5 Tips for the Newbie CityMax.com User

So, it’s my first week here at CityMax.com, and as a dedicated web coach one of my first assignments was to dive right into the easy business website builder. After getting used to making my way around the application and understanding how to take advantage of all the tools available, I’ve found five helpful tips for the newbie CityMax.com user!

1. The “Edit Site” tab will always be your go-to button.

When you sign up for your free 10 day trial, or if you’ve just made your website active, the “Edit Site” tab when you login on the top left beside the “Dashboard” tab is the most important tab for navigating your website. This tab will have five helpful sub-tabs: View Site, My Pages, Add Page, Design, and Domain & E-mail. You will be able to access all your pages here (under “My Pages”), as well as change and customize your template (Under “Design”). This is the best place to keep your website organized.

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Get Cheap Business Stock Photography

Looking for some new images for your website? Right now AppSumo (it’s kind of like Groupon but specific to web apps) is offering a great deal well-suited for small business owners.

PixMac, a stock photography website, has put together a package designed specifically for business. Depending on your industry, these images may work well for your website, brochures, ads, etc.

It’s a limited time offer, but for only $25, you get 33 business-focused stock images – regularly valued at $250!

Interested? Check out the deal:
$25 for $250 worth of business stock photos

Why You Need a Proofreader

Image by adactio.
Image by adactio

Mistakes happen. We’ve all been in a situation where we carelessly overlooked something and it’s caused an embarrassing situation. While most of these faux pas happen in our personal lives, from time to time it affects business. This morning we received a Change of Legal Name letter for a business we’ve worked with in the past. It’s a nicely written letter on beautiful new letterhead with a funky new logo. The problem with the letter is two-fold:

  1. They don’t state anywhere in the letter what the previous name of the business is. Although we’ve now figured it out, it took more than three people to narrow it down.
  2. There’s a typo in the URL in the big bolded area where they list their contact information.

Yikes. If you’re sending out a notice like this, you want to make sure it goes out without a hitch and people aren’t left scratching their heads trying to figure out who you are. This letter probably should have been passed around a bit before it left the building.

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Website of the Month: BombshellStamps.com

bombshellWhat do you get when you combine a creative business mind, rubber stamps, and cheeky retro humor? The answer is our Website of the Month: BombshellStamps.com!

The brainchild of Shannon Lucier, this San Diego-based small business sells vintage style rubber stamps with attitude. Shannon has been using the CityMax.com website builder since 2007, when she first created her business plan. Shannon told us her story:

“I had another company which seemed like a lot of hard work with little reward – so I did a business plan that emphasized balance: between my creative side, time I would have to invest and the income I expected to make. This took me a month of brainstorming, trying to look for a niche that hadn’t been done before.

In August 2007 I decided to go for it, and the CityMax.com tools were so extensive and clean that it was just perfect for my business. I knew nothing about HTML or how to get a website up – but it was so easy that now I have to streamline my content!”

BombshellStamps.com currently averages over 290 unique visitors daily, and generates thousands of dollars in revenue every month. She has even managed to drum up some pretty impressive publicity for her business. Shannon is currently rolling out an innovative new line of digital products for her business to help support new customer markets, rather than compete with other existing products.

Shannon was kind enough to pass on a few tips for other aspiring entrepreneurs:

“If you’re just starting out, really think through the entire aspect of your business: a business plan is so important. I gave up three different ideas that didn’t work because of money, or time. I’m proud of the fact that I planned for everything from pricing to shipping, which made it easier for myself. Those details will make or break your business.”

These are definitely sound words of advice from a veteran entrepreneur. Thank you Shannon and congratulations to you again on making our Website of the Month!

Four Tips to Starting a PPC Campaign (Homepreneur Website Makeover: Part 2)

clickmarketing So, what is Pay Per Click? In a nutshell, Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing is a type of advertising that only costs you money when someone clicks on your ad. The most popular example is Google AdWords – you’ll see these ads on the side of search results on Google. As someone who handles multiple PPC accounts for our website builder, one of the most exciting things I get to do is introduce it to people building a new ecommerce website. Why?  It’s like a fresh canvas: a clean start to build something great.

One of the biggest problems I often see is new PPC users jumping right in with no plan, no goals, and no real strategy for what they want to achieve, and it’s pretty easy to waste a lot of money on it. That’s why I was thrilled to learn that I’d be talking PPC with Marco and Heather Barberini from OvernightPetTags.com, our winner of the 2009 Homepreneur of the Year competition.

Every successful PPC campaign begins with planning offline.  So before we even turned on the computer, I asked Marco exactly what his vision and goals were for his Google Adwords account. Google currently holds a 64% market share of all searches in the U.S.

Here’s what I asked Marco, and here’s what you should ask yourself before you take the plunge into Pay Per Click marketing.

1. What is the main reason to start a PPC account?

Obviously, to get more sales and make more money.  But how are you going to do that?  Are you going to be acquiring leads then calling them?  Do you want to drive traffic directly to a specific product?  Or do you want to to drive traffic to a catalog of products?  Maybe you offer a service and want people to phone you right away after finding your business website.  Even if you have an entire list of possibilities, write them all down.

2. What are you selling?

Of course you know what you’re selling, but can you organize it effectively?  Create a tree of your website and all of your products.  Make yourself a map and organize your products or services into different categories.  In Marco’s case, he sells pet ID tags.  So he would start by categorizing his website into two main top level categories: Dog ID Tags & Cat ID Tags.  These new main categories would be his “Campaigns”.

3.  How would you break down each individual product or service in each campaign?

Once you have broken your site down into its main categories or “campaigns”, you have created a backbone to structure the rest of your account.  You can then break things down further into Ad groups which fall under campaigns. For example, the Ad group “Sports Dog ID Tags” would go under the Campaign “Dog ID Tags”  mentioned above.

4. Who are you selling to?

You might know who you are selling to offline, but online is different.  When you’re advertising online, anyone can search and possibly click one of your ads costing you wasted money if they aren’t “qualified” (a good fit for your products).  So, make a plan offline for who you want to target.  Age, gender, what they might be searching for and why?  Try to create a customer persona and paint of picture of who you’re selling to.

Again, planning is the key to a great start with any new PPC account.  There are many other factors to consider, such as budgets – what are you willing to pay to get a new customer or sell a product?  These four tips above are just the basics to get your head wrapped around how to start.

Here is a list of key questions to ask yourself as your draw up your plan:

  • What search engines do you want to target?
  • What is your monthly budget?
  • How many products are you selling? (this should help you break down your categories)
  • What are your goals for PPC? (i.e. traffic, conversions)
  • What will you use for track? (Our recommendation is Google Analytics but you may prefer Hitslink or StatCounter)
  • How much are you willing to spend if it converts well?

In my next post, we’ll break it down further and discuss Ad groups, Keywords and Ads.  In the meantime, grab a pen and paper and start planning!

Northern Voice 2010 Wrap-up

image001This weekend the CityMax.com small business website builder team hit Canada’s largest social media and blogging conference six years running, Northern Voice (#nv10). There, we learned all about the changing face of media, how to shape our online voice, guerilla marketing and more. We brought along our @OfficeChicken to ruffle a few feathers, but he turned out to be a total ‘chick magnet’ (click here for more pics).

For those of you who couldn’t make it, renowned Vancouver blogger and social media expert Miss 604 documented both Day 1 and Day 2. Noted local academic Raul Pacheco-Vega (aka Hummingbird604) also live blogged a few of the sessions in great detail – including Googler Chris Messina’s keynote speech and Alexandra Samuel’s excellent talk on “Coping with Social Media.”

All in all it was an excellent weekend of learning and connecting! What’s the best conference you’ve been to lately and why?

Website of the Month: Call to Doody

calltodoody1“If you have a dog that poops, we have a person that scoops!”

Nathalie Bland has always been passionate about dogs. Three years ago, she read a Readers’ Digest article about “the top 10 disgusting jobs that people will pay others to do.” Inspired by what she read and fed up with her corporate job, Nathalie quit and decided to open her business: Call To Doody.

The Houston-based company frees dog owners from their worst chore: poop scooping. The business serves anybody with a dog and a yard, as well as parks and apartment complexes.  Promoting clean yards at an inexpensive price, Nathalie’s small business has grown in just two and a half years to 7 employees and 3 trucks.

