Category Archives: Marketing

Strength & Vibrancy of Twin Cities

There was a display at the Cargill room in the Downtown Minneapolis Library a few years ago, celebrating the sesquicentennial (150 years) of Minnesota. It contained displays showcasing Minnesota’s inventions over the years. They included an extensive array: Medical (pacemakers, etc.. work by Bakken and many others), Computer, Food (wheat varieties created by Borlaug, credited with saving  the lives of millions; zillions of apples and much more at the University of Minnesota). Also random things like the Tilt-a-Whirl, Roller Blades, and Spam (which has, again, saved the lives of millions probably).

The University of Minnesota, one of the original Land-Grant institutions, has been doing everything possible to improve life for Minnesotans – and Everyone – since the 1850’s. I graduated with a degree in Accounting from there. I don’t know if you can tell. Anyway, even with the University’s various campuses and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system,  we have a wealth of smaller Universities and Colleges as well. Truly something for every interest and life path.

We have much more diversity here than others imagine. Minnesota schools  are helping kids learn English in addition to their own languages – 200 different languages are spoken in their homes. Our four main languages in Minneapolis are English, Spanish, Somali and Hmong. We are a vibrant community of cultures, ethnicities, neighborhoods  and communities.

We have a thriving arts community, more theater per person than almost anywhere else, storytelling, dance, live music and much more.

Politically, there’s just no end. But let me just stress our high voter turnout, and leave it at that. Except to also mention politics at its best – the Center for Victims of Torture, based in Minneapolis, doing everything possible to heal the human spirit.

That is one nonprofit of hundreds in Minnesota – part of a thriving nonprofit community that seeks to ensure the vitality and well-being of its citizens and address today’s challenges in coordination with government entities, foundations, benefactors and volunteers; in a way that is transparent and accountable.

We have a thriving technology arena with innovation and real-world application, new breakthroughs and efforts to bring technology’s benefits to as many as possible.

Our Minnesota State Fair is perhaps a good place to stop. For many on the coasts (the reason this post exists, see here and here), the State Fair justifies your belief systems about Minnesota. And, as I’ve said before, there’s a certain level of inevitability about all this which I accept.

Despite that, I’ll just say this: the State Fair is like life.

You have huge numbers of people, all of whom are doing what they want to do for their own reasons. Some have brought to the Fair the best of their years’ efforts – animals, artworks, recipes, large vegetables, seed art. Some have brought information and arguing points to try and change others minds and spark action. Some have brought items to sell, and/or money to buy. Many are artists and performers, there to incite joy, laughter and dancing. Many-many are present to take it all in and have a wonderful time.

There is a little bit of almost everything, and a zillion choices at every turn. You can – as in life – decide what experience you want to have, and then set about to have that experience. Things may go a different way, and you can adapt. There may be streets filled to the brim with unwashed masses – and alternate routes. Long lines at these times, shorter lines earlier/later. Coupons and deals to utilize. Extensive work and volunteer opportunites. Too much heat, rain, cold and blah days, disappointment, social goings-on with drama and heart break, families (in matching t-shirts sometimes) with best intentions, crying babies and their huge baby carriages always in the way, people moving about with assistive technology, people physically adjusting themselves to all those around them constantly, people who’ve been coming to the fair for decades, people who only recently landed in Minnesota and are still just their bearings, breaking technology and the newest in kitchen convenience. It’s all there, it’s all in the Twin Cities, it’s all the same in slightly different ways everywhere.

We are completely engaged in what we’re doing here. You are welcome to join us. It’s ok if you want to keep doing what you’re doing where you are. But we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing our own selves, in any case. Namaste.

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Filed under Business, buy local, Community, Cooking, Entrepreneurship, Food, Fun, Infrastructure, Leadership, Local, Marketing, Minneapolis, Minnesota, NonProfits, St. Paul, Technology, Uncategorized

Pinterest: Exciting new outlet.. but be careful!

Pinterest – located at pinterest.com – is a social photo-sharing website. Users can establish accounts, and then set up collections of images that reflect their interest.

Other users can browse their collections, ‘like’ various items, collect images from each other, and establish mutual interest relationships and so on.

Launching as a closed beta in March 2010, the site has in stages opened up to the public, and has generated a lot of enthusiasm in the process.

