Get a Grip on Internet Marketing: It’s a Process

Get a Grip on Internet Marketing: It's a Process(This commentary originally appeared in the Feb-March edition of ComBridges’ “It’s a Wonderful Web” e-newsletter.)

Many people think of Internet marketing as a “thing” or an event. It’s not. It’s a process… an adventure even.

Yes, of course, this process requires the generation of content. Whether your content is just what you say on your site, or if you get more vocal by writing blog posts, publishing e-newsletters (like this one), and/or tweeting on Twitter, there are things to do. But, what surprises us is not that people (including us sometimes) lack the discipline to write on a regular basis. What’s surprising is how short-sighted many people frequently are about the process.

What’s amazing about Internet marketing is the kinds of real world, actionable feedback that it makes available, for the first time. From the beginning of the web and e-commerce, we’ve loved the phrase “launch and learn.” Your website and all the associated opportunities to communicate with your consituencies is a low risk learning lab packed with valuable information, if you use it.

It works when you work it, but…

How many of you have Google Analytics (or some other analytics system) installed on your website, but fail to review those analytics on a regular basis? And as long as we mentioned “adventure,” how many of you actually go the extra step of testing new ideas, learning from the results, and then making appropriate adjustments? We’re guessing not many.

This is why ComBridges’ Internet marketing agreements now routinely include regular monthly coaching and consulting sessions as well as service deliverables. That way our work together can include monthly analytic reviews & recommendations as well as follow through on previous initiatives.

Internet marketing is a process, and we’d love to help you make yours more productive. Please contact us for more details.

Am I Your Go-To Guy? (a self-awakening)

One advantage of having a coach who is also a client is that her testimonials not only flatter me, they make me think.

Here’s what Christy Strauch, author of Passion, Plan, Profit: Twelve Simple Steps to Convert Your Passion into a Solid Business, said about me and my work:

I think Jon knows better than anyone how to help businesses use the Internet as a powerful marketing tool. Wherever you are in the process of developing your Internet presence, Jon can tell you exactly what you should do next. He will enable you to take advantage of the latest (sometimes bewildering) array of tools, from blogs to Twitter, from Facebook and LinkedIn to YouTube videos. From my experience, Jon is the guy to call if you want to market your business more effectively; and, as a bonus, because of his openness, you will learn from a real visionary every step of the way.

What stopped me in my tracks about this statement was the “Jon knows better than anyone.” It’s a strong statement, and when it came on the heels of another flattering statement by another client, Rick Weinstein of Life Insurance Services for Charitable Giving, I had to self-reflect further:

The go-to point player for the Cleveland Cavs is LeBron James. Simply stated, Jon Leland is the go-to player if you are a profit-seeking entrepreneur who wants to leverage the power of e-commerce. Better yet, Jon is a people’s person. He’s no nonsense and a master communicator. I view Jon as a life-long partner, not a vendor; and I am pleased to wholeheartedly recommend him.

LeBron James! Yikes. I was humbled and inspired at the same time. And, I’m not just tooting my own horn because together these quotes added up to a personal wake up call. Thanks to my willingness to listen to my clients, I realized that I have not been positioning myself well given the levels of my expertise and experience.

I honestly know that I am able to be that “go-to guy.” I am so much more than just a website designer/developer. I am someone who can tell virtually any client of any size company what they should be doing next with regard to their web presence and their internet marketing. But, unfortunately, up to now (at least recently), that is not how I’ve been telling my story. Hello? Mr. Leland calling Mr. Leland. Wake up!

So, yes, we do websites, but I also want you to know that these days we’ve evolved ourselves into WordPress experts. As a result, we offer a carefully evolved approach to using WordPress as a CMS (content management system). We’re calling this custom “cocktail” of plug-ins and configurations, “We Do WordPress Right!” But most people, even some of our clients, don’t know that yet.

