Marketing Monday

Marketing Monday: Oregon Wine Country

Usually if I haven’t been writing blog entries it’s because I’ve been doing other interesting things. I spent last week working really hard so I could take a vacation in the form of a slightly extended long weekend. Two of my college friends Bailey and Jeremy (now married to each other) bought a house in Portland Oregon about a year ago and the rest of us on the east coast descended to check it out. It’s was a lot of catching up, food, bad television watching, and general hanging out.

Sunday, we changed it up and rented a minivan, packed up the Voodoo Donuts, and Jeremy drove the rest of us around to sample some of the fine wines in the Willamette Valley region.

We rented a van so we could all be together which led to a lot of joking about being a whiney kids with our soccer parents Bailey and Jeremy drove us around.

We rented a van so we could all be together which led to a lot of joking about being a whiney kids with our soccer parents Bailey and Jeremy driving us around.

Now I’ve been wine tasting once but never in an area where so many wineries are so close together. I was struck by the fact that each place really had a distinct feel to it.



The open almost office-y feeling of Oak Knoll was a good start to the trip. Six tastings for $5, can't beat it!

The open almost office-y feeling of Oak Knoll was a good start to the trip. Six tastings for $5, can't beat it!

Our first stop was Oak Knoll Winery. Jeremy and Bailey had a case of their wine we had been enjoying throughout the weekend and since it was only about 20 minutes from their house, it was a logical place to start out. Pop music blared on the radio and the area was pretty office-y in terms of environment. If I could have shipped a case of their sale wine for $40 home to Maine, I so would have. Darn state laws!

Driving a group of girls around is so much easier when you have a Voodoo Donut and some good music going. Thanks Jeremy!

Driving a group of girls around is so much easier when you have a Voodoo Donut and some good music going. Thanks Jeremy!

Our second stop was Raptor Ridge, which we were hoping was a dinosaur reference. The woman at Oak Knoll pointed us in Raptor Ridge’s direction, mentioning they had built a whole new tasting room with a gorgeous view. So piling into the white minivan, off we went.

Raptor Ridge tasting room had quite a view even on a foggy day.

Raptor Ridge tasting room had quite a view even on a foggy day.

Raptor Ridge had a much more contemporary setup with a great view. It worked out well because they had a ‘smelling wall’ and several area magazines for perusing while we waited for the group before us to finish up. (One thing learned: Raptor apparently refers to a bird, not a dinosaur by the way.)

We waited in style by smelling bottles and trying to figure them out.

We waited in style by smelling bottles and trying to figure out the scents inside.

The tasting fee here was a steeper ($10/person for five wines) but for the view and the experience of some complex pinots, it was fantastic (versus Oak Hill which seemed to specialize in fruity blends).

The Raptor Ridge Pinots were a bit more complex than Oak Knoll. Sarah D. bought Bailey and Jeremy a thank-you-for-hosting-us bottle of wine.

The Raptor Ridge Pinots were a bit more complex than Oak Knoll. Sarah D. bought Bailey and Jeremy a thank-you-for-hosting-us bottle of wine.

We then stopped for a lunch break before moving on to Duck Pond Winery, another winery that was suggested to us at Oak Knoll. Clearly a much more commercial operation, the whole thing centered around a gift shop and was in a huge building. The complimentary tastings were alright (free is always a good price) but feeling a bit ignored, we left without even taking any pictures.

The surroundings of the Red Barn tasting room were more gorgeous than I could capture.

The surroundings of the Red Barn tasting room were more gorgeous than I could capture.

Our last stop was probably our collective favorite: Maresh Red Barn which had a very pretty drive going out to it. Bailey and Jeremy are wine club members there which meant we had free tastings. The best part was talking with the retired owner who told us about how he started the vineyard and kept the winery open back when bankers wouldn’t give him any funding. They told him ‘grapes won’t grow here’. Over 40 acres of productive grapes later, that is clearly not the case.

The interior of the place was an old barn with a woodstove. It was so homey and the owner was chatty that we all just stood there for half an hour, listening to him and enjoying being with each other.

The Maresh Red Barn Vineyard is the wine club our friends just joined. Better deals, invitations to events, and more are the advantages to being a member.

