Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Praise for a Sign-up Process and Experience: ShopIttoMe.com

It's not everyday that I encounter a site with a sign-up process that is easy to use, branded, and all around fun. In fact, one of my service offerings, the site review, includes testing such processes and finding room for improvement to increase lead generation and sales for small business clients. (You can also check out my handy recommended steps for reviewing your site yourself here.)

So . . . I am happy to post today about a site that does it right--ShopIttoMe.com. Here are some of the highlights (which can be adopted and adapted by your webmasters as well):

1. Users are motivated by a sense of accomplishment from the first step. On the sign-up page, the major heading (see below) reads "Your profile is 25% complete," although the user has done nothing but navigated to that screen. Pretty smart, huh?


2. Users know what they can expect in terms of process from the first step. The call-out box (above) reads: "It's as easy as (1) choose brands, (2) choose sizes, (3) enroll." Preparation and managing expectations are key in the user engagement process.

3. Users are told why certain fields are being required. The savvy addition of pop-ups (see below) that answer the question "Why?" builds trust and confidence for any skeptics and guards against the second-guessing that can lead to increased abandonment and bounce rates.


4. Users are educated about what's next in a simple, branded completion screen. Because a confirmation email is sent, users are directed to check their email (as well as their spam folder) and provided with instructions in case they don't receive an email within--get this!--a specified timeframe of 5 minutes. This language helps ensure complete follow-through at a stage where many can abandon. (No screen shot on this one.)

All in all, ShopIttoMe has a stellar user experience design for the sign-up process. If your processes need a boost,

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Are Your Online Customers Shopping or Dropping Off?

If you have an efficient e-commerce function on your site, you'll see it in the sales. If you don't, you'll see it in stats or read about it in an online review. As bloggers become citizen-journalists and attempt to inform and care for the communities they serve, they're openly praising and critiquing websites that make consumers' lives easier (or not).

For instance, The Budget Fashionista has a post that provides the pros and cons of major players' sites called The 15 Best Price Comparison Sites. It's worth a look . . . and then some introspection. Ask yourself how your site features and functionalities compare. If you have trouble with this analysis, don't despair. Here is a short article--Focus on . . . Website Improvement--to assist you. Oftentimes, a fresh perspective and a dedicated site review is what you need for a performing website.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"The Economy"

I am finally breaking down and talking about it. I have held out this long, believe it or not, without a single post about IT. But last night, I heard on NPR's Marketplace an interesting interview with Dan Ariely from Duke University (thanks Kai Ryssdal) about responses to the retirement savings plunge. My summary attempt is as follows:

Consumers may figure, with inability to earn money via stocks and bank earnings "not very helpful," they might as well spend vs. save . . and perhaps not be as concerned with cutting back on spending. In the larger picture, this is the best thing for the general economy and so we should all feel good about making spending decisions.

Before I go on, it should be noted that the only Econ class I took was in high school where I learned 2 things: (1) There's no such thing as a free lunch and (2) I could not maintain anywhere near the lifestyle I was used to on my assigned $27,900/year salary (in 1989) for our budget project.

Lack of formal economics education aside and from a marketing perspective, I think it's a hard sell. I think for many of us, spending that would match our savings is a far cry and would be too painful. However, with a catchy tune and a hot new vocalist behind it, we might be able to convince others to spend for their country, if not for themselves, this holiday season.

What are your thoughts? Are you ready to open your wallet for shopping and forego the 401(k) or any savings method altogether?

