Top 10 Most Popular Posts. Ever.

33rd America's Cup - Valencia, SpainThey certainly are a varied bunch (everything from fishing to sins to target practice, well sort of).

What Every Marketer Can Learn From Fishermen

Are You Reading These Blogs?

102 Great Headlines

Announcing a Painless Way to Stretch Your Marketing Dollars

A Marketing Mistake You Should Never Make

Is Your Marketing Missing Its Target?

Seven Legit Marketing Ideas From the Spam Folder

What a Giant Squid Can Teach the New York Times About Publishing

How to Write Headlines Your Readers Can’t Resist

7 Deadly Web Copy Mistakes

Actually, this gives me an idea.  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post (your input needed).

OOPS:  Thought I posted this hours ago.  Apparently I never hit publish!

A Lesson in Marketing Strategies From My Cat

What’s a cat got to do with marketing strategies for your business?

You wouldn’t think cats and marketing would have much in common.  Cats are, after all, famous for wanting what they want and being completely unfazed or bothered by what anyone else wants.

It turns out that’s not true.  In fact, my cat, Paris,  has some very definite ideas on the subject.

Meow! Meow!

When he wants something, he asks for it.  He doesn’t think about it, wonder if it’s OK, or he’s causing too much bother.  He just asks.

Lesson:  if you want someone to do something, ask them.

Meowing, leg rubbing, jumping on the keyboard

If meowing doesn’t work, he tries rubbing against me, or jumping on the keyboard.  If I ever type  www1111111qqqqqq on this blog, you’ll know why.  Use multiple methods to reach your prospects and interact with them.  Some people prefer email, others like videos or podcasts.

Lesson: use more than one marketing tactic

Nap regularly

Take a break every once in a while.  Look back at what you’ve done, and analyze what’s working. Especially if you’re a one-man (or woman) band, give your brain time to relax.

Lesson:  you can’t be brilliant every day, all day

Feed me!

If he wants food, he’ll start meowing, then run right over to the food dish.  It’s absolutely clear what he wants.  Your instructions, and your marketing, should be clear too.  Show people what you want them to do.  If your search is broken, it’s hard to buy.   If you can’t tell, have someone else test it. Use clear language too.  If you don’t know your customers’ lingo, learn it – talk to them the way they talk, in terms they’ll understand (rank higher in Google, not WS3 compliant).  As,  you can see, Paris wants to reach Francophones.

Lesson:  less friction means more sales


It’s easy to get distracted when a squirrel crawls up the fire escape or a bird flies by.  However, the cat is safely inside, and the squirrels are outside.  No matter how hard he tries, he’ll never reach them through  the double-paned windows.  The latest trend or toy may work for you  (or not).  Don’t chase after it just because it’s new.  Think about whether it fits into your business, your personality, and what your clients are doing.

Lesson:  just because it’s bright and shiny doesn’t mean you should spend five hours a day on it

Create stories

Like most cats, Paris likes milk.  He’s always trying to get at the little pitcher of milk for my morning tea.  First, he jumped up on the desk, then he tried to put his nose in the pitcher.  When it didn’t fit, he dipped his paw in the pitcher, tipped it over and lapped up the milk. Businesses need stories too.  Show your personality in your writing and your marketing, rather than being a copycat (sorry, couldn’t resist).

(Note: he only did this once… and I let him because it was funny… once… now I put the milk where he can’t get it)

Lesson: say and do things that make you memorable

Plan your attack

If you see something you want to catch (a cat toy, a twist tie), approach it slowly.  Calculate how far away it is, whether it’s likely to run, and the best angle of attack.  If you’re marketing a product, make a plan.  Put the cart and horse in the right order.  Who will you approach? What will you do? How will you close the sale?

Lesson:  know what you want and how to get it

Be picky

Cats are notoriously finicky.  They’ll eat the stuff in the blue can, but not the green can. The pictures on the boxes both look fine to people, and the food does too.  It’s the cat’s opinion that counts.   When developing your marketing, pick a niche.  Do what appeals to the people in that niche, not what appeals to everyone (or to you).

Lesson: market to your tribe (not everybody)

Photo credit: me

28 Essential Online Marketing Tools

paint chips

Image by Anosmia via Flickr

Want free tools for your business? These 28 handy helpers save you time, improve your marketing, and make life less stressful.

Five free tools to help you get more traffic, brainstorm ideas, create screen capture videos, and manage projects.

