Articles tagged "marketing"

2011 Was a Big Year For Social Media

by David Williams

Ventura County Now Staff
August 6th, 2012

2011 Was a Big Year For Social Media

The "Big Three," Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn got bigger. Hundreds, maybe thousands of other social networks flourished. Social media is not just a fad. Instead, it's become clear social media is here to stay. It has fundamentally changed the way we do business and the way we document our everyday lives. One in every nine people on Earth are on Facebook and people spend over 700 billion minutes a month sharing photos and status updates.

Despite its name, social media success has nothing at all to do with media; it’s all about the community within which you do your business. Social media works because people realize that they trust each other more than they do the companies that try to sell you products.

 The key to exploiting this new reality is to continuously listen to and evaluate what people feel, think and say about your company, and respond to these perceptions appropriately.

 With all the tools available online, you can jump in and start measuring virtually everything about your social media activities.

These measurements are popular and normally easy to understand, but by themselves don’t lead to useful strategic action and so may not be worth much. For example, marketers may be tempted to focus on measuring the so-called “three Fs” (friends, fans and followers).

But, knowing these figures provide little help in determining how effective a social media campaign is. Following are five useful measurements that will help you assess your social media performance.

 

  • Conversational Exchange is the number of replies or comments to each post. This is a key metric that reveals engagement and interaction, the pillars of social networking. By tracking responses to your tweets, posts and status updates you’ll be able to get a better view of which topics resonate with your audiences and which approach is most effective in engaging them. You can then adjust your posts to get maximum interaction.

 

  • Reach is the size of the network directly accessed by your posts. This is your primary audience, consisting of people who directly interact with your brand or take on the call to action. Earlier I mentioned that you shouldn’t focus solely on vanity metrics, and network size is one of these. But, when combined with other measurement points, these particular vanity metrics can be extremely useful. Reach, for example, when combined with conversational exchange allows you to prepare a launch pad for taking your campaigns viral. The larger your reach, the greater the potential for conversational exchanges to snowball into a huge groundswell.

 

  • Content Amplification is the number of shares for each post. This measure takes advantage of the fact that each node on your network is itself the start of another network, and your posts and updates gain momentum by being shared outside your immediate network. On Twitter this takes the form of retweets.

 

  • Sentiment is the feelings expressed by others toward your post or update. In reality sentiment is much harder to gauge and is not easily evident in social media. But by using tools such as Isis Toolbox, it is possible to approximate and monitor what people may be feeling toward your brand.

 

  • Content Appreciation may easily be mistaken with sentiment, but it has a narrower field of focus. On Facebook it’s conveyed by the Like button. On Twitter, great content is designated as “favorites.” And on Google + people can hit the +1 button to express their appreciation.

 

Social media marketing is not always an easy task for companies to manage; most companies don't have the staff in place to help them with their online marketing initiatives. That’s why The Final Code offers comprehensive Social Media solutions for businesses in need of marketing assistance.

 

 

Do you really own your domain?

by Ventura County Now

March 5th, 2012

Over the years I’ve run into this problem a lot. People or businesses think they own their domain name to later then find out they don’t. Let’s say you’ve found this great domain name that fits your business, keyword-rich and great for SEO. It perfectly fits your website’s image and all is going well. It’s your business name, what could happen? Now for some reasons you need to move your website to another host… Surprise, suprise! Your web host is the domain name owner. Your website and/or email could go down or your website could be held hostage. All of these can make for a really bad week. However, your website address or domain name is most likely on all your company publications – business cards, letterhead, brochures, signage, other websites. So for you not to have access to one of your most prized web properties is not benefiting you at all. If you don’t own it, it can be sold or hijacked and all traffic destined for your website will go elsewhere!

FYI – it is common for web agencies, to bundle domain and hosting with website packages and order it for you either as an affiliate or reseller of domain registration and hosting services.  One rule of thumb almost always applies: never register your domain name at the same place you’re hosting your website. I do happen to register my domain names at the same place when the web host offers free registration and I’m 100% sure that I will be owning the domain name. One example of a web host where I would register my domain name is GoDaddy.com. They are one of the largest registrars on the web and they can be trusted.

So, how do you avoid falling into this trap? Simple! Buy your own domain name and keep a record of your account information. Though, I beg you to get help from someone, to make sure you buy the best domain name(s) for your needs.

How do I know if I own my domain name? It’s easy to find out if your domain name is truly yours. Follow this link http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp and enter your domain name. This will display all of the domain data (a Who is report). The one piece of information you should focus on is the Registrant. This should have your information. This is the owner of the domain name. There will also be other information such as who the domain was registered through (ex. GoDaddy.com, Register.com, Network Solutions.com, etc.) and expiration. If you name appears, you’re good to go. Just don’t forget the expiration. If your domain expires your website and any email through that domain will go down. In addition to that, it may cost you a lot more money to get it back.

What if you are NOT the registrant? You will need to contact the person or company that is the registrant. Hopefully they’ll be nice and transfer the domain over to you. Unfortunately, if they choose to be trolls about it, you may need to call a lawyer and have them send a letter.

Unfortunately, this happens more than you would think and I’ve had customers not get their domains back or had to pay premium prices to get their domains back. This can really damage your business online. So make sure you own your domain.

Older Facebook Users Catching On to ‘Liking’ Brands

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
September 19th, 2011

Users ages 55 and up increasingly likely to connect with companies

 

It took older web users a few years to begin social networking after it had been popularized by the younger set, but they soon became the fastest-growing segment of users on sites like Facebook. Now it appears they are also growing into a specific social media habit that had been more popular among younger adults: connecting with brands.

As recently as September 2010, based on research from Wedbush Securities, it seemed as if Facebook engagement with brands just might not interest users over age 55. At that point, only about one in four of Facebook’s oldest users had “liked” a brand on the site, compared with 60% of those ages 18 to 34.

By November 2010, over-55s had begun to close the gap, however, and by April 2011, nearly half were connecting with brands. Engagement had also risen among 18- to 34-year-olds as well as the 35-to-54 age group over the period. Overall, 59% of adult Facebook users had “liked” a brand as of April, up from 47% the previous September. Uptake among the oldest users appears to have been a major factor in this rise.