(P.S. Dan, I want to re-do your MIT website. It's cool but is it really helping your brand? I do love your Predictably/Irrational site, however, and enjoy your perspective. I plan to apply the results of your pricing research in client education methods; thanks for sharing it.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks for Your Business, Kindness, and Support

On the eve of Thanksgiving, as I rush around to prepare for my small family gathering, I just wanted to quickly post my thanks to friends, colleagues, and clients for entrusting me, helping me, and sending me the encouragement that I (and so many other entrepreneurs) need along the way. I am thankful for each and every professional experience because I know they all contribute to growth and innovation that ultimately allow my clients to reap the greatest benefit. Without getting too philosophical, I think it's fair to say that there is enough business for us all and I am grateful for others who, like me, believe in the power of referrals. I am thankful too for healthy competition across all industries which allows us to make buying decisions according to our individual values and preferences. There are many things I feel persoanlly thankful for, but I will save that for a different media. While I wish there were a day designated for wishes, as well as thanks, I will save my list of wishes for a future post . . .

I invite you to post your thoughts this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and their families!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Marketing Seminar in January 2009

It's never to early to start marketing. If you are thinking about developing a plan, already have media in place but need to nail down advertising, or anticipate writer's block in the future, this seminar is for you. Mark your calendar and register online:

Title: Writing Stellar Copy: A DIY Marketing Seminar
Type: In-person
Date/Time: Wed., Jan. 14, 2009 from 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Location: Arizona Small Business Association, Prosperity Room, 4130 East Van Buren, Suite 150, Phoenix, AZ
Cost: Free
Description: This seminar is for anyone who wants to take a "do-it-yourself" approach to writing ads, brochures, or any written marketing materials to effectively speak to their prospects and customers.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No website? No profile? No business!

Just a quick anecdotal post to convey the impact of not being found online. I am looking for an independent market research partner and keyword searches point primarily to LinkedIn profiles. "Great," I think, "I'll be able to see potential professionals' skills and contact them all in one shot!" Well, I found 3 perfect people--none of whom had links to a website with their contact information (read: they don't have websites!). I searched for them BY NAME using Google and still nothing! If they have no website (or no SEO in place) and no accessible profiles/directory listings online (with LinkedIn, Naymz, Xing, Guru, elance, facebook, myspace, etc.), how are clients finding them?

Social networking profile development and directory listings at least are no-cost ways to market so I can't fathom why everyone wouldn't create something! Further, why would someone restrict their full profile on LinkedIn or not be open to Introductions or InMail--unless they are so wealthy they don't need any business or so hermetic they don't even want to pass along business to people they know. (Incidentally, if you are ever looking for anyone to do anything, I am always happy to refer friends, collegaues, family, etc. I figure matching two people who can benefit from each other's knowledge or services is a good thing!)

Is there some downside to having a website (at least one page with your contact info) and/or profile that I missing?

P.S. If you know how to contact independent market researchers Patricia Cartier, Susan Katz, or Sheila Woods, tell them I'm looking for them.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Recommended Reading: The Elements of User Experience

Every once in a while I come across a resource that is so astute yet so easy to absorb that I want to shout about how wonderful it is--and that is how I feel about Jesse James Garrett's book, The Elements of User Experience.

In searching for a reliable, professional resource for the user-centered design of websites, I came across mention of--and many links for--this diagram called The Elements of User Experience (published 30 March 2000). I was a bit skeptical, I admit, but mostly because I expected many more authors on the subject who were (er, um) not necessarily consultants, as well as something more current.

Little did I know that it's the nature of the field since the web began. There seems to be relatively few experts at the macro-level and limited recognition or understanding of the user experience design field at-large among my network of designers and engineers. But after practically devouring his book, I am convinced Mr. Garrett is the guru.

From his clear breakdown of all that's involved and the division between two communities--technical software designers and information scientists--and their distinct terminologies and approaches, it's no wonder that we might be familiar with portions of the web development process and the titles of those who perform those functions (e.g., information architect, content developer, business analyst) as well as the outcomes (e.g., functional specification, sitemap, architecture diagram, wireframe, etc.) without really being able to understand the big picture.

Thank you Jesse James Garrett for pulling it all together! Your book is an incredible resource and one I highly recommend to anyone creating or revising their site . . . and your blog is pretty clever too. (The only thing I wish for is a glossary of all the terms should you or one of your known accomplices be up for the task!)

