Monday, March 31, 2008

Business KISS

If you’re in the business world, you’ve probably heard of the acronym KISS. What does it stand for? Keep it Simple, Stupid.

Too many times, business owners decide to write their own company materials, whether it is their main website copy, their promotional materials or even their business plan. Often, they can be “too close” to the business, as they have been a part of it since its inception. The mistake that can be made is that they say too much in their message and they lose potential business because of it.

As I posted in the previous blog, you want to make sure that you can fit your company message on the back of a business card. If you can’t, it’s too complicated to explain to your target market in an advertisement. Customers like uncomplicated products with a simple value proposition.

When you are looking at another company’s information, it’s easy to see when you are being shown too much information. You can feel it. You glance at the page and feel overwhelmed. You can’t grasp the general message. As a result you put down the written material, close the browser window or tune out or mute if you’re watching a commercial.

The same can be said for your company brochure or packaging. I know you want to get your message across, but the key is to pique peoples’ interest, not tell your entire company story.

If you have ever purchased anything from Apple, I’m sure you felt the difference in the experience. When you opened your quality packaging with minimal copy on it. It felt sleek; it felt special. Rather than sporting a bunch of bright stickers demanding your attention, with a lot of hype, all of their product packaging is just simple and streamlined. (Now I’m sure you windows users are immediately turned off by what I just said – but until you’ve had that experience, please give me the benefit of doubt) Less is more.

When it comes to your own business, it can sometimes be easy to forget that you may be saying too much. It’s understandable. This is your baby and you’ve got a lot to say about it. You’ve invested long hours and good money in this thing and you want to make sure everybody knows how great it is!

I myself am guilty of the very thing I’m preaching about. I’ve got a lot to say! I’ve got things I want to show people and I have a tendency to want to include everything. I have to constantly check myself to try and make sure that I’m not going overboard.

In the next post I’ll look for some examples of “too busy” to show you.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chicken Soup for Small Business

What do you need today in order to be successful in your small business?

Lets start with the basic recipe:

  1. A sustainable idea/product or service. If you are starting a business building cheap VCR’s you’re obviously not looking to the future. Make sure that you’ve done your market research to see that your business idea can endure.
  2. A unique approach. Even if you are getting into business with an idea that’s already proven, you’ll need to come up with a way to sell your business to consumers. If it is just the “same old thing”, why would they want to go with you over someone who’s established? Offer them something they haven’t seen before.
  3. Keep it simple. If you can’t summarize your business on the back of a business card, it’s too complicated to explain to your target market in an advertisement. Customers like uncomplicated products with a simple value proposition.
  4. Solve a problem or inconvenience with your business. In today’s society, now more than ever, people are spread way too thin and need help. Does your business fit the bill?
  5. Money. You’ll need some to get your business started. Sit down and plan out each aspect of what you’ll need and budget accordingly. If you are planning on seeking out funding, you’ll need a business plan.
I’ll be posting more in depth about the ingredients mentioned above in the next post.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I found out today that the Chicago River is dyed green every year for the celebration of this holiday. How did I not know this?

The topic today reminds me of how people perceive things differently. Especially in the design business, it’s often difficult if you are a business owner to get your idea across to your designer of what you’d like your logo, website, business cards or stationery to look like.

I usually ask my clients to send me websites and images that they like the look of so I can get a better idea of what type of design they prefer. More often than not, their taste is not the same as mine and it helps so that we can both get on the same page.

If you happen to have an Irish pub or you know someone who is need of an original “Irish” site design, drop us a line – in honor of the holiday, we are offering up this site design for dirt cheap:

Why you ask?

It’s a website design mock-up that we never used for a clients website and we’ve been holding on to it, waiting for a match. The perception of what was desired and what came to be, varied vastly:

I realize today’s small business tips blog wasn’t too helpful, but I promise we’ll post something worthy of your attention tomorrow. (That is if we don’t consume too much green beer and corned beef tonight!)

