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Archive for the ‘marketing’ Category

Poll: Email Newsletters or Onesies?

Posted by contentgrrl on April 11, 2010

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Posted in citizen, community, marketing, office, persuasion, publishing, reading, tools, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Lose Visitors To SurveyMonkey’s Default Landing Page

Posted by contentgrrl on February 4, 2010

While SurveyMonkey.com is one of my favorite tools to collect feedback and information from various publics (readers), the default settings can be rather self-serving on SurveyMonkey’s part.

Especially when your visitor finishes the last question: By default, SurveyMonkey will invite them to create their own survey.

If you leave it at that, you’re losing your visitors. They’re a click away from leaving your site to sign up for a free SurveyMonkey account.

Why not take the opportunity to give your visitors one more call to action? For instance, you can direct them to related articles and testimonials on your site, or to relevant product categories, or to details about the contest they’ve entered just by answering a few questions.

The nuts and bolts of it are surprisingly easy, and here I’ll tell you how. (I will say the steps were a tad buried somewhere outside of SurveyMonkey documentation, which is why I felt the need to write this up.)

The instructions below assume you’ve created a survey, and have a landing page on your Web site ready to thank your visitors for completing the survey, and provide the next call to action that keeps them engaged on your site.

  1. On the My Surveys page, click the Collect icon for your survey.
  2. If you haven’t already, select Create a link to send in your own email message or to place on a Web page, and give it a title that makes sense for your purpose.
  3. Click the Collector Name you entered.
  4. In the warning: “Before you send out your link, be sure to review the collector’s settings and restrictions” click the settings link.
    • SurveyMonkey Collector Settings - ! Before  you send out your link, be sure to review the collector's settings and restrictions.
  5. In the Collector Settings page, set fields as follows and as shown below:
    1. Allow Multiple Responses: No.
    2. Allow Responses to be Edited: Yes until they exit.
    3. Display a Thank You page: No.
    4. Survey Completion: Redirect to your own webpage and enter a URL to jump to on leaving the survey.
    5. Save IP Address in Results: Yes (This can give you another way to count unique responses)
  6. Click Save Settings.

That’s it! I welcome your feedback. Stay tuned for more entries on different ways you can put SurveyMonkey to work for you.Collector Settings in SurveyMonkey to point to your own landing page.

Posted in community, marketing, persuasion, publishing, tools | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

12 Steps to Hatchet Mastery: Less Detail, More Dialog

Posted by contentgrrl on October 26, 2009

Less of just the right detail is more engaging to readers. That works for magazine copy, Web copy, and even proposals.

But in my geeky love for technical prowess and quotable professionals, I once was guilty of being too, um, prolific.

I wrote my first cover story for a trade magazine with an amber-on-black Tandy Radio Shack word processor, aptly dubbed the TRaSh-80. My ambitious draft was 24 screens of helpful detail and quotable quotes. My editor (Bless you, Blake!) said, “Cut it down to eight.”

It was painful, but I did it. I continued to hatchet down my own and others’ articles for years. I made “proof pages” bloody with red ink.

In celebration of Halloween, here are my 12 tips for hatchet mastery:

  1. Inverted Pyramid. Don’t bury the lead. Get to the point. Start with the crucial conclusion you want readers to take away, and sequence supporting details in order of their importance or relevance to the target audience. Fairly quickly, you’ll be able to cut the chaff.
  2. Raise questions. Leave some things unanswered. You don’t have to answer them all right now. That’s for you to do later in dialog/commentary, or for your sponsors and advertisers to do as they build the relationship, or in a follow-up story.
  3. One-Time Only. In some circles, they teach you to tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, then tell ’em, then tell ’em what you told ’em. That works in speech and academic print publishing, but it won’t work in magazines or Web content. Just pick the best way to say it once with your key words. Save the lesser gems to polish for a future article.
  4. Select the Best Example. If you’re teaching or training, it’s a good idea to provide multiple examples. It gives your audience mental hooks to connect with you and learn new knowledge. Save such elaboration for the classroom or Webinar. Pick one example that shows off expert credibility, newsworthy timeliness, a picturesque analogy, or the audience’s deep-seated pain.
  5. Trade up for a Picture Worth a Thousand Words. Sometimes when you want to describe a thing, a whole and its parts, a process with inputs/outputs, the flow of a procedure, or an abstract concept, it’s better to illustrate it, which provides visual interest editors and visitors love. If you or your artist design the figure, chart, or photo well enough, you don’t have to reiterate much in the copy. I like short highlights followed by, “as shown at right” or “as shown in the figure below” — or even no reference at all. If it’s shown nearby, they’ll get it.
  6. Replace Lengthy Transitions with Brief Bold Subheads. Breaking up long grey columns of text with subheads shows off your organization, and helps the reader scan for what they want to know.
  7. Change Passive to Active Voice. When you clearly identify the actor and use active verbs, you can avoid the foggy rigmarole of “The prize was awarded to him by the so-called committee” in favor of  “He won the Nobel prize” — eliminating several words in the process!
  8. Shorten Sentences. Split up convoluted or compound sentences, simplifying statements to subject and verb when you can. Sometimes you can cut out “that” and “which” in subordinate clauses, as well as wordy correlative or subordinating conjunctions.
  9. Effusively Cut Adverbs and Fluffy Adjectives and strings of Prepositional Phrases. Do you really need to specify exactly where, when, how, why, which, and to what extent in every sentence? In some cases, that detail is superfluous or redundant.
  10. Bullet Lists. Sometimes you can get the point across with lists of things or short phrases instead of complete sentences.
  11. Fewer Syllables. “Utilize” is rarely better than good ol’ simple “use.” Try Thesaurus.com.
  12. Cut Articles Before Nouns. Unless you must specify which one, see how many instances of “a”, “an”,  “the”, “some”, and so on you can eliminate. Switching to plural may help. You may be surprised how many nouns can stand alone.

These 12 Steps of Wordyholism drill down to your substance, whispering promises of more.

Rather than lull readers to inaction, keep it short and succinct (KISS). Inspire possibilities and questions…Prompt them to action, and increase dialog between you, your readers, and your sponsors.

Posted in illustrating, marketing, persuasion, publishing, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Best Advice on Coding HTML Email Templates

Posted by contentgrrl on October 22, 2009

Sometimes, HTML emails just don’t work the way you expect. In my day job, I distribute HTML emails using a variety of applications, including Marketo, GroupMail 5, and a proprietary app integrated with our software issue tracker. Sometimes, despite my painstaking validation and link-checking, when I use the latter I get recipient feedback of broken links with all styles stripped, my link href URLs stripped and replaced with “/”, and other design nightmares.

The solution? You may have guessed the proprietary app, but it’s not necessarily the problem.   You have to design HTML email templates as if you’re stuck in the mid-90’s, ‘cuz that’s how standardized email clients are.

Anand Graves’s simple WordPress blog includes the most straightforward and comprehensive HTML Email Guide I’ve ever seen.

For everyone who sends HTML emails, here are a few highlights:

  • Much as we love/hate Microsoft Office — do not use Word or Outlook or even copy & paste from them. Office inserts a ridiculous quantity of hard-to-remove mso formatting tags. Thankfully, the WYSIWYG Adobe Dreamweaver ($$$) has a command to clean up Word HTML. If you don’t have the Adobe option and are collaborating with someone who insists on working in Office or Outlook, it’s worth it to paste into Notepad, which strips out all formatting, and then copy and paste into an HTML editor that affords highly clean markup. I invested in Adobe’s Creative Suite, but if i had to go without WYSIWYG, I also like Notepad++ (free). I also like the online WYSIWYG http://www.online-html-editor.org/ in a pinch.
  • Use tables for layout, nesting a narrower 580-pixel-wide table within a 100% table, where the outer table’s cell has a white background. This is to accommodate recipient email clients that ignore the body tag where you usually define the background, as well as email clients that will display your email in a narrow preview (like Outlook 2007, Hotmail, Yahoo, and the like, to accommodate their banner and skyscraper ads.
  • For images, specify both title and alt attributes for cross-browser display of the image description in case your recipient client doesn’t display images by default.
  • Get several Webemail accounts for testing, including Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo!, and AIM (AOL), and get desktop clients including Outlook Express, MS Outlook 2003/2007, & Mozilla Thunderbird.

Things I didn’t think of that Anand did:

  • Remove unnecessary HTML tags that will be ignored or removed between you and the recipient. Surprisingly, these include Doctype, HTML, body, meta, head, base, link, script, title, frames, and comments.
  • Instead of stylesheets (Unfortunately, body and head stylesheets are often ignored and replaced with client-specific styles over which you have no control), use inline styles in table cells to define the default font, font color, and font size for your content:
    <td style="font-family: Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px; text-transform: uppercase; color: black">Content</td>
    
  • Use similar inline font/size/color styles in hypertext links, and use short URLs (extensively long URLs tend to get wrapped and broken):
    <a href="http://www.tinyurl.com/####/" style="font-family: Verdana, font-size: 11px; color: blue">blah</a>
  • Send the email as multipart/alternative, one part HTML, the alternative part plain text for the remaining recipients out there whose email clients don’t display HTML. I would rely on the email delivery software or service to be able to handle this (as advised by GroupMail and MailChimp), but Anand Graves’ HTML Email Guide has included instructions for doing it with PHPMailer, available under LGPL license.

Related Links:
http://spamcheck.sitesell.com/
http://www.mailchimp.com/articles/stupid-html-email-design-mistakes/
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/10/16/best-practices-for-bulletproof-e-mail-delivery/

Posted in marketing, persuasion, publishing, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Email Disclaimers Can Make Signatures Silly

Posted by contentgrrl on July 10, 2008

Many emails in the business-to-business world discuss how to solve a business problem, information that could be dangerous in the hands of a competitor. So I’ve been a stickler for the confidential & proprietary disclaimer:

This electronic transmission contains information that may be confidential or proprietary. If you are not the intended recipient, be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents hereof is strictly prohibited. If you have received this transmission in error, please notify [email address here].

The “email address here” for my employer is an email alias for an admin assistant. When the former admin left, we had trouble defining exactly what should happen if the new admin got any notifications to that address. It looks like we never actually got any such notifications. I suppose we could send it to our legal advisors, but hopefully they wouldn’t find a way to punish the whistleblower.

In my employer’s exercise of rebranding, we’re instituting a common look for our email signatures. I was looking for a disclaimer much shorter and simpler (better not be too sweet about it).

What I found was this:
http://www.goldmark.org/jeff/stupid-disclaimers/

The Goldmark article discusses why they’re stupid, gives a list of the most stupid disclaimers, along with some silly ones. My favorite:

Your eyes are weary from staring at the CRT. You feel sleepy. Notice how restful it is to watch the cursor blink. Close your eyes. The opinions stated above are yours. You cannot imagine why you ever felt otherwise.

The Goldmark article also makes a suggestion…

Email from people at your.domain.here does not usually represent official policy of Your-Organization-Here. See URL-Of-Policy-Document-Here for details.

… with the caveat that perhaps it’s so weak it’s not worth having at all, but at least it doesn’t make silly unsupportable claims.

I like the reference to the policy online, because the legal counselors can say whatever they need, and it’s just the one page.

Let’s try something even simpler:

This message may be subject to nondisclosure, copyright and privacy policy (URL here).

What do you think? Better than having a signature that’s so long it overwhelms a simple response of “OK.”

Posted in marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

useful basics on digital images and graphics

Posted by contentgrrl on December 27, 2007

As I was helping a third-party company develop their email marketing material, I passed along these very useful basics on digital images and graphics, from my favorite shareware review site, tucows.com:

How to Convert Graphics Images
GIF, JPG, and PNG files are most used for Web, and other file formats are better for print.

