The Web For Business.com Blog

Internet marketing observations, perspectives, tips and tricks for your education and enlightenment.


The Dangers of Free

Mark Kawabe - Friday, January 16, 2015

It's a trap! Bear trap with FREE!There is a cost to things that are free. If you're addicted to free, have you considered the potential downsides? Here are a few Friday thoughts about the dangers and costs of "free".

Free Software

Anyone remember Google Reader? It was widely loved. Now it's gone with nothing with the same functionality replacing it. Why? Because despite their love, Reader users probably wouldn't have paid for it.

When you use free software, you're taking a chance it won't be around later. This is true for paid software as well, but the free stuff's more likely to disappear.

Free IT Support

In truth, nothing of the sort exists. However, it's what most small businesses and entrepreneurs use. It's the DIY approach - and it largely sucks. Most people have no idea how their computers work, how to properly back up their stuff, or what to do when it all falls apart. When the illusion of saving money on IT support is shattered when your heart sinks to the floor as you realize you may have just lost everything you've ever worked on, your family photos, videos etc., it's too late.

Free Websites

I know there are hundreds of free website builders. That's great, if you just want a website. However, nobody wants a website. They want leads from their website. The days of launching a site and having people flock to it are a fading memory to those of us who have been around since the early days of the world wide web. If you want leads, it's going to take effort, measured in either time or money. Just because it's free to put your site up doesn't mean there's no cost involved.

Free Email

Do you think the people who work at Google have their Gmail accounts on their business cards? If you're a long-time Gmail or Hotmail or Yahoo user, you can check your own domain.com email through those services. If you're in business and if you have a website, your email domain should match that of your website. This approach separates business from personal email, creates a more professional image and frankly, is so basic that we shouldn't even be talking about this in 2015.

Free Marketing

Yes, social media's wonderful and it's free. I question the ROI for most small businesses on social media. For every post they've made, there's probably another 15 minutes of wasted time. That adds up over the course of a week, month, year. Yes, it's free, but social media can also be largely ineffective and a huge waste of time if you're not using it effectively.

Freedom doesn't come cheaply.

Analytics Aren't the Whole Story

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, January 15, 2015

One of the strengths of online marketing is the ability to analyze what works and what doesn't. You can see how many people visited your website from Google, from other websites, from social media etc. One problem though: analytics don't capture everything, and some of the things they don't capture can be your biggest sources of leads.

Take word of mouth marketing. You don't know if it works unless you ask each and every lead how they found out about you. Sometimes that doesn't work either because they'll say they were reading about you online but they won't say their friend told them about you first - unless you ask the right question.

That's great if you have the kind of business that still operates in a face-to-face fashion. It's more difficult if you're running an online business, or if your leads come in through a call centre or via head office. Then you may never know.

For those who aren't old enough to remember the time when word of mouth marketing was the "in" thing, here's the modern terminology: social media.

This is the fly in the social media ointment.

As a digital marketer who believes in the power of social media, this is vexing. Customers expect results from their online marketing, and they expect that those results will be able to be measured against some definable number. The numbers available will never fully capture the benefit social media brings to your business.

Keep that in mind when you put forth your next social media campaign. The whole point of social media is to leverage people's inherent desire to communicate. Your challenge is to give them something worth talking about.

Your Plan is Meaningless

Mark Kawabe - Monday, December 15, 2014

Measure to reach your destinationMost travelers have a destination in mind. There are few who set out from their homes with no particular idea where they're going. When there's a destination, there's usually a plan on how to get there.

From my perspective, the majority of companies have no plan when it comes to their online marketing efforts.

Everyone starts with good intent. They want to get MORE of something. Usually clients. Then they sit back and wait for the clients to come.

In 2014, what I'm about to say shouldn't be news to anyone, so my apologies in advance if what I say is revelatory: For at least 99% of businesses, investing in a website to gain new customers is meaningless without investing in serious marketing.

I use the word "serious" because there are a lot of people investing in marketing. Whether their efforts are serious depends on one thing: measurement. If you are not measuring, you are not serious.

Not being serious can take many forms. Posting on social media without regard for the reach of your posts. Not having analytics installed on your website. Or, having analytics installed but never looking at the results.

