Archive for June, 2009
If you live in Washington state and you sell things on your Web site, this article is a must read!
In Washington state, our state legislature (in its infinite wisdom) switched us to a “destination based sales tax” state. For the past year, Web store operators in Washington state have needed to compute sales tax in a different way than they have expected. Even though this has been law for a year, we still get lots of questions about this.
Let’s take a common scenario: a user lives in Bellevue, WA and is buying an item from a Web store, based in Spokane, WA.
Old way: The Web store operator charged the sales tax due in Spokane, WA. Being that the store owner lives in Spokane, that’s something they can handle.
New way: The Web store operator charges the sales tax due wherever the item is being shipped to (i.e. Bellevue, WA). This means that every store operator has to know what the sales tax is everywhere else in the state. To add to the confusion, sales tax rates don’t obey city, county or even zip code boundaries, so there can be subtle changes based on exactly where the customer is located.
Note that out of state shipments still don’t require sales tax, unless you have a business presence in that state. Of course, always consult with a tax professional before proceeding with any of this!
Unfortunately, most ecommerce vendors still don’t support this “destination-based” system. Here are some tips for following the law:
- If using a “3rd party hosted” shopping cart, consult with your cart vendor before signing up with them. If they don’t support the sales tax system properly, there will be nothing you can do about it.
- If using a cart that you host yourself, see what the options are and see what it takes to set it up. Keep in mind sales tax rates change quarterly so you need to build in a way for updates to be made. The state of Washington makes sales tax tables available in a digital format, but it may take work to get those tables into your system.
In this guest post: we’ve asked Practical Marketing Expert Stacy Karacostas to share some thoughts on how to drive more traffic to your Web site.
Got a great Website? Congratulations! But as you’ve probably already realized, getting a Website is only half the battle…You still have to get people to visit your site.
In other words, while having a Website is a part of any good marketing plan these days, you also need a plan for marketing your Website. Otherwise it will just sit out there “gathering dust” on the Web instead of helping to grow your business.
So, how do you get site visitors? The first step is to make sure your site is submitted to the major search engines. Ideally you want this to happen on a regular basis—and especially anytime you add new content.
After that it’s time to do a little smart marketing—both online and off.
Below are 5 easy and inexpensive ways to drive more traffic to your Website:
#1 – Make it obvious. Be sure your Web address (your URL) is on everything you do and send out including business cards, invoices, articles, marketing materials, videos etc. And get an email address that’s attached to your Website (IE: email@example.com). You’ll be amazed how many people will see this and visit your site to find out more about what you do.
#2 – Let the world know. Send an email to all your customers and contacts inviting them to stop by your new site. If you have a nifty free offer they can take advantage of while they’re there, all the better. Also put your Web address on all your social networking profiles. And of course, if you Twitter, Tweet about it.
#3 – Join the conversation. If you have thoughts, ideas or suggestions that might benefit your target market, try participating in online forums. These are Web pages or sites where people can ask questions and you can give answers. Many social networking sites have Q & A forums too.
Find ones your prospects participate in and do your best to be helpful. Don’t ever blatantly pitch your products or services here! Let your good advice be the selling device, and the link to your Website will start driving folks who like what you say back to your site.
#4 – Write about it. If you’re a writer, regularly submitting articles online is a powerful way to get tons of targeted traffic to your site. You can submit articles to directories like www.ezinearticles.com and social networking sites like www.Biznik.com.
Hundreds of these sites exist, so find ones that focus on your area of expertise. Include a bio with a little about you, a special offer (optional but highly recommended) and a link back to your site, and voila.
#5 – Use offline promotions. You can do all kinds of terrific print promotions to drive people to your Website including, but not limited to: postcards, classifieds ads, print ads, sales letters and more.
Again, having a free offer that they can take advantage of on your site gives them a good reason to visit. And it lets you collect their email addresses for future follow ups.
Now it’s time to get busy!
Each of these Website marketing tips is easy and inexpensive to implement. While it may take a bit of time and consistent effort for your Website traffic to really grow, if you keep using these tactics on a regular basis your visitor numbers—and your sales numbers—are sure to start going up!
Practical Marketing Expert Stacy Karacostas helps savvy entrepreneurs take the stress, struggle and confusion out of growing their small businesses. If marketing your Website—or your business—has got you tearing your hair out grab her FREE REPORT on The 7 Deadliest Small Business Marketing Sins right here http://www.7deadliestsins.com.
Have you used any of these tactics with great success?
What other tactics have you used to generate tons of targeted Website traffic?
Please do share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.
A logo is one of the cornerstones to any company’s marketing materials, including its Web site. We’ve asked Graphic Designer Anita Elder to share her thoughts on coming up with a great logo for business use. Anita is the owner of Lolalu Design of Seattle, WA.
