Tips for Selling Online
August 5, 2013 4:28 PM

So you have a small business, and you're thinking about becoming an online entrepreneur. You've done some research, and your head is spinning from information overload. Selling on an aggregate marketplace such as Amazon or eBay is a great way to get started. However, be mindful of a few downsides. Listed below are some bottom-line tips for you...

  • You need to abide by their rules-take the time to understand them or you may find yourself having your account suspended after investing your time and money.
  • The marketplace makes its money first-be sure to assess the costs of your product accurately, including shipping, acquiring, and other fees, such as the marketplace fees.
  • Don't expect to make millions overnight-be patient.
  • Marketplaces tend to favor the consumer-dealing with a difficult customer is not easy. Remain professional at all times. It's best to appease the customer instead of having to worry about negative feedback and buyer disputes.
  • Prioritize your tasks-practice good time management. Yes, marketing via social media is important, but should always take a backseat to your marketplace endeavors.
  • Reinvestment leads to growth-set your goals and proceed accordingly. Profits should not be disbursed until you can restock comfortably.
  • Track your processes-document everything you do daily. Since your day to day activities will differ, keeping notes will help you recall a task you may have completed a month or so ago.
  • Anticipate setbacks-have a Plan B. You may not be able to complete a task on any given day, so be sure you have someone to fill in for you. Your buyer may not care that you've become bedridden and can't ship the product.
  • Know your competition-do the research. Cost matters to the online consumer, so price your products competitively. However, be sure to understand your costs when you do so.
  • Automate where you can in order to grow-you can't possibly do everything yourself. 
  • If you're selling on a platform other than a marketplace (your website or a social media site, for example), you'll need a shopping cart. A shopping cart will display all of your products, handle shipping fees and taxes, and process the sale. Depending on the shopping cart, you may need a separate payment processor. Some examples of shopping carts are EcwidShopify, and Volusion. Be sure to do your research and find the one that's right for you. You may not need all of the bells and whistles that some of them come with, hence increasing your costs. Whatever you do, make sure you choose one that's responsive-adapts to desktops and mobile devices automatically.

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Pinterest Tools for Businesses
June 26, 2013 10:26 AM | Tagged as Pinterest, Small Business, social media

In today’s social media world, you really need to be on top of things in order to help get your business noticed. There are a plethora of tools out there that can help with that. Listed below are a few that are extremely helpful when using Pinterest.

Pigora offers a more complete Pinterest dashboard, including analytics and pin scheduling.
Pinstamatic is used to help you make your boards more fun.
Pinpuff helps you calculate your influence.
Repinly keeps you up to date with the most popular pins and boards.
Shopinterest is fabulous if you are considering opening your own Pinterest store to sell your products.
Pinterest contests are increasing in popularity, and they’re a great way to get your name out there. Woobox and Votigo are two fantastic apps that you can use to run a contest. Don’t forget to follow Pinterest’s rules!

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How Pinterest Can Help You Grow Your Business
June 10, 2013 10:19 AM | Tagged as Pinterest, Small Business, social media

Pinterest is perhaps the fastest growing social network; at almost 50 million users, it’s also one of the top social networks! However, many business owners are still not taking advantage of all Pinterest has to offer them.

Think about it-Pinterest is image based. When people shop online, there’s no better way to view a product than via images. Here’s another thought to ponder…80% of Pinterest users are women. Considering that in most households women do the majority of the shopping, that’s a pretty strong argument for any business to begin using Pinterest.
If that statistic doesn’t grab your attention, here are a couple more that just might:
Pins with price tags included get 36% more likes than those that don’t.
69% of Pinterest users have found at least one item that they’ve purchased or wanted to purchase on Pinterest.
As Pinterest continues to grow, there will be more changes made to enhance your pinning experiences. Pinterest has already added business accounts (similar to Facebook pages), so there’s no doubt more to come. More and more tools and features will come about, helping businesses owners make the most out of the social network.
Here are some ways in which Pinterest can help you grow your business:
1. Set up a Pinterest Business account
2. Check Pinterest Analytics regularly
3. Make your website ‘pinnable’-use lots of imagery
4. Get the Pinterest ‘goodies’ (free tools offered by Pinterest to enhance your experience)
5. Understand your audience, then pin accordingly
6. Host a Pinterest contest
7. Be social-engage
8. Create infographics
So there you have it. Now go start pinning!

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Pinterest Accommodates Mobile Users
May 15, 2013 10:16 PM | Tagged as Mobile, Pinterest, Smartphone, social media
Pinterest seems to be playing a game of catch up lately. The fastest growing forum has to make adjustments in order to keep its almost 50 million users happy. The latest updates all involve mobile usage, which is becoming bigger and bigger these days.
Here are some of the updates Pinterest has recently made:
Search suggestions – instead of typing out an entire phrase describing what it is you’re looking for, the updated app provides a drop down menu of what it thinks you want. 
Push notifications – users can finally see when another user has commented on their pins or if they’ve been mentioned in a post. These notifications can also be sent to your mobile device when you’re not in the app.
The ability to mention friends in posts – in Facebook-esque fashion, users merely select the @ sign and type out the name of the person they’d like to highlight.
Pin from external websites – while in the app, click the “+” button at the bottom of the screen and enter the URL you’d like to pin.
These updates may not seem like a huge deal, but it’s obvious that the company is attempting to accommodate its mobile users, making it easier for them to use the platform on smartphones and tablets. Welcome to 2013, Pinterest!

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Instagram Updates Terms of Service
December 18, 2012 7:58 PM | Tagged as Instagram, social media

Instagram is updating its privacy policy and terms of service. The biggest changes are about how photographs users upload may be used by Instagram and its parent company, Facebook.

The changes, which will go into effect Jan. 16, will not apply to pictures shared before that date.
Some of the policy is written in lengthy and hard to understand language. Here’s a summary of what these changes mean for you.

1. Instagram can share information about its users with Facebook, its parent company, as well as outside affiliates and advertisers.
Basically, this means that the information you include in your Instagram profile can be passed around to Facebook and other affiliates and advertisers. Details such as your hobbies, favorites, etc., can possibly be shared with potential advertisers so they can better target ads.

 2. You could star in an advertisement — without your knowledge.
Instagram will also be able to use your photographs and identity in advertisements. “You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you,” the new terms say. This means that photographs uploaded to Instagram could end up in an advertisement.

3. Underage users are not exempt.
Athough Instagram says people must be at least 13 years old to sign up for the service, the new terms note that if a teenager signs up, they are agreeing that a parent or guardian is aware that their image, username and photos can also be used in ads.

4. Want to opt out? Delete your account.
The only way to opt out of the new Instagram terms is to not use the service. Period.

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Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation donates equipment to MSSD student
December 14, 2012 10:43 AM | Tagged as CIAF

*The following article was posted in Gallaudet University's Clerc Center Daily on December 13, 2012

The Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation recently donated a cochlear implant coil and cable to MSSD student Gabriela Cevallos to make her CI functional again. Venita Dzime-Assison, Cevallos's audiologist at the Clerc Center, arranged for the donation through CIAF's recycling program which accepts gently used implant equipment or batteries, and passes them on to recipients who could use them.

"The CIAF founder, Michelle Tjemeland, also a cochlear implant user, personally understood the importance of this part to Gabriella," said Debra Nussbuam, coordinator of the Cochlear Implant Education Center at the Clerc Center and a board member of the CIAF. "She went out of her way in her busy schedule and travel around Thanksgiving to see that Gabriella received the part she needed."

Gabriela wrote a letter of thanks to the foundation, "I am happy that I can use it [cochlear implant] again…The coil and cable are working perfectly. Thanks to the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation for the donation."

For more information on the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation visit their website.

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CIAF founder kicking up her heels over success of sock fundraiser
November 30, 2012 7:12 PM | Tagged as CIAF

The Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation's winter fundraiser, "Socks for Sound," is exceeding expectations, says Michelle Tjelmeland, founder of CIAF. Tjelmeland is a 1991 Taylorville High School graduate and the daughter of Max and Sheryl Klemm.  

All proceeds from the sock fundraiser will go directly toward CIAF, a Springfield-based organization that provides information, resources, support and understanding to current and prospective cochlear implant recipients and their families. The handmade stockings, made of recycled burlap, come in two sizes: small for a donation of $25 and large for a donation of $100.  

The idea for the fundraiser came about after Springfield resident Brandy Lozosky, former owner of Eye Candy by Brandy, heard Tjelmeland talking about CIAF on a local radio show. “Brandy texted me after the show and said she wanted to contribute to CIAF, and she had an idea,” Michelle explained. “She had just made a cute stocking out of burlap and said she was willing make them for CIAF as a fundraiser. Well, the interesting part was that I had just gotten a bunch of burlap, which was left over from my cousin’s wedding. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but I took it anyway. So, I feel like this whole fundraiser was orchestrated by God.”  

To order a sock or for more information about Socks for Sound, visit

A cochlear implant is an electronic device able to compensate for non-functioning parts of the inner ear. When the device detects sound, impulses are sent through the auditory nerve to the brain, creating an effect similar to hearing. Traditional hearing aids simply amplify sound; however, a cochlear implant converts sound into electrical impulses the brain can interpret.

CIAF was founded by Tjelmeland to connect people with the information and resources they need to make an educated decision about cochlear implant surgery, and offer guidance and support to people who choose to become recipients. CIAF does not provide financial assistant for cochlear implant surgery. The organization has helped more than 500 families across the United States since its inception.


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e-websmart Fights Human Sex Trafficking, Increases Awareness Through Donated Website
October 10, 2012 10:50 AM | Tagged as 3Strands

Rochester, Illinois – Joining the fight to stop human sex trafficking and increase global awareness, e-websmart, a Springfield-area web-design firm, announced the launch of a new website for 3Strands – – a fashion brand with a cause.  3Strands is dedicated to stopping human sex trafficking by supporting organizations such as Agape International Missions (AIM).
Founded by Ken Peterson, owner of the Apricot Lane Boutique franchise, 3Strands seeks to break the bonds of sexual slavery through freedom, love and empowerment.  After being rescued from sexual slavery by organizations such as AIM, 3Strands helps fund and support the education and training of women over 16 years of age in valuable, relevant job skills to help them enter the workforce and become financially stable.  By addressing some of the vulnerabilities that can lead to human sex trafficking, 3Strands hopes to bring awareness to a growing global epidemic.
Through 3Strands, the young women rescued from the grip of sexual slavery create one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted bracelets that represent their journey back from the slums of slavery.  The three strands comprising the bracelet symbolize freedom, love and empowerment – intertwined and not easily broken.  Now for sale on the new website, 50 percent of all proceeds directly benefit the victims of human sex trafficking and the global fight to stop human sex trafficking.  Each bracelet comes with an informational brochure signed by the rescued young woman.
As the fastest growing criminal industry in the world, and second only to drug trafficking, human trafficking often involves the sexual exploitation of young women. Victims typically are targeted by traffickers based on their circumstances: runaways, drug addicts, homelessness, joblessness.  3Strands and organizations such as AIM work to rescue these women from a horrific life and return them to an environment immersed in love, compassion, education and training.
The exclusive web designer for the Apricot Lane franchise, Tjelmeland learned of 3Strands while speaking with Peterson.  “It was not a matter of should I help but how can I help,” said Tjelmeland.  “Increasing awareness through a social media presence and new website is just the beginning.  It is up to all of us to fight human sex trafficking and begin empowering our young women.”
Featuring e-commerce and video functions, e-websmart proudly donated all creative services for the website and social media outlets.  Since 1999, e-websmart has helped hundreds of businesses and organizations across the world develop new and improved professional images true to their missions, goals and values.  Learn more by visiting


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Pinterest: Show Me The Money!
September 20, 2012 10:44 AM | Tagged as Pinterest, social media

In case you haven’t noticed, another star has emerged onto the social media scene-Pinterest. Pinterest is basically a virtual pinboard where users can organize and share their interests via images. Pinterest’s growth rate has been off the charts. According to Experian Marketing Services, the number of users who made weekly visits to the site hit nearly 29 million in July, up from 1.27 million only a year earlier. In addition, most of these users are women.

In fact, a new report from Pew says that one-fifth of all women in the United States who go online belong to Pinterest. That’s a lot of estrogen! And we’re all aware of how women love to share and shop-so why hasn’t Pinterest developed a way to turn that zeal into income?

Could the site be generating income quietly, though? In a blog written earlier this year, Josh Davis informed us that Pinterest modifies some pins, adjusting the links to add an affiliate tracking code. If someone makes a purchase from that link, Pinterest gets a piece of the pie. Although this is not an uncommon practice, and it is alluded to in the Terms of Service, most individuals are not aware of this.

When it comes to helping other businesses make money, though, Pinterest is a shining star. According to a Mashable study, Pinterest drives more traffic than YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google+ combined and is just about equal with Twitter. That’s a lot of referral revenue for the new kid on the block!

The bottom line is this-if you own a business, Pinterest absolutely has to be included in your social marketing strategy. Period.


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Apple's iPhone5: What's it all about?
September 18, 2012 1:07 PM | Tagged as Apple, iPhone, iPhone5

September 21st-mark your calendars. That’s the day Apple is releasing the oh-so-anticipated iPhone5 (it was available for pre-order on September 14th and sold out in an hour). Since speculation about the redesigned iPhone began back during the dark ages of the iPhone4, the wait for this phone has been long. Will it be worth the wait?

Well, let’s see. The new phone will start at $199, and it will come in two color schemes (black & slate or white & silver). It’s said to be made entirely of glass and aluminum. It’s a mere 7.6 millimeters thin (18% thinner than the 4S), and it weighs only 3.95 ounces (20% lighter than the 4S).  Apple is including brand-new earphones with every iPhone.  Called EarPods, the new earphones are designed for better sound and to fit multiple ear types.

Enough of the basics, though, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of this nifty little gadget.

  • The iPhone 5 has a larger screen than previous versions, at 4 inches. The larger screen allows for a total of six rows of apps on the screen — five rows on the “pages” along with the permanent single row along the bottom. Apps designed for previous iPhones won’t scale to the new screen — they’ll appear with black bars on the two ends of the screen.The iPhone 5 is also Apple’s first 4G LTE phone, which means it will be compatible with the high-speed networks of various providers globally. The new model also includes “ultrafast” wireless.
  • The device is powered by the Apple A6, a new processor which Apple claims to be twice as fast as its predecessor and more power efficient. Performance is increased and battery life is extended.
  • Do you take a lot of pictures? Well, the iPhone’s camera also got an upgrade. It’s still an 8-megapixel sensor, but it’s 25% smaller and includes more features. The bottom line of the new features is that you’ll be able to take better quality pictures faster. There’s also a built-in panorama mode for capturing massive widescreen pictures.
  • The dock connector of the iPhone5 has also been shrunk, supposedly making connections faster. The downside is that old accessories will be obsolete. Several technology companies are working on compatible devices.
  • Apple has also made improvements to voice calls. There are now three microphones-one on the front, one on the bottom, and one on the back. The earpiece is equipped with more noise cancellation.
  • Apple is keeping the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S available for purchase. The iPhone 4 (8GB) is now free with a contract, and the iPhone 4S (16GB) will cost $99. The iPhone 3GS appears to have gone to Apple heaven.

Now that you are on iPhone overload, what are your plans? Will you give in to the newer technological advances, or stick with the tried and true?

To get your iPhone 5, click here.

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Cracking the ‘Code’
April 29, 2011 8:50 AM | Tagged as e-websmart, marketing tips, QR codes, Quick Response codes, technology trends

As a Web site design firm, we struggled to embrace the funny-looking codes we started seeing on ads for makeup, high-end jewelers and music artists. No color … no design element … and how distracting! Sooooo not what we do here!

But what we came to find out is that while Quick Response Codes, or QR Codes, are a little lacking in the aesthetics department, they pack quite a marketing punch.

First, though, let’s talk about what a QR Code is: Created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, a QR Code is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), that is readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones (we commonly refer to them as Smart Phones). The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

Now, how do you use a QR Code as a marketing tool? You use a QR Code to help generate buzz about your business and brand, just like you do with your other marketing efforts. A QR Code is really the link that brings people to the marketing materials you have already created. For example:

  • Business cards: Use a barcode that directs scanners to your website or Facebook page.
  • Marketing materials: Add QR codes to your printed marketing materials to direct them to online videos, photos, special promotions or giveaways.
  • Signs and storefront windows: You can use this code to encourage Fousquare checkins, point scanners to your Yelp profile, or invite customers to share memories in photo, video or text form via Stickybits.

Do they work? Here is a great graphic that answers that question with a resounding ‘yes’. The graphic has a bunch of QR Codes that you can scan for more information. What a great way to drive home the point! The one statistic that jumped out to us is that there was a 1200 percent increase in QR Code scanning between July and December 2010. We think a statistic like that moves it from the fad category straight into the here-to-stay category.

Think about how QR Codes could work for your business or organization. What product or service could you use a QR Code for? It’s time to start “thinking outside the funny-looking box!”

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E-websmart Chosen as Exclusive E-Card Provider for F.A.I.T.H. Company
April 7, 2011 12:11 PM | Tagged as e-cards, e-websmart, F.A.I.T.H. Fashion Accessories, Michelle Tjelmeland

Rochester, Illinois, April 5, 2011 – Mark and Pam Hatchard, co-owners of F.A.I.T.H. Fashion Accessories in the Home, announced today that e-websmart, a Rochester-based Web site design firm owned by Michelle Tjelmeland, will be the exclusive vendor to design and distribute e-cards for F.A.I.T.H. consultants.

“E-websmart designs graphics with unmistakable flair, and Michelle’s creativity is the perfect match for F.A.I.T.H.,” Mark Hatchard said. “Her propriety e-card system is not only easy for our consultants to learn, but it allows us to maintain a consistent brand image each time our consultants send invitations and messages.”

