Archives for June 2011

12 Things I Learned About SlideShare, Part 3

Last week I began a discussion of things I learned about SlideShare.net, a free online slide hosting service. Since that time, my files have had more than 4,100 combined views, 3,200 for one file alone. On Monday, I discussed how to make SlideShare an integral part of your marketing efforts.

Today I will conclude this topic with a discussion of ways to make PowerPoint slides more effective online, and how to take advantage of SlideShare to save printing cost. Here is the final part of the list:

9. I was pleased to see that PowerPoint speaker’s notes are visible for each slide. Even if you do not usually take advantage of this feature in your presentations, you should consider using it to replace whatever narrative you would ordinarily add in a live venue.

10.  One PowerPoint feature that will not translate through SlideShare is animation. I typically have numerous visuals enter and exit slides as appropriate to support my verbal narration. In reviewing my posted slide shows, I quickly noticed that all visuals are in screen. In my case, this made for some very busy slides. Consider tailoring your uploaded slides accordingly.

11.  If you decide one or more slides do not convey the full story after you view them online, you can simply adjust your PowerPoint or pdf document and replace the original file with a new upload. This will save
having to reenter descriptions and tags, something I learned was necessary after I deleted several files to make minor changes. It also maintains continuous viewing statistics.

12.  I am always surprised by the cost of printing projects. My frustration over this expense is magnified by the need to “bring a few extra copies” just in case more attendees show up than expected, while knowing most will be left behind or eventually tossed in the trash. SlideShare presents an opportunity to reduce or eliminate this outlay. I suggest presenting only a cryptic outline of your presentation at the event, probably no more than one or two pages. The purpose of this short handout is merely to facilitate note taking. It has the added advantage of directing attendees’ attention to you rather than flipping through a voluminous handout. Allow attendees to download their own slides, either before or after the seminar. Since they will only print those of interest, this is a legitimately green initiative.

As a last bit of advice, if you are one of the almost 15 million unemployed Americans, please consider creating and posting a visual resume on SlideShare.net. It will add another venue for prospective employers to find you, while demonstrating your communication skills and knowledge of current social media tools.

Well, that is my entire list. I hope you will find something of value, and more importantly that it will encourage you in your continuing pursuit of the low-cost marketing experimentation I talked so much about in my book, Highly Visible Marketing – 115 Low-cost Ways to Avoid Market Obscurity.

Finally, for the record the other two Chinese proverbs are “May you come to the attention of powerful people” and “May you find what you are looking for.” Again, both would seem to apply to my small business and
middle-market target audience, especially when you consider that the most powerful person of all is the customer whose attention you are looking for!

12 Things I Learned About SlideShare, Part 2

On Friday, I began a discussion of things I learned about SlideShare.net, a free online slide hosting service. Since that time, my seven files have had more than 3,400 combined views, 2,800 for one file alone.

I shared the first three items on my list. They discussed how to start your profile, upgrade options and social media connections. Part 2 will discuss suggestions for making SlideShare an integral part of your marketing efforts. Here is today’s list:

4. I preach a simple 12-word marketing strategy to clients and friends. It is this: Communicate one message, promoting one brand, to multiple audiences, at no cost. While Friday’s item #3 fully supports this strategy, do not stop there! I issued three free press releases (one of which can be viewed at http://bit.ly/ipIFnF), published this information using several free article marketing websites and periodically retweet links to the presentations.

5. The first slide of a PowerPoint presentation or the first page of a pdf document will appear as a small icon link on your profile page. It should be readable, attractive and descriptive to invite viewers. I display my logo and blog URL on every download. You will also be asked to provide a description, category and tags for each file. Making this information keyword rich makes it easier for interested views to locate you slide shows and videos. Making something keyword rich simply means using certain words and phrases that potential customers are likely to use in search engines when looking for your company, products or  services.

6. SlideShare gives users the option of allowing viewers to download files. Since you are posting files in a very public venue, I see no reason not to allow downloads. Additionally, presentations can be made available only to authorized viewers with any of the upgraded versions. It is then a viable option to share private files that are simply too large to email. An example might be a large contract or proposal in pdf format.

If you do not know how to create a pdf file, download CutePDF Writer at http://cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/writer.asp. It is a free version of commercial PDF creation software. CutePDF Writer installs itself as a printer subsystem. This enables virtually any Windows applications to create professional quality pdf documents.

7. SlideShare can be used to promote and support your event marketing efforts. For example, you can make advanced copies of upcoming seminars available online to help invitees decide whether to attend, or provide copies to interested parties who are unable to attend.

