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Lessons from a Lovebird

"Out of the mouths of babes, oft time come gems." This well-known saying, probably derived from Psalms in the Bible, should remind us to always be on the lookout to learn a life lesson in the most obscure of places. Today, I have 2 posts, as I felt compelled to write this second one, not about how to exponentially multiply your traffic, guarantee 100% click through, or how to have the best website in the world, but rather to share a few "gems".

Kenya the LovebirdWhen you're down, sing louder!

Life is full of ups and downs, good and bad, want and plenty. How we react during these times determines who we are. When Kenya, our Lovebird, was getting low on water or food he'd sing and chat to us even more than normal. Without being a whinger, when life is tough, gather your friends around you and ask for support. A trouble (or problem) shared is a trouble halved.

Make the most of every situation

When he was out of his cage, he'd fly, and fly, and fly. In fact, he was a little naughty, and getting him back into his cage was sometimes quite a mission! But he was taking full advantage of the moment. If you were at the sink washing your hands of some dishes, that was always his cue (in his mind anyway) to come and have a bath. We'd cup our hands to make a pool with the faucet running, and he'd flap and wriggle in it. Or if we were making sandwiches, he'd be there to "help" - that is help himself to some of the bread!

Stay in touch

His cage sat beside one of the windows looking out on the backyard. As the wild bieds woke in the mornings, Kenya heard their chatter and would talk back to them all. He couldn't always see them, but he could hear them, and he wasn't going to miss a chance to connect.

Never miss a chance to say, "I love you!"

When he'd see us go past his cage, or hear us moving around, he never missed a chance to call out. Who knows whether he was saying, "I love you!" or "Hello" or just "Give me more food!", but he never missed a chance to involve himself in our lives. Always be ready to say, "I love you!" to those closest to you.

Farewell

So it's with a heavy heart that we bid our beloved Kenya, a most dear and loved companion of 14 years, a final farewell. He died yesterday afternoon. The house seems so quiet without his calls, and the ringing of the bell which hung in his cage. You will be terribly missed, but never forgotten. Thank you for the joy, the fun, and the lessons you brought to us. RIP Kenya.

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21 tips to stay healthy at your desk

With the world becomeing more and more based around computers, here's a list of ideas to keep healthy even if you're stuck at a desk or computer every day.

  1. Take a break at least once an hour. Every hour (set a timer on your computer if you need to), get up & take a quick walk somewhere (workmate’s desk, farthest restroom, photocopier, water cooler). Just get moving.
  2. Stretch and move where you sit. Can't go anywhere? Bend and touch your toes, walk or march on the spot a few minutes, rev it up with jumping jacks (who cares what the office thinks!).
  3. Mobile meetings. If you have a brainstorm session or meeting scheduled, do it on the move! Walk & win! It's not only good for fitness & health, but can help reduce stress & increases creativity!
  4. Elevators, escalators and moving walkways - Public Enemy #1! Maybe you work on the 40th story of a building, then maybe (and I say maybe) not. Otherwise elevators are your body's enemy. Same goes for escalators & walkways. Even if you're on story 40, consider taking the elevator to 35 and walking the rest - you don't need to ride the whole way.
  5. Starve the phone & email. Theis may not always be practical, but, instead of automatically reaching for the phone or the keyboard, get up once in a while and visit in person.
  6. Lunch-break or lunch-walk? Whatever time you have for lunch, use half to eat and half to walk. Try grabbing some colleagues and do it once a week, or more.
  7. Count, count, count. No, not Dracula! Try to clock 10,000 steps per day - get a pedometer and count your way to health!
  8. Carless days. Whenever practical, walk, bike, or run to work. Many of us live too far away to go the whole way. So, be creative, like in #4. Park a little way from your destination & walk the rest of the way. Or hop off the train/metro/bus several stops/stations early.
  9. Do some activity on the way home. Activity reduces stress & helps us unwind. Schedule a trip to the gym, the track, or a local simming complex before you head home.
  10. Rise & shine. Not all of us are morning larks, but the easiest way to get extra fitness into your day is with a DVD. Get energized before everyone else wakes up!
  11. Those whole fail to plan... Schedule what you will eat, & when and how you will exercise for the coming week on Sunday. Studies have shown this is the easiest way to stay on track for your healthy lifestyle. Write it down & refer to it!
  12. Warning, warning! Danger Will Robinson! Just like the robot in "Lost in Space", set warnings (alarms) for yourself on your computer or mobile device. Set for once an hour at work, it will remind you to take a break & stretch, walk or do some of those jumping jacks!
  13. Office organization. When you're filing, stand up & move around. Don’t use your chair to roll over to your filing cabinets.
  14. Walkie-talkie. As most people seem addicted to their mobile phones, practice getting up from your chair & walking about while talking.
  15. Tupperware? Isn't that dead? Cook a healthy meal at home, save some, then take it for a healthy work lunch the next day (that's where the Tupperware comes in!).
  16. Go nutty! Drop candy bars or “health” bars (most of which aren't). Instead, keep dry fruit or nuts handy.
  17. Jasmine, Moroccan Mint, or..... We all have "coffee breaks" which are, usually, coffee (often with unheathy tidbits). Instead of coffee, try sampling herbal teas: try red fruits, verbena, mint - there's a whole new world of taste awaiting.
  18. Glug, glug, glug. Grab a reusable water bottle and keep it close by. Drink at least 1 full bottle before lunch, and 1 more before the day's end. This keeps you fuller & less tempted to eat junk.
  19. Just say no! That's "NO!!" “No thanks.” When those treats get passed round: cakes, doughnuts, bagels, cookies, say "No" for your health's sake. Head for your healthier snacks from #16.
  20. Schedule meals. Schedule your fitness on Sunday night (see #11), decide on meal plans too. Both in and out of the office. And forget to include snacks.
  21. Restaurants - fun, but fattening. Restaurant food is, generally, a sugar & salt overload session. Reserve restaurant outings for special events or weekends. Better a simple homemade lunch. Sometimes, however, you can't avoid that lunch meeting, and you don't always get to choose the location. In that case, choose fresh, healthy salads or other foods when possible. Just watch the dressings on your salads.
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Internet costs & speed - are we being ripped off?

We switch on our computers and expect the internet to flood into our room. And, usually, that happens. But are we getting the speeds we deserve, or even, that we are paying for?

Are we being ripped off for internet speed?By the end of this year (2014), Americans will have paid about $400 billion (yes, with a "B") by major players, AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink to "future-proof" our network with fiber optic cabling. Cabling that NEVER materialized! Though varying between states, once all the fees, taxes and surcharges are taken into account, every household would have been fleeced about $4-5,000 from 1992-2014.

Back in 1992, state laws mandated that broadband speeds should be 45mbps in both directions. My current Cox connection (in Phoenix) gives me about 65Mbps download, and around 11-12Mbps upload - a far cry from 45 each way. It might be comforting, at least, to know that, poor speed aside, we in America at least enjoy some of the best speeds worldwide, right? Wrong! We aren't number 1, or 2, or even 5. A recent test by Ookla (one of the net's standard testing companies) pegs the good ole USA as number 25 in download and number 40 in upload speeds.

By the end of 2010, based on phone company promises, plans were to be put in place to charge us, the end users, for broadband upgrades of telco wiring to our homes, businesses, schools and libraries. It seems it never was, though telcos have continued to bill us for it.

I don't want to get on a political thing here, but I am saying that we need to stand up and make a noise about this. None of our customers would be happy if we charged them for products or services never delivered.

More on this can be found in this fuller article (credit for this blog to the author of it).

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Free internet advertising on Craigslist

It's not often that you get something worthwhile for free. In the realm of internet marketing, many people think of AdWords when the topic comes up. But did you know there are many great opportunities to advertise for free on the net, and quite successfully?

The more obvious ones are sites like MerchantCircle, Yelp (though I have issues with some of the less-than-reputable dealings), & your local city business directories. But the one I'm going to mention in more detail is Craigslist. Yes, it has a worse look than a 980's website done by an amateur, but, for many industries, it can yield great results.

It also seems to be better in some cities than others. When we were in Citrus Heights, CA (part of Sacramento) we got 1-2 inquiries off it every week. And many of those became customers. However, Arizonans (specifically in Phoenix) web design at least on CL has been a much worse performer. We're lucky to get 1 a month. However, the time required to keep ads going is minimal, so it still is worth the little time needed.

How to work Craigslist for free advertising

I will say that when we first started on Craiglist, we could sell out ad writing skills to people as CL allowed a lot more HTML markup in ads. I have no idea on the reasons behind the decision, but a whiles back, they severely restricted what HTML tags could be used. So much so that the list is laughably small and, well, basically useless in terms of jazzing up your ad. Realtors, especially, were hit hard by this decision. So, writing a good ad is now much more important.

If you suck at writing, then your job is harder (or more expensive) to do well on CL. If you really can't write then get someone who can. Even though poor ad writing still didn't work as well before as good writing, the ability to pretty the ads up helped. Now it's almost just raw code that's displayed. You can't even link to external sites.

Compelling copy is a must

Your ad must create the need, provide the solution, and give a clear call to action. Without this, you'll get lost in a sea of junk (and there's lots of it on CL). You have to give an "elevator pitch". Can you sell yourself, your company and your product and service in 30 seconds to a total stranger? That's your "elevator pitch". If not, you need to learn. It's a powerful tool. And that's what you need to do on CL.

Create the need

Your headline is really the make-or-break. Screw it up and CL visitors won't even open your ad. You need to grab them by the throat with your headline - it must create the need, or offer them a viable solution for their problem. Spend time on the headline - without a decent one you oh-so-polished ad body probably won't get read.

Offer the solution

Once you've stopped your reader with a great headline that creates a need, you need to solve that problem. Your ad is NOT a technical brochure! Don't tell them how long or wide or high it is, how much it weighs, or how many colors it comes in, unless that is just a segue into what that means for them. Every consumer listens to only one radio station - WIIFM - What's In It For Me! They don't care about the products specs, they care about what it will do for them. So tell 'em!

Drag them into action

 If you've captured them with a great headline, then sold them by telling them WIIFM, don't expect them to naturally demand to buy it. You need to tell them forcefully what to do next so they can get relief, save money, stop worrying, or whatever it is. I dislike infomercials, but they do this so well. Call now! Limited numbers at this price! When they're gone, they're gone! You must create urgency to buy or call NOW! RIGHT NOW! Not after they've looked at a couple more competitors. 

The good thing with CL making ads dull is pretty much everyone is on a level playing field. Just because your web designer, or you, know some HTML, no longer gives you a distinct advantage over others. We all get the same ugly ads! So get to writing 4-8 different ads, then rotate them every day. I have enough for one a day, and simply log in and "Renew" an ad that's expired. Simple and fast. And if I only get 1 inquiry a month, I don't care - I only spent about 10 minutes renewing ads that month.

Happy Craigslisting!

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You website NEEDS video too

There are 3 main learning styles, auditory, visual and kinesthetic. It's hard to do kinesthetic on your website - they're the touchy feely group - offer them a free sample by filling in a SIMPLE form. Visual is what you're already doing (I will assume you have a visually appealing website - if you don't talk to us about a redesign). But where is your site on auditory? If you're at zero, join the club - most are.

As many as 60%+ of the population learn by visual primarily. For those people, lack of video seriously underpowers your site!

 With the price of video production falling dramatically, it's now easier than ever to add video to your site. And, if a pictures says 1000 words, then a video says 1000 pictures. You now have the ability to showcase your business and your products and/or services like never before.

Here's a video (yep, I'm into it too!) of a local Phoenix voice over artist I know, doing just what I'm talking about - showcasing her business. I've teamed up with her and a local media production company (that Weecks Productions who made Amber's video) to bring together a special package for all my clients. For $899, you can have a professional video made by Dan Weecks and Amber that will help add zest to your website. And hosting it on YouTube and embedding in your site gets a big tick from Google (the owners of YouTube).

Without further ado, may I present Amber May, the voice of your business!

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