May 20th, 2013
If you’re a small-business owner who’s looking to gain a digital-marketing advantage, you need to be spying on your competitors. Not in the sense of traditional espionage, which, admittedly, would probably be a lot more fun than the type of spying I advocate in this post.
To that end, “Key Factors to Effective Competitive Analysis as a Small Business,” courtesy of the website, Search Engine Watch, provides lots of helpful tips for learning about the methods businesses similar to yours are employing to increase their search rankings and turn clicks into conversions.
But even after learning all you can about your competitors’ behaviors, and then implementing a digital marketing strategy accordingly, sometimes your best efforts return disappointing results. Which is why it’s critical for every small business to be in position to take corrective action when a marketing plan goes awry.
But that’s sometimes easier said than done given the fact that even in today’s hyper-analytical world of marketing best practices, at times we face either incomplete or nonexistent data, which obviously adds to the challenge of developing a decisive course of corrective action.
So here’s another Search Engine Watch story, titled “How to Use a Military Concept to Manage SEO in a Data-Scarcity Reality,” which explains the OODA Loop concept.
In short, Observe, Orient, Decide and Act are the concept’s four components, which are then repeated once you’re provided new results based on the previous iteration.
Regarding the OODA Loop, the article states, “With limited data about the causes for loss of visits and leads, using this framework you can make educated decisions to advance your campaigns.”
So while today’s small businesses have unprecedented access to a treasure-trove of data that provides insight into the marketing decisions your competitors make, you need to have a plan in place for those times when your research yields incomplete or even missing data.
May 16th, 2013
Here’s a story from the Marketing Leadership Council regarding Vine, the latest headline-grabbing social media tool.
For those not in the know (which, until recently included yours truly), Vine is a mobile app that allows the recording of video clips no longer than six seconds. Each clip, also called a Vine, is automatically looped in perpetuity.
Vines are now appearing with increasing frequency via Twitter, Facebook, and as embedded content on web pages.
Honestly, I’m not quite sure what to make of this new technology. Will it prove to be yet another disruptive force in the ever-evolving world of content marketing?
At first glance I’m not sure how effective a six-second video loop can be at communicating a brand’s allure. But as you’ll read in the article linked to above, creative examples of the tool’s potential are becoming more and more common, including this Vine from major global brand, Bacardi.
Are you familiar with Vine? Do you think the tool can be used as an effective attention-grabber for your small business?
Also, if you’ve encountered a Vine you think demonstrates particularly strong creative execution, please provide a link in the comments section below.
May 13th, 2013
Innovation is a loaded word. And while most connotations are positive, many also conjure images of the downsides of innovative technologies, such as labor force reductions due to workplace automation or potential environmental degradation as a result of cutting-edge natural-resource extraction methods.
Another example that’s currently making headlines comes from Google, a company that’s largely seen as synonymous with innovation. The company’s latest foray into Cloud-connected hardware has arrived in the form of Google Glass, a much-hyped technology that’s now in the hands of a select number of non-Google employees who paid $1,500 for the right to become the device’s earliest adopters.
But despite the new technology’s undeniable coolness factor, concerns over Google Glass’ privacy implications are becoming amplified, as discussed in this San Jose Mercury News article.
So when it comes to innovative ideas with seemingly zero negative connotations, examples are relatively difficult to uncover. Which is why I found this story, courtesy of SmartPlanet, so refreshingly encouraging.
The article discusses an innovation so conceptually simple, it’s amazing to consider the potential magnitude of positive impact the technology holds for much of the world’s non-industrialized, off-the-grid populations.
It’s called the Soccket—a soccer ball that generates electricity. Developed by Uncharted Play, a startup founded by four Harvard University students, the Soccket represents a truly innovative answer to a vexing problem: How to deliver electricity to those segments of the global population who have to rely on unclean, potentially dangerous methods of illuminating their dwellings come nightfall.
The company’s founders realized that in many such populations, soccer (or, football as it’s known outside North America) is an almost universally enjoyed pastime, and kids are seen playing with hand-crafted soccer balls made from whatever suitable materials they can muster.
However, once playtime ends, many of those same children return to darkened homes in which studying is impossible, and where, because of the darkness, adults are unable to earn extra income by working longer hours crafting the products that are the livelihoods of so many third-world families, such as making tortillas in countless Latin American villages.
Since the development of the first viable Soccket, pilot projects have shown that after just 30 minutes of play, the ball produces three hours of electric light via a small plug-in LED lamp.
So not only does the comparison between such innovations as Google Glass and the Soccket put into perspective the quality-of-life disparity between modernized and third-world societies, it also helps demonstrate that while some innovations carry potential downsides, others prove to be entirely beneficial, and hugely impactful for those whose day-to-day lives are immediately affected.
May 8th, 2013
We’ve all heard the news stories about massive data breaches that result in personal information being stolen from tens, even hundreds of thousands of customer accounts. These days it seems such reports have become all too commonplace.
But unless you’ve been victimized personally by such a malicious infiltration, or you’re the CTO of a company that failed to adequately safeguard its customers’ private information, much of the media’s buzz regarding cyber security likely triggers little more than a “glad it’s not me” attitude.
However, while many of the companies that grace the news with such ignominious headlines can afford to overcome their mishaps in terms of both bottom-line damage and negative PR, small businesses could find themselves in dire straits as the result of insufficient data-protection policies and/or procedures.
As reported by Info Security Magazine, a study conducted by the Poneman Institute (an independent researcher of data protection and emerging data security technologies) shows the extent to which a single malicious breach impacts an organization’s balance sheet. Using data compiled in 2012 through the polling of 3,529 IT and IT security professionals in eight countries (the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Singapore, and the UAE), Poneman’s findings conclude that on average, a single malicious data breach cost each affected organization $840,000 in overall impact—a significant chunk of change for most small businesses.
What’s being done to address the ever-present threat of data infiltration? Cyber security technology provider McAfee is on the bleeding edge of the industry’s efforts to thwart not only the criminals who continuously pursue network security flaws, but also the company employees who unwittingly open the door to such malicious activities.
Security experts from McAfee and Xerox teamed-up to produce a timely and extremely informative webcast, “SMB Security Guide for Innovating in Today’s Ever-Changing Technology Ecosystem,” which is now available for online viewing by anyone who wants to ensure they’re doing everything they can to protect their own and/or their customers sensitive information.
As you know by now, whether you’re an IT professional with a large enterprise or the owner of a small business, data protection is something few can afford to ignore.
May 6th, 2013
In “What is a Modern Marketer (Part One)” I shared a bit about my experience as an outside sales rep with an office-communications technology company that hadn’t yet learned what it meant to be a “modern marketer.”
One of the key points I made in that piece was the importance of content marketing as part of any small-business’ modern marketing strategy.
The gist: When produced and implemented properly, video as a marketing channel has proven itself as a tremendous vehicle for qualified response generation.
At Xerox, we began developing video content for various social channels (primarily YouTube) several years ago. The Xerox corporate channel on YouTube features numerous videos produced to promote key areas of our multifaceted operation, and many of the videos have become extremely popular.
For those considering video as a marketing tool, the Content Marketing Institute article provides a very helpful breakdown of what the writer believes to be the most important steps to consider before diving head first into the actual production of your video project.
I encourage you to read the article and the reports to which it links. I’m sure every small business looking to gain a content marketing advantage through digitally distributed video content will find the information incredibly useful.
May 1st, 2013
Now available for purchase in North America, the latest-generation ColorQube® 8700 and 8900 Multifunction Printers are the first letter-size devices to be introduced for workgroup productivity on the desktop, which also feature all the advantages of ConnectKey: unparalleled ease-of-use, industry-leading security, and easily integrated solutions that help mobile professionals work in sync with today’s on-the-go demands.
Plus, the ColorQube 8700 and 8900 also provide every advantage of our unique Solid Ink technology, including low-cost color printing and renowned sustainability advantages.
And there’s great news for those who already own devices from the previous generation of the ColorQube 8700/8900 family. Now you can download a free ConnectKey firmware upgrade. No additional hardware is needed.
Xerox and the ColorQube 8900 will be featured at the Photizo Transform 2013 Managed Print Services conference providing mobile printing for all conference attendees.
Visit the ColorQube 8700 and ColorQube 8900
product pages on Xerox.com to learn more about the many advantages of Solid Ink teamed with ConnectKey, and to download the ConnectKey firmware upgrade if you’re already a ColorQube 8700/8900 owner.
April 25th, 2013
What’s most interesting to me is this quote from Freelancer: “Outsourcing basic administration tasks is rapidly becoming the norm for western small business, as small to medium businesses increasingly become comfortable with accessing an online workforce. No longer the exclusive domain of large multinationals, small businesses and startups are increasingly adopting outsourcing as a way to get ahead of the competition, saving money on simple back-office tasks which can then be redirected to hiring more skilled labor or expanding operations.”
It’s a trend worth watching, for sure; especially because small businesses (defined by U.S. Small Business Administration as those with headcounts of fewer than 500) are responsible for employing half of all private-sector workers.
If the small businesses that have chosen to shift work to outsourced talent, and those resources are either self-employed or work for other small businesses, then I see this as a positive development.
It’s a topic that also touches on an earlier post I wrote regarding The Cloud’s increasing influence on the growing independent workforce.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Are you a freelancer, and if so, have you experienced an increase in the amount of work you do for small businesses?