When I get in the car with the intent to get somewhere, I don't sit in the driveway spinning my wheels. My odometer and the scenery whizzing by tell me I'm getting somewhere. My GPS shows me I'm making progress toward my destination.

Measurement shows how effective online marketing efforts are yet most businesses don't even have the basics in place. Without measurement you don't know if your efforts are effective. Without measurement, your plans and efforts are meaningless.

If you don't know how to measure, there's no longer any excuse. Thousands of companies offer analytical services. Some are free. All you have to do is decide to learn how to measure, or hire someone to do the measuring for you.

If you're truly interested in getting somewhere, measure your progress. Measure the effectiveness of your activities. Find out what works and do more of it.

A journey of 1000 kilometers begins with one step. Measurement means you know the steps you're taking are moving you in the right direction. Stop meandering. Start measuring. Do that and you'll get where you want to go.

Photo credit to Balkanbrid.

Now is the time to start video marketing

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Video marketing is huge.

Let me say that again.

Video marketing is HUGE!

The statistics on this are pretty clear. Some of the statistics are shocking, but they demonstrate the online appeal of videos and make a clear case that all businesses should be using video marketing as a part of their online marketing mix.

  1. YouTube is the world's #2 search engine
  2. 1/3 of all online activity is watching videos
  3. 100 million internet users watch an online video every day
  4. 50% of users watch business related videos on YouTube at least once a week

What does this mean for you? Lots. Here's how videos affect visitor behaviour to your website:

  1. Watching a video can increase a visitor's understanding of your product or service by 74%
  2. A visitor to a retail website is 64% more likely to purchase a product after watching a video
  3. A real estate listing with a video gets 403% more inquiries compared to listings without
  4. Videos in email increase click-through rates 2~3 times compared to regular messages
  5. 20% of your site visitors will read all the content you provide: 80% will watch a video
  6. Websites are 50x more likely to show up on the first page of search engine results page if it includes a video

The barriers to entry for video marketing are much easier to hurdle than they used to be. Depending on a video's production value, it can be very inexpensive to create a video for marketing purposes. Best of all, they can be put on YouTube, your own website, Facebook and most other social media marketing platforms to get you more exposure.

Do your customers and your business a favour: incorporate video marketing into your online marketing mix.

Social media explodes. Here's how to take advantage of the heat.

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Internet Exploded!By now it shouldn't be any surprise that the internet "explodes" on a regular basis. Social media is ablaze with discussions and opinions about every kind of issue you can imagine. When I think of explosive topics, Rob Ford's challenges as mayor of Toronto come to mind, as do the recent allegations about Jian Ghomeshi.

The explosion of opinion online isn't surprising when you understand why people use social media. There's a lot going on in people's minds. As a business owner or someone who's responsible for marketing a business, having some knowledge of how and why social media explodes can be useful as you look at ways to better market yourself through these channels.

Here are some of the reasons people use social media.

  • Being social
  • Passing time
  • Entertainment
  • Relaxation
  • Gossip
  • Learning about other people

I've listed these six first, without comment, because I think they're fairly self-explanatory. I also think they are less important to most businesses. I'm not suggesting they're unimportant, but they're less important than these next two factors.

Social signalling

A post, tweet or status update says a lot about the writer. Every message is an opportunity for people to learn more about what is important to the writer and what the writer stands for. These messages are signals from the writer to the world that gives the reader an idea what the writer is all about. You can find out a lot about people by reading their social media posts. Information about a person's political beliefs, spiritual perspectives, parenting styles, fitness levels, financial status, lifestyle practices and more are all either on display or can be inferred from a person's post.

Imagine you were to see two posts from first-time Facebook users. One person posts a message in support of David Suzuki. The other posts a message in support of Stephen Harper. Most Canadians would, on the basis of ONE POST, be able to infer many characteristics about each of those writers. For many people, this is the point of social media. They want to let the world know what they think is important, and in turn, demonstrate what kind of person they are, or how they want the world to see them.

How do you want the world to see you and your business? What and how you post influences how clients and prospects see you. Keep this in mind as you post because you can use social signalling to your advantage. When you post messages that resonate with people's values and beliefs, you will be more successful in getting your message across.

