Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stay On Top With Google Alerts

Have you ever wondered if anyone is saying anything (good or bad) about your company on the Internet? Or, what are your competitors up to? Google Alerts will send you that information - automagically, and as often as you like.

Yet another free service by Google, their "alerts" are basically memorized searches that will email you the results. Let's say you are insanely interested in Madonna. You can add her name as an alert entry for 'news' and you will get an email (daily, weekly or as it happens) that will contain all news-related items by Madonna. Better yet, the email will be formatted like a search result, so you can easily scan and click only the headlines that interest you.

Since there are potentially unlimited topics to configure as an alert, it's easy to get carried away. But that's ok! Add and remove topics at will. You can also go back and change the frequency of email notifications. Additionally, you can setup the alerts to be sent to a RSS feed reader, like Google Reader.

I have found Google Alerts to be a great tool for filtering the information that I find interesting so I can be more efficient online.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Negotiating with Vendors (Part I)

Here's one area where business owners can fall into a costly trap. Vendors making big promises in the pre-sales process only to underdeliver after the check is cashed. There are a few ways this can be avoided.

Get the Demo

If it's software that you are buying, get the demo version up and running for about 30 days (10 days at least). This will give you time to make sure it's easy to deploy and you can see it in action for a few days. Talk to the vendor about customizing the software to conform with your process. Most software these days should be easily customizable without costly consulting charges.

Any vendor worth dealing with should have a complete set of testimonials. These may be found on their website or in their product literature. Get the names of large and small current customers and talk to them about their experience. Ask about the vendor's post-sales support. Ask about their implementation. Was it on time? What kinds of problems arose? How were they handled?

Are there free options?
Within the last 8 years, hundreds of websites have popped up providing valuable tools and resources. If you are looking to implement a software solution, try searching for "open-source" software. Open source refers to the fact that the source code for the software is openly available at no cost. A group of developers join in on maintaining the software and adding functionality.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Whose "Process" Is It Anyway?

Process is defined as steps required to manufacture your products or the means to provide your services.

A clean and efficient process is the key to applying any technology solution successfully. The wrong, or inefficient process, will lead you to spend $100k on an unnecessary system.

The efficient process will save you money when implementing technology and should increase your profits. It is vitally important for your business that you examine all your processes BEFORE implementing any technology solution.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Adwords Primer (Part II)

In order to really get a clear picture of your campaign effectiveness, you should have Google Analytics tags coded on your landing page. These tags will allow you to see where your visitors are coming from and which keywords they used. You can even link your Adwords campaign with your Analytics account and see actual conversion rate.

The goal of any online campaign is to achieve the highest possible conversion rate. Google makes it very simple to determine the conversion rate, but they don't guarantee ad results. The best performing ads, according to Google, are the ones that are extremely relevant to the search term and that have a compelling message on the landing page.

Your landing page, or the page that shows up if viewers click on your Adwords ad, should be clean and compelling. The landing page should drive a specific action like filling out a form or testing your product/service.

The key to a successful Adwords campaign is trial and error. You will need to test various keywords at various times of the day/week. You will also need to test variations of the ad copy to optimize clickthru and conversion rate. It all takes patience and a little bit of money and time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

4 Key Points When Considering New Technologies

A technology solution should meet at least one of the following four criteria:

1. reduce operating expenses
2. automate existing (efficient) processes to enable growth
3. provide an effective means to communicate
4. enable your business to improve its products and/or services

Before the first dime is spent, insure that your examine these criteria.

If your internal processes are efficient, then applying a technology solution will automate your operation. This in the only true path to a proper return on investment (ROI).

On the flipside, if your process is inefficient, then applying technology will be costly and likely work against itself. Technology for the sake of technology is not going to solve anything.

In fact, without the proper process and strategy, you will likely create problems and reduce your margins by applying the wrong technology solution. A technology "solution" should always solve something.