Why buy the cow? Turn assets into rental revenue with Zilok

Posted by tom klein December 17, 2007 at 2:30 am

Every time you buy an asset, you’re adding to the capital base on which you have to earn a return. If you’re looking to make sure you’re getting the most out of every asset, now you have a new opportunity beyond your current business.

Zilok is a rental service that allows people to connect online and rent things out for a simple daily rate. Think of it as eBay but for rentals. Users enter into their own rental contracts and arrange the item hand-off. Similar to Ebay, Zilok also runs off of a basic search engine and offers a community forum for gathering ratings and feedback. Features like a built-in map and an item availability calendar help users manage the rental process. Currently, Zilok only offers a handful of items in a few cities, but the site is growing.

If you want to turn any of your company’s assets into more revenue, here’s a good way to do it. It may be too early, depending on where you live. Stay on top of this site if you think you’re a good candidate.

Registering for Zilok and renting items is currently free. However, the site will likely take a cut of the action as soon as the site has generated enough interest and transactions - sometime in 2008.

Remember that you might not be aware of the assets you actually have, so this idea might be best passed along to your office manager or maybe the person who runs your warehouse. Revenue is revenue, so don’t leave money on the table.

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  Next on the list Inspire custom search opportunities with Get It Next

Posted by tom klein December 14, 2007 at 2:30 am

You don’t have to leave search up to the big players. There’s an emerging class of search tools that are more targeted and easier to use.

Getitnext represents how a custom search tool can add value to a site that has a lot of content. In this case, the site in question is eBay. Getitnext clears out the extraneous, and often erroneous, items that pop up in traditional eBay search results. Users are presented with more accurate results and incentives like real-time auction countdowns and shipping-included cost. The Find a Deal feature serves up prime items with zero bids and less than 4 hours remaining in auction, essentially doing the legwork for the customers in search of a deal.

Consider partnering or (for you big guys) building a custom search that makes it easier for your customers to find you, shop, and then buy. Auto dealers would be a good example.

This search tool simply puts eBay’s API to work to deliver better, easier to understand results in front of potential buyers. This targeted search should also serve as a potent advertisement for how offering an open API to your online market or software can create value for your customers (and maybe an acquisition target).

Remember, in this day, driving search results is becoming closer and closer to what’s also called merchandising. If you can ensure that customers and prospects can get at the information they want, you’ll go a long way toward closing the deal.

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  The freshmaker Enable e-commerce for services with Freshbooks

Posted by tom klein November 29, 2007 at 2:30 am

We live in a service economy, but e-commerce seems so far to be restricted to companies who sell stuff – not services. Every invoice, whether it’s for pest control or custodial engineering, presents an opportunity to join the party.

If you manage a service company, consider using Freshbooks to let your customers view invoices and pay online. If your current version of invoicing is to write up a word document and email it, you’re going to be in for a treat. You can sign up for free (to try it out with just a few clients). Set up a client, create a custom invoice (really just upload your logo), and then you’re off and running. You can create an invoice in a matter of minutes. Then the fun stuff begins.

When your client receives the invoice (by email), he/she can follow a link to view it on your custom site (customized with your colors and logo). Once there, they can pay with a simple click of a button. The system lets you configure your system to receive payment via a long list of e commerce gateways (e.g., Paypal, Authorize.net).

If you’re looking to use every customer interaction to differentiate yourself from the other guy, here’s an easy way to do it that your customers will love.

In addition to creating an online client center to review invoices (and all past invoices) and estimates, Freshbooks can also help you manage time tracking. For those companies who need to track time and then turn around and bill for it, Freshbooks brings everything together.

Building a brand requires vigilance over every single interaction with prospects and customers. Don’t make the mistake of being a company whose front door is super slick, but when it comes down to blocking and tackling, you fail to make the grade.

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  Price check on aisle five Reduce shopping cart abandonment with Google Checkout

Posted by tom klein November 12, 2007 at 2:30 am

When you’re good or lucky enough to have someone decide to buy something from you, the last thing you want to do is make them wait around.

Google Checkout can help you close the deal … fast. This offering from the search giant doesn’t really do everything that the online payment leader Paypal does (see You’re so money). However, it shines when it comes to getting people checked out quickly. Checking out takes place in just two simple web pages, limiting second-guessing. Also, the system gives you smart assurances, such as “You can still make changes to your order on the next page.” Setting up is very easy to do – simply provide your company information (including bank account), copy the code provided, and paste it onto your site. The service is free for the remainder of 2007. Even better, while there will be transaction fees in 2008, they’re partially offset by your investment in Google’s search ads.

Are all of your buyers making it all the way to checkout? If not, there’s no risk in giving them a speedier option.

Speedy collection is just as important for non-profits looking for donations. Google Checkout will remain free for non-profit organizations at least through 2008, a great way to make sure that donations go even further.

It’s important to note that by integrating the Google Checkout into your site or into your search ads, you benefit from the power of their brand. Potential buyers, who hesitate to provide their email and credit card information to small companies, may be persuaded to buy if it’s Google executing the transaction.

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  A link to the future Track where your customers go with Google Analytics

Posted by tom klein November 2, 2007 at 2:30 am

For many people, it’s a real mystery as to what you can and can’t track on a website. Most of the modern analytics tools rely on a script found on each page to provide information about who clicked where (and when!). This approach works well and is easy to implement. However, with outlinks (links that go beyond your site), they tend to drop the ball.

Now you can answer the “where did they go” question, thanks to Google analytics. We’ve covered this free analytics package before (see Follow the Yellow Brick Road), but there’s a lot underneath the covers. If you’re wondering where your site visitors are going, first, set up Google Analytics. Then, make sure that all of your outlinks are coded according to these instructions – you may need your webmaster to make it happen. Then, when you pull up your account, drill down into top content and you will be able to track activity to these links (even to some of our favorite mad scientists).

Remember, this tool is free, so there’s no reason not to know. Why not get it loaded up and start analyzing where your customers are going … today?

Google analytics offers rich functionality in many areas. Another example would be the conversion funnel that will show you (much as with a sales pipeline) where your website’s visitors go before they “convert” - maybe buying something, signing up for a newsletter, or just doing something that you want them to do.

It’s the job of every marketer to analyze and understand what customers do and why they do it. Website analytics are a pivotal to not just understanding what customers are doing on your site, but more importantly, it can give you insight into which of your marketing investments (if any?!) is actually working.

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