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Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

How Universal Design Is Good For The World & For Market Domination

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I was telling my designer friend Jessica Zarin Kessin about how there is one brand that dominates my home: The OXO series of award-winning kitchen products.

I own their salad spinner, potato peeler, tea kettle, paper towel holder, tongs, cleaning bucket and travel mug (I’m sure I’m missing something!).

OXO's Products Exemplify Universal Design

OXO's Products Exemplify Universal Design

Jessica told me that OXO is a leader in a design concept called “Universal Design.”

You know me…

I decide to do a question and answer session with Jessica so that you and I can learn more about Universal Design.


Q: Hi Jess. I’ve heard Universal Design described in different ways — what’s your Universal Design definition?

I think Universal Design is best described by Ron Mace, one of the pioneers of Universal Design:

“Universal Design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design.”

Basically, Universal Design considers a broader range of users from the onset, thereby creating a more user friendly product or environment for everyone, independent of age, ability, size or culture.

Q:  Why is Universal Design necessary?

Product Design is at the intersection of technology, design, and human factors.   When all these areas coalesce we can innovate and create usable products to improve the lives of users.

Generally designers consider users, but it is a natural tendency to think of people like oneself, which usually means healthy, young and typically developing.  The human population is not typical, however.

We all have physical, social, emotional, cognitive and environmental factors that vary change throughout our lives.

Disabilities may be chronic conditions or temporary.  Most people will experience a ‘disability’ at some point in their lives, a broken leg or shoulder surgery, perhaps.

For those of us lucky enough to live to old age, our physical abilities will naturally deteriorate with time.

As medical technology improves, people are living longer, but the types and severity of their disabilities are increasing. Conditions that would have killed a person not long ago are no longer as great a threat to survival.

Premature babies survive, but often with cognitive or physical disabilities.  Soldiers survive injuries that were not previously treatable, but consequently return with disabilities.

The Baby Boomers are starting to see the effects of arthritis, stroke, and other disabilities associated with the aging process.

At the turn of 20th Century, the average lifespan was 47 years.  Today it is 76.

My grandparents are in their 90s and live independently, but products and environments were not created to make life easy as one ages; there are challenges at every turn.

Universal Design not only makes products and environments easier for people with disabilities, but it increases the use for everyone.

For example, someone with one arm might have trouble stirring a bowl while cooking, but the same situation might apply to a mother with a toddler on her hip.

A wheelchair user might find doors difficult, but there is no one who hasn’t struggled with a door while carrying bags of groceries.

Universal design makes products and environments more accessible to everyone.

As designers, we need to understand the challenges that ALL people face, not just young healthy professionals.  Universal Design breaks down the physical and social barriers between people with and without disabilities.

Q: Would you explain “The Seven Principles of Universal Design?”

The Seven principles of Universal Design were developed with a conference of experts in 1997 at NC State.  The experts were comprised of architects, engineers, designers and environmental design researchers.

These principles can be applied to new designs, evaluating existing designs and to the education of designers.

These principles are quoted directly from the Center of Universal Design at NC State.

The Seven Principles of Universal Design

Principle 1 of Universal Design: Equitable Use

The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities:

  • Provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not.
  • Avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users.
  • Provisions for privacy, security, and safety should be equally available to all users.
  • Make the design appealing to all users.

Principle 2 of Universal Design: Flexibility in Use

The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities:

  • Provide choice in methods of use.
  • Accommodate right- or left-handed access and use.
  • Facilitate the user’s accuracy and precision.
  • Provide adaptability to the user’s pace.

Principle 3 of Universal Design: Simple and Intuitive Use

Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level:

  • Eliminate unnecessary complexity.
  • Be consistent with user expectations and intuition.
  • Accommodate a wide range of literacy and language skills.
  • Arrange information consistent with its importance.
  • Provide effective prompting and feedback during and after task completion.

