Friday, March 28, 2008

My Top 6 Web Site Marketing Strategies

By Herman Drost

If you don't create a successful strategy for marketing your web site, you can't build a profitable online business. It's therefore imperative to drive thousands of visitors to your web site, then convert them to paying customers. How do you accomplish this?

Use several marketing strategies
Don't put all your eggs into one basket by only employing one marketing strategy. You could see evidence of this during the latest Google update in which many commercial web sites which once had top rankings, dropped out of existence, thus instantly losing sales.

By creating more than one strategy to market your web site, you can soon see which one works the best by attracting the most visitors.

Market with consistency

Set up a clear daily, weekly, monthly and yearly marketing plan for your web site and stick to it. It is the lifeblood of your business.

Test marketing

Continually test all your web site marketing strategies to see which one works the best. Eliminate those that are not profitable.

6 successful marketing strategies:

Search engine optimization

Here are the locations where you should include your most important keywords or keyword phrases:

1. Meta tags (invisible)

Title tag

Description tag

Keyword tag

Alt tag

2. Page content (visible) - Weave your best keywords throughout the content of your pages. Focus on the first 250 words on your page and only use one to three keyword phrases per page of content. Include keywords in your H1 tag (main title) and H2, H3 tags (subheadings) as well as the hyperlinks in your site or and in outgoing links.

Search engines and directories

3. Submit to major search engines - Google is currently the main search engine to get listed in. If you get listed there, you will also get listed in AOL, Netscape, and Yahoo and it's still free. This may change in the near future as the competition heats up. Other free listings also include directories such as ODP. Do a search on Google to seek out your niche directories ie for sunglasses, look for sunglass directories.

Here are the other search engines to submit to:

http://www.searchenginewatch.com/links/article.php/2156221

4. Pay per click (PPC) search engines - if you wish to generate traffic to your web site immediately, set up a Google AdWords or Overture campaign.

http://payperclicksearchengines.com

Email Marketing

5. Create a newsletter - most folks don't buy from you immediately but need to be contacted several times to put them in the buying mood. Place a subscription box on every page of your web site. Send out your newsletter every two weeks to keep in touch with your subscribers. Be sure to include original content (not rehashed content) along with new products you wish to introduce to them.

6. Email Course or tutorial - set up an autoresponder that will deliver quality information over a period of seven days. This means you have multiple chances of contacting your visitor and promote your product or service at the same time.

Herman Drost is the author of the popular ebook:
101 Highly Effective Strategies to Promote Your Web Site

Subscribe to his "Marketing Tips" newsletter for more original articles at: http://www.isitebuild.com/articles.htm

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Herman_Drost

Some Easy Ways To Make Money Online

By Gary Kidd

In this article, I am going to show you some easy ways to make money online. The Internet is now allowing ordinary people to make a living at home and with a little effort on your part, following these simple tips will help you create an income from the comfort of your home.

Have or create your own product giving information to people on the subject they are searching for. People use the Internet to search for information. Find a market that has a lot of people searching for information and create a product around that. Having your own product will give you a much higher chance of making money online as every sale gives you huge profit margins. Try to make at least one product and that will help you on your way to riches online.

Selling other people's products is another great way to make money online, and the only downside is that you do not get 100% of the profits for each sale. However, this does save you the time of creating your own product and can help generate an income quickly which in turn gives you more time to work on producing your own products. Affiliate Marketing will allow you to do this and with thousands of products available finding one to suit your marketplace should not be hard.

Writing reviews of the product is best as this helps people to make a purchasing decision and if they see someone else has benefited from the product, they are more likely to buy it themselves.

Creating a website and sell advertising space on it is another great way to make money. The most popular way for this is to use Google AdSense. These small ads appear on your site and are always relevant to the content you have published there. Whenever someone clicks on a Google Adsense Ad, you will earn a small commission from that ad on your site. Of course, you will need a lot of traffic to make big money using Google AdSense so do some research first before going down this route.

If you have your own product, or are selling products from an Affiliate program, then using other people's mailing lists will help you to make money. Some call it Join Ventures while I prefer to call it "UOPML". "Using Other People's Making Lists."

There are two ways to do this. One is to write and ask if you can pay for an advertisement to their list, or the other is to write and offer them a commission for promoting your product to their list. You will need to have an affiliate program in place to do the latter of course, but in time as your business grows, you will begin to understand how this works a lot more.

Until you have an Affiliate program in place for your product, contact people and pay for advertising to their list. Do some research first on the people and maybe even subscribe to their list to see how they market. If you like the content and form trust for this person, it is likely others are doing the same.

If you find the right people to advertise your products for you, you can generate a lot of traffic to your website very quickly and this in turn can lead to huge profits fast.

Any of the techniques above will help you to make money online, but unless you put effort into this you will not make any money. Take the time to research and then take action.

Gary J Kidd is a successful online entrepreneur. He spends most of his time helping people start their own home based businesses and has helped many people quit their jobs and work from home full time. Visit his Blog at: http://www.gjkgroup.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Gary_Kidd

Online Marketing - Basic Tips

By Christopher Banaag

These days, the Internet has steadily dominated the life and lifestyle of all kinds of global customers and demographics. One must make use of the vast, untapped potential of the Internet as a business development and marketing channel, with the goal of converting visitors to buyers. Online marketing, also known as web marketing, search engine marketing, SEO or Internet marketing, is vital in today's Internet savvy world and is an essential strategy for any successful business. It's two primary goals are advertising and selling or dispensing of products and/or services through the Internet, thus it is a rather highly competitive field and the strategy demands a thorough understanding of Internet marketing.

Online marketing can help assist you in your endeavor to establish your presence in the virtual world. If you are unsure about your marketing strategies, it doesn't hurt to get some consultation first from the people who have intimate knowledge of search engine optimization, Internet marketing and public relations with proven track record in marketing experience. If you do not have the right resources and expertise, your business will be left lagging behind. Services exist whether you're looking for a brand new presence on the web or upgrade to become a more effective web site.

One which will be based upon your current business model and organizational values in such a way that your astute planning gels with your web marketing goals. It would not only give you a strong web presence, but will also create immense brand value for you, so that you can stand out and be visible from among your competitors. Be clear though in how customers should contact you and always give your website address.

online marketing does not simply mean 'building a website' or 'promoting a website'. Somewhere behind that website is a real organization with real goals. online marketing employs different techniques compared to those of traditional marketing. It is the process of growing and promoting an organization using online media. As with any product or service, however, not all online marketing services are created equal. Simply put, having a list of marketing tactics that have worked for others may just not be enough. The tactics that will help you reach your goals are completely different than the tactics that are right for another website because each website is unique.

Creating visibility on the search engines and high quality consumer online experience for this type of business is critical to help you reach your marketing goals. It is a fact that consumers are 12 times more likely to purchase your products or services after finding your website through a search engine than through all other online marketing programs combined. It is therefore important to optimize the content of the article of the products or services which you are selling in order for you to entice prospective clients. Always remember to focus on benefits, not just features. Features are only a means to an end.

Christopher D. Banaag has been writing articles since high school
Some of his works can be seen at http://stamperding.blogspot.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Christopher_Banaag

Look at Me. Now CLICK.

Hey, the best offer in the world won't get results if no one looks at it. So Bronto's Kimberly Snyder recommends four steps to make your email message an irresistible call to action the moment a customer sees it. Look at these tips:

1. Use a consistent "from" name. As we sift through our email, we scan for names we recognize. So, think of your "from" name as your corporate logo in an inbox: if you constantly change or tweak it, you won't stand out, and you run the risk of losing customers' confidence—or of simply annoying them.

2. Craft a compelling subject line. "The key is to create a short, clear and enticing call to action that speaks to your consumer," says Snyder. A good one intrigues a recipient so much, she wants to know more.

3. Take advantage of a pre-header. Many recipients use preview panes to view their email, so use text links viewable with any ISP to extend the subject line's call to action, or to include a snappy second offer to intrigue them even more.

4. Think smart with your preview pane. Since many ISPs block html images in preview panes, design your message with that in mind. "Grab your customers' attention with an optimal design that seamlessly integrates your company's logo, navigation bar and promotion, whether images are on or off," she advises. Finally, look to make sure the preview pane is rendering them as text only.

The Po!nt: First impressions really matter here. "Consumers want to be moved, motivated and enticed by smart email marketing," says Snyder. "It either begins or ends in the inbox."

Source: MarketingProfs.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

How to Avoid Ticking Off the (Ever-Sensitive) Blogosphere

Ever worry about what happens when you annoy the million-headed monster known as the blogosphere? Well, worry no more. After hosting a lively panel at this year's SXSW conference with the entertaining title "10 Easy Ways to Piss Off a Blogger," Rohit Bhargava posted a quick summation of the freewheeling discussion at his Influential Marketing Blog. Here are a few critical tips on how to avoid the ire of the Web's many online commentators:

Make it easy for a blogger to get off your email list. It's bad enough if you include bloggers on mass broadcasts without first getting their consent; but the best way to guarantee they never give you favorable coverage is to compound their frustration with a complicated (or nonexistent) unsubscribe process.

Don't begin the relationship by asking for a favor. Never include a personal request with your first "cold call" outreach. Establish a rapport, and then begin thinking about what a blogger can do for you.

Maintain reasonable expectations. Most successful bloggers have demanding day jobs and/or hectic schedules. So cut them some slack if they're slow responding to a query, or take more than a few hours to post a new item.

The Po!nt: When it comes to building relationships with bloggers, follow the golden rule: treat them as you would like to be treated.

Source: Influential Marketing Blog.

Best 3 SEO Tips of 2008

By Scott Jason

Each year I spend the first three months looking for the best and most innovative SEO tips of the previous year's end. This year I have what I believe to be the best 3 SEO tips in a decade!

SEO Tip #1: Make Google Alerts Your Personal Online Spy

Google Alerts is a great way to let the world's biggest search engine be your personal online investigator. This takes search engine optimization insider info to a whole new level. Here's an excerpt straight from Google....

"Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic."

