7 Things a Business Website Needs to Be Successful in Today’s Web 2.0 Marketplace

The seven items that are required for today’s business websites – if you are serious about your business.1. A picture/video of you, the owner, with your credentials. With the advent of Web 2.0 the minimum you should have on your business website is a welcome video – no more than 2 minutes and a link to pictures of your business facility or pictures of people providing the service you render. You should not be concerned with the ultimate professional setting for your video. What I mean is, a portable  video camera of you walking through your facility while providing a short tour or mini tour of some of your workplace, provides the viewer with an inside look that they do not have of any similar business they may find on the web.  With today’s technology, you really do not need an entire camera crew with major special lights and media experts to produce a high quality video.  I use a flip mino video recorder, or a logitech orbit webcam for most of my videos. Be natural and conversational in your tone in front of the camera.A stiff talking head is not nearly as interesting as someone sitting on the side of their desk and walking around their office while explaining what the visitor would experience by being associated with your company.  You might even consider a link about why you came to providing the service that you do in your business.  People want to know your “Why”. 2. Your physical business location should be easily discoverable on your website. A map associated with a mapping service so that people can use it to print out directions. You could also have directions ready to print out that would get a person to your location from several different starting points.    Use Google maps to highlight your business.   You should absolutely take the time to to fill in the information that Google maps has for you to identify your business.  You would be foolish not to take advantage of this FREE location service associated with Google maps.     Make sure you put in the driving time to get to your location as time, not miles, on your direction page as time is the significant factor in people deciding to visit your business location. Make sure you include easily recognizable landmarks in your description to make make a “no hassles” trip to your location. Consider a link that has directions to your business with a “first visit” savings coupon on the bottom of the directions.  For some reason,   “savings” is a preferred term over “discount” for me but you may have to do your own research as the meaning of words change as the economy changes.3. Make sure there is compelling “sales copy” on your home page or landing page to draw in your visitors to other interesting educational links on your websites. A few lessons in producing great sales copy on your website will pay large dividends to your business. If their is nothing to keep them on your site for more than a few seconds, all the work that you did to get them to your site is lost to the, difficult to detect,  black hole of “no sale”. There is an awesome copywriter by the name of Clayton Makepeace – you should become familiar with his website – a wonderful sort of copywriting information. Just do a Goggle search on Clayton Makepeace and you will find his website. 4. It is imperative that you have a system to collect the e-mail of your visitor. Many visitors get to your site – just once,  and determine if you are a viable source of the information they are looking for.  If you have the proper attraction methods,  you can turn that one visit into many by getting their e-mail. You will want to give your visitor the opportunity to opt into your periodic “Special Reports”. Please do not call your communication a “Newsletter”. The name just does not have the power and urgency that a “Special Report” has. Have you ever paid for access to a “newsletter”?  The chances are you have not. But,  I have made several payments for a “Special Report”.   I suspect you have too.  Am I suggesting that you make your e-mail communication a paid subscription?  No. But,  you may develop a paid product or subscription to present to your list during the course of your communication, after the awesome value of your communication becomes clear. My favorite source of e-mail communication is the aweber company.  With this service,  you can send e-mail when ever you want to your lists, or several lists, as there is no limit to the different lists you can create.  This is a very important distinction in your search for an e-mail client. Also, I believe you MUST use an autoresponder system and I believe that aweber is one of the best at this. You can also coordinate an e-mail communication with a post from your blog with this system. 5. I know you have been hearing about how important it is to incorporate social media into your business these days. At the very least, you should have links to your Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube accounts. There are, of course several others. Personally, I am in the process of organizing all of my Web 2.0 social media sites on one web page so that I can keep track of all of them. Do you have to do them all? Of course not. But,  there are still massive numbers of people on all of these sites. Should you just be seen in one? Back in the day when phone books were the only way,  I advertised in several of them. Why? because people had different reasons why they liked certain books. Today, the internet has social networks that can be targeted to within a few miles of your location. How silly is it to NOT make “friends” with those that are in your market area so that they are aware of your services.Many people are just not sure how to approach promoting your business through these social networks. This is the topic of another article that I will do in the future, but,  until then I have come across a video that does an excellent job of explaining the proper way that this is done. When someone has already done it,  I do not believe in recreating the the system. This is a short video,  but really explains the social media/business relationship better than any one else that I have seen.  Do a YouTube search on  SocialMedia Marketing | Pery Belcher and you will find it. It is short and to the point about how it is to be done.    In essence, the concept is to first attend the  “party” of the online social media experience.  Next, meet some people that you like and that like you and invite them back to your “house” (your website or your blog). Then, they will notice the great things on your website and  find out all the things that you do and the services you provide.  After they are in the know about what business services your provide, they might want your services.  Or, just as possible they might not want your services. However,  they could refer someone else to your services,  if you show them you are a nice “friend”.The biggest mistake in the social media conversation is being like the person that stands up on a chair in the middle of a party and tells everyone to make sure they  come to his dry cleaning store, ice cream shop, or whatever it is that he is selling.  Yes, that is tacky and it is rude.  It plays out the same what on the web.  Become a friend first, then share what you do to the interested ones.6. Your hours and services provided at your business should be clearly displayed on your website. Samples, if applicable, could be displayed on your site also. Introductory tours, consults, or reports can be offers to bring the visitor a little closer to receiving your product, service, or idea to ultimately bring profit to you though the transaction exchange. If you are a business that an emergency contact number is appropriate, make sure that you provide that number. And, a pet peeve of mine – if you are one of those businesses that have been convinced that some sort of a word / number combination is going to win you more customers,  please, at least make sure that you put the complete phone number WITH the cool words you have chosen to help your customer remember you. Do not just put – 000-BUY-HERE. Why? – because I might have a phone that does not have the letter on the keys and my brain does not remember which number go with which letters. So for me,  unless the numbers are there,  I do not call that company!  Wow,  to do all that we do to get our visitors to call us,  and be stopped because the number is not clear, would be a shame.Several hyperlinks within your services explanation will provide additional information to your site visitor that make them feel like they have already visited your business before even getting to your physical location.  Another sample of services you provide could be pictures of your finished work that you have done for your clients.  Whether it is a picture, a restored vintage automobile, a set of cabinets you constructed,  or a series of websites you have completed for your clients, pictures are the best at showing your successes.  7. Testimonials of customers speaking about your services should be available on your website. Video testimonials, done correctly are very convincing, but I think that a combination of these types of testimonials are in order. The nice thing about putting testimonials on your website is that you can link to them from one of your “Special Reports” later on from your e-mail communication – hopefully with your autoresponder so they you can systematically connect them to all parts of your awesome website as they go through your autoresponder series.Testimonials are best gathered through a system you have in place. As a chiropractic physician, I have a “Patient of the Week” system. All I have to do is say,  “Hey ,you sure would make a great “Patient of the Week” to one of my patients and they say’  “Really, What is that?” I say, ” You fill out a short form and we take your picture and that is about it.” They usually say “Ok”. Next, I slip a laminated form into their file that says “Patient of the Week” on it and my staff does the rest. They take a picture, give them a form to fill out, type out what patient wrote on form, present typed form to patient for them to sign, and have them sign a release allowing us to use their testimonial. For a video, I simple ask them if they would do a 1 to 2 minute video testimonial and the usual response is “Yes”. I have a web camera attached to my computer and I put them in front of it and ask them a few questions. At the end of the video,  I say – “Do you care if I use this for anything?” They say “No”. I am free to put it on my website, YouTube, blog, make a DVD, or link it to a post on Twitter.  Ok, I lied. There are many more important things you should have on a business website. Yes there are many more than just seven. . However, I did not want to spend forever listing them all in this article. It would be a book instead of an article. Hmm. – not a bad idea. I would be interested in what YOUR top 7 things a business website should have. What do you think? Really,  let me know your thoughts about this article.

