Marketing Monday

How ‘Checking In’ Works

I saw one of my Facebook friends ask people to check into her business on Facebook and Twitter.

I slapped my forehead because she can’t actually can’t track that unless she’s clairvoyant. (And if you are clairvoyant, by all means close your business and make a ton of money on that skill!)

Having people ‘check in’ on social media allows for several things, including increased visibility for your business on social media and an incentive for people to physically come in to your place of business.

If you are encouraging this behavior (and offering people something to do it), it’s important to understand how it works.

I joke with people that the opposite of what I want people to do is come into the Breaking Even office so I don’t go out of my way to promote in this way. That said, I have some advice that might help those of you who want to encourage this behavior.

1) Encourage people to check in and show someone at that moment for a reward.

If you want people to check into your business (on Yelp, Foursquare, or Facebook… or all three), have them do the checkin on their smartphone and show it to a cashier. (A simple sign at your business can accomplish letting people know they can do this).

Then the cashier can give them something: a chocolate, a pen, some other novelty. Then the cashier can note about who checks in and what website/social network they used. Heck they can even use a camera to snap a picture of the person holding their phone so you can keep track:


(That’s me being the Foursquare mayor of Dog and Pony after checking in. Stop being jealous.) + Read More

How Chicken Sausage Beefed Up Their Mobile Website

My friends have a weekly poker game. At said poker game, everyone brings a little something to share foodwise with the group. Alice brought some fancy sausage to the last poker game for grilling purposes:


In back of the package was a QR code. As someone who regularly scans these codes only to be sent to a not-mobile friendly website, I was surprised that after this scan, I was sent to a mobile friendly website clearly designed that way on purpose:


(The Groupon ad on the bottom is courtesy of my QR code reader-which is normally what you get when you download a free app. How do I know it was the app and not the website? I put the address in my mobile browser and the ad didn’t show up. Mystery solved.)

So far so good, sausage company.

Of course when you design a mobile site, you design it for scrolling…And so scroll I did:


Like most good websites, Al Fresco has taken the opportunity for this company to grab your email address, in exchange for a $1 off coupon. This amount ($1-$2) is about what someone typically pays for a Google or Facebook ad click (around this amount anyway) and clearly an email address is more valuable than than a single click to most companies.

When you click ‘Sign Up Now’, it links to a mobile friendly form:


As you see, each thing you link to on your mobile website is one more thing you have to make mobile friendly. Signup form, links to recipes, photo galleries… everything you link to is something that not only makes your site more dynamic but also is a potential thing that can go wrong, mobile speaking.

So, if you are shorter on time or money, be enthusiastic about your mobile site but be realistic too. First off, it’s literally 1/10th the screen size of a typical computer so it can’t do everything your full-sized website does. And secondly making elements mobile friendly takes time.

The one issue I found on Al Fresco’s mobile template was one part that didn’t work:



When I click to enter the $1000 contest on the ‘click to enter’ button, I get a 404 error. Bummer, I could use $1000!

Like I said, this is one of the better mobile websites I’ve run into so hats off to Al Fresco on making the QR code actually go to something interesting.

So what can we learn from our sausage-y friends about mobile websites?

  • Think about what your mobile users care about. I cook from my iPhone all the time so recipes are great. I won’t, however, read the company’s blog from my phone, which is why they don’t link to it. They aren’t trying to do everything their regular website does, just the most important to mobile users things.
  • Make everything you link to mobile friendly. The importance for mobile doesn’t just apply to the items on that main page but anything you link to from that page. Otherwise you look like an inconsiderate jerk who didn’t think the idea completely through.
  • Test often. Sometimes there can be an issue you don’t catch, especially if you are updating the page often, or have more than one person updating said page.

Whether you sell sausage or the grill we cooked them on, it’s important to think of your mobile user. So take a look at your website from a mobile perspective at least once a month to see what your mobile customers see.

Want to know more about mobile websites? Here’s a helpful article:

What Google Ads Mean To Me

A lot of clients want to use paid per click (PPC) advertising like Google ads.

And I don’t know if you have tried to talk people out of ideas…but it’s a lot harder than talking them into stuff!

