CATEGORY: Business

From the Inside Out: Building a Company Vision and Mission (part III)

As many of you have been following we’ve begun the process of creating a company vision. Last time we left off we were ready to dive into our BHAG (big hairy audacious goal). I promised you guys that we would open the doors and be completely transparent during this process so I’m going to be totally honest: coming up with a company vision is a long and difficult road!

big hairy audacious goal

Almost there.

The latest:

We’re at the stage where we have selected our MARS group and divided the whole company into 3 groups from which each of the 6 MARS members will be soliciting feedback. Members of customer support will be interviewing Developers, Developers are interviewing Operations and Marketing, and Operations and Marketing are interviewing Customer Support (or some sort of mix along those lines).

Inter-departmental communication is rich and valuable in so many ways but it certainly does make it difficult to schedule and find time to meet. Pulling a developer off his code work to sit down and talk about values is much easier said than done, take it from me! πŸ™‚ That said, some of the most ingenious ideas and invaluable feedback have come out of this process. It’s amazing what happens when you get different groups of people together who aren’t used to working closely with one another. Interviews involve questions like, “What do you value?” “What does this company value?” “Where do you see us in 10 years?” “Where do you want to see us in 10 years?” Each one of us with our unique perspectives approach these questions differently.

There are a few values, such as ‘fun’ and ‘goodwill’ that everyone can get behind rather easily (mmhmm, you saw that right, we value fun). Other values however, like, “innovation” come with much more debate. In going through these exercises it has really opened my eyes as to what a special group of people we have here. We aren’t just coworkers, we’re friends. To take that one step further, we’re not just friends we’re name.com big hairy audacious goalfamily. And we have a lot of really good ideas about what this company is and where it should be headed. The challenge now knocking out the remainder of interviews that have been near impossible to schedule. Secondly, we need to sift through all this feedback so that we can get to a place where we can all put a stake in the ground and firmly stand behind our values, sync on vision, and actively chip away, in our own personal day-to-day, moment-to-moment tasks, to get to where we want to go.

If you can’t tell, I’m energized. Name.com already rocks but we are all so eager and motivated to take it to the next level. There is electrifying energy and momentum running through this office – so get ready, there are a lot of great things to come.

What does Name.com mean to you? What do you think our purpose is? We’d love to hear from you…we won’t even hassle you for an interview.

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Search Engine Optimization or SEO… an Introduction

“Everybody’s talking at me. I don’t hear a word they’re saying. Only echoes in my mind.” Nilsson for the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy, 1969

When it comes to understanding the wonderful world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), we can all feel like Joe Buck in “Midnight Cowboy.” However, when you break it down again and consider what it means, SEO is not all that difficult.

Here is a brief primer on what you need to know about SEO.

1. Content is King.

The major search engines like Yahoo, Bing, and Google interpret importance or relevance as popularity. The more traffic a site is getting, the more eyeballs are examining it, then the more valuable the information on that site must be. That is why having good content that attracts more visitors really is what matters most. Popularity online can be proven, too. There are a number of successful metrics and tools available that interpret popularity (Google Analytics is a good free start). In fact, Facebook has even come up with their own metrics and analytics to measure online traffic and popularity.

How can you be popular? With the right SEO it’s much easier than high school and without all the hassle of your hair. All of the search engine web guides agree that there are several ways, but that one area is key to increasing popularity for a web site: relevant content. Make sure your content is useful, meaningful, and maybe even a little funny.

2. Drink lots of link-juice.

Next in the hierarchy of being popular online are the number of sites linking to a site and how regularly updates are made. Although you will hear lots of news about keeping up with the changes to the search algorithm and the latest scams, err “methods” to boost online presence and popularity… the cold hard fact is that the World Wide Web is simply a network or web of sites. Much like the stops on the London Underground or New York City’s alphabet soup of a subway system. SEO is all about guiding the right passengers to your particular stop (website) and giving them proper directions about what is there. When you populate your site with well-chosen keywords and valuable content, you will soon find it being visited, linked and then “crawled” regularly and by increasing numbers of people. Obviously, I think you can guess that SEO Tutor is our favorite tool for not only measuring the number of links to your site, but also finding sites to build links on as well as getting regular updates on new links… not that we’re biased or anything.

Name.com Search Engine Optimization Made Easy

“It’s elementary my dear Watson, you need better keywords.” -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and anyone since 1887 trying to make an obvious point

3. The key is Keywords.

The most basic foundation of SEO is how well the keywords for your product, good, or service have been chosen. It does not matter how long or short the tail on the keyword is (more on that later), what matters is that it is the most concise and specifically chosen word or words that best attracts your niche. You need to know who wants your product, good, or service. Really reflect on whom you want to attract to your site, how they talk, and what they are interested in. From there, it is easy to use an online tool like SEO Tutor to generate the most specific, relevant, and valuable keyword phrase for your site.