Principle 4 of Universal Design: Perceptible Information

The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities:

  • Use different modes (pictorial, verbal, tactile) for redundant presentation of essential information.
  • Provide adequate contrast between essential information and its surroundings.
  • Maximize “legibility” of essential information.
  • Differentiate elements in ways that can be described (i.e., make it easy to give instructions or directions).
  • Provide compatibility with a variety of techniques or devices used by people with sensory limitations.

Principle 5 of Universal Design: Tolerance for Error

The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions:

  • Arrange elements to minimize hazards and errors: most used elements, most accessible; hazardous elements eliminated, isolated, or shielded.
  • Provide warnings of hazards and errors.
  • Provide fail safe features.
  • Discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.

Principle 6 of Universal Design: Low Physical Effort

The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.

  • Allow user to maintain a neutral body position.
  • Use reasonable operating forces.
  • Minimize repetitive actions.
  • Minimize sustained physical effort.

Principle 7 of Universal Design: Size and Space for Approach and Use

Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, or mobility:

  • Provide a clear line of sight to important elements for any seated or standing user.
  • Make reach to all components comfortable for any seated or standing user.
  • Accommodate variations in hand and grip size.
  • Provide adequate space for the use of assistive devices or personal assistance.

Please note that the Principles of Universal Design address only universally usable design, while the practice of design involves more than consideration for usability.

Designers must also incorporate other considerations such as economic, engineering, cultural, gender, and environmental concerns in their design processes.

These Principles offer designers guidance to better integrate features that meet the needs of as many users as possible.

Copyright © 1997 NC State University, The Center for Universal Design.

Q: What is Barrier-Free Design?

Barrier-free design is another term for “handicapped accessible.” It is generally used in architecture to refer to buildings and environments that have ramps and other accessible features.

Many of these features are required by the ADA Guidelines, but Barrier-Free design usually denotes additional features beyond the ADA requirements.  Barrier-Free Design is a term more often used in non-English speaking countries.

Universal Design has taken over for Barrier-Free design in many cases.  Universal Design considers all the users from the onset of the design process instead of adding additional feature after-the-fact to accommodate more users.

Q: I’ve heard you mention terms like “Assistive Technology” and “Adaptive Technology — would you explain those?

These terms are often used interchangeably.  I like to separate them out, but many people would not differentiate between the two.

Assistive technology is any personal device to help a person with disabilities overcome their physical, sensory or cognitive challenges.   Assistive technology can be anything from a pair of glasses to a wheelchair, or a prosthetic limb.

Assistive technology has historically made limited advances.  Prosthetic limbs are better than they used to be, but there is still a huge cultural stigma associated with them.

Glasses are one of the few bits of assistive technology that have bridged the gap and transformed into the realm of fashion.

While there is room for prosthetics, hearing aides and other assistive technology to follow, this has not yet happened anywhere except eyewear.

Adaptive Technology is a device that allows existing products to be altered or someone with a disability.  This could be anything from a large button added to a child toy to make it easier to manipulate, to a text reader for the blind.

Q: What is “Separate Design” versus “Inclusive Design?”

Separate Design is very similar to the debate during the civil rights movement.  Is separate really equal?

For example, if you are looking at a building, is the main entrance wheelchair accessible, or are wheelchair users forced to go around to a rear entrance?  Inclusive design incorporates accessibility into the core of the design.

All design has an emotional and humanizing factor.  Having someone use a separate entrance or a ‘special’ product goes beyond the actual function of getting from point A to point B….It separates and stigmatizes.

Universal Design fights to eliminate this.

Note: The term Inclusive Design is often used interchangeably with Universal Design

Q: You told me over coffee that the OXO design of kitchen products is an example of Universal Design — would you dive into their products to teach us how OXO applies the Seven Principles of Universal Design?

Sam Farber retired from the houseware industry and started to notice his wife’s arthritis affecting her ability to comfortably use kitchen utensils.  He set out to create a line that was usable across generations, left and right hand users, men and women and people with disabilities.

