181 posts categorized " Blog"

04/05/2017

Software Overload? Integration Brings Relief

There are almost 4,000 cloud-based productivity services on the market today, many of which are free or cost only a few dollars a month. With such a low barrier to entry, many small and medium-sized business owners are tempted to keep adding more and more tools and services until they’re too overwhelmed to use any of them effectively.

NewPath's guiding principle is to choose the software services just right for your business size and maturity, rather than buying into a monolithic "do all" software platform. Our two primary evaluation criteria are quite simple: Can the core value of the tool be demonstrated in 30 minutes and does the underlying service vendor have outstanding support?

The trick is to get your software products to work together, integrating them to effectively talk to each other. You will get the best benefit when your tools work together to accomplish business requirements that each cannot accomplish on its own.  

For example, any online form has the ability to notify you that someone has filled it out, which generally happens via email. But imagine the possibilities within an integrated set of tools, e.g., as soon as a form is submitted, a business process is activated depending on the fields filled out, an automated response is sent to the website visitor, and a new account is created in your customer database. A specific employee is assigned to the account and receives follow-up reminders to stay in touch. This is all possible when cloud services are properly set up with your business’s model and requirements in mind.

Some SaaS (software as a service) products integrate better than others, with built-in functionality that business users can apply with a bit of time and effort, with no coding required or the need to reinvent the wheel.

NewPath Consulting has evaluated a wide range of SaaS products over the past four years for their effectiveness, ease of use and interoperability. In the infographic below, we’ve highlighted our favourites, and demonstrated how they correspond with five core capabilities of all businesses, outlined in the centre of the diagram:

NewPath Consulting SMB Martech Stack

  1. Business - business modeling and operational planning
  2. Market - understanding the customer and what motivates them to engage
  3. Design and usability - creating the necessary environment to deliver value to customers
  4. Implementation - understanding the fundamental capabilities of cloud-based tools and services
  5. Content marketing - combining capabilities 1 through 4 to find and retain customers and business partners in the digital realm

Each business must acquire these capabilities over time as they mature and grow. These capabilities are required to understand and validate your business objectives, your sales and marketing techniques, and which tools to use and when.

At NewPath we believe that as a business becomes more capable and experienced at these five core knowledge areas, they also become ready to transform into a digital workplace. 

For example, most businesses need an online presence (ie a website or mobile app) but not every business requires a formal customer relationship management (CRM) tool since many don’t employ large groups of outbound sales people. If you’re just starting out and don’t have many prospects or customers, then a shared cloud-based spreadsheet with some basic analytics can be as effective and has a lower cost and complexity than a CRM.

The productivity tools in the infographic above are indicated by their company logos, and are arranged in concentric circles according to the business objective(s) of each tool. These circles radiate from the core capabilities and also correlate to the size and maturity level of an organization. We believe that businesses of every size can benefit from assessing their core capabilities and having a well-curated technology “stack,” a combination of software services used by staff and customers to achieve various business objectives.

Tool set #1: Content and experience

The first objective every business is to develop a modern and interactive website on a capable content management platform. NewPath supports the easy-to-use yet fully extensible WordPress platform. WordPress is best in class for template-based sites, with extensibility via plugins and themes to handle any requirement you may need. Couple this with the easy yet powerful form builder Formstack to enable your prospects and customers to interact with you 24/7. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Serving the customer.”

Tool set #2: Advertising and promotion

The tools NewPath recommends are AppSheet, Wild Apricot and Mad Mimi. AppSheet allows you to build mobile apps from spreadsheets, using your own data to deliver a branded experience to your customers. It's easy, free, and there is no coding involved. Wild Apricot is a cloud-based service that includes website management, membership renewals, email marketing and donations for membership-based organizations (nonprofits, clubs and associations). Mad Mimi is NewPath’s choice for email marketing. Read more about why Mad Mimi is still our choice after all these years. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Attracting the customer.”

Currently, at NewPath we don’t recommend any online advertising ad platforms. We recognize this is a controversial position, yet content marketing simply provides a better return on investment for most SMBs over online ads. Here’s some proof based on our own experience with content marketing and spending on ads. Online ads can work, though, for certain product sectors, to boost an already well-known brand, or for local advertising of local services.

Tool set #3: Commerce and sales

For commerce and sales, NewPath recommends PayPal, WooCommerce and Stripe. Everyone’s heard of PayPal and the service remains easy to use for secure online payment processing. WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to set up an online store to sell directly from your website - why pay for an ecommerce platform when you can have more power for less cost? Stripe makes it even easier to do business online by offering recurring and one-time credit card payment processing. Stripe checks out the transaction, makes sure it is legitimate, and if all looks good, they send the money automatically over to your business bank account, without the need for a merchant account. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Making it easy sell and buy services and products.”