Thus, we close the first in our series on SEO with the simple question…what words do your customers use to find you?

Click here for Part II!

Conversion Optimization- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

You’ve waited for it and here it is! This is the second blog post in our Conversion

Numbers are fun!

Optimization series. Today we’ll be discussing conversion metrics, the numbers that measure a website’s effectiveness. Obtaining a higher conversion rate is the ultimate goal, but looking solely at your conversion rates doesn’t paint the whole picture. If you missed the first conversion optimization blog you can check it out here.

Bounce Rates represent the percentage of visitors who leave your site from the page they land on without navigating to another page. Alternately, Exit Rates are a lot like bounce rates, except they capture the percentage of visitors who leave your website after visiting more than one page. These metrics help you determine which pages of your site need optimizing, as well as which funnels are most effective.

Average Order Value gives you an idea of how much money people spend on your site in a particular purchase. This can be very useful in analyzing the buying habits of your customers. It can also be insightful to compare this number to the Customer Lifetime Value, which tells you how much a customer spends on your site across all purchases made. If your average order value is the same as your customer lifetime value it probably means that you have a problem with customer retention. However, if your customer lifetime value is much greater than your average order value there is revenue potential and you’re probably doing something right.

The Checkout Abandonment Rate is the percentage of visitors who add items to their cart, land on the checkout page, and do not place an order. Checkout abandonment plagues every website because companies often make poor decisions in designing their checkout pages. This is the place where users make their final buying decision, having links that navigate away from this page can lead to poor conversion rates. Evaluating the checkout abandonment rate on your site will provide insight into where visitors are falling out of the funnel.

Tracking your website’s Traffic Sources can help you determine which ad campaigns are working and which are not. A traffic source is exactly what it sounds like – a website, banner ad, email campaign, or anything else that directs traffic to your site. Google Analytics has a very cool dashboard that breaks down traffic by source.

The Google Analytics Traffic Source Overview

There are many other KPIs that businesses pay attention to and your taste in KPIs will evolve as your website does. The first step is understanding these metrics and deciding on how you want to use them internally. You may decide that customer lifetime value doesn’t matter, or that focusing on decreasing checkout abandonment is more lucrative than decreasing bounce rates on your homepage. The end goal is to increase conversion on your website, but the path you take to get there depends on what you discover about your site from analyzing your KPIs.

Building a Company Vision from the Inside Out: We Begin

When we last left off we were discussing the awkwardness of a pubescent company. See the introduction here. Today, Ashley begins the journey that should end in a BHAG. Not sure what that is? Continue on and see if you can set your sights on something Big, Hairy and Audacious…

Part 1: Finding our Vision

In order to do this we’ve got to dig deep. The end goal is a mission statement, but there is much reflection, thought, and work ahead of us before we’ll get there. We’ll be brainstorming:

1. What is our core ideology?

2. What are our core values?

3. What does our envisioned future looks like?

4. What sort of big hairy audacious goals (BHAG) we can set our sights on achieving?

In our initial research phase of this project a colleague of mine, Bo, sent along a fabulous article that I’d highly recommend to anyone else going through this process. It’s called, ’91Building Your Company Vision‘ by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras. (I will be leaning heavily on his work through the rest of this post/series so please give him credit where due!)

I’ll admit it; all this ’91vision talk’ sounds fluffy. But truth be told, the need for companies to have a clear understanding of their purpose is greater now more than ever. In our increasingly globalized society, in order to retain, motivate, and attract outstanding employees, companies must make their work meaningful (Collins). So where does one start in this massive undertaking? Defining your Core Ideology of course! Core ideology defines what you stand for and why you exist. Your core ideology will never change. An example would be the truths in the Declaration of Independence – we’d be in trouble if someone took a big red pen to those invaluable statements.

The process that Collins outlines for developing a core ideology is to come up with two distinct parts, core values and a core purpose. Brainstorm a list of 3-5 core values (if you have more than 5 you are more than likely confusing core values with other things such as operating practices or business strategies). Once you have your refined list, ask yourself, ’91If circumstances changed and we were penalized for holding this value, would we keep it?’ If you cannot honestly say yes, then it is not a core value.