F.A.I.T.H. Company designs jewelry with an inspirational and spiritual message and sells their designers through a direct sales platform. The company has enjoyed much success in apparel and accessories markets nationwide and has over 1000 consultants throughout the United States. F.A.I.T.H. gives consultants the opportunity to gain independence and financial freedom by selling F.A.I.T.H. jewelry through home parties.

“Designing and creating timeless, inspirational jewelry every woman would find beautiful, wearable, versatile, and affordable is at the very heart of F.A.I.T.H. Fashion Accessories in the Home,” explained Pam Hatchard.

E-websmart’s proprietary e-card platform allows users to create a library of card images and then choose one image to accompany e-mail messages and invitations sent to customers. Users then use a short form to designate recipients, request RSVPs, and write a message.

“It’s designed as a quick and easy communication tool,” said Tjelmeland.

Mark Hatchard said consultants will use the e-card system to send party invitations, thank yous, event reminders, special offers and other personal notes to their hostesses and customers.

“Each message will be accompanied by a pre-approved image featuring our jewelry and our message,” he explained. “It’s a great way to show off our product and keep our name in front of our customers.”

 “We’re thrilled with our new business relationship with e-websmart and can’t wait to see our jewelry incorporated into e-websmart designs,” Pam said.

 “We truly appreciate our relationship with F.A.I.T.H. and are so thrilled to be the exclusive e-card designer and distributor for the company.” said Tjelmeland, who has over 12 years of experience in the Web design industry.

Tjelmeland said the two companies have a lot in common. “We both work to empower others and give them the tools to reach their dreams, both personally and professionally. It’s great to work with people who have the same passion for their business as we have at e-websmart.”

Tjelmeland said that her small business background gives her insight for creating e-cards for FAITH Jewelry consultants.

“I know how important it is to brand your business and present an image that differentiates you from the competition. We will create each F.A.I.T.H. e-card with that goal in mind.”


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Facebook Changes Business Pages
February 11, 2011 5:50 PM | Tagged as e-websmart, Facebook, fan pages, marketing tips, social media, social networking

Facebook is at it again! More changes to the site's functionality and layout, this time to business pages. The new format is now similar to the new personal profile layout, with a filmstrip of thumbnail pics running across the top. The tabs have also disappeared, and now the navigation appears on the left, under your picture.

One big benefit of moving the tab links to the left side is that you can see them all listed at once. Previously, only 4 - 5 tabs were visible, and users were required to click on the "+" sign to see more. This hid useful information, especially for those fans who were not aware of the "+" sign. Now, the full list of your apps appears on the left, which should make it easier for all users to navigate through your page and find what they need.

Another major change is the "Edit Page" link. It now appears on the right side of your business page. Previously, it was under your picture on the left.

Besides the layout, Facebook's changes also make it possible for you to interact with people and pages as a page name. For example, now e-websmart (the page) can leave comments on other pages' walls, as well as people's walls. You accomplish this by logging in, clicking on Accounts >> Use Facebook as Page, and then choosing which page you'd like to post as. Of course, you can only do this if you are an admin of a page. But, once you make this switch, your post appears as if it is coming from the page, not you. Switch back to your personal profile and be "you" again by clicking on Accounts >> Switch back to (name).

This also means that even if you are an admin on a page, you can post as yourself on that page.

And last but not least, and you're going to love this... you can now get e-mail notifications when fans interact with your page or posts! This is a long awaited change, and it's finally here! This feature is automatically activated, but here's where you find the setting:

  • Go to a page that you administer and click Edit Page (remember, it's on the left side).
  • From the menu on the left, click Your Settings.
  • The check box next to E-mail Notifications controls whether you receive e-mail updates or not.

What do you think? Like it? Hate it? Let us know, and if you need help understanding what all of this means, give us a call!

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Keys to Success - WICS 20
November 12, 2010 3:25 PM | Tagged as e-websmart, Michelle Tjelmeland, WICS 20

Keys To Success: Michelle Tjelmeland

Michelle Tjelmeland is a business owner, author, philanthropist and wife and mother. She shares her inspiring story with ABC Newschannel 20's Jessica McGee.

Click here to view: Keys To Success: Michelle Tjelmeland

Posted: Tuesday, November 9 2010, 01:13 PM CST

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Tips for a Reader-friendly Web site
August 20, 2010 9:24 AM

When you browse Web sites, I’m willing to bet you hardly ever read the entire page. In fact, research suggests only 16 percent read Web pages word-by-word. The majority scan the page and look for emphasized text and important messages. Why?

  • Reading from a computer screen makes your eyes tired. Some people even experience headaches from staring too long at a computer screen! 
  • People are in a hurry! Most visitors believe Web pages should be quick sources of information, and visitors want to find exactly what they need to know without reading a novel.
  • Web sites are interactive. It’s easy to move from page to page and site to site in search of more information.  Let’s face it, attention spans are short these days!

Thinking about how you personally view Web sites is a good place to start when you get ready to write the content for your own Web site. This isn’t the place to make your entire sales pitch, explain your life story, or display complete instructions on how to use a specific product. Your Web site should introduce visitors to who you are, establish credibility, showcase your best stuff, and then tell people how to learn more.

So before you spend hours and hours writing pages and pages, consider that most of it won’t even be read! Start by choosing the most important point for each Web page, and decide what else you need to include to support that point. Then, consider these suggestions for a reader-friendly Web page:

  • Use headings and subheadings – This will help organize content and lead the reader through the page. 
  • Put the most important information at the top – Few visitors will actually get to the bottom of your page, so make sure the first thing they see is the most important point of the page.
  • Write short paragraphs – 1 or 2 sentences are generally enough, and keep the sentences short and simple.
  • Use bullets to list items – Lists marked with bullets are easy to scan and get your point across quickly.
  • Write numbers as numerals (“7” instead of “seven”). – Numerals are quickly recognized, faster to read, and allow the reader to scan instead of read.
  • Less is more – Use as few words as you have to get the point across. People on the Web are looking for quick answers, not detailed reading.
  • White space is important – Cluttered pages are hard to scan and often too stimulating. Readers need “breathing room” to process what they see.
  • Use a professional designer – Web sites are extremely visual, and a good graphic designer can convey effective messages with design and color, requiring fewer words.

Writing good, effective copy for the Web often requires a little finesse and expertise. Just like a professional designer will create a visual wow factor for your Web site, a professional copy writer will be able to convey your message with style and pizzazz.  And you’ll get the benefit of a great Web site while they do all the work! 

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The Art of Branding to Build Credibility
July 13, 2010 6:48 AM | Tagged as brand, branding yourself, e-websmart, KISS philosophy

Anyone can agree with their clients but it's a much harder job to be able to point out what can be improved or even disagree with the approach someone is taking. My ultimate goal is to help my clients move to the next level. Unfortunately, it's often painful! Kinda like when you are sick, you have to get shots or have surgery in order to get better! But, if you don’t get the shots or have the surgery the doctor prescribed – you most likely aren’t going to get better.

I like to call my approach "encouragement criticism" where I want to help someone do better at something they are already doing fairly well. You wouldn't be in business if you weren't doing many, many things right. My job is to help my clients perfect things.

Social networking opens up so many opportunities to gain exposure for your business. But if you're not focused on promoting your brand, and a unified, cohesive image at that, you'll confuse customers and prospects even damage your reputation. Toward that end, I'd like to share a few things about marketing and the importance of branding your business, no matter how long you've been in business.

Remember the KISS philosophy: Keep It Simple Stupid. Just read this article to verify my philosophy. Pay attention to the 5 basic concepts mentioned toward the end of this article.

It goes back to the old cliché’, “Don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle”. No matter how good your product, or how awesome the features are, you must invest time and money into marketing that product. Successful corporate brands understand this principle - you never stop marketing to customers, colleagues, and your virtual network of associates.

One of the most important elements when creating sizzle is credibility. In order to sell, a company and its management team must first be credible in the eyes of its prospective customers. No matter how "hot" the concept, if you can't get your prospects to believe in you, you'll never sell to your concept's potential.

You can show your company's credibility in many ways - experience, longevity, quality products, truthful marketing, glowing recommendations and testimonials, well-designed marketing campaigns, and a strong, stable management team. Your credibility grows each time you strengthen one of these exisiting characteristics or add one more to the list. And this is what attrracts buying, loyal customers.

Author and business consultant, Mark Siebert, has this to say: “If you aren't there already, you can do a number of things to polish your credibility as a company:

  • Hire a designer to update the look and feel of your operation.
  • Update your consumer marketing materials and website.
  • Retain a PR firm to help you obtain press in the local market.
  • Recruit an advisory board made up of your most prominent business acquaintances.
  • Develop marketing materials that are better than those of your established competitors.
  • And, from a self-serving perspective, retain the best consultants you can afford when you desire to take your business to the next level.

Maybe the idea of "branding yourself" seems ridiculous because you've been around 25, 50, or even 75 years. It's not. It's a subject that famed management guru and author of the best-selling business book "In Search of Excellence", Tom Peters, first tackled in 1997 for an article in Fast Company magazine titled, "The Brand Called You."

"Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the number of years in business, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You. . . . You're every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop."

In summary, always put your company brand first and abide by the KISS philosophy. Miraculous things will begin to happen!

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Excellent Example of the Viral Marketing Power of Facebook!
May 29, 2010 10:57 AM | Tagged as Facebook

If you've ever questioned the effectiveness of Facebook posts, I have a personal story that just might convince you that Facebook is, in fact, a worthy marketing tool.

Just a couple of days ago, I bought new microsuede sheets at JCPenney. Not only do I love the feel and quality, but I was amazed at the price - only $19.99 for a King-sized set! Just for fun, I decided to post a picture of my newly outfitted bed, and tell my friends about the great deal I received.

It turned into quite a Facebook conversation between my friends and me. Several showed interest in purchasing the sheets, so I shared the online link so my friends could check them out as well. From my simple conversation starter, JCPenney sold 12 sheet sets, thanks to my friends!

I found the JC Penney Fan page on Facebook and instantly became a fan and shared my story:

"Hi there! I bought a new sheet set for my bedroom from JCP ~ they are awesome. 12 new sheet sets were sold because of my post! I just think social networking is amazing and wanted to share!! As a Web site designer, I preach the value of social networking to my clients ~ this just goes to show the ripple effect of social networking!!"

Here is their reply:

"Hi Michelle – You are right! In today’s society, social media is a powerful tool to stay connected! It is a great resource for JCPenney as our customer’s comments are very important to us and we use them to help satisfy other customers. We are glad you are happy with the Microfiber sheets and the price! We always hope that you receive the high quality of service and products you deserve. Thank you again for sharing."

Perfect example of why YOU should have a Facebook Fan page for your business. Customers are talking about you with their friends, raving about good experiences and ranting about bad. The only way you can be involved is by having a Fan page so you are visible AND accessible to your valued customers.

If you don't have a Fan page on Facebook, contact me at e-websmart, and we'll be happy to get you started.

Happy Facebooking!

My Best,

Posted in Recent News | 0 Replies
Another Reason to Participate on Facebook
May 29, 2010 10:59 AM | Tagged as Facebook

Google recently announced that all public status updates are now being included in the search engine's real-time search feature. This means that when someone gets online to search for your business, product, or service, they could find you on the first page of search results via a Facebook post!

Facebook indexes all updates from Facebook Fan Pages, so businesses with a Fan Page are likely to get more traffic, and more fans. Businesses who don't use Facebook will likely find themselves quickly losing ground in search rankings.

Does this give you reason to jump on Facebook? We'd love to help you figure out a strategy and design and optimize your Facebook page. Just call us at   217-498-1073!      

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Is social media replacing traditional advertising methods?
May 29, 2010 11:03 AM | Tagged as social media

As I said yesterday, I was recently asked if social media is going to replace traditional advertising. Here's the 2nd part of my answer:

Follow the Do’s and Dont's
Because social media is all the rage and profiles are relatively easy to set-up, many people are jumping on the bandwagon and creating company or organizational profiles on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIN, or YourTube to name a few. Before you get too far ahead of yourself, consider these do’s and don’ts:

  • Do Your Research - There are 100’s of social media networks , and signing up for all of them would be nearly impossible. The first step of establishing an effective social networking profile is learning the demographics of each and finding out where your customers are. If your customers are not on MySpace then it doesn’t make sense to invest your time there.
  • Don’t Overextend Yourself - A word to the wise - social networking can become all consuming. Most of us don’t have 5 hours a day to commit to blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting or updating our lens on Squidoo. My advice – find the 2-3 social networking sites where your customers are and establish your profiles there. Quality posts in a few places is a far better plan than mediocre work spread out over a dozen social sites.
  • Do Understand the Time Investment - I often hear people say that social networking is a must because it’s free. Yes, signing up to be on social networking sites is free. But branding your profiles and maintaining them is not! Creating, engaging, and growing an online community takes time, talent, technology, resources and people. Setting up profiles on social networking sites is easy, building and maintaining these relationships is not!
  • Don’t Sell, Sell, Sell – Direct, hard core advertising won’t work on social media because it’s not what people are seeking. They want to know more about your company or organization get to know who you are, not what your selling.

Remember – It’s Social Networking
We are in an era where people expect a more honest and direct relationship with the companies and organizations they do business with. Social media is about engaging in conversations and building relationships – it’s not about push marketing. Think relationships first, business second, because when marketers move into to social networking, members move out.

Humanizing your business or organization by posting transparent, genuine and authentic updates will lead to stronger fans and followers and an increase in word of mouth marketing. Don’t always talk about the products you sell, the services you offer, the money your organization is trying to raise; rather, provide value to your fans and followers by posting industry related tips and tricks they can learn from, humor they can laugh at, or inspiration to motivate them. Your interaction should be informal and conversational. Not only will this help frame you as a thought leader in your industry, it will help produce engaging conversations.

And, oh, don’t obsess about the number of fans or followers you have –just like traditional networking or building a new friendship or business relationship –it takes time if you prefer a quality relationships. The same holds true when building your online network.

Learn By Participating
Not sure where to begin? Start by watching, learning and listening. Find other companies who are already using social media in their marketing strategies, and follow them or become a fan. Read their posts, watch how their fans interact with them, and study their profiles. Makes notes about what you like and what you don’t like, what appeals to you and what doesn’t.

Still have questions? There are lots of companies who can help you establish your profiles, strategize, and consult with you on best practices to take your marketing strategies online. Do your research here, too. Check out their own social media profiles and ask for links to the profiles they’ve established for other clients. Talk to these clients to make sure they were happy with their experience.

With the popularity of social media in society today, it will soon seem like every business is posting a profile somewhere. Certainly, those who aren’t taking advantage of social marketing techniques will be at a disadvantage, but just being on Facebook or Twitter won’t bring success. Businesses and organizations must have a strategy and they must focus on relationships! Thoughtfully developing the “social” side of your company comes with many benefits – not the least of which is increased customer loyalty and a strong network of “word-of-mouth” advertisers that can help bring new customers to your door!

Posted in Recent News | 0 Replies
Is social media replacing traditional advertising methods?
May 29, 2010 11:04 AM | Tagged as social media

In light of many advertisers who have recently announced they are reducing their traditional advertising budgets in favor of social networking strategies, I was recently asked if social media is going to replace traditional advertising. I wanted to share my response with you! It will be in two parts, so be sure to read tomorrow's post, too, for my full response!

Online Marketing Is Here to Stay
Social media is here to stay. In fact, I read a study by the Center for Media Research that found more than 50 percent of marketers will be using social media this year, and 75 percent plan to increase their social media use.

Business who choose not to adapt to this new culture into their current marketing strategies and advertising budgets will be at a disadvantage. You might not be online but your competitors probably are or will be soon!

I believe social media will become more mainstreamed for business and organizations this next year. You’ll find the companies that were once resistant to social media taking the leap and establishing their profiles. Customers and clients will rely on the information the see on these social networking sites to make purchasing decisions based on who they want to associate and do business with.

Social Media Should NOT Replace Other Marketing, but Work With It
I don’t think social media should entirely replace traditional advertising methods; rather, it should work in conjunction with and complement one’s existing advertising. Your social media profiles should reflect your company brand with colors, logos, and links to your Website. People should easily recognize you on your social media sites, and there are many ways to incorporate your company brand, but they aren’t always obvious. This is where you might want to invest in some help from social media experts, who can design your profiles with graphics and special features.

In addition to appearance, the message you communicate about yourself should be consistent as well. You can certainly do special promotions targeted only at Facebook or Twitter users, but don’t confuse your customers by presenting different images of your company through different mediums. For example, don’t appear trendy to through your tweets but conservative through your blog posts. You’ll only confuse your audience, and they may lose trust and confidence in your message. Be yourself, be genuine, and proudly display who you are at all times no matter who your audience is.

You Must Have Strategy!
I can’t reiterate enough the importance that one’s online and offline marketing strategies sync. Social networking with a plan and strategy can produce amazing results. Social networking without a plan can be a formula for disaster.

Your messages have to be consistent across the board. You can’t post messages on Facebook that emphasize your dedication to customer service and then ignore customers on Twitter who are reaching out for help from you because they have a problem.

Be sure to read the next post to learn more about social networking and the strategies you can take to make it an effective marketing tool for your business!

Posted in Recent News | 0 Replies
FTC Changes Rules for Bloggers Who Endorse Products
May 29, 2010 11:06 AM | Tagged as Federal Trade Commission

If you place endorsements or testimonials on your Web site or blog, you need to know that the Federal Trade Commission has issued new rules on how to do legally do this. If affects endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of the relationships between advertisers and endorsers.

The FTC issued a statement in October to describe the changes, and those changes take affect today, December 1, 2009.

"Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. In contrast to the 1980 version of the Guides – which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial as long as they included a disclaimer such as “results not typical” – the revised Guides no longer contain this safe harbor," the statement says.

In addition, when bloggers or "word-of-mouth" marketing strategies convey an endorsement, those issuing the endorsement must explain the relationship between themselves and the product or service being endorsed.

