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Still Trying to Ignore Mobile for Your Business?

Just a quick post to reiterate the importance of having a mobile presence for your business. The information below is a short compilation of statistics and comments from mobile experts: Damien Zomora from “GoMobile,” Jamie Turner from “60 Second Marketer,” and Cory Gaddis from “Mobilize Worldwide.” This list is a summary provided by Damien Zomora, along with his comments. You can read the complete article here.

      • According to Nielsen, 30 million consumers watch television content via their mobile phones. Makes me wonder why I invested so much in my big-screen HD television at home.
      • Gartner says that by 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. Which is a reminder for all those web designers to brush up on their mobile skills if they want to stay in business.
      • Exact Target reports that 16% of smartphone users report that they have made a purchase as a result of a marketing message they received on their phone. 55% purchased as a result of an email they received on their mobile device. Turns out email isn’t dead after all.
      • Nielsen also said that in Q3 2011, teens increased their mobile data consumption by 256% over the prior year. I hope their parents had them on unlimited data plans.
      • Inneractive found that there is a direct correlation between the size of a mobile device’s screen and the click-through rate (CTR) the device yields for mobile advertising. For instance, the iPhone yields a 4.35% CTR with a 3.5″ screen, compared to a 6.61% CTR on the iPad‘s 9.7″ screen.

Still want to ignore the mobile platforms? Think it’s too expensive to add? Don’t know where to start?

Talk to your favorite web developer. Or contact Sunstone Web Solutions. At least start talking about it.

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Panel Discussion? Count Me In!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion with 2 colleagues. The topic of discussion was “Your Customers are Online, Why Isn’t Your Business?” Through questions and answers, we covered websites, QR codes, blogs, social media, mobile web, online reputation and reviews, search engine optimization and more.

Benefits of Panel Discussions

Panel discussionBesides being fun, it served many purposes:

  • Small business owners were able to ask questions and learn from the questions posed by others.
  • With 3 “online experts” we were able to cover a range of topics of which, individually, we may not have been as knowledgeable.
  • As the experts, we were able to demonstrate our expertise and give exposure to our own businesses.
  • 1 on 1 discussionBusiness owners could follow up afterwards with the expert of their choice whether they had more questions or required help with their own online presence.
  • Even the experts benefited from the knowledge of the other panelists in areas where our own proficiency was weak.

Some Planning and Preparation Can Help

If you decide to initiate a panel discussion, do some preparation. I believe our discussion went well because:

  • A theme and a range of topics were chosen that were loosely related but diverse enough so that the panelists could shine in their own areas of expertise.
  • The panelists are respected in their field and could articulate their answers well.
  • Panel discussion moderatorThe discussion theme and range of topics was made clear to the panel participants and to the moderator so that everyone driving the discussion was on the same page.
  • Notifications were posted and invitations to attend were sent out, describing the event, the problems being discussed, and encouraging participation.

The three of us on the panel were familiar with each other and had an opportunity to do a little planning a few days in advance of the event. We:
Planning and preparation

  • identified our areas of expertise (this helped decide who would take the lead on answering questions based on the subject matter).
  • identified areas of overlap.
  • made a list of “seed questions” for the moderator should the discussion fade.
  • provided individual bio’s for the moderator and for each other.
  • decided on what supporting materials we could each provide.

I believe our little bit of preparation allowed the discussion to get started quickly and continue smoothly.

Regarding Discussion Etiquette

Not that we had any issues during our discussion, but I have a few suggestions on etiquette:

  • Panel discussion etiquetteDon’t ever talk down or belittle the person asking a question. Remember they’re better at what they do than you are, so don’t get a big head.
  • Keep your answers on topic, clear and logical.
  • Respect and support your co-panelists. Provide supporting comments if you agree but don’t cut off their answer before they’ve finished.
  • If you happen to disagree, don’t be confrontational. Offer an alternative answer and let the audience decide. A little friendly controversy can enliven the discussion.
  • Don’t hog the spotlight. If it seems like you’re answering more than the other panelists, look for an opportunity to defer to them. (Knowing where our skills overlapped helped here.)
  • Know your audience in order to provide meaningful conversation in their terms and addressing their concerns.
  • This is an opportunity to educate your audience. It’s not an opening for a sales pitch.

An Unexpected Invitation

Our discussion was with a local networking group, so we knew our audience. However, there could be a time you’re invited to participate at an unfamiliar venue with a panel of experts who you don’t know personally. Wow! What an honor! But, don’t rest on your laurels.