So who from your organization should be in on the brainstorming sessions? Collins suggests creating a Mars group – that is, you’ve got 1 space shuttle w/ 5-7 seats headed to Mars and you’ve got to pick who fills the seats. Ask yourself who in the company, across different departments, is a “representative slice” of your company DNA. That is, they are highly competent and credible and they live out and are exemplars of your core values.

Here is a list of questions (suggested by Collins) that individuals should be able to answer:

-What core values do you personally bring to your work?

-What would you tell your children are the core values that you hold at work and that you hope they will hold when they become working adults?

-If you woke up tomorrow AM w/ enough money to retire, would you continue to live those core values?

-Can you envision them being as valid for you in 100 years from now as they are today?

-Would you want to hold those core values even if at some point they became more of a competitive disadvantage?

-If you were to start a new organization tomorrow in a different line of work, what core values would you build into the new organization regardless of its industry?

If you work for a company and you are unclear as to what your core values are, try borrowing some of Collins’ framework and running through some of the exercises. It’s a great team building activity and can actually turn out to be pretty fun! This is the stage we are at right now for Name.com. We have done our research and selected our Mars group, next step will be explaining the importance of these activities to the team and then begin the brainstorming sessions.

As we sit around and brainstorm these topics, we’re interested to hear what you guys have to say. What does Name.com mean to you??

Stay tuned; the next topic is on developing a Core Purpose.

P.S Do you find this interesting? Is there anyone out there involved in a start up or thinking of starting a business or project that finds this information useful? It sure gets my heart pitter-pattering, but I want to make sure I’m providing content you guys enjoy reading and keep coming back for. If you’d rather hear about something else please let me know! πŸ™‚

Building A Company Vision From The Inside Out

(This is the first in the series inspired by a meeting where our CEO admitted while we’ve worked our tails off, we’ve been as non-corporate as a company can be, and need to step it up and set goals and all that corporate stuff. We’re still cool. Actually, that’s the point, how do we remain cool while stepping out of our flip-flops and donning the proverbial suit?)

Introduction: Puberty!

We think we’re a pretty open and transparent company. After all, we do invite you inside to tour our offices, give us feedback on upcoming redesigns, and if god forbid something happens and a server goes down, we’re on the front lines of Facebook and Twitter letting you know the play by play. Today however we kick open the doors and begin the discussion that every grown up has to have: we’re going to talk about our company vision. More specifically, our journey to discovering our vision, what a vision is, and why having a solid, defined, clear vision is important for the success of any business. As we go through this process, we’re going to turn ourselves inside out. We invite you to follow along.

First, get to know us a little. Name.com is an 8-year old startup. We’ve been successful by offering an easy and accessible user experience with little upsell and a ton of customer service. It’s been good to us, but sometimes we joke that we are in the awkward teenager phase trying to figure out who we are, what our strengths are and what we need to work on. We need to define who we really want to become. The short answer is that we’re here to make money (just being honest!), and in order to do that we must deliver excellent products and services, at competitive prices, and provide stellar support. That is great but we want to be better than great – we want to be the best. So how do we get there? First we have to figure out where ’91there’ is’85

Next up’85Finding Our Vision! Is that you and your company? Let us do the hard work and follow our road to one Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal!

An Introduction to Conversion Rates

It’s time to analyze a buzzword that seems to pop up all over the Internet these days. Conversion. What is conversion and why does it matter? Simply put, an online conversion occurs when a website visitor does what you want them to. Conversions can take many forms depending on what type of website you’re running. Whether it is a monetary transaction, inputting an email address, utilizing a free service, or clicking through to another site. No matter what type of business you’re running, if you’re doing it online your conversion rate matters. Period.

How do you calculate a conversion rate? First you have to define what a conversion is for your website. Here at Name.com a conversion occurs when a user purchases a domain or a product from our website. Once a conversion has been defined calculating the rate is a breeze. Divide the number of conversions by the number of unique visitors your website had over the same time period. Viola! Now you know your conversion rate.

You may be wondering how to go about obtaining a count of your unique site visitors and conversions. Well, you’re in luck. There are a number of useful tools out there to help you do just that and through the wonders of the web you can access a few of them for free.

The ecommerce dashboard in Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free service that calculates and summarizes website statistics. Once configured, you can see how people arrive on your website, how long they stay, where they go, calculated conversion rates, revenue generation, and so much more. If you don’t already have this service enabled we strongly recommend it. Learn more about Google Analytics here.

PadiTrack is a sales funnel calculator that plugs into Google Analytics and allows users to set up specific conversion funnels. It is particularly useful if you are selling multiple products with separate pages and flows.

So, you have gone through all the trouble outlined above. You defined a “conversion”, set up Google Analytics on your website (which is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself), and calculated the conversion rate. Whew, that was a lot of work! Now, what do you do with the information?

