Looking for Something?
Browsing Category

Marketing/PR

Could Guest Posting be the Perfect PR Launch Pad for Your Business?

Author:

bigstock-Public-Relations-Word-Cloud-39228943 Expert. It’s a short word that conveys a lot of meaning. Whether you are working in a company or are an  entrepreneur, you likely want to be known as an expert or authority in your field. The big question is how to take your skills and knowledge turn that into expert status.

While social media acts as a platform for experts, if you are just starting out it can be difficult to cut through the clutter. Twitter alone has an average of 58 million tweets per day, so you may have a hard time getting your four or five tweets a day noticed by anyone.

Even with amazing content and ideas, to break into the expert realm, you should consider to adopting some classic PR tactics.  When you think about PR it may feel a bit old school.

PR often gets overlooked in favor of the latest and greatest platforms but there is a reason it has been around for so long. It works, especially in a world super focused on social media.  When PR is used in conjunction with social media, it can help you put your name on the map that much faster.

Guest Posting as Your PR Launchpad

For new or lesser known experts, authorship programs where you place guest blog posts offer a proven and practical way to support marketing and business goals. Sure, you can tell everyone you are an expert, but having articles you’ve authored on the top blogs in your niche says it for you.

As a strategy, guest blog posting has taken a few minor hits as several high profile blogs announced they would no longer take guest blog posts. Then  in July 2013, Google announced it was making changes to its link building scheme, and certain types of links in guest posts would be penalized. What all of this means is that if you insert links into your articles they need to add value. This change is positive for guest posting programs as it helps improve the overall quality of guest posts.

Despite these developments, rest assured, guest posting is alive and well. For would-be experts, writing and placing guest posts is truly the perfect way to get started with PR. You can control the message, test out story ideas, and do it all on a shoestring budget.

Building Your Street Cred

It is no accident that when you land on a top blogger or podcaster’s web site that they have the logos of blogs or media outlets where they’ve featured.  By guest posting, you can quickly build up a portfolio of your work to showcase on your site either by using logos and/or creating a press page.  That information acts as shorthand for prospects and influencers when they visit your site. With a quick glance, they can see you are respected within your industry.

For speaking engagements, conference organizers can see you have a track record providing new ideas and stimulating discussion on timely topics within your industry. One of their goals is to showcase speakers that draw attendees, so if you have  been out there creating buzz, you are going to be much more appealing as a potential speaker.

Plus, guest posting can expose you to new audiences and connect you to key players in your industry. While you should always guest post without expecting anything in return, throughout this process you will build relationships with bloggers and editors and become better known in your industry. Over time, more people will read your work giving you an even bigger platform as an expert.

All of this helps to open up doors you may not have imagined. Great businesses are truly built one relationship at a time and a well-written post may result in a dream client or a show organizer wanting you to speak at their event. You just never know.

Preparing for the Media Spotlight

As you have been guest posting when you start pitching mainstream media, you’ll have far more credibility as an expert source.  When they Google you or visit your web site they will quickly be able to get a sense of who you are. The writer, editor or producer will see you’ve been out there talking about related topics and understand that you are a credible source for a story.

Pitching mainstream media can be intimidating, especially starting out. Through guest posting you will have a chance to refine your message and build confidence sharing your stories. When it’s time for you to pitch the media, you’ll have the confidence you need to sell the story or pull off a killer interview. In short, you’ll be ready for your big break in the mainstream media and be able to make the most of it.

Guest blog posting offers any expert an ideal platform for building awareness and credibility than can act as a key building block for other PR opportunities. PR should not be overlooked but serve as a complement to social media or other marketing efforts.

How has guest blog posting help build your expert status? Share in the comments below.

Image credit: Bigstock

No More Excuses: Top 10 Reasons to Start a Business Blog in 2014

Author:

bigstock-Beautiful-woman-with-thoughtfu-29888243(1) A few weeks ago I taught a blogging webinar for consultants as part of a social media education series. At the beginning, I did quick survey to gauge the knowledge base. Not surprisingly, my audience ranked high on awareness and interest in social media, and also appeared savvy in running their businesses.

What I didn’t expect, though, were the reasons accomplished business owners didn’t have a blog: lack of confidence, worrying about that first step, not knowing where to start. See a theme here? It’s all about getting started. For all you “blogcrastinators,” 2014 is the year to launch your small business blog. With each passing day, you’re missing out on one of the best, easiest, and most fun ways to grow your business (yes I said fun). Not convinced? Here are the top ten reasons:

#10-Be an original: Blogging was the first social media: If you think showing your social media chops consists of retweeting other people’s ideas, reposting industry articles on LinkedIn, or asking provocative questions on Facebook, you’re not seeing the whole picture. Blogging is the granddaddy online social media provocateur, and in a larger sense, the hub of all social media network connections—so go be an integral part of it.

