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32 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Small Business Blogging

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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: Small Business Blogging

A blog can be an extremely powerful tool for some business owners. But, of course, there are a lot of stumbling blocks. How do I find the time? What do I write about? How do I promote my posts?

Today, our Brilliant Bloggers list answers these questions and more. We’ve collected over 30 posts that can help you start a small business blog or boost sales using the one you already have.

And don’t forget our can’t-miss business sessions at BusinessNext, presented by NMX. This show features experts in the business, blogging, and marketing worlds to help you learn about taking your business blog and other online efforts to the next level. Register now!

Brilliant Blogger of the Week:

The Value of Small Business Blogging: 3 Key Questions & Answers by Lee Odden

I could point to any number of posts about small business blogging on TopRank from Lee Odden, but I like this one the best because it addresses why exactly small businesses should be blogging in the first place. When I talk to small business owners, the biggest stumbling block is getting them to believe they need a blog. Sometimes, a blog might not make sense, but in most cases having a blog can really boost your business. In this post, Lee talks about the benefits of having a blog for your small business, and if you’re hungry for even more, he links to a video at the end where he talks to Frank J. Kenny more about small business blogging.

Did you know Lee will also be speaking at BusinessNext, being presented at NMX 2013 in Las Vegas? You don’t want to miss him and Amy Porterfield speaking in the session “Companies That Hit The Bullseye With Their Social Campaigns.” Grab a full access pass today to get access to this BusinessNext session!

Even More Brilliant Advice:

  1. 3 Tips for Starting a Small Business Blog by Collis Ta’eed (@collis)
  2. 5 Benefits of Small Business Blogging by bMighty2 (@bmighty2)
  3. 5 Costly Mistakes Small Business Blogs Cannot Afford by Prasanna Bidkar (@prasannabidkar)
  4. 5 Keys to Successful Small Business Blogging by Ty Kiisel (@tykiisel)
  5. 5 Small Business Business Blogging Tips by Jase Group (@JASEGroup)
  6. 5 Things To Do Before You Launch Your [Small Business] Blog by Sarah Von Bargen (@yesandyes)
  7. 5 Ways To Build A Better Business Through Blogging by Lisa Barone (@lisabarone)
  8. 6 Reasons Every Small Business Should Be Blogging… Are You Missing the Boat? by Jonah Lopin (@JonahLopin)
  9. 6 Tips for Customizing Your Small Business Blog by Ben Parr (@benparr)
  10. 7 Blogging Mistakes That Small Businesses Make by Lou Dubois (@lou_dubois)
  11. 7 Ways to Amplify Your Small Business Blog by Monica Romeri
  12. 8 Tips for Keeping your Business Blog Current by Caron Beesley (@caronbeesley)
  13. 9 Hard-Hitting Content Strategies for Small Business Blogging by Neil Patel (@neilpatel)
  14. 9 Tips for Creating More Small Business Blogging Ideas by Mark Hayward (@mark_hayward)
  15. Best 4 Blogging Tips for Small Business Owners by Lynn Brown (@learnit2earnit)
  16. Blog Management for Small Businesses: The Ultimate Guide by Heather Rast (@heatherrast)
  17. Content Strategies for Small Business Blogs by Aylin Poulton
  18. Going Local with Your Small Business Blogging by Ashley Neal (@smallbizatlanta)
  19. How to Blog Effectively to Market Your Small Business by Shashi Bellamkonda (@ShashiB)
  20. How To Make Your Business Blog Informative by Amie Marse (@Content_Money)
  21. How to Start a Small Business Blog the Right Way by Marion Jacobson (@searchqueen)
  22. Six Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Blog Now by Women’s Leadership Exchange (@WLExchange)
  23. Small Business Blogs: Is Blogging Worth it for Small Businesses? by Emily Bennington (@EmilyBennington)
  24. Small Business Blogging Tips: How to create compelling posts by Chris Wallace
  25. Small Business Blogging Tips for Beginners by Danielle Rodabaugh (@DaRodabaugh)
  26. Top 10 Small Business Blogging Mistakes to Avoid in 2013 by Linda Dessau (@lindadessau)
  27. Why a Small Business Blog Is Your Most Valuable Marketing Asset by Lynnette Fusilier (@pearlgirl)
  28. Why Every Small Business Needs a WordPress Blog for Their Social Media Strategy by Jeannette Paladino (@jepaladino)
  29. Why You should Blog for Your Small Business by Lance Sonka (@lancesonka)

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

Next Brilliant Blogger Topic: NMX/BusinessNext 2013!

Our next edition of Brilliant Bloggers in January will feature all of the awesome, recap posts about NMX 2013! Good or bad, we love hearing your thoughts on the show. Want to be included on this round-up list? You have to attend NMX and/or BusinessNext 2013! Check out our live event site to learn how to register or upgrade to an all-access pass.

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 (and contact info for sending your links!). 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.

The Ultimate Key to Easier Content Marketing for Small Business Owners

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As a small business owners, one of the biggest challenges is having time for it all. When it comes to your online marketing efforts, the latest trend is content marketing, and for good reason – it works. Content marketing is essentially giving away content like blog posts, videos, and ebooks in an effort to drive them toward an action (typically buying something from you).

So, for example, if you own a web hosting company, you might publish blog posts every week that teach people web design skills or if you own a bakery, you might give away a very short cookbook with some recipes at-home bakers can try.

Content marketing definitely takes time, though, simply because you have to actually create that content. You can pay a freelancer to do this, but if you’re a small business owner on a shoestring budget, you might not have money for a quality product. Even so, to get the best content, you have to spend time managing the project.

So what’s the key to actually making content marketing easier? Use the resources you already have.

When you’re creating content for marketing purposes, you can repurpose the resources you already have as a small business owner. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you have nothing to offer. Here are some of the things most small businesses have:

  • Employees who are super knowledgeable and able to write or speak on camera about topics in your industry
  • A bank of questions your customers ask you often that could each be turned into their own blog posts (or videos or even sections of an ebook)
  • “Insider” resources relating to your product/service (for example, recipes from your restaurant)
  • A network of industry contacts who would love to be interviewed

You can also consider creating content in ways that allow you to present something super valuable to your audience without spending as much time. Consider…

  • Attending conferences, writing down speaker quotes, and compiling a list of advice
  • Creating resource lists linking to everyone writing/talking about a specific topic (like we do for Brilliant Bloggers)
  • Asking a question via social media and publishing everyone’s answers

Additionally, you can take content you’ve created and use it as a starting point to get even more use out of it. For example:

  • A single, long blog post can become a multi-part series if broken down into sections
  • A series of blog posts can become a short ebook without much additional work or a longer email if you write more content
  • A video or podcast can become written content if you include a transcription

The key is to work smarter, not harder! If you’re short on time, you need to throw your attention into the most important tasks to make your small business run, so this might mean that you “never get around” to the content marketing thing, since it seems like such a daunting task. With the right approach to it, however, you can at least start to put out great free content to attract a larger audience to your business. You’d be amazed at the amount of content you can produce even with a limited number of hours to allocate to this process.

If you’re a business owner interested in learning more about content marketing, social media, and online marketing, definite check out our BusinessNext conference, presented in conjunction with NMX (formerly BlogWorld). BusinessNext will feature three days of speakers teaching you how to take your business’ online presence to the next level.

Are You Letting the Wrong People Control Your Content?

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Community is absolutely necessary if you want to grow your content online, but I think some people allow too much community involvement. You might be letting the wrong people control too much. I was recently reading a post on Marketing Profs by Matthew Grant, and he threw out a very insightful quote about business:

“Everybody should have a voice, but not everybody should have a vote.” – Tom Fishburne

In the business world, this absolutely makes sense. The CEO of your company needs to be a leader, making the hard decisions and guiding the team. It’s important to build a team of employees you trust and to value their opinions, but ultimately, it’s up to you to have final say on everything. Everybody should have a voice, but not everybody should have a vote.

Why shouldn’t the same be true of your blog, podcast, or web series/videos? You can call yourself by whatever title strikes your fancy, but you’re the CEO. It’s time to take control of your content.

Listening to Your Community

Before I tell you why you shouldn’t do everything your community wants you to do, let me make it clear, that just like Tom and Matthew, I agree with the idea that everyone should have a voice. Your community members are comparable to your employees in this way – it makes sense to listen to what they have to say. Here’s why:

  • Community members can be extremely creative and can come up with awesome ideas for your blog.
  • You might believe your community feels one way when they, in fact, do not, and this can shape the kind of content you produce.
  • If one community member complains about something, it probably means there are others also having problems but not being vocal.
  • Sometimes you’re too close to your content to see problems.
  • Listen to your community – and interacting with them – is fun!

So yes, definitely listen to your community. Just be selective with the advice you take.

The Dangers of Crowdsourcing the Decision Making Process

Sometimes, it can be really cool to allow your community to make a decision for you. For example, some travel bloggers let everyone vote on where they’ll be traveling next. But most of the time, leaving an important content decision in the hands of your fans is a recipe for disaster. Why?

