarely works.

Slogans and speeches and systems don't achieve any objectives. They are just the icing on the cake. What is the cake itself?



How To.

Step By Step Instructions.

It's easy to make grandiose declarations.

You  can always find a charming, charismatic, comical presenter to deliver enthusiastic, inspiring speeches.

You don't need charm, charisma, comedy, enthusiasm, or inspiration.

Not yet.

First you need a Method.

It's easy to declare a goal and tell everybody to keep that goal in mind.

It's incredibly difficult to change attitudes and behavior.

Wearing slogan buttons and chanting the program cheer are fine for the fun of it, but we need specific guidance, universally applied, with no exceptions, and a set of references that determine if the tasks are being done correctly and efficiently, and generating observable, tangible, desired results.

Otherwise, your new campaign will be a dud.

You'll lick your wounds, then scout around for a new program. Next thing you know, there's a new affirmation, new posters, new parties, new announcements, new slogans, and new ways to pretend to be complying without really complying.

So it's easy to see we need Method. When anyone tells you of a result they hope to obtain, firmly but pleasantly reply, "That's nice. By what method?"

Ask this question of yourself constantly. When you think of something that needs to be accomplished, don't just add it to your To Do list. Mentally consider: what will be my method for getting this done? What steps will I take and when will I start the process?

"I aim to achieve a 40% growth in revenue this year, without cutting back on anything," someone says.

I look that person straight in the eyes and ask, "Wonderful! By what method?"

Most people would probably say, "Wow. That's ambitious. Well, here's hoping you make it. Good luck. I wish I was that optimistic!"

But it's not about optimism, hard work, or luck.

It's about Method. Defining a process, then sticking to it, even if you must tweak it a bit along the way.

To define a process, you may have to do some internet research, book reading, and painful introspection. You may want to discuss your ideas with peers and colleagues, people you know well enough to ask them to listen and give you some advice. You may want to watch some YouTube videos on "sales training", "sales techniques", "sales referrals", and similar topics.

You may investigate what your competitors are doing, industry trends, and consumer needs.

Your research and analysis will lead you into a more focused and strategically targeted platform upon which to build your method.

And that method will take you to your goals.

Friday, February 3, 2012

10 Tips on Customer Service

My new article for the InterBusiness Issues, February 2012 issue is now online. The print magazine is already mailed out to subscribers and obtainable in the magazine racks and news stands.

I am honored that publisher Jan Wright mentions me, quoting from my article, in her monthly column, ranking me in with "the region's leading experts" on current marketing trends.

Here are some choice excerpts from my "10 Tips for Customer Service: Achilles Heel of American Business":

* A sale should turn a stranger into a friend, not just a customer.

* Customer service is where your business is probably the weakest.

* It's dangerous to be overly optimistic and assume you're doing a good job at serving customers. Chances are, there’s a lot of room for improvement.

* You can't just say in an advertisement, “We'll serve you as if you were family” or “You'll be treated like royalty.” Jingles, slogans and mission statements don't win and retain customers.

* Are you up to speed with the new realities in the marketplace, in technology, in peer-to-peer recommendation systems, online reputation management, and the psyche of the roving, wireless, always-on, multi-networked consumer?

* How customers experience and interpret every transaction with your business—that’s what ultimately matters.

* We'll go out of our way to warn the people we care about most. We want to sound the alarm about a business that treats customers poorly, with disrespect, or with sluggish reluctance. Thank goodness, customer service is one thing your company can control to a great degree.

Read entire article here:

"10 Tips on Customer Service: Achilles Heel of American Business".

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Customer Review Sites vs Internet Sense

I have expressed my serious concerns with Empire Avenue, Yelp, Klout and other social media influencer / customer review sites.

"Klout Perks Reminds Me of Yelp Deals -- a racket?"

"Klout and Other Social Media Influence Metrics -- debunked"

"How To Game the Klout System by Jeff Turner"

I remain highly skeptical. People are turning to user experiences to gain insight into brands and products. Some web users refuse to buy anything until they do internet research on the product.

I'm that way myself.

But I don't go to just one or two customer review / personality contest sites. I mean, I don't fanatically trust and enjoy the web platforms devoted exclusively to social network influence metrics or customer reviews, like Angie's List, Empire Avenue, Quora, Yelp, and Klout.