In 1990 he founded OXO on these principles.

“For OXO, the principles of Universal Design mean a salad spinner that can be used with one hand; liquid measuring cups that can be read from above without bending over; a toilet brush that bends to reach out-of-the-way places; a backlit oven thermometer that can be read easily through the window of an oven door; kettles with whistle lids that open automatically when tipped to pour; and tools with pressure-absorbing, non-slip handles that make them more efficient.”

Read here for: the OXO Concept as it relates to Universal Design

OXO Travel Mug for Universal Design

OXO is the perfect example of how considering different users from the beginning can lead to small changes that can change someone’s life.  All the changes that they made allow people with special needs to use these items, but they also make a ‘typical’ user’s experience better.

Q: Would you mention some other leading examples of Universal Design?

Here are a couple of examples that you may encounter everyday and not realize.

1) Door Knobs: A typical doorknob is very difficult for someone with limited hand function or limited strength.  An amputee using a prosthetic arm or an elderly man with arthritis may struggle to open a typical doorknob.

A lever style door handle can eliminate many of these struggles.  You no longer need to grasp and turn using a large about of force, you can push the handle down with very limited control or strength.

(Try wearing an oven mitt and limiting the amount of strength you exert.  This will give you a small hint of where people encounter challenges.)

2) Automatic Doors: An automatic door or a door with a automatic open button are a great way to help users with a disability, but they are also very helpful to those of us that are carrying bags or otherwise have our hands full.

Sidewalk Cut Away:  You will notice at the corner of most sidewalks there are cutaways to allow wheelchair users to more easily cross the street.  However, these are also helpful to a patent with a stroller, a person pulling a wheeling suitcase or someone using crutches or a walker.  These help everyone.

Ikea Directions:  Universal Design also relates to people of different cultures or who speak different languages.  For anyone who has ever put together a piece of Ikea furniture, you will notice that the instructions do not contain any words. A clear concise series of images allows user who speak any language to understand the directions equally well.

Q:  How have you used Universal Design in your design practice?

I have always worked with special needs people and more specifically with children.  For the last few years I have been working on a developmental toy company for children of all needs and abilities, Development by Design (DbD).

We used the Universal Design principles to design every one of our toys and games.

After hearing multiple stories about how parents could not find any toys that their kids could use effectively, we decided to design a line of toys that they could.

I teamed up with a pediatric occupational therapist and we brought Universal Design to the toy world.  We paid attention to the needs of kids with tactile, auditory and visual sensitivities.

We looked at what kids on the Autism Spectrum needed and we incorporated them into our toys.

For example, we saw kids with poor motor control struggling to use blocks.  So we created a set of blocks that were weighted with a grippy texture.  This allowed these children to play with blocks for the first time, but also made them easier for typically developing kids.

Typically developing kids found that they could then build bigger crazier towers, which they loved.    We also created them in odd shapes to diminish some of the behaviors associated with autism but for the typically developing population, this just spurs creativity in building.

We have a number of examples from DbD, but this is how Universal Design creates better toys for everyone!

DBD Block Stack for Universal Design

In addition to using Universal Design to design our toys, we took it a step further and created an icon system using the same techniques. This icon system was created to clearly communicate the skills that all our toys work on and give parents clear understanding of those terms.

DBD Icon

Besides working on DbD, I have consulted on a number of projects and products to help incorporate Universal Design.

With just a small about of understanding and forethought, most products can be designed to include far more users than they currently do…..the challenge come when you try to change something afterwards instead of incorporating Universal Design into the initial design process.

Q: What are some good Universal Design Web site resources for people to learn more?

The Center for Universal Design at NC State has a great site with lots of information on it. This is where the UD movement got started in the US and one of the only real university deparments in the country.

The Center for Human Centered Design in Boston (previously Adaptive Environments) is another great resource.   They have a fantastic resource list with a number of great articles as well as a store with some universally designed products.