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Create Canvas Paintings by Adding Paint Effects With Digital Manipulation

Thinking about turning some of your favorite photos into canvas paintings but want to add something special to them or remove some things from them first? It isn’t quite as hard as you might think, especially with all of the different digital manipulation tools that are out online for you to use. Digital manipulation is just the practice of editing your photographs to remove items, change things, or add in other items that you want from the photo before it is printed. There are so many different things that you can do to your photos before turning them into canvas paintings, and one of the ones that turn out the best is adding in paint effects to turn a photograph into a true painting.Of course, you want to edit and crop your photos before you start so that you have the area that you will turn into a beautiful canvas painting ready to rock. From there, you want to adjust the brightness and clarity of the photograph to what you want it to be. Now, you have the whole photograph at your fingertips to turn into a piece of art work that you will be amazed to call your own.One of the best things about using digital manipulation and adding in paint effects is that you can use as many layers of paint as you want, without waiting it for it to dry! You can also pick any different type of brush that you want, such as a block brush to add in blocky effects around your brush strokes or choosing a round, wide brush to soften the area completely. Choosing the different types of brushes and playing around with them will change your canvas paintings into something different every time.Another great thing about using a digital manipulation program that offers you painting effects for your photos for canvas paintings is that you have any color imaginable at your fingertips. You can easily adjust the colors with the slider bar and create a wealth of beautiful colors – bright, soft, clear – it doesn’t matter, you can create it. And, most digital manipulation programs that offer painting effects will also have in a mode that will allow you to blend colors and lines together, so that you can truly create a “painted” look like you get with oil, water, or acrylic paints.There is no end to what you can do to your photos with a digital manipulation program that offers you painting effects. You can easily turn a boring picture of a flower into a masterpiece or you can take your favorite pictures and turn them into beautiful canvas paintings that will draw attention from everyone that sees them.