Tool set #4: Social and relationships

Social media and the cultivation of relationships is an important step in the sales cycle. Some aspects can be automated and other parts must be handled directly, but in each scenario, business acumen and technology can help. At NewPath Consulting we use the following social and relationship management tools: 

  • Slack.com is our internal communications and collaboration tool, which we use as an alternative to inter-office emails so everyone remains on the same page and informed of internal projects and delivery of customer service.
  • Highrise is our customer and partner database that keeps us abreast of all interactions between our sales and marketing team and our prospects and customers, and allows us to schedule touchpoints and keep notes and to-dos in order. Highrise integrates seamlessly with your email inbox, important since after phone calls, email is the primary communication channel between staff and customers.
  • Zoom is our recommended service for video meetings, which can be recorded and scheduled ahead of time for up to 50 participants via phone and video.
  • Appointlet helps us automate the process of scheduling meetings between team members, prospective customers, and customers, eliminating the back and forth of trying to find a mutually available time in people’s busy schedules. 
  • Hootsuite lets us monitor social media and schedule new and popular content when the intended audience is most likely to be online.

The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Staying organized while keeping in touch with prospects and customers.”

Tool set #5: Data & Management

As an organization matures to the point where it needs to effectively manage a lot of data and personnel, NewPath uses and recommends these products to use analytical insights to drive business decisions:

  • The business model canvas helps a business owner clarify and iterate a business model that may not be complete or functional.
  • Stitch Data, WebHooks, Zapier and SuperMetrics help integrate and automate data integration between various services.
  • FreshBooks is a cloud-based accounting tool that keeps track of invoices, expenses and taxes, and offers recurring billing. And your business will get paid faster when you can deliver invoices electronically and get paid electronically!
  • Google Analytics allows you to track website traffic, events and the return on investment of marketing efforts.
  • LastPass provides secure password management for all staff.
  • GoDaddy offers secure, reliable domain name management and managed WordPress hosting.
  • Safari Books online and Lynda.com provide ongoing business education for your staff and customers.
  • G Suite from Google allows for cloud storage and instant, collaborative editing of documents, illustrations and spreadsheets.

Do you have a mismatched collection of productivity tools that aren’t working together to help your business grow? Step back and look at the big picture of how your business is evolving, which core capabilities you have and which you need to build, and which set of services will help you reach your business goals.

03/30/2017

NewPath at Digital Main Street Forum

The Digital Main Street Forum aims to assist entrepreneurs in embracing digital technologies to build and grow their business – from online marketing and leveraging data to better engage your clients, to adopting ecommerce to reach a broader customer base, the Digital Main Street Forum will help you understand the "Why" and "How To" of embracing both bricks and clicks for your business. NewPath Consulting will have a booth at this event so please come check us out!

You can register online for free.

03/01/2017

Why Use a Password Manager When the Browser Saves Passwords?

Last month, a hacker breached an online police forum to sell over 700,000 pieces of data from US security enforcement agencies on the dark web, including the FBI. If these security professionals can fall victim to hacking, it’s a warning sign for all of us to boost our own password security.

The password management problem is simple: as you browse around the web, opening accounts on websites, you’re asked to create password after password. The average person has 100 passwords, though most probably have between 100-500. How could anyone remember that many pairs of usernames and passwords?

Forgot-password-Fotolia_137263233_S

Most people don’t. They either use the same password for every site, maybe with slight variations, or they just keep using the “Forget Password” link that most sites provide. It’s usually a combination of both tactics. Then, if security breaches happen and their username and password is leaked, they blame the companies who’ve been breached, even though they failed to create and manage a safe password.

Unfortunately, when your password gets breached (stolen by a hacker), and you’ve used that same password on any other site, your accounts at all of those sites are now also at risk. The hacker can access those other accounts without having to do any more hacking.

Now the chances are low that this will happen, but if you’re somehow targeted for an attack and people have some of your passwords, they might now be able to get into your most sensitive accounts such as email, financial sites, and health sites, where they could potentially carry out malicious actions.

At NewPath Consulting, our customers typically take on anywhere from 1-20 new passwords for cloud-based services (e.g., PayPal, Mad Mimi, Wild Apricot, website hosting), and most of these are critical to their operations and keeping their financial data and customer information secure. Sites like these require the most complex passwords that will be difficult to hack.

What is a safe password?

The safest passwords are ones that:

  1. Are only used on one site
  2. Contain at least 8 characters
  3. Contain a combination of letters (upper case and lower case), numbers, and special characters (!%@#)
  4. Contain no dictionary words or proper names
  5. Change every six months or a year

Now we come back to the central question of how to remember all of these safe passwords, which are purposefully hard to remember or guess. Some people try writing them down, maybe on sticky notes attached to the computer (very risky if your computer is lost or stolen), or scraps of paper around the office or house (difficult to keep track of or find when you need).

Enter the password manager, a software application designed to help you accomplish three key goals:

  1. Create a new password for every site
  2. Generate and manage safe passwords
  3. Fill in your passwords for you without you needing to know or remember them

Why not just save passwords in your web browser?

