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Posted by on in Social Media

hutzlergirlI have a pet rock, in the original box. I have a pair of Kelso Earth Shoes in the back of my closet. Roberta and I even have a very nice Kitchen Aide mixer which we use regularly, but until recently, my life is was yet complete - I did not have a Hutzler 571B.

The 20-person Hutzler Manufacturing Company has many products, primarily plastic kitchen utensils and food handling products.  The model 571B is said to "Slice an entire banana in one quick motion. Safe and fun for children. Dishwasher safe."

As of January 15 (2013), it was the #2 selling product in Amazon's "Mandolin and Slicers" category per a recent Businessweek article (update - it has since fallen to #97 in the category - fame is fleeting).  It is a hit on Pinterest and a darling the literati. Hundreds of people offer suggestions for the next product release, to be called either the Hutzler 571C or the 572.

How did this $1.29 plastic slicer become a top banana? It is truly a social media success story, even if it came as a complete surprise to Hutzler Manufacturing.

The start of the social campaign is unknown, but along the way over 5,500 people have jumped in and written detailed product reviews on Amazon.  Twenty four people have added custom product photos to the Amazon page for the 571B.

A poor 2-star review reads "I tried the banana slicer and found it unacceptable. As shown in the picture, the slices are curved from left to right. All of my bananas are bent the other way."

A top-of-the-scale 5-star review (more than half of all reviews) reads "What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn't already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone.... this is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day's banana slices. It's one of those chores NO ONE wants to do! You know, the old "I spent the entire day rearing OUR children, maybe YOU can pitch in a little and cut these bananas?" and of course, "You think I have the energy to slave over your damn bananas? I worked a 12 hour shift just to come home to THIS?!" These are the things that can destroy an entire relationship.

It got to the point where our children could sense the tension. The minute I heard our 6-year-old girl in her bedroom, re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change. That's when I found the 571B Banana Slicer. Our marriage has never been healthier, AND we've even incorporated it into our lovemaking. THANKS 571B BANANA SLICER!"

If you think the human race has finally gone nuts, don't worry.  The 5,500 Amazon product reviews belong to the social media category of "gag reviews", but for Hutzler - it is all good. 

Other companies have intentionally attempted to create the same viral fire, but for Hutzler, it's just been bananas.

Read the reviews on Amazon to see for yourself - http://www.amazon.com/Hutzler-5717-571-Banana-Slicer/product-reviews/B0047E0EII.   Go to Youtube to see video product reviews and exceedingly clever spoofs on the legendary 571B.

 

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slepping-emailHow many emails do you receive in a day? How many do you open? How many lead you to do something?


Like pointless PowerPoints, endless emails are time wasters and and a burden. Just as I spent years creating ineffective PowerPoint presentations before learning how to do better; I am working this fall to improve my emailing skills for my benefit and for my clients.


And so should you.


I write 10-20 emails per day. Since leaving HP/Agilent, I communicate more via email than through any other medium. Whether proposing a service to a potential client, asking for permission to proceed, or explaining what went wrong, emailing is a critical skill that I need to keep working on.


Geoffrey James gives six helpful tips for "How to Write a Convincing Email" in a recent Inc. magazine article.  Of his six tips, I am working on two of them this month.

 

Step 2. Start by writing your conclusion.

Per James - "Nobody in the business world has time to wander through the development of an idea. If you don't tell them the reason for the e-mail immediately, chances are they'll just move on.

So you start with your conclusion. For example, suppose your goal is get your boss to approve an in-house gym.

Jim,
I want you to approve the installation of an in-house gym."

 

In my Advanced Presentations class, I give the same advice when presenting to C-Level executives. "First Line - Bottom Line. You have 30 seconds to get to the point." We live in an info-overload society and people don't make time to read lengthy messages.

 

While you can afford a sentence of greeting, get to the point quickly. I used to be terrible at hiding the main point of the message at the bottom.  In today's short attention-spam, mobile app world, no one has time to read umpteen paragraphs while you build your case.

 

Step 6. Stick a benefit in the subject line.

How often do we reply to the reply to the reply, when the email topic has shifted and is not related to the subject?  Your subject line should introduce the topic of the message and lead your reader to open the message.  It also helps when trying to find that particular email from three days ago.

Per James -
"Ideally, a subject line should accomplish two important tasks: 1) interest the recipient enough so that the e-mail gets opened and read, and 2) imply the conclusion that you want to the recipient to accept.

In most cases, the best way to accomplish both tasks is to encapsulate a benefit (or benefits) that will result from the decision that you'd like the recipient to make.

WRONG:

Subject: The Health Impact of In-House Employee Fitness Programs

RIGHT:

Subject: How we can reduce absenteeism"

 

What are you doing to stand out from the crowd and get action via email?

 

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google-devilHere is a tale of woe that can affect you - sent from John Schulz, a friend and past co-worker in Northern Colorado.  From the Greeley Tribune (note - the link to the article no longer exists, but the story is still worth sharing).

"Direct from England, the Boultons came to Greeley to enjoy retirement and run an inn.

In August 2010, they took over the long-struggling Sodbuster Inn at 1221 9th Ave . It got them to Colorado, which they loved; it gave them steady income, which they also loved — without the hassle of the corporate world, which they no longer loved.

And they did well. So well, the Sodbuster Inn quickly became everything they wanted. They had a good inn, a website and they had reservations. Guests were raving.

“We had the most phenomenal summer,” Stephanie Boulton said of 2012.

