When I brought up the topic of requirements gathering and documentation during a talk at SMX East last year, I was stunned at the positive response that followed.
Clearly, not enough attention on web site planning is discussed or taught. Segments are, such as the navigation or content. User interface is debated. Goals are tossed about but sometimes not written down or adhered to. A serious chunk of preparation is ignored because managers, from any size business, don’t know what to include. They need someone who does. Because I was trained to be the worry wart on behalf of a web design or online software application, I bring that to my SEO and Usability work for clients.
Mike McDonald, from Webpronews, grabbed me for a video chat called Developing Requirements Documentation after I told him how surprised and excited I was after I gave my presentation. I’m not the best speaker with Power Point. I do far better in relaxed question and answer, in the moment, sessions. I also have so much information that it comes out in a terrible tumble. Thank goodness I write! Knowing this, I worried if what I said in my talk got through to anyone. The video below, made even better with some fancy visual additions by Webpronews, shows me on a bad hair day and we were both tired, but even at that, the gist of my message is not hard to understand.
The Goal Is To Avoid A Crisis, Create What You REALLY Want and Not Forget Anything
Gathering your business and functional requirements is only the tip of the iceberg. There are other areas to consider if you want a web site to succeed and be around for years to come. Search engine optimization and user experience, traditionally after thoughts by site owners, create a conversions crisis when ignored. I wish I could be at every planning meeting to whisper “user habits” into a manager’s ear. Performance issues are an IT person’s paradise and a site owner’s costly nightmare.
I was approached and emailed by many folks grateful that SOMEBODY recognized this area of concern. Unfortunately, site planning and requirements documentation aren’t topics you’ll find often at SEO conferences. Based on the reaction it’s information people want or can relate to.
Click here to watch Developing Requirements Documentation for your Web Site – Interview: Mike McDonald of Webpronews and Kim Krause Berg of Cre8pc.com and UsabilityEffect.com
Here are the slides from that session: Getting Your Ducks in a Row With Documented Web Site Requirements
I’ve known BJ Cook for so long that I can’t remember anymore how or when we met online. You may remember him from SuggestionBox. What keeps me interested in BJ’s projects are his dedication to being not only an entrepreneur, but also a promoter of green marketing. His social media and networking skills, wrapped with his years in marketing and building strong online relationships, make him and his projects stand out, year after year.
A happily married, fairly new father, BJ is active on Twitter (http://twitter.com/BJ) and Doodles, the Digital Operative blog (where the mouth watering recipe for Milk Chocolate, White Chocolate Mandle Bread recipe can found).
For the rest, I’ve decided to let BJ talk to you himself. I caught up with him late last year, and he’s patiently waited for me to catch up on work and release our interview. Take it away, BJ!
1. You’ve had such a busy year! Let’s talk about your new company, Digital Operative (http://www.digitaloperative.com/). It looks to be a full-service operation that includes search engine marketing, web design, social media and other digital marketing. What makes Digital Operative “special”?
What a year it’s been Kim. From spending 12 months of ups and downs at SuggestionBox and deciding after being laid off; it was time to finally venture out on my own. Luckily, I was able to work alongside Adam Levenson (twitter.com/adamlevenson) at SuggestionBox and we naturally complimented each other. Also the fact that we both came from the interactive agency world, Digital Operative was a chance to approach digital marketing from the mindset that people do business with people. Customers have certain expectations when they engage with companies and brands. A lot of what we learned from SuggestionBox in the area of customer relationships and co-innovation has seeped into the way we approach new challenges with client partners. We’ve got over 20 years experience across the lifecycle of projects from business planning to user experience to digital marketing. That cross-functional expertise really sets us apart because we can build strategies and then provide the execution. We’re always saying, ” We just do it.” I know that sounds like some Nike cliche, but it’s true.
