Monthly Archives: October 2008

Secret Discount – Today Only

I’ll be interviewed today on The Savvy Seller’s Tips from the Top Podcast.

We’ll be discussing my new eBook, Blogging with WordPress. If you haven’t bought the book yet, but are thinking about it, you should listen to this short (15-20 minute) podcast live today at 11:00 AM PDT, 2 PM EDT.

I’ll be mentioing a special discount code for podcast listeners that will be good today only.

GMail Predicts Your Future

GMail Knows and Sees All

GMail Knows and Sees All

Does your business use a FAQ?

OK – let’s reword that. Could your business use a FAQ? Sure it could.

Enormous amounts of time are spent answering the same questions over and over. Good Customer Service demands that we don’t say, “I AM SO SICK OF THAT QUESTION! READ THE %$#@ TERMS!!!!” Instead we politely type, for the 10,000th time, “Yes, we will be happy to combine shipping costs if you buy multiple items. Each additional item will only add 50¢ to the overall shipping and handling charges. Thanks for asking!”

You may have already set up a “copy & paste” text file with your most used replies. Or maybe you have a macro that works with your email program.

If you use GMail – you now have access to a super-cool new feature called Canned Responses.

Click on “Settings” in the upper right hand corner of the GMail screen. Now click on the very last tab, labelled Labs. Scroll about half way down the page, until you come to Canned Responses by Chad P. Tic the “Enable” radio button and scroll to the bottom of the screen. Click “Save Changes.”

The next time you either reply to an email or start a new one, you’ll find a link called “Canned Responses.”

GMail's new Canned Responses feature

GMail Has A New Canned Response Feature


SETTING UP CANNED RESPONSES IN GMAIL

To start building your FAQ in GMail, click the Compose Mail link.  Don’t fill in the “To” or “Subject” lines – just go right to the body of the email. Copy & paste an answer from your FAQ, or write a new response. Click on the Canned Responses link and then click on “New Canned Response” under Save. A pop up will ask for a label. Give the response a short but descriptive title so you can find it among your many other canned responses. Click save. Close and discard that message.

Test your response by opening a new message, clicking on Canned Responses, choosing your response and allowing it to overwrite your current (blank) message.

Bravo! You are on your way to building an email FAQ that will save you time and cut down on typos and spelling errors.


If you want to learn more about GMail, you might enjoy the previous post in this series, GMail Reads All Your Mail, which explains how to read and write email from any email account without leaving GMail.

Madam X Photo by Quasimondo Released under Creative Commons License

GMail Reads All Your Mail

GMail

GMail Knows All

You can’t get away from GMail.

Since it was introduced about 4 years ago, GMail has changed the way email is accessed and stored. There were certainly online email accounts before GMail – and it’s not like HotMail, AOL, or Yahoo mail were difficult to use. But GMail just did so many things right (including SPAM filtering) while combining a clean, easy to use interface with seemingly limitless storage that leaving all your email online actually made sense.

Google has labelled GMail as a “Beta” product since its inception. (If Google could find a way to get away with it, they’d label the main search engine as beta). While GMail is clearly long out of beta testing, it has constantly undergone quiet revisions and upgrades, with features being rolled out without much fanfare.

Unless you read Google blogs or like to poke around in menus, you may have missed some of GMail’s most useful new – or even not so new – features.

READ, WRITE, SAVE ALL YOUR EMAIL IN ONE PLACE

Mail Forwarding has been around for years, but many people are still unaware of it.

If you want to keep all your mail in one place, but still want to use separate business and personal email addresses, GMail will allow you to fetch your POP3 or IMAP mail and read it in GMail. You can send as well as receive using any authenticated POP3 address.

To set this up, click on the small, blue Settings link at the top, right hand side of Gmail, and then click on Accounts. Among other things, you’ll see Send mail as and Get mail from other accounts. Just set these options up with your POP email info and you are good to go.

(Note: If you choose to leave mail on the original server, and also download your GMail into a POP mail client like Outlook, you’ll get two copies of everything. Give some thought to how and where you want to save your mail.)

GMAIL BONUS FEATURE – ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE

GMail will not fetch email that is infected with a virus. You’ll receive a notice instead, saying such-and-such was left on the server because it had a virus. I love this feature, even if you can’t rely upon it 100%.

COMING UP NEXT – GMAIL PART 2 – CANNED ANSWERS

Next is a nifty new feature from Google Labs called Canned Answers. If you use GMail for your business, this is going to be indispensible. In fact, it is so cool, it deserves it’s own post. So next up: Canned Answers from GMail.

GMail icon designed by Autodafe Released under Creative Commons License

Those Mysterious Camtasia File Formats

Right Click on the CAMREC File to Extract an AVI

Right Click on the CAMREC File to Extract an AVI

CAMREC, CAMPROJ, TSCC … it’s like TechSmith lives on a whole different planet with its own secret language.

