Saturday, December 29, 2007

Holy Toast!

It's Saturday - (and we're supposed to be on vacation) so I'm just going to share this fabulous video you can find on Toastvertising, a site to promote "The Book of Spam":

I wish I had this much time...


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Good Stuff!

I found a great post yesterday while I was out "Sphinning" on Sphinn (it's an Internet Marketing news and discussion forum that I belong to) and I left a thank you comment to Tamar the blogger who posted it.

Then today while visiting my new favorite branding blog BrandflakesforBreakfast (Thanks Eric!) they had a post on it too so I figured I'd share with you!

Best Internet Marketing Blog Posts of 2007

To some it could APPEAR that I'm being lazy and just passing on information, but really - it's some good stuff I promise!


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Setting Business Goals

Complete Business Systems staff wish all of you a happy holiday season filled with friends and family! Our offices are officially closed through January 1st. We have to admit though, we're workaholics! We'll be posting to the blog and checking email and voicemail until we re-open on the 2nd of January.

Now that we are awaking from our turkey-and-gravy induced stupor, it’s time to get back into work mode. Like many business owners, we’re evaluating what we’ve done wrong, what we’ve done right, and what we plan to accomplish in the upcoming year. While every company is different, these tips will help anyone in keeping sight of their business goals.

Your goals should be S-M-A-R-T goals:

Specific – Instead of saying “I want to make more money this year”, set a dollar amount or percentage that you want to increase sales by. What do you want your company to accomplish this year? Why is it important to complete this goal? How are you going to achieve it?

Measurable – Each goal should be quantifiable. That means you'll have to start with a base line where you are now in order to set a target to move forward, thus enabling you to set benchmarks along the way to see if you are on track to your goal. When you measure your progress, you stay on track.

Attainable - Your goals should be realistic in order to be achieved. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be challenging, but they shouldn't be a slam dunk either. Making it to work dressed every day does not count as a challenging goal. Remember to be flexible with your goal, don’t make your goals so challenging that they’re impossible to achieve.

Relevant - Your goals should apply to the overall vision or mission of your business or organization. Each goal should move you towards your vision and not impede your mission or interfere with other goals.

imely - Your goals should be able to be completed within a reasonable amount of time. They should have a beginning and ending point by which to measure your success. Having a time limit on your goal helps focus your attention and efforts towards the achievement of the goal.

Remember, your goals should be S-M-A-R-T! Outline your goals ahead of time, whether yearly, monthly or weekly. Make sure to track your progress to see if you’re on target to meet them. Reward yourself and your employees for meeting the goals you set to stay motivated.

We hope these tips are helpful…here’s to a great year!

Michelle and Joanne

Friday, December 21, 2007

Viral Marketing

This Cadbury Gorilla video was forwarded to me today by a fellow blogger. The fact that it is still being circulated and is being parodied shows it has made an impact.

This is a compelling ad and a perfect example of viral marketing because it's quirky and weird and most people have learned about this through word of mouth.

From the Wikipedia page on this ad campaign produced by Cadbury Schweppes' new in-house production company 'A Glass and a Half Full Productions' :

"Their proposal was to step away from pushing the product through traditional advertising means, and instead produce "entertainment pieces" which would appeal to a broader range of consumers and spread through viral marketing – that is, through word of mouth."

We just plain like it!


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Just Say No

In the 80’s, former First Lady Nancy Reagan launched her famous anti-drug campaign “Just Say No”. Today’s blog has nothing to do with drugs, but it does address the value of saying “No” when appropriate.

Many business owners subscribe to the adage, “The customer is always right”. That may sound nice in theory, but sometimes telling a customer “No” is the best thing for all involved. Often, when a business owner is just starting out, the tendency is to say “Yes” to all prospective customers’ requests, just to get business in the door. “Yes, we can design a website, logo, and letterhead in one week for $100.” That may be what the customer wants to hear, but if you are A) Losing money on the project B) Unable to deliver on time or C) Not sleeping or eating for a week, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Some clients can be, shall we say, opportunistic. When they know that you are a new, small business, they may often try to get as much as they can for little or no money. One only has to scan websites such as craigslist (which we love, by the way) to see people posting for services, saying things like, “ I can’t pay much, but this project will look great in your portfolio”. Don’t sell yourself short. When a client asks for extra work at no charge, it’s all right to say no.

