Tuesday Tips

The professional networking service, LinkedIn.com, continues to grow in usability and value, consider using this tool to provide your knowledge and insight into current trends in specific industries.

For example, recruiters post their tips on how to find qualified applicants; people with heavy involvement in new technologies answer specific, obscure, or technical questions; and people recommend services with which they have experience. It’s a continuous source of up-to-date information with more of a "work-related" feel.

If you’re an answer provider or you have some knowledge in a particular field, share your knowledge by answering other people’s questions. You might do this on LinkedIn or on a different service like a forum, bulletin board, or listserv that’s related to your company.

When you build up social capital by answering questions in a helpful way, you easily make connections for potential sales. More importantly, you build your reputation as someone other people trust.

While I don’t recommend you dominate a bulletin board with your answers or take over a forum posting with links back to your website, I do recommend you find online networks of people interested in your field and contribute to other people’s questions and answers. If you’re thoughtful, knowledgeable, and demonstrate integrity, your reputation (or at least your search results) as an answer provider will spread. When it does come time to select a vendor, your bulletin read more...

Most people prefer to spend time with their family and friends, pursue important activities, or get real work done instead of dealing with junk e- mail. What constitutes junk e-mail? Junk mail consists of any of the following:

e-mail for which the recipient did not sign up e-mail from which the recipient cannot unsubscribe e-mail without a link to the original site sending it

If you dislike junk mail as much as I do (and if you receive as much as I do in a typical day, you definitely dislike it), you’ll take extra precautions to insure that all your e-mail communications find a happy response upon their delivery.

E-mail communications form a large part of normal interactions with a company, so it’s best to start off asking permission if you may send e-mail to your users. This involves an opt-in process: users submit their contact information and confirm that they have opted to receive communications from you. It’s always thoughtful to offer links to your latest e-newsletters so visitors may preview what they will actually receive.

When you have legitimate news that benefits your clients, readers, or website visitors or if you offer a service that’s timely and truly of interest to your mailing list, then feel good about sending your message to your community. It helps members feel like they’re “in the know” and have access to behind-the-scenes information.

Develop a list of people who truly care about your products and services and who read more...

Polls and quizzes add levity and a bit of entertainment to the typically tedious task of searching for a vendor online. Your quiz may be a way for visitors to “see how much they know” about your industry, with two to five questions that you’d like to ask. Your poll provides a way for you to gauge a response to your own questions. For example, for a site focused on product software, you might provide a poll asking what version users are currently using.

Make sure your quiz, poll, or questionnaire adds value to your site. If it’s relevant, sheds more light on your service, provides quick information to other visitors, or gives you information about who is visiting, use it.

Make sure your quiz or poll does not require registration (if you want people to actually participate). If you choose to require an e-mail address, add that input form after the participant has answered the quiz. No one wants to be badgered into participating, so make sure your quiz is welcoming and user-friendly. Use multiple- choice or true/false answers, as open-ended questions may become unruly to collect and display. Offer a way for participants to view all the answers, typically after they’ve answered the question.

An interactive module like your poll or quiz is a fun way to gain insight from your visitors.


Remember to update your questions on a regular basis!

Checklist for polls, quizzes, or questionnaires:

Update polls or other interactive

Whether you consider yourself an expert or not, if you’re in business, you’re providing deep knowledge and skills in a particular content area. This knowledge qualifies you as an expert!

When you share your expertise, you provide a genuine resource to both current and potential customers.

An easy way to share is to offer a column or regularly updated section comprising frequently asked questions and your answers, tools, or recommendations.

For example, a column entitled, “Ask the Interior Decorator” may contain a section with design tips for challenging spaces. “Ask the Painter” may offer recommendations on colors, paint brands, or tools. “Ask the Financial Expert” may display your particular expertise on stock picks, market trends, industry information, or retirement-related concerns. “Ask the Vet” may offer breeder-specific or animal-specific answers.

Because people who are visiting your website want to know your general “tone” and personality, use this section to promote your expertise. Help your visitors decide if you are the one they want to hire for their specific project.

Furthermore, if you are on the receiving end of many similar questions, answer them in your “Ask the Expert” page and give your visitor a place to begin her conversation with you. An “Ask the Expert” component will enhance the efficiency of your website and save your visitors time, as well.

Some businesses may use this section to further specify read more...

If your work requires an estimate that you give to a client in order to proceed, consider offering a quote generator or an online calculator.

For example, in the website development business, an easy rule of thumb is to estimate the cost based on the complexity of the design, the number of pages, and the functional modules desired. Fixed costs include the domain and hosting. In this case, an estimate calculator will help a potential customer determine the cost of her proposed website. The customer can also change variables to see how different choices impact the final estimate for her project.

Financial services companies, mortgage firms, banks, and any company that deals with figures may offer online calculators to help web visitors understand the factors involved in finding their “magic number.” These tools make your customers’ discovery process easier. Offer as much as possible to help customers understand your pricing before they connect with you in person or over the phone.

Checklist for interactive calculators/estimators:

Do you offer job-based or fixed pricing? If so, show your calculations for greater transparency. If not, do you offer a “Frequently Asked Questions” page for potential customers to understand your process or rates? If you offer quotes, do you have an online estimate generator or a costs calculator? Can potential customers change variables to check for different options? Can potential customers e-mail their read more...