The Maresh Red Barn Vineyard is the wine club our friends just joined. Better deals, invitations to events, and more are the advantages to being a wine club member.

Overall, it’s really great how each vineyard is able to keep its unique identity yet they collectively are able to market the Willamette Valley region.

That said, a lot of these places needed help on their websites and only two of the four places we went to even implied they did social media and only one counter urged us to sign up for the email list. Come on Willamette Valley, let’s see you online a little more so I can visit you virtually a bit more often. Websites and wine get better with time!

Thanks to my friends for such a great visit: Bailey and Jeremy for hosting, Lydia for her cooking and entertainment, and Sarah D., Sarah C., Hannah, and Meg for being my travel companions from the east coast. No matter what we did, I know we would have had a great time… but the wine was really fun!

Marketing Monday: A/B Testing

The idea of A/B testing has long been used with designers but definitely has applications with online marketing as well. It was my friend Lynn Cyr, a user interface designer, who introduced me to the concept via a blog.

A/B testing is simply testing two versions of the same email newsletter, landing page, contact form, etc. and see which one performs better.

Here is a simple example from CampaignMonitor.com (click here to get the full post from the site):



There's not much difference in this email campaign except the words used in the link. Guess which one did better?

There’s not much difference in this email campaign except the words used in the link. Guess which one did better?

So I am going to kill the suspense here: Campaign A had a higher response rate. Here’s the graph for those of you who like a visual:

You can lie to yourself about how effective something is but your numbers won't lie for you.

You can lie to yourself about how effective something is but your numbers won’t lie for you.

And you may think, great, nerds the world over can figure out how more people can fill out a contact form. What does this have to do with me?

What if I told you you could test a new website configuration to sell more products?

ABTests.com has visual case studies you can learn from and be inspired to try yourself.

ABTests.com has visual case studies you can learn from and be inspired to try yourself.

In the example above, adding a ‘Popular Products’ feature increased sales with those products while people were looking at related products (AKA cross-selling). This example makes sense but not all of the case studies seem logical. Here’s one with interesting results from ABTests.com:

You'd think the cell phone would speak better to active technology saavy folks on the go (at least I would!) but it didn't. That's why we test, right?

You’d think the cell phone would speak better to active technology saavy folks on the go (at least I would!) but it didn’t. That’s why we test, right?

Here’s the thing: As business owners, we can not assume we know what our customer thinks. Scientists run experiments and psychologists conduct studies precisely because, while we can come up with a prediction, we always have to test it. But besides the quest for knowledge, why A/B test your Facebook page, website, email newsletter, blog, or anything?

1) More sales with less work.
Let’s say you spend an hour setting up Version A and Version B of something. Wait a month while data collects. Look at the numbers, do what works. Even if you only increased sales by 5%, that’s more money for the same amount of effort, that means more money for the same amount of website traffic you are already getting.

2) It’s not expensive.
If you want to DIY, companies like Visual Site Optimizer offer a 30 day free trial (and less than $30/month after for small businesses) which allow you to set up your own tests and track the results. Or you can have your favorite nerd set up something for you. Even if you pay a nerd like me $75/hour for 1-2 hours work, you’ll more than make that money back with your improved results.

3) It means better results over time.
So you find out your customers like one website layout over another. Guess what you’ll consider when you redesign your email newsletter? Exactly. A/B testing means you get better at reaching your target customer over time, further improving what you are trying to do both on and off your website.

Your website visitors can tell you so much without saying a word. And while we’d all prefer to think our websites are perfect, we can always do it a bit better. A/B Testing just helps you get to that better level quicker.

For more information about A/B testing including setup, check out this article from Smashing Magazine.

Or contact me if you’d like me to set up an A/B test for your contact page, newsletter, Facebook ad, or whatever!

Marketing Monday: Information About Your Website You Need

I break from my normal Marketing Monday format for the following public service announcement. I feel this is necessary after helping several people get access to their websites recently. I don’t want you to ever be one of them. I thank Matt Baya for his contributions to this post.

Many people keep important documents in a safe or have the inventory of their house noted in case of a fire or other disaster. It seems as if this ‘let’s have this information in case’ attitude doesn’t necessarily extend to website information. As the owner of a website, you never know when you’ll need this information.