If you are interested in Universal Design for travel, check out Scott Rain.

Q: Do you have a favorite Universal Design book or two you recommend?

Design Meets Disability is not exactly on Universal Design, but it is a fascinating book about the ongoing inspiration of disability on design and visa versa.

A number of interesting case studies on Universal Design are available to read about in The Universal Design File: Designing for People of All Ages and Abilities

Q: If someone wants to get in touch with you, Jess, how should they do so?

I am always up for a discussion about design and as I mentioned, I often act as a Universal Design consultant on projects.

When thought about upfront, there is no reason that most items cannot be made more accessible to people in a broader spectrum.

This is true for products, computer applications, websites, environment or most other designed elements.

Please contact me at [email protected].

If you like this article, you may also like Jessica’s How to Master the Design Process: Six Easy Steps.

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Monday, December 14th, 2009

How To Get Incoming Links to Your Blog (or Web Site)


I’ve seen traffic from my blog go from zero to 8,000 visitors in eight months…and I’m starting to learn how to get incoming links.

I thought I’d share some tips (many of which I still need to master myself!) on how to get incoming links to your blog (or Web site).

Top 8 Tips for Getting Incoming Links

If you’re like me, you’re going to learn all sorts of things as you try these tips out – including finding potential business opportunities beyond just incoming links.

Ok, let’s begin the list of my top 8 tips for getting incoming links:

Incoming Links Tip 1: Provide Valuable Content on Your Blog

For starters, you should have valuable content on your blog — if you do, others on the Web will eventually find you and link to you…it’s that simple.

That’s how I got this blog up to 8,000 unique visitors per month in six months.

For example, if you write helpful advice, then you’ll initially get found through search engines such as Google (who will find you through the keywords you have typed)- and then when users are searching Google for advice they will find you.

As they said in Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come!” As visitors do come to your valuable content they may: link to you without even asking;  ask you to publish your advice on their Web site (with a link to you); tell their friends; add you to directories of blogs, etc.

Creating valuable content on your blog takes time and it also takes time for people to find you and link to you…but in the long run, you’ll be successful generating incoming links by following this advice alone: write valuable content!

Incoming Links Tip 2: Write Comments On Blogs

Search other people’s blogs to find topics similar to those on your own blog and contribute a comment to their blog along with a link back to your own blog posting of the related topic.

Note/Warning: You should add genuine value to their blog posting (not just post a link back to your own posting) as the administrator of the blog your commenting on can easily delete your comment for being too selfish.

Incoming Links Tip 3: Insert your Blog link or RSS Feed into Your Social Network

  • LinkedIn
    • LinkedIn has a “MyBlog” field on your profile to let you put in the address of your blog.
    • LinkedIn has “Applications” that allow you to insert your blog feed into your LinkedIn profile so that people will see an excerpt of each new blog posting you make.
  • Facebook
    • Your profile on Facebook allows you to insert an RSS feed of your blog to your Facebook page so that every time you post a new item on your blog, it will show up on your Facebook page. note: if your blog is a business blog you may want to set up a separate Fan page on Facebook).
  • Twitter
    • Insert links to your blog on Twitter. These links may be clicked on by your Twitter followers or also come up in search engines which now index Tweets (you may have to use a URL shortener (such as TinyURL or to get your link to fit on Twitter.

Incoming Links Tip 4: Alert Content-Sharing Sites of Your Pages

Each of the below sites allow you to share your content by allowing you to submit a title and short description of what your site/content is about.


Visitors to these sites below then rank your content good or bad and the more good ratings you get the more visibility you get.

Incoming Links Tip 5: Reciprocal Linking

You should always be on the look-out for Web sites whose traffic you desire and consider how you might link to each other.

For example, I have a friend who writes for a Web site for entrepreneurs and that’s part of my Web site — so he has linked to me in particular articles and I have linked to him.