#9-Regurgitated content doesn’t help your business: All that social media you are blasting out might be interesting, but it doesn’t have your thumbprint on it. Why not take advantage of social media to its fullest? Even better, your blog will provide you with an ample, endless supply of content to use, repackage, and repurpose for other marketing. In other words, promote yourself first, others later.

#8-Add instant cred to your business: Want to impress a client, customer, or new prospect? That’s guaranteed when you mention your blog in conversation, include it on your email signature, or any other subtle PR move—people will automatically take your business more seriously. It tells the world that you’ve made the investment to reach, influence, and connect with your audience, and those perceptions help your business star rise.

#7-Create an “open space” for thought: One of the great things about blogging is that it will stimulate and trigger an amazing cornucopia of ideas. You’ll find yourself constantly scouring for interesting ideas to post (in a good way), getting inspired to tackle topics you wouldn’t have dreamed of otherwise, and feeling the push to research new topics of interest. Blogs provide a great venue for this. You have to experience it to believe it, but trust me you will.

#6-Win-win with the competition: Check out the blogs of your competitors and see what they’re writing about, their style, how often they post. Then make sure you are writing better and differently, with a style unique to your business. Stand out in the blog crowd. And of course when you’re pushing yourself to higher standards, it nudges everyone else to get on that higher ground too.

#5-Become a better writer: They say a habit takes three months to adopt: When you start blogging on a regular basis, I guarantee you’ll find that your writing becomes more crisp, focused, and better as time goes on. Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes, and nowhere else is that more true than the art and discipline of writing.

#4-Get out of your comfort zone: It’s not often we get to email an industry expert to get an interview,  become an instant authority overnight by reading up on a topic voraciously, or whip up commentary post on anything we desire. Whatever path your blog takes, you will meet interesting people, learn about new things, and blogging will surely stand out as a unique, creative part of your business—and life.

#3 Become the master of your blog domain: Don’t drive yourself crazy with high expectations that you will be blogging on a daily basis—That is just not going to happen (feel free to prove me wrong though). Start your postings slow and build up—consider once a month or every other month. Then add in as you can. Posting every week on a certain day is a noble act, but only commit to what you can reasonably do. I advocate regularly and religiously, but not ridiculously.

#2-Cultivate a new way to express yourself: For those fearing the combo click of the keyboard with the white computer screen, you’ll be surprised at how you enjoy writing when it’s a topic you’re interested in, and even passionate about (here’s hoping you find your business at least interesting, otherwise you should find another lot in life). That’s not to say that some posts won’t be difficult to write, or get rewritten 20 times and you’re still not happy, but in the end, you will be proud of your accomplishments as a whole. That I know to be true.

#1-Your small gains can lead to big changes: I’m not sure what the attendees of my blog webinar did after that course I taught a few weeks ago, but I can only hope it pushed them to the next step of starting a blog, whether it was to check out blog templates, or commit to some topics to write about, and in some way ultimately get over their fears to begin a blog. Speaking from personal experience, having and nurturing my own blog for three years led to a regular monthly post here at BlogWorld and a cascade of blogging work for my own business. Ask any successful entrepreneur, anyone who has changed a habit, or any small business owner that started a blog—it’s totally worth it on all levels. So start 2014 with your blog!

What’s your excuse for not starting a blog? What’s holding you back?

Image credit: BigStock

How to Make More Money by Creating a Sense of Urgency with Email

Author:

Imagine for a moment that you’re trying on jeans (everyone’s favorite task, right?) and you find a pair that fit you well, but don’t blow you away. You might think to yourself, “Well, maybe I’ll keep looking, and if I don’t find anything better, I’ll come back later this week and purchase them.”

But what if, as you’re exiting the fitting room, you see a large sign that reads, “TODAY ONLY: All Jeans 50% Off!” Even though you’re still on the fence about how good they make your bottom look, you’d rather purchase the jeans now than miss on such a good sale.

If buying jeans isn’t your thing, imagine this scenario: You’re at your favorite outdoor supply store and you see they have tents on display. You know your tent at home has a hole in it, so you decide to check them out. One tent in particular stands out to you, but it is a budget-buster, so you decide to put off the purchase. What’s the likelihood that you’ll ever return to that store to buy that tent?

However, imagine that as you’re getting ready to leave without the tent, your spouse calls and says that your neighbors invited you to go camping this weekend. Even though it means pulling out the credit card, you need a tent in just a few days, so you make the purchase.

One more scenario to image! Let’s say that you’re shopping for a new car. You test drive a certain make and model and enjoy the ride, but are hesitant to pull the trigger on making the purchase. Then the car salesman mentions to you that this is the last one they have in stock, and its unlikely that they’ll get any others in for several months, and as you’re discussing the potential deal, another family walks up to the car and begins looking at it.

Hey! That’s my car! BACK OFF!

