Two Cool Website Tools

I learned web design the old fashioned way by diving in with my eyes closed and never really knowing where I, or the site, would wind up.  My first site in 1998 was built with NetObjects Fusion, a wysiwyg editor.  Over the years I went from version 3 to version 11, avoiding learning to write code, since most of the sites I was designing were for my own businesses.  Eventually  I  ditched NOF and began to focus on using WordPress and templates, learning as much code as I needed to tweak things.

I still do not like writing CSS from scratch and choosing color schemes gives me a headache.  But two tools that I’ve discovered have made things much simpler, and if you are someone who likes to DIY then you should love them as well.  Here they are:

1.  LeanDesigns claims to be the first visual web design tool built specifically for web developer.  Not sure about that but I would describe them as a web creation tool that allows you to create a site using drag and drop functionality and then instantly export the html and css that makes up your design.  Its fast and simple to create a layout, making it also a perfect tool to create wire frames.  Here’s a graphic of a design I created in about 15 minutes.

One of the features I like is that you can apply a 960 grid guide behind your design making it easy to create a visually appealing design.  Then once you’ve completed your design you can export the html and css code.

The design to the left is actually a layout for a page in a WordPress Template site that I’m working on.  The header and footer are supplied by the template and I use my design and the code to customize the body section.

LeanDesigns has a How It Works page that walks you through the creation process with a set of screenshots.

They offer a free trial version that allows you to create and save one design.  The Pro version allows you to create and save unlimited designs for only $9 a month.

My Verdict:  A low cost tool that can be an advantage in your tool set.

2.  Color Scheme Designer allows you to create custom palettes for websites and more.  The interface is simple and allows you to quickly create a color scheme that works together.

I met with a client earlier today to discuss redesigning their website and color scheme (the current scheme was red and royal blue).  The first step was to redesign their logo with the new colors, the only caveat being that one of the colors had to be red.  I took the red color and put it into the tool and it generated the following color palette.

There are six different choice for choosing color combinations:

1.  Mono
2.  Complement
3.  Triad
4.  Tetrad
5.  Analogic
6.  Accented Analogic

You can adjust the saturation/brightness, contrast, and see a full color list with color swatches and hexagon codes.  They even have a tool to see a light or dark page example allowing you to see how the colors might interact on an actual page.

Using the palette generated I was able to quickly put together a logo in the new colors to show my client.  Here is the logo design (company name changed because the client is not ready to make the actual logo public):

Without the color scheme designer I’m not sure I would have chosen to mix red, blue, and green together.

My Verdict: An absolute must have if you do anything that requires color selection.

There are thousands of tools out there and they may be some that are better, but so far these two do exactly what I want them to do.  They are perfect tools to add to your DIY tool kit.

Social Media Sonar provides the following four resources for FREE… 1.  The Blog, 2. The Online Marketing/Social Media Blueprint, 3.  Conversion Rate Optimization Guide, 4.  Resource Center.  If these help you implement your own online marketing program, great. We love helping people. If you decide you need some help, great. We love new clients.  Contact Us if we can help you.

Online Strategy Using Social Media part 2

Syndicating contentIn our previous post we looked at Building a Cohesive Social Brand as part of your online marketing strategy. Today we look at the second part, Syndicating Your Content. Syndication is just a fancy word for publishing, or even better “sharing”.

When you think about social media and online marketing what really differentiates a business in the long run is the content they share. Businesses that talk about themselves constantly are eventually ignored, but those that use their content to address problems, educate, inform, and entertain potential customers and clients have a shot at earning some business. And not just any content but relevant content of quality.

Creating content is a time consuming endeavor. If you are a large company you probably have people in your marketing department whose sole job is to develop new content regardless of the medium. For smaller companies without the resources you need to utilize the concept of “re-purposing content” For this strategy everything starts with your Blog.

For every blog post that you write your goal should be to re-purpose the post content as an article, a video, a podcast, as part of a monthly email newsletter, and where possible into an online news release.

