In marketing, identifying customer segments is extremely important to strategy development and ultimately business success. But what is the ethical line between serving a neglected market segment and taking unfair advantage of that segment?
Broke USA, Gary Rivlin’s new book, postulates that question in its examination of the impact of alternative financing on the working poor. I picked up a copy to get a personal look at the other complications from subprime lending. I definitely found the right book.
Broke USA is neutral in its tone but it grabs a reader’s attention in showing how interconnected the issue of subprime lending is to the economic well-being of this country. A question Rivlin poses early on summarizes the book perfectly:
“All these major corporations, chain franchises, and newly hatched enterprises specifically catering to the working poor – were they financial angels to the country’s great hardworking masses, by making homes and cars and emergency cash available to those otherwise shunned by the mainstream financial institutions? Or were these businesses tilling the country’s working-class neighborhoods so aggressively that they endangered the very survival of these communities?”
Looking at all sides to see how we arrived at this point
The book covers events from the 1990s to the present day. Players from both sides of the subprime lending industry are examined clearly. Some of the persons examined include:
- Tennessee native Allan Jones, who inherits his father’s debt-collection agency but grows a lucrative payday loan company after seeing market potential for quick loans.
- Bill Brennan, a dedicated crusader for Atlanta homeowners who have been targeted by subprime lenders.
- Chris Browning, who rises as an outspoken and promising Check N Go manager, only to leave when asked to press customers.
- Fesum Ogbazion, the Dayton, Ohio, founder of Instant Tax Service, a 6,000-employee chain that provides advance loans on tax returns.
Each of these persons provide confessions that give insights into an industry where companies make loans with interest rates of 20 percent per year to a market of 40 million U.S. citizens living on an average annual income of $31,000.
Ogbazion explains the market for his service, advance loans on tax returns, as a response to critics’ concerns:
“They look at our customers and say, ‘Why don’t they just borrow the money from an uncle?’ Why don’t they just wait two or three weeks?’” he said. “But they don’t get it. These are people who can’t wait. Gas and electric is off at home. They’re facing eviction notices. They’ve been putting off all these bills.”….As (Ogbazion) views it, he’s a positive force for economic development in communities desperate for commerce….‘Look at where our stores are….There’s no Gap. There’s no Nordstrom. We employ people from the neighborhood. We’re paying rents in those neighborhoods.’”
Profiles like Browning and Ogbazion humanize those in the industry without downplaying the economic costs of their doings. Comments from Browning’s situation are refreshingly honest, as are those from Jerry Robinson, a former banker and payday loan “cheerleader” who laments the growth of the industry. “There are just too many stores. That’s the bottom line…Customers have two loans, then three loans, then five.”
Yet there is profit for the players despite competition. The author estimates that Allan Jones made $22 million in after-tax profits from his 1,600 stores, while the profit margin of publicly traded Advance America — 8 percent in 2008 — “would place it ahead of more than 60 percent of the companies in the Fortune 500.” The data is more intriguing when examining the industry as a whole.
….The Poverty Inc. economy was around $150 billion at its peak. In comparison, the country’s casinos, Indian casinos included, collectively raked in around $60 billion, and U.S. cigarette makers book $40 billion in annual revenue.
Broke USA thoroughly shows how much of the country is affected. From Fleet Finance’s financing collusion with home repair workers in Boston’s predominantly black neighborhoods to the legislation fights in Georgia, Ohio and North Carolina, readers will definite come away understanding the nuances that led to the subprime lending legislation proposed in various regions of the U.S. and the lobbying around it. For example, Jim Mccarthy, an advocate for lending legislation, comments on Senator Gramm’s allegiance to subprime lending, an allegiance based on a home purchase by Gramm’s mother through a subprime loan in his youth:
We wanted to go with a federal fix…Because that was really the way to deal with predatory lending. [But] basically Senator Gramm’s view was ‘Over my dead body’, and so we said fine, we’ll start from the bottom up.
