Client solves Ecommerce for WordPress via Open Source

I don’t often write about clients on my blog for various reasons, but I wanted to spread the word about Jigoshop, which is a great Ecommerce for WordPress solution that I’ve been working on for a couple of months now. One reason is simply that it’s a really good product which I can easily recommend – as part of research I played around with the alternatives and I can honestly say that I’d already decided to use Jigoshop to power a couple of future projects before working with them. And the other is that it’s one of the first times I’ve been working on a project which is delivering something via Open Source, rather than using OS products as an end user.

Jigoshop Ecommerce for WordPress

 

So what makes Jigoshop so good?

It’s worth explaining that the company behind it, Jigowatt, specialises in Ecommerce sites for a large range of clients, using both WordPress and Magento, so they’ve spent a lot of time working with all the existing ways to produce effective and attractive online stores, and have particular experience handling the backend admin side of getting lots of products uploaded and ranking in search for their clients. That means they’ve got a long list of all the features that they wish existed and eventually reached the point that they knew it made more sense to build something to answer all their problems.

It’s incredibly quick and simple to use – even I can get an online store up and running in about 20 minutes. But at the same time it’s also highly configurable when you want to get into setting attributes, localising your shop, and stock management.

 

The benefits of a true Open Source Ecommerce solution

I was lucky enough to start getting involved with Jigowatt and Jigoshop when they started discussing how to licence Jigoshop, and how they could try and ensure that it has the optimum chance of being the best possible product, and also how it can generate revenue to justify continuing to work on it alongside the masses of client work they’ve got at any time. They had already started discussing the open source model, obviously drawing from their experience with the likes of WordPress and other open source developments and plugins, and they’d also been open and honest on their blog about their ideas – which led to really helpful input from other WordPress plugin developers, for instance, comments and suggestions from some of the guys at RocketGenius, who make the great Gravity Forms solution.

I also whittered on about everything from the birth of the Free Software Foundation and Open Source to the business models used by the likes of Arduino, and slowly the shape of the Jigoshop business model emerged, which was to release the shop itself under a GPL licence.

  • That means that you can download it, get your store up and running, and take payments via Paypal without having to sign-up for a trial or submit a credit card.
  • And it means anyone can build on top of it, whether that’s additional features or themes etc.

The revenue streams are all around specific extensions to the main Jigoshop platform, whether it’s payment gateways or specific themes, as well as allowing donations. And that’s an approach I really hope works for this specific project, because I really want to see Jigoshop continue and evolve.

 

It’s not just me recommending Jigoshop

Obviously as a client, I might be a little biased, but the good thing is that absolutely loads of WordPress specialists and big independent sites have been giving positive reviews to Jigoshop, reinforcing the fact that it’s a really good product. Just some of the mentions since it launched include Mashable, ThemesForge, and Envato. And there’s a growing forum community on the site which is worth checking out.

 

So I figured there’s enough to justify writing about a client for once! And obviously if you’re interested in finding out more about the range of freelance content and marketing services on offer, then please do get in touch….

The thought process has changed…

So it used to be a case of having a thought, and then deciding whether to act on it. Now that’s changed as I have to:

  • Tweet it with a short link and hashtag
  • Then Facebook it, ideally with a picture
  • Then give it a businesslike description for LinkedIn.
  • Then +1 it, with a few more words
  • Then Tumblr it, ideally with the picture and a link
  • Then blog it here, with a lot more words
  • Then Stumble that post with a nice description
  • Then bookmark it with Diigo and Delicious
  • And maybe bung it on Reddit, Digg or HackerNews.
  • Oh, and maybe any relevant old school forums

And then I need to monitor all of those sites for social validation that it wasn’t a terrible idea. Or I could just decide for myself anyway and go right ahead and get the minimum viable product out there – is it any wonder that the ratio of stuff actually being created to the amount of required self-promotion deemed necessary for success is becoming so skewed?