1. Web Site Grader

Web Site Grader reviews your site, checks your keywords, and tells you how effective they are.  It will also give you your ranking in Alexa and Technorati.

2.  Quantcast

A tool that estimates the traffic and the demographics of visitors to your site (male/female, education level, age, etc).  You can use it for other sites too.

3. Bubble.Us

Free mind-mapping software. If you’re visually oriented (like I am) this is a great way to organize information and ideas. It’s like a flow chart for creative types.

4. Tiny Url

If you want to send (or post) a long, messy URL, try using this shortener instead. It’s a lot less cumbersome, and you can even customize it.

5. Scribefire

See something you want to quote on your blog? Or get a quick idea while you’re browsing. Use ScribeFire to drag and drop text into a post (without opening your blogging software). Or, save it for later use.

6. Wordoid

Stuck for a name for a new service or business? Plug in some words and wordoid will come up with suggestions for you.

7. Jing

This free tool takes a quick screen capture video – five minutes or less. If you need something longer, you can get Camtasia (not free, but not expensive).

8. Jott

Turns voice messages into emails. If you leave yourself a message, or someone leaves you one, it automatically appears in your email box (no typing).

9. Basecamp

Great for collaborating with people who are spread out in different cities. Keeps your notes, edits, and project management tools are in one place.

10. Maczot

Woot for Macs. One great deal each day.

11. Make Your Own Buttons

Make your own call to action buttons in photoshop. Plus, another one especially for buy now buttons.

12. Ebook covers

Make your own ebook covers for free. Takes a bit of practice, but it works.

13. 3-D Box.

If you want more ebook options, try BoxShot 3D software. It’s not free (and Mac only), but it will save you a lot of time.

14. Google Link Tracker

Once you finish that ebook, you’ll want to know if anyone is clicking the links back to your site. Great when you want to spread a free book or article.

15. Creative Commons Image Search

Find free images for your blog posts or ebooks. It will search in multiple places at the same time.  You can specify keywords, as well as usage rights, and where to look.

16. The wayback machine

It’s not just for Mr. Peabody anymore. Get your own time machine – and go back and find old versions of your site (or someone else’s) on the Web. It also has photos, old movies, and public domain books.

17. Scribd

Sample book chapters, free (and paid) ebooks, forms and templates – many at no charge. Upload a free ebook of your own and use their traffic to spread it.

18. Dryicons

Free icons in lots of different styles, from glossy to rather scruffy. It’s got blog icons, e-commerce icons, and holidays too.

19. Compfight

An improved Flickr search tool. It shows a full page of photos, plus their sizes (so you can find one that fits your needs without more clicking). You can choose by license too.

20. Veer

A stock image site, but one with photos that are more quirky and interesting than usual. Prices start at $1.

21. Free ideas

Out of ideas? Type a word into the inspiration generator and get photos, quotes, videos, bookmarks, songs, and tweets that match the word.

22. tineye

It’s a reverse image search.  Use it to find how images are being used,  if they’ve been changed, (great if you’re an artist or photographer and want to control the rights to your work) or to see if you can find a higher resolution version of an image you like.

23. E-junkie

An online shopping cart. E-junkie processes the orders, takes the credit card (or paypal information) and notifies you when you’ve made a sale. Use their affiliate program to help other people sell your books too.

24. Evernote (free and paid versions)

Keep track of ideas, save images, write drafts for blog posts, record your thoughts, and Available for both desktop and as an app, which will sync together so you can access it anywhere.

25. Asana – (free and paid versions, depending on your company size)

A project management tool. Use it for web development, tech support tickets, and task tracking (for one person or a team).

26. Scannable – scanning app from Evernote

Scan receipts, documents, scribbled notes (I have lots of these), business cards, and other piles of paper into your phone.  Goodbye clutter.

27. Userium – pre-launch website usability checklist

28.  Grammarly – a better spelling and grammar checker (this one can tell if you used the wrong word (even if it’s spelled correctly), suggest alternatives in context, and spots missing punctuation.

What do Baby Showers Have in Common with Marketing?

Baby Shower Cupcakes

Image by clevercupcakes via Flickr

What does a baby shower have to do with marketing or identifying your customers’ needs?  Isn’t that just a chance to buy gifts, talk to your friends, and eat?

Not so fast.

A long time ago, I went to a friend’s baby shower. She’d just had a baby girl (who is now an adult).

All of her other friends got her lots of lacy dresses for the baby.  There was a bassinet full of bows.  It was a sea of pink, lacy, frilly, conventionally girly gifts.

Know your customer

I, on the other hand, got her something completely different. It was a sporty outfit from The Gap. I think it may have come with baby-sized sunglasses.

Why? Because I knew my “customer.” My friend just wasn’t a ruffles and lace kinda gal. She hated all those frills.

Her other friends got her what they liked. I got her something she would like.

On another occasion, I bought a then-colleague a baby outfit with an abstract purple and orange print. I hated it. She knew it too (my dislike of purple is legendary).  However, she loved it (and I knew she would).  She also appreciated that I got her something I knew she would like (even though I didn’t like it at all).

Appeal to them (not yourself)

It’s OK to do what you like if your audience is just like you (for example, you’re a geek marketing to other geeks). However, if you’re a geek marketing to lawyers, you’ll need to understand what lawyers want and need. You’ll have to learn to speak a bit of legalese, and watch your use of tech speak.

You may be excited about new server software. The lawyer just wants to know that her network will stop crashing. Sell the software as a solution to the crashing, not as super-cool new software with redundant backups and offsite mirroring.

See the difference?

How to identify customer needs and wants

In the case of my friend and colleague, I simply paid attention and listened.  For clients, your approach has to be a bit different.

First, start listening to their questions.  What comes up over and over about your product? Are there particular features that they like? What do they have trouble using?  Is there a new feature they’d like to see?

  • Try sending out a brief survey and ask them what they want.
  • Review the tech support questions you get and develop new features (or change old ones).
  • If you have a sign up process, go through it yourself. Identify any speed bumps your customers may be experiencing.
  • Use an ideal customer profile, to guide your decisions.  If you don’t have one, make one.  This will help focus your marketing too.

Know what they want, and give it to them. They’ll love you for it. They’ll stay longer too.

Lamborghini or Hyundai? 99Designs vs Designers

lamborghiniA-list blogger and successful social media consultant Chris Brogan posted a logo design project on 99Designs a few days ago. Then, he tweeted about it.

All hell broke loose.

If you don’t know, 99Designs is a design contest site. Businesses post a project, with a budget, and entrants submit work. If they win, they get paid. If not, they worked for free.

The small business reaction to 99Designs

Judging from the comments, small businesses love it. It’s cheap! It’s fast! There are lots of options! They think, “Hey I can get something that looks nice and I don’t need a second mortgage on my house!”

99Designs vs Designers

Experienced designers hate it. It’s spec work! It devalues my art! It looks like crap! Would you ask 50 contractors to build a new den on spec?  Or trust your operation to an amateur brain surgeon?  What about the story of your company? Or how the colors and fonts express your philosophy?

They insist that you can’t just get a logo in one format. You need different versions for larger/smaller or print/web uses.

All true.

However, railing and ranting (while immediately satisfying) won’t change anything.

How to charge more for your work

If you want to get higher prices for your work, you need to better communicate and to better educate your clients:

  • why you are worth
  • who your market is (and isn’t)
  • why buy from you
  • what  you offer that cheap designers can’t (in business terms)

Specialize – pick a specific market (a niche, more on this coming later). Focus on them. Ignore everyone else.

Brand – use some of those branding skills on yourself. Are you the Ferrari of designers? Or the Smart Car? Why do people choose you? What do you bring to the job that other designers (or that cheap designers) don’t have? How are you remarkable?

Extra value – why knowing the difference between EPS and and RGB matters. And why one logo format doesn’t work for all media (web, trade show banners, brochures, faxes). A logo that looks OK online might look like a mud pie printed out in black and white.

Copyright /Due Diligence – a designer logo is the client’s alone – not ripped off from someone else’s site or work (legal fights are scary and expensive).

Skip the “I’m a professional, I have years of experience.” You are, and you do. That’s not what matters to the client. What matters to the client is whether you give her what she wants – to feel better, look better, earn more, be more successful.  What are you really selling?

Here’s the thing. Lamborghini doesn’t really sell cars. They sell status, luxury, sex appeal, and VROOOOM.

Hyundai sells cheap, reliable, and super guarantee.

Are you Lamborghini or Hyundai? Does Hyundai care about Lamborghini’s buyers? No. Nor vice versa. They ignore each other.

Show them why a real designer is worth it. And try to understand when they want to make the logo bigger!

Share your thoughts

What do you think about this debate?   Does cheap or spec  work hurt designers?  Does it matter what the “cheap” people do? What other ways can you approach the problem?

Image thanks to omniNate