In the meantime – you should read what the experts have to say when weighing in on what technology marketers should be paying attention to in 2008. (They quote my favorite branding guy Darryl Ohrt from Brand Flakes for Breakfast.)

Kiss me, I am Irish - Joanne

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

SEO Tips

I just sent this to a potential client and since I wrote it all out in an email, I thought I'd just cut and paste into here. Yeah...I's not exactly something new and fresh, however - I was thinking about you! I thought you might need a gentle reminder of some basic practices you can do yourself to help with your SEO.

For your inbound links, the search engine algorithms rely on several different factors:

  1. Quality keyword rich content (including using your keywords on pages in the headline ‘H1’ title of your pages)
  2. Inbound links from relevant businesses/sources using anchor text and ‘deep links’ going to different pages within your site (this also applies to links within your site)
  3. Meta tags and descriptions including text in the title tag and also in the body of the pages (although some argue that Google doesn’t count them, many other engines do)
  4. Sitemap (one that you submit to your webmaster account and that you continually update when new content is added)
  5. Articles (relevant to your industry and keywords with the keywords in the urls)
  6. Analytics (having a good analytics program in place that you monitor)
  7. Alt tags for images
  8. Manual submission to search engines (and submit only once)
  9. Once your articles have been added to your sitemap and indexed by the search engines, article syndication is a great help as many of the syndications keep the link to your article on prominent pages (thus encouraging more click-throughs to your site)
  10. Have a blog on your site where the content is updated frequently
More small business tips to come, I promise!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Good Links

I've been a busy little bee and I haven't had much time to post on the blog this week.

So...I thought I'd post some good links for you faithful readers!

1. People are always requesting to show up #1 on the SERPs (search engine results page). So many dishonest designers claim they can do that for them. I thought I'd pass on some REAL advice that you can use by directing you to a posting where 37 experts of organic search weigh in on SEO practices. Check it out at

2. I've posted before about Twitter, and I'll continue to do so until you all have joined! Why Twitter? It's a great tool to network with and to keep track of what's going on. Think of your RSS feed reader but with personal posts and tiny urls. It's microblogging. People are sending tweets from cell phones, laptops and desktops all over the world. Who's Tweeting? Everybody. Join us.

3. The World Beard and Mustache Championships. Why is this good? What does this have to do with small business? It's just fun :)

Stay tuned for a relevant post within the next few days...


Friday, March 7, 2008

A-Z Email Etiquette

Do you know what you should and should not be doing when sending emails? Let me break it down for you...