8. Users and their followers can post additional information on their wall, very similar to Facebook. I posted a notice of a free seminar based on one of my uploaded files, along with a link to EventBrite for event details. Viewers can also post comments on individual slide shows.

Please return Wednesday when we not only complete the list of 12 things I learned, but will reveal the final two Chinese proverbs.

12 Things I Learned About SlideShare, Part 1

“May you live in interesting times” is the English translation of the first of three Chinese proverbs. These are very interesting times indeed for business owners struggling to market their products and services without simultaneously emptying their bank account. It seems not a week goes by that I do not learn about another free or (almost as good) low-cost marketing tool on the Internet.

This week was no exception! CFO America opened an account at SlideShare.net, a free online slide hosting service. Users can upload files in PowerPoint and pdf formats, among others. It is comparable to YouTube, but is primarily for slideshows. Launched in 2006, the website was originally intended as a vehicle for businesses to share slides with employees. However, it has since expanded to host slides and videos for entertainment, educational and other purposes.

SlideShare claims 50 million visitors and 90 million page views per month, ranking it as one of the top 250 websites in the world. The White House used SlideShare to publish President Obama’s birth certificate in
April 2011. The impressive list of blue ribbon users also includes NASA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, IBM, several branches of the U.S. military, Dell and the University of Texas.

Today I present the first of a three-part series on this subject. I will cover the basics of how to get started and how to increase your market exposure. I will complete the series next week.

Here are the first three things I learned about SlideShare that will help you “Avoid Market Obscurity“:

  1. Begin your exciting marketing experience by opening a free account at http://www.slideshare.net/. You will be asked to create a public profile that includes a description of your business, address and contact information, logo or picture, website link, industry, keyword tags, and other basic information. Start by visiting CFO America’s profile at http://www.slideshare.net/CFOAmerica.
  2. Like most “free” online services, this one has several upgraded versions. They range in price from $19 to $249 per month. The extra fees buy customized channels, expanded functionality, visitor analytics and the removal of banner ads, among other advantages. All upgrades include Zipcast, a virtual meeting service similar to the better-known and admittedly more robust GoToMeeting. The advantage is that subscribers receive a customized link to share with their attendees. Those attendees merely click the link without the need to download software or open a SlideShare account. Regular readers already know my advice on this one! Even if these features appeal to you, I suggest you resist the urge to upgrade until after you have had an opportunity to evaluate your experience over the first thirty to ninety days. You may find the additional cost is unnecessary. I should add that the free service includes unlimited slide shows and documents, plus three videos per month.
  3. SlideShare collaborates with social media giants Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote and share content. For example, you can embed presentations on your Facebook Fan Page, your LinkedIn profile or your blog. I embedded a document on my Fan Page, a simple matter of coping and pasting a code supplied by SlideShare. The document can now be opened in full screen. Viewers can also like, retweet or otherwise
    share presentations with their followers and connections.

Three of my PowerPoint presentations had over 200 combined views during their first 3 days online. One of my pdf documents (a reprint of this article) was featured on SlideShare’s home page, and was viewed over 1,500 times during its first 36 hours online. I am confident this activity, which puts to shame my YouTube statistics, was largely the result of the other social media services. Take full advantage of these capabilities for maximum market exposure.

Have a great weekend, and please plan to read Twelve Things I Learned About SlideShare, Part 2 on Monday. As an added incentive to returning readers, next week I will share the final two Chinese proverbs.

Surely you won’t want to miss that!

Generating Repeat Sales-Part 2

I introduced Monday’s post on generating repeat sales with a quote by William Edwards Deming. He said, “Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.” A slight variation of that important principle is to harvest sales out of customers who have moved, even if they moved outside of your service area. Allow me to explain.

America has been a country on the move ever since it was founded by people who all crossed at least one ocean to get here. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the national mover rate was 12.5% in 2009. According
to their Geographical Mobility: 2009 study, 37.1 million people changed residences in the U.S. that year. Of those, 67.3% stayed within the same county, 17.2% moved to a different county in the same state, 12.6% moved to a different state, and 2.9% moved to the U.S. from abroad.

Furthermore, the National Association of Realtors reported in January 2011 that the previous month’s existing home sales (including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops) was a seasonally adjusted
annual rate of 5.9 million. Experts tell us that the demographics of people moving, buying and selling houses are heavily influenced by age, occupation and income levels. The young, professionals and high-income earners are among the most likely candidates.

