Here's my top recommendation for LinkedIn, if you have a profile but feel sort of "meh" about LinkedIn. Use its search. You may know that you can ask one of your LinkedIn Connections to introduce you to one of their LinkedIn connections. It's a bit cumbersome to go about it that way. Here's a better idea.
Let's say you are interested in having Valero, the energy company, as a client. Put "Valero" in the search box. Leave "People" as the thing you're searching for.
What comes up are people who work for Valero, sorted in the order of how closely they're connected with you or your connections.
I tried this cold at the presentation - I'd actually love to talk to somebody at Valero for a nonprofit event I help organize. Turns out several of my first-degree connections have moved from a previous company to working at Valero. I can look for the folks whose job titles look the closest to the "Community Relations" group.
Here's another tip: I could use LinkedIn to ask for an introduction. But I'll get better results if I shoot the person a quick email or give them a call.
And that brings me to another tip: Really know the people you connect with. LinkedIn's power is its ability to amplify a REAL business network - not help you PRETEND you have one.
Speaking of keeping it real - LinkedIn is now prompting users to rate one another for different claimed skills. It's fun to see people I haven't worked with in awhile say that I'm good at WordPress or Web Strategy or Information Architecture – but many of them really have no idea whether I'm good at that, they just take me at my word that I am. Flattering in a way, but if you REALLY want to help someone, give them a real LinkedIn Recommendation. The written kind, with believable detail. They take time, and they are a wonderful gift, and a great way to thank somebody for a job well done, or a relationship you value.
There are tons of juicy presentations about LinkedIn on Slideshare. Here's one that has a good deal more detailed advice that I find sound. Connect with me on Slideshare and share your own!
I'm presenting these 10 Easy SEO Tips for Business Wednesday, 5/2/12 at the Business Owners Seminar Series. You may know that SEO stands for "search engine optimization" - it's the art/science of getting your website to appear on page 1 of search results in Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines.
At Firecat Studio, SEO is important, and we address it as an integrated part of your content strategy, not with tricks or games that can get you penalized or cost you thousands to keep up.
After the 10 tips, I'm including a "buyer's guide" to SEO and SEM services toward the end of the presentation. You probably get lots of offers to "get you to page 1 of Google - guaranteed." Fortunately, there are some simple ways to tell who's selling snake oil and who's likely to have your best interests in mind.
We're dedicating this week's Firecat First Friday free coworking and workshop to SEO as well - so if you miss the B.O.S.S. series, come out to Firecat Studio this Friday at noon, and hear this stuff in person, with some special guests expert in getting sites to rank well.
At last Friday's Firecat coworking and brownbag session, Kate Hayward led a quick but deep excursion into creating a unique selling proposition (USP). Several expert marketers were in attendance, so the insights were flying.
Kate posted her empathy map (below) that she had posted on the writeboard, and shares her own answers to the leading questions in her workshop here in her blog, Eggsactamundo.
I'm still working on the Firecat Studio USP. Have you made progress on yours?
I also ordered the Business Model book Kate recommended, Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers, by Alexander Osterwalder. Let me know if you read it (and what you thought), or other books you find relevant to this work.
I frequently give presentations on the significance of social media, and strategies for business adoption and use. Gary Vaynerchuk, author of "Crush It" and "The Thank You Economy" gives similar presentations, to larger audiences.
I met Gary at South by Southwest a few years ago; he's a serial entrepreneur, now a social media consultant to large brands; he mastered social media through running, among other things, a wine business. I find Gary's style a bit sleazy, but I appreciate his knowledge and delivery, and he's got social media dead-on right. In this presentation, he is more direct and clear than I've ever seen him.
Highlights (I'm liberally paraphrasing here):
I find myself evangelizing social media a good bit, and I was gratified to learn that Gary runs into the same misconceptions and arguments against social media that I do. I jammed on hearing Gary address many of the same objections and misconceptions.
I'm indebted to Jennifer Navarrete for making sure I didn't miss this.
Let me know what you think. Have you read his two books? Thanks to Jennifer Navarrete for pointing this out to me - I'm grateful!
If you need this kind of talk delivered to a business audience – minus the profanity – I'd love to hear from you.
I don't have a green thumb at all, so this plant in my backyard is perfect for me. Why? It was lush and lovely when I bought it, then after a few days of my typical neglect in the fierce San Antonio sun, it drooped very ostentatiously - I mean it looked completely dead. I watered it thoroughly, but fully expected it to die and join the group of terminal cases beside the compost pile.
But no! Two hours later, it had rebounded back to its former lush beauty. And I was proud and relieved I hadn't killed it. Instead of encouraging my bad plant care, I'm extra fond of this neglect-tolerant variety so paradoxically pay it more attention than the less forgiving plants. Because I've experienced a payoff, I'm willing to work harder.
This cycle of signal-action-payoff works to motivate site owners to keep content fresh on a website, and it's critical to effective interaction and game design. Signal users strongly and unambiguously with obvious changes and new content, then reward them for desired behaviors - such as visiting.
Any blogger will tell you how lonely the time is between writing a post and getting that first comment. Despite the metrics program's report of unique visitors or page reads or time on site, we crave a little acknowledgment, a little validation. When we get some love, we'll work that much harder on the next post. Conversely, when a user takes time to check in on your site and sees the same old stale content, you're signaling them they needn't drop by so often.
So make a point of sprinkling some content nuggets around your online presence and comment on those of others.
USAA's Tom Vaughn and I presented information about business uses and strategies for social media to the San Antonio North Chamber of Commerce's CFO Forum last Thursday, June 17.
