Marketing Monday: El Conejo Corredor

I think I have most appreciated about writing this blog is that it’s connected me with so many cool people… and it allows me to keep in touch with far flung friends who (*gasp*) actually seem to read and enjoy it. One of those people is Matt Baya, a formerly local web developer I have become good friends with who moved to Massachusetts to take a new job.

‘You have to write about this taco truck’ he said. Based in Williamstown Massachusetts, he is surrounded by that college town vibe, much like I am here in Bar Harbor.

El Conejo Corredor was started by a couple Williams College graduates. They have a basic website up for general info/inquiries. These folks are proving that you don’t need to be in San Fran or Seattle to set up a food truck.

El Conejo's Twitter feed automatically posts to Facebook. And with slightly over 100 people following them on Twitter and 500ish following on Facebook, 600ish people can be reached with a single tweet.

El Conejo's Twitter feed automatically posts to Facebook. And with slightly over 100 people following them on Twitter and 500ish following on Facebook, 600ish people can be reached with a single tweet.

Since the El Conejo Corredor folks prefer Twitter, they have Twitter automatically post to their Facebook page:

Love Twitter but have people who prefer to follow you on Facebook? Connect your Twitter to your Facebook automatically!

Love Twitter but have people who prefer to follow you on Facebook? Connect your Twitter to your Facebook automatically!

What applications can you use to do this? Here are five from Mashable (with the first one listed being easiest):


El Conjo's simple website. Note: Even if you use a 'free' website builder that comes with your web hosting, there will be a mark on your website (in this case, GoDaddy). One of the reasons to design your own site once business is good.

El Conjo's simple website. Note: Even if you use a 'free' website builder that comes with your web hosting, there will be a mark on your website (in this case, GoDaddy). One of the reasons to design your own site once business is good.

Now I know even some very established businesses who don’t have websites at all but being the ECC has no fixed location to take advantage of, they can get that fixed location, consistent, ‘we’re a business’ feeling from having a website that they keep up to date.

At the very least, having your own domain is one way of securing who you are businesswise. Here’s an article Matt and I wrote about having your own domain name awhile back with more fun reasons you should have a domain: And if you are going to buy a domain, might as well stick something on it!

Just remember that that ‘free’ web page will always have some catch to it, like advertising for the person who’s letting you have it for ‘free’. (I say ‘free’ because you are paying for the domain name and web hosting already.) Note the GoDaddy logo lower right. Fine for now but not indefinitely.

So want to see this truck in action? Here’s a photo Matt sent me. Looks good, I’m jealous!

The food truck in action. And look left, note the signage about Facebook, Twitter, and website information.

The food truck in action. And look left, note the signage about Facebook, Twitter, and website information.

So if you find yourself in Williamstown Massachusetts or simply want to  know how a food truck in New England is using the web to sell more, check out El Conejo Corredor!

Selling Art Online: Some Ideas

This post was inspired by my friend’s father, who wants to get into selling comissioned poems online and wanted to know my thoughts.

I am always so excited when artists want to get online and sell their craft, whether it’s some fixed item (here’s a painting I’ve already done for $X) or some custom work (send me your thoughts and I will write you a meaningful poem for your occasion). The internet is niche and just because there is a small sampling of people in your corner of the world interested in, say, watercolors of elephants, doesn’t mean you can’t make a living, or at least part of a living, at your craft. Way to go you for not being limited!

What Do Your Customers Want?

Before jumping into the water with both feet, it may be wise (ok, it is wise) to do a bit of customer research. Some things to find out:

1) Are others doing what you’re doing? (If not, it may be a sign your idea doesn’t have a market… or it may be a sign that no one is as cool as you for thinking of it!)
2) What are people charging for similar work? Can you make money charging these prices?
3) What are people asking about? Do they want to be taught how to use pastels versus buying artwork that uses pastels? Do they want help finishing a drawing they’ve started versus one from scratch? Your idea is all well and good but if it’s not meeting a need, no matter how passionate you are, it won’t fly. What people are looking for will help make your idea better.
4) Who are your customers? Where do they live? What do they think? This may not only inform your marketing but your actual work.

