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!

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!

Energizing Your Work Force

Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics once said, “Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, make me feel important. Never forget this message when working with people.”

Her quote applies to both customers and employees. Today, I want to apply it to your employees. Make sure every employee fully understands how important the accomplishment of his or her individual goals is to achieving overall company success. Publicly praise them when they accomplish a major milestone toward achieving those goals.

Do not assume every employee knows all they need to know about your products, services, company policies or even the basics of sales and customer service. Make the effort to ensure they are adequately trained on all critical aspects of your business. Simply teaching them to up sell by always asking the equivalent of the fast food industry’s standard question, “Do you want fries with that order?” will go a long way toward increasing average customer purchases.

Why is this important? Alan J. Zell, author and retail marketing expert says, “Every business needs more business. That is an accepted fact. The unaccepted fact is that most businesses don’t use all the opportunities available that will bring them additional business. When one looks for additional business, the primary goal should center around getting second sales. What are second sales and why are they important? Second sales are add-on sales, repeat sales and sale by referral. They are important because they are much less expensive to get than first sales.”

If you would like to see Mr. Zell’s advice in practice, try leaving a shoe store without being asked if you need extra laces, polish and a few extra pairs of socks to go with your new shoes. It cannot be done!

I talked earlier about the importance of networking. Here are two simple suggestions that will make your employees feel appreciated, and give you the opportunity to grow your business through their network contacts.

  • If there are too many networking opportunities for one person, have a key employee join a group or two. It will be a growth experience for them and it demonstrates your trust and appreciation.
  • I can still remember my excitement over 35 years ago when, having just graduated college, I brought my first business card home and presented it to my father. I do not know who was prouder, my dad or me. I also gave copies to everyone I knew, and probably strangers I passed on the street. However, what I attributed to pride, my employer probably chalked up to that cheap advertising I talked about in Chapter 3. Order business cards for all your permanent employees. They are sure to hand them out generously.

Let’s meet again on Wednesday. And remember, you have just one week to submit your entry for CFO America’s contest and a chance to win a $100 gift card. Please visit http://bit.ly/iImrPd for details.

More on Dues-fee Networking

Last Friday’s post discussed ways to network without incurring dues. Here is one more idea on that topic. Use your burgeoning networking skills to form your own merchants’association.

I was in a frozen custard store a few months back. (Note that if I were making this story up, I would have said a health food store.) As I was leaving, the cashier handed me a 25% coupon. There was nothing unusual
about that. However, this coupon was for another retailer selling totally unrelated products. The reality is the second retailer (assume it was a shoe store) would happily hand the identical coupon to any new customer who walked through their door. This idea is effective because except for the coupon, I would have never given the shoe store a thought.

Many malls and similar retail venues have a merchants’ association to promote its members. For example, you can plan facility-wide marketing events (festivals, special sale days, etc.), or one-on-one partnership
promotions like the custard store illustration. Another common practice is to offer gift certificates that can be redeemed in any member’s store. The concept works well for participants in close physical proximity and if marketing partners know and trust you, and are familiar with your product or service. Assuming you can obtain the help and support of other members, create an association newsletter or similar forum to keep members informed about matters of common interest like law changes, community events and so forth.

Let me now end the discussion on networking with a quote from Mr. Tom Lewis, an online marketing consultant from “across the pond” who I thought put the whole concept of networking in a rather interesting and
concise perspective. He said, “All these new media buzzwords like social networking and technology like LinkedIn are just new ways of complementing (some would say avoiding) personal contact. Get out there and get your face known! Pick up the phone and call some potential clients. Speak at some networking events. Knock on some doors.”

Thank you Mr. Lewis, I agree.

Dues Free Networking

The goal of the Chamber of Commerce is to act as a business network to promote local businesses. The Chambers of Commerce in my area all do a very effective job of carrying out that mission. They frequently hold ribbon cutting ceremonies and similar events to promote new or expanded businesses. These events often appear on the front page of local newspapers. They also conduct formal and informal networking events. However, since my book is subtitled 115 Low-cost Ways to Avoid Market Obscurity, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the annual cost for an individual membership would likely be between $150 and $250. Corporate memberships generally start around $250 and can escalate quickly as you grow depending on annual sales, number of employees or other variable factors determined by individual chapters. Furthermore, not all of the cost is tax deductible.

Here are two networking strategies you can implement without incurring dues.

Why not form your own personal networking group? You will eventually deal with many vendors, bankers, insurance agents, accountants, lawyers, suppliers and so on. Evaluate potential vendor’s customer base, and try to select those most similar to your market. Then trade referrals. Make sure they fully understand your business and its marketing objectives. They will also need a generous supply of your business cards and
other appropriate marketing materials.

  • Vendors who serve other customers and clients in your markets can be a great source of general market intelligence. However, do not ask them to compromise their business ethics by revealing confidential competitor information, and be leery of those who do so voluntarily.