 

US Facebook Users Who "Like" Brands on Facebook, by Age, 2010 & 2011 (% of respondents)

 

Increased engagement among older boomers and seniors suggests that Facebook users of all ages have some interest in connecting with brand pages, rather than appealing only to young adults. Since most older Facebook users still have not “liked” a brand, there could still be room to grow in this demographic. The climbing level of activity among the middle age group indicates that younger boomers could have just as much potential social engagement with brands as millennials and Gen Xers.

Typically, social media users report connecting with brands to get deals and discounts, as well as information about products and special offers. But what brand fans expect can vary. For example, affluent social media users tended to follow brands because of a preexisting affinity for them, and a desire to be kept informed. Many older users will fall into this group, due to the point they have reached in their careers and their longer opportunity to build up net worth.

 

eMarketer

How ICANN’s Approval of New Domains Will Change the Web

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
September 1st, 2011

The final barrier to a new era for the Internet was lifted Monday morning, when the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted 13 to 3 in favor of introducing new top-level domains (TLDs) to compete with .com, .net, .org and country codes like .ca and .mx.

The vote, held in Singapore before a thousand-strong audience of tech insiders and broadcast live online, was met with a standing ovation. A core deliverable of ICANN since its inception, new TLDs have been the subject of six years of intense debate contributing to ICANN’s bottom-up approach to policy making. As one board member put it, “every imaginable aspect has been examined six ways from Sunday.”

A hundred potential applicants have gone public over those years with their ambitions to acquire new top level domains. These range from cities like .paris and .nyc, to brands like .canon and .hitachi, to verticals like .gay and .ski. Hundreds more have kept their plans secret, particularly due to the uncertainty that previously clouded the topic.

Why the need for these new TLDs? ICANN’s mission includes introducing more consumer choice — a blessing for everyone frustrated with finding that the ideal domain name for their new project is unavailable at the existing extensions.

For trademark owners, acquiring their own TLD creates a completely brand-safe online zone free from phishing, domain spoofing, knock-off sites, counterfeiting, and the gamut of other damaging activities that plague the Internet. Plus, a .brand TLD gives marketers the choice of any domain they want ending with their trademark. No matter what name you come up with for your new product or promotion, with your own .brand, the domain is available.


A More Equitable Internet


On a global scale, the need for new TLDs derives from the drive for an altogether greater good — a more equitable Internet. Regional communities such as the Galicians in Spain, the Venetians in Italy and the Kurds in Iraq have been active in asserting their need for domains that reflect their languages and cultures.

Moreover, recent developments will permit new TLDs to be in characters other than ASCII text (the letters and numbers on English-language keyboards). These new top level domains will usher in a true globalization of the Internet, with URL support in Chinese, Japanese, Cyrillic, Arabic, and dozens of other scripts.

Supporting the view that the public wants new top level domains are the recent successes of “repurposed country codes” like .co (officially the TLD for Colombia, but sold as an abbreviation for “company”) and .me (officially for Montenegro, sold for “unique personal brands”) as well as new SLDs (second level domains) like us.org in the United States and .com.de, about to be launched in Germany.


Opposition


There are of course opponents to new TLDs. Complaints about the cost (an $185,000 application fee plus the cost of producing a 200-odd page application, plus the set-up and running costs) have been responded to by ICANN with the announcement of a $2 million grant program designated for applicants from developing countries. But the main objections actually come from major brands that already spend hundreds of thousands of dollars registering domains “defensively” to prevent others from using them, and which are concerned that a proliferation of new domains will cause these costs to escalate vastly with no added benefits.

ICANN has sought to mitigate this risk by introducing far more stringent protections for trademark owners than those that exist under the current generic TLDs, including a system that allows the rapid takedown of domains that abuse trademarks.


The Process


The timetable announced for the introduction of the new top level domains starts immediately with the preparation of complex application documents. As running a TLD involves taking responsibility for core infrastructure of the Internet, specialist technical providers are required to support each new TLD, and the applications must include comprehensive and fully-funded business plans and detailed policy documents governing the rules for usage of the new domains. The application window is between January and April 2012, and the applications are scrutinized by ICANN and then made public, so that objections from any quarter may be heard before the domain is granted.

The earliest we are likely to see one of these new TLDs in our search engine results is early 2013.

For new TLDs that are contested — for instance where multiple applicants apply for the same or similar domains — assuming all applications are of equal merit, the domain will be auctioned and sold to the highest bidder. As premium dot com domains occasionally sell for millions of dollars, we can expect these bidding wars to reach tens of millions of dollars. Toys ‘R’ Us paid $5.1 million for the domain toys.com in 2009. What does that mean for the value of .toys?

 

By:Ben Crawford

More Facebook Brand Fans Say They’re Loyal Followers

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 20th, 2011

Social media friends and followers still say they’re more likely to buy

 

Early research on becoming a fan of brands on Facebook or a follower on Twitter indicated that social media users with brand connections were more loyal and more likely to say they would buy the brand’s products than average. Over the past year, those kinds of connections have become more common, and many brands have grown their fan pages and Twitter followings significantly.

Longitudinal data from ROI Research suggests that growth has not diluted the power of social media connections, which still have a link with customer loyalty.

In 2010, 32% of US social network users told the research firm they were at least somewhat more loyal to brands they were fans of on Facebook. This year, that percentage ticked up slightly, to 34%.

 

US Social Network Users Who Are More Loyal to Companies or Products They Are Fans of on Facebook, 2010 & 2011 (% of respondents)

 

Similarly, 40% of respondents in 2010 said they were more loyal to brands they followed on Twitter, rising to 46% this year. There was also a significant drop in the number of users who disagreed with that claim, from 21% to 13%.

 

US Social Network Users Who Are More Loyal to Companies or Products They Are Followers of on Twitter, 2010 & 2011 (% of respondents)

 

At least half of Twitter and Facebook users said they had become more likely to talk about, recommend or purchase a company’s products after they began following the company on social media. And Twitter users showed a greater level of engagement than Facebook users across all these metrics, as well as in willingness to link to an ad for the product or attend a sponsored event.