To comply, we suggest adding a disclaimer to your blog or Web site testimonial page. Here's an example:

Regarding Testimonials
NOTICE: Provided in accordance with FTC guidelines - 12/1/2009Testimonials posted to this website are the perspective of individuals who are successful and/or enthusiastic about their experience. Testimonials are not representative of everyone’s experience and only provide information about the individual’s experiences as to the point in time when they are provided. All testimonials are authentic and accurate. Testimonials may be edited for clarity or brevity. All claims have been documented and verified for accuracy. No one has been paid to share their stories here. Individual results will vary.

Regarding Product Reviews, Endorsements
NOTICE: Provided in accordance with FTC guidelines - 12/1/2009Products are reviewed on this site as a resource for our customers and website visitors. Paid advertising or placement is not permitted on this site. Any affiliate relationships will be disclosed within the individual articles, prior to providing the affiliate link.Review authors occasionally receive complimentary review copies of products from companies that believe their products will be of interest to our audience. Reviews posted here always provide honest opinions, findings, beliefs or experiences with the products. The views and opinions expressed here are that of the individual author. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation should be verified with the manufacturer, service provider or party in question.

Let us know what you think!

  • Do you feel that testimonials need to be regulated by the FTC? Is there a need?
  • Is the government stepping in where it doesn't belong?
  • Will you feel more confident buying products recommended by bloggers or Web sites now that these rules are in place?
  • Can you comply with these regulations?
  • Are you worried about "getting caught" if you unintentially violate these news rules?

To read the entire FTC statement, go to The FTC also has a video available to share more information about how these new rules affect bloggers specifically.

Posted in Recent News | 0 Replies
Best Practices For Building Valuable Businesses Relationships Through Facebook
May 29, 2010 11:10 AM | Tagged as Facebook

Facebook is an amazingly popular social networking tool that can offer businesses exposure to a huge audience. Today, there are more than 300 million active users, and it is the 4th most visited site in the world according to

Businesses can take advantage of Facebook’s popularity by creating a Facebook “Fan” page. A Fan page is different from a personal profile. Individuals create personal profiles to connect with friends and family. Fan pages are specifically designated to represent and promote companies and brands. However, like personal profiles, Fan pages encourage relationship-building, and people become fans of pages because they want to connect with the people behind the business name. Incredibly, more than 10 million Facebook users become fans of pages every day!

A Facebook Fan page provides significant value to businesses for several reasons. A Fan page is indexed by search engines, so when customers search for you, they are more likely to find you. By having a Fan page, you boost your search engine ranking because you are constantly updating your page with new, fresh information, and search engines love that! Anyone can view your Fan page, so even non-Facebook members can easily find you. While a personal profile is limited to 5,000 friends, businesses can have as many fans as they want! And don’t forget – it’s all free! You can create an effective, attention-grabbing Fan page without paying a membership fee or bidding on pay-per-click keywords.

If you’re skeptical about the authenticity of Facebook users, you should know that the site administrators do their best to ensure that the people and businesses represented are real and legitimate. The rigorous terms of use dictate that Fan pages must be created by a person at your company who has the authority to do so. Facebook won’t hesitate to ban users if they find abuse or misuse. Facebook also protects your personal privacy because fans don’t have access to your personal profile, and you have complete control over who sees the information on your page.

A well-defined Facebook strategy can lead to new networking opportunities and business clients. It’s quite easy to figure out how to post a message, but communicating through Facebook does require some thought and planning to attract fans and build useful relationships. To that end, I’m offering my favorite tips and best practices that will help you get the most from your Facebook Fan page!

Facebook Tips and Best Practices

1. Think relationships first, business second – this is social media! When direct marketing and overt advertising move in, fans move out! Chat, converse, and be sincere.
2. With every post, consider how others will interpret what you say. You could be followed by the media (or Oprah – you never know!).
3. Create a social marketing strategy and integrate it into your overall marketing plan. Decide your target market and identify your core message – one that will establish you and your business as a thoughtful leader. Plan your posts to make sure the information is relevant and beneficial to your audience.
4. Brand your Fan page! Fans should be able to instantly identify your company when they see your page. Include your logo and tag line. With the cool Facebook applications, you can even add HTML programming code, allowing you to identify your business with additional graphics, such as a Web banner.
5. Always be strategic, consistent, and focused with your messages. If you say you will do something, follow through! Make sure each post fits your marketing strategy.
6. Create interest by adding content-rich media, such as audio and video. Also add your newsletter opt in box so visitors can easily join your e-mailing list.
7. Give your business a personality! Let your passion for your business come through by being genuine, excited, optimistic, and energetic!
8. Consistently engage in activities that create viral visibility. Post status updates, photos, videos, messages to your fans’ walls, notes, and comments. Anyone who visits your fans’ walls will see your posts, too, increasing your exposure to potential customers.
9. Engage others in conversation. When fans write on your wall, respond. They are making an effort to reach out to you, so you should make an effort, too! Like the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”.
10. Encourage frequent visits to your page. Hold contests, offer exclusive discounts and specials for your fans, and let your fans be the “first to know” about exciting offers and announcements.
11. Monitor your own page at least once a day. Even if you don’t post your own new content, you should review your fans’ posts. Answer their questions and express your appreciation for their input.
12. Share personal and professional information, but guard your private life. You don’t have to be an open book!
13. Learn from your fans. They are your best source for feedback about current products and services. Be ready to adapt to meet their needs.
14. Be aware of all online conversations about your company and industry. With tools like Google Alerts and keyword searches, you can easily find out what others are saying about you, your competition, and the latest trends in your industry.
15. Promote your Facebook page everywhere! Consider purchasing a personalized domain name ( offers them for $9.95 a year) so your Fan page URL is easy to remember. Add a Facebook icon to your Web site and blog, and link it to your Fan page. Include your Fan page link in your email signature.

Happy Facebooking!

Michelle Tjelmeland owns a Web and print firm in Springfield and is a certified social media and marketing specialist by the International Association of Social Media Specialists (IASMS).

Posted in Recent News | 0 Replies
Sync your Facebook Fan Page with Twitter
May 29, 2010 11:14 AM | Tagged as Facebook

Facebook have been introducing an array of hot new features lately. One that I particularly enjoy is the ability to post content on my Fan Page that automatically posts over to Twitter with a link back to my Fan Page!

With Status Updates, you get a whopping 340 characters to write a post on your Fan Page - and that truncates at about 120 characters and inserts a link back to your Fan Page. If you craft your update carefully to leave a kind of "cliffhanger" effect, your followers on Twitter can't help but click through and see what the rest of the message is.

Here's how: just go to and connect your Twitter with your Fan Page.

Now, choose which posts to Facebook will automatically go out to Twitter by configuring the settings the way you wish. I have checked Updates, Photos, Videos and Links, but I have Notes unchecked because I'm already importing my blog posts to Twitter. I don't want my blog posts to show up on Twitter twice.

If you're also updating your Facebook personal profile and/or Fan Page with the Selective Twitter Updates app, you might want to disable the Fan Page updating so you don't end up with double tweets! (speaking from experience. lol!)

Or, if you prefer to update your Facebook Fan Page via Twitter, the best combo I've found is > > Facebook Profile and/or Facebook Fan Page + Twitter (+ LinkedIn and whatever other sites you want to update). Using Hootsuite allows you to also pre-schedule your updates!

Hope this makes sense,

Michelle - enjoy!! ;)

Posted in Recent News | 0 Replies
Small Busineses Can Survive a Troubled Economy
May 29, 2010 11:20 AM | Tagged as surviving economic downturn

With so much uncertainty in the economy today, many people are worried about their future. It's understandable, but also unnecessary. Despite what you're hearing from the media, friends, family, and others, it IS possible to succeed right now. You just have to me in the right frame of mind and have the right attitude.

First and foremost, surviving this economic downturn requires a tenacious drive to take control. Only you can build your business stronger and more resilient, so you must make a serious and determined effort to rise above the challenges you face and reinvent yourself. There's no doubt it takes some thoughtful planning and hard work, but your business will emerge from this crisis stronger and well positioned to overtake your competitors. I thought I would share some of my business-building strategies with you, and maybe provide a little guidance and a lot of inspiration to put you in the right frame of mind to move forward and find new opportunities for yourself!

Here's my philosophy for surviving:

  • I don't wait for things to happen to me. I make things happen. There's no "wait and see" approach here! I constantly look for opportunity and take action when I find it.
  • My customers come first. I give them one-on-one attention and do my very best to provide outstanding service and superior products. Please remember, I am only an e-mail or phone call away, so don’t hesitate to contact me to chat!
  • I put people first and business second! I build relationships with my customers, with peers, with friends, etc. I strive to invest in relationships, not sales transactions. My relationships provide me with an invaluable asset that can give me an unlimited return on my investment. Great relationships with customers ensure repeat business and quality referrals and leads.
  • I am building my social networks to nurture those relationships. I'm making meaningful connections, learning new things, finding new clients, networking with people and finding inspiration from others. If you would like to learn more about social networking or how it might benefit you – let me know. I’d be happy to provide some ideas for you!
  • I stay one step ahead of the competition. I strive to be the first to implement new technology or offer a new service. I study new trends and find opportunities to do more for my clients. I find great pleasure in doing new things.
  • I'm a perpetual student. Whether I'm reading a book, watching a video seminar on the Web, or participating on online class, I am always learning, taking in as much information as I can. Currently, I am one of 25 in the nation working towards my designation and certification as a Social Networking Specialist from the International Association of Media Specialists.
  • I keep a close eye on overhead expenses and cut where possible. If it's not a necessity, or if I'm not using a service to its full potential, I'm replacing it with something less expensive, or even free. This might require me to rethink a process or find a new way to do something, but I am flexible and will make it work for me. Lower overhead means I can spend more money investing back into my company so that I can offer the latest cutting edge technologies to my clients. And, maybe even one extra vacation year – who wouldn’t like that?
  • I surround myself with team members who are as dedicated and hard-working as I am. I expect a lot from them because I know they can meet my expectations. My team members are amazing and I feel so extremely blessed to be surrounded by such amazing talent!
  • I am focused and disciplined. My daily activities are always moving me along the path to reach my goals.
  • I seek personal excellence, knowing that if I am at my best, my customers are getting the best I can give them.
  • I stay grounded in reality. I take action based on the facts as I know them. I am skeptical of hype, emotional statements, and extreme predictions.
  • I stay positive and optimistic. I know my future is secure because I have intentionally planned for that security.

Which strategies sound like you? Which ones do you need to work on? Like the Web sites I build, building a business is always a work in progress. You should never stop planning, thinking about what you could be doing new or better, or building relationships that will contribute to your success. Just remember that you're in control! Don't be reactive and let the economy take control of your business. Take the initiative, be proactive, and do your own part to stimulate the economy! And, if you need some help stimulating your brain, give me a buzz!

Make it happen!

Posted in Recent News | 0 Replies
Using Twitter for Customer Service
May 29, 2010 12:36 PM | Tagged as Twitter

As consumers, we so often dread calling a customer service number for product support. Before we talk to a human, we listen to the same elevator music track over and over, or the same promotional commercials, or the same "Your call is very important to us. Please remain on the line..." every 30 seconds. And while we understand that a company might not have the ability to answer every call immediately, we sure wish they would answer our question promptly and correctly!

Believe it or not, Twitter can be an awesome tool for customer service. And when implemented with a strategic plan in mind, your business can provide valuable advice, tips, and suggestions, and build a positive customer service reputation.

For one thing, when you help just one person via Twitter, your tweets can reach hundreds of customers, and many may have the same question or problem. You can help others just by posting one or two tweets, and maybe make someone's day!

For another, Twitter can help you be proactive. You can respond quickly to posts that mention your business name and show your customers (and potentials) that you are responsive and care about what people think. The more positive brand image you create, the more attention you will gain, on Twitter and elsewhere.

A few companies that use Twitter for customer service purposes:

Zappos ( - widely known for their success at implementing social media, and especially Twitter, Zappos has over 430 employees on Twitter today. They tweet about company events, brands they carry, answers to questions from customers, and just general conversation to engage customers.

Ford ( - answers tweets about vehicle issues, where to purchase a vehicle or find warranty service, and special offers on Ford vehicles

Starbucks ( - answers tweets about where to find Starbucks coffee, which store chains carry Starbucks, the Starbucks/iTunes pick of the week, and other questions from loyal their loyal coffee drinkers

Southwest Airlines ( - tweets about flight information, delays, emergency landings and the status of the event, specials, and even WiFi flights. To learn more about how Southwest Airlines uses social media, read their latest blog post here.

Thinking of these examples, how could you implement Twitter for better customer service? If this idea sounds intriguing but you're not sure how to get started, contact e-websmart today! We have our own Twitter guide, and we can also help you devise a strategy.

Posted in Recent News | 0 Replies
Facebook Fan Pages
May 29, 2010 12:37 PM | Tagged as Facebook

Have you created your Facebook Fan Page yet? Many of us are getting more familiar with Facebook and happily using it to keep in touch with friends and family on a personal level. And some of us may even be using our Facebook profile to help support our businesses. But did you know that Facebook actually has a policy on self-promotion using personal profiles?

    "All personal site features, such as friending and messaging, are also for personal use only and may not be used for professional promotion. If you add a user as a friend, for example, this person will be invited to be a friend of your profile and not your Page. Using personal site features for professional promotion, or creating unauthorized Pages, may result in your account being warned or disabled." -- Facebook

Yikes! You don't want to be banned from Facebook!

So if you haven't created your Facebook Fan page yet for your business, you can get started right now. First, log in to your personal Facebook account. And then go to This will take you through the steps to help you create your page.

Remember that your Fan page is in no way connected to your Personal page. Your Fans won't be able to click a link to see your personal profile. Your personal privacy is still protected even with a Fan page!

Some things I recommend when creating your Facebook page:

  • Definitely add your picture or your business logo! Give your fans a way to connect the business to you and easily recognize you.
  • Complete the Company Information block under the Info tab. Make it short and sweet, but be sure to give a good, complete overview of who you are and what you do. Don't forget to include your Web address.
  • Include your Web site in the box under your photo/logo, starting the address with "http://". Facebook is a great way to introduce yourself to new customers and stay in touch, but you really want to drive people to your Web site. That's where they'll learn more about you AND take initiative to contact you about possibly sending business your way.
  • Post to your wall on a consistent basis. These posts will show up on your Fans' personal walls, creating an awesome viral marketing opportunity.
  • Make sure to publish your page so it is public and everyone can view it. This makes is searchable and easy to find, and allows people to become a fan.
  • Add your newsletter sign up box to your page. I wrote instructions for that process in a previous blog post.
  • Invite your friends to become fans. Click on the "Suggest to Friends" link under your picture/logo, select the friends you want to invite, and click Send Invite. They will get an invitation asking them to become fans of your business page.
  • Send updates to your fans. Rather than wait for your fans to visit your blog or wall, attract them to your page by using the "Send Update to Fans" link under your picture/logo. You can post a link to direct fans to read a blog or visit your Web site.

Facebook has many fun, yet effective ways to keep in touch and interact with people through your Fan page. You can even add pictures and video to your page to encourage conversation and feedback. We'll cover more Facebook Applications for Business soon, so be sure to check back to find helpful Facebook tips for marketing your business.

Posted in Recent News | 0 Replies
The Benefits of Blogging
May 29, 2010 12:38 PM | Tagged as Blogging

If you don't already have a blog for your small business, or if you're not posting regularly, you should! Blogging has so many benefits - it's one of those opportunities for consistent marketing that you just shouldn't pass up. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Improve communication - Blogging opens the lines of communication between you and your clients/customers. You can offer content relevant to your products and services and readers can offer opinions and suggestions by posting comments. This feedback can help you understand how to provide better service and meet the needs of your readers.
  • Increase Exposure - A blog will make it possible for more people to find you in Internet searches. In addition to your Web site, your blog contains key words that customers use when looking for businesses in your industry. With a blog and a Web site, you make it more likely for people to find you. Plus, you also expose your business to a global audience, rather than only reaching locals through traditional media marketing techniques.
  • Relevant Content - Your blog offers you the ability to post new, "hot-off-the-presses" information and news. You can show readers that your business is in tune with today's business environment and aware of the latest technology, trends, and consumer needs. And, by consistently adding fresh content, search engines will find you more easily.
  • Show Your Expertise - Blogs can establish your business knowledge and build your credibility with readers. By providing accurate, factual information and providing advice based on your education and experience, you can show readers that you are one of the best resources available when they need information about your industry.
  • Low Cost - While a good Web site will require a significant monetary investment, a blog is often free. Your blog site can easily be branded to match your site, but your dollar investment is minimal. Of course, it will take attention and time to maintain your blog and keep it fresh, but by planning and writing your posts in advance, you can be more productive and keep a consistent schedule.