On August 16, 2011, Time magazine published Pinterest in its “50 Best Websites of 2011” column.(Wikipedia)

Just in the last few months – December, January – the site has been skyrocketing with users. It crossed the 10 million user mark last month, being one of the fastest sites to do so.

Users love it’s visuality, ease of use, and it’s ability to facilitate relationships with others of similar interests. It links in with Facebook, Twitter, has an RSS feed feature, comes with WordPress widgets and there’s an iPhone app for it too!

But recently, awareness has been growing of downsides for users of the site. In particular related to the very use of images that is such a big part of its appeal.

I literally only heard of this site about a week ago.

A few days ago, I retweeted this tweet about it:

56 Ways to Market Your Business on #Pinterestj.mp/yt2cO8 via @copyblogger RT @brasonja #in

And that tweet of mine was RT’d about 4 times, more than almost any other of my tweets. Clearly it is a topic of interest right now! So as I began to read today more concerns about the site, I thought I’d pull together this blog post about it all.

Here is a clearer link to that article on CopyBlogger: .

It talks about a wide spectrum of ways to use Pinterest for marketing your business, everything from social media immersion techniques to branding to traffic analysis techniques to webinar support. Seems all very exciting and wonderful, but read on, please!

Another Pinterest-excitement tweet I saw recently:

How the medical industry is using (and could use): Pinterest bit.ly/zaonKE RT @MelissaOnline

This MedCityNews article showcaseshow the medical industry already uses and could even more use Pinterest to boost patient morale, improve patient education and, of course, engage in cutting-edge marketing activities.

This page also mentions the revenue stream aspect of Pinterest, which involves affiliate marketing via Skimlinks and changing the codes linked to images to replace the original marketer with Pinterest . That practice, described further in this MarketingLand article: is generating interest and concern as more people become aware of it.

But copyright theft is a much more serious concern, since it involves legal ramifications that are completely beyond what users have in mind when they sign up to use Pinterest. This BusinessInsider article describes those concerns.

In a question and answer format, the piece explores the idea that Pinterest may be more illegal than Napster was, due to its use of images not owned by the user, thereby violating the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act). Pinterest actually ‘requires’ that each user ‘own’ rights to the images they post, but they in no way reinforce that requirement.

This article explores the fair use argument and how it applies to Pinterest (and Tumblr, for that matter), and also mentions that Pinterest grabs whole sites when people ‘pin’ an image from that site, making it all even more serious.

Pinterest makes users even more uncomfortable in its statement that it reserves the right to sell any image posted by a user. This article by RWW mentions that several businesses, after initially signing up to use Pinterest, almost immediately closed their accounts as they more fully explored the implications. What it boils down to is that, if a user posts a photo which they don’t own the license to (a license given them free, world-wide, very broad and open rights to), they could be sued for posting it (and thereby granting Pinterest the right to sell it).

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Filed under Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media, Technology

Site-Member Profile: 3232 Design!

Year Established: I’ve been doing freelance web design on the side since 1996, and in 2007 I created 3232 Design and started treating it like a business. In January 2010 I quit my day job of nine years as a Creative Director to concentrate on my business full-time, and it’s been nothing but awesome.

Business/Organization Name: 3232 Design. ‘3232’ is my address, possibly the least imaginative business name but I currently dominate the market for people searching Google on ‘3232’. Take that, RFC 3232!

Owner/Executive Director Name: That’s me, Richard Mueller. No full-time employees yet, and I’ll always keep it small because that’s how I can deliver the highest quality design with the most minimal costs.

Product/Service: Graphic Design, specializing in web design but including brand identity, print, and advertising for small and medium-sized businesses. I love working with creative types.

Unique Features/Competitive Advantage: I’ve won design awards, yet at the same time I’m a great web coder. Finding both in one person is highly unusual, and it allows me to look ahead to take advantage of coding tricks in my designs that save tons of time and money for my clients while delivering agency-quality design.

Contact Information

Notes/Misc other: Though my design is often envelope-pushing, my business is very conservative. It was getting obvious that I wasn’t going to get laid off and if I wanted to do 3232 full time I’d just have to quit. I’d spent two years saving everything I made on the side into a capital cushion so I wouldn’t have to take out a start-up loan. Still, it was one of the scariest decisions I’ve made. Would I lose the house? How would I feed my family? The net result is, I’ve been profitable from my first day, and the freedom is very rewarding.