These statistics are troubling if you provide landscaping, pest control, cleaning, HVAC maintenance or a host of other home-based, recurring services. It does not require much data extrapolation to see that if you lose 10% or 12% of your customers every year to moves (possibly more if your market is concentrated in young, high-income professionals) you will soon be in big trouble. Even if you are able to replace customers who
migrate outside of your service area, consulting firm Lee Resources International, Inc. reports that attracting a new customer costs five times as much as keeping an existing one.

Here are some thoughts and suggestions to generate continued sales from your mobile customers.

  • Offer movers a meaningful incentive to transfer your services to their new home. A free month, a 10% discount on your standard rates or a similar promotion will prove cheaper and have a higher success rate in
    maintaining your customer base than finding new customers.
  • The mirror image of this idea is to offer customers who are moving an incentive to provide a referral to the new homeowner. However, several potential issues make it less likely to generate sales. First, it usually does not apply to customers living in non-owner occupied homes such as apartment complexes. Furthermore, assuming their home has already sold (a significant assumption in the current real estate market), your old customers probably do not know the new owners. Furthermore, homeowners will not be motivated by additional discounts off your services if they are moving out of the area. Offer the original homeowner a gift card from a national restaurant chain or retailer if the new homeowner becomes your customer because of their referral.
  • Alternatively, send the new homeowner a promotional offer touting the fact that you are familiar with their home and neighborhood since you provided service for the previous owner.

Finally, Welcome Wagon’s website lists ample reasons to target new homeowners and tenants, even if you did not provide services to the previous occupant. They point out that new homeowners spend 20 times more than established residents. That includes $102 billion on move-related products. Most importantly, they have no existing buying loyalties in their new community, and are seeking information about products and services they will need.

Once again, the need to educate the consumer presents a key marketing and growth opportunity for the observant businessperson.

Generating Repeat Sales-Part 1

The late William Edwards Deming, an American author, lecturer, and consultant wrote about an important marketing phenomenon. He said, “Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.” Mr. Deming’s comment suggests an important question. If repeat customers are so valuable, what are you doing to turn first-time customers into repeat buyers?

A few weeks ago, I quoted Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics. She said, “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, make me feel important. Never forget this message when working with people.” The key to repeat sales is merely to remember and apply her quote. Recognize the invisible sign around first-time customers’ necks. Make them feel important, or they will not give you a second chance. Here is an example of how to generate repeat sales with a preferred customer program. On Wednesday, I will present several other tactics to generate repeat sales.

Everyone is familiar with the example of preferred diner cards where every 10th meal is free. Begin by creating your own preferred customer program, one offering substantial discounts and special privileges like exclusive “after-hours” sales and so on. Promote the program through email, social media and all other communication tools at your disposal. Most importantly, do not overlook your own workforce. Properly trained and incentivized cashiers, sales people and other employees with direct customer interaction will probably recruit more members for your loyalty program than all other sources combined.

Some stores and national chains charge a fee for their preferred customer discount programs. Aside from my reluctance to spend money for something other than actual products or services, I invariably forget to use the program when I make a purchase. I am never happy when I realize I lost an opportunity to save money. On the few occasions where I have been talked into signing up, I rarely renew the program beyond the
initial year. A better alternative to charging a fee may be to offer free membership for those who meet reasonable qualification requirements. Examples would be minimum total purchases over the previous 12 months, or a single large order over a specified amount. This method will provide an additional opportunity to touch customers by communicating their good fortune at having achieved your elite preferred customer status.

Finally, follow up recent sales to first-time customers with a personalized note thanking them for their business. Include with the note a special limited-time offer for a related item. For example, if they recently
bought a pair of shoes, offer 25% off a matching purse or belt. Include an expiration date to create a sense of urgency. Most importantly, introduce them to your preferred customer program, and offer special qualifying
incentives toward membership with their next purchase. For example, if membership requires $1,000 of purchases, offer double or even triple points for all purchases over $100 on their second visit. In short, make them feel important!

On Wednesday, I will discuss ways to generate sales from customers who move out of your area.

Improving Those Email Statistics

I am in the process of completing and preparing for a series of free seminars called “What’s Your Story”? It deals with ways of communicating a consistent marketing message and brand to multiple audiences at little or no out-of-pocket cost. In the presentation, I use email marketing to illustrate why you need to use multiple communication channels to reach your entire target market.

Email has at least one major advantage over many other channels. It is very easy to study statistics and trends in things like open rates and click through rates. One of the major vendors tracks open rates by about 30 industry categories. The highest is only 27%. That means that an average email campaign can expect that fewer than three out of every 10 people who receive the email are going to open it. More importantly, recognize that the largest part of your target market will never make it on to your distribution list.