Broke Inc. is an excellent compliment to books like The Economics of Integrity and shows the degree to which a marketing segment can be unforgivably exploited. The legal struggles depicted will remind ethical business owners that it may be in their best interest to ensure their customers understand the benefits and pitfalls of the kind of service or product being presented. The book also illustrates how federal interventions have some advantages, as both sides of the subprime lending debate lament that their battles will potentially replay endlessly in state legislatures.
There are also examples of small businesses that are in league with financial institutions, such as Boston-area home contractors that offer financing backed by Fleet Finance. The result? Homeowners who thought they would pay $6,000 end up owing as much as 10 times that amount. Bill Brennan offers a worse scenario, as he fought Brown Realty Associates, an Atlanta realtor that takes over homeowners’ homes if a single payment is missed; Brown had a line of credit from a large bank that refused to make legitimate loans to qualified would-be homeowners in the same neighborhoods Brown served.
Broke USA will make you question anyone who believes only large corporations can be negligent and ruthless.
(Editor’s note: this review originally listed the book incorrectly as “Broke Inc”)
Contests and awards are a great way to get the word out about your business. Even if you don’t win, many offer an opportunity for recognition and publicity – so it’s not just about the big prize.
* * * * *
iNGie Award from Cabinet NG
Enter by August 15, 2010
Cabinet NG will recognize customers who have best used CNG-SAFE software products to improve their bottom line and at the same time operate their businesses in a more environmentally friendly manner. “iNGie” awards will be presented at the 2010 Collaborate Conference in Huntsville (dates and location to be announced soon).
* The first 20 companies to apply receive 2 free passes to 2010 Conference in Huntsville (approximately $500 value).
* Winners get a $1,000 credit which can be applied toward annual maintenance or CNG products.
* Winners will also receive an Amazon Kindle.
Award categories and online applications can be found here.
Opportunity Green OG25 Business Award
Enter by August 17, 2010
The OG25 Business Award is an open business competition that recognizes the most promising start-ups committed to building a new green economy and that highlights initiatives in clean technology, product design, mobility, social innovation, water and resource conservation, food systems, community development and more. All OG25 finalists are showcased and win complimentary registration to the Opportunity Green 2010 Business Conference. All finalists will compete on stage for a chance to be named Opportunity Green’s Top Start-up of 2010.
Small Business Road to Success Challenge by Fairfield Inn & Suites
Enter by August 20, 2010
This program will provide ten finalists with 15 free nights at Fairfield Inn & Suites across the U.S. and Canada and exposure to help them grow their businesses. Finalists will publicly share their journey by blogging, tweeting, and posting photos. One winner, judged to be most successful in achieving its business goals, will be selected to receive the $20,000 cash grand prize. Applicants will also have the chance to win a Marriott GiftCard if they choose to participate in a short survey.
Enter by August 23, 2010
Second Chance is a 7-part web series on BusinessonMain.com that will feature 4 entrepreneurs, whose first attempts at having their own business failed. They will compete against each other in challenges for a second chance to start a new business. During each episode, the entrepreneurs will be given a fake business concept that will test the skills that contributed to the failure of their previous companies.
Along with the $150,000, the Second Chance winner will have the opportunity to present their business concept to a team of Angel Investors who may invest even more money and their expert knowledge in the business.
The Stevie Awards for Women in Business
Enter by August 31, 2010
Women entrepreneurs, executives and organizations are eligible to enter in 54 different categories. Request an entry kit via this online form.
2010 Leading Moms in Business
Enter by August 31, 2010
The 2010 StartupNation Leading Moms in Business competition will rank the top 200 mom-run businesses across America as determined by popular vote over the next few months.
The list of the 200 winners will be published next May and ranked according to votes accumulated.
Vistaprint Make an Impression Contest
Enter by September 4, 2010
How do you impress your customers? Tell Vistaprint and enter to win a customized marketing campaign crafted by their in-house creative experts to promote your business and a $600 gift certificate to HP for a total prize package of $10,000!