Building communityBuilding Community

Humans are social creatures. We desire community. Creating community is a challenge, but social media platforms have given people the tools that make creating online communities easier.

Whatever social media platform you use, you have the ability to create a community. It makes sense to do this. Tie into people's existing interests by sharing information that pertains to their important issues. Discuss those issues. If you are able to create a hub of knowledge and experience for people, your social media impact will be much greater.

The challenge, of course, is to find out what your clients and prospects feel their important issues are. It's a challenge, but it's part of the marketing process. It's called research and testing.

These are only two ways social media's appeal can be used to advantage by your business. There are many more. What has been your biggest social media success? I invite you to share your experiences and leave a comment.

 

 

1 Word of Advice: Backup

Mark Kawabe - Friday, October 03, 2014

This morning, I installed Windows updates that required a reboot of my desktop computer. No problem. Done it a thousand times before.

Except this time, the computer didn't start up.

Something went click, the UPS chirped, then nothing.

I pressed the power button.

Nothing.

I checked all the connections.

Nothing.

Technology is such a huge part of our lives that we take it for granted. I don't think most people realize just how much they rely on tech. It's when things go wrong that we suddenly realize how important our smartphone, laptops, desktops or other devices are.

Fortunately for me, my work is not stored on my computer. It's stored on an external hard drive which is incrementally backed up to another drive as I work. My most critical files are backed up to a cloud storage system. It's not the most robust backup strategy, but it allowed me to easily hook up my hard drive to my laptop and continue on with my day while my desktop waits at the shop to be repaired.

Informal conversations with other entrepreneurs and small business owners reveal a startling lack of concern about backing up data. Some folks (the majority) never back up. Others back up to a second hard drive in their machine. Fewer still back up to an external device or the cloud.

I'm amazed.

In this era of cheap technology, it is inexcusable to not back up your data.

I'm not going to tell you how to do it as there are plenty of websites that will tell you how. I just hope my story provides one more reminder, one more reason, one more example that persuades at least one person to start making backups of their data.

Will you be that one? I hope so. More for your sake than for mine.

5 Ways to Identify a Phishing Attempt

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, October 02, 2014

Wondering whether that email's legitimate?Have you heard of phishing?

You've probably received an email purporting to be from your bank, or PayPal, or some other institution asking you to verify your personal information. How can you tell whether this is a legitimate email or not?

Here are a few simple tests.

1. The "Really?" Factor

Do you honestly believe your bank, or American Express, or PayPal or any other reputable institution use email as the sole method of contacting you about a security breach?

They don't, so right away, you can pretty much discount anything you receive of this nature. But if you're not sure, keep going. There's more!

2. The "Hover" Test

Often there will be links to a website for you to click on. Hover your mouse cursor over each link. Look for ones that do not go to the website of the institution you're dealing with. If the email is from PayPal, EVERY link should point to Paypal.com in some form or other.

Don't be fooled by an address that says https://paypal.com.securessl-server.ru

A proper URL to PayPal will have a / after the paypal.com part of the address. Most of the time, some links will be legitimate but there will always be at least one link (the one they want you to click on) that will take you somewhere you don't want to go.

3. Check Spelling and Grammar

I recently saw an email that had a subject line as follows:

"Re; Payp[al: Your account has been limited until we hear from you"

The rest of the message had spelling and grammar errors as well. Large companies like PayPal wouldn't send out an email with egregious spelling and grammatical errors. They just don't, so if you see even ONE error, assume it's a phishing attempt.

4. The Correlation Test

If you receive an email from a bank or credit card company talking about online fraud, check out that company's website. The fraud message you received by email should also be on their site. If it's not, the message on your screen is probably phony.

5. The Common Sense Test

If you received an email from a bank you don't even deal with, it's probably a phishing attempt. Banks you don't deal with don't randomly contact you asking you to verify your contact information. My bank hardly contacts me at all. Why would one I don't even deal with start sending me messages now? It doesn't make sense.

Phishing attempts are geared to play upon your fears and ignorance. By reading this, I hope you will be more able to easily spot phishing attempts. Don't click a link in an email unless you're sure it's a legitimate message from a company you currently deal with.

