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Vanity Suffixes For Your Domain, Small Businesses Need Not Apply

This week in Singapore, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is the Internet body that oversees domain names, voted to open the control of domain suffixes a.k.a. gTLD (generic top-level domains) like .com, .net, .biz, etc. In the past they have allowed a total of only 22 suffixes. Going forward, companies will be able to apply for their own “vanity” suffixes or top-level domains.domain-suffixes

Mom and Pop, hold on! Don’t get too excited, this is probably a little bit out of your league and whether that’s a good thing or not will likely be a matter for future debate. By and large, this should not affect business in Appleton or Green Bay, WI. Let me use an example, likely new suffixes will be .coke, .ford, .canon, and maybe .kc –you get the idea. This move by ICANN is designed for the BIG BOYS and the brands that can afford it, not small or medium-sized businesses.

How Are They Targeted for the Big Brands?

Prices start with a $185,000 non-refundable application fee, plus an additional $25,000 annually just to operate the registry. Ouch! Now, that will keep a lot of businesses out, won’t it? Add in the whole legal cost of paying off cybersquatters to protect those trademarks and maybe Mom and Pop should be happy not to have been invited to this game.

The first round of applications will begin acceptance from next January to April (2012) and start appearing on the Internet by the end of 2012. ICANN will require those applying show a legitimate claim to the name they intend on buying and are hiring hundreds of consultants to adjudicate all of these claims. For those that apply and get turned down, please note that I said ‘non-refundable’ above. That’s right, if you get refused on whatever grounds, you lose $185,000.

Internet interest has of course spiked within all of the social media networks for this subject. The main concern seems to be that corporate interests are once again winning out over the general populace. Some of the other concerns are: 1) user confusion on the URL structure, 2) that there will not be any way to validate URL structures or emails without trying first them, 3) how search engines may be further manipulated, 4) the introduction of offensive domains like perhaps .nazi. and finally 5) those that invested in expensive .com domains will find the value of these assets greatly diminished.

Time will tell if this is a good thing, a bad thing or if it truly even matters. Right now, it looks like our kids will someday wonder what a .com even was.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their visibility online.

In addition to building dynamic and affordable websites, we integrate inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and utilize digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Give us a call today!

Who Should Be Your Next ‘Go To’ Employee?

“So I have a website –now what?” That is the question I often get when a client is asking why the website they either made themselves or ‘had a friend’ design isn’t getting any results. And I mean it –ANY RESULTS. So many small business owners are not getting the point. A website is only one piece of the online marketing puzzle but its potential to help your business is the secret to solving that puzzle. Your website is not the place to CHEAP OUT.
INTERNETS: ON/OFFphoto © 2005 mikael altemark | more info (via: Wylio)

Many entrepreneurial business people consider a website an afterthought and as not really that important to the success of their company. They are quickly being proven wrong. Inbound marketing which starts with having a website, is the most affordable method of marketing your business and is most likely to get you the best results. Using a pull strategy in Inbound, a.k.a. Online Marketing, you interact with people through many social media networks, then pull them into your online business realm via a website or social media platform specific to your business.

What a website isn’t

It should not be a static online brochure, a website that after you’ve given people your web address they can pull it up and… what? Gawk at it? Exclaim of its beauty? See all the ‘stuff’ you’re trying to sell? It should DO more than that.

So what should a website do for a business?

Kirt is beaming with new careerphoto © 2011 www.lancashire.gov.uk | more info (via: Wylio)

Every smart or lucky business has a ‘go to’ employee. Someone that takes on every challenge, is your best advocate, is the warehouse of much of your companys’ knowledge. That ‘go to’ employee, in this case, is your website and it’s vital that you prepare it for the challenge it is about to face. It will provide a foundation that you can use to venture into the social media network. This foundation should have SEO capabilities for every single thing that you publish. It should have reporting capabilities both short term and long term. It should nurture your leads or in other words help you convince consumers to buy or at least engage with your business. It should allow you to work the way you want to –either on a day-to-day basis or with scheduling far into the future. It should allow you and your business to grow.

What are the other pieces of this Internet puzzle?

