Monday, May 26, 2008

2008 American Business Award Finalist

Two of the websites that we created at Overland are Finalists for a "Stevie"! Our Deduplication Microsite is a finalist in the Product Information category, and our Tiered Data Protection Micosite is a finalist in the Writing/Content category

We will get the results on June 12th at the awards banquet. It's going to be a tough competition. We are up against companies like HP, Nikon USA, and Jack Daniels.

Wish us luck!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Behavioral Targeting & Mobile Computing May be Here Sooner Than we Think

On my flight home from Seattle I was reading the most recent issue of Mac | Life and came across an interesting article. The article was talking about the upcoming iPhone update and the different views people had of the software developer kit (SDK). Half way through the article was a little sub story on these venture capitalist and how they created an "iFund" that they would use to invest in companies that are going to "invent the future" using mobile computing in the areas of social networking, mobile payments, entertainment, health, and the enterprise. So you are probably thinking "Gary where are you going with this." Well here is the point. One of the companies that the iFund have invested in is a Seattle-based company named Pelago. They are developing a location-aware program called Whrll that helps you find places, events, & people when you are on the go.

When I read that my ears popped up. It reminded me of one of the conversations that I had ad the Ad2SD event,"Myspace vs Yourspace." We were talking about behavioral targeting and how it would be awesome to be on the go and have alerts when you are near areas of interest. Or better yet know your fuel spending habits & let you know when you are near a cheap gas station. I know that this may open the door for a wide array of privacy issues. You can read my blog entry "Reality Mining: The future of marketing, or a privacy nightmare" to get my view of the topic.

I haven't had the chance to research the product yet so I don't know if the app will have those abilities, but I'm excited to see that technology is moving closer in that direction. When I get a chance to research Whrll I will post my findings. Also If anyone has any info please let me know.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

5 Strategies to Improve Your Online Marketing

I was in Chicago for my company's partner summit where I led a session give our partners tips to help them improve their web marketing, and to get feedback on some upcoming web programs that we are launching. The focus group was held at 7am on day two of the summit, so we weren't expecting a large turnout. The partners that did show up really enjoyed the tips, and provided us with excellent feedback. Our product syndication program was well received. We learned that one of their major issues with the web is maintaining their website. A lot of our partners don't have an in-house web person, so any changes that come up can be a long costly process. The content syndication program will allow them to focus on what they do best, and not have worry about maintaining our product info on their websites.

Below you can view the presentation & the takeaway doc that I passed out. The partners aren't web guys, so I kept everything as high-level as possible. Even though the presentation was designed for a storage reseller the concepts can translate to any industry.

5 Simple Strategies to Improve Your Online Marketing Results

Purchasing Fact:92% of all technical buyers go online FIRST to research a possible purchase*

*According to Forrester Research

Is your website portraying the right impression of your company? With the customer now in control of the experience, they are able to gather information without interacting with you directly. Thus, your web presence is the digital representation of your company, and a poor web presence can lower the amount of online and offline sales. Here are some simple strategies to improve your web presence and increase your conversion rates.

1. Provide Your Users With Fresh, Relevant Content
Because most users stop by your website first to do research, it should always contain fresh, relevant content. This will make an impression when the user is ready to purchase. According to a recent study by Enquiro Search Solutions on technical buyers, the number one influencer of purchase is the vendor's website. Websites that contain inaccurate or fragmented information gives an unprofessional impression of your company which can lead to missed opportunities, loss to competition, and negative impact to the bottom line.

2. Present Simple Website Usability
Poor website usability is another factor that can drive away potential sales. Make it easy for the user to find what they need quickly and effortlessly. The harder it is to use your website, the less people will want to buy from you. You can improve the usability of your site with the following tips:

1. The main navigation should be easy to use.
2. Your users should be able to find what they need in three clicks or less.
3. It should be obvious how to purchase your product.
4. Contact information should be highly visible.
5. Use layman's terms. Stay away from corporate or technical terms that might be hard for your user to understand.

3. Develop and Utilize Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
According to Marketing Sherpa, 98% of B2B buyers search in Google, so if you apply proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques you have a better chance of being found in search engines by potential customers. Contrary to popular belief, SEO is not a trick that you play on search engines in order to rank higher. Optimization is defined as organizing your content to provide the most relevant experience. Search Engine Optimization is not an overnight process. It takes time to prove to the search engines that your content is relevant. Here are some techniques to improve your overall SEO:

1. A unique 6-13 word page title that contains important keywords from the page content.
2. Description meta tags that match the body content.
3. Keyword phrases that users apply to search for you.
4. Link important pages throughout your site using a keyword phrase rather than a product name (ex. Disk Based Backup Solution rather than REO® 9100).
5. Stay consistent in the way pages are linked and the phrases used.

4. Increase Conversions with Landing Pages
Whatever the marketing activity might be, landing pages provide users a custom experience and keep them focused on the offer at hand. The goal of the landing page should be to convert users into customers. If you are able to get more conversions with the same amount of marketing spend, then you will deliver more net business and lower your cost per lead. This cannot be achieved by just dumping users to the homepage of your website, they will get distracted and navigate elsewhere. Here are some tips for successful landing pages:

1. Start with a clear call to action.
2. Include document downloads; white papers and case studies are preferred over product literature.*
3. Keep your lead forms short and concise. Only include the fields that are vital to helping your sales team spot qualified leads.

*According to Marketing Sherpa

5. Use Web Analytics to Measure Your Site's Effectiveness
Web Analytics are essential for measuring the success of your web marketing and refining your process. With analytics, you are able to determine which keywords customers use to find your site, what pages customers find valuable, and what online campaigns are successful. There is a variety of web analytic solutions on the market, but if cost is an issue, consider starting with Google Analytics; their solution is free, and easy to use. Web analytics can be a little overwhelming, but it is important to remember to measure what matters. Measure metrics that are going to help improve business. High web traffic may look good on paper, but it doesn't mean anything if your site has low conversion rates. Every company has a different set of metrics that they find valuable, so it is important to sit with your team and decide which metrics are important to your business, and which metrics should be omitted.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

What I learned from a 9 year old

My flight back from Chicago was on Southwest, and if you have ever flown on Southwest you know how hard it can be to get a good seat. Well it was a packed flight, and this Mother was having a hard time finding a seat for her and her three boys. After some shuffling around the oldest son sat between my colleague and me, and the lady and the other two boys were able to get a row to themselves.

I thought that the little guy might feel awkward sitting between two strangers, but I was wrong. On the four hour trip home he told us story after story of his various adventures, and different things that he have learned over the years. I have to say if you pay attention you can really learn a lot from kids. Kids have so much imagination, and to them nothing is impossible. While we were looking through a magazine the little guy looked over at me and said "Did you know big-foot lives in South America?" Not really knowing what to say I said "Oh really?" He said "Yeah, I have never seen him, but Im sure he looks like a big gorilla." They are also willing to give anything a shot, and work at it till they get the hang of it. In one of the stories the little guy told me about some of his favorite Wii games. He said that he is not that good at Super Smash Bros, but he likes to play it anyway, because one day he will get better. Finally kids are so curious, and love to learn. The little guy had no problem asking questions. He asked me about my job, if I liked my job, what sports I liked to play, if I went to college, if college was hard, if I had any kids, and the list goes on.

Kids aspire to be just like us, but I think we should try to be more like them.