Tags: small business blog

Curated Content Marketing: Creating Stories with Social Media

Beyond • June 13, 2013

21st century marketing involves a lot of content. Great content is what gets your business noticed and talked about. But unfortunately, not all business owners are writers. There’s the option of hiring a writer, but a lot of small businesses don’t have the budget for a decent writer. Conversely, most business owners don’t have the time or patience to plow through the content development process themselves. If they do, it’s almost statistical that after a few efforts they give up simply because it’s something they struggle with. The alternative, and a popular one at that, is to curate content off of other channels. Some of the top apps to do this (in addition to the ones I discussed last week) include Storify, Pinterest and Tumblr. Creating Stories Using Social Media Developed in mind as an alternative mode of journalism, Storify lets you turn curated content into stories. Transform tweets, photos and blog content from various networks into creative content plugs. Storify has a really easy-to-use platform that lets you sync social media together. Once logged in, start by choosing a topic. Storify browses various outlets to offer you the best of what’s out there on your topic. Use the field results to weave together a story that’s practically been served to you on a digital platter. Best for: Businesses looking to create stories or offer news-worthy content. If you’re not in the business of original content creation, you can still use Storify to share relevant info/photos of industry-related happenings. Capture Audience Imagination with Pinterest Pinterest is a feast for your eyes, and first captured mine on Facebook where hoards of users were using it to share favorite images. It’s a virtual mood or interest board where you can share your favorite finds. It’s super easy to use, allowing you to collect and “pin” favorite finds as you browse the net. You can have individually labeled boards based on your various interests. The platform works primarily because a picture is a quick way to communicate an idea. It appeals to the imagination and it takes seconds to consume, as opposed to text content. Best for: Visual/design oriented businesses like graphic designers, artists, interior designers, fashion designers, e-commerce, etc. It’s best if you use it to showcase your own work but also include all your various interests and finds from other sources. Just like with blogging, no one wants to see just one narrow view, but rather an eclectic and inspired assortment of content that still stays true to a narrative or tone. Pair Blogging and Visuals with Tumblr Part blog, part mood board, Tumblr is a hot competitor to Pinterest. While Pinterest only really lets you plug visuals, Tumblr allows you to have an inspiration board but also plug in a humble blog via text along with quotes, links, chats, and audio/video content. As a bonus over Pinterest, Tumblr users can also use their own domain; since Pinterest isn’t a blogging platform, it doesn’t allow for the same personalization. Best for: Small businesses that target young adult consumers. The Good and the Bad of Curated Content Note that the downside of curating content is that you risk losing an authentic voice. Having a unique voice is essential to your branding and in making you stand out from the crowd. If you’re struggling to start, begin with curating content; after that, make an effort to mix curated content with your own original content. The benefit of pairing both original and curated content is that you show your audience you’re more than just about your own voice. You show you’re capable of original ideas but that you’re also in the know and willing to share great ideas from others.


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Online Marketing Tips: How to Get Noticed Online