Web browsers like Chrome, Safari and Opera all offer the option to save your passwords for you. They say they are encrypted, but many security experts have questioned whether storing your passwords in a web browser is truly safe. If your computer is stolen, your passwords can likely be easily extracted from your web browser.

Another big drawback of using the browser to manage your passwords is there is no requirement to choose a safe password. Password manager programs, on the other hand, automatically generate safe passwords, and if you create or enter your own they give instant feedback on whether it is strong enough.

Remember that a browser’s goal is to help you search the web, while a password manager’s only job is to keep your passwords safe. In fact, when you install a password manager, it will usually disable the built-in password manager in your browser.

Which is the best password manager?

At NewPath Consulting we use and recommend LastPass. It creates a vault with one master password - this becomes the last password you’ll ever have to remember again.

LastPass boasts strong encryption algorithms and no one at LastPass ever has access to your data. You have the option of two-factor authentication for extra security. With two-factor authentication, even if someone breached your master password, they still can’t get into your account without entering a second piece of information, such as a code that LastPass sends by text message to your mobile phone.

LastPass helps you easily accomplish all three password management goals:

  1. Create a new password for every site
  2. Generate and manage safe passwords
  3. Fill in your passwords for you without you needing to know or remember them

LastPass encourages good password management by actively monitoring to make sure you’re not using the same password on all sites, and by giving you a score for how safe your passwords are.

Like any software tool, using LastPass does have a bit of a learning curve, which is why we help our clients set up and learn to use it. Once you get used to it, however, it is truly quick and easy and gives you much more security.

How much does LastPass cost?

LastPass is free, with the option to upgrade for $12 a year for premium features such as family password sharing, 1 GB encrypted file storage for notes you want to save, priority customer support, an ad-free vault, and more.

What are some concerns people have about password managers?

Some people aren’t comfortable turning password management over to an outside organization. Others worry that if their master password is compromised a hacker will have access to all of their sensitive information at once (two-factor authentication is the solution for this).

Other people just don’t believe that password security is important or worth the time or money. Yet this infographic of data breaches over the last few years shows just how widespread data breaches are, how frequently they occur, and that we can expect this to continue.

Password security is one of those things that’s never a problem until it’s a problem. But as we learned from the Police.com breach this month, if security professionals can be hacked, why can’t you?

Want to secure your data and start surfing more safely online? Contact NewPath Consulting today for a complimentary demonstration of how we use LastPass, and how it could work for you.

[Update - March 20, 2017: Listen to The Russian Passenger, Reply All podcast episode #19, for a frightening story of how easy it is to be hacked, and charged for services you never used.]   

02/02/2017

Why An International Non-Profit Migrated to Wild Apricot From Salesforce

Recently we had the opportunity to work with an international not-for-profit organization on a technology solution. They had obtained a free version of Salesforce, a cloud-based CRM (customer relationship manager) product. After about a year of using Salesforce, they found themselves looking for alternatives.

Their company structure had changed, so they no longer qualified for a free non-profit license from Salesforce. Beyond that, they were finding that Salesforce wasn’t meeting their needs. It couldn’t do event management, and was not helping them automate their membership renewal process and workflow (such as keeping track of when renewals were coming up).

Salesforce required extensive customization to meet their core needs, but they didn’t have the resources to bring in an external consultant to do everything required. They simply weren’t getting enough value from Salesforce.

Time for a technology upgrade

Membership renewal was a key issue. The organization had its annual general meeting coming up for their members from around the world; in order to attend and participate, people had to be members in good standing and have completed the membership renewal process.

Through web research, they found the cloud-based membership management solution Wild Apricot. Through the Wild Apricot Partner Directory, they found NewPath Consulting and Alex Sirota.

Wild Apricot had a more reasonable cost structure and would allow this organization to automate the membership renewal process and handle event registration online.

How NewPath Consulting helped

Alex identified the best way to transition them from Salesforce to Wild Apricot, including the extraction of data from Salesforce. The important steps here were to create a master exportfile, and then test the new system to make sure the data file would import properly.

This was a unique situation in that they have many organizations as members, who then have individual members under each organization. This required them to have a hierarchy in their membership structure. In Wild Apricot this is achieved with the membership bundle feature.

While it is always tempting to try all the bells and whistles of a new software program at once, Alex convinced the organization’s marketing manager that it was best to ease into implementing Wild Apricot’s features gradually.

Focusing on the big picture view of their organization and its goals, Alex helped them determine how best their business model would work inside the Wild Apricot system.

Their first goal was to create automated processes for membership renewal, e.g., reminding organizations when their membership renewal is due. Currently, the organization’s finance manager will manually renew member organizations using the internal email campaign system in Wild Apricot to collect fees, both online and in person during the organization’s general meeting in summer 2017.

As the organization becomes comfortable with Wild Apricot, they will deploy the online renewal features on their website. But they decided to take it slow initially, and use Wild Apricot’s “back office” features without needing to deploy self-service membership capabilities yet.

