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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!!

2010 is almost over and we are excited for what 2011 has in store. I hope you are all as excited as we are. This is the time of year that we look back at what has happened, learn from our mistakes and celebrate our success. It is also time to look into the future. We want to make every year better and better, so to do that we set resolutions. These goals are to help us grow and learn to become better professionals.

I hope all of you have a safe weekend and wish you all nothing but the best in 2011!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Setting your 2011 Business Goals

We are fast approaching 2011 and it is time to set our New Year's Resolutions! What are your goals for 2011? Maybe you need a website? A Facebook page? Twitter account? No matter where your business is at, you need to think of the next step. What does your business need to do to get to the next step?

You should be setting short term and long term goals. When we set goals, sometimes we think of the big picture too much. We need to break down our goals into what we can do day-by-day or even week-by-week. You should come up with a consistent process that works for you. Everyone has their own way of working, you just need to find your balance. Once you find your balance, you will reach your goal.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A pixel ruler will help you size pics for the web

Getting pictures sized correctly for the web can be a struggle without photo editing software.

On the web, dimensions are measured in pixels. Therefore, we found a pixel ruler for you to download. You can use this tool to measure the space on your web site, and then adjust your pictures based on what you measured using the pixel ruler.

It's a safe, free download, and it'll just sit on your desktop. It'll help you greatly as you're trying to correctly size photos for your web site.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Competing with the big boys

The North American Retail Hardware Association recently posted an article from the USA Today giving small businesses tips for competing with the Big Box stores.

Along with finding your unique selling proposition, the article also suggests Social Media tactics for attracting customers.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Google's possible acquisition means something for small business

For those of you exploring online advertising, Google's potential acquisition of Groupon could indicate a transformation in how small businesses promote online.

Google expects a decrease in spending for paid keywords especially among small businesses, which is why they see potential value in Groupon. While it's a large acquisition, it has consequences for small business because it's an indicator of a growing trend. The future of small business online advertising could be targeted e-mail messages.

Whether through the Loyalty Rewards program or your own efforts, start building your customer lists!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Interesting Facebook commentary and stats

When it comes to interacting with your customers through social media, an article from Ad Age discusses how relevance may be redefined in terms of what you put on Facebook. Consider this as you post things on your page. You could try a more subtle approach, other than strictly product/promotion, to engage your customers on social media.

Here's an obvious point: Facebook isn't going anywhere (at least for the foreseeable future). Facebook now accounts for 25% of the page views in the United States. Facebook and Google are quickly on the way to web traffic domination.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Valuable social media tools

The Internet makes everyone's life easier; however, at times, it may not seem that way. With all the social media outlets, it can be difficult to conceptualize how they can work for your business.

There are several FREE tools available to help you manage your social media presence. Click on the link, read the blog and decide which tool would suit your business best.

These options provide a much easier way for you to manage content on your social media sites, and they're FREE!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Twitter account for UH Web Forum

Since new media offers great synergistic opportunities, I just started a Twitter feed specifically for our group of web dealers. Posts on this blog will feed directly into the Twitter account.

Although celebrities and athletes receive the most attention for posting on Twitter, it can be extremely valuable not only as a marketing tool but also as an educational tool. When you choose who to follow, do it wisely because you will receive the information they "tweet" some of which can be quite valuable to you.

Even if you never post a "tweet," Twitter is a great way to monitor trends in your industry. What a great educational tool!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Small changes go a long way

Updating your web site is important because it keeps things timely, and your customers will respect the information on your site because they can see that it's getting updated.

However, in addition to frequently changing the homepage and other pertinent pages, plan to go through your web site every three months or so to make a change on every single page. Search engines like to see that changes are made to a web site.

For example, the "Contact Us" page probably doesn't need frequent changes, but every three months, plan to make a small change to that page.

The search engines will smile upon you favorably.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Google your store

You might be surprised what you can find on the Internet these days...or maybe not. There's a lot of information available, and it's not all correct.

Try a Google search for your store and see what shows up. You'd probably be surprised to see a lot of information on sites with which you have no affiliation. You'll see name, address, phone number, hours of operation, products and services and maybe even a review or two.

Periodically, perform a Google search for your store. See what's out there because some of it may not be correct (like your hours of operation), and if possible, you'll want to correct that information. You'll also want to monitor customer reviews that are posted on these sites and respond to them whether positive or negative.

So, Google your store and take inventory of the information available online because it's important to monitor and manage this part of your business.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Social Media Connection!

Social media has infected just about every aspect of society, and as it spread, business was swept up as well. Many small businesses have effectively leveraged Facebook and other social media to develop an even stronger relationship with their customers.

If you'd like to start a Facebook page or Twitter account, let us know. We can help you get started, and more importantly, we can put a link on your web site to invite customers to interact with you on Facebook.

If you already have a page, let us know because we'll provide the Facebook logo, and link it to your page!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Web Site Launch in Austin!

Austin, Minnesota has a new web site! Congratulations to Austin Builders Supply, a Golden Rule store, for completing their web site.