Online Marketing Tips: How to Get Noticed Online

Beyond • December 30, 2011

Are you a DJ, a house cleaner, a landscaper or any local service professional who is trying to get more customers? Good thing you’re living in an era where there are countless venues available for you to market yourself. Here are some easy steps to getting noticed online. Prove You Exist! First, get your potential customers to discover you. How else can people avail themselves of the services you provide without advertising yourself? And whatever you do, don’t depend on word-of-mouth advertising. Although it comes in handy in the long run, there are many other ways that you can get your customers to know about you quickly and affordably. One of these is through social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and more. Another way is to join and list your business on e-commerce sites like Google Places, Yelp or Thumbtack (our company!). Aside from that, you can also publish yourself online by keeping a blog or a simple website that doesn’t require you to hire a web designer. Since the accessibility of social media and e-commerce sites takes competition in the market to a higher level, you would then need to take into consideration how to make the public get to notice you more. Among the thousands of professionals who are posting their services online, you need to provide more reliable information relating to you as a professional. Since customers only see pictures and read information online, they are wary about whom they will contact and hire. Here are some things your potential clients will consider: Create Credibility Customers want to know if you’re a legitimate professional. Provide information such as your certification, license, insurance and anything else that shows your credentials. Offer Great Customer Service The best way to gain customers is to provide excellent customer service. Let your customers feel they are valued by sticking to your promise and commitment to provide the services they need. Whether this includes technical support, a good attitude, smart knowledge or quality service, do it well and in a timely manner. Set Reasonable Pricing Remember that a reasonable price is not necessarily the lowest price. According to Whatis.com, “A fair and reasonable price is the price point for a good or service that is fair to both parties involved in the transaction.” This amount provides the best total value that compromises the delivery time, availability, payment terms, quality, quantity and service. Don’t under-price and don’t over-price. Guaranteed Service Other than quality service, customers feel safe getting services from you if you provide a service guarantee. This is the statement that clarifies what your customers can expect from you, as well as what you will do to alter the situation if your services do not meet their expectations. With this, your customers will be confident that you really will do the job right. Another way to boost your business is through a referral program. This marketing strategy will help you expand your network by giving incentives to clients who send you new business. You can do this by giving every satisfied customer a flyer describing your referral program. You can also mail out information regarding your referral program to your business contacts and inactive clients, or promote it through your email signature, blog or website. This is a great way to motivate your clients to keep doing business with you. They might also see it as a simple way of thanking you for the excellent service you provided, as well as a way to show your clients how you truly appreciate their confidence in your work. When you deliver high quality services to your clients, these clients can help you gain more business by providing great reviews. This is basically word-of-mouth marketing but in a written form. These reviews are a testament of what kind of service you deliver. And remember: No matter what else you do, you should always remember that excellent service is the best key to a successful business. Love your job, and do it well, and you will succeed.


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Marketing Automation Software Highlights (Part 2)

Marketing Automation Software Highlights (Part 2)

Beyond • December 29, 2011

Last week I introduced the best of the best when it comes to marketing automation software. Because marketing has diversified exponentially over the last five to ten years, marketing needs are now greater than ever. There’s a lot more to do and tons of ways to do it. So it comes as no surprise that businesses striving to meet the needs of marketers are swiftly competing to offer the best automation software, including the three below. Genius: Big Plans, Low Prices Genius – Divided into two main users, Genius recognizes two types of marketers: Small Business and Professional Marketers. Small business needs are unique in that they have the same needs as the big dogs but can’t afford the same price tag. They also are the DIY types that at best have a very small (likely minimally skilled) team to carry out a marketing campaign. “Genius Small Business” ropes in leads with manageable marketing that’s planned and easy to execute with no special training. On the other hand, “Genius Pro Marketer” is a more aggressive marketing outreach that includes social media marketing, tracking, real-time sales alerts and lead nurturing. It’s free to sign up for Genius, but to get more out of it you’ll have to go with a paid upgrade. Their packages range from “Genius Nuclear” ($330/month); “Genius Fusion” ($220/month); and “Genius Custom,” which lets build your own package for an adjusted rate. Pardot: Marketing Time in the Cloud Pardot tells you where to look. A cloud-based solution, Pardo helps your team track where most of your marketing time should go so you can maximize your return on investment (ROI). They also look for “buying signals” both on and off your site to track. They then teach you how to nurture these leads and convert them into sales. Geared for business to business needs, Pardot is designed for those that don’t need any frills, especially when it comes to the price point. You pay for what you need and aren’t committed to any long-term contracts. Small businesses that aren’t willing to pay the price need to step aside to make way for businesses willing to invest in results. Pardot packages start at $1K month – a price that, among other features, includes unlimited users, 50 lead nurturing programs, 100 MB file hosting, 50 Automation rules, social media tracking, 50 landing pages and live weekly training. Marketbright: Optimizing Lead Channels Marketbright – Also a cloud-based software, Marketbright focuses on collecting leads by optimizing all the channels through which leads naturally come your way. This includes your website through signup forms, white paper downloads, event registration and optimized landing pages. The software also empowers your sales team by making it easier for them to make use of marketing content syndication. Everyone knows it takes months to go from a lead to a sale, which includes a lot of courting with back and forth emails and calls. And when you have more than just one lead (as you should), it can be pretty tough to stay on top of it all; something always slips through the cracks. Marketbright’s dialogue automation makes sure that you’re on top of nurturing your leads with automated programs that “deliver a sequence of relevant and personalized communications (newsletters, case studies, white papers or invitations to events) at appropriate intervals.” The really neat feature here is that individual team members can not only quickly access content, but they can do so through their own Act-On accounts. Marketbright also hosts a very comprehensive resources page and a tools page to help you get everything you need out of it. With month-to-month contracts, Marketbright offers an affordable $500 a month price point, which includes all available capabilities. When choosing your budget, especially with a software like Marketbright, it’s important to consider how many leads you plan on contacting each month, including both old and new contacts via email marketing.


