About Me

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Len focuses on helping small and new businesses succeed through developing appropriate marketing and sales strategies. Len enjoys mentoring, relishes in getting both arms and feet wet in addressing technology, marketing and sales issues. He understands the drivers impacting business results for today and tomorrow including time-to-market, time-to-revenue, marketing, sales channels and social media.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Creating a Website on a Small Budget

I first must confess that until last week I had started creating a website on many occasions using a variety of tools only to give up each time as I became frustrated by my lack of time and ability to get it done right. Well all that is in the past.

I came across another freeware tool available through, no surprise, Google. There are other freeware tools out there for web page design. For example, you can check out sites like Webweaver to name one where you can find all kinds of free web design stuff. But for this article the tool we chose to use was Google Page Creator which you can find at Google Labs, a site well worth exploring.

Google Page Creator turned out to be quite easy to use. From start to finish the steps were laid out logically. See the Create a New Site opening page below.

You start by choosing an address, then a layout and finally a look. You are now ready to build your pages. It’s easy to experiment with looks, create links, and build a professional looking site in no time at all.

My site, Len Rosen Marketing, took me an evening to conceptualize and a day to design and write. I started by thinking about a logical organization for the site. What did I want to say? What were the logical headings for organizing my topics? I came up with a common header for each of my pages that expressed my main selling messages. And voila, this was the end result.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Creating a Newsletter to Communicate with Customers and Suppliers

There is a challenge in creating a newsletter that will be read by audiences today. That challenge is standing out from all of the other words that crowd people’s electronic inboxes or regular mailboxes. How do you create something original that stands out, that gets read and invites a response?

In this article we will show you:

  1. How to create a one-page newsletter design using the tools you already have purchased or acquired when you bought your computer.
  2. How you can use on-line newsletter services and create targeted newsletters to meet different reader requirements.

Before we show you some simple design tricks, let’s talk about newsletter messages. Too often you want to tell everything when you publish a newsletter and as a result you end up with 2, 3, 4 pages or more. You then have to figure out a design that gets your messages on the front page so that readers can see them. The trick to effective newsletter communication is not to go that route at all. It is better to publish one idea for each newsletter and publish with higher frequency than it is to put all your ideas into a multi-page publication that creates more noise than effect.

When I create newsletters I try to keep my designs simple. I start with the premise that one good idea is better than many and that one page is better than multiple pages. Take a look at the sample below:

This newsletter contains 3 elements:
  1. a banner header
  2. company background information and contact points (sidebar)
  3. one story featured on a single page

The newsletter template in this case is in Microsoft Word with the artwork brought in electronically and positioned on the page using text frames. This type of newsletter is not difficult to create.

In this particular example the newsletter has been saved in an Adobe Acrobat file, a PDF. There are a number of PDF document generators on the web, priced from free to $40 so you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars purchasing Adobe Acrobat. I tested two of these packages, PrimoPDF and Win2PDF and both were able to generate PDFs with ease. When I used PrimoPDF it provided document security allowing me to password protect the file I created, restricting the reader to being able to view and print only.

It's easy to attach a PDF to an e-mail because PDF files are much smaller than Microsoft Word DOC files. Just to show you the difference, the sample newsletter above as a DOC file was over 1.1 MB. The equivalent PDF file was only 119 KB, one-tenth the size. So in creating PDF newsletter files you won’t be jamming up your readers’ in boxes.

Now let’s talk about a second way you can create and do mass mailings of newsletters using on-line newsletter services. In our last blog entry we introduced you to Google Groups. Just as you can use this free application for sending e-mails, you can also use it for newsletter mass mailings. Just create your message as a newsletter or send it as an e-mail with an attachment.

Another method is to use dedicated on-line messaging services. I triediContact. At this site I could create mailing lists, select a newsletter pre-built template (see illustration below), write my copy, send it and then track responses.

If you want to try it you can test drive iContact for a week, a great way to find out if this gives you the results you are looking for. iContact has a plan to fit almost any budget, starting at at $9.95 a month for mailings to 500 subscribers.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Creating Mass Mailings by Letter or E-Mail

The challenge to creating mass mailings is to choose the right tools to do it effectively and inexpensively. In this first decade of the 21st century you need to have lists that serve multiple purposes. Let’s talk about two of these:
  1. Lists for doing normal mail.
  2. Lists for doing e-mail.

1. Normal Mail and Mailing Lists

If you have been following the thread of articles in this blog site then you have read about creating letter templates for mailings. These templates can contain mail merge fields so that you can create a list and import it to populate your letters by placing the appropriate inside address information and even salutations in the body of your letter.

Microsoft Word in all its different recent versions features a wizard that can guide you through the process of creating a letter and populating it with a list taken from the Contacts that you have stored in Microsoft Outlook. The screen below gives you one of the steps in preparing your letter for a mail merge using a Microsoft supplied letter template.

This is the distinct advantage of an application suite like Microsoft Office, where you have integrated tools that talk to each other.

For users of the free software, OpenOffice, this application provides a wizard that gives you options for importing existing mailing lists or creating them on the fly for a specific letter. The illustration below shows an example of how the OpenOffice Writer allows you to enter mailing list information this way while creating the letter.

2. E-Mailing Lists

There are many ways to create e-mail lists. With the Microsoft Office suite you can organize lists from existing contacts in Microsoft Outlook and use these lists for common e-mails. But I’d like to share with you a different technology for communicating through e-mail using on-line free resources.

One of these is Google Groups. This is an application that allows you to create on-line groups for e-mail and discussion. It is simple to use and highly effective. I’ve captured my version of the home page here for you to see.

It took me less than 5 minutes from start to finish, creating a contact group list and sending out my first invitation and e-mail. The beauty of an application like Google Groups is its ability to allow you to create different group lists for different products or services that you may want to write about. And of course the other beautiful thing is the fact that Google Groups is free.

So let’s summarize what we have discussed in this article today.

  1. You can create conventional letters using a word processing software application and its built-in wizard help features to merge mailing list information with letter content. Whether you are using a purchased product like Microsoft Office or free software like OpenOffice, the capability to generate this type of communication is fairly simple if you follow the steps.
  2. You can create mass e-mailings using the contact management tool that comes in a product like Microsoft Outlook or you can use an on-line tool like Google Groups to achieve similar results.

In this article I have used specific tools. I am not in any way suggesting that these are the best tools to use. They are ones that I have tried successfully. There are many more out there and an on-line search will find them for you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Using Your Computer to Communicate with Customers Part One

There are many ways to communicate with customers and prospects using a computer. Here are a few:

  1. You can write letters that can be used for mass mailings.
  2. You can use e-mail for mass mailings.
  3. You can create newsletters and mail them or post them to a website.
  4. You can create a blog just like this one.
  5. You can create a website.
  6. You can create on-line events such as webinars.

Over the next few weeks we'll address all of these ways of communicating. But in this blog posting we'll focus on letter writing. It is the simplest of the tasks described and involves creating letterhead, letter copy, mailing lists, learning how to do a mail merge and how to print envelopes. If you are using a product like Microsoft Word, there are shortcuts available to you for doing many of these tasks. Word features a wizard that can guide you through the process and pre-built letter style sheets to choose from.

A Microsoft Word FREE alternative is OpenOffice Writer. It too provides wizards and style sheets for creating letters. In fact, this article has been written using OpenOffice Writer.

On-line FREE applications such as Google Docs on the other hand assume you have familiarity with products like Microsoft Word and know your way around designing and formatting a letter. Google Docs, therefore, doesn’t provide wizards or style sheets. You can, however, easily create standard letters and mailing lists using a product like Google Docs. You just have to experiment more.

In the example below, I have accessed the wizard in OpenOffice Writer to help me with my letterhead design.

The Writer wizard guides me through the selection of styles and lets me view the results before choosing one that is acceptable to me. The Writer wizard can be used to determine your logo placement, the position of the return address if using a window envelope and many other features. You can create default salutations and complimentary closes. You can create mail merge fields and select a mailing list file to merge with the letter.

You can do all of this with Microsoft Word as well but you won't be doing it for free.
We'll talk about creating mailing lists in my next blog filing. For now what we can take away from this article is that there are many different applications available to you as a small business operator with little computer knowledge to be able to communicate through letters without having to know the intricacies of the software applications you have purchased such as Microsoft Office or downloaded from the Internet for free such as OpenOffice. And if you are feeling pretty comfortable about your own ability to experiment with design without a wizard or other help features, you can always use an on-line document creator such as Google Docs to generate letters.

Friday, March 7, 2008

What You Need to Know About On-Line Office Tools

Once you have your computer hooked up to the Internet you will soon become quite familiar with Google Search. But there is much more to Google than just their search engine. Google sees the Internet as an environment not just for finding other people’s information, but as a place for Google users to create their own content. And Google is not alone. There are other companies with similar strategies, companies like Zoho. For this article, however, we will talk about Google.

What kind of applications are we talking about? If you currently use Microsoft Word then you probably have:

Microsoft Outlook with its e-mail, contact management and calendar tools
Microsoft Word with the ability to produce documents of all types
Microsoft Excel with the ability to create spreadsheets
Microsoft PowerPoint with the ability to create presentation slideshows

These are the core tools of office suites. The applications have to be installed on your computer and you create your documents and save them on your computer. Google and others like Zoho provide an alternative. The software applications are on-line. You access them through the Internet. You can store what you create on-line or save what you create on your computer. If you don’t want to spend a dime on software applications, Google provides its equivalent to all of the above at no charge. If you want technical support you can pay a modest annual fee. So what are the Google equivalents to the applications described above? The product is Google Apps and it consists of:

GMail and Google Calendar provide e-mail, contact management and a calendar
Google Docs provides applications for word processing, creating spreadsheets and developing presentation slideshows

In addition, Google offers applications that go well beyond the capability of the Microsoft Office applications described above, and offer these, again, at no cost. These include:

Google Sites, a collaboration environment where all of the people in your small business who have computers, or your customers who have computers, can interact with you on-line.

And then there is Google Gears, a new application that Google is testing (you’ll find it on-line as a Beta version, which means Google is still working out the bugs). What Google Gears lets you do is work with all the documents you created using its software when you are not connected to the Internet.

It doesn’t matter if your computer is a Windows PC or Mac or a computer running Linux. Because these applications are on-line, you can use them with any computer, from anywhere, anytime. You can be away from your computer and visiting a friend and use the friend's computer to access anything you have created.

So why would you buy Microsoft Office over just using what is available to you free on-line? If you believe that what you get for free is not worth anything, then you are probably better off purchasing a Microsoft Office or other office productivity suite. You’ll feel that you are not getting something for nothing.

But for those of you in small business with a limited budget to invest in computers, the Google alternative is very attractive. All you need is the basic computer and access to the Internet to harvest a rich set of free tools.

How can Google do this? Google makes its money not selling software applications but in harvesting revenue from advertisements embedded into its Google Search tools. Every time you do a Google Search and click on a sponsored link Google makes money. What Google wants is your presence on its sites so that you will from time-to-time click on one of those links. Google has built a multi-billion dollar business using this model and you can take advantage and use the remarkable tools they have created to help you build your business at no cost to you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Why you needed the Word Processor in that Office Productivity Suite

Whether you have a Windows-based, Linux or Mac PC, you probably have an office productivity suite that came along with it as part of your bundled purchase.

These tools go from basic to professional and usually feature 4 very useful software applications:

  1. Word processing
  2. Spreadsheet
  3. Presentation tool
  4. E-Mail, Calendar and Contact Manager

In this article we’re going to show you the power of the word processing application you have purchased and how you can use it to advertise and promote your business.

If you are my age you may remember when dedicated word processor workstations populated a few desks in offices right next to electric and manual typewriters. This was the mid-1970s and the seeds of the electronic PC revolution were being planted. I was a road warrior and sent in tapes and lists to my very able assistants and they pulled up letters and made changes and fired them off to clients and prospects.

The word processor has come a long way since those days. In fact products like Microsoft Word or Word in OpenOffice are far from being word processors. They are publishing tools that can be used to create letterhead, newsletter and other promotional templates. They can be integrated with applications that have mailing lists (spreadsheets and contact managers for example) to generate conventional mass mailings. They can integrate addresses on to envelopes.

If you are trying to create a distinctive look for your brand and you don’t have resident designers in-house or more sophisticated publishing tools, your word processor can be a very effective tool for creating logos and advertising messages. The easiest thing to try is pick an unusual font, for example Eurostile and apply it to your company name. Now enlarge the font to make it bigger. An 18 point font can be a good size for a logo on a letterhead. You can vary the inter-character spacing of the letters to stretch or condense the logo.

Now experiment with colour.
Most word processors let you change the colour of the font based on preselected colour chips or through the mixing of custom colours.

Add a line in a second colour. Your word processor gives you the flexibility to vary the thickness of the line so that it can be proportioned to fit with your font style. You can create terrific logos this way.

Your word processing application has the capability of generating style sheets, letterhead, proposal templates, price lists, menus, advertising collateral, newsletters and almost anything else you can think of for print. You can even create web pages using your word processor.

Here’s an example of a single page advertisement created by modifying an existing template provided in Microsoft Works Picture It. Total time to create – 5 minutes.

So you can see just how much you can do for basic advertising and promotion just using the word processing application within your PC.

In our next article we will show you the power of on-line word processing tools (accessible through your Internet connection) that can cost you absolutely nothing. The proliferation of these tools is changing how we perceive and use software.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Reason for this Blog

Many small businesses start without a computer and then add one later. When asked “why a computer?” the usual answer has something to do with a way of helping the business.

So you have bought a computer, now what? What are small business computers good for?

Think of the tasks you need to do to keep your small business making money.

  1. Advertising and promoting your products and services.
  2. Communicating with customers.
  3. Retaining customer information.
  4. Researching, prospecting and creating new opportunities.
  5. Managing the books.

The computer you bought probably is a Windows-based PC unless you are one of those arty types. Then you probably bought a Mac. Most retail computer stores offer you a package when you buy a computer. This package always includes the computer operating system. If a PC, the operating system is Windows XP or the latest Windows release of Vista. For the small budget purchaser, the operating system may be some form of desktop Linux, (Ubuntu is very popular). For Mac purchases the latest operating system is known as Mac OS X Leopard. Your bundle probably includes some kind of productivity suite. For the budget minded PC buyer using Windows, Microsoft Works may be the tool. For other PC buyers some form of the latest version of Microsoft Office may be pre-installed on your system. For the Linux user some open-source productivity tool such as OpenOffice may be installed. For Mac users the system may come with MacOffice or a version of Microsoft Office for Mac.

Every new computer sold comes with the ability to access the Internet and e-mail services through a telephone hookup. If it is a PC the Internet browser that comes with Windows is Microsoft Internet Explorer. For more adventurous users and Linux PCs, Firefox is a free download once you are connected to the Internet. For Mac users there is Safari.

Windows XP, MacOS and even Linux desktop systems come with lots of little tools and accessories, some highly useful, others colossal time wasters.

Some packages include a bundled printer with cable. The printer can be an inkjet or a laser. It can be colour or black and white. The printer can be an "all-in-one" tool that includes the ability to scan and copy, print and fax single or multiple page documents.

So with little knowledge or forewarning you suddenly find that you have to make a whole bunch of decisions about how to get value from these boxes that you have carried home or had shipped to you. It can be pretty intimidating, pretty confusing, and wasteful of your precious time when you have to put everything together, hookup your telephone, configure your computer system and then once it all works, figure out what you intend to do with the damn thing.

So that's what this blog is going to address: what is essential to help your small business get a return on your computer investment.