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Small Business Needs Facebook

Posted on May 15th, 2010

So long as smart-phones remain all the rage, small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) will need social media marketing. Consider this scenario: It’s morning. I’m at work. I’m thinking pizza for lunch. Then my phone starts buzzing. ABC sandwich shop (fictional) down the street, with whom I’m Facebook friends, just posted something about “Better-in-Two’s” lunch special - if I bring a friend, we both eat for half-price.

Of course, I’m won over by the promotion, if nothing else than for the exclusivity: it’s only for FB “friends,” no one else. Well, don’t I feel special. I also admire the shop owner, who’s shown him or herself to be creative, generous and considerate, i.e., since the post arrived at 10 a.m., I still have a few hours to make a date or rearrange my lunch plans. Folks, there’s no other media on the planet that can do this. TV and radio spots are too hit-or-miss, brochures are too disposable, direct mailers are so very yesterday’s new. Plus, print and broadcast ads cost mucho dinero to produce and distribute. But with social media, the promotion goes right to my pocket. And it costs the owner nothing more than the time to think, write and post.

One real-world example I like is a small sandwich chain in Dallas called Breadwinners. I like how devoted they are to ‘wich foodies. Articles, promotions, pictures, Twitter updates, acknowledgments.  They also link with yelp.com, which boosts their site traffic even more. The Breadwinner fan page even has these cool little customer experience write-ups. This past week it was “Cushy for your Tushy,” explaining in a few short graphs why chair padding is better than no-padding. It’s an endearing touch. Very nice. The Breadwinners page is very popular with more than 1,000 friends. That means more than 1,000 people receiving new updates and offerings via cell phone. Are you hearing me, small business owner?

Here are some other strategies that seem to be working for these small businesses, each of which have figured out creative ways to keep their audience engaged.

Obscure Observances. You know the token calendar days. But what about Geek Pride Day, Bloomsday, or even International No-Diet Day? (See the full list). Plano-based spa boutique Spa Habitat offers a “Happy Earth Day!” promotion, $49 massages and facials on select days, in connection with Earth Month every April. Celebrate earth, indeed, with some rejuvenating mud caked around your face and cucumbers for your tired eyes. Who could resist?

Make It Fun. The fashionistas over at Michelle Patrick Salons in Dallas certainly get snaps for originality and energy. Their fan page includes crazy photos, style sightings, calls for new talent, and some pretty risque yet playful discussion topics. Made you blush. Hey, it’s all in good fun.

Go Local. If you’ve ever told a comic book fan to “get a life,” then you haven’t seen Lone Star Comics’ fan page. This Dallas-Fort Worth book and games store is the city’s oldest and operates seven local stores, each with their own fan page. And each page is a friggin PARTY: Tournaments, costume events, pizza parties, launch parties, game night, game day, warehouse sales, stuff for kids, stuff for adults. Lone Star’s owners post often, almost daily – cool trivia, fun quotes, recent news. Excellent job. Or should I say…Excelsior!

Beware of Intuit’s Website Builder

Posted on April 17th, 2010

So, why is this guy smiling, exactly? Because Intuit’s Website Builder is “so easy, helpful and only costs $4.99 a month.” Not so fast. Website Builder has become one of those polarizing love-it or hate-it-type things. Customer complaints read like a bad hotel review: “Worse experience I’ve ever had. Don’t go there.” Customer praise reads like a syrupy love note: “Intuit, you’re my BFF!!”

Clearly, the only way to know is to try it out – which we did, thanks to Intuit’s 30-day free trial. One thing is certain: this little piece of software has become an great anathema to graphic artists and web designers. But, I’m here to say they can rest easy. Website Builder poses as much threat as a stuffed teddy bear. Here’s a Review of Intuit’s Website Builder.

Extremely limiting: First off, there’s no true Mac version. SiteBuilder Lite (which works with Mac) only allows you to modify pictures and text. To get the full effect, you must download the software to your PC desktop and build pages offline. You can access and change the META tags and titles, but there’s no direct access to CSS style sheets. And once you decide to quit the service, Intuit owns the rights to your site. Yikes.

Inflexible: Intuit is selling people on flexibility. But wait: If you opt for the professional edition, you get locked in with this beast called “Storefront Administrator” for people who want an e-commerce storefront. Your online storefront becomes your homepage site with templates that look like they were designed during the Soviet era, and your pretty little web site gets shoved into a sub-domain folder. Once you’ve selected this route, it’s impossible to switch back without contacting the customer support.

Too many fees: Want prettier graphics? Want a nicer template? Want customers to actually find you on the web? Intuit can help…for an added fee. Like a lot of things you step into – a new car or a cruise vacation –  the $4.99 is merely admission inside so Intuit can sell more services. For $1,500-plus, they can design something uber-professional looking. That’s $1,000 for a custom build and another $500-plus and $149/mo. for the full SEO package with tracking/analytics capabilites. Several business owners who paid the up-charge for Intuit’s help got a pretty snazzy-looking web site. But, at $1,600-plus, you might as well pay an independent designer.

WYSI-WHA?? The Storefront Administrator is actually a hard-nosed CMS that assembles pages using header, footer, content, and sidebar php files (just like in Wordpress). The user must customize each page by attaching pictures and links to the :ss fields. So, around 15 little links per page x’s the 100 pages Intuit supplies. At 30 minutes per page and no breaks, that would take 50 hours to build. But Joe Shopkeeper doesn’t have five hours to spare,  let alone 50. Plus, those annoying little :ss text icons aren’t so user-friendly and forced us to the source code editor to start hard-coding links manually. “Building you’re own website has never been so easy,” Intuit says. Really? What’s so easy about hard-coding html/ javascript?

Just to be fair, Website Builder does function okay, and could work for mom-and-pops, America’s heartland-types who have the extra time and want a website but are leery of getting charged out-the-whazzoo. It’s true: Unless you know EXACTLY what you want, there’s no telling what you’ll end up getting. Yes, Website Builder does make publishing a web site a bit easier, but learning how to make your web site successful can be difficult and very time-consuming. HTML, php, javascript and other coding languages notwithstanding, knowledge of paid vs. organic search, page layout, link building are vast in scope, complex in nature, and absolutely essential to a web site’s success. But who has time to learn all that stuff?

Some of Intuit’s discussion board chatter decries Wordpress and Blogger for being “too complicated and time consuming.” No kidding. One Oklahoma rancher claims to have spent six (6) hours (not including time on the phone with tech support) designing a very basic site using Web Builder. Not to sound too critical, but he could’ve achieved the same look on a self-hosted Wordpress account for less time and less money.

The point is that Intuit charges big money for the same stuff available for FREE on Blogger or Wordpress. And the time you spend outfitting and learning Website Builder, Wordpress or Blogger is really about the same.  But folks who like the TurboTax format might feel right at home with Website Builder. Intuit’s version is just one of several dozen DIY web site builders out there. Our recommendation is to research the heck out of them all, and go with what works best for you.

CopyStratic’s New Look

Posted on April 2nd, 2010

Yes, we’re finally live with CopyStratic 2.0. It’s taken several months getting just-the-right design and creating just-the-write content. But before we get too carried away, there are some people who need thanking.

  • Node Thirty Three. Love the design. So easy to customize. WP plugins work seamlessly. Can’t say thank you enough.
  • Stu Nichols. The CSS-only menu madman. Totally awesome menu drop downs, fly-outs, horizontal, vertical, basic or complex. You want it, he’s got it. Check him out.
  • Copyblogger. Never knew how to blog before reading Brian Clark’s sensational site. Very inspiring, educational and interesting. This guy is the source.
  • Jennifer Mattern. Best advice on freelance copywriting ever. Helpful, useful, practical. Thank you, Jenn!
  • Janice Leavins (our team). With a sharp eye for layout and content, her overview and eagle-eye proofreading skills stop my goofs and type-o’s in their tracks. All Hail, the Copy Chief!
  • WordPress. O mighty CMS. You know why everyone likes you, don’t you? Well, we Love you…

Writer’s Embrace the NUDE Model

Posted on February 21st, 2010

Yup, you heard correctly. NUDE. More specifically: N.U.D.E, which stands for Novelty (N), Utility (U), Dependability (D), and Economy (E). This model rates audience perception of something and gauges whether that something is exciting enough to create “word-of-mouth” referral.

