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Business Cards Are Still Best Practice

October 5th, 2010 1 comment
Business Cards

Various business cards found in my purse this morning

I am working with a client that is going to their biggest tradeshow of the year in the next couple weeks. They are in DC and I am in Atlanta. In this digital age, it is amazing how closely we work – and yet, I have never met them in person. Ironically, I am recommending they update their business cards for the show. In today’s world you can do business without meeting people. The smart phones have been working for years on how to make business card information electronic with the advent of the vcard, Bump, LinkedIn, and even Facebook. It is just as easy to text someone your number or say look me up, and everything is there – perfect, organized, and searchable.

But the business card is still alive and thriving. In fact, just this week the Washington Post reported that business cards are thriving in a digital age. They cite that companies like Staples have seen double digit growth in sales of business cards over the past several years. This is despite the continuing trend of trade shows declining, and travel budgets being cut.

This shows you that the internet can’t completely squash the value of networking. People use business cards to improve the perception of professionalism, authority, and experience. We’d like to think the interaction you have with the person you gave your business card to is enough to make sure you stand out, but just in case, you should make every effort to make sure your business card stands out when they empty their pockets. Here are some quick pointers that I like to follow when designing a business card:

  • They should start a conversation. Many times business cards can be an icebreaker. Either at the beginning of your conversation, or maybe extending it by a minute or two. Be different. Use funky design, print them on different paper or even plastic or rubber, put a clever phrase or series of phrases on each card, make them dual sided copies with one side internationalized, try different shapes (not as big of a fan of those though, especially if they don’t fit in card holders nicely). Bottom line, your card should stand out in the heap and be recognizable.
  • Don’t mess with the basics. Don’t make yourself mysterious and just put your name and a phone number, or worse a website. People will think you just troll bars for a living and aren’t serious about making impressions. On the flip side, don’t burden it down with too much information like your LinkedIn profile, every instant messenger handle you have and your star sign. They really only need basic info – title being very important. Keep it simple and clean. Try not to list more than 3 telephone numbers, and consider hard if you really need to put that fax number on there.
  • Less is more. Especially if you use paper, there should be plenty of blankspace on at least one side – people like to make notes, particularly at a conference. This gives them room to write their own notes to remember you by. It also helps you in case an important prospect comes by who claims, “I just ran out of cards!”. Now you have a convenient card to share with them, and of course, upon seeing your clever card they’ll start a conversation about how great they are and ask for one to keep.
  • Always make sure it says what you do. Include a short one liner that expands on your business. Or bullet points the services you perform. Keep it short, a business card is no place for a book. But it really helps sort through the sea of cards you get after a conference or business mixer to remember who did exactly what.
  • Marketing to your audience is powerful even on a little business card.

    Know your audience. This is probably a given, but market your cards to your customers. In fact, don’t be afraid to put marketing on them. My client’s competition is internal folks searching for the news themselves. Their service makes creates custom news summaries that beat the pants off of Google Alerts. My first recommendation was to put one side of it with a Google Search box saying something like ‘better news summaries than google alerts’. Don’t be afraid of the marketing, and don’t be afraid to make it useful. You cater to bars and restaurants? Print your card on a matchbook instead. Landscaper? Put grass seed in there and say ‘For a fresh start’. Or put a coupon on your card – just makes sure they can keep it and you “collect” the coupon by stamping it. This of course helps with the conversation a bit, but is also free marketing walking around in their pocket.
Categories: Marketing Best Practices Tags:

Making a Video Using an iPhone, Flash, Garageband and iMovie

May 14th, 2010 Comments off

In addition to being part of Silicon Spark, Joanna Duff also is a singer-songwriter who plays at local venues every month or so for an additional creative release. Her next show is June 4th, and we decided to shoot a video. I have done a number of traditional software demonstration and training videos, and even produced a launch video for Hyperic’s Cloud Status. I really enjoy the creativity and recording. I have also been teaching myself more of the basics in Flash lately. Traditionally I assigned all Flash work to creative staff, but decided this would be a great time to practice some of the skills.

Here is the result:

To create the video, we really only purchased a few props including a remote control car, a toy dinosaur, and a 12 pack of Natty Light for all under $30. The rest we had.

