Blog Crash!

A few weeks back – probably a few more than I care to admit – We had an error with our blog. Specifically I couldn’t access the blog. In fact I thought I had made a HUGE error that caused everything to crash. Coincidentally that happened shortly after many GoDaddy sites got got taken offline by hackers. Turns out that hijacking caused more trouble than we realized at first, and ultimately it caused an error with our WordPress blog that we couldn’t fix.

I was told that our blog posts my still be retrievable but that I shouldn’t hold my breath. I suppose I whined enough here in the office (or maybe they took pity on me) however I eventually got our quasi-IT guy, Keith to take a look. He told me that he’d likely have to rebuild the blog and that he could do a download of the database which housed the blog posts.

Our content was often shared and mentioned on social media sites, so losing 2+ years of data was going to be a very painful thing. I was told, “Best case scenario – We get everything back no problem. Worst case scenario. In rebuilding we lose everything.”

Turns out it was somewhere in between. In doing the data dump, a lot of gibberish was pulled down. And in that VERY LONG list of gibberish our blog posts are hidden.

My eyes may be bleeding now, however it appears that the PWB blog posts may be salvageable. Slowly but surely they’ll be added back online. I know many of you are waiting with baited breath, so please hang tight!

Hot off the Press

Everyone knows that the web is the place to go to find a business. Any client that comes to us knows that to have legitimacy for their business, they’ree going to need a web site that looks professional and stands out in order to get them noticed on the web.

Some clients have a generous budget and want us handle their sites from concept to completion and beyond. Most understand that to deliver value and drive traffic, regular content updates are needed. This used to mean an expensive custom content management system (CMS), adding staff trained in HTML, or hiring us to do all their updates. But there are a growing number of clients with limited budgets and a desire to regularly add content. They’re looking to us to provide a one-shot solution that will give them not only a great looking site, but also the means to manage it on their own after it’s built.

For these clients that need sites they can manage on their own and a modest budget, our recommendation is to build them a WordPress site. You can get a custom looking site if you know what you are doing and you can work miracles if you are seasoned in HTML and CSS. Meanwhile, the client will be able to go in and add, or edit content, pictures, video, and whatever else tickles their fancy by using the rich text editor and never needing to touch any code whatsoever.

As a bonus of being built on a blog platform, you have a web site optimized for search spiders AND viewing on mobile devices. Though we’re early in the process of exploration, we haven’t yet discovered a downside to the WordPress platform for modest sites. Everyone wins – our clients get a functional site for a reasonable investment, and we;’re able to deliver a great web presence at a price point that was previously impossible. Stay tuned for more as we explore this platform!

Three Reasons to Love QR Codes

QR codes have great potential for savvy marketers. The technology has been used in Asia for a number of years and is beginning to gain traction in the U.S. With the rapid increase in smartphone adoption rates, the use of QR codes will continue to increase. According to Wikipedia:

A QR Code is a two-dimensional code, readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smartphones that came into being in 1994. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

Need three reasons why we love QR codes

Reason #1:QR codes easily bring online content to the offline world. QR codes placed in magazine ads or outdoor billboards make it easy for a person to visit a marketer’s website to get more information. Instead of stopping and typing in a lengthy web address on a tiny smartphone keyboard, a person can simply snap a photo of the QR code and be taken automatically to an online destination. It’s smart and easy.

Reason #2: QR codes are trackable. The technology is able to measure how many people scan the QR code. Furthermore, some service providers also have the capability to report on general location and time. Imagine having this data to optimize your offline campaigns. Bear in mind, the data is anonymous and cell phone numbers are never tracked.

Reason #3: QR codes enhance traditional offline campaigns. A business-to-business company selling automation control systems can use a QR code to trigger a video showing the features and benefits of the product. A local bank can put QR codes on their printed promotional materials to connect customers to their mobile website or landing page with a special offer.

Power(less) Point

I sat through not one, but TWO genuinely awful presentations from good companies with solid products this week. This was a good reminder of a blog topic – effective use of PowerPoint.

As a former college speech instructor, I would remind you that PowerPoint is a tool, it isn’t your presentation. A good presentation tells a story, has a structure, and is SUPPORTED by a presentation tool like PowerPoint. Bad structure = bad presentation. The world’s best PowerPoint can’t make up for a poorly constructed presentation structure.

With that said, I often develop in PowerPoint as it parallels my thought process. But, when you do this, be sure to return with a critical eye and do some judicial editing. That final PowerPoint should serve as signposts on the journey of your presentation, as well as providing some key emphasis on critical takeaways.

