Wanted: Smoking hot hotel room in Kansas City Kansas

Google-Fiber-Rabbit

Of course, I mean a “smokin’ hot internet connection”.

Late last week, I was heading north through western Missouri, I planned to make an overnight stay in the Kansas City area.

Knowing full well (though with a little jealousy) that Kansas City, Kansas was the first winner of the Google Fiber lotto, I thought it would be nice to stay at a hotel in KC hotel that offered Google Fiber.

So I searched for “hotel kansas city kansas google fiber

While there are plenty of search hits about Google Fiber, most were stories about Google Fiber’s choice of KCK and deployment in the area. The only thing that even comes close to a hotel room in the search responses is a story about a “Home4Hackers“, an AirBnB property that offers Google Fiber.

Either there are no hotels in the Kansas City Kansas area that have Google Fiber (a distinct possibility), or the ones that do offer it need to work on their search engine positioning. A simple Google Local entry would have been first in my search, if it existed. Simple. Five minutes work.

What are people searching for when they look for you and don’t find you? Have you asked them when you meet or speak with them?

Finally – be sure you’ve taken care of your local listing on Google and Bing.

Why the tourist drove past your business

Changes2005vs2013Photo credit: AP

You’ve probably seen this AP image contrasting the crowds at St. Peter’s in Rome over the last eight years.

The first photo was taken by Luca Bruno in 2005 during preparations for the public viewing of Pope John Paul II’s body – almost two years before the iPhone was first announced.

The second photo was taken by Michael Sohn in March 2013 as the crowd waited for the first balcony appearance of a newly-elected Pope Francis I.

No matter how you feel about mobile devices, smartphones, the mobile browsing experience, the quality of smartphone photos, the always-connected lifestyle and how these things relate to your personal life, ignoring the business impact of the widespread adoption of these devices is done at your peril.

So what?

Seems like just yesterday that I did a series of speaking gigs with groups of local business owners about social media, getting found via local web search, the growth of mobile and the impact of these things on local businesses. Fact is, it’s been closer to 18 months since that series concluded.

To their credit, some have picked up on what we talked about and are interacting with their prospects and clients via social media. At least one local business that I frequent offers occasional coupons for subscribers to their text message (SMS) based opt-in list.

While most local business sites display acceptably on today’s tablets, the story is altogether different on a phone, where a smaller number have made efforts to improve the experience of a website visitor using a phone. Let’s refresh why it’s important to deal with this.

It’s not uncommon to hear “So what?” when this topic comes up in discussion. That’s not the right question.

First impressions

Again, you must set aside your personal likes/dislikes about these devices because it isn’t about you. It’s about your customers.

If these customers are tourists whose first impression – and purchase decision – is tied to the usability of your site on their phone, it’s worth considering whether your site is helping them (and you).

You might be thinking “Well, they have smartphones, but do they use them for that?” It’s a good question. I can tell you 25% of visitors to the Columbia Falls’ Chamber website are using mobile devices – a number that grows every month. I’ve been told churches see an even larger percentage of mobile users.

So what do you do?

A mobile website checklist

Let’s talk about mobile website basics:

  • Do you have a website that is actually usable on a phone?
  • Does it clearly describe what you do, when you are open, how to get there (using Google Maps, et al) and how to contact your business?
  • Restaurants, is your menu visible on the phone or does it appear on a phone as tiny print because it’s in a PDF intended for desktop users?

To start this process, claim your business on Google Places for Business and setup a Facebook Page (not a Facebook user account) for your business. Both of these will give you a basic summary presence on mobile devices that includes hours, contact info and location.

Compare these two mobile search results:

flathead beacon mobile search result dmbdgoogle

The one on the left (without a Google Places listing) is tougher to read on a phone and requires additional screen taps to get answers to the basic questions listed above.

The one on the right (with a Google Places listing) gives you everything you need to make the next choice. One tap to call, get directions or view their site.

Which of those do you want your prospects to see?

Why’d they drive by?

When your website makes it easy for mobile phone users to learn about your business, it helps them decide what to do, where and when to go, and how well your business fits their needs/wants.

So why did the tourist drive past your business?

Three reasons:

  • They didn’t know your business exists, or they didn’t know enough about your business
  • The info they found didn’t help them make a decision.
  • The info they found helped them make a decision to go elsewhere.

The last reason is acceptable. You shouldn’t expect everyone to be your customer, much less to stop in simply because your business is easy to learn about and find online.

Billboards and plumber’s pants

Drive around long enough and you’ll see a billboard that says “If you’re looking, it’s working”.

