Technology For Business Sake Blog

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

The Survey Says..... Small Biz Gets IT

Posted by Brent Leary on Wed, Apr 25, 2007 @ 10:15 PM



You may want to check out the latest Wells Fargo Small Business Index recently released. Here are a few interesting nuggets:

*  2 In 3 small business owners say technology is important to success of their businesses
*  35% said it would have a major impact on their business if they lost Internet access
* 75% of small business owners regularly gather information as well as business and industry advice online.
* 50% go online for social networking to make professional contacts
* 45% use online advertising and marketing tools

There are some other interesting things in the report that I recommend checking out.  I know one thing.  If I lose Internet access I'm helpless.



Article has 39 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

BusinessMatchmaking.com: Speed Dating for Small Businesses

Posted by Brent Leary on Mon, Apr 23, 2007 @ 11:05 PM



Last week I had an opportunity to witness a cool business matchmaking event held in Atlanta and organized by HP and SCORE. It was the first of four being put on in 2007, and if they all go the way the Atlanta event did, you'll want to figure out a way to attend.  There were over 800 small businesses in attendance getting face time with over 100 representatives from companies like HP, Research In Motion (our show sponsor and maker of the BlackBerry devices) and Fedex to name a few.  There were also a large number of government agencies participating as well. 

The event was set up to give small businesses wanting to become suppliers to big business and government agencies, an opportunity to get 15 minutes of face time with them.....one on one.  Some folks I talked to had four and five such 15 minute appointments set up.  And with good reason as a good 15 minutes could lead to million dollar contracts at some point.  Because of the potential these meetings hold,  there were more than a few people from all over the country in attendance.  They go to all four locations the events take place in order to get that 15 minutes of face time.

If you curious about learning more you should check out www.businessmatchmaking.com to get information on where the next events will be held and how you can participate.  It's a free event but you have to register and be approved to attend.  The event website has all the details.

Check out the below clip of interviews I did from the event to get a flavor for how it went.  I spoke to the following to get some different perspectives that should give you a sense for what went on:

*    Lee Mauney of Ergogenesis - manufacturer of ergonomic office chairs whose company landed  a multi-million dollar contract from a relationship started at a matchmaking event

*    Lisa Baker, director of marketing for HP

*    Ken Yancey, chief executive officer of SCORE

*    Brian Tippins, manager of supplier diversity for HP

*    Steve Bloom, chairman of SCORE Atlanta

Listen Now!




Article has 38 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

How a Nice Tie Can Help You Avoid Customer Relationship Mis-management

Posted by Brent Leary on Mon, Feb 19, 2007 @ 10:40 AM



Recently I wrote an article for the 2007 Direct Marketing News' Essential Guide to Lists, Database Marketing and Data Services.  The article was about how the Web 2.0 phenomenon was changing how companies interacted with their customers and prospects.  It was a short article that only touched at the surface of changes, but it was pretty well received.  I received a couple of nice emails from folks who read it and thought it was interesting.  And then I got this email from someone who basically wanted me to hire them to do public relations work. 

I really have no problem with this, as I use this strategy from time to time if I run across something that makes sense for me to approach.  And when I do this,  I try to make sure up front that I make a positive statement about whatever it is they wrote about, spoke about or presented on.  It shows that I've at least did a little homework and paid some attention to what they did.  This just makes good sense....and I'm not even in public relations.  So here's what I get from the PR person who wants me to hire them based off of the contact he's initiating with this email.....

Hi Brent:

Seeing your article in the DM News Guide to Lists & Database Marketing, I wanted to drop you a line and introduce myself. As a public relations consultant specializing in the database marketing & CRM space, I deal with marketing services and numerous industry publications every day. As a matter of fact, I helped create and placed two articles in the same Guide in which your article appeared.

