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Ambiguity Works – Just Add an Egg

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The story of prepared cake mixes didn’t begin with Betty Crocker, though a breakthrough was made by the brand during a focus group in the 1950′s.

A discovery was that many homemaker’s didn’t like the lazy-like manner of just adding water and baking.

The Betty Crocker brand  took out the powdered egg portion of the mix, leaving room for fresh eggs, and some at-home work in the mixing bowl. By leaving something out, they put their customer back in.

Back in the game with “just add an egg.”

Part of the story was the ‘freshness’ of using fresh eggs. Another part of the story was the cake was truly homemade since there was fresh ingredients, a bit of elbow grease, and a bit of cleanup afterwards.

When it comes to your writing your blog, the videos or podcasting you produce, or the instructional images you use for your online business presence, don’t worry about giving away the farm – in fact, sometimes it’s best to leave room for conversation and discovery.

Every Drop Makes Its Own Splash (Thoughtography)

Nothing is wasted, not even a drop
Just keep creating, and don’t ever stop.

Phoster with a Drip of a Faucet with a Ray of Light

 Note: Thoughtography is the concept of an image invoking a thought worth sharing in one piece (both the image and the thought)

Photo on pixabay by fedi w/ cc

Even a Tin Star Has Multiple Points (Saturday Clips)

A favorite past time for a Saturday afternoon was watching the great Westerns starring John Wayne. Sometimes, you could watch two different John Wayne movies – even thought it was the same story told a different way.

A great double feature would be Rio Bravo (’59) and El Dorado (’66). Pretty much the same story with different casts. A gunslinger, a drunken sheriff, an old deputy, and a young traveling stranger with a stately nickname. Both movies also had the same director (Howard Hawks).

In the two scenes below, we find the drunken sheriff on the mend, proving he’s still pretty sharp – especially with Duke’s help from the back of the room:

Rio Bravo scene:

El Dorado scene:

Maybe it was Howard Hawks’ way of telling the same story a different, or maybe even better way. They both have done well over time, each grossing about six million.

Sometimes, finding a great framework or message, and telling it in different mediums or delivery allows your message(s) to reach new audiences – or deeper within the audience you’re targeting.

Jimmy Stewart (actor) and Anthony Mann (director) put together a handful of Westerns in the early 1950′s using a familiar character type and story angle.

Be courageous in retelling your best business practices and theories. The scenery, cast of customers, and even the locations may change. But even a tin star has multiple points.

As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy of cartoons in the morning and movie matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, we’ll be sharing Saturday videos from TED, subscriptions from YouTube, and other videos shared via feeds.

Inventory and Readership – Mas Que Nada (Video Clips)

In posts and conversations with small business owners, the subject of social inventory and blog readership continues to come up.

Some cases have folks wanting to wait for an audience before they start creating anything – but then, why would there be an audience if nothing exists? Other situations have people saying they can’t think of anything new to share – though they could always share something old (maybe in a new way).

In 1966, Sergio Mendes did a cover of a Jorge Ben song, Mas Que Nada. It was a big hit and a favorite in our house as I was growing up. Here’s the version that hit the charts (No. 47 in Billboard, No. 4 on Easy Listening) back in 1966:

Forty years later, a new generation was introduced to the song when Mendes combined talents with the Black Eyed Peas for a more robust version:

So we have the same artist (Mendes) delivering content two generations after the first release, thus reaching a whole new generation. But even in the latest generation to enjoy the song, he reached multiple audiences. Mendes also collaborated and remixed yet another version in the hit movie Rio in 2011:

This song has traveled through generations and around the globe, as we can see Slovenia’s  Perpetuum Jazzile doing their a cappella magic in this rendition:

So next time you’re trying to think of something new to say and coming up dry, think of something tried and true to deliver in a new way. If it’s good, it will last for generations.

As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy of cartoons in the morning and movie matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, we’ll be sharing Saturday videos from TED, subscriptions from YouTube, and other videos shared via feeds.

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Morning Commutes in Friday Flutterings

a rear view of traffic congestion“Is there anything better than Corn Flakes and Boxscores for breakfast?” –  A memorable question from a Larry King column long ago. (I’m more of a Must C video and scrambled eggs now).

