Thursday, November 30, 2006

Business Blogs: PR Tool or Marketing Tool?

While working on a PR and marketing plan recently, the question came up: are blogs more of a PR tool or a marketing medium? Seems like an interesting question, yet there has been surprisingly little written about it. "Blog marketing" outscores "blog PR" on a Google search by a margin of about five to two, and you'll find four times as many books about blog marketing at Amazon as you will about blog PR.

However, Online-PR.com (which has a very nice list of blog directories and aggregators, by the way) lists about three times as many blogs devoted to PR as focused on marketing. There's an excellent post about using blogging for PR here from the Top Rank SEO blog, though the marketing vs. PR angle seems a bit confused. InternetNews predicted a couple of years ago that blogging would make corporate PR and marketing obsolete, but clearly that hasn't happened yet.
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My own conclusion is that blogs are primarily a PR tool. A well-written blog raises awareness and visibility, and establishes credibility -- all of which are PR objectives. Blogs are not particularly strong at direct response; they rarely excel at marketing functions like selling or generating leads directly. Thinking of your blog as a component of your overall PR strategy will help establish the right direction, and the right expectations for results.

*****

Terms: business blogs, blog marketing, blog PR, blogs are a PR tool, online-pr.com, Top Rank SEO blog

The Internet marketing advertising portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Got Projects? Try Base Camp

Marketers have projects. So unless you're one of those rare individuals who can not only keep a multitude of details straight in your head, but also magically keep your team on the same page with your brain, you need project management tools. Base Camp is a reasonably-priced (there's even a free version) online project management collaboration tool that's worth checking out, despite a few quirks and shortcomings.

Base Camp, first recommended to me by John Sundberg, president of Kinetic Data, is great for coordinating the efforts of inside people and outside vendors (graphic artists, writers, agencies, web developers, etc.), and is particularly helpful for marketing consultants and contractors who need a practical, affordable project management solution. It offers a useful set of project management features:

- To-do lists with task assignment
- Milestones with date assignment and automatic e-mail notification as due dates approach
- An online document/message creation tool with feedback tracking (great for group editing)
- File-sharing for documents, graphics, Excel files, etc.
- Online time-tracking (with the higher-end paid versions)
- The ability to "brand" your Base Camp login page (making even individual consultants look big-time players)

All of that said, the tool would be much more useful if a few obvious shortcomings were corrected:

- Only the project owner can assign tasks to anyone in the group; other contributors get only a partial list of names in the assignment drop-down
- File sharing is limited to files up to 30MB; it's not unusual to have a graphic file or PowerPoint that exceeds that limit. This size limit should be bumped up considerably.
- Oddly, you can't assign due dates to to-do tasks (you can work around this by including due dates in the task description, but you won't get auto-notification emails)
- Finally, the time tracking option isn't available until you hit the $50/month, 35-project level. It would be nice if this feature were available at a lower, more affordable level, particularly for marketing consultants and contractors who could really use time tracking, but don't need to manage 35 separate projects.

Want to know more? TechCrunch ran a piece on an open-source Base Camp competitor a few months back, but the effort of installing a managing a project management collaboration tool on your own server doesn't seem worth the effort to save Base Camp's modest monthly fee. Alex Dunne also provided a thorough review of Base Camp in September.

If you've got collaborative marketing (or other) projects to manage, Base Camp is worth investigating.

*****

Terms: free online collaborative project management tool, marketing project management collaboration, Base Camp, Alex Dunne blog, TechCrunch

The Internet website marketing portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

How to Increase Traffic to Your Website -- Really

Two words -- valuable content. As Mike Kaselnak, CEO of Hoard Client Systems wrote in response to my recent RainToday article How To Build Website Traffic With Content, "The days of trying to trick the search engines are over. Content is King!"

Actually, neither search engines nor people are fooled anymore by tricks with hidden text or metatags. What's more, human visitors expect more from business websites than just product details (marketing), "about us" pages, and a list of your office locations. People want to do business with companies that are smart and helpful, and they expect companies to not only say that on their websites, but prove it by offering content that helps users solve problems, or gives them a one-stop source for information they would otherwise have to scan several sites to retrieve.

What kind of content? Items such as newsfeeds, white papers, blogs, podcasts, reports, book reviews, glossaries, and (truly useful) directories are all generators of relevant website traffic. Such content is not only search engine-friendly, but also attractive and "sticky" to visitors. What's more, demonstrating your industry knowledge and helpfulness not only attracts site visitors but is also helpful in converting them to customers.

The full article with links to resources and related pages is also now available in the Web Marketing Knowledge section of WebMarketCentral as How to Build Site Traffic with Compelling Content. Useful and relevant content can help your site show up better in search engines, attract visitors, and help turn traffic into business.