Ironically, the Oak Hills Country Club blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, so we were prevented from actually showing folks around. Most of the audience owned up to having Facebook accounts, and there were a few Twitterers in the crowd, including @fransteps, @goodwillsa, @harlanhouse and @bettervideo.
Follow Susan on Twitter at @firecatsue and Tom at @tomvaughn. To get advance notice on future appearances or other events for Firecat Studio, be sure to subscribe to email notifications on the Firecat Studio home page.
A recent thread in the CHI-WEB list prompted these musings on designing an effective landing page. I love creating landing pages! In our attention-deficit culture, they're the bomb.
Landing pages have to do the heavy lifting of converting the user from a prospect (someone who was interested enough to click) to a customer. A conversion doesn't have to be an actual product sale, though - it can be any action you want the user to take, like an employee filling out an open enrollment form online, or voting in a survey, or just reading a message or looking at an image or video.
That relentless focus on a specific, desired action by the user distinguishes a landing page from any other web page. By contrast, a home page usually must offer several possible actions or paths for the user, such as Find Contact Information, Log In, Review Services Offered, Shop the Catalog, Make a Comment, and so forth.
My best advice: Keep landing pages extremely simple - and ruthlessly focused on whatever benefit or offer the user clicked to arrive there. The user in the scenario is already in the marketing funnel - so give them NO reason to jump out. Limit other navigation choices to some very secondary "other options." Sometimes we remove the global navigation altogether to help the user stay in the task we want them to be in.
The design of the landing page is certainly important, but it's vital to approach the landing page as part of a sequence. The tease in a banner ad or email is also critical to success. The sequence for marketing landing pages is often:
eMail -> Landing page -> Confirmation page
For a small business, it might be:
Printed URL (on a billboard, business card or letter) -> Browser -> Landing page -> Confirmation page.
Each link in the chain must do its job to get users to take the desired action. Consider how they'll find the tease in the first place. Make sure the tease is compelling. Test variants to see what drives the most traffic. Optimize for SEO.
Here's a sample offer email from Netflix:
And they wisely take me straight to their home page, which is an optimized landing page for prospects.
Sure, existing Netflix customers are important to Netflix too - but not as important on the public home page as what I call the "keystone" user of that page, the prospect. There is a Member Sign-In in the top chrome, but chances are, existing customers will "deep dive" straight to their login and account via a handy customized link in a reminder Netflix email anyway. That's good cross-channel strategy.
MyLife (which used to be Reunion.com) teases registered users who aren't yet customers with emails like this one:
The registered user cared once upon a time about connecting with their past, so MyLife wisely pushes that button again in the email, trying to spark curiosity.
But then the marketing funnel hits a block. Instead of presenting the information they've teased, the user is negatively reinforced for clicking - a Roadblock landing page. In order to help people jump the payment hurdle, they're using time-sensitivity - see the ticking stopwatch, after which presumably the cost goes up or the offer terms sour.
You'll be familiar with this type of landing page, it's the online equivalent of a 30-minute infomercial. I know they're effective, but I can't stand them. They smack of snake oil, the foot-in-the-door salesperson jabbering on, and on, overcoming objections by persistence and brute force.
Unfortunately, they work. Extremely well, in fact - as ably demonstrated in a Firecat First Friday coworking brownbag on email marketing given by San Antonio's Chick Whisperer Scot McKay a few months ago. Scot is a driven, intelligent marketer who continually experiments and tests, and repeats what works. This longer, overcome objections approach works beautifully for him. Scot's approach is to give, give, give, ask for a small sale, and continually build relationship.
I'm including as my example of the long scroller a typical landing page from Facebook's "Pied Piper" Mari Smith - because it's extreme, almost a caricature of this type of landing page. Mari's emails are very personal looking, not graphic, with the tone of a note from a friend. She also gives lots of freebies and carefully builds relationships. But when she's ready to ask for the sale, watch out! It's 12-15 screensful of information calculated to wear down the user. I can't show you the whole thing - that'd be ridiculous. Here's how one of Mari's landing pages starts, though:
Chock full of words straight out of Words That Sell.And this goes on for 12 more screens (at 1924 resolution!).
There are calls to action sprinkled throughout the long scroller. ("Now how much would you pay? But wait, don't answer - because for a special limited time, you also get...") Finally, finally! at the bottom we get to the main Call to Action element - which glows, pulses and screams. After all that effort, the user does need to be rewarded with an incontrovertible, straightforward "ask."
Mari's landing pages contain almost all the elements that could possibly help to convert someone from a prospect to a sale. Use some of them - or if you have the stomach for the hard-sell technique, all of them:
In our web design work, we often sketch out "wireframes" of pages -- not the pretty, finished look of a comp, but a utilitarian representation of the elements that belong on a page. Here's a very basic wireframe of a Landing Page - what I would sketch out on the whiteboard in a design meeting.==================
Here's another of our tools to get essentialized enough for a really effective landing page: The Mental Model. In this process, we examine what steps, beliefs, emotions, objections, logic and so forth are pinging around in the user's head at these critical junctures.
Like most of our design work, this process is best viewed from the user's point of view, though I have tagged what's going on in our "design speak" and included some advice to the designer.
Another good book is Indy Young's Mental Models book, available from Lou Rosenfeld's site. Both Indy and Lou are top UX professionals and great sources of user-centered design info.
I'd love to hear what you think about landing pages, and I'm always on the hunt for spectacular examples, both good and bad. Send 'em on!