This was the opening paragraph. You don't need to see the rest and I didn't either as I pretty much stopped reading after that.  Well typically that would have been it for me but I did check the rest of the email just to see if my assumption was correct.  And it was.  This person only talked about themselves and what they've done in the past.  What set me off in the first place was how it was pretty apparent to me that this person didn't even take the time to read my article.  He "saw" it, but he definitely didn't read it.  If he had, and if he really wanted my business, don't you think he would have complimented me before going full bore into his sales pitch?  My co-host Michael Thomas refers to this as the "nice tie" approach, where you find something to compliment your intended target on before hitting them up.  This person, who claims to be a public relations specialist, didn't even give me a nice tie before singing their own praises (and anyone who knows me knows I could really use a nice tie).  Needless to say, I didn't reply to the email.  In fact I'd probably hire Terrell Owens' old PR lady before hiring this person, and we know what kind of job she did under fire

It reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where George asks Jerry to act like his former employer and be a reference for the job he's going for as a latex salesman.  George has the company call Jerry's house, but instead of Jerry answering the phone Kramer does and totally screws it up for George.  George, in the bathroom, here's Kramer messing it up and comes tearing out of the bathroom with his pants down around his ankles, then falls face first right at Jerry's feet.  Jerry looks at George, and says those famous words...."and you want to be my latex salesman......"  And this person what to be my public relations consultant.......

To me, it's just another tragic case of customer relationship mis-management.  Please learn from this before sending that next email out.  And also learn how to say and spell "Nice Tie!"



Article has 29 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

The 5 Don'ts of Business Networking 1.0

Posted by Brent Leary on Mon, Feb 05, 2007 @ 06:59 PM

  


There's a lot of hype (and deservedly so) about leveraging the Web 2.0 world to build wider social and business networks.  I myself have accounts on YouTube, LinkedIn, JumpUp and a few others that have actually been pretty helpful in a number of ways.  And I expect these tools will become an even more important way to grow my business network in the years to come.  But even as I rely more and more on the web to widen the pool of prospects to draw from, nothing still does the trick like face to face communications.... otherwise known as Business Networking 1.0 style.  And no matter how Web 2.0 you go with building your network, you'll always have to do some old fashioned, meet-and-greets, chamber meetings and other forms of "hand-to-hand" networking events.  When you do hit the "circuit", please remember these few rules.....

  1. Don’t Go Into Combat with Out-of-Whack Expectations

If you’re at a networking event, most likely you are there to try to sell yourself, your company and your services to the people you talk with there. Well chances are the people you end up talking to are trying to do the same. So you are trying to sell to someone who is trying to sell to you at the same time. Or maybe you go to an event hoping to connect with the one or two executives with companies you’d love to do business with. Unfortunately fifty other people have targeted the same two people and you may only get a quick “hello” out. You’ve just invested two hours in a thirty second sound bite – and the worst part is your sound bite most likely was sandwiched between others. Does this sound all too familiar?

Hey we’d all like to walk out of every event we attend with a contract in hand, but let’s get real. It doesn’t happen too often, if at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a waste of time. You have to be more realistic and look for opportunities to build relationships with folks who may help you, in time, get business. By attending a few events I met people who have been valuable sources of information that put me on the right path. So money is the obvious measure of how good a networking event is, but don’t discount the importance of information that can lead to cash somewhere down the line.

  1. Don’t Oversell Yourself

I don’t know about you, but when I meet someone at an event who’s really coming on strong talking about what they’ve done, I do two things. I ask people I know if they’ve ever heard of this person. But the first thing I end up doing is putting them through The Google Test. Because I figure is you’re going to be woofing so hard about what you’ve done in the business world, I better be able to find some of this great work in a search on your name (or company name). And if Google comes up dry, you fail the test, and that pretty much ends my interest in cultivating a business relationship.

  1. Don’t Equate An Exchange of Business Cards as an Opt-in To Your Newsletters

This one really gets me. I’m not a big business card passer-outer. But when I do hand it over it’s because I had a good conversation and would like to keep an open dialogue going. That means doing a phone call or maybe some back and forth emails. The one thing it absolutely doesn’t mean is that I am giving anyone permission to add me to their email newsletter list. Like everybody else, I already get way too much email and am really looking for ways to cut it down, not add to it. But it never fails that as soon as I hand over the card, before I even get home from the event I’m getting an email newsletter from the person I just met. Please whatever you do, if you do a card exchange with someone after a good conversation, ask if it would be ok to add them to your newsletter list BEFORE you do so. It’s the only humane thing to do…..