Blogs are like the Swiss Army Knife of online marketing. They allow you to easily publish content in written, motion, and audio formats so that regardless of how your audience likes to consume content you can provide it. You can use keywords, links, and tags to improve your chances of being indexed by search engines. And its a lot easier to refresh content on your site through your blog rather than trying to update pages that were designed to be static. So we start with a blog post and re-purpose and syndicate away. Continue reading Online Strategy Using Social Media part 2

Online Strategy Using Social Media

Build a Cohesive Social BrandStrategies are like excuses.  Some people have them some people don’t.  Some are good and some not so good.  Some are so good that you file it away should you need it in the future.  Today I offer you an online marketing excuse of a strategy that incorporates social media.

2 Parts of the Strategy

The strategy that I’ll layout has two parts to it:  1.  Build a Cohesive Social Brand; 2.  Syndicate Content.  Then as you can see in the video I’ll show you how the two components work together.  The goal is to generate an impact in your social media marketing while also looking to benefit from being indexed by search engines.  Its a push / pull strategy that relies on one key component …quality content.

In today’s post I’m going to walk through part one.  Tomorrow I will add part two, Syndicating Content.  Of course you can watch the video and see everything at once.

Cohesive Social Brand

There are thousands of social media and networking sites out there and you could drive yourself crazy trying to sign up for everyone.  You should focus on establishing a presence on the major sites and then add in some specific sites that fit your niche.  Each of these components should Continue reading Online Strategy Using Social Media

Prospecting with LinkedIn (part 7 of 10)

Last week I discussed New Opportunities, New Hires with LinkedIn that discussed using LinkedIn to advance your career and for companies to find new employees.  Todays conversation addresses using LinkedIn to prospect.

Most people use LinkedIn to connect to other business professionals that they know or meet while networking.  It definitely can help put an additional degree of connectivity to these folks.  But limiting your use to simply networking leaves a significant opportunity out of your monetization toolbox.

The tool that most people fail to take advantage of is the ability to prospect for potential opportunities.  Let me be clear, prospecting is not sending sales messages to your direct connections.  It’s not posting sales messages in groups.  It’s simply identifying potential people or companies that could eventually become clients.

LinkedIn, like other social networking sites, are not great places to overtly sell your products and services.  Can doing this work? Sure, but you’re more likely to turn people off than to turn them on.  A better approach is to connect and engage in conversations so that people first get a chance to know and like you.  Then you can begin converting the “like” into trust.

I recently received a message form someone stating that they had looked at my profile and read my blog.  In the message they simply asked if they could follow up with a question.  I said sure and then next communication was an offer for me to use their services.

Bad strategy.  I’ll talk about how they could have approached things later.

The two ways you can prospect on LinkedIn are People and for Companies. Continue reading Prospecting with LinkedIn (part 7 of 10)

Expand Your LinkedIn Reach (part 4 of 10)

linkedin expand networkIn part three of this series, Enhance Your Networking with LinkedIn, I talked about how LinkedIn could be used as a way to support your offline networking efforts. Today I continue the conversation discussing how LinkedIn can expand your reach.

Your end goal on LinkedIn should be to drive new business or to monetize LinkedIn. Your ability to communicate your message to a larger number of people, expand your reach, is critical if you hope to move from “connecting” to “collecting”.

When you’re at networking events and collecting business cards you’ve got a great opportunity to take this activity and convert it into new LinkedIn connections. This is a way to grow your direct connections. Your Direct Connections, though, are not your only network on LinkedIn.

I’ve identified three networks that everyone has access to on LinkedIn:

  1. Your Direct Network: These are the people who are 1st degree connections.
  2. Your Group Network: The people that are in the same groups as you are.
  3. The LinkedIn Network: Everyone who is a member of LinkedIn.