Posted in Recent News | 0 Replies
Questions to Consider When Developing a Content Marketing Campaign
May 29, 2010 12:39 PM | Tagged as social media

There are several topics to consider as you prepare to use social media to market your business. You'll want to be sure that you've considered each aspect of social networking as it relates to the content you want to distribute. As you plan your content marketing strategy for social media, here are 10 questions to consider:

  • Who is your target market? Write your content to coincide with age, gender, level of education, geographic location, income, and other important characteristics that you've identified. For example, you will write differently to reach a group of 18-21 year olds than you would to speak to a group of 50-60 year olds.
  • Which networking site will help you reach that target? Each medium attracts different users, and you should know where you are mostly likely to find your target audience. LinkedIn may be appropriate for some content, but MySpace might make more sense for others.
  • Who will write the content that you will distribute? Are they skilled at writing clearly and concisely? You may have experts in your organization that will be your resource for the information, but make sure the person who is preparing the content is skilled at writing with a conversational and genuine style. You want content that clearly presents a message. In general, you want proper grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, but there are always exceptions depending on your audience and purpose. Someone who is familiar with Web content can help you decide what is ok and what is too casual.
  • What is your plan for responding to the comments, questions, and feedback generated by your content? Who in your organization is responsible for this task? Someone must monitor your social media profiles for all types of communication. A lack of response to a question or comment could be deadly to your reputation and will hurt relationships. Have someone track the conversation and identify further content ideas based on what others are saying or asking. It's also a good idea to set up Google Alerts with your business name and key people as search terms. This will help you catch the comments that are circling about you and give you a chance to respond quickly and appropriately.
  • Is your content honest, sincere, trustworthy, and important to your audience? Write about relevant topics and be genuine in your efforts to educate and inform. Your content should portray a helpful, supportive approach. Eliminate all pretentious, judgmental, and patronizing language.
  • Are you writing to sell or writing to educate? Content marketing focuses on education. Inform, don't advertise.
  • What is the problem/need that your product or service will solve/meet? Show the potential customer that you can relate to their problems, and that you have a solution that can help.
  • How can you position your business/yourself as an expert in your industry? Customers expect you to know your industry and the upcoming trends. Be willing to share and contribute your knowledge to the conversations that occur on social networking sites. Customers will appreciate your input and respect your opinions.
  • How will you encourage your customers to share your content with friends and colleagues? Ask your friends, fans, and followers to invite others to be a part of the conversation. Let them know you appreciate their support and thank them for their loyalty. Share you successes and attribute that (at least in part) to their interest and word-of-mouth advertising.
  • What results do you expect to see? An increase in communication? An increase in sales? How will you know your strategy has been successful? Be sure to gather benchmark information when you start a campaign so you can clearly see how your customers are responding to your content. Set goals for each campaign and study the statistics to make sure you are seeing positive results. If not, take an objective look at your content and consider revising your strategy.

What tips and topics are important to you when thinking about social media campaigns? How do you plan your content strategy? We'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave us a comment or respond to

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Add a Newsletter Sign-Up Box to Your Facebook Fan Page
May 29, 2010 12:41 PM | Tagged as FBML

If you're using Constant Contact for your e-newsletters and you have Facebook page for your business, you have a great opportunity to build your newsletter list. Just add your Sign-up Box link to your page! This process requires adding the FBML application to your Facebook page, and we've provided step-by-step instructions below. Here's how:

1. In Constant Contact, go to Contacts. Choose Site Visitor Signup from the menu at the top of the page.
2. Click "Start Wizard to generate HTML code"
3. Select the your preferred style (Basic, Bubble, or Stylish) and click Next
4. Customize your link with colors, fonts, and texts, then click Next
5. Click preview to see your form.
6. When you are happy with your sign-up box, click Next.
7. Place your cursor in the HTML code box. Hit Ctrl+A to select all.
8. Hit Ctrl+C to copy the code.

Now, log-on to your Facebook Account. Follow these instructions to add the FBML application and the use it to display your newsletter sign-up box.

1. In the lower left corner, above your start button, click on the Applications menu.
2. Click Browse More Applications
3. On the All Applications page do search for “FBML”. Be sure to search in the Search Apps box and not the search box on the blue bar in the top right corner.
4. Add the Static FBML application by clicking on the icon.
5. Click on the Add to my Page link in the left hand column.
6. A new box will pop up with a list of your pages. Select which page you wish to add Static FBML to and click Add to Page. Close that box.
7. Now go to your fan page. Click on the tiny green and blue flag icon (Ads and Pages) in the bottom left corner of your screen.
8. On the next page, click the Pages link.
9. Find the FBML application box. Click on the pencil icon in the right corner. Then click on Edit.
10. Change the Title box to say "Newsletter Sign-Up" or something similar.
11. In the empty right box on the screen click CTRL+V; this will paste the sign up box code to your page.
12. Click Save Changes.
13. Now go the Edit Page screen by clicking on the Edit link next to your page name.
14. Find the Newsletter Sign-Up box and click on the pencil icon in the right corner. Then click on Application Settings.
15. Click on Additional Permissions.
16. Click the box next to "Publish recent activity..." Then Click OK.
17. Now click on View Your Page.
18. Click on the Boxes tab and find the newsletter box you just created.
19. Click on the pencil icon in the right corner.
20. Click Move to Wall tab.
21. You will now see the box in the left hand column of your Fan Page. When Fans enter their e-mail address, it is automatically entered into your Constant Contact Account.

Note: You can move the box by grabbing the title bar with your mouse and dragging the box. You'll see a dotted outline to help you see where the box will land when you drop it.

This same process for adding FBML can be used to add any HTML code to your page. Go to the Edit Page screen, and click on the blue pencil icon in the newsletter FBML box and choose Edit. At the bottom of the next screen, click Add another FBML box and start with step 9.

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E-websmart Chosen as Preferred Web Site Designer for Apricot Lane USA Boutiques
May 29, 2010 12:42 PM | Tagged as Apricot Lane

E-websmart Chosen as Preferred Web Site Designer for Apricot Lane USA Boutiques

Rochester, Illinois, June 30, 2009 – Scott Jacobs, president of Apricot Lane USA, announced today that e-websmart, a Rochester-based Web site design firm owned by Michelle Tjelmeland, will be the preferred vendor to build Web sites for Apricot Lane Boutique franchise stores. Apricot Lane USA is a division of Country Visions, which was listed by Entrepreneur Magazine as one of the Top 50 New Franchises in March 2008.

“E-websmart designs sites with unmistakable flair, and Michelle’s creativity is the perfect match for Apricot Lane stores,” Jacobs said. “Her passion for her work is contagious. She is professional and knowledgeable, and we are very excited to be moving forward with e-websmart's services and programs to further support our Apricot Lane Boutique franchise.”

Jacobs said e-websmart will also serve as the social networking specialist for Apricot Lane headquarters in Vacaville, California, and the franchise stores.

“Michelle is an industry leader in technology,” said Jacobs, “and she will be developing our social networking strategy so we can reach out and relate to our customers.”

Apricot Lane is a specialty clothing boutique that features branded clothing apparel, jewelry, gifts, and accessories. There currently more than 40 Apricot Lane stores in 25 states across the United States. The company plans to grow by 20 to 35 stores per year.

“We are so thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Apricot Lane,” said Tjelmeland, who has over 10 years of experience in the Web design industry. “The stores offer a unique shopping experience, and we look forward to bringing that to life on each site we design.”

E-websmart designed a Web site for the new Apricot Lane Boutique that recently opened in Springfield, and Jacobs was impressed with the quality and originality of the design.

“I contacted Michelle and told her how pleased I was with the design of the Springfield site. I asked if she would be interested in being our preferred Web vendor, and she immediately began generating ideas and designs,” Jacobs said.

Tjelmeland said that her small business background gives her insight for creating the sites for Apricot Lane USA stores. “I know how important it is to brand your business and present a unique image that differentiates you from the competition. We design each site with that goal in mind.”

Tjelmeland said e-websmart will reflect and convey the individuality of each store while maintaining a consistent corporate brand. “Customers browsing the sites will not only see what each store has to offer, but will also get a sense of the store’s unique personality and shopping atmosphere. We’ll create excitement that will make customers want to go out and start shopping at Apricot Lane!”

About e-websmart
E-websmart ( is a Web design and consultation firm based in Rochester, Illinois. Started in 1999 by Michelle Tjelmeland, the company focuses on creating insightful, high-energy, business-building solutions to provide a visually appealing yet functional Web site for their clients. In addition, e-websmart offers Web support and hosting and domain setup, integrates e-commerce solutions, establishes e-mail service, and offers blog and social networking support. E-websmart also creates one-of-a-kind logo creation, custom correspondence materials, and other print material to present a consistent image in an attractive, unique package.

About Apricot Lane USA
Apricot Lane USA is a specialty retail franchise that combines opportunities from the fashion and gift industries to offer branded fashion apparel, jewelry, handbags, accessories and gifts in the styles and trends customers want. Apricot Lane carries designer apparel brands such as Lucky Brand Jeans, Joe’s Jeans, 1921 Denim, Habitual and many other premium denim lines. They also carry the hot new collections by Ed Hardy, Crystal Rock, Sinful, Free people by Urban Outfitters, Hale Bob and other up and coming designers. Many of these brands can be found in upscale department stores but the small boutique convenience, service and environment are the attraction. Today there are more than 40 stores in 25 states across the United States. The parent company, Country Visions, was listed by Entrepreneur Magazine (March 2008) as one of the Top 50 New Franchises and was previously recognized in the franchise industry as the #1 Gift Store four years in a row by Entrepreneur Magazine, and was rated 21st in Franchisee Satisfaction by Success Magazine. Stores can be found in lifestyle centers, regional malls, tourist spots, downtown locations and some strip centers.


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Promote Your Newsletter on Social Networking Sites
May 29, 2010 12:43 PM | Tagged as Constant Contact

Constant Contact is one of the most popular online e-newsletter creators on the Web. Sending a regular newsletter helps you keep your business, products, and services front and center in your customers' minds. Social networking also brings tremendous opportunities to increase your visibility and encourage communication with your customers. By using both of these strategies together, you can promote your newsletters to your social networking contacts, and also encourage your newsletter contacts to visit your social networking sites.

Sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter offer new ways to encourage more readers for your newsletter. You can use Constant Contact's archive feature to convert your newsletter into a web page, and you can then share that URL address with your social networking followers. Once you have the URL, post it on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and your blog.

Post something like, "We've just published our latest newsletter! Read it by going to (insert link)". Remember that Twitter only allows a 140 character post. You may have to short your link by going to so you can fit all the characters within the limit.

As you invite new readers to browse your newsletter, you will generate more interest and gain new subscribers. Be sure to include a link in your newsletter for readers to subscribe!

My next post will show you how to add a "Join My Mailing List" box to your Facebook page. Check back tomorrow!

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Three Keys to Content Development for Social Media
May 29, 2010 12:44 PM | Tagged as social media

Social media offers an easy and affordable method to market your small business products and services to the world. But without a clearly defined communication strategy, your message might not be reaching the right people through the right network. Marketing is not just about selling, it's also about educating. The better you educate, the more you create a need for your product (or service). By providing accurate and valuable information, you can also build trust and loyalty among your customers and prospects as well.

With social media, you have plenty of options to distribute your message. The challenge today is to create the right message for the target audience that you are reaching with each network. It's important to have a well-planned strategy for content marketing through social media. So before you jump onto Facebook or tweet through Twitter, take time to think about the type and style of content that you will be distributing.

1. Before you use social media to market your business, be sure you have something valuable to contribute. Identify what your customers need and then suggest a solution that will solve their problem. This is not about making a direct sell. Forget about pushing specific products and focus on consumer education. What do they need to know about your industry to make smart decisions when purchasing related products or services? This is your opportunity to show your industry expertise and credibility. Use the social networks to contribute helpful advice and dependable customer service.

2. While you seek to attract friends, fans, and followers, remember that huge numbers here do not necessarily represent marketing success. Are you attracting the right kinds of followers? Are they interested in your products and services, and do they need them? Will they purchase and remain loyal? Ultimately, it's the content that will attract friends, so make sure the it speaks directly to your target audience. Use the appropriate style, language, and tone, and of course, the right message. You are building connections that will hopefully help you spread the word about your business with viral, word-of-mouth marketing. It all starts with content, and quality matters.

3. When you initiate activity on social networks, you are implying that you are interested in customer experiences, willing to listen, and ready to respond. Your content must reflect that. It's all about creating and nurturing relationships, and you can't do that by simply providing content and then ignoring the response. Customer feedback should direct future content. Answer their questions. Provide the information they need. Content that directly helps a customer is likely to be shared with others.

Social media is only a tool to distribute your message. You wouldn't pick up a hammer and start pounding nails into wood with a clear building plan, so don't jump onto social networking sites and start haphazardly posting information. You need a well thought out communication strategy. Remember that you can't take content back once you've posted it on the Internet! Without a clear strategy, you may send the wrong message, and that mistake could take a long time to overcome.
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Facebook Gives Journalists First-Dibs on Personal URL
May 29, 2010 12:45 PM | Tagged as Facebook

Facebook has finally decided to allow all users to choose their own user name and password. As my previous blog states, this feature is being opened up tonight at 11:01 CDT. (Go to to get yours). Before tonight, vanity Facebook URLs were only open to Facebook employees and top clients and brands.

Of course, part of Facebook's strategy with the midnight release (EDT) is to create urgency. "Get your name before someone else takes it!" And no doubt, there will be millions of users logging on tonight to do just that. But there are some people who don't have to wait. Apparently, key journalists have already been invited to claim their URL names. Facebook sent e-mails to specific writers with instructions on how to get their names before everyone else.

A fair strategy? Some may say no, but the fact is, Facebook wants to keep the press and bloggers happy to encourage Facebook-friendly articles and posts. We all have to make strategic marketing decisions at some point, and this was one that made sense to Facebook. And it will probably work in their favor!

What do you think? Does this special treatment for journalists and writers change your impression of Facebook as a company? And maybe a better question, will Facebook servers crash after midnight tonight when everyone signs on to claim their name? Stay tuned!

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Marketing Strategies Your Customers Will Welcome
May 29, 2010 12:45 PM | Tagged as marketing tips

We're all familiar with the annoying telemarketing phone calls that try to sell us products that we don’t really need. With just a quick 30-second spiel, these callers expect you to hand over your hard-earned money to purchase a product or service from a company you don’t even know. They make it seem as though the product will be a solution for any problem that you might have, and they’re ready to ship one out to you if they could just confirm your name and address, and, of course, your credit card number.

If you’re a small business, you certainly don’t want to gain this reputation. You know that your prospects are busy people, and they can certainly find many other high priority activities besides learning about a great offer from you. Your task, then, is to learn how to present yourself and your business so that your prospects value your marketing efforts and take the time to pay attention. Here are a few tips:

  • Establish yourself as the expert. Your marketing shouldn't be only about selling a product; it should also position you as an authority in your field. People buy from those they trust, so one of your marketing goals should be to build credibility and show your experience. Include testimonials, recommendations, and awards your company has earned, and then present your sales message.
  • Provide valuable information. Especially in today's economy, buyers want to know that they are making the correct buying decision. You must give them the information they need to make an informed choice. You need to show them that your information is accurate and trustworthy, and that they will benefit by applying the information that you can provide.
  • Present a unified image. Your marketing campaigns need to clearly identify you and your brand each and every time. With social networking sites booming, you have the opportunity to develop many different marketing strategies to reach a number of different targets. To be effective, those visitors must instantly recognize you no matter where they find the information. If they navigate from your Facebook page to your Web site, they must know that they hit the correct page. It's important that all of your online profiles, your blog, your Web site, and your print materials have a consistent logo display, color scheme, and professional image.
  • And finally, develop a regular marketing schedule. Your marketing campaigns should go out at a steady pace and should be frequent enough to keep your customers and prospects aware of your activities. If you allow too much time to elapse between e-mails, newsletters, blog posts, or sales visits, they may forget who you are, what you offer, and why they should buy from you. Communicate with intent in each campaign and be consistent with your efforts.

These marketing strategies will help you earn respect for your business, products, and services so that your marketing efforts are welcomed instead of ignored. The key is to provide expertise, valuable information, a unified image, and deliver your campaigns on a consistent schedule.

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Choose Your Own Username fo Facebook Today!
May 29, 2010 12:47 PM | Tagged as Facebook

Starting today (Friday, June 12th) at 11:01 pm (that's Central time), you'll be able to choose your own username for your Facebook account. Choosing your name will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. This applies to both your profile and the Facebook Pages that you administer. You'll also see a notice on your home page with instructions for obtaining your username at that time.

Now your Facebook url can look like this: This will make it much easier to direct friends, family, and coworkers to your profile and business pages.

To select your username, visit the link below after 11:01pm (CDT) on June 12th:

You can also read the Facebook blog to learn more!

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The Art of Branding to Build Credibility
May 29, 2010 12:48 PM | Tagged as encouragement criticism

Anyone can agree with their clients but it's a much harder job to be able to point out what can be improved or even disagree with the approach someone is taking. My ultimate goal is to help my clients move to the next level. Unfortunately, it's often painful! Kinda like when you are sick, you have to get shots or have surgery in order to get better! But, if you don’t get the shots or have the surgery the doctor prescribed – you most likely aren’t going to get better.

I like to call my approach "encouragement criticism" where I want to help someone do better at something they are already doing fairly well. You wouldn't be in business if you weren't doing many, many things right. My job is to help my clients perfect things.

Social networking opens up so many opportunities to gain exposure for your business. But if you're not focused on promoting your brand, and a unified, cohesive image at that, you'll confuse customers and prospects even damage your reputation. Toward that end, I'd like to share a few things about marketing and the importance of branding your business, no matter how long you've been in business.

Remember the KISS philosophy: Keep It Simple Stupid. Just read this article to verify my philosophy. Pay attention to the 5 basic concepts mentioned toward the end of this article.

It goes back to the old cliché’, “Don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle”. No matter how good your product, or how awesome the features are, you must invest time and money into marketing that product. Successful corporate brands understand this principle - you never stop marketing to customers, colleagues, and your virtual network of associates.

One of the most important elements when creating sizzle is credibility. In order to sell, a company and its management team must first be credible in the eyes of its prospective customers. No matter how "hot" the concept, if you can't get your prospects to believe in you, you'll never sell to your concept's potential.

You can show your company's credibility in many ways - experience, longevity, quality products, truthful marketing, glowing recommendations and testimonials, well-designed marketing campaigns, and a strong, stable management team. Your credibility grows each time you strengthen one of these exisiting characteristics or add one more to the list. And this is what attrracts buying, loyal customers.

Author and business consultant, Mark Siebert, has this to say: “If you aren't there already, you can do a number of things to polish your credibility as a company:

  • Hire a designer to update the look and feel of your operation.
  • Update your consumer marketing materials and website.
  • Retain a PR firm to help you obtain press in the local market.
  • Recruit an advisory board made up of your most prominent business acquaintances.
  • Develop marketing materials that are better than those of your established competitors.
  • And, from a self-serving perspective, retain the best consultants you can afford when you desire to take your business to the next level.