2. You’re located where? Do you commute to an office or have a home office?
Right now we are located in Carmel Valley, about 20 minutes north of downtown San Diego. I commute up to Adam’s home office Monday through Friday. It’s nice to not have the overhead of some expensive office space. It allows us to offer a better value for client partners. But, there are the days, when I’m on baby duty and I gotta say that I have the utmost respect for anyonewho works from home with a baby. It is one of the most challenging things. No matter if you’ve got them on your lap, in the front pack or in the jumper next to you; your focus is truly tested.
3. What has always stood out to me is your commitment to the planet. You’ve found all types of ways to become involved. One such venture is Eleho.org (http://eleho.org/) . How did you become involved? Why?
What I do for client partners fulfills one aspect of my life, but being involved in projects that really touch and help people is where I find my passion gets going. I was introduced to the guys from Eleho about 2 years ago through my wife and we hit it off. Brett told me the story about how they risked their lives and went over into Burma to capture footage of the Karen people who were being killed off everyday. I was so touched by the story that I felt like I wanted to get involved in some way. Outside of dropping everything and going over there, I tried to be resourceful and utilized my network to create opportunities on social platforms like Razoo.com, Myspace, Facebook and ended up getting in touch with CNN to get one of the guys on air for “Weekend At War” during the monk uprising last year. They are truly great guys to work with and have been over there back and forth over the past 6 months. If anyone is interested I recommend going to the site and reading about their current efforts.
4. How are things going at Gooruze? Has it taken off? Are there plans for anything new in 2009?
Gooruze is a niche social network for the online marketing community and there has been constant growth with the community. The members have been able to stay engaged by syndicating content to their other social networking profiles. I’m waiting to hear about the details for 2009, but I can tell you that there will be some movement with the community in the upcoming year. Hopefully some more widgets, articles and growth in member engagement.
5. Yucky Soda. You MUST tell me more! What in the world is this site about?
Haha. So Adam and I created Yucky Soda as the parent company for a new startup we were trying to find funding for this past October. It’s actually still in a funding reviewing stage, so I can’t say much about it. As it progresses, I’ll be sure to update you more. It’s definitely our entrepreneurial project and something we believe could really provide a new way to do business in the retail space.
6. I know you love “green marketing” and are involved in several web site projects. Please tell us about them? Please also share an example, or two, on “green marketing” practices.
Yes, I was involved with the first green social network called BeGreenNow. I’ve also done work with the team at EarthScreen.com. Right around the time during these 2 projects, the whole “green is the new black” period happened. There were a lot of companies taking their products through the green washer and trying to promote new eco-friendly products. The best “green marketing” is when companies truly engage in environmentally friendly activities and practices and create media around those elements. If it’s creating press about how your company participates on Earth Day or you purchase carbon credits to offset your pollution or create some type of video around carpooling and making it part of your site’s content. You’ve got to participate and capture it in some way. Just like any differentiator, it becomes part of your core messaging and your company’s culture. One of the key things about Digital Operative is that we’re focused on projects and client partners that align with our Triple Bottom Line model of people, planet, profit. This is something we believe in and use as a yard stick when we assess new opportunities.
7. Now married and a new father, has your view of the world changed and if so, how?
Wow so of course! I was recently interviewed about what I was thankful for this year and it’s amazing to see the impact that our industry had on the recent presidential campaign. I made sure that I got out and voted because it’s going to be an important year that will affect generations to come. Every day I’m experiencing new products and services as a new dad that I never knew about. You know the big change is my point of view on the whole social networking piece and thinking how I can only educate my daughter on how to be safe when she starts creating profiles. Who knows what it will be like by then. I’ll place my bet here and say that it will all be mobile-based social networking in real time with media exchanged via the handset. The other thought I had the other day was how it’s amazing that everything our kids do is captured in some type of media format that gets uploaded and indexed. That the first 10-12 years they have no control over what their parents decide to put on the web. But it’s also exciting to think my daughter’s whole life is going to cataloged so she can go back and see all the funny videos I made with her on 12Seconds.tv )