The key with such reciprocal linking is to make sure the links are relevant and in context, otherwise you might get into trouble with Google and other search engines.

Google frowns upon “link schemes” such as:

  • Links to or from spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the Web
  • Excessive/automated link exchanging (“I’ll link to you if you link to me”)
  • Buying or selling links

Incoming Links Tip 6: Link Directories

There are plenty of directories that allow you to freely provide a link to your blog or Web site.

I’ve listed some examples of ones below ranked by largest to smaller ones (rank = their rank in terms of traffic on the Web (e.g. Yahoo is the second largest Web site) and unique visitors is per month).

  • Yahoo (rank: 2; 120,000,000 unique visitors)
  • Blog Catalog (rank: 233; 4,600,000 unique visitors)
  • Technorati (rank: 529; 2,868,383 unique visitors)
  • MyBlogLog (rank: 802; 1,294,037 unique visitors)
  • (rank: 1,774; 1,015,926 unique users)
  • Scribnia (rank: 90,510; 19,115 unique visitors)
  • OnTopList (rank: 98,802; 17,308 unique visitors)
  • Dr. 5z5 (rank: 124,385 13,221 unique visitors)
  • FeedPlex (rank: 214,466; 6,948 unique visitors)
  • ooBdoo (rank: 329,927)
  • DayTimeNews (rank: 397,805; 3,328 unique visitors)
  • rss001 (rank: 548,185; 2,274 unique visitors)
  • FeedMil (rank: 629,551; 1,931 unique visitors)
  • Blogbal (rank: 736,845; 1,611 unique visitors)

Note: The source of the rankings and traffic is a combination of Quantcast and

Niche Directory Submission

There are also more specific niche directories for you to be listed on – you should try a search on your favorite search engine for “keywords related to your business + directory.”

For example, if you searched “business advice in the United Kingdom” you would find that a site called FreeIndex provides a free listing of your blog/business/web site

Incoming Links Tip 7: Write an Article for Someone Else

You can get a link back to your Web site by writing an article on such sites as ArticleBase and eZineArticles. I checked ArticleBase and it seemed to allow you to use at least two or three links back to whatever URL you choose.

Incoming Links Tip 8: Acquire An Existing Web Site/URL

You may consider acquiring a Web site that has a high Google Page Rank.

For example, go to Sedo and check out existing Web sites for sale and then look at their page rank (which you can do by downloading Google’s tool bar).

If you can acquire a Web site that has a higher page rank than yours, you can then control that Web site and link to your own blog or Web site.

Note: I only recommend doing this with a Web site that is relevant to the blog or Web site you want traffic to.

For any external link you seek you should know about the no-follow link.

What Is A No-Follow Link?

If any site links to you (including some above), they may include what’s called no-follow code within their HTML.

A no-follow link indicates to search engines that the Web site publishing the link does not necessarily want the search engine to associate its reputation with the site it’s linking to.

That said, there is still value to you of being linked to from a no-follow link since you will receive traffic and some believe it is another way to let a search engines know that a particular page on your site exists (especially useful if your blog/site is a new one with few to no links to it yet).

How To Determine if a Link is No-Follow

To determine if a Web site uses no-follow you can click on the page on which they are providing links, click View/Page Source on your browser and search for a URL and see if it is preceeded by the words “no follow.”

You can also search the Web for “do-follow” Web sites – some people have compiled lists of them.

A link without the no-follow in the HTML is more valuable than a link with no-follow.

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Friday, December 11th, 2009

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan


I met Nadja Specht recently — she runs a social media marketing company for small busineses.

I asked her some questions to help us figure out how to create a social media marketing plan.

Social Media Marketing Nadja Specht

Social Media Marketing Nadja Specht

Q: Let’s start off with your definition of social media marketing, Nadja.

I would like to start out by breaking the term down into its two components: social media and marketing.

So what is marketing? It is the systematic approach to generating interest in your products and services.