Still, many users might want less communication from brands. More than 40% of social network users told ROI Research that brands should communicate with fans only once or twice a month, and another 26% thought weekly communication was sufficient. Only 10% of respondents wanted to hear from brands at least daily.

 

eMarketer

Flash Websites - Pros and Cons

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 13th, 2011

Flash is a very intriguing technology to add interactivity and flashy graphics to a website. Learning to write good animations and forms in Flash can be difficult and time-consuming, so developers who know Flash are motivated to use it in every situation. But as with all technology, Flash has some drawbacks for many readers and putting up a site in Flash can be a detriment to the site rather than a draw.

If you are planning on putting up a Flash website, you should know both the positive aspects of Flash as well as the drawbacks. This, combined with your knowledge of your customers, should help you to decide if creating a site in Flash or using Flash for certain elements of your site is a good idea.Using Flash can be risky too, as some customers are immediately put off by a Flash website and while search engines it can be very difficult to get an all-Flash website to rank high in search engines.

 

Reasons to Use Flash
  • Cross-platform compatibility
    Flash is well-supported on the Web browsers out there, and if you build a site or application in Flash, you know that it will be viewed correctly by anyone who has the Flash plugin. It is operating system and browser independent.
  • Animations
    Flash was originally used primarily as an animation tool, and that is what it is best suited for. It is easy to create animations in Flash, and then easy to view them.
  • Games
    Games can be fun, and Flash games don't have the browser support issues of Ajax the bandwidth limitations of server-side games written in CGI.
  • Vector graphics
    Vector graphics can look smoother and more attractive and Flash allows developers to create applications with smooth lines requiring that the customer have a vector-graphic tool installed on their hard drive.
  • Image replacement for special fonts
    Web designers who need a special font family in their Web designs can use an image replacementtechnique called sIFR (or Scalable Inman Flash Replacement) which replaces text in the design with Flash to get specific fonts.
  • Flash applications can perform script actions, collect data, and do most of the same things that server-side scripts can do.
Drawbacks to Using Flash
  • Bandwidth and Speed Limitations
    Unless the designer works very hard to optimize Flash most Flash applications and websites can be very large and slow to download. In many situations, the entire Flash site must be downloaded before it can be used. And while it is possible to add in graphical countdowns and other features to make the time pass more quickly, many people still won't wait.
  • Not Viewable on many Smart Phones
  • Usability is impaired
    One of the most important buttons on a Web browser is the back button. It is used all the time by most people browsing the Web. But a Flash site typically removes that functionality. When a customer hits the back button after delving deeply into a Flash site, s/he is taken back to the website they were on before they visited your site. Then if they return to your Flash site, they have to renavigate to where they were. Some people might be willing to do their work twice, but most won't.
  • Accessibility is also impaired
    Because most Flash sites are based on images, and don't generally have a lot of alternative text, they can be very difficult or impossible for a screen reader to read.
  • Search engines can't read them either
    Search engine spiders are a lot like screen readers, they can't parse images. Plus, many of them have trouble following links that are not standard HTML links - and most links in Flash are not in HTML - they are in Flash. Because of this, many Flash developers have a very difficult time getting their Flash sites to rank high in search engines. In fact, most Flash sites that do rank well, do so because they have two versions of the site - one Flash and one HTML. And then they have to maintain two copies of the same website.
  • Flash requires a plug-in
    While a large proportion of Web browsers have the plug-in pre-installed, the fact is that Flash does require a plug-in which some people and companies don't allow.
  • Some people just don't like Flash pages
    Similar to sound and animated graphics, Flash has developed a reputation among some customers as being more of an annoyance than a benefit to a Web page. This is especially true when the Flash serves no purpose other than to decorate a page - such as an animated banner or splash page. While these customers may be less common than those who don't care, they are often more vocal and more likely to sway opinion away from your site if you use Flash gratuitously.
Resolution

Should You Use Flash?

Only the designer and site owner can make that decision. Flash is a wonderful tool for adding games and animation to your Web site, and if those types of features are important, then you should use Flash.

Use Flash Where It's Effective

There are very few sites that benefit from using only Flash. The drawbacks to SEO, accessibility, and customer satisfaction make it impossible for me to recommend using Flash for your entire site. In fact, even Google recommends only using Flash in select situations if at all.

Never Use Flash for Navigation

It can be very tempting to create Flash navigation because you can add exciting transitions, rollovers, and vector graphics using Flash. But the navigation is the most important part of your Web page. If your customers can't use your navigation for any reason, they will simply leave - bandwidth and accessibility issues can both contribute to a Flash navigation structure being unusable. 

If your business needs help with with web design please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

 

Social Networking Accounts for 1 of Every 6 minutes spent online

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 8th, 2011

Social networking use has doubled since 2007, and it’s all thanks to Facebook, Twitter and an array of other social companies reaching record traffic highs.

comScore’s latest numbers are out, and they paint a familiar story: social networking is on the rise. It’s the rate of growth that’s surprising, though.

According to the web analytics firm, the average online user in the U.S. now spends nearly 16% of his or her time on social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr or Twitter. That’s up from just 8% in July 2007. In the last year alone, social networking use has increased by approximately 25%.

The biggest reason for the increase in social networking is Facebook and its 700+ million users. In August 2005, Facebook was tiny compared to MySpace, its primary competitor. Facebook attracted less than 10 million monthly U.S. visitors, compared to MySpace’s 20+ million.

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t until May 2009 when Facebook finally caught up with its competitor, and ever since then Facebook has been on the rise, while MySpace has experienced a dramatic fall from grace. In May 2011, Facebook garnered 157.2 million visitors, more than four times the size of Myspace (34.9 million visitors). Facebook now reaches 73% of the U.S. Internet population each month, while MySpace has lost nearly 50% of its audience in the last year alone.

It’s not just Facebook that’s doing well, though: LinkedIn, Tumblr and Twitter all hit record highs in May, 2011. LinkedIn now attracts 33.4 million U.S. visitors, more than Twitter’s 27 million and Tumblr’s 10.7 million. Tumblr is the fastest-growing of the three companies though, boasting 166% growth in the last year. LinkedIn’s U.S. audience rose by a strong 58% in the last twelve months.