That’s not to say that throwing in a freebie here and there has no value. It’s great to do that if it helps foster good will and future business. However, there’s no use in promising clients everything they ask for, unless you are certain you can deliver. That only puts undue stress on yourself, your employees, and ultimately the client.

When it comes to saying yes to all requests, “Just Say No”!


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How to Get Traffic to Your Site Without Paying Through the Nose!

Happy holidays! Can you believe I went to the store at 5:00 am to try and get the kids a Wii on Saturday? Well, I didn’t get one – I guess they’ll just have to play with the boxes their clothes came in!

We’re gearing up for some much needed time off coming up next week, and I for one am excited! We are closing for the week, but I imagine we’ll end up working some – we always do.

I know, I know… you clicked on this because you want to learn how to get traffic, not read about me and my holiday plans!

When we started our business, we had a tiny marketing budget and really couldn’t afford traditional advertising. How did we gain clients? We got them through website visitors. When we started out, we knew we needed to attract people to our website. More importantly, we needed to keep them on the site once they were there.

Here are the main ingredients we cooked up for our plan:

  1. Keyword research. We decided which keywords we needed for our online business success and then we wrote keyword rich content for the site.
  2. We named specific pages/url’s for those keywords
  3. We wrote meta tag descriptions for those pages
  4. We submitted our site to major search engines and directories
  5. We installed Google analytics and signed up for a webmasters account
  6. We added a sitemap to our website and one to the webmaster account
  7. We wrote articles with subjects that included our keywords and updated our sitemap with each new article
  8. We began passing out business cards and posting them whenever we could.
  9. We printed bookmarks with our company information and placed them in libraries and bookstores in books relevant to “Starting Your Own Business”
  10. We posted ads on free classified sites
  11. We wrote press releases and distributed them to online wire services (hoping to get picked up, which they were)
  12. Once we verified that Google had crawled and indexed our content, we began submitting our articles to article syndication sites.
  13. We sent out emails to friends, family, and past business colleagues to let them know about our new business. We asked them to refer us to anyone in need of our services.
  14. We created a MySpace page and began social networking (albeit slowly, as we were busy running our new business)
  15. We joined the local chamber of commerce (well this wasn’t free, but it didn’t cost but a drop in the bucket)
  16. We started a blog (again, we were really busy in the beginning and our blog posts were few and far between – we ended up trashing the first blog and starting over and have great hopes for our new blog)
I know that there are many other things we have done that were absolutely free, and I’m sure I’ll remember them tonight at 3:30 in the morning! If I do, I promise I’ll comment.

One of the greatest joys we have had is to watch our analytics and see where our traffic has been coming from. Nothing gives us a greater thrill than to see that an article we wrote about search engine marketing or TV and radio advertising has brought us visitors.

If you’re a steady blogger, you know that it takes time to cultivate relationships and read all there is out there to read. Sometimes you can get so caught up in it all that you look up and can’t believe the day is half over. It’s so much fun that it’s almost sinful that you’re getting paid to do it.

Sometimes there are days when you’re tired and don’t feel much like writing anything or commenting, but you fear if you don’t write something you’ll lose subscribers/visitors/fans. It’s best not to post if your heart isn’t in it. When we have those days, we’ve learned not to post anything. It keeps the blog fresh, informative and entertaining.

I hope the information I shared can help you if you’re just starting out and struggling to get things going. We’re here for support, if you want to comment – we’ll write you back. We’ve been there, and we “get it”.

Have a great night!


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Future of Business is "Free"

I found a link to this video of Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired discussing "Free" the subject of his up and coming book on brandflakesforbreakfast.

His views on the changes up and coming in economics world-wide are fascinating.

Granted, it's a long video (about 40 minutes) - but if you are in business or thinking about a business model in the future, it would be well worth your time to watch this video.