You start out with strategic questions such as:

  • “Who is my ideal customer?”
  • “What is my competition doing?”
  • “What should be my overall message?”

Then you decide which tactics to use (print, TV, online etc.).

What about social media?

Social media sums up the suite of tools and features that are available online to share information and collaborate with peers.

Now, what is the result if you combine the two?

Social media marketing is best illustrated by highlighting the following three steps:

1.  Integrating with the overall marketing plan

Social media marketing starts out with the integration into the overall marketing plan. It has to follow the same strategic direction that was developed in the overall marketing plan (remember the marketing questions above?).

2.  Deciding on the right social media tools

A key element of social media marketing is to decide which social media tools should be used. This depends heavily on the specific situation of each business, which should be reflected in the marketing plan.

Not only do you need to decide on the right tools, but also on the right sequencing and how they interact with each other in your social media ecosystem.

3.  Creating a community

Now that you have decided on which tools to use, based on your integrated marketing plan, the next task is to identify the right content and format that your audience is looking for.

Again, this needs to be in line with your overall messaging. But be aware that once the content is out, it takes on a life of its own.

That’s my long-winded explanation of what social media marketing is!

Q: Should all businesses have some type of social media marketing plan?


However, the extent of the social media marketing plan might be very different from one company to another.

Take a company that manufactures and sells wheel-chairs to elderly people as an example.

If studies show that their ideal customer base are not tech-savvy with only 30% being online (illustrative number), then your social media marketing plan might be almost none existent.

However, you need to go through the full exercise of marketing planning and social media planning in order to come up with that conclusion.

In addition, a few years from now the situation might be very different, so you should lay some social media groundwork for the next generation of wheel-chair users.

Q: What social media marketing strategies are effective for a business to grow, profit or organize?

There is really no single perfect strategy – it all depends on the specific situation of each business. The strategy will flow out of your overall marketing plan.

Q: Would you share some basic social media marketing tactics that businesses could do right away?

While you work on developing your social media marketing plan – which everyone should start right away – start doing the following things:

1) Make any existing content that you already have online shareable

The best way to do this is by adding a share button from AddThis . This is a button that allows a visitor to use dozens of different forms (email, Twitter, Facebook, bookmark, etc.) to share the content they are  reading on your website.

Don’t worry – it is very clean and simple to use. You just have to get the code from the AddThis website and add it wherever you want on your website.

Have a look at my website for an example. Please note that there are a variety of providers that offer share buttons e.g. ShareThis, Addtoanny and more.

2) Start writing a blog

What’s key is that you develop a repository of valuable information that people will find when they search for a specific topic on the internet. Blogs are a great tool for doing this.

Even if you want to hold off with installing a blog on your website, start writing content for your future blog anyway and save the blog posts on your computer for right now.

A blog becomes basically more of a traffic generator for your “main” website pages that include information about your services and products.

For example, an immigration attorney that specializes in helping Mexican immigrants should start writing a regular blog about issues and new laws concern his client base.

When someone goes on the internet and searches for answers in that field, they will very likely end up on his blog.

3)  Play around with it

Theory only gets you so far with social media. To truly grasp the magnitude and potential of the various social media tools, you have to experience it for yourself.

So start setting up personal accounts for all the major tools (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.) and play around with them.

Do it on a regular basis for a couple of months and you will start to get a feel for how this world works.

With some experience, you will be much better equipped to decide which tools to use for your business.

Q: When we had coffee, you mentioned a software tool called Hoot Suite — would you describe what that allows?

HootSuite started out as a web based twitter application that developed into a full fledged social media management tool. HootSuite recently started integrating Facebook and LinkedIn.

Now you can manage profiles, schedule updates and track clicks for all three major social media tools conveniently from one interface.

A variety of neat little features come with HootSuite such as link shortening, tracking of clicks on your individual updates (if they include a link), multi-column view and more.

A key element of social media success is to be very productive during a pre-determined period of time you spend on it each day.

It is easy to get sucked into it and spend half a day on checking tweets, wall posts and more. Hence productivity suites such as HootSuite are a must.

Q: Since you run a social media marketing agency, I’m curious, when do you think businesses should outsource their social media marketing to a firm likes yours (versus doing it in-house)?

There are three scenarios where I recommend outsourcing your social media activities:

1.  You have no talent in-house and don’t plan to hire someone (and you are not inclined to learn all the details yourself).

2.  You have no time to dedicate to social media or think that your time is better spent on some other parts of your business

3.  You don’t enjoy social media and basically have to force yourself to learn about it and to actively participate and grow your social media ecosystem.

You might be surprised that I don’t mention cost as a key motivator for outsourcing. With social media it is all about quality!

Think about it: your brand is shaped and sharpened by your social media activities — you directly interact with customers, prospects and potential advocates.

Therefore this is an area that you don’t want to outsource to the lowest bidder, but to someone that truly understands the social media ecosystem and is willing to learn all about your business.

Q: What are some secrets of social media marketing that you’ve learned that you believe most businesses don’t know?

I would like to sum it up in one word – “Patience.”

Business owners need to be aware of the following points when starting their social media journey:

  • It takes time to build and grow a community.
  • You might not see an ROI right away.
  • You need to be truly committed to it
  • It’s not a sales vehicle

Q: Do you have a favorite social media marketing blog you read (other than your own)?

Mashable is definitely the authority out there on social media. I receive their daily digest to stay on top of what new developments are on the horizon.

It’s definitely not a blog for the social media novice and requires some pre-existing knowledge, however  everyone should be able to get there fairly quickly.

Q: Your firm Nuvota provides a number of social marketing services. Would you describe them and tell people how they can get in touch with you?

Sure! So as it relates to social media, we provide the following three types of services:

1) Social Media Planning DIY Kit

We specifically developed a DIY (do-it-yourself) kit for business owners that would like to do the social media planning themselves and just need a structured guide.

Our DIY kit ensures that you think through all the key questions and end up with a very tangible and measurable social media plan.

2) Social Media Coaching

This 6-week program is designed for the complete social media novice who prefers to interact with a social media coach.

In weekly 60-minute one-on-one sessions, we will teach you all the key social media fundamentals you need to know and guide you through the completion of your own social media plan.

3) Social Media Outsourcing

Here we offer to take complete ownership of your social media activities.

First we develop a social media plan that we validate with you. From there we implement the various social media tactics (Facebook page, Twitter account etc.) and maintain them on a regular basis.

Each week you will receive a detailed report on what’s happening in your social media ecosystem (what people are saying about your brand, how many people became your fans, etc.).

We are also currently offering a free report titled “Top 50 social media tools every business should know about.”

For any questions you can best reach me at [email protected].

Thanks, Nadja!

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Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

What Everybody Ought to Know About Promotional Marketing


I had the good fortune to ask 20-year Promotional Marketing pro Kent Rippey to break down how promotional marketing works.

Don’t let the silly photo fool you — this guy has helped the largest companies in the world nail promotional partnerships.

Promotional Marketing Pro Kent Rippey

Promotional Marketing Pro Kent Rippey

Here’s the Q&A:

Q: Hi Kent. Here’s a lob ball question to start us off:

What is “promotional marketing?”

Promotional Marketing (A.K.A. “Promotions Marketing” or “Partnership Marketing”) has two main executions.

1) Promotions or Promotional Marketing refers to using a sweepstakes, contest, game of chance or some similar mechanism to attract significantly more attention to their product, service, company than if they simply did standard marketing practices (primarily using advertising – to their distribution system (b2b), or the end user (b2c)).

2) Partnership Marketing involves the marriage of two basic principals:

A) A company with an “exciting” brand or property (think of a movie or video game release, or a current technology product that is “in-demand”, like a TV, MP3 player, or eReader) that always needs additional exposure over and above what their marketing spend will allow, combined with

B) An unrelated company or product with a similar demographic, a marketing budget of their own, and perhaps a “less exciting” marketing message (think basic household items) that could use some “excitement” to bring their brand or property to life.

Q: What are the main benefits to a business that uses promotional marketing?

The idea of Promotional and Partnership Marketing are the same – trying to combine the “power” of two marketing powerhouses to create a powerful message for each.  For the “exciting property-holder”, they will get a dramatically higher amount of exposure for the property.

For the other company, it usually is the association and the concurrent promotion (i.e. sweepstakes) with the exciting property that they are seeking.  Both sides win.

Q: What’s an example of promotional marketing using real-life companies?

Things you see every day – a beverage and a video game company get together, and the video game title is highly anticipated.

The beverage company negotiates to do a promotion of some sort using the video game title and is allowed to put the game’s cover art on millions of cans and bottles.

In exchange, the video game company allows the use of the art, provides some sort of prizing, and perhaps includes branding for the beverage into the game itself.

When all is said and done, the campaign kicks-off on a strategic date (release of the game) and both brands/companies see the benefit of increased awareness, press, and hopefully sales.

The things you can’t see – such as increased consumer perception of the brand or property – (hopefully) follow suit as well.

Q: What are some tips on how to build a world-class email list using promotional marketing?

Very simple: consistency and promotions!  Building a loyal fan base takes time – and I don’t mean a year (as some budgets won’t allow), but indefinite commitment.

Building trust, consistency of offers, getting your customers involved, and let’s face it – excitement – is what draws and retains fans of your brand property or company.

These days, we are seeing similar trends in social media, so budgets have to allow for these types of campaigns on sites like facebook and twitter as well.

Q: What are the main promotional marketing tools you use?

The most common are advertising (TV / radio / web / print etc.), on-pack (actually on your retail display box / carton / point of purchase display material), email lists (both yours and the partner), and social media (facebook, twitter, etc.).

Others used can involve launch date events, sampling, and other interactive tools.

Q: How does a business go about finding promotional marketing products to include in a deal?

Be realistic.  Evaluate your product or service and do some real research to determine your audience.

Consult someone with an extensive network of contacts to determine your goals – do you want to target a new audience for your product, or simply increase loyalty and market to those who are your current users?

This will determine who to go after and what types of products will make the most sense to partner with.

Q: Does money have to exchange hands in a promotional marketing deal?

Again, being realistic is key: it totally depends on what you have to offer.

If you want to tie in with a blockbuster film, be prepared to hear “no” from a studio or be prepared to pay for the privilege to be associated with the other partner.  It may be worth paying for in some cases.

Q: Is there category exclusivity in promotional marketing?

Most of the time.  While there are instances where it can’t be offered, one thing that is discussed early in conversations is exclusivity, and most of the time it is granted.

Q: Who is the hottest promotional marketing partner right now, and why?

There is no “hottest” partner, but you’ll see the same companies over and over.

The include entertainment properties, QSR (fast food retailers), beverage companies, cookie and cereal companies, and of course products that are the “it” goods of the time (think technology companies).

Hot partners are closely related with current trends as well as brand demographics.  You’d be surprised how many companies could have “hot” products with the right partnership and promotion.

Q: Do you have to be a large consumer packaged goods-type company to take advantage of promotional marketing?

You don’t have to be, but you have to be big enough to bring something to the table: advertising, promotional activity, social media, physical locations, on- package real estate, cash, etc.

Otherwise, the partnership will be lopsided and the partner that feels that they are giving much more than receiving will back out.

It’s my job to work with each partner to be sure that each is getting the maximum benefit from the program given honest and open parameters.

Q: Thanks, Kent. If someone wanted to utilize your promotional marketing services, how should they get in touch with you?

Send me an email to [email protected] – that’s the easiest way to reach me.

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