Marketing 101: Wall Calendars and Day Timers

Published on Sep 30, 2010   //  Marketing Tips

Promotional products can be one of the best ways to market your company, but you have to be careful not to waste your budgets on little trinkets that will ultimately end up in the trash. If you hand out generic keychains with your company logo on them, for instance, you can likely expect them to be forgotten and buried. If the same keychain has a secondary function, like a bottle opener, magnifying glass, or laser pointer, then it is more likely to be kept and used.

For this reason, a couple of the best promotional items that you can start considering around this time of year are wall calendars and day timers. Every person in business needs something to keep track of their time and while many have turned to electronic versions, there is still something to be said about paper-based calendars. These are clearly visible at all times and great for cubicles. They’re also great for keeping your brand awareness high throughout the year.

Promotional calendars and day timers are relatively inexpensive to order and they are usually available with a wide range of previously created designs. All you do is add your company logo, company information, and perhaps a slogan or two. You can personalize it further with your own imagery, important dates, and quotes, but this will come at an additional cost. Depending on the nature of your business, they may or may not be worth the premium.

If you are considering promotional wall calendars and day timers as part of your marketing mix toward the end of the year, it is prudent to get your orders into your preferred suppliers now. It takes time to create these products and you want to have enough time to distribute them to your customers, colleagues, and business partners.

WordPress Wednesday: Haiku

Published on Sep 29, 2010   //  WordPress

Are you a musician looking to share some of your work with your fans? Do you already have a WordPress blog and you wish there was an easier way to integrate audio files without complex coding? The Haiku plugin for WordPress could be a good fit.

It is not hard to insert multimedia files into blog posts using WordPress, since there are already icons in place in the WordPress dashboard when you add a new post for that kind of functionality. However, the way that these files are inserted may not be suitable to your needs. The critical difference with Haiku is that the media controls are displayed as simple text links.

This helps with browser compatibility, since it drastically simplifies the interface. The HTML5-based audio player for WordPress was coded with jQuery and jPlayer. You can insert the audio files into your posts using a simple shortcode format: [haiku url="http://www.example.com/song.mp3" "title="song title here"]. The title field is optional, but you should probably include that for SEO purposes.

You can see a short demo on the developer’s site, which is also where you can find the free download link.

Business 101: Listen to User Feedback

Published on Sep 28, 2010   //  Business Topics

As I review a number of different products as part of my freelance writing career, I interact with a good number of public relations representatives and other people responsible for getting review units into the hands of media outlets. Some of these PR reps have the right attitude of getting the products out there and being thankful for whatever feedback they can get. Others don’t.

These other reps sometimes start refusing review units to media outlets that have given their products less than stellar reviews. Their rationale is that the reviews are meant to generate publicity for the products and they don’t want the negative press. That might make sense to some, but it’s still not the right mentality. Instead, it is much more valuable to use this feedback and develop a better product.

The reviews are there for a reason. Based on the feedback received from these media outlets, as well as customer reviews on various stores and online opinion communities, you have the ability to make for a better product in the future. You can factor in these criticisms and address them accordingly. When the revised product is released, you can send it back out to the same media outlets and ask them if the improvements address their initial concerns.

Yes, you want as much positive exposure as you can, but that shouldn’t stop you from soliciting real, objective feedback from the experts in the industry. No product is perfect and you have to accept that not everyone is going to automatically give every product of yours a ten out of ten.

Great Gadgets: Honda CR-Z Sports Hybrid

Published on Sep 27, 2010   //  Gadgets

This is perhaps the most expensive product to ever be featured in our weekly Great Gadgets column, but it’s very much worth mentioning. If you’re in the type of business where you do a fair bit of commuting, it pays to have a fuel-efficient vehicle that is also better for the environment. At the same time, you want to have some fun when you’re behind the wheel. It seems you can now have both.

The Honda CR-Z sports hybrid is now available in both Canada and the United States. It takes the same kind of platform powering the Honda Insight hybrid, but puts into a sportier frame reminiscent of the old Honda CR-X. This is also the first ever hybrid vehicle with a true six-speed manual transmission, giving that fun experience along with its hybrid fuel-sipping nature.

Combining the 1.5L SOHC i-VTEC engine with the electric motor (Integrated Motor Assist), the Honda CR-Z is able to generate a reasonable 122 horsepower and 128 ft-lbs of torque. Combined, you get 37 miles per gallon on the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and 34 combined miles per gallon on the standard transmission. There are also three driving modes, offering performance, economy, and something in between.

Pricing in the United States starts at under $20,000, making this one of the most affordable hybrid vehicles on the market. In Canada, the CR-Z goes for the mid-20s.

BlueFur Customer of the Week: Sunshine Coast Film Society

Published on Sep 26, 2010   //  BlueFur Customer of the Week

There are movie enthusiasts spanning just about every corner of the planet and the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia is no exception. Catering to exactly this demographic is the aptly-named Sunshine Coast Film Society. It is based in Gibsons, BC.

According to the about page, the mission of the Society is to “cultivate film appreciation and provide an alternative to mainstream entertainment on the Sunshine Coast.” You don’t have to turn to Hollywood for some fantastic movies! The SCFS provides a venue for ongoing dialogue inspired by cinema.

There are movie screenings typically every second Monday (at 7:30pm) at the Gibsons Heritage Playhouse. You will need the $15 annual membership, but regular tickets are just five bucks. If you do not want an annual membership, you can buy a single event membership for $3 instead. Upcoming films include Blind from Netherlands, Departures from Japan, and Micmacs from France.

Do you use BlueFur to host your websites? Let us know and we can feature you in a future blog post. Send an email message to blogfeature@bluefur.com with your name, website URL, and a brief description of what you’d like to see highlighted.

Showcase Saturday: Piano Black

Published on Sep 25, 2010   //  Showcase Saturday

Sometimes, you can make the biggest impact by having the simplest of features. The Piano Black WordPress theme may appear to be quite minimalistic on the surface, but it actually comes pack with a very robust set of features that can really make your blog stand out from the crowd.

The theme uses a slick and clean darker monochrome color scheme, which could be great for photography blogs and other blogs with creative content. Among the features are full support for a range of different features, pre-configured thread comments, and more than a few theme options.

The multi-level dropdown navigation menu is a nice touch, since it is completely animated with mouseovers. Category listings can have multiple levels as well. The core design calls for a hybrid two and three column design where the sidebar can have widgets that span either one or both of the sidebar columns. Search and RSS integration is included too.

More information, including the live demo, can be found at Mono-Lab.net. You can also find the download link via the usual WordPress free themes directory.

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