Another data project was to map membership levels based on their transactional history from Salesforce. That would enable them to track outstanding renewals at every membership level.

Feb WA Dashboard Summary

Alex also helped them create a customized “Master Membership Report” to distribute to all members. This allowed members to share information with each other with the most up-to-date information.

More in store for Wild Apricot

As we continue to work with this organization to implement more of Wild Apricot’s powerful features, the next goal is to set up Wild Apricot to handle registration for their upcoming annual general meeting (AGM) and bring transactional functionality to their members across the world. For example, offering a streamlined way for global members to apply for funding to attend the AGM.

They also plan to implement the Wild Apricot membership portal to enable self-service by members. More self-serve options would free up staff to spend more time creating new programs and marketing the organization’s program and funding initiatives.

Why Wild Apricot was better than Salesforce

On the surface, Salesforce could do what this organization wanted, but in reality this would have required a lot of custom work and a pricey consulting project. Wild Apricot is clearly a better choice for a membership-based organization. It is a CRM, but a very specialized one with tools right out of the box that were just what this organization needed.

01/13/2017

NewPath Consulting at Vaughan B2B Expo on February 1, 2017

Join us on February 1, 2017 at Vaughan's premier opportunity to meet and make partnerships with local small business owners. The Vaughan B2B Expo will be held at the sumptuous Terrace Banquet Centre.  Come for a decadent breakfast and delectable lunch while visiting the 100+ vendors, including NewPath Consulting, who have set up displays.  Meet local politicians and government dignitaries, hear keynotes by business success stories and mingle with the best and brightest of the Vaughan small business community.  

At the NewPath Consulting display we will be showing our "Transforming into a Digital Workplace" presentation and offering free business strategy consultations to visitors.  We look forward to seeing you there!  

Vaughan Mayor Bevilacqua at the 2016 Event
Vaughan Mayor Bevilacqua at the 2016 Event
Kristine Black at the 2016 Show
Kristine Black at the 2016 Show



 

01/11/2017

2016 Traffic Update: Content Marketing Works!

For small businesses, investing in content marketing is a judgement call. When we launched NewPath Consulting in 2010, we made a call to invest in ads to build awareness. This is sometimes called the “spray and pray” approach, where you’re trying to spray your message to as many people as possible, while you pray that some of them may eventually turn into customers.

In many ways, it’s easy to determine the ROI of buying ads. You spend a certain amount of money to get access to a certain amount of viewers. With content marketing, on the other hand, you’re won’t know upfront how many viewers you will get. Content marketing builds relationships with your target audience over a long period of time.

Content marketing relationships

Your target audience is also reading content on other websites - those of your partners, potential partners, and even your competitors. So part of your content marketing strategy must be to collaborate with these partners to co-create, share and promote content.

Building these relationships is really the most valuable way that a small business can build a community and stand out from the crowd. There are two key reasons for this.

First of all, when you have trusted partners that value you, and they share your content with their audience, that creates an implied endorsement that creates trust with potential customers.

As well, when you write content about your vendors and other partners, that becomes a new way for prospective customers to find you. When people search for information about those other companies, they may discover your content and find their their way to your website as a result.

Content marketing relationship example - NewPath Consulting and Formstack

You can see this in action in one of our most popular blog posts. Formstack is an online form builder and one of the preferred vendors we recommend to our customers. To explain why, we partnered with Formstack to present a case study of how of our clients used the application to generate substantial revenue and sustain their business.

The webinar was a huge success with more than 450 participants, and we created an additional post-event article featuring the questions and answers from the Formstack webinar. Since both NewPath and Formstack promoted the post on social media, we were both able to benefit from this mutual effort. A win-win situation like this is one of the most powerful strategies to building quality traffic to your services or products.

2016 content marketing results

Here are the actual results from our content marketing efforts last year. We’ll compare this to our earlier practice of buying ads. Breaking out the blog and website stats separately illustrates a much clearer picture of how the blog traffic leads to increased traffic on the rest of the website. (See Part I and Part II of our Google Analytics articles to learn how to do this for your own site.)

Overall NPC Website Traffic Trend

As we started blogging regularly and sent regular monthly email newsletters in 2016 our traffic jumped from the previous year (see below). We discovered that instead of investing in ads as we did in 2010, moving our efforts into content marketing yielded much better results. Not only did our blog traffic jump, but much more importantly that translated to the highest amount of traffic we had even compared to when we bought ads in 2010!

Essentially, investing roughly the same amount of money per year as we did for ads yielded more traffic, which was much better targeted to our audience. By investing in content marketing I mean quality writing, along with ensuring good channels for distribution with quality partners, such as the Formstack webinar recap we mentioned above.

Traffic-overview

Notice that almost all the metrics are performing better year over year. % of New Sessions is down, but in our case we want more return visitors - more traffic and more return visitors means people are checking us out more often.

