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Pinspiration Saturday: Representing Your Brand with Scott Stratten

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We’re back for another Pinspiration Saturday, our weekly series where we highlight a quote from one of our amazing speakers every week. If that quote resonates with you, we hope you’ll take a minute to share the “pinspiration” with your followers on Pinterest by pinning it! And as always, you can also share via Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or any of your favorite social networks.

Your brand is what you do after two drinks

There is a now-infamous picture of Scott Stratten pole-dancing in Las Vegas. It was during an event after-party to celebrate his latest book, and after a few drinks, he hopped on stage for some silliness. Luckily, being a little silly fits in well with Scott’s personal brand, because in about a millisecond, everyone at the party had pulled out a camera phone to take pictures. Those pictures were on the Internet before Scott even got off stage.

Now imaging if Scott worked for a brand like Disney. Pictures of him on a stripper pole at a company after-party wouldn’t be funny anymore. It would be face-palm-inducing.

In this episode of TheVegas30 Podcast (embedded above or click to watch), Scott talks about how important it is to realize that you’re always representing your employer. Says Scott, “Your brand is what you do after two drinks.” And he’s right. If you can’t control yourself and act professionally at conferences and other work-sponsored events, don’t have that second drink.

That’s not to say you can’t have fun! At NMX, we have a ton of fun, and there’s always plenty of alcohol to go around at our networking parties. If you’re there to make connections and grow your business, though, keep in mind that a first impression is lasting. Have a good time, but make sure you keep your professional goals in mind when you’re tempted to do shots at the bar or jump on stage to dance.

Scott also give a shout-out to NMX CEO Rick Calvert and talks about what it takes to put together a conference, in this episode, so this is definitely a podcast you don’t want to miss. Check it out, and don’t forget to follow Scott on Twitter at @unmarketing and give a listen to his other podcast, the UnPodcast. He’s going to be keynoting in January, so if you don’t have your ticket to NMX yet, get it now!

Four Ways Service Businesses Can Stand Out This Holiday Season

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bigstock-businessman-creative-design-39173434 Christmas Creep started even earlier this year (was it my imagination or did I see ads before Halloween?). For retail owners—both brick and mortar and online—the pressure is amped up to get in the holiday spirit, rack up sales, give deep discounts, and plaster their real and virtual storefronts with holiday decorations. But for professional services and consulting businesses, it’s a different time of year: distributing cards and gifts to clients while phone calls and emails slow down, filing more—in other words it’s low season.

Fortunately there are many ways you can stay on your customers’ radar, show appreciation for their patronage, and leave a lasting impression to start 2014 off right. So get going now with ideas from real people in the service business trenches.

Fill Someone Else’s Pockets, Not Your Own

The holiday season is a popular time for people to give back—whether donating food to shelters, taking part in a coat drive, or giving to a favorite charity. For service businesses, think about tying that donation to a meaningful cause in your industry. For example, Forward Push Media came up with a promotion for a client who does prenatal chiropractic treatments: the company is taking online donations through the season to help out moms-to-be facing financial hardships; the perfect outreach for staying true to the brand while giving back to the community.

Your Blog Can Be A Gift (Really)

Your blog is a great tool for your business year-round, but the holidays present more personal opportunities to detour from business as usual, throw in some creativity and spice, and yes, everything nice. Add to that, you can use time you’d normally allocate for follow-up calls to connect with your clients in a different way.

For example, tell a personal story that inspires you—it doesn’t need to be work-related but should remind readers of the season or what’s important in life; do a funny year-in-review, or post predictions that you hope don’t happen in 2014; think up an evergreen post that’s good all year long, such as tax deadlines if you’re an accountant, or the best months to buy furniture if you’re an interior designer. And remember, your blog doesn’t have to be written: It can be a short, crisp video (or depending on your audience, use super-hot Snapchat‘s new “Stories” feature for a holiday greeting that hang around for 24 hours).

Invite Clients “Over”

When we think of service businesses, some people envision slaving away in their PJs or crammed in a teeny cubbyhole, but this is not always the case by a long shot. Many professionals have offices with multiple employees scurrying about. That said, you won’t witness a “50% off” sign in the window. All the more reason to invite customers to your place of business during the holidays. And you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg; if you have a great idea and you promote it, they will come.

