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.