  • Attachments: If you are sending an attachment out in your email, your recipients spam filter may perceive your email as spam. If it is a particularly large attachment they may not receive it. It’s better to zip the contents if you can or do an ftp upload to their server when sending large email attachments.
  • BCC: Use the BCC (blind carbon copy) field when sending to multiple recipients. If you are sending out a bulk email to several people at once, you should use undisclosed recipients instead of placing each address in the “To” or “CC” field. If you use those, you are publicizing someone else’s email without their permission. Or you can do a mail merge with Outlook and Word if you have them.
  • Caps: If you don’t already know it, typing in all caps is perceived as shouting and can turn off the reader of your email. Emails are also harder to read when all of the text is capitalized.
  • Delete Messages from Server: You should have your email settings set to delete messages from the server after downloading so that you don’t clog up the server or worse yet, have email rejected due to a full mailbox.
  • Delivery Service Notifications DSNs: You receive a DSN message if you send an email and it is bounced back to you because the address was wrong. It can also be the notification that an email was downloaded (not whether or not it was read).
  • Email or e-mail: Which is correct? In the beginning we all used e-mail, but throughout the years the hyphen has been dropped in order to simplify. is trying to “officially” changing the spelling to be “email”.
  • Email Disclaimers: You should include an email disclaimer to protect you from the possibility of being sued by amongst many things, unknowingly sending a virus (in an attachment) to your email recipient.
  • Exclamation points: If you are using more than 3 exclamation points to get your point across, your intended recipient may not receive your email. Excessive use of exclamation points (sometimes even just using one in the subject) can cause your email to go to their spam filter.
  • Forwarding: Always be sure to double check who you are forwarding an email to and any comment you may be adding.
  • HTML: Always remember when formatting your outgoing emails that your recipient may not be able to see the formatting that you have applied, whether it is html or rich text. They may only be able to see plain text emails.
  • Junk Mail: Don’t reply to it to have yourself unsubscribed. All you will be doing is confirming that your email address is active and it will only generate more junk or “spam”.
  • LOL and Smiley Faces: If you are sending out a professional email representing your company, be sure not to include these until you have established a rapport with the client. Only then will you know whether or not it is o.k. to insert them.
  • Message Thread: If you are replying to someone’s email always be sure to include the previous message thread so that they can reference each point and won’t have to go back and look at older emails. This is especially helpful for businesses that receive several emails per day from different clientele.
  • Priority Emails: When marking a message as priority or urgent, only do so on a message that truly is. Overuse of the priority feature will have the “boy who cried wolf” effect and one day when you truly do need to send an important email, you may not be taken seriously.
  • Reply to All: When replying to an email that was sent to multiple recipients, make sure you are replying to only the sender when you respond. That is unless you have something to add to the email that is relevant to all of the recipients. Many people have been removed from their positions by accidentally sending inappropriate emails to unintended recipients.
  • Return Receipts: Although it is a great concept, it almost never works. Most email programs do not support return receipts. When an email client does support them, the viewer is usually prompted with a message asking them to let you know that they read their mail and this can be perceived as rude. In addition it also has the option to cancel the notification to you. The room for error can be that you think they have read your email when they have not, when in fact it was only downloaded to their email client yet remains in the inbox unread. The best way to know if your email was received and read is to confirm with the recipient.
  • Spam and Chain Letters: There are many scams out on the Internet today and new ones are coming out every week. Don’t be fooled by email from PayPal or your credit card companies asking for personal information. Additionally, don’t forward chain letters, they are fake – you are not going to be struck down with bad luck if you don’t forward within 10 minutes to everybody you ever met. Many of them contain viruses – just delete them.
I think it’s also important to mention that even though you sent an email to someone, it doesn’t mean that they received it; it could be sitting online in their spam folder. Before jumping to conclusions, take the time to check and see. It should also be said that they might have seen it but been unable to respond at that time (perhaps they are on the phone, maybe they had a meeting to go to), patience should be practiced. It isn’t an instantaneous mode of communication.

I hope the advice above helps you and if you can think of anything to add, by all means – please comment.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Domain Name Scam

Why the fortune cookie?

I made this image to go with my post because I want to help you build and maintain your company “fortune”. One way I plan to do that is to alert you when I hear of a scam.

As mentioned in my last post about domain names coming up for renewal, there are scam artists out there that want to get your hard earned money.

The latest one comes from a company called China Net Technology Limited. They are sending out emails to companies in an attempt to get them to register every domain name under the sun at a higher rate than you should pay.

One of my clients received this message today:

Dear Manager,

We are China Net Technology Limited, which is the domain name register center in China. I am very sorry to bother you and have something need to confirm with you.

we have received an application formally, one company named MieDac Holdings Limited applies for the domain names(.c etc.) and the Internet Brand Name( ) on the internet Mar 3. 2008. We need to know the opinion of your company, because the domain names and keywords may relate to the usufruct of brand name on internet.

we would like to get the affirmation of your company,please contact us by telephone or email as soon as possible. Please let someone in your company who is responsible for trademark or intellectual right contact me freely.

Please confirm you have received my mail. Thank you!

Warm Regards,


Sponsoring Registrar:

China Net Technology Limited.


Fax:+(852)3177 1520



Fortunately, my client had the good sense to forward the email to me to review. (I removed his domain name from the email for his privacy.) In addition to the numerous spelling and grammar errors above, I also Google’d the company and found many other posts on the Internet of people they are trying to scam.

In the future if you should receive any type of questionable mail regarding your domain name, run it past your webmaster or hosting company - or if you are one of my clients, feel free to contact me to make sure you aren’t getting scammed too.