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Through it all

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So, It's march 9, 2012.  I am 44 today.  Man where did it go?  I have lived a pretty wild life.  I am well travelled within the states and a few surrounding countries.  I have been a football hero, a leader and a follower, a soldier, a salesman, a developer, a manager, and  a husband to 2 and a father of 5.  I have been told that I was never what I needed to be and exactly what I was suppose to be.  I have stood in the fields of war and laid in a bed of roses.  When all the sticks and stones started breaking my spirit, you were there.  When others turned against me and screamed the words we dread hearing, you were there to pick up the pieces.  When my friends became my enemies, you stood beside me and waved our flag of courage.  You still stand beside me today, through it all.  So thank you so much for your friendship, your love, your understanding and kindness even when I didn't deserve it.

To my family (real and extended)

QR Codes and how can they help me?

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WTH!?  QR Codes?  Are QR Codes really viable for marketing? Wait a minute, I’m not Gucci, Ford or some other big brand… Indeed, you may not be a big brand–I would argue, as I have done for several clients, QR Codes are not just for the big boys.  A good understanding of your customer and how QR Codes can be used can help you make the decision to QR or not to QR.

QR Paul ReedWhat is a QR Code

Wikipedia tells us a QR Code is, “a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera 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.”

Blah, blah, blah… A QR Code is a scannable/readable barcode that allows you to share text, data or a URL with people. Anyone with a smart phone (Android, iPhone, etc) and a QR Code reader can play along.

A QR Code can be almost anywhere, Calvin Klein replaced their racy billboard ads with a “Get It Uncensored” strategy, Best Buy used QR Codes to enhance shopping, and Mashable has featured 5 Creative Uses for QR Codes.

You basically only need 3 key elements for QR Code marketing:

  1. Customers with a smart phone and QR Code reader,
  2. Free or paid application to create QR Codes, and
  3. A compelling reason/place for QR Codes to be used that your customers (or potentials) will recognize and be willing to scan.  (This is the critical element.)

QR Codes from a Users Perspective

QR Code readers do not come pre-installed on smart phones and it is likely the majority of your audience, at this point in the game, will not recognize or feel compelled to participate in the QR Code party.  That said, QR Code scanning is increasing, particularly among the Gen Y, affluent or techie markets.

Adoption of QR Codes is soon to spread with big brands, major retailers and even the government starting to use QR Codes. Smart phone sales have far out-paced stupid phones (non-smart), while iPhone and Android markets have matured significantly.  Needless to say, there are a ton of respectable drivers behind adoption of QR Codes.

Popular QR Code applications include QR Droid (for Android phones) and Neo Reader (for iPhones).  There are also several brands and websites installing QR Code readers as part of their own application, like TriOut (check out Wayne Sutton’s excellent post on their latest iPhone application which includes a QR Code reader.)

QR Codes from a Business Perspective

As a business, you’re probably thinking this is way out of your technical scope.  You’re wrong.  That’s the beauty of QR Codes, they are relatively easy, free and painless to create.  Seriously, the harder part is figuring out if and how to implement them.  Creation is the easy part.

My favorite QR Code creation tool is MyQR.co, which includes analytics into every free account so you can easily track if anyone is even scanning your pretty little codes.  Your QR Code analytics will tell you how often they were scanned, from what devices (Android versus iPhone) and user location.  You can even brand them with color to match your website, printing, etc.

QR Codes from a Marketing Perspective

Now comes the real dilemma, if and when to use QR Codes for your “not-a-big-brand” business.  Rather than go down a long list of do’s and don’ts, I thought it would be more helpful to showcase the many ways my clients and others are using QR Codes in their marketing, with some helpful hints.

Offline Marketing

Back of business cards: Many of my solopreneur, consulting and speaking clients are using QR Codes on the back of their business cards (in addition to a URL) to direct offline contacts to their website or free-no-strings report/whitepaper/offer (PDF).  Scans have been far higher than expected and many have increased their offline to online engagement as a result.

Presentation materials: A great addition (and easy to add) to any presentation materials you are distributing to clients, groups, and audiences that links them to additional resources and information about you, your services, or educational materials.