Writing the Perfect Ad

Have you heard of WIIFM? No, it’s not the hottest video game that all the kids are clamoring for. WIIFM stands for “What’s In It For Me?” and it’s what your prospective customers want to know. If you really stop and think about it, what you want to sell is the benefit of your product or service, rather than the product or service itself. For example, I don’t need to know about the ingredients that go into a bottle of perfume; I need to know if it smells good. In addition, what will this great smelling perfume do for me? Will the wafting scent attract a pack of chiseled male models, ready to cater to my every whim? Maybe I’ll be transformed into a high-powered, suit-wearing dynamo, kicking less assertive underlings out of my way as I ascend the corporate ladder.

When writing for your ads, keep WIIFM in mind. Remember that a print ad must be visually appealing as well as informative. Studies have shown that people scan ads (and webpages) in a “Z” pattern. With that in mind, don’t cram your ad chock full with too many words that no one will read. Keep your message brief. Don’t try to tell a whole story in one ad. Limit your use of technical jargon, unless your ad is targeted only at people in your industry.

In short, have fun with your ads, keep your message clear and simple, and remember WIIFM!


Monday, December 17, 2007

Acts of Kindness

Well, today has been a very busy day and on a personal note, I have to post something in the "Small Business Tips" blog that really has nothing to do with business - but just being kind to others...

On November 10th, I made a vow to myself to make a positive change in my life to practice random acts of kindness. My vow was to do one good deed a day, no matter how trivial. I have been keeping track of those deeds in my calendar. Through a blogging group that I joined today Bloggers Unite, I decided to go ahead and post December deeds (as requested) in our blog:

12/1 Gave homeless woman $5.00
12/2 Took out my parents garbage (I know, it's a stretch - but it's the only good thing I did that day!)
12/3 Held the door for a woman with toddler and baby even though I was running late
12/4 Put change in the Easter Seals jar
12/5 Gave free advice on Craiglist to someone looking to hire somebody for SEO
12/6 Offered to help a stranger (they didn't take me up on it)
12/7 Put change in the breast cancer jar
12/8 Worked for free at my sisters store
12/9 Purchased two items while at the grocery store to put in the Second Harvest Food barrel
12/10 I didn't do anything today except work and take care of family (FAILED)
12/11 Put money in the Easter Seals jar
12/12 Gave free advice to someone with a less than desirable website on how to improve it
12/13 Helped my elderly neighbor bring in her groceries
12/14 Put money in the breast cancer jar
12/15 Went to my parents to watch a movie with them (again, another stretch as this was mostly for my own enjoyment because I adore them)
12/16 Put money in the Salvation Army bucket
12/17 Let guy in traffic go ahead of me even though I was running late

That's all I have for this month. Although they are small things, I'd like to believe I'm helping to make the world a better place in my own little way.

The Search Engine Results Page (SERPs) Explained

Every year my family publishes a “Bad News Letter”. Ever experience the annoying high achieving family newsletter that comes in the mail from a distant relative? That’s not the case when it comes to my family. We love to highlight and laugh at the bad things that happened throughout the year. You won’t find any braggarts in that gem. I've been busy after work hours getting it together to pass out to relatives on Christmas Eve.

On to the subject…

Last week I was conversing with a client over the phone and she mentioned that she wanted her new website to be on the top of the SERP’s page. When I started to explain to her the logistics of being listed at the top for her search terms she was fascinated. She is a very intelligent woman with several websites already, and it got me to thinking that I should probably do a post for people who don’t quite understand it all.

So, with that in mind – let me just explain (gently) how it all works:

Whenever you go to a search engine such as Google and you type in a keyword or phrase (the words you are using to search for something), after you hit “Search”, the items that come up are broken down as follows:

Take a look at the image below with the results in red:

Those are the top paid results. To get in that position, you have to be engaged in a PPC (Pay Per Click) or (Adwords) campaign with Google and you have to be the top bidder for the keyword phrase that was searched on. In this case the phrase was “complete business cards”.