Furthermore, we have initiated a brand new set of internet marketing packages which include support for blogging and social media marketing. (Please contact us to receive a confidential copy of these offerings and get the “go-to guy” on your virtual team. 😎 )

I’m done with just being a website designer who also does internet marketing. It’s time for me to re-own my expertise as someone who has honestly been on the cutting edge of new media all the way back to the early ’70’s—before the term “new media” was invented—when founding a narrowcast radio network was “new media.” (Read more about the other new media/new marketing innovations I’ve been involved with for literally decades in my online bio.)

I hope my “self-awakening” is inspiring to you as well. Have you been under-selling yourself? What story should you be telling about yourself that you have not been telling?

And, of course, if I can be your “go-to guy” that helps you build a truly successful web presence, I’d be delighted.

My apologies for the shameless self-promotion, but I needed to say this “out loud.” Thanks for listening.

So Busted by ProBlogger for my Blogging “Vices”

I’m sure you all have had the experience where someone speaking publicly seems to be speaking directly to you, right? Well, it just happened to me with a YouTube video by the widely-respected Darren Rowse, better known as ProBlogger because of his widely read blog, ProBlogger.net

I guess the video below is pretty self-explanatory; but just to be clear, I feel busted because what he says applies directly to me… in spades. Fundamentally, I feel challenged to get all of the high-quality information that I want to share out of my head and to make the time to put it on the web. I’ve even named this challenge getting info “from my head to the web.” I sincerely feel that I have a lot to offer you, dear readers. Having said that, based on Darren’s video advice, I’m completely guilty “as charged” for getting distracted, losing focus, doing more research, browsing more websites and so forth, rather than posting to my blogs.

So, call it an early New Year’s resolution if you like, but whatever you call it, I am hearby declaring my heartfelt intention, starting with this post inspired by the video below, to start posting at least twice a week starting this week, and starting early next year, I’m planning to post a new video clip once a week. Your support and encouragement in any form will be appreciated; and meanwhile, check out Darren’s coaching in the video below. You too might be guilty of one or more of the “Blogging Vices” mentioned in this “Public Service Announcement for Bloggers.” Like they used to say on Hill Street Blues, “Be careful out there!”

Ignore this code: M2ZB87UPVQTX it’s just something Technorati asked me to do as part of their verification process.

Leading with Value: The Currency of New Marketing

In my keynotes and workshops on internet marketing (which I am hereby referring to as “new marketing”), one of my key concepts is “leading with value.” For me, a key part of business in general is creating (and maintaining) relationships. Of course, business is about much more than just making money. But, in this culture, that’s easy to forget. My real bottom line is the fact that the quality of the relationships that I have created via my business are perhaps the greatest source of satisfaction that I have in my work (right up there with the creative satisfaction and opportunity to make a difference).

For this reason, I am particularly enthusiastic about the authentic aspects of social media that literally depend upon “leading with value.” Social media is about networking, which to me means “virtually meeting” new, interesting people and learning new things from them. And, likewise, being able to easily share what I consider to be valuable information with as many people as possible. I love that. I enjoy it so much that sometimes I even think, “I was born for social media” …and I’m not even a social media “big shot.”

So along these lines, I simply want to start my Monday morning by sharing a couple of insightful blog posts that to me do a great job of underscoring some important aspects of our new media world. Hopefully, they will provide sparks for you as they have for me, so we can all go out and (like the Beatles said) “make it better”:

  • Focusing on Value: How I’m Changing How I Use Twitter
    This is one of the most substantive blog posts I’ve read in some time, and I especially like it because it addresses, in a very real and pragmatic way, how best to deal with Twitter users who spam. Bottom line, don’t auto-follow everyone back; and most importantly, un-follow all those affiliate marketers who are only trying to “capture” your dollars.
  • The Five Essential Pillars of a Social Media Campaign
    This list of values provide a foundation for social media relationship building that are, as the author says, “essential.” They include “generosity” which is very close to my “Leading with Value” concept.
  • ABC-TV News on “Marketing with Meaning”
    Yes, marketing executives are actually writing books on how marketing campaigns are more effective when they have MEANING. What a concept! Nice to see it being covered in the so-called mainstream media.

Enjoy! And keep having fun out there.

The Power of the Blog

Even though blogging is currently a very big buzz… a “buzz word du jour” even, I still think it widely misunderstood. So, what’s The Big Idea?

First of all, your blog is your home base. If you’re doing social media marketing, it’s the center of your virtual storm. Your Twitter, Facebook and other social media posts all link back to your blog.

Perhaps even more importantly, your blog is where you find your voice. It’s a real world exercise in speaking your truth and finding your value, making your offering. It’s not a new marketing trick. It’s actually the heart of authentic, transparent, 21st Century marketing.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s an awesome video clip featuring two true marketing “gurus.” Don’t be fooled, this video is less than 2 minutes long, but you may not hear a more important message this week (or month? or year?) So maybe you’ll want to watch it more than once? You probably know the speakers. Seth Godin who has written some of the most creative as well as best-selling internet marketing books ever (in fact he coined the term “permission marketing”) and Tom Peters of “In Search of Excellence” and so many other best sellers. Listen carefully. These guys not only really know what works, they are sharing what’s most essential to them… and apparently that’s blogging!

WordPress Websites Under Attack

I’m glad to see the comments on the post below about the maintenance and other issues involved in running a WordPress website. Unfortunately, just now, these challenges have increased as a result of idiot hackers who are violating WordPress websites to insert “black hat” permalinks. How lame and what a nuisance, and more evidence of my old saying, “It’s always more complicated than you think it is.”

If you are responsible for a WordPress website, heads up and here’s a good article with links to other useful articles: “Old WordPress Versions Under Attack” by Lorelle on WordPress. More useful information is in Andy Sowards post.

We were working on service level agreements this week that we plan to propose to our ComBridges clients in order to cover this kind of maintenance service. In the meantime, if you are a ComBridges client, we’ll let you know if your site is in need of service and any additional costs that may be involved.

Thanks for spreading the word (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) so that everyone becomes aware of this issue as quickly as possible.

And putting this aside, Happy Labor Day weekend to you all!

The Truth About WordPress

by Sallie Goetsch of the Podcast Asylum and Jon Leland of ComBridges

istock_000006783097xsmall2Recently, in a WordPress group on LinkedIn, the question was asked “Is WordPress the answer to all our prayers?” The writer was extending the conversation about his own blog post which objected vehemently to crazy claims that complete novices could build “killer websites” in minutes if they just used WordPress. It seems that the world of technology is filled with these kinds of false promises and unrealistic expectations.

For those of us who have hand-coded HTML back before tools like Dreamweaver were invented, and who have experimented and had learning experiences with creating web pages in a wide variety of ways, WordPress is an important new platform for website development. Compared to anything we’ve seen before, WordPress is amazingly simple and intuitive, especially given its array of powerful features. It lets you change your design without affecting your content, it has great built-in SEO (search engine optimization) features, and it’s free.

WordPress also has advantages over competing website publishing systems like Drupal and Joomla. For one thing, you can use easy offline editors (like Windows Live Writer and Ecto) to update content on WordPress sites. WordPress also began as a blogging platform, and as a result, it’s “natural” for WordPress websites to include blogs. For many website designers, even those who have never learned Java, never learned Flash, never learned PHP, and don’t know a single programming language, WordPress does answer many prayers.

But, that’s very different from saying that anyone can use WordPress to design and implement a sophisticated website. If you try to take advantage of WordPress’ full capabilities as a content management system without knowing anything about HTML, CSS, or PHP — or about WordPress itself — you are simply asking for trouble. Yes, you can set up a basic blog using WordPress.com without knowing much, but to really make WordPress (or any other new software) sit up and do tricks, you have to put some time into learning how to use it. (More advanced users download WordPress from WordPress.org. The supply of tricks available at WordPress.com is limited.)

When you think about it, most people only know how to use the most basic features of the software that they use every day. They treat Microsoft Word like a glorified typewriter and don’t even know most of its tools and options exist, much less how to use them. They pay hundreds of dollars for Photoshop and only use the functions they could have gotten for free with Picasa. (Photoshop is so sophisticated that even advanced users can spend hours studying DVD tutorials to learn new things.)

So why should WordPress be any different? It’s not, but people get excited and apparently WordPress’ many benefits give birth to irrationally exuberant expectations. Either that, or there are some people out there who think that because WordPress is easy for them, it must seem that easy to everyone else.

For example, if you hear that there are 5,000 free plugins that extend WordPress’ platform, and hundreds of free themes in the theme repository, shouldn’t you expect that just looking through them and testing them to see which ones would be best for you might take quite some time? And then there’s the fact that new versions of WordPress come out a lot more often than new versions of Photoshop. So you have to stay up to date, by doing things like attending meetups and Wordcamps, reading blogs, watching videos, listening to podcasts, or even reading books. (There are several good books on WordPress, but it is hard for print books to keep up with the rapid developments in the platform and its plugins.)

Because WordPress is a web-based platform, it’s much easier for geographically dispersed teams to collaborate on websites. But due to its popularity, WordPress sites are also open to server hacks and blog spam attacks–as ComBridges discovered first hand recently.

While it doesn’t necessarily take a programmer to learn WordPress, if you want to create a sophisticated WordPress site, skills like PHP will come in handy. And, if you want to learn your way around, study the WordPress Codex and be sure to allow some time to learn important fundamentals such as, for example, which plugins make it easier to use WordPress as a CMS (content management system). For professional website developers like us, that’s part of our job.

Even though WordPress is easy enough for Sallie’s hairdresser to update, Sallie was the one to create the site, and had to provide more than one tutorial on posting to the blog and editing pages.

WordPress deserves to be praised for many reasons, but exaggerated claims about its ease of use for the complete novice does everyone a disservice. Let’s practice a little expectation management, people.

Still Think Social Media is a Fad? Then Watch This Now.

Don’t view this in your face presentation at your own risk. It’s packed with provocative stats, presented in rapid fire fashion, to make the case for Social Media as much more than a fad, but rather a real people-powered media revolution. Dare to disagree?

Twitter Resisters Surrender!

If you are still in the “I don’t get it” crowd in relation to the current Big Thing i.e. Twitter, you are not alone. I resisted it. Tim O’Reilly resisted it. David Letterman is still resisting it. Even Kevin Spacey can’t convince him. Just the same, the Twitter “toothpaste” is out of the tube and it’s not going back in.

So, to support your techno-enlightenment, especially if you are a business person not taking advantage of this remarkable opportunity for fun, social networking, information gathering, low budget customer service, and just plain ole marketing, I offer the following recent bites of online media in a friendly effort to get you going:

  • Our ComBridges team uses Central Desktop as “groupware” for project management and collaboration. I appreciated a blog post by one of their young associates called “Twitter for Business? Call Me Dr. Jekyll…” Although I think of this as more of a “Confessions of a Former Twitter Resister,” bottom line he makes a solid business case in a very personal way (which, by the way, is a very good thing to do online).
  • Nissan has recent launched a new website for its upcoming electric car called the Leaf. What’s interesting is that their new website is “Powered by Twitter.” Of course, this is just one example, amongst many, of serious businesses investing in Twitter for marketing and customer relationship building. Note the real time Q&A below the car stuff.
  • Darren Rowse, a.k.a. ProBlogger, who I respect, is arguably one of the most successful professional bloggers in the world, and he is also a down-to-earth, authentic thought leader. Darren has not only created another blog especially for Twitter, Twitip which is packed with great info on how to use Twitter; but he’s produced a very nice, FREE 40-minute orientation program for you which I’m embedding below.

Now, go tweet your brains out, have a great time, and market appropriately please. Thanks.

What the F**k is Social Media?

I think this is the first time I have given something I thought worthy of posting on this blog the same title as the thing itself. It’s an indication of how “right on” this simple slide show is. Don’t be intimidated by the fact there are 83 slides. You can click as fast as you like. I highly recommend this content. It’s a clear and well-articulated message and, in the view of this media maven, includes many concepts that more of us need to understand. Useful information rules! Please let me know if you agree.