  1. Don’t Have a Messed Up Email Address on Business Cards You’re Handing Out

Some people think I’m picky about this, but part of that first impression you make at an event includes the card exchange. And nothing can ruin the makings of a good impression than a jacked-up email address. No offense to the Hotmails, AOLs and Yahoos! of the world, but if you’re serious about business, get your own domain, even if its just to be able to send out more professional emails. I have a Hotmail address and a GMail account, but I hardly ever pass those out, and I certainly don’t have it on business cards. And please….PLEASE don’t hand me a card with an email address starting with the following:

        • SugarDaddy5@

        • BlessedWoman24@

        • IGetsMine@

        • BearsFan34@ (especially not after yesterday’s Super Bowl)

These are fine email address for sharing with friends and family, but people you just meet at workshops and conferences can’t be considered your friend. Upon further review, do you really want a stranger you’re trying to impress to know you as SugarDaddy5? I didn’t think so.

  1. Don’t Forget to Follow Up

I struggle with this one at times. If you meet someone at a networking event who’s interested enough to ask you to send more information their way, try to do so. And if you offer it up, you really better follow through. You just never know what could come from this. Or who may talk about you when you don’t follow through….or who they talk to, as it could be one of those two or three people you wanted to talk to in the first place. It happened to me……



Article has 27 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

Are Small Businesses Being Priced out of Search Engine Marketing?

Posted by Brent Leary on Thu, Jan 18, 2007 @ 10:24 AM



Dharmesh Shah had an interesting post a few days ago over at the Small Business 2.0 blog you should check out.  He offers up his views on how small businesses should approach search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO), now that more and more large enterprises are shifting a bigger portion of their advertising dollars to online activities like SEM.  Dharmesh references a recent BusinessWeek.com article titled "The Small Fry Sour On Search Ads." 

Really the move to SEM by the big guys was inevitable as more and more success stories began to crop up.  And just like any other part of business, things change.  The early days of managing SEM campaigns has probably come to a close.  That doesn't mean that small businesses still can't find success with it, it means you're approach will need to be adjusted. And those small businesses who are just dipping their toes in to SEM it's extremely important to know what it's going to take to be successful now as compared to years (and even months) past.  I found this comment (posted by someone using the nickname of targetmarketingsolutions.us) on the BusinessWeek site to get right to the point:

"Some of the PPC newbie mistakes that we see even in Fortune 500 companies: * Use of less-targeted content networks for campaigns * Negative keywords not used * Lack of geo-targeting for local/regional companies * Short keyword list * Bad, inappropriate landing pages * Few ads for very, different keyword groups * No conversion tracking All of these options, when not used, waste budgets quickly. When experienced professionals create campaigns with these options, there is generally high ROI. SEM is relatively new and more complex than print, TV campaigns, etc., hence the negative article comments. Also, no perspective given on other media costs versus ROI... Much of the old media is non-trackable and/or poorly tracked."

So I would say the rules of engagement have changed for small businesses.  It's definitely become more challenging and complex.  But if you know what you're doing, or hire in someone who does, you can still find success.  And as Dharmesh says, search engine optimization should strongly be considered as an equally important tool for lead gen and brand building.  You also have to take a hard look at social media optimization to garner attention for your business.  Now that's a lot to take on but it's worthwhile to find the right mix of activities for your company to create the kind of opportunities you're company will need to succeed.



Article has 26 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

Elance.com: Outsourcing Site for Small Businesses

Posted by Brent Leary on Wed, Jan 17, 2007 @ 07:26 AM

  


We've received a number of compliments about our show logo.  And as nice as we think it looks, the story of how it came about is better. 

