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Putting your best face forward

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Shailesh raged against a situation where information was simply dismissed because it was obtained from a blog. I understand his frustration. Many ethical, smart and honest bloggers spend time and dispense expertise with integrity.

However, it is no secret that with the eleventy billion blogs out there, all the “information” being passed is not necessarily accurate. It is this underlying current of blog BS that lumps us all into to the generic characteristic of “opinion that may or may not be based on fact.” Smart blog readers will free think and question. May we all have readers like that.

During the course of the conversation, Bob relayed an interesting occurrence. It seems he directed a client to a lender’s webpage. When the client saw it was a blog site, the lender was subsequently dismissed. So goes some folks perception of the blogosphere.

Bob went on to explain that the guy was not opposed to web based business. Bob successfully earned this client’s business after being discovered on the web. But Bob’s blog is not his front page.

Interesting. Neither is mine. It is a blog platform, but it is set up with a static front page that mimics a traditional site to achieve ease of use when I update and to keep the feel the same when you do travel to the blog. I built it that way because I liked the way it looked. I had not considered the blog perception of a new onlooker. Looking through many industry bloggers, you can find it done both ways.

It begs the question…

How do you put your best face forward and is a blog the best way?

Writer for national real estate opinion column AgentGenius.com, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Benjamin Bach

    January 22, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    VERY interesting April. I think you’ve inspired me to create a nice static frontpage for my blog (which is the only website I promote)

  2. Lani Anglin

    January 22, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Our local blog/website is run on WordPress with a front page that isn’t the tubular blog content but DOES have a running list of current articles on the front page. We have found great success with this format.

    Some people won’t get a tubular blog platform and think they’ve stumbled into the wrong place. Others get it and don’t care, just want to search the MLS or get your phone number to call you.

  3. Kelley Koehler

    January 22, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    I love that question. But first, April: are you curly haired girl like on the blog, or straight haired girl like on your site?

    There are so many categories of audiences that we can consider. There’s your daily reader, your direct referral, your search engine hit, your paid adwords, etcetera. There’s a whole market built around optimizing landing pages for each type of audience. Obviously, you can’t control every interaction, but you really have to think about WHO is visiting and HOW, and combine that with WHAT they want to see, what you need to present, in order for them to take the ACTION you want them to take: subscribe, come back and read again, whatever it is.

    It’s going to be different for someone looking for first time buyer info. Allow me to generalize and say that person is younger. They may know what a blog is so maybe we can show them stuff in a traditional blog format. But someone looking for luxury information is probably a baby boomer and may not know a blog from tuesday.

    That exact question you ask is why everyone needs to think about their audience and how all those kinds of different people are going to interact and travel to and through the site. Having good landing pages should reduce bounce rates and increase not only visit length, but retention rates. If you’re already providing fabulous information, then the question becomes how to present it better, to the right people, at the right time.

  4. April

    January 22, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Ben – Glad your brain is churning 🙂 What about the topic made you think that maybe a static page is a good idea verses the way you have it now?

    Lani – I think you guys have come up with a great mix. It is that thinking they are in the wrong place aspect that I was thinking about when I decided to go the static front page route. The blogs are the meat, but I wanted it to have a traditional package.

    Kelley – Yes 🙂 Currently it is straight…but my hair is my favorite thing to mess with – color, cut style – so there is never any telling 🙂 Not great for my branding, but it keeps me sane (sort of)!

    I think your consideration of identifying your key market is an important one. You are right that you can’t control all situations. Maybe that is a vote for the traditional front site with an attached blog. Maybe it just means we should do business the way we are comfortable and move along.

    You really hit the nail on the head with the who, how, what and action.

  5. Larry Hotz

    January 23, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Bob is exception to rule among real estate bloggers. As a result he deserves the extra business generated by his extra efforts. It probably helps that he has an MBA is used to research and ethical writing.

  6. April

    January 24, 2008 at 2:55 am

    Larry – You are very right that Bob does great things. But, if his front page had being a blog, he would have probably been dismissed. The content of the lenders site was never even given the once over because of its “bloggy face.” I am curious if this is an isolated incident or if we really need to consider the chance that blog fronts are not as effective as their counterparts.

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Business Marketing

Coworkers are not your ‘family’ [unpopular opinion]

(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…

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family coworkers

The well-known season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?

Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.

One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.

Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?

At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls.” I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.

Families’ roles are complex.

You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.

What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.

Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.

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Business Marketing

These tools customize your Zoom calls with your company’s branding

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Zoom appears to be here to stay. Here are the tools you need to add or update your Zoom background to a more professional – or even branded – background.

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Zoom call on computer, but there's more options to customize.

If you haven’t had to deal with Zoom in 2021, you may be an essential worker or retired altogether. For the rest of us, Zoom became the go-to online chat platform around mid-March. For several reasons, and despite several security concerns, Zoom quickly pushed past all online video chat competitors in the early COVID-19 lockdown days.

Whether for boozy virtual happy hours, online classes for school or enrichment, business meetings, trivia nights, book clubs, or professional conferences, odds are if you are working or in school, you have been on a Zoom call recently. Many of us have been on weekly, if not daily, Zoom calls.

If you are the techy type, you’ve likely set up a cool Zoom background of a local landmark or a popular spot, a library, or a tropical beach. Comic-con types and movie buffs created appropriate backgrounds to flex their awesome nerdiness and technical smarts.