My Computer!
Your disgruntled web host, designer, former employee, or smart cat has all your passwords… Do you?
Creative Commons License
photo credit: dr.regor

What sort of disaster scenario could happen? Here’s a few:

  • your web designer ‘disappears’
  • a disgruntled employee with access to this information leaves the company
  • your website gets hacked
  • your hosting company dissolves

In short, these scenarios where you would need this information are not nearly as crazy as a catastrophic flood. They could happen very easily.

With this in mind, here is the information you should have about your website available. Once you have all of it, print it on a sheet of paper and put it in your safe or other secure location, just in case.

Domain level access
Source: Your web host or wherever you bought your domain
Access to this allows the administration of your domain and do things like transfer the DNS to their web server, create and forward domain branded emails (info@yourdomain.com for example) and do other tasks related to your domain. It could be a GoDaddy (or Network Solutions, Enom, etc.) username and password or, if your hosting company uses Cpanel, it could be a username and password to access www.yourdomain.com/cpanel.

Note: Make sure, once you have access to this, you actually own your own domain name. If you don’t, begin steps with where your domain was purchased to get it back. You may have to fax the changed contact information on your company letterhead or otherwise ‘prove’ your business owns the website. To see if you own your domain, search the WhoIs records. Remember if you privately registered your domain, the contact info will not be your own when you look it up. That’s what you paid for in terms of privacy.



FTP access
Source: Your web host or web designer
Access to this allows  you to access files on your domain. It could be html files, images, the software that runs your website, and more. This should be your web host, your username, and password. To see if what you have works, install an FTP client (like Filezilla or Cyberduck), put in the information and see if you can connect to your website via FTP. If you can’t, you’ll get an error. Make sure you type in the password and username exactly; it is case sensitive.

Social Networking access
Source: Whoever set it up
If someone set up your Twitter account, they should give you the username and password. Most social networks work with a username and password. Your Facebook page is a bit different since it is tied in with individual users (ex. I, Nicole Ouellette, am an administrator on the Breaking Even Communications Facebook page). You as an individual should be an administrator on your own Facebook page.

  • Make sure you have all this information and put it with all your other important papers for your home or business.
  • Make sure all  account passwords are different. That way, if someone hacks into one account, they can’t get into all of them.
  • And make sure you back up your website regularly. You back up your business data and your family digital photos so make sure you are doing the same efforts with your website. Some web services automatically email you website backups. I get a backup of my website in my email inbox every week for example.

Worried about asking for access information from your web host/designer/friend? Personally, if a client asked me for any of this, I’d give it to them gladly. (Though I might also ask if they were about to fire me but, hey, it’s your information to have, not mine!) Any reputable person isn’t bothered by you wanting control of your own website and should instead go out of their way to help you.

Do you have a website? If so, do you have all this information?

Marketing Monday: Valentine’s Day

I heard a story on NPR that the average person spends $150ish on Valentine’s Day. The number seems to vary based on what article you read but I couldn’t help but think this is kind of ridiculous. Yeah, I’m not very romantic but, ignoring romantic love, I’m not completely repulsed by Valentine’s Day. Here are a few interesting Valentine-related phenomenon I noticed recently:

Valentine's Day: Some good stuff with the commercialism

Valentine's Day: Some good stuff with the commercialism

This week’s episode of Community and 30 Rock
I love a good sitcom, and it’s shows like Community and 30 Rock that renew my faith in the genre. These shows crack me up, and their Valentine’s Day episodes about love of friends was very cute. I want to go to there.

Groupon FTD Coupon Scam
Groupon seems to be agitating people a bit lately. First the Superbowl ad, now this bit with FTD where they offered a discount on flowers with elevated prices. They seem to have gotten it straightened out but hey, bad press is better than no press, right?




My friend Cherie’s blog post about Valentine’s Day Competitiveness
My friend Cherie tweeted “Congratulations. Your husband sent you a teddy bear. You clearly have a much stronger marriage than me.” and I snorted. I am glad she was also inspired to write this post about Valentine’s Day competitiveness in relation to her kiddos. Hilarious.

Heart-shaped Peeps
Sure, this product is just Easter pushed at all times of the year but the white hearts have a slight vanilla flavor and if you let them age with the bag open for 1-2 weeks, you’ll have a slightly crusty snack of perfection (or you can cut them into squares and pretend they are gourmet marshmellows).

