Jul 27

Sometimes I wonder if Merge was to hire someone to do redesign our web site, what we would look for in that company and/or service. Here’s what questions Merge would ask:

1. How do your services impact our bottom line? I would expect a good web development firm to ask me, “How’s this going to help your company monetarily?” If they don’t care about providing real results, then I’m not interested in hiring them.

2. Does your strategy make [common] sense? If a company promised me the latest tips and tricks are awesome, or that super-duper cool design would be really neat, I’d balk. Tell me how you’re going to do it, and I wouldn’t have to understand the technology completely, but it would need to be reasonable from a common sense approach.

3. Is the price too good to be true? If they promised me the moon for $2,500, I’d walk. I’d simply ask them how they price their services, and see if it makes sense that their fee lines up with the value they’re promising.

4. Are you 100% referenceable? I don’t want them to provide the testimonials, instead, I would randomly call any of the customers in their portfolio. They need to be 100% referenceable.

5. Do you promise to support us, until death do us part? Can I count on them to be there when I need them? Will they be around after they complete the project? If they can’t answer those questions in the affirmative, no dice.

These are five things that Merge would be asking a web development firm if we, for some crazy reason would hire one. Notice I ask nothing about design, seo, programming etc. We would know if they were any good at that before we ever talked to them (i.e. we would google “web design, greenville sc” to see where they themselves show up and we would look at their portfolio to get a feel of their design abilities).

The Bottomline: Ask questions of a web firm to make sure the web solution will provide the business results you actually need-not just a web site.

Jul 27

The newspaper is dieing. For the baby-boomer generation, that may be a sad thing. For my generation (X), that’s a “huh” sort of thing, and for Generation Y, they’re almost asking, “What’s a newspaper?”

Why is the newspaper dieing? There are many theories and reasons I’m sure, but the one that is obvious to me is because publishers focused on the means to the end (the actual, physical paper), and not the end itself.

There’s a great question to ask yourself to make sure you’re on the right track with your business. “What business am I in?” The famous response to this question came from Ray Kroc, who at the time was the head of McDonald’s, said, “That’s easy. Real Estate.” Most people may scratch their head, thinking the answer should have been hamburgers. But if you think about it, the reason for McDonald’s success is because you can find one almost anywhere you need one. And they locate themselves in the most convenient location to make it easy to get in and out.

Publishers actually thought they were in the newspaper business-putting ink on paper and distributing that paper to something they call subscribers. So when the internet came along, they defended their glorious little papers to preserve what they’ve been doing for 100 years.

If they would have realized they were in the advertising business and not news and not newspaper then they would have done what any logical company has done. They would have seen the trend of the internet and embraced the new technology to expand their advertising service online. Some have done so, though it may be a little too late so save the entity.

On one-hand its sad to see the newspapers go, but on the other it’s exciting to see the world evolve and progress.

The bottomline: Ask the hard question, “What business am I in?” And then ask yourself how you’re using or going to use the web to further your true business.

Picture Credit: The Economist, Who Killed the Newspaper?

Jul 26

When I was in high school, I couldn’t stay awake during my Trigonometry class. The teacher asked me, “Why are you so tired?”

“Because I’m working at night” I replied.

“Why are you working?” he asked.

“For gas money.”

“Why do you need gas money?”

“To get to work.” I replied incredulously. It took a moment, but the 16 year-old in me finally got it.

I see this same mentality a lot from companies wanting a new web site or wanting to redesign their existing web site. Usually, the objective is lost on them. It’s not bad to have a web site. But when the default objective is having a web site for the sake of having a web site, isn’t that sort of pointless?

Why do you have a web site and what does it do for your organization?

Bottomline: Don’t be a 16 year-old when it comes to your web site. Have a clear objective as to why you have one and know what it needs to accomplish.. (If you need help figuring that out, we’re here to help!)

Jul 24

Twitter. “What are you doing right now?”

What do I care if I know what time you go to bed every night (I confess, I did a night time tweet the other day). To most it seems ridiculous. Just one more thing to keep up with in this already crazy world.

But here’s what Twitter has done for me:

-Introduced me to people in Greenville (and around the world for that matter) that I did not know, which I asked to lunch or coffee and got to know somebody I otherwise would have never known.
-Put me in touch with potential employees (can you say, save $20,000 in recruiting fees?)
-Gives me about 1 - 2 good laughs per day
-Selling a new service from a person “met” on Twitter,
-and more.

So yeah, it’s ridiculous to tell everyone what you’re doing right now. Unless the service simply facilitates the ability to get to know and meet wonderfully, valuable people. Then it’s much more than what you’re doing, it’s about who you’re going to meet that you otherwise wouldn’t.

By the way, wanna follow? http://twitter.com/adamlandrum

Jul 23

You’ve had the problem before, no? You need to get a very large file to somebody, but it’s too big to email. You can burn it to a CD, put it on a jump drive, but then you have to either drive it across town or mail the media. Some may say you could FTP the file, but FTP is a little on the complicated for your average Joe.

The answer: Dropsend.com.

The free service (pay plans are available) allows you to “email” files up to 1GB in size. What actually happens is:

1. You indicate who you want to send the file to,
2. You upload the file
3. Dropsend sends an email with a link to the file upon completion of the upload
4. Your recipient downloads the file and can download it for up to 14 days.

Brilliant. The-file-is-too-big-to-email problem is over. Thanks, Dropsend.

Isn’t the web great?

