Relocation Notice — Please Visit Our New Home

April 6, 2013

This blog and all of the great stuff herein relocated to on August 1, 2010. If you like what you see here, please join us at for more great small business marketing advice.


Considerations for Attorneys Using Social Media

March 23, 2010

Paul Arne’s ViewPoint in last week’s Atlanta Business Chronicle goes straight to the point of a sore issue I’ve been hearing from our attorney clients of late: exactly what should and shouldn’t I do with social media. In his article, he cites an example where the glowing praises of a client submitted as LinkedIn Recommendation put his partner at risk of violating the ethics rules of the bar association. Before you run to dig up the comment to see if it is something really steamy, I’ll save you the steps. The recommendation read,

“He is as smart as they come in the world… and a tireless worker.”

You and I both understand that it’s not possible for the recommender to know whether this guy is the smartest in the world and would let this pass but for those attorneys who are very precise about everything they put in print, this was a problem.

So say you’re not an attorney, how does this point help you with your planning? Well, consider whether you have any professional memberships or employment obligations that require you to follow certain guidelines about the advice you provide or the accolades you receive. It’s a slippery slope here and while I think the example of Paul Arne’s partner was a bit extreme, it’s a valid concern and one that you need to consider where you’re an individual contributor or a business owner looking to set standards for your team.

BTW, if you’re not an ABC subscriber and want but can’t download the full text of the article, ping me and I’ll share my copy.

Is Microsoft really trying to protect hotmail users from URL Squatters?

March 18, 2010

NPR revealed (to me) this morning that Microsoft has filed a lawsuit against an exercise equipment firm in CA for buying domains similar to in hopes of catching fat-fingered users. So I’m laughing riding alone in my Volvo at the absurdity of Microsoft pursuing this action against a small firm exploring a very popular tactic for capturing traffic. At least they should be happy it is not (another) porn site.

On a more serious note, registering domains similar to your own is a very smart approach, especially if you have a hard to spell or hard to remember domain. For instance, we have a client named Stien. Every time I try to send him email, I spell his name Stein in the classic way of Ben Stein. It would be a logical choice for this man to register both spellings of his name as a URL just in case folks make an error.

For that matter, Microsoft probably should have had the foresight to register these mispelled names themselves. How often do you fat-finger a site and find yourself redirected to the place you really wanted to go to begin with? Businesses are smart enough to already be taking this approach and if they aren’t, they are learning fast.

The other savvy approach marketers are using is to not only register variations of their own domains but variations of their competition, too. Why not? If it allows you to get the traffic you’re looking for, it is a completely legitimate strategy and one you should explore. It’s no coincidence that suggests alternate variations on  domains when you register them. Take advantage of their offers then use some creativity and come up with a few more.

As for the exercise equipment company’s domains, you can bet that Microsoft will probably be buying those shortly anyway.

Mailing List Hygiene and the NCOA

January 18, 2010

When you submit a mailing to a direct mail house, they run your list up against something called the NCOA (national change of address) database. This list of physical addresses is updated quarterly using the information that mailing recipients provide when they move to a new home or office.

In an era of ever improving printing equipment, we’re increasingly seeing businesses manage their mailings in house. Especially for smaller quantities, the benefits of outsourcing your mailing simply for a pre-sort discounted just aren’t realized and if you have the time, patience, staff and equipment to run it in house: go for it. The problem here lies with the quality of the list.

When a business gets the idea to send a mailing, they dig old business cards out from the cracks in their desk drawer, export records from outlook that they collected three jobs ago then pile everything together with their coworkers in Excel. An administrative person (or other poor soul) takes responsibility for “cleaning” the list which essentially means making sure there is data in all of the right fields and presto, they have a mailing list.

The problem is that the people you worked with or sold to three jobs ago have likely made the same migration and now your list stinks just as bad as those business cards you found under the snack food and gooey candy in your desk drawer. And unfortunately even if you could submit your list for NCOA update, individuals don’t file a change of address when they switch jobs so you’re still stuck with junk in your file.

While I’m not advocating you dump those records entirely, it is important to take the time to look at the end product then actively monitor you returns. Make sure you delete records for mail pieces that are returned (pay for First Class postage on the first mailing to ensure you receive those returns). As you slowly add names to your list, be sure each comes with a date attached then don’t be afraid to remove records once you see no activity for a predetermined period of time (this period depends entirely on your business offering). And if you’re unsuccessfully pursuing a certain business that you know is still in operations, it may be time to target a different contact. So pick up the phone and get that name.

Don’t think this advice is just for direct mailers. If you’ve gone to all electronic mailings, the same process and lessons hold true.

Why all this effort? Because owning a list of 500 or even 5000 names that you have never taken the time to clean is just a license to waste money. Scrub that list and you’ll be reaping the reward of a much smaller, much more productive mining effort.

If you’re looking for an NCOA service provider, try Melissa Data.

Further explanation from the AJC on their new layout and design

April 29, 2009

In case you didn’t pick up a copy of yesterday’s AJC or you missed the press release announcing their debut, check it out (with images included).

Getting a Job in PR (or anywhere else for that matter)

January 7, 2009

When I finished grad school at FSU in 1991 the unemployment rate was also somewhere around 7%. Competing against experienced professionals for entry-level positions was extremely difficult. Today I find myself on the receiving end of those inquiries and feel compelled to share a few tips I wish somebody had told me 17+ years ago.

First of all, it’s all about your network. Experienced professionals and repeat job seekers know this but new graduates haven’t figured it out yet. While every person you meet may seem like a potential employer, you will be much better served if you figure out how to add them to your network first. Don’t ask them for a job. Ask them how they like their job. Learn about what they do and how they got there. Find out who they talk to, sell to, buy from, partner with and even hire. And then ask them to refer you to three associates who work in your targeted field. If you have enough of these conversations, you will ultimately network your way into a position. Read the rest of this entry »

#2 Good PR Clients are Prompt

October 20, 2008

By prompt I do not mean arrive on time (although that is often helpful). Instead I’m referring to clients who are prompt with their announcements. Nothing is less interesting to a reporter than old news. Clients who want coverage of a product they released last month are out of luck. Prospects and customers are no longer wowed by the newsworthiness of something they have already seen on someone else’s cover or heard you mention at a conference last quarter. Read the rest of this entry »