The spotlight is shining bright on these companies, thanks to a string of successful IPOs. LinkedIn shares soared during its public offering, while Pandora upped its share price twice due to heightened demand. The light is brightest for Facebook though, which could be one of the largest IPOs in history. comScore’s data contradicts recent reports that Facebook’s growth is slowing down.

Are you surprised by comScore’s numbers? Do you think social network’s growth is sustainable? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

by: Ben Parr

 

9 Things You Need to Know About ICANN’s New Top Level Domains

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 6th, 2011

On Monday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), approved the creation of generic top-level domains(TLDs) for brands and organizations.

Historically, only 22 general use-approved TLDs, which include .com, .org, .net and a host of others, have existed across the web. A number of country code top-level domains (like .me and .ly) also exist and throughout the years, many individuals not from those countries have used those domains to give their domain or brand a more memorable (or in some cases, shorter) URL.

The promise of more generic TLDs is immense because it could conceivably open up new domain extensions and opportunities for a wider variety of brands, organizations and services.

 

SEE ALSO: How Big Is the Web & How Fast Is It Growing?

 

Still, the entire TLD process is complicated and difficult to understand. We’ve been sucked down the rabbit hole of ICANN and the gTLD application process in the past, and it isn’t something we recommend for the faint of heart.

We read (or at least skimmed) the 352-page draft New gTLD Applicant Guidebook [PDF] to get to the bottom of what the gTLD process is, how much it costs, and ultimately, why regular users should care.


1. How Many New TLDs Will Be Issued?


ICANN has said between 300 and 1,000 new gTLDs could be created per year under the new program.

Still, this number assumes ICANN can process and deal with that many applications in a timely matter. Thousands of applications could take years to evaluate and process.

ICANN says it is limiting the first batch to 500 applications and subsequent batches — or rounds — will be limited to 400 applications.


2. What Is the Application Period?


Applications will be accepted for new TLDs between January 12, 2012 and April 12, 2012. This will be for the first round — or batch. Subsequent application periods will become available in the future.


3. How Much Will Registration Cost?


The evaluation fee from prospective applicants is $185,000. According to the gTLD Applicant Guidebook, a $5,000 deposit is required “at the time the user requests an application slot within TAS, and a payment of the remaining $180,000 submitted with the full application.”

This is just to start the evaluation process. Additional fees may be required during the course of the application review process, and this fee doesn’t include additional infrastructure fees that a gTLD may generate.


4. How Long Will the Evaluation Process Take?


ICANN estimates that the evaluation process could be as short as nine months or as long as twenty months, depending on the application, intended usage and other issues.

ICANN expects the first new gTLDs to appear within the year, but it’s likely going to be 2013 before end users see the new domains in action.


5. What Happens if Two Entities Apply for the Same gTLD?


It depends on the timeline. If one of the users has already completed process before another party has applied, the TLD will be delegated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

If neither applicant has completed the process, ICANN has a more detailed resolution process in place. The applicants will be given points in four different categories. The applicant that amasses the most points, based on this set of criteria, will win the domain. In the even of a tie in points, an auction will take place and the TLD will go to the highest bidder.

Additionally, community-based applications (that is, applications from an organization or entity and not a specific brand or company) will have the opportunity to have a priority evaluation in this process.

ICANN will notify applicants who are part of a contention set. Applicants can decide to try to reach their own resolution together (for instance, a compromise might be able to be reached for a more generic TLD like “soda” or “pizza”).


6. What About Trademarks?


This is going to be a very, very tricky situation for ICANN to mitigate. Although users do not need to own a Trademark to apply for a new TLD, the evaluation review will take any existing trademarks (from all over the world) into account when looking at the application.

Users cannot “reserve” a TLD of a trademarked name, they must go through the same process as everyone else. In addition to checking for trademarked names for a TLD, ICANN will also look at similar names that may be trademarked or might be confusing.

Additionally, trademark owners or other interested parties can file an objection during the evaluation process.


7. How Much Does Filing an Objection Cost?


The Applicant Guidebook is still just a draft, so we don’t have the final figures; but it will cost the thousands of dollars to file an objection — not including any additional mediation or court costs.

One of the reasons that ICANN is charging so much for its evaluation fees is that it is doing lots of due diligence to try to settle the feasibility of a TLD before granting it to an organization. Moreover, ICANN wants to prevent domain squatters from grabbing TLDs.


8. If I Get a New TLD, Do I Have to Let My Competitors Use It?


Once a new TLD is granted, the owner essentially becomes a registrar. That means that if he or she wants to let anyone willing to pay a registration fee get their own domain on that TLD, they can. Alternatively, the owner could limit the use of the domain to certain entities or prevent people without certain qualifications from gaining access to the TLD.


9. Will This Have Any Real Impact on My Life as a Web User or a Brand?


Not in the immediate future. However, it’s important to remember that it took years for the current TLD structure to become a viable and affordable strategy for individuals and non-Fortune 100 companies.

Twenty years ago, it wasn’t common for brands, small businesses or individuals to have their own domains. Today, a staggering number of registrars exist. It took a long time for the TLD market as we know it today to really start to open up.

I bought my first domain name in 1999, I think I paid $45 for registration that first year. Prior to 1998 or so, domain registration was a multi-hundred or multi-thousand dollar investment. I now pay $8 or $9 for a .com or .net domain, and that includes private registration.

It will take time for the process and oversight aspect of the new gTLD policies to be worked out and automated. However, we expect that community-driven TLDs for things like .music, .sports and .film become more available in the future.

Yes, actually owning a customized TLD, like .google or .apple or .facebook might be something that only large corporations or government entities can afford to do, but with time, we expect that even that process will start to change, just as they did in the .com and .net space.

by: Christina Warren

Why Gift Cards Will Lead the Transition From Plastic to Digital

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
August 1st, 2011

Over the past several years, gift cards have become the most popular kind of gift. They are the most widely-used addressable person-to-person payment method, totaling $91 billion in sales during the 2010 holiday shopping season. We love them because of their convenience. And we hate them because they don’t truly feel personal.

