Collaboration Tips: Video

Everyday I get up and wonder "what can I do for my clients and community today?". But first, I start out with a coffee from one of our local shops and I greet the barista with "it's another day in paradise". Once the morning routine, emails and updates are done, I start searching for relevant content that's a fit for my clients.

One of my oldest and most active clients is Idaho River Sports. When I start looking for content I do a search by keyword looking for content. For this blog installment I will talk about how great video finds worked for them.

Videos Engagement

There are so many great videos available that can enhance how people see you. It isn't always about a direct relationship too. By posting a really good video about Boise and tagging it correctly, I attract the attention of a large pool of potential customers, the media and others. Here is a great example of a find that led to dozens of contacts, additional content like still photos (with permission), and Idaho River Sports got terrific feedback!

Art of Visuals was, to my surprise, a local visual arts resource company with an international reputation. I had never heard of them until we started casting about looking for people to document the new Esther Simplot Park. As we began to put information out to the public we stated seeing a few fun aerial videos hitting Vimeo and YouTube. We started posting a few of the better ones and started getting interest from professionals. They shared our altruistic motivation to do something beautiful. We offered to facilitate and as you would expect we also go permission to reuse all or part with attribution.  

Reminder! Always ask permission and offer to attribute the work to the creator. To see how the video worked on the Idaho River Sports website click here!

And when it came to finding the "community video gem", after a while it was really apparent that plenty of people love the Boise market as much as we do!  During the summer the staff at Idaho River Sports swells. Many of the summer staff are students and one of our favorite summer team members had been bitten by the aerial video production bug. With very little encouragement, Connor Bunderson put his talents to work and spent hours working on the video below for a store credit. The bonus for him was the addition to his resume working as a marketing intern at Idaho River Sports.

By being creative in how you connect with the community, opportunities to impress and engage will present themselves in many ways. Just allow people to do their thing and be supportive. 

For more about community-based marketing, feel free to contact me!

RocketCart 15 Years Later

In early 2002 iPlan (my original venture) began working on tools that were, up to that point, out of the reach of the everyday business owners looking for ways to establish themselves online. The two systems were named WebAdmin and RocketCart. Both were designed and developed locally and were revolutionary options for small businesses. 

The original RocketCart logo design by Dave Green in 2002

The original RocketCart logo design by Dave Green in 2002

Our 2003 RocketCart promo material said:

"RocketCart is a revolutionary online shopping tool that gives developers and online storeowners greater flexibility and total portability... freedom."

Then, as now, the ultimate objective of any great online retail environment is to produce the best user experience possible. At that time there are no “formula” or template-based web sites that met the needs of a specific audience or could reflect a unique small business culture. The most successful sites were designed with a specific audience in mind and had to work hard to deliver on user expectations.

"RocketCart is an innovative shopping system designed to give the merchant and developer complete freedom to move, host, and customize their shopping environment when and how it needs to be done." 

RocketCart included the "features of leading shopping cart systems without the built-in dependence on a hosting provider who supplies server-side components that "marry" your data, design and business to their proprietary system or tools." This is still true today. 

We are working our successor business partner Mike Tayler of CustomNet Concepts on continuing the viability and life of RocketCart. It is, afterall, my baby these many years on.

For more information about RocketCart, WebAdmin or any of the other great North End Creative supported online platforms, please feel free to contact us!

A Curiosity Tale

Identify the role of curiosity and feed it!

Curiouser and curiouser…. It’s not just Alice getting curious in Wonderland. Today’s online and offline consumers are also curious. Consumers are naturally inquisitive and their curiosity drives how they behave. Thier curiosity represents a great but complex opportunity for businesses to understand, influence and engage with their customers. 

As long ago as 1979, the Marketing Science Institute suggested that "generating curiosity increased consumer motivation, boosted brand awareness and led to an increased desire to get more information". What makes customer curiosity even more important today is the myriad of tools we now have available to us to turn curiosity into customer commitment and influence the "customer journey".

Technology has made it easier for consumers to feed their curiosity. As an example, last year there were over 140 Billion searches made with Google alone. And it is clear consumers feel curiosity can be rewarding.  Plus we are able to "drill down" into massive data sources to understand what consumers are looking for in the most minute detail.  Because of these factors there are growing opportunities for real marketing innovation. 