Some handy uses of Google Alerts include:

-monitoring a developing news story
-keeping current on a competitor or industry
-getting the latest on a celebrity or event
-keeping tabs on your favorite sports teams

" As you probably guessed, it's the second one we care about most, "keeping current on a competitor or industry."

Here's how it works... Each time Google finds a reference to the query or topic you request you will be sent an email with the details. This is like having an online agent to make sure competitors are not using your protected keywords (trademarked names, company names, etc.) It's also an instant identifier to know when your site or product is mentioned in a news story or even when a topic is hot so you can take advantage of the situation. It's the easiest way in the world to stop competitors' dirty tricks and identify trends that you can take instant advantage of.

It's fast, free and works every minute of every day. Let Google Alerts do your most time consuming legwork while you reap the rewards!

SEO Tip #2: Optimize Your 404 Page and Always Be Found

"Error 404: Page Not Found" is a blessing that most Webmasters curse. Why? Getting a visitor on any page of your site is fantastic! Don't blow the opportuníty. Not only can you make your "404" page a valuable sales tool, you can use the following search engine optimization techniques to attract customers in droves.

A.) Use your main keyword in your title, add a "pipe" (usually above the Enter key) and then use your secondary keyword. Here's an example for an SEO site "SEO | Search Engine Optimization Tips"

B.) Add some keyword rich content using one to two keywords for the page. If you have less than 250 words on the page, just use one keyword and use it no more than three times total. Bold the first use and italicize the second or third use. Keep in mind this is an "inactive" page so simply tell the visitor what your site is about and whet their appetite with a good description. Something like this works well... "Thank you for visiting SEO (bold) Group, Inc. We're sorry you seem to have found a missing page but rest assured, if you are looking for the world's best search engine optimization tips (bold or italic), you are at the right place..." This will go on for a couple paragraphs or as long as you'd like then end it with something to the effect of "Please Clíck Here (link) to visit our site map or click any link to the left."

C.) Add your site's standard navigation system (bar, column, etc.) as mentioned above.

D.) Make the look and feel of the customized 404 page match your main site as closely as possible with a template, matched palette, cascading style sheets, etc.

E.) Create a link to the site map page if available, and make the link easy to find. You want your visitor off the 404 page and into your main content as quickly as possible.

Setting up a custom 404 page link usually takes less than five minutes on most major Web hosting companies like Godaddy.com. But whatever it takes, it's worth the effort.

SEO Tip #3: Get (Even More) Serious About Linking

I saved the most important for last. If you want to do well on any search engine, especially Google, linking is THE single MOST important thing you can do. It's that simple.

Here are the five things you MUST do to make your site #1 on Google:

A.) Find the highest page rank sites linking to your site AND your competitors' sites.

B.) Run monthly link campaigns and snatch up the best of the above identified Web sites.

C.) Run regular checks on what pages are still linking back to your site. Also make sure they did not move you from a high page rank page to a lower one (don't get cheated!)

D.) Eliminate any penalized sites you link to; ASAP!

E.) Check your search engine ranking AND your competitor's for each of your keywords every week. Do this for Google, Yahoo, MSN and Alta Vista at the minimum.

Inside Tip: Keeping up can be a lot of work, and is extremely important, so a lot of SEO Consultants (myself included) use SEO Elite to do all the most difficult and time consuming work.

One last thing to know is that Google was originally a college student's project created for the sole purpose of defining a Web site's value by the sites that link to it. Twelve years later this is still its main job. Linking is EVERYTHING to Google.

These three SEO tips are the best of the best so use them wisely. Best of luck!

About The Author
Scott Jason is a 10 year veteran search engine optimization and copywriting specialist. He has been a guest "expert advice" author for three SEO books including The SEO Answer Book and is the co-founder of BestSEOCopywriting.com .

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

SEO Copywriting Tips for Google, Yahoo and your Prospects

By Angela Charles

It might not seem logical, but a web site that's well-written for human consumption with a little SEO help usually is also well-received by the robots of search engines like Google and Yahoo.

So, what does "well-written" mean? Here are some tips to good SEO copywriting for Google, Yahoo and site visitors.

SEO Copywriting Tips – How to Write Great Web Site Content

Keyword research: This topic deserves a whole article on its own, but suffice to say that you'll want to base your site content on the keyword terms that you know are most popular among the audience you're trying to reach. There are online tools available that can help you determine the right keywords for your company. Among them are WordTracker and Keyword Discovery.

One topic per page: If your company makes 5 different products, you'll need to devote at least one page per topic.

Details, details: Each topic should be covered in enough detail that the site visitor can determine whether to contact you for more information. From an SEO standpoint, the more detail you provide on each topic, the more easily the search engines will be able to determine the relevance of your site to that keyword.

Kill the sales brochure: Internet users don't appreciate going to your web to find only a sales brochure. Avoid flowery language; it usually signifies a page that's light on content and heavy on sales pitch, which the search engines won't rank well. Good SEO copywriting will focus on objective facts about your company's products and services, with a call-to-action for more information.

Create a content hierarchy: The more detail, the better, but be considerate of your site visitors' time. Good SEO copywriting separates content into multiple pages and creates a hierarchy for your pages with most important information first, least important last. The most important pages you'll want on your navigation bar, with lesser pages linking off those. Make sure you include a site map, though, that lists all your web site's pages.

Keyword density: In order for search engines to be able to rank your pages for a particular keyword, that keyword has to be used on your page. At the same time, the more often you use it, the more relevant the page will seem. ONE CAVEAT: Don't go overboard. Writing should sound natural to the human visitors you're trying to reach. Search engines can penalize you for "overoptimizing" by using the keyword too often (known as keyword stuffing or spamming).

Types of Content to Consider for Your Company Web Site

Part of the SEO copywriting process is project planning. It's important to take the time to consider what information people would want to know about your company. Here are some types of content well received by Internet visitors and search engines:

-Product details, including features/benefits, specifications, data sheets, diagrams, flow-charts, video demonstrations and photos (with alt tags, see below)
-Technical tips, product troubleshooting guides, user manuals
-Customer testimonials, case studies
-Industry definitions
-Product selection guides, comparative information

Advice on Adding PDFs to your Site

Search engines have become more sophisticated in being able to index varying file types. PDFs work fine for information that site visitors might want to print out and keep. But, if you use PDFs, make sure they open in a separate browser. Also, add a link to your home page somewhere on each PDF; otherwise, site visitors that enter your site from a search engine via the PDF won't have navigation to take them to the rest of your site.

Where to Get Ideas for Good SEO Content

Type your top keywords into Google and Yahoo and see what sites and pages come up on the first or second page of results. This will give you a good idea of some of the content that search engines like. More specifically, take a look at:

-Competitor sites
-Industry portal sites
-Industry magazine sites
-Resource sites

See what types of content they provide that your site could emulate (not copy).


Other On-Page SEO Copywriting Tips

Once your content is written, it's time to place it on the page. Here are some additional details you'll need to be concerned with to complete the SEO copywriting process:

Title tags: Make sure each page title tag is unique and complements the content of that page. For instance, if your page is about "blue suede shoes", then your title tag might be "Blue Suede Shoes | ABC Company"

Description tags: Likewise, you'll want each page description tag to be unique and complementary to the page it describes. This is the information that many of the search engines use to display a description of your page.

Keyword tags: Most search engines have de-emphasized use of the keyword tag, but we feel it's a useful tool to help you organize your site content. If you followed the advice above regarding one topic per page, then your keyword tag would be pretty short and limited to that topic. It'll probably have more than one term in it as there might be multiple ways to describe the topic, but this is a good check that you're in the process of writing a well-optimized page.

Alt tags: You can use the meta alt tag to help search engines interpret what your nav buttons and images are about. Search engines can't "see" images, so unless you specifically tell them, that information will be ignored. If you have a picture of blue suede shoes, use the Alt tag to label it as "blue suede shoes."

Internal linking: Build your keyword phrases into the links on your pages that are used to navigate from page to page. For instance, a call to action might be "Contact ABC Company for more information about our blue suede shoes," with the phrase "more information about our blue suede shoes" as the link. Avoid using "clíck here" as the link.

I've created quite a to-do líst of SEO Copywriting Tips, but when done properly, your SEO copywriting efforts will help yield long-term results in the way of top placement on Google and Yahoo and, most importantly, increased opportuníty to reach new potential customers.

About The Author
Angela Charles is president of Pilot Fish, an Akron, Ohio, search engine optimization and web design firm specializing in industrial clients.

Recession? It's a Great Time to Be a Marketer!

by Ann Handley

The massive bailout of Bear Stearns could be the first of a wave of financial rescues. US housing is overpriced. Retail sales are in the dumps. And the consumer-spending binge is over.

"In short," writes Jack Neff in yesterday's Ad Age, "it's a great time to be in marketing."

In fact, previous recessions have been very, very good for marketing, spawning (among other things) soap operas, modern cable networks, airline loyalty programs, the iPod, Crest Whitestrips, Axe body spray and lots more, Neff says.

In other words, relax - it's not so bad. Breathe in. Breathe out. And then consider these guidelines for marketing in a down economy:

• Don't cut the budget. Assuming you can still afford it, "recessions offer what may be unprecedented opportunities to market in an environment of relatively less noise as others cut back," Neff says.

• Maintain strong launches. Some things really are recession-proof.Even in the deepest, darkest recessions, "things that truly appeal to consumers, be they soap operas, CNN or disposable training pants, still flourished," Neff writes.

• Get a little silly. "You can't go wrong with diversion: Media, entertainment and other forms of cheap frivolity can be the bread-and-circus salve for hard times -- from the soap operas of the 1930s to MTV in the 1980s to [in 2002] the iPod and Axe body spray."

• Beware the slash and burn. Keep your prices up, unless you have a good reason not to (like a one-time event to move inventory or similar). "Unless the price reduction is truly strategic -- e.g., a discount retailer or brokerage or a one-time event to drive traffic -- you could live to regret it," he says.