When we looked more closely at the types of traffic, we discovered that the biggest jump in year-over-year traffic was from mobile viewers, versus those on a desktop computer or tablet. The 60%+ jump in mobile optimization is critical in today's world. We hope some of these visitors check us out on mobile and return on a desktop.

Device-category

Social media amplifies the message

How did visitors find their way to our site in 2016, and how did that compare to the previous year? There was a big jump in social media traffic from our own social media channels or from our technology partners.

There is also a jump in direct traffic - people who went directly to the NewPath Consulting website on their own. This is a great sign that people are learning and remembering our business name and website link. And look at email year over year - regular monthly sends really establishes a pattern for our audiences and drives traffic reliably.

One constant snag is monitoring valid referral traffic. "Ghost" traffic coming from shady websites still continues to get through the Google Analytics filter. We are working hard to generate a lot more high-quality referral traffic from partner websites.

Channel-grouping

We have worked hard to become listed on partner directories in 2016 and will continue to do that in 2017. Take a look at the traffic patterns generated year over year, that has led directly to new customers!

Visits-from-partners

Another way to measure our efforts is to look at how much traffic came from each social media platform. Here we see a big jump in Twitter referrals (marked by t.co), which is a direct result of using Hootsuite’s Bulk Composer to re-share our most popular posts on a regular basis. This handy tool helped us deliver an arsenal of quality social media-ready content that we knew was popular, based on the analytics of our content.

Social-source

How will you invest your time and money in 2017?

For B2B small businesses, buying ads is an expensive proposition. Our experience shows that it’s best to spend money elsewhere, such as on professional writers and editors, and social media resources. Once your brand is established, then you might consider buying ads to further leverage your brand awareness. We believe service companies can build customers without having to invest in ads, particularly in super competitive market spaces.

Now that we’ve opened up our business and results to you, take a look at your own results. What do your Google Analytics tell you about your website traffic this year compared to last? How is content marketing working in your business? Do you buy ads? What ROI have you seen with those?

Please comment below or on our Facebook page to join the conversation.

11/30/2016

Small Business Trade Show Success is All About the Follow Up

Event_468

Exhibiting and speaking at trade shows can be a lucrative marketing strategy for small business owners. It is a way to get your message out to 1,000s of potential leads. Yet far too many people waste this investment by failing to prepare, participate and follow up effectively.

I know it can seem daunting to gather contact information and follow up, but there are tools that make this easier. More importantly, there’s a process you can put into place and repeat every time you exhibit. You no longer have to let any leads slip through your fingers and land with your competitor, just because they followed up and you didn’t!

Let’s look at the three phrases of successful trade show marketing: Before the show, at the show, and after the show.

Before the show

In a previous article, I revealed my seven tips for how small business owners can make the most out of participating in a trade show. The first four tips are all about how to prepare, specifically how you should:

  1. Gather your business cards, printed materials, and samples - be prepared.
  2. Polish and practice your elevator pitch - one that stimulates curiosity in the listener and opens up the conversation.
  3. Review the floor plan - see which other exhibitors you want to visit and network with.
  4. Set a goal - decide how many leads you want to collect at the trade show.

As a speaker, you can expect to get 3-4% of the show’s total attendees, while exhibitors can expect closer to 1%. For example, at the City of Toronto’s Small Business Forum in February 2016, where we exhibited and presented, there were 3,200 attendees and we gathered a combined total of about 100 business cards at our booth and after our presentation.

Collecting business cards from interested leads is the most important reason you’re at a trade show. The more business cards you collect, the more people you can follow up with, and the more likely chance you’ll get a response and build a relationship.

So don’t just stuff cards into a pocket or toss them on a corner of your table. Have a set place to store and keep track of them. We bought a small ballot box especially for this purpose. On the ballot box we placed a sign that told people what we would do with their contact details.

At the show

Another point I made in my City of Vaughan article was the importance of having at least two people staffing your booth. I saw this really make a difference at the City of Toronto show. If my colleague, Kristine, hadn’t been there to cover the booth while I was presenting, we would have collected far fewer leads.

Another bonus of having a second person in the booth is that they can direct people to the presentation (we also had a countdown timer letting people know my talk was coming up). So many people wander around trade shows without a clear plan and they get easily distracted. So tell them what to do - they’ll be glad to receive the benefits of your information.

You’re going to have a wide spectrum of potential leads, from people who are very likely to buy, to people who were simply passing through on their way to another booth. Make a special note of your most meaningful conversations, because these are the people to follow up with first. Have a pen handy to write details on the card before you put it into the box. Make sure all of your booth staff uses the same process.

Tip: Use a tool like CamCard to scan the business cards you collect (use your down times during the show, or do this after the show). CamCard is an app and website that runs online. You take a photo of the front and back of a business card and the app scans the info and creates a digital record of all the data on the business card.