Digital Imaging: The Differences in Raster and Vector Images
Fundamentals, with links to well-reviewed software for each type of image. Vector usually includes shapes or text, and don’t take up as much disk space or bandwidth as raster images.

Digital Imaging Part 2: Lossy Vs. Lossless
Shows how compressing a graphic file down to a smaller size can affect quality. As in everything, you have to balance quality with speed. JPG is a lossy format, and may lose detail, but is the defacto standard for emailing photos. GIF usually has the smallest file size, and is best for emails, even if it’s lossy.

Tucows Complete Image Editor shareware selection

Posted in illustrating, marketing, publishing, tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

free fun and learning game sites my preschool boys love: part 5

Posted by contentgrrl on December 14, 2007

My sons, 2 and 5, have some time on the computer every week. When they play online, they have a select few favorite sites:

Fifth on my list is Hasbro MonkeyBar TV:

Hasbro Monkeybar TV site

Between Star Wars Jedis, Transformers, and Spider-Man, this is fast becoming my boys’ favorite site. The older brother likes when Spider-Man gets shocked while climbing up a building of boobytraps.

But I was most impressed with the Video Mash-Up, where you can drag-and-drop video clips, sound clips, transitions and stills to create your own Transformers video. What a great skill to have!

Posted in heroes, learning, marketing, What They Play | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

playing on shoulders of generations of feminists

Posted by contentgrrl on November 28, 2007

Why can’t I stop writing about games? Well, I saw another great post from a gamergrrl, Kat@ttack, Female vs Male MMORPGs.

It turns my stomach to see some of the stereotypical marketing to girls for toys, games, and TV. But I’m glad to see more strong heroines popping up all the time: Handy Manny’s Kelly, Dora the Explorer, (you can tell how old my kids are, can’t ya?) Lara Croft, Diablo II’s amazons/sorceresses/assassins, the reinvented BSG’s Starbuck/Roslin/Boomer/Six/Cain, the reinvented Bionic Woman, The Closer’s Brenda Johnson, and anything from Joss Whedon’s body of work (Buffy, Willow, Cordelia, Zoe, Inara, River, Kaylee).

It’s too bad none of these strong heroines are moms. It seems you have to be single to explore your options and save the world. Moms in epics and games are always the lesser characters who sob loudly, protest against their sons being taken away, or roll their eyes and get back to mothering. OK, there’s an interesting exception in BSG’s Sharon “Athena” Valerii (not Boomer, who tried to snap the child’s neck), and I look forward to more there.

I’m a gamer mom myself, and so is my neighbor, who looks and talks conspicuously like Morgan on G4TV. I don’t have girls to raise; between dear hubby, dear sons, and dear dog and cat, I’m surrounded by testosterone.

But I’ll thankfully stand on the shoulders of the feminists from former generations who made a difference. Because now, all we really have to do is confidently, quietly do what we do best and it will earn the respect of our fellow gamers and colleagues, or at least those who matter. We can confidently, quietly widen our circle of influence. Will that change the tide of the stereotypical marketing machine? Maybe not immediately, but there’s hope.

If I’m too Pollyanna about this, or missing some heroic moms in entertainment, feel free to squawk back at me.

Posted in culture, games, grrly, heroines, marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

13 elements that appeal to this gamergrrl

Posted by contentgrrl on November 28, 2007

I ran links to a gamergrrl’s manifestos in my post about misguided gift shopping lists of games. But what appeals to gamergrrls about actual gameplay? Developers and fellow gamers, I can offer my own likes:

  1. I love customizing my avatar. Oblivion has some great tools to customize facial features and other characteristics that make up the personality. Even the Tiger Woods game did a fair job with avatars, and gives you the option to buy new clothes. The faces, hair, and physical proportions still need work, and the wardrobe is definitely appropriate for the golf course (not in a good way). My dear husband recreated himself, me, and our young sons in his game. I kick total butt on all courses onscreen, even if I refuse to pick up a putter in real life.
  2. I love building a well-rounded character. In Baldur’s Gate, I hated when my husband focused on one characteristic like strength to the detriment of charisma and agility. That may be the influence of my time management training, between Franklin-Covey and the Paul J. Meyer system. Even though Diablo II had a rather limited set of characters, I loved building up points so I could use some of the treasures. Lara Croft seemed fairly well-rounded already (;^), but I would have liked to build more than just quest stats, and build skills. A well-rounded character should be rewarded; I think Oblivion did this well, as did Torment.
  3. I love an intuitive interface. I keep seeing these getting better and better: navigation through movement and physical skills, interaction with the environment, talking with other players and non-player characters, selecting spells and weapons, and shopping for stuff. Oh, and thanks for letting me customize the keys I use. Now if only I could use those Lara Croft or basketball moves in real life.
  4. I like beautiful gamescapes, but not to the detriment of gameplay. It’s another thing that makes a game immersive. I won’t say I love beauty and art and graphics, because lately a lot of engines favor looks over substance.
  5. I love clever music. Portal’s closing credits are a hoot (see it on YouTube). Diablo’s themes for various levels haunted me all the time.
  6. I love allies. In Planescape Torment, they gave me much more than your standard fighter/wizard/archer mix of allies. I could actually have conversations with these allies, learn more about the world, discuss the pros and cons about what our troop was doing and could do next. I could even learn new skills (like thievery, weaponry, magic, eloquence, and so on).
  7. I love a story with a good plot. I want to immerse myself in a story. Again, I’ll use Elder Scrolls Oblivion, Longest Journey, Dreamfall, and the Myst series as good examples. Actually, Star Wars Academy was another. You move the plot forward by the choices and actions you make.
  8. I love both laughing and crying. This may be an extension of plot, but it comes up with dialog as well. Planescape Torment actually moved me to both laughter and tears, and not just because I’d been awake for far too long. (BTW, laughing and crying are my litmus tests for a good movie, and extremely rare in a game).
  9. I love dialog that moves the plot. Not the “Wait, I’m a Medic” or “Thanks” and “You’re Welcome” of the new Crysis that Morgan reviewed last night on G4TV. I have to admit that I like the multiple-choice dialog from Baldur’s Gate II, where you made friends and enemies and affected your charisma points by the dialog choices you made. And I’ll say again about Oblivion, while I love using humor, flattery, boasting, or coercion to win over non-player characters, I’d much rather have a good Whedonesque screenwriter write the actual banter, which would give me some better examples that I might want to try out in real life. Oh, and the voice acting has to be good. Sure Lynda Carter (of the original WonderWoman) can do well as an Orc in Oblivion. But some sound bytes are downright annoying.
  10. I gotta touch everything. I want to explore every square yard/meter of a level or landscape for treasure, and clean it up by killing all the Big Bads and their minions. In that, I differ markedly from my husband (and young sons). Have you seen that comedian, Defending the Caveman? It’s the difference between Hunters and Gatherers, and I am the latter.
  11. I love puzzles that make me think and apply what I already know in new ways. Go Portal. Go Myst. And, to some extent, go Tomb Raider, in terms of using Lara’s skills to get to where she needs to go. But most games are still limited when it comes to what you can pick up and use in the environment; a recent exception is Half-Life, where you could break all sorts of things, lift them, push and pull, with a very user-friendly interface.
  12. I love when the game’s karma rewards or punishes moral choices. Baldur’s Gate punished you for selfish choices by dropping your Charisma so low you couldn’t get anybody to give you information or sell you stuff. Oblivion lets you explore being a thief, an assassin, a soldier, a mage, and so on, all in the same game, but completing each faction’s quests definitely has its rewards, and I’m not sure I want immorality rewarded so much; I’d like to see something decremented like your ability to restore life force or mana when you disrespect property, life, or earth. As much as I like Grand Theft Auto as entertainment, it puts a knot in my stomach for how rude Tommy & CJ are, the foul language they and their NPCs use, the disrespect for women, and oh, yeah, the stealing, killing, and outright destruction. There are games where you get to play the cop, but he’s usually an anti-hero, one who’s out to get speeders or break all the rules. Are there any good detective or FBI profiler or spy games? I haven’t really looked.
  13. I love learning something that reflects real life. I’ll say again, my absolute favorite RPG is Planescape Torment (1999) for its exploration of philosophies (such as anarchy, hedonism, entropy, chaos, order, freethought, cabalism, and so on) through gameplay, dialogue, and plot. I also learned about biology and ecology in an old Gaia simulation. I actually learned a thing or two about using golf clubs from Tiger Woods. I’ve even learned a few things about combination shots and English from the old Virtual Pool. It’s too bad that Guitar Hero is only a dumbed-down version of the Dance steps. It doesn’t actually teach you how to play chords. If it did, I’d be all over that. I could really get into a sim for learning how to sail or fly a small plane. I was even lucky enough to be involved in developing simulation training for telecom field network troubleshooting for SBC, now at&t.