In the next image, look at the results in red:

These are also paid or “sponsored” results from a PPC campaign. The results on the side are not the top dollar advertising. Again, the person in charge of the campaign has a choice on what keywords to bid on, how much they want to spend per word or phrase and what position they want to be in.

In the next image, look at the results in red:

These are the natural search results. Meaning, the results that are showing up here are based on SEO (search engine optimization) and not a paid advertising campaign. This clearly demonstrates how important search engine optimization can be to your marketing budget.

I can get into more about PPC campaigns and how they work in another post. Next time we can have a look at Yahoo or MSN. I hope this was helpful to you.


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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Google Vs. Wikipedia

Who will win?

Google has announced "Knol", their new free tool similar to Wikipedia. Writing an article at this time is accomplished by invitation only, so don't get too excited - you have to wait.

For anyone who posts on Wikipedia, you might agree that the editing tools can sometimes be frustrating as well as having your content taken off by another authority on the subject.

Knol (which stands for unit of knowledge) will include community tools where people will be able to weigh in on subjects. Google wrote on their blog:

"All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing."

The author of the knol will decide whether or not to include ads and Google will then provide a substantial revenue share with the author.

Here's a screenshot of a knol (if you click on it, you can be taken to the full page screenshot):

If it takes off I believe the people who write on Wikipedia for a good cause (to impart knowledge to others) and are passionate about it will stay writing there and the ones that use it for the same reasons will continue to go there for information.

On the other hand, other authors may prefer to use knol so their name will be published. Having their byline/website featured in the knol would increase website traffic substantially. In addition, with the revenue share in place from ads, the financial windfall could be considerable.

People are going blog wild on the subject right now as it races through the net. The opinions and discussions are heating up.

I for one, have decided to wait and see. When the testing phase is finished and I can really sink my teeth into it I'll weigh in on how I feel. (As if you care...)


Friday, December 14, 2007

Top 7 SEO Mistakes to Avoid

You've got your new site up and you’re ready to get it optimized for search engines. Where should you start? There are plenty of articles and advice on the Internet on how you should go about it and there's a lot of information to absorb. When applying your SEO practices, make sure you avoid the following no no’s:

  1. Omitting the Title, Description and Keyword Meta tags. I’ve seen it first hand many times – potential clients contact me interested in a re-design because their site has been up for over a year and they have no traffic or page rank. I check their source code and sure enough, they don’t have any tags. If you go to Google Webmaster Help Center, you’ll see they encourage you to have title tags.
  2. Leaving “Under Construction” on your pages. You want your site to be seen as something that is evolving and continually changing so people will come back? Don’t put up “under construction” or “continually under construction”. The search engines will ignore you.
  3. No Links! This is a must for your website, you need to have them. Link to relevant sites from your site and have some incoming links from relevant sites too.
  4. Keyword stuffing. Cramming your pages full of keywords is going to shoot you down in the SERPs. You need to do research on keyword density and keep your pages within those ranges.
  5. Hiring a dishonest SEO service. You get what you pay for. If you want to have legitimate results, hire an expert service and expect to pay anywhere from 2-5 k per month. Do your research and make sure to check references by speaking to the former clients personally over the phone. If you hire a service that “guarantees” top placement, you are most likely getting ripped off.
  6. Using important text in images. The robots and spiders don’t recognize the text in an image. If you have something important you want shown on your page, use text!
  7. Dead links. Make sure you check your links frequently. If your links aren’t live, guess what? The crawler is leaving your site – dead end.
You can use free services such as to check on your site optimization and find areas that need improvement.

When doing SEO for your site, be honest and provide information to your viewers that is of value and is true to your product or service. If you stick to those guidelines, you’ll come along just fine. Remember, it’s not a lightning process and it can be done without spending a great deal of cash. Do your research and get started today!


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Small Business Holiday Survival Guide

Conducting business during the holiday season can be challenging, especially if you depend on getting a certain amount of new business every month. With the exception of retail, most business slows down during this time of year. Most people are caught up in shopping, wrapping, and hosting or attending holiday parties.

How can you make the most of this “downtime” to ensure that you’re ready to hit the ground running after the New Year’s confetti has settled?