A lot of small business owners get stuck on the work to hand-enter all that data. CamCard removes that obstacle, and I see people really perk up when I introduce them to this tool. You can export your Camcard data into a spreadsheet, then you can correct any errors. We find that photos with coloured backgrounds, funky designs, or eclectic fonts are most prone to error. In this digital age, keep that in mind when designing your own business cards!

After the show

For any cards you didn’t scan during the show, or if you weren’t using a scanner, go through your box of business cards and enter people’s contact details (at the very least their first name, last name, and email address) into a spreadsheet or your CRM.

Remember those meaningful conversations that you tracked by making a note on the cards? Follow up - immediately! I don’t use our email program for these contacts - I write them directly to see if they have any questions or need more help. This is my opportunity to have a deeper conversation. And that’s the main point of investing time and energy to attend a trade show.

I also tell them to watch for my email newsletter, which is another way to start a long-term conversation with the people we’ve met at trade shows. Everyone who leaves their card at our booth is automatically subscribed to our newsletter (and that is clearly stated on the sign on our business card box).

For the people you didn’t speak to directly, you’ll want to follow up with a copy of your presentation or other follow-up materials related to your trade show booth. After our City of Toronto show, we exported our 100 contacts from CamCard into our CRM (we use Highrise to manage our small business leads).

Then, we used the Broadcast feature in Highrise - this is an email marketing system that lets you send bulk emails and track your results, but is designed to look like a regular email from one person to another. In Highrise, you can also tag people with the name of the trade show so you have a segmented list for continuing follow up with those contacts.

What’s also cool about Highrise is that they have email templates, including merge fields (e.g., first name, last name). After our City of Toronto trade show, we sent an email that included a copy of our presentation and a call to action for a free consultation. We sent it three days after the show, to give people a chance to get caught up after being away from the office for the full day show.

What were the results? Fifty-five percent of the respondents opened our email, and 25% clicked on at least one link. The key is that email - and that trade show - wasn’t the end, it was the beginning. I know it will take six or seven conversations to move those relationships forward.

So once you’ve committed to exhibit and speak at a trade show, plan and prepare to follow through on your investment. Trade shows have been around for years for a reason. Yes, they’re old school. And yes, they work!

10/28/2016

How to Build a $1M Small Business

In a 2014 blog post, Christoph Janz, SaaS investor and co-founder of Point Nine Capital, wrote that there are five ways to build a $100 million business. You need either:

  • 1,000 customers that pay $100,000 per year (These are called elephants.)
  • 10,000 customers that pay $10,000 per year (called deer)
  • 100,000 customers that pay $1,000 per year (called rabbits)
  • 1,000,000 customers that pay $100 per year (called mice) OR
  • 10 million customers that pay $10 per year (called flies)

Janz builds on a popular hunting analogy used by salespeople, as a creative way to describe how businesses need to lure each of the five types of animal. The point is that you wouldn’t try to lure an elephant the same way you would a trap a fly.

Elephants are difficult to capture, it’s a lot of hard work, and you probably won’t end up getting many of them. Deer are fast moving and difficult to catch, but once you land them they make good customers. Rabbits are plentiful, but they can be tricky to catch and are fickle.

If you know your target customer and how much they are able pay, Janz asserts, you can align your marketing and sales and marketing effort to reflect attracting kinds of customers. And while he was writing about SaaS (software as a service) businesses, this applies just as well to service-based small businesses like yours. 

How many animals does your business need?

Small service-based businesses rarely serve 100 clients simultaneously, but we can apply the same theory of understanding and targeting your clients.

Let’s look at a small business who is striving to build a $1 million business, which might break down like this:

40 elephants at $25,000/year = $1M
100 deer at $10,000/year =  $1M
200 rabbits at $5,000/year = $1M

1M Business Chart

The idea is that to build a $1M small business, you need to understand the average price point for different kind of customers, and then you need to set specific goals as to how many of each type you need.

To grow to 50-100 customers you will need to understand the cost involved to scale to this level and how you will serve them all simultaneously.

This approach also requires a steady revenue stream on an ongoing basis. So these are not one-off contracts but recurring revenue streams that are set up as recurring contracts, rather than one-time fees (otherwise you will have to find a new set of 50-100 customers every year!) This tiered recurring revenue model can be very successful for small businesses, as long as you understand what sort of infrastructure and resources you need to attract more of these types of clients.  

The hunt for small business customers

Prospective customers who will spend $10,000 or $1,000 per year need a much different sales and marketing approach than customers who will spend $100 or $10.  

How do you diversify your offerings, attract each type of client, and market effectively to them? One way is to build strong partnerships with the vendors you work with. That way you can cross-promote each other’s businesses and services, and provide trusted referrals to each other.

Hunting mice and flies to purchase lower-priced items means attracting large volumes of prospective or trial clients through social media and viral marketing campaigns.