  1. Plan the video. Joanna wrote a script for the voice over. It was just a short one page Word doc, but it helped guide us on what kind of footage we would want. We laid down the first cut of the audio so we would know how much video we needed to shoot. The first track was about 35 seconds so we figured we needed about 5 times that amount in footage of the racetrack, plus knew we were laying down a raw track of just Joanna for the end. (Ultimately, we thought of something funnier to put in the middle section, so I did re-record the audio later, but this was a good guide).
  2. Record the audio. We recorded the voice over using Garageband sound effects, wrapped over a vocal that I did using my Blue Snowball microphone. We could have used the built-in mic from my Mac, especially because it was meant to have noise in the background but I much prefer the clarity the microphone provides and to add in noise on purpose. For sound effects, we added crowd cheering, drag race and sports car racing from the iLife library. We also recorded the voice under the Male Speech instrument and then dropped the pitch -6 so that my female voice would sound a little more male.
  3. Shoot the video. We shot the video on Joanna’s iPhone. My backyard is currently a construction zone, so we had lots of woodscraps to create our “racetrack”.
  4. Create the video project. Then I created a new project and a new event in iMovie. We imported all the iPhone video clips right into our new event and started editing. I have also used Screenflow and Final Cut Pro in the past for video editing, but I wanted to compare the prowess of iMovie to the others. Final Cut Pro obviously has a lot more bells and whistles – particularly for layering and transitions on the video. But iMovie really did well. I laid down the car sound effects directly in iMovie and merged the crowd and my voice over in Garageband. I was able to mix them in iMovie fairly easily – just drag and drop. The audio track was constrained to how much video I laid down, so it was hard to use the length of audio as a guide for how much footage I needed to mix in, but overall that is fairly trivial.
  5. Build custom animation. Two sections needed flash footage, which I custom-built in Flash. These two pieces were fairly quick and dirty to make. I took a single graphic and made a 100 frame Motion Tween. A good reference for how easy it was to create is out here on Smartwebby. Essentially though I created two tracks. The lower track was all black so when my upper track spun there was no white space. The upper track had a black border and my image or text. Once I had created the top track, I placed my cursor out on track 100 and hit F5 to insert a frame. I then right clicked and created a motion tween. Then every 10 frames I went back and hit F6 to create a new keyframe and adjusted rotation and scale so it would spin and pulse. Publish the output as a Quicktime movie and you are ready to import that into your iMovie Event for use in your video.
  6. Finalize editing. I played with video clips ensuring the voice and sound effect track made sense with the video that was overlaid on top of it. This is important to give the video more impact and also the main reason it is important to lay down the audio first. Its way easier to clip in video footage than redo your voice over countless time to match the video.
  7. Export the movie. In iMovie,  using Share > Export Movie and selecting Large format as a .m4v, you will get a video that is high quality and ready to upload to YouTube.

The whole video took about 30 minutes of filming, including setting up the shots. We ended up with just over 6 minutes of video. The recording of audio and editing took about 2.5 hours – including building both the flash movies. This falls right in line with what it takes to build software demos (aside from the demo set up itself which can obviously vary). A good rule of thumb that I have for video production is it is roughly 3 hours of work for every minute of output on a custom build. This video seems about the same. Of course, if your video is templated and you are just importing clips and editing them together this estimate does not apply. We can shoot and edit a 6 minute guest video at the aquarium on Final Cut in about one hour and drop it into a much larger video template, but for a custom video – this seems about right.

Categories: Marketing Promotions, Video Tags:

Branding Exercise for Websites

June 12th, 2009 Comments off

I have been doing a lot of websites lately (last one to go live was Loopfuse). One of the first exercises is always to do a messaging/branding exercise. I thought I would share a quick and easy exercise to help you focus your brand message.

I find it is usually best to have a couple key executives and your star sales rep answer the following questionnaire:

  1. What are the biggest problems your customer want solved when they come to your business?
  2. What are three gaps or complaints customers have about your industry?
  3. What positions do your competitors take in addressing customer problems? (identify competitors if possible)
  4. What three things could you do that are different from what others are doing in your industry?

The questions are positioned in a friendly way that helps extract a market profile and competitive positioning. Each question helps approach the challenge of messaging from all angles:

  1. Customer pain. The biggest problmes helps identify the customer point of view, by identifying their pain points. Its useful to have the sales folks answer this question because they can best assess why customers are typically arriving at their doorstep looking for your products or services.
  2. Gap assessment. Next we take the first step to differentiation here – what are the gaps in the industry and are you actively working to close them. Many times this question leads to new product ideas and services. If you can answer this successfully, then you have a successful edge in messaging where you can offer something that is critically lacking in your industry.
  3. Competitive edge. Understanding your competitors helps in a variety of ways. One, for a marketing consultant like me, it helps to narrow down a lexicon of terms that are popular. But for businesses, it helps to map out competitor positions so you can find the specific area/sub-segment that you compete successfully in. This is critical to help attract customers and to stand out in a crowded marketplace – especially if your market is primarily driven through the web. This can identify keywords that are needed in your message to better power search.
  4. Differentiation. Many companies think they can’t come up with three – but usually when they sit down, they can come up with many more. This question is easily answered once you get through the previous three, and helps to solidify the three key points you want to emphasize in your value proposition.