• You might as well dance. "Some of the most successful recession-era launches were natural offshoots of the conditions created by or causing the crisis, i.e. high gas prices spawning fuel-efficient cars [or] interest bearing checking accounts that sprang from high interest rates in the 1970s and '80s," according to Neff.

To Use or Not To Use? Duplicate Content

By Andy MacDonald

Duplicate content is a hotly debated issue when it comes to how it affects your web-site ranking. And it’s become an even bigger issue over time as spammers and other malicious Internet users have taken to the practice of content scraping, or scraping the content from a web site to use on their own with only minor changes to the appearance, not to the content itself.

Content scraping has become such a problem that search engines now look for duplicate copy, even when it’s hidden behind a link like the Similar Pages that Google uses for related content. If they find it, your site may be lowered in the rankings or even delisted completely.

Still, the duplicate-copy issue isn’t as simple as it may seem. Some people think there’s too much worry about it, whereas others insist the problem needs to be addressed. And both are right to some degree. Let me explain.

First, you need to understand that not all duplicate content is the same kind. You need to appreciate some differences.

Reprints: This is duplicate content published on multiple sites with the permission of the copyright holder. These are the articles that you or others create and then distribute to create links back to your site or to sites that are relevant to the content of yours. Reprints are not bad duplicate content, but they can get your site thrown into the realm of Similar Pages, which means they’ll be buried behind other results.

Site Mirroring: This is the kind of duplication that can cause one or more of your sites to be delisted from a search engine. Site mirroring is literally keeping exact copies of your web site in two different places on the Internet. Web sites used to practice site mirroring all the time as a way to avoid downtime when one site crashed. These days, server capabilities are such that site mirroring isn’t as necessary as it once was, and search engines now “dis-include” mirrored content because of the spamming implications it can have. Spammers have been known to mirror sites to create a false Internet for the purpose of stealing user names, passwords, account numbers, and other personal information.

Content Scraping: Content scraping is taking the content from one site and reusing it on another site with nothing more than cosmetic changes. This is another tactic used by spammers, and it’s also often a source of copyright infringement.

Same Site Duplication: If you duplicate content across your own web site, you could also be penalized for duplicate content. This becomes especially troublesome with blogs, because there is often a full blog post on the main page and then an archived blog post on another page of your site. This type of duplication can be managed by simply using a partial post, called a snippet, that links to the full post in a single place on your web site.

Of these types of duplicate content, two are especially harmful to your site: site mirroring and content scraping. If you’re using site mirroring, you should consider using a different backup method for your web site. If you’re using content scraping you could be facing legal action for copyright infringement. Content scraping is a practice that’s best avoided completely.

Even though reprints and same-site duplication are not entirely harmful, they are also not helpful. And in fact they can be harmful if they’re handled in the wrong way. You won’t win any points with a search engine crawler if your site is full of content that’s used elsewhere on the Web. Reprints, especially those that are repeated often on the Web, will eventually make a search engine crawler begin to take notice.

Once it takes notice, the crawler will try to find the original location of the reprint. It does this by looking at where the content appeared first. It also looks at which copy of an article the most links point to and what versions of the article are the result of content scraping. Through a process of elimination, the crawler narrows the field until a determination can be made. Or if it’s still too difficult to tell where the content originated, the crawler will select from trusted domains.

Once the crawler has determined what content is the original, all of the other reprints fall into order beneath it or are eliminated from the index.

If you must use content that’s not original, or if you must have multiple copies of content on your web site, there is a way to keep those duplications from adversely affecting your search rankings. By using the or tags, you can prevent duplicated pages from being indexed by the search engine.

The tag should be placed in the page header for the page that you don’t want to be indexed. It’s also a good idea to allow the crawler that finds the tag to follow links that might be on the page. To do that, your code (which is a meta tag) should look like this:



That small tag of code tells the search engine not to index the page, but to follow the links on the page. This small snippet of code can help you quickly solve the problem of search engines reading your duplicate content.

So in conclusion, my advice would be to avoid any type of duplicate content if your main goal is to achieve high search engine rankings on your website. By providing fresh & unique content on your website, you are not only pleasing the search engine, but more importantly, your pleasing your user, which should be your ultimate goal as a webmaster.

Andy MacDonald, CEO of Swift Media UK, a website design & search marketing company. For daily tips on Blogging, Marketing, SEO & Making Money Online, Checkout our SEO & Marketing Tips for Webmasters blog or Subscribe by RSS.

Make It Fun to Keep Them Loyal

What makes consumers love your Web site? The answer might be as simple as child's play. Research shows that customers have a more positive attitude toward a site when their online experience is engaging and enjoyable. And enjoyment is an important determinant of why consumers shop.

When they become immersed in your site, customers view being on it as fun rather than work. Since their experience feels like play, they return more—making them more loyal to the site, the company and the brands it sells.

What creates this immersion? Research suggests you gain loyalty when:

-The site challenges customers. Customers don't want to be bored. When the skill required to navigate your Web site marginally exceeds customers' search skills, they see the experience as an enjoyable escape rather than a burden.

-Customers believe they have the skills to find what they want on the site. If customers can't follow the site navigation, they will lose interest in their search and, perhaps, your company and its products.

-Customers feel they have control over the search. If the navigation is too complicated for the average user to master, they won't return to the site.

The Po!nt: Design your Web site with the end-user in mind. Make it a fun challenge, not a task. Customers who become immersed in your site will be more loyal to the site, your company and your brands.

Source: "Play, Flow, and the Online Search Experience" by Charla Mathwick and Edward Rigdon

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Marketing & the S Word: See Spitzer and Paris Hilton

by chris crum

Since controversy and marketing has been such a popular subject, let's dim the lights, throw on some Color Me Badd, and talk about sex in marketing.

"Sex sells." Perhaps as cliche as "There's no such thing as bad publicity", but I think this one is a little more true.

I believe that while "bad" publicity can sometimes work in one's favor, that is not always the case. Sex and "sexiness", however, will always get people's attention and will ultimately sell products (given the right target audience).

Sexy Content Attracts Marketing Dollars

I'm sure you're aware of the recent Elliot Spitzer scandal (For a great read on marketing prostitution on the Internet, check this one out). Well, this scandal has led to dollar signs flashing in the eyes of marketers and businesses who see an opportunity to capitalize on the depravity of an ex-governor.

Michael Gray, aka Graywolf recently pointed to a story about Playgirl Magazine offering Sptitzer $1 Million to pose nude. To me personally, this would appear to be the opposite of sexy, but apparently some disagree (cue Color Me Badd record scratch and turn the lights back on).


Gray writes:

It's a win-win scenario for Playgirl. Let's go with the most likely outcome and assume client 9 says no, playgirl generated a decent amount of press, links, and attention, for the cost of a press release and some PR work.

Let's enter dreamland and imagine he goes for the deal, I have no doubt that it would turn out to be the highest selling issue of Playgirl, attracting a huge amount of sales and advertising, more than enough to cover the $1 million dollar paycheck.

Gray makes a very good point. It only makes sense that such an issue would attract a huge amount of advertising dollars. It would be like the super bowl of male nudity.

That's a case where marketing would capitalize on so-called "sexy" content.

Sexy Ads Leave A Lasting Impression

Then of course there are cases (perhaps more frequently) where the ads themselves are the "sexy" content. Of course the Super Bowl GoDaddy ad and Paris Hilton Hardee's ad immediately come to mind.

Why? Because people are still talking about them (not just me) to this day, and they are both I believe more than a couple years old.

Why are people still talking about them? Because obviously they left a lasting impression and got people talking. The Hardee's commercial I believe was not even aired on television if I'm not mistaken, and was limited to Internet viewing, yet I bet it is the most remembered commercial that Hardee's has ever had (although I must admit I was always partial to the Boyz II Men biscuit song).

Is Using Sex in Marketing Always the Best Idea?

Just like any marketing strategy, keep your target audience in mind as well as how you want your business to be perceived. So I will say no. It's not always the best idea. But I will say this: It's likely to get you some attention and make people remember you for better or for worse.


About the Author:
Chris is a content coordinator and staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz and the iEntry Network.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Curing Banner Blindness

By Chris Crum

Many people think that banner advertising on the Internet is all but dead. They cite things like "banner blindness" and lack of conversions. Tell us why you think banner advertising is dead or alive.

I'll say this: Poor and ineffective banner advertising is dead. And guess what. It was never alive to begin with. Banner advertising itself is alive and well. Why else do you think you still see it everywhere?

Yes, "banner blindness" exists, but your job as an advertiser is to cure it. This means coming up with an ad that people can't help but acknowledge.

Commanding Attention

It only makes sense that before you get a potential customer to click on an ad, you have to command their attention. An easy approach to this is to display an attractive eye-catching ad (ok, perhaps this is easier said than done). Common approaches to this technique are to use animation and "flashy" interactive ads.

Sometimes Simple is Better

Sometimes however, simple ads can be more effective. I had a conversation with Susan Coppersmith, the director of ad sales at our own iEntry, and she brought up the point that sometimes simple can command just as much attention as a flashy ad. For this to work though, I believe that the ad has to inspire curiosity - the need to find out more.

Garbage Clicks Don't Count

When displaying your banner ads, remember you're in it to win it. In other words, if you're not going to win the clicker's business, what is the point? This is where targeting comes into play. You may put up the most beautiful and exciting ad ever created, but if it's not displayed in the right place it is simply going to be ineffective.

This is also true for irrelevant ads. By this, I mean if the ad has little or nothing to do with the actual landing page, you are most likely not going to get a conversion. An example that comes to mind is the type of ad you see all the time that encourages clicks by featuring some kind of a mini game. Shoot the duck, or something like that. It may inspire people to click just because they want to "shoot the duck", but when that is their only intention, what is it really going to get you? They're not going to buy anything from you. When they get to your landing page, they're going to say to themselves, "Why did I just do that?" and turn around and go back to the page they were on. Those are "garbage clicks".

That's not to say however, that if such an ad is placed on a well targeted site, they may "shoot the duck" and land on something they are in fact interested in. So if you can entice them into clicking an ad and actually deliver a well-targeted product, then more power to you.