Then, Aug. 1, the phone stopped ringing. They thought nothing of it. It was the end of the summer traveling season, after all.

Then September. Still, no calls. Something was obviously wrong.

They learned they weren’t getting bookings from their website. So they Googled their site and found it buried at the bottom of page 7 of their search — the kiss of death."

“For us, the web is our shop window,” Stephanie said. “That’s our bricks and mortar.”

 

 

Google is a Big Target  

There is an entire industry focused on guessing what Google's "secret sauce" is for ranking and then using that knowledge to improve their clients' ranks in the free "organic" search results.  Many businesses, like the Boulton's Bed & Breakfast, rely on their Google search position to direct a substantial portion of business to them.  You probably get email solicitations every week from these folks, promising you access to secret information and a top search placement if you let them help you.

panda-googleThere are two problems with trying to outguess Google.  

One - Google changes their algorithm regularly, and what works one month may not work the next.  Google released a major anti-hacking algorithm update called Panda in 2011 which underwent a series of successive tweaks to keep the rank hackers at bay.  Panda was followed by Penguin in 2012, and the changes keep coming as rank hackers discover new means of cheating the system.

Two - Google does not take kindly to people trying to manipulate Google's ranking process.  They can, and do, punish websites that their evidence shows are manipulating Google.  

For the Boultons described above, two things stood out - their Facebook content was identical to their website (duplicate content across multiple sites), and the shared server upon which their site was hosted, also was determined to host porn - not at all related to them and their site but suspicious to Google who sees sites used to promote porn all the time.

Note - our servers are dedicated to our Wave's End clients, there will never be porn on them.

 

So What do You Do About It?

The Boulton's eventually gave up on their old domain and created a new name for the inn and launched a new website.  Online business has picked back up for them, but it was a painful and expensive experience.

In the "old days" of 2010, Google relied heavily on how many sites link to yours to determine where to place your site in search results, it is less so now, though link count is still important.  The SEO (Search Engine Optimization) folks at the Savvy Panda have the following suggestion: "Stop Link Building and start Link Earning".  Their point - don't try to manipulate the number of sites pointing to you, improve your search positioning by establishing web-based relationships with the people you do business with, the organizations you belong to, and focus on the quality of the links pointing to you.

I agree with this approach, at least 50%.  Trying to increase links to your site by buying them (they are for sale), or using link exchanges that clutter your site up with links to unrelated organizations is more likely to get you into the kind trouble with Google that the Boultons saw.  I'm all for establishing web links and exchanging content with selected, trusted partners.  Spending 15 minutes a day on your social media links is a productive use of time as well.

 

Building links takes weeks and months to see results.  If you don't have the time or patience, I recommend using Google AdWords to drive prospects to your site.  AdWords has a wealth of helpful tools.  I use it to prospect keywords for clients and to assess websites for SEO clients who are not interested in paying for visitors.  You can manage your ad budget, tune your ads daily if you want (or let Google optimize them for you), and you can measure the results of your ad campaigns to see if your investment is paying off.

 

If you do only one thing from reading this tale of woe, please check your website on Google every month to make sure that you haven't lost your position as punishment from Google.

 

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Posted by on in Social Media

helpWe live in a short attention span society so I'll keep this brief.  People are inundated with input - hundreds of emails, dozens of blogs and news sources. You need to get your point across, with few words, with details for those who want to know more.

My son Adam is taking a writing course this spring and much of what he is learning is "old school" - appropriate for writing essays that people will read, then re-read and digest. When writing to your boss, to your customer, and you are just one of a hundred that they will read that day, they need you to get to the point.

I am putting together a class proposal for a client on Effective Written Communications. This course will focus on how to increase the response rate to emails, generate action from status reports, gain approval for project proposals, and when/how to use short-format messaging for business.  Participants will learn a four-step process to create effective written communications. 

I could tell you more but instead I will point you to a couple of good references that being used in developing this class -

How to Write Short
Fast Company

 

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google-angelx150One of my clients, Company Y, decided to save money a few months ago by cutting their Google AdWords budget to zero. They saved several thousand dollars in monthly expenses and saw on-line sales drop by ~$25K, or 30%. Ouch!

Even counting the cost of the products sold plus ad costs, the company took a big hit in bottom line profits by cutting their AdWords budget.

What happened and what is the AdWords Halo Effect?

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Posted by on in Social Media

red-bellOne of the fun things I do as a member of the Monument Hill Kiwanis Club is to spend a few hours each year ringing the bell for the Salvation Army.

I spend an hour each week from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, standing with the kettle and raising a portion of the $40K+ that our club brings to the Salvation Army each year.

In addition to being a good thing to do, I learn a few lessons while standing outside Walmart, Safeway, or King Soopers that help me and my clients be better at what we do.

 

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Posted by on in Social Media

Do one thing and do it better than anyone else.  

 

 

I remember encountering this business philosophy years ago when I walked into a Chipotle for the first time (originally written before the recent health scares).  Pretty much all they did was burritos - very good burritos.  The menu has expanded a bit since then, but their menu is still pretty focused and they let you craft a great burrito.

Enter Harry's - a newly launched website/business that sells two models of razors, blades for less than $2 each, and shaving cream.  That's it.

These are special German-engineered blades for half the normal price and without the "Überschuss" (excess, waste).  Harry's is from the same folks that focused on eye-wear to create the successful Warby Parker fashion eyeglass site.

So how do boutique websites compete with the world's largest ...?  

 

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