. . . And anyone who doesn't want to read the book can just hire me to assemble a team to apply the elements to their site in order to ensure happy users. :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I Wish I Coined This Term: "Founder's Syndrome"

If you've read my previous posts, you know that I sometimes coin my own terms, such as "URL Sprawl" and "Frienomenon." A colleague used a term the other day that, as much as I wish I could claim responsibility for, I cannot. Surprisingly enough, I have seen plenty of "Founder's Syndrome," but thought I was alone.

Thank you Carter McNamara for your excellent site, The Free Management Library(SM), and discussion of this term: http://www.managementhelp.org/misc/founders.htm.

Carter's definition is as follows:
"This syndrome occurs when, rather than working toward its overall mission, the organization operates primarily according to the personality of a prominent person in the organization, for example, the founder, board chair/president, chief executive, etc. The syndrome is primarily an organizational problem -- not primarily a problem of the person in the prominent position."

My response: Although the term is not meant to peg the founder as the problem, in my mind, any leader is ultimately responsible for organizational culture and change, as they set the example and the pace and should therefore empower others to act in the interest of the company's mission vs. respond to his/her personal preferences and moods.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Do You Need a Social Media Presence?

I've seen on LinkedIn and elsewhere questions about whether a start-up should market via social media such as YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, etc. My answer to any "should we" question is always, "if your ideal customers are there, yes." Pretty straight-forward and simple. But how do you know where your ideal customers are, aside from asking them? MarketingCharts highlights a new survey (The 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study) shows that the following groups in particular want to be reached (and marketed to) via social networks:

--Consumers aged 18-34 (one-third of respondents)
--Households with income of $75K+

In addition, a majority (2/3) of $75K+ households and households with 3+ members "feel stronger connections to brands they interact with online."

If this is your customer base, it's time to get social!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Section 1.4.2 from The Value-Based Fee Manifesto

"While the hourly fee allows the client to receive an estimate based on the amount of time the marketer will spend, the number is not written in stone. Furthermore, it is a variable that has the semblance of being an even exchange--hours for a task being completed--without respect to the importance of the task or how successfully the result meets the client need. In fact, if the results are off the mark, and more time must be spent to complete the project to the client's satisfaction, that time is billable. When a client selects a project fee, (s)he is not charged for additional time."

This is one reason why I create a custom proposal for each client that includes a project fee, not an estimate of how long it will take multiplied by an hourly rate.

What is your take on the subject?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Microsoft Strikes Back!

In its new TV ads (view here), Microsoft finally delivers its answer to the "coolness" factor, of which Apple has so deftly commanded ownership. By taking everday people and some huge celebs (Tony Parker, Eva Longoria, Deepak Chopra, and more), the Microsoft ad opens the range of Apple's proposed polarized user definitions. What can small business take away from this marketing effort? While perhaps competition is not as fierce, if someone is going for jugular in your industry, find the loophole in their logic. Address it after a period of reflection, but don't wait too long. It takes calm, calculated thinking to strike back in a meaningful way so assemble a good team of strategic thinkers. Now that Apple is on the defensive, it will be interesting to see what their next move is.

P.S. I'm not debating which product/platform is better, only exploring the brand strategies. In fact, the Microsoft ad isn't about the product but the people who use it, which is really at the heart of the Apple campaigns. If you have seen the movie "Thank You for Smoking," you might recall a scene where father and son debate about what ice cream flavor is better--chocolate or vanilla. Aaron Eckhart's character says, "If you argue correctly, you're never wrong." It's the same thing. Here's a trailer for the movie.
P.P.S. I don't think the intent is to sell more computers, oddly enough. It's simply about making PC owners feel good about their decision and shaping a better image which in the long run may prevent defection to Apple based on identity issues.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Learning from Failure