The internet offers consumers access to almost unlimited information sources – and with over 60% of smartphone users using their mobile to access the internet, they can be curious anytime and anywhere. At the same time "messaging" is far past the days of email alone. There is an entire social landscape with on demand updates and insights. With ‘big data’ we can see, follow and measure consumers and observe exactly how curiosity drives their behavior at any time from anywhere.

By using killer insights to help inform your online marketing activity – from the level of consumer curiosity in a category and brand market share of curiosity, to what stimulates curiosity and where, we're no longer restricted to tracking consumer activity with data we own – we can track them almost anywhere.

Unlike the traditional linear customer "journey" that takes a customer from the point of seeing an ad through to purchase and then to track their "customer loyalty", we need to track multiple touch points and understand the emotions involved. Curiosity is much more complex. By understanding how someone feeds their curiosity and where they look for content, we can offer them what they need to take them to the next level. It can be as simple as using an ALT tag that says "Click to see more". 

This could be videos, websites, social media, blogs and search right through to price comparison websites and even live chat. As "directed curiosity" kicks in for what customers want, they can be encouraged to become advocates and help in other’s curiosity through product reviews while retaining their own curiosity through loyalty programs and exclusive opportunities.

Be ever mindful that honesty must be central to developing customer curiosity. Customers questions must be answered honestly and feedback, whether good or bad, should be encouraged. Some brands struggle with the idea of openness – especially if it means bad things might be written about them. But isn't it much better to know if a customer is unhappy so you can make it right?  It’s a proven fact a complainer whose problem is handled well is much more likely to become and advocate for your business.

Curiosity in Action

If the predictions are correct, more and more brands will be focusing on customer curiosity and investigating how to adjust marketing strategy to grow and fulfill the consumers’ inquisitive demands. No longer will it be important to be concerned with brand awareness alone. We will need to know the level at which a brand is stimulating curiosity. Be aware of the unprecedented level of savvy and constant desire to know what’s trending.

Take advantage of the available knowledge of where and how to find what they want. Businesses that ignore the power of curiosity are going to get left behind.

Inspiration and reference material provided by Gavin Wheeler is CEO of WDMP.

Top of Mind Services

With nearly 40 years of technology experience under my belt, and half of that as an independent consultant, designer and developer, few things become more clear than how limited our capacity to handle technical issues on a day to day basis is. What isn't always obvious is the amount of time needed to keep abreast of what is happening to the current quiver of technology much less the new technology that is emerging on an almost weekly basis.

There are basic aspects in all information technology. Database, programming language, network and project management techniques are bedrock theoreticals that allow a professional to grasp evolving tools and applications quickly. While there are lots of experts in specific tools, there are few expert "generalists" who understand the fundamentals completely. "Being there" has  alot to do with experience over what is referred to as second-hand knowledge.

On top of the experience a consultant brings to the table is customer knowledge. Customers are unique to their unique industries and disciplines. It has been my experience that clients, who have it together, understand that their "unique selling proposition" must be backed up by a learning cultural, special industry expertise and a uniqueness about the way they interact with their customers. And today, that begins and ends with what they do online... from their website to their social media presence and email communication, they interact uniquely with each of their customers. 

 The 80/20 Rule

"Entrepreneurs don't realize the same 80/20 principle -- the adage that 20 percent of customers equal 80 percent of sales -- applies to every dimension of business. And that includes time management.

We entrepreneurs are extremely prone to rationalize, "I can do it myself." Then we spend six hours trying to extract a virus from our computer or fix a leaky faucet."

Peter Marshall - Author of 80/20 Sale and Marketing

The Top of Mind infographic I've created implements the ideas behind the "80/20 Rule" and applies it to how we think, what is our capacity to provide excellent service and so on. In this case, it is all about why North End Creative was started and why I've moved from general web design and support to consulting and creative services in a small business agency format.

If you'd like to discuss the 80/20 Rule or Top of Mind Services, feel free to email me at info@northendcreative.com to schedule a call. Thanks, and happy learning. 