About a year ago we needed a logo designed for a program we were setting up.  We asked around and found a few graphic artists in the area, selecting one of them we felt comfortable with.  Although it worked out in the end, we spent way more than we really wanted to on it.  So much so that I don't even want to say just how much.  Months afterwards a friend of mine, personal productivity expert Peggy Duncan , showed me a site she had created by a web designer she found on Elance.com .  It looked great, took a little time, and most importantly met her strict budget requirements.

Elance.com is a site that allows you to put up for bid projects you need done, like programming work, website development, graphic designs and even writing copy for your site.  You can specify how much your willing to pay and the timeframes you need to work with and any other important information about what you need done.  Once you've filled in all your project info and submit it,  Elance announces it to a huge list of prospective contractors who will begin placing bids to win the project.  When I put our logo creation needs up on Elance, I had ten bidders within two hours.  Some of them had even put together mock ups based on the description I outlined. 

Elance facilitated the process of selecting a bid and setting up all project terms, including handling payments.  You can view comments and recommendations of all the companies bidding before you select one.  You can even ask questions of them before you decide.  And Elance set up a project workspace for me and the contractor to share files, track changes and send messages back and forth. So within a week, we had gone through a few iterations and come up with the logo currently on our site.  Most importantly, the design cost us about 10% of what our previous logo design work did. 

So if you are looking for web design work or other coding projects to be done without having to break the bank, check out Elance.com.



Article has 128 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

JumpUp.com: The Social Networking Site for the Traditional Entrepreneur

Posted by Brent Leary on Mon, Jan 08, 2007 @ 11:49 PM




There's been a great deal of buzz focused on sites like MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr and Digg.  These sites and many others (I do mean MANY) are part of the social media optimization phenomenon that is sweeping the web.  The sites foster community building via information creation and sharing by the community, for the community.  Creating and uploading videos on YouTube or photos on Flickr could create some exposure and lead to more web traffic if your content catches the attention of the community.  You can also share information, suggestions and opinions on subject matters of interest.  And if you write an interesting article which gets submitted to Digg or Reddit you could see a huge spike in traffic if your article gets promoted to either home page (Digg is a top 100 site and Reddit a top 800).  That's some good stuff if you're into video and/or photo-sharing, or maybe writing and reading a lot of technology focused content.  But what if you aren't?

JumpUp.com - The Place to Start a Business Contrary to popular belief, most small businesses are not web-savvy tech startups.  In fact the majority of small business  are still involved in those boring, traditional money making businesses.  And contrary to the belief of those traditional money making small businesses, there are places on the web you can use to share information and learn more about putting the latest technology to good "business use".  One such site I recently came across is JumpUp.com.  This site has many Web 2.0  characteristics like bookmarks, tags, showcasing community members, content rating and a few others.  You can also invite other community members into your own private network which is nice.  There are no RSS feeds and you can't write comments (you can only use 1-5 ranking scheme) so it's not totally on par with the above mentioned sites, but it has enough to work with.  This is not earth shattering stuff, but what is really nice about JumpUp.com is that its target audience is not tech-crazed geeks (no disrespect intended) or overly-social teenagers (again no disrespect....), but entrepreneurs and those interesting in starting a business one day.  So you'll see a lot of articles and other resources focusing on developing business plans, finding capital, marketing and other topics of great importance to regular business folks.  And because its built with the some of the latest web concepts, it's a nice, subliminal introduction to some very important developments. 

The really interesting thing about JumpUp.com is that Intuit put it together.  Give them credit for "getting" small business and also getting the importance of using the latest web tools and strategies.  They are one of the leaders of the old school software companies when it comes to embracing the new and wedding it to the tried and true.  Hopefully other small business software mainstays will do the same.  Plus they made sure that JumpUp wasn't a marketing site for their products and services, but a genuine resource and community for entrepreneurs.  So do yourself a favor and check it out.  



