Webinar I Gave for Online Retailers

[Re-post from September 14, 2009]

Update: Here is the link to watch the archived webinar – http://www.practicalecommerce.com/webinars/6-Out-Of-The-Box-Sales-Tools-Social-Media-Subscriptions-Group-Selling


I’m presenting a webinar on Tuesday, September 15 at 3 pm EDT on “Out-Of-The-Box Sales Tools: Social Media, Subscriptions, Virtual Goods, and Group Selling” for online retailers. Register at http://su.pr/22Kxs1.

Here is the “official” description:

Out-Of-The-Box Sales Tools: Social Media, Subscriptions, Virtual Goods, Group Selling
Tuesday, September 15, 2009 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM EDT
In this free webinar, you will learn what the newest Internet business models are and how your company can leverage them to increase sales, encourage repeat business and build brand loyalty.

You’ll discover how social networks and other community-based applications can help your business grow, as well as how a subscription model can build value and exclusivity for your products.

You’ll see how the “long tail” can capture untapped customer segments. Plus, you’ll learn about the booming market for virtual goods, which many online retailers now offer. You’ll learn about in-game advertising, where your products could appear on targeted video games.  And we’ll explain group selling concepts and other new channels.

The webinar is sponsored by Full Sail University.  Founded 30 years ago, Full Sail is one of premier media arts colleges in the world, with more than 30,000 graduates. Based in Winter Park, Florida, Full Sail offers online master’s, bachelor’s, and associate’s degrees, including Internet marketing and web design and development.

The webinar is moderated by Practical eCommerce’s contributing editor, Armando Roggio, a seasoned technology journalist.

The presenter is Carol Cox, an instructor at Full Sail University and owner of InterMedia4Web, an Internet marketing and technology firm. She will:

– Discuss the nine primary Internet business models, some of which are little known;

– Explain the newest of the nine models and how your company can leverage them successfully;

– Discuss exciting new marketing channels for online retailers, with examples of merchants who are benefiting from them.

About the Presenter

Carol Cox is an instructor in Internet business and marketing at Full Sail University and owner of InterMedia4Web, an Internet marketing and technology firm. She has consulted for all sizes and types of businesses that are looking to capitalize on the efficiencies, scalability and dynamism of the Internet, from Fortune 500 companies to family-owned businesses.

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Facebook’s Aging is Great News for Small Businesses

[Re-post from August 7, 2009]

Recent headlines like “It’s SO over: cool cyberkids abandon social networking sites” and Facebook ain’t cool with the kids no more imply that Facebook is going to go the way of Friendster and MySpace – increasing irrelevancy and a declining user base. However, that is far from the case. Facbook is now the fourth most visited website on the Internet (after Google, Microsoft and Yahoo), and keep in mind that it has only been open to the general public for less than three years (since September 2006).

In addition, Facebook has experienced a surge in the past year in usage by people 26 years old and older. As of the end of July 2009, there were nearly 44 million people on Facebook who are older than 25, compared with 29 million who are between 13 and 25 (InsideFacebook.com).

Unless your target market consists of tweens, teens and college students, this aging of Facebook is great news for small businesses, particularly those that are focused locally.

Think about it this way – if you are a CPA, attorney, real estate agent, florist, day care center, veterinarian or any other locally-based business, your target customers are most likely over 25. And, now that more and more of them are on social networking sites like Facebook, you have an opportunity to establish a connection and dialogue with your potential and current customers that simply is not possible with a listing in the Yellow Pages book, a radio spot or a newspaper ad.

Social media is about listening, sharing experiences, and showcasing a presence. It can be a very powerful tool for branding, lead generation, and customer support.

If you don’t yet have a page for your company on Facebook, set one up today at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/create.php. Then, start to regularly post content that your customers would find interesting and useful. Let people know that you have a page and ask them to become a fan (send out an email and add a link to your Facebook page on your website). Above all, be authentic, personable and responsive.

As they say in real estate, it’s all about “location, location, location”. Well, nowadays on the web, the location is Facebook (as well as Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube). Go where your customers are and where they can find you.

We are truly a global community

[Re-post from August 4, 2009]

I am sitting here in wonder at the amazing power that the Internet has to bring people together from around the world. Just now, I had a Facebook chat with my nephews’ grandmother who lives in Colombia and doesn’t speak English.

She had posted on her Facebook profile some photos of my six-year-old nephews on their first day of school and I commented on how cute they looked. She initiated a chat with me on Facebook in Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish so I hurriedly went to Google’s online translator tool and copied in what she was writing. I then used it to translate my English to Spanish and pasted that into the chat window for her to read.