In some fields, you provide a valuable service when you offer up-to-date information.

A delay of even a month on time-sensitive data may mean a different outcome to someone’s business.

Consider offering white papers as background research to web visitors who may need highly specific information to make an informed decision.

While you need not add proprietary code, trade secrets, or private information, you may add facts, figures, graphs, charts, preliminary studies, or research papers on your field.

Query experts in related fields to provide information that will help your consumer make a better decision.

For example:

a graphic designer may offer a printer’s perspective on styles, paper stock, quantities, color options, and document preparation for printing
  a food website offers professional chef recipes, food styling tips, or restaurant reviews
  a baby products website offers parents’ reviews or parenting articles

When you offer a library of reading material, downloadable samples, or even mini-versions of your full product, your potential customers can evaluate the quality and relevance of your resources to their needs.

Use HTML, PDF, Flash, or other well-known formats to make sure your files display the way you intend.

The content within your website must be your company’s original content, and you must have permission (if needed) to distribute it.

Protect your company by adding

Create a calendar as a go-to reference for relevant events in your field.

Because of information overload and the openness of the Internet, web visitors appreciate when you filter, synthesize, and sort all the available events into a concise “must-attend” list. Such a calendar will help your visitors keep abreast of local or Internet-based events.

Ideas for events: networking events, informational seminars, speaker panels, conventions, book readings, work parties, volunteer opportunities, or other gatherings.

Use a calendar or set of calendars to organize your own work schedule and allow time for at least one networking event per month. For example, if you’ve been invited to speak on a panel, schedule this into your web calendar so web visitors know where they may find you. They might not actually attend, but your visitors will at least know your availability.

If your company offers its own events or you require RSVPs, consider adding an ‘RSVP online’ option to your calendar.

Checklist for what to include in your calendar:

Start date and end date Start time/s and end time/s Title of event Short description of event Contact person for the event Informational website link, if any Prices for members/clients Prices for the general public RSVP online, if available Calendar in grid format or in list format Consistent display for events

A blog is easy to update and keeps you very current. Use your blog to create an informative, useful, and timely net that fishes out information, news, views, and opinions in your field.

Give readers meaningful explanations about your company by using blog posts to share your expertise.

Put yourself in great demand for services, products, and speaking or writing gigs as you post more quality blog items on your field of expertise, guest post on other blogs, promote new products and services, or highlight an interesting new initiative.

HINT: Do NOT post relentless commercial messages to your blog.

They’re not meaningful or engaging at all.

What will you post? Communicate from your own point of view, and make your posts engaging, relevant, or thought-provoking. Your readers don’t need to know the latest details of your personal life (relationships, shopping, pets, children) unless they are relevant to your company. Refrain from an excess of “corporate speak” or highly self-promoting blogging. Consider adding video or music.

Use multiple sources for inspiration, ideas, events, industry trends, and other “blog fodder,” including:

Daily or weekly news in your target area Your business process News that affects your industry or your clients Books, articles or magazines you’re reading Events that you attend, organize, or lead Events from associations or membership groups Initiatives within your company Charitable drives read more...

The more complex and cluttered your website is, the harder time your visitor has when she visits.

Keep it simple.

Take some extra time to review your content from a new visitor’s perspective. Common business website issues for the general public include:

industry-specific jargon that a non-initiate would not understand (if your site is targeted to people who would understand your lexicon, by all means, stick to it; if you’re reaching out to people not familiar with your industry, at least add a glossary page)
  alphabet soup, with many abbreviations or acronyms that only specialists understand (just because you refer to it does not mean your customer understands it)
  cryptic navigation (test your site on people outside of your industry: if they find the navigation confusing, rework so it’s more straightforward)
  too many words (you don’t need to explain your entire procedure when only a few phrases, some well-placed diagrams, or an image will suffice)
  not enough information (your website is part of your sales team, so make it work just like a salesperson. Provide lists of features and benefits, offer internet specials, and add a buy now button.)
  no call to action (if your website doesn’t inform visitors of their next steps, they will not know what to do next. Explain their next step!)
  correct contact information (add your correct contact information to each page so visitors know how to find you read more...

If you haven't visited Craigslist.org, you might want to take a look at this immensely successful community bulletin board service, which is organized around geographical locations and subject areas. The site is clean and easy to understand; it has black text with blue links on a white background, and it hasn't changed since its inception. The enduring quality of Craigslist.org is part of its appeal: you always know what to expect when you visit. The content may change, but the format does not.

Change, when it comes, may be disconcerting to your regular visitors.

If you already have a certain look-and-feel for your site and you want to change it around a little bit, consider retaining some of the major elements, such as your logo, tag line, and color palette.

If you do make a major change to your website design, navigation, logos, or functionality, your regular visitors may be taken aback or, even worse, may not know if they are on the correct site.

PayPal, Amazon, and Yahoo! have undergone design changes over the years, but the overall feel and functionality of these sites remain consistent over time.

For your website, it's expected that you'll constantly make updates.

However, if you're making major changes to the style of your site, find ways to retain the flavor and spirit of your original website over successive iterations.

➡️Announce any website changes in a prominent place like your news section or alert box read more...