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Say Hello To Mario!

- Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It seems only yesterday that I introduced Shane and welcomed him to the Business Catalyst Family.

And now once again, I'm proud to announce another great addition to the team and introduce him to you all.

We've spent the last week or two training him on the system, and while there is still much to learn I think he's ready to start answering your support queries. So as of this week, you would have started receiving some emails from our newest Support Engineer, Mario.

Mario has a long history of providing great customer service in various companies around Australia, with experience in a range of industries. We're confident that at Business Catalyst, he'll continue to do just that!

Curly Urly pt II - dynamic pages and argument passing

- Tuesday, May 08, 2007

 A few months back I wrote a post called "Curly Urly". In that post I described in a high level sort of way how you can send extra information to a page to do some interesting things, like pre-populate a web form field or jump to a section in the page.

Lately we've been getting a few support emails on this again, and it seems more detail is needed - so I've written a bit more here - Curly Urly part 2!

BC has a module you can use in your web pages that that allows you to capture information that you have appended to a URL. That module is { module_url }
What does this mean? Well say you want to prepopulate a bookings web form with a package name of some sort.

Let's make the URL of the page

So I have a range of packages who's details are on other, different pages. When someone clicks on the links I need to know which package they were looking at, and prepopulate the web form with the package that they actually want to book.

So I can put the package name in the URL, like this:
And for other packages it might look like this:

You get the idea.

Now this is where { module_url } comes in - it allows me to retrieve what comes after "package=".
You use it by putting the module in the HTML of your page, including what you have put before the "=" sign.

So in this case, I would put { module_url,package } to retrieve either Platinum, Gold or Silver.

Below are some steps to use this module.

1. Insert a link to your page with the form on it manually using the link manager, and then modify the link to add "arguments" to the URL. So when you are done, the link would be like this:
2. Then go to the page with the actual form on it. Then, in a text box on the form (or in javascript even) you put { module_url, <parameter> }. In this example you would put { module_url,package }. This will then be replaced by the text that comes after the "=" sign - in this case it would be replaced by "Platinum".

Thats it!

How you use this module isn't limited to web forms though. You can use this module in many many ways - it's only limited to your imagination....

Have fun!

Important Changes To Our Training

- Friday, March 30, 2007

From next week, all training sessions will be conducted using Voice Over IP (VOIP) technology. This means that you'll need a microphone and speakers - or preferably a headset that combines the two like this one:

Why are we making this change? Well we need to support our partners and customers from all over the globe, and landline based telephony just wasn't cutting it anymore. Secondly we'll soon be able to record audio and visuals so that in the future we can save training sessions for review at a later date.

So over the weekend, here's what I think you should do:

  1. Run out and grab a headset - It shouldn't cost much.
  2. Test it out using Skype with a friend - now you can call friends and family using Skype, free.
  3. Book in to our Q&A session on either Tuesday or Thursday.
  4. Relax and recharge for next week!

Updated & New Help Has Arrived!

- Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Last year we buried ourselves in reams of paper rewriting our help materials to create an extensive training manual. It took a few months (you'll notice how quiet this blog went towards the end of last year!) but we finally got it out.

However, the relentless pace of progress caught up all too quickly, and the manual needed updating almost the day it came out!

So once more we locked someone in a room to update the manual and add new sections to it (this time it was Barry's turn mwahaha...). We've done a whole bunch of other help related stuff too, like...

New Training Manual
You can download the manual from the web admin - just click in the top right corner here:

and then here:

Note that you can download individual sections too.

An Online Version Of The Training Manual
The entire manual can be read online! Here's a link you can bookmark - Read the training manual

Updated Contextual Help
Click on the help tab anywhere in the system and you'll get help in context to what you are looking at right now. This help section really needed some TLC - so we've totally rebuilt it incorporating the new training manual.

Help Search (Search forums, articles and the manual)
This one was certainly a long-awaited, much requested feature! Now you can search the help manual plus all the forums and knowledge articles in the system.

Unfortunately my search for meaning came up with no results....

Email Marketing - HTML or Text?

- Friday, March 16, 2007

We often get asked about whether customers should send their email campaigns out in HTML or text.
This is a tricky question! But the first thing I always respond with is this question:

"What's the purpose of the campaign? Is it a general newsletter or marketing piece, or is it an important announcement?"

Think about this for a second.

Here's some basic facts.
Text email campaigns can't be tracked. We can't tell you who saw what or who clicked where - only HTML emails allow you to collect extensive analytics on your campaigns.

HTML emails have considerably higher impact. That means customers are more likely to react to HTML emails - they have engaging visuals are are often more eye-grabbing.

Text email campaigns have a higher chance of arriving at your customers inbox. HTML email campaigns are more likely to be flagged as spam, put in the junk mail folder and in some cases not delivered at all.

Now of course you should take care to write your emails well. Get your friends and colleagues to proof-read your copy and avoid that "spammy" feeling as much as possible. Don't SHOUT BY WRITING ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Don't use the word free too much, don't mention any type of medicines that your grandfather might use, and so on. You've read some of those spam emails before - don't make it sound like one of those.

But coming back to my question in the first place, what are you trying to achieve? 

If it's an important announcement, consider using text - it's more likely to arrive, and that's what is most important. You aren't trying to drive a sale or a initiate action.

If it's sales or marketing, it's important to capture attention and drive action. So use HTML for best results.