I see the same slogan on electronic advertising displays, which can be found everywhere from restaurant restrooms and gyms to billboards.

Is it “working” when you accidentally glance at the back of a plumber’s pants when he’s on his knees with his head buried under your sink? Or when you stare at an auto accident?

A definition

“My ad is working” means “people take action as a result of the ad”. It does not mean “someone with a heartbeat saw the ad”.

“Working” doesn’t always equal spending money, but it does always mean taking action.

After you glance over at that auto accident, if you put on your seat belt…. that’s action. Cause and effect. Taking action.

That’s what “working” means when it comes to an ad.

“But, you can’t track billboard response”

Yes, you can.

I’ve yet to see a media whose usage cannot be tracked.

To be sure, you can’t track how many people read your ad on a billboard or in the newspaper, though you can estimate numbers based on drive-by traffic statistics published by governmental agencies (for billboards) and subscription + newsstand buys + online page views (for newspapers).

The number *reading* your ad isn’t the important number. Sure, if you have a general consumer product, you want to tell as many people as you can, but you don’t go to the bank with “eyeballs”, page views, newsstand copies or cars-per-day.

You go with sales revenue.

What you really want to be paying attention to is how many people took action as a result of your ad, no matter where it is.

You can absolutely track what happens if readers take action, but many businesses don’t. As a result, they’re operating on gut feel, guesswork or a seat of the pants idea of what their ads are doing.

Look at the advertising you’re doing. Are you tracking any of it? If not, how do you know which ads work and which don’t? How do you know which media work (for you) and which don’t? (or don’t work as well)

Just because an ad or media is “free” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be tracking results.

Start tracking and you’ll start knowing what’s working and what isn’t.

Pardon the effs, but what the eff is social media?

Today’s guest post is a great powerpoint from Marta Kagan describing why you should care about social media.

Don’t get distracted by the eff word (all full of *’s) or the big numbers.

Get the message.

Social media mistakes small business owners should avoid

junior
Creative Commons License photo credit: notmpres

Today we’re going to talk about three mistakes that I advise small business owners not to make when getting into social media.

#1 – Don’t be a firehose

One of the easiest things to do – and most important to avoid – is the temptation to flood the place with automated messages.

For example, there are tools out there (like twitterfeed.com) that allow you to automatically post links to your blog to Twitter. You can do the same with Friendfeed and Facebook.

Using tools like this to send your blog posts to Twitter or Facebook is fine – unless that’s the only thing you post.

If you’re the Flathead Beacon, CNN or The New York Times, you can get away with that – even though we’d still like to see more interaction.

As a small business owner, your job is not to be a firehose.

Interaction is better. Note the first word in “social media”. It’s social.

It’s not you standing on a corner preaching to anyone who will listen – while you listen to no one and interact with no one.

#2 – Don’t treat me like it’s our honeymoon when it’s really our first date

One of the most common mistakes I see in Twitter is the “Hey, thanks for following, want to buy my product?” direct message (in Twitter lingo, a DM).

Look at it this way. If we meet at a Rotary meeting for the very first time, the first thing you say face to face after we are introduced and are seated across from each other is NOT going to be “Hey, great to meet you, want to buy my product?”

It’s the same thing. Don’t do it.

#3 – Don’t assume that everyone wants to listen to your politics or the F bomb all day

They don’t. Just because the environment is a bit casual on many of these sites, don’t assume for a minute that you are sitting in a bar in a strange town where no one will ever see you again.

Would you have those conversations across the counter with a customer? Would you have them out loud with a friend in your crowded business?

Didn’t think so. Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are also not the place to have them either.

Always remember that you’re taking the time to use these tools in order to better connect with the people who are interested in what your business does, or what you know.

EXCEPT…when it supports the nature of your business. Yes, Ian’s Catholic goods store comes to mind as the easy example.

That may seem a bit cheesy, but the fact remains that if your politics have no business out loud at the counter of your store, then they don’t have any business representing you on Twitter and Facebook (etc).

Finally, watch your online mouth just like you would your real one. It’s still a business conversation.

Are you overlooking sales opportunities?

dennyrehberg

As I’ve mentioned here before, I write a business column for the Flathead Beacon, an online newspaper here in Northwest Montana.

When I have the time and inclination, I also cover sports and other stories about my community (Columbia Falls, Montana) that interest me.

So I take a photo of Rehberg and Montana Chamber of Commerce President / CEO Webb Brown (on the left in the photo above) at a Kalispell “listening session” a month or so ago and insert it into my brief article covering Rehberg’s session.