Maybe the idea of "branding yourself" seems ridiculous because you've been around 25, 50, or even 75 years. It's not. It's a subject that famed management guru and author of the best-selling business book "In Search of Excellence", Tom Peters, first tackled in 1997 for an article in Fast Company magazine titled, "The Brand Called You."

"Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the number of years in business, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You. . . . You're every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop."

In summary, always put your company brand first and abide by the KISS philosophy. Miraculous things will begin to happen!

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Finding Tweeters
May 29, 2010 12:49 PM | Tagged as Twitter

It's amazing the kind of topics you can find on Twitter - there are posts about almost anything you can image! While there's a wealth of information and conversation available, it can be quite intimidating. Without a little organization and categorization, your Twitter feed might just seem like its spitting out random thoughts about nothing in particular.

I thought it might be helpful if I took a few minutes to introduce you to a few Twitter directories. These sites will not only help you find people with similar interests to follow, but you will also want to make sure you are listed, and under the correct categories. People who are looking for tweeters in your industry or field can search these directories to find you.

Twellow: The "Twitter Yellow Pages" allows you to post a detailed profile and pulls information directly from your Twitter account. You can add an extended bio and register under up to 10 categories.

Just Tweet It: The "Tweeter Directory" lists several categories and subcategories. Choose one that best fits you and add your information. Your listing includes a short description of what you do and a link to your Twitter home page and Web site. If you click on a tweeter's entry, you can read the recent posts, which makes it easier to decide if you want to follow that person or not! is a "user-powered" Twitter Directory. It lists the most popular (those who have the most followers) in categories such as news, music, celebrities, tv, and social media. It determines the cateories based on the use of hash-tags, the popular tags that tweeters label their posts with, beginning with a "#". If you find an interesting tweeter, one click on the "info" button will give you the latest tweet, their Website, and tags that identify their subject matter.

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Women Get Info, Stay Connected Through Social Networking
May 29, 2010 12:51 PM | Tagged as social networking

A recent study released by BlogHer finds that women who are online are twice as likely to get their information from blogs than social networking sites. However, 75% of them use social networking sites to keep in touch with friends and family.

The 2009 Women in Social Media Study, which was released on April 28, indicates that women use social media platforms as their primary sources for community interaction, entertainment, and information.

"Blog now wield considerable influence on consumers' purchasing habits - 45 percent of survey respondents stated that they decided to purchase an item after reading about it on a blog," the survey states.

The study, conducted by BlogHer and iVillage, and in partnership with Compass Partners, offers insight on how women in the U.S. use social media every day. Of the 42 million women who use social media each week, 55% participate in blogging, 75% visit a social networking site such as Facebook or My Space, and 20% use Twitter. The study also suggests that women are spending less time with more traditional media, such as TV, radio, magazines and newspapers.

The implications here are obvious for small business owners. If your target is women (and even if it's not!), you need to be active in social networking. Whether your blogging or promoting your profile on Facebook and MySpace, or both, you will likely reach a larger and more engaged audience than if you are advertising through traditional means.

If you need help developing a strategy for your social networking activities, e-websmart would be happy to help! Give us a call!

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Gain Twitter Followers
May 29, 2010 12:52 PM | Tagged as Twitter

If you're using Twitter as business marketing and networking tool, you be anxious to add "followers" to your list. The more people who follow you and receive your tweets, the more likely you are to reach new clients and make connections that will help you promote and strengthen your business.

Building your follower list takes time, so you'll have to be patient. But there are some things you can do to encourage other tweeters to follow you. Here are a few tips:

1. Share valuable information. Offer business tips, links to valuable resources, answers to questions that other tweeters ask, and recommendations for products and services. Remember that your tweets are about the reader. If you give them something they can use, they'll keep coming back for more.

2. Tweet on a regular basis. Be consistent about sending messages and keeping in touch. If you let too much time go between tweets, your followers may lose interest and look for someone else to follow.

3. Leverage your own resources. If you have a blog or Web site, use them to post articles, special offers, and timely advice. Then, tweet the link so your followers can gain easy access.

 4. Design your Twitter home page to reflect your personality. With only 140 characters, you don't have much room to write about who you are. But your followers can learn a lot about you by viewing your home page to see what you like. A well designed, personalized page shows other tweeters that you are invested in your Twitter activities.

5. Reciprocate. Follow the tweets of those who follow you, and retweet posts that you find particularly helpful. Your followers will benefit from the information, and your sure to gain favor in the eyes of the original tweeter!

6. Tweet when others are tweeting. If you want to be noticed, you have to post tweets when other are participating. Typically, the peak hours for Twitter are during business hours during the work week. To reach across time zones, try tweeting in the morning and early afternoon.

7. Include a link to your Twitter page in your e-mail signature, on your Web site, and your other social networking profiles. The more people who can find and click on your link, the more followers you'll gain.

8. Be real. People want to connect with others who are genuinely interested in them and what they have to say. Don't think about what's in it for you. Tweet from the perspective of what's in it for the reader.


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Tweeting with twhirl
May 29, 2010 12:53 PM | Tagged as Twitter

Twitter is a great little application to help you connect and stay connected with family, friends, and clients. It's so popular, in fact, that many 3rd parties have developed additional applications to make Twitter easier and more convenient to use and integrate with the rest of your social networking activities.

One of these tools is twhirl. It's a free software desktop client that runs on both Windowns and Macs. Twhirl allows you to do everything you would typically do in Twitter without opening your Web browser and logging in. So, you can post short updates (abiding by the 140 character limit, of course), follow your friends' tweets, read replies, and answer other tweeters with direct replies.

In addition, Twhirl informs you of new tweets and allows you to search Twitter Search and TweetScan, look up others' profiles, automatically find tweets that include your @username, post images to TwitPic, and cross-post to Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and other social networking apps via It even allows you to share Seesmic videos through Twitter. And more!

So, if you're hoping to get more out of Twitter, you should try twhirl, especially if you have several Twitter accounts to manage. It conveniently brings Twitter to your desktop using a small window, and you can configure it to work best with your needs.

We plan to post about more Twitter apps that will help you maximize the potential of your Twitter account. What are your favorites? Let us know so we can check them out!

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Tips for Getting Started on Twitter
May 29, 2010 12:53 PM | Tagged as Twitter

Present your professional identity. People want to know who the person is behind the tweets they read, so be sure to fill out your profile and include a picture. You develop more loyal followers if they have the opportunity to learn a little about you and your company. If you are using Twitter to promote your business, make sure your profile reflects your professional image.

Start simple. Offer business tips, links to resources you use frequently, or ask a question to get advice or recommendations. Don't start with a bunch of self promotion tweets. Instead, make yourself a resource for people who need answers that you can provide and possibly your services.

Tweet before you follow. Spend a week or two sending tweets before tackling the task of building followers. When followers visit your Twitter page, you want them to see a solid list of tweets so they know you're a good person to follow.

ReTweet interesting posts. If you agree with a specific post, retweet it. Give the author credit by posting "@Twitter User name" at the beginning of the post. The author will likely send you a thank you tweet and check out your profile. This is a good way to build your network.

Follow the right tweeters. Find people to follow first by searching for your friends, colleagues, clients, and associates. Then, check out their list of followers and start following them. It's best to choose people who are active tweeters. You can also go to to get additional recommendations.

Contribute to conversations. Offer your opinions, feedback, and advice when you see posts that relate to your business or interests.

Use a Twitter desktop program. Applications like TweetDeck or Twirl will bring Twitter to you computer desktop so you won't have to log in to Twitter to post and read other posts. This makes it more convenient,and you will be more likely to keep up with the conversations.

Be a consistent tweeter. Try to tweet at least once a day. Followers look for active contributors, so it's important to keep your name in front of readers as much as possible.

Don't overdo it. While you need to be consistent, don't be annoying. Remember that you want a professional image, so don't tweet need to tweet about what you had for lunch or other inconsequential activities. Three or four tweets a day is a good average if the information you provide is relevant.

Be patient. Followers will come if you stick with it. Again, be a resource and be consistent. Establish your credibility with helpful tweets and people will want to follow you.

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5 Ways I Can Use Twitter for Business
May 29, 2010 12:54 PM | Tagged as Twitter

Twitter is one of those social networking tools that helps you stay in touch with your "followers". It's meant for quick postings -- you can only "tweet" 140 characters or less. The premise is that you can update your status throughout the day so your friends and family can keep up with what's going on in your life.

Twitter is a fun application for your personal life, but it can be so much more than that. As a business tool, Twitter can help you network, find resources, and even attract new clients and customers. Here are 5 ways that I am using Twitter to boost my business marketing and network.

1. Building My Network - Twitter offers a huge audience! As other "tweeters" learn more about me through my posts, I'll gain more followers and build my network. Through these connections, I might learn more about up and coming business trends or innovative marketing techniques, and I'll increase the opportunities to pull in new clients as well.

2. Building My Credibility - Twitter shows you postings from thousands of users, many of which are looking for information or suggestions. When I find a question I can answer, I've just promoted myself as an expert on that topic. This is a great way to gain more followers.

3. Asking for Recommendations - The Internet can be a great source of information, if you can find what you're looking for. It's easy to do a search for a particular service or product, but you can easily get sidetracked by all the junk, too. If I need to find a specific service or product to improve my business, I can tweet about my situation and ask for help. The recommendation I receive will be more valuable than any general search on the Web because I'll get specific information backed by the experience of other users. I can then focus my search based on the suggestions I've received, saving me time because I don't have to filter through hundreds of search results.

4. Promoting my business - Tweeting about my business (and personal) successes will let others know that I'm passionate about my work and helping my clients succeed. This is another way to attract new clients and become a resource for those needing help with Web design, building their brands, and developing marketing ideas and promotions.

5. Reaching Out to Clients
- Twitter will help me reach out to clients and prospects. Not only can I tweet about new services that I offer or new products and promotions, but I can also offer kudos to my clients who have just reached a milestone and special achievement, and promote a special event being held by one of my non-profit clients. Those are the kind of "real world" connections that build lasting relationships and mutual appreciation.

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Earning Money with your Blog - Part 2
May 29, 2010 12:55 PM | Tagged as Blogging

Another way to make money through your blog is to integrate affiliate marketing links. You can do this within individuals posts, or you can make them more permanent by adding them to your side bar. When readers click on the links and purchase the products, you will earn a small commission from the company.

Affiliate links work best if you are reviewing a product or a book and recommending it to your readers. Once you have offered your opinion on the features and benefits of a product, or explained how you have used the concepts in a book to build your own business or become more productive, your readers will likely be interested in checking it out for themselves. Providing the link to the product or book is convenient for your readers, and marketers appreciate the referral, so they are willing to pay a commission for any purchases made through your link.

With most affiliate links, you have complete control over which products you advertise. This is important because, as stated in our last blog, the items that you advertise on your site can reflect your values, priorities, and ethics. Once again, it's important to think ahead and understand how your readers will interpret your marketing techniques and view your business. That's why we recommend choosing items that you are familiar with and have actually used to develop your business.

Companys operate their affiliate programs differently, so you'll have to read the fine print to find out if there are restrictions on how to use the links. If you're interested in affiliate programs but not sure where to look, investigate your vendors. Where do you purchase the supplies you need to run your business? They may have programs that match your needs. Here are a few for consideration: (audio books) (phone service)
Office Depot

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Earning Money with your Blog - Part 1
May 29, 2010 12:56 PM | Tagged as Blogging

Blogging is a great way to drive traffic to your business Web site and it really does boost your search engine rankings if you post regularly. However, the return on your investment into the time it takes to write posts may seem elusive. That is, you have a hard time pinpointing exactly how your blog is making you any money. Indirectly, you are because you driving potential clients to your site and building customer relationships and loyalty. However, if you want to get a little more out of your blog, it is possible to make money directly from your blog.

For example, you can sell advertising space on your blog. Here are two ways to do this:

  • Approach potential advertisers and submit a proposal. You will need specific stats to show the popularity of your blog, and you'll need to match advertisers with the needs of your blog's target market. This process could take some time, but once you find a few good matches, it will be mutually beneficial for both you and your advertisers.
  • Use Google AdSense. AdSense will allow you to choose categories that relate to your blog content so that the ads will fit your target market. It's a free service, but you don't much have control over which ads appear on your site.

One thing to consider - how will your readers react to advertising? Consider your target market and the reasons they are reading your blog. Will they be turned off by seeing ads on your site? Will the ads reflect your business values and opinions? You'll want to ensure that the ads displayed are not promoting a product or concept that conflicts with your business image. Although Google Adsense is an easy way to post ads on your blog, working directly with advertisers is the only way to guarantee ad content.

What do you think? Do you advertise on your blog, and if so, how do you accomplish this? We'd appreciate your input!

If ads don't seem like the right thing for your blog, we'll have more money-making suggestions in the next few days.

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Rate My Business Story!
May 29, 2010 12:57 PM | Tagged as small business story

I found an opportunity to share my small business story online and earn a chance at winning a business grant and products from Intuit. I have posted my story online and would love to have you read it and rate it for me. Judges will choose 50 finalists by March 31, and the winners will be announced on May 5th. I'd appreciate your votes!

Here's the link -

Thanks for your help!

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Who Are You and Why Are You Blogging?
May 29, 2010 12:59 PM | Tagged as Blogging

Blogs are a great way to create publicity for your self and your business, so it's very important to fully develop your "About Me" page associated with your blog. Readers will look here first to get a more complete picture of who you are, why you are blogging, what you have for credentials. This is also where readers will look to find your contact information if they have questions or want to discuss networking opportunities.

Your "About Me" is your chance to build a relationship with your readers by helping them understand why they should trust you and value your advice. Be sure to show your passion and excitement for your blog topic. Here are some things to include on this page:

  • A short biography to help readers learn more about you
  • A description of your business
  • A short explanation about why you blog, or why you love your topic
  • Your education credentials and experience
  • Links to your other Web sites, blogs, or articles that you have written
  • Links to other blogs that you frequently read
  • A picture of yourself, so readers can connect your name with your face

Make sure that your "About Me" page is easy to find with a prominent link available on both your home page and the other pages of your blog.

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Using Social Media to Promote Your Blog
May 29, 2010 1:00 PM | Tagged as Blogging

Social media is all the rage, and if you're not already using it in some capacity to promote your business, you should seriously consider it. But even if you aren't ready to join the ranks of MySpace, Facebook, or Linked In, you can still promote your blog, and your business, through social networking.

If you do have a social networking profile, you should definitely add your blog link to that profile. Your recent posts can appear in your profile, which gives you free exposure to an automatic audience. Many of the connections you've already made will be curious and interested in what you have to say.

If you aren't interested in establishing these profiles just yet, then focus on social bookmarks. These are sites like Digg, Delicious, and StumbleUpon. These are places that allow people to indicate their favorite Web sites, blogs, videos, and other media. After submitting your entry, others can view it and voit on it as well. The more popular your entry, the higher your rating and the more likely it is to be seen by lots of people!

Another option is to start "tweeting" with Twitter. Also known as "microblogging", this is a service that allows you to send short updates about what you are doing or what's on your mind. Or, maybe you're looking for feedback on a blog. You can send a note requesting that your followers check it out and get back to you with their opinions. Twitter is a very powerful social networking tool if you know how to implement it as such, so we'll focus on its potential in future blogs. Stay tuned!

And last but not least, definitely register your blog with blog directories such as Technorati, Blog Catalog, Best of the Web Blog Search, or It may be a little time consuming, but search for "blog directories" and you'll find some of the most popular. Spend some time each day submitting your blog URL so those who are looking for you and your topics can find you.

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RSS What's RSS?
May 29, 2010 1:01 PM | Tagged as RSS

You've seen the little orange and white icon before, but not everyone understands how to use it or what it can do for them. RSS stands for "Real Simple Syndication." It essentially allows you to subscribe to a "feed" and receive updates through a feed reader. So, if you have a blog you love to read, you can click on this button to configure automatic updates so you don't have to go to the blog site each time.

Feed readers are easy to come by these days. They can be based online, on your desktop, in e-mail clients such as MS Outlook, and even on mobile phones. Do a quick search for "feed reader" via any search engine and you can take your pick. Popular ones include Google Reader, RSS Feed Reader, NewsGator, and Bloglines. Here are a few more suggestions for Windows and for MACs.

Once you have a feed reader established, you can easily add sites and blogs that feature the RSS icon.

Obviously, you should activate this feature on your blog as well. This makes it super easy for your readers to keep up with your entries, and they'll be more likely to particpate by adding comments or links to your blog.

It's also a great way to monitor what's going on in your industry and other areas of interest. By reading, or at least browsing, other blogs each day, you can find new topics of interest to blog about yourself.

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Wooing the Search Engines
May 29, 2010 1:02 PM | Tagged as Blogging

Blogs are a great way to generate traffic to your site and interest in your business. Search engines love blogs because, if you consistently post, the content is new and fresh. And by taking a few quick extra steps each time you add an entry, chances are good that the search engines will reward your efforts by helping you get noticed by potential customers. There are a few ways to optimize your blog to make it more search-engine friendly:

  • Make sure the popular search engines know you exist. Register your blog's URL with Google, Yahoo!, Technorati, and MSN Live and other search engines so they know where to find you.
  • Optimize your writing with relevant key words. While you don't want to over use them, you need to include words and phrases that people commonly use to search for your services or business.
  • Use images and add labels or titles as you use them. While they can add visual appeal to your blog, they can also be used by the search engines. For example, when people search for an image using Google or Yahoo's Image Search, your image may fit the search criteria and lead them to your blog.
  • Tag or label your posts. Most blog providers have spots to add these keywords, and they are just another way to attract search engines.
  • Use links in your blog, and use them often. When you link to articles by other bloggers, they notice, which can help you get noticed. They might add a comment to your blog or mention you a future post. Search engines like to see genuine link reciprocity, as it helps demonstrate the popularity of your blog, which can lead to higher rankings.
  • Maintain your blogroll. If you read and enjoy other blogs, add them to your blog roll. Again, it's another way to encourage reciprocal links from other bloggers.