8. What do you love most about online marketing?
I’d say the Strategy and Planning phases and then results. I’ve got this saying that goes, “”Marketing never fails at the point of the idea, it’s in the planning.” And it’s true. Depending on the type of person you are; you either love or loathe strategy. It’s the part where the vision is created and all the little details get linked together to create something that is living, breathing and can change at anytime. If you don’t plan for things like this; you could end up with a lot of gaps. Over the years, I’ve been involved in a variety of roles that have given me hands-on experience. Whether it be SEO, Social Media, Email, Analytics or CRM; there are synergies between all of these. You can end up down the wrong path unknowingly very quickly if you go for the let’s just get it done mentality. From my point of view you need to have done some of the tactics in order to comprehend bridging them together. The second fave is results. I spent a lot of time as the CMO of SuggesitonBox staying up late from 10pm-2am reaching out to bloggers, journalists, partners and customers. When I was able to really connect with someone and they wrote a post or article; the gratification in that kept me going and made those sleepless nights worth it. What I truly love about online marketing now is that it’s spanning to mobile and becoming more of a conversation. It’s becoming more about the experiences people have and to how many others they syndicate those feelings. Then are you a part of the conversation? Yes most CMO’s will tell you it takes resource time to keep all these conversations going, but if your strategy and plan is solid from the beginning; you’ll use your time wisely.
9. Last Fall you wrote “Startup Marketing Strategies and Tactics”. I loved this line; “If you want people to come, forget about the Field of Dreams and get real.” Obviously you’ve learned some tough lessons in the past few years.
What can you share with everyone that may help them in their own pursuits and guide them to meet the challenges they may face?
One of the things I’ve learned about working with and at startups is that people still think that Kevin Costner is the smartest guy ever. That mentality only works if your business network supports it and you’ve got stellar business development and PR. Yes you need a great product and the people will spread the message, but you’ve got to cover all your marketing bases and that’s really where this post came about. I saw the downfall of many startups being that
1. They had no business model and
2. Their marketing efforts were weak. I would recommend that you focus on customers, business development (partners) and grassroots marketing. You can do a lot with no marketing budget and I know from experience. When you’re busy product planning, developing, designing; make sure you put time into market research, messaging, planning and figuring out, “how do I get the most distribution with little budget?” That’s where you truly build the foundation for your first step into the market.
My thanks to BJ for his time in answering my questions. I hope you find him as inspirational as I do. I sometimes get a feeling that I’m not doing enough to help the planet or not giving back in creative ways. People like BJ Cook are proof that work can be combined with home, family and creating a healthy planet.
When it comes to marketing to women on the Internet, there’s only one person I turn to for advice and insight, and that’s Holly Buchanan. When she and Michelle Miller wrote The Soccer Mom Myth, Today’s Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys, I couldn’t get my hands on the book fast enough.
Adding to their fun to read book, Holly writes in her Marketing to Women Online blog. Michelle’s blog is also a strong resource for marketing to women topics, such as her latest, What Her Eyes Tell Her About Your Business.
It’s a huge honor and pleasure to introduce you to Holly Buchanan, who managed to squeak out some time to answer some questions. She’s one of the busy folks at FutureNow Inc. and one of my top favorite blogs, Grokdot.com.
Male and female brains do work in different ways. One of the main differences is that women have more connections between the two hemispheres. They are tapping into both right brain and left brain functions when making decisions.
Here we go:
1. There are a huge number of “women-only” social networking sites on the Internet now. It’s no longer iVillage or Oprah.com ruling the roost, or even Blogher. More women-only sites are in the planning stages. Why the increase? What possible reason could there be to have so many of them?
Holly: I think there are a few reasons.
#1 – Women are flocking to the Internet
Women outnumber men online and it looks like those numbers will only continue to grow. (http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?id=1004775) Women are on the Internet early in the morning, on their lunch hour at work, late at night when everyone else is asleep. The Internet fits their 24/7 lifestyle. Whether you are a content provider or an advertiser, if you want to reach women, online is the place to do it.
#2 – Advertisers like the micro-targeting the Internet provides.
Advertisers like the ability to target specific groups of women through online portals. Look at the rise of Glam Media who states they have 77M unique visitors on the more than 600 sites in their network. (http://www.glammedia.com/about_glam/our_story/index.php) Glam’s success is just one testament to advertisers’ desire to reach women online.
I talk to so many women who feel so alone.
#3 – Advertisers want to tap into the powerful connections women have with many of these online sites.
Glam talks about the “unique voices” of their online publications. Certainly, some sites do a better job than others with connecting with their readers. But many women do have a powerful connection to the websites and blogs they visit. There’s also a chance to interact with the sites/blogs/brands through comments and forums and online communities. Advertisers are eager to tap into these powerful connections.
#4 – Women are desperate to find ways to connect in a society that is increasingly isolating.
I know this sounds more “airy-fairy”, but I tell you – I talk to so many women who feel so alone. They are so busy with work and their immediate family (if they have a family- many women are single), they are moving more often, and they are losing touch with extended family and friends. I think you’ll continue to see women turning to the internet for, not only research and news, but also for personal connection.
2. Do women’s consumer habits vary by age? Do you have quick examples of say, how a banking/stocks site would market to retired women vs. career ladder women? (Same site but two revenue streams.)
Holly: Since you brought up women and retirement – take a look at Wachovia’s women’s retirement section on their website (http://www.wachovia.com/misc/0,,1391,00.html)
They ask “where do you picture yourself” and offer you different ages and financial situations to choose from. I really like that. But I do have a problem with the stereotypes of their first choice – “Credit, Debt and Shoes” with a picture of a woman with shopping bags. Why does everyone have to stereotype all women as being shoe-aholics?
That said – I think you’ll see more segmenting not just by age, but by lifestyle. A 28 year old may have young children in the home, and a 50 year old may have young children at home – so I think age will matter less than life stage.
3. What REALLY ticks off women on the Internet? Ethics, attitudes, scams, poor usability, stereotyped ads?
Holly: All of the above. On the ethics and scams front – They don’t trust banner ads that scream “You’ve won a free Prize” – they HATE spam – they want to know what you’re going to do with their email address – they are growing very distrustful. Poor usability is also a big problem. It’s still ridiculously hard to find what you’re looking for on many websites. Companies need to do a better job with clearer navigation, stronger calls to action, better categorization, and providing answers to women’s questions. One of the reasons why product reviews increase conversion is – women are finding the answers to their questions in the product reviews, because, so often, they aren’t finding those answers in the product descriptions.
And yes, stereotypes are a big problem. (see the shoes example above) Women want to see images that reflect their true lives (why does every family have a husband, wife and two kids? How about some images for all those single mothers out there, or women who don’t have kids) And the three words that are the kiss of death for any website are “we understand women.” As soon as you say that, she thinks “Oh no you don’t. You don’t understand me.” So if you want women to feel you understand them – show them, don’t tell them.
A final note on design – a University of Glamorgan study (http://www.glam.ac.uk/news/releases/003056.php) found men preferred websites designed by men, and women preferred websites designed by women. So, make sure you have a good designer, but make sure you get feedback from women on the design.
4. Who is today’s female consumer? What does she want marketers to know most about her?
Holly: That she’s not like every other woman. In the book we talk about the four buying modes and give examples of how to speak to women in each mode. It’s essential to understand that not all women think alike and want the same thing. Today’s female consumer wants to see ads and messaging that are relevant to her, that reflect her values and her life. So break through the stereotypes and spend some time with her, either through surveys, or focus groups or discussion forums, or following her around for a day to see what her life is really like.
The three words that are the kiss of death for any website are “we understand women.”
5. How does she purchase online? Does she search and buy offline? Price compare? Impulse buy? Not buy online?
Holly: The latest figures show 87% pf consumers research products online before buying offline (http://www.internetretailer.com/internet/marketing-conference/98448779-87-consumers-research-products-online-buy-offline.html) So understand that even if she is purchasing offline, your online presence can make or break that offline sale. She absolutely uses the internet to save time with price comparison shopping through sites like shopping.com and pricegrabber.com.