It's Not Just About the Clicks

Of course, clicks and conversions aren't the only important factors in banner advertising. The branding that banner ads can provide can be much more valuable than an immediate conversion. And if you advertise in the right place, it can build your reputation in the subconcious of potential customers. "Advertising in a reputable network can be of great advantage to a small company. This leads to building credibility which will lead to sales in the long run," says Coppersmith. "You're often perceived to be as good as the company you keep."

Even if they ignore your ad as a result of "banner blindness", that doesn't mean that your company isn't leaving an impression in the back of their mind. Perhaps they don't have a need for you right then anyway. But should the need for what you provide arise in the future, they just might recall seeing your logo somewhere and associate you with that very need. Isn't that priceless?

In the End...

So in the end, whether you take the flashy route or the simple one with your ads, remember, it's all about targeting the right people as well as burning your brand into their minds. As far as instant gratification, if the clicker gets to your landing page and doesn't find the product interesting, it doesn't matter how good your ad looks. But keep in mind that while immediate conversions are great, that isn't all there is to it.

Which type of ad do you prefer to avoid banner blindness - flashy ones or simple ones?


About the Author:
Chris is a content coordinator and staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz and the iEntry Network.

Four Tough ESP Questions

Now, wait just a minute. Don't hand that online campaign to just any email service provider (ESP)—at least not before you ask some hard questions.

Here are four tough ones that SendLabs' Josh Nason says you should always ask an ESP:

1. What do I get? You might want a full-service shop that handles everything from software to creative services, or you might prefer an a la carte approach that complements your in-house skill sets. Make sure you know upfront what the ESP can and cannot provide.

2. How's your customer service? Ask how long it takes an ESP to respond to reported problems: the industry norm, according to Nason, is within an hour. Also investigate how their service levels might vary based on the plan you choose.

3. What will this cost me? Most ESPs charge either by the month or by the campaign. "There are positives and negatives to both," says Nason, "so … communicate your list sizes, your deployment habits and your needs" to find the right payment plan.

4. What's the word on the street about you? A quality ESP will have a relationship with an email reputation monitor that confirms email arrives safely, provides blacklist monitoring and offers spam checks. "Feel free to ask [an ESP] what their latest reputation score is," he says.

The Po!nt: "If checking out a company's site or speaking with a rep gives you that not-so-confident feeling, there's probably a reason for it," says Nason. So keep looking until you feel comfortable. By asking the right questions, you'll find the right fit.

Source: MarketingProfs.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Creating Your Company's Own Online Reality

"While many business owners are beginning to understand that information is the currency of the Internet," says Rick Sloboda of WebCopyPlus," few act on it." Yes, your business has the potential to create a website that can go toe-to-toe with larger corporate sites, but there's a chance that ill-defined, irrelevant and self-centered content may conspire to undermine this natural advantage.

Instead, use language to create an online reality that impresses your target audience. "The right web content will make you concrete and credible on the ... Internet," he says. Here are some tips on creating the right image:

-Use customer-centric copy. Small businesses tend to be preoccupied with their own story. People who visit your website don't want to hear about you; they want to know what you or your product can do for them.

-Publish case studies. This is something larger companies do—so why shouldn't you? It never hurts to offer a detailed examination of a successful project. In addition, case studies build a sense of trust.

-Put your guarantee in plain sight. Highlighting your promise communicates confidence, and creates a sense of stability.

The Po!nt: "Your web copywriting doesn't describe reality, it creates it," says Sloboda. "In fact, every word you feature on your website has the ability to build—or damage—how prospects perceive you."

Source: An unpublished article by Rick Sloboda.

Failing to Make an Impression?

Ted Mininni

Apparently marketers aren’t cutting it, according to a recent study. Marketers aren’t making a mark with consumers when they launch new products. An intriguing article in MediaPost on March 6th, New Product Messages Aren’t Making Intended Impressions points to data collected by Information Resources, Inc, New Products magazine, comScore and Schneider Associates.

The upshot? More than a whopping 3/4 out of 1000 consumers surveyed said they couldn’t recall a new product launched over the past year. Only 23% could do so.

That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. Then again, maybe not, when you consider the plethora of products hitting the stores non-stop these days. Still, the onus is on marketers to come up with hot new products consumers will actually want to buy, and then to make their marketing message a memorable one. Apparently, given the data, marketers just aren’t cutting the mustard.

In the article, New Product magazine editor Joan Holleran is quoted: “The (new product) message isn’t getting through.” Who was successful in getting through? When presented with a list of new product intros for 2007, Apple’s iPhone topped the list with a recall rate of 37%. The rest of the top 10 products consumers remembered: Microsoft’s Windows Vista operating system, Febreze-branded candles, Domino’s Oreo Dessert Pizza, diet aid Alli, Oreo Cakesters, Diet Coke Plus, Subway Fresh Fit Meals, Motorola’s RAZR2 and Listerine White Strips.

The most memorable new products in 2007 were line extensions. Top new product sellers last year: Campbell’s Reduced Sodium Soup, General Mills Fiber One Chewy Bars, Dannon’s DanActive Probiotic Dairy Drinks and Activia Light Yogurt, Sara Lee’s Heart Hearty & Delicious breads.

Takeaways from the research:
• Top impression making products used an experimental marketing mix: blogs, WOM and PR-generated media to get the word out. This trend is expected to continue, even though traditional channels will still be used.
• Look for more line extensions in 2008 and for success with products that multitask like the iPhone.
• Health and wellness trends will continue to strengthen and the demand for functional food and beverages will “explode”, according to IRI EVP Business/Consumer Insights, Anne Berlack. “Retailers and manufacturers that marry functional benefits with effective consumer education, as Dannon did last year with DanActive immunity-boosting beverages will win big”, she added. Agreed.
• Products that constitute more indulgent purchases will continue to trend. No explanation needed, I think. Upscale, luxury and self-pampering products continue to be well-received by consumers.
• Non-food products that create a pleasant experience for consumers as they conduct everyday chores will also continue to score well. Current new product intros that have been successful in this regard: Tide Simple Pleasures and Gain Joyful Expressions Detergents, Febreze Noticeable Air Fresheners.

What does all of this point to? If new products are going to meet with success in the marketplace, better consumer insights will have to be gained via research. These insights will have to meet consumers where they are, or they are doomed to fail.

Questions:
• Which new products can you recall from 2007?
• Were you motivated to purchase a new product last year?
• What should marketers do to make new products more memorable when there are so many new items hitting the retail stores?

I’d love to hear from you.

Marketing Through Contests

By Chris Crum

Increase awareness of your business...


Here's some breaking news for you. People like to get free stuff. I've talked before about giving away promotional items for marketing and branding purposes, but now I want to discuss marketing through contests.

A contest can be a great way to get people to notice your business, particularly if you are an online business.

"We all like to win something for free. Contests offer an attractive marketing vehicle for a small business to acquire new clients and create awareness," says Darrell Zahorsky at About.com. "You don't need to run a billion dollar giveaway like Pepsi, just a valuable prize to your target market."

For one, you don't have to give something away for free to every customer. You have people basically competing with each other to win one product (or however many you want to offer) .

Branding

While they're entering, you are putting your brand right in their faces whether they like it or not. They may on the surface not care about what your business is about and only want to get their hands on a free item, but they'll know about you regardless. You will be on the map.

Traffic

Promoting a contest can be a fantastic way to boost the traffic to your site. You can run ad campaigns promoting it if you wish, but there are also free ways to promote a contest such as submitting it to sites like Contest Beat.

Contest Beat is simply a blog that links to a different contest on the Internet every day. And they'll do it for free.



Subscribers

If you run a blog, a contest is an excellent way to gain subscribers to your feed (especially if you make signing up a guideline for entering). Take Marketing Pilgrim's Andy Beal. He recently launched a contest in which he would give away an iPod to one lucky subscriber. All they had to do was sign up for his RSS feed and watch for something that would only appear in the feed. He only has to give away one iPod, but I bet he attracted a good deal of subscribers.

Sure, there is the possibility that they will just unsubscribe after the contest is over, but in the meantime, they will be exposed to Andy's content, and it is his job (and his staff's) to write good enough stuff to make people want to stay (not that they have any problems there).

The beauty about running a contest is that you can completely control the rules. You can aim the guidelines to focus on your needs. If you need more subscribers, have sign-ups count as entries. If you need content, have people submit articles, etc.

If you've ever run a contest as a marketing strategy, please let us know about it. Were the results favorable?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Is Your Mission Empowering or Synergistic?

Drew McLellan

Promises of empowerment, lofty goals of collaboration, and heartfelt expressions that recognize the true value of human initiative. Toss them all into a blender and you have a confusion smoothie. And maybe a mission statement.

The mission statement. Why do you exist? Should be pretty straightforward, right? So why it is that most companies' mission statements look like they came straight out of the Dilbert mission statement generator?

Most are absolutely ambiguous and vague - any company could swap out the logo and voila, the mission statement could be theirs too.

Why?

I wonder if it is the two fisted punch of "we're afraid" and "we don't really know how/why we're different."

Mission statements should be bold. They should clearly acknowledge "we are about THIS and therefore, we aren't about THAT." But most companies are afraid to exclude anything or to suggest they can't be everything to everyone.

So they get into their committees and wordsmith a statement that no one can argue with because no one can actually define what it means.

As Seth Godin commented, "Mission statements used to have a purpose. The purpose was to force management to make hard decisions about what the company stood for. A hard decision means giving up one thing to get another."

So I'm curious...for those of you on the consulting/agency side: Do you help your clients create/refine mission statements? If so, how do you help them avoid the Dilbert version?

If you are on the client/organization side: Do you have a mission statement that actually defines your organization's reason for existing? If so, how did you push past the pabulum language to something that actually had teeth?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Blogging the eBay Way

If you witnessed the recent uproar over eBay's decision to restructure its fees, you know that website's users can be an opinionated crowd. And you can bet the company put plenty of thought into its new corporate blog, which is sure to be critiqued nine ways to Sunday.