In-store locations: Windows, menus and other places to promote a special discount for their current/next visit.

Packaging and labels: I have a luxury brand, strategic consulting client that is including QR Codes on product boxes for each seasonal line (Spring, Summer & Fall) that will direct consumers to a branded content video featuring fashion tips/advice for that particular item.

Online Marketing

Digital publishing: A current strategic consulting client, digital publishing company, is including QR Codes that link directly to sample chapter downloads and additional branded content (video from author, etc) to promote sales of the book.

Real estate: A current strategic consulting client, real estate broker, has included QR Codes on all home promotional items (on-location and online) that include a branded video showing of the house, complete with show schedule and broker contact information.

QR Code Possibilities

What you need to remember, and this holds true for everything you do in marketing–focus on your customers and potentials.  Every marketing tool may not be worth your time to implement.  The same holds true for QR Codes.  Let this help guide you:

Does my audience fit into the Android, iPhone user category? If so, are they likely to adopt QR Codes now or in the future?

How do QR Codes make sense for my business? At what touchpoint do they make sense?  To collect leads?  To enhance the experience of current customers?  To offer discounts, promotions or special offers?  To offer additional content, guidance, education?  Just for fun?

What is my plan to test QR Codes in my business? What is my goal?  What am I offering or creating the QR Code to do?  How will I promote the QR Code?  How does the QR Code tie into the rest of my marketing?  How will I track success or failure?

Onward and upward!

What's so social about Social Media

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Today's marketing gurus are completely engulfed in the on going war to rise to the top of the almighty Google.  We watch from our little corner of the south as they battle to claim the ever benevilant first position in whatever vertical market the battle rages in today. facetwit prev

Well you know what?

In the social world Google is NOT king.  There . . . I said it.  No!  Say it isn't so!!! That's right folks the king has found that it can't play in the social world with the likes of Facebook and Twitter.  It is just too much.  In fact, Facebook has a 30 to 1 ratio over Google+.  The reason?

Facebook has a great stickiness because of the bonding of friends.  People use facebook for relatives to get together and catch up or to find those high school friends they haven't talked to in 10 years.  Maintaining the relationships in their lives is easier with Facebook. 

Marketing to all of your friends on Facebook really does not work.  The key is to educate them.  For example, lets say I started blogging that all my friends needed to buy a website today.  "Buy a website." "Buy a website."   I might get one person who needed a website to purchase one out of all of my friends.  Most of my business friends have a website so they would not buy one, but let's take the same set of friends and explain the process of getting seen on google with an optimization plan.  Suddenly, they start to understand the value of SEO.  I have educated them on the process not just tried to sell them a site. 

What's so social about Social Media? Give a man a fish he will eat good that day.  Teach a man how to fish and he will eat good for a lifetime and hopefully tell others where he learned it.

QR Codes to drive traffic

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  By now you've probably seen this type of image in stores that you frequent.  JC Penny, Best Buy, even Target are utilizing these little things to get folks to their sites.  So what the heck is it?

Studio Blue Creative- Search Engine Optimization Video

In short it is what the call a Quick Response Code (QR Code)  for short.  It's job is simple.  It is a link for phones.  It allows the phone to jump directly to a specific area of your website

So lets say you were a Grocer and  selling a new type of Apple by implementing a QR Code you could direct folks to the new apples while they were in the store.  Even better?  place the QR Code in a mailer and when scanned you now have them thinking about the apples when they are not in the store.  This is a huge traffic driver.

Don't miss the boat.  Call Studio Blue Creative at 888-881-7323 today to get started with an interactive marketing plan for your company.

How to Interpret a Website

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framework web analytics

Talking to your web designer can be a daunting task for many marketers. Many times, you walk away completely clueless about what just happened or you've had to ask so many questions that everyone ends up getting frustrated.

Sometimes you simply try your best to follow along, but then you aren't completely satisfied with the resulting product. It's time to put an end to all the madness! Below you'll learn the three basics building blocks of all websites so you can be well on your way to understanding the technical aspects of your website. Armed with this knowledge, you'll be able to finally understand and communicate with your website designer so future website projects turn out just like you want them to.