Jul 21

So it’s fabled we have 3 seconds to make a first impression on our web visitors when they first visit a page.

10 seconds, if you believe the stats, to convey what it is you do. What better way to do that than through a pictorial story instead of, ugh, words?

Below are three great sites that do an extraordinary job at doing this:


(click image to see larger photo)


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(click image to see larger photo)

Each of these web sites could have easily told you what they do with words, lots of words. Instead, they chose to simply tell you with a few words and some pictorial story telling.

Bottomline: For greater effectiveness in communication what it is you do, use images to tell your story on the web.

Jul 17

About 18 months ago I tried out a service called Jott. It allows you to call a number, dictate into your phone and the service (for free) transcribes your message into an email and sends it to you (or a list you predesignate).

Pretty cool. Problem was, it had about an 80% success rate, which was just off enough to be annoying.

Today, a friend of mine recommended it to me and so I tried it again. It translated my message perfectly.

People use it to update their twitter account, to dictate, to jott reminders to themselves, to jott ideas, to easily update multiple people via email while driving, etc.

Try it. http://jott.com/

Isn’t the web great?

Jul 09

Most companies plan their web site from the inside out. The process looks something like this:

1. What do we want it to do?
2. What are my competitors doing? Ooh, I’d like my web site to do that.
3. Talk about how great we are (use “we” and “our” a lot in our copy).
4. “This is how I want it to look. I like these colors. I don’t like those colors.”

Do you notice in the four elements above, you never see the word “you”? Zip. Not once. Nil. Here’s the mistake most companies are prone to making:

Companies scarecly think of the customer when planning the redesign of their web site.

Now, companies may think that they know what the customer wants and that’s inherent in their planning. But have they bothered to ask?

5 tips for better planning your new web site:

1. Ask the customer what they want. Go ahead, ask 10 of your best customers what they would like to see on your new web site, and send a survey to a good many prospects.

2. Plan your web site around the customers’ wants and needs, not your company. There’s a thought.

3. Don’t base your color and design preferences on what you like; base it on what your customers prefer. Involve your customers and prospects in the design process. They’re the ones who are going to use it anyway, right?

4. Don’t launch before you test. Ask your customer to complete a task (say, sign-up for a newsletter or download a white paper). Watch them do it. Get their feedback. Adjust. Then launch.

5. Do what your competitors aren’t doing. Ask your customers what they like about your competitors’ web sites, but also what they don’t like. Make sure you don’t do the don’t likes, because nothing drives prospects away better than poor usability or functionality.

Bottomline: When planning for a new web site, don’t make the web site for you-make it for the real user and ask them their wants, needs and preferences and get them intimately involved in the process.

Jul 07

This weekend I rented a movie from Blockbuster, and I couldn’t think how the web has completely changed their game. Truth be told, it was probably Netflix that made the movie giant change their distribution model, but nonetheless, Blockbuster has masterfully used the web to do so.

Think about their old model of
1) Go to the store
2) Walk around for 15 minutes trying to find a movie you want
3) Rent the movie (if it’s in) and then pray to God you don’t forget to bring it back on time
4) Return in 1-5 days with the movie.

Now its:
1) Browse online in the comforts of your home to find the movie you want
2) Read reviews from other people to decide if you want to use it.
3) Add it to your queue
4) Movie shows up 1-2 days later
5) You return it whenever you want
6) And oh, if you want another movie NOW, simply take your movie to the local Blockbuster and exchange it for an in-store rental.

With one fell swoop, Blockbuster made mom-and-pop rental stores obsolete, made Netflix one-dimensional and dominated the movie rental business once again. But, Blockbuster better not get too comfortable because another web distribution model has arrived (and has been trying to make a breakthrough for sometime): the online, download-it-now-and-watch-it model.

Apple’s iTunes movie rental and other services are coming. Blockbuster even has its own service, Movielink, which it acquired in 2007.

Either way, the web is rapidly changing how businesses do business. Look at your current distribution model. Can the web change how you distribute your products or services?

Bottomline: Leveraging the web can completely change your company, if not your industry. Don’t be changed, change it yourself.

Jul 02

The web gets a lot of bad press. Porn, stalkers, phishing, scams (i.e Nigeria), hoaxes, spam and on and on.

Human nature is wired to focus on the bad. It takes a little effort to think about all of the good on the web. Here’s a list of why the web is great:

-Kiva.org. The online community that funds third world entrepreneurs via micro loans. Economic Development Goodness.

-Donorschoose.com. Teachers post their needs/projects and people from around the country and the world make micro donations that add up. Kids, parents and teachers say thank you.

Free Usefulness
-Craigslist.org - No charity per se, but it’s a free way to buy and sell. The newspaper killer if you will (in a good way). I’ve posted before, but I’ve bought and sold cars, Clemson tickets and all good stuff. Incredibly helpful and good.

-Wikipedia.org. Come on, who doesn’t use this web site? The community rises up again to help the greater good. You can know anything-and if you have a cell phone with internet access, you can win an argument anywhere that relies on obscure factual data. Try it.

Truth Spreading
-Snopes.com I wish everyone who types in all caps and uses blue font would know about this web site. Anything that sounds fishy gets run through snopes. Hoaxes are lies and simply spread fear. It all stops with snopes.

-Rageagainstthehaze.com. South Carolina’s anti-smoking initiative, created by Greenville’s own Brains on Fire. Award winning goodness.

This is just a smidgen of web sites doing good. Please, add to the list in the comments section.