The Franchise Council Contest
Enter by September 6, 2010
A nationwide contest for business owners interested in an initial launch of franchising his/her business. The winner will receive $87,000 in business services . The Franchise Council (TFC) in partnership with Franchise Brokers Association (FBA), an industry association, will manage the contest that runs from June 1 – September 6, 2010.
The contest winner will be announced October 20 at the FBA national meeting in Orlando. Online application and rules located at http://www.franchiseba.com/development. Or contact Randy Hove, FranNet – St. Louis, at 314.614.8940 or email@example.com.
New Ideas Contest
Enter by September 20, 2010
Winners will be announced at the Small Business Innovation Summit and Expo in Charleston on Nov. 3. The grand prize winner will receive $5,000 of seed money for his or her business idea, a scholarship to a FastTrac entrepreneurial training program, tickets to the Small Business Innovation Summit and Expo and a Dream Team of Mentors to help cultivate the idea.
Five first place prizes of $2,500 will be awarded in the categories of Bio-Science, Software/Information Technology, Engineering, Environmental Sustainability and Wild Card. Each winner will receive a scholarship to FastTrac and tickets to the Small Business Innovation Summit and Expo. There will be five $1,000 honorable mention prizes distributed as well as in each category.
Startup Nation Homebased 100
Enter by October 1, 2010
The 2010 StartupNation Home-Based 100 will once again rank the best performing home-based businesses across America in ten distinct categories. To enter you must be home-based, must also have a website for your business, and some aspect of your business should fit at least one of the themes of the Top Ten categories.
ACCO Brands Everyday Heroes Contest
Enter by October 31, 2010
What is an Everyday Hero? It’s a person who knows how to use his/her office tools to make things run smoothly; a person to whom everyone turns to pull it all together in a pinch; an individual who quietly gets the job done — often without being recognized. Everyday Heroes can enter the contest now at accoheroes.com. ACCO Brands will award a grand prize of $1,000 redeemable at office product dealers to one winner in each of three categories — business, home/home office and school.
The Business Card Project
Open entry deadline
MOO.com is giving away more than $250,000 worth of design services and MOO products to 500 small businesses. Each winner will receive a one-time business card redesign by a professional design team and 50 free Business Cards from MOO. Check out a great “before and after” on the site.
The Cleantech Open Ideas Competition
Enter by October 2010 (see site for entry details)
The Cleantech Open runs the world’s largest clean technology business competition and is looking for the best clean technology ideas from around the world. Just for telling your idea, you could win a prize package of services worth $100,000 to help you start a business to grow your idea! Winners of each individual National Competition, get to represent your country as a Global IDEAS finalist at the annual Cleantech Open Awards Gala on November 16, 2010 in San Francisco.
There, your idea will be presented in a five-minute pitch in front of a crowd of 3,000 investors, entrepreneurs, sponsoring companies, corporations, members of academia, press, and others interested in hearing your ideas and getting involved.
The crowd will vote via text message for the “People’s Choice” and you could win $100,000 in marketing support, legal advising, conferencing services and more to help launch your business.
Sign up to receive the newsletter to get updates.
Dream Big Small Business Award
Enter by January 7, 2011
The DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam’s Club, is designed to honor U.S. job creators and recognize their significant contributions as drivers of economic growth. The 2011 application will become available starting Tuesday, September 21, 2010. View the eligibility and criteria to learn more and check out the Application Process FAQs for tips on filling out the application.
To find more small business events, contests and awards, visit our Small Business Events Calendar.
If you are putting on a small business contest, award or competition, and want to get the word out to the community, please submit it through our Small Business Event and Contests Form (We do not charge a fee to be included in this listing — it is completely free to submit your award or contest for our review. )
Please note: The descriptions provided here are for convenience only and are NOT the official rules. ALWAYS read official rules carefully at the site holding the competition, contest or award.
We’ve all struggled with procrastination in one form or another. It’s not about getting everything done, it’s about getting the right things done. And this brings us to a wonderful book I picked up recently written by my colleagues Krissi and Dan Barr called “Plugged: Dig out and Get the Right Things Done.”
