Service Matters

Or should the title simply be “Duh!”?

Such a one-syllable title might be fun, but, channeling my inner editor, it’s probably not quite enough information to really work as a title.

However obvious the statement, service matters, this may seem, – good service is good business, good service makes customers happy, so they’ll come back for more and tell their friends that your business is good to do business with – occasionally life steps in to dramatize that what should not have to be said, has to be said; that the obvious needs to be belabored; and what should go without saying sometimes just doesn’t go without saying and has to be said.

Like one or another of Tony Soprano’s crew used to say, “I’m just saying….”

I’m just saying:  Service matters. Paying attention matters. Not being attentive can make you lose sales and kill your business.

Why belabor the obvious now? Here’s what happened:

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Kickstarting your xml sitemap to get your blog into search engine results

One of the many ways of getting people to find out about and come to see your blog is to make it more search engine friendly to encourage (if one can encourage a computer or its software) a search engine to visit your site, read it, index it, have it show up in searches.

A tool that wordpress-based blogs (like this one) can use to do that is a plug-in called Google XML sitemap. You install it into your blog and then every time you change add something to your blog, this little program reads your blog and creates a list of pages in the format (or language) called XML, which is especially understandable to the crawlers or robots that search engines use to read a website and then add it to its search result pages.

Once the XML list is created, it is automatically added to a page on your site — usually called “sitemap.xml” and then announced to the world of search engines and blog directories.  They call this announcing, “pinging.”

This is all good, but there’s more you can do. You can go to google’s “webmaster tools” section and there, list your blog (or website), and once listed, tell google to go get your sitemap. Yahoo has a similar service, though it seems a bit hard to find.

At least one professional website designer I’ve spoken with suggests that doing this one-two punch of using the “Google XML Sitepmap” plugin for WordPress together with the telling Google to go get your sitemap on it’s Webmaster Tools section can help speed up the process of getting your blog out into the world and found by people interested in your topic through organic search engine searches. And at least one person who works for Automattic (the company that is WordPress) agrees.

Fail Faster to Build Business

That’s what one enterprising, charismatic and smart entrepreneur I met in St. Louis in November ’08 says to do. It’s part of her business model.

Stacy Karacostas, a marketing expert and coach, and prime mover at Success-Stream.com :  Come up with a bunch of ideas for possible business activities — i.e., things that either generate revenue and profit, like a product or service, or generate business, or at least traffic to your website.

Try them out, and if they work, great, and if they don’t, get away from it and move on to something else quickly.

“Fail Faster” and move on quickly is reminiscent of the words of literary (not business) giant, Samuel Beckett, who, in his short book, Worstward Ho! wrote:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

I think that inherent in the “fail faster” strategy is the hope and plan, also, to fail better.

Related to this strategy of failing faster to find your way to things that work and profit is trying faster.

So for example, as part of her marketing coaching business (Stacy helps small businesses, entrepreneurs, and consultants build their business through better, savvier marketing), she dreamed up several topics, with the key points to speak about to live audiences. She publicized her availability as a speaker on her website, and as organizations contacted her to speak on one topic or another, she’d develop the detailed speech and presentation. The topics that got no calls never got beyond the title, main idea, and key points.

Bottom line: one path to success: Fail faster, Fail better.

Network Timewaster: Finding a Few Good Themes

New to blogging, I’m trying to find the right look, with the right features. And man is this project eating up time. All I want is an understated three column template, set up for Adsense and set up for banner ads.

The last theme didn’t publish by-lines. This one has banners preinstalled but with their own advertising and no easy way to take them out or replace with a generic “your ad here” message. These problems and imperfections with the various themes is defeating one of the purposes of setting up a blog: its supposed to be quick and easy. Or so I thought.

Am I going to need some tech guy to help me get this done?

3 Things to Do Starting Today to Boost Your Business in the Bad Economy

In challenging times like these, where there seems to be no dispute that the economy is in recession, and it is the the worst recession since the 1930s, with bad news all around, it can be pretty overwhelming and even paralyzing for entrepreneurs and business owners.

So, how to keep going in an environment like this? What are some things to do to build and grow a business even when things look and feel bad as bad as they do now? Here are three things to jump on:

1.     Ramp up your marketing.

Many businesses try to economize as business starts to dry up in a slow-down by cutting back on their marketing budgets. This is a false economy: if customers are slowing down or dropping away, you need to work harder to find that “starving crowd,” as the late Gary Halbert called it, the people who are hungry for your products or services. Bottom line: Market more. Market better.

2.     Bring back old customers for new sales.

Many businesses devote all their marketing energy to get a new customer to make a new sale. Don’t forget about the customers you already have. When you persuade a prospect to buy, you’ve overcome the toughest part – bridging the trust gap to make that sale.