First of all, don’t abandon the quest for new business entirely. Although it may be more difficult to win new clients now, you’ll certainly fail if you don’t try at all. Stick to your normal methods of prospecting – cold calling, networking, online marketing, etc.

Make the “warm and fuzzy” mood of the season work for your business. We all recognize the tried and true ritual of sending annual holiday cards to existing clients to thank them for their business, but you may want to take the concept a step further.

Think of how you can tie your product or service into the holiday season, even if it seems like a stretch at first. For example, an auto shop could run a holiday tune-up special, with the tagline “Will Your Car Make it Over the River and Through the Woods?” OK, don’t be too hard on me! I came up with that on the spur of the moment.

Instead of sending cards, why not shower your clients with a more enduring gift? Be creative! Did you know that you can have a bobblehead made of yourself and branded with your company logo? If that idea seems a little far fetched, just remember that your goal in giving client gifts are to keep your name in front of the client, show appreciation for their business, and remind them of the need for your product or service.

Incorporate a subtle festivity into your daily marketing efforts. My business partner created a holiday version of our logo to use on seasonal coupons, in emails, etc. No matter how small, people appreciate the acknowledgement of this special time of year.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for Success in the New Year!


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

To Flash or Not to Flash?

Oh how I love flash! I do, it makes the sometimes boring, mundane web surfing much more fun. I suppose you could refer to me as flashy, but I’d really rather that you didn’t.

There are so many cutting edge websites out there that are flash based design. Check out a few pretty neat ones:

Mark Aurel Designer
The Simpsons Movie
Office Max Elf yourself

If you are interested in ranking high in the SERPs (search engine results pages) based on SEO (search engine optimization), you should probably forgo the flash. I know…I know…so sad! But it’s true. Rather than having a flash intro that takes a long time to load and causes your visitors to close the browser for lack of patience, why not add a little flash element to your homepage instead?

If you are a big brand name company, you can get away with putting up an all-flash site. People are already going to be Googling your company name to get to your site. If you’re a smaller company that hasn’t established its brand – you should stick to searchable content for your sites pages. You need to have content on your home page that the robots and spiders can read and index.

You can add flash elements such as a flash advertisement to drive customers through your sales funnel, or maybe a flash slideshow that showcases your highest selling products.

Another element to consider would be a flash header/ menu (which we have), just remember to also include text links to your main menu pages so that the robots and spiders can follow the links and your visitors who don’t have flash can find your content.

I wish the big 3 would just come up with a way to easily index all of the content in flash sites, until they do – the little guys have to play it straightforward.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Whopper Freak Out

Unfortunately, I was too busy today working on our SEO and out making connections to blog about small business tips.

So...with that being said, how about I show you another example of branding? See what would happen if the whopper disappeared:

The Whopper Freak Out

The brilliant commercial comes from Crispon Porter Bogusky.

Tomorrow I'll post some great business tips for small businesses I promise!

Until then, you can always start to Twitter... (Come on... follow me...)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Branding...It's Not Just for Cows!

Your company logo isn’t the only thing that makes up your brand. The service that you have provided to your clients, and your reputation are part of your brand as well.

If you think of your current customer base, how many of your clients or customers were referred to you by your past clients? If you answered “None”, you’re not cutting the mustard!

One of our clients — Rick Cook, Treasure Islands of Santa Cruz, has done a terrific job of building his brand name. He makes sure to include his company brand in everything he does. He’s consistently involved in local charity events, as well as donating his time to give back to his community. He passes out custom made T-shirts, hats, pens, and even branded butter mints (mmmmm). People who don’t even have a backyard in which to place one of his products know about his company. You can almost guarantee that when they do purchase their new home, they’ll be headed over to pick up a firetable or Big Green Egg to place in their new backyard.

I was on the phone with a friend earlier this morning, and he was praising our company for being ahead of the times in our town by being in the branding business. We were discussing that there are still many people who aren’t quite sure what branding is. Eric summed it up perfectly by using the example that he gives to people when they inquire about it:

He asks them, “When I say jeans, what comes to mind?” their response? “Levis or Wrangler”. Branding in a nutshell!