Nathalie spoke about the role her website plays in her business: “I had never really done anything online before, other than email. I didn’t want to pay someone hundreds of dollars to update my website, and not even have control over it. So I did a 10 day free trial with CityMax.com and within a couple hours, knew I could handle it. You guys made it so easy, and whenever I have a question your support staff responds promptly and works with me until I get it.”

Nathalie is enjoying her newfound independence: “I can’t wait for Monday morning anymore. I get up every day and get to work with like-minded people and be passionate about what I do. There are long days, but when you do something you’re interested in, it’s not really work. Whenever we go to a dog owner’s house they are always so happy to see us – it frees up their spare time for the things that they want to do!”

In 2009, the business experienced 52% growth, and Call To Doody is now looking to expand into the Dallas and San Antonio markets. Nathalie shares a few words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs: “If you have an idea, listen to yourself – not others. If I had listened to everyone else I’d still be wearing my suit and heels, traveling four days a week.”

The CityMax.com team is starting a new small business. Will we succeed?

e3-logoIf you’re familiar with CityMax.com, you already know we’ve got entrepreneur fever. Our website builder is the heart of thousands of successful businesses (just take a look at our amazing Homepreneur finalists), and we’ve been around for over 10 years. But so what, you might ask?

Well, two weeks ago we decided to put our money where our collective mouth is. We decided to start an online venture.

Why?  To show that anyone can do it, and hopefully learn a few things along the way.

Every CityMax.com team member will help run our new small business. Each week, the entire company (all 34 of us) will meet as a board and vote to determine our next course of action – from our operational name, to the look of our website, to marketing. And you’ll get to follow along right here!

Week 1: We drafted and approved our company bylaws. Boring but essential, and very democratic.

Last week: We began talking about what kind of business we should start. To figure out the “right product”, the team started floating ideas against a boatload of questions that any new business owner should ask:

  • Is it easily shipped? (The best products are those that can be packaged or shipped affordably and safely)
  • Is it scalable? How are you going to manage increased shipping/sales if you go from 1 sale daily to 400?
  • Does it encourage repeat customers?
  • Do you have a secure product supply? A long-term relationship with key suppliers?
  • Can product delivery/production be outsourced?
  • Is it easy to access/local?
  • Does it have high margins per item (actual dollars, not percentage)? What is the likelihood of making money on every sale, factoring order size, shipping costs, etc.
  • Is the product line brandable?
  • Are people searching for what you are selling?
  • Do you believe in what you are selling?

Now that we’ve got a few guiding factors to help us decide our business model, it’s time to brainstorm and see what we come up with. Next week – we choose our product and begin competitive market research. Stay tuned!

One Week Until Affiliate Summit West 2010!

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It’s just nine days until we launch our website builder affiliate program at Affiliate Summit West 2010 in Las Vegas! From January 17-19, our team will be at the CityMax.com booth (#404) at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino in Vegas, giving our affiliates the gold treatment and offering a chance to win a grand prize worth $100,000.

Our new program will allow the very best affiliates to promote a ‘White-hat” product offering for both the money-making online crowd and the mass market home business owner. Our one promise for Affiliates is this: We will treat you like gold!

To learn more about our affiliate program and our Affiliate Summit West 2010 promotion, visit our CityMax.com at Affiliate Summit West website, or get in touch with our Affiliate Ambassador, Kyle Murphy, at 1.866.310.9327 ext.146.

New CityMax.com Website Builder Affiliate Program!

Looking for a “white hat” product for your affiliate portfolio? Good news! We’re stepping into the game and have now launched our own website builder affiliate program!

Our official website builder affiliate program debut will be at the Affiliate Summit West 2010 conference in Las Vegas. With multiple payment platforms, aggressive payouts, and a great product, there’s a perfect option for almost every affiliate marketer. From January 17-19, you’ll find our team at the CityMax.com booth at the Rio All Suite Hotel & Casino in Vegas, treating our affiliates like gold and offering up great giveaways and a chance to win a grand prize package worth $100,000!

While we are officially debuting at Affiliate Summit West, we are currently accepting a limited number of affiliates. To learn more about our affiliate program and our Affiliate Summit West 2010 promotion, visit our CityMax.com at Affiliate Summit West website, or feel free to contact our very own Affiliate Ambassador, Kyle Murphy (1.866.310.9327 ext.146).