The mobile digital device will help to wipe away this awkward paradox. The days of plastic-based payment and gift cards are numbered. The ability to make a payment or send a gift from any device, anytime, anywhere, in any amount, dramatically shifts the convenience paradigm. And the gift card’s shift from plastic to digital may pave the way for other forms of digital payment.

Here, we’ll take a look at the three major factors driving this shift.


1. Embracing Digital Gifting


The first is the exponential growth of businesses that are embracing digital gifting. They are doing so to extend their revenue streams and to differentiate themselves from their competitors. RSR Research reported in late 2010 that half of the top 100 Internet retailers now offer digital gift cards. In January, Starbucks estimated that digital gift cards would represent as much as 20% of its gift card business in the near future.

But there are hundreds of others shifting away from plastic as well — from global brand names to smaller regional and local retailers. According to Urban Wallace Associates, more than 6 million U.S. shoppers bought digital gift cards within the past 6 months — a 150% increase since last measured three years ago.


2. Virtual Goods


The second key trend is increased purchasing and gifting of “virtual goods.” This market — already nearly $2 billion in the U.S., according to Inside Network Research — has millions of fans who love to buy and give gifts like virtual cakes, clothing, badges and FarmVille goods.

The next logical extension is for consumers to give digital gift cards that can actually be used to buy real stuff. Facebook already sells its credits as gift cards in retail stores. As the popularity of Zynga, Facebook and digital gift card currencies grow, they may well become major payment modes in both the virtual and physical worlds.


3. Personalization


The third major trend is personalization. The digital age not only enables it but stimulates it. Plastic is a form factor that knows nothing about you, nor can it easily express your personal gifting sentiments. Digital gifting is radically different. The Home Depot eGifting program, for example, enables consumers to upload not only photos but can now also capture live video on its digital gift cards.

Mobile apps are proliferating to support creative and new forms of retail promotion and value. Digital forms of stored value offer new experiences and opportunities never before possible with plastic. Three examples illustrate how versatile and pervasive the post-plastic era is becoming. These include:

  • Starbucks Foursquare checkin: To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Starbucks gave the first 600 customers to “check in” an instantly redeemable mobile gift card.
  • IntoNow: This social TV companion app partnered with Pepsi to give users instant digital gift cards for watching certain TV ads.
  • Chase GiftShelf: Chase’s iPhone app lets you redeem credit card points on the go for digital gift cards at Gap, Chili’s, Papa John’s, The Container Store and a dozen other retailers.

Conclusion


These developments provide only a glimpse of what is possible in the post-plastic card era. Digital gifting and payments are creating new possibilities of “instancy.” If you forgot to bring your nephew a present, you can order him a digital gift card for his birthday as you’re walking toward his house. Or you can send your niece one via Facebook and personalize it with a photo or short video telling her how proud you are of her.

It is no longer a question of “if” but rather of “how fast.” Market interest is clearly there. Starbucks’ new mobile card, for example, has already generated more than 3 million transactions, proving that mobile payments using digitally stored value can work.

Skeptics remain, but they’re of the same mind as those who said people would never prefer credit cards over cash. People, however, love convenience and immediacy. In 1975, one of the major credit card companies made a name for itself with the tagline “Don’t leave home without it.” Today, you will never have to leave home without a means of paying digitally. Those in the market who support that transition will be the winners.

3 Important E-Commerce Principles for Small Business

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 31st, 2011

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

It’s no secret that the internet can enable small business to compete on an equal playing field with larger online competitors; however, due to budget differences between the two the approach might be a bit different.

The current economy has made some small business owners shy away from internet marketing thinking it “simply costs too much to operate online.” This misconception is one that has caused many ecommerce businesses to close their doors during the past year or so.

The fact is that operating an ecommerce business online can actually be more profitable than operating the same retail business offline — but you must make sure you adhere to a few fundamental principles to make it work.

  1. Create ICE (Investment, Credibility, Exposure): Invest in your website design ensuring it speaks to your customers in their language and with a professional image. Talk about the benefits your products have for them rather than about yourself. Site design and functionality is important as it helps build credibility. Gain exposure for your products using a combination of online marketing channels such as SEO, Paid Search (PPC), and Social Media (great viral effect). The combination of marketing channels ensures that if one channel’s effectiveness temporarily lags the rest can help pick up the slack.
  2. Don’t Quit: Whatever you do, don’t stop marketing or promotions — doing this is a sure way to lose market share and sales. It may be tempting especially during tough economic times such as these, but refrain from doing it. Some of the most successful companies online actually increase their marketing spend during economic downturns. A previous article I wrote titled Ecommerce Survival in a Tough Economy – 6 Tips goes into that a bit more. If you think you do not have the funds to invest in marketing you need to consider enlisting the help of an expert who can ensure your marketing dollars provide you a proper rate of return and/or look carefully at your business model and product you are offering. Marketing should be an asset to a company not a liability. Proper marketing almost always drives sales.
  3. Instill Trust: I’ve asked this question before; “What is the one word that makes people buy?” The answer is trust. If you want to compete with the big guys then you need to ensure your approach always builds customer trust. Things like site design, use and appearance of security seals, and customer points of assurance go a long way toward building trust. If you can’t build trust you won’t build sales. It doesn’t matter whether a product or service is priced lower than the competition, if potential customers are uncertain about the quality of their purchase — or the companies behind them — they simply won’t buy.

Why Your Business NEEDS A Facebook Fan Page

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 7th, 2011

Regardless of what your business engages in, either a service or product, it’s a great idea to have an established Facebook fan page.  It all starts with how YOU network through Facebook. Why is having a Facebook fan page important? I’d say at this point, you should really focus more on a Facebook fan page than a Twitter account. Facebook is the largest social network in the world! As the internet becomes more social and Facebook becomes the largest portal on the web, you want your business to have a presence.

I have seen just about every small to large business owners have a fan page online, from local pest control companies to very large online retailers pushing product and branding through Facebook fan pages. The trick, or strategy I should say is establishing a base to then let your fans do the work for you. I think and believe the main reason and objective for a Facebook fan page is to have much better engagement with consumers and in a way, become a more transparent company. In this day in age in media, social media plays a huge role. Companies nationwide and even world-wide are putting more and more resources into the web and the social web(Facebook Ads, etc.)

A Facebook page can create lots of credibility not only with your existing customers but with new customers who are really looking and thinking about why they should trust your company and if its safe to do an online transaction (if you’re an e-retailer.) Let’s not forget, YES, e-commerce grows year after year (except 2009 I believe it was stable) but as e-commerce grows, so does online fraud (identity theft online) and users are becoming more and more weary of this issue. It’s very important and something you have to work on daily to make each visitor feel it is safe to purchase from your website. These portals, such as Facebook and Twitter allow for this because they know once you “screw” them, if ever, they can go right to those portals and announce it to the world.

Once your Facebook page has taken off, it can literally be one of your top resources for traffic and sales. The key to your facebook page taking off is LETTING YOUR FANS AND FRIENDS DO THE WORK FOR YOU AND BEING ACTIVE ON A DAILY BASIS promoting sales, specials, news, and whatever you can do to engage the user and keep brand awareness on a daily basis.

For SEO reasons, your Facebook Fan Page can be a big factor in the SERPs as you can rank really well for your company name (besides your website) for reputation management reasons. Make sure you have a vanity URL to go along with your facebook fan page, i.e. facebook.com/companyname. This can play a big role if you’re trying to push a site out of ranking for any particular reason as this one page can rank really well with Facebooks authority with Google.

By: Pablo Palatnik

HOW TO: Start Marketing on Facebook

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
July 4th, 2011

It’s no secret: U.S. consumers continue to spend increasing amounts of time on Facebook. Consequently, marketers — lured by Facebook’s suite of highly targeted marketing products and the site’s smooth ability to spread information across networks of friends — are investing increasing amounts of capital in the platform.

Facebook‘s proposition is especially attractive to small business owners, and not just because it enables them to hone in on potential customers through highly targeted, paid advertisements. Facebook also allows them to grow their business in a way that is familiar to many of them — through word-of-mouth marketing.

“Ask [small business owners] how they get customers, and they’ll tell you that someone walks in, has a great experience, walks out and tells a couple of their friends,” says Emily White, senior director of local at Facebook. “Now, that word-of-mouth marketing model is happening online, and Facebook is enabling to happen that at scale. Now [small business owners] aren’t just reaching a few customers’ friends, but all of their friends, mimicking these long-term behaviors in a way that small businesses can actually control,” she explains.

With these ideas in mind, we’ve compiled this six-step guide for getting started on Facebook.


1. Set Up Your Facebook Page


 

 

 

 

Setting up a public Page for your small business is as simple as visiting facebook.com/pages/create.php, selecting a category that describes your business and filling out a few basic details, such as the name of your business and, if applicable, its address.

Facebook will then send you to a template of your Page, which you can spruce up with a profile photo, further details such as hours (see Info tab on left-hand sidebar). You can also identify additional Page administrations (see Info > Manage Admins), add more multimedia and events (Info > Apps) and adjust the settings to control how users can contribute to your Page (Info > Manage Permissions).

 

 

 

 

It’s also a good time to post your first status update welcoming fans to your Page. You can share your updates with everyone, or target by location or language — a great option if you run a business in multiple locations.

 

 

 

 


2. Invite Your Friends


 

 

 

 

After your Page is set up, you’ll want to invite your friends to “like” your Page. Once you’ve amassed 25 fans, you’ll be able to set up a vanity URL, e.g. facebook.com/mashable.

Go to the Username page, select the Page name from the dropdown menu and then write in the name you’d like to use. Keep in mind that you can’t change the URL for a Page once you confirm.


3. Customize Your Page


 

 

 

 

There a number of apps to help you customize your page beyond the standard layout, which can be found in the Applications Directory.

There, you’ll find apps that will let you create polls, add more content to your Info tab, offer coupons, showcase your YouTube videos and more.


4. Convert Your Existing Customers Into Likes


Once you’re feeling confident about the look of your Page, your next step, Buddy Media CEO Michael Lazerow suggests, is to leverage all of your owned media assets — your mailing list, e-mail newsletter and signature, store window, website, business cards, etc. — to grow your fan base. Let them know you’re there, and provide an immediate incentive for them to connect, such as a discount or giveaway.

“This will increase your conversions significantly,” Lazerow says. “Since your Page is a ghost town at this point, you need to give people an incentive to connect at the onset. The best way to do that is to give them a ‘thank you.’”


5. Engage


 

 

 

 

As you build up your fan base, you’ll want to provide a stream of interesting content that will entertain and engage your fans.

Anna Strahs, the owner of a gluten-free bakery in Richmond, VA, attributes half of her business to Facebook. She says she keeps fans coming back for more by posting pictures of the items she’s baked that day.

“When we post pictures of specific items, we immediately get orders for those items,” she says — and it’s no wonder, because they look delicious. Strahs says she will also post little quizzes in exchange for free baked goods, which winners can pick up at one of two farmers market locations two days each week.

Her advice? Post often and make the posts count. She emphasizes that beautiful images with contextual captions go a long way. “The whole point is to get people to comment and interact with your Page so it shows up in others’ newsfeeds,” she explains.

It’s also important to keep content fresh, update in an authentic voice and to evolve your Facebook strategy over time.

Remember to keep track of analytics on your Insights page to see what kinds of posts performance best in terms of engagement. And seek feedback directly from your fans. Are you posting too little or too often? What kinds of things would they like to see?

 

 

 

 


6. Advertise


Once you’ve converted most of your existing customer base into Facebook fans, you’ll want to start reaching others through targeted Facebook ads, which is still the most effective method for increasing your number of “likes,” says Maureen Mullen, chief researcher at luxury think tank L2.

You can target users in your immediate area by gender, age, alma mater, employer, and even those who “like” your competition. You could also target users on their birthdays, offering them a free ice cream cone, for instance, if they stop by your store that day. You can also target existing fans with coupons and other incentives to encourage them to stop by your retail location or place an order.

Facebook also has a Sponsored Stories product that enables you to reach the friends of your current fans. In your advertisement, a user will see that one of their friends has endorsed your company, essentially enabling a fan to market on your behalf.