 

 

Geeks, BBQ food and a bouncy castle…

That headline makes more sense when I explain that the first ever Digital People in Peterborough Family BBQ takes place on Saturday. I’m still continually amazed that an off-the-cuff idea to see if any local people involved in mobile and websites fancied a couple of beers has grown into 40+ people in the local area signing up on the DPiP website, the Facebook page or following on Twitter.

Not only that but we’ve even expanded from the monthly pub gathering to include a curry night, and now an attempt to get all of us out into the sunshine and involve our families with a BBQ at Afro-Caribbean restaurant Embe. It’s somewhere I’ve heard good things about, so I’m looking forward to sampling the food – and not only are they providing the BBQ for £5 per adult, but they’ve also very kindly agreed to provide a bouncy castle for those of us bringing children!

How great is that!

Plus, having had a quick look at their menu, I’m already trying to work out when I might be able to come along again to try some of the dishes they have on offer…

We’ve already got 11 or 12 confirmed people, with families, coming along for something a bit different, so if you’re in the Peterborough area, and you’re at all interested or involved with any sort of digital business, consider yourself invited. You can be a blogger, marketeer, developer, systems admin, mobile app creator, collect retro consoles, or write online for a living. We’re all really friendly, and if you want to find out more about us in advance, just take a look at the website, Facebook or Twitter in advance!

Don’t write for SEO and social media marketing from the start…

That may seem an odd headline for someone who sells digital marketing alongside writing for the internet, but stay with me. I’ve just spent an hour or so reading through my 22-year-old copy of ‘Searching for Robert Johnson‘, a fairly short book by Peter Guralnick about the legendary early blues musician who was supposed to have gone to the crossroads at midnight and sold his soul to the devil to have become so talented, and who was then murdered at an early age, passing into myth and legend for songs like ‘Hellhound on my Trail‘.

Having been blessed with an obsession for music and reading in a just pre-internet age, I’m a big fan of all the Peter Guralnick books I’ve read and owned – he’s covered the history of the blues, soul, and country, as well as works about Sam Cooke, Robert Johnson and Elvis Presley (The Presley ones are the only ones I haven’t read). There’s a pretty good list on Amazon, and as a music writer I’ve read, re-read, and long admired, I wondered what he was doing at the moment – and thanks to Google, found some invaluable quotes on what makes his music writing so brilliant, especially when he writes with more succinct clarity than the likes of Lester Bangs, for example. And they explain why I believe that optimisation for SEO, tailoring content for social media etc all comes second to creating something really brilliant in the first place.

They’re from InsideVandy.com, Vanderbilt University’s student news website:

‘I started writing about music when I was probably about 20, and I started writing purely to tell – I was writing fiction, short stories novels, I still write fiction – but the nonfiction, I just wrote solely to tell people about this music that I thought was so great, it was almost entirely the blues, and I did it at a time when there were almost no outlets where you could even put down the name Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, James Brown, it was such a thrill. I wrote these things telling people how great they were. It wasn’t for money, there was no money; it was just to tell people.

I’ve never written a single piece about anybody or anything that I haven’t chosen myself and hasn’t been out of my admiration for their work. It would be inconceivable for me to write something about a subject that I wasn’t totally invested in.

There have been growing debates about the need for PR and Marketing in technology – the suggestion is that by building something amazing, you remove the need for promotion, which I think is mistaken and disingenuous. A great product should be your focus as it makes Marketing, PR, Advertising etc all easier and ways to boost the natural interest.

And by the same token, SEO, targetting social media etc are all extremely useful, but they boost interest, links etc to great content and writing.

You can argue that plenty of truly great works have never achieved mainstream success, but that’s down to a number of factors, including marketing, timing, and luck. But those great works continue to endure, even if it’s in a small way.

Meanwhile there’s plenty of crap that has become amazingly popular due to well-oiled publicity efforts, but it’s always tended to result in fleeting success at best, despite the work and effort that’s gone into promotion.

And particularly if you’re trying to build a business around content, or by utilising content, it’s better to get a smaller number of truly passionate and evangelistic people who are likely to part with their money or attention on a longterm basis, than to hit a huge number of people who just pass through and move onto something else in seconds.

That’s why I suggest forgetting about SEO and marketing when you first start writing something. If not, you’ll spend hours or days in fear as you build up the worries about putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. And when you finally do, it’s likely to appear faked when you’re shoehorning in keywords and sticking on an irrelevant linkbait headline. Far better to create something incredibly powerful and optimise with a light touch. It’s why the need for copy editors and sub editors remains, but that need evolves into editors skilled in marketing and search engine optimisation alongside more traditional skills.

And it’s why I’m still enjoying, and recommending, music from the 1930s and books written about it which I first enjoyed as a pre-teen.

The stopping power of simple and effective marketing

Before you click on the video below, which shows a very literal example of being simple and effective, I should point out that it does contain a very small amount of violence, that I know it’s from the film ‘Never Back Down’, and I also know it’s not an accurate reflection of the effectiveness of Capoeira as a martial art.

But still…

I’m not going to suggest that business strategy, marketing or writing are related to fighting or violence, although I do know that to excel in martial arts or any endeavour requires similar levels of focus, dedication and perseverance. What I wanted to point out is that the most effective route to a solution is quite often the simplest, and that’s something easily overlooked in a digital world which tends towards information overload and constant hype cycles around the latest startup and innovation.

 

The thing of it:

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t experiment, innovate and impress. But these should always come after your core business and marketing ideas. The hardest bit is often stripping back everything to the simplest expression of what you do and why you do it. In fact, you can often find business people will try to delay answering or avoid the question altogether, and I imagine that’s because they fear that actually there’s nothing there.

That’s never been true in my experience.

It’s simply about digging deeper and asking the right questions to find the one core element that will really resonate. Even the dullest business you can possibly imagine, which may have been set up purely to make a profit, will have something of interest in it, whether that’s something in the story of the founders or workforce, or in the history of the business, or in future ambitions. The trick is to find it, and this is something which is potentially a lot easier for someone like me to discover as an ‘outsider’ working on a freelance basis, who can take an overall honest view and then ask potentially career limiting questions if you were putting them to your boss.

I recently had an epiphany when trying to simplify the brand idea for a client, after losing myself in all the great functionality of their product, and struggling to explain a lot of detailed technical terms. I’d succumbed to selling the features, rather than the benefits. But looking at it from the angle of their potential consumers, I suddenly realised that the one key benefit was incredibly simple, and could be summed up in 6 words. Now that’s got potential as a strapline, message, brand idea and identity etc.

Image courtesy funtik.cat on Flickr (CC Licence)

 

It’s about simple messages:

Particularly in the early stages of a business, it’s about getting who you are, and what you do, across in the simplest, most comprehensible ways.

People are great at passing on information. They’re not always great at taking information in, processing it, and repeating it all accurately, and that diminishes as the amount gets bigger.

Imagine you’re at a party, and you’re introducing an old friend to someone. Would you tell them absolutely everything that you know about your lifelong friendship? Or would you be more likely to say ‘Here’s Dave, he works in marketing and I’ve known him since I was five.’

One of my favourite tricks when it comes to simple messaging is to think about the classic game know as ‘Telephone‘ in the U.S, and without wishing to cause offence, ‘Chinese Whispers’ in the UK. If your message isn’t simple enough to pass from the CEO of the company down to the receptionist without the basic gist of it remaining, then it isn’t simple enough.

Or just think about the companies and slogans you remember off the top of your head. There are plenty of examples which not only function as a simple and effective strapline, but go further in explaining what it is you do, e.g.

Making collaboration productive and enjoyable for people every day. 37Signals

That goes a bit further than the classic strapline. And if it passes down the line and comes out as ‘they make working together more fun’, then it still works.

And there’s another reason why it’s more important than ever:

If you’ve ever come across Gary Vaynerchuck, you’ll already known why ‘passions,hustle, wine and business’ is a great 4 word summary. Generally SEO advice is always about ranking for keywords, but that site description is what converts people to following up on the search results. And as search and social become more and more intertwined, then memorable and sharable become even more important.

Oh, and if you can keep it under 140 characters, that’s even better:

 

Practising what I preach:

Along with a lot of bloggers and commentators, I can often fall into the trap of talking a great game about other people, and failing to do it for myself.

That’s particularly true when I’ve spent a lot of time working on client projects – part of the reason I took up blogging was to have an outlet for writing which didn’t follow a traditional news structure (At the time I was writing a lot of online news). That probably explains why I tend to write lengthy posts whenever I get the chance.

But now that TheWayoftheWeb is increasingly a lead generator for my marketing and content business (which is continuing to grow and may well expand in the future), and I’m also responsible for the marketing and lead generation side of Jodanma design and development, I’m going to be able to show more of the process that goes into that simplicity. The current Jodanma holding page will be replaced by the full website shortly, and the initial attempt at conveying what we do isn’t anywhere close to what it should be.

So here begins a real journey to apply what I do for clients to my own two businesses, and explain what goes into it along the way…

The evolution of TheWayoftheWeb

If you’re reading this on the blog rather than as an RSS feed, you may well have already spotted the design of the site has changed somewhat.

There’s a few reasons for the evolution, but the main one is that I’m currently supporting myself (and my family) through freelancing for a number of clients, and therefore it made sense to link up my main presence on the internet to the freelance services I offer.

Plus I was never really happy with the Cutline theme I’d been using – the theme itself is fairly old and isn’t really being developed any more. Plus the design itself seemed to encourage me to overload both sidebars with far too much junk.

It’s part of a conscious effort to re-evaluate everything I’ve been doing and working on to ensure I’m devoting my efforts to the right things and in the right order, which at the moment is:

  • Ensuring my freelance clients get the best possible service.
  • Everything else, including my personal business projects….

It’s very much a work in progress, so expect things to keep changing as time goes by – particularly in the run-up to Christmas. Some sites will be mothballed, some projects will either be finished or ditched, and I’m slimming down some of my other commitments, or looking at ways to evolve them fairly quickly.

With that in mind, it’s probably a good time to get in touch if you need work in the near future, have any interesting opportunities that you feel I might be interested in, or might be interested in buying the 140Char domain…

Mixing marketing, technology and more…

There’s an interesting presentation, post and comment thread on Mashable at the moment regarding the idea of a new job role within companies – Chief Marketing Technologist.

Scott Brinker, president and CTO of ion interactive, presented the idea at the Pivot Conference, and although I often think there are far too many titles and buzzwords already in existence, there may well be a compelling enough case for this one…

The three missions Brinker outlines for the CMT are:

  • Translating Strategy into Technology
  • Choreographing Data and Technology across Marketing
  • Infusing Tech into the DNA of Marketing

There are already people doing these jobs, and plenty of comments to that effect on the Mashable post. It’s similar in some ways to the roles I’ve had, except this example places much more emphasis on the technical and engineering skills of the CMT – I’ve tended to learn as much as I can, and do as much as I can manage without breaking things, but ultimately leave the heavy lifting to people far more talented on the technical side. Plus in my case, there’s probably the need for an additional letter, becoming CMCT – Chief Marketing and Content Technologist, to include my skills and experience in creating content in a way which hopefully engages people, but also works for SEO etc.

Plus I don’t think choreographing data and infusing technology should be limited to just the Marketing Dept unless you’re in one of the biggest global companies. You need to be able to work with all departments, and infuse the value of data, technology and integration throughout the company for it to work effectively. Otherwise you’ll have powerful marketing with no backbone…

But I do think there should be a recognition of the need for digital and technical skills in marketing which bridge the gap between traditional marketing, social media/co-creation, data and analytics, and internal collaboration. Certainly more than being seen as ‘the geeky one’ by the rest of the marketing team.

The other argument would be to do away with traditional titles altogether, and either just learn what everyone does (As practised by Gore), or just letting people call themselves whatever is simplest and most descriptive. In my case, the best I’ve come up with so far is Digital Content Creation and Distribution Specialist, which isn’t ideal, but at least encapsulates some of the fact I can go from sourcing and creating content to ensuring it’s published on the right type of platform, appears on the right screens, and is given the best chance of popularity via social media, search, advertising etc. CMT might be a better alternative than the world’s largest business card.

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Media people on Twitter – an interview with me from April

I don’t think I’ve posted the interview that I did with George Hopkin back in April as part of his ‘Media People on Twitter’ series, but as he’s kindly agreed to share the whole series, I thought I’d start with myself!

‘More Twitter hints, tips, etc. from power Twitterers from the world of UK media. This time it’s Dan Thornton, Community Marketing Manager at Bauer Media (Heat, Empire and many others). (NB: I’ve since left, and joined Absolute Radio as Digital Marketing Manager)

* What did you think about the concept when you first heard about Twitter?

The idea made sense for quick communications with friends, but like the founders, I couldn’t imagine how it would grow in terms of size – and especially the ways to use it. The uses of hashtags are staggering in terms of potential.

* Do you recall your first tweet?

Thankfully no. Probably ‘Hello’ or something similar.

* How did you use Twitter to begin with?

Like most people, I signed up, posted a couple of messages, and then ignored it for a bit because I didn’t see the value.

That changed with my first @ messages, and suddenly I became addicted to being able to communicate so easily with so many people

* How has your use of Twitter changed?

It hasn’t really. It probably should, as I’ve gone from a small group of friends to having over 2,000 following and followers. But I find it hard to only talk about marketing or the internet. And at least this way, people won’t be surprised or disappointed in the long term when I talk about motorcycles or Xbox instead!

* What do you want from Twitter?

From a personal point of view I just want to be able to interact with more great people, and be able to build better relationships with them.

From a business/tech point of view, I’d like to see more disclosure from businesses of their direct results to be able to build up a bigger body of proven evidence, and I hope the use of Twitter will speed up the changes needed in almost every business strategy to become more relevant and useful to consumers.

And a way to delete multiple DMs at once!

* Have you attended a tweetup?

Yep. Some small gatherings, and the Twinterval organised by the founders of Twestival – really annoys me I’ve missed both Twestivals so far due to work/family commitments.

* Have you evangelised Twitter? If so, any success?

I’ve promoted it to friends and colleagues, and seen a reasonable number join – although the mainstream media coverage has done more if I’m honest!

I’ve also introduced several titles to using it, and the early indications are that it’s becoming a valuable communication tool for marketing, PR, customer service and engagement.

Oh, and I do run a blog dedicated to microblogging (Including Tumblr, Seesmic etc alongside Twitter) at http://www.140char.com. (Update: Now no longer running, but all posts have been imported onto TheWayoftheWeb..net)

* Do you have any self-imposed policies regarding your use of Twitter?

Not really – just apply a bit of common sense before I mention anything regarding work or personal items about my family. I’m pretty open about myself, but I have to respect my employers, colleagues and family.

* How do you see your use of Twitter developing this year?

I think the only change for my personal account is that I’m following less people – I’m reaching the limit of how many people I could hope to have meaningful interactions with.

For business use, I can’t really say until the Twitter monetisation plans are in place, but I’d expect it to be a core part of almost every digital marketing plan.

Daniel blogs at http://www.thewayoftheweb.net. And you can follow him on Twitter here.

Interview originally posted at georgehopkin.com.

Don’t assume social media solutions are the only answer

Out of a long and convoluted debate on Twitter came one important point which is easy to overlook when you’re dealing with social media and buzz marketing. It’s one that other people have alluded to, when they’ve written reminders that social media marketing isn’t the only tool in a digital marketing toolbox, but I haven’t seen it stated clearly…

Some people won’t want to be social.

There, I said it. As a Community Marketing Manager, and a fairly social person, it’s easy for me to think about ways to integrate community into everything I do, and provide research and solutions that show the power community marketing can have.

But a proportion of people just want a clean transaction.

So to prove you really can put community everywhere – in this case it’s about listening and facilitating those members of the community to be able to go straight to the action/transaction and bypass community if they want. And allowing everyone else that wants to engage, to be able to do it on their terms, and be encouraged to do it.

I’d wager those seeking a clean transaction will either be performing a chore – paying a bill for example, and that the clean transaction seekers will be a minority, because industries have been striving to that end for years, and it isn’t working