Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Importance of Social Networking

Greetings to all. It's pouring rain down here in Tulsa, and
I'm soaking wet. Been running errands all over town and it
was impossible to stay dry, even with a large umbrella.

Today I want to continue our discussion about the biggest
mistakes businesses make with their web sites and also extend
a special offer to you, my loyal subscriber.

First for the commercial: I'm having a furniture sale.

I just bought office furniture for my new office and now I
need to pay for it! So here's a special offer just for you:

Get a series of 10 email message for $300.00 -- normally
$750.00 -- save $450.00!

Get a short-form sales letter -- normally $750.00 -- save

Get a membership to for $49.95 -- normally
$147.00 -- save almost 100.00!

If none of this floats your boat, Steven, go to and create your own bundle. Pick aAny six
products for only $50.00.

First come, first served. Offer subject to cancellation
without notice.

OK, now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Last time we talk about major online mistakes businesses
make, we covered the importance of including a form to
collect the first name and email address of every visitor.

Today I want to talk about the importance of leveraging
social media to promote your web site.

Personally, I use two blogs to cross-promote my services to
different audiences. One blog is focused on the small to
mid-sized businesses and may be found here:

If you browse through the blog, you'll find it contains
almost every newsletter I've written over the past few

There's another blog for my friends who are magicians here:

Magic is a hobby of mine, but I also build sites for
magicians, so this blog serves two purposes.

On some of the sites we design, we integrate a blog like we
did for my magician friend, Eric DeCamps:

If you look at the navigation, you'll notice the last
button is Blog. This is integrated into our own content
management system and allows Eric to delete, edit, or
publish blog comments from his visitors.

For another client, we integrated both a Word Press blog as
well as a forum for their members:

For, we integrated a forum, to encourage
authors to share tips and advice about the publishing

Using these tools helps build a sense of community among
people with common interests. Just about the best thing you
can have are a bunch of people getting together to sing your

Additionally, by encouraging visitors/members to
participate in your forums and to comment on your blog
entries, you are receiving fresh new content for free. This
also helps to spread the word virally about you and your
service and site.

Forums are also a great place to spread the word and gain a
following. Rather than join a bunch of forums and blatantly
promote your stuff, you will be far better served by
participating in a bunch of related forums for a while.
Once you are perceived as a friend to the forum, people
will react more kindly to your promotions.

As an experiment, several years ago, I joined about 6
marketing forums and participated in discussions for a few
weeks. Then I started offering my products at a discounted
rate for selected forums. Over four months time, my little
experiment generated over $2600.00 and with very minimal

Based upon my experiment, I realized that tracking all my
special offers for each forum was a bear, so I developed a
piece of software to track it all and generate reports on
my marketing efforts -- kind of like Quicken. It's very
cool and you can read about it here:

If you want to learn more about the fine art of using
forums to market yourself more effectively, then you can
purchase the ebook here:

Now there are also a number of other ways to use social
media. Most of you have already read about the power of
YouTube (really more viral video than social networking but
can be used for social networking purposes) as well as
Twitter, FaceBook, and

I have accounts on all of these and a few more like among others. Of all of these, I find to be the most useful for connecting to other
businesses -- it's great for sharing information with close
friends as well as prospecting and promoting yourself.

When I first started consulting full-time again in 2006,
the first thing I did was to get on and start
re-connecting with old clients, peers, employers, and
friends to get as many testimonials as possible. This
helped me gain credibility quickly, and I still send people
to my personal page whenever they want to know everything
about me.

I find FaceBook to be a total waste of time unless you are
interested in hooking up with old girlfriends or school
mates. I may be off base here because I hear about a lot of
people who milk Facebook for big bucks and to build their
mailing list.

Now a friend and client of mine will soon be announcing a
cool tool for FaceBook that will blow you away, but more
about that later.

Twitter is interesting. I started an account, followed a
few interesting people and friends, and have left it alone.
Without any promotion whatsoever I have a few dozen people
following me.