Already your website will kick more butt because you’ve *thought* about what you want it to do and why.

Commissioned Art: Two Ideas For Revenue

There are two routes to go in terms of commissioned work (at least as I see it):

1) Package it as a simple transaction. is silly in premise but genius in the way it’s set up. Here is one related to poetry that is slightly less user-friendly but a similar idea:

In both these cases, the idea (and price) are really clear though. I will draw a cat for you for $9.95. I will write commissioned poems for your wedding up to 25 lines for 75 pounds.

With one glace, we see that we can get a cat drawn for us for $9.95. The attractive feature here is the novelty and price point but even more serious sites can learn for the ease of this sale.

With one glace, we see that we can get a cat drawn for us for $9.95. The attractive feature here is the novelty and price point but even more serious sites can learn for the ease of this sale.

2) Custom quotes.

This will have a lower conversion rate (most forms have a less than 10% conversion rate) but you can charge more money for the work.

Here is a custom quote form from a UK guitar maker:

The longer the form for a price quote, the less likely people will be to fill it out... but theoretically, these potential customers are more serious and will pay the price for a very customized guitar.

The longer the form for a price quote, the less likely people will be to fill it out… but theoretically, these potential customers are more serious and will pay the price for a very customized guitar.

So Door 1, charge less for a higher volume of smaller projects, straight-forward payment system. Door 2, more high quality (re: expensive) custom work at a lower volume. Payment less straight forward but you are able to be flexible.

There are clearly pros and cons to both and deciding what kind of art you’ll be selling may determine what kind of category you’ll fall into.

Taking Online Payment

Most people find that a Paypal or Google Checkout merchant account to take online payments is more than acceptable. These services charge a flat fee (around 2-3%) per transaction but totally worth it. Integrating one or both of these services with a website can be tricky so it’s worth getting a pro to do it.

If you want to take payment directly through your own website directly, you need merchant services as well as a secure certificate on your website. Unless you are doing a lot of transactions, this ends up not being worth it which is why so many people use Paypal and/or Google Checkout. To learn more, check out my post about using Etsy to sell art, which also talks about the pros and cons of doing your own ecommerce.

Selling Physical Goods: A Bit More Complicated Than Digital

If you want to get into selling physical goods (versus sending someone some writing or a image via email), that is something to consider.

BigCartel.comand other services off a DIY shopping cart solution that works well for many selling physical products for a low monthly fee. This may be good if you are trying out Ecommerce and don’t necessarily want to throw down $500+ for a custom shopping cart until you know your customers are out there for sure.

Yes, you too can buy needless Breaking Even crap (and yes, this web developer was too lazy to set up her own shopping cart)..

Yes, you too can buy needless Breaking Even crap (and yes, this web developer was too lazy to set up her own shopping cart):

The thing is with any online shopping cart software is you have to handle the orders as they come in, put items in boxes, perform customer service, etc. And with physical goods suddenly you are weighing everything and thinking about shipping options. Think of what it feels like to list one item on Ebay and multiply that by how many products you want to sell that may or may not frequently change. (You can clearly see how I feel about this… annoying unless you are making enough money to justify the time spent!) ;^)

If you want some third party company to handle the printing of your items (like you don’t want to keep stuff physically at your house ready to ship at all times), you could use a service like You upload the image and chose what products to sell (prints, canvases, etc.) Smugmug does the printing, shipping, and order handling for you. They have base prices on all their stuff and the markup is the money you make. Coffee mug is $7 and you mark it up to $10 on your site with your photo on it? You make $3. There are lots of ‘print on demand’ services for artists and here’s a long post about them if you feel like seeing what your other options are:

Make It All Stupid Easy

The key to all things web is to make it stupid easy. Having an ‘order your portrait’ button on every page, contact info in the footer, etc. The easier you make it, the easier it is for people to spend money on your artistic endeavors.

Any artists selling their art online reading this blog? Comment on your issues/ideas and leave a link back to your website so we can see some more examples! (Heck, you might even sell something!)

Website Types

What kind of a website do you need for your business?

Well, good news is you’ve got choices!

The way I see it there are three types of websites.

