SwellIdea

Branding The Ball – Going Online

I’ve read various articles in the last few years touting the importance of having a “web presence”.  One online marketing expert suggests that all of your marketing efforts point your customers first to your website.  There they should be able to easily learn all about you and your products in a self-serve fashion.  Educate your customers before they call you and you will be more efficient with your marketing efforts.  In fact, they may not even need to call you.  My experience is that every company uses the web in a different way and I have yet to close a sale without a few phone conversations (and often a face-to-face visit).  God made us to need each other (remember the Love your Neighbor command?) and most people just like to talk to other people.

That being said, a website is an easy way to get the ball rolling when it comes to communicating with people, assuming your target audience is “online”.  Since the product I am trying to market is really nothing more than a story (How to Make a BoogerBall), and my target audience is curious people like you, I really need a dedicated website to make it available to the public.  As a product development consultant, I’ve developed a few websites in my career (printncut.com, daleblanshan.com, samuelschutz.com, jasondionne.com, larishconstruction.com, mattwhit.com, etc.).  Most of my potential customers know they want a website but don’t always know what’s involved to have one, so here’s a bit of info about actually owning a website.

Some background first:  The Internet is nothing more than thousands of computers all over the world all connected to each other in one big network.  A website is nothing more than a small clump of files stored on one of those “web server” computers.  When someone types your website address into their browser, their computer sends out a request into the Internet.  The first stop is a Domain Name Server which has a list of all of the domain names (www.averyswellidea.com is a domain name) and the actual address of the computer where the website files are stored (67.202.70.14 is its IP address).  Then the request gets bounced all around the world until the correct location of your website files is found.  The files requested are then broken up into little chunks and sent back through the network to their computer where the chunks are reassembled and organized for viewing by the browser.  It sounds complex, but the process happens millions of times a day and is actually very efficient.

With that background in mind, there are three points of investment involved in owning a website.  The first is the purchase of a domain name.  This is usually an annual fee situation where you pay to reserve and use the name you want for your website.  There are many companies that sell domain names, Network Solutions being the most well known.  I use a service called NamesDirect.com because I happened to buy my first domain name from them several years ago.  I’ve been pleased with their service so I’m still a loyal customer.  I did a domain name search and found BoogerBall.com was available.  So, I purchased BoogerBall.com, BoogerBall.net and BoogerBall.org.  Buying the 3 most common names assures me that if I pursue using the Internet to market this product, there will not be a competitor that will use the same name to hinder my marketing activities.  I recommend this strategy to all of my customers as the cost is minimal, but having the name secured can be priceless.

The second point of investment in the process of owning a website is web server hosting.  You need to rent some space on one of the thousands of web server computers out there.  This is usually a monthly fee commitment that varies widely depending upon all of the features you need.  Of course, if you plan to have a big, security intensive website, or if you don’t play nice with others, you will probably want your own server.  BoogerBall.com will probably never need its own server.  I rent space from Steadfast Networks which has proven to be an excellent host and has made it so I can host sites for my customers (all of the sites mentioned above are hosted by my company).

The third point of investment for owning a website is in the actual design and maintenance of the site.  This can be a one-time, flat fee or a perpetual monthly expense.  It all depends upon your level of expertise, the complexity of what you need and what you are willing to pay.  I’m not an expert but I have learned that for my customers, creating a blog website powered by WordPress has been the best balance of cost versus capability versus self maintainability.  I can build it and they can maintain it, both with relative ease and aesthetic excellence.  You will notice that most of the sites listed above are powered by WordPress.  That is how the latest version of averyswellidea.com was developed.  So BoogerBall.com will become a WordPress blog site and that is a story for a future post.  -Amos

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Friday, May 21st, 2010 Product Development Comments Off on Branding The Ball – Going Online

New 80/20 Weldment Profiles

On April 15th I received an email from 80/20, Inc. announcing new smooth profiles.  I have always believed the sole purpose of the grooves that adorn most 80/20 extrusion profiles was to differentiate their product from others in the marketplace. I have tremendous respect for 80/20, not only because I love their product, but because their service is excellent.  You truly get what you pay for and their fast, efficient service has helped me meet many deadlines on time with a superior quality product.  Most of my customers do not mind the grooved profiles so I’ve had no need to try other company’s products.

In the design phase, however, the grooved profiles drive me crazy.  I use SolidWorks to design my frames because the weldment tools make it so easy.  But, when you make a drawing of an 80/20 frame, it looks like a big blob of thick black ink spilled all over your page. Every one of those grooves creates 2 lines and the standard single-width profile has 4 grooves per side.  A view which would normally have a few lines per stick of 80/20 has many.  What a mess this makes if your views are small because your frame is large (and who makes a 1:1 scale drawing of something as simple as an 80/20 frame?).

Smooth profiles to the rescue.  Thank you 80/20. I just completed a design for 3 new frames and they are going to look so nice with the new smooth profiles.  In addition to the improvement on the drawings, working with these in 3D is also much improved. The big black blob thing is also a problem in 3D but more importantly, it is much easier to mate other parts to your 80/20 frame because you do not need to zoom in so far to pick the correct face to mate to. All of those grooves always had a vertigo effect on me forcing me to pan/zoom/rotate my model to reorient myself. The smooth profiles are much better.

But wait, there’s more! The title of this post implies more to be discussed. So, here it is: I downloaded all of 80/20’s new profiles from their website and did some work to convert all of them to SolidWorks 2010 weldment profile library features. They are all available for individual download at 3DContentCentral. Also, for your convenience, they are all here in one chubby zip file. Place them in your weldment profile directory and you should be able to enjoy all of the benefits of smooth profile frame creation that I’ve mentioned above. Special thanks to Van Graves who provided quality control on these. I finished them late last night but had to fix them all this morning after he pointed out some missing critical features. Working as a team is always better than going it alone. -Amos

SmoothProfiles (3MB)

Update: if you’re looking for all of 80/20’s old profiles (the groovy style or the metric products), I’ve already made those available here.

vertigovertigo

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Friday, May 7th, 2010 SolidWorks 2 Comments

Branding the Ball – The Name

The average American consumer is exposed to about 245 pieces of promotional media on any single day. (1) I believe this has resulted in gradually shorter attention spans and an increasing low tolerance for uninteresting advertisements.  For this reason, advertising media that once only touted a product’s features now focuses more on entertaining the viewer.  Beyond traditional advertising, branding has become a popular technique in marketing a product.

What is “branding”?  Branding is more than a catchy name, an easily recognized logo and a cool tag line.  Branding is the entire persona of a product.  Color, sound, smell, other product association, user demographic, market placement, event sponsorship, etc. etc.  It’s the whole package.  It’s the clothes you wear, the accent in your voice, your cologne, the church you attend, the friends you keep, the places you eat, the car you drive and what brand of facial tissue you blow your nose with.  So, if I were interested in marketing my booger ball product, how would I go about “branding the ball”?

The first thing to consider when developing a product into a brand is its name.  Names have always been important for me.  One of my customers had me working on a new machine that was to be their flagship product of the future.  It was going to include all of the key features of the successful products of their past at half the cost.  It was going to trump the competition.  The name they chose was “Model TBD”.  Now, I understand that the design phase is still early in the product development process, but a product this big deserved a name.  I couldn’t stand working on the project.  Nobody wanted to take responsibility for naming it, so I did.  We called the project the Lancer.  It wasn’t the greatest name, but it did inspire some of the true vision of what the product was to become.  It was much better than TBD (to be determined).  Eventually the marketing department named the product something different, but at least it had a “code” name to help inspire us.

Every project/product I work on needs to have a name so I am always coming up with names for products.  A good product name should describe the product.  It should be easy to say and spell (most important today in the internet age where address is everything).  The name also needs to fit the overall theme of your product (e.g. a sophisticated product needs to have a sophisticated sounding name).  When working on a name, I usually search available domain names (website names) that I might use to market the product.  I also search the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) to see if the name has been registered as a trademark.  I do an internet search to see what else is out there in cyberspace.  I share the name with some of my friends and family to see what they think of it (in business, this is called a “focus group”).  I also say a prayer because I realize that my creativity comes from God who made me and He inspires me to come up with clever names.  All of these activities put together usually results in a suitable name for my project/product.

As it turns out, my story about how to make a booger ball, naturally leads to its own name.  The term “booger ball” is self descriptive.  A search on the USPTO site reveals only 2 registered trade marks including the words booger and ball and they are both expired.  A domain name search reveals boogerball.com is available.  The last thing that makes sense for this name is to combine the words booger and ball together into one word.  The website name does that naturally, but having a unique word (even if it is a combination of two common words) makes it easier to protect the name.  So from now on, I will call my product the BoogerBall.  Everywhere I need to talk about a ball of boogers, I will use the new word BoogerBall.  This is swell because the two words alone are nouns but together they can be used as an adjective.  A BoogerBall box is a box used to hold a ball fabricated  from rubber cement.  Capitalizing the two B’s hearkens back to my computer programming experience where I designed numerous database solutions for small companies and all of the field names were descriptive but mashed together with caps to make sense of them.

As I said before, branding is much more than just a name.  Now that we have established the name, we can focus on the many remaining facets of branding.  More to come…  -Amos

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Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 Product Development Comments Off on Branding the Ball – The Name