I found Twitter very helpful last week when I was looking
for an intellectual property attorney to help me in my
fight against Someone referred a friend to me,
and we're off to the faces.

Some Twitter friends have tweeted about my daughter's
fundraiser to go to D.C. this summer. Others just like to
stay in touch this way. I find it awkward and wonder if
people really want to know I'm at Starbucks having coffee.
I laugh when I see folks making entries every 15 minutes. I
say, "Get a life!" but they would probably tell me that they
have thousands of followers who care about their coffee breaks.

Anyway, at the end of the day, you want to look at the most
appropriate ways to leverage social media to raise your
visibility online. So if you've been ignoring this stuff,
it's probably time to re-evaluate it all and pick a few
tactics to implement ASAP.

Hope this is helpful to you. Drop me a line and please
don't forget to take advantage of my special pricing for
services. Steve-o has to pay for new office furniture.

All my best,


Friday, April 24, 2009

Good News/Importance of Subscriber Forms

Good afternoon and I hope this email finds you well. Today
I want to share some exciting news and continue my
discussion about the biggest mistakes businesses make with
their web sites.

First, the good news: I have been accepted into the
strategic partner network with SpiritBank here in Oklahoma.
What does this mean? Well, SpiritBank is one of the largest
banks in Oklahoma with 18 branches throughout the state.
They specialize in serving the rural business market where
there are lots of untapped opportunities.

There are approximately 100 consultants and small companies
in this strategic partnership program. There's additional
opportunities supplying services to the other partners and
their clients as well as the clients of the bank itself.

Additionally, some friends have invited me to share office
space with them in the bank's Business Resource Center
located in downtown Tulsa. So I will be moving out of my
home office in favor of a real office. Not only will this
be good for me (especially with the kids being home for the
summer), but I'll have a chance to network with all of the
other consultants and bankers who office at the BRC. I'm
quite excited and off to find some office furniture this
weekend! Wish me luck.

OK, let's continue our discussion about the mistakes
businesses make with their web sites. This week we cover a
big no-no in my book: lack of a subscriber form.

It amazes me that some sites simply post an email link for
their visitors to click on. This is so lame. Unless someone
really wants to reach out to ask a question, this is about
the most passive way you can do it. You need a real
subscription form.

Some sites make the opposite mistake of adding a long,
complex form with many fields for visitors to fill in. Let
me clue you in on something: most people are afraid to give
you more than their first name and email address. If you
make the subscribe process too long and too much work, no
one is going to fill it out.

What about your offer? What do you mean you have no offer?
Simply telling people to "Subscribe Now" is meaningless.
Subscribe to what? Why? What's in it for them other than
your junk emails? You need a compelling reason to subscribe
like a free collection of articles or white papers or an
ebook or a demo of some software. Give them something of value.

Some people do have a compelling reason to subscribe and
they do get subscribers, but then they make other mistakes
such as never sending a confirmation email. Folks, we must
obey the Federal CAN-SPAM act. If you do not know what it
is you can read it here:

This is why God made sequential autoresponders like
GetResponse and AWeber. By integrating your site's
subscription form with an autoresponder service, the
service will groom your email list, send double opt-in
confirmation emails to keep you legal, include your contact
info in all communications, and manage the entire subscribe
and unsubscribe process. It makes managing an email list
painless. Here's links to some services:

Using an autoresponder service also enables you to
personalize your emails, in both the subject line and
salutation. People will open emails addressed to them with their
first name.

Now if you prefer to manage your email yourself
and fully control the email broadcast process, you should
consider the very affordable and easy-to-use GroupMail
software product:

Remember, if you are going to use an autoresponder service, you
best set it up for scheduled broadcasts to your lists at
least every 2 weeks. This keeps you top of mind and helps
you to develop long-term relationships and to demonstrate
value. It's why my 1500 subscribers never leave me.