They chose a tier 3 web site, and we created a new catalog interface with them. We now have the ability to embed the catalog in your web site. We would still need an export from your POS system to show your store's pricing, but at least when it's embedded, it looks like your catalog and won't navigate away from your web site. Check out either Adams or Austin's web site to see how it looks.

As far as cost, if you're a tier 3, it would cost slightly more. It would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 more than the cost of a tier 3 site, which would put the total cost between the tier 3 and 4 sites.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November Web Coupons

Below are a few sample coupons for November. To upload them to your web site, you just need to click on the picture and save it to your desktop.

From there, you can upload the picture to the web site, so that it appears to your customers.

These are just sample ads that we've taken from the corporate circular in November; however, please let me know if you need them to say a different price and we can certainly adjust it to your specific pricing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Web Site Launch in Adams!

Congratulations to Adams Builders Supply in Adams, Minnesota!

They just lauched a tier 3 web site which allows them to make their own changes through an admin portal.

Welcome them to the forum!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Web Site Launch in Huxley!

Congratulations to Quick's Hardware Hank in Huxley, Iowa!

Quick's Hardware Hank is a tier 3 web site, and it's completely new construction. They wanted a web site for a while and purchased a name! Now they're up and running!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Is Your Business Credible?


It sounds like an unnecessary question, but I pose it to start a deeper discussion. Knowing your stores as I do, you all run credible businesses. Customers respect your knowledge of the business; therefore, you have a solid reputation in your community.

For a second, imagine that you stopped bringing in new products, remerchandising departments, adding Power Programs, training your employees and providing great customer service. Customers would start to question your business' credibility, and they go somewhere else to buy hardware.

Think about your web site like that. If it's not updated or new or exciting, customers will not view it as credible. They will stop visiting your web site and go to another one.

Consider your web site another storefront. It's connected to your business but is a somewhat separate entity. Keep it updated; keep it current. Your customers will notice, and then, your web site will enjoy the same credibility that your business does.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Generic Web Banners Ready

We have developed a large stock of vendor web ads. We will upload these to your servers, and rather than reinvent the wheel, you can use this database. We will also commit to uploading/updating the ads periodically.

We're close to launching a few more web sites, so look for those announcements coming soon! We can welcome them to the user group!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September Web Coupons

Here are web coupons for September. You can click on the photos to open them in a new window. Then, you can right click and save them to your computer. Once they're saved, it's just a matter of uploading them to your web site.
Note: We uploaded them in two formats with a red border and without. You can upload them either way to your web site.

Think again about the offer. We're going to come out with more generic coupons that simply give a percentage off a regular priced item, but it'll be a stronger offer than maybe some of these coupons. However, please let us know if you would like these coupons edited to make a stronger offer!

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's All About the Offer

When considering to put a coupon or special on your web site, think about your offer to entice them. The offer needs to be impressive with as little strings attached as possible. It also needs to be exciting, and absolutely worth the customer's while to print the coupon or visit the store for the special.

Customers always ask: "What's in it for me?" If the offer adequately satisfies that question, they will visit your store.

So, when you're putting a coupon on your web site, think about what offer you can put up to excite your customers. None of this is new information to you, but I just thought I reinforce it.

Look for the September coupons tomorrow! If you would like to use them, you can download them from this blog.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Add Your Web Site to Your E-mail Signature

In talking to someone who works for a social media company, he passed along a little promotional tip that's as easy as changing your e-mail signature.

Just think about all the e-mails you send and receive each day. Maybe it's a lot, maybe it's not that many. Either way, your e-mail communication will probably increase over the next few years, and you'll probably communicate with your customers via e-mail more and more.

At any rate, consider adding your web site to your e-mail signature. Below, I've used myself as an example of what it could look like:

Brian Sonnenberg
United Hardware Distributing

That's a pretty basic e-mail signature, but you could do something similar using your web site. It's another great way to advertise your web site. I'll continue to share more of these simple ideas to promote your web site.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Free Web Sites to Help You Resize Photos

Unfortunately, posting pictures on your web sites isn't just as simple as grabbing a photo and dropping it on the site. It can be that simple, but the picture may be too big when viewing it. For those visiting your site, it can cause a slower (and longer) load time which will frustrate them. It can also just mess with the formatting and make for a strange site layout.

Below are just some "helpful hints" (I hope) for making your pictures web-friendly:

  • When adding photos in the admin portal, always have your "live" site open. Then, you can hit the refresh button to see how the uploaded photo looks on the real site. If it's huge, you can go back to your admin window and resize the picture.

  • You have some editing capability within the admin portal of your web site. You can edit the size of the photo from the "Image" button. There should be two boxes to the left of your picture preview once you grab the photo from your computer. Those boxes are labeled "Width" and "Height," and you can change one of the numbers and it will automatically resize the other number proportionally. So, you can make your pictures smaller through that function.
    Hint: Next to the Width/Height is a "Lock Ratio" button. Make sure you have that locked so your picture will resize proportionally.

  • You can also edit the photo by clicking on the picture. If you click on it, little boxes will line the outside of the photo. You can grab a corner box and resize the photo, but make sure you size it proportionally.