So while the idea of paying double for a meal out makes me roll my eyes, I do understand that Valentine’s Day isn’t all bad… Wow, this Peep is fantastic!

Have you noticed anything cool related to Valentine’s Day marketing?

Marketing Monday: Superbowl Ads 2011

My theory is companies aren’t trying hard at SuperBowl commercials anymore because of the whole internet marketing movement. That said, I had some fun last night watching some commercials anyway! Here they are, in no particular order:

The ‘Aww, clever!’ Commercial
I laughed out loud because beavers are ridiculous but at the same time, thought Bridgestone’s message was memorable. You know, since besides the commercial being clever, I also remembered what product it was trying to sell.



The Controversial Commercial
I personally took this as Groupon making fun of America’s consumption culture (of which they are also a part of). But they are giving money to organizations to make up for this potential gaff but hey, they got people talking and aware of some larger-than-saving-50%-off causes.

The ‘I Can Totally Relate’ Commercial
In a totally different feel of a commercial, Bridgestone made this cute ad about a guy who thought he pressed ‘Reply All’ instead of ‘Reply’. We can all relate, which is why watching him go through hell and back to get to this missent email. I did forget what the commercial was for so maybe this was a bit too clever.

The Uncomfortably Hilarious Commercial
Doritos held an ad contest with fans to produce a Superbowl Ad. While the running pug won, I thought this commercial was pretty funny, if only because for a second it makes you a bit uncomfortable. And isn’t that true humor, boundary pushing in a way audiences haven’t yet seen before?

All in all, it’s clear that there is always going to be a place for commercially produced advertisements yet these are going to change and become more relevant to all of us since regular people like us are becoming a part of the ad creation. And now, your turn to weigh in…

What was your favorite commercial?

Marketing Monday: Four Internet Marketing Questions Answered

Every Monday, I talk about internet marketing. I profile companies, interview people, and answer questions. Please let me know if you have an idea for a future post!

I thought it might be fun to do a post about some recent (and frequent) questions I’ve gotten both via email from clients and during presentations. Maybe this can help someone else or maybe just make you a more conscious person online. In any case, here are a few basic ones in no particular order:

Why do people follow me on Twitter then unfollow me right away?
I love this Twitter ‘strategy’ that some people have really picked up on lately. This is how it works (for the person doing it):

1) Find people on Twitter.
2) Follow them.
3) Wait 24-48 hours.
4) Unfollow them.
5) Smile as you think you’ve increased your follower numbers without the other person realizing you did this.

This plan works well on the surface since many people have their accounts set to automatically follow anyone who follows them on Twitter.  But there are at least five free services where people can be notified when they are unfollowed by someone on Twitter. Other people besides me will no doubt catch onto this and the Twitter users who appear and disappear will get a reputation for being a spammer.

Instead, I just follow people on Twitter I want to follow and don’t follow back people I don’t want to. Among the things I look at when I make my follow decision are:
1) Their website in their profile. Is it lame? Or does the link no longer work? Is the link title misleading to what the website actually is? None of these are good signs.
2) Their profile picture. Is it some sexy woman stock photograph? Do they tweet about a bunch of random stuff? Probably a spammer.
3) Their last 3-4 tweets. Are they useful? Are they telling me to buy a bunch of random products I don’t need? Are they on topic?
4) How many people follow them. Are they following 2,000 and are followed back by 200 people? That means they are part of the noise, not the conversation.

Another way to manage your list if you automatically follow people back  is do what my friend Lynelle does and check your list every couple weeks to unfollow people who are spamming or otherwise annoying you.

Why do some business Facebook pages have friends instead of fans?
You realize you wanted your business page to be seperate from your personal page. So you made a profile: First Name: “Breaking Even” Last Name: “Communications”. This restaurant did this very thing:

It was suggested I be 'friends' with this BBQ pit. A business should have people who like it, not friends. This is against Facebook user policy, and could be wiped out at any point because it's violating terms.

It was suggested I be 'friends' with this BBQ pit. A business should have people who like it, not friends. This is against Facebook user policy, and could be wiped out at any point because it's violating terms.

