Category Archives: Uncategorized

The right way to market a membership site

Imagine for a moment that you went into a hardware store in search of a new hammer and some picture hangers. You’re looking to spruce up your walls and just need a couple of things, but you’re also thinking about picking up some paint chips — maybe repaint the bedroom — and who knows what else you might find out about while you’re in there?

So you go into the store, are greeted warmly by the person at the front desk. You find the picture hangers and grab a couple of different sizes, and then you go to the paint aisle for those chips.

no-entryThe aisle is blocked by bright yellow tape and a notice: “Members Only. Do Not Enter.”

Stunned, you ask a blue-coated associate, “What the heck is going on?”

He answers cheerfully, “Oh! We have a membership plan now. Some of our low-cost items are available to anyone, but if you want a higher-end product, you’ll have to join our membership program. It’s only $99 a year. Shall I sign you up?” He grabs a clipboard and pen, looking at you expectantly.
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Need a second monitor? Try your iPad on for size!

Yesterday, while working on a project, I realized that I needed to have two files open at the same time and I really needed both of them to be full-screen.

I don’t have a second monitor.  I could have printed out one file for reference, but I really don’t like to waste paper.  What I do have, however, is a number of other devices for website testing.  A short search led me to Air Display, an app that turns an iPad or other iDevice into a second screen.

I purchased the app ($9.99 from the iTunes store) and installed it on my iPad.  Downloaded the Windows software for my laptop (the software is also, of course, available for Mac) and installed it.  Opened the app on the iPad, synced the two screens, pulled one file over to the iPad, and voila! a quick, easy-to-use, inexpensive dual-monitor setup.

A nice bonus?  It took me about 10 minutes to realize that I could run the mouse cursor over to the iPad and use the mouse there too.  Or if I wanted to go the other way, I could use the touch screen on the iPad to control the cursor on my laptop.  Too cool!

The one downside that I found was that Air Display keeps the iPad display on at all times, which does eat into battery life.  Just be aware of that and prepare to plug it in when necessary.

If you have occasionally need of two screens but don’t want to spring for a second monitor, Air Display is well worth checking out.  It made my work day go much faster — and no printouts to recycle!

New Year = Reboot

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAHi! Yes, it’s been a while.

2012 brought a huge number of changes for me personally and for 2FishWeb. 2013 is shaping up to be really exciting. I can’t wait to share all the great changes with you.

Moving forward into 2013, I’ll be making weekly postings with a quick business or website tip and maybe a link to an article or two that I thought you might find interesting.

Biz Tips: Update your business info

– Check your website footer: Does the copyright date need to be changed to 2013? Make sure to change it, or (if you are hosted with 2FishWeb) send an email and I’ll make sure it’s done for you.

– The first of the year is a great time to update your bio and About page, too. Got a new head shot? Make sure to show it off! While you’re at it, don’t forget to update your profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other social media sites.
Sprint, not Marathon.

Let’s Get Moving

If you’re like most business owners (and me!), you go into your office in the morning, sit and work until lunchtime, eat quickly and get back to it all afternoon.

The human body was built to move. Try this instead and see if your productivity takes a jump: Set a timer for 60 to 90 minutes. Sit down, concentrate, and really work until the timer goes off. Then get up. Stretch. Take a walk, get a drink of water, move around for maybe 15 minutes. Go back to your work refreshed and ready to tackle the next segment of the day.

Try this for a week. I am. Next Monday we’ll compare notes and see how well it worked!

*This* is how you do customer service.

With two large dogs in the Newbill household, we go through a lot of dog food. Pet Food Direct has great prices and service, and best of all, they have an auto-ship service. I was able to sign up to have my girls’ regular food delivered every four weeks so I never have to worry about running out or making a last-minute run to the pet store.

Last week I noticed that the end-of-April shipment was overdue. I checked the UPS tracking number on my order status, to find out that it had been delivered April 30. “Left in garage,” it said.

Um… not my garage! Well, these things happen from time to time. We probably had a new driver on the route who got our address confused with another that’s very similar. (We swap mail frequently, those other homeowners and I.) But this time they didn’t have it.

I went to the pet store for an emergency supply and emailed Pet Food Direct that my shipment was feeding someone else’s fortunate pooches. They immediately sent a replacement order and said they would file an inquiry with UPS. The second shipment came, my doggie girls were fat and happy, and all was well in the world.

Usual procedure in customer service, right?

The extraordinary part comes next.

Last Saturday another neighbor brought the box over. The original shipment that had been left in his garage on April 30.

Oh, dear.

I emailed Pet Food Direct. (It was Saturday — I didn’t expect that anyone would be manning the phones and a reply on Monday would be fine). I explained what had happened, told them I would keep both shipments, but of course I needed to pay for the second one and could they please charge my card on file in my account?