Your email needs to be above average! It is critically important to squeeze the best possible results out of your email marketing efforts. Experiment with things like how the timing and subject line of your email effects the statistics. I read an interesting post called The 4 Words That Will Get Your Email Opened by Sean Platt of the copyblogger.com. It said that in his experience, the most effective subject line for virtually any type of email marketing distribution was simply “You Are Not Alone.” Platt’s theory is this headline appeals to a universal human need to know there is someone who shares our common experiences and is willing to help solve our problems. Interesting theory Sean. I may experiment with that one myself!

There is another theory (unproven in my mind) that people will work harder to maintain what they already have than to gain something they need. You can test this hypothesis by tailoring your subject lines accordingly. For example, a marketing newsletter might be promoted from the perspective of how to maintain existing customers. A human resources discussion could be presented in terms of how to motivate and retain valuable employees. The same thought applies to event marketing.

As email has matured as a communications media, people have become more discerning not only in what they open but also in giving out email addresses. Do not abuse or waste an engraved invitation to their inbox. Allow me a simple analogy to illustrate the point. Whatever subject line you choose, remember that it is only an invitation to your electronic party. Like a real party, you still need to deliver “the goods” that your guests are expecting when they arrive. The expected goods are either valuable information or a chance to save money on your products and services. If you fail to deliver, they are unlikely to attend another party.

As you are writing copy for an email newsletter, article marketing, blogging, and so on, also keep in mind that the average reader is very busy and perhaps somewhat impatient. They are not searching for an online English translation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. They are looking for interesting, concise articles and information that provide relevant content in a reader-friendly format. Tailor your writing style to match that profile for maximum opens. Again, this also applies to event marketing.

Finally, you might be tempted to save the cost of an email service and simply send a mass distribution to all your contacts in Microsoft Outlook. A reason not to do that is that email services offer spam-checking software that will identify potential problems in your wording and structure. Make corrections accordingly and avoid being trapped in recipients’ spam filters. Instead of sending emails with Outlook, visit MailChimp.com. They allow you to send emails to 2,000 recipients free.

Have a safe weekend. I want you back here bright and early Monday morning.

Becoming a Recognized Expert

There is an old axiom in marketing that a prospect does not become a customer until a vendor touches them seven times. Touches or interactions involve every tool in your marketing quiver, including face-to-face meetings and free seminars. The axiom is supported by the fact that consumers prefer to do business with people and companies they know, like and trust.

The question every business must answer is how to initiate and sustain the process without crossing the fine line of being perceived as just another pushy or (worse yet) desperate sales person. Event-based marketing can be a very effective way to start the ball rolling. It will allow you to interact with potential customers and build trust as you demonstrate your expertise. It will also encourage them to seek you out for your knowledge and expertise, and to recommend you within their circle of influence.

There are several free event-listing sites available on the Internet should you wish to open your events to the public. Most allow business promoters to coordinate announcements and listings through Facebook and Twitter. Some allow you to issue tickets, limit attendance, collect fees (via PayPal) and even ask qualifying questions. Online event-listing websites include:

  • EventBrite
  • EventSync
  • Facebook Events
  • PlanCast
  • Zvents

Prospective attendees will ask themselves a very selfish question. What is in this for me? Most small businesses will welcome free advice in at least three areas: how to increase sales, how to reduce costs and how to generate more cash. Whatever your subject matter, promotional material must identify specific customer problems and promise real solutions.

Make sure information presented at the event closely matches those promotional promises. They are what drew attendees. It is unlikely that disappointed prospects, frustrated at not hearing the promised solutions, will become your customer.

The main point of your presentation is what the audience wants to hear, not what you want to tell them. Get to it quickly.

You want your audiences’ undivided attention. Therefore, present only a cryptic outline on slides and handouts at the event. Otherwise, attendees could have read the presentation at home and saved the trip.

Attendees will expect a commercial. Hold it for the last or next to last slide.

Finally, a drawing for a free gift certificate, an autographed copy of your latest book or some other valuable prize will encourage attendees to stay for the entire presentation.

MONEY SAVING TIP OF THE DAY

Here’s a very useful suggestion to secure electronic documents, save disk space and improve performance. CutePDF Writer is a free version of commercial PDF creation software. CutePDF Writer installs itself as a “printer subsystem”. This enables virtually any Windows applications to create professional quality PDF documents. I find that using this software to save copies of large emails on my hard drive rather than in Outlook greatly improves performance time.