What do all of these scenarios have in common? They create a sense of urgency for the customer. And lucky for you, email is a great way to relay this information to your potential target market. Let’s take a look at how to create a sense of urgency for your customers using your email list:

jeans Buying Blue Jeans: Expiring Price/Benefit

First, think of our jeans example. What created the sense of urgency in this scenario is the one-day sale. In other words, a lower price would be expiring quickly. This can take on many forms:

  • Limited time discount (like the 50% off sale)
  • Normal price changing soon (for example, the clothing company is manufacturing jeans differently, so starting with the next batch, the price will be higher)
  • Extra benefit expiring (for today only, the jeans come with a free pair of shoes)

Email is a great way to relay this kind of information to your potential customers because it is a quick way to reach people. Don’t just send one email though. People typically respond more readily when they see the information at least three times. So, send an initial email to announce that a price or benefit is expiring, a follow-up reminder, and a final reminder right before the expiration time/date.

You can boost the response in the follow-up reminder by including some social proof. For example, you could say, “500 people already took advantage of today’s limited time discount. Don’t get left behind!”

Remember to set up your email campaign so that people who purchase your product after the first email do not receive the second two emails further reminding them of the discount. People get crabby when they receive emails about products they’ve already purchased.

tent Buying Tents: Immediate Need

Next, think of our tent scenario. In this case, there was no pricing benefit, but rather, the person really needed the product immediately. Without a tent, you and your spouse would not be able to go camping with friends over the weekend.

There are certain times of year when everyone on your email list could have an immediate need for your product. For example, if you’re selling tents, the week before a holiday weekend in the summer is a time when a lot of people go camping. Many people have an immediate need.

When this is the case, send at least one email that outlines the specific benefits of your product, which creates awareness, and at least one follow-up that plays on the sense of urgency. In our tent example, my first email might talk about when my tent is better than every other tent out there, while my second email would play to the fact that customers could use the tent right away.

Another option is to identify a specific group of people from among your email list who could use your product right now. For example, are you tracking everyone who purchases a tent? If so, those people probably also need other camping supplies?

Going camping this weekend with your new tent? Don’t let chilly nights ruin your experience: check out our heated sleeping bags!

Just because people got to the end of your sales funnel by purchasing a product doesn’t mean you can’t convert them into a repeat customer.

car Buying Cars: Limited Quantities

Lastly, use the threat of limited quantities to make people feel a sense of urgency. That’s exactly what the car salesman did in our example. We all have this knee-jerk reaction to claim something when it is the last one available. We don’t want to miss out!

Keep in mind that for digital products, the time is what you could make limited. It doesn’t make sense to say “We only have 100 copies of this ebook left” because when a product is digital, you don’t run out. But you could say, “In one week, we will no longer be offering this product for sale.” Disney is a great example of a company who does this. They put their films in a vault, so they are only available for sale for a limited amount of time. You can also say, “We’re only selling 100 more copies; then this product will no longer be available.” People often do this with webinars, consulting sessions, and so forth by saying that seats are limited.

As soon as quantities become limited, send out an email to relay this information. Even if you have thousands left, some people will buy simply because they know that the product won’t be available forever.

You can and should also send email updates as quantities start to sell. Typically, it makes sense to note when they’re half gone. So if your initial emails says that you’re only selling 100 more items, you should send an email update when there are only 50 left. Then, send further emails as the numbers continue to dwindle.

Again, make sure that people who already purchased the product don’t get the follow-up emails.

Why Email Works

You can also use other outlets to create a sense of urgency. I recommend that you tell people about price expiration, need, and limited quantities using social media, mailings, etc. as well. But email works because you’re making sure that people see every message. That repetition is how you can get people to pull out their credit cards. While someone might miss your tweet in an ever-moving stream or toss out your postcard with the junk mail without even glancing at it, with email, they will at least see the subject line.

So make that subject line count. Make people feel a sense of urgency. Pound it into their heads that they need to be NOW or they’ll miss out on your fantastic product.

Influencer Driven Content Marketing: Lee Odden Explains this Powerful Tool for Businesses

Author:

lee odden Last year, you couldn’t walk ten steps down the hall of any business conference without hearing the words content marketing. Bloggers have been doing it for years, but the idea of content marketing and how it can help your business has been thrust into the spotlight.

More recently, however, the mummers I hear center around a different buzz word: influencers. Influencers aren’t the people in your industry who start trends or break new ground. They’re the people in your industry who spread the trends and report the news. They turn a kernel of an idea into something everyone is talking about. So, business owners are starting to realize the advantages of connecting with influencers and turning them into brand advocates.

But what happens when the worlds of content marketing and influencer marketing meet? As Lee Odden suggests, the result is something even more powerful. In a post on his TopRank blog, Lee writes,

“Influencer driven content marketing is one of the best examples of how digital marketing and public relations are converging. The integration of messaging, content, social media and engagement right along with performance measurement and business outcomes should be the focus of any business that wants to differentiate and grow.”