*****

Terms: build site traffic, increase and grow website traffic, website content, sticky content

The Internet marketing strategy portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Friday, November 10, 2006

New-media seminar in Minneapolis: Using podcasting and online video to improve your business communications


Curious about what podcasting can do for your business? Check this out. The experts at Twin Cities marketing agency Provident Partners are offering a hands-on presentation and workshop on video and podcasting. This session will save you time and help you understand how new-media formats such as audio podcasts and digital video are being used as powerful tools in the marketing mix.

The seminar will be led by Albert Maruggi, who's been recognized by ClickZ and many other sources for his expertise in new media. He is among the first marketers in the country to actively host a regular podcast, the Marketing Edge, and he advises dozens of organizations on new-media strategies.

The seminar will cover topics such as how podcasting works, how to develop podcast content, how to measure podcasting results, using podcasting in your marketing mix, and the PR opportunities of podcasting.

Details of the seminar:

Thursday, November 30, 2006
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
790 Cleveland Ave. S., St. Paul, MN

The cost, including lunch, is $100 per person -- but be sure to ask for the WebMarketCentral discount when registering.

To sign up, call 651-695-0174 or email amaruggi@providentpartners.net . Guests should register in advance as space is limited. The registration deadline is November 20 (though you might be able to sneak in later if you mention this blog post).

Also, check out this recent podcast from Albert: The Great Blog Debate. Joined by Mike Keliher of Provident Partners and John Havens of About.com, Albert provides an excellent guide to the possibilities, and risks, of business blogging.

*****

Terms: Provident Partners, St. Paul marketing agency, Minnesota ad agency, podcasting, how podcasting works, Albert Maruggi, Marketing Edge podcast, John Havens, About.com

The Internet marketing advertising portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Survey: Lead Generation for Professional Services


The experts in professional services marketing at RainToday are conducting a survey among professional services firms regarding lead generation. All survey participants will receive a complimentary executive summary of the final report (due out around January), as well as 50% off the group's current research report, “How Clients Buy: The Benchmark Report on Professional Services Buying and Selling from the Client Perspective” in the RainToday store. Click here to participate in the study.

The current report addresses services selling challenges in a variety of vertical segments (e.g. accounting, legal services, information technology consulting, marketing) and answers questions such as:

- What can you do during the business development process that will have the most influence on the decision maker?
- Which methods are buyers most likely to use to identify professional service providers?
- Do buyers attend seminars, conferences, and webinars (and, if so, how do they find out about these events)?
- Do purchasers of professional services visit service provider websites? How influential are those websites in the purchasing process?

The new survey will supplement this research, and the executive report is free to participants. If you market or sell professional services, taking this survey is a quick, easy, and free way to gain some valuable insights.

*****

Terms: professional services marketing, how to sell professional services, RainToday.com, business development for services, marketing information technology services

The marketing Internet portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Last Word on E-Words and Ewords


In response to this comment to my previous post on web writing standards (capitalizing "Internet," "web site" vs. "website," etc.), here is the consensus (such as it is) on e-words.

According to Google Fight, "e-mail" wins over "email" by roughly a 5-3 margin. Spellweb also uses Google searches as the authority, favoring "e-mail" over "email" by a 3-2 margin. Meryl's Notes Blog comes down firmly in the middle ("It's a toss up!"), though she insists that "web site" is two words.

However, Professor Donald Knuth of Stanford argues for "email" - "Newly coined words of English are often spelled with a hyphen, but the hyphen disappears when the words become widely used." http://openmap.bbn.com/~tomlinso/ray/hyphen.html agrees, citing Google searches as the authority. Slashdot had an incredibly active forum discussion on the topic that seemed to settle on "email," referencing a Wired article -- back in 2000. A current Google search makes "email" the winner by nearly a 2-t0-1 margin.

So what about "e-commerce" vs. "ecommerce"? Freelancers Network argues for the latter (on the basis that "email" is more accepted than "e-mail"). But in this case, the hyphenated form wins in a Google search by about a 5-2 margin. Google Fight pegs this margin as closer to 4-1, and SpellWeb has "e-commerce" winning by nearly 3-1. The UCI Style Guide favors the e-hyphen form for all e-words. The Oxford Dictionary confusingly favors "email" but "e-commerce." Is all of that clear?
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Finally, a manual Google search has "e-business" beating "ebusiness" by a 5-1 margin. Google Fight puts this ratio at more than 10-1, while SpellWeb has the hyphenated form winning by about 8-1.

There you have it. If you sell or market online, you definitely engaged in e-commerce or e-business. But you might communicate to your customers using either email or e-mail. Enough.

*****

Terms: email, e-mail, ecommerce, e-commerce, e-business, ebusiness, GoogleFight, SpellWeb, web writing standards, Donald Knuth

The online marketing business portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

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