Thursday, December 31, 2009

Improving Your Website

I’ve noticed with a few searches related to small business website services, there are a number of “website analyzers” or “website report cards” (as in grades? euw!) promising free analysis and reports. They’re free, but I suspect the offering companies will then try to sell you on using their services for the website improvements they found. In other words, with their writers, designers, etc. (And maybe they will hound you with phone calls and emails . . .)

But what if you have a website designer (on staff, a design firm on retainer, or a trusted freelancer)? What if you have a marketing person (an employee, a marketing consultant, a firm under contract) who doesn’t specialize in website improvement but who can certainly manage a website redesign or development project with the right information? (Maybe that’s YOU!) If you only need to get some direction and new ideas yet want to remain loyal to your current employees, partners, or subcontractors or stay in control, where do you turn? (Can you tell TDA understands and respects the value of professional relationships and the spirit of do-it-yourself-ers?)

TDA provides a Site Review Report(TM) that allows you to see what areas—design, layout, usability, accessibility, and content—need to be improved. It’s an analysis or evaluation of your website, with specific suggestions on how to fix it. We even prioritize the items for revision so that you can budget accordingly. (Want a preview? You can request a Sample Table of Contents.)

If you do need assistance redesigning your website or writing new content and don’t have existing relationships with writers, designers, or web developers, we’re happy to help and/or refer you to someone. Of course, our goal (per our company values) is always to allow small businesses to sustain themselves using the tools and marketing solutions we provide. The Site Review Report is one such tool. (For some quick tips on what not to do, check out our other blog.)

If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. Please post below.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Will Work for Free

Attention small business owners, entrepreneurs, and startup mavens! If you’re looking for someone to work for you for free, I’m going to tell you who will do it.

And by “work” I don’t mean respond to the occasional and casual marketing- or PR-related question. Nor do I mean provide the free resources for small business that are readily available from a marketing professional’s website (such as my marketing plan tool).

I’m talking WORK, as in bringing to bear their experience to help you solve a specific-to-your-business challenge or fulfill a specialized need. Work is the kind of thing professional marketers and public relations people usually get paid to do.

But, there are 3 types of people who will work for you for free, yet with the same commitment to your success as if backed by financial motivation. (Drumroll, please.) They are:

  1. Business partners and co-owners who, like you, believe in the business and will put blood, sweat, savings, and tears into it. They will work the same crazy hours that you do, at the expense of all else, because they are investing in their own success. They can postpone the reaping of any benefits for longer than anyone else you’ll find because they have part ownership (officially, with a contract) in what will be very lucrative in the future. You don’t need to sell them on doing the work for free; they are right by your side. If you don’t have one of these, you are missing out on getting a lot of work done for free and should try to find one, particularly someone with complementary skills to yours. If you work in a larger office environment, perhaps without the authority to bring on a business partner, you’ll want to see #2 and #3 below. (Note: For the right opportunity with the right ownership split, I might leave my cushy, independent professional lifestyle as owner of my own marketing firm to be your business partner.)
  2. Humanitarians and volunteers. When you serve the public and the greater good, you can find volunteers who, like you, believe in the cause and will put blood, sweat, donations, and tears into it. (This next part may sound familiar.) They will work the same crazy hours that you do, at the expense of all else, because they value the organization and believe they can make a difference. They can postpone the reaping of any benefits for longer than anyone else (and sometimes never require anything in return). This is because they have commitment, drive, hearts of gold, and sometimes, other jobs or independent wealth and lots of time. In some cases, when they don’t have other jobs or means of income, the community or family members may take care of them instead (as in on a kibbutz). If you simply change your business model, you will improve your chances of getting work done for free. (Exception: If you are a nonprofit, you can and should find companies like those small businesses being addressed herein to give you stuff and work for you for free instead. Here’s one opportunity to get you started.)
  3. Suckers. There’s one born every minute so you do have a good chance of finding one. The downside is, with the time and energy you might waste trying to find a sucker and convince them to work for you for free, you could have paid for real results. Which might beg the question, Who’s the sucker now?

    I was a sucker before. I worked for free because I genuinely like helping people. Now I know that sometimes potential clients knowingly attempt to maneuver getting work for free and sometimes people do it unawares.