Working with influencers not separately, but as part of your content strategy, means doing more than just connecting with the right people so they talk about your business. It means integrating them into your plan for spreading educational, inspirational, and entertaining content. Influencers don’t even need to mention your brand to have a serious effect on your bottom line.

Let’s go over three steps to get started with influencer drive content marketing:

  • Step One: Identify the influencers.

These are NOT necessarily the people with the most social followers. Quality is more important. How likely are those followers to do what the influencer says? I know people on Twitter with millions of followers who don’t have the influence that someone with ten thousand has.

In addition, someone who has a ton of influence may not be right for your specific needs. How likely is the audience to be looking for the kind of content you have to share? The more targeted the audience, the better.

  • Step Two: Determine the type of content you can create.

Every influencer will be different, and your budget also plays a factor here. One of the best options is to have an influencer create content for you in the form of blog posts and videos, but the bigger the influencer, the bigger your budget needs to be (unless you have something else to trade, like free service/products, a large audience, etc.).

You can also look at ways to create content that puts more of the work on YOU. Interviews, for example, are an awesome way to have an influencer create content for your brand without you needing a huge budget. You can also quote them in your blog posts (like I’m doing in this post for example) or do case studies. Most influencers will share content where they are featured.

Lastly, you can also create content that answers questions an influencer poses online. In this case, you’re targeting that influencer, but in an indirect way. This is the easiest option, but also has the lowest potential of an influencer sharing your content.

  • Step Three: Reach out to the influencer and begin building that relationship.

When you publish a post that features someone or answers a question, let the influencer know. One of the biggest mistakes I see people making (and a mistake I’ve made in the past) is creating awesome content, but being too humble or shy to reach out to the people who should be spreading this content. Don’t spam people with links, but let them know when you’ve published something of value to their audience, especially when it features them.

Also important: if you’re paying for an influencer to create content for you, make sure you discuss promotion as well. If a large parenting blogger writes about your brand of cereal but doesn’t tweet the link or pin an enticing image, that post might go unnoticed. Always set clear expectations not just for the content creation, but also for the promotion of the content.

Don’t Forget About Our Giveaway!

I’m featuring Lee today not only because his advice is super smart, but also because we recently announced that he’ll be presenting a keynote at NMX 2014 in Las Vegas this coming January. If you missed the keynoter announcement, check it out for more information about all five of the keynote speakers we announced.

To celebrate, we’re giving away previous sessions from all of our keynoters. Yes, they are completely free! Get access here before time runs out!

“Own the Good You Do”: Scott Stratten’s Advice for Businesses on Twitter

Author:

scott stratten Every time a business joins Twitter, an angel gets its wings. It means they’re going to at least try the social media thing. Getting businesses to realize the power of social media is half the battle.

Whether or not they use this platform well is another story. Recently, I like the advice Scott Stratten wrote on his blog, UnMarketing, about the art of engaging with your fans, not just responding to customer complaints. Writes Scott,

Own the good you do. Value the positive voice.  It’s too easy only to focus on the negative.  You need to make time to thank customers who love what you do.  Be proud and say thank you. […]

Don’t leave all those high-fives hanging.  Take time away from fighting fires, and seeking out new customers, to thank the ones you have. This is the where the opportunity for brand endearment begins.  Don’t value your customers based only on purchases already made.  A happy customer is your best marketer.  Grow those relationships.”

There is absolutely positively no better marketing tool than word of mouth, and that’s not something you can buy. Think about it: when you’re going to make a large purchase, what’s more important: what the company says about themselves or what others are saying about the company? I will spend more money based on a friend’s recommendation, and I’m not alone. A 2010 study by Opinion Research Corp revealed that 59% of consumers consult friends and family members to get their opinions before making a purchase.

All it takes, sometimes, is a little recognition. A simple thank you on Twitter is the equivalent of a smile and a “come again” when someone is leaving your brick-and-mortar store.

Check out the rest of Scott’s post and his entire UnMarketing blog for more advice on using Twitter for your business.

Did you see our recent announcement?

We’re proud to announce that Scott is presenting a keynote at NMX 2014 in January. He’s always one of our highest-rated speakers, and we loved his keynote in 2010. See more information about Scott and the rest of our recently-announced keynoters here!

Want a free recording of one of Scott’s previous sessions? Check out this giveaway!

Struggle to Juggle: Three Marketing Kickstarters To Do Right Now

Author:

Multi-tasking Business Woman

National Small Business Week celebrates its 50th anniversary this June on a high note:  According to the Small Business Administration, half of Americans own or work for a small business. While this is a glowing testament to America’s entrepreneurial spirit, one of the biggest conundrums small businesses still continually face is marketing: knowing they need promotion to grow and thrive but often lacking the time, money, and people to do the work. “Of all the classes we offer during San Francisco Small Business Week, marketing courses are the most popular,” said Jane Gong, a City coordinator of the nation’s largest such event.