1) HTML (hypertext markup language) sites- Old school, hand coded.
2) Template sites- Plug and play. Click, click, click you’re done.
3) CMS (content management system) sites- Run off a database, new school, need a bit of time to get them up and running.

Below are the break down of options with some examples:

HTML Sites

OK, so all websites run on HTML but the old school websites I am referring to here are hand-coded. Sometimes I use Frontpage or Dreamweaver to help generate the code but no matter what you use, each individual page is coded separately. I am hard pressed to think of web companies who still do this but there must be some out there…

Relatively cheap option (in the hundreds of dollars versus thousands)
Easy to ‘throw together’ quickly
Good for a ‘brochure’ website (that you aren’t going to change much)
Can add some dynamic elements (slideshows) using Javascript and other ‘languages’ like it

Making changes requires you either 1) know code or 2) pay someone who knows code
Can look ‘dated’
Adding some functionality is difficult
Need to change a phone number in your footer? Every change needs to be done on each individual page on the site. Tedious.
Files need to be downloaded and uploaded to make changes. No username-password interface.

Example site:

The LaClaires maintain their own website using Microsoft Frontpage. Front Page and Dreamweaver are two programs that do some of the coding for you while you use a WYSIWYG editor (What You See Is What You Get). That said, you still have to know some code to do some troubleshooting. You also need to make all your website edits using whatever computer this software is installed on.

By far the most annoying aspect of HTML sites for me as a web developer is how long and tedious it can be to make changes. When we wanted to add Google Analytics to their site, I had to individually add the code to each page on the site (the five page on the menu, plus internal pages). It took me an hour. Doing this in a CMS would have taken me five minutes. But the LaClaires are great people who have maintained their own website for almost ten years so they know what they’re doing… if you build a site like this, you will get to know it well too!

Template Sites

Many companies (, Intuit, Typepad, Squarespace, Weebly, Godaddy, more than we could ever write here) offer a  ‘build your own site’ tool. Sometimes this is free until a certain point (your site gets to a certain size or there is some trial period) but sometimes they charge you right off some small monthly fee.

Technically some of these are CMS websites (since some of them are database-y), but proprietary ones.

Easy to use software- a few clicks and you have a working site
Web-based (username and password mean you can log in anywhere there is the internet and make changes)
Not so ugly templates
Whole shebang is on a database, meaning it’s easy to add things like site search, etc.

Hey, I have the same template as 10,000 other people!
Tied into that particular company (ie, you can’t take your ball and go home)
Relatively expensive over time
Limited functionality (ex: Under Agreement A you can only have some set number of pages on your site, etc.)

Example site:

Seth Godin is a prolific blogger. He uses Typepad as his blogging platform but you’ll notice, for example, if you click on buying one of his books, you’re sent to another website (Amazon and a few other places). If you look at other Typepad sites, you may recognize a few Typepad-y things, like the style of the sidebar (that would be the bar on the side of the screen- I love it when web terms are actually what the thing is!).

To fully be able to customize your design, you pay $30/month. But someone like Seth Godin probably makes at least $30/month from his blog so maybe he’s fine with that. If he wanted to move from Typepad though, he’d have to start from scratch, developmentwise (you can *theoretically* export the writing in your blog posts but importing them into Joomla or Wordpress is a big pain in the butt- trust me!).

CMS Sites 

CMS (content management system) websites run off a database. This is awesome in terms of development (Sure, let’s add a site search for you! Want social media icons below all your posts? I can do that!) but it also means it’s easy to update on your end. For example, I can teach most people how to use Wordpress in about two hours (at least the stuff they need to know).

Note: If you do get a CMS site developed by a website company, make sure they are using open source software. Joomla, Drupal, Wordpress are all good. If they say they have a ‘custom’ CMS they use within their company, it means only they know how to use it and, essentially you’ll be stuck with them. Since thousands of people use Joomla, Drupal, and Wordpress, that means you can have many people work on your site. You aren’t stuck with any one web development company, and that’s a win for you!