So as you plan your company's blog—or brainstorm potential improvements—you might want to consider these points, from an interview the blog's author, Richard Brewer-Hay, gave to Fortune Small Business magazine:

-Hire an independent blogger to bolster credibility.
EBay assigned an outsider to oversee the blog. And Brewer-Hay insists on independence. "My words go straight up onto the blog, unedited," he tells FSB. "There's got to be an authenticity to it, an honesty to it, otherwise there's no point in doing it in the first place."

-Offer rich content.
The blog will cover everything from conversations with eBay's CEO to discussions of the company's "green" credentials. Watch for employee contributions and Q&A sessions with the blog's readership.

-Allow all voices to be heard.
"People can comment … and comments are going to be open. You're going to get the good, the bad, and the ugly," Brewer-Hay says.

The Po!nt: "[T]his is first time [eBay users] will have the opportunity to talk directly to us," concludes Brewer-Hay. "I've read things out there in the blogosphere. They are one-way dialogues right now, and I'm looking forward to making them two-way conversations."

Source: Fortune Small Business.

Get in the Mood to Shop

Stores invest a great deal of time and attention in determining the best way to design floor space and shelving to create the optimal customer experience. Research shows that understanding customers' motivation for visiting your store should affect its design.

Customers who see shopping as a form of recreation—something that is fun—prefer highly arousing environments. This might include warm, saturated or bright colors, fast-paced music and complex layouts that provide lots of product stimulation. These customers won't mind if you frequently reorganize the store's layout and displays.

Shoppers who arrive with a clear task in mind—such as buying a specific item—prefer a more subdued environment. They don't want to be distracted from their mission. These customers prefer simple merchandise presentation and cooler, less saturated colors such as light blue.

How do you satisfy both types of customers? Wall color and overall layout are the elements most difficult to change, so design these to create moderate arousal. Use more stimulating elements—such as background music—when customers are likely to be recreational shoppers, such as on weekends. If the type of shopper varies by department, design each area so that it complements the reason most shoppers go to that section.

The Po!nt: Contented customers buy more. When creating or changing the décor of a store, it is important to consider the type of customers who frequent the store and their primary motivation for shopping.

Source: "When Should a Retailer Create an Exciting Store Environment?" by Velitchka D. Kaltcheva and Barton A. Weitz, Journal of Marketing, 2006.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Choosing the Right Hosting Provider‏

Choosing a Hosting Provider

Anyone using web applications for business purposes knows that choosing a hosting provider is crucial to the success and execution of those apps. If your hosting provider is unreliable, the results can be disastrous for small business owners. Prevent unrecoverable mistakes by arming yourself with the knowledge of what to look for in a hosting provider.

24x7x365 Support

Make sure your provider has tech support on hand at all times available by phone or chat to take care of any issues that might arise with your server. Hardware isn’t infallible. Excellent customer care and quick attention to issues will make the difference between a few hours and a few days of downtime.

Name Brand Hardware

Name brands are recognizable for a reason. If a brand is known for quality and dependability, the product you purchase from that brand will usually follow suit. Look for companies who say what brand of servers and products they use in their datacenters. If they aren’t telling you, chances are you’ve never heard of the brand.

Redundant Network

The network is the heart of any IT Infrastructure provider. Without a redundant network, you’re exponentially increasing your risk of downtime. A fully redundant network means that your network can lose any one piece of networking gear at any one level and data will continue to flow uninterrupted.

Tier 1 Bandwidth Providers

In addition to a fully redundant network you also need great bandwidth providers. Tier 1 bandwidth providers typically own their entire network and it either stretches a continent or the entire globe. A few examples of Tier 1 providers include Level3, NTT, AT&T, Global Crossing & Savvis. Tier 1 providers ensure that your content gets to your visitor using the most efficient route possible.

Quick Provisioning of Servers

Typically when people order a product or service of any kind it’s because they need it. Don’t settle for waiting days for your server to be ready. Find a provider that guarantees quick provisioning, getting you online and working in no time.

Automated reboots and automated Operating System reloads

Insisting on an IT Infrastructure provider who has invested in self-service systems will save you time and money over the duration of your hosting deployment. Rebooting servers yourself when they fail and being able to install a fresh Operating System on your hardware at the click of a mouse is indispensible.

Choosing a provider may seem like a daunting task given the vast array of providers these days. Knowing what to look for will make the decision easier and help to keep your online business needs running smoothly.

Please visit The Planet to see how the “The Planet Difference” can make a difference in your business.

Friday, March 14, 2008

What Social Media Marketing Is Not

by B.L. Ochman

No doubt about it, buzzwords—from viral to meme to mashup to social media itself—abound. As Hugh Macleod joked in a recent Twitter post, "Pretty soon we'll have 'Social' prefixing everything: Social Marketing, Social Communicating, Social Cornflakes."

Yet, despite all the talk, the mainstream media coverage, the conferences, courses, and books on social media marketing, there's quite a bit of ambivalence, fear, and sometimes outright hostility directed toward social media by CMOs, CEOs, and CFOs.

All of this leads to the dreaded "we just want to stick our toe in the water, and see what this stuff is all about" and "we want to do a small, low-budget social media project and track the ROI."

Danger, Will Robinson!! Danger, Will Robinson!!!

Social media isn't a one-shot deal

Social media isn't a technique, a short-term project, an experiment, an event, a one-shot deal, or a quick fix. It's not something you throw money at, and using it doesn't guarantee sales or influence.

Social media is a set of tools that can help you make your company or your products or your services what people recommend to other people who trust their judgment.

Those tools provide absolutely anyone to establish credibility and gain trust. And the information, good or bad, that's created and shared with those tools stays in search engines forever.

Let's take a look at how and what people share with friends and family. Among the tools and applications they use:

-Photo and video sharing
-mail and IM
-Podcasting, video casting, video conferencing
-Self-published and self-promoted e-books
-Text messages
-Shared bookmarking and annotated link sharing
-Social shopping
-Blogs and microblogs
-Business, personal, interest, and hobby groups

They use those tools to pass on information that is...

-Interesting
-Amusing
-Poignant
-Relevant
-Useful
-Educational
-Arresting
-Beware the kid with a webcam?

Nothing's really changed about the way information spreads, except the tools and the speed of transmission. In the past, people with a large network of friends, acquaintances, and relatives, and a storage well of trust, could influence a lot of people.


Now anyone with a webcam can generate an opinion tsunami. A kid in Bulgaria can spread ideas, good or bad news, jokes, memes, or fashions—worldwide—faster than you can say "viral." One blog with a big audience can bring down a Fortune 100 company's stock.

While corporations, agencies, and self-proclaimed social media marketers are debating the relative merits of listening to their customers, the customers already are on blogs, in consumer opinion sites, in social networks, on IM, and face to face... sharing their opinions about these same products and services.

The big bucks spent on traditional advertising and PR, online and offline, are nowhere near as likely to influence sales and reputation as what friends, family and coworkers say about something you are considering buying.

Communication isn't a fad

People young and old use these tools and pass along information in a casual way because this way of spreading information is now part of the culture.

Yet corporations are still expecting that a static Web site with no feedback mechanism, banner advertising, multimillion-dollar Super Bowl ads, top-down messages, and over-saturated search engine advertising will pass for communication. Then they wonder why their marketing doesn't drive sales.

A company that has open channels of communications that include social media tools has the opportunity to interact with the influentials. But they need to speak in a human voice, to answer and ask questions, to provide information.

Because in a crisis, only a company with open lines of communication can be heard. And only those companies that participate in social media will have the opportunity to be heard and perhaps believed.

The value of a network?

One of the big concerns of CMOs, CEOs, and CFOs (besides that they're about to lose their jobs) is that people will say something bad about the company in social media. And that's true, they will, if there is something bad to be said. But more often than not altruism drives word-of-mouth. And, of course, those same social networks can help a CMO or CEO find a job, too.

The more people a company can reach who already have strong social networks, the more likely the company can spread a message through those networks—if the company was already a trusted member of the community.

As Chris Brogan recently pointed out on Twitter, "The value of a network? Being able to reach out and ask questions. The price? Being there to help when you can." Networks also provide early warnings of problems, and give members a chance to respond and discuss solutions.

Social media provides the long-term opportunity for companies to be interesting, or amusing, or helpful, or serious about something their clients are serious about. That becomes an opportunity to listen and to change—and to become the topic of dinner-table and water-cooler conversation.



B.L. Ochman is a social media marketing strategist for S&P 500 companies, including McGraw Hill, IBM, Cendant, and American Greetings. She publishes What's Next Blog and Ethics Crisis, where readers can confess their worst ethics transgressions and others can rate them on a scale of one to ten. She also blogs for MarketingProfs Daily Fix Blog.

How to Keep Up With Social Media: 'Think Liquid' Applied

by Geoff Livingston

Note: This article is an amended excerpt from the book Now Is Gone.

Regardless of technological change, the future of social media will be dictated by the community's rapid adoption of new media forms.

Change occurs dynamically in online communities as new applications develop. Though behavior has changed, relationships must be maintained. That means marketers must be flexible moving forward.

At any one time there seem to be hot social media networks and technologies. Whether it's Facebook or Mahalo or another social network du jour, marketers will be faced with the consistent challenge of finding new ways to use media forms to engage the community.

Like water, the marketer must move with the community and learn the newest technology's impact on communications. And, like water, this type of activity follows the path of least resistance.

It's important to note that as "webolution" continues marketers should avoid getting bedazzled by hot media forms. We've seen them come and go. Excite, Prodigy, AOL, Friendster, MySpace (fading, but still relevant) and increasingly Yahoo are brands of the past.

These passing technologies demonstrate that professionally we cannot get too focused on specific technologies. Why? Because they will evolve, change, and in some cases disappear.