… Morning commutes in San Jose, Washington DC, or Chicago might be safer than those in smaller metro areas. I’ve lived in the larger areas and the commutes come to a stand still. The ‘Fast and Furious‘ style of driving in Omaha is dangerous.

… The Marvel franchise – big screen and small – continues to grow. We’re watching it, buying it, talking about it. Who’s copying it? What are the key components your business can borrow from their practice?

… Do you invest any time to look for new apps, plugins, photos, or hacks? If I had the discipline, I’d invest 30 minutes each week on those things.  In fact, if I spread it out during the week, I think I can do it.

… Some days (not many), I just want to sit at the keyboard and vent on Facebook. Everybody else does that already, so instead of talking smack, I just throttle back.

Photo on Flickr by Robert Couse-Baker w/ cc

Previous Friday Flutterings:

Every Blog Post and Update is Part of Your Inventory

Slide showing Stocked Grocery ShelvesAs a teenager, one of my “chores” was to keep the inventory room of my parents’ office in order. When I first got the job, I thought it was going to be easy.

My parents owned a real estate office. How much inventory could there be?  My dad made sure i learned the answer to that question quickly and on-the-job.

Signs of different shapes and sizes. The posts that help put up the signs. Give-aways like calendars and pens. The listing service books (this was long before the Internet). Business cards. Tablets. Calendars. Lots of inventory that never grew stale.

The largest part of the inventory was the binders and binders filled with every newspaper ad they ran. Display or line ads. They ran ads every day of the week!  My dad believed that each of those ads were part of his inventory, and he could pull comps out when trying to get a new listing. They were part of their content and calls-to-action.

Based on that experience, I believe that Blog Posts are Your Inventory, Blog Sites are Your Display. Every status update is part of your digital inventory. Just like the old Sansone Real Estate “For Sale” signs, if the inventory stands the test of time, you can use it as often it as makes sense.

Most of the time, a small business owner asks “When is the Best Time to Post?” for the purpose of immediate gratification. The reality is, if you’re posting valuable content that stands the test of time, you can revisit and repost those pieces often. They all become part of your inventory that you can re-use and repurpose.

Those posts and updates become your social inventory for the human reader, and for the search engine robots that index your site.

When is the Best Time to Post for Your Small Business?

Partial Clock FaceOne of the most often-asked questions, “When is the Best Time to Post?”

There are two camps the question comes from. First, there are the pros: Marketers; Copywriters; Bloggers; Agencies; SEO pros and others. Second, there are the small business owners who are not among the first group: Plumbers; Landscapers; Taverns; Shoe Stores; Florists; and tons of others.

Each group has a legitimate reason for asking. The first group is often looking for a blanket  or scientific answer, while the second group might have two purposes for the question. Here are two answers I offer most often.

“When is the Best Time to Post?” Small Business Answer No. 1

It Depends.  It depends on your audience. It depends on which network or publishing tool you’re asking about. It depends on your schedule and your business.

Your Audience: Think about your intended audience and core customer. The deli owner might want to publish and post around or just after the morning commute, while the saloon keeper might want to send out updates just after lunch. The hardware store might want to send something out later in the week, while the massage therapist might choose mid-week updates. It depends.

Your Network and Tools: Regardless of the platform, network, or publishing tool – there are analytic measuring tools built into those platforms so you can see when you updates get the most traffic. It’s best to post updates when you’re audience and customer are likely to see and engage with your updates. It depends.

Your Schedule: If you’re a farmer who rises before the sun and is in the field all day, the evening is the best time for you to at least draft and schedule your updates – and maybe even publish. If you’re an event planner who is in meetings or arranging venues during business hours, maybe your choice times are before or after sunrise. It depends.

“When is the Best Time to Post?” Small Business Answer No. 2

Truth? Many business owners ask the question because they have a built-in excuse why “the best time” won’t work for them. The reality is, they don’t want to take the time to write and publish and post and measure.  That’s fine. Outsourcing the work is an alternative.

Asking “When is the Best Time to Post?” begs for a question as its best answer, not a blanket response.

It depends. What platform / audience / schedule are you working with?

Reading the Label from Outside of Your Own Bottle

Shop Owner Leaving for the Day - Photo by Pavel P.You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can’t read the label from inside the bottle.”  Sometimes it’s hard on the outside, too.