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Do The Research for your Readers
May 29, 2010 4:58 PM | Tagged as Blogging

One thing your blog readers will appreciate is your ability to direct them towards helpful resources, ones that you trust and find accurate and informative. A blog that is continually posting links to meaningful articles and business tools is not only valuable to the reader, but also shows your readers that you are on top of things and willing to investigate trends and learn more about your industry.

It's no small task to find resources worth posting. You could do a Google search, obviously, but the top search results don't always mean the site is worth referring. so stick to researching topics that are relevant to your industry and that you know a little something about so you can judge a site's credibility and worthiness.

But don't think that you can only refer people to online tools. Whenever you consult a book that relates to your business or industry, whether you read it from cover to cover or just pick a chapter or two, offer your 2-cents. Feel free to quote the book (with the correct citations of course) and tell your blog readers how it applies to you or your industry. Your readers will appreciate your honesty, so don't sugar coat it.

And now, I'd be remiss if I didn't conclude this post with a few blogging resources of my own:

Blogging Tips for Beginners a blog post by Darren Rowse with tons of links to help you better understand the world of blogging.

Business Blog Consulting demonstrates how business owners can effectively use their blogs to communicate with customers and market to new customer prospects. Lots of examples of business and corporate blogs, as well as resources to help you learn more.

The Blog Herald is another blog that mostly posts about blogs, blog authors, and other social marketing topics.

And finally, a list of the "top 50" female bloggers. These aren't necessarily blogs about business blogging, but they are well-known and well-respected authors. You can follow a few of your favorites by topic and learn by their examples.

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May 29, 2010 4:59 PM | Tagged as Blogging

Blogs are useful for establishing your company or personal identity. If you're writing for business reasons, you can give clients and customers a feel for who you are. They can see a little bit of your expertise and get a glimpse of who your other clients are and where you go for reliable information. This is important because how you write and what you write about will give them a preview of your personality and work philosophies before they decide to contact you.

Now, some of you might be afraid that this could mean that you'll lose out on opportunities because some people might not contact you. To the contrary, the contacts that you do make from your blog will be more likely to be the ideal client. One that already likes your personality type and has a good feel for the services you can provide. And let's face it, these are the clients that will be the most profitable for you.

So remember that your blog is always a subtle marketing tool. Even if you don't expressly marketing your products and services in every post, you are always selling yourself. Don't be afraid to let your personality shine through and offer your opinions, recommendations, and experiences.

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Blogs - A Valuable Online Marketing Tool
May 29, 2010 5:01 PM | Tagged as Blogging

These days, many small businesses have some type of Web presence. Many business coaches and consultants will tell you that it's essential to be online in someway, shape, or form if you want to grow and attract new clients and customers. And with the advent and explosion of the social networking craze, small businesses that are unsure about being online can take small steps to establishing their Web presence.

One of the best ways to get started is by blogging. Barely even 5 years ago, very few people understood what a "blog" is, but now, it's becoming a common concept and many people are at least familiar with the term. A blog is simply a Web site that contains entries written by a specific author or group of authors with a common interest. The entries can be personal accounts of thoughts, activities, discussions, and opinions, or they can be business-oriented and offer tips, advice, suggestions, articles, and other resources for readers.

One of the great things about blogs is that they are easy to start, maintain, and update, even if you don't have a background in Web design, CSS, or HTML. Most blog services start users out with a simple template that can be customized with color and logo preferences. To add entries, the user simply clicks a link and writes an entry is a small text editor window. The simplicity of this process makes establishing a blog attractive to those who want to have a Web presence but don't know where to start.

Blogs are also important to businesses for other reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity to connect with consumers to help them get to know your business, your staff, and your products and services. Blogs give you a chance to provide updates, post announcements and educate consumers. Blogs are a valuable marketing tool because they can quickly distribute targeted messages and receive immediate feedback through the comment process.

E-websmart uses this blog to keep you updated on the latest news related to our business and the Web design industry. We also want to keep you up-to-date on the latest technology and online marketing tools. So, during the month of February, we will be blogging about blogging! We invite you to offer your own blogging tips and suggestions as you read ours. And if you're ready to start blogging, give us a call!

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Rule # 8 - Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should
May 29, 2010 5:02 PM | Tagged as web coding

There are a lot of things that you can do with Web coding, and it's fun to experiment sometimes just to see what's all possible. But too often, these elements are used inappropriately, making it painfully clear that there are certain things you just shouldn't place in your Web site.

Before adding a lot of extra "fun and flashy" elements, think carefully about the purpose of your site. Anything that doesn't directly promote that purpose might detract from your message and even annoy visitors. In general, the following should be avoided unless you have a compelling reason to use them:

Background music - Just because it's possible to add music to your site doesn't mean you should. Sites that sell music or promote a band or musical groups are obvious exceptions. There's a big difference between having music samples available for the visitor to listen to at their convenience and having music play automatically when the home page opens. Always offer your visitors a choice to listen, rather than bombard them with music that they cannot shut off.

Blinking Words - Your site is not a digital billboard or LED display. There are other much more effective (and less annoying) ways to draw attention to headings or words. Use bold, itatlics, or increase the font size. Or use white space to set off a heading or title. Color can also be used effectively for this purpose.

Animation - Unless you are an animation artist, it is not advisable to use animated GIF images on your site. Sure, there are tons of cute and funny graphics out there, but unless that is the purpose of your site, you don't need them. Visitors are looking for information presented in a pleasing and attractive way. Animated icons and pictures will detract their attention and may even call into question your credibility.

Pop-up windows - These can be really annoying and distracting because they interrupt the site visitor and distract them from the site content. There are plenty of sound design principles you can use to draw the visitor's attention to a newsletter sign-up box or special product offer without tossing a box in front of someone. If you really think you need to use one, use them sparingly!

Finally, don't forget to update your site! Your business is dynamic - always changing, growing, and reinventing. Your Web site should be, too. Read your content reguarly and make sure it is current and still reflecting what you do. Change special offers and marketing tactics as needed, and check links frequently, especially those to other sites. You never know when a site will cease to exist.

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Rule# 7 - Optimize Your Site for Search Engines
May 29, 2010 5:04 PM | Tagged as search engine optimization

Search engine optimization might seem technical, but if you're going to have a Web site, it's something you should have at least a basic understanding of so you those interested in finding you can. Most people go straight to a search engine when they are looking for more information about a product or service, so your site must be optimized to allow those search engines to find your site.

Typically, a search engine uses a "spider bot" to crawl through sites and detect keywords, meta tags, and other aspects of a site that help identify its purpose. There are things you can do to your site to help these spiders find you. Here are a few tips:

  • Use keywords throughout your site. You should identify a list of keywords that accurately describe your business, your industry, and your products and services. Use them on every page, but use them naturally.
  • Use title tags - This is a short description of your page that will appear in search engine results. You'll want this title to be different on each page. You might include your business name along with your location and the title of your Web page. For example, an attorney might include his name, a designation of what type of law he practices, and where he is located, along with the name of the Web page.

Joe Smith - Attorney - Civil Law - Chicago, Illinois - Services

There's no such thing as a perfect title, and you can experiment with different phrases, but it is important to include your keywords here.

  • Find companion sites that will link to your site. The more incoming links you have to your site, the higher your search engine ranking can be. If you are a member of a professional organization, check to see if there is an online directory that will display your name and Web site. Or your city may have a business services directory that will list you for free. Other opportunities include linking to your site form your blog or exchanging links with other business people.
  • Validate your CSS or HTML code. This will ensure your code is free of errors and help all of the aspect of your site to display properly. You can have your code validated by the W3C. Valid coding helps search engines to accurately read your code and determine the subject of your page.
  • Create a site map. This is a page that shows the navigation structure of your site and links to each page as well. It improves SEO because it ensures that search engines will find each page of your site. it also helps visitors understand how you have organized your site and could make it easier for them to go directly to the information they need to find.

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Rule # 7 - Use HotSpots to Your Advantage
May 29, 2010 5:05 PM | Tagged as hotspots

The most important news stories are placed "above the fold" in newspapers. Why? This is the first place everybody looks. The placement is important because it attracts attention and encourages people to read further, either below the fold or inside the newspaper. It's all about drawing the reader into the story to expose them to other parts of the paper they might not otherwise read.

The same is true with Web sites. Numerous "eye-tracking" studies have been conducted to find the most viewed spot on a Web page. For example, a study conducted by marketing firms Enquiro and and eye tracking firm Eyetools found that, during a search, most visitors consistently look at a triangle at the top left of the search results page. This would be considered an area of maximum interest.

Translated into non-search page terms, we can assume that the first place your site visitors will look is the upper left hand corner of your site. Browse some of your favorite sites and notice what they put here. You'll probably find a logo or some other company-identifying mark. That's a good place for it, especially if your site is designed to promote brand identity, introduce you as a new company, or mark your entry into a new niche market.

Now, consider how many of your site visitors are already familiar with your logo or company name. If you have already established some brand identity, you might decide to put something other than your logo here. Have a call to action or introducing a new product? This space would be a great place to put it.

Another hotspot, as identified by Google for their AdWords program, is the middle of your page and little bit above, and then another spot a little of the left of center. These are spots still considered "above the fold" or immediately visible without scrolling down when your page opens. Generally, this is where you want the main content for your page, or at least your main headline or title, because this is where most people will expect to find it. These two areas are also popular for links, which is why Google identified them. When Web designers place their Google AdWords advertising in these two areas, they are more likely to attract clicks.

Of course, a carefully and thoughtfully-designed page can draw the visitor's attention to any place on the page with the right layout and use of color, lines, and balance. The main thing is to be sure you don't "hide" your most important information. Don't overshadow your content with overdone graphics, and make sure you give your visitors a clear navigational structure so they can move from page to page and find what they need.

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Rule # 6 - Use Color to Tell Who You Are
May 29, 2010 5:06 PM | Tagged as color

Color can be one of the most attractive elements of your Web site, or it can be one of its most dreadful downfalls. Not only will people judge your site by the colors you choose, but they will also identify you and your business by those colors, so it's important to put some thought into choosing them.

First, think about how you want to portray your business. Distinguished, serious, bold, fun, trendy, practical, stable, experienced, youthful, passionate, ambitious? A specific color scheme can help you establish your character. Blue can represent conservatism, loyalty, calmness, royalty, and trust. Red can indicate strength, passion, fire, power, and boldness. Yellow might portray cheeriness, hope, optimism, and joy. So, first think about how you want people to see and identify your business, and then decide how color will play into you identity. (For more ideas on color symbolism and psychology, you can visit

Second, you might consider your own logo, if you have one. What colors look good with it? While you don't have to choose exactly those same colors, it's a good idea to make sure your colors blend together. You might incorporate the main color of your logo into you Web site somewhere, because this will give your site a sense of balance and belonging.

Third, choose one or two base colors that will be used prominently in your site, and then choose complementary colors for secondary borders, fonts, and other graphics. Too many colors can give your site a chaotic and unorganized appearance.

Fourth, maintain the same shade throughout. If you use pastels, you'll want to all of your colors to have that same value. In most cases, a bright, bold green won't blend as well with a pastel blue as it would with a darker shade.

Fifth, use colors consistently throughout your site. For example, choose one color for your page title and keep it the same on every page. The same goes with your navigation bar, borders, backgrounds of sidebars or quote boxes, and sub headings or section dividers. Again, this gives your site a consistent, cohesive appearance.

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Rule # 5 - Consider Layout Size
May 29, 2010 5:07 PM | Tagged as layout size

Did you know that Web site appearance changes depending on your visitor's size on monitor? Just because you design your layout to fit perfectly on your screen doesn't mean that everybody will see it exactly the same way.

Width: The biggest consideration with the size of your page layout is the width. There are various sizes and pixel widths of monitors, and it's hard to predict what your users will have. Most computer monitors have a width of 1024 pixels, and sometimes wider. Users can adjust it, but those are typical factory settings. Older monitors and monitors smaller than 19 inches generally have a pixel width of 800.

To accommodate most screens, you can build your site to fit pixel width of 800. However, because browsers often take up space on the outer limits of the screen for scroll bars and other features, you should set your width smaller - 760 pixels is usually effective, but you can go smaller. This will allow your page to fill the screen while taking into account browser features.

Those who are viewing on a larger monitor or with a larger pixel width will see more white space. If your site is left-justified, meaning it borders the left side of the screen, you site will have a significant amount of white space on the right. To reduce this effect, you can center your site so that the white space on both the left and the right is balanced.

Length: Web pages can be infinitely long, but be aware that most users won't scroll much past 2 or 3 screens, if they scroll at all. You'll want to put the most important information in the area that will be immediately seen by visitors without having to scroll. If you have so much information that users need to scroll down to read it, you might be able to break it up into separate pages. Or, consider putting your information into a pdf so readers can download the document and even print it.

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Rule # 4 - Use Appropriate Font Sizes
May 29, 2010 5:08 PM | Tagged as font sizes

Choosing the style of font is just the first step when designing a Web site. You then have to consider the size. The size of the text is important because it will not only affect the presentation of your page, but also the readability.

Consider that when people read, they group words together rather than see and read each word individually. Long blocks of text that is too large doesn't flow well for readers and gives a choppy appearance. That's why, even in print media, large font sizes are reserved for headlines and short phrases. To make your page title or section headers stand out, you can use a bigger, bolder font.

Small text on a computer screen can really strain the eyes, so it should be used sparingly as well. Many computer screens don't display the smallest characters clearly, and in general, tiny text is hard to see. Fonts under 10 pt are generally good for copyright notices or other legal disclaimers. It's not information that will be read frequently so you don't want it to take up too much space, but it's still necessary to have it displayed.

In general, most of your Web site text will be 10-point, or possibly 12-point. Some fonts actually present larger than others, so you may choose to use a smaller size and still achieve good readability.

You should also consider your audience - if your target audience includes seniors or those with disabilities, you may want a larger font for your Web copy.

There are a number of different ways to write the code to determine the size of your fonts. Some make your font size absolute so that everyone sees the same size. Others can make the font size relative so that the size adjusts to the user's browser specifications. Talk with your Web designer to choose the best choice for your site and needs.

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Rule # 3 - Choose the Right Font
May 29, 2010 5:08 PM | Tagged as fonts

With the huge number of different fonts available these days, you might think you can use just about anything out there on your Web site. This isn't necessarily the case. In fact, there are only a few fonts that will give your users optimal viewing.

For Web pages, text is displayed using the fonts available on the viewer's computer. So, if you choose an obscure font, one that you found through an Internet search or pulled from a 1001 Fonts CD, the majority of your site visitors are unlikely to have that font installed on their systems, and the page and its text won't appear correctly to them. It's usually better to choose common fonts that nearly all users have installed, such as Arial and Times New Roman for PC users, and Helvetica and Times for Macs.

Another way to ensure your site will correctly display text is to choose a particular style of font and let the user's browser choose the best match. There are three types that work for Web pages: Serif, Sans-serif, and monospace. A Serif font has "feet" or extra strokes on the ends of some lines. Times New Roman is a serif font. These types of fonts are commonly used in print - books, newspapers, magazines, etc.

Sans-serif fonts have smooth ending lines, or are "without serifs." Arial is an example. These fonts are easy to read on a computer screen and are good choices for body text in a Web page.

Monospace fonts are those like Courier, where each letter takes up exactly the same amount of space as the others.

When you want a browser to display a specific font, but yet adequately compensate when that font is not available on a user's computer, you can include several fonts in your CSS code. For example, you can write "font-family: helvetica, verdana, sans-serif" which would first try to display helvetica, then verdana, and then any sans-serif font available.

Of course, most Web pages would be quite boring with only one font displayed throughout. The best way to add variety to your site, and make it more visually appealing, is to use graphics that feature other fonts. If you want your Web site header to include your business name in a cursive font, you would create a jpeg or gif image using the font you like then place that image in the appropriate spot. This allows you to be creative while still maintaining the ability of all users to read and enjoy your site.

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Rule #2 - Provide the Right Content
May 29, 2010 5:12 PM | Tagged as content

The layout of your Web site and design of each page will depend on the content that you will display. Rule # 2 in Web site design - provide the information your customers need to know.

As you plan your site and decide what you will include about yourself and your business, it's important to consider your customer's perspective. When you are looking for information a site, what do YOU look for? What information do you want to know about the business before you decide to contact them in person or buy a product or service? Your list might include:

  • Where are they located?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • What products do they sell?
  • Who endorses or recommends their services?
  • What is their "process" when working with clients?
  • What is their return policy if I purchase a product?
  • Who are the people in the organization/company?
  • What is their background/education/experience?
  • Who can I call to get more information?

Answer those questions about your own company and you will get a good idea about what content to include and where in your site that information will go. As you design your organizational structure, remember to include these things:

  • An introduction to your business, including a clear description of your mission or purpose.
  • A visual identity that people will recognize later and remember
  • Clear navigation that allows visitors to easily move through your site as they look for more information about your products and services.
  • A description of who you are and what you offer.
  • An introduction to key people in the organization.
  • A list of reviews or testimonials from current and past customers/clients.
  • Your contact information, including a phone number.

Remember that anyone can create a Web site and purport to be a legitimate business. The Internet provides many opportunities, but many threats as well, and most people won't do business with a company if they can't verify its existence in "real" life. If you don't provide a physical location or phone number, you aren't giving potential customers any tangible proof of that you are who you say. When you allow your customers to easily verify the information on your site, you build trust and loyalty. Plan your content accordingly.

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Rule #1 - Plan Your Design
May 29, 2010 5:14 PM | Tagged as web site design

When you start thinking about layouts in Web design, you really have two layouts to consider. One is the structure of your entire site, and the second is the design of each page. Generally speaking, you should start with the site as a whole, figuring out how many pages you will have and how you will link to each page. With this structure in place, you can then design each page with a clear picture of how much text will be on each page and how your navigation bar and other link bars will look.