If you are new to screencasting, the blizzard of acronyms and abbreviations can be overwhelming. Video is bad enough with it’s arcane jargon (which is demystified in GhostLeg’s free PDF eBook, The Language of Video). TechSmith adds another dollop of confusion with its file extensions.

What does it all mean? Why should you care?

CAMREC is the file that is produced by the Camtasia Recorder. In other words, it contains the screencast. The CAMREC file is what video specialists call a “wrapper” file. It holds the AVI file, which is the main audio and video recording, plus any additional streams of information, such as markers and PiP files.

Even if you record with the CAMREC setting, you can later extract the AVI file for editing with standard video editors that don’t recognize TechSmith’s proprietary format. This is very valuable for large projects or for videos where you want to integrate a screencast with high quality live action footage.

It is also very useful if you want to tweak the audio with something other than TechSmith’s anemic audio tools. (Torley has great audio editing tips in How To Master Screencasts in Seven Steps)

Simply Right Click on the CAMREC file and select Extract from the context menu.  If your CAMREC file is large, this process can take anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. Don’t try to multi-task while the AVI is being extracted. just leave your computer alone for however long it takes.

CAMPROJ files are the Camtasia Project files that are produced by the Camtasia Studio Editor. They are usually quite small. If you open one with Notepad, you’ll discover it is a standard XML file, with information about the size and length of your video, the placement of edits, markers, pans, zooms, tracks, etc. In short, it tells Camtasia what to do when you produce the final video.

The advantage to knowing this is that, once you are familiar with XML, you can sometimes make small edits directly to the CAMPROJ file, without having to load a large and complex project into the editor.

TSCC is the TechSmith Capture Codec and, unlike the other files, it is not something else in disguise. It is TechSmith’s way of compressing screencaptures so that the clarity is excellent while the file size stays (relatively) small. You can record with the TSCC codec and later produce the video using a different codec, such as DivX or H.264.

Everybody Loves Me Except The Jerks

Not So Popular After All

Not So Popular After All

Lately, I keep seeing forums and blog posts where sellers are arguing with buyers.

Where is the profit in that?

What do you get when you win a fight with a customer? An ex-customer. Feel better now?

Do you know the cliche about Customer Service?

Rule #1 The Customer Is Always Right.

Rule #2 Sometimes the customer will be wrong. When this happens, see Rule #1.

This isn’t always an easy model to follow, because sometimes the customer is so wrong you want to smack them upside the head. Sometimes you have a valid reason for doing what you are doing. Sometimes 95% of your customers like what you are doing, you can’t please everyone, and besides, everybody loves you except the jerks.

Please!

Take a deep breath, and repeat: This isn’t a contest. This isn’t about me. The customer is always right.

It’s Not About You

When you create a product, you invest so much of yourself in its creation and success that it can be very hard to disentangle your emotions and your ego. But your business is not about you. Your advertising is not about you. Your product is not about you. You created those products so you could sell them to cranky, selfish strangers.

Love and approval comes from your friends and family. Customers give you money. In return for their money, you give customers:

  • A product as good as it can be
  • Your full attention
  • Your respect

When you don’t want to hear what your customer has to say, when you want to argue, when you are tempted to dismiss their criticism – ask yourself (in these exact words), “Where’s the profit in this?”

Let your customers have the last word. They are very smart. They are buying your products, after all.

Photo by Now and Here Released under Creative Commons License


Don’t Disappointed Your Buyers Before You Even Get Started

Not A Great Start

Not A Great Start

You already know how important first impressions are – but what is the first chance you have to impress your buyer? Is it the sales page? When they receive the package? When they open the box? The first time they pop the DVD in the player?

The old saying is wrong. It’s not that you never get a second chance at a first impression. The truth is, you must make a great first impression over and over again, because there are half a dozen “firsts” for each new product.

It is true – if your sales page is a disaster, that’s the end of that. Your first impression is probably your last. But if you haven’t already built a relationship with the buyer, you’ll have to introduce yourself again at every step along the way. You’ll have to pass the sniff test over and over before you are trusted.

So make every first impression count.

  • Take the time to write a good “Thank You For Your Purchase” email and make sure every buyer receives it.
  • Create a good-looking, post-pay landing page with more thanks, and other helpful information
  • If you are delivering physical products, wrap your package securely.
  • Ship in a cardboard box rather than a padded envelope if you are sending anything crushable, breakable, bendable

When your buyer first lays hands on your product, make them hum with anticipation. Look good, look professional. Make your packaging say, “Something great is coming!”

Photo by RadialMonster Released under Creative Commons License

How To Force You Tube To Show Higher Quality

Objective observers pretty much agree – You Tube quality stinks.

When quality is critical – or even minimally important – an embedded You Tube video has been the very last choice. Lately, however, You Tube has been experimenting on site with higher quality video. You may see a small link underneath a video saying “Watch in High Quality.” Or you can add “&fmt=18” to the end of a video’s You Tube URL to force it to display in high quality. The difference is marked – especially for screencasts.

Take  look at these two screen caps. They are both taken from approximately the same opening sequence in a Ghost Leg screencast called “Using You Tube’s Audio Swap.” The first is the normal You Tube display:


You Tube - Normal Quality

You Tube - Normal Quality


The second picture is the same video forced to High Quality mode by adding &fmt=18 to the URL.

You Tube High Quality Mode

You Tube High Quality Mode


Wow! What a difference! Unfortunately, at this point, you cannot just add the “&fmt-18” snippet to the embed code. The videos You Tube displays on other sites continue to have poor quality.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could find a way to force high quality and embed it? Well, there is a free tool, called VTubeTools, that seems to accomplishes just that. I have experimented a bit with it. It really seems to work. Of course, all the usual caveats apply – the program is a beta, I can’t vouch for its quality or safety and security, use at your own risk.

(You may have difficulty adding the embed code to a WordPress blog if you currently use plugins (as I do) to display You Tube. Whether it is worthwhile to re-embed all you old videos without the plugin is a question for another day.)

Don’t Get Smacked By Hidden Costs

The Hidden Cost of Support

Killed By The Hidden Cost of Support

What goes into the price of your product?

Materials, certainly. Time and labor. If it’s destined for the shelf of a bricks and mortar store, you probably factor in breakage, returns, shelf wear, maybe theft. Overhead.

What else?

One factor, often overlooked by product developers, can turn into a nightmare, chipping away at profits while consuming every spare minute of your day: support.

If you are writing software or offering some sort of technical service, you already know that support can cost more than the product. You either add it into the cost or sell it as a separate product.

But many product developers overlook it entirely, wrongly believing that their product requires no support.

Are you writing an ebook? Are you ready for the anxious, angry emails from buyers who don’t know how to use Acrobat Reader? There are more of them than you’ve ever imagined.

Perhaps you made a data CD with a flash video. What are you going to say to the baffled buyers who somehow disabled their computer’s autorun function and now can’t get your CD to play? And what are you going to do with the Mac user who bought your CD despite the warning in big red letters that said: PC Only, Not Recommended for Macs?

Is your DVD compatible with 8 year old DVD players? Even when it’s inserted upside down?

WRITE A FAQ

All of these scenarios are real. And all of them can turn an otherwise productive day into a complete waste of time and an otherwise profitable project into a financial disaster. However, you can save yourself time, save your customers endless frustration, and head off complaints and returns by writing a FAQ.

As the email questions come in, keep a list. Make special note of the ones you’d never have imagined – then add them to the FAQ.

Don’t be afraid to send a follow up email to your customer asking how your product or sales letter can be improved. You’ve been nose deep in the product for months. You very probably can no longer see the forest for the trees. That’s OK. Just believe your customers when they tell you that telling up from down and right from left on a shiny silver disc is not as easy as you think it is. They paid money – you should pay attention.

Start your FAQ by anticipating some questions, including others that are actually frequently asked, and adding the occasional problem from left field. If a video would offer a better answer, try creating a short video or screencast and posting it on You Tube. Post your FAQ prominently and keep a copy that you can attach to email. If you often find yourself wanting to do a 1 minute demo rather than spending 5 minutes writing an email, look into TechSmith’s Jing.

A good FAQ can save you headaches and save your customers valuable time. If you can prevent a howl of frustration, you’ve already won half the battle of customer service. And you can keep after sale costs down and profit margins up.

Photo by Sean McGrath Released under Creative Commons License

Ay Yi Yi – Deadlines Suck!

Blogging With WordPress has officially been released. The deadline for the half price special has been re-aligned with the release of the book, so that folks ordering through the official download link don’t feel screwed.

If you pay with PayPal and order through the official download link before 6:00 PM tonight, Pacific Time, I’ll send you an immediate refund for $15.00.

Sales pitch over – back to content blogging tomorrow!

You Tube Is The #2 Search Engine

Video Conquers The Internet

Video Conquers All

When you think “search,” you probably think of Google. Then maybe Yahoo or MSN or… what?

Well, according to what I read in Bill Myers’ Tip of the Week today, the Number 2 search engine in the world is … You Tube.

Bill writes:

According to ComScore’s August 2008 search engine rankings, YouTube is now the number two search engine in the world, used by more people to search the web than all other search engines except Google.

This means if information about your site, your product, and your services can’t be found with a YouTube search, you are invisible to the 2.6 billion people who search YouTube each month.

And that’s a lot of people to be missing.

2.6 billiion searches on YouTube each month!

It’s time to get serious about using video to promote yourself and your products. You don’t need a great camcorder or expensive software to get started. Most digital cameras – and even cell phones – have a movie mode. The quality won’t be super-great, but it will certainly be better than having nothing at all on You Tube. And the simple-to-use Flip Camcorder costs only around $150.00, sometimes less, depending on the size and model.