Are you an individual or small business that knows you need some sort of logo to help identify you from competitors? Do you have no idea what you want in a logo, making it hard to talk to a graphic designer? Below are some quick tips to help articulate ideas to shorten the design process and potentially saving you some money.
- Look at the logos of other businesses in your industry. Do your competitors use solid, conservative images, or flashy graphics and type? Think about ways you want to differentiate your logo from your competition.
- Make a list of your values and circle the top three. Values are what appeal to your target market and are true to you as business. These things are so important that they become rules to guide your company. Values are who you want to be and how you get there. They are your culture.
- Make a list of brand attributes (metaphors, descriptive words and symbols) and circle the top three. The brand attributes are personality traits that reflect the idea that businesses can be viewed in much the same way that people are. We react emotionally to all our interactions with them. It’s important to ensure that these interactions are consistently on target with just the right business feel and tone of voice.
- Now that you have a list of values and attributes, what images, symbols, or colors come to mind when you think of them? Make a list of them.
- Round up a group of other people in your network. Share your values, attributes, images, symbols, etc. to get feedback. Often, you are too close to your ideas. Your network can see your business as a consumer/client and give you valuable information. They may come up with ideas you haven’t thought about. Be sure to write down all ideas, no matter how outrageous.
- Your logo should be clean and functional. Your logo should work well on a business card or a billboard. A good logo should be easy to reproduce. Icons are better than photographs since they can be deciphered when scaled small. If you include too much detail, think about what it will look like scaled really small or on a fax.
- Using all the information you have gathered, sketch out some ideas on paper. Logos can be one of three types: font-based, consisting primarily of a type treatment; an illustrated logo that literally illustrates what your company does, such as when a house-painting company uses an illustration of a brush in its logo; or an abstract graphic symbol, such as Nike’s swoosh, that becomes linked to a company’s brand. You don’t have to be an artist. If your shape doesn’t look quite like it should, make a note of what it should be. The point is to get a rough idea to share with a designer.
- Explore your colors. One thing you need to be careful of as you explore your color options is cost. A five-color logo might look gorgeous, but the price won’t be so attractive when you put it on stationary. Try not to exceed three colors unless you deem it absolutely necessary.
- Take your rough sketches and ideas to a graphic designer. A graphic designer can take your ideas and give them some finesse, as well as make them digital. Since you have done your homework, you cut down on the amount of time a designer has to brainstorm with you, which could potentially save time and money.
- Next steps. Shop around for a graphic designer. If the price seems high, look at it this way—remember that a good logo should last at least 10 years. If you look at the amortization of that cost over a 10-year period, it doesn’t seem so bad. Sure, you can find a cheap designer, but you often get what you pay for. Be sure to get several versions of your new logo. At a minimum, you should request a color version, a black & white version and a reversed version. Depending on your design, you might also want both a horizontal and vertical version. Insist on getting vector versions of your logo (.eps) with the fonts converted to outlines. You don’t’ need to know what that means and you might not even be able to open the file, but it’s extremely important. You need to safeguard these files as any other business asset. Any time you work with a print company, print designer, web designer, etc. be sure to give them these files. They will love you! Have your logo designer also give you JPG or PNG versions of each version of your logo so you can use it in email, Word docs, etc.
With a well-designed logo, potential clients can instantly discover how your business can serve them.
People ask us all of the time — how do I choose a Web site domain name?
From a marketing standpoint, the process is a bit more complicated. Your Web site domain name is your business address on the Internet. It may be the first place people interact with your business, and the name will be the Web site’s first impression left with a potential user. We have 4 rules for choosing a Web site domain name:
- Do a Dot Com. Your domain name will always start with your business name (like Curvine or 3M, or Microsoft), but there are a lot of different ways your domain can end. Which one should you use? If your business is in the United States, you should always choose to end in .COM, and never primarily use .NET, .INFO, ,US or .ORG. The reason is simple: if your domain name ends in something else, people will sometimes forget and go to the .COM version. If that business is a competitor, this could lead to lost business.
That said, there is no harm in buying other domain names to avoid having someone else by them. For example, Microsoft may purchase Microsoft.info even if they have no intention of using it.
For international businesses, it is worth noting what the most common practice is in the areas where you are doing business. For example, a UK based business may purchase a .com.uk domain.
- When possible, make your domain name easy to say. You will be telling lots of people about your Web site, and they might tell other people. It needs to be easy to say. If an average person can’t pronounce it, it means less people will find your Web site. Try asking a friend how to pronounce your domain name before buying it. Note that sometimes this isn’t possible. If your business name involves your last name which isn’t easy to say, than there’s really nothing you can do about it.