Start building your site listing each topic you would like to include and sketching out a map to show how they will be linked. Pages might include your Home Page, About Us, Products, Services, and Contact Page. From there, determine how many additional pages you will add underneath these pages. In other words, they may not be part of your main navigation bar, but you will create other links throughout your site to take visitors to those pages. For example, you may have products or services that you want to dedicate a separate page to each one. By outlining your site on paper first, you will be able to keep your site organized and create logical transitions between pages.

Once you have the organizational structure, you can begin to plan the separate components that will fill each page. Here are items you will need to include:

  • Header - usually includes the site name and a graphic, such as a logo. This will probably be exactly the same or very similar on all of your Web pages throughout your site.
  • Page Name - providing the page name in an obvious location helps users keep track of where they are on your site
  • Body - for the content of your page
  • Main Navigation Bar - Links to the additional main pages of your site
  • Sub Navigation Links - If your site is complex or includes many pages, these will help the user quickly find items of interest
  • Footer - a section at the bottom of the page that generally includes copyright information, disclaimers, company name and phone number, additional contact information, or e-mail link. Like the header, this will be included on all of your pages.

Other items might include banner advertising, a search box, and/or a box to show a customer's shopping cart status if you are selling products.

While most sites will incorporate these layout sections, remember that you want your site to be unique and reflect your personality and business style. Don't feel like you must follow this standard format. As long as you have the important components that identify who you are and display your contact information, your design can deviate from the standard layout.

Again, use a piece of paper to sketch your page layout. Will you have 2 columns or 3, or a combination? Where will you place your business name and logo? What types of graphics will you use and where will you place them in relation to text boxes? This preliminary planning will make it easier to visualize your site and improve the process of building your site in your software program.

So, one of the first rules of designing a great Web site - spend time visualizing your site and drawing both the navigational outline and the page layout before creating it on screen.

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The Elements of Web Design
May 30, 2010 8:42 AM | Tagged as web design

Putting a Web site out on the Internet it not hard. With a little bit of study and effort, almost anyone can do it. Designing an effective Web site takes a lot of planning and thought, and it's not a skill everyone can master.

Just like print design, Web design has many elements and techniques that have to come together in a cohesive structure to end up with a site that truly identifies you and your business. Web designers have to think about graphic design, copywriting, marketing techniques, color psychology, layout, and site navigation, and each one of these elements has its own set of qualities.

This is why it is so important to research Web designers before choosing someone to develop your site. It's not just about getting your name out there. It's about creating a site that is uniquely you and represents your personality and passion. The more this comes through, the more likely you are to attract customers and clients who will enjoy working with you and become loyal followers. If you want a site that is engaging, visually appealing, and effectively promotes your business, you'll understand the investment required and see the value of have a professionally-designed site unique to your preferences.

Throughout December, I'll post about the basic elements of Web site design. Learning about these techniques will not only help you evaluate your own site, but also those of your competition and other designers. Feel free to contribute your own comments, tips, and techniques, or ask any questions you may have!

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May 30, 2010 8:43 AM | Tagged as white space

The term "white space" in graphic design really refers to the blank or unused space between the elements of your Web site. It doesn't necessarily have to be white, and in fact, it is usually best to have your blank space blend with the colors and theme of your page.

In general, your white space is going to be the same color as the background of your site. So it pays to put some thought into what this will be, as it will both complement and contrast with your text and graphics.

If you consider the psychology of color when designing your site, white is perceived as bright and fresh, producing a sense of space or highlight important information. In that respect, white is a a great "color" to use for your white space (and background). On the other hand, white can been seen as sterile or cold, and even boring. So, if you're going to have a lot of space between elements, or if your other elements aren't colorful, you might use a warmer background color, one that is inviting, relaxing, and calming.

You want to be careful, too, not to mix too many colors on one page. This will make it hard for your site visitors to know what to look at first. Once again, weight plays an issue as well. A excess of darker colors or a combination of too many colors can make your site appear heavy and overloaded, which will cancel out the highlighting purpose of white space. But too much white can have a negative effect as well. Without some accent color to help organize elements, it may appear that your graphics or text were placed where ever they landed with no plan or scheme. In other words, there will be no direction to guide your eyes around the page.

So, your white space doesn't have to be, often times isn't, always white. But whatever the color, the principle of white space is still the same. Use it to highlight important aspects of your page, make test easy to read and interpret, and organize the sections of your page for easy navigation.

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Weight and Your Web Page
May 30, 2010 8:44 AM | Tagged as object weight

Did you know that objects on your Web page can be too heavy? Weight plays an important role in the balance of your entire design. Of course, I'm not talking about physical weight, but rather the perceived weight of an object based on its size and placement.

Obviously, images that are too small will be hard to see and ineffective in their role as complements to your text or theme. But images that are too large will overwhelm your site visitors and take away from the information that you present. Remember that images should never be so large that you have to scroll vertically or horizontally to see the entire picture. Most will be much more effective in a much smaller size.

In general, the size of your images should be large enough to see any details but small enough so that your eye can comprehend the subject or "point" without a lot of effort. If you want to emphasize a particular object, such as your logo or your business name, you can use white space to set it apart from other graphics and text rather than make it really big and filling the screen.

Overall, think about balance. Too much text is boring, too many large graphics are confusing and hard to understand. A good mix of these elements along with just the right amount of white space will give your page a feeling that everything was placed intentionally under a well thought out plan. Your visitors will enjoy browsing your site, and your business will be portrayed a one that takes time focus on customer or client needs.

There's no hard and fast rule to achieving this kind of balance. It's really a matter of experimenting with the design, browsing other sites to determine what works and what doesn't, and asking others to preview your page and offer their comments. Remember that most of your site visitors won't know a lot about the specific elements of your design - they'll only know whether your site is attractive, engaging, and easy-to-read.

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5 Tips to Incorporate White Space Into Your Text
May 30, 2010 8:45 AM | Tagged as white space

White space in a Web site isn't just about appearances. It is a tool that also helps your text to be easily read by your site visitors. Margins, line spacing, and even the space between characters are all areas where white space is helpful if you want your visitors to actually read the information you've displayed for them. Here's a couple of tips:

1. Consider your page margins. Rarely do you want text or even graphics to stretch across the entire width of a screen. Even with a small 14" screen, readers will have difficulty following lines of text from one side to the other. Set page margins to give your site a border of blank space to help keep your content contained within a section of the screen that your visitors can easily view.

2. Long lines of text are hard to read, especially on a computer screen. Consider putting your text into columns with white space between, or contain the text in smaller segments bordered by white space. Remember that people tend to process words in blocks rather than single words, so block your sentences for them with white space.

3. Watch the proximity between your text and graphics. In most cases, you should always surround your graphics with white space. Even captions for pictures should be spaced far enough away from the graphic so that the words don't "bleed" together with the graphic. This will also help you emphasize objects on your page and give balance to site as a whole.

4. Consider your font spacing between letters. If the letters appear scrunched together, the words will be hard to read. You may have to adjust the spacing between characters to create white space between characters. At the same time, letters that are too far apart will also make it difficult for the eye to put those letters together as a word. Watch for this as well.

5. Think about the spacing between lines. Single spaced lines run together and make it hard to read, so include a small amount of white space between your sentences to add some separation. Again, too much space will interrupt the flow for readers.

If some of these concepts don't make sense to you, try visiting random Web sites and evaluate the pages for these items. You'll soon realize how the right blend of white space between words, sentences and paragraphs creates a smooth and organized reading experience. Remember, the easier the page is to read, the longer your visitors will stay and browse!

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Convey Elegance Through Your Site
May 30, 2010 8:46 AM | Tagged as white space

In design, white space is used for more than just separating graphics from text. It is used as subtle yet effective way to convey style and status. Incorporating a lot of white space in to a design suggest elegance, sophistication, and refinement, while a busier, more cluttered design communicates lower cost and lower quality.

The cosmetics industry is known for its use of white space to imply a high quality and expensive product, one that is especially reserved for those who appreciate the value of quality and excellence. The product and the brand is expected to speak for itself.

It really pays to understand this concept when incorporating white space in your design. If your product or service is designed for customers or clients who have more disposable income to spend, then your designs should reflect that to attract those customers. However, if your product is targeted to those who are looking for value without spending a lot of money, then you will want to be careful not to convey too much sophistication or you risk turning away customers who might believe they can't afford your product.

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Organizing With White Space
May 30, 2010 8:47 AM | Tagged as white space

One aspect of good Web design that many people don't think a lot about is white space. That's the area on a page that is left "untouched" by graphics and type. It's not necessarily white - it can be any color, but it is space that is basically blank. White space is a visually important element because it separates lines of type, columns, graphics, and figures.

Achieving the correct balance of white space can be somewhat of an art. Too much empty space makes a page look boring and empty. It might give the impression that the Web site's owner doesn't have enough interesting things to tell its customers. But too little white space leaves pages feeling cluttered and jumbled together. When visitors see a page full of words and graphics with little or no separation, they won't know where to look first.

By using white space to divide and organize your Web site, you can easily guide your site visitors to the most important information you are presenting. When used correctly, white space will enhance your site’s usability and give your customers a clear, logical picture of who you are and what you can do for them. They will feel more comfortable browsing because the information is easy to read and they can navigate through your pages without being bombarded with too much information or commotion.

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Millikin Regional Entrepreneurship Network Clients Participate in Innovate Illinois Competition
May 30, 2010 8:51 AM | Tagged as MREN Innovate Illinois

Two Central Illinois businesses competed as semi-finalists against 30 other Illinois businesses in the Fourth Annual Innovate Illinois Competition held in Chicago on September 26. The Springfield businesses were selected from among other Central Illinois applicants to represent the Millikin Regional Entrepreneurship Network (MREN) in this program designed to recognize high-growth small businesses in Illinois that have launched or will soon launch an innovative product or service.

Innovate Illinois is a highly selective entrepreneurial competition where local companies compete for a total of $100,000, with the two top honorees (one early stage company and one later stage company) each receiving $40,000. The program is jointly administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Center. The Millikin Regional Entrepreneurship Network provides small business consulting services and training through Millikin University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, an integral part of the university’s Tabor School of Business.

Michelle Tjelmeland and Mark Roberts of Communications Made Easy™ and Larry Davsko of Electric Vehicle Technologies (EVT), LLC were accompanied to the competition by Connie Beck, MREN director. Each business owner made a five-minute “fast pitch” presentation in front of a panel of judges. Twelve finalists (six in each track – early stage and later stage) were announced at a reception following the presentations. EVT was invited to join five other companies to compete in the “later stage” finals in Chicago on November 18.

"We were very proud to be represented by two such innovative businesses from our region in the competition,” said Beck. “As current clients and previous MREN Challenge Grant Award recipients, it was an honor to have these two potential high-growth businesses compete against companies representing the state’s other 15 entrepreneurship centers. Our staff looks forward to our continued relationship with both businesses as well as EVT’s participation in the finals next month,” Beck concluded.

Communications Made Easy™ is a broadcast communications system that allows customers to send one message in four different ways simultaneously—web, e-mail, text message and phone. It is an affordable, easy-to-use product that addresses the communication needs of many different organizations, including school districts, government agencies, colleges and universities, churches, non-profit organizations, employers and many more. There is currently no one else pursuing the company’s target customers with a four-in-one communication model. Some customers can be up and running in as little as five minutes.

“Being a semi-finalist for Innovate Illinois was an amazing experience for Mark Roberts, co-founder, and me,” Tjelmeland explained. Being in a room with 31 other like-minded entrepreneurs and seeing the incredible things they are doing in the State of Illinois was extraordinary,” continued Tjelmeland. “We learned so much from our experience and developed several business relationships which are certain to help us gain the national exposure necessary to bring our product, Communications Made Easy™ - The Original 4-in-1 Communication System™, to market.” For more information, visit or call 800-605-0082.

Founded in early 2006 after two years of research, EVT was formed for the purpose of commercializing its electric motor technology. EVT has taken electric motor and generator technology to a new level with unique designs utilizing the latest in material science, major advancements in electro-magnetism, and decreasing costs in controls and sensors. The design’s key attribute, maximum torque at any operating speed, has gained the attention of various industry leaders because it can eliminate the need for transmissions, gearboxes, axles and differentials in agriculture and construction heavy equipment applications.

“EVT was honored to have been selected by MREN to represent Central Illinois as one of the 16 ‘later stage’ semi-finalists from across the state,” stated Davsko. “We were especially pleased to have been chosen as one of the six finalist in our category to compete for a $40,000 prize in November. Our association with MREN, in addition to our exposure to other innovative businesses and venture capitalists through this process, will certainly benefit our company as we continue testing and refining our prototype motors over the coming months,” Davsko emphasized.

In addition to its Decatur campus location, MREN has a satellite entrepreneurship center located at the Lewis & Clark Community College Macoupin County Community Education Center in Carlinville. Fund by DCEO, the centers administer a Challenge Grant Award program for potential high-growth small businesses. Businesses can apply for up to $5,000 in matching grant funds in order to acquire outside professional consulting services that will help them “grow their businesses.”

For more information about MREN, its services and training programs, or the grant program, contact Connie Beck in Decatur at 217-424-6267 or, or Art Knippel in Carlinville at 217-854-9652 or Information about the Millikin Regional Entrepreneurship Center can also be found at

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Michelle Visits Extreme Makeover Home Edition Build Site
May 30, 2010 8:53 AM | Tagged as Extreme Makeover Home Edition

As a sponsor of the Extreme Home Makeover Edition, Mark (my Communications Made Easy biz partner) and I were were lucky enough to receive VIP passes to sponsor tent last evening. The sponsor tent was located directly across the street from the home build and during our visit we got to see hundreds of volunteers in action. And, yes, Mark even spotted a few stars on site. Ty Pennington and Michael Maloney made brief appearances around 8:30 last evening.

Energy levels were high as hundreds of volunteers lined up, surrounded by ABC filming crews, to unload truckload after truckload of furniture, accessories, and appliances for the home. From toasters, to bamboo trees, armories, chairs, couches, rugs, and mirrors, volunteers eagerly awaited their chance to carry in items to be placed in the home. While we were not allowed to enter the home, we did get to snap pictures of the outside and boy, was that a site to see. Truly amazing to see what 2,500 volunteers were able to accomplish in just 6 short days.

The show is set to air sometime between December and January so we'll all have to stay turned to see the final outcome. But, I can say this for sure...the well-deserving Gries' family is pretty darn lucky.

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Using IMG ALT For Your Graphics
May 30, 2010 8:54 AM | Tagged as IMG ALT

I've already discussed how images can enhance the appearance of your Web site and help project a business image, which is why you should use images judicially. But sometimes the images themselves don’t matter a whole lot.

Users can program their browsers to turn off images for faster browsing. Other users might have special software that reads for them because they can’t see. And when it comes to leading users to you site, images themselves don’t play a very big part. That’s because search engines don’t really pay attention to the images on your site.

So how do you accommodate these unique users and search engine preferences?You can use the “IMG ALT” tag.

The IMG ALT tag allows words to show up when your images do not. So, if you place your logo on your Web site, your IMG ALT tag for that image might read, “XYZ Company Logo.” You may notice these tags on some Web pages where the graphics load slower than the text. The IMG ATL tag appears as a placeholder until the image itself downloads.

In code, the IMG ALT looks like this: img src="logo.gif" alt="XYZ Company Logo"

While alternative descriptions may not be able to accurately or effectively describe photographs or complex drawings, they are especially useful for navigation graphics. For example if your Link Bar is made up of individual images, you will want to include the name of that link in the IMG ALT tag. Your image for your home page might look like: img src="home.gif" alt="Home Page"

This will ensure that any user, whether they see your graphics or not, can navigate through your site and find the information they need. While these users may be in the minority, creating your Web site to assist them will keep them on your site longer and may give you an edge over your competition!

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Design Built Homes Michelle Contributes
May 30, 2010 8:58 AM | Tagged as Extreme Makeover Home Edition

What an exciting opportunity for my new business venture, Communications Made Easy!! "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is coming to Peoria, Illinois, and CME is participating in the massive volunteer effort. We are donating access to our 4-in-1 broadcast communication system so project coordinators can quickly send updates, instructions, requests, etc. to the over 1,000 volunteers that are involved.

If you watch this television show, you know that builders take on the ambitious task of building a brand new home in just 7 days. Volunteers team up with show designers and builders and work around the clock until the project is finished.

In this project, time is of the essence, and CME is THE PERFECT solution to ensure that all 1,000+ volunteers stay informed of the latest news. Our broadcast text messaging capabilities will reach those that are on-site and not near a computer to receive an e-mail. Coordinators can also send messages from the building site by calling our 24/7 concierge service. Information can be sent and received immediately.

We invite you to follow the progress of the project. The surprise "door knock" will happen today, and then a flurry of activity will follow. Visit to learn more about the amazing teamwork involved in this effort, and follow the latest news and donate at

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May 30, 2010 9:00 AM | Tagged as GIF or JPEG

When it comes to graphics on a web page, you generally have two options - GIF or JPEG. To determine which format will serve your needs, it helps to know a little bit more about them.

GIF is short for Graphics Interchange Format, and these files carry the file extension .gif. These file types only support 256 colors, compared to the 16 million colors the JPEG files support. They are ideal for simpler illustrations or images that don't require a lot of detail. Despite this limitation, GIFs have special characteristics that make them especially useful in specific situations.

First, the background of a GIF can be made transparent. This allows the color of a Web page to show through and allows users to place an image without a "boxed" look.

Second, GIFs can be animated, which can be useful to draw attention to a specific point or area on a Web page.

Third, GIF images can retain their quality even after data compression.

JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. This is the common file type of digital photographs because it supports rich colors and subtle gradations. JPEGs can offer vivid and natural-looking images because the colors blend smoothly from one shade to another. JPEGs are more vulnerable to compression issues than GIFs. When you compress a JPEG image, you lose quality.

Whether you are using JPEG or GIF file formats, you should always keep in mind the file size. A large file will take longer to download on your Web page, so if your goal is a quick and efficient load time, you will want to optimize your graphics to accomplish this.

Questions about how to do that? Send me an e-mail or post a comment!