So what can small businesses do lickety-split to get started, brush up, or recommit to a marketing program? Here are some ways to start or reboot your  efforts: After that, it’s up to you to make it a habit.

#1 Ask, Don’t Tell (When it Comes to Social Networks)

News flash to small business owners: social media is no longer a “trend” or “sexy”– it’s a reality of an integrated marketing plan. “Small business owners need to stop complaining about having little or no understanding of social media and no time to learn it,” said Brian Moran said in an article interview. “One of my favorite sayings is, ‘If you don’t have the time to do something right, when are you going to find the time to do it over?” Gong said, “When people are starting a business, the questions we get asked most about are social media. They think they need to be on social networks to increase their returns, but if you’re a mom and pop corner store, they are not sure it makes sense.”

Kickstarter: Go where your customers social-ize: Though it seems intuitive to get your target audience’s input to help drive marketing decisions, many businesses don’t, not because of lack of desire, but preoccupation with five hundred other tasks at hand. In the end though, the time you spend upfront getting feedback will prevent wasted time later. Though Facebook appears to be the most popular social network for small businesses, get the raw data from your  customers and prospects: survey in-person, by email, or quickly and free online . They’ll appreciate that you want their insight and the input will help shape your plans.

Once you establish your social media direction, get educated for free online. Also, check out what your competition is doing and get inspiration from the  brands you admire. Start small by offering something of value to get fans and followers, such as a Facebook-only deal, a discount for Twitter followers, or showcase customer photos on Pinterest. But start something and do it consistently as you build and fine-tune your social media program.

#2 Give Your Blog Nine Lives (or At Least Five)

Chances are if you’re reading this article, you already have a blog or want to: as most bloggers will attest to, it’s one of the easiest and straightforward ways to promote your business. Did you also know there are at least five things you can do to transform a stale blog to fresh content? The best place to start is to check your stats (or tags and categories) and determine the best performing ones. If you don’t have a blog yet, come up with a popular industry topic and use that as a starting point.

Going through the stats exercise for my own blog, I found a piece from a year ago about J.C. Penney’s rebranding disaster was my third top-read post of all time. Upon further research I found out why: On a Google search of “JC Penny Branding Disaster”, my blog comes up fourth, below PRDaily and Forbes and above Huffington Post. Even though the position could change, I got great SEO by writing about a popular topic when the story was blowing up in the media. Now, to use it for my own purposes…

Kickstarter: Repurpose. Repurpose. Repurpose. Did someone say repurpose? For the J.C. Penney blog, potential ideas are: 1) Update blog to reflect the recent booting of its CEO and apology ad and republicize on all social networks; 2) Use as partial content for quick blog countdown “The Five Worst Branding Disasters of All Time”; 3) Turn blog into online story and publicize; 4) Reformat with some quick visuals and create Slideshare and blast out to social networks. 5) If I were feeling particularly ambitious, I could create a short video that tells the story of what happened (a search revealed just one interview.) People are hungry for online information in different ways to learn about big events, industry trends, and practical tips–you can be the expert, go-to source no matter which they choose.

#3 Putting the Cure in Curation: the Multi-tasker Extraordinaire

Content curation for your business can be  a great marketing Swiss Army Knife, but it’s a lot of work. There are services that  do the legwork for free, collecting relevant content in your industry, monitoring your competition, and  even prepping a targeted customer newsletter. “I use the analogy that people really are looking for water,” said Scott Scanlon, CEO of You Brand, Inc. in a content curation video.” …ultimately they don’t want to drink out of a fire-hose–they want a glass of water. If you can be there providing that glass of water on a consistent basis you’ll begin to garner their trust.” Bonus: Content curation services enable topic discovery for your blog, web site, or email marketing campaign–the possibilities are endless.

Kickstarter: Max out a free curation serviceScoop.it paper.liCurata, newcomer Swayy and other services specialize in online curation from thousands of online sources to slash time and effort. Take advantage  to get information compiled, organized, and leverage for your own purposes. If you use a curation service for customer newsletters, put your own brand stamp with commentary or tweaking a headline for your audience.

Too pressed for time to try any of these? Break down kickstarters into baby steps and do one part each week.

Image Credit: Bigstock

Find the Perfect Bite For Customers’ Mobile Appetite

Author:

mobile appetite

Mobile web site up and running. Check. Reading latest trends on marketing for smartphones and tablets. Double Check. Wondering what to serve up next to your mobile audience. Triple Check.

Now is the time to…pause between courses. First off, congratulations on making the jump to mobile. Next up:  Step back and look at your business big picture and assess what to add to your mobile marketing menu.

Consider these factors before embarking on a deeper financial and time investment:

#1 Focus on short and long term business goals: Does mobile fit with how your customers engage with your business? Are you a local business seeking new customers? Do you have an established clientele? An online store with a wide-reaching audience?  These are but a few questions to answer before proceeding.