The model uses a scale of 1 to 100 to measure perceived strength in each area. The maximum score is 400, which by marketing standards is the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest without bottled oxygen. More realistically, a score of “315″ supplies the momentum you need to affect a “tipping point” (with nods to Malcolm Gladwell) and make something go viral.

Here are some quick examples that score high in each N.U.D.E category:

  • Novelty (N): The Segway
  • Utility (U): Comet Cleaners
  • Dependability (D): Peanut Gallery
  • Economy (E): Factory 2-U Clothing Stores

Products and/or companies that score high on the N.U.D.E model:

  • Apple’s iPad
  • eBay
  • Honda Accord
  • Target Stores
  • Starbucks Coffee

You get the idea. One of NUDE’s biggest cheerleaders (and it’s alleged creator) is marketing guru, Scott Degraffenreid, a DeSoto resident, who’s written books on the subject. He started in forensic accounting, but according to his web site, became more interested in customer retention, when he found it was the cause of greater damage to a company than all its internal losses combined.

Courtesy: Scott Degraffenreid, necessarymeasures.com

So where do we come in? Get ready for some “NUDE” copywriting. Let’s start with something everyone needs: food. A generic deli sounds prosaic enough. Here’s the scenario: Otto’s Deli is loosing customers to Panera Bakery down the street, which just introduced their new Proscuitto & Smoked Gouda Panini sandwich.

Otto’s has got the “U.D.E.” part down, but is in need of an “N.”

The deli owner phones a marketing friend, who has an interesting tip: a local seafood distributor has received more chilean sea bass than steakhouses are wanting, driving down the price. The deli owner approaches the distributor and offers to sign a short-term contract at the reduced rate. The distributor balks at first, but soon obliges. Now the deli owner has 30 pounds of fresh product that no other sandwich shop has even attempted. The 20 x 10-foot outside banner that reads, “Chilean Sea Bass Sandwich, $5.99 Meal Deal” is enough to cause quite a stir the next day. But the marketing friend wants more. He hires a content provider to create some buzz for Otto’s new Facebook fan page. The writer, familiar with N.U.D.E, delivers the following:

Novelty: “Chilean sea bass never looked so delicious as it does on Otto Deli’s signature sourdough bread roll. Talk about fresh, the sea bass is flown in daily.”

Utility: “This gourmet sandwich makes a terrific lunch or dinner. Try it with your favorite blush or white wine.”

Dependability: “Through its 30-year history, Otto’s Deli only offers the finest, all-natural ingredients for sandwiches made fresh daily.

Economy: “Try the $5.99 Chilean Sea Bass Sandwich Meal Deal, including chips and a 16 oz. drink. Available only for a limited time. HURRY, while supplies last.”

And there you have it, Otto’s Deli rescued through the power of the N.U.D.E. Apply Mr. Degraffenreid’s model to your products and services, and see where you might make some changes to increase “word-of-mouth” potential. Apologies to all who thought this blog post included racy pictures (not really).

SEO Copywriting for SMB

Posted on January 27th, 2010

One of the most immediate ways SMB owners can take harness the web is by optimizing the content on their home page and main landing pages. Right now, we’re finishing up work on a comprehensive white paper that shows some easy and practical ways to do this and takes less than 1 hour. Please subscribe to our blog and be the first to receive our white paper when it’s complete. Thanks for visiting CopyStratic.