We have added two new features on illuminea blog. One is meant to improve your experience on the web, and the other will hopefully not hinder your experience, but will limit the amount of spam we receive through the blog.
- Subscribe to comments: Now you can easily follow the strings of comments related to posts on our blog. How it works: when you submit a comment for one of our blog posts, you will notice a new check box under the Submit button that says “Notify me of followup comments via e-mail.” Select that option, and you will receive an email notification every time someone else posts a comment under that article. This way you can see if anyone responds to you personally, or you can follow a topic that you are interested in.
- Contact Form: On our Contact Us page, we used to have a link that would open up a new window in your email client, such as Outlook, and allow you to send us an email. However, links to email addresses are simply bait for spam. Therefore, we have inserted a new easy-to-use contact form that you can submit. We receive all form submissions, and will try to respond to everyone. The advantage for you is that you no longer need to have an email client on the computer you are using in order to contact us – a web browser such as Firefox is sufficient.
We hope you use these new features. Let us know what you think, and if there are any other improvements you would like to see on our blog.
Ben Yoskovitz at Instigator Blog initiated a Group Writing Project where people can share any lessons they learned over the course of 2006.
So here’s my lesson from this year: diversifying your marketing strategy can benefit your business, and it is possible to do this on a shoestring budget.
Diversity is good
People generally agree that diversity is a good thing. Not only is there a lot we can learn from cultural diversity among people, but diversity is praised in other realms as well, such as investing (diversify your portfolio), eating (diversify your diet), exercise (different types of exercise encourage you to continue), etc. And now I can recommend diversity in marketing.
Until about June of this year, I was depending on word-of-mouth and repeat customers to keep my business going. As a sworn bootstrapper, I refused to spend any money on fancy marketing campaigns, and was enjoying the benefits of slow and gradual growth.
But in June, I realized that I had reached a crucial point in the state of my business: I either had to accelerate the amount of incoming orders, or resign myself to a business always on the verge of extinction. If I wanted to make that leap into business-dom, I had to invest in my marketing strategy.
I introduced a few marketing tracks to my portfolio that met my strict bootstrapping standards, and were reputed to be effective. And they were.
Diverse Marketing Strategies for the Sworn Bootstrapper
- Yellow Pages: Yellow Pages (Dapei Zahav in Israel) allows every business to advertise for free. The free listing is very barebones, with only the company name, mailing address, and phone number. No website or email. After two years of being listed, I got a call asking me to put together a PowerPoint presentation and write a script for a promotional video for one of Israel’s leading women’s clothing franchises. This is the Israeli equivalent to winning a contract from Old Navy in the States â€“ talk about ROI!
- Google Adwords: I’ve had a website for over two years, and while it was a good calling card for people that I met and gave my business card to, I wanted it to work a little harder for me. I didn’t have enough traffic, links, etc. to get good results in Google, so I introduced an Adwords campaign. I made sure the campaign is highly targeted and only appears to Israeli surfers and for certain keywords. By targeting the campaign, I could keep the costs low and ensure that only people really interested in my services were visiting my site. As a result I saw traffic to my site increase by about 30%, and even got a great order from a cool start-up in Tel Aviv.
- E-newsletter campaign: even though we at illuminea highly recommend e-newsletter campaigns to our clients, we embarrassingly did not have one ourselves. So this month I made it a priority to initiate such a campaign. Since my mailing list is not very big, a monthly campaign costs me a few bucks with an online service that allows me to manage my list, track clickers, openers, unsubscribers and bouncers. It has resulted in increased traffic to my site and reminds people that we’re out there and available.
- Networking: I always found the idea of networking to be corny. Forced relationships with people seemed artificial and insincere. However, I have to admit that almost every networking effort I have made has yielded results. The way I try to overcome the falseness of networking meetings is by deciding that I am going to learn about other people and their businesses, which can actually be quite fascinating. I ask fellow networkers about themselves and their experiences, as a result of which I learn a lot and even win business.
- Blog: And finally, illuminea joined the blogosphere. I became convinced of the advantages a blog can have for a business, such as attracting new and repeat visitors, and pleasing the search engines with fresh content. An effective blog can also demonstrate your expertise. So far, the blog has shown good results, people seem to enjoy it, and we have been approached about a number of projects as a result.