Thinking Liquid in a Dynamic Environment

Marketers are better served by liquid fluidity in their thought processes and approaches. That way they can adapt to sudden changes and new, hot technologies as social media continues its march forward. As this natural process continues to unfold over time and communities evolve, their information needs and consumption of media will evolve, too.1

With increasingly diverse and changing marketing environments, successful marketers will focus on social media principles rather than tactics. Basic social media principles can serve as guidance no matter the environment.
By relying on principles and using fluid approaches to meet the media form, marketers can best serve their communities of interest over time. Those who cannot or won't play by the principles of social media risk irrelevance because they will not be able to adapt to change.

The following Seven Principles of Social Media Communications are discussed throughout Now Is Gone:

-Relinquish message control.
-Honesty, ethics and transparencies are musts.
-Participation within the community is marketing.
-Communication to audiences is an outdated 20th century concept.
-Build value for the community.
-Inspire your community with real, exciting information (personality, genuine outreach, etc.).
-Intelligently manage media forms to build a stronger, loyal community.

Collectively, those are the basic rules for successful social media marketing and PR. One thing that is clear throughout these principles is that marketing communications and PR are about building relationships with the community as a whole, and with individual members.

These seven principles enable intelligent conversational marketing within a wide variety of social media forms. If companies put them first, they will be able to adapt to their communities' needs. The results that companies are looking for are the natural byproduct of engaging with communities, on the communities' terms.

Examples of Thinking Liquid

Goodwill

Goodwill of Greater Washington loves its blog, its social-media-engaged fashion show, and the dialogue it has created with the vintage-clothing industry. Goodwill wanted to serve its readership with more than a blog, and with the show endeavored to create an online event. Months later, the local outreach effort receives more than 1000 unique visitors weekly and its shopper conversion rate is 4.5%.2 Even better, national media outlets like CNN, Good Morning America and the Washington Post have discovered Goodwill's online fashion show, turning it into a national phenomenon.

SMR and Ford

The Social Media Release (SMR) was a concept started two years ago by PR 2.0 mavens Todd Defren and Brian Solis. The form took on several iterations and has been experimented with by several marketers. But Ford Motor Company and its agency the Social Media Group (SMG) has take the SMR to a new level for various products like the Ford Focus and F150. Ford's innovations in the SMR include a new storyboard approach, which focuses less on the possible conversation value of social media press releases and more on catalyzing content creators to take parts and develop their own content. It also assumes that some readers will want to engage in certain media forms, and not all of them. Also, the revised SMR delivers "digital snippets of information."3

The resulting smorgasbord of social media creates easily digestible "snacks" allowing for consumption by reader choice.4 Rather than issuing the SMR with their media on the wires, Ford and SMG are leveraging existing social networks like Flickr and YouTube to ensure they provide easily access to content from a variety of ways. Ford's social PR effort is truly liquid.

ACDSee

A company that provides image management software, ACDSee uses a hybridized version of social and traditional web media to engage its community. ACDSee community manager Connie Bensen says that once community members are engaged, through the blog, the company uses live webinars to demo products. The company's evangelist team works with prospects with live comments enabled. In one case, 100 attended, 90 percent of whom did not own ACDSee's products, and 173 questions were asked.5

***

As these brief examples show, the discussion on corporate social media needs to be more than just about ethics and conversation methods. In many ways, these represent the rules of engagement and forms of interaction, respectively.

But most organizations need to truly engage their community in a manner that fits their stakeholders media consumption needs. Tactical social media outlets should never determine marketing strategy and outreach; the community should. Remember, Think Liquid.

Endnotes:

1Kyle Flaherty, "My Six Truths on Social Media," Engage in Pr, July 12, 2007.

2Ylan Mui, Washington Post, "Goodwill's New Look: Cheap Can Also Be Chic," October 29, 2007.

3Maggie Fox, Social Media Group, "The Social Media Press Release," January 21, 2008.

4Jeremiah Owyang, "Do You Respect Media Snackers? Tell me why," The Web Strategist, October 24, 2007.

5Connie Bensen, "The Value of Real Time Interaction & Webinars," My Conversations, November 2, 2007.



Geoff Livingston is the author of Now Is Gone: A Primer on New Media and CEO of Livingston Communications (www.livingstonbuzz.com). He blogs at the Buzz Bin (www.livingstonbuzz.com/blog/). Reach him via geoff [at] livingstonbuzz [dot] com.

12 Global Small Business Trends to Watch in 2008

by Laurel Delaney

Small businesses are the heart and soul of our world entrepreneurial economy. They create, inspire, and fundamentally change people's lives.

In the United States, we keep nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit—a force that built America—and people from all over the world, rather than offering criticism, are engaging in the highest form of flattery: imitation.

We must be doing something right!

Let's take a look at 12 global small business trends to watch in 2008—trends that can be embraced by any culture and will add value to any nation.


1. Embrace the world

Small businesses will embrace the world and make globalization come true. When there is nowhere to grow, branching out globally offers a wealth of opportunity, including rapid expansion.

2. Export like mad

Small businesses will discover that a weak US dollar offers an exciting, challenging, and fantastic chance to export. It makes all American goods a flashing blue light special. As a result, small businesses will start to export like mad. Their mandate in 2008 will become "Go forth and export!"

3. Do whatever it takes

Small businesses will do whatever it takes to survive—good times or bad—and going global will be the ticket to thrive. For most entrepreneurs, decisions throughout the year will be made fast, and living with the consequences will be a fact of business life.

Globalization 3.0 will be driven not by the folks in India or China but by budding "born global" entrepreneurs and small businesses taking their businesses global from anywhere.

4. Adopt the outsider lens

Small businesses are good at adopting an insider lens when making judgments while immersed in a situation. Soon, though, small businesses will adopt the outsider lens, which involves removing or detaching oneself from a situation and establishing a realistic understanding of the risks involved.

This is a cleaner lens and is more useful in doing business with the world, especially when one must be sensitive to so many different cultures.

5. Disturb the status quo

Small business will not settle for the ordinary, or for establishing rules, because they have things to accomplish. They will break rules and disturb the status quo to overcome obstacles and achieve brilliant results.

6. Lead the way

Small businesses will continue to lead the way in global trade. They typically generate 29 percent of the US export sales in a given year, and in 2005 they accounted for nearly $300 billion of the $906 billion generated by all US exporters.

Doing what's right and what matters will empower small businesses to stay the course of international expansion, even if analysis might point to a different path.

7. Prove global small business is the real deal

Global small businesses are the real deal, and they will prove it by continuing to deliver results across borders—leaving people and businesses better off than they were before.

The ideas they promote and profit from are authentic and are based on the genuine needs and desires of consumers worldwide.

8. Set priorities

Small businesses will align their goals for going global with their passion. They will set a few priorities (one being going global) and will charge on until results are achieved. They will become a world powerhouse of productivity.

9. Invest in collaborative innovation

Small businesses will realize that innovation is the fundamental driver of economic opportunity, greater globalization, job creation, improved business competitiveness, and thriving.

Social networking and media are merely the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to technology, anyone with a good idea, anywhere in the world, can now launch it in a heartbeat and for relatively little expense.

More collaborative innovation will take place this year, with further emphasis placed on orchestrating resources, reaching outside of an organization for new ideas, and fostering interaction, whether it involves your own participation or not.

10. Push forward

Small businesses will push forward to passionately engage their entire organization and their constituents, but they also will pay attention to managing the push-and-pull of interactions. This is an area where we will not have much control. Get used to it.

Prepare to use the Internet as an effective tool to create market pull by raising your company's profile and getting other people to talk about it. Push forward to build Internet share, which is critical for success, rather than mindshare.

11. Forget about size

It doesn't matter (unless you are talking about an entrepreneur's dream—and if that is the case, then dream big). With powerful software and outsourced processes, small businesses can go head to head with large companies.

More than ever, small businesses have the advantage over large companies: Small businesses are adaptable, flexible, resilient, maneuverable, and more global.

12. Ensure knowledge sharing

Small business owners will begin to foster knowledge-sharing across disciplines, making the ups and downs of the organization more transparent to all. Cooperation and sharing of ideas typically promotes the best possible results. This belief will encourage continuous improvement and high achievement in 2008.



Laurel Delaney (LaurelDelaney.com) is the founder of GlobeTrade.com and the creator of "Borderbuster," an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog. She can be reached at ldelaney@globetrade.com.

Web 2.0 Politics: What Brands Can Learn From the 2008 Presidential Campaigns

by Robert F. Hogeboom

"The Internet community is wondering what its place in the world of politics is." Howard Dean, 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate, Wired Magazine, January 2004

If the Internet community didn't know what its place in the world of politics was back in 2004, it most certainly does today.

Its "place" is to actively engage politicians and fellow citizens in conversations, promote candidates, help with campaign fundraising and educate other voters about particular candidates and issues—all through the use of new social-media tools that are vital to a candidate's overall marketing strategy.

Consider, for example, the most recent viral marketing sensation on the Web: an inspirational political music video titled "Yes We Can," starring presidential candidate Barack Obama and using lyrics base on a speech he delivered on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.

Its popularity (over 13 million views to date) is largely attributed to its authenticity. Acting without any involvement from the Obama campaign, a popular hip-hop artist created the video in an effort to influence voters to choose Obama in 2008, and he opted for the largest online video site, YouTube, as his distribution platform. While the Obama campaign was not involved in the making of the "Yes We Can" video, it actively encouraged Web users to spread it across the Net.

Such citizen participation through social media is playing an important role in the 2008 presidential race and is a markedly different campaign strategy than in 2000 and 2004. In past elections, campaigning on the Web consisted primarily of one-dimensional candidate Web sites featuring a combination of news, biographical information, and online donation functionality.

Today, by contrast, campaigns don't just have a Web presence—they have a Web 2.0 presence. Campaign managers are taking advantage of the Web's recent evolution to a more social and participatory medium (dubbed "Web 2.0") and leveraging new social-media tools such as social networks, blogs, social video sites, embeddable widgets, and more to reach millions of voters and engage them in the political process.

This shift in the political use of the Web from merely meeting voters' informational needs to providing them with community, connections, interactive and participatory features, and viral tools reflects current online marketing practices within the private sector. Consumer brand marketers have been actively experimenting with social-media marketing tactics and learning how they can be used to enhance the marketing communication process and, ultimately, influence consumers.