This is the age-old problem that a lot of companies face. We know our conversion rate, but what do we do with it? The answer is both simple and complex. You know the conversion rate, now INCREASE it! That was the simple answer. Things get complex when you ask, “How do I increase conversion?” There is an entire field devoted to accomplishing this task, known as conversion optimization. Conversion optimization attempts to analyze user behavior, provide marketing insights, and establish recommendations to help your site get an increased conversion rate.

Thus begins a series of blog posts about conversion optimization. Today is the introduction to the concept with more specific concepts and topics to follow… all designed to make sure you know how to build a website, setup hosting, get more traffic, and convert that traffic into revenue. Be sure to tune in!

Affiliate Getting Started, Series 1: Choosing An Affiliate Network

by Caroline, Name.com Domain Concierge

We’re assuming you already know what an Affiliate is and have a desire to start making money by promoting services/products in your niche on your blog. A quick way for locating Advertisers in your niche is through an Affiliate Network. Affiliate Networks act as intermediaries between you the Affiliate and the Advertiser. Affiliate Networks allow you to compare various offers from Advertisers and you can choose which offers to participate in and promote via your blog.

Soo’85How the heck do you choose an Affiliate Network? We thought http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/4388.asp had a few great suggestions for you to consider when selecting a network. We then took those suggestions with a few of our own and applied them to 3 Affiliate Networks who score pretty high on ranking sites. Check it out…

  • Tracking Methods (can you see real time results, can you customize your data)
  • Payment Methods. How the network pays commissions.
  • Payment Threshold. you have to earn before you are paid. If you are just starting a lower threshold -such as $1.00- will mean you receive money faster depending on payment cycles)
  • Ways to earn money (Type of programs they specialize in-Pay Per Lead, Pay Per Sale, Co-Registraion) If you are new to Affiliate Marketing then a range of ways to earn money gives you a chance to try different methods with your blog readers. See which method works best for your blog then seek advertisers who pay based on that method.
  • Industry Verticals Specific industries the network focuses on (or has success in). Make sure they support the industry you wish to promote.
  • Support/Training. Support provided to you as an Affiliate. Look for training opportunities too with an Affiliate Network. Networks want you to be successful and that starts with your success. You’ll want to make sure the help desks are easy to navigate and support is timely.
Category

Company

CJ.com

Clickbank.com

LinkShare.com

Tracking Real time tracking real time tracking, options to customize near real-timer reporting, will work with you on customizing
Payment Methods Check, Direct Deposit Check Check, Direct Deposit
Payment Threshold Check $100.00, Direct Deposit $50.00 $100.00 $1.00, however Advertisers can customize the threshold
Ways to Earn Money Advertiser Choice (Possible options: Perecent of sale, Cost per lead, Cost per Click) Percent of Sale Advertiser Choice (Possible options: Perecent of sale, Cost per lead, Cost per Click)
Industry Verticals Finance, Travel, Automotive, Consumer Products, Education, Health and Beauty, Retail, Business, Entertainment, Special Interest Arts & Entertainment, Betting Systems, Business / Investing, Computers / Internet, Cooking, Food & Wine, E-business & E-marketing, Education, Employment & Jobs, Fiction, Games, Green Products, Health & Fitness, Home & Garden, Languages, Mobile, Parenting & Families, Politics / Current Events, Reference, Self-Help, Software & Services, Spirituality, New Age & Alternative Beliefs, Sports, Travel Auto, Business & Career, Clothing & Accessories, Computer & Electronics, Department Store, Entertainment, Family, Financial Services, Food & Drink, Games & Toys, Gift & Flowers, Health & Beauty, Hobbies & Collectibles, Home & Living, Internet & Online, Mature/Adult, Miscellaneous, Office, Sports & Fitness, Telecommunications, Travel
Support/Training Tips and Training articles and webinars, support ticket support from within account Monday-Friday 7am-6pm Mountainn Time. Blog, PodCast, Webinars, all for ongoing education Email, Help Center, LinkShare University, Blog

Of course these are not the only 3 Affiliate Networks. Try this Google search for researching your own Affiliate Network to join. Best of luck with your Affiliate business!

Win $500 in Subscriptions and Services from Name.com: Your odds have never been better

It’s time to kickstart your business with the .BIZ-ness Giveaway! It’s what we do here, give people the tools and support to get online and magnify their moolah, and now we’ll shower you with the goods…for FREE. All you need is a .BIZ and you can enter to win $500 in subscriptions and services. That includes a one-year subscription to our easy, step-by-step SEO Tutor, and a whole year to our unlimited PageZen web builder. Both are easy to use and geared to get your .BIZ roaring up the ranks of Internet Search Engines.