Do some homework to prepare to present yourself most effectively. Learn a little bit about your co-panelists. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the others and make new connections. Here’s an article by entrepreneur and venture capitalist, Mark Suster, that provides more good advice.

Panel participation can be funIf you ever have an opportunity to participate on a panel of experts, do it! It’s educational. It puts you in the spotlight. It’s fun!

Share your experiences of being on a panel. What do you wish you would have done differently? How did you help make it successful?

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Ways to “Unmarket” Your Business

I shouldn’t be writing this. I’m supposed to be writing up a proposal that needs to go to a new client by the end of the day.

But, as I was eating my apple-slices-and-crunchy-natural-peanut-butter lunch and catching up on some reading, a statement in an article sparked a blog idea (2, actually). I just had to write it down before the thought escaped.

Leading Up to the Points I Want to Make

I loosely follow Scott Stratton of UnMarketing (www.unmarketing.com). His videos are informal, yet concise productions focusing on one or two points about using today’s web technologies for marketing your business. He also blogs, tweets, writes books, and speaks at many events. I think he’s actually a closet comedian.

I got an email alert today that he had posted a new YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=medivP-VskM

The video is directed at realtors, but it contains information and advice that every business, large or small, should follow.

Main Point: Don’t Leave Your Customers Hanging

The bottom line is this: understand the technology well enough to use it appropriately.

QR-SSmobiScott uses several examples. One is the use of QR codes. You know, those funny-looking checkerboard-y squares that you see on restaurant menus, signs, and brochures, and in newspapers and magazines, as well as many other printed items. You use your mobile device, usually a smart phone, to scan in the picture and you’re presented with more information, e.g., a video, a phone number, a website, some text.

The problem is: if as the person wanting to utilize a QR code you don’t think through its purpose and end result, you might be presenting something unusable on that mobile device, such as a video that runs too long, access to a Flash site that doesn’t work on a mobile phone, or (the most likely faux pas) the desktop version of a website instead of a mobile-friendly version.  Don’t do it!

Another example Scott uses for leaving a customer hanging is printing the cute little icons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and all the rest on your marketing copy – and that’s it! No clues how to actually get to your social media accounts. Next to Facebook, add your url:Facebook icon www.facebook.com/sunstonesolutions

Twitter iconor include your Twitter handle: @sunstonewebdev

Finally, remember that social media is “social.” It’s supposed to be used to promote and nurture relationships. It’s an opportunity to interact with people you don’t (yet) know. Don’t use it like a billboard.

Use the technology but don’t look like a dope when you do.

Watch Scott’s video and “do it right.”

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Quick Shopping Cart with PayPal

I recently did a website refresh for a talented jewelry artist. Her pieces are gorgeous and she wanted to make it possible for customers to order and pay for their items online. The e-commerce requirements were fairly simple and straight-forward. She didn’t have hundreds of items to upload, she didn’t need to track inventory, she didn’t need it tied to an email platform, she didn’t need all varieties of shipping possibilities, and she didn’t need to cross-sell, nor offer or redeem gift cards or coupons. And, she didn’t have a merchant account.

PayPalThe most straightforward, uncomplicated, and practical solution was to utilize the e-commerce features of PayPal.

First, the Website

I found it easiest to get all the products set up on the website with their pictures and descriptions. Then it was just a matter of making the connection between the item on the website and its corresponding entry in PayPal.

Set Up a PayPal Business Account

You need a business account with PayPal to make this a good shopping experience for the customer. When it comes time to check-out, the customer simply enters their credit card information to pay.

PayPal utilizes all e-commerce security processes so the shopper can feel confident that their information is handled appropriately. (Neither will you be able to see the customer’s credit card number or security code.)

Select PayPal StandardSetting up a “Standard” PayPal business account is free. PayPal does take a percentage of the transacton total as a fee. This varies with the amount of the transaction, starting at 2.9% + $0.30 for transactions totalling $0 to $3,000. In my opinion, this is well worth it for not having to get a merchant account, or protect the website with an SSL certificate, which have their own costs.

Set Up Your Products in PayPal

Create PayPal buttonsOnce your account is set up, you can start entering the products you’re selling. Log into your PayPal account and go to the Merchant Services tab. Choose to “Create payment buttons for your website.”

Choose the button style you want to use and fill in the required information. Read the information pop-ups if you’re unsure of your next action. Go through all the steps, then press “Create Button.”Fill in product information

Copy the Button Code

Creating the button is a matter of generating code that has the graphics, user action, and product ID, all in a short snippet of html code. This code segment is inserted into the website code on the product page where you want the button to be visible. Re-publish the page and test the button. Did it go to the PayPal entry for that product? Yey!Copy button code

Now go back to PayPal to create buttons for the rest of your items. To save time, you can choose “Create Similar Button” and change only the fields that are unique to the next item.

Go Shopping!

When you have all the buttons created and integrated with your web pages, publish your website. Customers can begin shopping right away.

When a shopper makes a purchase, PayPal sends you an email to the address associated with your PayPal account. After receiving this message, log into your PayPal account to find out what they ordered. PayPal even helps you with printing shipping labels.

Simplicity and Practicality

PayPal is a simple, straight-forward platform with no set-up fees for the Standard package, no application installation on either your desktop computer or your web server, and no additional hosting or licensing fees. It integrates easily with your website so that you don’t have to build your website around a shopping cart.

Shopping carts definitely have their place. If creating and inserting button code for each product becomes a significant time burner using PayPal, then the input and product management processes of a shopping cart will probably be more appealing.

But, if you have just a few items, consider PayPal to start selling online quickly.

Have you used PayPal as a shopping cart? What did you think?

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Get SMART: Preparing for 2013

I’m spending this week and part of next doing some business housekeeping, evaluating some new business tools, wrapping up loose ends on a few client projects, and developing new workshop material. And, setting goals for next year.

Setting Goals For Fun and Profit

Set SMART goalsHave you set some new goals for yourself and/or your business for 2013? Make sure they’re “SMART goals”: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

  • Specific – The goal should identify a specific action or event that will take place.
  • Measurable – The outcome should be quantifiable.
  • Achievable – Make sure it’s a goal that is attainable given the available resources, but stretch yourself beyond your normal routine and regular abilities.
  • Relevant – The goal should help you focus on what’s important for you and/or your business.
  • Time-bound – State the time period in which to accomplish the goal.

Clearly stating the goal – and you do need to write them down – is one thing. Getting it done is another. You should have a plan on how to reach your goal. The plan should deconstruct the goal into manageable parts, with stated actions and completion dates. Recognize any required resources (time, money, training, hiring a service, etc.) and include them in the action plan.

Have a Big Audacious Idea and Go From There

Planning the Hierarchy of Important Work

Image credit: John Jantsch, “The Hierarchy of Getting Important Stuff Done”

There are plenty of tips and tools, trainings and worksheets you can find on the web to help with your goal setting and execution. Last year, I found a blog article that described a process that works for me: “Planning the Hierarchy of Important Work.” It actually starts with stating the “Big Audacious Idea.” For my business, it was stating the over-arching goal of the business, even if it took several years to reach it. From the BAI, you describe what to accomplish for the year ahead.

This process adds Priorities as an important element to provide a filter for making determinations about what projects or great new ideas should actually receive consideration going forward. One of my priorities was “Enjoy what you do.”

Next, it has you define your Goals; make sure they’re SMART. As I mentioned, you need to break these down into manageable pieces. For this particular process (I call it “The Pyramid Process”), these are Projects and then Tasks within projects. Each level of the pyramid contributes to the level above it, culminating in contributions to the Big Audacious Idea.

Spend an hour or so, without distractions, and really think about your business. State your Big Audacious Idea and build your business pyramid – your “Plan for the Hierarchy of Important Work.”

Record, Review, Revise

Record it all in a document (mine is online in a Word file in my Business Management directory). Make an appointment with yourself and review it at least once a quarter to make sure your monthly and weekly plans are leading to meeting your objectives.

I’ll be working on a new pyramid for 2013, but my BAI remains the same. I accomplished many of the objectives for 2012 so I’ll set some new ones. As I strive to respond to the needs of my customers, some of the 2012 objectives have become unnecessary or there are better ways to meet the objectives. These will be revised.

Find a goal-setting methodology that works for you, make your plans and stay the course. Else, you’ll be like a baggy old sail flapping in the wind, pushing the boat in whatever direction the wind happens to send it. It’ll take longer to get from Point A (today) to Point B (where you really want to be) in 2013.

Head Into 2013 With Confidence

2013Plan your work and work your plan for a rewarding 2013.

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Did You Miss Me?

Pumpkin pie

Yum! My favorite!

The good news is: I’ve been busy with meetings and projects.

The bad news is: I haven’t written a blog post in almost a month!

Most of you are probably thinking more about Thursday than reading about business and technology. So…

Have a great Thanksgiving

  • with family and friends,
  • giving back to your community,
  • running or walking a “Turkey Trot,” or
  • just having a quiet, relaxed day at home.

I’ll get back to you next week with a new post.

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