Video Killed the Radio Star

The social media environment is the next wave of effective marketing. Social media is  defined as ‘information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable  publishing technologies that is intended to facilitate communications, influence adn  interaction with peers adn public audiences, typically via the internet and mobile  communications. (Wikipedia, 2009). One of the most popular forms of socail media is making  a video and posting them online.

Almost all internet users have either viewed or posted this form of social media online.  Some of most popular video postings sites on the net today include YouTubeGoogle Video,  Vimeo, and Yahoo Video.  These sites allow users to post videos, some free of charge, as  well as search and view and almost endless variety of videos. One of the nice things many  of these sites allow a video viewer to do is add the video URL or video snippet code to  their own personal site.

The eDirectory software allows many of its members to post videos to thier listings. The  video feature, available via snippet code only, is pre-built into the Showcase business  listings only. Here is an example of what the video snippet code looks like that needs to  be entered into the eDirectory:
[message type="custom"]<object width=”425″ height=”344″><param name=”movie”  value=”http://www.youtube.com/v/lnRJlY2lKC0&hl=en&fs=1″></param><param  name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess”  value=”always”></param><embed src=”http://www.youtube.com/v/lnRJlY2lKC0&hl=en&fs=1″  type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true”  width=”425″ height=”344″></embed></object>[/message]
Adding a video into a listing can be a great took to enhance the users experience while  viewing their listing and information about their company. It allows for the user to gain a  large amount of knowledge about the company in a short period of time and can be created to  be catchy and entertaining as well. A video, accompanied with a strong write-up about the  company can be a great partner in highlighting the visitor about the strenghts of the  company and encourage visitors to contact or continue reading about the company.

Forecasting Sales

Sales forecasting is the practice of analyzing so that you can estimate what your sales will be. Key steps that you need to undertake are:

• Understand trends in your industry
• Determine the size of your market
• List your competitors
• Refer to last year’s figures

Understanding trends in your industry

Experience may have taught you that about 20% of your customers account for 80% of your sales. You should identify the 20% and then develop a profile of your market. An example of this would be: 20% of my customers are medium businesses from large cities in the U.S. They are purchasing agents in the Finance industry. While their pockets are deep, they tend to go with the lowest bidder.
Learn about the trends that drive this market by doing research with trade magazines and online sites where this demographic may reside.

Determine the size of your market

Know how big your trading area is and gather as many available statistics of this area that you can. If you’re a retailer, for example, you will want to know how far people tend to travel in order to shop. How much does the average household spend?
Establish the approximate size and location of your planned trading area. Use available statistics to determine the general characteristics of this area. Use local sources to determine unique characteristics about your trading area. You can get detailed information from the Chamber of Commerce or even use your local directory to determine the size and characteristics of your market.

List your competition

Who are the companies that you tend to hear about often? Are you in a crowded space or does your company stand out as being one of the few offering your product or service? You should estimate what percentage of overall sales you will get when compared to your competitors. If you’re a market leader, there is no reason that you should get a nice sized slice of the pie. Determining where you stand against your competitors will help you figure out how to forecast incoming revenue.

Refer to Last Year

You should look at sales revenues from the same months in previous years to use a base to determine incoming sales for the upcoming year. You can adjust these figures with the rate of general growth in your industry. So, if your industry expects a 10% growth in sales, you can use last year’s figures and increase them by 10%. Other factors that can impact last year’s figures can include the economy, different sales size, new products and or/services.

Omaha Stylee

I have decided to resurrect an old topic, because it is so important to drawing immediate attention to your directory. Style Customization! Having a unique look and feel to the directory can help separate you from the competition. One of the most important things to supply to the design team when beginning a style customization to the eDirectory is a quality mockup. A mockup is a layout model of what you would like the final look of the site; it provides a visual presentation of the website structure.

When beginning to create a mockup or when you are searching the internet for a premade template it is important to consider the following list of questions:

  1. What is your business area? (Look for a mockup that fits well in your industry)
  2. Which basic modules do you want customized?
  3. Describe the content you want in the following area: Left Column, Right Column, Middle Column
  4. What are the items you want in the top and bottom navigation bar.
  5. What are your color preferences?