Rabbit-hansbenn-pixabay-1581187_640

Hunting rabbits requires solid inbound marketing techniques, where you’re providing solutions that people with a specific problem are searching to solve. Here’s where you write amazing content about the right topics, and present at meetings, conferences and other events. This is the majority of the marketing we do in our business at NewPath Consulting, and we find it’s really been the only way to get rabbits.

Deer-Unsplash-pixabay-731343_640

Hunting deer on the other hand, who will pay a much larger amount of $10,000 per year, requires salespeople reaching out to customers who are capable of paying that much. The owner has to either
be a salesperson, or hire salespeople who specialize in the types of customers who pay $10,000 per year. Still, it’s unlikely you’ll close most of these as cold calls. Getting deer really depends on those vendor relationships we spoke of earlier: partnership programs, referrals, or the added value of having someone who can provide service and support for a product.

Elephant-Amandad-pixabay-402517_640
Hunting elephants requires the strongest relationships, along with recognition in the marketplace. And this happens after you land a lot of deer and rabbits. That’s why very small service businesses should focus mostly on attracting rabbits and deer. When you land an elephant, a lot of attention has to go towards a small number of clients, and you cannot pay as much attention to landing more deer and rabbits.

Hunting clients for a small business takes a clear understanding of the specific types of clients you want to attract to your business, and what it takes to land them. You can’t use the same tools to attract an elephant as you would to attract a fly.

10/16/2016

Lynda.com and Safari Books Online available for free with a valid library card

Image result for lynda.com images   Image result for lynda.com SAFARI BOOKS

Did you know that your library may offer access to Lynda.com for free? Your library may also offer access to online tech books from Safari Books online, for free! Each resources is normally available under a yearly subscription worth hundreds of dollars.

As of 2014 many libraries across North America have been introducing access to these 2 incredible online training repositories for people holding valid, non-expired library cards. 

What is Lynda.com?

Lynda.com is a leading online learning company that helps anyone learn business, technology and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals. Access includes the lynda.com video library of engaging, top-quality courses taught by recognized industry experts.

lynda.com, Inc. was founded in 1995 and is headquartered in Carpinteria, California.

What is Safari Books Online?

Safari Books Online provides access to more than 21,000 digital books and videos on topics ranging from programming to IT networking to project management to graphic design to business strategy. The content includes code snippets, certification preparation materials, practice exercises, training videos, and much more. Users can search thousands of books simultaneously online, saving time and quickly finding the information they need.  Safari Books Online provides a powerful but easy-to-use platform for your users to find information and answers to questions about topics such as improving career skills, organizing personal electronics and finances, learning social networking or starting a business. The world's most respected publishers such as O'Reilly Media, Addison-Wesley, Peachpit Press, John Wiley & Sons, Adobe Press, Microsoft Press, Sams, For Dummies, McGraw Hill, and more are available.

Originally started in 2001, Safari Books Online was the result of a combination of two of the world’s most prominent technology publishers, O’Reilly Media, Inc. and Pearson Education.

Finding If Your Library Has Access

A simple Google search will bring up libraries that have access to either resource:

Search for Libraries with Lynda.com

Search for Libraries with Safari Books Onliine

UPDATE: We are working on a comprehensive list of all libraries across North America that have access with direct links. Feel free to check out the progress or provide input at this editable Google Spreadsheet.

UPDATE 2: This list is slowly growing and we've created a simple to use search and map tool for this Lynda/Safari public library directory.

10/11/2016

How Effective Use of Analytics Increases Your Traffic - A Scientific Experiment Part II

As small business owners we have limited resources and we must make them count. That includes the time, money and effort put into creating content.

In a previous post we introduced our Average Pageviews Per Month spreadsheet report, which measures how well your content performs. The more pageviews per month over time, the more that content is resonating with your audience.

In this blog post, we will document how to configure and use the Average Pageviews per Month metric and a few other interesting reports we will build.

One of our most powerful reports is called “All Posts.” It automatically generates a snapshot of all traffic to your blog, from the beginning of when you started reporting to the current day (=today). You can then use formulas in your spreadsheet to control what data is displayed, and how.

Google Analytics has its limits

Why do this reporting outside of Google Analytics, when it is such a robust platform? When you go to Google Analytics your starting points are almost always different - the date/time parameters and other elements of your dashboard are always set to  what you looked at last. If you’re always resetting parameters, you can lose track. It’s like you’re always starting from scratch; you’re getting a scattered point of view and it’s hard to focus on a few metrics and measure how things are changing.

Filtering on certain parameters is also not intuitive and difficult to do on the fly while doing analysis. The filter parameters have to be set up each and every time you run a report, or you must set up “segments” - an advanced feature of Google Analytics.

A customized Google spreadsheet, like the one we showed you to set up in the last post, is always reflective of the same date parameters and filters. You get what you expect - every time. Plus most small business owners are already comfortable with reading a spreadsheet, while Google Analytics reports can take some getting used to. Also, when you use Google Analytics without a filter, you get all web pages and blog posts, instead of focusing on just the blog posts, which is what we’re trying to do here.