By diversifying your marketing strategy, you increase your chances of winning business from different client groups. Low-budget strategies such as those listed above provide a great return on your investment: if each yields only a handful of projects a year, your investment was more than worthwhile.
Good luck to everyone in 2007 and may it be a fruitful and satisfying year for businesses worldwide!
I hold a lot of business meetings at a certain cafÃ© on Emek Refaim. This particular cafÃ© is great because it has wireless Internet, great food, friendly service, and ambience. And to top it all off, they have the Tav Chevrati, which is a kind of social certification indicating that, among other things, their workers get paid minimum wage and on time (in many places the workers have to depend on tips for their salary!), and they meet other criteria like handicap accessibility.
Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) stopped by to grab a bite. Ok, it wasn’t with me, and we were on either side of the restaurant, but it’s not such a big place so we practically lunched together. The person I was meeting pointed out that this country is so small that celebrities can’t act like celebrities. If they want a good cup of coffee, they show up at the same mid-level cafes like the rest of us. This encounter drove home again how small this country really is; this isn’t the first time I’ve run into one of our politicians, and I’ve even worked with one of the richest people in this country! Six degrees of separation? I think in Israel it’s three or less.
I wanted to tell Bibi that I think it was a great idea that he started his own blog, and that he should check mine out. But by the time I got up he was goneâ€¦
The Charedim are boycotting El Al (and the environmentalists are boycotting tobacco companies, etc.)
I read two other Israeli blogs, and within the past few days both wrote about the Charedi boycott against El Al. Michael Eisenberg at Six Kids and a Full Time Job argued that the boycott could cause serious economic damage to the carrier, that we need an Israeli carrier for global flights and good security, and that this approach won’t necessarily bring people closer to Shabbat.
David Bogner at Treppenwitz argues that El Al is now a private entity that needs to survive in a highly competitive environment, which may necessitate flying on Shabbat and/or serving non-kosher food to passengers. He also questions the logic of choosing to fly on other airlines, which aren’t necessarily more stringent with Shabbat and kashrut.
I disagree with both of them. It is every consumer group’s right to exercise their economic clout by boycotting a company if they feel it is violating principles that are important to them. Not only is it obvious to all that Shabbat and kashrut are important issues to the Charedim, but apparently El Al promised them that they would adhere to these principles.
Eisenberg is concerned that the Charedi boycott will bring El Al to its knees, which would affect the livelihood of many and even have nationalistic and security implications. If the Charedim do have enough purchasing power to cause damage to El Al â€“ well, isn’t that what a boycott is all about? This is their right as consumers, to choose to buy or not to buy from certain companies. If their economic clout with El Al is so significant, then El Al will simply have to consider whether it is more worthwhile economically for them to fly seven days a week and potentially gain one more day of business and lose the Charedim, or not. El Al won’t be the first company to have to reconsider its strategy in light of consumer pressure, and they certainly don’t have to self-destruct as a result.
To Treppenwitz: I have to question the extent to which El Al has been privatized. If it now holds the same status as every other airline that flies to and from Israel, why does the Israeli government insist on limiting the flights of other airlines? Is it because of good memories and sentiments? I doubt it. The government seems to have some kind of stake in El Al, and is determined to make sure that they can maintain their semi-monopolistic state of Israel’s air space. If that is the case, then El Al is still Israel’s national airline, is still coddled by the fat man, and may not be able to use privatization as an excuse for changing their religiously-related policies. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t fly on Shabbat â€“ I’m just saying that the argument may not hold water. And if it does, then they are subject to boycotts just like any other private company, and will have to consider the demands of their clients in addition to their own independent economic strategies.
And finally, does it make sense to boycott El Al and then fly on other airlines that don’t keep Shabbat? No, but the Charedim are in negotiations with Israir to devote themselves to that airline in return for a guarantee that they won’t fly on Shabbath. Will people become closer to Shabbat as a result? Probably not, but that’s not necessarily the Charedi goal in this fight.
In the meantime, it looks like El Al is succumbing to the Charedi pressure. El Al’s CEO told reporters this week that “There is no boycottâ€¦El Al has no intention to fly on Shabbat.”