“Build it and they will come” strategy may work for big brands like Disney, but if you have a small business, how are people going to find you? You need to chart out ‘how’ that is going to happen. Where are your potential customers now –online or off? What would make them visit you online –and keep them coming back? What would entice them into buying your offering?

Social Media sites

Sure, there is Facebook and it is not to be overlooked. But more specifically, there are social media sites that let you, as a small business owner, narrow your efforts to get closer to your niche. If you’re selling craft or gift items, then Esty.com may allow you the larger, targeted audience your business needs to sell successfully. For service companies, like automotive service or beauty salons, I like Yelp! Yelp! Is a review site for professional services offered in your area. Let your customers do the talking for you. That is far more powerful than tooting your own horn. For the travel industry, Trip Advisor is fast becoming the most respected of online travel sources because of the use of customer reviews.

Don’t forget email

internet explorerphoto © 2010 Sean MacEntee | more info (via: Wylio)

It’s not really glamorous, but small business owners should not forget email. Email offers a one-to-one relationship with your client and is of high value in the world of marketing, do not under-estimate its power. Plus, it’s affordable. Have you been collecting business cards for years and just use them to draw for a free dinner? It’s time to up the ante. Keep collecting those cards, but then start an email campaign that first gets them to ‘approve’ of you sending them these email messages from time to time. This would be called the ‘opt-in’. Then provides them periodic updates and offers to keep them interested and directly relating to your business over a period of time. Include links to your website that provides even more incentives and more info. An extra reason for keeping a solid email list is that it is an actual business asset. Think of it as an investment into your businesses future. –One more thing about email. Do you have your website address and social media handles at the bottom of your email signature? No? Do it today! It is a vital part of branding your business and should not be overlooked.

Integrate it!

With today’s popular mantra of “online marketing is where marketing is at”, one thing that seems to get overlooked, and is critical, is the integration of ALL your marketing efforts. On –AND Off line. Integration helps you get every bang for every buck. TV Advertising? Add in your web page. If you are planning on having a booth at a local farm market, be sure you have a brochure or business card that has your website on it –and maybe even add in how people may find extra value by looking your business up online.

Better yet, design a campaign that integrates some of the traditional advertising that you have done in the past and uses the website as a critical piece that drives excitement. Maybe it’s a TV campaign for a free prize that takes entries via your Facebook page, thus resulting in a large audience that ‘likes’ your site.

There are so many options and some, frankly, work better than others. Give us a call today, we’ll help you hone in on the audience you need and plan a strategy that will pull them to your business.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

In addition to building great dynamic websites, we do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

Right-Sizing Innovation for the Small Business Owner

Increasingly our world favors BIG. BIG Companies. BIG Stars. The next BIG thing. Big business seems to favor other BIG businesses, like during Christmas when ABC’s GMA seemingly supported only the online BIG Box stores, leaving small online entrepreneurs in the dust as reported in our December 8th blog, “Scrooge Strikes e-Commerce Small Business.”Big and small

What is the key to small businesses getting ahead? Many believe it is innovation. But it’s not that simple. Innovation tailored to the unique position and qualities of a small business propel it forward. Small business owners have certain advantages over their BIG business counterparts. They spend up to 80-90% of their days working directly with their customers, discovering their needs, solving their problems, finding the things that make them truly happy, and things, that no matter what, leave suppliers or service providers coming up short.

These insights from first-hand knowledge are the competitive edge of a small business.  BIG business might have the resources to implement innovation, but often they are so far removed from this fundamental information that they are not able to “see the forest for the trees”

In the article, “Think Small Innovations to Get Big” the author, Darrell Zahorsky describes the advantages of smaller incremental innovations found in the food industry. Small businesses that actively applied small innovations had better performance and competitive advantages over its two competing larger corporations.

How should your small business innovate? Perhaps they are things you already do. In a connected blog, Mr Zahorsky went on to list the “7 Principles of Small Innovations.” They are good tips all small business owners can benefit from.

In summary they are:

Free Time: Work smarter, not harder. Use new technology and outsource to work efficiently.

Collect Ideas: Carry around a small notebook to capture ideas throughout the day.

Look Outside: Look to other resources to succeed.

Be Customer Centric: If the innovation makes you feel uncomfortable but delights the customer, you are probably on the right track. Oh, and always consider your customer’s customer.