Another bonus of spreadsheet reports is that if you want to make changes to the data, you can always add new reports and run them using a new report configuration. Since all reports can automatically update every day, this is a powerful alternative to the Google Analytics system, configured exactly how you want.

A closer look at the All Posts report

Here are the metrics we want to capture in the All Posts report:

  • Pageviews (number of pageviews of that post)
  • Unique pageviews (factors out if a person loaded the page more than once; doesn’t count the multiple page views during the same session)
  • Average time on page (amount of time reading before clicking away)
  • Entrances (# of times someone actually started their web visit on that page)
  • Bounce rate (# of times started at that page but didn’t continue to any other pages on the site; the article didn’t engage them)
  • Exit rate (# of times this was the last page someone visited before leaving the site)

In Part One of this post we introduced the pattern matching language known as regular expression (also known as a regex). Here we’ll use regex again to filter for these dimensions:

  • Sort by descending order on number of pageviews using the directive  -GA;pageviews
  • Page path - the text that appears after the domain name of your site, i.e., /myblogpost.html

The page path filter includes the regex code that identifies  which of your website pages are actually blog posts. For example, the blog posts on our website uses a URL pattern of /YYYY/MM/blog-postname-html, so our regex will filter all page URLs that start with with /YYYY/MM. You can look at the URL of any of your blog posts to find out how your blog’s URLs (ie “permalinks”) are structured.

Common permalink patterns

The two most common WordPress permalink patterns are nicknamed “ugly” and “pretty” (click here for more information about permalink structures). There are several other possibilities as well, which is why this filter will be fairly unique to every website.

For the purposes of our All Posts report, the most important elements to have in your permalink are the name of the blog post, and the year and month it was published. If that’s not your situation, get in touch about a function that allows you to grab metadata such as the publication date from the blog post itself.

This filter will include URLs that have year and month, and exclude ones that have the week in them, or other noise data and index pages that aren’t actually blog posts.

Now that we’ve finished that, we can run a report and populate a separate tab of our spreadsheet of raw data called All Posts report.

Here is a Google Spreadsheet template you can use to try this yourself. In Google Sheets you can also make a graph of your data very quickly, e.g., all articles with higher average pageviews than 1.

Average-pageviews-per-month-for-blog-posts

In the Google Sheets template, you’ll see that these two key columns are highlighted: D - Post Age Months, and E - Average Pageviews Per Month

Assuming that your permalink format is the one we talked about, we’ll use this Google spreadsheet formula:

The age of the post in months is calculated with
=(YEAR(TODAY())-MID(B7,2,4))*12+(MONTH(TODAY())-MID(B7,7,2))

This formula extracts and calculates the age of the post in months.

The average pageviews per month formula depends on the age of the posts in months and is:
=if(D2<>0,C2/D2,C2/(D2+1))

So when you’re done, you get these two handy columns of data, and once you’ve filled down the remaining rows, you can sort on the data. Use the menu option Data-->Sort Range-->Data has a header row, and sort by average pageviews in descending order.

Once you do that, your most popular blog posts that are consistently getting traffic every month will float to the top. Now you can see which articles are generating traffic to your site and resonating with your audience consistently, and which ones are not.

The older articles that consistently have a large amount of page views will probably continue to drive traffic to your blog and the rest of your website. People are interested in what you’re talking about; the chart above follows a long tail. The goal is to push more articles to the head of the long tail, thus increasing your overall traffic while resonating with your target audience.

Near the bottom of the report you’ll see the posts that get less than one page view a month on average. The likelihood that anyone will read those articles is low. They may continue to drive traffic to your site, but there is no point is doing anything to promote them.

The Netflix phenomenon

These articles may be well-written and interesting, but they’re just not hitting the mark. In fact, you’ll probably find that if your traffic to the blog follows a long tail, you have a small set of articles that are generating any real traffic, and a large number that are generating none at all.

And it should be obvious by now that as long as you generate more articles you will continue to build traffic, but once you stop it is unlikely traffic to your site will increase. Here’s an automatically updating chart of the traffic to this blog. You’ll notice the marked increase in September 2016 over September 2015 as we continue to write new articles and actively promote the existing popular blog articles in social media and through Google:

NPC traffic sep 2016

Click to see a full image of updated monthly blog traffic.

You can liken this to what happens on Netflix, the popular movie and TV streaming platform, where only a small number of videos out of their huge catalog of content are viewed the most. No one would suggest that Netflix - or you - delete the rest of the content that doesn’t rank, but that you focus on investing your resources - especially if limited - to create and promote popular, high-quality content.

You can’t just rattle 500 words off the top of your head and throw it up on your website with no editing, contemplation, or understanding of your audience. Google Analytics and customized reports like the All Posts spreadsheet give you all the feedback you need about whether you’re going in the right direction with your content or not. Because if you want your overall traffic to increase, your blog traffic must increase. That’s the power of blogging, if you’re doing it right.