If you don't know how to write an autoresponder series I
can write it for you or you can buy a simple tool to help
you get started writing one yourself. Check out the review here:

If you want to chat with me about a custom autoresponder series,
email me at:

Some people make the mistake that an inquiry form is the
same as a subscription form. Most people who fill out an
inquiry form are trying to get information to answer a
question -- they are not subscribing. Don't mistake the two
or you may be classified as a sp*mmer.

OK, that's this week's tip: collect first names and email
addresses for future marketing efforts, double opt-in to
keep it legal, stay in touch often, provide value from the
first time they subscribe and forever, and they will never
leave you.

Any question? Bueller? Anyone?

Until next time,


Monday, April 20, 2009


Good morning, friends, and I hope you are well. This
weekend I actually had some "ME" time and joined a group of
men for a brief retreat at the Post Oak Lodge here in Tulsa.
It was a nice morning to take a walk by yourself in the
woods, find a place to sit, read and journal. It was very
refreshing, and really made me realize how important that
"ME" time is. I'm sure I am like a lot of you. I get so
caught up in the day-to-day, trying to keep the wheel
turning, that I lose track of "ME" and my own needs.

Later when the men regrouped, one of the guys mentioned how
he's come to realize how much he hates his job. He suddenly
became aware of how the second he's alone with somebody he
starts ranting about how much he hates traveling in his job
and how it keeps him apart from his wife and kids. I know
this is something all of us can relate to.

Back in 1997 I was traveling quite a bit with my company,
WorldCom. I was gone almost every other week. My wife had
just given birth to my daughter, and I was off the day she
arrived home with the baby. One day after a business trip I
arrived home, pulled into the garage, and opened the door to
my house. There was my 3 month old daughter sitting in her
high-chair facing the door. My wife thought it would be a
fun way to greet me. I smiled.

And then my daughter screamed a blood-curdling scream
because she did not recognize me.

I tried to pick her up and calm her down but she was
scared. So she's screaming and I started crying. I felt
terrible. My own daughter did not even know me. I made a
decision right then and there to slow down my traveling and
stop it as soon as I could. I stopped showing up for major
meetings in other cities, and eventually I was told that my
desire to stay home was going to cost me visibility and
promotions. So be it.

As a consultant, travel is sometimes required by your
clients. From 2006-2008 I spent almost every other week
driving from Tulsa to Topeka and I hated every minute of
it. The wear and tear on my car was nothing in comparison
to the wear and tear on my wife and kids. I walked away
from a $6K monthly retainer to stay home last May. The
client didn't understand, but sometimes your priorities
shift, and you have to make tough decisions, even when they
hit you in the pocket.

I am rambling about this because when my friend at the
retreat mentioned about how he only recently became aware
of how much he hates his job because he finds himself
talking about it all the time, it made me wonder about what
I find myself talking about all the time.

I guess for me, it's concerns about the past and the
future. I've mentioned before I've had an unusual life in
that I've been held up at gunpoint 4 times, gun to head.
I've also had 5 car accidents where I should have died but
didn't. In fact, I've always walked away relatively
unscathed. So for me, the big question is why have I been
spared so many times? There's got to be a reason I'm still
around, and that tends to eat away at me. I tend to second
guess myself a lot wondering if I am doing what I am
supposed to be doing. Am I adding value to other peoples'

But there's not much you can do about the past, and I know
I have to stop thinking about it. But then there's future
concerns: money, health, education, home, etc. The economy
is spiraling out of control, and I'm afraid me with it. As
a consultant, I see more and more small to mid-sized
companies holding on to their cash. Marketing is about the
last thing they think about. So naturally, I'm concerned
about the welfare of my family.

Now to the point.

If you find yourself talking about -- or complaining about
-- the same things over and over again to your friends and
family, then it's probably time you stopped.

In some cases there are actions you can take to stop
whining and effect change in your life. Sometimes that
starts with working on character and fortitude -- internal
changes, and other times it has to do with finding a new
job or downsizing your household -- external things.