Easy to use software
Web-based (username and password mean you can log in anywhere there is the internet and make changes)
Customizable everything (Make it look exactly how you want)
Add whatever functionality you want (ecommerce, 100 individual pages, whatever!)
Not tied to a company (if you use open source software like Wordpress, Drupal, or Joomla) You can take your files and move web host, etc.
Whole shebang is on a database, meaning it’s easy to add things like site search, etc.

Most expensive option up front ($1000+)
Takes time to develop/customize

Example site:

This website (and most every other site in my client list) was developed with an open source CMS (Drupal, Joomla, or Wordpress). The cost up front is higher than the other two options but the good news is your site is your site once it’s done. You can make edits to it without knowing code or paying a web developer to code them, you can move your files to whatever web host you want, and you can make whatever customization to the site that you want: ecommerce, booking calendar, real estate database integration, etc.

You can do this functionality on an HTML site but it’s essentially like paying someone to take your CD and convert it to an 8-track tape. If you are going to develop something, you might as well go with what’s new and working well versus something older that people are moving away from.

No doubt this is a simplification (and clearly as a web developer, I have my bias) but there really are a lot of options out there for having a website. No more excuses, go get one!


Better SEO In Less Than One Hour

The most common question I get over email: “How can I improve my site’s rank in search engines?” I’ve sent variations of this in about fifty emails but thought I’d finally write this up and put on the website. A few things to know.

1. Anyone who promises you page 1 ranking in Google is full of crap.

There I said it. If they get you the number one spot really quickly, it’s because they’ve bought you a Google Ad or they did something really ridiculous and probably illegal. I can buy an ad for you in five minutes, or you can buy one yourself. (Google, like any good business, makes spending money with them as easy as possible, trust me.) That is not SEO. Ranking in search engines means being high up in what’s called organic (re: non-paid) search results.

2. Google Adwords, while sometimes helpful, is not SEO.

There is a reason people specialize in SEO (search engine optimization). It’s a bit technical, the rules are always changing, and it takes effort to do it right. If you are looking for a magic pill/quick results, buy pay per click ads. You’ll get hits more quickly, sure, but they’ll stop the minute you stop the ads. If you want more of an explanation about the difference between paid ads and SEO, check out this post from The Maine SEO Blog about it.

Hey look you're number one... Wait, you paid to be there. Guess what happens when you stop paying? Photo via:

Hey look you’re number one… Wait, you paid to be there. Guess what happens when you stop paying? Photo via:

OK so you get that SEO means being in it for the long haul. Let’s oversimplify all this.

3. Search engines like three things. Give them these three things and they’ll be happier with you:

  • Links (your site linking to other sites and others linking back to you)
  • Keywords (words phrases that people are searching for online)
  • Frequently updated content (how often there is a change on your site)

People sometimes think about being sneaky and do things like put a bunch of keywords all over their page or join link farms. In the biz, this is called ‘black hat SEO’. These practices can fool search engines temporarily but more importantly:

1) Search engines could find out you did something naughty and blacklist you, like they did to JCPenney fairly recently. Do you get so much business that you can afford to disappear from Google searches?
2) It will annoy those visiting your site. Because remember, who’s doing the searches? People. Who’s going to think it’s weird you put all these random keywords on your site? People. Who’s going to think the random links on your sidebar are sketchy? People.

OK, OK so you get it, there is no short cuts and this will take time. So what *can* you do that’s legal and helpful to give search engines the three things they want?

Here’s a few things you can do to help your site rank better in search engines.

Claim your business on Google Places, Bing Local, Yelp, etc.
Here are some of the sites where you can ‘claim’ your business:
Google Places
Yahoo Local
Bing Local
You’ve probably noticed when you do a search, sometimes these directory listings come up above search results. These listings besides just having the standard contact information also allow you to add keywords, etc.  If nothing else, enjoy the free inbound link to your website.
Note: To prove you actually own the business, the service will usually use a verification phone call where they’ll actually call your business phone and give you a code to type into the site… so try to be by your business phone when you’re doing this.
Time estimate: 5-10 minutes/site

Use SEF links (search engine friendly).
OK someone sends you an email. Would you rather click on:

Exactly. Not only do people like to know what a link is but search engines can read the text in your links and treat them like keywords. Bonus is it’s not difficult to turn on SEF links if you have a website that runs off a content management system. You can even manually create them for HTML sites if need be.
Time estimate: 5 minutes – 30 minutes

Autopost website updates.
So when I post to my website, I also have it connected so it goes out to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as well automatically. If your website has an RSS feed, this is pretty easy to set up. I use RSS Graffiti for Facebook and BlogToTweet for Twitter/LinkedIn.
Time estimate: 10 minutes to set up

Write something for your website… whether it’s a blog entry or more info for a page on your site.
Search engines (as well as real people) like it when your site has new stuff. As a matter of fact, the more often you update your website, the more often it’s indexed by search engines. I know, crazy huh? Also more pages of content help your site seem more search engine friendly. So every blog entry you write, every new page you create all helps.

So take 20 minutes and sit down to write something. Write about how your business started, an interesting customer who always comes in, review a new product you’ve just gotten in, write a how-to… It doesn’t have to be perfect, just something people might be looking for online, something that they can now find on your website.
Time estimate: 20 minutes

Setup social media pages.
Another way people increase visibility is with social media. Sites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to keep in touch with potential customers and take just a few moments to set up.

But how does social media help with search? Well, on every profile/page you make, you can add your website link as well as a space to put info about your business. You see where I’m going here, right? Keywords and a link? Nice.

Social media will also increasingly become a part of how search engine results are calculated. So social media isn’t just touchy-feely anymore! In other words, all aboard! There’s no better time to finally create that Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, or other social media profile related to your website.
Time estimate: 10-20 minutes/profile

Create a 301 redirect.
This is kind of nerdy but it is a good search engine-y thing to do to keep from accidentally duplicating your content. Search engines do things like penalize you for duplicating content (the same thing written multiple places- it’s what spammers do). Here’s a few ways to do the redirect.
Time estimate: Non-geek under and hour, Geek a few minutes

Have a blog.
Hands down me and most everyone else who does this for a living will tell you to do for better SEO is start a blog. Because blogs have links, keywords, and frequent updates… just like the search engines want. And once set up, a blog is technologically easy to update. Again, perfection here isn’t important (just look around my blog and you’ll see what I mean). Just write something and allow people to interact with you and other readers about it.

Clearly a blog could potentially take a lot of your time but if you plan your entries ahead of time, keep posts short, and set aside time, you can put a small amount of time towards this project.
Time estimate: 1 hour/week (that’s about what I spend)

Is this everything? Of course not. Is it something to start with? Absolutely. And if you want to totally geek out and see what factors are important to search engines ranked in order of importance, check out this fine study with 2011 data: And if it all overwhelms you, contact your favorite geek.

Have a quick tip that helped with your SEO? Share it in the comments!

Marketing Monday: 13 Ways To Promote An Event

I have three workshops coming up in the next three weeks. Add to that two speaking engagements and a regular workload and you’ll see why I’ve been forgetting to do my usual checklist of event promotions. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Have online registration. If people can order and pay for the tickets online, they are much more likely to register. I use Eventbrite for my stuff and I see that in using this software, I can take electronic payments as well as offer directions and get my event autoposted to multiple websites like

2. Create a Facebook event. You can invite people that are your friends on Facebook or you can invite people via email.

3. Use your press list. Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of an old fashioned press release.

4. Tease your event on Twitter… and don’t forget to link to your registration page!

5. Partner with another business. Then you can take advantage of their email contacts, Facebook fans, etc.

6. Email your list. If you have an email newsletter, let people know about upcoming events. Make sure your email newsletter is CAN-SPAM compliant though!

7. Have a page on your website where people can learn about events. for example has all my event information.

8. Post flyers at high traffic locations. In Maine, bulletin boards are alive and well. I once got a lead from posting something I posted at the Bar Harbor Launromat!

9. Give a bit of lip service to upcoming events at speaking engagements. The way I figure it, if I talk to your group for 30 minutes, I can spend 1 minute or so telling people what’s coming up as long as a) I have an otherwise great presentation and b) I am not rude/ridiculous about the promotion.

10. Use business organizations you are a part of. Chambers, Rotary Clubs, and other local groups you are a part of likely have websites, email lists, and more. They are also more than happy to promote your event.