I love Firefox. I loved it before version 2.0, and now I love it even more. With its shiny new interface, amazing tabbed features, and fabulous plugins, why would anyone use Internet Explorer anymore? And for anyone who cares about web standards, Firefox is it.
But for some reason Israelis don’t have a clue about Firefox â€“ both designers and users. Too many Israeli web sites break apart in Firefox, or tell you that certain content can only be viewed with IE. I know that the huge majority of web users use IE, but a designer’s job is to take everyone into account. And it’s not like Firefox has ignored the Israeli community â€“ there is a complete Hebrew version of the browser which can be easily downloaded from the site.
If so many Israeli sites don’t work in Firefox, how can I expect Israelis to use it? Luckily there is a great plug in called IE Tab, which allows the user to choose to view certain sites in a tab that renders the site just as IE would. This is very useful, and has enabled me to mostly stay away from IE.
So come on â€“ why don’t you try Firefox out? You’ll be amazed at how quickly it opens, and you can’t beat the tabbed browsing and snazzy add-ons/plugins!
The blogosphere is full of examples of how blogs can help you professionally. However, if you are not careful with your blogging habits, you may find that your blog can also harm you.
Recently someone contacted me through my website with the following message (details changed to protect the innocent): “Your Google ad showed up on my blog, and I’m not so happy in my current job and am searching for something else. I have many skills that you could use, and was wondering if you would like an affiliate in my city.”
I’m always interested in connecting with talented people who have skills that I may need at some point, and his skills and experience sounded good. I noticed that his email address ended with a domain name, so I decided to check out his site. Well, it was the address for his blog, and the first prominent image on the home page was of a, how shall we put it, revealing shot of a woman. I looked around his blog some more, and found lots of entries about parties and getting drunk. And of his six blog categories, one was actually called something like “Drugs in My City”!
Now, it’s fine if people like to go to parties, and I don’t really need to know what people are doing outside of work. But if you’re trying to create a business partnership with someone, do you really think it’s a good idea to mention your blog and give them easy access to it, when the content is anything but professional?
Needless to say, I told him that at the moment I’m not looking for an affiliate in Tel Aviv, but thanks for being in touch.
You’ve heard about RSS, you’ve seen the little RSS icons, and yet it still remains a mystery. What does it do? What does it mean? Can’t I live without it?
RSS is actually really simple (it actually stands for Really Simple Syndication, so I guess it lives up to its name), but for some reason no one seems to be able to explain it in a simple way. So here’s the lowdown – basically, RSS is a way for you to keep up with new information on web sites (such as blogs) via your web browser, without the need for emails updates.
The RSS advantage – get information updates without subscribing to yet another newsletter that may just end up cluttering your inbox and/or ending up in your junk mail folder.
So what do I need to get started with RSS?
- A browser – like Firefox or Internet Explorer
- An RSS aggregator
What is an RSS aggregator?
An RSS aggregator is a web-based site that manages your RSS subscriptions. The RSS aggregator displays every blog or site in its own section, with all the latest posts listed there. You can choose how many posts to display for each blog, and many readers show you which posts you have read and which you haven’t.
Can you recommend an RSS aggregator?
There are many popular RSS aggregators out there, but I will recommend three:
- Google Reader – This is a very popular and easy to use RSS tool. You can easily add subscriptions and sort them according to topic. You can also have your Google Reader appear on your Google Homepage.
- My Yahoo with RSS – Yahoo has recently redesigned its mail system, and it now includes an RSS manager. The new design is pretty and the RSS feature is easy to use and is useful for people how use their mail. Their RSS tool can also be used on My Yahoo homepages.
- And now my favorite RSS reader: Netvibes – Netvibes is a really cool and fun web-based reader that allows you to easily and happily manage your blog feeds, and other snazzy tools and widgets. You can easily create tabbed pages according to your tastes, and add useful tools such as a Gmail reader to track your gmail, currency converter, to-do lists, calendars, and more. I discovered Netvibes thanks to a handy and enthusiastic tutorial written by Masey.
So how can I subscribe to illuminea blog?