I strongly recommend you take some "ME" time in the next
week and consider what you are ranting about to your
friends and family, and then try to create a plan to get
yourself out of the rut you may be in. A little prayer
might also be helpful ;)

So what's all this got to do with marketing, eh?

This week -- not much.

I'm working on trying to launch a few new client sites,
meeting some new prospects, and trying to figure out how to
reduce expenditures wherever I can. I'm also taking a
personal inventory of strengths and weaknesses, and looking
where I can leverage gifts and experience and also address
blind spots. I'll work on updating my own web site and
review where I need to focus my time for the second quarter
to survive.

I'd be pleased to chat with you about your own marketing
efforts and any challenges you may be experiencing. Let me
see if I can provide some feedback for you. I think that's
one of the reasons I'm here. So take advantage of it.

Until next time,


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another Great Web Site!

Good morning subscribers. Steve Schneiderman here with a
quick peek at another new web site we just launched today.
We're actually still making a few minor tweaks, but feel
free to check it out:

Eric is a childhood friend of mine. We met at a magicians'
convention when we were 15 and we've been friends ever
since. About a year ago, Eric started performing in a
one-man magic show in Manhattan. He wanted a new web site
to reflect the nature of the show, and to keep in touch
with his growing fan base.

The site features many of the things I have been preaching

- A visual graphical header that hints at the content and
- Lots of rotating photos
- Plenty of video to see "the product" in action
- A subscribe box to build a marketing list
- Rotating testimonials to help build credibility
- A blog to help build relationships

While I don't usually favor white text against a black
background, we broke my rule for this site to add an
element of slick plus a dose of mystery. Magicians love
black. I don't know why, but we do!

The site is administered through a custom content manager.
It enables Eric to change out the text, the pictures, the
testimonials, and to review and approve blog entries.

If you have been considering a new web site for your
business, please drop me a line at 918-298-9531, and let's
see how we can work together to make you the star of your
web site!.

All my best,


Friday, April 10, 2009

Fixing Navigation Problems

Good morning, subscribers. Trying to rush my son off to
school so I can finish my taxes. Ugh. I hate this time of
year. Surely I am not the only one doing them late, filing
for an extension, and wondering how I will pay the taxman,
again, this year -- am I?

Last time we chatted about the biggest mistakes businesses
make with their web sites, we spoke about poor design and I
recommended some graphic tools to help you modify and
improve your own web sites.

Today I want to focus on poor navigation. A site must be
organized logically and intuitively to make it easy for
your visitors to find the information they are seeking and
to understand your value proposition.

So many sites bury critical information too many layers
deep. It's like drilling for oil. You go deeper and deeper
and still never strike black gold.

Many sites use only one form of navigation, or only place
navigation links or buttons at the top of the page. This
can be frustrating for sites with long pages. It means your
visitor has to scroll back up to the top to navigate to
another page. Place links minimally at top and bottom of page.

Many amateur web designers like to use Flash, Java and
JavaScript buttons to make their sites looks cool.
Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the smartest way to
do it. Search engines like to follow text links and these
other types of buttons may look good but are not search
engine friendly. So if you want to encourage the search
engine spiders to crawl and index your site contents, then
avoid these other types of buttons.

The best thing to do is to organize your content and use
text links. Make sure that the text links that navigate
your site content do not launch new browser windows when
launched. Nothing is worse then visiting a site that opens
a million windows. Only launch new windows when linking to
an external third-party site.

Lastly, always test your navigation links. When a visitor
hits a dead link or gets sent to an unexpected location,
all credibility goes in the toilet.

I wanted to show you a site we just launched for a client,
Heatwave Supply:

Their old site was made with FrontPage and consisted of a
static template with a little text. No pictures of product
or their showroom. No real separation between residential
and commercial products. No contact form. We've taken a
number of steps to improve the situation. This site has
additional product catalog features which they will enable
once they get some site traction. Let me know what you

And here's a tool worth considering to help you with your
web design projects:

Design Dashboard

This tools seems to resolve a lot of problems new web
designers have. Check it out.