With the 2008 presidential race in full swing, brand marketers should start looking more closely at the political realm for creative uses and best practices of social-media marketing. Listed below are three key marketing opportunities for the use of new social media from a political vantage point.

1. Audience Reach

In December 2006, North Carolina Senator John Edwards announced his candidacy for the US presidency, not on national television but on the social video-sharing site YouTube, which has over 50 million US visitors per month.

Other politicians have followed Edwards's example and are now using YouTube to distribute campaign videos in hopes of reaching large audiences and making an intimate connection with them.

As audiences become even more fragmented because of an ever-increasing number of media choices, it is crucial for political candidates and consumer brands to access platforms that reach large segments of a target population. Popular social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook are prime examples of social-media destinations that allow politicians to reach millions of voters and connect with them in a forum of their choice.

A majority of the Democratic and Republican nominees have a presence on these social-networking sites, and their personal microsite pages take advantage of MySpace's and Facebook's ability to reach millions of voters and engage them through the sites' interactive features (see No. 3, below, for more details).

What is potentially even more intriguing for brand marketers are politicians' attempts to reach the electorate through a mobile access solution such as Twitter. This social networking and microblogging service allows users to receive short text updates via multiple sources, including mobile text messaging, from other Twitter users.

Barack Obama, for example, has a Twitter page that keeps fellow Twitter users updated on his campaign. Though he has fewer than 7,000 followers on Twitter, the service has the unique ability to bridge the communication gap between voters and candidates out on the campaign trail. From a consumer brand marketing perspective, Twitter represents a potentially powerful technology for marketers to reach consumers who have opted in to receiving marketing communications through their always-on mobile devices.

2. Viral Marketing

To reach exponentially larger audiences, politicians need more than just a presence on social media sites—they need audiences that will voluntarily share their political content with others, which can then result in its viral distribution.

As a prime example, the Obama campaign is now helping to foster the proliferation of the "Yes We Can" video through Facebook, where on Obama's profile page users are asked to post the video on their own personal Facebook pages for others to view. When this action occurs, an entire user's network of Facebook friends is informed, and viral marketing ensues.

Other presidential candidates are trying to harness the power of social-networking users' "social graph"—the network of connections and relationships among people on a particular site.

The social-media campaign for former Republican candidate Fred Thompson, for instance, included a viral fundraising strategy, which encouraged bloggers and other social-media users to add a small fundraising tool to their online presence. The tool included name and email address fields for visitors of that page to fill out and start the donation process.

Along the same lines, former Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani's official Web site included an embeddable news widget that Web users could place on their social media pages. The widget would constantly display up-to-the-minute news stories about Giuliani and his campaign.

By turning social media users into distributors of political content, campaigns can now reach an exponentially larger audience with messages and content—and those messages often have great influence because of their level of consumer advocacy. This concept also applies to the private sector: When brand marketers give consumers compelling social media tools that allow them to spread their enthusiasm for a particular brand, they can reach a significant amount of people on the marketer's behalf.

3. Brand/Campaign Engagement

One of the distinguishing characteristics of Web 2.0 social media is the way it allows users to interact with other people and various forms of media content.

As mentioned above, many of the 2008 presidential nominees have personal microsite pages on the leading social networks MySpace and Facebook. These interactive environments allow voters to become engaged in politics by posting comments, learning about other voters' enthusiasm for the candidate, and associating themselves with the candidate by adding them to their network of online friends.

The importance of providing voters with interactive social-media environments has clearly been taken to heart by Barack Obama's campaign. His ambitious Web 2.0 strategy includes a first-of-its-kind social network called MyBarackObama.com, which is similar to popular "friend-oriented" social networks. This online community allows users to create profiles, blog about the candidate and his viewpoints, send and receive messages with fellow supporters, and more.

This marketing strategy effectively brings both current and prospective Obama supporters together in an influential Web 2.0 environment that is controlled by the Obama campaign.

The Obama social network serves as a great example for brand marketers, who can develop their own brand-hosted Web 2.0 communities to give their customers a place to express their experiences with a brand and a community of consumers with which to share them.

* * *

Politicians have learned from decades of consumer marketing practices. In the last few years, the private sector has introduced the political realm to the power of Web 2.0 social-media marketing.

In today's hypercompetitive election, fueled by multimillion-dollar campaign budgets, politicians are heeding the lessons from the private sector and leveraging various social-media resources and tools to influence voters.

Marketers who are looking to dive into social-media marketing can in turn learn from the political realm's creative and successful applications of this new marketing strategy and should pay close attention to Web 2.0 social-media politics over the next eight months leading up to the presidential election.



Robert Hogeboom is a principal at BBP Marketing Group. He is the founder & managing director of nonprofit social-networking platform MyNonprofit.com and a part of the founding team of social-networking site Piczo.com. Reach him at Robert@BBP-Group.com.

Social Networking: If You Let Them Build It, They Will Come—The Story of Best Buy's BlueShirt Nation

by Albert Maruggi

Gary Koelling and Steve Bendt were about to become popular guys in the 140,000-employee Best Buy corporation. They led the effort to build an internal social-networking site.

Their objective was to obtain more information about customer likes and dislikes through the blue-shirt-wearing sales associates on the floor of the sprawling entertainment and appliance retail giant. This information would help Best Buy create more effective advertising. "If you get a decent problem to solve, you can make decent advertising," Koelling said.

Bendt conducted in-person interviews with sales associates, a process that produced great information but was time-consuming and not very scalable.

The mission: replicate the real-world experience online, make it scalable, and dig up more good information.

Koelling, a self-described journalist with little technology development knowledge, started working with an open-source content management tool called Drupal (www.drupal.org).

Little did they know that their internal social network (not too long ago, these were called intranets) for communication and collaboration was about to give them a whole lot more than they originally desired. One of the lessons learned: When you provide a forum for conversation, be ready for anything.

Listen, Provide, Learn

Getting contributions from your community and encouraging interaction are critical elements of an internal corporate Web site. If people don't use the site, you have a corporate platform that, according to Bendt, "sucks."

After the first version of the BlueShirt Nation social platform, as it was called, Bendt and Koelling were told by a handful of beta users that it needed some work. Koelling was a bit more descriptive: "They said it was ugly, dry, and it's boring."

Bendt said they learned that if you want people to use a "social" site, you need to be open to their participation in building the site. You see, social sites are not about the people or company that builds the site; they are completely about the people who are intended to use them.

Those users represented the Best Buy "blue shirts," usually "early twenty-somethings" who were candid about what they wanted and how the site should act. This is a generation that is cynical of marketing gimmicks and corporate "feel-good" programs and quick to share opinions with you—or with the world via YouTube.

The retail industry has a huge employee turnover rate: 40-60 percent. By incorporating user input in developing BlueShirt Nation, Best Buy was able to create a meaningful experience that is helping to reduce employee turnover: The rate for employees who use BlueShirt Nation is 8 percent.

By intently listening to the users during small-group evaluations of each early version of the site—these meetings were called "hack slams"—BlueShirt Nation became an open, fun, welcoming environment that stimulated discussion.

"We found out real fast that our idea of how this was going to be structured, coming out of a one-to-many-paradigm, got turned upside down," Koelling said of these "hack slams." "It wasn't about what we thought it was going to be about. It was about what the users thought it was going to be about. They basically told us what they wanted, 'and if you want us to participate, build it like this.'"

That shift in mindset—away from being a corporate-mandated, brand-dictated site to being more reflection of the users' desires—is the most significant change since the first iteration of BlueShirt Nation.

Some 18,000 Best Buy employees now use the online community, ranging from on-the-floor sales associates to senior management. Bendt says floor employees have developed a direct connection with managers and corporate leaders that would have been impossible without BlueShirt Nation.

Innovative Leaders and a Culture Willing to Act

Both Bendt and Koelling agreed that they benefited from managers who allowed them to experiment. Sure, the two had an objective, but they could not predict the outcome and the type of reception their concept would receive. They needed a management team willing to discover the innovation potential of their employees by building a forum for open communications.

In the case of BlueShirt Nation, Bendt and Koelling did obtain information about customers' likes and dislikes, but a greater benefit was the interaction among employees that is helping improve Best Buy.

The open forum of BlueShirt Nation also produced conversations about improvements to the employee email policies, the customer service process, and the employee discount program. Communication is fluid.

Having a corporate culture willing to listen and make changes is a major ingredient to achieving companywide success.

"People feeling that they are being listened to is key to getting more users," Bendt said.

Early site design changes that made the site more casual and conversational, raised by BlueShirt Nation users early on in the process, stimulated greater participation on the network.

Koelling says he believes corporate culture will change slightly after employees gain access to communication with each other, especially up and down the corporate ladder. The hierarchical structure in a corporation is useful, but this new media shifts the center of ownership somewhat toward the users. The result of such movement is greater buy-in of the overall objectives of the company.

"Corporations are in business to make money," Koelling said. "However, there are a lot of voices out there that could contribute to that end goal...that might not get a chance to participate in the typical hierarchical structure."

The practices developed at BlueShirt Nation can be replicated at other companies, internally and externally. The following actions are cornerstones to most social-network strategies:

Allow intended users to contribute to building and shaping the platform.
Demonstrate active listening to the conversations.
Create a flexible process to evaluate ideas and implement those that gain a consensus.
Identify a management champion who provides time and flexibility to innovate.


Albert Maruggi is a senior fellow of the Society for New Communications Research and host of the Marketing Edge podcast (www.providentpartners.net/blog). He is also founder and president of PR and social-media consulting firm Provident Partners. Reach him via amaruggi@providentpartners.net.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

18 Strategies and Tools for Naming Your Business or Product

by Scott Trimble

Naming. Doesn't matter what you're naming—your product, your business, your Web site or heck, even your child (which happens to be my current project), your choice is important. Below, you'll find a flock of ideas, strategies, and tools to make your name discovery a little easier.