While there are many resources out there to tell the small business owner how to be successful as well as chronicles of success, we don't hear as much about failures in order to learn from them. (Unless of course they are huge in terms of impact and/or scandalous, such as Enron.) But what about the downward spiral of the off-the-radar businesses who make simple mistakes we can all avoid just by being aware of them? As I attempt to compile these, I was happy to find in my inbox today that someone has at least published a soundbyte about this called Five Dumb Mistakes. It is the Reach Group who has developed a "Free Agent Formula," and while I'm not a big fan of this type of thing usually, the article is worth reading at http://www.marketingprofs.com/small-business/index.asp?nlid=545&cd=dmo121&adref=NsbW398.

Although chasing rabbits (see previous post) didn't make the list, I can say that the first item--which I imagine happens when folks go into business just to escape the 9-to-5 by opening a franchise or buying into some MLM or affiliate marketing without loving what they do--is just as dangerous.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Inspiration

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Rabbit Hole

There's an article worth noting in Jacksonville's Business Journal by Ray Attiyah. His premise is that managers should not chase more than one "rabbit" at a time and he offers a very clear analysis based on experience of why organizations lose focus. I like that he draws to the surface a substantial list of contributing factors but wish he offered a clear-cut systematic plan to avoid chasing two rabbits—or even chasing one down its hole, only to disappear. So, here is the systematic plan that I'd like to offer to small business owners and executives who feel overwhelmed by frequent changes in direction and its compounding problems:

Step 1: Be willing to look squarely at the state of affairs. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to admit errors, bad decisions, barriers to success, market challenges, and customer complaints. If you can silence the ego long enough to examine the environment without blame or judgement, you can overcome any obstacles.

Step 2: Identify root causes (as hard as they may be to admit), again in a way that rises above finger-pointing and blame-laying. However, do not shy away from crucial conversations. Be honest with yourself and others.

Step 3: Make gradual steps toward improvement by eliminating root causes. Enlist support where you need it and focus on what contributing factors must be minimized to foment change.

Sometimes this all of this is easier with the help of an outside, objective observer and facilitator, particularly in organizations rife with political battles. Scary as it may seem, the rewards of these steps are well worth it for those who truly want to lead a successful company.

***
Visit my site for upcoming events and additional resources: www.tracydiziere.com/learn

Monday, September 1, 2008

Free Small Biz Marketing Seminar in Phoenix: Sept. 19, 2008

Upcoming Seminar!

Title: Writing Stellar Copy: A DIY Marketing Seminar
Type: In-person
Date/Time: Friday, September 19, 2008 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Location: Burton Barr Library, Meeting Room A, 1221 N Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ
Cost: Free
Description: This seminar is for anyone who wants to take a "do-it-yourself" approach to writing ads, brochures, or any written marketing materials to effectively speak to their prospects and customers.

Click here to register

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Time for a New Term: URL Sprawl

URL SPRAWL(pron. "earl \╦łsprol\"): The tendency for small businesses to add pages and pages of content to their sites, for a number of reasons, including but not limited to cluelessness, "more is better" mentality, lack of strategic content planning and delivery, and lack of audience awareness. The problem with URL Sprawl is it is not only difficult to find information buried within the site but also that it can overwhelm busy online researchers in search of simple answers. I'll be exploring this concept and others--and of course helping you avoid them--in a new white paper, "Doing (Small) Business on the Web," available on my website in September. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Free Small Biz Marketing Seminar in Phoenix: Sept. 19, 2008

Please join me!
Title: Writing Stellar Copy: A DIY Marketing Seminar
Type: In-person
Date/Time: Friday, September 19, 2008 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Location: Burton Barr Library, Meeting Room A, 1221 N Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ
Cost: Free
Description: This seminar is for anyone who wants to take a "do-it-yourself" approach to writing ads, brochures, or any written marketing materials to effectively speak to their prospects and customers.

Click here to register

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Market Research for the Masses!