Just ask Carla Higgins, a real estate agent with Grubb and Co. For their wildly popular annual holiday promotion, Santa Claus makes an appearance at the office to entertain clients and their families, while treats are served. Mona Koussa of ehomesurf is inviting clients and prospects to the office parking lot for a “Shredding Event”. A mobile, environmentally-friendly truck will destroy confidential documents and guests can nibble on sticky buns and drink hot chocolate all the while. Plus mortgage- and real estate-related vendors will be on hand to answer questions—nice touch.

Embrace Your Inner Black Friday

When it comes to promoting, there’s no reason you can’t turn up the volume and play like the big-box retailers who thrive during the season: From having a one-day “flash sale” on your priciest services to free add-ons for 2014. Your only barrier is imagination (plus your time and ability to do the work).

This time of year, Diane Shapiro Sommerfield, a social media marketing consultant, offers 25 percent off her normal price for a new client package, which range from kick-starting a social media program to a facelift on clients’ current social networks.

These are just a few ideas to get you started on the holiday season. Are you now spurred to come up with a promotion of your own? Well tick-tock!

Editor’s note: Stay tuned! NMX will be featuring our very own holiday promotion, the 12 Days of Giveaways, where we’ll be giving away tons of freebies starting in mid-December. Want an email when the 12 Days of Giveaways starts? Make sure you are signed up to our newsletter list on the sidebar!

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20 Brilliant Bloggers Talk about Becoming an Authority

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Brilliant Bloggers is a bi-weekly series here at NMX where we look at the best posts from around the web all surrounding a specific topic. Every other week, we’ll feature a brilliant blogger, along with a huge list of more resources where you can learn about the topic. You can see more Brilliant Blogger posts or learn how to submit your link for an upcoming edition here.

This Week’s Topic: Becoming an Authority

Your perceived authority on a topic can drastically effect your online business, and that might be the understatement of the year. Someone who is perceived as an expert will make more sales, find more readers, and be able to more easily grow. On the other hand, someone who is perceived as being a novice or – worse – a scammer will find it hard to continue to grow online.

So how do you brand yourself as an authority on a topic, especially when you’re blogging or building a business in a crowded niche? Check out what our Brilliant Bloggers have to say on this topi!

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

bonnie andrews Become An Authority: 3 Ways to Take Blogging from Hobby to Hot in 30 Days or Less by Bonnie Andrews

“Becoming an authority is a choice, not an appointment. That is the real secret. No one is going to give it to you. No one can nominate you as an authority – at least not until you’ve positioned yourself as one. In order to become an authority, you need to initiate it. It’s that simple. You choose to give other people a reason to view you as an authority as you consciously step out, take risks and write what really matters.”

I love this post from Bonnie, who is part of The SITS Girls, because it cuts to the core of how to be seen as an expert in your field: you have to actually go for it. It doesn’t happy by accident. This post has some great tips as well, so it’s the perfect place to start if you’re hoping to begin building an authority brand online. Don’t forget to follow Bonnie on Twitter at @HobbytoHOT after you’ve read her post!

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 5 Ways to Make Sure Your Blog Never Becomes an Authority Blog by James Junior
  2. 7 Steps to Become an Authority in Your Industry by Lewis Howes (@Lewis Howes)
  3. 10 Tactical Ways to Position Yourself as an Authority Online by Laura Roeder (@lkr)
  4. 10 Ways to Build Authority as an Online Writer by Demian Farnworth (@demianfarnworth)
  5. 11 Ways to Use Content to Build Online Authority by Corey Eridon (@Corey_bos)
  6. 100-Plus Tips and Resources to Become an Authority Site in Your Niche by Inside CRM
  7. Becoming a Trusted Authority with Content Marketing by Caeden MacGregor
  8. How Being an Authority can Boost Your Online Sales by Zach Bulygo (@zachcb1)
  9. How to Achieve Blogging Authority: How Content Can Make You King or Queen by David Boozer (@dboozeman)
  10. How to Become an Authority and Why It Will Soon Matter to Google and Your SEO by Amanda DiSilvestro (@ADiSilvestro)
  11. How to Become an Authority Blogger by Ryan Imel (@ryanimel)
  12. How to Become an Authority in Your Field by Leigh Peele (@leighpeele)
  13. How To Build Yourself As The Authority Figure In Your Industry by Travis Petelle
  14. How To Create An Authority Blog Using Case Studies by Sarah Chrisp (@SarahChrisp)
  15. Leverage Blogging to Build Business Identity, Authority and Credibility by Rebekah Radice (@rebekahradice)
  16. The “Answer” to Becoming an Authority Blogger in your Niche by Zac Johnson (@moneyreign)
  17. The Breaking Bad Guide to Becoming an Authority Blogger by Hector Cuevas (@HectorCuevas)
  18. The Surprising Key to Becoming an Authority by Jeff Goins (@JeffGoins)
  19. Two Very Different Ways to Create a Profitable Authority Blog by Tom Ewer (@tomewer)