#2 Mobile is part of your marketing strategy, not  plate du jour: Mobile promotion is an extension of your  integrated marketing program and should not operate in its own silo nor be a stand-in for a plan. In the excitement of the collective mobile moment, best intentions can get burned, resulting in a disconnect between your online and offline messaging and brand look and feel—not to mention confusing your customers.

#3 To-go with your customer adds responsibility. Sounds heavy but it’s true. Or as Ford Global Head of Social Media Scott Monty said at his NMX keynote this January, “Mobile is like a piece of jewelry, you have to be invited there.” He advocated using that privilege wisely. Otherwise, your business could be dismissed just as quickly as it was sitting down at the table.

So…are you hungry to go further down the mobile marketing path? Here are some popular and effective ideas to consider:

The Free Appetizer: Search

One of the most basic but sometimes overlooked mobile marketing tactics is listing your business on mobile search engines, portals, and web sites. And if you’re a neighborhood business, even better: Google reports that half of all mobile searches are local. Keep these three things in mind:

  1. Duplication is a good thing: mobile search is often separate than “desktop” search.
  2. Use consistent contact information everywhere.
  3. List your business in as many broad categories as possible so it’s found searching multiple ways.

Google Maps and Facebook are the most popular search methods, but other major ones include Google Local, Bing Business Portal, Yahoo Local, and YP. Don’t forget about secondary listings like CitySearch, city and neighborhood directories, and industry/trade group listings. Make sure you are also covered on mobile business sites like Yelp, Facebook, and Foursquare. Think of all the places you do business with, official and unofficial partners, and awareness opportunities.

The Weekly Special: SMS (Short Messaging Service aka Texting) and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service)

According to Mogreet, SMS texts have a 95% open rate and are accessible to 98% of all mobile consumers, making it one of the most cost-effective, targeted marketing tactics—yet one of the most underutilized. Reason? Companies sometimes overlook the humble text as not sexy enough or  right “image”…they might want to think again, but proceed with care.

While the high open rates is great news, there are caveats: Make your text count with a strong CTA, especially since some receivers may incur a fee, and there are also reams of intimidating text marketing guidelines. The three most important ones:

  1. Get  opt-out permission.
  2. Document it.
  3. Be clear on what the receiver will get.

(See Guide to Text Messaging Regulations and Best Practices for complete rules).

There are numerous ways to laser-focus your text program: day/time (lunch specials, holidays), customer segments (repeat buyers, zip codes), or exclusive offers (VIP, limited-time), to name a few. There are no official “rules” on frequency, but general guidelines are no more than once a week or as part of a specific campaign. There are many text service vendors and prices vary on quantities and features.

MMS is a bigger time and money investment but also more attention-grabbing. Add video, mobile coupons, QR codes, music files, or any other visual elements. The same rules apply as SMS except it may eat up more data for the receiver or be slower loading.

Cross-promote SMS/MMS and provide ample opportunities to sign up on your web site, place of business, social media, business cards—anywhere your customers can see it.

The Fine Diner: Mobile Apps 

You might think apps are reserved for big budgets, large companies, and out of your league. These days, apps for your small business are within reach. There are many reasons to consider this prix fixe: For starters, if you are local business, research shows users prefer apps to connect.  Apps also show that you are catering to your customers, and lastly, they serve as a virtual mobile screen billboard  24/7. That said, an app should not replace a mobile web site, but serve as an alternate way to interact with your business. Make the app useful, intuitive, and require only few steps to complete a task. Be sure to cross-promote the app on your web, social sites, and ads.

There are several ways you can build an app for an iPhone or Android  (the most popular, but others are available): vendor-created or DIY . Because apps are now an established category, small businesses can take advantage of common pre-built functionality like maps, online ordering, appointment setting, social sharing, and other tasks that require  simple tailoring to your business. Not surprisingly, the more customization, the more expensive the app.

What’s the special sauce for your business?

These ideas may stir up  your mobile marketing recipe—there are also ads (including in-app ads), video,  and other tactics that haven’t even been introduced yet. Mobile marketing is a fast-paced, ever-changing landscape. Whatever approaches you take—like a new entrée—taste-test it, refine it, or decide it’s not delicious enough and scrap it altogether before making a big time or money commitments.

Image Credit: Altered, from Bigstock

The Mobile Majority Wants Your Small Business

Author:

mobile small business Remember when mobile phones used to be about..making a call? Neither do I. The explosive growth of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices over the past few years has drastically and permanently changed the way we socialize, work, and do business. The net-net? It’s imperative to travel with your customers and prospects wherever they go.

In fact, a recent report revealed that 28% of smartphone users and 55% of tablet users shop online: That means they are searching, evaluating, or making purchases—possibly all three in one fell swoop. That’s why small businesses—whether  a consultant, online site, or retail—are now expected to serve up discoverable, easy to navigate, and actionable content on mobile devices. If not, there is a gaping hole of awareness, customer and  prospect interaction, and the opportunity for your competition to grab business.