    I understand the need to get things done economically when you’re starting out. When that’s the case, small business owners and entrepreneurs really do need to have a budget that makes sense for the kind of results they expect to achieve. These are tough decisions but in many cases, a business only has one chance to make the first impression that will set the stage for their brand. It seems like an important investment to me.

P.S. This is probably the most irreverent post I’ve ever written, but I’m contemplating a brand shift to “the nicest rebel.” Did that come across? Did I go too far? Other comments and perspectives?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Favorite Email Marketing Resources

Here’s a quick list of resources about email marketing for anyone  planning an email campaign:

E-dialog: Provides the Relevance Trajectory. Their website ( expands on 6 factors (Segmentation, Lifecycle management, Triggers, Personalization, Interactivity, and Testing and Measurement)  to consider when planning your email communications.  A good starting place.

Firedrum: This local (Scottsdale, AZ) provider sent an email with a few holiday tips, such as “Do not flood your subscribers' inboxes with an email every day.” You have to scroll down past the marketing message to get to the tips, though.

Constant Contact: Along with webinars and hints & tips, they provide the first chapter of their book The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing for free.  And a recent article looks back and ahead to 2010. 

iContact:  Offers a Holiday Email Marketing Checklist for download.  Some basic stuff but good reminders such as “Plan for January: Don’t forget your long term strategy... Thinking past December can lead to a solid start in 2010.”

Lyris:  Offer a guide 25 Essentials for Exceptional Email Campaigns for download. Among my favorite: Integrate email into your complete marketing mix, Test for correct rendering of emails on all email clients, and Focus on list quality over list size.

Silverpop: Provides webinars and a resource center.  Next topic: Your 3 "Must Dos" for Email Marketing in 2010, which are Leverage the Data, Engage With Customers/Subscribers, and Automate and Optimize. 

That’s all for today, although I know there are several others to watch, such as Experian/Cheetah, Campaigner, Emma . . .  one list of email service providers is available at the Email Sender and Provider Coalition website.  If you have any resources to add, please comment on this post!  To plan your small business marketing efforts for 2010, including your email marketing campaign, download our free tool, The 50 Questions. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What are your thoughts on social media for companies and their brands?

This question was posed by my colleague Jen. Before I launch into the answer, a few words about blogging on this subject:

1. I’m going to respond within the context of micro and small businesses. My assumptions are that the brand is undefined, formative, or MIA.

2. I could write a whole article/white paper on this subject (and I might just do that!) but for today I am going to shoot from the hip and also try to keep it brief.

3. For brevity, and because you’ve introduced the B word, I’m going to limit my discussion of “social media” to what’s available and typically undertaken by this audience—not custom platform development or integrated marketing campaigns. Also, my comments will be highly generalized. And I will use sentence fragments.

Now, my thoughts on social media for companies and their brands.

If your company does not have an established brand or brand guidelines, does not have a brand strategy, or has not organized internal branding efforts, whatever you do/say “socially” will build your brand for you. It sounds simple and a given, right? Without a brand to align communications with or to test your tone against, you are not doing much to “shape” the impressions of your intended audience.

SIDEBAR: We assume that this is possible or we would not invest in any marketing, packaging, advertising, research, etc. (although not necessarily in that order) and yours truly along with 167,463 other people with the title Marketing Manager in the U.S. plus who knows how many others would not have a job (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, 2006).

But it’s easier to go off and do the social media thing, jump on the bandwagon and just participate, than it is to do the hard work of creating a brand. It’s seemingly cheaper, too—a fact that is not lost on small business owners. It’s when we ask questions of effectiveness that social media, when conducted in this manner, falls apart. That’s why I say “seemingly.” Building on Econ 101, if there’s no such thing as a free lunch, how much does a cheap lunch actually cost? Which leads to the question of who’s managing those impressions at what hourly rate. Or at least monitoring.

At the heart of social media is a conversation, and someone has to take the pulse. We have to listen and speak. We have to do both to connect with people, although some marketers will insist that you be a spokesperson. I think there are important usage decisions to be made. It will depend on your business and your relationships with others (and how that gets played out). I like to put it this way: Are you a megaphone, a two-way radio, or an antenna?

If you’re a megaphone, you’d better be (a) pointing in the right direction and (b) saying something worth listening to—as defined by your listeners, which really means you have to do some sort of listening, even if it’s not via social media channels. There are too many broken records, especially on Twitter. If u tweet about the same thing over & over & I don’t care about it, reverse marketing happens: Unfollow & boycott. (That’s 116 characters, BTW, and you can RT @tracydiziere.)