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The Future of Small Business: 2012 Marketing Trends

The Future of Small Business: 2012 Marketing Trends

Beyond • December 28, 2011

Marketing can be described as a chameleon, always in transition and shifting to meet its current needs. In 2011 we saw a major shift toward simplifying information in a way that mimicked Twitter’s short information stream. The rise in image platforms like Tumblr and Pinterest highlight this trend. Even Facebook recently caught on to this with the newly introduced Timelines, which offers more bite-sized information. This essentially led to a two-fold marketing application. First, marketing requires a lot more content, both textual and graphic, in order for it to be relevant and keep audience interest. Second, marketers need to adapt newer platforms that cater to a niche method of delivery but that still appeal to a wide user base. So what’s in store for 2012? Check out our top picks below… Developments in Mobile Technology Mobile needs, especially mobile e-commerce apps, were a huge hit in 2011. Next year, the technology is expected to advance with Near Field Communication that of course will be implemented into iPhones. What this does is let a consumer pay by swiping their phone instead of their credit card. What it means is that more people will be expected to make mobile payments, in turn re-emphasizing the need for your business to be mobile friendly. Marketing is also going mobile with Siri, which was out in 2011 but will really catch on in 2012 as a must have tool. What to Expect with Marketing Platforms Understanding marketing starts with Google Analytics, the lifeline of any website. Absolutely every business needs to have it and understand the metrics because next year the stakes go up with more refined technology that lets you track your visitors. You can monitor site traffic in real-time and instantly respond to needs with software that’s more sensitive to conversions. But there’s a lot more to online marketing than just your website – there’s the whole internet and a bubbling array of creative platforms, including new media channels. New media (which includes social media) isn’t just a trend, but the way we live. This year alone saw at least 2 dozen new platforms pop up on the social horizon. Some are great, some not so much, and some offer a select purpose. But the fact remains that there’s more than just one way to syndicate content and more than enough pools of people to tap into for leads cultivation. 2011 has also seen a rise in software services, especially those that help you manage complex and multi-channel marketing campaigns. Expect more of that in 2012, including competitive service and pricing. If this isn’t your field, then consider how you can take the principles of simplifying your business needs to your own clients. Anticipate their needs, simplify their lives and you’ve got a loyal customer. Do this with intelligent idea management that harnesses the innovation already accruing within your network of associates, partners and employees. Understanding What the Internet Is Really All About The internet is about content. If content is king now, wait till next year when the next wave of iPads and Kindles are expected to come out. Cheaper and more accessible content means customers want more of it. So make sure you’ve got someone who can produce killer content that gets you noticed…and gets your content syndicated through social sharing. Beyond content, the internet has become a sharing hotbed. While social media encouraged sharing, marketers have not just noted an increase in users talking about their products, but that developers have responded by making sharing easier. With this comes the idea of engaging your customers and audience in whatever digital waterhole they flock to.