Bottom line – more and more women are going to be shopping online and researching products online – so it’s crucial that the experience she has on your website is a good one.
6. Why and when blogs useful to marketing to women?
As we saw in the answer to your first question, women feel a real connection with blogs and the people who write them. Many blogs have a wonderful, unique, real voice. Plus they are interactive- you can comment and interact with the blog writer or writers. So, if you have a blog that has a voice and personality, women feel connected to that blog writer. That blog writer has a real chance to influence his or her readers, as long as they honor that relationship and don’t pitch products they don’t believe in.
We’ve seen how powerful word of mouth is with women. Blogs are a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of the word of mouth, as long as the blog is providing valuable, unbiased information.
7. In your book, it says that “Effective marketing to women never excludes men.” Can you talk about this please?
Some marketers think the way to reach women is to put down men. This almost always backfires. Women don’t like ads that put down men. I see so many commercials with the “doofus dad.” Dad messes something up and mom has to swoop in and save the day. Where are the commercials with positive images of dads? One of my favorites is the AT&T commercial where the dad’s little girl gives him her stuffed animal to take on the trip, and he takes picture of the animal in all the different locations he travels to and sends them home. What a great dad! I bet that commercial is very effective with dads, but also with moms.
You also have to be careful of creating “women only” spaces that exclude men. Some hotels are experimenting with women only floors. It’s terrific that these floors cater to women with higher security, brighter lighting, better mirrors in the bathroom, etc. But for women and men who travel together (which is often my situation) do women really want to be separated out? It’s a fine line you have to walk.
Harley Davidson has “Garage Parties” for women new to biking, where they provide training specifically for women. I like this because it provides a non-intimidating environment and focuses on issues specific to women bike riders – like, if you’re bike goes down, how do you pick it back up again. Women who are smaller in stature may need specific help and instruction. But I would hope Harley would have a similar class for guys who are new to biking as well.
A great way to handle it is to create the experience for women, but allow men to benefit as well. BeJane.com is a do-it-yourself home improvement site designed specifically for women. It has simple “how-to” instructions and allows visitors to share their own stories, and has a positive “you can do it – don’t be afraid to try” attitude. But they’ve found that men also like these simple instructions and “don’t be intimidated” attitude.
That’s what we often see – when you create a better experience for women, men benefit as well.
8. I read your book and “The Female Brain” at the same time. It’s always been obvious and even a source of teasing in my house that my daughter and I are very different shoppers than my husband, her boyfriend or brothers. The men are far more impulse buyers for big ticket items, whereas she and I discuss, clip coupons, price compare for food, clothing and “girlie stuff”. And when we find a great deal, then we pounce on it! Both books describe how differently men and women are wired. Can you talk about the brain, gender differences and how it relates to shopping?
Holly: I have a confession – once I started researching marketing to women four years ago, I fell in love with neurology. I am now a total geek. It is amazing to me that we are just now (in the last 5 or so years) learning about how the brain really works. My copy of the “The Female Brain” is all marked up and dog-eared. I just finished “The Brain that Changes Itself” and it was absolutely fascinating and very accessible. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in learning about brain plasticity.
But alas, I digress. (which is what you get when you ask about one of my favorite subjects)
Male and female brains do work in different ways. One of the main differences is that women have more connections between the two hemispheres. They are tapping into both right brain and left brain functions when making decisions. This is one of the reasons why women often have more questions and more criteria that matters to them when making decisions.
Just know that when a woman says, “I need to think about it,” she really does need to think about it. She’s not just blowing you off. She may need more time to process logical and emotional information.
