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February 2009

Are you re-inventing your own wheel?

Re-inventing the wheel is commonly regarded as a waste of your time and effort. So how would we regard re-inventing your own wheel?
Believe me, it happens more often than you think - I've discovered this only last week myself.

During the second half of last year we noticed an increase in website visitors searching on the keywords: restoring or repairing parquet floor. Web marketing logic dictated we wrote a dedicated web page - wood guide -  on this subject (in fact, we wrote two: "7 Easy steps to repair/restore your parquet floor" and "3 Easy steps to clean and maintain your parquet floor")

The 7 Steps almost immediately became the most popular page of our 'static' website. We then took the step - no pun intended - to turn this wood-guide into our first digital wood product, complete with extra information and advice. This was launched end December and has been ordered 7 times already (not bad for a specialised and physical product retailer we think = average one a week).

Now, on our FAQ & News site we also have a most popular post containing simple tips and advice for DIY-ers. In fact sometimes we feel we are giving away too much information - information suppliers/retailers should give their clients. Most however don't and many DIY-ers end up on our websites. Even if they have already bought all the materials somewhere else. This and the "succes" of our first digital wood product gave food for thought, which in a meeting with our good friend "the company-doctor" also came to the forefront. Why not reduce the info in that particular post and create a Comprehensive Installation Guide, give this away for free to our own DIY-clients (on CD-rom) while making it also available (at a price) for others?

Decision made.

We also agreed that if we were to sell our knowledge it should contain as much practical information as possible - we still feel a bit strange 'selling' digital wood products. And I saw a month of writing ahead.

And then I saw 'the light'. We've been writing advice, tips etc in posts and web pages for over 4 years! Why re-invent the wheel, or better our own wheel?

All I had to do was compile the written material already at hand. In between normal daily tasks of a retailer this only took me 4 days. A great help in this was of course one of my favourite software programs "ScreenSteps", the Rapid Documentation Tool.

You create a 'manual', name sections (like introduction, preparations, installation and resources) and in these sections you create your chapters (lessons).

Screenstepsmanual

In the lessons you write the 'steps' - every step is a 'sub header' - your audience/reader must take to complete the task at hand and even better, the 'camera' lets you capture screen shots for images. As in "a picture tells more than a thousand words".

Screenstepscamera

In the lessons you can swap steps around by simple drag and drop them and in the manual you can swap lessons around in the same way.

ScreenstepsexportThen the best part of the software takes place with one simple click of the button Export. The whole manual is converted into a PDF complete with:

  • Cover page (you can add and edit the templates very simple)
  • Bookmarks
  • Index-page (with links to the 'lessons')
  • Page header image & footer text (again you add/edit these in the PDF template and you can create an unlimited number of templates)

The whole process of converting the 57 pages - yes, 57 pages! - into a PDF took only 1 minute.

Since yesterday the new Guide is for sale on our website, the "delivery" of it is of course automated too: combining AWeber with Paypal (more on this in later posts).

Lesson learned: all of us have specialist knowledge about our job/trade/profession and most of us have written plenty of posts/articles/white-papers about it. Instead of writing new material, why not search through all you already have in your 'possession' - and only add new materials/edit existing material where needed?

Why re-invent your own wheel?

Learn more about ScreenSteps


Feedburner switch to Google Account: take note

Feedburner - bought by Google a while ago - is asking every account holder to move all the feeds to a Google Account. The switch is easy, a few clicks on a few buttons to an existing Google Account or you can create a new Google account for this.

On the Feedburner-Google account you can only check feed statistics and no longer site statistcis (Feedburner thinks Google Analytics has the same features - it doesn't IMHO).

My feeds were switched this morning and I'm experiencing loads of "new" old blog-alerts in various AWeber lists that have a connection with Feedburner. Fortunately all my blog-alerts are not on 'Send Automatic' otherwise all my blog readers would have had an avalanche of old alerts!

If you have both a feedburner account and are using AWeber for blog-alerts you better edit the 'blog-broadcast' settings to none automatic sending before you switch Feedburner to Google.


Why opt-in email marketing is the right - the only - way to grow

Every business - small, large, selling products or selling service - wants to attract more prospects and clients. Email marketing has become one of the most cost-effective ways to establish this.

You can do this two ways: the right one and the wrong one.

The right one is to make your email messages personal, anticipated and interesting.

The wrong one is sprouting your marketing message to everyone you can find an email address from - bulk mailing.

The right one will take time to establish (lead generating can take a while, but done effectively every one of your marketing message will be read and when your lead is ready, acted upon).

The wrong one will take no time at all to establish (buy bulk email addresses from a broker, send out plenty of marketing messages to the list and perhaps one of two will not unsubscribe)

Seth Godin tells it way better than I can:

Email campaign case studies (one good, one bad)