Working a Networking Event

As much as I do like going out to meet ups and local events, I’m terrible at networking for my business. I suppose I should follow tips like this but it just doesn’t feel like me.

By nature I’m not pushy, I figure that my work and clients will speak for themselves. I do good work and the right people will hear about it. So far I have plenty of work and keep getting better and better clients. That’s one of the signs that whatever I’m doing (or not doing) is working in some fashion.

That doesn’t mean I should not network better though. I could be missing out on opportunities to grow the business even.

Anyone else have trouble pushing their business at networking events? How have you made it work? Does it feel natural now, or unnatural now?

Getting Your Freelance Business to Succeed

When looking at becoming a Freelancer (yes I dislike that term but it’s understood) you need to make sure that you have a marketable skill. Design, development, photography, writing, all translate easy to a marketable skill. Even if you have that skill there is something way more important to have or you’re not going to make it.

Marketing Savvy! Yup I said marketing which is sort of a four letter word in my dictionary.

I know 2 awesome photographers that have tried and failed to get a business off the ground all because they were bad at the marketing part. I know one marginal programmer with a great business, because he is good at marketing. It certainly doesn’t seem fair that the photographers I know can’t get a business going while a marginal programmer does well but that’s the way the cookie crumbles (name that movie).

I must admit that I’m only okay with the marketing part, at least as far as lead generation goes. Once I’ve talked to someone I normally get the work, but getting people to talk to me I find hard. Almost all of my work comes through referrals now and referrals are golden usually.

If there was one thing I could say to people starting a new business as a freelancer, it would be to take a marketing course and really dedicate yourself to marketing your business.

Getting Customers for a New Product

I’ve mentioned before that I have a product in the works so I’m obviously interested in how to get customers for it. While there are a number of good tips in the article a few seem off base, or at least shady.

Build a network of landing pages that target various other long tail keywords in a subdirectory on your site. The goal is to target keywords that you can rank for quickly.

Kind of seems misleading to customers and possibly to search engines. I’d rather see a blog where you can target the keywords with relevant content. Later they say not to use blog posts because they are not focused on selling, which is absolutely correct. There is no reason that you can’t have a ‘sell’ beside the blog post or in the middle of it. It’s certainly a hard balance to strike, you don’t want to piss people off with all the selling but you certainly want to make money with your product.

The post also recommends you install live chat.

The end goal isn’t to sell visitors on anything right now. In fact you may not even have anything to sell. The goal is to find and engage with them. Live chat will let you accomplish this. We’re big fans of Olark but there are other tools like Snap Engage and Zopim that provide similar functionality.

I’ve been at a few businesses that have a live chat widget on the page and they were never able to staff it in any meaningful way. Before you add live chat make sure that you can have someone on it for a reasonable amount of a business day.

Anyone have other suggestions to get people purchasing your product?

Cars with no Tires Eh?

Cars with no tires
Cars with no tires

The Setup

You don’t make sure you new car comes with the tires because it would be absurd to sign the paperwork and come outside to your new car up on blocks. It’s a general expectation that cars come with tires.

Why then do we put clients in that situation with websites? Take a new static website. The client only needs a few pages and the content only changes once a year so a full CMS is just a bit silly. While it might not be spelled out one would think that if you typed or you would get the same site. Now as web people we know that in fact this is not the case. Most servers would view those locations as two totally different sites. Your SEO value would be split. On top of that some broswers have trouble resolving the difference between those two locations so may return that the site doesn’t exist.

I can only speak for myself here but in my opinion the scenario outlined above is like buying a car with no tires. I don’t sell websites without taking that basic level of setup into account and making sure it works. When clients, who have been ‘tricked’ before, ask about simple functions like that I usually blink for a second and say ‘Of course I just considered that so basic I didn’t write it down. It’s just the way you do things. You don’t ask if the tires are included on a new car right?’ We then have a laugh and for their piece of mind I put it in writing

The Experience

Unfortunately that has not always been my experience in working with other companies and freelancers. I write this prompted by a situation very similar to the one outlined above. No I didn’t make sure that you would redirect to but the site doesn’t work in IE right now or Safari or Chrome so it’s kinda broken. Wait you want to charge me for that? Really? You want to charge me extra to deliver a site that functions in web browsers? Hmm I guess I should have made sure the tires were included.

The Perspective

I suppose I may provide a level of service that others don’t. When I install WordPress for a client I setup SEO plugins and backup plugins and add Google Analytics if they don’t have it. I don’t specifically mention those things because that’s just how you build WordPress sites. Or at least that’s just how a good responsible developer builds WordPress sites.

The Rule

I suppose the end of this rant comes down to the fact that unless the client forces me I don’t provide functionality that I myself would not be happy with. If a client wants a blog it’s obvious that they would want a way to manage comments, catch spam, sanitize data, have good SEO, and keep the site backed up. I wouldn’t even ask if those were requirements since I would never live with a blog that didn’t have those items included.

If they want a static site they would obviously need 301 redirects in place. I wouldn’t ask if they wanted it because it’s just not how professional developers build websites.

The Question

So I suppose I have a question for anyone reading this. Am I right? Are items as I describe above things that just come with a website for your clients or do you charge extra? Who knows maybe I’m just too nice and honest and will end up shutting down as more and more items fall into the area I consider just the right way to do things.

Contribute to the Link Economy?

You are reading a blog post (profound I know) and staple of blog posts is to cite other sources via links. Like when I wrote “You Might Need a Redesign if…”. In that post I linked to Niki Brown’s Ugly Website competition.

So why did I do that? Well ultimately Niki had content that was relevant to my post so I linked to her site. What does it mean to provide a link to her site though? Honestly it means that I endorse Niki and her content. Yeah that is what I said. Providing a link to someone else’s site says that you endorse that content.

The Rub

Here is the problem, or at least the potential for problem. What if I did not know Niki and did not interact with her on a regular basis? Do I go back and continually verify that her content align’s itself with the overall goals and marketing strategy of my business? If something changes that makes her content objectionable to me I really should be removing the link.

The Reason

Really this came up for me as we talked about it at my full time job. I work for an organization and we walk a fine line with our predominantly older and and conservative constituents. Regardless of our internal beliefs some of our constituents are more or less traditional. We need to make sure that we provide good content without presenting information that might be objectionable to our constituents. We need to seriously evaluate not just the single page we are linking to but the overall content of the entire site.

On top of evaluating the current content we need to make sure that over time the belief’s and values of the organization remain consistent with our own. For us this means a lot of work.

The Point

I suppose the point is that when you link to a site make sure you do some sort of evaluation. You need to realize that any link you provide is basically saying you approve of the site and it’s content. So make sure you do.

The Disclaimer

I really like Niki. She was just used as a recent example. I never forsee a time when anything on her site would become objectionable to me. Just so I put that out there.

Twitter for Business

twitter for business
twitter for business

Where ever you look today you see that everyone is using social media and not just in their personal lives. Look around many of the big companies are using social media as well. Some do it well some do it poorly.

What is twitter for big business? It’s more than just a place to tweet about your accomplishments. People want to see the people inside the organization. They don’t want to be advertised at they want to create and nurture relationships with people inside the organization. They want to know someone on ‘the inside.’

The hard part for business is how do they utilize Twitter (and other social networks) while still maintaining their overall marketing plan? I recently talked with a religious ministry that acknowledges some of their constituents don’t approve of drinking so it would be inappropriate to tweet “Beer and burgers on the weekend yum yum.” So how do they let employees have a presence on Twitter to communicate while making sure that they are furthering the mission and goals of the organization?

The Separation

First off let’s separate personal and business twitter accounts. Yeah I know that the purpose of Twitter is to be personal but note the example above. There are lots of personal things that you may choose to share on Twitter that are not really appropriate to share as an employee tweeting with a business and really do you want your personal Twitter account to align with the companies marketing plan?

Second get some more generic business twitter accounts. What do you do when your lead developer leaves the business and lots of your clients were interacting with them? Do you loose all of the clients? If you didn’t part on good terms will they use it to damage your reputation? A more generic business Twitter account means you can switch who runs it if employee’s change.

The Plan

Third you need to have an established written plan or code of conduct for use of social media for work purposes. As with the example above some things just aren’t good to be discussing over work channels. To help avoid unfortunate slips write a clearly define do and don’t list for social media interaction. Yes you will probably have some times when things won’t go as planned but a well written clear plan will help mitigate those times.

The Summary

Yes business should be using social media. There are tonnes of benefits from client interaction, support, and relationship building. Don’t just jump into the social media realm. Create a clear concise plan, separate the work and personal social media chanels for employee’s, and create business related accounts. If you start out on the right foot above you are way farther down the path to success.

Google Conversion Optimizer

I attended a webinar on Google Conversion Optimizerrecently and had to write a summary for work that I thought I would share with everyone. I don’t profess to be an expert (that’s why I went) so if there are things I am missing let me know.

What is the Conversion Optimizer?

At it’s core the conversion optimizer helps you bid more effectively on adwords. It takes all of the info that gets generated by an adwords campaign and analyzes it all to adjust your bids on keywords for situations that bring better conversions for you.

Where Conversion Optimizer Shines

Regular adword campaigns allow you limit your campaigns by country, city, state or neighbourhood (though this IP detection is not always effective). Google Conversion Optimizer adds more to just that general segmentation. Over time conversion optimizer learns what regions, search strings… yeild better conversions for your site. As it learns what terms…have a higher conversion percentage on your site it adjust your average bids higher so that you come up more often for those things (note: you still set your maximum and it doesn’t go over that figure).

The example given int he presentation dealt with a surf shop that advertised for ‘surf board’ and for ‘ocean sports.’ As one would think they saw lots of good ROI on the term surfboard and some ROI on the term ocean sports. When they turned conversion optimizer on they saw a big increase in ‘ocean sports’ as the tool learned what types of sites to display the add on and what exact queries meant people were really looking for a surf shop. This fairly broad search term ended up having a very high ROI as conversion optimizer learned more and more when to feed their add out (with little increase in average payment for adds).

Some Caveats

As with anything that uses historical data to tailor results the bigger your data set the better the campaign is tailored. So over time you campaign could yeild more conversions for the same or lower pricing. Tieing in with this it was suggested that you just start a normal adwords campaign and after a number of weeks (no firm number mentioned) turn on the conversion optimizer.

You also can’t make large changes to your campaign and have the conversion optimizer maintain its effectiveness. You can add a few keywords and maybe take one or two out but when using conversion optimizer it is best to make changes slowly over time so that it stays effective. If you have to make large changes for a campaign it is best to turn off conversion optimizer make the changes let it run for a few weeks and then turn it back on.

Finally conversion optimizer requires that in the last 30 days you have had 30 conversions and that you have conversion tracking turned on. Now if your campaign regularly has 30 conversions in 30 days but for a period or two it drops to 24 (the number mentioned in the presentation) you should still be using conversion optimizer. It will still have a large data set from the other recent 30 day periods to act on.

Other resources I used when writing this post:

Just Fix the Problem Now Regardless of Cost

It would probably be a safe bet that you have a cell phone. It would also probably be a safe bet that at one point or another they have been less than stellar in their customer service. Whether it was billing or a DOA phone or dropping your message box it has happened. The worst part is not that is happens but that it takes them so long to fix the problem.

Personally I bought a new phone in August and have had all of the above. At one point it cost me over $3000 in lost work let alone the time I spent on the phone with Bell Canada. They have lost my message box, over billed me, and given me problems over a phone that didn’t work when I got it.

I am not a happy customer. I would not recommend their service. I will not buy a phone on contract again cause they essentially have my money garaunteed so they have no incentive to fix my problem.

This is totally contrary to how you want to deal with customers. We all know that word of mouth is the best way to get new clients or customers in the door. With the recommendation I gave above would you use Bell Canada? Probably not. The first time I called with a problem it should have been fixed the first time.

Blindly Good Customer Service

When I used to work sales the policy was that a happy customer would bring in their friends and their friends would purchase. I remember trading in for full value a 1 year old $4000 kayak that someone didn’t like. They had come in over the year to talk about the boat. We test paddled it with him gave him tips and he tried them all. At the end he sheepishly came back and said that it still wasn’t the right boat and we said okay let’s get you the right boat.

The Payoff of Lost Income

With surprise on his face he asked how much he would get for the old one and we said full price at time of sale. More astonished he bought a boat for himself and upgraded his wife’s boat. Two weeks later his friends came in and boat two boats.

That $1000 loss in value of selling a used boat returned $15,000 in sales so it was well worth it. So how do you go over and above to provide service to your clients? How do you make sure that they’re you biggest fans? Short term loss can win long term relationships.