1. HTML: Website Structure

Right click on the page you're currently reading, and click View Source Code or View (Page) Source.' You'll probably see a jumbled mess of < and > signs and strange words that you don't understand. If you scan carefully, you'll be able to read the text of this blog post part of the way down, but it'll be broken up with strange tags. Those tags are HTML. 

html

HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language, which might sound daunting at first, but essentially it's just a system for giving meaning to the content on your website. HTML is used to structure the content in a web page.

It defines things like this section is the sidebar or this text is a list or this word is a link. With HTML, all of that jumbled text comes together into a nicely structured, finished web page. But while HTML gives your content structure, it does not specify how that content should actually appear on the web page. That is a tricky thing for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. But by saying this is a link or this is my sidebar, you're not actually specifying how those things should look. After all, websites are infinitely customizable the links on your website might look totally different than the links on another website.

Learn More About HTML: On any modern content management system (CMS), you won't need to actually write the HTML to build your website it's generated automatically. But you'll usually have the ability to add bits of custom HTML. For example, when you embed a YouTube video in a blog post, you're working with raw HTML code. So while you may want to avoid jumping into the HTML of your website (leave it to the professionals!), you can still learn by playing around on W3Schools. That site has a great tutorial that'll walk you through the basics and give you the opportunity to edit code right on their site so you can practice writing real HTML.


2. CSS: Website Appearance

The appearance of your website's content is set using CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets. Using CSS, you can easily change the appearance of your website and makes changes that are site-wide. For example, on the HubSpot CMS, all blog article titles are automatically wrapped in H2 header tags (that's HTML). If we decided we wanted to make our titles appear in a larger font, we could change the font-size property for all H2 tags in our site's CSS, and the change would be site-wide automatically.

h2-tag-resized-600

h2 tag resized 600While it might seem unimportant, the separation of site structure (HTML) from site appearance (CSS) serves a very significant role. By separating the structure of your site from its appearance, you can easily make aesthetic changes to your website even entire site redesigns without having to go through every single page and changing the underlying HTML.

Sometimes as marketers, we'll slap together a quick HTML hack (using inline styles) to force a page to look a certain way, but this is frowned upon in the web design community and generally a bad practice for your website. It creates a mess of code that's hard to update and maintain, which isn't good for your website in the long term.

Learn More About CSS: If you want to make aesthetic changes to your website, you should try learning some basic CSS. It's very easy to get started, and it's much simpler than programming. W3Schools, as mentioned above, can help you get started learning basic CSS.

CSS is usually defined in a separate file from the HTML of a given web page, so you'll need to get access to your site's CSS usually called a stylesheet if you want to make changes. Always remember to keep a backup copy of your site's original CSS in case you accidentally goof something up and ruin your website! With great power, comes great responsibility.


3. Javascript: Website Behavior

With HTML and CSS, you can build out the structure of your page and define how that structure should look aesthetically. For a lot of websites, this is all you'll need. But what if you want your site to actually do something, like pop up a message window when a visitor has been on your site for a certain amount of time or to confirm that a visitor actually wants to exit out of the page?

pop-up-window-resized-600

The behavior of a website is generally defined using Javascript. Your website probably has Javascript on it without you even realizing; most web analytics use Javascript to track how long visitors stay on your site, where they're coming from, and all sorts of other things.

Javascript is a full-on programming language, so it'll take some time to learn and is probably best left to professional web developers. However, there are tons of great resources if you want to dive in and learn some Javascript.

Learn More About Javascript: If you're really eager to actually learn Javascript, codecademy is a great site for total beginners, which teaches you how to write code in Javascript.

In review, HTML is for structure and defines how your site is laid out; CSS is for appearance and defines how that layout will look to a visitor; and Javascript defines the behavior of your website. At advanced levels, these three languages can be very complex and should generally be left to professional web designers. However, a passing understanding will help you sort through the alphabet soup of buzzwords you're likely to hear if you decide to work with a web designer.

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