Plugged is a short business novel that runs long on lessons in how to keep your head on straight in a crisis.
A word of warning before we begin. This is a book that is heavy on golf terms, stories and concepts. You don’t have to be a golf pro to enjoy the book, but you do have to know a few basics about the game.
A Summary of the Story – Spoiler Not Included
This is a tale about Chet McGill, VP of sales at a small company, Alpha Max. When the CEO leaves town for a rare vacation, Chet is put in charge.
It’s Friday around noon when Chet learns that they missed an important delivery to their major customer and that same customer is in discussions with a competitor to move all their business from Alpha Max! How great it is to be in charge.
What follows are carefully crafted scenes which take the reader through an action-packed eight-day period. It really moves. It ought to be made into a screenplay–it’s that good.
Who Should Read This Book?
- Anyone who sells business to business.
- Anyone who’s faced the stress of losing a major client or account.
- Anyone who’s ever wondered about the risks of playing golf with your biggest customer.
There are a lot of us in these categories.
To make matters worse, Chet’s unsure how to deal with the crisis and how his peers and associates will respond to his attempts to lead.
There’s a further complication: Chet has invited the head of operations of that big client to play with him in a golf tournament at Chet’s club. How awkward will that be? The tournament is next weekend. The fellow in question, Reggie Ward, is a business friend–but business is business in good times and bad.
Chet’s golf game has been terrible. He just bought an expensive putter, which isn’t working out.
Important Lessons From a Mysterious Source
Chet can’t think about golf now, but decides to make the after-work practice rounds, including Saturday morning’s. He can’t give up on that, too. Without the energy of hope, where does he begin? He finds an anonymous note on his locker that morning: Prioritize.
Monday, his fears of the lack of peer support are borne out: He’s treated to a game of “blame shifting” by the other vice presidents in their first meeting. After a weekend of stress, Chet responds with anger. He orders an all-hands meeting to explain the crisis and convey that the very existence of the firm is in jeopardy. He then takes out a pad and asks for suggestions. Thirty minutes later, Chet has six pages of ideas and many good ones. Further, all of senior management gets on board. (Try this from time to time. Do it before a crisis. This works!)
This is an important lesson in crisis management: You have only one or two days to put together the crisis team and begin executing a good plan before irreversible damage ensues. Running a small business facilitates that process as all your people and resources are at hand.
The events and the week’s progress are important elements of the story and well told. What’s the result? Trust me, you’ll enjoy it.
Back to the golf. The new putter fails Chet, but he discovers an unclaimed and woefully out-of-date putter in the course of a practice round. Desperately, he gives it a try. How this element plays out includes an ethical dilemma that pops up in a critical moment in the tournament.
Be careful playing golf with clients. Some use golf as an ethical litmus test. If you have a temper or do not count all your strokes, it will not be read charitably. You don’t have to be a good golfer to enjoy golf. But you have to be a good person observing the etiquette of golf to have others enjoy their time with you on a golf course. Golf with clients either builds trust or erodes it. Know yourself.
In the course of the week, Chet is rewarded with two additional anonymous notes: Adapt and Be Responsible.
This set of three memory aids–Prioritize, Adapt and be Responsible–form the acronym PAR, the measure of an excellent score on a round of golf. The authors provide a closing chapter called the 19th hole with recommendations as to how you and your team can adapt these lessons to excel in your business life.
About the Authors
If you haven’t guessed by now, Krissi and Dan Barr are avid golfers and savvy businesspeople. Dan is a senior executive at Cintas. Krissi works with a wide range of companies, both private and Fortune 500, guiding senior executives to higher-level performance. Together, they leverage their work experience and passion for golf to deliver lessons and entertainment in under 120 pages.
This is a great story with solid lessons packed into a small space. Krissi and Dan Barr are a husband and wife team, real people with proven business records. This is their first book. They have many more ideas to share. Look for their next one.