Through researching and writing this article, I tried to make name discovery a point-by-point affair. I've also noticed that most, if not all, of the articles and reports I've read over the years do the same. Start here, end there, do this and don't do that.

Lemme tell you, though, that it's not nearly that cut and dry. The process of naming is anything but linear.

There is NO chronological set of events that promise to lead you to naming perfection.

There is NO set of naming principles you must adhere to.


Sure, there are certain guidelines and ideas that are good to keep in mind, but I promise you that there's an exception to every rule. (Successfully branded, wildly popular—and, by all standards, bad—names abound.)

The process of naming also has its idiosyncrasies. Sometimes you'll set out to name a new product and the perfect name will be hanging there, right out in front of you, just waiting to be snatched out of thin air. Other times, you'll mull for days, agonizing over the details of your product, entering in hundreds or thousands of options to your registrar with nothing sounding "just" right.

So, given the interesting and often inconsistent nature of naming, I've decided to divide this article into "considerations." That is, instead of giving you a chronological chart of action points from which you'll undoubtedly stray, or assigning you a set of naming commandments that are anything but set in stone, I've outlined a collection of methods, ideas and strategies that you should simply consider.

(You'll find the more basic ideas in the beginning with more meaty stuff following.) So, let's get the fast ones out of the way first…

Consider this: The basic stuff

-Be easy to pronounce and spell.
-Make it memorable.
-Don't pigeonhole yourself (being too specific in the naming of your company or product [example: Dave's 256k Flash Drives Inc. or Portland Flooring Inc.] can hinder growth later).
-Go easy on the numbers.
-Don't use names that could have a negative connotation in other languages (Baka Software Inc. sounds OK in the US, but won't fly in Japan).
-Stay away from negative connotations.
-Make sure your name doesn't alienate any group (race, religion, etc.)
-Search for existing trademarks on potential names.
-Make sure that the domain is available or purchasable in the aftermarket. Use your favorite registrar or use a bulk domain checker (I've outlined one below).

Consider this: Domain availability

Domain availability is possibly the biggest hang-up to ever happen to naming. Sure, you can come up with great potential names, but can you come up with great potential domains that are available?

I won't spend much time on this because it's pretty simple. If you're creating a name for a product or business that will require a .com, be patient, keep trying, and you'll start to get a feel for names that are more likely to be available than others. I've also listed some tools below that will help immensely with this.

Consider this: Focused brainstorming

Every book out there prescribes brainstorming. However, instead of just sitting back and trying to come up with ANY words that describe your business, focus your brainstorming to answering a set of questions.


Answer each by making as long of a list or words and phrases as you possibly can. Remember, the longer and more abstract your list, the better off you'll be. So go wild...

-What does your product do?
-What does your industry do, what's its purpose?
-What is your product's benefit to the consumer?
-What will happen for them?
-What will they get?
-What are the "ingredients" that go into your product or service?
-How are you different from the competition?
-What makes you unique?
-What's the lingo in your industry? What are the expressions that are unique to your offering and business?
-Add your own to the list, as you see fit.

Consider this: Synonym search

It's pretty simple, really. Take every one of the words you brainstormed above and plug them into a thesaurus, like Thesaurus.com (thesaurus.reference.com). Run through each entry, keeping the words you like, trashing the ones you don't. Put these into a new list, paying attention to name possibilities.

Consider this: Word combining + a cool name-combining tool

After you've done some focused brainstorming and/or a synonym search, try word combining. Pop ALL of your words into a word combiner like My Tool (www.my-tool.com/word-domain/word-picker/), tweak its settings to reflect what you want it to show, and combine.

Depending on how many words you put into the system, you may get a massive list returned to you. To weed through them quickly, you can then hit the button at the bottom and check each domain for availability.

Consider this: Name and word lists to get your juices flowing

Plenty of great product, company, and Web site names have their roots in other, irrelevant names. Look up "list of ______" in Google and you'll get more than you can handle:

-Geologic periods
-Fruit or food names
-Types of dinosaurs
-Kinds of rocks
-Latin or Greek roots
-Place names
-Historical figure names
-Zoological names
-Botanical names
-Math or Engineering terms
-Astronomical terms
-Animal, fish, or bug names
-Think about this abstractly also. If your product is new and unique, what foods or plants have fresh connotations? And so on.

Consider this: Punning and plays on words

I just tried a new beer recently specifically because of its name. It was called Tricerahops, a double IPA made by Ninkasi Brewery. Quite a beer, incidentally. But check out how you can create a name like that.

Cruise your focused brainstorm and synonym lists for words that describe/define your product. In this beer example, we might find hops—one of the main ingredients in beer. Then, we can look through lists of animals, foods, places, etc and see if we get any good combinations, where the words fit seamlessly. In this case, they chose the dinosaur name "Triceratops" and simply changed one letter. Here's an even easier way of doing it…

Consider this: Groovy word tool

Use this More Words tool (www.morewords.com) and search for any words that contain ____ . You can search for anything—search for words that contain "top," or words that have a double "e." Virtually any sound or letter combo you want to find in a word, this site will do it for you.

Consider this: Meaningful or not?

(Example: Dave's Rocket Repair Inc. has meaning, Simble Inc. does not.)

Some say creating a name with built-in meaning is a must—new companies or products need to seem familiar and safe. Others say non-meaningful names are the best— the name is completely yours, free of meaning (which you can then define); plus, newly coined word names connote innovation.

The jury, as they say, is out. Some things to keep in mind though:

Newly coined words CAN convey meaning. The most championed of these may be Acura, which was formed from the morpheme "Acu" and finishing with suffix "ra." Acu as a root connotes accuracy or precision, which fits nicely for a luxury car line.

The creator of the Acura name (Ira Bachrach of NameLabs) is purported to have a list of thousands of combinable morphemes. I, as of yet, have not found such a list. If you happen to run across one, I'd love to see it. : )

Consider this: A truly killer naming tool

Word Lab (www.wordlab.com) and specifically this page: Word Lab Tools (www.wordlab.com/tools/t_index.cfm).

This Web site I consider to be one of the single most powerful naming tools out there. With an absolutely massive list of company names, a morpheme name creator, name builder, and so on, this site is the juggernaut of idea generators. Every time I'm naming something new, I use this site.

Consider this: Metaphorical naming (some powerful stuff)

I call it metaphorical or lateral naming; but no matter what you call it, it's a branch from the focused brainstorm, and often the coolest names come from this method. It'll take a more creative, abstract frame of mind, so whatever you need to do to break out of your linear comfort zone, do it.

So, after you've changed into your tie dye and stared at your Led Zeppelin poster for a while, grab your focused brainstorm. Here we're going to center on the question "What does your product, business or industry do?" You're going to sequentially take each of the words and phrases you came up with, and come up with other things in life that do these things too.

Let me repeat (or rewrite, as it were) that. You're going to take what your business does, and come up with other things in life that do the same thing. Make a list of everything you come up with. Here is an example:

I have a software company, and our newest product's function is to copy files (pretty high-tech, I know). So I ask, "What else in life copies things?"

-A copier—too logical.
-A cell—might work, but a little "out there."
-A mime—A HA!
-Why not call the new software product... Mime.

Here's another:

My marketing company helps its clients voices get heard above the competition's. So, what else gets voices heard or makes things louder?

-A bullhorn.
-A volume dial.
-An Amplifier—A HA!
-Why not call the company Amplify Interactive (happens to be a real company here in Portland). Volume Media wouldn't be bad, either.

Consider this: Misspellings

Misspellings of commonly used words can get you in familiarity's proverbial backdoor. Example—netflix.com. It's familiar, short, and you instantly know what they do. Though, if looking for an available domain, you'll have to use some fancy combinations because common misspellings are already registered.

Consider this: Industry lingo

Each industry has its lingo, and you may have noticed that many taglines come from such lingo... or, more distinctly, from words and expressions that are used by your consumers.

For example, I've just developed the perfect fish hook. It never, and I mean never, lets a fish go. A common expression in fishing when you feel a fish take your bait is "Fish on." This great expression, combined with something else, might make a nice tagline for my fail-safe hook. How about "Fish on ... never off."

Consider this: Ask your friends, but...

Ask your friends' opinions, but take them with a grain of salt. First of all, your pool of test subjects is probably pretty small, leaving your results (ratio of yays to nays) with little accuracy.

Second, consider whether your friends are in your target market. If they're not, they may not "get" a name that might be perfect for your market.

Finally, people in general side with what's familiar. Finding your Web site, seeing an advertisement, or having a friend suggest your product can have the unique ability of making your product's name sound good. The name or names that you ask your friends to grade won't have the benefit of such an advantage.

Consider this: How is the competition named? What are the trends?

I've made the mistake (like an idiot, I might add) of not checking my competition first, before creating a name, only to find out the name I created is just like a competitor's. Time wasted.

Now, my general rule is to find out how my competitors are naming themselves and simply be different. Stepping out of the box is always a bit of a gamble, so make sure you're different in what will be seen as a positive way.

Consider this: Name rhyming

Rhymed names are memorable and can work, as long as they're not too cute or overboard. Rhyme Zone (www.rhymezone.com) is fantastic for finding words that rhyme. More Words can also be good for this.

Consider this: Web 2.0 name generators

I'll be honest, they're generally crap. I've used this one, Web 2.0 Name Generator (benjamin.hu/w2namegen.php), but found that, for the most part, they return relatively useless gibberish.

If you have a few extra minutes, though, try popping some of your synonyms into the interface and see what it comes up with. At the very least, it might give you some ideas and get your wheels turning.

Consider this: Don't put too much stock in your name

They're certainly important, but naming can also be over-emphasized. There are plenty of highly successful businesses and products out there with bad names. So, take your naming, like your friends' opinions, with a grain of salt. And, as with everything, the more you stress about obtaining perfection, the less likely you'll come up with that killer name that seamlessly fits your offering.



Scott Trimble is a managing partner of Halfagain LLC, a Portland, Oregon based search and affiliate marketing software producer. He blogs at www.halfagain.com.

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