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Picture Perfect: 5 Strategies for Using Graphics on Your Site
May 30, 2010 9:01 AM | Tagged as picture strategies

Today’s Web technology makes it relatively easy for us to put lots of fun and colorful graphics on our Web sites. And while images certainly can enhance the visual effectiveness of a site, they can also clutter your space and distract from the message. Following these 5 strategies can help you avoid those traps and create a site that your visitors will continue to visit.

1. Establish Your Theme – Web graphics can pull your site together to create a cohesive theme. Colors and fonts can be combined to convey your purpose and style, giving you an opportunity to graphically portray your business image rather than just talk about it in your text. Consider the purpose for your site as well as what you want visitors to think about you as you use graphics, colors, and fonts to present your theme.

2. Site Navigation – Design your graphics to help your visitors move through your site. Graphical navigation buttons and menus can be designed to include your company colors and images that represent your pages, rather than plain text hyperlinks. A well-designed and organized menu will provide logical direction and smooth movement between pages and links.

3. Create Transitions – Use graphics for divider lines or horizontal rules to organize text and create an easy-to-follow presentation so visitors can quickly find the information they need.

4. Use Bullets – Using bullet points help you emphasize points and summarize information, giving your readers a quick reference. While you want your bullets to be small and unobtrusive, you can still use them to reinforce your theme by incorporating color or a unique shape.

5. Serve a Purpose – Pictures of cute animals or blinking objects do nothing for your site if they are just there to look pretty. Your graphics should enhance your site and serve as another medium to get your message across to your audience. Use them to emphasize your main points and make sure they are directly related to your business and the image you want to portray.

It’s important to remember the size of you graphics as you incorporate your designs into your Web site. Make sure your design is not so huge that visitors have to wait to see your pages.

Graphic and Web design professionals can help you achieve the perfect mix of images, colors, fonts and size to give you an attractive yet functional site that will encourage your visitors to find out more about you and your services.

Contact e-websmart today to get started!

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Beautiful Bras Fundraiser For Breast Cancer Awareness
May 30, 2010 9:02 AM | Tagged as Breast Cancer Awareness Auction

As a local Springfield personality, I was asked by The Wardrobe to decorate a bra for the Breast Cancer Awareness Auction. The bras will be on display at The Wardrobe for the public to vote on and then an auction will take place where people can bid on their favorite bra. Please stop by The Wardrobe to see all 50 beautiful brassieres and vote for your favorite one. Donations to benefit the Susan G. Komen Decatur Race for the Cure and the American Cancer Society.

The Wardrobe
830 South Grand Ave. West
Springfield, IL 62704

Store Hours:
Monday - Friday: 10am - 6pm
Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Sunday: 12pm - 4pm

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Cues to hues: what colors say about your business
May 30, 2010 9:03 AM | Tagged as color

Take a moment to consider your logo, brochures and other marketing materials. If someone unfamiliar with your company has your card in hand while perusing your Web site, will it be crystal clear to them that they’re researching the same business? Put another way, is there visual consistency between your business’ various types of marketing collateral?

There are many ways to tie marketing pieces together, but the most obvious—and immediate—way is with color.

Codes of color

When a designer works on an identity project (logo development, branding, etc.), quite a bit of thought is put into determining what color(s) will be used. Psychology plays an important role in color interpretation, so it’s necessary to have an understanding of how hues might cause the people (think possible customers) who view them to react.

Determining dominant colors that communicate your business’ personality and goals is key. It’s helpful for the person working closely with the designer to have a basic understanding of what colors tend to represent. Here’s a short list of colors and the impressions they often give:

  • Black – seriousness, quality
  • Blue – loyalty, truth, safety
  • Green – conservative, growth, nature
  • Orange – reliability, stability
  • Purple – royalty, sophistication
  • Red – power, passion, strength
  • White – innocence, purity
  • Yellow – cheerfulness, warmth

International impressions

Looking to go global? (Remember, if you have a Web site, you already have global presence!) It’s a good idea to check into cultural perceptions of color before deciding which will represent your business. Here are a few examples of how colors can vary depending on one’s background:

  • White is traditionally worn for weddings in Western culture, but Eastern inhabitants associate white with funerals.
  • Yellow is somewhat contradictory. In our culture it not only symbolizes joyfulness but also cowardice. Interestingly, in Japan yellow is the color of courage.
  • Red in India stands for purity and goodness. In Russia it is associated with communism.

What’s hot, what’s not

Another consideration worth taking into account is trends. While some businesses and their products won’t necessarily want to be viewed as trendy (e.g., conservative companies like investment firms or banks), others may benefit from using today’s “hip” colors (e.g., those marketing to a younger audience).

Many current color trends are inspired by technology. The surge of nifty iPods and sleek, cool phones have had an impact, elevating the popularity of metallic inks and papers to evoke a high-tech image.

And don’t forget the green movement! Eco-awareness is a big issue right now. An assortment of earth tones and natural colors—greens, browns, yellows, muted grays—represent organics and sustainability. A business emphasizing green products or services (organic lawn care, healthy foods/beverages, sustainable product design) will do well to reflect its values by using appropriate colors in marketing collateral.

Now that you’re armed with knowledge about the power of color, we’d love to hear your thoughts. How does your business’ color palette stack up? Do the colors represent your company the way you think they ought to? Or do you think color psychology is nonsense? We’d like to hear your views, from all sides.

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5 tips for a logo you’ll love
May 30, 2010 9:05 AM | Tagged as logos

It goes without saying that if you’ve got a business, you need a logo. A logo functions as a visual identity for your company, communicating who and what you are.

When working with your designer to create a logo, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you are presented with a mark that effectively represents your business. (And a professional designer should be brought on board—a logo is too important to wing with logo design software or worse, clip art.)

1. Provide a detailed brief.
This document presents detailed information that will help your designer understand the desired results of the project she is about to embark on. A brief may include a company profile, information about your clients and/or target audience, project objectives, and your budget and timeline.

There are entire books on briefs, but a Google search will turn up plenty of examples to peruse. Try searching under “creative design brief samples” or “design brief examples.”

2. Don’t put too many irons in the fire.
It’s ok to gather opinions from your staff, but don’t invite the whole company to the next meeting with your designer. Instead, ask your employees to review the first round of logo samples and ask for feedback. You can review the comments and highlight those you believe are most valid. Then you can present select concerns or questions when you chat with the designer again.

3. Set your own feelings aside.
It’s great if you love the finished product, but it’s NECESSARY for your target audience to love it. You may hate Blackletter font, but if it really resonates with your audience go ahead and use it anyway. Remember, it’s the audience who needs to remember who you are and what you’re selling.

4. Don’t say, “I’ll know it when I see it!”
This is a huge waste of time, and it doesn’t help your designer learn about your businesses’ values or goals. A great logo isn’t created by trial and error. The process of successful logo design requires a focused, creative strategy.

However, it can help to make notes of logos you like (and those you don’t). A new book, Really Good Logos Explained, is an excellent resource for reviewing real-world logos. Check it out—or present a copy to your designer—for ideas.

5. When presented with a final logo file, don’t tweak it.
You can really mess up a good logo by fiddling with it after receiving the file. A designer should submit Vector images, which allows the file to remain intact and maintain high-quality resolution. If additional changes are required, consult the designer before attempting alterations on your own.

Think of all the logos you’ve seen over the years. Which stand out to you? Which do you absolutely love? Which logos can’t you stand? Ever come across a really bad logo? Share your favorites— and your not-so-favorites—with us!

P.S. -- To examples of some of the logos we've designed, click here.

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Blogging: Time to jump on the bandwagon?
May 30, 2010 9:06 AM | Tagged as Blogging

Did you know that approximately 1.25 million small business owners (100 employees or less) publish a blog? (For those of you not familiar with this term, blog is short for web log. It’s an online collection of frequently updated commentary, pictures, and/or video.)

While many casual blogs—those posted by your average Joe/Jane—are little more than personal accounts of day-to-day events, more business blogs are emerging every day that boast informative content. Blogs are an excellent marketing technique, and an inexpensive one, too.

Maybe you’ve considered launching a blog. You’ve heard about this online phenomenon and wondered whether having one would be beneficial to your company. Still not sure what you think about blogs and business? We’ve compiled a few Q & A’s to help you become familiar with the basics of blogging.

Does my business need a blog?
Well, Entrepreneur magazine thinks so:

Several years ago, the mantra was “Every business needs a web site.” Today it's “Every business needs a web site with a blog.” No matter your industry, your prospects have come to expect a blog from your business.

We can’t say for sure if this is true. It’s unlikely that a site lacking a blog will deter clients from doing business with you. But publishing a blog—especially one with interesting and informative content—certainly can’t hurt.

A blog provides an outlet to share your knowledge and thoughts on your industry. And as you gain readers, they can chime in, too. This dialogue can be invaluable as it’s a way to gain direct feedback from readers (read: potential clients!).

Are there blogging “rules”?
Bloggers have a lot of creative freedom. You can pretty much write what you want. There is no predetermined structure to follow. Although most posts are relatively short, you can post as much information as you’d like as long as it’s well-written and organized. Including relevant links and images will help keep things interesting, too.

It’s also worth noting that the writing styles on blogs typically adopt a conversational tone. So, save the sales-speak for cold calling and stay a bit more casual when in blogging mode.

What should I blog about?
You can use your blog to announce new products or services. You can also ask for feedback from readers. Blogging falls under the Web 2.0 umbrella, and the comment feature is key in allowing—encouraging, really—readers to respond to posts.

Here are some other ideas for blog content:

  • Audio or video clips
  • E-books
  • Pictures
  • Facts, figures, and stats
  • Industry news

Need more ideas for blog content? Check this out.

Ok, I’m convinced. How do I get started?
It couldn’t be easier to set up a blog, and many services are free.

WordPress – free basic account; upgrade to extra features starting around $10/year.

TypePad – packages start at $4.95/month, but a 14-day free trial is available. Try it and see if you like it.

Blogger – free accounts, easy to use, some features. Great for new bloggers who want to deal with as little tech stuff as possible.

And if you’ve totally got blogging on the brain, check out these excellent articles on the Duct Tape Marketing site.

Now that you know a little more about the business of blogging, tell us your thoughts on launching your own blog. Or, for those of you who already have a blog, has your business benefited from it? How so?

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Web 2.0 -- What the heck is it?
May 30, 2010 9:07 AM | Tagged as social media

Facebook. Friendster. Orkut…the list goes on and on. With all the different social media sites available these days, it can be overwhelming for a virtual networking newbie to get started. You don’t want to spend a ton of time setting up a profile and inviting people to join your network only to discover you aren’t making the connections you wanted. So, we’ve noted four popular sites that you may have heard about. We suggest that, if you find the premise of these sites interesting, you try them out to see if they’re compatible with your business’ networking goals.

As one of the most popular social networking sites today, MySpace is a huge draw to certain groups of people. For musicians, it’s a no-brainer to have a MySpace page. Same for independent artists and amateur filmmakers. But small businesses or non-profit groups? Not so much.

No matter what type of profile you set up, chances are you’ll still be bombarded with requests for matchmaking and dating services. Advertising opportunities are available using banner ads, but they probably won’t do much good unless you are marketing to a younger audience (teens and young adults) and if your product happens to fall in the entertainment industry.

Our take: Unless your company is focused on the arts, hang out at MySpace for entertainment, not business purposes.

This site is all about videos, from silly homemade movies to TV show clips to clever independent skits. There are ways for businesses to take advantage of YouTube, however.

When we explored YouTube while researching this piece, we came across a series of clips on how to create simple hairstyles and give certain cuts by a salon owner. Each clip was short—under 5 minutes—and offered bits of digestible, useful information. The segments were preceded by a title page highlighting the salon’s name. Not a bad idea for promoting a business!

Our take: Why not try creating a short informational clip and uploading it? You can then post a link to it on your web site so visitors can learn more about your business. And in the meantime you’ll be offering some valuable and free information, which will be appreciated by your customers. (Kind of like offering a newsletter with informational, helpful content…hmmm….)

Finally—a site that’s designed specifically for professionals looking to make connections with other professionals! Over 20 million professionals use LinkedIn from all over the world, and more than 150 industries are represented. It’s free to join the site, although for those looking for additional features a paid membership is available. You can use LinkedIn to search for jobs or find potential clients, service providers, and subject experts, all who come with recommendations.

Our take: LinkedIn seems to be highly praised by the professionals who use it …like me. One print production professional has this to say: “I have had great luck finding freelancers. I sent requests for introductions and within a few days I had a few people to discuss opportunities with. I think it is an excellent tool.”
This site is very similar to LinkedIn, but it’s been known to take on a bit more of an informal, social approach. You can still make business contacts, however. Ryze is smaller than LinkedIn, claiming to have over 250,000 members in 200 countries. And, same as LinkedIn, memberships are free with an option to upgrade to a paid account boasting extra features.

Our take: It’s worth a try…lots of good things are being said about Ryze. If you aren’t satisfied you aren’t out anything except the two minutes it takes to create a profile, especially if you start with the free membership (the wise choice).

So which social networking site is right for you? Only you can make this decision. Go ahead and try different networks and see what works best for your business. Check around and ask colleagues about their experiences, too, asking which sites worked for them, which didn’t, and why. Good luck, and welcome to Web 2.0!


More on MySpace
Here’s a thorough overview of using MySpace for business. It’s not a very favorable review, but it’s always good to hear varying opinions.

Top o’ the list
Wondering where the social networking sites are? Wikipedia has compiled a list of the forerunners:

Tangled webs
Still not sure what the term Web 2.0 means? Here’s an explanation by Tim O’Reilly, technology guru.

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Oh My Dog Some New Sites We've Launched Recently
May 30, 2010 9:08 AM | Tagged as new sites

We've been busy working on several projects for our clients. Be sure to check out our portfolio as we update it often!

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Oh My Dog! A Bow Wow Boutique Oh My Dog!
May 30, 2010 9:10 AM | Tagged as Oh My Dog

We recently completed a logo for Melissa Klemm (who happens to be my sister) for her new doggie boutique. Within the next few months, Melissa will launch her Web site where site visitors can purchase unique doggie clothing and accessories.

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Rock My World e-websmart awarded for Rock My World Logo
May 30, 2010 9:11 AM | Tagged as Rock My World Logo

So excited to share that we received a silver ADDY at the 2008 Central Illinois Advertising Association ADDY Awards last Friday in the category of "elements of advertising" for our Rock My World logo design. The ADDY Awards Competition is a three-tiered international competition conducted annually by the American Advertising Federation. Our Rock My World logo will advance to the district level competition and winners in the second tier of the competition will be notified in late April.

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Keep Your Web Site Fresh By Michelle
May 30, 2010 9:12 AM | Tagged as updating

Keep Your Web Site Fresh

Ok, be honest…when was the last time your company’s Web site was updated? If the “last updated on…” sentence notates months long gone, it’s time to get things back on track.

The best way to keep a site fresh is to change content often. It’s a good idea to add something new every week if possible. The entire site doesn’t have to be rewritten, of course—just provide a bit of new information on a regular basis.

So what sort of content should you offer? Read on to find out how to keep your site visitors coming back for more.

Create a News section or What’s New page
A page dedicated to what’s happening with your business is crucial to keeping customers in the loop. Anything relevant to your business goes here, including employee acknowledgements and awards, a nod to your clients (they’ll appreciate the free publicity), or anything else that seems worthy of an announcement. Other ideas include:

Press releases – post any releases sent to the media on your site.

Events – hosting a workshop or attending a conference? This type of involvement shows that your company makes a continuous effort to stay active in and connected to its area of expertise.

Pictures – digital technology makes it simple to post recent pictures of your employees, store, or products.

Newsletters – do you publish a newsletter? Consider offering downloadable PDFs of past issues.

Add a blog
“Catch up…or catch you later” reads an article in Newsweek magazine in reference to business blogging. Publishing a blog is one way to promote your company without worrying that the media will misquote you or print incorrect information. You have total control over what’s posted and can edit anything at any time. Blog accounts often cost nothing—I love for an example of a free, easy-to-use blogging service.

Offer something for free
Who doesn’t like to get free stuff? Add value to your site by offering something your visitors can really use: information. You might consider offering a free report or article. If possible, change your freebies every so often, maybe once a month or so. Sharing knowledge helps build company credibility, too—a big plus for honing relationships with valued customers.

Get a facelift
A complete overhaul—reworking design, content, everything—might be worth considering, but only if there’s a problem with your current Web site that keeps visitors from delving deeper into it that or deters them from coming back (common culprits include poor navigation, poorly written copy, bad graphic design, slow download time, etc). Don’t just change your site because you’re bored with its visual appeal, but if you’ve just cause to make a big change (e.g., your scope of products/services have changed or your business name has been revised) it may be time to implement a new look.

When considering that a static site offers little value to return customers, suddenly setting aside some time to update doesn’t seem like such a burden. A site that displays regular activity shows that you care about maintaining your business, which may be just the thing to keep customers coming back to see what’s new with you on a regular basis.


Google to the rescue
Don’t have time to spend researching the latest news in your industry? Sign up for Google Alerts ( News and info relevant to your business is delivered straight to your inbox. Get an overview about how the service works here.

Really simple solutions
RSS documents (also called “feeds” or “web feeds”) are another way to have select content delivered directly to you, eliminating the need to check in with your favorite sites all the time.

Start your search for relevant feeds here:

Syndic8 -
Feedster -

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e-websmart is settled at new location!
May 30, 2010 9:13 AM | Tagged as new location

Well, it's been a little over two months since I've moved into my new office space. I am happy to report that it has been a wonderful move. We had alot to do to make the space fit my needs and personality -- but the end result is fabulous.

Joel, my family, and our good friends, Todd and Misty Hannah, helped us paint, clean, replace some flooring, and hang new fixtures. My hand painted furniture by local artist, Stacey Boll, brings the space to life.

To really appreciate the transformation process --you have to see the before and after pictures.

If you are in the area...come on by. The coffee is always hot!

Posted in Recent News | 0 Replies

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