One thing I dislike about some of the sites is how you have to sign up with a Twitter or Facebook account. This gives the site access to your password, which means a possible future hacking problem might compromise your account and not be under your control, at least for a while.

It's risky. You don't know this company, no matter how popular and successful it may be. Trust it with passwords and usernames to your most vital social connection networks?

Some sites have been accused of allegedly removing positive reviews and posting negative reviews of a business if that business refuses to buy an ad on the site.

There are also concerns about how easy it is to game these sites, manipulate the rankings and ratings of a company or product through automation and other means.

Not to mention the Klout Perks type scenarios where users are basically enticed or bribed, rendering the reviews non-objective, compensated, untrustworthy.

I pave my own path to product truth.

I'll read a variety of Google SERPs (search engine page results), skipping fishy looking URLs and link farms,  scanning the corporate websites, ecommerce promotions, rant blogs, editor and user reviews at reputable tech sites, and even Wikipedia if I need a quick summary or introduction to the general area in which the problem has arisen which requires me to purchase a product as solution.

There are certain websites dedicated to user/customer/client reviews. They have such sites for reviewing restaurants, local contractors, local retail businesses, and attorneys. I recently submitted a client review to Avvo.

Heck, I just Google a product name and then read a bunch of reviews on personal blogs, Amazon, CNET, and other places, but rarely care about the official User Review Sites, since they seem to be dubious, bad algorithms, if not scam operations.

You eventually develop a heightened sense of who's a paid opinion spammer and who seems pretty sincere. Genuine user recommendations or slams are awkwardly worded, often have typos, and typically reveal a personal fact, idiosyncratic anomaly, or side tangent OT drift that adds a dose of credibility.

This special new survival skill, what I call "internet sense" is slowly acquired from long late nights, years and years of insomniac monitoring of forums, tweets, status updates, blog rants, and corporate "we we" fluff, on products, news, arguments, ideas, or topics of interest.

It gets into your blood, this sensitivity to web credibility, online truth detection, forum savvy, being able to zap right into the core of the person or bot proclaiming something on the web.

It's not infallible, at least the growth of this internet sense has not reached perfection. I've misjudged someone, often foreign, who has trouble expressing a thought in English, so I misinterpreted his intention or meaning, or someone didn't ring true, but in subsequent postings, becomes more perceptibly authentic and sincere.

Do you trust a user review site or two?

Is it easier that using my method of Google SERPs research?

Or do you combine both methods?

Which user review or influencer metrics sites do you like? Which do you despise? Why?


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Pinterest Needs Big Images to Pin Your Product

Pictured above: Taco Bell $5 Box.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Due to the huge popularity of Pinterest, it is now mandatory, with almost no exceptions, for all web pages, ecommerce sites, blogs, forums, etc. to have a big image. If Pinterest can't find a big image on a web property, members of the Pinterest community can't pin it to a board.

Pinterest users can create or find an image, pin that, then edit the pin and make the image link to the product page or whatever is appropriate, but why make people use workarounds and jump through hoops to promote your product?

People who like your book, CD, art, robot, or other product need to be able to find it, accompanied by a large image, on a web page that fully explains it and features a way to buy or obtain the item. If that product page has good SEO, then Pinterest users will find in in search results.

Without a large image, your product is lost. Nobody can pin it, no matter how much they love it and want tell others about it.

That's how things get promoted on Pinterest. The company, product, person, or service must be represented online with a large graphic, a photo of the item or entity, a drawing, a giant logo, something that Pinterest will be able to see and use as a visual for the pin that will be added to a user's board.

Make sure your company has a large visual on all web pages that you want promoted on Pinterest.

That page should be auto-promotional itself, containing an image and text that convey a sales message, benefit declaration, competitive differentiation, or other important communication.

Get all your product pages, ecommerce landing pages, corporate promotions, tutorial videos, audio podcasts, blogs, and other web presences up to speed with Pinterest.

Pinterest-enabled web pages have a competitive advantage to those who are exiled from Pinterest due to non-compliance with the Pinterest large image requirement.

Read about the skyrocketing success of Pinterest, a unique new social media site:

Mashable "Pinterest Beginners Guide"

Forbes "Maybe Facebook Should Be Worried About Pinterest And Not Google"

The Next Web "Here's Why Pinterest is Growing So Fast"