I am in the process of testing (for free!) the Power Poll from Vizu. Check out the custom poll at right and submit your vote. I read about Vizu in a BusinessWeek article on how small businesses can implement market research techniques without the major investment typically required. Although we're not quite as powerful yet in commanding affordable data, this is the one suggested tool I found useful. Of course, SMBs still need to think strategically about designing questions, even for simple polls. I'll share testing notes in a future post or you can join me by getting an account of your own.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Innovation at Work

INNOVATION has been a hot topic for a little over 2 years now, I believe. It appears in sales presentations, company values, all-hands meetings, etc. across industries. My thoughts on the subject are simple: Despite all the buzz, innovation at work really only happens by exposure to new ideas. But if management and employees are plodding along in their routines, how do new ideas happen? Sometimes routine does lend itself to imagination and then innovation--but only out of a necessity to escape! Is that really a productive way to build a culture of innovation? (That's rhetorical, people.) The best way to ensure innovation is to build in FLEXIBILITY and provide for new EXPERIENCES. While I think most large corporations have misgivings about giving employees flex time or covering the cost of training or activities peripheral to one's "job description," smaller companies can redefine what it means to work for them. More often than not, employers of all sizes are concerned with time. What's interesting is that most employees are salaried, not hourly, which sends the message that their results are more important than arriving on time, taking a 1-hour lunch, and leaving 8 or more hours later when work for the day is "completed." Yet these antiquated measures of success still dominate! Smart employers know the work never ends, and it doesn't begin when you show up to the office. Thankfully, engaged employees have active brains at all hours of the day and oftentimes the best ideas occur when they're doing something totally different from work. Point being: Want innovation? Lighten up on the clock and reward employees with experiences that will make them want to work for you! Sharon O'Neill's story and company,liveyourlife.com.au, for example, is a great example of experiential rewards. Too bad it's not available in the U.S., but for $48 you can go sailing for day. Also, too bad they're not my client.

(Note: If this post was a bit too fluffy for you, stay tuned . . . my next post will point to some experts on these subjects, such as John Kao, and respond to their key points.)

(Shameless plug: If you want help increasing innovation in your organization, please contact me to schedule a culture review. You'll get personalized recommendations and programs to implement to take your small business further.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm Coining a Term Today: Frienomenon

Admittedly, I'm not much a social anything (just ask my mother, she will tell you). But I've been lurking in social media long enough to know one thing: Bloggers, bigwigs of subscription-based e-blasts, myspacers, virtual community leaders, message board/chat room moderators, citizen journalists and the like often put themselves--or their personas, who can say?--"out there," create a sense of familiarity with their audience, and are then surprised that people respond to them as colleagues or friends due to a sense of commonality, respect, or connectedness. I call this phenomemon appropriately enough "frienomenon." It's the inability to recognize the inviting and illiciting (soliciting?) of feedback, dialogue, and relationships with strangers via technology and to be accountable for or responsive to those exchanges. To make matters worse, we all have our own rules and expectations and oftentimes the "social contracts" are vague--or worse, unstated. This is a real shame because there's plenty of room on the web to publish your manifesto. "Why should this matter to me," you ask? Here's how "frienomenon" affects you as a small business owner interested in social/online marketing, word of mouth advertising, social networking, etc.: If you are engaging in this activity using technology and/or if other folks are on your behalf (or not), all that's available publicly is an extension of your brand and therefore needs attention. In this wired world, we all have a voice. So if upholding a brand image of I'm-an-industry-god-you're-a-nobody works for you, by all means act that way consistently online--and tell people what rights they'll be relinquishing upfront and how you'll make them pay if they break your rules. In other words, make it a point to act like a jerk publicly and thrill your readers with Schadenfreude. I can think of a design teacher who does this right now, and I applaud his efforts, although he scares me and I wouldn't necessarily advise that path outside the ivory tower. But at least there are no surprises with him! But if you project ponies and rainbows and pots of gold, be prepared to get and respond to requests for magic. Bottom line: truth and consistency in marketing across media and communications should always be the goal.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Think Your Company Is a Leader?

Well, don't tell the media. The New York Times had a recent article quoting Tom Gable (click for bio), past editor and head of his own PR firm, that when his company reviewed wire releases for a week, they found most who cited themselves as leaders were "empty, unsubstantiated and had no news value." Amen to that! I have been trying to tell both client and non-client (read: employer) companies that everyone's a leader. To say so is only to identify yourself as a neophyte and your material as hyperbole (read: untrustworthy). Relatedly, I was thrilled to find that someone besides me out there is also saying something I strongly believe; it's Dan Wool at Arizona Public Service (APS): "great product is the best PR." I usually say "find what you do well and market THAT" (as opposed to what you want to do well). Thanks, Dan, for saying it better and for emphasizing PRODUCT. Dan's a panelist at Arizona Technology Council’s July Council Connect so if you're a tech-head in charge of PR, check it out.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Joy of Tax

Yes, you read it correctly! I am pleased to announce that, for those who feel tax law should be a foreign language offering in college, the Arizona Department of Revenue offers affordable workshops for those planning to start a business! I attended the workshops on Retail Business and TPT today and found them very useful. For more information on the workshops or to register, click here. Another useful site is aztaxes.gov.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ready to Start?

I'm hoping to start at least some debate about how to start up a business. There are certainly many takes on it, many fortunes made bloviating about it, and some good advice succintly given. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I don't think you have to have all your ducks in a row before you start, but you should at least be aware of what you'll need to do from the outset through the first year:
1. Have expertise in your business type. This has been debated recently, as technical knowledge isn't the predictor of success per se. By the same token, I don't believe an entrepreneurial spirit can run any business. It's that unique combination of knowledge about not only your product or service but your placement* too, marketing in general, plus passion for what you're selling. If you're lacking any of these, read on.
2. Have some capital and be willing to spend it where it's needed. You can't do it all. You will have to bring in help, particularly if your marketing and placement knowledge are on the lower end of the scale. Plan for that financially by using savings or finding investors (aka friends and family who share your goals and can lend to you without interest). Remember, I'm talking to you microbusiness owners with a product or service to sell that you can produce yourself. If you're a SAAS or other kind of outfit, "investor" means something entirely different.
3. Have a team of people you can rely on in the areas you can't or don't want to cover. Line up these folks by asking around, searching the net, setting up meet-and-greets, networking, etc. Identify the people you connect with and trust and keep their contact information accessible. When an issue comes up in their area of expertise, you'll have a relationship already and won't have to find just anyone in a crisis.
4. Have a plan for what you need to do to be successful and to grow. This means a marketing plan, a business plan, a few diagrams on a napkin, but something that includes an achievable, measurable future based on some sound thinking of what is possible.

Well, that's all I have for today. I welcome your comments, you lurkers out there!

*By placement or place, I mean where you market and sell your goods/services and how they are distributed: via the web, channel sales, shelves at convenience stores, mail order, etc.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Phoenix ASBA Brings Gerber for 15th Annual Enterprise Business Conference

On Friday I was thrilled to hear that the Arizona Small Business Association is bringing Michael Gerber, author of the best-seller E-Myth Revisited and the creator of The Dreaming Room, to Phoenix for its 15th Annual Enterprise Business Conference on April 23. Although I suspect some content may be a repeat from the aforementioned Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference, I'd hear him again and I'd advise EVERYONE to attend. At $50 for non-members, it's money well spent.