If you’re a two-way radio, you have to be comfortable with whatever comes back. And gracious. And accepting. When you open up the discussion for feedback, and readers use the opportunity to knock your service or product, you have to be able to respond positively. Unfortunately for micro or small business owners, who feel like they ARE the product/service, this isn’t easy. In the best case scenario, you have a process in place for capturing that valuable feedback, which would otherwise be very costly to obtain. Of course, it may not be representative of the entire market and it will trickle in vs. be conveniently culled, but it’s your data and you know how to use it to your advantage, thanks to your process. If you don’t have a process, don’t bother with social media. Community members, consumers, and would-be customers can (a) spot a faker a mile away and (b) will be even more disappointed if you don’t have an honest response that attempts to fix the problem.

If you’re an antenna, you’re picking up on what’s being said in social media circles that apply to your business, but you’re not contributing or launching anything. This is a good place to start. Listening can make your marketing efforts uber-effective, not to mention make you a more tuned-in friend, family member, boss, co-worker, consumer, voter, etc. Even as an antenna, you can acknowledge you’re receiving a signal on occasion. What you do with the information is important too. Use it to spark internal discussions, to understand consumer views, to track the competition, etc. Again, have a process for what you’re doing and a way of transforming content into data.

Finally, the question most people want to have an answer to: Should we do it at my company? Some marketers convince every client that they all have to be megaphones in all the usual suspects of social media—Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, Ning, YouTube, etc.—and create their own communities or be left behind to die in the desert of traditional media. There is no question that mainstream media is freaking out, is in trouble, is still too silo’ed, lacks freshness, and has to change. To tell you to ignore that and go ahead with business as usual would be beyond foolish. But social media efforts are not one size fits all and I’m not selling you some elaborate plan for social media domination either (as if it were possible, duh, it’s democratic). I’m just saying small businesses need to consider all the factors that come into play when designing (that means professionally constructing an organized and creative effort) their communications strategy—regardless of media. Those factors include not only larger issues of who are we trying to reach and WWMBD (MB=my brand) but also who is going to do what, how often, how long, at what expense, and the most important considerations of all: What if, what if, and what if?

If you need an extra head to think those things through, mine is for rent. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. And why not post a comment acknowledging your feat, calling me out, or lending your support for something I’ve said? Tracy Diziere & Associates is a two-way radio, but it’s awful quiet out there! Feel free to post your burning marketing questions as response to this or my previous post "Can We Talk?"

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Can We Talk?

In lieu of a blog post where I address an issue that may or may not apply to lurkers out there, I'm proposing a Q&A. If you have any burning marketing questions, post them in a comment and I'll give you my undivided attention . . . and the best answer that I can.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quote for the Day

"A trusted advisor gives you the best options & advises you which to take based on your needs, not the paycheck he hopes to have at the end." --Tracy Diziere

Monday, June 29, 2009

Increasing Sales Article Launching Tomorrow

Tomorrow I am sending out the Q2 newsletter article (yes, on the last day of the quarter!) on how small businesses and start-ups can increase sales. To read it, sign up to be on the distribution list at

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Client's Pricing Issues

I just saw a very funny--or is it sad?--YouTube video on how client pricing issues would get played out in real-world scenarios. My apologies in advance to those clients who understand the difference between a taco-stand taco and a filet mignon vs. those who believe they are paying for beef.

It should be said, these issues are more likely to happen with large agencies and when clients are unfamiliar with pricing structures, have not been educated appropriately about the services they are buying, or in general lack the experience or humility to succinctly acknowledge differences in expectations. This can be exacerbated when a marketing firm is too busy to develop the relationship or believes the account is too small to act as a trusted advisor.

It would be interesting to see the client-side version of this video.

See for yourself:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Peter Says

Here at iabc phoenix copper quills after peter shankman's keynote so forgive the lowercase etc. It was hard to hear but what I took from the talk was:
1. It's a conversation. Freakin listen. It's not just spouting off . . . And talking About irrelevant stuff.
2. The average person has an attention span of 2.7 seconds. Ouch!
3. We don't even talk to people in our network on a personal level (guilty). Seriously, reach out!
4. Social media=the chance to screw up on a larger scale
That's all I got now. Was it longer than 2.7 seconds?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Join me at the WVCCC Kids at Heart Luncheon

On March 25 from 12-1 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel & Spa in Glendale, West Valley Child Crisis Center (WVCCC) is hosting its annual Kids at Heart Luncheon to benefit abused, neglected children. WVCCC provides a temporary shelter for these kids in a safe, nuturing, home-like environment staffed by professional caregivers.

