Good Saturday morning Pilgrims!
Today’s Beal Deal guest has gone by many names in her career–including Dancing Thunder at some point–but we lovingly know her as Kim Krause Berg. You know those people that you can’t help smile and want to hug every time you see them? Yeah, I feel that way every time I see Kim. She has a kind heart and a mind for usability that is pretty much unmatched in my humble opinion.
I reached out to Kim to ask her about the sale of her forum, her passion in life, and why usability is critical to any marketing campaign.
Pour your morning java and enjoy!
1. You built Cre8asiteforums into an awesome resource. What was the key to its success?
The legacy of the forums, I think, is that the membership then and now connected with each other into a family
By August of 2002 that small club had a following and Cre8asiteforums was launched with the help of some of the members and free hosting by a very good friend of mine. The legacy of the forums, I think, is that the membership then and now connected with each other into a family. My only “rules” were to treat everyone with respect, leave your ego at the door, and before posting ask yourself if what you are writing is true, necessary and kind. We became “the thinkers’ forums” because I and many members love to look past the surface of topics. You know how the questions are the same in forums like Cre8asiteforums and so are the answers. The membership itself never seemed to be satisfied with or interested in topics with simple answers. They prefer to pull out another dimension to explore.
To be honest, I’ve seen so many forums in the web development, design, online marketing space that try to start out and fizzle out very fast. Some have come to Cre8asiteforums for help, thinking we must, have a magic formula. They ask if they should buy posts and make up fake members. Crazy stuff like that. They have it all wrong. You can’t fake being real. Brett Tabke, Dani Horiwitz of DaniWeb, Jill Whalen, the late Jim Wilson of Jim’s World, Rand Fishkin of the SEOMoz community, Aaron Wall from SEOBook and when he took over Threadwatch…..each has/had extraordinary passion for their work. Just look at Aaron’s list of forums to see which ones exist today.
In the earliest days of Cre8asiteforums I made so many mistakes because I never felt that the forums was mine. I refused to make decisions without getting everyone’s opinion and trust me, that habit cost me both revenue and people. It was many years before I had the confidence to accept my role as forums “mom” and trust that the moderators and membership had full faith and trust in me. My personal style is similar to Rand Fishkin’s (who was a moderator once), in that I shared my life with the community. When you let members, and especially the moderators who volunteer their time to help out into your life, they invite you into their lives. This is how the “family” part of the forums is created and why selling it was a big deal to me. I needed to know that every member and moderator would be taken care of.
2. What made Jim Boykin the perfect buyer for the Cre8asiteforums?
It had been a very bad year. I lost all trust in anyone from the SEO industry and lost confidence in my work.
Jim persisted and I agreed to talk to him on the phone. I’ll never forget that day. It had been a very bad year. I lost all trust in anyone from the SEO industry and lost confidence in my work. There was only one possible solution I had been visualizing on a daily basis and wouldn’t you know it? Jim described that exact plan to me that day! He not only made an offer to purchase Cre8asiteforums, but he wanted to hire me to continue to run it. He would give me a team to handle the technical side and the time consuming Administrator duties so that I could be “out front” with the members. But he wasn’t done there. He had no plans to change the forums into an AdSense nightmare. In fact, he would stay out of my way and together we could work on community building and ways to reward and support the membership.
Then, he asked if I would work for him because he loved my usability work and wanted to bring in an expert to grow the usability conversions arm of his growing company. And oh yes, I could work from my home office and speak at conferences with the Ninjas. I also knew he was buying WebmasterWorld, which made me laugh out loud when he told me (and yes, I kept that secret!) At some conference somewhere, I remember running into Brett Tabke in a pub and we briefly shared that we were not sure where to go next with our forums or even if forums were needed anymore. If Brett trusted Jim, so would I.
3. You’ve seen lots of trends in the industry over the years, yet “usability” remains the foundation of any marketing campaign. Why is that?
I admit I have way too much fun proving my worth around marketers.
Site owners invest in web site promotion rather than web site design. Their budget is funneled into PPC, AdSense, paid links, sponsored positions, Facebook ads, local search directories, SEO for rank, keyword research, etc. but not the site design or landing pages. Remember web rings, link directories, banner exchanges, and all the tools built for search engine submission? There were dueling papers on the mathematical equations behind Google’s PR score. Businesses had to pay $300 annually to be added to Yahoo!’s directory.
If a homepage, product page, category page, or a paid link to a specific landing are not designed to carry out the promise that brought the searcher there, what is the point? User experience, calls to action, usability conversions, customer experience and accessibility so that all people can engage with the page marketers paid to get them to has never been a foundation for marketing. Just look at the agendas of the leading conferences in the search engine marketing industry.
Still, usability isn’t the miracle cure and in all honesty, it’s one small part of the puzzle for what’s truly needed for exceptional online marketing. For starters, who is a web site “usable” for? I love to start these conversations with people because I can see their light bulbs going off. They’ll start rattling off their perfect customer, but have no idea why Google Analytics indicates their customers are not finishing tasks. Human behavior, emotions, environments, disabilities, heck, even people like me who need help to see web pages are not part of the search marketing discussion. Well, at least for most.
I admit I have way too much fun proving my worth around marketers. One such moment was when Jim and I were discussing a client’s homepage. If ads are the goal of the site I leave them to that fantasy. But this was a case where the revenue stream was hiding. I asked Jim to find it. Fifteen minutes and many guesses later I couldn’t stand it anymore and I showed him the tiny text link the homepage had that led to where the company expected to earn its revenue. I LOVE moments like this, especially when a client insists they don’t need a usability conversions audit but are more than happy to invest in keyword research.
4. You’re a consultant, speaker, and a writer. What do you enjoy the most, and why?
Writing. I’ve always been a writer. I was a poet and love creative writing. I wrote some plays, studied Journalism, was the Editor of my college newspaper, and I once thought I’d settle into Broadcast writing. I write because I need the outlet. Also, my mind works very fast and when I speak or talk on the phone it feels like the words pile up and every 4th one comes out. Writing lets me slow down the word train.
5. What’s your passion outside of the marketing industry?
I’m deeply connected to Native American spirituality.
6. You now go by “Kim Kopp Krause Berg.” Are you done adding names or is this just a game to mess with our heads?
Just be glad you didn’t know me when I was called Dancing Thunder!
Thanks to Dancing Thunder for letting us take a peek inside her life.