As easy as that, we were communicating a half a world away, in real time, without having to know the other person’s language (granted, I’m sure some of the translations were imperfect, but they were good enough for our casual chat).

Imagine even 10 years ago how difficult that would have been. Google was barely a year old, Facebook didn’t exist, and I most likely would never have had any direct communication with her. Now, with a few clicks of the mouse, we can stay updated in each other’s lives, share photos and memories, and communicate regardless of distance or language. What a wonderful experience!

To those who lament that the Internet, and technology in general, has made us less social and more isolated, I say, hardly!

The advent of social networking and sharing sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and Flickr, and their rapid adoption by people of all ages across the globe, shows that technology can act as bridge, not a barrier.

How Your Company Can Use Twitter

[Re-post from July 28, 2009]

Yesterday, I read about a company called Thymer.com that has developed a web-based application for “project management and task planning for people who hate project management and task planning”.

I was eager to try it out, but it’s in closed beta, which means you can only sign up if you have an invitation code. I did a quick search online to see if I could find any, but came up empty. I then decided to post a tweet asking if anyone had an extra code:

CivicLink on Twitter

This morning, I received a reply tweet from the company itself, @stunf, with my own personal invitation code:

Tweet

Talk about customer service! The company most likely monitors any tweets that contain their company name or website so they can know what people are saying about their product and to respond to questions or requests such as mine.

If you’re not on Twitter yet, set up an account today at http://www.twitter.com.

I use an application called TweetDeck to view updates from the people I follow, send out tweets, and track mentions of our companies’ names and websites. You can also set up searches for key words or phrases (such as “accountant Orlando” or whatever your business industry is) and then respond to tweets from people who are looking for those products or services. This is a great opportunity to market yourself in a personal way – just be sure to be authentic and helpful. (Here’s a great article on Twitter etiquette.)

You can follow me on Twitter at @CivicLink.

Happy Tweeting!

Update on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 12:52PM by Registered CommenterCarol Cox

A colleague just passed along this article to me about one company’s success with Twitter – http://www.sugarrae.com/commercial-twitter-case-study-revisited/

Eating Your Own Dog Food

[Re-post from June 25, 2009]

Last night, I gave a presentation at Ignite Orlando on “Eating Your Own Dog Food”. It was an outstanding event with a huge turnout and the presentations were informative, entertaining, and inspiring.

There should be video soon and I’ll post a link once it’s up.  In the meantime, I have posted up the slideshow with my narration on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS5OOtPNRkI.


Eating Your Own Dog FoodHave you ever heard the expression, “Eating your own dog food”, and wondered what exactly it meant? The term became very popular during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and is generally used by technology companies in reference to the need to run beta, or test, software throughout the organization.

You might be asking yourself, “I don’t sell software, so what does this have to do with my company?” But, the concept of eating your own dog food can be applied to any product or service, not just software. It means that you actually use what your company makes or provides, whether it’s a physical product or a professional service.

Imagine that you went to Oxi-Clean headquarters. We’ve all seen the ubiquitous commercials starring spokesman Billy Mays. Now, what would you think if you happened to wander into a supply closet there and notice that there’s no Oxi-Clean on the shelf? Would you find yourself thinking that the product was not that good if they don’t even use it themselves?

When you eat your own dog food, it shows that you have confidence in your product or service. Plus, it can be like a calling card for your business – people can see your product or service in action. You’ll immediately find yourself focusing more on the benefits, which will naturally help you sell them to your prospects.

I got to thinking about eating my company’s own dog food because I have been spending the past few months putting together curriculum for a new course I am teaching at Full Sail University on Designing Websites for Conversions. I did a lot of research on the best ways to increase the likelihood that a website will generate more leads and sales.

I then took a hard look at my company’s website and realized that we were not eating our own dog food. It wasn’t easy to admit to myself that we were missing the mark. Our website was very attractive and professional, and we received a lot of compliments on it. However, it wasn’t converting; it simply wasn’t bringing us new leads or sales.

At first, we wanted to try to modify our other site design, but then we realized that doing that was going to keep us boxed in. So, we re-designed our site from the ground up, using the principles I teach my students.

How can you make sure you’re eating your own dog food? First, truly examine your business inside and out and ask yourself what you could change to make it more apparent that you are using your product or service. Brainstorm with your team. You might find yourself discovering new ways to market what you offer.

Then, make a plan and start implementing your changes. Don’t be afraid to throw out the old and start fresh. Let the world know what you are doing and why – write about it on your blog and Facebook account, send out a targeted press release, and email your customers and prospects. Analyze the results and feedback you are getting and tweak as necessary.