Small business success knows no gender to be sure, but the field has also had no shortage of women leaders in recent years. One of the best platforms around for receiving the regular doses of wisdom these thought leaders and others dole out is Twitter, a social platform that allows users to speak directly to their followers, folks who have deliberately chosen to be regularly updated on what they have to say. In the last few years a lot of lists have circulated about the best women small business leaders to follow. We’re thrilled to see that our own Anita Campbell, founder of Small Business Trends (@Smallbiztrends) appears on five of the six lists below.
Small Biz Women To Follow
Best branded women: The top 20. Of course, personal brand is one of the best reasons to use social media, and Kris Ruby’s article deals with those women who arguably do it best, not just to draw attention to themselves but as a way of raising the profile for their businesses online and beyond. Forbes.com
100 women to follow. This is a truly gigantic list, in this case of the most “powerful” women on Twitter based on “Twitter grade” and including such factors as number of followers and number of updates. Is number of followers or number of Tweets really the right way to measure power online? You decide, but these are probably still women deserving of your attention. TwitterGrader.com
20 women entrepreneurs should follow. From self-made millionaire Ali Brown to speaker and marketer Aliza Sherman and many more, these are the women entrepreneurs should be following, according to Natalie Sisson, an entrepreneur and adventurer herself, who lists some of the women who have inspired her most in her life, because of both the information and the support they provide. She hopes you find them inspiring too. Work In Progress
Everybody’s got their own pick. Here’s Melinda Emerson a.k.a. “SmallBizLady” with her own curated list of 25 women she follows on Twitter and thinks you should too. These are the women Emerson says handle business in a way she respects and admires. How about you? Who are your favorites? Building Your Business
30 women to follow on Twitter. Entrepreneur Natalie MacNeil handpicked these 30 women to follow on Twitter but admits there may be more and hopes others will share their point of view. Natalie says she is always seeking business women to follow and learn from. This is her list of top inspirations. Forbes Woman
Dianna Huff shares her picks of 25 very smart women to follow on Twitter. Dianna’s list includes the Twitter accounts of leaders like Anne Holland, Sandy Carter, Stephanie Tilton and Jamie Wallace. There are an additional 10 bonus names added at the bottom, so don’t stop at the first 25 you’ve been promised in the title. B2B Marcom Writer Blog
Another inspiring woman in small business. Many in the small business community are familiar with Denise O’Berry who will be the guest blogger at SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business” for the month of August, so drop by and see Denise’s posts regularly on the Website and enjoy her small business advice and tips. SCORE Women’s Success Blog
Google Small Biz Initiative
Google has a new small business blog. You may be wondering, what took them so long? After all, the online search leader has created many tools that make it easier for small business to compete online. So, really a small business blog would seem a logical step. Finally, the wait is over. Google Enterprise Blog
Google visits Boise. So, why would search engine giant Google travel to Boise, Idaho, of all places, and publicize the trip on the second post of the company’s brand new small business blog? Well, would you believe Boise is one of the fastest growing small business communities in the nation and that Idaho small businesses earned an estimated $72 million in revenue from Google online advertising tools in 2009? Sounds like it was worth the trip after all. Google Small Business Blog
Road To Success
Hotel chain offers small business room at the inn. Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott will be giving 10 U.S. small business owners 15 free nights of accommadations each, allowing them to travel across the country building their business in this unique contest with a $20,000 cash prize for the winner. For more details, visit the link above. And good luck to the contestants. Duct Tape Marketing
Having clarity is critical to business success. You have to have a clear vision of where you want to go, a clear view of what you sell, and a clear path for getting there.
It’s been said that business plans tell you where you want to end up but not how you are going to get there. That’s exactly my point. We need to drill down and get real clarity about our businesses if we are going to actually achieve our goals.
I am in the process of reading Mike Michalowicz’s book The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur. In this book Mike says, “Narrow your focus on the best products and services you have to offer. Make those few things extraordinary. Focus on and exploit your strengths.” Right on!