Hope this helps.



Monday, April 06, 2009

Subscriber Questions/New ClayPals and Jewelry Auction

Good morning, friends. I've been receiving some very nice emails from subscribers thanking me for the continuing series of tips regarding the biggest mistakes businesses make with their web sites. Please do send me links to your site and I'll let you know what I think!

A few people asked about other design tools I recommend for improving textual layout for headlines and such. About a year ago, Max Rylski released a product called Killer Text. I wrote about it briefly in my newsletter.

It is a collection of professionally designed PhotoShop Action Scripts and Styles. You type in the text you want to use, and then apply a style. Instantly, your text becomes "killer text" and pops off the page with brilliant color treatments. It is very easy to use and works with Adobe PhotoShop or Photo Elements. You can learn more about it here and see examples of the text you can easily create with this set of tools:

I also recommend another offering of Max's called Super Easy DIY Graphics which is a collection of professionally designed graphic elements which you can customize.

The key thing to learn in all of this is moderation. Less is usually more, and it is easy to overdo it. I have seen pages where every other word is either bold, italics, underlined, a different font, a different color or highlighted or even different sizes. This does not help you. It hinders you.

Likewise, it is critical to make sure that the graphical header at the top of your site does something to explain the nature of your product or service. It should be visually compelling and intrigue the visitor to lean in and look down to read your initial sales pitch. We'll talk more about sales copy in the future. For now, focus on look and feel.

Another great exercise is to search Google for your top ten competitors in your own backyard or niche. Then start scoring them for their design and compare them to your own. The light bulbs should start going off and giving you ideas on how to either simplify or fix your site.

OK, some of you have been kind enough to ask how you can help send Alex to D.C. this summer. This week we've extended our fund raising to include new Easter ClayPals Alex has designed and my wife is auctioning off some custom jewelry she created.

Alex's newest ClayPals may be found here:

The story about her nomination to go to D.C. by her school may be found here:

My wife's custom designed jewelry creations may be found on eBay, but one of the pieces is already being bid on. If you like her work please act fast. All monies generated through the sales of ClayPals and my wife's jewelry creations are going towards Alex's D.C. trip in August.

Smoky Quartz Earrings

Pink Coral Earrings

Pink Coral Bracelet

Pink Coral Necklace

Turquoise Earrings

Onyx Earrings

Onyx Bracelet

Thanks for your support,


Saturday, April 04, 2009

On Poor Design and Recommended Tools

Good morning, friends. Hope all is well on your end. Been
plugging away at proposals to stir up business for the
Spring and hopeful that this economy is not going to pull me
much further down. How are you doing? Have you felt the
impact? Are you working harder for less money?

I have a friend who was hoping to retire at 55 but may have
lost that opportunity due to downsizing and reduced budgets.
That would stink -- working for 25+ years towards an early
retirement -- only to find out you can't do it anymore.

The more I talk to people, the more I hear more of the same
types of stories: this one lost 65% of their retirement
income, this one lost their job, this one has to sell their
house. It's becoming a broken record and rather depressing.
At the rate the country is spending money to bail out
everybody, I'm wondering when they'll actually get around
to helping the middle class and small businessman that
keeps this country going by developing new companies,
products and services and creating jobs.

OK, enough of what you already know. Let's talk some more
about the biggest mistakes people make with their web

So far we've covered Poor Type Treatment and Poor Colors.
Today I want to talk about Poor Design.

I'm only going to say this once: if you are not a graphics
designer, don't try to design anything. I don't care if you
won an award in grade school or Mom still has your crayon
drawings hanging on the refrigerator. If you don't have
honest-to-God talent and mad design skills, you have no
business designing your own web site from scratch.

I know, I know. There are these great tools that make it so
easy a four-year-old could design a site. Just because the
tools are out there doesn't mean you should be using them.