Go to http://cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/writer.asp to download the free software.

Showing Appreciation Without Spending Money

John Willard Marriott, the late founder of the hospitality chain that bears his name, summarized the ultimate reason why every business must energize their work force. He said, “Motivate them, train them, care about them, and make winners out of them. They’ll treat the customers right. And if customers are treated right, they’ll come back.” Given Marriott International’s $11.7 billion of revenue and 34% return on equity in 2010, I must assume Marriott employees are still treating customers right, 25 years after his passing.

One of the traditional motivational tools employers use is an employee benefits package. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that most businesses cannot afford to compensate valuable employees as much as they would like to. Providing a competitive benefits package is even more difficult for small and mid-sized businesses. In a challenging economy, many do well just to be able to offer continued employment. I previously wrote about the value of offering discounts to employees. This is especially applicable in retail businesses that sell consumer products like clothing and jewelry.

Here is a variation of that idea that may help employers in your area while generating significant sales for you. Offer discounts or special services to someone else’s employees. I once worked for a 400-employee company that arranged (at my suggestion) a pickup and delivery service by a local dry cleaner. Another employer provided a weekly car cleaning service. Since employees paid for either service as they used them, both examples created a cost-free benefit from the employers’ perspective. The services created value since they allowed employees to complete personal errands they would otherwise have to address on their own time. More to the point, these examples also presented a large one-stop customer base for the service providers.

This strategy may work especially well as a means of extending a business-to-business relationship to your customers’ employees. For example, if you repair their employer’s computers, employees will already be familiar with your service and reputation. Offer them a discount for home computer service, especially if they can save you a trip by bringing personal computers to work.

Finally, if you have employees (almost 80% of American businesses do not), try to arrange similar on-site services and discounts from businesses used by your workforce.

Nine Things I learned about YouTube-Part 2

Wednesday’s blog post discussed the first four things I learned about creating YouTube videos. It covered hardware and software requirements, and their cost. I hope you were as surprised as I was to learn you don’t have to spend a lot of money, and may already have everything you need.

Today, I will complete the list. Here are items 5 through 9:

5. Windows Live Movie maker or WLMM allows you to import entire PowerPoint presentations or individual slides. This is useful if your video subject matter is technical and requires visual aids. It is far more professional than writing on a flipchart with your back to the camera. The trick is to save documents as png or tif files, rather than in PowerPoint. The software also imports pictures. You can then narrate off-screen, or just use them to spice up your video.

6. Whether you import videos, slides or pictures, MLMM presents a plethora of editing options. I found the ability to end videos before that awkward moment when I walk off-screen to stop the camera is especially helpful. For that reason, stand motionless and silent for one or two seconds before you end a video or slide. It will make for a cleaner break as you transition into the next slide. The standard length of a slide will be 7 seconds, but that is easily changed to accommodate your need. There are also countless video and animation special effects, which I have yet to explore. One feature that I do plan to incorporate into my next video is captions. I might, as an example, include my web address or contact information in the presentation.

7. You can record narrations with Sound Recorder, and match them with the appropriate slide. If you are a type-A person as I am, concentrate on speaking at a moderate pace. Again, you can edit the duration, adjust the volume and fade in and out of the audio. You can also import music.

8. One feature of WLMM did surprise and disappoint me. Perhaps I missed something, but my computer saved the videos into something called a wlmp file format. YouTube supports a wide variety of formats, but wlmp is not among them. After a little research and experimentation, I discovered some good news. You can upload directly from WLMM to YouTube by simply clicking the appropriate “Share Button” in the upper right Toolbar. I found a technical explanation of why this works, but who cares? Problem solved!

9. Finally, once you have successfully uploaded your finished video, keep in mind that YouTube allows you to do some basic Search Engine Optimization or SEO. It allows a description and tags. As always, make them keyword rich. Fred Campos, the founder of FunCitySocialMedia, suggests you include your company’s name in video titles. Since the end game is to have people locate and watch you videos, do not over-look this important step.

Well, that’s my list. I hope you will find something of use here, and more importantly that it will encourage you to pursue more of the low-cost marketing experimentation I talked so much about in my book. If you would like to see CFO America ShiningStar Studio’s (a wholly owned subsidiary of just plain old CFO America) premiere video, please visit http://bit.ly/lx8ard.

Have a great weekend, and thanks to all the faithful readers who have so kindly posted comments and words of encouragement on this blog. Please continue to spread the word!

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