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5 Must-Know Tips for Boosting Marketing Productivity

5 Must-Know Tips for Boosting Marketing Productivity

Beyond • December 20, 2011

Let’s face it, there’s a lot on your marketing plate and it all has to get done. Is the biggest workload portion usually heaped onto you? Then doubly so if you’re a single staffer business. Use the tips below to help you make the most of your marketing hours: 1. Manage Incoming Information – Part of your job is keeping abreast on news, new trends and industry information. You use Facebook, Twitter, newsletters and blogs…and you could easily spend all day gathering information. Dragging incoming information throughout the day does two things. One, it keeps you from being able to filter junk info from valuable info; and secondly, it wastes a lot of time. Manage your information gathering with one scheduled hour a day, either at the beginning or at the end of the day. Make use of Google alerts, Twitter lists, curated content sites, Tweetdeck…anything that can streamline information for you. 2. Understand How Your Mind Works – Everyone works differently. Know what works for you and what doesn’t. If creating a daily list is your thing, then keep doing it even if everyone else has moved on to apps and iPads. Some of us are still old school and the older ways of doing things are what keep us productive and moving forward. Case in point, every time I go to social media seminars, I see most people there toting ipads and laptops. At first I thought I was a caveman for not having mine – but then I noticed that pretty much everyone is using tech to web browse. No one has ever used it to interact with the seminar or take notes. Remember, just because everyone’s using something or looking “techie” doesn’t mean it’s helping them keep up with what’s going on. 3. Say No More – Marketing is a business for some people, and as such they want you involved, attending, participating. Other colleagues of yours will want you to attend their events, and expect you to show your support. Same with any networking groups you’re in. In a nutshell, the more social you are, the more you’re expected to “be supportive” or “get involved,” which at times can be a valuable opportunity for you to network - but it can easily suck your time away. Get used to saying no…a lot. Tell people you’ll have to check your schedule before committing to any engagement and then actually do it. 4. Distract Yourself – You’re not a work mule or suffering indentured servitude. You’re doing what you love and it should stay that way. So make sure you’re taking breaks, getting outdoors and doing what it takes to keep creative. Take a lunch break to a favorite eatery or a walk down a fun local area. You’ll be a lot more productive if you don’t treat your job like it’s slave labor you’re subjected to from 9 to 5 (or 7 to 9 if you work for yourself). If you’re an independent business owner, this rule applies to you more so than anyone else! 5. Use the Right Tools – There are plenty of formidable platforms and programs that will help you get the job done faster. This becomes a bit of a trial and error process. You’ll try out one or two programs and see whether it meets your needs, perhaps try a couple more, before you finally choose one that works for you. If you have employees, keep in mind that what works for one employee won’t work for another, so give them a little breathing room to choose the right one for them. Regardless of what you settle upon as your personal choice, you should be using some type of time management software.


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Unlocking the Potential of Personal’s Private Data Vault

Unlocking the Potential of Personal’s Private Data Vault

Beyond • December 19, 2011

“You had me at hello” is what I thought about Personal the minute I checked out their website. I just want my life made simpler, more streamlined, and Personal arrives at my digital doorstep. Their beautiful site, the clean layout and, more importantly, its practical and timely platform are a user’s dream come true. So what is Personal? Personal is a free secure digital data vault that stores your information. From personal data as important as your account numbers, as trivial as your favorite recipe, to business data, including your contact lists, for example. Personal takes digital conversion to the next level – it makes it functional and accessible, much like cloud technology, and you can access it from anywhere anytime. How Personal Works Stored data is neatly compartmentalized into what Personal refers to as “Gems.” A user’s dashboard of Gems will look a lot like monotone iPad apps – easy to identify and use. Beyond that, Gems can be shared with others by being classified as public, and other users can access the information by downloading it. Any user can quickly keep up with “Gem activity” so you can keep abreast on what Gem exchanges have been taking place. You can share gems to a contact or email address, which from a business perspective makes communication much more fluid. You no longer have to burden yourself with digital files stored on your computer or mobile. But unlike some other similar sounding platforms, not just anyone has access to your network of Gems. You choose your personal network of contacts and you choose if and what you want to share with a broader public community. Personal’s Business Molding Potential While Personal founders understood the appeal of creating digital vaults of information, the interest really stems from the ability to share the information with others. The idea of social sharing and communal information networks is no longer a trend – it’s the way we live and the way we do business. So much like PearlTrees, the idea that useful information will always be shared and that sharing it is a mutually advantageous arrangement, is what makes the creation and perpetuation of such platforms a current favorite among developers. The idea is for everyday people to turn to Personal to store their data. The next step is creating a platform where Personal automatically sources the data and then offers the appropriate data to an authorized individual. The core concept is to eliminate the need for that burden of signing forms in triplicate (times however many number of forms). Now a user can authorize Personal data to sort these forms for them. The business potential here is monumental on both the B2C and B2B end. From a business to consumer end, users can authorize business owners to extract the necessary information needed for a transaction, a membership, etc.; on the business to business end, executive personnel no longer have to deal with long tiresome paperwork. On both sides, information is clearly communicated quickly, effectively and efficiently. Tedious work that would otherwise have taken much longer to do (and in the case of B2C transactions, deterred consumers) is streamlined into one quick strike. Naturally the biggest question mark gets placed on just how much emphasis Personal places on privacy. Business owners can rest assured that Personal has also taken great strides to ensure that private data stays private. Aside from being involved with the “Privacy by Design” Program, Personal user data vaults can be accessed with a user-chosen password that Personal doesn’t store. Beyond that, not even Personal employees can access private data and they’ve ensured that their 256-bit SSL encryption will keep hackers at bay.