Mike is saying that you can’t start out trying to be all things to all people. As a matter of fact, he says that in this same chapter. It reminded me of an article I wrote for Small Biz Trends a year or so ago,˜Start Out Simply,” where I stated, “Set yourself up for success by starting out simply. Focus on the thing you do best and market that product or service to that target market. Build your business from the foundation of your core competency.”
This is one aspect of clarity. Choosing to focus on the one thing that you do best helps you define your marketing message as well as your target market. It makes it easier to grow your business. You can always add other products and services down the road that go along with your core business. You will have established your company as a leader and can add in other items gradually–items that make sense.
Before you can determine the product or service, however, you have to know what your vision is.H What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to provide for others? Where do you want to go? Once again, having clarity will help you take the next steps of defining what you will offer and how you will proceed toward your goals.
Lastly, you should have clarity about how you are going to get there. Visions are big things and can be overwhelming when taken as a whole. So break it down into smaller, manageable pieces. I like to work backward from the goal to identify the steps I’ll have to take to get there.
Then once you have the plan, insert monitoring “temperature checks.” There are few things worse than starting out, never checking on your progress and later realizing you aren’t going to get where you wanted to go. We all need mile markers to make sure we are moving in the right direction. It is this planning and monitoring that will keep you from getting derailed by the issues that can arise on a daily basis.
The value of clarity can not be overstated. When you have clarity about your vision, product/service and path you will be able to see everything else clearly. It will be easier to stay on track and easier to speak about your company. In the end, you will realize your vision and the success you seek.
Being a cartoonist means reading a lot.
To stay inspired and topical I try to stay on a steady diet of newspapers, magazines, blogs and, of course, books. I’m forever on the lookout for phrases, words, anything that might yield a cartoon.
One day while flipping through a book I paused on its dedication page. It was the standard “To my wife, Cathy” or something like that, but it got me thinking that books are really the only documents in which writers include a dedication, and the above cartoon was not far behind.
Planning a new small business? You may want to consider doing it online. In this small business news roundup, we look at a variety of tools and tips for operating your business in the online world…or at least for marketing it there. Enjoy this latest list of tips and tricks for online small business from Small Business Trends.
Do you know Facebook etiquette? It may be one of the biggest boons to small business yet allowing a kind of networking and marketing never before imagined at a low cost. But how you conduct yourself on Facebook can definitely impact your level of success. Here are some simple tips. examiner.com
How to master content marketing. Doing business online often means engaging in some kind of content marketing, from blogs to PR Website submissions to video and audio. Mastering content marketing means learning to create content on demand in order to cleverly market your content online and off on the way to success. Sociatic
Tips for your small business Website. It might be assumed that your online business would need a Website, but how do you go about creating the perfect online presence for your cyber business. A few tips about how to manage this most important of all projects should put you on the right path. les proctor direct
Online solutions for offline business. Surprise, surprise! A recent TechCrunch Social Currency CrunchUp revealed numerous non-tech businesses making big use of online tools, mostly social media tools to market products offline. What could an online approach do for your bricks and mortar small business? Network Solutions
It’s all about the bounce rate. Want to know why your Website isn’t giving you the business you had hoped for? Have you considered your Website’s bounce rate? This is the number of people who arrive at your Website and leave immediately because they did not find the content they were expecting. Here are some ways to address the problem with bounce rate on your Website. Business Done Now
Making money from your business blog. Should you make money from your business blog or not? Online entrepreneur Ivan Widjaya has some observations about the positives and negatives of using advertising revenue generation from your blog. Some will say it isn’t a good idea to earn money from a business blog that you want to use to spread ideas and build branding. Ivan would disagree. Noobpreneur.com
How important is content to your small business Website? Well, really important. Let’s just put it that way. Unfortunately, small business owners sometimes focus on the Website first and leave the content as an after thought. This may be a mistake since your content can be the key to explaining your product or service. Consider the importance of content as well when creating a Website. Global Copywriting
More than just a digital rolodex. Sure, it started as a way to collect and connect with professionals across the globe like some huge collection of business cards, but today LinkedIn is so much more, and the way you use this and other resources to represent yourself professionally online will go a long way to establishing your success as an online entrepreneur. Business Growth Insights
New social tools are part of many applications now. Constant Contact is no exception with these new tools allowing you to do social media marketing while creating newsletters for clients and partners. Travis Campbell gives us an overview of what can be done with the new add on. Meanwhile what other tools have you seen with new social add on features? MarketingProfessor
Whether online or off, bring the right approach to your startup Online small business has essentially changed the game. The cost of starting a business, especially a small, one person venture, has never been more affordable. But understandably there are other considerations that make a business a success. For example, don’t make the mistake of exchanging motion for momentum in your new business. Startup Professionals Musings
Every real estate agent knows the value “curb appeal” brings to showing and selling a home. That first impression the buyer gets when he/she steps out of the car and looks at the property you want to sell often determines whether the buyer wants to proceed – and how seriously he/she will take the rest of the tour.