OK, so now you have those answered. What’s next? The messaging exercise itself. While the survey helps to kickstart it, its very important to remember that this is a process – and its usually not quick. Many companies review/revise messaging one or two times a year. Its really hard to get perfect. My best advice is to timebox it (say 2 weeks) and to make sure stakeholders get their say (the questionnaire is a great way to involve them). Then promise to continually review. While a perfectionist myself, I am also a pragmatic believer in the 80/20 rule when it comes to messaging. Get the majority of it done to where you are comfortable – and then try it out. Your customers and prospects will be the best litmus test of how they respond to the message, and often times its more important to have a message than to wait for the perfect one. You can always evolve that message over time – and evolution is going to happen anyway, so embrace that.

Here are the key points that you should try to cover in the messaging exercise:

  • Mission Statement. What is your company trying to do? This message is sometimes used publically, especially in blogs (our mission at XXX is to ..) and in the About Us page of the website. Mostly, however, it is an internal message. It helps to keep focus on what market you are trying to serve and what kind of a company you want to be. When developing this message, it is useful to remember the old PR mantra of F-B-O – try to be the first, best or only in your market. This assures that your mission is unique and noteworthy.
  • Value Statement. This is an external message. This is what you say to your customer. It should be used in your PR slug, in your elevator pitch, and it should be prominent all over your website. Be sure to keep the message directed to a customer, and articulate what value you provide to them. Think about how you save them time, money, or worry.
  • Value Propositions. Identify three specific statements describing specific value that your products or services bring to a potential customer. These are the three legs of the stool that support your value statement. You can have more if need be, but consider that this then becomes really long to describe. Keep it simple, and your customers will grab onto the messages more readily.
  • Call to Action. This one is typically overlooked, but especially in developing websites, its critical to force action into your site. The goal of a website is to attract potential customers – and to do so, you want to spur them into action. Again, it should be short and think of selling the value and then what reaction you want – a free trial, a talk with one of your experts, or just straight out buying your product.

Good luck, and of course, if you need any help – the gang here at Silicon Spark are available to help you with your messaging exercise.

Designing Your Market Presence for Twitter

April 6th, 2009 Comments off
Twitter

Twitter

The internet is all a-flutter over Twitter these days, and the consensus is that its here to stay. The tool helps companies promote thought leadership, improve reputation and monitor brand. That is, of course, if you know how to use it. For most marketers, Twitter seems too amorphous of a tool to really harness. Truth is though, its really not that hard. Here are the basics to getting your company Twitter-fied:

  1. Sign up as your company. Create your twitter name as the same name your company has for a URL. This is how people will search for you and also secures your Twitter presence as the official company profile. While a lot of individual users, like the CEO, CMO, CTO or whatever other personalities you may harbor at your company may also have accounts and presence on Twitter, you should not make the mistake of having any of them as your official voice. Individual accounts will no doubt get cluttered with messages to and from people in that individuals life – from old college friends with inappropriate memories, creepy cousins, and the random troll from your last job. While entertaining, conversations will digress from your business. Keep your official presence all about your company.
  2. Maintain a constant presence. Twitter can seem intimidating to some companies because of the time it takes to maintain. In today’s world, everyone is strapped – how can a marketer justify dedicating headcount to monitor something like Twitter? In today’s internet landscape, it may be better to ask how can you not justify it? Twitter offers companies an invaluable tool to help navigate leads and improve customer service.  Prospects that may not have reached out to you yet ask their peers before contacting sales – you have the opportunity to find them and convert to a lead. Leads evaluating your product or customers considering renewing again may indicate to their friends and colleagues about problems they are having, and you have the opportunity to provide assistance proactively to help the sale or save the account. In short, Twitter is a sales tool. So, As a generic company account, remember that this account can be monitored and updated by a team of company spokespeople from marketing to sales to tech support.  Spreading the work around may help to keep up with constant activity. Another common fear is how much time to spend trolling on Twitter. You can mitigate this too to a manageable level. In fact, rarely is it important for you to respond in minutes. While impressive, nettiquette is closer to the daily level, so build it into your daily routine for when you check out news or go through your email inbox. To make doubly sure important tweets aren’t missed, sign up for TweetBeep, and get alerted by email whenever a specific word or phrase is tweeted, such as your company name or product name. Send the alert to an internal email alias so more people are kept abreast of the types of tweets that are happening and can respond. And don’t hesitate to follow your competitors terms as well – any problems with people trying to use their products could be an opportunity for you to reach out to them to offer an alternative, as well as help keep abreast of current concerns in the market at large.
  3. Make your Twitter page professional. Your twitter page isn’t part of your core website, but you should think of it as an extension of it. Spend the time to create a web design that is consistent with your website. Add your website URL, and company description to the page and be sure to include ‘contact us’ information. While the only clickable text is the standard Twitter fields, don’t hesitate to use the background image for additional information. Check out how software provider, Hyperic, uses the custom image background to enhance their Twitter page with sales and product information.(Editors note: Hyperic is a former employer of mine, and a current client.)

