Wednesday, October 29, 2008

To opt-in or not to opt-in?

A typical day in the life of an email inbox reveals personal email, business email, subscription based newsletters and the dreaded spam. If you’re the one sending out that newsletter, how do you make sure it’s not being sent to the virtual round file, otherwise known as the spam or bulk mail folder?

One way to improve the chances that your newsletter is actually seen by human eyeballs is to ask your customers to opt-in or even double opt-in to receive your messages. Single opt-in policies ask subscribers for permission to send email communication to a particular email address.

In the double opt-in scenario, you are not only asking for permission, but also confirmation that the email address in question does wish to receive email from a certain company. For example, you visit a company’s website and give them permission by subscribing to a newsletter. Shortly thereafter, the given email address receives a brief message asking the subscriber to again confirm their desire to receive emails. After permission has been confirmed this second time, the company will begin sending emails.

Yes, asking customers to opt-in will take more time. However, your chances of escaping the spam filter and arriving shiny and new in the inbox will improve greatly.

For more information on email marketing policies from two companies who should know, ExactTarget and Constant Contact, visit the following pages.

ExactTarget: Email Marketing CAN-SPAM Compliance

Constant Contact: Confirmed Opt-In Guide

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Facebook vs. MySpace

On Wednesday, I attended a class on Facebook and MySpace. It was geared toward parents, but I also wanted to explore the sites for business reasons. I have heard that Facebook is the #1 networking site for professionals, and MySpace is the favorite among teens and those in their 20s. Here is my personal analysis of these sites:

I had several friends invite me to join Facebook, but I assumed it was like MySpace and never took the time to investigate it. However, after viewing their pages, I created my own Facebook profile. From viewing the profiles of people I know, the site seems fairly tame. The layout, as far as I can tell, is pretty much the same though you can tailor some features to meet your needs. Like other networking sites, you can add your photo, list your profile, show your friends, join groups and talk about what you are currently working on. While most of my connections are work-related, I don't see a lot of business use for this site other than to stay more casually connected with my far-flung business contacts.

I would caution Facebook users to remember that prospective employers and others interested in you (e.g., ex-husbands, etc.) have been known to use Facebook to learn more about your personal life, so don't write anything in your profile or on your Facebook wall that you don't want the rest of the world to know.

On the flip side, people who aren't members can't view profiles, but once you're in, you can see just about everything unless you have blocked specific users or have opted for a private profile. From a parenting perspective, I'd be much more likely to let my technologically-curious teen daughter create a Facebook page than one on MySpace.


I'll be honest about this site. I hate it. I absolutely hate it. It is loud, trashy and, in many instances, inappropriate for teen use or for business. I know people who have business profiles on MySpace but I can tell you that I, for one, will never view them. I have always had a hang up about MySpace because of all of the Dateline stories about sexual predators on the site, but after giving it a chance, I still don't like it. The site has a whole section on privacy, keeping your kids safe, etc., but it doesn't prevent anyone from surfing the site and seeing what's out there.

I'm a big proponent of freedom of speech, so I respect the right of users to express themselves freely and to design their pages to suit their own tastes, but I don't see how it would benefit businesses unless they cater to younger audiences. My advice: proceed at your own risk.

I'd love to hear what other businesses think about the two sites. Please send me your comments.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Protecting Intellectual Property is Smart Business

Here's a great article I ran across in an old archived Small Business Information newsletter I get from It gives great information on copyright, trademarks and other ways to legally protect your intellectual property. Check it out.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Creating, collecting, and maintaining a quality customer list

In an ideal world, we would all have industry-specific software tracking each and every minute detail of our business and our customers. If you don’t have that luxury, there’s still a lot that a small business owner can do to keep better tabs on their clients.

We’ve all seen those fish bowls sitting in the front of restaurants and shops asking for your business card in return for a chance at winning a prize. Giving away a prize is minimal compared to what that business is gaining: an inside look at their customers. Most business cards contain enough information that one can ascertain the industry, skill level, location, and sometimes even the education level of that customer.

After sifting through all those business cards, one might discover that a large segment of their customers are coming from people at a professional building one block away. The business owner may then target a different professional building two blocks away, trying to entice those customers to try out their business. You can also use those business cards to create a postal mail list or an e-mail marketing list using a service like Your Mailing List Provider or Constant Contact.