Remember this: people -- your visitors and prospects --
judge a book by its cover. Once you design your own site,
you are the worst judge of your site's design. You are too
close to it. Start asking people to critique it, preferably
people who won't tell you what you want to here. Get some
real objective observations and criticism.

Remember this, too: you only have about 14 seconds to make
an impression on your web site's visitor. That means the
page has to load fast, it has to communicate the value
proposition, and it needs to suck them in to learn more. It
needs to be compelling visually and textually, it needs to
collect the visitor's contact information, and it needs to
educate them. It needs to get them to want to know more, to
lean in, and to pick up the phone or send an email to get
more information.

If your design doesn't accomplish all of this then you are
missing the boat.

I'll give you a concrete example. Start looking at the web
sites of your favorite restaurants. Based upon local
research I'd say at least half of my favorite local
restaurants have a really poor web site design and fail to
do most of what I have mentioned above. The object of a
restaurant's web site is to sell the food and ambiance of
their restaurant. If it doesn't show great photos of the
food and interior of the restaurant and show people loving
the experience, then it fails. Go do the exercise and see
what you learn.

Now there are some tools out there to help with design. If
you have no graphic design experience then all make sure to
get tools that come with professionally designed templates.

Templates can make you look better than you are and can get
your design started quickly. The temptation though will be
to tweak the templates to make them yours. And that's where
you can get in trouble. If you don't understand design then
you will most likely ruin the look and feel of the
professionally designed template. So my advice is to use
the template as is.

Two web design tools I like that include great templates

Xara Web Designer

XSite Pro 2.0

If you are trying to design a look and feel for your own, then
I recommend a few different tools.

First, I recommend my ebook about design called Designing
Ebook COvers -- it's the only ebook of its kind that
deconstructs projects I have done for clients including
ebook covers, product boxes, banners and web pages, and it
explains the choices I made along the design process. You
will learn from this:

Second you should check out these tools which make the
rendering of 2D designs into 3D designs very effortless
without PhotoShop:

eCover Software Pro

EZ Ebook Templates

Web 2.0 Covers

Quick 3D Cover

Now if you need help designing other things such as
business cards, I suggest a good start would be here:

The Business Card Creator

Need a logo development tool? Try this one:

AAA Logo 2008

One of the best investments you can make is in a good
collection of ready-made professionally designed graphics
which you can then combine into something new:

Web 2.0 Graphics Pack

Web 2.0 Headers

OK, that's enough on the design subject for today.

A few last items for you to consider for the new week.

I really want you to start concentrating on how you get
your web site found. You basically have two choices and
both are expensive and time-consuming with unpredictable
results. You can either go with search engine optimization
or Google pay per click (PPC).

I have clients who have paid as much as $4K/month for
prominence via search engine optimization and $50K/month
for Google PPC. I just don't recommend it. You need some
seriously deep pockets for that kind of investment.

Now I know a little something about search engine
prominence. Search for me by name or any of my products and
services and I show up all over the place.

Look at my ongoing success with My
reviews typically show up in top page one positions on
Google and other search engines and the site still stays
around the 140,000 top site on Alexa without me lifting a
finger. My sites get over 2,000,000 unique page views
collectively every year.

So when I recommend a new solution, I want you to pause and
listen. I can provide you with prominence in the sponsored
area of Google (at the top or along the right side) as well
as 900+ partner sites. You get to pick three relevant
keywords and up to 50 zipcodes in your own backyard you
want to target. This level of geo-targeting is particularly
important for local companies who depend upon local people
to buy their products or services.

If that's you, contact me so I can explain how it works.
Best of all the price point is amazingly low if you get in
now: $200/month and there's no cap on the PPC.

And if you would like to start offering this service to
local businesses in your city in the U.S., then you need to
go learn more here and sign up for free to become an account

OK, guys, I gotta go. Family's calling.

All my best,