    Hyperic's Twitter page

    Hyperic's Twitter page

  4. Follow the leader. Twitter is a useful tool to proactively find prospects and problems, but to use it as a thought leadership and news tool you need to have a following to be speaking to. Follow the people you want to follow you. Go through your main contacts and see who they are following – you may find media contacts, other related contacts in their company, or thought leaders on your industry out there. On a weekly basis, check out all your new followers and see if they have any more followers you want. Twitter notifies the account owners whose new and following them, which will bring to their attention that your Twitter presence is out there. Also, a growing trend is to reach out and thank new followers for selecting to follow you. Use the @ reply to make sure they get the message, and personalize it for their interest. All your posts are public, so a generic greeting is pretty transparent. Another alternative is to direct message (DM) the new follower in private, but then you miss on promoting the new relationship and publically welcoming the new follower. And don’t forget, they may choose to re-tweet (RT) your message and comment on it. So in general, its best to treat all twitter messages as public.
  5. Monitor your popularity. Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t allow you to see your number of page views or tweet-views. Followers is a good measure of how many people are interested in your company, but link views is a really good measure for how useful your twittering actually is. Use links in your tweets to other content to measure how often your tweets are clicked. TweetBurner is a free service that helps you shorten your URLs, freeing up precious character space, and measure how many times your links were clicked. Design your tweets to reference other content – from blog posts, to product documentation, use it to generate interest in larger content as well as measure how interesting your content actually is. Set goals to increase the average click-throughs over time, and keep an eye on what content works, and build followers to up this number.
  6. Advertise your Twitter feed. Make sure people visiting you the ‘old-fashioned’ way know about your Twitter feed. This works well to show that you are a modern company, and that you are easily accessible. The name of the game is to get followers, so you can build a regular dialogue with a community at large. Advertise your corporate Twitter page on your website, email signatures, and company newsletters. Make it easy and obvious for people to check out your feed, and subscribe.

In short, by making Twitter a company-wide initiative, you can easily harness all the benefits of reputation management, prospect building, lead conversion, customer support and competitive intelligence with minimal effort. It does take some diligence, but the benefits can be outstanding. Try it, you’ll see.

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Stacey Schneider is a marketing consultant who specializes in helping companies transform their internet presence into a sales tool that helps lower cost of sales and improve pipeline performance. Schneider has over 12 years of advising companies of all sizes on sales and marketing automation, public relations and website development. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sparkystacey.

4.5% of CMO’s satisfied with operational reporting

February 24th, 2009 Comments off

AlterianAlterian published some data today from the CMO Council, where reportedly over 100 smart, savvy marketers convened to discuss the modern challenges of marketing in today’s envioronment. I’d love to get my hands on more of the topics – or the $299 report, but for now I am content with the free-market copies and write-ups.

One of the shocking things I saw was the two points that MarketingShift pointed out:

  • 60 percent of respondents believe that marketing operational transformation is an essential area of focus.
  • Only 4.5 percent are very satisfied with their current level of marketing operational visibility, accountability and output.

I think this relates to something I am seeing more and more often, and something I faced at my time at Hyperic. In a world driven by technology, where you can see link throughput in minutes, how do you calibrate your marketing operational measurements to ensure you stay apace? Aparently only 4.5% of these folks have figured it out. I had a pretty decent report going – but it was only weekly, and it was mostly driven through spreadsheets because of the nature of the data. We had data from externally hosted downloads & CDNs; multiple websites & technologies for Forums, wiki, tickets etc; adwords; and of course the CRM. That is a lot of data to fuse – and not all of it is in your control for formatting since its externally hosted or a package.

The logical thing to think about is placing it all in the CRM. But that misses oodles of traffic as it only captures actual leads. What about all the traffic you didn’t end up capturing? That’s where a marketing automation tool comes in handy. That is where a marketing automation tool comes in handy. There are several out there – from Eloqua, Marketo and of course, my favorite, LoopFuse. Plugging these systems in so its easy to capture this information, integrate it to your CRM and report on it is what marketers need. There are still some things lacking in this regard from all the packages. From ease of use to reporting customizations, there are many things to be done to smooth the path forward for most marketers. My bet though is the 4.5% of those marketers who are satisfied, have looked in the direction of marketing automation for these answers.