Monday, June 27, 2005

Things My Son has taught me

My boy, Jacob, is currently out of town with my wife at a very special physical therapy program called Conductive Education. I think about him a lot. He’s got Cerebral Palsy and Cystic Fibrosis.

In his five short years, he’s taught me a lot about life. So, while I’m thinking of him, I’d like to share those lessons with you, because they’ll apply directly to your business.

1. Face life with a smile

This kid, with all of his struggles is the smiliest kid I’ve ever seen. He really knows how to command attention and light up a room. Here’s a person who should have every right to sulk, bound to a wheelchair. And yet, even though he has his moments, he is a very personable and happy boy.

Having a positive outlook to life and business can go a long way toward keeping you moving on the road to success. While you’re networking, be sincerely happy to meet people. Have a good time with your business. It doesn’t need to be drudgery.

2. You can do a lot more when you don’t know what you can’t do

A lot of his bliss comes from his ignorance. He’s still young enough that he doesn’t fully know what he can’t do, yet. So, he takes a lot of risks. Some times so much so that it scares me as a parent.

If we look at life and business as a challenge we can take on, rather than an obstacle that we know will defeat us, we’ll get a lot farther in the long run.

3. Take advantage of opportunities

This one is more about things my wife has taught me. She’s managed, in the years since Jacob was diagnosed, to find all kinds of programs and funding, and to fight the bureaucracies that both administer and protect that funding. It’s truly amazing what she’s been able to bring to the family, simply because she’s learned to find opportunities and move on them.

There are many opportunities available to your business. Find them and take advantage of them.

4. There’s always someone worse off

A lot of people talk to me and tell me what a wonderful person I must be (flattery will get you nowhere, but keep talking…) because I have such a challenge in my life. I see many people in the hospitals and therapy groups whose children are in a far worse situation than Jake. The bottom line? I can’t waste time wallowing in pity, neither for them, nor myself.

Every business will go through slumps. You can mope your way along them, or you can rise above them. And comparing yourself to the success of others is counterproductive and damaging. Move ahead at your own pace.

5. Perseverance

The rewards of success come to everyone that crosses the finish line, not just the first one. That means that you don’t have to be fast, you just have to not quit.

6. Life can be high-maintenance at times. Deal with it

Sometimes I feel very overwhelmed and inadequate as a father of a special-needs child. Frankly, how many dads reading this feel inadequate as a parent of a “normal” child, right? There’s just so much to do and to be on top of. I’ve got to maintain the respiratory treatments, I’ve got to help him practice sitting up and taking steps, and on top of all that, I want to lose at Pokemon cards with his big brother. And that doesn’t count earning a living.

But you know what? Since the dawn of time, it’s always been that way. Job said, “Man was born to trouble as the sparks fly upward…” So, even though I complain about it from time to time, the best strategy is just to deal with it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Seek Out Your Audience!

“If you build it, they will come!”

“Build a better mousetrap and the world will pound a path to your door.”

These are interesting quotes, long a part of our culture. They speak of a time when it might have been true that the simple act of creating would bring interest. But this is no longer a part of business on the Internet. It has simply gotten too vast.

Let’s try a quick experiment.

Open up a new browser window. Go to Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Hmmm…mmm…mmmm, doo-dee-doo…


OK, now do a search for the word “the”. Why “the”? Well, it’s one of the most common words in the English language. This time that I did this search, it came back with 3, 420,000,000. Let me write that in words, so you get the impact: Three BILLION, four hundred twenty MILLION web pages currently contain the word “the”. That’s a reasonable estimate of the size of the English-speaking web. The current population of the world is estimated at about six and a half billion.

Now here’s another sobering thought: Every one of those three billion websites is clamoring for attention. Every one of them wants people to look at it.

What that means is that your website, on its own, is going to get swallowed up like a grain of sand on a 3.5 billion grain beach.


And this is the important part: Unless you tell people about it. And the important part is to tell the right people about it. There’s a lot to be said for the notion of broad mass advertising. It can work, and it can work very well, if you’ve got the budget for it (in either money or time). But a more efficient way is to target to your audience. And the best way to do that is to go to them. Don’t expect them to seek you out, rather you have to proactively, aggressively seek them out.

Here’s some steps:

1. Focus your site

A site with a vague and general purpose, with a broad and scattered product line, will be much more difficult to market this way. Pick a theme, a thread that brings some continuity to the site. Choose products that appeal to a similar audience.

