Expanding a business brochure site into something that will really help your business

To illustrate advertising and informational pa...
These days, brochures aren’t enough to make your business findable. (Image via Wikipedia)

If you’re a semi-retired professional who wants to build a consulting business, and you’re not an internet whiz, what kind of web site will really help clients find you? And how can you easily build and maintain a useful professional network?

My dad, Jack Gahran, is a semi-retired management consultant who knows many other semi-retired professionals. Today he asked me to look over the brand-new web site of a colleague of his, to offer some advice as to how it might be improved in ways that will build this person’s business.

The site is a pretty standard brochure site — a few static pages of basic information. It had a nice but simple design, and the content seemed to use keywords appropriately — both of which help search engines like Google index the site well. However, Google generally isn’t very interested in small brochure sites that are infrequently updated and don’t attract many inbound links.

I offered my dad’s colleague four basic tips for improving his site in ways that will make it much more visible in search engines, and thus more likely to attract inbound links from other sites (another thing Google rewards).

I get asked for this kind of advice a lot, so I figured I’d make a blog post out of it, so everyone can benefit.

Here’s what I told him…
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Chicago Tribune Story Idea Survey: Good Idea, Poorly Executed

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 8:  Flags wave in the wind ...
(Image by Getty Images via Daylife)

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that it has halted a “short-lived research project in which the Chicago Tribune solicited responses from current and former subscribers to descriptions of Tribune stories before they had been published.”

The project — a collaboration between the paper’s editorial and marketing departments — was stopped because reporters raised journalistic concerns. Originally it had only surveyed selected “would-be readers” about general topics and previous Tribune coverage. But in the last two weeks, participants had begun being surveyed about their preferences on synopses of stories currently in the works.

In all, 55 reporters and editors voiced their complaint in a letter to Tribune editor Gerould Kern and managing editor Jane Hirt. The letter “expressed concern that providing story information to those outside the newsroom prior to publication seemed ‘to break the bond between reporters and editors in a fundamental way.'”

Here’s more detail about how the research was conducted: “Surveys were sent by e-mail to around 9,000 would-be readers on two occasions. About 500 responded to each, indicating which of 10 story ideas they preferred. Kern said the stories ‘tended to be news features,’ and the results never made it to him or had any impact in how stories were handled.”

I can understand the reporters’ complaint if their story ideas were shared outside the newsroom without their prior knowledge and consent. However, if that consent can be obtained, I personally think this type of research could be surprisingly useful. Especially if the people being surveyed truly represent younger people (i.e., the news organization’s future market) as well as demographics that historically have not been well served by the news organization…

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New Guns N Roses = Free Dr Pepper? But wait, there’s less…

Want that free Dr. Pepper coupon? Hurry up...

Want that free Dr. Pepper coupon? Hurry up!

Today’s sleazy, shortsighted marketing move is brought to you by Dr Pepper. This company made a grand, fun, high-profile gesture and got considerable positive publicity for it. But then, they made it such a hassle to cash in on their offer that the truly cynical nature of this marketing ploy is laid bare.

In the world before the internet, they might have gotten away with it. But online, people do talk.

Apparently, today — and today only — you can get a coupon for a free Dr Pepper soda. And you can thank Guns N Roses singer Axl Rose for it.

…That is, you can get the coupon IF you jump on it before 6 pm ET today, and if you jump through a bunch of hoops. And if the site doesn’t crap out on you. Then you wait 4-6 weeks for your coupon to arrive in the mail. Once you get it, you’d better use it fast!

Here’s the backstory, and why this could become a perfect example of anti-marketing in the online age…

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Poof! There went Nokia’s high-end US market…

Stories that Matter
Ooops, sorry, Nokia — was that YOUR market?

Nokia has been running a US TV commercial featuring the world’s most inept magician, to tout its high-end N95 8G phone. How appropriate — because today, Nokia’s high-end US market just went “Poof!”

Apple just announced its new 3G iPhone — and I think it’s most of the way toward being a pro-level tool for journalists and mobloggers. I plan to get one as soon as they become available in early July.

I say “most of the way” because the 3G iPhone still has a glaring omission — no provision for an external full-size keyboard, either Bluetooth or docking. That’s a bummer. I’ve demoed the iPhone touch keyboard several times, and have found it frustrating to try to write anything more than a few words at a time with it. That may be fine for the vast majority of iPhone users — but for serious journalists, bloggers, and mobloggers, that’s a serious handicap.

But lack of keyboard support no longer a dealbreaker-level handicap as far as I’m concerned. Not like Nokia’s abysmal US service, which can leave users of the fancy, pricey, delicate N95 (a superior device for journalists and mobloggers, in my opinion) without a phone for up to a month — or longer, some users report.

In contrast, Apple offers prompt, excellent service at many, many US locations. I’ve used that service for other Apple products, and I’ve been impressed.

I’ve said it many times, but it bears repeating: For a high-end, can’t-be-without-it mobile device that people put their entire lives on, service quality is at least as important product quality. Nokia may still have the superior product for high-end users — but their service sends a clear message: We don’t really care about your experience after you buy our fancy phone.

Besides myself, I’m sure that the new 3G iPhone has swayed the opinion of many other would-be high-end phone users in the US who have been waiting (and waiting, and waiting…) for a mobile device that will let us create and share the kind of content we’ve always wanted to make on the go — with the confidence that if and when it goes awry, we won’t be stranded.

This is very, very bad news for Nokia USA. Because…
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Nokia USA promises changes, but still misses the point

Steve Jurvetson, via Flickr (CC license)
Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson had some nice things to say about the Nokia N95 in March 2007. Wonder what he thinks of the US service and support?..

Looks like Nokia USA is making some initial moves toward improving how it serves the US market. So far, these seem focused strictly on the hardware — and not the service, support, and availability problems American consumers face. These steps may improve Nokia’s chances in the US market in a year or two.

Well, it’s a start…

Still, there is MUCH more room for Nokia USA to improve significantly in the short term by offering better (i.e. reasonable) service terms for high-end phones. I’m puzzled why the company is not pursuing this low-hanging fruit. While the changes Nokia is planning for its hardware might please US carriers and retailers, the company is still shooting its US reputation in the foot among high-end US consumers with its abysmal US service and support.

This might end up being a surprisingly difficult market problem for Nokia USA. We high-end consumers — especially mobloggers and journalists (professional and amateur) — do talk! Right now, even though Nokia has the best mobile product on the market for our needs, more and more of us are frankly scared to buy or update a Nokia N-Series phone. Why? Because we suspect (with good evidence) that Nokia doesn’t really care much about our experience after we buy their phone.

We are willing to pay a premium price for a Nokia — but we’re not willing to risk being left twisting in the wind.

To catch up, here’s what Nokia USA has said it would do for the US market so far, and why (even though these are constructive steps) they’re still missing the point…

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Where’s Your “Personal Brand,” and Why?

There are lots of different ways to brand yourself.

Yesterday my colleague Jim Kukral wrote about why he’s decided to focus on centralizing his personal brand. He wrote:

“My biggest mistake from the past 7-years or so was not building my personal brand on my own blog hard enough, earlier enough. Some may wonder why someone like me who’s been around for a long time blogging (since 2001), only has about 600 rss subscribers. I’ll tell you why… because I never focused blogging and building my brand here on JimKukral.com until recently.”

That got me thinking about Contentious.com and my own “personal brand.” Although I have an innate dislike to the term “personal brand,” I’ll admit it’s a useful and important concept for people in media-related work and many other fields these days.

The simple reason for that, I think, is that these days it’s unwise to rely on any company, organization, or institution to stick by you. The only leverage most professionals have these days depends on their ability to find or make their own opportunities — which means they need to be known as individuals. not just as faceless functionaries.

Jim seems to gauge the success on his personal brand by traffic to his site and feed. For a lot of people and purposes, that’s perfectly valid and appropriate.

But personally, I see a lot of value in the hybrid home base/distributed presence approach to personal branding…

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