Did I miss your post or a post by someone you know about becoming an authority? Unintentional! Help me out by leaving a comment below with the link.

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: Email Newsletters

I’d love to include a link to your post in our next installment– and if you head to the Brilliant Bloggers Schedule, you can see even more upcoming posts. We all have something to learn from one another, so please don’t be shy! Head to the schedule today to learn how to submit your post so I won’t miss it.

Five Quick Social Media Tips for Brick-and-Mortar Businesses

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bigstock-Thinking-11766491 It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million views, 13 years for TV, four for the Internet. Facebook got there in nine months. The iPod got there in a couple days. How do brick and mortar businesses keep up? Social media isn’t optional anymore.

We’re out of the Technology and Information Ages and into the Participation Age. The hallmark of this age is “sharing”, which is why social media is so big. It allows us to share on a multitude of levels. It is a lot less expensive than advertising and when done well, is much more effective. How do we get our arms around it?

Don’t panic. Social media is just another communications medium, like radio, TV, fax and email. Except it is much more interactive and participative; like the phone, except at your leisure (you don’t have to answer right away).

Here are a few quick principles I use dealing with social media:

1. Pick just one or two entry points that can be highly integrated, that can push traffic to each other, and go deep.

In 2007 I picked blogging and Twitter. I would highly recommend that you blog (some are questioning that these days, I think it is still by far the best social media platform available), and then interact with people on Twitter about their interests. Or you can pair up Facebook and Google+ (some people use it to blog now). Or Pinterest and Google+, etc. Whatever you do, start small so you can actually participate and learn, not spam. You can expand later if you find you have the bandwidth, but stay focused until you are sure.

2. Become the expert in something.

Again, BLOG IF YOU CAN!! It’s by far the best way to use social media to become an expert. Write comments on other people’s blogs, and offer your material to others to repurpose it. Check out this post on the 10 reasons you need to stop making excuses and start blogging for your business.

3. Be INTERESTED, not just INTERESTING (and be interesting as a result of being interested).

Social media is all about discussions, not self-promotion. Example – join existing conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. Support others in their comments and blogs, answer questions, and eventually they will want to know what you have to say and will visit your blog or community group. If you only promote, promote, promote, no one will care what you are saying.

After you have established yourself as someone who can contribute to others’ communities, maybe start your own Google+ hangout, forum, Facebook group, etc. Learn first, then invite your existing friends to join you. If you just self-promote, you could even get kicked out or banned, depending on the community. Build a network, don’t do networking! SERVE, DON’T SELL. Do NOT use social media to attempt to get a zillion new friends! All the research shows you should target your social media at your existing raving fans. SERVE them, and they will bring you new readers and new customers

4. Further your education by reading.

Read Rework by Fried and Hannson. Read Seth Godin’s blog and 37Signals.com’s blog. Find other blogs that you respect. (Editor’s note: Check out the NMX speakers list for blogs by authorities in the new media industry). See how they provide something of value. Don’t completely copy their content, just follow their lead – serve others with interesting content.

5. Search for local relationships and develop them online as well as off.

Connect, then offer offline opportunities. About 85-90% of all conversations about a product start off line and then move online. And again, starting with local relationships allows you to use social media to support your existing friends, who will then bring you more viewers and customers. If you go after herds of new people with your content, your friends will smell that and walk away.

Don’t see yourself doing this? There is a growing number of credible people who can help you by ghost-blogging, and by managing your business social media. (I would never let anyone else manage my personal Twitter account.) If you are going to hire others, make sure the public knows it’s not you – be authentic.

There are a bunch of other things you can do t boost your social presense, but if you start with these, you’ll be on the right track. For more great social media and blogging advice for businesses, check out the Business Category right here on the NMX blog.

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

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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.

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10 Easy-to-Fix Content Mistakes You Didn’t Know You Were Making

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Content Mistakes

Over the past few years, content marketing has emerged as the answer to a lot of our online marketing challenges. And because it works, we all do it—but not all of us do it as successfully as we’d like.

Granted, there’s no fool proof marketing plan that guarantees success. The only guarantee we have is that we’ll make mistakes and hopefully, learn from them. Unfortunately, a lot of times we don’t even realize we’re doing something wrong…and that’s where the trouble starts.

Below are 10 easy-to-fix content marketing mistakes you may not even know you’re making.

1. Not Reusing Content Effectively

The beauty of content marketing is in its reusability. Just because you’ve written a blog post doesn’t mean its life expectancy is limited to that post alone.

Expand on the topic and write a short ebook, report or white paper on it. Turn it into a presentation, a podcast, or even a video. Better yet, invite an authority on the subject and interview them. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Editor’s note: You can also do the reverse and take other content, like ebooks and presentations and turn them into blog posts. For example, every year, we turn the presentations at NMX into several blog posts, like this one we published based on Dino Dogan’s session at NMX 2013.

2. Using Jargon

Using industry jargon is a big fat “no” in content marketing and most of us know it. But we still end up using it in our content. We forget that our audience might not have the same understanding of the subject that we do.

Sure, we live, breathe and sleep our respective niches – but our readers don’t.

So go through your existing content and weed out any jargon used in your copy and replace them with layman terms.

3. Ignoring Your Current Audience in Favor of Attracting a New One

This phenomenon used to be a classic customer service mistake but it’s found in content marketing too now. A lot of times, content marketers are so focused on gaining new readers/followers/subscribers that they ignore the ones they already have.

Find a balance between the two but always give more importance to your existing audience. After all, retaining an audience is a lot easier than attracting a new one.

4. No Email Subscription Option

Is your content marketing strategy too focused on social media? Do you measure the success of your content in terms of social shares?

If yes, then it’s time to step back and think about email subscription. Social shares are fleeting. Once someone shares your content, they’re gone. There’s no way to contact them again or even find out who they were in some cases.

Email subscription on the other hand gives you the foot in the door you need to make a lasting impression.

HubSpot does this brilliantly. They have visually appealing call-to-actions for email sign ups after every post they publish.

5. No Incentive or Bribe to Encourage Sign Ups

Here’s the thing. Folks who sign up for newsletters don’t do it because of your stellar content. Well some do, but they’re very rare. Most of them sign up because they want to receive something in return. Something they can only get if they sign up for your newsletter.

Jon Morrow used his free report “52 Headline Hacks: A Cheat Sheet For Writing Posts That Go Viral” to get 13000 email subscribers for his new blog before he wrote the first post.

Crazy, right?

Your audience is more likely to do what you want if you give them an incentive. So make them an offer they can’t refuse.

For even more tips, check out this post on getting more email subscribers.

6. No Automation in Place

Even if marketers have their email subscription and incentive in place to capture leads, your subscribers will forget about you if you don’t follow up.

Even if they think the free report/ebook/ecourse etc. they received was brilliant, they won’t seek you out unless you do so first.

Email auto-responders are the best way to do that. They keep your audience engaged even when you don’t have the time to talk to them. It also saves you hours and hours of time you’d otherwise have spent coming up with content ideas.

Spend time creating an auto-responder series relevant to your subscribers and then watch as they become more and more engaged with your content.

7. No Guest Blogging

Content marketing isn’t worth the time, money and energy you invest in it if you don’t have authority. One of the fastest and most effective ways to build authority is by guest posting on reputable blogs.

Find popular and well respected blogs in your niche and reach out to them for guest blogging opportunities. Plenty of popular blogs accept guest posts and even have guidelines listed for them on their website.

Want more advice on guest blogging? Check out the following posts:

8. No Branding

Your online marketing efforts can’t be successful until you get your branding right. And having a great logo, professional web design, and stellar content is all well and good but that’s not the whole equation.

Your branding needs to be on every piece of online property you have your name on. That includes everything from the background and cover photos of your social media profiles to your email signature.

Here’s a tip not many people think of. If you’re investing in stock photos, get the right license and brand them as well. This way, when someone tweets, shares or pins your photo, folks will know at a glance who the content belongs to.

9. No Clear Call to Actions

The whole aim of producing, publishing and marketing content is to get people to take a specific action. Yet so often, we forget to include a call to action. We assume that since it’s a blog post, readers will comment. Or just because it says “free report”, folks will automatically sign up to download it.

If you want your readers to take action, you have to prompt them to do it. Figure out what action you want a particular piece of content to encourage and then spell it out.

10. Ignoring Smaller Tools and Tactics

Content marketing isn’t just about the big things like blog posts, newsletters, freebies and guest posts. It’s also about the small things you do to prolong the life of your content.

Don’t shy away from using different tools within your content that encourages sharing. Occasionally give away a freebie for the price of a tweet or a Facebook share. Include a “Click to Tweet” link in your blog posts, ebooks and other content to make it easy for people to share it.

Take a quote from your content and put it on an image to make it more share worthy. The Write Life does a great job of doing so in their posts. They then use those photos in their Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+ updates.

What’s other easy-to-fix content marketing mistakes have you seen people make?

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

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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?

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Five Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Starting an Online Business (Sponsored Post)

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Online business Starting an online business is not easy. It takes time, discipline you never knew you had and requires a herculean amount of effort to stay focused. But you did it! Congratulations! You got the word out, are great at what you do and are growing your online business. You have leapt far over all of the hurdles that have stopped lesser businesspersons in their tracks and are on the way to total world domination.

But even the savviest start-ups can have a few hiccups. Lucky for you, most of them can be avoided.  Here are five tips to help make your online business a runaway success.

Tip #1: Separate your personal and business social media accounts

We know it’s a pain to have separate accounts for your business and personal life, but your business will thank you. Let’s face it; not everything that is appropriate to share in your personal life sends the right message for your business. Photos of your breakfast and angry rants about the postal system might not mix so well with a repost of a great review of your services.  Also, a change in your relationship status might be more information than your customers need.

Keeping a separate business and personal identity also allows you to evaluate what social media platforms are best for your business, which brings us to the next point:

Tip #2: Remember that not all forms of social media will be appropriate channels for your business.

Your business doesn’t have to have a presence on every social media platform. In fact, forcing engagement where it doesn’t naturally occur can do more harm than good for your brand. Twitter might be a great way to get info and updates out to your customers as well as a fantastic avenue for direct customer service. However, you might struggle with how to position your business on Instagram or Vine.

A good rule to determine whether a social media platform is right for your business is to consider the ease at which you can create content. If you find yourself struggling to make your messages fit the platform, it isn’t right for you.

Tip #3: Register a good domain name.

Just putting up a Facebook page and calling it a day is a rookie mistake, and you run the risk of losing all your content and engagement with customers if your page gets taken (permanently or temporarily) down due to a mistake in following Facebook’s guidelines or a malicious report. Your business needs a website and a domain name.  When you control the website for your online business, you control your business. We recommend something personal, memorable and catchy: .ME offers the ability to truly get connected with your customers with a URL they will keep coming back to.

Tip #4: Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

The best lesson about starting an online business to not learn the hard way is to not make promises you can’t keep. Whether it is a vacation for your significant other or a job for a friend once you can afford to expand, don’t say it out loud until you know it is a reality. We get it. You’re doing well, you’re proud of your work and you’re on track to having a better year than you projected but you have to keep it a secret until you are 100% ready to follow through on your promise. If you announce and then fail to deliver, it will haunt you and make you feel BAD. Don’t let this happen to you.

Tip #5: Control your momentum.

If done right, your business will gain momentum. Make sure you constantly check-in with yourself about your work load and control the pace at which you are growing. Since you are a human being and not a machine, there is a finite amount of time in a day to get things done. Take on only the projects you know you have time to well. Saying “yes” to everything and failing to deliver will hurt your business and brand far more than saying “no” politely.

With these five tips under your belt, you are ready to go out and conquer the online business world. Also, we would love to hear from you: What tips would you add for navigating the rough waters of online business?

Top SEO “Services” That Are Actually Spam

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lotus823-integrated You could spend a few years of your life sorting through all of the blogs, whitepapers, and videos online offering advice on search engine optimization. Yet, so many users get convinced that certain SEO strategies are worth their time and money when these companies are really just touting spam services hidden behind smoke and mirrors.

For SEO specialists like myself (I never like to use the word expert, because Google is constantly changing), these spam services put a bad taste in people’s mouth about the industry.

Specialists do educate on what SEO should be and how it is constantly evolving to a focus on social media and content marketing, but it is still easy to get trapped by outdated methods when you have someone speak to you in technical terms that are hard to understand.

Don’t fall for these SEO services that are actually spam:

Excessive, Behind-the-Scenes Link Building

Due to the changes in Google, content creators tend to move in one extreme or the other in terms of link building. Link-building can help you, but it has to be in moderation. Think of links as the paths that both users and the search engine will travel to find your content.

If you outsource this, be aware of the types of link building done outside of content such as directory link building. It should seem natural and not done all at once with a flip of a switch. If you’re concerned, ask how many directories your site is being added to each month and ask to have the Page Rank pulled for each of those sites. No link building at all (remember, social shares are link building) doesn’t allow Google to connect the dots as quickly to what your website is about. It is still a robot, after all. But you have to be smart about it.

Landing Pages for the Sake of Content

Now that you’ve sprinkled in a few links here and a few links there, you’re doing SEO, right? Not really. Circle back to the previous mention that SEO is about user and the content. This means that a link should be relevant and the page the user lands on should also be relevant. If you link on the phrase “iPhone case” it should land on a page about iPhone cases. That is how Google begins to connect all of your content and ranks it in search for a particular phrase.

Focus on strengthening the landing pages you have now, instead of adding 100 new pages every month, and make them relevant through quality content and natural link building. If you outsource this, the vendor should be more concerned with unique content that engages users rather than a report stating how many pages of content was added to the site in a given month. Beware of any company focusing on quantity instead of quality.

Also, unique and relevant content means it was written for your brand, not repurposed content from elsewhere. That type of service should be a supplement to your content strategy, not your only means of content building. Which brings us to…

Cheap Content

I’ve had many bosses, clients, and co-workers who loved the idea of cheap content. Every time someone forwards me an email that talks about x amount of words for x cents, I furiously press the delete button and then have to talk a walk around the building to cool off. Content isn’t cheap and no, not everyone can write great content. Look up how much a seasoned freelance blogger charges for a blog post and set that as your new standard for content. It’s not $10.

When outsourcing content, read everything! Many times I’ve sent content to a client for review and it was never even reviewed by them. If you’re going to outsource content, ask for writing samples from the specific writer who will be creating content for you, and read everything before it goes live. Set your standards not only by price but by quality.

Someone Else Taking Complete Control

“We’ll build you that blog, create those videos, and completely run your social networks!”

“…but if you leave us they all come down.”

Anything built on your dime should be yours. In some cases, it is industry standard for a “secret sauce” to be proprietary information (such as with paid advertising), so always read your contract carefully with any type of vendor to see what you own at the end of its terms. This goes for agreements even outside of SEO companies – when was the last time you read the terms for Instagram or Facebook posts? Stay in control of your content and understand what is yours, what is for the public to use, and what is owned by a third party vendor you just hired.

Reports That Don’t Make Sense

Many times when a client would come on board, they would send me their SEO reports or they would send over emails from a salesperson from another company. I’ve seen quite a few examples of great reports and not so great reports. The not so great report never makes much sense.

“Congratulations, client, you are ranking number 1 for a search time that we made up to make the ranking results look fantastic!”

Reports should be focused on building awareness within your target market, and that takes time. Confused? Send it to an unbiased third party to review.

Hopefully, highlighting these common “spam” services sheds some light on SEO strategies that make sense for your business and for yourself. Listen to your gut above all, you know what is right for your brand better than any “guru” out there!

Looking to do more? Stay on top of these tips and tricks each week!

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

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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.

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