The next day, a communications specialist at the Montana Chamber of Commerce finds my Beacon article about Rehberg’s session and asks if they can use the photo (which includes their president/CEO)  in their monthly magazine / newsletter.

I was a bit surprised they wanted to use the photo since the microphone is obscuring some of Mr. Brown’s face, but it is what it is. I think they were simply glad to have his photo with Rep. Rehberg.

Good news, bad news

I say sure, they can use the photo in their publication if they include a photo credit that points to the blog and they agree. Good news for me, as state chamber members will be a very nicely targeted audience for Business is Personal.

So my mail arrives and what do you know, the photo not only appears in this month’s Montana Chamber of Commerce magazine called “Eye on Business”, but it appears *on the cover*.

Unfortunately, there is a typo in my photo credit’s URL.

It happens. In fact, it happens more often than you would expect, so you have to be prepared to react properly.

Some might flip out at this point, but think about it – I can’t change the magazine.

React strategically

The magazine is already printed and in the mail. Reacting strategically is the only viable solution.

Thankfully, I am fortunate enough that the typo’d website address is available, so I grab it and create a simple one-page website that acts as a landing page for Eye on Business readers who see the photo credit and are curious enough to read more.

But wait, there’s more. No one other than those readers know that site’s address. It’s only in the magazine and I have no good reason to use it elsewhere.

This means that a very high percentage of the people who see this page will do so because they are readers of Eye on Business. In fact, that means I have good reason NOT to use it elsewhere because of this situation.

Result: I can customize the message on the new site to Montana Chamber of Commerce members, making their first experience with me even more personal. That’s exactly what I did.

Yet another opportunity

I must admit that I thought it was a little odd that the contact with the Chamber was not also used as an opportunity to ask me what I know about the Chamber’s work, if I was a member, and if I would like to get an application form etc.

Nor was a brochure or application included in the package I received in the mail with the sample issues.  This was a missed opportunity to ask, much less just tell their story.

Are you missing out on opportunities like that? Keep your eyes open for them. Sales opportunities that are in context tend to be a lot more fruitful than those that are not.

Twitter just doesnt make sense for business

Or maybe it does.

See what Chris’ argument in today’s guest post, which is chock full of reasons why Twitter just might make sense for your business.

Getting more blog traffic: Social Networking

I’ve decided to start a series (“Polishing the blog” is the code name<g>) discussing the steps I’m taking to ramp up the readership on my blog. A lot of people keep this stuff a secret, but a notable number of others don’t keep everything under their hat – and in fact, try to help others get theirs improved. Because categories are important from a search perspective, you won’t see a “Polishing the blog” category (yes, I’m disappointed as well), instead you’ll find these posts in the Web 2.0 or SEO categories, or both.

Since I spend a fair amount of time trying to get small business owners to understand the value of a blog to their business – and actually write a blog of their own, I figured the least I could do is note what I’m doing to my own blog so that the ones who actually do something will have some additional help if they need it.

So here’s what I’ve been up to…

This weekend’s blog polishing effort has been about turning up the social networking heat, mostly. I’ve created pages on Squidoo, Facebook (my sons have to be really thrilled about that) and so on, and have just told Delicious to post to my blog a list of my new Delicious links for the day. This will happen late in the day, once a day. Automatically.

I love automatically. It leaves more time for the important stuff that doesn’t happen automatically:)

So what’s Delicious? (yeah, it’s really http://Del.icio.us but I get tired of typing that) Delicious is one of many “universal bookmark storage places”. The nice thing about it is that if you have the Firefox Delicious extension, you can store a new bookmark there – with tags – in 2 clicks. If you highlight some text before you hit the delicious button, that text (up to 255 chars) is stored as a note with your bookmark. Yes, you can mark a bookmark as “do not share”, so don’t be so paranoid. That black helicopter hovering over your house is nuuuuuuthing to worry about.

A nice benefit of using Delicious for your bookmarks is that you’ll have those bookmarks available to you on any computer you use.

Last but not least, I added some php code to the header of the blog so that the post name is now reflected in the title of the web page. The idea is that the posts will show up better in Google searches (what the geeks call “SERPs”, which is really “search engine result pages”) AND that will in turn prod me to come up with better (from a search perspective) titles to my posts. If you want some easy instructions for how to do this for WordPress (what I use), slide over to Pearsonified. I’ve been reading his blog for some time and finally got off my keester and implemented this change. 1 line of code. Duh.