And here’s the best part: According to what we’ve tracked as far as entries into the contest, YOUR ODDS ARE FANTASTIC:

ENTER NOW! You’ll be in an exclusive club.

Sometimes Innovation Precedes the Need: A Take on the New gTLDs

As many of you know, Brad White the Director of Global Media Affairs for ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) flew out last week to help spread awareness around the new gTLD program. Here’s a quick background in case you’re not familiar with the new program: gTLD stands for generic top-level domain such as com, net, org (to the right of the dot). The new program will allow anyone to apply to own and operate their own extension (more info here.) I’ll try to be casual here but this is undoubtedly the largest change to the Internet since its inception’85! If you don’t know, now you knowww (Biggie reference there, anyone?) Anyway, introducing new gTLDs to the Internet landscape has been a hot topic with much controversy and debate as many have asked, “Why are you doing this? What is the need?”

When faced with this question last week Mr. White responded, “Sometimes innovation precedes the need.” This turned the conversation to Twitter, iPads and iPhones. Did you know you needed any of those before they existed?

I’ll be the first to admit that change can be scary. You can greet it by kicking and screaming or you can embrace it, the choice is yours. I’m not arguing that every big brand out there should necessarily embrace new gTLDs, but what I am wondering is what happened to the dreamers? The go-getters who are totally bent and psyched on creating a completely new experience for customers that’s never been seen or experienced before. Where’s the excitement?

A great article by Adrian Kinderis hit my inbox this morning that strikes the same chord, “Remember, all great differentiators are unproven before they are accepted as the norm. Even American industrialist Henry Ford understood this valuable lesson: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Let me be clear, new gTLDs are not for everyone. The application fee alone is $185k, maintenance and renewal fees run around minimum $25k yearly, it’s an extremely technical endeavor and a lot of capital and knowhow are needed up front. Even Name.com, a company that could potentially benefit from new gTLDs, has had its own internal debate about implementing such a massive change. My only question is of what are we so scared? Why isn’t there more enthusiasm around opening up and unleashing the Internet? It is a wide-open playing field where the opportunity to be an innovator could not be any more clearly presented.

So will you ask for more horses? Or take on the challenge and start dreaming?

The Importance of Focus: Small Business Leadership Series

Whether you’re a small business owner, individual, or an entire company, one of your biggest enemies may be multi-tasking. I’m not talking about the fire hydrant you took out last week while driving and trying to check your email and talking on your cell phone’85that’s just insanity. What I’m talking about is the much simpler idea of focus–of taking one idea and moving it forward, intentionally, wholeheartedly, and very consciously at the expense of all others–and it’s exact opposite, multi-tasking.

To get an idea of just how big of a problem this is for you or your company, count how many projects you’re working on right now. Add them up’85 how many did you get? 5, 10, 20, 50? Usually I range anywhere from 5 to 15 individually, and as a company I would say we’re usually anywhere from 100 to 250.

So why is it a problem? Well, there are really two issues. One is the quantitative fact that it makes every single project take longer. The second, is that it allows people to hide failure, roadblocks and missed deadlines.

Steve Jobs Felt Your Pain

Issue #1: Every project takes longer

So here’s what it looks like if you focus on one project at a time:

Here’s what it looks like if you “multi-task” and try to do it all at once.

The more you switch back and forth, the worse the numbers: more and more switching time and the first two tasks finish later and later. This isn’t to say you lock yourself in a room (I’ll leave whether it’s padded up to you), crush your cellphone, and maniacally focus on one task… that’s unreasonable. All we’re getting at is there is a cost to switching back and forth between projects in terms of both wasted time and later finish dates.

Issue #2: It allows people to hide failure, roadblocks and missed deadlines

If you only have one project, then when you run into issues with that one project you have no choice but to deal with the issues. On the other hand, if you have two projects, then you can just move to the second project. That’s great news for efficiency because now there’s no “down time,” but increase the number of projects to 3, 4, 5’85and I think you see the problem.

So why do we let this happen? It’s easy. Rather than do the hard work of actually fixing roadblocks and completing projects, you can just start another! Eventually, you have so many projects being “worked on” that it’s hard to keep track of what is stalled, what is moving smoothly, what is on time and what is late. Great if you’re someone looking for the path of least resistance, but a nightmare if you are an individual with a to do list or a company trying to meet deadlines!

The bottom line is that it takes discipline and focus to pick one project and see it through to the end.

What about you or your company? How many projects do you have going at once? Let us know below!