You’ll then realize that eating your own dog food can be very rewarding! It can help you to make your product or service better and it can increase your revenue. It will also help you to pinpoint more quickly any weaknesses so you can correct them before your competition takes advantage of them. So, I invite you to pull up a chair and dig in!

Does your website have a purpose?

[Re-post from June 16, 2009]

Ten years ago, you were considered ahead of the curve if your company had a website. Even large businesses like Barnes & Noble and Wal-mart struggled early on to establish a web presence, paving the way for the success of Internet companies like Amazon.com and eBay.

Why buy?

Remember these?

Ten years ago, your website could consist of a home page, “about us” page, and contact page, with perhaps another page or two that described your products and services. Your site was merely an online brochure – like a Yellow Pages advertisement but with more words and color (and let’s not forget the annoying flashing graphics like the one on the left!).

Ten years ago, your small business could even get away with not having a website, particularly if you only served a local market.

Nowadays, none of the above holds true. Your company – whether you employ one person (yourself), 10 people, 100 people, 1,000 people, or 10,000 people – must have a website that provides visitors with useful information, compelling content and, above all, a reason to engage with you.

Your website must answer this question – Why should a prospect choose to do business with you and not your competitor? This is the singular purpose of your site.

Take a look at your current website (if you don’t have a website, realize that your competitors do!) and ask yourself:

  • What questions would a prospect have when they come to my site?
  • Does my site answer those questions clearly and quickly?
  • Who are my target customers? What are their demographics, buying habits, persona types, and needs? Does my site address each customer segment?
  • Do I provide a compelling reason for the prospect to choose my company over my competitor?
  • Does the prospect know what to do next? Do I want the prospect to call me, fill out a form, watch a demo, download a free trial or whitepaper, make a purchase, subscribe to my newsletter, etc.? Does my site guide them to take this step?

If your website is currently the equivalent of a billboard, newspaper ad, or Yellow Pages listing, you are losing money. Your website should, and can be, a highly effective means for generating leads and sales. Does yours?

Can Divisiveness Be Good?

[Re-post from April 17, 2009]

This morning, I taped a political TV show called “FlashPoint” that airs on the local CBS affiliate here in Central Florida. One of the topics was the current divisiveness and infighting within the local (and to some extent the national) Republican Party. (I am the former chair of a county Democratic Party, so I was on as a Democratic analyst. Also on the show were Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor, and Deon Long, an attorney and local Republican activist.)

The host, anchor Lauren Rowe, asked us if such divisiveness was good or bad for the party. Professor Jewett answered that it can be both – it’s good to debate ideas and understand one another’s different viewpoints, yet it can be bad if everyone doesn’t come together at the end once a direction or compromise has been established.

After the show, I got to thinking that this applies not only to political parties but really to any organization or company, and especially to start-ups:

How can a company successfully deal with differences of opinion so that no one is left feeling unheard, dismissed, or unimportant?

I think that, first and foremost, the company must be completely open and transparent with its employees regarding the issue at hand. That means ensuring that all meetings related to the subject are open to all and that everyone is given an opportunity to share their ideas and concerns in a structured and professional way.

Second, the CEO or founder must be actively involved throughout the process – not as the dominant voice in the debate, but as the person who acknowledges and respects everyone’s opinions and seeks to build consensus.

As I was writing this last sentence, it reminded me of an article I recently read in The Washington Post about Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, and his approach to group decision-making and leadership. According to the article:

“Every six weeks or so, around a giant mahogany table in an ornate room overlooking the National Mall, 16 people, one after another, give their take on how the U.S. economy is doing and what they, the leaders of the Federal Reserve, want to do about it.

“Then there’s a coffee break. While most of the policymakers make small talk in the hallway, their chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, pops into his office next-door and types out a few lines on his computer.

“When the Federal Open Market Committee reconvenes, Bernanke speaks from the notes he printed moments earlier. ‘Here’s what I think I heard,’ he’ll say, before running through the range of views. He sometimes articulates the views of dissenters more persuasively than they did.

“’Did I get it right?’ he says.

“The answer, in recent months, has been a resounding yes. And Bernanke’s ability to understand and synthesize the views of his colleagues goes a long way toward explaining how he has revolutionized the Federal Reserve, which under his leadership has deployed trillions of dollars to try to contain the worst economic downturn in 80 years.”

Now, regardless of whether you agree with Bernanke or with the Fed’s policies, you have to appreciate his ability to take in what everyone says and then build a consensus for action. That is leadership.

So, the next time your company faces a controversial decision or a group of dissenters, embrace the opportunity to have a spirited debate, generate new ideas, and ultimately find the best solution.

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