- When possible, make your domain name easy to spell. Just like the tip above, it is important that your potential clients and customers can spell your name. Some of these are obvious, words with -ance and -ence are often confused. Others are less obvious: when someone hears Eye in a domain, will they spell it Eye or I? Too is another word people have trouble with. Also, having two words that end and start with the same letter; like EvilLambda has two L’s — which people may spell with only one L. If these things can’t be avoided, consider purchasing the misspelled versions of your name so that people can be redirected to the right place.
- When Necessary, Be Creative. We have a client who opened a movie theater called Movies 8 several years ago. Not surprisingly, movies8.com was taken. He also had plans to open additional theaters with different names, so we came up with a creative name that could be used for all of them, seethemovies.com — it is both easy to say and easy to spell. It is still in use today.
So there are four tips on choosing a great domain name. We welcome your tips below!
We posted our first 4 tips earlier this week, and got some great feedback on some other things that print designers need to consider when designing for the Internet:
1. Use Low Resolution Images: For print, you are probably used to 300 DPI or higher. For the Web, we can get away with lower quality work, 72 DPI is just fine. 300 DPI images wouldn’t add much, and would take much longer to download.
2. Be Flexible: When you print something, it should come out just the way you expected. On the Web, different browsers, different computer monitors, and different operating systems will mean that there will be slight variations between how your piece looks on each computer. These can include minor changes in fonts, minor changes in color, and even minor layout changes. There are techniques your HTML producer can use to minimze these issues, but it will never be 100% the same in every environment.
3. Use RGB, Not CMYK. All color on the Web is constructed using RGB. Make sure when selecting a color in Photoshop, that you do so using RGB.
4. The Web is not a print piece: In addition to mostly mechanical differences between Web and Print, it is also important to know people use the Web differently than they may use your print piece. Consider a postcard: It appears in the mail – it has two sides – and a potential “user” of your postcard will spend a specific amount of time looking at it and also will scan in it a specific way. A user of your Web site will be at a desk, using a mouse, and will be at a different point in their day. It may help t put yourself in the mind of a potential Web user and consider how long they might view your piece and what they may look for.
As always, please add your thoughts below!
Many of our clients are Graphic Designers who need help taking a great design and making it into a fully functional Web site. We’ve prepared this list of tips that every graphic designer needs to know when making a design for the Web. We’re aiming this list at print designers looking to make the transition.
1. Know your Target Screen Resolution: In print, you need to know how long and wide a piece will be. On the web, that length and width is measured in pixels. For mass market Web sites, you should target your site to be no longer than 775 pixels across. The actual resolution is 800 pixels across, but we need to leave room for the browser window border and the scrollbar which may be on the right side. For Web sites targeted at a younger or more technical audience, you may be able to design for a high screen resolution — plan for 1000 pixels in this case. In any case, be prepared for your site to look different depending on the screen resolution settings on the user’s computer: some computers will show your Web site very small, on others it will take up the full screen. Vertically, there is no maximum length, but note that the user may need to vertically scroll to see your entire page.
2. Are you fluid? Sites like Amazon.com can fill up the browser window — try loading the front page and resizing your Browser Window. Witness how it distributes the extra space that appears when you resize the window. This is called a Fluid design. You can ask your HTML producer to do this, you just need to specify where the extra space should go.
3. Use Text When Possible: On the Web, there are two different types of text: text that is an unusual font and actually stored as a graphic, and text that uses an ordinary font that is stored as text. Text loads faster, but can vary somewhat from computer to computer. A graphic loads the same everywhere, but loads slower and can’t be read by a search engine. Text that is stored as text can only be one of 6 very ordinary fonts and can be edited easily, text as a graphic can be any font you wish to use, but is harder to make changes to. Our advice is to use text as much as possible, but use graphics when you need to — this means that body text and navigation elements should usually be kept to one of the 6 fonts that are on most people’s computers: Arial, Courier New, Georgia,Times New Roman, Verdana, Trebuchet MS.
4. Hire someone to help with HTML production: as a print graphic designer, we would recommend you have someone else help with the technical work (we, of course, think you should hire us, but any Web programmer will do). The skills that make you a great graphic designer will make the technical work involved with producing Web sites harder. It is a classic left brain / right brain issue — very creative folks will have a hard time with technical work, and vice versa.
That’s it from us, we welcome your input below.
It has been three months since we started blogging as a company. We’re pretty happy with the success so far. We’ve created 18 informative blog posts covering all different aspects of Web site development (after importing previous articles we have prepared). Our blog is growing in popularity, with more than 3,300 pageviews last month. We’ve started some great conversations with a community of people and we’ve introduced new people to our company.
Our most popular posts:
I hope our next few months are even more successful.