 

The Failure Right Under Your Nose

Mark Kawabe - Friday, September 26, 2014

A broken chocolate bar is disappointing, but not as much as a broken websiteHave you looked at your website lately?

I'm serious. If you have one, when's the last time you actually looked at it?

From time to time I come across websites that are broken in some way.

Here are a few things I've seen this week.

  • Videos that don't play.
  • Missing pages - linked to from recent blog posts
  • Entire websites that don't show up on iPhones (Flash-based sites)
  • Contact forms with impossible to read CAPTCHA characters

Sometimes things are broken because of a technical glitch. Other times, things are broken because of poor design. Either way, your website won't work as well for you.

My advice: every now and then, pretend you're a visitor to your own website. Poke around. Test it out. Submit a request to yourself. Sign up for your newsletter. Make sure things are functional and understandable from a visitor's perspective. Sometimes failure's right under your nose, just a click away from being discovered and fixed. You just need to look.

Think of it as house maintenance. Your homebuilder doesn't come by regularly to check on the condition of the house. A website developer doesn't check in to see if the sites they've built are working properly three months later.

You might think that everything online should just work. For the most part, things do. Then again, with all the interconnectedness we now have, sometimes technology doesn't play well together. A core WordPress update can break a plugin leaving your website in shambles. Popular tech devices may not support your website's technology.

Your website could be failing in its most important task: to get you more leads. Checking in to make sure everything works properly is one of the easiest things you can do to make sure your online presence is working properly for you. Grab a cup of your favourite beverage (or a bar of chocolate) and take a few moments to visit yourself online.

Here's to your website's health!

Who gets the domain?

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, September 25, 2014

When a business partnership goes awry, one thing that sometimes gets overlooked is who gets the business' domain name.

If one partner is keeping on with the business, chances are they assume the domain is owned by the business. This is not always the case.

When a domain is registered, it's often registered by an individual in their own name (the "registrant"). In this case, the registrar (company through which the domain was registered) has a legal agreement with the registrant. If that individual leaves the business, they can be nasty and take the domain with them.

My suggestion: if you're forming a business partnership, register the domain for the business in the company's name. That way if there's ever a split in the partnership, if one partner is planning to continue the business, they will still have legal access to the domain.

Disclaimer: This is what I've learned from my experience, but I'm not a lawyer. You may want to consult one to get more clarification on this isssue.

3 Marketing Words to Remember

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Online marketing is not a Sisphyean taskFeeling overwhelmed?

When I talk to people about their online marketing, I hear this all the time.

"I don't know where to start."

"Which is the best platform?"

"I don't have time to create content."

I get it. It's not easy. The idea that the internet levels the playing field between big and small companies is a myth because big companies have more resources than small ones. Marketing takes time, and that's often in short supply for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

My advice: stop worrying about doing things perfectly. Lists of "best practices" are interesting but they may not be best practices for you. One of my favourite marketing mantras is "Ready. Fire. Aim." This is how marketing works in my opinion. You ready your content or campaign, release it, then measure how successful it was and adjust accordingly.

READY

Getting ready means knowing who your audience is and preparing appropriate content for them. Content doesn't need to be writing. It can be pictures or videos, quizzes and contests. It doesn't need to be a major effort. Be creative! Content ideas are all around you, every moment of the day.

FIRE

Stop obsessing about your choice of platform to distribute to. Pick a popular platform and run with it to the best of your ability. Do you like Facebook? Fine. Use Facebook - as effectively as you can. Think Twitter's the thing? Great. Use Twitter - as effectively as you can at this particular moment.

Do you use software that can blast your update to twenty-five of the top social media platforms plus add it to your blog? Superb! Just get on with it already.

AIM

Save some time to see how your content fared online. What were the results? Did you get any likes or shares? Retweets or views? If you did, that's great. Figure out why and do it again. Were your results below your hopes? Figure out why and DON'T do it again.

People who are good at marketing didn't get that way overnight. Improvement only comes with effort. Just getting started is an effort, but once you're going, you have momentum. Keep on moving, keep on learning, keep on improving.

I wish you the best. Please share your stories of success!