Any other manifestos around?

Posted in culture, games, grrly, heroes, heroines, humor, learning, marketing, persuasion, What They Play, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

10 ways to use Answers to work your LinkedIn professional network

Posted by contentgrrl on November 27, 2007

LinedInLately, everybody* has an article on using LinkedIn to build a professional network. The obvious — public profile, colleagues, and recommendations — are moot.

The real answer may lie in Answers. Here are ten ways you can use Answers to work that network to its fullest potential (without coughing up for premium features):

  1. Subscribe to the RSS feeds for relevant Answers Categories. I subscribe to Web Development, Project Management, Writing, and Marketing. But if I were selling my company’s product, I might subscribe to E-Commerce and Enterprise Software. Every day, My Yahoo! gives me a list of the latest questions in those categories.
  2. Answer questions from people who could use your services or knowledge, or that of your colleagues.
  3. Recommend colleagues from your network who might also be experts; when you do, make sure you give them a heads up by forwarding (Sharing) the question to them. Listing your expert colleagues will get their names out, and may encourage people to consult them for more information.
  4. Share Q&A to forward to your colleagues who might find them of interest. You can Share a question asked by someone else, and highlight an answer that your friend might find useful. It can instigate a conversation, which can get the ball rolling for other opportunities.
  5. Ask private questions that you ask only people in your network to answer, and nobody else can see the details or the answers. This might be helpful if details in your questions might be more proprietary than you’d like the whole world (and your competitors) to see.
  6. Look up people who are asking and answering questions in your area of expertise. Sometimes you can strike up a conversation about how you both know several people in common. It’s like playing six degrees of separation (six degrees of Kevin Bacon) or less! For instance, Zach Miller was looking for software similar to what my company is offering, and we happened to be one of their customers for insurance.
  7. Ask questions where you think you know the answers. The question might draw people in, and your additional explanation, clarification, or individual responses can help convince people to think your way. For instance, Gerred Blyth asked about interactive design for some research, and offered to send contributors his research.
  8. Clarify your Qs & As. You’re not allowed to edit a question or answer you’ve submitted, but you can add clarifications, including expert people from your network and links. It looks thoughtful and lively.
  9. Boost fellow members with Best Answers and Good Answers. When you ask a question, follow up later by identifying the best answer and other good answers. The more people who thoughtfully use this rating, the better for the people who thoughtfully contribute.
  10. Drive traffic to your site or blog. You can blog about something that answers the question in detail, and post the link to your specific blog article, as I did for a freelancing question. Or just include a link to your site or blog whenever you answer a question.

* “Everybody” includes Lifehacker, TheSimpleDollar, FreelanceSwitch, WebWorkerDaily, Brazen Careerist, and the list could go on…

Posted in citizen, community, marketing, persuasion, writeroll | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »