Looking for Something?
Browsing Category

Small Business Blogging

Are You Setting Yourself Up for Online Business Success? All You Have to Do is SMILE.

Author:

smile Here at NMX, we have an all-staff meeting the day before the show to make sure everyone is on the same page and the event can run as smoothly as possible. Since I’ve been a part of NMX (and I’m assuming even before), one of the points our CEO Rick Calvert always makes is that we set the tone for the conference (find out more about the show here). Even when there are problems or we’re frustrated and tired, you’ll see us smiling in the halls, in sessions, and on the show floor. If the entire staff walks around grumpy, it won’t be long before everyone at the show is grumpy too!

It’s advice that has stuck with me and overflowed to my personal life as well. If you just smile, even when things are going wrong, y set yourself up for success. For me, however, smiling is about more than just putting on a happy face. That’s only step one. For true success, you can’t just smile…you have to SMILE: Share, Mingle, Initiate, Learn, and Empathize!

Share:

Whenever I am at NMX or even just “meeting” people online, I also try to share in whatever success I have. Even if I don’t overtly ask it, the question on my mind is always, “How can I help you?” Too many people in the business world are only concerned with, “How can you help me?” But if you share opportunities and help people as much as possible, others helping you takes care of itself. When you need a favor, people will jump to help you because of all the help you’ve given them in the past. Send people links (without being spammy), answer their questions via social media, and connect people via email. Share as much knowledge as possible in your industry so that people see you as the go-to person.

Mingle:

In every industry, there are cliques. It can feel comfortable and safe to only mingle with people you already know, especially if you are an introvert like I am. But if you truly mingle and get to know other people, your network will grow exponentially, which means more opportunities for you over time. Yes, it is important to strengthen the relationships you already have, but be aware that others might perceive you as being in this elite clique that isn’t interested in getting to know other people. Even online, you should spend time looking for new people to bring into your flock, rather than just following the same list of profiles forever. Check out these tips for finding new blogs to read.

Initiate:

A lot of people are shy. Really shy. Not only do you have to initiate the mingling, but you also have to initiate follow-up contact afterward. Even people who aren’t shy tend to be extremely busy. Be the person who sends holiday cards, emails just to say hello, and randomly promotes someone else via social media. Be the person who keeps relationships alive instead of relying on others to do so.

Learn:

The “L” in SMILE stands for “learn,” which means that I take the time to learn about other people. With the Internet, it’s not hard to do! When meeting someone new or even talking to old friends and colleagues, especially when uncomfortable with social situations, we have a tendency to talk a lot about ourselves. Flip this on its head. Ask questions and learn as much as you can about the other person. Then, make a note of what you’ve learned and learn more afterward by looking them up online. When you meet the person again, you want to be able to say, “Yes, I looked up your blog, and here’s what I think…” or “I signed up for the mailing list you were telling me about…” or whatever the case may be.

Empathize:

Lastly, an important part of the SMILE concept is learning when not to smile. Sometimes, people have problems and are upset at you, the situation, or the entire world. Learn to empathize, not just put on a happy face and placate people. Most people understand when you are insincere versus when you are actually trying to help them. So, when problems arise in your company or personally, really listen to people and come up with a solution as quickly as possible. It’s easy to feel defensive (guilty!), but most times it just makes more business sense to swallow your pride. Even when people are being mean, kill them with kindness.

Do you SMILE online? How can these concepts help your business?

5 Mistakes Your Small Business is Making on Twitter

Author:

business on twitter

As a small business owner, it can be challenge to keep up with best social practices. One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “What am I doing wrong?” If you’re not seeing the results you think you should from Twitter, here are a few mistakes you might be making:

Mistake #1: Broadcasting Without Interacting

The entire point of social media is to promote your business, right? Well, yes…but in a social way. It’s about more than just broadcasting. Sure, you can send out tweets that include links to your website or blog, but you also want to interact with your followers. Jump into relevant conversations. Be helpful when someone asks a question. Follow others in your industry and those who are potential customers. If you aren’t using the “@” reply function often, that’s something that needs to change. Southwest Airlines is a great example of a company doing this right. They are constantly retweeting and replying to their customers.

Mistake #2: Blurring the Lines Between Personality and Personal

When using social, I think it’s great for the personality of your company to shine through. You aren’t just a giant logo. There are real people behind your social account. But there’s a difference between showing your personality and getting personal. If you’re a business or brand on Twitter, you don’t need to tweet out pictures of your meal or rants about your flight being delayed. Save that for your personal account. Keep your Twitter interactions relevant to your business. Bill Gerth (and Frank Eliason before him) for Comcast does a great job at this at @comcastcares. Talenti Gelato (who we profiled here) and GrubHub are also awesome at letting their personality shine through while still making it about their respective businesses.

Mistake #3: Going on Hiatus

If you can’t commit to tweeting daily, get off of Twitter. No, really. It looks bad if someone asks a question on Twitter and you don’t reply quickly. An abandoned Twitter account is worse than having no Twitter account at all.

Mistake #4: Promotional Updates

Promotional updates are okay. After all, you’re using social media to promote your business. However, if you’re only promoting yourself, your tweets can get old quickly. A really great option is to start a blog and also promote your links to education or entertaining topics. If you run a lawn care company, don’t tweet yet again that you’re available for landscaping. Tweet a link to your post on the “10 Best Celebrity Yards” or “How to Get Rid of Summer Garden Pests.” Get people reading on your site through content marketing and then sell them on your products or services once they’re a fan.

Mistake #5: Not Following Relevant Hashtags

Lastly, are you following hashtags in your industry? Hashtags (using the # symbol before a word or phrase) allow you to see what people are saying about a specific topic. Following these hashtags allows you to identify problems, jump into conversations, and find new followers (and potential customers). Always be listening to what your target market is saying.

What’s the biggest mistake you see businesses making on Twitter? Leave a comment!

Small Business Blog Tune Up: Turbo Charge with SEO

Author:

SEO turbo charge for your blog

Let’s face it: small businesses blog for one reason: to get noticed and eventually lead to some sort of sale. Whether demonstrating expertise on a topic, promoting your services or brand, or interviewing someone in the industry, you are encouraging people to come to your site, share your content, and ultimately do business with you. Paying attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can fuel your blog with more horsepower for relatively low effort.

Surprisingly, many small businesses have never heard of SEO or are intimidated by the acronym and what it means. But in reality, basic SEO takes little time and budget–you just need a little extra TLC every time you publish a post. I’m a big believer in the oft-repeated mantra, “The best SEO is good writing,” but imagine if you enlist the powerful combo of great content and some SEO tricks? Unstoppable.

Start Your Engines (Search Optimization that is)

Getting your site to rank high and often on search engines like Google and Bing is considered both an art and science, but still remains a mostly mysterious formula that mere mortals like us don’t control or understand (unlike Google). To make matters more confusing, search engines change and update their algorithms often, like the much-talked about Google Panda. But there are regular, basic steps you can take to increase the chances of your blog getting noticed early and often on search engines.

Get into Gear

If you have a WordPress.org site (that you pay to host the content), there are all-in-one SEO Plugins that will help guide and do the work for you out of the box. (Important and sometimes confusing distinction: Many small businesses use the free version of WordPress.com, which does not offer SEO plugins).

For the many small businesses on WordPress.com, the company stands behind its SEO in that “80 to 90%” of SEO mechanics is done automatically, which builds confidence, but we can can top 100% with just a little extra work.

Blogger.com is generally not considered particularly SEO-friendly (and ironically owned by Google) but has a page devoted to the practice. You can also find some tips here and other resources on the web about SEO on Blogger.

Move into the Fast Lane

For the majority of bloggers that are on WordPress.com, take these easy steps before publishing each post. The order you do them is a matter of personal preference: planning up-front versus optimizing at the end, just so long as you do it.

  • Use keywords for turn signals.

Once you have your topic and content nailed, think about potential keywords for your  post. For instance, if you’re writing about mortgage trends in your local real estate market, include all associated words at least once and think about other ways to say them sprinkled in your blog, typically this will happen organically anyway. The Google keyword search tool offers a comprehensive view of how your chosen keywords will fare. Be aware that there are different schools of thought on keyword density and “formulas” for the best results,but I advocate authenticity above all, meaning your post should sound natural, like a human communicating, not  a word-repeating robot. In fact, search engines have sophisticated tools that route out black hat seo practices like keyword stuffing and mark as spam.

  • Move the headline to front seat.

Sometimes in our quest to be clever or get attention (myself included) blog post titles can be obtuse for search. As with keywords, take the time to make  your headline  searchable. For instance I recently did a post on outdoor billboards and the headline was “Sex, Religion, Politics (and a Hitler teapot): Controversial Billboards Revisited”. Not exactly SEO-friendly. So I at least changed the “slug”, after the date, to “controversial-billboards-2012”. That earns me a more regular hits and I can still maintain my self-proclaimed witty headline.

  • Images ride shotgun.

As bloggers, we know the value of adding images and graphics to tell our story and it’s also a proven fact that content with images get more hits that those without. In a few easy steps, graphics can be a powerful SEO tool by reducing the file size (search engines dislike slow loading sites), renaming the file name to something specific and meaningful, and adding a title. There are other steps you can take.

  • Make Pit Stops for Categories and Tags.

Even if you’re pressed for time, “Categories” and “Tags” is worth the effort to do some of the SEO work for you, especially knowing the difference between the two:  Think of “Categories” as the bucket of content type versus “Tags”, which are more detailed words and phrases about the post. For the outdoor billboard piece, the Categories might be “outdoor billboards” and “advertising.” Tags would be more specific, like “Hitler teapot” or “J.C. Penney”.

  • Create your own traffic.

As a standard practice, linking to your own related posts, other blogs, or external content add value and insight, and also work to boost your SEO. As with keywords, link strategically and where it makes sense. No stuffing allowed!

  • Honk Your Own Horn

Most bloggers use their social network to get the word out for each new post. This is just good old self-promotion, but a reminder you can also increase your SEO with every share and reaching your extended network. A quick way to do this each time is by using the WordPress publishing feature that automatically sends to all social media outlets, or you can manage this process yourself. I opt to share manually to target different messages to my audiences, but nice to know I can use publishing in a hurry.

… Never Hit the Cruise Button

Once you’ve taken these primary steps to SEO-ize your blog, keep the wheels in motion for long-term good habits and practice. And remember, it’s not just good content that helps build organic SEO, but posting on a regular basis is just as important. Last but not least, pay attention to your stats: what are people searching on to find your blog? Use that data to fine tune your content continually.

What SEO practices work best for your blog?

How Does Blogging Help You Boost Traffic and Generate Leads? [Infographic]

Author:

Whether your company blogs or not, it’s important to not disregard its significance. Blogging has three proven ways to help boost your brand and market your business. They are proven to generate traffic, leads and help spearhead your social media marketing efforts. Blogging takes effort, but as this infographic shows, time spent implementing a blog strategy can pay dividends. They key is to remain consistent and blog often!

Blogging-IG-Blogworld

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

The Top 12 Sites in the Marketing with Social Media Course

Author:

speaking-workshops Below is a list of the top 12 sites by unique visitors, visits and page views (they are different) upon completion of the Marketing with Social Media MBA course taught by Bill Belew (that’s me writing about myself in the 3rd person).

The course focused on content/inbound/social media marketing and was taught at the graduate level in an accredited university in Silicon Valley. Here are the details:

  • The students had different blogging rhythms – 1-3 times daily and wrote various lengths of posts – 200+ to 600+ words.
  • All actively created internal and external links and fished, legitimately, for back links.
  • The students guest posted twice each week at BillBelew.com and at a classmate’s site of their choice.
  • The students also wrote evergreen/anchor/pillar posts weekly.
  • Finally, some students actively worked their social networks if they had a presence.

For good or bad, take a look at the top 12 sites. I encourage you to let the students know what you think of their ongoing product.

Visits Uniques Page Views
Soccer Roundup 1,764 1,260 4,732
UI Design 1,134 437 3,053
Arts and Crafts* 2,789 2,393 14,691
Saumya’s Kitchen 1,887 1,163 4,329
Techno Evolution Leads Revolution 1,594 1,308 3,083
Rph at Work 1,542 1,081 5,722
Info-Nepal 1,901 1,422 4,984
Migrated Mouse 1,455 1,147 2,477
Colors n Spirits 3,076 2,115 20,907
Social Media Buff 2,453 1,726 4,855
Jinie’s Kitchen 5,332 3,419 14,284
World of Dance 2,047 1,843 3,413
 *the first month of data is missing
Course aggregate 43,599 28,376 122,680

Out of the 60 active students that finished the course, these top 12 (20%) students received:

66.5% of unique visits

61.9% of visitors

70.5% of page views. 

Where is Pareto when you need him? Indeed, 20% of the class clearly did generate the majority of the output.

Some of the questions I have at this point which I will address in future posts …

1. Does blogging pace make a difference? Multiple times/day of short posts vs one ‘meatier’ post daily? How about a combination to this approach?

2. Could the students generate organic traffic without relying on keyword research?

3. Does content have to be grammar perfect? For many of my students, English is their second and even 3rd or 4th language!

4. What about cheating and duplicate content? Does it work? Some of my students went that route and in a future post I will tell you how that worked, or didn’t work for them.

5. What is an average bounce rate? Time on site? Page view to unique visit ratio?

6. Do my instructions work in other languages? 2 of my students wrote in Chinese and one in Japanese.

7. What was the hardest part for these newbie bloggers?

8. How did they keep themselves motivated or not?

And and and …

9. What questions would you like to ask? What answers might I be able to dig out for you from this experiment?

I have a ton of data that I will share here in the coming months and at my home site – BillBelew.com and at NMX 2014. Will you be there? I will.

BTW, how’s your blog working for you?

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?

10 Reasons You Should Have a Company Blog

Author:

Are blogs just for the big brands, or do they have benefits for you? Here’s a look at 10 reasons it makes sense for your company to be blogging!

1. SEO

Say you’re a new restaurant in town—by blogging regularly about community and about your cuisine, you increase the ways you can be picked up by search engines. What’s more, as you build valuable content, you build your authority in your industry and gradually rank higher and higher online.

Why This Matters: Higher search engine rankings mean more visitors, and more visitors mean more opportunities to promote your company and what you sell.

2. Authority

Building authority online is more than beneficial for search engine rankings; increased authority also increases your influence with users online. Creating regular content that demonstrates expertise in your industry builds your credibility in the minds of users.

Why This Matters: People are more likely to buy from brands they trust, so when you build your ability to be trusted, you build your opportunities to make sales.

3. Distinction

You want your audience to think you’re different from the other guys? Show them, by blogging. Regularly posting high-quality content that provides genuine value to readers establishes you as a unique player in your space. What’s more, your competitors might already be blogging, leaving you behind.

Why This Matters: Let’s start with what happens when customers don’t see your distinction—they confuse you with other companies, don’t know why to buy from you, and end up going with someone else. Communicating your brand to readers means showing them why to give their business to you instead of someone else.

4. Connection

The key to social media is connection, and that’s as true for blogging as it is for Facebook and Twitter. By blogging regularly, you provide one more way for readers to connect and communicate with you and your brand. They can share your content easily. They can stay up-to-date on your news.

Why This Matters: The more connected users are with your brand, the more loyal customers they become. Plus, when people are sharing your content, they’re essentially marketing for you.

5. Long-Term Results

Blogging is more than a one-time magazine ad or a two-week promotion—it’s the kind of consistent, helpful marketing that brings in new business for years to come. That’s because blogging pushes for what’s called organic growth, forged through natural relationships and increased audience trust.

Why This Matters: Long-term results mean greater sustainability. The longer you blog, the more valuable your site becomes, bringing in payoffs far into the future for quality work today.

6. Relevance

Today’s marketing world is increasingly about inbound marketing (marketing methods that attract customers to you and your content) rather than outbound marketing (marketing that goes out to where customers are and tries to sell to them).

Why This Matters: If today’s audiences respond better to blogs than to direct mailings, why waste your time? Instead of going to more trade shows hoping to make new sales, try blogging, which brings the customers to you.

7. Conversion

According to Forrester Research, before making their purchases today’s customers are doing more online research than ever before. Blogging influences customers—especially in terms of whether or not they’ll choose to buy.

Why This Matters: By amplifying information on your company and what you sell, your company blog could be a key factor in determining whether or not a customer chooses to purchase your product.

8. Improvement and Growth

The fact is, regularly blogging about your industry can do more than benefit your client base—it can benefit you. You might find that doing research on new topics teaches you a few things, even as you aim to teach your Web visitors. Maybe writing a post on “5 Ways to Boost Sales” helps you articulate the key areas on which you want to focus your business goals. Maybe interviewing one of your company execs reveals new ideas or strategies to implement. Whatever the case, blogging helps you stay up-to-date on your industry.

Why This Matters: Growing professionally is always a good thing, especially when it means improving the way you’re able to do business.

9. Convenient Setup

Starting a blog is not hard—in fact, the process is fairly simple to set up and manage. What’s more, whether you set it up yourself or hire the project out, it’s fairly inexpensive.

Why This Matters: If cost or lack of tech knowledge is an excuse keeping you from starting a blog, it shouldn’t be.

10. Customer Insight

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to tap into your customers and gain knowledge about what they like and respond to? There is, and it’s called blogging. A business blog allows customers to easily comment on your posts as well as to share your content—and simply by observing what your customers say and do, you’ll be able to learn a lot.

Why This Matters: One of the greatest keys to reaching your customers is knowing them. By observing them online and by engaging them in your content, you gain a powerful way to learn what they need.

Image Credit: Bigstock

Learn About NMX

NEW TWITTER HASHTAG: #NMX

Recent Comments

Categories

Archives