With that gap bridged, go forth and, over time, make a second, a third, a fourth sale and more. This can work if you’ve treated your customers well and can do the creative business thinking needed to imagine and create new things or services your customer needs and wants.

I learned the following core concept from marketing maven Dan Kennedy: Don’t get a customer to make a sale; instead, make a sale to get a customer. Think long-term: That person who just bought your product or service for the first time it is, or should be just the beginning. Develop a relationship for life.

3.     Make your marketing materials current and topical.

Talk about what’s on your customers’ minds: Before Valentines’ Day, steal their hearts, before St Patrick’s Day, go shamrock green; before Tax Day … you get the idea.

And, now, with our historically awful economy, with the financial and car company bailouts and the “stimulus package” on everyone’s mind, it’s probably a good idea to craft your message to address these huge issues.

For example, one enterprising seller of sex toys and dirty movies is running radio ads that tell listeners to “stimulate your package” with their sexy products.

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More Imperfection … Blog Posts No By-Line

I don’t know what is not set up right, but where other blogs automatically post the name of the person posting, this one, now does not. And I’m not sure why. Anyway, perhaps the anwer will become clear, but for the moment, just a quick note that I wrote the preceding three blog posts, “Getting Started,” “Adsense Algorithm Aces Aptitude Assessment After Seemingly Slow Start,” and “‘Pretty Good’ is Better than ‘Better than Pretty Good.’”

The very first one, “Hello World” is the canned first post and first comment that comes with your WordPress template when you set it up. I suppose it could and maybe should be erased, but I don’t mind it, and so, there it is.

I hope to find the right tweak to get this system to automatically insert a byline. Meanwhile, here’s this quick fix: the posts below were by me.

— Allan Pearlman

“Pretty Good” is Better than “Better than Pretty Good”

Nearly 100 years ago, in 1910, G.K. Chesterton wrote, “If a thing is worth doing , it is worth doing badly.”

More recently, marketing expert and business-development coach, Adam Urbanski, took that bit of contrarian bluster and retooled it to rally his students, and push them to get going, get things done, and stop delaying their plans to start, build, or grow their businesses.

Where many worried about not knowing everything and needing their web page, their sales letter, their newsletter to be absolutely perfect, Adam encouraged them not to get tripped up by paralyzing perfectionism, when he said, “anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first.”

Build Your Business By Doing A Lot of Different Things All at Once

Combine that with the idea that in making a business go, grow, survive and then thrive, a business owner should do a lot things, and do them quickly, in marketing, management and generally, everything, a lot of things should be done at once, and rapidly. This wisdom – or at least, theory – says, don’t just do a newsletter, do direct mail, a website and build an email list.

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Adsense Algorithm Aces Aptitude Assessment After Seemingly Slow Start

I was going begin this post by saying that for all the high praise for and genuflecting to those world-changers at Google, it seemed that Google’s supposedly super-smart computers which “read” blogs and websites to determine what appropriate advertisements to place on them were behaving more like the kid in 7th grade who read only the first page and the last page of a book to write his book report.

But, now a few hours later, things seem a little different and the gang at Google doesn’t appear to be the slackers they looked like just a few hours earlier.

Contextual Ads in Context

Here’s what happened:

This morning, after some wrestling with the guts of this new blog, I installed the code needed to get Google’s contextual advertising system, Adsense, up and running on this new blog.

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Ping! Ping! Ping! Ricochet Relationship-Building Online for Business

Back in the old days your business needed a website, and that was it. That was then. Now, sophisticated, technology-savvy marketers tell us that just a website is not enough anymore.

They might even say, this is not your grandfather’s internet (though for this to approach some version of literal truth, we’d have lifespans nearly as short as that of fruit flies).

There seems to be a trend among internet entrepreneurs which suggests not only do you need a website, but you need a blog too.

The theory goes something like this: Your website is where you do business. You describe your goods or services or both on your website, you have your credentials, and the other stuff that might reasonably go onto a website devoted to being a business or promoting one that is off line. Much of it though is relatively static.

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Getting started

By running a business one becomes, by necessity, a student of marketing, a practitioner of marketing.

The old saying, “build it and they will come” all too often does not apply, and just doesn’t work.

Getting people to know that you’re out there, available and offering your things, your stuff, your goods; your knowledge and skills, your services — for pay — takes affirmative acts (the plastic surgeon has a sign: will do nose jobs for food.

By now I might’ve learned a few things and gathered some experience.

One stupendous experience was when I mailed out the first issue of a newsletter for my law practice, which inspired three dormant clients whom I hadn’t spoken to in months, or longer, to contact me with new issues, which led to new billings of around $5,000 — and all from an investment of around $200 in copying and and postage. This was a Return on Investment (ROI) of about 25:1. Not bad! The second part of this was the lesson that it doesn’t work that way every month. If only!

This blog will look at what’s working, what might not be, what’s interesting ….