The same is true for your e-mail marketing campaigns – no matter what business you are in. The placement of elements on the page, the font choice, even the colors you use all create an impression before your prospect reads a single word of text. So you want to be sure the impression you’re creating is a good one.
Still, you don’t have to be a professional artist or designer to create an e-mail marketing campaign with plenty of curb appeal. These easy-to-execute tips will help you create e-mails that draw prospects in, encourage them to open the e-mail and leave them with the impression you want to make – that your business is professional and potentially helpful to them.
1. Forget the background image. While having a beautiful photo or drawing ghosted in the background may make a printed piece look appealing, most e-mail clients, such as Outlook, won’t show it. Instead, design your e-mails to look good against a plain background, and use an image (if appropriate) as a standard graphic.
2. Make sure your most important message is seen in a preview pane. Many people use a preview pane to scan the contents of an e-mail quickly before opening it. That makes the upper left corner of your e-mail the most important “real estate” in your message. Place your main message – including the title and call to action – in that area. Start your e-mail with the title in text, not as part of a graphic. In addition, avoid using a large graphic or logo in the upper left corner. Many people have their images turned off, so all they’ll see is a big, blank area. Instead, use that spot to engage them and encourage them that there’s a good reason to open the e-mail.
3. Skip the navigation links at the top. A common practice is to include Web-like navigation links, such as those you’d find on a website, at the top of the e-mail. While that may work on a PC or laptop, more and more people are opening their e-mail on their mobile devices, which are not very HTML-friendly when it comes to formatting and linking. Keep navigation simple.
4. Avoid white type on a black background. White type on a black (or other very dark) background is even harder to read online than it is in print – and the smaller the type, the more challenging it becomes. Keep body copy against a white or very light color background so the type is easy to read and doesn’t cause eyestrain.
5. Use colors that complement your logo and/or website. You want everything you do, including your e-mail campaigns, to help you build your brand in the eyes of customers and prospects. Staying consistent with the look of your company’s other marketing materials will help you in that effort.
6. Keep image sizes small. If you’re including photos or other graphics, keep the individual image size to 72 dpi (dots per inch). They will look good and sharp while helping you keep your file size low, preventing your e-mail from being blocked for being too large. If you’re unsure of the dpi of your graphic, go to where it’s stored and open the file. Then right mouse click and select Properties. You may need to open the “More” link under Picture Properties, but the dpi resolution will be displayed there.
7. Keep text away from images. If the text gets too close to your images it will look sloppy and unprofessional. It will also be harder to read. Leave a little space between text and graphics to keep your layout looking clean.
8. Use standard fonts. That interesting font you downloaded with a graphics package may look great on your computer. But if the people you’re sending it to don’t have that same font, their computer will select one to substitute. This change could make your e-mail look bad, or could even render it unintelligible. Stay with safe fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia, Verdana and Tahoma.
9. Make your call to action stand out. Have your main call to action in bold text or a bright-colored button that contrasts with the background of your e-mail. If you use a button, make sure you repeat your call to action near it in text and in other places in the e-mail so people on mobile devices and with images turned off can still see it.