For more easy, do-it-yourself tips, check back often. I update the site several times a week!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Friday, October 17, 2008

You are only as good as your message...

I’m sure that sounds harsh, but in reality, if a prospective customer will make a decision about you within seconds of seeing your logo, ad or marketing message, it must be compelling. On top of that, it must also be error-free. Imagine, for example, that you see an ad with a typo or misspelling on the first line. Do you keep reading, or do you dismiss it as not being worth your time? Hopefully, most people aren’t as picky as I am about such things, but I will immediately dismiss an ad with mistakes in it. My feeling is that if people can’t time to spell or punctuate correctly, they probably don't pay enough attention to detail to warrant my business. To ensure that your marketing copy is clear and error-free, follow these tips:

1) Copywriters, whether in-house or independent, are notoriously bad at proofing their own work, myself included. Have someone else proofread the copy at each stage to ensure that you catch every mistake.

2) In line with the first tip, make sure that you proofread and approve the final copy before it goes to press. Once you’ve misspelled your company name on 1000 business cards, it is costly to have them redone.

3) Use spell-check. I know it isn’t perfect (it will think her is spelled correctly, even if you meant here) but it will notice if you’ve left the R out of Christmas.

4) Invest in a good dictionary, thesaurus, grammar guide and a style guide suitable to your industry. For newspapers, for example, the Associated Press Stylebook reigns supreme. Other folks use the Chicago Manual of Style, APA or an in-house guide. These resources will provide you with answers on everything from capitalization and abbreviation to serial commas and the use of foreign words.

5) Not sure where to turn? Consult a local writer’s or editor’s group to have a proofreader or copyeditor on call for large projects. It might cost you a little cash up front, but it will save you time and money in the long run!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Social Networking for Non-Geeks....

I'd love to take credit for the clever title, but I have to give it to the article's author Rick Itzkowich of Stay in Touch Marketing in La Jolla, California. I ran across this on Biznik this week. What a find! Click here to read Social Networking for Non-geeks Who Want to Increase Their Business.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is taking the business world by storm and, if you aren't involved in it now, you are behind the times. To tell you the latest and greatest about social media marketing, check out this article by Doug Firebaugh on American Chronicle. He's got some good information about the subject, including the seven most popular networking sites. #1 - Facebook.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Monday, October 13, 2008

What is LinkedIn and why should I use it?

LinkedIn is one of many entries into the online networking market. At first glance, I was skeptical, wondering if this was a thinly veiled dating vehicle for hormonal teens (like some other networking sites to remain unnamed here). After a quick review of the site though, you discover that those dating-type features are absent. In its place is a very simple, easy to navigate system with minimal advertisements.

Instead of posting a photo album of your activities last Friday night, you are asked to provide the details of your education, career, and areas of expertise. The next step is to make connections with the people you already know in real life. The program has the capability to, with your permission, search your Outlook or web-based contact list looking for LinkedIn participants that you already know. Now here’s where it gets interesting: you can see the names and company names of every person connected to your colleagues. If you have been trying to do business with a certain company, but cannot find a way in, this allows you to ask for a warm introduction from someone already on the inside: your colleague.

As is the case with most online networking sites, or for that matter most in-person networking events, you get out of it what you put into it. In other words, if you take the time to create a quality, detailed profile and make an effort to make connections, you will gain more business traction from the site. And if you use the site regularly, your own name and company may rank higher in the results of online searches.

To set up a basic LinkedIn account at no charge, visit To view a sample profile, check out mine here.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Information Overload

I don’t know about you, but with the current economic situation of our country, the nasty political campaigns, and all the new media we have to choose from I am suffering from Information Overload which can bog me down mentally which hurts my productivity. To try to limit how much information I get and when, I do the following:

1) Read the news headlines on MSN and local newspaper websites once in the morning.
2) I watch one local news program each day, usually the 11 p.m. news.
3) I read my e-mail and return phone calls in blocks.
4) I delete e-mail forwards, chain letters and calls for political action without reading them.
5) I save my blog, magazine and social networking reading for the weekends when I’m less likely to be on overload.

It is sometimes hard to segment my days like this, but this system – though not foolproof – allows me to work in large blocks of time without being interrupted by the latest political, financial or celebrity scandal while staying on top of current issues of the day.