  • Lastly, I found two web sites that will help you resize/crop photos for FREE! They're fairly similar sites with a few subtle differences, but you can use the site with which you're most comfortable. Here are the links to those sites: Pic Resize or Web Resizer. They're also listed at the top of this post.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about uploading pictures. I want it to be easy for you to upload web-friendly pictures. You have editing options in the admin portal, but those web sites give you even more options as far as editing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sample Coupons for August, September

We have produced corporate web coupons for August. If you're interested in them please let me know, and I can e-mail them to you. In the future, I would like to post them right to this blog for you to just grab, save and post to your web site.

To create the coupons, we look at the corporate sales. It's the easiest thing to do to for our purposes even though some of you run Dealer's Choice ads. Let me know if you have any coupon ideas or a better way to approach it.

For August, we have created ads for the following vendors: Rubbermaid, Plymouth Forge, 3M, Softsoap-Ajax.

We will have coupons for September shortly. Happy updating!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Web Site Launch in Douglas!!

Congratulations to Douglas Hardware Hank in Douglas, Wyoming!

Douglas Hardware Hank already had a web site, but they wanted to give it a little facelift. We took their old site and rolled it into our design and template. They also liked the option to make their own changes, so they went with a tier 3 site.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Web-Ready Hank Characters Now Available

To help you use properly sized images on your site, I have uploaded the Hardware Hank characters in web-ready format. To find them, go to "Logos & Characters" on United Hardware's web site.

In addition, we will populate your site's server with these images, so when you look to add an image, you will automatically see a folder with web-ready Hardware Hank images.

I formatted them on the larger side, so that you can reduce them. In my experience, it's better to have larger as opposed to smaller images.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

New Web Site Launch in Rapid City!!

Congratulations to Rapid City Hardware Hank in Rapid City, South Dakota!

They launched a tier 3 web site yesterday, so welcome them to the group with open arms!

Side note: Stay tuned for further web developments. Tom, Scott and I are working on things to make updating your web sites easier!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Web Update Help

As you all know, updating your web site consistently is the most important thing you can do. I want to help you plan those updates. I created a spreadsheet that will help you plan your web site changes throughout the year. Below, there's a snapshot of how the sheet looks.

I've already filled in January as an example of what could be done to help you plan your web updates. It will keep you on target for updating your web site consistently. You can modify this spreadsheet to fit specific aspects of your site.
New web sites will automatically receive this schedule; however, I will pass this along to those who have completed sites.

Please use this to plan your web site for the entire year, and use it to communicate with your employees. It'll help them when they promote your site to the customers.

If you have any questions, let me know!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dedicate an Employee to Update Your Site

Today, I was on the phone with a dealer who has completed a web site, and she is at tier 1 (static site) and considering a jump to tier 3 (ability to edit every page). Initially, when she signed up, she just wanted a web presence and realistically didn't have the time to update the page consistently. What changed from a couple months ago?

Well, she has a great idea. She plans to charge an employee with the task of updating her web site. She will guide the employee and proof everything before it goes "live," but it will help her keep the site fresh.

You may have already done this, but if you haven't, seriously consider it. You have enough on your plate! In some cases, you may find a trustworthy employee who can take on this task.

How much time would you have to allow for an employee to do this when they punch in each day? 30 minutes? An hour? It may be worth it.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Website 101

Producing a web site seems like a daunting task, but for some of you, you've already cleared that major hurdle.

Click here for an article that gives you some tips on getting started when it comes to your web site. Even if you have a web site, the article will help you develop your web strategy.

Having a clearer picture of what you want your site to accomplish will make the task of producing one less scary.

When thinking about those things, shoot for the they say. Your site CAN push product. Don't think you have to settle for a site that just acts as a brochure. You can develop an interactive site and include your customers in the experience, and we have this blog to help you with that.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Database of Vendor Ads - In the Works!!

Starting next week, Scott, our Advertising Intern, will begin to create vendor ads for your web sites. He will make them generic enough so they can be used year-round by any dealer.

We will start with some of our larger Partnership vendors. Once these have been created, we will share them with you. Look back at this blog to find out when they're finished.

Please comment on this blog post with specific vendors, and we will make sure to create an ad for those that you list in your comments.

Welcome to the UH Web Forum

Ask and you shall receive. Many of you asked for a blog or meeting area on the web dedicated to the discussion of dealer web sites. Here it is!

I will commit to posting, on a regular basis, anything and everything related to our dealer web sites. It could be new developments on our end or simply new ideas from outside sources.

Please use this blog as an opportunity to share with your fellow dealers. Comment on my posts or let us know how you're using your site, what's working and what's not. This is also an opportunity to share any new ideas.

Just a couple housekeeping issues:
  • On the right hand side, you can use the Google search function to find things on this blog.
  • You can also sign up as a follower which means you should receive updates when someone adds a new post or comment.
  • At the bottom of the page, I've started a "Links" box. I'll just post links to important or useful web sites giving tips or sharing new ideas.
Without further delay, let's get it started!