This is also nice timing, as I've known that National Small Business Week sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration begins on April 21, with events in D.C. and New York, and I was beginning to feel sad that Phoenix and other cities weren't organizing events of their own. So I am very pleased with ASBA and Jobing.com's sponsorship and timing.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Prospecting and Patience in Economic Downturns

As a small business owner, you may be tempted to be conservative with your marketing and advertising in today’s economy. Joan Koerber-Walker, chief executive of the Arizona Small Business Association, seems to agree. In an East Valley Tribune article on Saturday, she states, “Cutting . . . advertising and marketing expenses are often what come to mind first, but that can make it difficult to find new customers and new markets precisely when they’re needed most.”

But, especially if you’re selling services, the best thing you can do is stay top of mind for prospects and trust that, when the need emerges, you’ll be the one they call. So most importantly, make sure you’re doing whatever you can to solidify your offerings and educate your target market about them. This might include networking events such as the Phoenix Business Journal’s BizMix, ASBA’s networking events, and any industry-specific events.

P.S. The next issue of my quarterly newsletter will feature a list of services. If you’re a small business in need of marketing assistance, please ask! If I can’t help you personally, I can identify someone in my network who can!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Free Small Business Marketing Seminar in Phoenix

I'm hosting a free marketing seminar focused on copywriting for small business marketers on March 7 from 9:30-11 a.m. at Burton Barr Central Library (downtown Phoenix).

Attendees will learn to:


  • Best position their products or services to sell to prospective customers

  • Plan a marketing communications project with less stress

  • Gain confidence in their writing abilities
Space is limited so register by Thursday, March 6 at 5 p.m. at www.tracydiziere.com/registration.html

Burton Barr Central Library is located at 1221 N Central Avenue , Phoenix , AZ 85004 . For directions, call (602) 262-4636.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

How to Write Stellar Marketing Copy

Great news! I'll be presenting a session on writing for your audience as part of the Association of Strategic Marketing's seminar "Copywriting Basics: What Every Marketer Should Know." If you want to learn more on writing stellar marketing copy, this is the training session to attend! It's on April 30th at the Camelback Inn & Resort in Scottsdale. For more information or to register, visit my site or send me your address and I'll mail you a brochure!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Building a Customer-Friendly Website with 2.0

Trying to decide which new features to include in your site? Not even sure of your options? Look to your customer demographics to guide you. While all users will require an easy-to-navigate site, here are the key features valued most by demographic based on a recent analyst survey:

• Baby Boomers. Easy does it: Limited content and functionality.
• Boomers on the edge. Keeping up with the Joneses: User ratings, reviews, and price comparisons.
• Gen X. Talk about the passion: Discussion boards and profile creation.
• Gen Y. I like that: Games, quizzes and questions, profile creation, personalizing the site, and uploading content.

Overall, the preferences of Gen Y’ers (18-27) were the least requested functionalities within the study. So while you can’t please all the people all the time, your dollars are best spent incorporating the more mainstream technologies, plus the occasional special offer, if your market consists of multiple demographics and/or if you are unsure.

For best results, implement tools to collect primary market data, if you haven’t already, as this information will be a boon in driving all of your marketing decisions.

In additon to ease of use, consider applicability as a general guideline. Since most Internet users are seeking content—not e-commerce—regardless of your industry you would be wise to include educational/informative materials, even if this is not your primary product. If you are selling services, the production of content that positions you as an expert, including links to online articles you author, would be a good use of your time—and a no-cost marketing strategy to boot.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Note on “Doing” and “Doing Well”

Issues of quality are a common concern for me, and there have been some lonely times when I was the sole champion of a high standard for professional outcomes, even if it meant more work for myself and others. As the leader of your own enterprise, you might also have that tireless commitment to quality, but we both know that not all things can be done as well as we’d like in a small business environment, where being nimble, responsive, and accountable to clients must come first--with fewer resources. If you're not putting out immediate fires, the pressures can be just as great to do things that drive client satisfaction and sales—from product development to promotions. And typically these things, because client-facing, also need to be “done well” vs. just “done.” What's the exception? Procrastinating because a task MUST be done well, when, in the meantime, doing nothing means losing a greater potential return. So as a microbusiness or small business owner, next time you’re faced with an almost scary expectation for quality, ask with these simple test questions to determine your course:

--What is the cost of doing nothing?
--What do I stand to lose by just doing it and making it better later?
--How much do I stand to gain from doing it well now?

This is an overly simplified strategy, of course, but one that I hope to build on to acheive a more robust model. To help this along, please post your comments!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Handling Time Constraints

It seems that every small business owner I talk to faces the feeling of not enough hours in the day compounded by the sense that s/he must do everything themselves, thereby sacrificing valuable personal time and their freedom. If you’re a home-based business, no doubt, your pressures are multiplied as you attempt to pull yourself away from the computer each night. This is why 2008 should be the year you commit to a “process audit,” whereby systems and procedures can be mapped out and prioritized. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to clearly see what can be delegated, automated, outsourced, postponed, skipped, or even forgotten—freeing up your time to do what only you can and making each day more productive. With an eye for economy, a penchant for problem-solving, and experience implementing efficient processes (including proposal management and development, partnership applications, and vendor evaluation), I'm ready to conduct your process audit. When you're ready to get serious about managing your time, drop me a line.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

300 Women, 9 Hours, 1 Event: Women Entrepreneurs' Small Business Boot Camp


On Saturday, I attended the Women Entrepreneurs' Small Business Boot Camp. What a day! The morning began with Pamela Jett aka my latest heroine. Pamela's talk, Success is an Attitude, struck familiar chords but assembled them in new ways. That is, although perhaps the messages were ones I had heard before about the relationship between what we think and how it gets played out, her delivery allowed me to absorb it more readily. Her practical advice was also a welcome change: When you catch yourself thinking a negative thought--esp. about yourself!--use a word such as delete, erase, or cancel to counteract it. What a simple solution! Along with Pamela Jett's stellar presentation, Stephanie Frank (the afternoon keynote) was also awe-inspiring! Stephanie's messages seemed deceivingly simple as well but her advice for implementing time-management strategies was one of the most practical applications I have heard, without being dry and stuffy. Her advice is to cut through the CRAP (Confusion, Resistence, Apathy, and Procrastination). One stat that Stephanie Frank cited was a study by the National Women's Business Council about the top reasons for failed businesses: (1) lack of entreprenuerial skills and (2) lack of peer support. Very interesting! (Pictured: me (L), Mary (center), Wendy (R) during the Small Business Power Hour Session. More pictures by prophoto.)

Monday, January 7, 2008

Focus on . . . Advertising

To follow is an excerpt from my Quarterly Newsletter. To request the full text, send me an email. You can also sign up for future editions on my home page.

I've seen some confusion lately among small business owners and micro-business owners about the relationship between marketing and advertising as well as how to effectively produce ads. If we're looking at a textbook model, Marketing is responsible for Promotions, and so I consider advertising an important part of the plan to promote your product or service. Developing an effective "ad campaign" is a good first step towards establishing your new brand and/or generating awareness in the market about your current brand. To help you achieve this, whether you do it yourself or engage my services, here are the keys to planning your successful ad:

1. Position. Determine your position by knowing your target market and your competition. If you haven't done at least a basic market study, or have scattered information that needs to be compiled, doing so will be a major success factor in your strategic marketing efforts overall, as well as any advertising effort. Armed with industry research and target market needs, you'll be able to create an effective message.

A Primo Position: Diet Coke has two innovative, eye-catching yet simple ads. One ad shows a condensation-covered can with a cardboard insulating sleeve typically used for coffee around it and the headline "Good Morning." Another ad shows 3 images of the same sleeve-clad can with the headline "Three-hour meeting." This is a brilliant campaign strategy to carve out a potential new market--folks who prefer a cold, easily accessible, cheaper "coffee" as they head to (or cope with!) work. If you've read my previous newsletter about Coke BlaK, you'll see that the advertising track is a much better competitive strategy than costly new product development.