I usually try to talk people out of paid ads as a main strategy for reasons I will go into below. Yes, I do have a vested interest if they spend more money with me and less with Google but as a bigger picture point of view, I hate seeing people waste money.

google-adwordsHere’s the analogy I use for paid ads.

Let’s say that I put out there: “Hey everyone, I’ll pay you $1 to walk into my office.”

Would more people walk into my office? Yes.
Would they buy stuff from me? Maybe. Maybe not.
Would they stop coming after I stopped paying $1? Yes… or at the very least it would slow way down. 

For me, PPC ads are a quick fix: a way to get some initial traffic to a new site, run a promotion, or other short term specific scheme. But they are never a big mix in any advertising budget I want to work with.

Now let’s say someone caught up to your scheme and suddenly they say “Hey everyone, I’ll pay you $2 to walk into my office.”

Would people walk into their office more than yours? Yes.

If you’ve ever bought Google Ads, you’ll notice upping your bid makes your ads show up more often. So suddenly, Google has us all in bidding wars with each other and Google makes 100 million dollars a day on this. (Check out Ross’ article about this topic which was part of my inspiration today!)

You are smarter than this, people! Stop spending a lot of money on something that doesn’t work in a long lasting way.

So here’s what Google Ads mean to me:

1) They aren’t more than 10% of any ad budget.
2) They are for set, temporary, specific campaigns.
3) They are ads, they aren’t marketing.

To me, marketing is building a relationship. It’s posting regularly to a group of people who follow your company on Facebook or writing to an email list of people who have all opted in. With both ads and marketing, there are some costs involved but with marketing, there is an intention there to create a relationship, not just have a transaction.

Ads are part of a marketing budget, but never the whole thing. Just like you wouldn’t dump all your money in one stock, diversify your marketing too.

Because paying people $1 to walk in is something you can do for so long. Making people want to walk in is a better use of your time…and budget.





Two Kickstarter Projects: Ideas On How One Succeeded and One Did Not

Whether you are a business or non-profit, asking for money can be awkward. Non-profit organizations are used to relying on donors but for a long time, this world was not open to businesses.

Since websites like Kickstarter have been in existence, businesses and individuals (in addition to non-profits) have the ability to ask for money related to a specific project. But it can still be awkward.

Here are two campaigns from Kickstarter, one that raised its goal amount (and well past it) and one that did not. Let’s see if we can spot some differences:

Successful campaign: Get Speculative Fiction Book Published
Objective: Create an anthology of stories from people typically marginalized by traditional publishing.

Things I noticed:

  • Both people on the project were in the video talking about why it was important… and had some fun with it. 
  • They had goals and ‘reach’ goals. In other words, in terms of what would happen if they raised more than expected, it was pretty clear at each step what else would happen.
  • The incentives were pretty cool and included different formats of the publication. In other words, I could be near or far and support the cause… and get cool stuff.
  • Progress was regularly posted to the Kickstarter site so everyone knew what was going on.
  • They let people give anywhere from $1 to $1000. The majority of gifts were in the $25 range.
  • They have given to 25 other Kickstarter causes. In other words, they were in the community.
  • They were willing to let contributors participate with their campaign.
Hey look, I can see who they are and why they want to do this!

Hey look, I can see who they are and why they want to do this!

Unsuccessful campaign: Move Colonial Pizza Back To Spring Street
Objective: “Our project is simple in concept: We are hoping to return our pizzeria to Spring Street in Williamstown, MA. This has been a dream of ours for the last 15 years and would be considered a homecoming.We were part of the heart and soul of the town for over 25 years until a fire displaced us to a location on the outskirts of town. ”

Things I noticed:

  • The two minute video had no talking in it. Really? Not one person in the whole place could have gone on camera and talked about why this was important? Since I have three devices just on this desk capable to taking video, whenever I see someone not appear in a video I always think it’s not a lack of technology. If you’re asking for $27,000 the least you can do is ask in person I think.
  • In the slideshow, there is a photo of an employee with a blurred out middle finger. Classy.
  • The incentives for giving are kind of crappy. For example, the $120 level ensures I get $180 worth of pizza later. That’s not an excellent return. It’s not even a cool or novel return.
  • This isn’t really a ‘cool’ thing. It’s not like they are trying an innovative project or serving a new population. They are just moving. Kind of yawn.
  • The idea is kind of presented in a negative way. Like they are on the ‘outskirts’ of town (wonder how nearby businesses feel about that characterization) and just want to go home. I feel sorry for them but feeling sorry for someone doesn’t make me want to help them raise close to $30,000.
  • Aren’t they going to move anyway? Moving seems to be a big enough decision that financially, they are probably ready to do it. It’s like they just want to get free money from Kickstarter.
  • They have backed one cause: their own. Not a part of the Kickstarter community.
  • One update during the campaign. Backers need more than that.
Hey look it's a slideshow already saying what it says in the narrative of the site.

Hey look it’s a slideshow already saying what it says in the narrative of the site.

So from this admittedly very random and small sample, what can we say about how to make your project successful?

  • Transparency– Show who you are and why you want what you want.
  • Timely– Keep stakeholders up to date.
  • Cool– Offer to do something cool. Like the pizza people could have launched a community program (and used the extra generated money to move location)… or they could have just given away cooler prizes to backers.
  • Involved– Like any community, being involved with Kickstarter beyond your own interest helps. It also helps letting donors get involved.

So if you are planning a Kickstarter campaign, hopefully this is helpful!

Why I Use Mailchimp (Or Why I Don’t Use Constant Contact)

As someone on a computer all day, I’m often one of the first people to try a new piece of software. Email marketing software is one of them. I’ve tried Constant Contact and some others but Mailchimp is still my email marketing favorite.

Now Constant Contact is a more complete solution in terms of them having event marketing and other features. And that’s what it has going for it.


Most people worry that Mailchimp won’t be full featured enough for their company. Mailchimp has the same features Constant Contact does:

  • high delivery rates (95%+)
  • segmented lists
  • statistics on email campaigns
  • integration with Facebook, Twitter, and Google Analytics
  • ability to import data from spreadsheets or csv files, etc.

A few things Mailchimp has going for it that make it stand alone I think as the best choice:

1) Free– I’m not just talking monthly for up to 2,000 subscribers. If you want to have a subscription box on your website, Constant Contact charges you monthly for that. Want to display a list of links to your archives of past newsletter sends? Constant Contact charges you for that. Want to let people to subscribe from your Facebook page? Constant Contact charges you for that. With Mailchimp it’s all free. And if you run a Wordpress site, it has good integration with Gravity Forms, which means people can subscribe to your email newsletter while filling out a contact form (for example) on your website.

2) Easy to customize templates– Let’s say you want the background of an email newsletter to be white. For Constant Contact templates, each block of content is controlled independently, meaning you have to go to each one and select ‘white’. Very annoying. Mailchimp has styles that the whole newsletter can inherit. Like if you want the background white and all the headers blue, that’s two clicks. Constant Contact templates take me at least three times as long to make as Mailchimp ones and they don’t look nearly as good in my opinion. Click here to see what one of my email newsletters looks like if you want to get an idea of design.

3) Partnerships– Constant Contact is very insular. They want to do everything within their company. Mailchimp however has been really good at partnering with people like Eventbrite to offer better features that don’t cost extra.No matter what, you can always take your list and go home.

Both Constant Contact and Mailchimp have a way to export your list as a csv or other file format so you can move between them. In other words, if you hate Mailchimp, you aren’t stuck. And vice versa. It’s very important no matter what you pick for services that you can take your ball and go home whenever you want.

Are these your only two options? Of course not. And if you really are looking for a one stop shop, Constant Contact may be right for you. But I’m sticking with Mailchimp because for email marketing, it’s free, has great features, and puts out an excellent product. But if I run into something that works better, I’ll be sure to blog it! (Please note: I am not an affiliate marketer of either software so no one is paying me to have this opinion- I just do!)

By the way, you should sign up for my email newsletter on this website or on Facebook. It’s monthly, people have said they like getting it, and it’s free. 
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