A variation of the personal networking group idea is the “Buddy Marketing” strategy. Look for partners with products or services that are complementary to yours, or whose customers use your product or service. An example would be a sporting goods store joining forces with a health club. The store can offer club members special discounts and promotions on sporting goods products. They can also share mailing lists and even include club promotions in their mailings, electronic distributions and on their website. Perhaps the health club would allow the retailer to demonstrate their products in the club’s lobby on occasion.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, as we remember all those who gave their lives so that we can enjoy the rights and privileges of living in a free society. May God bless all of those who voluntarily wear a uniform, including my son, Eric.

AVOIDING MARKET OBSCURITY

The title and subject of my book is Highly Visible Marketing – 115 Low-cost Ways to Avoid Market Obscurity. Obscurity means existing in a state of darkness, anonymity or insignificance.

I refuse to believe that any business venture is predestined to obscurity. Rather, obscurity is an insidious enemy, often ensnaring us in its inescapable stranglehold before we realize we were in danger of falling victim to it. It may be the ultimate result of a series of bad business decisions, or too often merely the failure to act decisively at key junctures.

Whatever the cause, market obscurity in a competitive business environment is usually a precursor to failure, or at best mediocrity. It is certainly incompatible with success. By definition, a business that achieves “highly visible marketing” cannot be obscure.

Let me relate the story of one entrepreneur who had to overcome many obstacles to avoid obscurity in his personal and business life.

Will Keith (W.K.) Kellogg was born shortly before the Civil War, the nearsighted and painfully shy son of pioneer parents. Labeled “dimwitted” by his teachers, he quit school at 14 to become a broom salesman. He held that job for 6 years. W.K. then worked as a bookkeeper and business manager at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a church-affiliated health resort where his older brother John was superintendent. He labored there for 26 years, often working 120-hour weeks. Many of those hours were spent searching for a digestible substitute for bread. His experimentation was often conducted in plain view of Sanitarium guests, including C.W. Post.

Finally, at the age of 46, his efforts resulted in the invention of corn flakes. He was eventually forced to part ways with John, who saw no market potential for breakfast cereals. W.K. founded the Kellogg Company in 1906, eleven years after Post Cereals was founded. In July of the following year, the Kellogg plant burned to the ground. Always known as a man who believed in hard work instead of fate, W.K. rebuilt a fireproof plant from its ashes.

Although he had every excuse to live a quiet life in complete obscurity, W.K. Kellogg founded what is today the world’s largest producer of breakfast cereals. Over 30,000 employees can testify that his legacy is not one of obscurity, by any definition of the word.

Corporate history is replete with people like W.K. Kellogg. Countless small businesses started in garages, basements, railroad stations and similar humble origins went on to become extraordinarily successful. The list includes Ford, Kodak and Sears just to name few. All had at least one thing in common. They all had to avoid the trap of market obscurity and pull ahead of their competition. To accomplish that, they had to deliver a superior product or service. They also had to differentiate their brand and communicate its benefits to potential customers.

I often ask myself several questions. Where will the next Ford, Kodak or Sears come from? For that matter, is that level of success even achievable in today’s challenging economic environment? After all, Henry Ford, George Eastman and Richard Warren Sears did not have to worry about global competition or the latest Internet marketing platform. They simply marketed their brands’ unique advantages on pieces of paper in the form of catalogs, magazines, and newspapers.

While we cannot predict the future, there is one thing we can say with complete certainty. The pool of potential Fortune 500 companies is huge. U.S. Census Bureau statistics (as compiled by the 2007 County Business Patterns and 2007 Economic Census) show that non-farm employers with fewer than 100 workers employed 42.7 million people, over 35% of the entire civilian labor force. Those employers represented over 80% of all businesses.  They had total estimated annual revenues of $7.8 trillion. The Census Bureau also reported that the 5.7 million businesses with revenue under $5 million encompassed 94% of all American firms.

There is no question that small businesses comprise a huge and vital part of our national economy, no matter how you define the term.

Networking 101

American “Rags-to-riches” motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “If someone is going down the wrong road, he doesn’t need motivation to speed him up. What he needs is education to turn him around.”

The following short points will help you network with those unfortunate, misguided people in your market who are going down the wrong road, namely the one leading to your competitors. Your goal is educate them on your value proposition and thereby direct them to the road that leads to your front door.