Consider these recent mobile device statistics:

Convinced?

Even though you know it’s the “right” move for your business, thinking about the effort required can be overwhelming, or perhaps you don’t even know where to start. The good news is that it’s easier than ever to position your business in the mobile marketing game without reshuffling your plans, allocating a huge budget, or calling yourself a tech-genius.

Depending on whether you have a store-front, are a consultant, ecommerce site, or other business model, you will have one or more content areas to mobile-ize. Additional factors to consider will be your overall marketing goals, tools you use to promote your business, and how often you communicate with your customers and prospects.

Let’s start making your content mobilicious:

  • Entice with easy-to-read mail: The great thing about optimizing email for mobile devices is that you’ll get a two-for-one: Not only will your email be easier to read, visually pleasing, and clear on what action to take, it will result in a better promotion on any size screen. Here are some rules of thumb:
    • Keep the text short and punchy: Edit. Edit. Edit. What email wouldn’t benefit from that?
    • Use time and space wisely with your Call-to-Action (CTA): Think discounts, free offers, and new services you want to promote.
    • Have few images but make them clickable: Streamlined but effective graphics can pull double duty by being touch-friendly to navigate and also prompting action, such as pointing to social media icons, or click to buy, to name a few.
    • Let the fingers do the walking: With virtually all smartphones using a touchscreen these days, make sure your email is “finger-friendly” to open, navigate, and zoom around the content.
    • Consider getting help: If email marketing is a big part of your business, think about hiring a vendor to do the heavy lifting for you, such as Movable Ink or BrightWave Marketing.

So is your small business ready to join the mobile majority? Yes, it will require some initial work, but taking these steps today will put you front and center with your customers and prospects wherever they are, now and in the future.

Once you get on the mobile marketing train, I recommend that you stay up to speed on the trends: Because it’s a growing and ever-changing technology, being ahead of the curve will help improve your chances for mobile marketing success. Check out resources on all aspects of mobile marketing. There are tons more online.

What’s next? Start thinking about blinging out your presence with apps, QR codes, video, texting, advertising, search widgets, which will be covered in my article next month.

Image credit: Bigstock

The Unintentional Thought Leader: Seven Steps For Small Business Blogging

Author:

When I launched Marketing Sparks three years ago, “thought leadership” was not a goal. Discuss issues I care about? Yes. Stoke my desire to write? Absolutely. Maybe even attract new business as a bonus? Of course.

Over time, though, I discovered that a certain style of writing could help position my small business blog as an authority and go-to expert. That said, I use the term “thought leadership” hesitantly and humbly—it tends to sound lofty—and there are no hard and fast rules defining it. When it comes to blogging, my definition revolves around having expertise on a topic, shedding light on issues, offering a point-of-view, and sharing innovative thinking…and doing this is easier than you might think.

Here are seven steps you can take to start your own thought leadership blog or tweak your current one to elevate your content from standard fare to superior must-read.

1. Write About Your Passion

It starts with a cliché we’ve all heard: “Write from the heart.” Nothing could be more true in a thought leadership blog. That doesn’t mean pontificating or talking down to your audience, it means sharing your interest and expertise and giving that information to your audience freely. In the process, your readers will feel smarter too. Spreading insights through a blog that excites and energizes you—the kind you can’t wait to share with the online world—is contagious, and your readers will ultimately share with their own networks.

2. Choose Your Audience and They Will Choose You

As Daniel Rasmus said, “Go vertical or go home.” Pick an area to cover and stick with it. Let’s face it, we can’t all be experts on everything, and frankly, generic information is pretty useless. Think of it as a marketing campaign: Who is your target audience? Who will care about your knowledge base? What can you offer them that they can’t get elsewhere? Once you start adding value to your audience’s professional or personal life, you will slowly be viewed as a trusted source and develop a loyal following.

3. Get A Hub With Spokes

Now that you found your audience, it’s time to stimulate, educate, and even entertain them with your expertise. The key is to write on a variety of topics from your knowledge base and cast the widest net possible. When I take on my “hub” of marketing, there are a lot of “spokes” in that wheel: I write about branding, advertising, social media, events, technology—the list goes on. I also sprinkle in a diverse range of blog styles so that unpredictability is the only thing my audience can count on. That means:

  • Opinion
  • Interviews
  • Breaking news
  • Guest blogs
  • Follow-up pieces
  • Evergreen/timeless topics (my PowerPoint alternatives blog post from two years ago still garners steady hits)

Click to tweet this quote!