There are two reasons people seem to do this, which is actually incorrect in terms of Facebook page setup:
1) They don’t know what they are doing.
2) They want to intentionally have a profile so they can message customers directly. (Business pages can only send updates.)

Most of the time, I find the situation is more number 1 than number 2, which is always reassuring. That said, even if you did this without malicious intentions to spam your client base, it is still against Facebook user policy to set up a business page as a profile and Facebook is beginning to delete profiles that are doing this. And do you really want to start over with a proper page once you’ve built up your friends (who should actually be fans)? Probably not.



Here is how you can fix this if you’ve done something similar:

1) Once you are logged in as yourself (not your fake business profile), go to www. facebook.com/pages and click the ‘Create Page’ button.
2) Follow the steps and publish the business page in its correct form. Add information to this page so people can find it in searches and so it looks legit.
3) Ask everyone that is ‘friends’ with the fake person to move to the new business FB page, giving them the link on the fake person’s wall. If you feel ambitious, also email your fans to tell them you are moving with the new link.
4) Wait 24-72 hours to give people a chance to move.
5) Delete the fake person. Enjoy being a legal Facebook business page owner.

Or you can ask for help from someone who knows what they are doing. Remember just because someone uses their personal Facebook profile a lot doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to set up a business page correctly! After you have a page, make sure you are an administrator on the page even if you don’t use Facebook yourself, just in case there is ever an issue.

Why do people use the contact form of my website to send me really weird stuff?
Often, these are a dead giveaway of spam. This is almost verbatim an email I got two weeks ago when someone filled out the contact form on my website:  ‘Dear Sir/Madam, Many Canadians have no idea they qualify for home refinancing…” I think they wanted me to write about this program on my blog but I’m still not entirely sure.

Now, a quick look in the ‘About’ section of my website would have told this person that I am a madam and that I am not Canadian. Clearly, I am not the target audience for this product. People may want to reach out to websites like yours to find new suppliers for a wholesale product, to get their book reviewed, or any number of reasons and they may not be as thoughtful as they should be.

Meanwhile, you can learn from this situation. If you want to build a relationship with through someone’s website or blog, do a little detective work  in the About, Contact or FAQ section of the website before writing to the person. Can’t get a name? Get something else, like their blog topic or some other reason why you are contacting them. You can even be nerdy about it and  keep all your data about different websites in a spreadsheet to keep it all straight and be able to find the information easily later.

Let’s rewrite the email above having looked at my site for two minutes:  “Dear Nicole, I see you have a marketing blog and may or may not own your own home. I wanted to let you know about a program for Canadian home owners that may be a good blog topic (Marketing Monday maybe?) for your Canadian readers…” The rest of the email could be a press release but at least I know the person took the time. I would actually read and respond to this email, wouldn’t you?

Even though it takes a little longer to research and write more personal emails, I guarantee you will get a lot better responses and better results from people you correspond with online, especially if they have never met you. The internet is an impersonal space and if you can make it a more personal connection, you are two steps ahead of the game and no longer wasting your time contacting irrelevant people. And if someone irrelevant contacts you, just delete it. If they really want to contact you, they can make it more personal next time!

How can I make my company website less corporate and more personal?
I am all for fun websites. I tried crazy patterns on my Myspace page back in the day. I experimented with fonts in emails to friends. I posted cutesy pictures on my personal blog. But I did so without wanting people to take me too seriously.

I just got followed by the person on Twitter who runs a non-profit. Here is the non-profit’s website:

Does this website make you want to give this organization money? (Black bars added by me.)

Does this website make you want to give this organization money? (Black bars added by me.)

Don’t get me wrong, I do have a pink website myself. But I like to think my website is fun while still allowing people to take me seriously. Your business or non-profit site should be the same, especially if you want money from people. Your website is peoples’ first impression of what you do. Make decisions accordingly. By looking at websites comparable to your own (related non-profits, friends’ business sites, etc.), it’s easy to see how to make a business or non-profit website personal without making it look like their favorite 8 year old made it. No offense to 8 year olds of course!

Things you should never sacrifice for looks/personality: being able to search/find information, a clear purpose (What should people do when they get to your site?) and contact information findable on every page.

And if you want the hard truth about a website’s functionality, I am happy to tell you in a really nice way.

Have a question yourself? Comment below and maybe I’ll write a fun blog post about it!

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