As mentioned in earlier blog posts, be consistent with your branding. Everything you put out should have your brand on it! This includes the employees working for you. (No, I’m not suggesting that you literally “brand” them with a hot iron.) Are they consistently giving the best service to your clients and staying on course to grow your brand?

Two free branding steps you can take today:

1. Create an email signature with your company logo and website url
2. Add your website url to your on hold music or voice mail message

Do it today – build your brand!

Oh yeah, and check out this video about the technology bubble – it’s pretty entertaining:

Here Comes Another Bubble - The Richter Scales


Friday, December 7, 2007

Make Sure to Take Time Off

As a small business owner, especially if you work from home, you may find that one of your greatest challenges is keeping your work from taking over your entire life. It’s tempting to answer “just one more email” before bed. You can find yourself still at the computer hours later, bleary-eyed and exhausted. You may feel that you need to work as many hours as possible, but doing so may actually be counterproductive.

If all you do is work, you may neglect your health — not sleeping enough, eating poorly, and getting too little physical activity. This will make you cranky and less than enthusiastic about work.

A better strategy is to allot a specific amount of time each day for an activity completely unrelated to work. Take an hour to go to the gym, or a brisk walk on the beach. Make sure to take time for regular meals. Stand up and stretch every 30 minutes or so. Spend time with friends and family. Most importantly, try to sleep at least 7 to 8 hours a night (ok, maybe 5 or 6 is more realistic sometimes). By making sure that you are well rested and healthy, you will feel better mentally and physically and ready to face the challenges of being an entrepreneur.


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What is Hosting?

If you have a website online, you have a hosting account. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, hosting is similar to paying “rent” on the Internet. In order to be visible, you’ll need to be on a server.

I decided to write about hosting today when out walking this morning with a friend. We were discussing how many companies are still paying a hefty monthly price for hosting when it really isn’t necessary.

Some companies went out and got their website in the early stages of the Internet. They were cutting edge by being up on the latest trend and getting involved early. However, since that time, they haven’t updated their site, optimized it for the search engines or even looked at the numbers in quite a while.

If you fall into this category, you may be surprised to know that you don’t have to pay $100.00 a month for your website hosting. You can get hosting for less than $10.00 a month for your small website.

In addition to hosting, if you are wondering whether or not your site is optimized for the search engines, try doing a Google search using your keywords for the products/services you are selling. Do you come up within the search engine results? If not, then you aren’t optimized for search.

Another exercise you can try is to Google your company website (domain) name. Are you the first result? You should be – this is your business! Most likely if you aren’t coming up, your site was built using the old methods and you really could have so much more visibility on the web and more success as a business owner if you were to opt for a site re-design.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to continually update your site with fresh content. If you are stuck with your old hosting company/website design firm and they haven’t contacted you to help your business grow – you are throwing your money away every month.

Steps you should take:

  • Do some research and see how much companies are charging for domain name renewal (often times you are being over-charged), you can usually pick one up for around $12.00. The longer period you purchase the name for, it will be cheaper and it has a benefit for your SEO! Some algorithms rank your site higher if you have a longer registration of your domain name.
  • Find out what hosting packages are going for these days. You can move your existing site to a new host for a nominal fee and start saving money right away!
  • Learn as much as you can about SEO and then find a new website design firm that can help you with all of the elements you need. You don’t want to get stuck in the same situation you are in now. Plunk down a few extra bucks to invest in a CMS so you’ll be able to update your site yourself and keep your content fresh.

Remember, you don’t have to pay a small fortune for hosting and the company that you are doing business with should pay attention to your needs and not just leave you out there floating in cyberspace without guidance.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Another Great Resource -

MerchantCircle has over 300,000 business members and is a great tool for promoting your business.

We created a holiday coupon last week and the CTR has been great:

We love for many reasons, just a few of them are:

1. Networking!
2. SEO
3. If you don't have a blog, you can start one free with your account
4. You can create, publish and distribute newsletters
5. Create coupons and ads that are shown on your network connections websites

Create your business profile today and start making connections!