Tip of the Iceberg – Friday Flutterings

Tip of an Iceberg. What's Below? There are shallow views and depth perception. The upper & lower of the iceberg. Seeing only one isn’t wrong, but try not to miss the other.

… Pitchers and catchers report in less than a month. Here’s a countdown to Spring Training.

… I remember a time when AOL was prototyping AOLTV boxes and testing screens on refrigerators during the AOL Anywhere push (pre-2000). Few homes had broadband and the mobile device in our hands were Palm PDAs. Good ideas, ahead of its time.

… Starting to read Divergent, and in the first few chapters it’s an interesting study in how people get labels and typecast by society. Should be a great read (and I can hardly wait for the movie).

— Buzz for things like iBeacon and Nest have only started to blossom. Handheld and wearable technology is just getting started and will tie in together for more than just an app here and an app there. Grocery shopping on your watch? Pay and pick-up at a drive through? We’re only at the tip of this iceberg. It’s all E-commerce now.

… Speaking of countdowns, Kim Yuhl has an exciting new (and newly-named project), Secrets of Better Business. Kim has been behind the counter of her own small business and behind success of others as a blog coach. Less than two weeks for launch.

… Watching a young boy watching an escalator is fascinating. Almost as if he was dissecting the process like a reverse engineer. Seeing shallow, looking deep.

Photo on Flickr by Eider Palmou

Having a Project Mindset

Young Boy Works on Project

Watching a rerun of Good Life Project with Jonathan Fields and Seth Godin, I was drawn to my favorite scene (around the 16:00 mark, for about three minutes). In it, the discussion centers around how Seth launched Domino Project, and just as it was drawing in more and more people — Poof — and the project was shelved.

A comparison is made with movies and actors: In most cases, an actor finishes a movie and moves ahead on to the next role. A different project within a body of work.

As I talk with small business, especially those in smaller towns and rural places, there tends to be a favoritism towards longevity.

Understandable since a lot of these folks are operating an heirloom business – either handed down to them or something they are transitioning to their children.

With the rapid movement and speed of change around new business practices that include things like social media, mobile payments, and channels of advertising – it’s not surprising how smaller business owners take a short view on things that might not last long. Again, they are used to building towards longevity.

Building with a Project Mindset

During certain times of year, whether it’s a holiday or a season such as back-to-school, we have seasonal “projects” – we gear up, prepare our inventory and advertising, change the look of the store, and then … Poof. Project over. Next.

Pop-up stores can be like projects. Let’s see if or how something works, and pivot where or when it’s appropriate. Kids do it. Architects do it. Even the birds building nests in trees do it.

With a lot of our SmallBizTracks, especially around social media, I explain this project mindset. Let’s immerse ourselves while we’re doing the track / project. If or when a change takes place, we’re in a position to pivot. We knew going in, the track was a project.

Overseeing Bigger Projects Campaign

What Does Your Site Look Like on Mobile?

Image of Various Screen Sizes for Responsive Design There’s a simple tool I suggest that allows small business owners to view their site on a mobile device.

Screenfly is free to use and offers a variety of views on different screen sizes and devices.

While I prefer to show an owner on my devices (or theirs) while I’m with them, sometimes I sense it’s best to let them do their own research.

If a business owner tells me they don’t need to be seen on a mobile device because they (themselves) don’t even have a smartphone or tablet, I simply give them the URL to Screenfly or the Hubspot device tool.

The only challenge with these tools – if you’re using a plug-in, it may not always render in these tools as it does on your device. So if you do have a smartphone or tablet, check your site there as well.

If it’s all e-commerce now, this is simply part of display merchandising.

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Choosing an Ideal Hosting Platform for Your Ecommerce Website

Logo of SoftSys Hosting Guest Post – Greg Rockwood of  SoftSysHosting

The top-notch performance and smooth, uninterrupted accessibility are extremely crucial for any online store. As you surely know, ecommerce market is characterized by the absence of geographical borders and time limits, and today’s consumers highly appreciate this opportunity to do shopping at their convenience at any time of a day or night.

The above mentioned aspects depend mostly on a web hosting service your online store is using. Therefore, it’s more than crucial to make the most deliberate choice with regard to a web hosting platform for your ecommerce website.

Here are the top 3 key options that your choice should be based on in order to ensure your online store optimal performance and success.