In the end, the decision is entirely up to you. Run some reports - check your open rates, your bounced emails and have a look at how your hyperlinks performed. Overall, look at the data and consider your priorities to make sure you can make the right decision about your email campaigns.

After all, analysing your reports and testing your results is the key to successful email marketing!

A Shiny New Toy!

- Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Recently we launched a beta version of our new reporting framework, and so far customers are loving it! It's new, shiny and greatly improved over the previous version in terms of speed and accuracy. Under the bonnet it's an entirely new beast too. We've improved the way the reporting works for you!
  • Greater Accuracy. Visitors are counted more accurately and don't include automated visitors (such as search engine spiders)
  • Longer timeframes on reporting. the new system equips you with the ability to view stats over significatnly longer time-periods than before
  • Faster reports. You might not notice, but the development team cheers when they manage to shave a few seconds of the running time of a report!
  • Greater usability. The graphs here now use Flash, which makes the graphs more interactive and flexible.
  • More Information. We've got more reports than ever to give you better oversight of your online business.
Here's a screenshot of the new reporting from one of our sites (who shall remain anonymous!) 

BC web analytics

As the feature is still in beta, please try it out and let us know what you think, or leave a comment on this post!

Welcoming A New Friend

- Monday, March 05, 2007

Call me crazy, but sometimes I really feel as if we (you, me, our customers and partners) are like one big family. Barry and I are there to help you through your most frustrasting moments, and we also enjoy sharing your triumphs. And while many people deride support jobs, and try to figure out a way to outsource support to another country, I think it's an important and often gratifying position to be in.

Now, recently we hired a new guy. He's already begun some pretty awesome work here and it's time for him to start helping out with support.

But I thought  I should introduce him to the family first!

So starting from tomorrow or so, you might start getting support responses from our newest team member, Shane. We'll be working with him to train him up over the next few weeks, but in the meantime just imagine he's wearing one of those "Trainee" badges :)

Lost Password? Oh no!

- Monday, February 26, 2007

I think we all hate losing things. Especially important things like wallets, mobile phones and passports - all of which have recently been lost by my circle of friends or myself! These items are important, yet people still manage to lose them. So it's no coincidence that you customers might forget or lose their passwords as well - and then be unable to log in to your secure zone.

So you need to help them get your password back.

Luckily, BC has a lost password module for secure zones.

All you need to do is go to the Module Manager and then scroll down to "Secure Zones". You'll see "Lost Password" there. Insert that on your page and there you go! Your customers can retrieve their password if they lose it - they fill in their email address and the details will be emailed to them.

You can do the same using our Dreamweaver Extension, Triangle, via the "Modules" tab.

Now, where'd I leave my keys....

Generating More Traffic With Affiliate Programs

- Thursday, February 15, 2007

Affiliate programs are a great way to help generate traffic to your online business. Here's how they work:

  1. You give your affiliates a special link that they then place on their website or their email campaigns
  2. Your affiliate's customers click on that link and come to your site
  3. That customer's actions are recorded taking note of the affiliate that referred them
  4. You can then reward your affiliate based on the actions that customer takes

Affiliate programs are a great win/win way to grow your traffic - and with BC, working with Affiliates is easy!

If you haven't already, create an Affiliate program in your system. You can do this by going to Content->Tools->Affiliate Programs. Click Add New and then give your program a name, and specify a landing page. The landing page is the page that customers land on when they follow a link on an affiliate's site or email.

Now you need to add your clients to your affiliate program. If they are not in your customer database already you should add them first via Customers->New Contact.

If they are in your database already, simply go to Customers->Search and then search for their customer record using their email address or name. When you find the right client, click on the record. Now click the Subscriptions tab. Under Affiliate Program Subscriptions click Edit.

Tick the check box next to the affiliate program you want them to be a part of, and click Save and Finish.

Next to the Program you just subscribed them to, click View Info.

A pre-made email will pop up for you to send to your newly minted affiliate, as well as some information on how to take the next steps.

And you've begun Affiliate Marketing - Huzzah!

Creating A Searchable Article Database

- Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's quite common for businesses to want to publish a set of articles on their website. These articles are a great way to build credibility online, while adding high value content to your site for Google bait.
So why not build a searchable article database? It's easy to do using Web Apps. In fact it's probably THE most simple Web App around :)

So here's how:
1. Go to Content->Web Apps-> Create your own Web App.
2. Give your Web App a name like "Marketing Articles" or "Fishing Articles" depending on what your articles are about.
3. Click Save. And then - "Move on, nothing to see here..."

Yep, Believe it or not, that's it. Skip the "Fields" tab entirely, you don't need anything else but what's in a default Web App.

Now you've got your article database. Go to Content->Web Apps->Fishing Articles. Or whatever you called the Web App.
1. Click Add New, give your article a name, and select a template.
2. Click Save.
3. Go to the "Editor" tab, and enter in your article's content in the editor.
4. Click Save.

Now you've added an article. Sweet.

But wait.. there's more. I did promise to make these articles searchable.

Firstly, adding these to a page (as a list) is done via the Module Manager. Simply click on Content->Web Pages. Select your page and load up the editor, then click on the Module Manager. Under "Web Apps" you can see  "Web Apps" -  this will allow you to add a list of articles. But there's also "Web Apps Search Box". Select that, choose your articles app and insert it into the page. Once in the page you can customize the search form's look and feel.

And we're done -  a searchable database of valuable articles for your business, in less than an hour. Next time you see a coder, challenge them to create the same web app for you in the same amount of time :)