Static vs Dynamic Websites

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 27th, 2011

What is a static website? What is a dynamic website? 
What kind of website do I need?

A static website is one that seldom or never changes.  This means that once the site is designed and uploaded to a location on the Internet it is considered complete and not updated very often (other than annual or semi-annual maintenance). A viewer sees the exact same thing every time they go to the website.

While this may sound boring, static websites can be made more interesting through the use of slide shows, email forms, rollover buttons and programming such as Javascripts. Think of a static website as an online brochure.

A dynamic website's content is regenerated every time a user visits or reloads the site. The owner, viewer or automated programming can change the content constantly. This is done through the use of one or several databases located on the website hosting server.

Database driven websites are used for interactive websites such as online sales, blogs/message boards and sites that contain large amounts of information.  The data (or content) of a webpage is stored in the database and is retrieved when the viewer clicks on a specially programmed button or link.

An example of dynamic information is shown below. While this example is rather simple, dynamic sites can be very sophisticated and provide viewers with tremendous amounts of information with just a few mouse clicks.

There are many static websites on the Internet, you won’t be able to tell immediately if it is static, but the chances are, if the site looks basic and is for a smaller company, and simply delivers information without any bells and whistles, it could be a static website. Static websites can only really be updated by someone with a knowledge of website development. Static websites are the cheapest to develop and host, and many smaller companies still use these to get a web presence.

Advantages of static websites

  • Quick to develop
  • Cheap to develop
  • Cheap to host

Disadvantages of static websites

  • Requires web development expertise to update site
  • Site not as useful for the user
  • Content can get stagnant

Dynamic sites on the other hand can be more expensive to develop initially, but the advantages are numerous. At a basic level, a dynamic website can give the website owner the ability to simply update and add new content to the site. For example, news and events could be posted to the site through a simple browser interface. Dynamic features of a site are only limited by imagination. Some examples of dynamic website features could be: content management system, e-commerce system, bulletin / discussion boards, intranet or extranet facilities, ability for clients or users to upload documents, ability for administrators or users to create content or add information to a site (dynamic publishing).

Advantages of dynamic websites

  • Much more functional website
  • Much easier to update
  • New content brings people back to the site and helps in the search engines
  • Can work as a system to allow staff or users to collaborate

Disadvantages of dynamic websites

  • Slower / more expensive to develop
  • Hosting costs a little more

Summary

Many sites from the last decade are static, but more and more people are realising the advantages of having a dynamic website. Dynamic websites can make the most of your site and either use it as a tool or create a professional, interesting experience for your visitors.

This article aimed to tackle some of the questions faced by website owners. 

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

Why E-Commerce is Important For Small Business

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 20th, 2011

For the sake of the economy and the individuals involved, huge numbers of new small businesses are forming in hopes of making a positive impact to the community. In order to make that positive impact, you need to make sure that your small business is up-to-date and following the latest trends. When it comes to small businesses, current trends refer directly to e-commerce. Here are four major reasons why implementing e-commerce should be one of the top priorities in building any small business.

Internet is so Mainstream these Days

Just about every household in the US has at least a computer, laptop, or mobile device that can access the Internet and people worldwide are getting into it as well. With the introduction to social networking sites and online shopping, the Internet became a part of their daily lives conveniently getting work done.

Most Modern Businesses are Doing It

As a result of all the popularity the Internet has cultivated, it is a no-brainer for existing small businesses to jump on the electronic bandwagon and start doing transactions online. Most modern businesses do it primarily for convenience and also for security.

You need to get into it as well, not only because they are doing it, but also to stay competitive with any other small businesses offering similar products and services. E-commerce competition involves the innovative use of website design and creative development to give customers and visitors a seamless experience. It also adds brand awareness exposing your site to people that most frequently go online.

Reduces Workload

Ever since computers were introduced, processing of data has become faster and more accurate than ever before. Now E-commerce helps connect businesses and consumers closer than ever before. A lot of the tedious tasks such as calling for transactions and utilising e-mail are reduced here because the e-commerce systems handle the processing for you. The only work that is required is actually getting the e-commerce site up. This process is only done once so there is a lot of relief after the e-commerce site is finished. After that, it is all about getting the right people to use the system which should be easy and maintaining it to ensure the entire business is functional.

Necessary Step in Making the Small Business Grow Further

Once you already have an e-commerce site, the only direction you can go from here is upward. You will find more transactions to be done because of the ease in getting things done online and that very success can motivate you or any webmaster to improve the e-commerce experience and fill in any weaknesses discovered. Small businesses can grow into larger businesses in the same way as e-commerce sites becoming much larger and more feature rich.

E-commerce sites are an absolute necessity for any small business no matter what is being dealt. After efforts in marketing the e-commerce site, profits are sure to be made and further development can be planned from there. As long as there is maintenance involved, the e-commerce site should help the small business in every possible way.

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

Convert Boring Old Websites to one's that are Exciting and New

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 13th, 2011

Just about every web user has experienced landing on a website that just looks old.  Normally a quick scroll to the bottom of the page confirms the site copyright is from 2007 or worse.  To today’s web surfer, this two to three year old site may as well be a hundred years old.

If you were having guests for dinner, would you serve them two year-old leftovers.  Obviously not.  Why then are so many websites serving up two year-old content?  Two of the biggest reasons are:  First, it used to be enough just to have a website and a static site was fine.  Second, adding content was difficult and could be expensive.

Content Management Systems to the Rescue
Because of the rapid increase in social media applications such as blogging and sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Myspace, website visitors expect something more than three year old content.  They expect to see fresh relevant content, to be able to create content and form communities.

Six Ways to improve your Website

  1. Add a blog.  Blogs are one of the easiest ways to generate new, relevant content and establish the website owners expertise.  Furthermore, comments provide interactivity.
  2. Convert the current static design into a Content Management System (CMS).  Converting to a CMS will make adding new content as easy as writing an email.
  3. Web users today want to build communities and collaborate with other users.
  4. Add Twitter and Facebook feeds. Social media is here to stay and is a great business tool. As was the case with websites several years ago, customers are beginning to expect that your web presence extend beyond your website. Twitter and Facebook are great ways to interact with your current and future customers.
  5. Add a shopping cart. If you sell products that could be ordered online, but don’t offer this service, expect to see reduced revenue. Add a shopping cart and allow your customers to buy your products at exactly when they want too.
  6. Add relevant content feeds from other sources. The web is now a huge content generating machine. So you don’t have to create all the content. Find reputable experts in your industry and feature their blog postings on your site.