With that in mind, here are a few pointers:

  • One sentence or thought per bullet. Maximum. And no more than five bullets per slide.
  • Any point with subpoints should have at least two subpoints – if you have less than this do some reworking until it can collapse upward.
  • If you have to add a “key takeaway” in writing to your slide(s) then you haven’t done your job – it should be obvious if you’ve supported your arguments.
  • Black type on white background with your logo is BORING. At least try the supplied templates, or better still have a talented agency like us design you a brand-appropriate master template.
  • People like pictures. Sprinkle a few appropriate ones in. Try monkeys –  everyone likes monkeys (that was sarcasm, if you missed it!).
  • A PowerPoint is not a technical white paper. A screen filled with 8 point mouse type is illegible at any distance over 6′.

As a presentation guru I once heard speak said: Be Bright. Be Brief. Be Gone.

Thank You.

I was talking to a friend the other day about the importance of feeling appreciated in my decisions on where to spend my money. Consistently, I find I patronize places that show me they value my business. Which got me thinking about how that applies to our business here at PWB.

We try to be very good about showing our appreciation, but it seemed like a more public thank-you is in order to:

    • Our clients – who can choose to spend their budgets at many places, but put their confidence in our creative and strategic talents
    • Our production partners – who help us do more with less (and faster) for our clients
    • The media – who help us optimize and select the best channels to reach target markets
    • Our resources – who help PWB operate smoothly by providing legal, accounting, IT and other advice
    • Our prospective clients – who thought enough of PWB to consider us as a resource
    • Our team – the great folk who work here and help the magic happen

To one and all –  a heartfelt thank-you. We couldn’t survive in this challenging economy without you.

Let’s Get Small

In the current economic correction/downturn/recession, I see an alarming trend. The biggest organizations seem to be the most effected – GM, CitiGroup, Bank of America. Something I’ve noticed is that bigger organizations seem the most disconnected, both from their customers and from themselves. All the layers and functional roles seem to cloud people’s thinking and judgement. Many are afraid of losing their job, so they’re thrashing about trying to implement SOMETHING, rather than the RIGHT thing. You even see it in government – witness the NYC/Air Force One debacle this week. Did we REALLY need to spend $328,000 for a new photo? Really? And maybe someone should have stopped to think that perhaps it was going to trigger panic in Manhattan?

But what to do about it? Think small. Another trend I’ve seen is that I have many clients in the Small/Medium Business (SMB) segment who are doing quite well. They’re not caught up in the panic, and they spend their time thinking about how they can serve unmet needs in unique ways. With segmentation, any business can be an SMB. I work with a division of a Fortune 100 company who has chosen to not get embroiled in the politics of the parent and focus on their marketspace. The result? Last year they set a 10-year sales record.

Banners Aren’t Dead

The lowly banner has been much-maligned in the trade press in recent years. But like so many things in the marketing equation, banners can have a place if used appropriately. I would concur for mass-market consumer sites. Banners are likely dead. The victims of too many re-finance ads, credit card offers, and mass branding efforts.

But in b-to-b the banner is alive and well. We recently ran a banner for a local CPA firm on the business section of a regional news site that pulled a 1.18% click-thru; about 4x the industry average. Another client’s programs are often exceeding 1% CTRs as well.

I think the secret is in your strategy for using and deploying banners. Too many marketers view them as advertising – much like print or broadcast. A more helpful perspective is to think of them as a direct marketing tool. In this model, the list, creative, and offer fuel success. With online you can target more tightly (like direct mail) and you’re motivating a response behavior (like direct mail) with impactful, relevant creative (like direct mail). And, unlike direct mail you can perform testing of these variables with almost real-time feedback.

If you have a solid message, the need to target, and a compelling call-to-action, consider an effective banner program for your next campaign.

Be Safe

If you’re like most of us, you probably take the security of your office (and other places) for granted. PWB had a break-in over a recent weekend. Through some good luck, nothing of much value was taken –  a couple of decade-old laptops and $15 in petty cash. But it was a good reminder.

It’s not uncommon for people’s personal property –  an iPod here, a digital camera there – to be out on our desks. Fortunately, it was a weekend and none were. And our hard-working staff with laptops had taken them all home.

The Ann Arbor police department has been chasing this guy for some time. He’s broken into several companies on the south side of town over the past year (including others in our building on the same day). But, so far no luck in apprehending him.

This incident was a good reminder for us – periodically take time to have a look around your office and stow your valuables. You never know, and a few moments could prevent a loss.