Many people have held off creating such an individualized background for our virtual meetings for one of any number of reasons. Perhaps it never occurred to them, or maybe they aren’t super comfortable with all things techy. Many people have been holding out hope of returning to their offices, thus seeing no need to rock the boat. I’m here to tell you, though, it’s time. While I, too, hope that we get the pandemic under control, I am realistic enough to see that working or studying from home will continue to be a reality for many people for some time.

Two cool, free tools we’ve found that can help you make your personal Zoom screen look super professional and even branded for business or personal affairs are Canva and HiHello. While each platform has a paid component, creating a Zoom background screen for either application is fairly simple and free.

Here’s how:

Canva is the online design website that made would-be graphic designers out of so many people, especially social media types. It’s fairly user-friendly with lots of tutorials and templates, and the extremely useful capabilities of uploading your own logo and saving your brand colors.

Using Canva, first create your free account with your email. It functions better if you create an account, although you can play around with some of the tools without signing up. The fastest way from Point A to Point B here is to use the search box and search for “Zoom backgrounds.” You now can choose any one of their Zoom background templates, from galaxy to rainbows and unicorn to library books or conference rooms. Choose an inspirational quote if you’d like (but really, please don’t). Download the .jpg or .png, save it, and you can upload it to Zoom.

To create a branded Zoom background in Canva, it will take slightly more work. It was a pain in the butt for me, because I had this vision of a backdrop with my logo repeated, like you see as a backdrop at, you know, SXSW or the Grammys or something. Reach for the stars, right?

OK, the issue with this was that I had to individually add, resize, and place each of the 9 logos I ended up with. I figured out the best way to size them uniformly (I resized one and copied/pasted, instead of adding the original size each time (maybe you’re thinking “Duh,” but it took me a few failed experiments to figure out that was the fastest way to do it).

Once you have your 9 loaded in the middle of the page, start moving them around to place them. I chose 9, because the guiding lines in Canva allow me to ensure I have placed them correctly, in the top left corner, middle left against the margin that pops up, and bottom left. Same scenario for the center row.

Magical guide lines pop up when you have the logo centered perfectly, so I did top, middle, and bottom like that, and repeated for the right hand margin. Then I flipped them, because they were showing up in my view on Zoom as backward. That may mean they are now backward to people on my call; I will need to test that out! Basically, Canva is easy to use, but perhaps my design aspirations made it tricky to figure out.

Good luck and God bless if you choose more than 9 logos to organize. Oh, and if you are REALLY smart, you will add one logo to a solid color or an austere, professionally appropriate photo background and call it a day, for the love of Mary. That would look cool and be easy.

HiHello is an app you can download to scan and keep business cards and create your own, free, handy dandy digital business card. It comes in the form of a scannable QR code you can share with anyone. Plus, you can make a Zoom background with it, which is super cool! It takes about five minutes to set up, truly! It works great!

The Zoom background has your name, the company name, and your position on one side and the QR code on the other. The QR code pulls up a photo, your name, title, phone number, and email address. It’s so nifty! And the process was super easy and intuitive. Now, If I took my logo page from Canva and made that the background for my HiHello virtual Zoom screen, I would be branded out the wazoo.

Remember there are technical requirements if you want to use HiHello on a Mac. For example, if you have a mac with a dual core processor, it requires a QUAD. However, on a PC, it was really simple.

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Business Marketing

Finally: A smart card that manages employee spending with ease

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Clever credit cards make it easier for companies to set spending policies and help alleviate expense problems for both them and their employees.

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Spendesk showing off its company credit cards.

Company credit cards are a wonderful solution to managing business expenses. They work almost exactly like debit cards, which we all know how to use, am I right? It is the twenty-first century after all. Simply swipe, dip, or tap, and a transaction is complete.

However, keeping up with invoices and receipts is a nightmare. I know I’ve had my fair share of hunting down wrinkled pieces of paper after organizing work events. Filling out endless expense reports is tedious. Plus, the back and forth communication with the finance team to justify purchases can cause a headache on both ends.

Company credit cards make it easier for companies to keep track of who’s spending money and how much. However, they aren’t able to see final numbers until expense reports are submitted. This makes monitoring spending a challenge. Also, reviewing all the paperwork to reimburse employees is time-consuming.

But Spendesk is here to combat those downsides! This all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service provides a promising alternative to internal management. The French startup “combines spend approvals, company cards, and automated accounting into one refreshingly easy spend management solution.”

Their clever company cards are what companies and employees have all been waiting for! With increasing remote workforces, this new form of payment comes at just the right moment to help companies simplify their expenditures.

These smart cards remove limitations regular company cards have today. Spendesk’s employee debit cards offer companies options to monitor budgets, customize settings, and set specific authorizations. For instance, companies can set predefined budgets and spending category limitations on flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. Then they don’t have to worry about an employee taking advantage of their card by booking a first-class flight or eating at a high-end steakhouse.

All transactions are tracked in real time so finance and accounting can see purchases right as they happen. Increasing visibility is important, especially when your employee is working remotely.

And for employees, this new form of payment is more convenient and easier on the pocket. “These are smart employee company cards with built-in spending policies. Employees can pay for business expenses when they need to without ever having to spend their own money,” the company demonstrated in a company video.

Not having to dip into your checking account is a plus in my book! And for remote employees who just need to make a single purchase, Spendesk has single-use virtual debit cards, too.

Now, that’s a smart card!

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