What makes the member of each of these a network is your ability to communicate your message to them. There are specific ways to communicate to each and we’ll touch on many of these later in the series. First we need to expand out reach. Continue reading Expand Your LinkedIn Reach (part 4 of 10)

3 Steps to LinkedIn Success

Norvax logoToday is Monday and usually you can expect a new blog post…and specifically this Monday part 4 of my 10 part LinkedIn series.  Unfortunately I have to ask for a Mulligan and will pick the series up next Monday.

Last Thursday and Friday I spoke at Norvax University in Los Angeles.  Norvax U is an educational event put on by Norvax, which provides quote engines for over 10,000 health insurance brokers across the country.  The event went great and I had the opportunity to meet many of the attendees.  I’ll talk more about the event in a second.

Like I said the event went great.  Getting back to Atlanta…not so well.  It started with a call saying my flight had been postponed from 2:30PM until 5:30 PM.  I got this at 11:45 as I was 5 minutes into my drive to the Airport.  So I went back to the Hotel and had lunch with the attendees.

My second try at going to the airport did not work out so well.  I left the hotel at 1:15 and then received a message saying that the flight had been bumped up to a 4:11 departure.  Thanks to an accident I didn’t make it to drop off the rental car until 3:30.  I made it to the terminal by 3:40…31 minutes to go.  Then I got hit by the Delta line to check your bags. Continue reading 3 Steps to LinkedIn Success

Social Media Process in a Picture

Yesterday I wrote about 6 tools that we use at SONARconnects to create and implement social media/networking strategies for ourselves and our client’s.  This got me to thinking about how to simplify things by laying out the process in a graphic.  Below is the result of that exercise.  I hope it helps you see the overall picture.

Social Media Process flow

Does this help you see things more clearly?

Social Media Sonar provides the following four resources for FREE… 1.  The Blog, 2. The Online Marketing/Social Media Blueprint, 3.  Conversion Rate Optimization Guide, 4.  Resource Center.  If these help you implement your own online marketing program, great. We love helping people. If you decide you need some help, great. We love new clients.  Contact Us if we can help you.

Radio LinkedIn Interview with Gravity Free Radio

radiox graphic

This past week Erik Wolf and Stephanie Frost, hosts of the Gravity Free Radio show were desperate for a guest so they turned to Scott Dunn and myself.  I’m always happy to be filler for Erik and Stephanie.

In addition to the show Erik and Stephanie run Zero-G Creative, a killer web design, graphic design, and web tools company that I would highly recommend to anyone looking for a unique website and online presence.

The show covers LinkedIn bouncing from building your network, optimizing your profile, and leveraging LinkedIn.  There’s a better explanation on the show at the Gravity Free Radio show