When providing a mockup for the application of a design to the eDirectory we look for the following file types:

  • Photoshop (PSD)
  • PNG Files
  • Zip Files containing the .html / .css files

It is best to include a mockup of the Homepage of the Directory; Front, Results and Detail pages for each module you wish to have customized, as well as pages illustrating the layout of the Advertise with Us page and the Contact Us page. To accompany the specified files, it can help to have a detailed word document further outlining what is in the files.

If you are unsure of the final design of your site there are many reference areas you can use to help you come to a conclusion regarding your design. You can do the following:

  1. Create several rough drafts and compile them into a final solution
  2. Review current websites to help you gather ideas for your own
  3. Review and purchase pre-made templates from sites such as Template Monster, Dream Template, or Theme Forest.
  4. Consult a website designer to discuss your needs and design a completely custom template

Designing the look and feel of your site can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of beginning a new online business and directory because it allows your inner creativity to come out. It also helps you to create a look and feel that you think will draw visitors to your site and take you ahead of the competition.

What is Customer Service?

Simple Question RIGHT?

Wikipedia defines customer service as:
“Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction – that is, the feeling that a product or service has met the customer expectation.”

In the marketplace today it seems that more and more companies are abandoning the idea of good old fashioned customer service. I will try and related a couple of personal stories that will contrast the two ways I see service.

Bad Customer Services: (true story)

Recently a co-worker and I went to a major fast food chain with a local advert that was sent to me in the mail. Upon arriving we placed our order and things went horribly wrong. To keep the story short, it took over 10 minutes to PLACE the order. During this time the manager berated her employees in front of us, and made zero attempts to make the situation right for me the customer that had been standing here for over 10 minutes trying to order food, and pay them. We left quite upset over the lack of any customer service.

I then went the extra mile to help the company and reported the incident to the head office. This proved to only show the reason that their was no customer service in the local stores. I was bounced around on the corporate phone system, and when I got a person who said they would help, they took my story and said she will tell someone. Never once did she offer to make the problem whole with me the client. Furthermore she never even asked for my contact details so she could try and followup.

Good Customer Service: (true story)

Just this past sunday, my wife and I were at our local mega pet store picking up some more cat supplies (food, litter, catnip etc). Now, I am a pet person, and so I would love to have a dog, but the apartment we live in only allows 2 pets and our two cats.  Well I was explaining to my wife my love of my previous fish tanks, and so now we are shopping for tanks.

While at the local store, I was looking at my options, and started talking to the local sales guy about the options etc they offered. He turned out to be a big fish guy, and even suggested that a sale at his store might not be the best option. He explained that there are a couple of local shops that would be able to offer me more of a selection and maybe a better price.

When we went to checkout, he was also there helping out on the registers as the lines got backed up, and it was a pleasure to see him going the extra mile for clients. He stopped the lines to go and get a client checking out a product that she forgot to pick up.

So we come back around to the question of the day “What is Customer Service”. If we go purely off the definition, then our first company did not perform any actions to enhance the level of customer satisfaction, where as the second went above and beyond and clearly met my expectations.

Here at eDirectory (ArcaSolutions), we strive to be the second and work hard to avoid the first of our examples. This is seen in our sales process with live chat, phone and email sales assistance. To our support team providing on/off hour support via email, phone, ticketing system. To our custom dev teams, where we assign a personal project manager to your project so you do not have to explain your customization to the next guy each time you call. We clearly are focused on the area of “enhancing the level of customer satisfaction” for each and every customer as part of our DNA.

Now the question comes back around to you as a business owner or even shopper (online/offline). What is customer service to you? Do you really care when you are shopping for your ipod warmer that you may never talk to the store, and their website is kind of sparse with information, or do you need more. What is your customer service experience level needs, and what do you do when you feel your expectations are not met. I welcome you all to head over to our forums, and share your experiences either with your eDirectory product, or with some other company positive or negative. I am very interested about your stories.