Server Type

Primarily, you have to choose the proper web server type with adequate resources in terms of disk space, power and bandwidth volume to locate your ecommerce website and ensure its optimal, smooth performance. It also should be able to scale up over time in accordance with your changing needs. Always keep on mind that the amount of resources available, processing power and some other technical server specifications will actually determine the performance of your ecommerce website.

It’s quite obvious that any online store, even a small one, has a rather rich content (product databases, photos, videos, presentations, animations, dynamic advertisements, banners and various other interactive multimedia options) and significant daily traffic. A shared server account will hardly provide enough disc space, handle your traffic as well as be able to handle rapid loads. Therefore, VPS hosting, also known as virtual private servers, or dedicated hosting match better ecommerce needs. Both VPS and standalone servers provide a powerful and resourceful hosting environment and, better yet, release you from any worries about risks associated with sharing server resources and potential impact from other web projects hosted on the same server box.

Another significant point to the score of VPS or dedicated server advantages is the high level of flexibility provided. As a specific web project, an online store requires some custom ecommerce software or application being installed (like CS-Cart, for example, or similar) to fulfill its main functionality of selling products online as well as some other essential options, like customer support, marketing and promotion, mobile support, analytics, etc. Typically, any VPS and dedicated server plan allows to install third-party web applications, which is absolutely impossible for shared hosting users.

Redundancy and Reliability

Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar shops, web stores are prone to such hassles, like bandwidth overloads, downtimes and server failures. And all these troubles may turn to be fatal for your online venture. In our era of advanced technologies providing rocket-fast, instant access to virtually anything, online shoppers are getting more and more demanding. They simply won’t wait till your website technical issues are fixed, while there are plenty of your competitors are just a few clicks away.

Hence, redundancy and reliability of your web hosting platform should be among the top options in your checklist. Keep on mind, that two identical web servers based on the same hardware technologies may provide dramatically different performance level, if maintained different ways. My advice here is to check carefully if your web hosting provider guarantees full server redundancy, high-speed Internet connections, multiple, redundant power feeds, maximum uptime level, regular server backups and 24/7 server monitoring along with prompt technical assistance to solve any issues that may arise on-the-fly.

Online Security

When it comes to transacting money online, maintaining ultimate online security is more than critical. While hosting on a VPS or dedicated server allows you to leave all the worries about unauthorized access, you obviously need to have absolute peace of mind that your sensitive business data is 100% safe and your online financial transactions are accomplished securely and successfully.

Another crucial point to consider here is that your visitors and clients also need to be absolutely confident when entering their confidential information, such as credit card numbers required typically during money transaction processing. Therefore, you are strongly advised to evaluate online security options provided with your server hosting package.

If you have any other useful tips and ideas with regard to choosing the right web hosting service for an ecommerce website, feel free to share them in your comments below.

Author’s Bio

Post by Greg Rockwood – a community and marketing manager at www.softsyshosting.com, an established hosting company offering windows vps hosting / windows vps servers and linux vps hosting / KVM vps with full hardware virtualization and ultimate account isolation.

When is Email Spam?

dropping card in a fishbowl You’ve probably been a recipient (and hopefully you’re not a sender) of an innocently intended, yet still violating, spam email. Here’s a scenario:

 At a networking event or coffee table meeting, you meet someone and exchange business cards. A few days later, in the email you receive … their weekly newsletter?

The definition of spam (here’s a simple definition), as it pertains to email, is Unsolicited AND Bulk Email.

By my understanding, if the fish bowl on your counter is for a give-away AND their name will go on your emailing list, you better spell it out on display. This allows people to “opt-in” to your mailing list. With each piece of mail you send in bulk, also give the recipient an opportunity to unsubscribe.

If you’re still sending BCC bulk emails, stop … after one more. The next (and last) one should be after you open a MailChimp account. After you set that up, send one more email to your BCC list simply offering a link to go opt-in to the new list.

If your list is under 2,000 addresses, MailChimp is free. Setting up lists, composing email, and opt-in options are pretty easy to setup. The analytics are telling. Their support is fantastic. You can even upload an ebook as a gift to subscribers – MailChimp sends that automatically with an auto-responder.

Always offer an opt-in to your potential subscribers. Whether it’s a form on your site, a sign at your trade show table, or a question at the front counter. MailChimp gives you a space to remind folks where they probably opted-in at the bottom of your emails.