Article has 36 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

Slideshare.net: A website you should know about

Posted by Brent Leary on Thu, Jan 04, 2007 @ 12:05 PM




By now most people have heard of YouTube.  It has become extremely popular because people can view all different kinds of videos.  They can also comment on them, email links to friends and add their own videos to the site for public consumption.  Another popular but lesser known site is Flickr, whose popularity is built on sharing photos in the same way YouTube does videos.  And there are a host of other sites built on the same social premises of allowing anyone to view, comment on and add content for all to see on the web. 

While not nearly as popular, Slideshare.net can sort of be viewed as the YouTube for Powerpoint presentations.  If you are looking for information you can incorporate into your website or blog, there's a good chance you can find it on Slideshare.  If you put together some interesting presentation you can upload it to Slideshare and have people view, comment on it.  Slideshare even makes it easy for those people who like your presentation to incorporate it into their blog or website.  And each time someone views your presentation SlideShare keeps track of it.  If it's really popular your presentations can show up on the Slideshare.net homepage, bringing your site a whole bunch of traffic, and potential customers. 

This is a great way for you to expand your presence on the web by showing off your knowledge and experience by using a tool you're already familiar with.  And don't be worried about someone "stealing your good ideas".  The more you are able to create and publish on the web the bigger the pool of prospects becomes.  This will far outweigh any negatives you may think of.  So do yourself a favor and check out Slideshare.net.



Article has 27 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

Quick Takes from Michael Gerber on the Impact of the Web on the E-Myth

Posted by Brent Leary on Tue, Jan 02, 2007 @ 01:41 PM




It’s always cool to have an opportunity to speak with people you’ve heard about and especially read about. By interviewing Michael Gerber, author of the best selling E-Myth book series, it was really cool to speak with someone whose book I view as one of the must-reads for anyone going into business. Here are a few short clips (60 seconds or less) of the interview. Enjoy!

1. The reason why most startups struggle.




2. How most startups concentrate on lead generation, lead conversion and client fulfillment in the wrong order



3. How the seduction of technology can negatively impact entrepreneurs



4. How entrepreneurs and startups should view the web with respect to their businesses



If you listened to any of these short takes I bet you'll want to hear more.  All you have to do is click here to go the show page.  Just be sure to have pen and paper at the ready!



Article has 25 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

Gmail Dilemna

Posted by Brent Leary on Wed, Dec 27, 2006 @ 12:00 PM





I've been using Gmail for about 10 months now. The only reason I started using it was because my Outlook crashed and I got fed up. I had a Hotmail account and Yahoo! account but they didn't do it for me. Even though I did get Outlook back up and running and need to use it for its rich feature set, I continue to use Gmail for basic emailing functions. It's easy to use interface and 3G of free space won me over. And apparently it's winning over a growing number of email users. In fact, according to a recent article in Direct magazine, unlike AOL email accounts which are typically popular with consumers only, professional types seem to be signing up. It even appears that having a Gmail account makes a better impression to prospective employers than having an AOL account.....Sorry AOL (I guess I was right to ditch my AOL account eight years ago!).
With more and more people using Gmail, an interesting quandary is beginning to face email marketers. Google serves of contextual ads in Gmail. So if you send a nice HTML email with graphics out to customers and prospects, by default the graphics are turned off and will have to manually be turned on by recipients. But Gmail will read the text of the message and then will place text ads in the margins of the email, and those ads could be from your competitors who have bought keywords with Google Adwords. Your content gets blocked while your competitors ads come in nice in clear. That's bad. Because of this you'd probably think it's not worth sending to gmail accounts because you might be drumming up business for your competition. But......
Here's why you may want to think twice about not sending to Gmail accounts:

  • According to email management firm Return Path, overall response rates for their May mailing campaigns was just over 2.8%, but Gmail users responded at a 5.6% rate, or double the average.
  • Gmail users are generally viewed as more sophisticated and more responsive
  • Gmail users are viewed as more active

So that puts email marketers in an interesting dilemma: Do I send to Gmailers since they are more likely to respond to my emails or do I not send to them because I could be putting them on the doorstep of my competition?



Article has 26 comments. Click To Read/Write Comments

Previous Page | All Posts | Next Page