We Don’t Need No Education

Content Management System (CMS): “is a computer application used to create, edit, manage, search and publish various kinds of digital media and electronic text. CMSs are frequently used for storing, controlling, versioning, and publishing industry-specific documentation such as news articles, operators’ manuals, technical manuals, sales guides, and marketing brochures.” (Wikipedia, 2009)

Some of the largest CMS systems available today are included in programs such as Joomla, Word Press, Ektron, Dolphin, and Light CMS etc. eDirectory’s CMS capabilities work in the same manor as these, but specializing in the directory website niche. The major advantage of a CMS though is not only the ease at which you can deploy or manage a website, you must also consider the ROI.  A CMS system such as WordPress, Joomla,eDirectory reduces the time to market, but also reduces the need for staff to update and manage the system.  This in turn lowers your development and maintenance costs creating a much higher ROI on the project.

When beginning the process of building a new website that contains an intricate CMS system it is important to be well versed on the ins and outs of the system and the aspects of the CMS that you can control and how those controls relate to the front of the website. The eDirectory system is built on a highly detailed and well organized CMS system called the sitemgr. This sitemgr area allows the directory owner to manage directory members, directory content, and add or remove any of their own unique content they wish to add into one of the site content areas.

One of the most important things a new directory owner can do it is to familiarize themselves with the eDirectory CMS system so once the directory is live to the public they will have been able to add unique content in the site content areas. This will also help you server your customer listing requests and questions much quicker as well. One unique thing the CMS system allows you to do is place your own unique content into certain areas within the directory. This unique content can help visitors to your site understand the meaning of you site and the benefits of adding a paid listing. The constant updates will help visitors see new text content as well as see new listings once they are approved by the sitemgr in the CMS system.

Sales Process Should Fit Buying Stage

For maximum efficiency, it is necessary to have a structured sales method. Yet, we see so many companies ignoring this. Unless a company has structure in their sales process, sales can easily be lost.

The first and most basic step is to take the time to develop a sales process. It doesn’t have to be too cumbersome and you don’t have to have your team fill out too many forms or jump through too many hoops. The only question that should drive the initial process is “What does the customer need in order to make the purchase.” The following questions can be asked:

[custom_list style="list-9"]

  • What will it take to make a purchase and who needs to be involved.
  • Where is the client in their buying process? Are they shopping around or are they a few days away from signing a contract?
  • What is the next step that they need to take? If they are shopping around, for example, this could be the time where you send them a discount.

[/custom_list]
Sales should operate with the knowledge that everything that they do is to get the prospect to the next stage. When sales takes on an action with the client that doesn’t get customers to the next step, the energy will prove to be futile.

This same logic should be used when you have a client meeting. By remembering what you want your prospect to do at the end of the meeting, you should have a plan and execute that plan during the meeting. The end result is to have your prospect take the next step in their buying decision.

By remembering where the prospect is in their buying process will allow you to make the right decisions in enabling them to take the next steps before a purchase.

Patience

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

The vast majority of start-up companies do not make millions of dollars overnight. It can take a bit of time to reach the ultimate profitability goals and margins. A website based off the eDirectory software is no different than a brand new start-up company, it can take time to see monetary results.

There are several things a new directory owner can do to help monetize and grow the site in the early stages of the directory. These include:

1) Have a strong marketing plan
2) Pre-populate your directory with information
3) Continue adding new content and information to your directory

Have a Strong Marketing Plan

Marketing a new product or company to people is not a simple task. It involves lots of planning on who the target market is and how you plan on reaching that target market. A lot of the times, once a target market is identified, to reach that market one must go back to the basics of marketing. Direct mail, door to door, cold calling are all parts of the marketing basics that can help you get your name, products and services out to the target market it which you which to sell to.

Pre-populate your Directory with Information

Having information in your directory before you begin marketing your new products can be an important factor in your early success. It can be difficult for a potential customer to purchase an item within your directory if they come to your directory and only see blank pages. Your directory needs to be populated with listings, events, articles, banners, etc. to help illustrate to potential customers that you have a populated website that could help bring them new business.

One way to help populate your website is by purchasing a database of listings through a 3rd party that relate to your business model. This allows you to, not only, populate your directory but it allows you to market to the businesses you purchased that are already in your target market through one of the basic market tactics.

Continue Adding New Content and Information to your Directory

It is important to keep adding new information and content to your directory. A good method of adding new content to your directory is through a forum or blog or by adding new articles for individuals to read. This new information will not only keep bringing visitors back to your site but it will also help with your SEO rankings, as search engines are constantly looking for new content on websites.

GeoDomains – Popularity is Increasing More Than Before

Owning a domain name that is geographically based is a hot commodity right now. This will be, especially true this year, with Google moving towards a localized search model. In other words, when someone places a search, Google will come back with local companies based on your keywords.

If you’re a savvy Marketer, you know that the value of a geo domain is based on what is built on it and how much revenue is coming from the site. You can use your geo domain for local business directories, advertising listings and sales in the same way that the print copy of yellow pages works.

There are many resources for you to learn more about the art of owning a high priced domain name. Elliotsblog is a great resource to learn more about what is going on in this industry. Elliot owns a portfolio of domain names and was honored with the Domainers Choice Award for his blog. Here you can keep on top of the latest news and get to know many of the players in the field.

Some of the things that I’ve been learning by reading what the experts have to say is that there are two types of GeoDomains:

· Pure GeoDomains (ex. Pittsburgh.com, Virginia.com)

· Geo Generic Domains (ex. MissouriLawyers.com, BostonAntiques.com)

While the pure GeoDomains are very expensive, the Geo Generics are more readily available. Should you have one, the development of these domains can vary.Many people prefer to create a guide with advertisements, business listings, coupons, event postings and content which appeals to the local audience. Others create a visitor guide which is aimed to tourists and business visitors. Another growing trend is that GeoDomains are being used as social networking sites to connect people in the local community.

Speak Easy

A well designed website can definitely grab the eye of a visitor and keep them navigating your site for some time; however, to keep a visitor on your site for a good length of time requires strong content.

There are several steps to take in order to keep the content on your site relevant and fresh:

1. Be diligent about content

2. Perform regular updates

3. Create your own unique content

Be Diligent About Content

To create a content-rich website, you need to keep a clear focus. In other words, be disciplined. Creating content for a site is not a simple thing to do; it takes days to weeks of research before you get to the planning and development of content for your site. One way to stay on track is to use your time management skills to develop a schedule for research, writing, editing, and deployment. Be sure to remember that the content on your site is ever changing, so what you write up during the initial phases of your site can be updated in the future.

Perform Regular Content Updates

Content on a website is not a fixed item. The content is always evolving and changing to meet the needs of your customers and the needs of your visitors. A returning visitor to your site is more likely to spend time on your site again if they are reading new information, new articles, etc. One way to keep new and fresh information on your site is by adding a blog or a forum. The blog / forum is constantly updated by those members using those tools and keeps the information fresh for both the visitor and Search Engine Spiders looking through your site.

Create Your Own Content

When using the eDirectory it is important to ensure you have fresh content within your directory. It can be discouraging for a visitor to come to your site looking to purchase a listing when they see an empty directory. Due to the fact that you are selling business listing options it is important to show examples of each business listing option, even if the listing information is false. This will show to visitors and potential visitors what exactly they will receive from their purchase. For example, it is beneficial to have a fully detailed Showcase business listing in the directory which includes photos, Google map, video, slide show, etc. This can provide a great illustration of what the potential purchaser will be getting for the money spent with you.

It’s Great to be Trendy

The head of Women in Technology , a 14 year old D.C. organization, invited me to speak about about Arca Solutions’ product and services.   The thing that really struck me once I got to the event was how hard the economic conditions have hit our area – a city which is usually resilient against tough times.  Many people there had lost their jobs from heavy hitters such as AT&T, Sprint-Nextel and Microsoft.

While the second speaker was in front of the audience, I quickly thought about how to add to my talk how there were 20% more jobs last year than there was in 2007 in the SEO industry.  I decided that the latter half of my talk should focus on having the ability to reinvent yourself  when the job market is weak.

I went in front of the audience and highlighted the fact that there are jobs out there that are recession-proof – specifically Search Engine Optimization.  For those with Web Design experience, learning how to optimize a site can open up their market.  Also, for the people with a Marketing background, they can enter a different field where they work with web developers to create the right content, links and tags in order to foster increased revenue.

I was surprised at how many people wanted to learn more and asked how to get in touch with me after the presentation.  One woman who had been thinking about migrating into the crowded Project Management field mentioned that this may be something else for her to think about.  The bad news is that 2009 is going to be a tough year; the good news could be that you come out on the other end of it with a brand new profession.