Creating a contest

I’ve been planning a big contest for later this year, and thought I’d get my feet wet by running a small contest first.  ShortStack allows you to make online contests which use Facebook for identifying voters. I used ShortStack to make a contest where contestants upload their best photo, then the winner is the one who gets the most votes.

I don’t like that ShortStack uses monthly billing, as I doubt I’m going to run a campaign every month. Another alternative I considered is EasyPromos.

The current photo contest.

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A record month. Finding people to sponsor isn’t easy.

You would think that it would be easy to find people who:
1. have an audience or following AND

2. want free waterjet cutting

Alas, this is proving elusive so far. Some already get free waterjet cutting, another guy was taking a break from building.

On a brighter note, sales are better than ever. It looks like a record month. I suspect it’s mostly due to SEO, better sales followup, regular newsletters, and not due to the ongoing AdWords experiments.

Using AddThis to encourage viral sharing of products and help purchasing managers

Sometimes my customers who want to buy stuff are not the ones who hold the credit cards. It’s often the case in medium to large companies that this is the job of the purchasing manager. So I needed a way to help get the products to the purchasing manager. I’m having a little trouble getting the whole cart sent in Mijoshop, so the next best thing is to allow customers to send a link to the individual products.

Also, I’ve gotten quite a few sales recently from a particular forum where customers figured out how to share their specialized products. I want to encourage this sort of thing.

To make it easy, I did the sharing links with AddThis.

Identifying forums where your customers hang out

If you’re looking to find out where your customers hang out online, it can be difficult, especially if your customers aren’t all into one thing. For example, I wanted to find customers who need waterjet or laser cutting.These people could be into anything: lighting, cars, bicycles, oil pipelines, etc.

One technique I use is to search for relevant terms using Boardreader. Boardreader searches hundreds (thousands?) of online forums for whatever terms you specify.

If you do a search for forum posts and then click the “Show tools…” link on the results page, you can subscribe to be e-mailed every time there is a new result. However, I have found subscribing via e-mail using BoardReader is unreliable.

The good news is that “Show tools” section you get an RSS link.  You can use your favorite RSS reader to see the latest on your topics across forums. Or, you can do like I do and use Blogtrottr to notify you via e-mail every time your keywords show up on a forum somewhere.

Figuring out why customers aren’t buying from your e-commerce website

My e-commerce conversion rates went down significantly over the course of the past year. One challenge is to figure out why that is.

In order to get inside the heads of your potential customers, I set up a popup form that appears during the quoting and ordering process. It asks one simple question: “What one thing is preventing you from ordering today?” After the customer dismisses the box twice, it doesn’t show up again for a couple days. The results have been very enlightening.

A large plurality of customers so far have mentioned cost as the #1 factor preventing them from buying. So I’ve implemented a couple changes that emphasize the value of what they’re getting. We’ll see if this makes a big difference.

The popup was implemented using Ajax Contact Form for Joomla .

Advice on… advice.

A useful tip I received recently: if someone offers you useful advice/mentoring FOLLOW UP with them to let them know you’re putting their advice into action. It helps them know they’ve done something useful and builds the relationship.