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Book Review: Small Business, Big Vision by Adam & Matthew Toren

Book Review: Small Business, Big Vision by Adam & Matthew Toren

Beyond • December 15, 2011

Let’s face it - you can’t throw a rock without hitting a book on how to start (and run) a small business. Unfortunately, like Roseanne Barr’s declaration that women are all married to the same man, there’s so much overlap in business advice today that it probably feels like we’re all reading the same, boring tome, over and over and over. When entrepreneur brothers Adam and Matthew Toren set out to write their book, Small Business, Big Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did It Right, they could have easily stayed in the comfortable business advice echo chamber we’re all familiar with. Instead they made a run for it, and their book of fresh-yet-practical advice on building a business proves that their risk is our gain. Creating a vision for your business is the name of the game here, but that’s just the starting point. Using real stories from successful entrepreneurs to back up their advice, along with conversational, straightforward writing, the Torens cover lots of ground, and here are some of the topics you’ll see in their book: Investors: Early on or Down the Line? Most aspiring entrepreneurs aim for investment cash to fund an office, hire employees and buy equipment. It makes sense: who wants to spend their own nest egg to get things rolling? But what if you could survive without these things, even in the very beginning? According to the Torens, succeeding often means waving off the old rule that getting investors early on is a no-brainer. The Torens deliver a robust breakdown that explains why a venture should start off as austere as possible, and investors should come in later, when a business is kicking butt. How Not to Get Burned by Outsourcing The Torens also take on outsourcing, from the pros and cons of using someone who not only never visits your office, but exists only in an email and Skype world. The book lays out the pros and cons of having employees vs. using contractors, and makes a compelling argument for hiring freelancers to work remotely. The writers understand that there’s a treasure trove of benefits to finding an outsider who not only does fantastic work, but saves money by charging less for services. If you’re not sure where to find someone trustworthy, the Torens provide solid resources at the back of the book. Your Business Is Flatlining: What to Do Next? When most books cover the exuberant highs of running your own shop, few tackle what to do when a business fails. The truth is, even armed with a brilliant vision and an excellent, focused strategy, there’s still that risk that your business will never catch on, and you’ll face an ever-dwindling stash of cash. The Torens not only address this dire scenario, but list some very insightful and realistic things you can do to possibly save your business, from bringing on an expert to doing an in-depth reevaluation of every facet of your startup. With so much material backed up by real-life examples from entrepreneurs, Small Business, Big Vision is a must for laying the framework for a new or existing business. For years, the Torens have been top consultants and mentors for small businesses the world over, and their impressive skills show in the pages of this quick-read book.