Also – it’s important to understand that everything matters. She is tapping into all sorts of emotional and logical areas of her brain and seeing how it all interconnects. If one thing is out of place, it will throw up a warning sign. Michele and I call it her “B.S. Meter.” She is looking at your store, your layout, your restrooms, the lighting, the smile or lack of it on the attendee’s face. Same thing online – she’s looking at your design, your copy, the images, what you say and how you say it. If anything contradicts her expectations, she’s going to notice it.
So remember to pay attention to the details.
One example – Fairmont Hotels, who I love and adore, make you choose a prefix when you sign up for their club. For a woman, your choices are “Mrs.” Or “Ms.” Why is this required? Why do you have to know her marital status? And are you aware how many women despise the term “Ms.”?
Little things mean a lot to women. But they are worth the effort. Once you delight her, she will not only remain a loyal customer, she’ll tell everyone she knows, and I do mean everyone. She will be your best source of new business. How cool is that?
When you create a better experience for women, men benefit as well.
I strongly recommend The Soccer Mom Myth. I refer to it often. I even read it while sunbathing by the pool, armed with highlighters and my cool shades!
Thanks so much Holly for taking the time out to answer my questions. I’m happy to send new readers to purchase The Soccer Mom Myth
Please Digg Here if you like this post or want to share news on this book.
I’m pleased with how my Interview with Rae Hoffman aka “Sugarrae” went. I’m a working mother with spouse, house, pets, and lots of commitments and responsibilities. I’ve long dreamed of having my own office outside my home. Rae has achieved milestones and worked harder than most might in her set of circumstances.
On affliliate marketing, Rae states:
I see those who “get” the challenges coming up getting pretty damn sophisticated at what they do, myself included. I see those who refuse to evolve watching their checks get smaller and smaller as more time passes. I definitely see the opportunities for people who understand affiliate marketing in addition to audience development and SEO growing, even if I don’t see the number of people taking them (or who have the skills to take them) doing so.
I invite you to get to know her in Smart, Driven and Air Guitar Ready, Sugarrae, view the videos and if you’re a member, take the interview for a Sphinn.
One of the reasons Rae stands out is she speaks her mind. She, like me and many of us, may at some point say something that others disagree with. I’m becoming more and more convinced that online communication is an art form, or at least, something to be taken seriously if you want to be understood the way you intended.
This article, Putting our Hot Heads Together, by Carolyn Wood, discusses forums and blog communities and how to discuss or debate and still be civil. It’s one of the smartest articles I’ve seen on this topic. As she says, it’s more than understanding and applying basic netiquette. It’s understanding when private should remain remain private. We can ignore trolls, grumps and “people who’ve got some sort of wedgie problem goin’ on”. She writes:
Even when we disagree with the author, we don’t need to take the directly opposing view—even if the author is cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Like taco drive-ins and 401K programs, arguments in online magazines offer more than two choices. We can go for the prize behind Door Number Three: the Great Idea or small suggestion that actually moves the conversation forward, that clarifies or sharpens the points in the article and suggests an even better way—one that transcends two bitterly different views. It’s here, at the juncture of opposing opinions and a third alternative, or a fourth, that we may come closer to a truth that improves one corner of the web.
A List Apart, always a premier source of intelligent, thought provoking articles, has also released Deafness and the User Experience (Discussion at Cre8asiteforums in our Usability Forum here.)
To provide better user experiences for the Deaf, we need to stop thinking of deafness as simply the inverse of hearing—we need to understand deafness from both a cultural and linguistic perspective. Moreover, to enhance the online user experience for the deaf, we must understand how deafness influences web accessibility.
Don’t forget – The Survey For People Who Make Web Sites, which closes August 26.
With online reputation management topics being hot, this may be of interest. Blogger sued for $20 million for calling a business a “scam”.
The legal rights of bloggers are murky. What rights belong to Leslie and bloggers like her who express opinions and review products and businesses on the web? What does the First Amendment mean to bloggers and do bloggers need protection beyond the rights protected by the US Constitution?
And finally, when you Tweet, it could end up on some news site somewhere.
My 5 seconds of fame.