To listen to the show go to  http://gravityfreeradio.com/archives/187

Your 2 Critical LinkedIn Networks

Last week I covered some tips to Optimize Your Profile which was the first part of the Three Basic Keys to LinkedIn.  Today we cover the second Key…Building Your Network.
You can have the best profile on LinkedIn but if your network is not significant enough it won’t matter.  You have to connect to others.  If you’re more of an open networker, you’ll find it easier to build your network.  If you’re more restrictive in whom you connect to then you’re going to have to get out and meet people.
Your Direct Network:
I’ve heard different number as far as how many direct connections you need to have…100, 250, 500, or more.  What I do know is that 100 connections is probably better than 50 and 500 is probably better than 250.  My thoughts are that if you get active in your community you should be able to build up at least 500 local connections.
I got lucky on LinkedIn.  When I received my first referral from another member I only had 19 connections.  That was enough to wake me up to the potential.  The spigot didn’t start flowing immediately but as my network grew little by little so did the referrals.
Another benefit I noticed was that connecting on LinkedIn added another degree of depth to my relationships within my chamber.  It gave me a point of reference and an immediate ice breaker the next time I saw the connection.
During the next year I grew my network by sending connection invitations to everyone that attended the networking events I attended.  In the invitation I simply said, “Our paths crossed today at the Chamber meeting.  We didn’t have an opportunity to meet but I am using LinkedIn to enhance my networking.  I’d like to extend an invitation to connect”.
If I actually met them then I added a note about our talk.  Personalizing your invitations will increase the likelihood of it being accepted.  Avoid using the canned LinkedIn invitation, it doesn’t say much about you or why you want to connect.  It makes a difference.
I currently have about 2,800 direct connections and about 800 of these are local.  Some of these connections I know some are simply part of a network.   I’ve heard the arguments that connecting to those you don’t know devalues your network.  I simply disagree.
Last week I introduced a connection I didn’t know to another connection I didn’t know.  I was simply the hub in the process but the introduction was made.  The value of that introduction remains to be seen but an opportunity has been created.
How you choose to connect is a decision you have to make.  For me open networking has been a good choice.
Your Group Network
Most people are aware of their group network but don’t realize that they have a Group network as well.  The people that belong to the same groups as you are represent a network.  I define a network on LinkedIn based on my ability to communicate a message.  Groups allow you to do that.
If your primary reason for being on LinkedIn to network then the only value in groups is their ability to help you find more people to connect to.  If you’re on LinkedIn to make money, and you should be, then you’ll realize that the value of groups is that they extend your reach.
I may have 2,800 connections but the 50 groups I’m in now have over 800,000 people.  Locally the groups I’m in extend my reach from 800 local professionals to over 30,000.  That’s a healthy extension of my reach on LinkedIn.
The beauty of groups is that they are formed around a uniting factor.  It could be a location such as Linked Georgia (have to be a resident of Georgia), a type of employment such as Self Employed Atlanta (be self employed and live in the Atlanta Metro), and alumni group such as Georgia southern University (graduated from the University), or even based on LinkedIn recommendations such as Top Recommended People (have 10 recommendations or more).
You simply need to identify the groups that your prospects belong to and join.  Then begin interacting and communicating with them.
Your networks represent opportunity.  Each person in your networks is a potential client, referral partner, business alliance, or simply a hub that could help you connect into an opportunity.  You determine the size and scope.
Next week we’ll talk about how to start leveraging LinkedIn to take advantage of your “killer” profile and the network you’re building.

Last week I covered some tips to Optimize Your Profile which was the first part of the Three Basic Keys to LinkedIn.  Today we cover the second Key…Building Your Network.

You can have the best profile on LinkedIn but if your network is not significant enough it won’t matter.  You have to connect to others.  If you’re more of an open networker, you’ll find it easier to build your network.  If you’re more restrictive in whom you connect to then you’re going to have to get out and meet people.

Your Direct Network:
I’ve heard different numbers as far as how many direct connections you need to have…100, 250, 500, or more.  I’m not sure that there is a definitive number, but what I do know is that 100 connections is probably better than 50 and 500 is probably better than 250.  My thoughts are that if you get active in your community you should be able to build up at least 500 local connections.

I got lucky on LinkedIn.  When I received my first referral from another member I only had 19 connections.  That was enough to wake me up to the potential.  The spigot didn’t start flowing immediately but as my network grew little by little so did the referrals.

Another benefit I noticed was that connecting on LinkedIn added another degree of depth to my relationships within my chamber.  It gave me a point of reference and an immediate ice breaker the next time I saw the connection.

During the next year I grew my network by sending connection invitations to everyone that attended the networking events I attended.  In the invitation I simply said, “Our paths crossed today at the Chamber meeting.  We didn’t have an opportunity to meet but I am using LinkedIn to enhance my networking.  I’d like to extend an invitation to connect”.

If I actually met them then I added a note about our conversation.  Personalizing your invitations will increase the likelihood of it being accepted.  Avoid using the canned LinkedIn invitation, it doesn’t say much about you or why you want to connect.  It makes a difference.

I currently have about 2,800 direct connections and about 800 of these are local.  Some of these connections I know some are simply part of a network.   I’ve heard the arguments that connecting to those you don’t know devalues your network.  I simply disagree.

Last week I introduced a connection I didn’t know to another connection I didn’t know.  I was simply the hub in the process but the introduction was made.  The value of that introduction remains to be seen but an opportunity has been created.

How you choose to connect is a decision you have to make.  For me openly connecting has been a good decision.

Your Group Network
Most people are aware of their Direct network but don’t realize that they have a Group network as well.  The people that belong to the same groups as you represent a network.  I define a network on LinkedIn based on my ability to communicate a message.  Groups allow you to do that.

If your primary reason for being on LinkedIn is to network then the only value in groups is their ability to help you find more people to connect to.  If you’re on LinkedIn to make money, and you should be, then you’ll realize that the value of groups is that they extend your reach.

I may have 2,800 direct connections but the 50 groups I’m in now have over 800,000 people.  Locally the groups I’m in extend my reach from 800 local professionals to over 30,000.  That’s a healthy extension of my reach on LinkedIn.

The beauty of groups is that they are formed around a uniting factor.  It could be a location such as Linked Georgia (have to be a resident of Georgia), a type of employment such as Self Employed Atlanta (be self employed and live in the Atlanta Metro), an alumni group such as Georgia southern University (graduated from the University), or even based on LinkedIn recommendations such as Top Recommended People (have 10 recommendations or more).

You simply need to identify the groups that your prospects belong to and join.  Then begin interacting and communicating with them.

Wrap Up:
Your networks represent opportunity.  Each person in your networks is a potential client, referral partner, business alliance, or simply a hub that could help you connect into an opportunity.  They also provide a larger audience to provide value to.  You determine the size and scope.

Next week we’ll talk about how to start leveraging LinkedIn to take advantage of your “killer” profile and the network you’re building.  What’s your connection strategy?

**If you would like to learn more about how to use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and Business Blogs to grow you business, SONAR Connects offers two options:

  1. Social Media Training that teaches you how to optimize your accounts, build communities of friends, followers, and connections, and how to monetize social networking and social media.
  2. Social Networking/Media Management: We take on the responsibility for managing your social media accounts including creating and writing your business blog.

Social Media Sonar provides the following four resources for FREE… 1.  The Blog, 2. The Online Marketing/Social Media Blueprint, 3.  Conversion Rate Optimization Guide, 4.  Resource Center.  If these help you implement your own online marketing program, great. We love helping people. If you decide you need some help, great. We love new clients.  Contact Us if we can help you.

The 3 Basic Keys to LinkedIn

It’s been a fun two weeks but not necessarily a productive period in terms of the blog.  Two weeks ago I started moving the blog from the Linked Intuition site to the Social Media Sonar site.  Instead of writing new posts I was finding all of the little things that needed to be updated or corrected.  I think all is in place to kick off the new blog and move forward.

This week I’m preparing to speak at Norvax University in Orlando which is an educational road show event hosted by Norvax for health insurance agents.  There will be 300 brokers from 22 states so it’s a great opportunity to gain some personal and blog exposure.

In preparing for the show I’ve been writing my presentations and creating some new LinkedIn guides.  From this writing developed the 3 Basic Keys to Getting Started on LinkedIn.

1.  Optimize Your Profile

2.  Build Your Network

3.  Leverage LinkedIn

Optimize Your Profile
Optimizing your profile is the same as dressing appropriately for an event.  You want to dress to impress.  When you meet someone (someone looks at your profile) you want them to walk away with a positive impression.

It’s not only how you look though, it’s also what you say while engaged in the conversation.  In your profile that starts with your photo and your descriptive title.  If you don’t have a professional profile photo get one.  A professional photo is one that supports your brand.

Your Title description is an area that most people can improve upon.  I think you’re better of using the space to say something about how you can help someone.  In other words use a Tag line instead of a title.  A tag line says what you can do to help people; a title says what you are and is inward focused.  Compare a title verses a tagline for my insurance business.  Which ia better –  Title:  “Insurance Broker“; or Tag Line:  “Helping individuals and businesses in Atlanta save up to 60% on their health insurance“.

Another important area is your summary.  You can post a resume style summary that talks about you or you can get creative and talk about who you are, how you help people, and how they can help you.

A great way to start your summary is by using your elevator speech that includes key elements.  When I was focused primarily on my health insurance businesses my summary started with:

“Hi, my name is Sean Nelson and for the last eight years (how long) I have helped thousands (how many) of self employed individuals and small businesses (who) in Atlanta (where) save up to 60% (what) on their health insurance and employee benefits.”

Some other keys are to provide enough detailed information, sprinkle keywords through out your profile, and add applications.

Build Your Network
A great profile with 10 connections isn’t really that productive.  While some people will find you, you also want to be growing your Direct Network.  I used to think that if you had 250 connections that was enough.  Now I think you need to have at least 500 relevant connections.

Relevant means they have the potential to lead to business.  You won’t always know whether a connection will lead to business but some are more relevant than others.  A connection in the United Kingdom may know someone in Atlanta who needs help with insurance, but a self employed person in Atlanta is a more relevant connection to me.

The more people you are connected to the more opportunity you will likely find.  Some people will disagree but my experience has been that as I have grown my network I’ve found more success.

A great tool to use is the Import Contacts tool that allows you to add people you’ve communicated with via email in your webmail accounts or the people in your address book, such as Outlook.  When you import or add the contacts LinkedIn lets you know which ones already have a LinkedIn account.  You can then review your Imported Contacts to see who you would like to connect to.

The offline events you attend are also great sources of finding connections.  When I first started on LinkedIn the majority of connections I made were with people that attended the same events as me.  Even if I did not meet a person I sent them a connection invitation.  I assumed that since everyone is there to network, connecting would be just an extension of the offline networking.

Not everyone accepts the invitation but the majority do.  This allows me to grow my local network which is highly relevant.  The connections also provide a great ice breaker at the next event we both attended.

Leverage LinkedIn
You’ve got a great profile and you have a large network, what do you do with it?  You have to leverage the tools that LinkedIn provides.  You have to find ways to communicate your message to your network and generate profile visits.

Profile visits mean someone is interested in something about you.  This is a great opportunity to communicate your message whether it’s through your summary, applications on your profile, or a piece of information that you present.

One of the benefits of participating on LinkedIn is that every time you take an action your network is notified on their home page.  Add a connections and your network is notified.  Provide a recommendation, answer a question, or join a group and the activity is displayed on your Direct Connections home pages.  Over time this continuous activity resonates.

Another great way to communicate with your network is through the use of the Status function.  I use it to tell my net work about success stories…”Sean just helped a client optimize their LinkedIn profile”.  Or for my insurance business “Sean just saved a client $215 on their health insurance”.

Even if your activity doesn’t generate a profile visit it can still communicate a message.  In the “optimize your profile section” I talked about using a tag line instead of a title.  When you answer a question, post a news article, or provide a recommendation a mini profile is shown.  This includes your name, your photo, and your title/tag line.  Even if you don’t visit my profile you’ll see the message I want to convey:  “Sean Nelson:  Saving folks in Atlanta up to 60% on their health insurance”.

I estimate that this tag line seen over and over due to continuous activity has been a significant part of the success I’ve had in getting prospects to call me.

Wrap Up
There are so many other things that are important and can contribute to your success, but these three are a great place to start.  You can find many of these other ideas in other posts on this blog.  Or you can check out my two current books the “LinkedIn MBA” and “LinkedIn Marketing Secret Formula”.  The first is a great “How to” resource.  The second is the first book that lays out a strategic approach to using LinkedIn.  Both can help you shorten the learning curve.

What are some key parts of LinkedIn that you think are important?