4. Circle-Slash Vanilla Views 

Rehashing a trending hot topic—say, Apple’s court battle with Samsung—is more about content aggregation than delivering any meaningful insight to your readers. You might get a lot of Google hits, but are not illuminating anything new. Blogging as an authority means taking a stand and doing it authentically. One of the keys is not just to understand a topic fully, but to offer readers an alternative point of view or additional insight. In other words, content that makes your blog worth reading and stand out from the crowd. As Jessica Northey said at this year’s NMX in the  panel session How To Build Your Blog Community: Three Top Bloggers Share Their Secrets, “Tell the truth, make it matter, and never be boring.” Amen to that.

5. Do Your Homework

Having earned a living as a reporter early in my career, I’ve always had a nose for news, curiosity, and a desire to ask questions. And when my reputation is at stake, I take that very seriously—and your readers will too. They count on you to do the background and research for them. Make sure you are using the best and most current information before you hit “publish.” If an important data point is missing or there is sloppy attribution, your credibility suffers. Conversely, if you get corrections from readers, cop to it, update your blog, and even thank the person for pointing it out. We’re all mere mortals…even those gunnin’ to be a thought leader.

6. There is No “Self” In Promotion

Ever heard the old saying, “Let someone else say how great you are”? Don’t promote your business or anything that smacks of it in your blog. Readers will sniff it out and run the other way. With so many choices on the Internet to spend their precious time, readers come for new ideas and practices, not thinly-veiled or overt pitches.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t market the heck out of your blog on a regular basis: Promote it to your personal and business network, leverage your social media channels by sharing and starting conversations, and of course reciprocate with other bloggers in your field. Don’t forget to mention your blog to clients and prospects when a related topic comes up. And, yes, in case you were wondering, I have gained new clients from my blog posts. Not only do prospects get a shortcut to your knowledge and skill set, it builds instant confidence in you before you’re even hired.

7. Leadership Versus Readership

There are so many blog styles: newsy updates, opinion blogs, branded blogs, affiliate marketing blogs, mommy blogs, and on and on. Choosing to do a thought leadership blog is a quieter and narrower path—dare I say “quality over quantity.” It takes time to grow your audience and build credibility, so be patient.

For most small business owners, blogging is a “sideline” to the busy life of running a company and does not pay the bills. Yet if you stay the course on the slow but sure path, you will be rewarded handsomely in personal gratification, respect, and potentially new work.

How could your blog be changed by adding a thought leader slant? What benefits would you gain from doing so?

Ramon Ray’s Five Steps for Personal Branding

Author:

As many of you may have heard, NMX (BlogWorld) recently purchased a new conference: Ramon Ray’s Small Business Summit. We’re super excited to work with Ramon, who is an absolute firecracker.

Ramon was actually a speaker at NMX 2013, where he talked about personal branding and how this affects your company’s growth. Knowing Ramon on a personal level, not just seeing a faceless Small Business Summit logo, is part of what enticed NMX to want to work with him in the first place, so he was the perfect person to speak on this topic.

His session covered an incredible amount of information in just a short 30 minutes (and you can watch the entire session as a premium member of NMX University), but today, I wanted to cover his five steps for personal branding success. (And a big thank you to Jess Boyer for helping with this post by taking notes during the session!)

Step One: Establish Your Platform

People like to put other people and businesses into neat, little boxes. If you don’t define yourself, others will do it for you. So think about what your message will be, what your brand will be. What are your strengths? What do you want people to know about you? What makes you stand out?

Step Two: Show the Hell Up!

According to Ramon, you don’t have to tweet all day long. What you do have to do, however, is be visible online and in your community. Volunteer. Join your local chamber or business networks. Look for new opportunities for people to get to know you. You can’t phone in the personal connection factor.

Step Three: Be an Online Publisher

Ramon also stated something we know extremely well here at NMX: if you aren’t online, you don’t exist. You have to lead with your content online, rather than the sell. Get out there on social media and start a blog so you can tell your story. People will listen, and once they get to know, like, and trust you, they’ll also want to do business with you.

Step Four: Plan for Media Exposure

Once you establish yourself online and in your community, the media will start to contact you, and this has a snowball effect. Media leads to more media leads to more media – provided you are an interesting story to cover. So be ready. Be personable and have your story ready to tell in a quick easy-to-understand way.

Step Five: Organize an Event

This is by far the hardest step in Ramon’s plan, but it can also be the most rewarding. You don’t have to plan the next NMX or Small Business Summit. Even on a small level, events will help you network with others in your industry, attract media attention, and boost your credibility. However, it’s important to be aware that organizing an event can be stressful and expensive. If you work with people you trust, though, it can be an incredible personal branding tool.

Remember, you can watch Ramon’s complete session, along with dozens of others about business, online content creation, publishing, social media, and more at NMX University with premium membership (our 2013 virtual ticket). Check it out today!

What’s New on the NMX Blog:

NMX 12 Days Of Giving: Day 1 – Complimentary VIP Upgrade

NMX is pleased to once again present our annual 12 Days of Giving event, where we offer a special gi...

Learn About NMX

NEW TWITTER HASHTAG: #NMX

Recent Comments