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Fine Art Printmaking in Platinum As a Photographic Business

Many talented photographers and artists struggle when the moment comes to switch from a serious hobby to a professional activity capable of actually making a living. Especially in photography there are so many possibilities that one can pursue, such as portraiture, commercial, architectural, stock photography and so on. The one I chose was to pursue a career in fine art photography. This is probably not the way to become rich, but it does offer plenty of gratification. Having people looking at your work and willing to spend money to have it on their walls is an extraordinary accomplishment.The problem is that especially in this digital age, where everyone has an ink-jet printer on their desk, it is difficult to become easily recognizable. It is also important to give collectors and arts lovers a reason to purchase our work. One way to solve this problem is to employ traditional techniques rather than digital. Although this article applies to any alternative process, the best and most noble among these is without any doubt platinum. Platinum and palladium prints show exquisite beauty, the longest permanence of any printing process, and are widely collected. People know that a platinum print is expensive to make and are willing to spend more to get them.Unfortunately, unless you are an already collected artist, it is unlikely that you will be able to sell your platinum/palladium prints at a high or even fair price. Many emerging photographers try to get their work out as much as possible, with low cost sales and frequent exhibitions, in the hope to receive attention. Because of the high costs of platinum printmaking this is something to keep into proper consideration. So one of the most important issue dealing with an expensive process is keeping your costs to a minimum, to produce some profit even when you have to sell at a low price. Mastering the process is not complicated, it is a long curve more than a steep one. To succeed though, you need much practice, and consequently sales to pay for your labor and above all, materials.Frequent low price sales will allow you to practice more and thus be able to obtain a level of consistency that will allow you to make as little mistakes as possible in order to keep your costs low. The low cost will allow low price sales and so on. Do not get stuck in this magic circle though. Higher price sales will eventually follow as you master the technique and become better known.The first most important aspect is, of course, quality. Platinum prints should always be made to gallery standards and flawless. When you present a platinotype keep in mind that viewers expect excellence. You must therefore be professional and consistent in every step of the process, from taking the photograph, to printing it, to spotting, mounting and presenting and even packaging and shipping.Printing for high volumes also means that you must find a consistent way to make your prints, and nowadays this is easy to get, thanks to the digital negatives. We need to save time as well as money, therefore test prints and guesswork should be avoided. The digital negative allows us to do this. Printing for low cost sales means selling an 8×10″ print mounted to museum standards in the $50-$100 price region. Editioning your work, like I do, is one good way to sell at a price higher than that. I normally use a three-price tier system with increasing prices as the edition sells. Of course, the low price scenario applies mostly to generic photography, such as landscapes. If you do something more specific, such as nudes, or portraiture, you should be able to sell at a higher price from the very start.I mentioned the cost of the noble metals. For many printers, a generically called platinum print is often an almost pure palladium print. It is not only because of the much lower cost. Compared with platinum, palladium offers many advantages. It is easier to use, gives better coating, smoother tones, a longer tonal scale, deeper blacks and a fantastic color. Especially if you are starting with the process, I would recommend printing in pure palladium.It is also true that, since most printmakers use NA2 (Sodium Chloroplatinate) for contrast (albeit in very low percentages), technically we can not say that pd prints are pure palladium. In time, your portfolio will probably contain 100% pd prints, 50/50 pt-pd prints and different mixes within these quantities. So how would you describe your work? I have seen prints with the quantities noted in pencil on a border (sometimes including exposure time and contrast), but, since I dislike giving out too much technical information, I present all my prints, including those in pure palladium, with the generic term platinum prints. Many others I know do the same without feeling like cheating. Even if you plan to go for palladium only though, I would recommend, however, to keep a small bottle of platinum, for not always the greater warmth of pure palladium is desired.The second expensive item in the process is obviously the paper. It is possible to use many papers – sometimes even the humble watercolor paper that one can find at the local art shop. In fact, most papers for water colorists will work if you soak them for five minutes in a weak solution of oxalic acid (and then wash it of course). I would, however, definitely NOT recommend saving money on paper. The paper that I use is Crane’s natural, called Crane’s Platinotype in USA (until 2006, now, I believe, is called Crane’s Diploma Parchment) and Crane’s Crest Natural White Wove in Europe (at least in England, from gfsmith.com). This fine paper is relatively easy to find, it is smooth and easy to coat, needs less solution than some other papers (saving us money), and it is not terribly expensive. It is available in natural, my favourite – and white.Of course, the paper is indeed a personal choice. For example many suppliers recommend Crane’s Kid Finish to beginners. To me this paper looks too thin, more difficult to use, does not flat well and I would not recommend it. I, however, heartily suggest being familiar with at least a second paper, should the paper of choice be (or suddenly become) unavailable. I recommend Arches Platine, which costs slightly more than Crane’s, but it is heavier, easier to find, it is also beautiful and easy to work with (no acidification required etc.). The only difference with Crane’s (except maybe 20% more exposure) is that it does not clear in citric acid, so you need to keep a little a stock of Kodak Clearing Agent as well. What about fancy papers, such as the expensive Japanese Gampi for example. Printing on hand made papers can be rewarding both aesthetically and financially (my sales skyrocketed for a while when I presented old work on Gampi) but I would recommend leaving any possible further difficulties when you will be experienced.Once you will master the technique, and be able to keep your costs under control, you will be free to dedicate yourself completely to the actual printmaking, and will be able to offer to your customers, galleries and collectors exceptional and unique prints.

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