10. Use left-justified text. Text that lines up flush left is much easier to read than centered text. You can use centered text for headlines and subheads, but keep the body left-justified. It will make your e-mail look cleaner too.
Remember, the more inviting and appealing your email message looks at first glance, the more likely you are to get someone to “walk through the door” and see the rest of what you have to offer. Use these tips to add a little polish to your email campaigns and you’ll find the results are much better.
Last fall Google announced Google Place Pages, Google’s attempt to create a Web page for every place in the world. More importantly, though, it was Google’s attempt to create a page for your business, one that pulled in a variety of different information about you. While there was both good and bad associated with this, one thing many SMB owners were concerned about was their lack of ability to control a page that was aggregating information about them, especially the reviews.
Well, as of yesterday, at least some of that fear has been addressed. Google announced that small business owners can now respond to reviews left on their Google Place Page. Rejoice.
According to the Goog:
Starting today, if you’re a verified Google Places business owner, you can publicly respond to reviews written by Google Maps users on the Place Page for your business. Engaging with the people who have shared their thoughts about your business is a great way to get to know your customers and find out more. Both positive and negative feedback can be good for your business and help it grow (even though it’s sometimes hard to hear). By responding, you can build stronger relationships with existing and prospective customers.
Here’s a glimpse of the responses in action:
I thought it was pretty smart that Google is encouraging small business owners to respond to both negative and positive feedback left on their page. Just because someone has a good experience doesn’t mean you can’t bolster it even further by showing them that you’re listening and appreciate them sharing their thoughts. You may even inspire others to stop in and leave similar feedback if they see they’ll get a response from you.
Obviously, most business owners will be more focused on the negative comments, as those are the ones that may deter people from coming in or doing business with them. It’s important to address negative reviews, try to make amends and invite people back in. Google has provided instructions on how to physically respond to reviews, as well as some tips on how to address them. We’ve also previously written about when to respond to negative reviews and how to manage reviews to give you some more information.
This is going to be a very welcome new feature for small business owners. Having the ability to respond to negative reviews will help small business manage their online reputations and connect with users in a better way. As always, in order to play, you must first claim your listing. If you haven’t, do it.
I ran into a bit of a Twitter storm the other day when I casually mentioned that I was going to totally unplug for a day. Fear and support and a name, brand and date all came next.
I am hereby declaring next Friday, Friday the 13th – Digital Down Day. For 24hrs I am not going to Tweet, Friend, Post, Email or even use a computer or mobile device. If I can’t do something with a pen, paper, head, hand and heart, I’m not going to do it that day.
Now, you may not care what I’m doing or why, but I felt so much support for the idea (ironically in the digital circles where I shared it) that I want to see if we can make this a movement – maybe even take over the Friday the 13th brand from here on out.(There’s only one in 2011, but 3 in 2012) I would love it if you would join me, support this idea by sharing it with others, promote it to whatever media channels you hang out in and let’s see if we can move a collective appreciation everything in our lives that is non-digital.
You know I have nothing against the online world and tools, I just wondered if this could be a way to focus appreciation on the things in my life that don’t have plugs and IP addresses, that’s all.
On top of recruiting others, here’s how you can play
1) Tweet your intention to be one of the following for Digital Down Day – #digitaldownday
- Unsocial – hey I work at a digital marketing agency and my boss would kill me so I pledge to stay off all social networks for the day
- Unplugged – I’m on board and will unplug for my digital and online world, but I may need to work on my computer a bit
- Unwired – I’m going get outside, smell the roses and scribble in my moleskin notebook
So a tweet might look like – I’m going to be unplugged for Digital Down Day on Friday the 13th – join me http://bit.ly/downday (use that link to point people to this explanation)
2) Leave a comment here telling us what you plan to do on Digital Down Day – you know, since you won’t be tweeting it. (Let’s build the ultimate 101 things to undigital things to do.)
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