How do you compartmentalize your time to avoid the crush of news and information each day? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Today's Political Campaigns Ignore the Old Adage...If You Can't Say Anything Nice...

Unless you've been hiding under a rock or are very good at shutting the world out, it would be impossible to miss the barbs and jabs thrown by political foes like Obama and McCain in Washington, D. C. or Gregoire and Rossi in Washington State. Both sides of the fence have resorted to name-calling, insults and other bad behavior to draw attention away from themselves, putting it squarely on the shoulders of their opponents.

This goes against everything my parents taught me: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

While it may be naive of me to think this is possible in today's world of cut-throat politics, I'd much prefer to hear the candidates stand on their own records and merits than to win as the lesser of two evils. The insult-slinging has taken us to a new low, where Jerry Springer-like behavior is acceptable in every arena and no one has to take responsibility for their words any more.

The same is true in business. Talk about your own successes, your own philosophies and the positives you bring to the table. If you're all that you say you are, you don't need to belittle or berate the competition to rise above them. You're true character will speak for itself.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

P.S. - Wake me up when it's over...

Monday, October 6, 2008

Magazine Advertising Success Secrets

If you want to reach your target audience, magazine advertising can help you get in front of the right people at the right time. Although usually more expensive than newspaper advertising, magazines have a longer shelf life and may be shared among readers. They also have a clearly defined market so you know what demographics you are reaching. To be successful, you'll want to:

1) Ensure that your timing is ideal. Magazines plan months in advance, so ask for an editorial calendar so you can plan your ad(s) for the right time.

2) Magazines tend to display higher quality ads than the black & white ads most newspapers display. Make sure you have a top quality ad with a great headline and compelling copy to grab your readers' attention.

3) Focus on telling your readers how they'll benefit from your product or service, rather than listing features.

To choose the right magazine to advertise your business in, contact relevant magazines in your market and ask for a media kit. The media kit will include a rate card (i.e., pricing) as well as demographics and, most likely, an editorial calendar.

To your success,
Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How to Get More Opens & Clicks

I never seem to have time to read the many e-newsletters I subscribe to, so I file them in a Newsletters To Read folder in my Inbox. When I have a few minutes (on hold, doing a back-up, etc.), I peruse the folder to see what looks interesting.

Today I stumbled on this gem from Constant Contact: How To Get More Opens & Clicks by Gina Watkins. She gives some great advice on how to get your e-mail marketing messages opened and clicked on. Read her tips on how to write a killer subject line to be sure your e-mails are read!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Seattle Women Skyrocket to Success

This article by Andrea James of the Seattle P-I is inspirational. It just proves what we've known all along - that women make great business owners!

Read it here:
Bright Path to Success for Local Women

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

IRS Offers Free Bookkeeping Phone Seminar - 10/22

Recordkeeping for Small Business/Self Employed Individuals - National Phone Forum - FREE
October 22, 2008

Learn about recordkeeping for small business/self-employed individuals:
  • What books and records are
  • Why books and records are needed
  • Who should have books and records
  • How good books and records can shorten an audit
  • How long books and records should be kept
Sign up now (and no later than October 17, 2008). Select the time below that works best for you.

Note: Time zones shown are Daylight Saving Time.

393508 - 10:00 a.m. (EDT); 9:00 a.m. (CDT); 8:00 a.m. (MDT); 7:00 a.m. (PDT)
125274 - 1:00 p.m. (EDT); 12:00 p.m. (CDT); 11:00 a.m. (MDT); 10:00 a.m. (PDT)
725297 - 4:00 p.m. (EDT); 3:00 p.m. (CDT); 2:00 p.m. (MDT); 1:00 p.m. (PDT)

Register at the AT&T TeleConference Services Web site ( by October 17, 2008. Reservations are limited, so register at the earliest date possible. You will receive a Personal Identification Number that you must use to join the conference. If you have never registered with AT&T for a prior phone forum, you will first need to click on create a profile.

If you require special accommodations (for example, Braille, large print or interpreter services) please contact Shane Ferguson at We will e-mail presentation materials on October 20, 2008. If you do not receive this e-mail by noon on October 21, 2008, e-mail us at to request the materials. A question and answer period will follow the presentation. However, due to the public nature of the call, we will not be able to address specific client issues.

Click here for more info.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis