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  • Coaching for Companies, Teams and Individuals with The Company Coach

    companycoach.jpg

    Having helped work on the revamp of the Company Coach website and having known for a few years one of the principal drivers behind a company that specialises in helping individuals and organisations perform better in communication, education, leadership etc it is great to announce that ‘The Company Coach’ have not only rebranded and made over their website but is also offering some quality advice and information on the new Company Coach blog.

    Sally and Peter Kleyn head up an impressive team that helps fuse in depth sales and management principles with an impressive array of scientific process tools and diagnostic abilities (Check out sections on Psychometric testing and SAVi verbal analysis systems). In business since 1991 The Company Coach, or White House Training and Distribution Limited, as it was formerly known have expanded from offering sales training to incorporate management and leadership training in various areas including telesales, customer service, change management etc.

    The Company Coach offer training and advice for boards of directors, trustees and senior management as well as group coaching. Their client portfolio is quite impressive offering services to companies in a variety of sectors. I for one am looking forward to reading some quality advice on business practices from Peter, Sally and the rest of the Company Coach team in the near future.

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  • Don't Let Your Web Designer Use mailto Tags

    The first thing I look for whenever I appraise a colleagues work is the presence of a mailto tag.  Whilst they are useful and at times necessary so as to be able to provide the user with a quick and easy method of emailling you directly, it is also a very quick way of adding an email address in a SPAM database. 

    SPAMBots are programs that crawl the web looking for websites with visible email addresses (predominantly email addresses within mailto tags).  They literally 'harvest' anything they find: addresses are added to databases, emails are sent, inboxes overflow.

    To check whether mailto tags have been included on your website, navigate to a page you now has a visible email address and carry out the following steps:

    Internet Explorer users:

    • Right Click and choose 'View Source'
    • Press Ctrl + F - this will present you with the 'Find' dialog box
    • Type in the following:
      • href="mailto:

    Firefox users:

    • Right Click and choose 'View Page Source'
    • Press Ctrl + F - this will present you with the 'Find' dialog box
    • Type in the following:
      • href="mailto:

    There are a variety of ways of displaying an email address on a website and protecting it at the same time. By not using mailto tags there is still no guarantee that an email address won't be added to a SPAM database: your email address could be manually added to a database by someone looking around your website.

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  • BEWARE - FTP Hacking

    Be aware... recently we have noticed a rise in FTP hacking, successful brute force security hacks.  A number of sites, unfortunately the Nomis site as well as client sites and I imagine many others, were comprimised.

    FTP hacking, brute force security hacking, is where a hacker manages to guess your password and then obtain access to the raw files of your website: it conjures up images of a person tapping in "12345", then "54321", then "23456" etc., like in the movies, in fact it is a lot more sophisticated and can lead to problems such as Google blocking your site and advising visitors that the site contains malicious content - not very good PR. 

    The examples of FTP hacking that we have seen in pages show a line(s) of script that has been added to the html code which forwards the user onto another site or downloads malicious programmes.

    Ways to try and reduce the risk of FTP hacking:

    • Make your password as hard as possible to guess
      • Firstly check with your hosting company as to their password policy but where possible include the following:
        • Numbers
        • Letters
        • Symbols
        • Vary the case of letters -  use both uppercase and lowercase
    • If you do not need your FTP service, turn it off
      • Only have it turned on when you actually need it.

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  • How To Design An eShot Template

    The theme for the past two weeks has been centred around eShots, email marketing campaigns and SPAM. This week I thought it appropriate to look at the design of the eShot - the look and feel of the email.

    The first thing to bear in mind is that an eShot should reflect the corporate brand: unfortunately it is all too easy for people to forget this in the pursuit of getting something done, and often getting something done quickly. There are a plethora of email template design systems, all ranging in price: some of them offer standard templates which can be used, free of charge, at the click of a button. The key points are free of charge and click of a button: nothing in life is free and Rome wasn't built in a day. In the past, on the SymVolli blog, we have discussed the idea of doing something on the cheap and it is important that you have taken time to implement a template that will reflect the companies image, rather than a generic one. Furthermore it is the aim of a marketing campaign to leave a positive lasting impression, rather than the impression that this eShot was generated by choosing a template from 1 of say 10 or 20.

    So you have now elected to have your template professionally designed: what do you need to look out for?

    The main consideration is what will be the first thing the user will see. Bear in mind that the first viewing of your eShot may well be via a preview pane: each preview pane will vary in height and width depending on the email client being used and the settings the user has chosen.  The ideal solution would be to place the most important element of you message so that it appears within the preview pane, enticing the user to double click and open the email, for further viewing, in a new window.

    Layout tips:

    • Make sure the key content is visible via the preview pane so as the user is enticed into double clicking rather than them having to double click
    • That your template is not too wide: although current industry standard for web pages may be 1024 x 768 it is best to eShot templates to at least half of that width so they appear clearly within a preview pane - bear in mind AOLs preview pane is as small as 194 pixels wide
    • Ensure that your corporate brand is clearly identifiable and that your company logo is visible - this will allow your recipient to disseminate  your email from the rest of the SPAM they receive on a daily basis

    One mistake that people often fall into is that they design their content using lots of images.  Whilst this has the advantage of allowing you to design potentially one of the most stunning eShots your recipient may ever take receipt of, it also has the potential to hide and hinder the transmission of your message. Due to various security measures etc. which have been put in place, the user is able to choose whether they want to download any graphics which are embedded in an email. As a result if you bury your message in images the user may choose not to download the images and therefore never read the message you are trying to communicate.

    Image tips:

    • DO NOT bury your entire message in images - the user may choose to never download the images and therefore never read your message
    • More images means more download time - more and more people are reading their emails on their phones and therefore the size of the email, in terms of kilobytes (KB) needs to be kept to a minimum - furthermore, regardless of what the user may be using to read the email (phone or computer) the bigger in size, the more download time is required, the longer it takes to properly display the whole email
    • Do not make your images so 'snazzy' that they detract from your message - use them to emphasise what you are trying to say not dominate what you are saying

    NB: Too many images and not enough text, as I discussed in last weeks blog post, runs the risk of your eShot being branded as SPAM.

    You have caught the recipients attention and they have decided to double click and open the email: the next trick is to get them to use your call to action, to download a PDF, to call you for further information etc. The call to action should be placed in a prominant position so as to always be in the users eye line.

    Text tips:

    • Do not waffle: quickly get to the point and stick to it. A users attention span is short lived - think how you react when you receive and email
      • Essays are meant for white papers and articles; not eShots 
    • Style keywords in bold so they immediately jump off the page and hopefully entice the user to read the whole email and pursue their interest further

    Bonus tips:

    • Where possible merge the recipients email address into the email (the best place for this is usually in the footer) -  this is purely for administrative purposes. Sometimes emails are forwarded on and when the user then asks to have the original email address removed from your future campaign lists, you then have a headache on your hands trying to track who you orginally sent it to.
    • Include a forward to a friend link - this will encourage people to share the eShot therefore allowing you to reach an audience that you are not even aware of
    • Always bear in mind anti-virus software - do not include javascript, Flash objects, ActiveX components as this is how viruses have been known to be transported and therefore elements of your eShot will be stripped out, if not entirely blocked due to the potential security risk

    And the legal stuff:

    You are required to include somewhere on your eShot the registered company number and the registered company address. You are also required to provide some form of a mechanism which allows users to unsubscribe from future campaigns.

    The Final Word - TEST

    You can never underestimate the value of testing an eShot prior to sending out to its intended audience.

    • Check to see that the eShot looks good - the first impression will be based on the subject line of the eShot, which is next weeks blog topic, and the look and feel of the eShot itself
    • Ensure all images have been correctly uploaded
    • Proof read - the last thing you want is to send out an eShot which looks like it has been designed and written in a matter of minutes without any care and attention

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