What an excellent question. Click on the RSS icon on the right-hand side of the page. A FeedBurner page will appear. You will see a bunch of little icons for different RSS readers on the right-hand side. If your appears there, select it. If not, check the drop-down box to see if your reader is there. If your reader doesn’t appear in either of those lists, simply copy and paste the URL at the top of the page, and in your reader select “Add Feed” or “Add Subscription”, depending on which tool you use. Paste the URL into the field that appears, and click Add or Submit. Voila – you have now subscribed to illuminea blog. Enjoy!
For months I had thought about redoing my site, and adding a blog. But I have a weakness, which is also a strength I guess in certain ways, when it comes to learning new things. Before beginning any kind of new project, I research the subject to death and only then begin the work. The advantage to this system is that I really gain a wide and thorough understanding of the subject matter. The major disadvantage is that it can take me months to begin working on something new because I wonâ€™t start until I feel completely prepared. In business, there are so many demands on your time that a) you donâ€™t have the luxury of getting a PhD in every subject, and b) You need to keep up with a fast pace of development and activity to stay fresh and interesting.
Every once a while I would spend a few hours learning about the technical and creative aspects of blogging - how to set up and customize a WordPress blog, what to write about, how to write, etc. I was very concerned about the design of the site, and selecting a focus topic. But with all my research I hadnâ€™t done one stitch of actual work that would bring me closer to having a blog.
And then I read How to make something amazing, right now from Creating Passionate Users. Kathy describes how big budgets and big planning do not always translate into big success. Sometimes you just have to do, and do it now. Less than perfect results are often better than no results at all. This article inspired me to get my act together and build my new site. Within three days I managed to customize a WordPress theme, insert most of the plugins I needed, and voila - I had a new corporate blog!
I know that Iâ€™ll still spend too much time learning new things, and not enough time acting, but the lesson I learned with this project is important - sometimes you just need to put the books down and create!
About a month ago I really discovered the value of blogs. Until that point, I had assumed that blogs were places where people could record their random thoughts and enjoy the ability to publicly express themselves. Blogging had become so easy, that anyone could do it, and therefore I had concluded that blog quality must be low.
But then I began to discover some very intelligent, informative, and useful blogs. These blogs were obviously well thought out, and focused on specific topics. The people behind the blogs were very impressive, and I found myself checking their blogs frequently so that I could immediately read their new material.
And then I discovered RSS feeds. Actually, I discovered Netvibes through one of the blogs that I was reading, and fell in love. What a fabulous tool, and I realized that subscribing to feeds was as easy as copy-and-paste. I set up my Netvibes account and now I always keep it open and refer to it often, checking up on my favorite blogs.
So blogs are interesting and helpful – nice, but why not just continue reading them, and leave my site as is? Because bloggers are a very persuasive bunch, and I kept reading over and over how blogging enriches your siteâ€™s content, and consequently increases traffic to your site. Some people even went so far as to claim that simply having a blog is sufficient for your business.
I had trouble swallowing the idea that a blog is enough for a business – I believe that people still want certain specific information about businesses that is not typically found on blogs, such as clients, testimonials, services, portfolio etc. I decided to try to create some kind of combination business site/blog.
I also moved towards blogs because the age of the static site is over. Web sites are about fresh content that frequently changes, drawing new and repeat visitors. My previous site was effectively fulfilling its purpose, which was to make my business look more professional, and give visitors the information they generally wanted about me. However, even with my web skills and Dreamweaver set up and ready to FTP, I generally hesitated to update my site because it still seemed too time consuming.
In business, we are always trying to improve – we aim to improve customer service, our products, and our marketing. So if I already have some kind of web presence, why not try to improve it and gain more from it?
And finally, the last consideration was the opportunity to spill my thoughts into a medium where others would actually read. I love to write, but I rarely get the chance to do so because I canâ€™t find the time. If I can excuse my writing as an important part of developing my business, I can write and avoid feeling guilty.
I know that you canâ€™t start a blog and only post new content once a month – frequency is key to success. So will I be able to keep up with the demands of blogging? And if so, will I find that results from my site will have improved? And is blogging in Israel as effective as in other parts of the world. Stay tuned…