2. Define your audience

Who is interested in my products? Write a list of the various demographics that your chosen product lines appeal to. Get specific. Women? That’s a start… Young women? Better… Young mothers between 23 and 30? Now we’re getting somewhere!

3. Figure out where they are

A long time ago, I was on a camping trip with my extended family, and I went fishing. I don’t really know anything about fishing, but I thought it would be fun. So I got a pole and went down to a stream nearby. I put some of that neon-colored bait on the hook, and threw it out.

I stood there, watching it for a while. I looked at the gorgeous trees arching over the stream. I smelled the rich fresh air. I felt the cold water on my toes. I looked at the colors of the rocks in the shallow streambed.

Pretty soon, as I was taking in the scenery, I noticed that I wasn’t getting any nibbles. I looked at the rocks. I looked between the rocks. I looked over the rocks.

There were no fish in that stream.

No matter how pleasant the scene, or how restful the day. I wasn’t going to catch any fish, because I wasn’t where the fish were.

Once your audience is defined then you can ask yourself where on the ‘net they are. Where’s the ponds and streams they’re swimming in? Do they frequent certain websites? Are there forums they participate in? Chat rooms? Don’t search for your products, search for your audience!

4. Go bring them in.

Once you’ve identified where they are, then you can start to promote there. Begin posting in the forums. Set up links with their favorite websites, or place ads there. Look for their eZines, their blogs, their information, and become a part of that. When you become visible in that world, then they will come.

And they’ll buy your mousetrap. It IS a better one, after all…

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Four Legs of the Table

Imagine for a moment that you have a kitchen table. Sturdy, useful, maybe even a little bit decorative. Imagine that the top of the table represents your website. It rests on four legs. These four legs are what hold it up and keep it level. If one of them is weak, then the table wobbles.

In the web world, these four legs represent the promotional strategies that keep traffic coming to your site. They change and adapt from time to time, but currently, the four legs that I see and use the most are:

1. Search Engine Optimization
2. Reciprocal Linking
3. Email List Management
4. Blogging

Let’s look at those one at a time.

1. Search Engine Optimization

Ranking well on the search engines is critical, as that’s going to be the strongest bringer of traffic for your website. The key is to include search terms into your text throughout the site.

The key to that is to discover which terms to use. You want 2-3 word combinations, that people are using in their searches. You also want terms that are being used by fewer websites.

Go to and test the search terms that you want to use. How many people are searching for these terms in a month? Go to and test the same terms. How many websites come up in those searches. The best search terms to include on your site are the ones that balance between a high number at the overture tool, and a lower number at google.

2. Reciprocal Linking

Reciprocal linking is the first promotional strategy I begin implementing after search engine registration when a site launches. Look for owners of sites that appeal to your audience. Invite them to visit your site and to exchange links back and forth. The more inbound links you have, the better.

Inbound links will boost your search engine ranking, and get your site spidered/indexed faster and more often.

Linking also brings in direct traffic, bypassing the search engines entirely. On any given week, my site ( gets up to 25% of it’s traffic as a result of people clicking through on a reciprocal link, regardless of search engine ranking.

3. Email List Management

If someone visits your site, what’s the best thing they could do? Buy something, of course! What’s the next best thing they could do? Leave their name and address so that you can continue to contact them and invite them back.

In the early commercial days of the web, purchases were primarily impulse. The customer bought quickly. Studies show that this is changing. Current statistics show that most purchases happen after between five and ten contacts with a company. Set yourself up to make those contacts happen. Invite your visitors to sign up for your mailing list. Offer a product as a prize drawing as an incentive.

In the world of email marketing, targeted, opt-in lists are the best. There’s no list more targeted than a list of people who’ve opted-in to YOUR list because they’ve shown interest in YOUR products directly. Build that list! Use that list!

4. Blogging

Both People and search engines love to see updating content. It gives them some substance to a site. It gives them a reason to come back. There’s no better way to keep a site fresh and current than a blog. Write some ideas, commentary, news, or just thoughts on a special page in your site once a week. Exchange links with other similar blogs (called “blogrolling”). As you build up an audience, you’ll build traffic to your site.

The search engines will start checking you out more often, too, and taking you more seriously. You’ll have some content-rich pages, and you can write them so they’re search-term-rich, too!

The more your web business relies on these four legs (all of which cost time, but none of which cost more money), the stronger your table will be, and the more you’ll enjoy eating the fruits of your labors off of it!