The luncheon is free and the presentation will hopefully inspire contributions from us all.

I am hosting a table of 10 and 5 spots available as of today. Please email me if you'd like to attend and I will add you to my group.

For more information or if you cannot attend but would like to contribute, you may download an invite and form here:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Quick Plug for Central Arizona Shelter Services

I received an event invitation for one of my favorite non-profits--CASS. They are hosting a Mardi Gras Night on Feb. 21 in Scottsdale. Please consider attending or simply sending a donation (that's what I did) to aid Arizona's homeless men, women, and children with shelter and services that empower them. Details at

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Worth a Look: Process Development & Improvement

Many small business owners are much too busy running their businesses to look at how they're doing it. With all the clamoring for marketing and social media, you'd be surprised to learn how effective process development or process improvement can be instead. All you need is a little time to invest, a place to start, a little direction, and a reason to do it. (For a quick intro, view the presentation "Process Development for Small Business & Microbusiness")

1. The Reason. BPTrends has an excellent summary of why companies might look at their processes . . . “In good times, . . . to create new processes and expand organizational capabilities. In bad times, . . . . [to] focus on eliminating unnecessary activities and on saving money." (Wolf & Harmon, Volume 7. No. 2 of BPTrends' email newsletter)

2. The Starting Place. What keeps you awake at night? What's your company's biggest barrier to success? What's your customers' biggest complaint? What's the hardest thing for you to achieve right now? What do they have that you don't?

3. Time. Carve out time to explore the questions and choose one area of focus. Promise yourself that you will schedule time over the next month to resolve this issue.

4. Direction. Beginning with your question, ask what you do and why and continue to ask what and why until you determine (at each stage) whether you are doing something because it is: (a) required by law, (b) needed by management for the daily operation and oversight of the company, (c) needed for product quality and/or production, (d) needed by distribution channels and/or customers. Everything except (a) is negotiable so look for areas of elasticity and potential change that would result in streamlined processes or cost savings. Define desired outcomes. If you need more direction, call in reinforcements.

(NOTE: BPM is a huge field; this post only attempts to make certain aspects of it accessible to small business owners and microbusiness owners. Expert posts are welcome in order to achieve this goal.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Thought on Twitter, The New Blog

Twitter may be the new frontier, but after it's been leveled, tilled, and farmed, you still have to sort the wheat from the shaff.

Nevertheless, I am there, sowing some seeds:

(Oops, the link on my comment didn't work; for a good intro to twitter, check out david pogue's article from the NYT:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Measuring Your Online Marketing Efforts

Web analytics, we all know, are key to measuring the success of online marketing efforts. And there certainly is plenty to look at! Metrics can be overwhelming, so many small business marketers or micro-business owners turn to outside help. I read a very astute recommendation for those looking to hire a web analytics person from Larry Chase's Web Digest for Marketers. It's a comment from Eric Peterson, founder and CEO of Web Analytics Demystified, Inc.; he says:

"The essential thing is that you need someone who is analytically minded and curious, who will define and follow a process and will keep digging for answers, even beyond the first set of numbers," he said.

Thanks, Larry, for the informative e-mail newsletters (I love getting them!) and for the timely and pertinent interview with Eric T. Peterson.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Price Comparison Power to the People

If you're a retail operation selling barcoded goods, there's a new tool in town that can make or break a sale. It's a phone application that allows consumers to get more information about a product by scanning its barcode on-site--and shows if it's available cheaper elsewhere. (See NPR's coverage for more information.)

For those who buy purely on price--and those who aim to be the low-cost leader--this is a match made in heaven, er, airwaves. For the rest of the retailers out there, your 2009 marketing strategy should clearly address a response for the value-based buyers--those who are not as concerned with finding the best price. What does your store offer that means something to consumers and would be worth paying more for? What can you do to increase value? To be competitive, this is the kind of thinking you'll need to do . . . unless you want to offer price-matching (risky) or are structured such that you can afford (and want!) to compete on price alone.