Category Archives: simplicity

What’s your five word summary?

Sometimes, it takes me 5 pages of documentation and a lengthy chat to decipher what it is a particular business actually does. I figure if I don’t get it, then chances are the viewers of the website I build for them wont get it either.

Sometimes I feel thick because I have to ask a potential customer so many questions, part of me just wants to nod along and pretend I know what they’re up to so they’ll feel comfortable spending money with me. But another part of me figures that if a business is making me feel dumb and intimidated because I don’t get what they do, surely they aren’t marketing themselves very well.

Publish a five word summary puts in very concise words one of the biggest things I think we offer our customers and WHY we think it’s so important.

“Summarise what your organisation does — in 5 words.

Now put that in a prominent position on your website.

Don’t bury it several levels down in some sub-menu.

Don’t write 50 words, or 150, or 500 (though you can do that in addition to the 5 words).

Visitors come to your website for many reasons. It may be to read all your wonderful information, but it also may be to quickly summarise what you’re about, grab the link and pass that information along to others — in a blog, training materials, news item, email or even on a phonecall or in a text message.

The harder you make your visitors work, the less likely they are to tell others about you.”

I realised this very early on after starting a blog – the 5 word summary of what the blog was about appeared in every review and directory listing people gave us. They just copied and pasted it. We made it so easy for them to spread the word about us, they just did it (I just realised that we’ve somehow deleted that summary, I’ll put it back up tomorrow)

I also notice it when talking to people about what we do. If I give the 5-15 minute explanation, people often get a polite but entirely bored look on their face. Most people just don’t care about the inner workings, they just want the 5 word summary. If they get your business in 5 words – especially if they know nothing about the industry – they feel smart. They like you AND they can tell their friends about you.

So, what’s your five word summary?

How much money do you want out of your business?

I went to a course last night at the Business Center in Wellington (if you live in Wellington and have a small business, join their email newsletter, they have tonnes of free courses for all areas of running and growing a business, by people who have done it).

One question we were asked is ‘how much money do you want to get out of your business?’

It’s funny, I’ve never thought of a dollar figure before, it was always ‘whatever it can give me’. Now that seems like a terribly stupid answer… Because once you’ve established a dollar amount, you can work back through your expenses to come up with a figure you have to charge for your product or service to GET that dollar figure.

You will find out if you’re bonkers and there is no way that will happen with your business, you will discover that you may need to increase your prices or cut costs.

So simple. I love it.

How to create a successful website

I went to Victoria university. Their website was a well known example among students of a black hole of information – you knew it was all in there somewhere, it was just virtually impossible to get to it. It was begging for an update, so I was happy to discover that very recently it had undergone a re-design.

The new site looks nice, but I feel like the point of the redesign was missed a little. It’s not actually much easier to find stuff. I realised quickly that I had ‘learned’ the old site – I knew where that random link to the graduation information was off by heart so had taught myself how to get to it. The new site, I had no idea.

VUW new website

Looking quickly through the site to try to understand who and what they were catering for, I started jotting a quick list of what I think are the building blocks of a successful website. It is by no means complete, but based on the things I think the new VUW site does well and not so well.

  • Use menus to break the areas of your website up into large chunks. People use navigation only when necessary so keep your main menu small (only a few links) and prominent. I can then quickly get to the broad area I need to.
  • If you have a big site (with more than 2-3 layers of content), have a search box. I can avoid a long path to my goal page, if I can quickly search for it.
  • Too much small text in small chunks is confusing, especially when it looks the same – I ignore it. Maybe I assume they are ads? Clearly separate different content and give it some space and size!
  • I think 4 columns may be a bit much. It’s too busy and hard to separate the content out, so makes me head back to the menus. Keep it simple, 2-3 columns maximum and keep the main content area a lot larger than the ‘module’ bars so I know where I’m meant to be getting my information from.
  • Completely understand the REASON why someone is there. What are the things most people are trying to get to? Make sure it is as easy as possible to people to achieve their most common tasks. All information was not created equal. Do visitor requirements change over time? (i.e with a graduation ceremony coming up, make graduation prominent, at other times, leave it more ‘hidden’

A slug in your dinner

I recently went out to dinner with my parents to a restaurant that we quite like. Unfortunately, just as we polished off the last bit, I found a slug in my dinner.

Luckily it was a whole slug. In fact it was a happy slug. Quite cute too, had it not been in my dinner.

I got that weird, squirmy feeling about what exactly I had just eaten. Then the waiter came past and was shown the slug. He said ‘oh dear… Umm, would you like me to take it away?’ and kind of wiped it off my plate with a towel.

I think we looked a little shocked because he then offered a free dessert. Funnily enough, I wasn’t too interested, so got my dinner for free.

I’d give him about a B- for his dealings with me.

When we went to pay, the owner/manager happened to be standing there. He wondered why we were getting a free meal. When he was told, his face went a little pale and he ordered everyone into the kitchen to look at the salad. He wasn’t thinking ‘oh dear a slug’ he was thinking ‘potentially these people could do significant damage to my restaurant’. I mean, imagine if I’d been a restaurant reviewer?

It made me think… Shouldn’t every one working in a restaurant be equally concerned about slugs?

Is your business sustainable?

I’m not sure if ours is, but I’d like it to be.

Small business should be the home of sustainability. We know how to live off a shoestring, to use our resources until they are well and truly done for. We like to save money, we like to achieve things, our livelihood depends on us standing out.

Simple measures we can take

I’ve been thinking about it a bit recently and talking to others about potential small solutions that make a big difference. We aren’t necessarily doing all these things, but I think we should make it our 6 month aim to be. I’m also very interested in hearing what other small businesses are doing and how they can save money doing it.

Live close to work

If you have less than 10 people, you should all try to live within walking or biking distance, or at the very least, use public transport. Why hire people who live far away? Build your daily exercise into getting to work – My sister often walks an hour to get home to the suburbs and arrives refreshed and relaxed.

Try to cut paper waste

We send out our invoices via email. We’ve had one or two customers complain and politely tell them that they can print them at their end if needed, we can’t justify the waste… And it saves us tonnes of money!

We also ask customers to set up direct bank transfers instead of sending cheques. We don’t have a 100% hit rate, but the time and hassle it saves when cheques aren’t sent is enormous! I use the envelopes we get as srap paper for all the notes we jot down throughout the day.

We store copies of all our valuable information online instead of in printed version. If you do print stuff, print on both sides!

Recycle

It is a shame that for some reason in the last two offices we’ve had, there has been no recycling. We do put recyclables aside and Tim sometimes takes them home, but if the cleaners get in first, I suspect it all goes in the bin. One aim for the next 6 months is to sort the recycling situation in our office.

Every time you get rid of a computer or a cellphone or any electrical junk, THINK before you bin it. There are recycle stations, companies like Vodafone do have drop off days. if it’s not broken, someone else might want it… Take it to the Salvation Army or charity store.

Turn off your computers and lights at night

Once again, we’re guilty… some stay on, for no reason at all. We live in a world so full of waste that we forget it’s actually no burden to flick the switch when you leave the office.

Avoid Taxis

If you work in a city like Wellington, there is virtually no need for taxis. Bus lanes enable busses to get there just as fast or faster, and walking in the middle of the day gives you the chance to get some fresh air. There is no reason why you can’t plan to finish meetings and events with 15 minutes to spare before the next one.

Or why not get a company bike? Slap on your logo and make it the first point of call for transport. I’ve heard of a company that did this recently and replaced an entire company car with a bike. Needless to say, they are gleeful about the extra money in their pocket.

Support a charity

While organisations like Greenpeace wont accept corporate sponsorship, you can do it individually. Surrounding yourself with information about what people ARE DOING, keeps you inspired to do something yourself.

It may not be world changing… But it’s a start

I know these sound small. It’s the same argument with plastic bags – why bother cutting yours if the rest of the world don’t? Because your usage however insignificant compared to the billion other people on the plant, IS SIGNIFICANT compared to what it could be.

It’s not going to be long before we actually have no choice in the matter, so why not get prepared now? It’s always better to be a leader, not a follower.

Today’s lecture is now complete. :)

Check out Moo for FREE Business Cards

A week or so ago, I wrote about the effectiveness of your business cards, and Matt from Polon was nice enough to inform me about Moo.

Flickr Moo CardsMoo is awesome. Moo makes business cards exciting and different. Moo is also mastering the art of word of mouth marketing by offering various promotions in conjunction with various very cool and talk-friendly companies (ie. 10,000 FREE sets of 10 Flickr mini cards, or 10,000 FREE sets of 10 Skype mini cards)

Redefining Business Cards 

Skype Moo CardsThe concept of the mini card is interesting for business owners, gone are the days where a business card was really kept. These days, they are simply the way of transporting your contact information from you to someones elses phone/contact database or other contact storage device, and once this task is complete, they are trashed.

Moo makes this process more fun – each card is different and very nice to look at, they are more convenient and earth friendly (being smaller) and they have managed to single handedly refresh the way I look at business cards. Excellent work :)

Keep and Eye Out 

Not entirely convinced by my gushy blog post? Keep an eye on their blog for the next freebie and send away to see for yourself (I seem to be a bit slow off the mark these days and am yet to be one of the top 10,000) 

Be a Daffodil and Stand Out From the Crowd

Virtually every day since we've been back in Wellington, there has been a different charity having their annual fundraising day. On my walk to work, I invariably scramble round my bag for coins, grab my sticker and be done with it. Generally, on the streets those with the stickers are the minority.