In just a few minutes I had this response by email:

Thank you so very much for being such an upstanding & honest individual. I have spoken with my supervisor & please do keep the food. We will NOT be charging any additional amount to your account. Please keep the extra shipment with our compliments.

I was stunned.

They thanked me for doing what was simply the right thing? They were surprised that I planned to pay for both shipments? And then they gave me the better part of $75 in merchandise for doing that?

This is how you do customer service.

Pet Food Direct has a loyal customer as long as I have dogs.

How to handle Russian spam comments

Recently we’ve been seeing a number of spam comments written in Cyrillic (Russian) characters. Because they are not in English, they slip past anti-spam plugins like Akismet and Anti-Spam Bee.

What to do?

Jeff Starr of Perishable Press suggests adding the most common Cyrillic characters to your comment moderation file.

If you expect to get comments from visitors writing in other languages, of course, this might not be a good idea. But for normal blogging activity, especially if you prefer to leave comments open indefinitely, take a look at Jeff’s article and consider implementing his suggestions.

The Mysterious Billboard, Part II: Tracking your results

um... what?
Someone was half clever.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a mysterious billboard and why, after some thought, I realized that sometimes “What??” is exactly the response you want.

After I wrote that post, I considered calling the people who had bought the billboard ad and asking them — did it work? Did you get the website traffic, physical visitors, and increased sales you wanted from the mysterious billboard? What were your results?

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How we predicted and prevented a client’s shipping nightmare

One of our clients’ sites uses a shopping cart with real-time shipping calculations from the US Postal Service. The shipping module adds up the weight of the order and phones home to the USPS to ask how much it will cost, then displays the result to the customer prior to checkout.

Last November, the Postal Service announced that they were going to raise rates on January 22, 2012, add a number of new service classes to Priority Mail and change up the parcel classes. I knew from similar experiences in 2009 and 2010 that this would break the shipping module and shut down her shopping cart until the software company fixed it.

In mid-December I sent an inquiry to the software company explaining this potential problem, reminding them what happened the last two times, and asking if they would have a patch for the shipping prior to January 22. The company rep responded that “it would update itself” and there was no need to worry.

I was not so sure.

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When lack of progress becomes an act of creation

Yesterday this Tweet from Steve Plunkett in my stream caught my attention. At first glance, I wasn’t sure why, but I’ve learned to heed these nags — it means my subconscious is poking me. “Hey! Here’s something you need to know!”

At first glance, this implies that running at 90 miles per hour with a roadmap in mind is normal, that it’s desirable, that everyone should be doing it. Following the analogy, though: where can you run 90 miles per hour? In a speedboat on open water… in a racer on the Bonneville Salt Flats… in a fast car on a major highway where the land is wide open and there are no speed limits and no obstacles.

Either no obstructions, or else you are running wide open on a highway paved by someone else, going to the destination they have chosen.


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When “WTF?” is exactly the response you want.

um... what?
On Saturday, my husband and I drove to a city about an hour north of us. It was a lovely day and we enjoyed getting out for a bit.

Then I noticed the billboard. Oh, billboards are everywhere, and I’m pretty good at ignoring them. But this one was really strange.

A generic graphic: a leaf in the center of water ripples. Directions: “Take next exit, 2 miles on right.” And a website domain name.

That was all. No company name, no indication as to what the billboard was advertising. Just those three elements.

At first glance… huh?

Who in the world would spend somewhere around $2000 a month for such an ineffectual advertisement with limited reach? Are passersby really likely to zip off the next exit and drive two miles out of their way to see what in the world this thing was talking about?

But… it creates a sense of mystery, doesn’t it? A sense of curiosity. Now I wanted to know what the billboard was about, what company or place or thing it was advertising. I was driving at the time or I might have whipped out my smartphone and looked up the URL to find out.

Later, I did look up the URL. Unfortunately, the site is built in Flash so it wouldn’t work on my iPhone anyway. Note to website designers: if your target audience is mobile, it might be a good idea to make sure the site will work on mobile devices, don’t you think?

Creating curiosity = good.

Take this same idea and apply it to your own marketing. Can you create a sense of mystery, infuse your readers with the itch to explore and discover?

Publix, a chain of supermarkets headquartered in Florida, frequently runs an ad with a coupon for a “Mystery 1¢ Item.” The coupon is good only on Sunday. The item costs only one penny and you only get one at that price, but it’s always something good, something that most people would find worth trying. They use it to promote house brand products and sometimes to clear out overstocks, but you never know what it’s going to be. A package of bathroom tissue? a 5-pound bag of flour? pasta or rice or a half-gallon of milk? Hey, we need a loaf of bread anyway — why don’t we run by there and see what the one cent mystery is this week?

In your next newsletter or sale event on your website, why not offer a mystery item for a low price, perhaps with a minimum purchase? Use it to clear out a slow seller or offer a sample of something that your customers will want to come back for once they’ve tried it.

Sometimes, “what??” is exactly the response you want.

Give it a try and see.