After a cup of coffee on the other side of the town square, we walked back towards his store. Still from across the street, we stopped and faced his big picture window.

We talked about his display, his lighting, the fading and iron-streaked awning above his door.  All the things an owner of a business would see.

I fed the parking meter in front of us a quarter so it wouldn’t run out of time. There wasn’t an open space within sight, so I was thankful I didn’t have to move the car.  The store owner asked why I hadn’t parked in back. I explained it was my first time here, I didn’t know there was parking in back.

Bending my knees slightly, I asked him what his store hours were. He told me without having to look at the small sign on the door, now hidden behind parked cars. It’s a good thing I was with the owner, otherwise we wouldn’t know. Together, we began looking at things from his customer’s perspective.

While there was some foot traffic, most of the people coming through this part of town are driving by in their car. Someone driving by during a busy morning or afternoon, would not be able to see the hours or know that there was parking behind the store. In front of the store, the parking spaces (if available) were all metered.

Looking through the lens of a potential customer, we found out that “Free Parking in Back” and “Open 10-6 except Sunday” needed to have a much bigger and higher presence in his display window.

Every day, have a look at your store or office through your customer’s lens. Go across the street. Walk down to the corner and turn to look at your front door or window. Note and notice the surroundings, the foot traffic, the signage of your neighbors.

Do your best to read your label from outside of your own bottle. See through the eyes of your customer.

Photo on Flickr by pevelpetros w/ cc

Blog Posting Mantra No. 8 – Share Your Posts

sharing-raspberriesHave you ever put together a radio or television commercial for your business? How many times did you run it? Once?

You probably ran the ad dozens of times, at different times each day.

Bring that kind of thinking to this final step of our Blog Posting MantraShare Your Posts.

Maybe you’ve tried some of those plugins allowing you to broadcast your post with a click. Something (lazy) like this:

  1. you publish your post,
  2. then click a box,
  3. and automatically and simultaneously have your post get shared across social media platforms.

It seems easy (it is). Maybe even lazy (yes). it seems like the shortest way to success when sharing your blog posts is using a “set-it-and-forget-it” method. Forget it.

A better way to share your posts is using a tool like BufferAppHootSuite, or CoSchedule, each of which allow you to choose multiple times to share a single post. Not only do these tools allow you to share the same post multiple times at different times, but allow you to format the shares so you will use alternative headlines and context. (Here are a few videos on how to use these tools).

To get an inside look at how one very busy executive gets his social media sharing done, read and glean from How Marketing Legend Guy Kawasaki Manages His Social Media Presence from HubSpot.

Consider your own habits and actions:

  • How many times do you see something shared on Facebook or Pinterest before you actually click through?
  • How often do you see a movie trailer before actually going to see the movie?
  • Which restaurant are you going to remember most, the one you keep hearing about or that one you heard about once (what was the name of that place again?)

If you think about your blog posts as inventory, share them as valuable piece of your communication and outreach to customers and prospects.

Here’s our Blog Posting Mantra so far:

Blog Posting Mantra #1 – Write the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #2 – Title the Post
Blog Posting Mantra #3 – Image Above the Fold
Blog Posting Mantra #4 – At Least One Link Out
Blog Posting Mantra #5 – Add Eye Rests
Blog Posting Mantra #6 – Choose Categories and Tags
Blog Posting Mantra #7 – Check SEO
Blog Posting Mantra #8 – Share Your Posts

Here’s the full lineup.

photo credit: włodi via photopin cc

One Band, One Voice (Thoughtography)

Being part of a chorus line or drum line is hard because there must be a blend. If any one member stands out or above the rest – the rest  of the team are now a step behind or below. At the same time, a member not pulling their own drags the line down.

In collaborative efforts, it’s important to define roles. Maybe the decision is for a blend with all members of the collaboration being equal. Alternatively, there might be a need for a “star” to shine brightly in front with other team members as support.

Decide the roles before the start of the project. With agreement, all members will know how to play along. And with that agreement, it’s easier to maintain an all-for-one attitude, “One Band, One Voice”

Drumline-Thoughtography

Aside: If you love a great drumline, watch this team in action.

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