Copyright 2016 - Dave Green and North End Creative 


Create Holiday Karma!

Even if you don’t have the budget to build a school for underprivileged kids in South Africa like Oprah, there are still plenty of team-building ways for you and your business to give back in small ways this holiday season. Here are some ideas for inspiration:

1. Organize a coat drive. Becoming the host of a neighborhood coat drive won’t just earn you good karma — you’ll also foster a sense of community surrounding your business. Reach out to other local store owners and invite them to participate. 

Organizations like One Warm Coat make the process extraordinarily simple by breaking the setup process down into three easy steps. They provide free promotional tools to organizers and links to local non-profits to partner with.

2. Spare some change. Encourage your customers to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar, and agree to match whatever they donate to your favorite cause. 

Every one of our customers has a favorite non-profit, but if you're new to the idea, check out a statewide non-profit network for some ideas for who can benefit from even the smallest contributions.

3. Get crafty. Invite your employees and loyal customers to a wreath-decorating party, then bring the finished decorations over to a local homeless or veterans shelter or assisted living facility. 

4. Sing! Spread some holiday cheer and join your team on a neighborhood caroling adventure. You don’t need to be Celine Dion or Bruce Springsteen to shout out some basic tunes. Add mulled cider and hot chocolate for some warm wintry fun.

5. Volunteer at a food pantry. As the holidays draw closer, give your employees a “day off” and have them join you at a local food bank. You’ll be amazed to see the effect that group volunteer work has on company morale. The nonprofit hunger relief organization Feeding America lets you search for a local food bank in your area.

Never under estimate the power of good a small business can create!  And be sure to add whatever you decide to do to your website as a news release or an event, and leverage social media to spread goodwill.

Contributions for this article came from OnTapp

The Marketing Campaign

Definition: A specific, defined series of activities used in marketing a new or changed product or service, or in using new marketing channels and methods .

Effective marketing is often what separates rapidly growing companies from slow-growing or stalled companies that started at the same time, serve the same market and offer similar merchandise. Companies such as Gillette, Frito-Lay and Coca-Cola have succeeded in highly competitive mass markets for consumer goods because, while they certainly produce competitive products, they out-market their rivals. If you expect your business to grow to any size, you'll have to become an effective marketer, advertiser and promoter of your business. In fact, you're likely to grow to the extent that you master marketing, and no more

A marketing campaign isn't something that comes to you while you're taking a shower or reading a blog like this :-) Successful campaigns tend to be carefully researched, well thought-out and focused on details and execution, rather than resting on a single, grand idea. Planning a marketing campaign starts with understanding your position in the marketplace and ends with details such as the wording of advertisements for print, web and social media.

Keep in mind that your plan for a marketing campaign is not supposed to be a prison. You have to leave room to make changes as you go along because no plan can perfectly capture reality and your message may sharpen as time goes by. But you should be able to commit fully to implementing your plan, or some future version of it, f you want to take a strong step toward growing your business and solidifying your online and offline image.

Here are some ways to launch your campaign:

Speak at community events. Offering your expertise at public occasions is an easy way to get the word out about your business. You'll maximize your impact and lend credibility to your product or service. If you're unsure about public speaking, collaborate with an advisor or even an intern and let them take the lead using you and your business as their case study. 

Ask customers for referrals. Generating referrals from current customers is one of the best ways to market your business. Don't forget to query your vendors (they're likely to have many contacts) and explain to your customers exactly what kinds of referrals you're looking for and how they can help. One great way to communicate this to your customers is via email marketing and social media. 

Spend two days in your customers' shoes. To find out what your customers really want, visit a wide range of businesses they're likely to frequent. Observe how customers are treated, as well as the kinds of services that appear important to them; then adapt your business accordingly.

Offer free samples. If you can get someone to try your product or service, chances are they'll buy it later. Have employees pass out product samples in front of your business; if you provide a service, offer free services on a trial basis. 

Ask for help. Whether you talk to a professional or confidant, it is important to test your ideas and apply feedback to your campaign ideas. Listen to your employees and vendors for openings that can lead to collaboration. Build on your existing relationships to foster new opportunities and always, always give yourself enough time for the creative process to unfold. 

Acknowledgments - Entrepreneur Magazine and SBA for ideas and content.

 

Keep a Sharp Hoe

Steps for Garden Tool Care
(and for working online)

The process of caring for a website, much like your garden, starts with having the right tools. And keeping your tools ready, and knowing how to use them is an important part of the process!

hoe_tall.jpg

Examine Your Tools: Spring is the time to take a look at all your pruning tools to see if you practiced good garden tool care.

It's a good idea to understand what tools you have or need. What tools you have or need and how you use them will say a lot about how well the work you do turns out! Learn your photo editing software to get the best results when using images for your website, be careful cutting and pasting content, and always pay attention to your keyword selections when writing.

Sharpening your Tools: Lock in vice and use a mill file along the edge of the blade toward the shovel's point. Remove burrs on the back side of the blade with sandpaper. 

Practice using your website and the tools you use to create images, content and the make sure to track your results. Sharpening your skills will help you work quickly and effectively. One of my favorite tools for knowing how to create content for the web and social media is Goerge Orwell's Rules for Writing. Check out this great discussion at The Economist.

Cleaning: Start by cleaning the metal parts of your tools. Use a wire brush or wire-steel pad attached to a power drill.

Go through your website and update content, especially any external links you are using. When links lead to 'page not found' or 404 errors, or if external images aren't appearing, it makes your website less appealing and authentic. 

Preserve your Tools: Lightly coat the blade with machine oil. Apply several light coats of linseed oil to the handle if it's made of wood. 

Keeping your tools up to date is almost as important as updating your website. If your software, or your analytics or social widgets are out of date they'll quit working.

Scrub and Scrape Tools: After each use but before putting away cultivators, shovels, and rakes, remove all dirt and debris for the best garden tool care. 

Keep track of what you do. It seems like a pain to track the dates when you create content, but it may be important later when someone depends on it for a purchasing decision. And try to limit the number of versions of images and content! If you aren't careful, you could end up with the same image stored several times, which will lead to confusion about which one is "right".

Organize Tools: Storage is part of good garden tool care. Hang long-handle tools on wall organizers or hooks to keep the tools from colliding or becoming entangled. 

Stay organized. Keep your images, content and forms in folders on your computer in a way that makes sense to you. Being able to find what you're looking for will reduce the amount of time it takes to get things done.... think about it, how many times do you get asked for your logo and then have to spend hours looking for the most recent version!

A large part of what we do for our clients is help them stay organized. With over 100 active clients at any given time, hundreds of folders containing thousands of images and articles, we know the value of staying organized. This helps us, but it really helps you when we can find, modify and act on requests quickly and effectively. It saves you those precious commodities - time and money.

Dave (info@northendcreative.com)

Social Media Do's & Don'ts

Courtesy: Columbia University's IT Department

Social Networking and Social Media platforms are an increasingly entwined part of our everyday lives. We use them to communicate with friends and family all over the globe, to chat with friends down the hall to decide where to eat, to network for jobs, and to connect with others with similar interests. However, much like any other part of the internet, social networks can be fraught with serious security risks, both for your person, and your data. 
 
Many social networks will tell you that the more you put into them (your information), the more you get out of them (connections, recommendations, etc.). However, despite the aura of privacy they try to engender, one must keep in mind that social network takes place in essentially public space, with only the barest of mechanisms providing any semblance of privacy. Even seemingly innocuous data shared with the world can be dangerous in the wrong hands.
 
The best attitude to take in order to enjoy the benefits of social networking, while minimizing the inherent risks, is to remain SKEPTICAL and CAUTIOUS. 

SKEPTICAL of any requests for information.
CAUTIOUS of any information you put on there. 

These Do's And Don'ts Can Serve As Good Guidelines To Follow In Your Social Networking Interactions.

DO

  • Use a strong password.
  • Use privacy settings. Insist your friends use theirs too.
  • NEVER leave anything but the bare minimum as publicly available. Make sure only your accepted friends or followers can see what you put up.
  • Even then leaks, hacks, and privacy policy revisions are not unheard of. Don't assume what you do post IS secure, despite the settings.
  • Use HTTPS to connect to your social networking sites whenever possible, especially when connecting from a public hotspot. Be wary if your social networking service only uses HTTP for login credentials only.

Whenever possible, organize contacts into "categories". Most of us do this between friends and family anyway, but from a security standpoint it might also make sense to separate "best friends" from "person I met yesterday afternoon"

  • Verify friend/follower requests. Don't accept just anyone. Most scams start by someone bluffing their way onto your friends list.
  • KNOW who you're sharing your information with.
  • Verify links, attachments, downloads, emails, anything sent to you.
  • Even your trusted friends could have had their accounts hacked.
  • Don't wire that "emergency money" until you can voice-verify.

Investigate exactly what information any third-party add-ons, games, extensions, etc. will be privy to.

  • Does that poker game REALLY need access to your contacts list?
  • Read up on the security tips and instructions provided by the Social Network itself, as well as what trusted security professionals and sources have to say.

DON'T

Give away your password or use the same password for any other services. If a leak at Facebook causes your password to become public, you don't want a hacker being able to use that same password to log into your Gmail or Courseworks.

Put in any more information than you absolutely have to.

  • You should never put in more information about yourself than absolutely necessary. Hackers, scammers, stalkers all use that information to do anything from guess answers to your security-questions, to impersonating you when trying to scam another user.
  • On that same note, be careful how much live information you're putting out there.
  • Don't advertise when you're going on vacation, when your possessions might be left unattended, that super expensive thing you just left the store with, etc.
  • Also be aware of auto-geotagging. Some services will automatically tag your status updates with GPS information. If you don't want everyone to know where you are, make sure your social networking service doesn't turn on this "feature" for your "convenience" automatically.

Upload anything you wouldn't want everyone to see.

  • Assume that anything you put up will be revealed to the internet at large at some point, whether through hack, leak, or privacy policy change.
  • Nothing is ever really gone from the internet. Even if you delete a picture from your account, it's still sitting on Facebook's server somewhere. 
  • In a professional setting, be mindful of inadvertently letting slip sensitive information that could harm your company or get you fired (new security software, procedures, etc).

Building a Local Presence

Hometown and neighborhood support can keep your small business going through difficult times, and it creates benefits for our community. The people who live in our community aren’t just friends and neighbors; they’re also clients and customers—or they should be.

If locals don’t know your business exists, it’s time to put some effort into building your small business presence locally using all of your options.

Visibility in Local Search Results

When people want to locate a good salon or activity, they check their smartphone and do a quick search for what they want. 25% plus of Google searches have what's called “local intent”. This means they’re aimed at finding nearby results. Showing up in search results shouldn't be left to chance. Take advantage of Google Places for Business, Bing Places for Business, and even Yelp to get into local search results.

After signing up, you can manage your listings. Include photos, provide important information and even add specials You should include hours of operation, business contact info, and your web address. If you dobn't have a web address, you are limiting yourself. Most search engines and directories allow for social media now as well.  Once you're all setup, ask your happy customers to add a review.

Paying it Forward

Six of ten entrepreneurs feel giving back has made their businesses more successful over time. 89% of them donate to charities personally and often give through their businesses. How much you give and how will depend on the type of business you have. Don't forget, you can always find many small ways to give and help.

Potential ways to pay it forward include volunteer days, sponsoring a team or event; offering an internship through a local school; and in-kind giving. If at all possible, find a way to donate that’s unique to your local business.

Earn Local Trust

It's petty basic, but conducting your business in a trustworthy manner will give you happy, repeat customers, positive online reviews and more. Trust from your community requires more than just delivering on product promises. Local businesses must build more personal relationships with their customers. Learn your customers’ names, and use them. Send customers postcards with special offers for being loyal.

As a local business, you have the unique opportunity to really listen to and address the concerns of your customers. Keep communication flowing, and always follow up with your clients. These are perks big businesses can’t offer, and they’ll go a long way toward building your local reputation as a trustworthy business. There are lots of great ways to do communicate including email, social media and news on local website. Word of mouth is face to face and digital too. 

Want to know more? Contact us today for a free consultation!