New look and more better userness

duct tape marketing logoLook, if you’re visiting here for the first time, you might not notice that I’ve completely overhauled the site. Not just the blog, the entire Duct Tape Marketing site.

This redesign was very overdue. It’s funny what can happen when you spend most of your waking hours producing content for about six years or so. One day you look up and find you’ve created one of those hall closets where all the stuff you need is, but nobody can find it, and cleaning it out becomes, well, one of the worst jobs in the world. So on top of a new look, which I think supports the brand, you can actually find an incredible amount of stuff again. It’s always been there, if you knew where to look. Now you can find it by starting out at the home page – www.ducttapemarketing.com

So, if it’s been awhile since you kicked around the entire site, please be my guest. Especially those of you, and you know who you are, that have suggested politely, or otherwise, that my site needed an overhaul.

This site now also holds together an article database script, WordPress blog, job database and social networking custom implementation of the KickApps tool capable of housing and streaming videos. Now that’s what I call a right proper use of duct tape.

The biggest addition to the site is the WorkBench – a business social networking community. The WorkBench, a true work in progress, allows small business owners and marketers of all kinds to build a profile, network with like-minded individuals, show off you stuff, upload, share and rate audio and videos and even create a blog on the fly. There is a small business forum that allows users to either ask a marketing question or give a marketing answer. We will be holding our very first contest shortly allowing members to compete for nifty prized like duct tape wallets and the like.

I invite you to visit the WorkBench, become a member, build a profile and even blog, add audios and videos and connect with other members by commenting and rating content that get added. As Duct Tape Marketing readers you are some of the first to be invited so please, realize that communities take time to grow, and know that I am open to hearing your suggestions on ways to improve it.

Thanks for making this possible!

Special props to Haylie McCort – dotcomcowgirl who foolishly believed me when I said it was just a little refresh!

2008 will be the year of the personalized social business network

Look, I don’t really think that the mySpaces and Facebooks of the world are that important for the typical small business as they stand today. There may be very practical business reasons for some to actually use these and other social networks, like LinkedIn, for business gain, but most people that have jumped on the social network bandwagon have found themselves left with a “is this all there is” kind of feeling.

To those I say this, the value of the current public social networks for business folks is not what you can get out of them for gain today, but what you can learn by using them for practical gain tomorrow. That’s why SpacebookedIn makes sense for you now

The Facebooks of the world are busy teaching millions and millions of business folks how social networks work, how social networking works, how shared applications can be viral and ever-present. The real payoff in my opinion is that the wave to come after the Facebook bubble bursts is the “personalized business network.” Once everyone of your customers and prospects knows how to use what are easily replicatable social networking tools, like building profiles, sharing video and connecting based on mutual interests, your job of building your own social business network around your own very specific community of niche will get a whole lot easier.

2008 will be the year of the personalized social business network – that’s my prediction!

Think of mySpace, LinkedIn and Facebook as your labs – get in there and experiment for the future. then start planning your own personalized social business network.

Google Maps with My Location

Google MobileGoogle announced a new mapping/mobile feature called My Location. My Location allow you turn your phone, using a browser and Google Maps, into a GPS device – even if it doesn’t have a GPS function.

Not too many phones supported yet, including the iPhone, but this is another big leap for mobile advertising as, if you can just pull your phone out of your pocket and it knows where you are, it can deliver the nearby pizza ad without you doing much of anything. Of course directions, menu, specials and even a personal coupon could all be part of the deal.

The remaining challenge is numbers. How do you get the numbers of users in general locations tied to the ads to make the financial model makes sense for service provider and advertiser alike.

The service uses cell tower signals to approximate your location if you don’t have a GPS enabled phone.

Sometimes a cat will bark

mybloglogIn a rather obvious nod to the great book, Waiting For Your Cat to Bark by the brothers Eisenberg, I would like to suggest that their advice, figuring out what works and doing it better rather than expecting results from something that isn’t natural for people to do, is dead on. But, sometimes you’ve got to have some side bets placed on long shots too.

Here’s what I mean. There are three services that you may or may not have heard of that, on the surface, don’t seem to offer the typical small business owner much in the way of marketing use. And yet, there are elements of each that contain the spark of some very useful DNA. I’m not suggesting that you should throw your energy into every new new thing on the web. You’ll drive yourself crazy do that. I am suggesting that you figure out what works, measure it, improve it and do more of it – all the while keeping some side bets going on up and coming tools that might just be a dog in cat’s clothing.

Are blogs losing steam for some?

Dilbert BlogScott Adams, you know, the Dilbert creator (maybe you’re like me and don’t really follow his work because you’ve never spent a day in a cubicle) wrote on his blog the other day that he was going to start posting less frequently because he wasn’t seeing the results that he thought he would from his blog.

His stated reasons were basically, and I’m paraphrasing, that he thought some negative comments weren’t worth it and, because people were choosing to read the blog via RSS, he wasn’t making more money because of it.

It’s funny but I think people with his kind of star power, much like big offline publications, never really get into blogging because they are not used to people talking back at them or giving anything away for free. They see it as A) necessary evil or B) simply another way to make money and, in the end, it’s neither.

And if you’re a Dilbert fan perhaps you should be reading Escape from Cubicle Nation for some balance.

Live blogging the Thanksgiving drive

I’m headed down I-35 somewhere south of Oklahoma City fully wireless and blogging – don’t worry I’m not driving.

But here’s the thought I wanted to share. Two of my daughters are sitting in the back seat plugged into a movie – TranFormers (they’re really too old for that, but that’s another story.) The point is that they both have headsets on and occasionally they erupt into various forms of giggles at something that happened in the movie. It’s kind of sweet to hear these spontaneous giggles, but the odd thing is that they giggle at different times. In other words, what they think is funny is different for them.

I wonder how many people visit our web sites, read our sales copy and listen to our pitches and, effectively, laugh at different parts, and maybe not the parts we thought they would laugh or not at.

Test, test, test everything. It’s a amazing how different the same web page can appear to different people. Know what you want people to do when you make a point, create a web page, write a sales letter and then get some people together to see if they get it. You are probably too close to know what the funny parts are anymore.

By the way, some of the roadkill out here in North Texas looks pretty good for T-day.

Could your idea use a blob of money?

Social media sites are really funny animals and as such need really funny names.

A new site called Ideablob fits that requirement and is doing something that I find strangely intriguing.

Budding entrepreneurs are encouraged to join the site and submit their business ideas and for a chance to win $10,000 towards fulfilling them.

Other members cast votes that move ideas up the list toward qualifying for the prize. The real mesmerizing part of the site though is all of the comments that the ideas generate. Suggestions, praise, tweaks, add-ons and the like run down the side of each idea making for a really interesting stream. It has a bit of a virtual focus group feel to it.

Here’s a short video focused in ideas.

In addition, people can ask the community to weigh in on questions that have that may or may not be related to any of the ideas on the site.

Worth mentioning is the fact that the site is created and sponsored by a credit card company and the on-site branding is one of the lightest treatments I’ve ever seen. (Note the inspired by Advanta emblem in the header) This kind of hands off, low-key promotion is tough for some marketers to pull off, but I think it adds a level of transparency and trust that is key to the success of these types of sites. Nice work Advanta.

It’s a unique twist and worth a visit.

So, what’s your great idea?

The definition of branding – video version

I’m playing around with video blogging and using video in general in anticipation of launching my own small business social networking site called The WorkBench. (There will be more on that soon.) Here’s a post from a few days ago in video format. Let me know what you think. (I think!) You can embed this clip on your site or in your blog if you like by copying the code that comes up when you hit the steal this tab below the movie.