It all changed this morning.

Daffodil DayToday is Daffodil Day, and I must say that the Cancer Society has fully grasped that they are part of this marketing game as much as any company is. These day's the charity market is chocka-block, charities face many of the same problems as small businesses do, which boils down to the challenge of how to stand out in the crowd. But they face a much harder problem: consumer fatigue – Basically, as the number of charities grows, so, it appears does the number of problems this planet faces. We still haven't cured world poverty or cancer, although we've been giving for years, we're kind of swamped with the enormity of it all, and we're starting to wonder if our money just falls down a dark hole.

So how did the Cancer Society manage to get almost every person walking down the street this morning to donate, when most charities seem to struggle with a 50% success rate?

Five Steps to Fundraising Success

  1. Give the fundraising day a name.

    No more 'The SPCA's Official fundraising drive', it's Daffodal Day

  2. Own the town.

    Because it's all about atmosphere. We love streets lined with yellow balloons, the feeling of spring being on the way, the thought of being part of something cool.

  3. Get a cooler giveaway than stickers

    I'm not a huge fan of plastic, one use flowers, and wish we could get a real Daffodil, but in the meantime, it's generally accepted that a sticker is not worth donating for, but a lovely yellow flower is.

  4. Choose your collectors carefully

    Yes that's right. Those tired and disillusioned collecters do nothing for 'team morale'. If you're going to do it, get the type of people who call out a cheerful 'thanks' when you pass them, or a 'good morning'. Also get school kids involved, especially polite ones who make us workers feel like there's hope for the future ;)

  5. Make people feel good

    It is a well known fact that encouragement is better than punishment. Most charities seem to try to entice donations by showing us just how bad things are (starving children, dead whales etc etc), whereas Daffodil Day makes us feel positive and happy. Yes, there is a serious message behind it, and yes, we have a lot to feel guilty about in this world. But psychology is a funny thing and guilt is not inspiring!

The Cancer Society is a fairly substantial organisation, however, none of the above list requires a lot of money, just a bit of smarts and creativity – Simple and Loveable. Happy Daffodil Day!

 

Win FREE TV Advertising with Spotrunner

Sport Runner Competition

If you're a small business and want to advertise on TV and live in the USA (the criteria sound quite stringent but really aren't), head straight over to Spotrunner to enter this very cool competition.

Grand Prize:

  • $5,000 worth of tv airtime
  • a $499 ad from our library, personalised to your business
  • $99 Express Launch consultation service to help you get started
  • a portable DVD player

Spot RunnerIt's not often small businesses get anything for free so grab this chance while you can. If you are like me and excluded from the competition due to geographical reasons, don't be sad! You automatically get the spot prize of seeing a successful buzz marketing campaign in action (I got the news from Becky at Small Biz Survival, who got it from The Small Business CEO, who got it from…)

Entries close on September 5thGood Luck!

Get Forced into a Fitter Lifestyle with Traineo

When you are a computer geek it is difficult to find the time to leave your computer and get active. Web 2.0 has responded to this dilemma in true web 2.0 style, combining the real world, communities, goal tracking and feedback, all mixed together in simple, fun looking applications that give you that same 'I will really stick with it this time' feel as you get from infomercials.

TraineoWhen Tim from Silverstripe put us onto Traineo, I instantly fell in love. Aside from their magnificent website, what is suprememly cool is the fact that you nominate 4 friends to act as your excercise interrogators – if you fail, they will know and they will taunt you and make you feel like the loser that you are. Excellent. I guarantee you that if you pick the right friends, you are well on your way to the fit, happy lifestyle you've always wanted.

 

Logos Web 2.0 With LogoPond

It's been a while since we profiled a web 2.0 tool. There are a few reasons for this, one of which is the 'stagnation' of the space – Although there are about 5 Basecamp clones launching weekly, the stream of tools that attack different problems is fast turning into a trickle. However, this is not a gripe, because I found one such tool, and I think it's great.

 

LogoPond Helps you Test Your New Logo

LogoPond
I love how simple it is. You're a small business, your developing a new logo, you can't afford mass market research or hoardes of expert opinions. So you chuck it up on LogoPond and let the community rate your effort (or efforts if you've got a few potential options). This place is full of logo designers, which means expert advice for free – not something you get offered every day. In return, you can't help but rate other logos, or browsing through the site for inspiration.

I f you're feeling particularly brave, push your current logo into the viper nest to see if it's time for an upgrade – or try your competitor's logo for a bit of Monday Morning Sport.