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

3 Reasons why Twitter is important for business

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 6th, 2011

Twitter is used by millions of people each day who share, connect, promote and brand their business image. If you, like them are still not convinced, here are 3 reasons why Twitter is important for your business. 

Connect
Imagine having a captive audience waiting for your information every minute of the day. By positioning yourself as an industry expert, you can grow a small community of followers who will have a direct connection to you and who recognize your name and business brand! You can also barter, search for independent contractors or find employees. Twitter provides a great platform to connect with the right people to fit your business needs. 

In addition, this is great way for existing customers to provide feedback. 

By connecting with similar companies will enable the sharing of idea, best practices and opportunity to gain insight on improving your business. 

Market
Most small businesses have a very small marketing budget which results in continuously looking for low cost and innovative ways to leverage their products or services. Twitter is a free social network that can be a rewarding marketing tool for your business. A few examples: 

  • Your message will appear across the Twitter board over and over by your followers who will retweet your message to their followers. Can we say ‘viral?’
  • Stay abreast of industry trends to market effectively to potential customers.
  • Publish your Twitter handle on all email newsletters, direct mailings, on your Web site and all other marketing channels.
  • Promote your latest blog posts and newsletters

Still having doubts? Well, let’s say you manage an online specialty athletic shop. You can:

Sales
Increasing your sales and profit margins are imperative for success and a matter of survival. By using twitter to announce upcoming sales or events, you will drive potential customers to your website or physical location. For example, I assisted a client who owns a Mexican Restaurant, with setting up her Twitter and Face book Fan page. Every day, she posts daily lunch specials. Last year, she reported a 9% increase in sales from travelers who used social media to find a local restaurant. 

The point is, with little effort and signing up for Twitter’s free social network, you can drive prospects to you by sharing relevant information about your business. 

YouTube: Two Days’ Worth of Video Uploaded Every Minute

by Fernando Maxilian

Ventura County Now Staff
June 1st, 2011

More than 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

The video-sharing site reports a 37% increase in video uploaded per minute in the past six months and a 100% increase from last year. This is likely due in no small part to increased upload timesand the recent expansion of YouTube’s live streaming platform.

YouTube also passed 3 billion views in one day — a 50% increase compared to last year — over this past weekend.

YouTube announced these stats in a blog post Wednesday celebrating its sixth birthday (apparently a belated birthday, as most people consider it to have been born in February). We’re interested to see what these stats look like on YouTube’s seventh birthday, with the addition of the site’s expanded movie rental service and more sophisticated partner programs.

When a business creates a new professional video they almost put themselves in a new type of bucket from the standpoint of their audience. Branding increase and credibility is often times instilled into your website visitors. Online video marketing is a young approach but reaps many benefits if approached correctly. Take the time to figure out exactly how to incorporate a little bit of video into your business model.

If your business needs help with any of these needs please contact us today. Ventura County Now is a co-op of local businesses: web design, video production, photography, seo, programming, and marketing. Our services are designed to fit any business owners budget. We take the guess work out of the web and are here to build for you.

Give us a call today 855-826-2999.

5 Fatal Mistakes That Hold Back Start-up Business Owners

by Ventura County Now

May 9th, 2011

The definition of a sale is when preparation and opportunity meet on the same day. In business, it helps to understand that customers are working to minimize risk when they enter into contracts with small businesses.  Some small business owners often loose opportunities because of bad habits and not recognizing that certain things must be in place before they start marketing their products and services.  These issues speak directly to trust and credibility for a business owner.

Here are the top five mistakes that hold back start-up entrepreneurs:

1) Not Appreciating Social Intelligence

This is the mistake that small business owners make the most.  Having proper social skills and being in tune with your surroundings will take you a long way in business.

Here are some examples of poor social intelligence:

  • Do you have a tendency to talk too much at networking events, or worse, share too much personal information? No one except the banquet manager cares about how hard it was to find a parking space. Keep your networking chat smart.
  • Are you dressed like someone that has an executive presence? Or, like you should be serving the meal at the event. Everyone should have signature colors and at least three killer outfits. Men, the tie color and the shoes are very important.
  • Do you have a strong elevator pitch or do people need to ask you questions to help you define what you do? Great elevator pitches hit on three key things: explain the type of business, explain the target customer and close with a question.
  • Do you appropriately follow-up new leads and contacts or are you a stalker?  Be smart with follow-up. You can send an email, personal note and make a phone call within three months of meeting a contact unless instructed otherwise. Calling every week will not bring opportunity to your business.

2) Have a Professional Business Website

It’s surprising to me how many business owners still do not have a website.  I can’t remember the last time I used a paper directory or phone book to find a vendor. Many people will perform an internet search before they ever call you, so if your customers can’t find you online, you are missing out on opportunities. Nowadays, pulling together a business website is much easier.  Have an idea of what you want, and if you plan on incorporating a blog I strongly suggest you start writing blog posts at least three months prior to the launch of your website, so that you do not get backed-up trying to develop content once your business starts rolling.

 

3) Make Sure Your Email Address is Branded With Your Company Name and That the Email Address Works

I love my gmail account too, but that’s not the one I use for customer contact. Your emails should come from a branded account that promotes your business.

4) Not Investing in Your Brand

Yes, all of you out there using business cards that you can get for free online are really hurting your business brand.  Invest in a professional logo and a two color business card. Do not hand out business cards that have it printed on the back that they were free.  That tells a prospective customer that you are not serious about your business.

5) Have a Real Phone Number for Your Business

Your small business should have a dedicated phone line with voicemail.  Do not use your cell phone as your main business line.  You’ll never to do business with a major corporation with that as your brand image.  Also, please do not use those answering machines that come with the phone. No matter what you do, the message will never sound professional.

 

By Melinda Emerson