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Fun and useful has compiled an amusing slideshow of cringe-worthy stock photos seen over and over in marketing materials and websites.  Are you using any of these cliches in your marketing?  Time for some original photography if so!

Top 12 Over-used Stock Photos [Slide Show]

Thank you, SAP and Fast Company

Attended another great networking/marketing/information event by Fast Company last week — sponsored by SAP (and their Business ByDesign product in particular).

Inc and Fast Company are doing a lot of these events of late, and I think they’ve really found a wonderful format — great networking in a nice setting, with a content program that’s well-targeted to the audience and not too long.  In fact, this time I thought the panel was about 15 minutes too short!  (Great group of CEOs: Evernote, LegalZoom, Pinkberry and Method.)  Best to leave them wanting more,  I suppose ….

Whenever I’m lucky enough to be invited to one of these events, I always meet interesting new people and learn something.  And, now that Business ByDesign is on my radar, I’m already thinking about how it might work for WS or some of our clients.  It’s great to have a new cloud-based option in the arsenal, especially one that has the potential to better integrate financial/billing processes.

Kudos and thanks!

Another really useful resource from Hubspot

If you’re trying to get your footing on web, search and/or social media marketing, Hubspot is a great place to start.  Their constant stream of webinars and other resources will catch you up in no time!

Now they’ve come out with a resource that is terrifically useful to anyone who needs marketing data for a presentation, or to build a plan — or make a case for one.  It’s a neatlyorganized deck called the Marketing Data Box, featuring 65 charts from Marketing Charts (also a great resource!).

To download the deck (or PDF), visit this link.

Thank you, Hubspot!

Looking for more accountable marketing in 2011?

Marketing Profs has some quick suggestions for how to revamp your marketing programs with accountability as top priority:

Sometimes, we really love Joomla!

As you would expect from unsupported open source software, Joomla! can sometimes be a pain to work with.  You can end up spending ages puzzling over problems.  And, sometimes there are unexpected incompatibilities that prevent you from using that key component that is exactly what you need (grrr!) — or, you install it and it breaks something else you really needed.  Documentation is usually poor or nil, and, with many of the most popular add-on developers outside the US, the process of implementing and customizing is almost always delayed severely by the overnight wait for answers to questions.  Sometimes, it seems the “savings” from this “free” product are illusory.

But, then there are those times when the module you need is available for free — and it really works.  And you marvel at the wonders of open source!

We’ve had that experience with a great product called SimpleCaddy from Atlantic Intelligence.  It’s FREE and it does exactly what it promises: it provides a simple shopping cart system that is integrated with PayPal, and includes a shipping calculator and even a coupon system.

We just implemented it on How Rude Is That? A relatively simple four-product store took us only about a day and a half to set up.

Useful webinar resource

We prepared and promoted a very successful webinar for our client Sterling Pacific Financial last month. We tried out a service called ReadyTalk — really affordable, relatively easy to use (there is a bit of a learning curve, but that’s partly because the service has a lot of features), good support. A good choice for small/medium businesses and/or small marketing departments.

Check out the results, here:

Worth noting that this was promoted via email, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Social media results were our best yet: nearly 80% of respondents were new to our database. Tide is turning in favor of social media for investments and b2b.

Static FBML: As long as you keep your cheat sheet handy, it’s easy!

When I first heard about using Static FBML to add custom content to Facebook pages, I was eager to get started customizing our clients’ pages — but, I stopped in my tracks when I thought, oh, great, another markup language to learn! Couldn’t they have just used HTML somehow? 

But there was good news … with the Static FBML application, all you really do need to know is HTML — that is, after you have figured out how to get the application working on your page, which is anything but an intuitive process.

For whatever reason, Static FBML works a bit differently than other Facebook applications and settings, and if you don’t keep the steps at your fingertips to remind you how to work it, you’ll go mildly bonkers.  I found a great tutorial on Social Web School  — I suggest you visit it and bookmark it.

Alternatively, here’s a quick overview:

(1)  First, install the Static FBML application — use the search box to find it, choose “install on my page,” then click the page you’re interested in customizing.  (Be sure you’re an administrator of the page you have in mind before you start.)

(2)  ‘Add’ the application using the + on your page.  (After you add it, ignore the pencil — which doesn’t help you edit the page.  Confusing, I know!)  Instead, go back to the page’s wall and select “edit this page” on the left side.  Scroll down until you see Static FBML listed near the bottom.

(3)  From here you can add the HTML you want to appear on the site, as well as edit the title of the box.  (To see samples of some very basic customizations we’ve done, visit Sterling Pacific Financial’s page (see the white paper promo on the left side) and Saint Mary’s College Women in Philanthropy (the “give” banner).)

(4)  After you create your content, you need to move it to a box to allow it to display (until you do so, it will appear only in the “boxes” tab).  Go to the boxes tab, click the pencil near your new box and choose “move to wall.”

This should be enough to get you started.  For a more comprehensive tutorial (with pix and comments), visit Social Web School:

Social Web School – FBML Tutorial

Simple but true ideas about SEO

Nice post on SEO myths from biznik — the ideas aren’t novel, but they’re simple truths that are sometimes easy to forget (especially the myth about SEO being cheap/free — how many times have we heard SEO sold to small businesses as a “free” alternative to advertising?).

Sterling participating in upcoming webinar

global_logoSterling Pacific Financial’s Josh Fischer has been invited to present in PENSCO’s upcoming webinar. His topic, “Mortgage Pool Investing for Retirement,” introduces an easy, straightforward approach to adding real estate notes to an IRA portfolio. (A great way to diversify beyond the public markets.)

AIF Opportunity Fund

aifopportunityfund_logoweb We just finished the launch of a new web site and marketing program for AIF Opportunity Fund. Interesting project because marketing is severely constrained for investment opportunities — so we had to build the site to conform to securities regulations regarding accredited investors.

The fund identifies opportunities to purchase real estate assets at significant discounts, and allows investors to participate, providing the opportunity for individuals to invest in multiple real estate projects with a single investment. As a volume buyer, the fund has access to opportunities (and prices) unlikely to be available to individual investors.