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Site-Member Profile: Helping Survivors Manage!

Year Established: 2009

Business/Organization Name: Helping Survivors Manage

Owner/Executive Director Name: Kat Reed

Product Inception/Business Creation: Kat Reed created this definitive book on what to do when a loved one dies based on her own experiences after her mother’s death, when she discovered the lack of resources available for families facing the struggles inherent in the death of a loved one. She and her predominantly-deaf father experienced first-hand the same challenges that overwhelm so many. Kat decided to do something about it, and using her volunteer hospice experience and prior career in business and communications, she created this helpful resource which fills a much-needed gap for everyone who is a survivor facing these tasks.

Product/Service: Self-help instructional manual for the survivors of a death; death care industry, book and online tools. Begin Here guides survivors through the seemingly overwhelming practical yet necessary tasks that remain after a death, from residential to financial to personal. Leveraging Reed’s unique insights, invaluable suggestions, and organizational skills will help anyone simplify this process.

Unique Features/Competitive Advantage: Nothing else available similar to it in the market for the general public

Contact Information:

Kat Reed
HSM
PO Box 16058
Saint Paul, MN 55116
612.293.6407
kat@HelpingSurvivorsManage.com
http://www.HelpingSurvivorsManage.com
http://www.helpingsurvivorsmanage.com/

Notes/Misc other:
Finalist in the 2009 Midwest Independent Publishers Association Book Awards, Social Science category.

Currently focusing on large businesses to use book as a private label product; part of insurance services; as well as EAP (Employee Assistance Program) for large companies. Plans to expand the version to translate and customize into different languages for use all around the world; customize to religion, relationship, location, cause of death, death circumstance; versions that can accommodate those with disabilities. Also in the beginning stages of developing an “app” for the web and mobile devices. Plans to become and remain the “go-to” organization for after-death care concerning business responsibilities.

Best lessons learned:
A mentor in his late 70s told me that if you don’t keep up with technology, you WILL be left behind by your competitors.

High school art teacher and mentor said, and I always remember, “there is always room for improvement.”

Great ideas are a dime a dozen, what makes one succeed? Research the industry, research the competition, research profitability, research demand for the service/product, then hard work in your product/service; and start all over again, researching and studying every single day.

Asking and more importantly, listening.

If you cannot or will not manage an integral part of your business, (for example, branding/public relations/media) find someone who can and will, and hire it out to them.

Do the math.

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Filed under Business, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Site-Members, St. Paul

Using WordPress – why and for how long?

A new member of my work community just commented on my blog being here at WordPress rather than separately hosted with its own URL and all.

So here’s a blog post about it, and an opportunity for further conversation with anyone considering these questions.

First, I agree. Real blogs should be hosted by your nearest awesome ISP (which I have), and have all the serious trappings that come with that. I’m a firm believer in doing things the substantial way whenever possible, for best results and also because that inherently benefits the whole business community.

Right now, though, I’m here. Temporarily.

A little background: I worked at Minnesota Regional Network from 1997 – 1999, back when they were the backbone of the internet in the state of Minnesota (along with the University of Minnesota). That was a great experience. I remember looking at websites for the first time when I started there, back when there weren’t all that many on line (many times fewer than the number of Google + accounts right now!).

The browser, Netscape, had ‘what’s new’ and ‘what’s cool’ buttons, and those buttons were relatively authoritative regarding the entire internet. Our engineers generally scoffed at the World Wide Web, being much more engaged with UseNet and bulletin boards and so on. We were an early provider of online access to the masses, our employees helped many people log on for the first time.

One year when I was there we had a booth at the State Fair, which was really fun too. We would ask people walking by if they wanted to see the internet. There was a lot of skepticism and plain lack of awareness, but sharing those initial exciting experiences was really great.

I developed a huge respect for the Internet Gurus who keep it all running for the rest of us, great fascination for Unix, and a life-long loyalty to the Mac OS.

I consulted for the first time after leaving there, and set up my own website using Dreamweaver and other tools. HTML coding didn’t appeal to me very much, and there were many who were focusing exclusively on it, so I didn’t spend much time gathering that skill set. What little coding I did was much more fun thanks to BBEdit than it would have been otherwise.