Use All Types of Innovation: Be alert for ALL innovation. Sometimes innovation occurs unexpectedly.

Ask The Right Questions: When talking with customers, ask about the experience, instead of the product or service.

Make a Daily Habit: Innovation can occur at any time and any place. Embracing daily innovation tactics into your lifestyle instead of as a main event will allow you to implement your best ideas.

Many of today’s leaders say the Small Business sector is likely to lead America to its next step in economic recovery. Learning the art of innovation within small businesses provides owners another competitive advantage needed to compete against all things ‘BIG’.

Social Energizer’s purpose is to help companies develop lasting relationships with their customers and increase their conversion rates by adding proven online marketing techniques to their marketing mix.

We do this by integrating inbound marketing techniques into each business’ current marketing plan and by utilizing digital channels and strategies like Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Search Engine Optimization, and Web-integrated Email Campaigns.

We invite you to comment and rate each blog, so we can ever improve our offerings to you.

Couponland, here I come!

I’m heading down to Chicago tomorrow for a quick lunch with my daughter and a side trip to IKEA (I HAVE to visit IKEA whenever I get near one and I’m not necessarily the world’s biggest shopper). Winter Shopping Therapy, here I come. It promises something special.Magiano's coupon

What I just heard though is that Chicago is quickly becoming known as Couponland. Brandchannel just recently featured a story on how the Windy City hosts 43 daily-deal groupbuying site headquarters. Two of the oldest are FatWallet and MrRebates and two of the largest, Groupon and CouponCabin.com. Who knew?

It all starts, according to Brandchannel, because of our Midwestern values and frugality. Okay, I’ll buy that, too. But 43, separate sites? I’ll report back and let you know what I find. Coupon anyone?

Online FREE, the new Tchochtke

Dog vs Man Danceoff

To view video, click on link below

Henry Ford once said, “The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.” In today’s inbound marketing terms, this could be the new Holy Grail. Business owners successful at providing the right balance of online FREE content and services are most likely to entice and solidify their customers. This strategy is called a pull strategy and means you are pulling customers, not pushing them to buy your product or service.

Yes, I said FREE content and services. Free, as in no cost. Zip, Zilch, Nada, No dinaro. You all know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Here’s my short list:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Linked In
  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • YouTube
  • WordPress.com
  • Yelp
  • Webinars
  • e-books
  • surveys
  • data charts
  • content (blogs)
  • Farmville
  • Mafia Wars

You get the idea. In 2011 terms, they’re the new tchotchke.

We spend countless hours online; checking this, reading that, playing those favorite free games and watching dog-vs-man-danceoff.htm.

It’s easy to understand why WE do this, but why are THEY, a.k.a. businesses, doing it? Why is this happening? Why would businesses give it all away for free?

It’s all in the Pull Strategy

As businesses move from Old School marketing methods like advertising to Inbound Marketing there is a change from push to pull. Instead of pushing a message, social media can pull customers to your business. The heart of this new successful strategy focuses on understanding the behaviors of today’s consumer. The online world is being developed as a “warm and fuzzy” place where businesses offer free advice, content, services, and games; and come together in a sense of community. It is where people go first for consumer information, and increasingly where they make a purchase, and begin to advocate for a product, service, business, or brand they like.

This pull strategy proves to be much more effective than the traditional push approach. Why? Because who doesn’t like free stuff?

How about you? You can continue to receive this blog FREE by clicking on ‘By Email’ in the top right corner of this page and subscribing to the Social Energizer blog. Feedburner will have you decode a scrambled word and then click on a link they send to your email. That’s all there is to it.

Know Your Customer’s Customer

customers

Attribution to Christine Jump (Flickr)

One of the basic principles of customer satisfaction is to understand and know your customer’s customer. It is something so simple, and yet sometimes, marketing professionals overlook this. Instead they create campaigns that fit the marketing person’s profile or fancy better than they do the customer or the customer’s customer.

Whether you’re selling to a company that makes and sells stuff or selling to Moms whose main customers are her three kids, you need to recognize who the customer’s customer is. If you want to create compelling programs and assess if they are on target, then knowing your customer’s customer is the most important key to successful marketing.

Clients, the ones who pay you directly, gain a new appreciation for the professionals who do their homework in this manner. It is the most generous compliment for a client to discover that you, in fact, took the time and effort to understand what they are doing and most of all, who they are doing it for: their customers.

In online marketing terms, the customer’s customer is an extension of a Buyer Persona. As social media marketing becomes more integral to the sales process, you will see this become more critical, but I wonder how many will really ‘get it’. Relating to people, even those called consumers, is not a science, but an art, backed by a strong genuine interest in helping people and truly satisfying their wishes.

As we take up the challenge of determining how to align with customers using new media, we need to reclaim the basics we learned so long ago. Learn about your customer’s customer, get to know them, spend some time talking to them or better yet, joking and laughing with them. As you build this awareness, you also build awareness of the direction your business should take to better connect with your consumer and satisfy their needs and interests for your products and/or services. Doing this well results in relationships that can last a lifetime.

First Steps to Successful Inbound Marketing

So, you’ve watched Socialnomics with Eric Qualman and now you ‘get it’.

Haven’t seen it yet? Here it is again.

Now, you’re ready to begin the first steps to successful Inbound Marketing. Because traditional marketing will never be the same. It will no longer get you ‘there’. If you want to move your business forward, then you will need to focus on what you’re doing online. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Own Your Own Website
There is nothing more important than owning your own website. It’s your basecamp. The place that all your social media efforts revolve around. The place where all your communications should originate from -and end up at.

Location, location, location!
Now more than ever location matters. Whether it’s a busy street corner or a hard to find hole in the wall, getting your spot on the map right is vital. My recommendation is first things, first. Can people find you? If you’re a restaurant, hotel or auto repair shop, then start by registering your address and details on Google Places. This will literally, put you on the map.

Google Places http://www.google.com/help/places/index.html

Get Found
Make it easy for others to find your website (you do have a website, right?) by adding it to these most popular search engines, as listed below. Yes, all of them. This will allow the search engines to find you without waiting for them to ‘crawl’ your site. Being proactive on this is a good thing.Socialnomics

Google – http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl
Bing- http://www.bing.com/webmaster/SubmitSitePage.aspx
Yahoo! Local – http://listings.local.yahoo.com/
Yelp! http://www.yelp.com/business?country=US

Consider these:
__Craigslist- http://yourcity.craigslist.org/
__Here is a link where you can submit your site to MANY places:
http://www.locallytype.com/pages/submit.htm

Next steps
For all businesses, the top things that you need to do is establish a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and start a blog. For hospitality businesses, include TripAdvisor in that equation. Put it at the top of the list.
I’ll cover those in future articles. Stay tuned!

Scrooge Strikes e-Commerce Small Business

Is Network TV the Scrooge?
This Christmas season, it seems like every network TV news personality is reporting that online sales are booming. On Cyber-Monday, Becky Worley of Good Morning America said that online sales are up significantly this year. Technically, that’s true. That is, if you are Amazon, Walmart or Best Buy.

e-Commerce: Not for the Little GuyChristmas Cancelled for Small Business
Unfortunately, small to mid-size e-tailers have actually lost ground according to ComScore’s latest Cyber Monday report. Although, they reported a 12% overall increase in total consumer online spending, when you break it down the big box stores increased their sales 20%, while small-medium businesses experienced a 4% loss compared to 2009 spending.

Why do the Big Boys get the Attention?
Two reasons. One, the big boys can afford to lure shoppers with deep discounts and attention-grabbing promotions. In doing so, they grab market share from the online ‘mom & pops’, who thought the internet provided a new path to successful marketing. Two, network TV news keeps its focus on its customers: those big box stores who are their biggest advertisers this time of year.  ABC’s Becky Worley delivered her “news” report live from the floor of Amazon.com’s Phoenix distribution and shipping center.  Her story focused on Amazon’s deal of the day and other online retailers like Home Depot. If economic growth comes from small to medium-sized businesses, isn’t it time journalists paid more attention to them?

As Tiny Tim waits to see what’s in store for him this Christmas, remember small and medium-sized businesses are the ones that bring handcrafted, quality craftsmanship, made in America items to market. These are often gifts that last a lifetime.

Buy from someone ‘small’ today. There’s still time to shop!