11. Post your event on online community calendars, including news organizations and general community websites. They’re free and people clearly use them if these businesses and organizations have dedicated staff time to keep them up-to-date.

12. Take out a pay per click ad on Facebook or Google Adwords. By targeting your ideal customer, you’ll have more success.

13. Create a short video clip to ‘tease’ the event. It can be on Youtube (or other social media site) and/or on your website. People might not read a mound of text but most people I know will watch a short video about most anything.

In other words, I get most of the word out online but do a couple old school things too. The combination works well in Maine which is home to both internet cafes and rural general stores. But I could also use some new ideas!

How do you promote events, online and off?

This Month In Business: Needing Help Edition

So the good news is, while I used to write this business update every week, I now seem to be writing it every month. I’ve been doing this because I’ve actually had a lot of work to do. (I know, *gasp!)

But it really does help to have some kind of check in with myself, since I don’t have a weekly meeting with my boss, a quarterly report, or other sort of evaluation. You, as my blog readers, help hold me to some accountability. For that, I am very grateful. Because I totally need some!

Here’s what I’ve been up to besides actual paid work:

1. I enrolled in an online business course.

You may have heard of Earn1K which is a business course aimed at freelancers. I’ve been on the email list for awhile and finally decide to take the plunge after a couple of months of realizing I’ve been not as focused as I should be on the overall direction of this business. In terms of business course experience, I took an eight week seminar from Women, Work, and Community two years ago, read a couple business books, wrote a business plan, and called it good. Plus it’s been about 6 years since I’ve taken a full on course and I figured it was time for some much needed personal development.

So far it’s been going really well and already the time and effort I’m putting in to develop my ideas is paying off.

2. I got a cash infusion from Mom.

I realize there are a few things I’ve considered doing for money that are unrelated to my business but was considering because I needed some cash. A combination of a few projects running longer than expected and a couple bills paid at the beginning of the year meant I had less cash on hand than I was expecting at this point.

My debt to income ratio is around 1 (breaking even!) but a bank will pretty much only talk to you if you’ve got a ratio of about 1.5.

Over Christmas, my mom had told me to ask for help if I needed it so I decided to take her up on her offer and borrow some money. She was kind enough to present a zero percent interest rate and put the check in an ‘I’m proud of you’ card. Thanks Mom! I’m already sleeping better and plan to pay her back in full by the end of the year if not sooner.

3. I’ll be having two upcoming seminars which one of my more connected friends is helping me organize.
Anyone who has ever eaten dinner with me knows how much I like food. My friend Paul is a food distributor who sells to many local restaurants. When he came to me and suggested we do a couple workshops geared at the hospitality industry, I jumped at the chance.

So if you are in Downeast Maine and run a food-related business check out the two workshops: and

4. I finished a really big project, with much needed help.
A couple months ago, a friend of a friend wanted some help developing a real estate website. I looked at the online landscape at other real estate companies and saw that what she wanted was possible, even if the websites themselves weren’t the prettiest or most functional websites I’d ever seen. So I gave her a quote for her real estate website and she accepted.

What followed were many unexpected complications: database access issues, formatting issues, code for site design interfering with search function. You name it and it happened. It became clear very early on that I could not handle this on my own so I pulled in a friend to help. Then another. Then another. Through coding, coffee, and sheer determination, we finished the site, exhausted from late nights and early mornings.

I learned three things from this experience:

1) Don’t be cocky in your abilities to do something you’ve never done before. Take the time you think it’ll take and double it. Worse case scenario you give money back.
2) If you are pulling people in, outline the project tasks and responsibilites clearly. Chances are the work will be difficult enough and there’s no need to add communication issues to the mix.
3) You don’t have to know everything but you have to know people who can help so you can collectively know everything you need to.

So the website is launched and I thank Nicholas Peterson, Matthew Baya, and Jeremy Mason for their help with it. And that said, if you know someone who needs a real estate website, I’m now your gal.

Anything you needed help with (and got help with) this month?

(Come on, make me feel there are a couple of you out there who needed the help of other people this month!)

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