  • Search the Internet for local business networks. Start with www.meetup.com, a free service that provides information on 250,000 monthly meetings in 45,000 cities. Meetup has several other features you will find useful including meeting agendas and guest speakers, reminders and member pictures and profiles.
  • It has been said that a person’s name is their favorite word. Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang stated an obvious corollary to this point, “It helps a ton when you learn people’s names and don’t butcher them when trying to pronounce them.” With a name like Schmeltzle, I know where he is coming from! If necessary, spell their name phonetically on the back of their business card to help remember its proper pronunciation. It is very true that you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Mess up a name and the opportunity may be lost!
  • Public speaking, essential to successful networking, is a skill that is difficult to teach. However, it can be learned over time. As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” Start with a small, friendly audience and work your way up to more challenging venues.
  • Focus on the quality of your network contacts, not the quantity. For that reason, I suggest you consider the size of groups and avoid those that are simply too large to establish meaningful relationships with substantially all members.
  • Meeting all of the regular attendees and familiarizing yourself with their businesses may be best accomplished in one-on-one or individual meetings outside of a group setting. I often meet with members over a cup of coffee.
  • You may find new vendor connections that are as valuable as new marketing opportunities, especially when first launching your business.
  • If you are considering offering compensation for successful referrals, remember that compensation does not have to mean an actual commission, or even a lot of cash out of your pocket. It can include a gift certificate from your business or a local restaurant, tickets to a cultural event or a charitable donation in the name of the person who provided the referral. However, be aware that the practice of compensating referrals may be setting a precedent for those in your networks who would otherwise provide free referrals. Find out what the common practice is for the group, and do not stray too far from the norm.
  • Finally, you might occasionally offer tickets to a sporting event or a charity function as a door prize. However, give a minimum of two adjoining seats and try not to hand them out on short notice. That will depreciate the value of your gift in the eyes of the recipient.

Have a great weekend. I look forward to reconnecting with you on Monday!

Web-based Sales Platforms – Part 5

Today, I complete this series on web-based sales platforms. Several large online business directory listings are available free of charge and can be set up within minutes. These directories provide a valuable tool to enable business owners to manage and enhance their Internet presence. For that reason, they are especially important for companies who do not have their own website. These sites promote connection through online searches by potential customers. Companies can post extensive information. Listings typically include business categories, web addresses, locations, hours, payment options and detailed product and service descriptions. They may allow you to upload photos, and some offer coupon and promotional capabilities. Many allow customers to post reviews. Some of the larger directories are:

·       Google Places

·       Bing Local

·       Yahoo Local

·       Hotfrog

All are free, often with upgraded services available for a fee. Google Places offers the ability to post real-time updates. It also provides a dashboard to track how many times people found your business and what keywords they used to find it.

Here is a closing thought from Highly Visible Marketing’s chapter on Internet Marketing Basics. Michael Dylan is an entrepreneur and business enthusiast. He summarized the ultimate challenge of Internet marketing this way: “In real-world shopping, you can look your customers right in the eye, chat with them and thus understand what they want, or guide them to a certain item. But with so much online business, we need to establish good customer relations in cyber-space, including ways to find out what the customer needs and what they really value in your business.”

I encourage you to remember Mr. Dylan’s comment as you develop and implement your Internet marketing strategies.

I expect to have an exciting announcement next week. I look forward to connecting with you on Monday.

Internet Marketing for Small Business-Part 5

On Monday, I introduced the topic of email as a low-cost marketing tool. Here are a few final points that apply to your evaluation and implementation of both email marketing and survey campaigns:

You will be surprised how few people open your email. ConstantContact tracks “open rates” by about 30 industry categories. Marketing and PR firms (who should be able to achieve stellar results) are 13%. The highest category is only 27%. It is a numbers game, so do not get discouraged. Above all, do not confuse activity with results in your accountability evaluation. A 100% open rate is worthless unless it generates sales, develops new leads or gathers useful marketing data.

Two other valuable statistics are your bounce rate (percentage of undeliverable emails) and your clickthrough rate (percentage of recipients who visit your website from the email link). The first shows how current and accurate your email lists are. The second provides a measure of the effectiveness of your online campaign. Compare both rates to industry averages as published by ConstantContact or one of the other vendors.

Consider the typical schedule and workload of your intended audience. Emails and surveys sent to accountants on April 14 or to retailers the week before Christmas are not going to achieve acceptable response rates.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” Apply his philosophy by scheduling mailings on different days of the week and different times of the day. Never schedule a mailing immediately before or after a holiday. It will be deleted in the rush to leave early or buried in an avalanche of emails that piled up over the long weekend.

Also, experiment with the frequency of distributions. Depending on how you use email, you may decide to do weekly or monthly mailings. Get into a regular routine. Victoria’s Secret sends daily emails. My wife finds this excessive, presumptuous and annoying. I might be forced to unsubscribe if they do not slow down. Then again, maybe not. It is all about content.

Many recipients make snap decisions whether to open or delete an email based solely on its subject line. Choose something inviting that suggests a reason to read it. Titles in the form of questions, “how to” advice or lists (for example, Five Ways to Increase Your Sales) are usually effective.

Finally, always have someone proofread every communication before issuing it.

Have a great Easter weekend, I will be right here on Monday with a new topic to help you achieve Highly Visible Marketing. Best wishes until then.

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