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Combine Social Media & PR for Online Marketing Success

Combine Social Media & PR for Online Marketing Success

Beyond • December 12, 2011

How is a social media strategy similar to a PR campaign? I’ve come to realize that their outcomes don’t come from what one posts on their own page, or how many submissions are made to media outlets, or how many times one tweets, but somewhere else entirely. PR is based on the premise that unsolicited word of mouth is the best form of marketing, and the second best is what a journalist or other third-party says about you – assuming, of course, that it’s positive. Media outlets like television news and local newspapers are flooded with stories every day, so they pick the compelling ones to feature. What about social media? A good social media strategy isn’t about Facebook or Twitter at all. It’s not about the “where” of the message, but the what: What can you do, say or sell that is fresh and valuable enough for others to pass along? Note: If we offer a reward or incentive for clicking the “Like” button on Facebook, we’re engaged in a direct response strategy, not network marketing. A social media strategy involves network marketing, so your message is passed from one network member to another – usually in their own words. Notice that in each case our success or failure depends largely on one item: a compelling story. If the story is so important here, what can you do to create a great one? It begins with a customer experience worthy of sharing, and what words to use: Start listening carefully to your own friends and associates when they tell you about a product or service that they liked and make notes. Ask yourself, What makes each story compelling? Remember, you have little control over reactions to your stories, so if people start a negative snowball rolling, it can bury you like an avalanche. Your best defense here is Truth. If it’s not true, don’t say it or imply it in your stories. Social media & PR strategies do not exist in a vacuum. The compelling stories being told about your offering must fall within the marketing environment you’ve created (usually it’s based on a written plan that outlines goals, with strategies/tactics aimed at achieving them). Your ads, sales literature, web site, logo, videos, how you answer the phone, all create a feeling – a marketing environment – that supports or undermines your stories. Generating your own Facebook “friends” is nothing compared with getting your customers to tweet, blog or talk about your products/services and the wonderful ways they were treated by yourself and your staff. Make that the foundation of your PR and social media campaigns and you’re almost assured success.


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Tools to Increase Web Conversion: Google, Clickdensity & Userfly

Tools to Increase Web Conversion: Google, Clickdensity & Userfly

Beyond • December 12, 2011

You may have heard the word before, but in the web world “conversion” doesn’t mean a religious shift. Rather, it means shifting your web audience from inactive members to involved participants. The term is commonplace in e-commerce, where any e-commerce business owner needs traffic to result in a cash transaction. If someone isn’t buying from your site, it’s like someone walking out the door. Conversion reaches beyond e-commerce and is an end-goal of any site that’s designed to get a viewer to take action, either through a donation, subscribing to a newsletter or obtaining a free download. It’s an art that requires steadfast dedication to perfect…and even then it always needs tweaking. But you don’t have to do it alone, since it’s easy to take advantage of several great tools out there to help make the process more streamlined and effective. Google Analytics – Google Analytics can asses everything on your site, from the amount of visitors, to unique hits per page, to peak times, to geographics and more. It can be used in a number of ways to see what efforts are working, and which aren’t. Perhaps the most important metric Google Analytics will reveal is the length of time someone was on your site. Anything less than a minute and you can consider the individual a completely uninterested party. If you’re an Analytics beginner, this is the first thing you have to discern of your site visitors. If you find your visitors are leaving quickly, then consider changing up your home page. It could be the design, the content and even the graphics that are turning people away. Also consider what type of keywords attracted people to your site. If you’re ranking for the wrong keywords, you’re hurting your traffic and site worth. This is where you should take the time to bring on board a trained SEO professional. A popular Google Analytics competitor can be found in Clickdensity, which offers many of the same services but a more targeted assessment of your website. Google Website Optimizer – Once you’ve mastered Google Analytics, you’re naturally poised for the next step…and that’s conducting your own experiments to see which choices work best for your business. Google’s website optimizer lets you have two different versions of a page so you can see which page your visitors prefer. This is called split testing or “A/B testing.” Keep in mind that the process is still very scientific and far exceeds the usual focus group inspired answers. It’s not just about what people like, it’s about what’s making people act. What’s getting you the sale, what’s getting you the membership, the donations, the subscriptions? Something as simple as a graphic switch, a layout change, a color swap and even different keywords can help you determine whether a strategy is effective or not. Userfly - Whether or not you go the Optimizer route, you should be taking advantage of Userfly’s free service of 10 sessions/month. Userfly acts like a digital one way mirror, allowing you to watch visitor movements as they navigate your site. This works best for sites that have more processes or content to go through. Perhaps there’s one section of your site that’s a bottleneck to traffic? Perhaps users give up on lengthy forms half way in or maybe a certain page tends to confuse people? Whatever it is, you’ll be able to pinpoint it with Userfly. E-commerce users will find that most of their conversion fails when it comes to check out. Checkout processes are too long, or there’s some other glitch that customers find frustrating. Even something as simple as not allowing customers to “continue to shop” can deter a final transaction.


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Lessons in Successful App Design: Glitches in the Jawbone UP

Lessons in Successful App Design: Glitches in the Jawbone UP

Beyond • December 12, 2011

Technology has made life simpler than most of us imagined it ever could be. You could even say it has made us lazy. Simplicity is obviously what the recently introduced Jawbone UP strived for, and while it succeeds on many levels, a closer look shows us that this one might be a few ingredients short of a winning recipe. The Jawbone UP is specially made for the digital savvy fitness nut. Created by mobile technology expert Jawbone, it is essentially a wristband that doubles as an app for your smartphone. In a nutshell, what it does is keep up with the user’s physical activity, tracking everything from workout activities and how many calories you’re burning to the number of steps you’re taking and how you’re sleeping at night. The Jawbone UP definitely looks the part on the surface. Boasting an oval-like shape, it is easy to port around and fits comfortably on the wrist without looking too much like a laser-firing bracelet. While the hardware is obviously an important component, the juicy goodness of this gadget is all in the software. In fact, the UP is pretty much useless without this program. The application, which is available for free in Apple’s App Store, is installed on your iPhone. Equipped with a neatly designed graphical user interface, it allows you to see things such as how many hours you slept during the night, the time you awoke and even your overall quality of sleep once synced with the device. Although the software is generally easy to use, a few glaring holes are keeping it from being truly useful. Lessons in App Design According to early reviews, the biggest thing standing in the Jawbone UP’s way of being a hit is how it creates a feeling of disconnection. Many users were disappointed to learn that it does not allow wireless syncing, which would have been possible if support for Bluetooth was included. In order to sync the data, the UP must be plugged into the audio port of your smartphone. Considering how people are literally glued to their mobile devices these days, this extra step alone makes Jawbone’s digital wristband more of a hassle than the average person would prefer. Although the omission of wireless functionality and not being able to instantly access the data on your phone are a bit disheartening, they were somewhat justified when experts let it be known that the use of wireless technology would drain battery life significantly faster. Still, that wasn’t enough to cover up for all the design flaws found in the UP’s software. Users have griped over everything from the shallow social features to the complete lack of a web-based user interface. The overall consensus is that the app missed out on some golden opportunities to engage the user, which pretty much leaves us with an incomplete package in the Jawbone UP. Off to a Rough Start If it seems like we’re taking unfair shots at Jawbone and its new gadget, trust me when I tell you that is not the case. The feedback on this one has been so bad that the company reportedly decided to offer a “no questions asked” refund and halt further production of the wristband. Various sources are reporting that both software and hardware issues were factors in the decision. The Jawbone UP got off to a rough start, no doubt. So rough, that it may never be able to recover. When you’re designing your app, whether as a stand-alone device or as an outgrowth of some service your business already provides, it is important to remember to take the user’s point of view, from not only conception but also through the design process and release. As mentioned above, the Jawbone UP had the elements to really succeed: fitness essentials to both tracking health and improving one’s life; but the app stumbled at the design phase. These days the social aspect of any app is practically essential. And yet, even if that could be overlooked, can you imagine anyone willing to forego music while they exercise? It might not be part and parcel of the work out experience, but a compromised audio port is going to be a flat-out deal breaker for many, no matter how health conscious they are. When designing your app, bear these points in mind and do not lose sight of who you’re building for.


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