A few more resources to check out:

As noted above, MailChimp has an in-depth knowledge base to find answers to most of your questions. We can also offer an email set-up as one of our basic tracks.

Build Your Optin Email List

Bigger Small Business Tracks: Like a General Contractor

contractors discussing plans On the occasions where the project of building a better business presence becomes larger than a simple “track”, we become like a general contractor. These types of projects are Master-level tracks.

Like a general contractor, we might occasionally outsource to other specialized contractors, vendors, and other subcontractors – overseeing the project, its costs, deadlines, and benchmarks – all within the budgets of the project.

While many of the Master-Level tracks we’ve worked on are online and web-based, we also oversee offline and on-site projects:

  • Reconstruction of window displays: including lighting, initial decoration, and staging area
  • Ad-buy of a seasonal promotion: including printing, media, and proper placements
  • Media library: including images with spreadsheet of meta data and attributions, video (animated, interview-style and b-roll), business cards and other display and collateral materials
  • Event Coordination: presentation training, presentation prep (deck, video, etc), coordinating with venue for tools and timing.
  • Full web and mobile site redesign: including design, SEO, copywriting, and training

In the cases of Master-level projects, we are still very much hands-on in the projects, but just as a general contractor can do the electrical work, yet still hires out to an electrical subcontractor – we may do the same with some of the project work, always aware of the budgets of both time and money.

By parsing out some of the duties of a Master-level project, it keeps the larger project on track, yet still within small steps. And that leads to bigger results.

Overseeing Bigger Projects Campaign

Are You Waiting for the Perfect Opportunity?

Traffic Signals at a roundabout near Canary Wharf. I wrote this long ago (2005?), but it still fits for some:

I knew a man who was waiting,
Waiting for things to be just right
When he asked his girl to marry him,
He wanted it to be a perfect night.

He almost asked her on a Tuesday one June
But then, it started to rain,
He wanted this night to be perfect, after all,
In hopes she wouldn’t think he was plain.

He had held a good job for umpteen years
Something that was safe and steady
He wanted to go into business for himself,
And he was going to when everything was ready.

Then one day, he really got scared,
He didn’t even want to leave his house.
Things had changed without his consent,
He wasn’t employed and still had no spouse.

He didn’t get his dauber down,
He had grown tired of his “perfect” routine.
So outside he stood, in front of his house
And died … waiting for all the lights to turn green.

So if you’re waiting for that perfect _____
Remember how this man got caught,
Do what you love, and love what you do
Or else you may get “cooked in the squat.”

When Are Your Customers Online? [Thoughtography]

Always.

Truthfully, whether you agree or relate or simply shake your head doesn’t change reality. Decisions are made in the palm of their hands and laps.

Which is why I nod when Tim Peter says, “Your Customers Don’t Go Online – They Are Online.” Is your business findable?

man with a mobile device

Photo by Viktor Hanacek on PicJumbo

Location Based Services Ad for SmallBizTracks

Change is Nature [movie clip]

Sometimes, in our darkest moments, we can be motivated to move forward. Of course, we might be motivated (scared?) to live carefully, remaining where it’s safe.

It’s not the same landscape it used to be, this business world we live and work in. Change is nature – at least the part we can influence. When does it start?  Here’s a clip from Ratatouille to help put that together:

Here’s to forward movement. One small step at a time.

As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy with cartoons in the morning and matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, I’m doing an adult version of that, looking for and sharing scenes and clips that help teach business lessons I talk about offline.

Value Proposition Canvas [Saturday Videos]

I’ve previously shared Business Model Generation and Business Model: You. It seems one of the cores of these models: the Value Proposition Canvas is getting its own book.

Here’s a video explaining more on the core Value Proposition Canvas:

The Value Proposition Canvas is a plug-in type of tool to be used with the Business Model Canvas. Here is a more complete guide it how it works as a tool to finding a fit to your marketplace, help launch new products or refine current offerings.

If you’re not familiar with the Business Model Canvas, watch this video:

There’s also a couple of digital tools, including Strategyzer and an iOS app.

Great tools for any small business in a pivot or re-energize mode. Plus, two different styles of videos to watch as models for your own video products. Enjoy (and apply).

As a youth, Saturdays were filled with visual candy with cartoons in the morning and matinees in the afternoon. In 2014, I’m doing an adult version of that, as I’m trying is to catch up on unwatched TED videos, subscriptions from YouTube, and other videos shared via feeds.

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