And I remember launching my website! And then waiting for a response! Waiting for an audience! Scanning the hieroglyphics of my web logs, trying to understand trends and future promise. Waiting! Waiting for an audience that never really materialized.

That feeling of launching the website — to resounding silence is one of the main reasons I was interested to try WordPress this time around. Built in audience (sort of), built in community (kind of). Built in mainstream normalcy (for what it’s worth).

Also I wanted to start this way because I may have clients with WordPress sites, and wanted to share that technology knowledge base with them.

The other whole reason goes back to my not learning HTML. I have another core belief that it is optimal to let experts engage in their expertise, and pay the valid rate they charge. There are a lot of challenges to that practice right now, but to the extent we can return to that practice, again there are multiple community benefits. But right now, I don’t have the resources to allocate to that. WordPress does that for me, allowing me to gain a clearer idea of what I want when I do launch my actual site.

So I do definitely see this as a short-term situation. I’m establishing blogging habits, becoming slowly familiar with how this site can interact with other sites, making initial attempts at a category and tag system, seeing how my content feels in this particular visual setting.

At the optimal future point when it is time, I will give my awesome ISP a call and start the next step. My ISP, ipHouse, is run by some of the most dedicated folks in the internet-serving community, and it’s great knowing that there’s no further decision to make in that area.

At that point, with all the social media tools available, I know I will be able to connect in with my existing audiences seamlessly. It’s all such a different world from back then. It’s not all perfect, there is a lot of noise. But the amount of content and ease of access to that content on today’s internet continually thrills me.

So thanks for that comment, Glenn. And would love to hear further comments from you and anyone else on comparative benefits/costs of WordPress vs. independently hosted & managed website.

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Filed under Infrastructure, Marketing, Publishing, Social Media, Software, Technology

Google Analytic Averages (via Byte of the Week)

Great to get more familiar with this data, thanks!

I recently received an email from Google that compiles average traffic stats for web sites that opted to share their stats in the aggregate. It’s interesting to look at them – because it’s nice to know where most sites get their traffic or how much time most people spend on the average web site. So I wanted to share some of the info with you – except that I wanted to add a caution about thinking of this info as average. It’s the average from web … Read More

via Byte of the Week

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Site-Member Profile: Nauen Mobile Accounting

Year Established: 1993

Business Name: Nauen Mobile Accounting

Owner: Lindsay Nauen, M.B.A. (Carlson School of Management), accounting concentration.

Product/Service: A full range of accounting and bookkeeping services for small businesses and nonprofits.

Services include:

Weekly or Biweekly activities including data entry of bank deposits and other entries, running payables checks, payroll and invoicing customers.

Month-End activities including bank and loan reconciliations, financial report preparation, budget and cash flow updating, supplemental reports and journal entries as needed.

Year-End activities including 1099 and 1096 production/distribution as well as the same for W-2’s and and W-3 form. Assistance/preparation of reports required by your CPA. Year-end journal entries and closing procedures as necessary.

Management advisory and Consulting services including projections, budgeting, cash flow reports.

Additional services: Quickbooks, Peachtree & MYOB support (plus others), assistance for your CPA in producing your tax returns and other government reporting, and other business services as needed.

Unique Features/Competitive Advantage: Nauen Mobile is so named because services are provided at *your* location, so you retain control and access to your records, and can easily discuss with the Nauen staff your business questions and financials at your convenience. Also Nauen has a range of staff to exactly meet the needs of your business, at the most optimal rate for you given your business requirements.

Organizational Mission: To provide customized accounting and business services to small businesses and nonprofits who wish to outsource those services.

Organizational Vision: To be accountable to our community, clients, our firm and to each other. To form long-term relationships with our clients. To provide customized services, including on-site work when needed.

Organizational Values: Integrity, Confidentiality, Long-Term relationships, Flexibility, Provide customized solutions, Reasonable prices.

Contact Information:
Website: http://www.nauenmobile.com/
Phone: 651/696-8913.
Address: 241 S. Cleveland Ave., A3; St. Paul, MN 55105.
Email: lindsay@nauenmobile.com

Organizational Development: Visit our recently launched website, created by long-time client: NADA advertising!

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Filed under Accounting, Business, buy local, Community, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Minnesota, Site-Members, St. Paul