  • They might vote for something as a joke or because it is the worst decision. Remember the American Idol Vote for the Worst movement? It’s still going and apparently covers more than just AI at this point.
  • Your audience doesn’t care about your content. Well, they might, but not the way that you do. Their livelihood and futures aren’t tied to it the way yours are.
  • Community members will vote for the option that’s best for their needs, not for the needs of the entire community or your content in general.
  • People don’t always know what they need or want until you give it to them.
  • When people feel passionate about something, they try to persuade others to vote the same way, even if those community members might not care. If you open voting to everyone with a public poll, they might even get non-community members to vote.
  • If you open it up to voting and then don’t do what your community says, you’ll have a riot on your hands worse than if you never opened the decision at all.
  • Your community members are probably thinking about what’s best right now, not what will be best long term.
  • Your community members probably won’t think about the cost of a decision since they don’t have to pay for it.

The bottom line is that your content is your responsibility. What your community has to say does matter, but only to a point. Ultimately, you have to take control of the situation and make a final decision.

If you’re interested in learning more about both content and community management, check out our upcoming conference in Las Vegas. NMX 2013 is shaping up to have awesome education in both areas!

What Small Businesses Can Learn from the Hospitality Industry

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The world of social media, blogging and podcasting provides an unprecedented opportunity for brands to provide unique, personal experiences for customers past, present and future. The hospitality industry in particular has been able to take advantage of these opportunities to market in innovative ways.

The definition of hospitality is “the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.” For a sector that is distinctly characterized by providing excellent customer service, the incorporation of social media to marketing and branding strategies is a perfect union.

Aside from day-to-day Twitter and Facebook posts, supplemental initiatives like Foursquare check-in perks, Pinterest promotions, Instagram presences and hotel blogs have allowed businesses to stay connected and build relationships with their consumers like never before. Many in the industry are finding unique means of implementing these tools in manners which are universally applicable to any type of business.

The Rise of Visual Content

Pinterest is extremely suitable for travel marketing since there are so many (independent and collaborative) components people consider when planning a vacation.

While many brands are still sorting out the tracking implications of Pinterest and how best to execute promotions there, a few have already emerged with authentic and captivating administration. Aqua Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii asked fans to “Pin Hawaii” – create a bucket list on Pinterest of their ideal Hawaiian vacation.

The process involved having users share at least one of Aqua’s pins (thereby sharing the brand name, along with the link to their website); using the #PinHawaii hashtag (spreading the word of the contest); and submitting their boards to a sign-up page (allowing for more accurate tracking).

Pin Hawaii was successful because it accomplished many things.

  • It got people fantasizing about a Hawaii vacation.
  • It got people spreading the word voluntarily.
  • It got people exploring the website (or partner sites).
  • It got people thinking outside the box.

These are qualities that any company can embrace with the right project, and a little fine tuning to each’s needs.

The Range of Written Content

Blogging is a great way to educate consumers about your brand, and many hotels do a fantastic job of utilizing this multi-layered platform.

First, more broad blogs on overall categories are a great way to provide an umbrella of information about a particular niche.

Hotel Chatter does this for hotels. Their goal is to cover everything related to hotels and lodging around the world, including hotel deals and reviews, which celebrities are staying where, hotel industry news, tips for booking online, the hotels you should stay away from, the hotels you should book, and more.

The site is supplemented by regularly updated Twitter and Facebook pages, allowing followers (over 120K on Twitter and 12K on Facebook) to be consistently updated with the latest information.

To curate content and keep everything as fresh as possible, Hotel Chatter encourages visitors to become members and submit their own stories. This allows not only for a substantial variety of material, but also for users to have a first-hand experience with the brand.

Second, many individual hotels themselves maintain blogs. Hotel blogs can serve many purposes, from being a forum for guest feedback, to being an online concierge, to boosting search engine optimization. They can also provide inside information about happenings in the area or on site, and really allow each property to showcase their distinct personality.

The Hollywood Hotel sets the bar high. Aligning with the hotel’s overall image, their blog does an excellent job providing visitors inside information. The right sidebar contains a calendar and tag cloud, making it easy for future travelers to search for specific items if they so desire, along with a variety of content – everything from upcoming events, to videos, to photos and general weekend happenings.

One thing that is also worth noting is that the blog itself contains very little actual promotion for the property. While the top contains the regular options presented on the website (accommodations, dining, etc.), the blog itself is not situated as a sales tool or advertising piece, making it more naturally alluring to visitors (who are used to be inundated with advertisements on a regular basis).

This is brilliant because not only does it show support for the community and other businesses, but it also depicts WHY the area is worth visiting, and therefore, why a visit to Hollywood Hotel would be worthwhile. When you can attract business without actually having to hard sell, it’s a win/win for all involved.

The Application of Audible Content

With the fast-paced advancing of technology, it’s vital for hotels to stay ahead of the curve in any and all ways possible. Some have even begun tying in podcasting to the online experience.

The Dearborn Inn, a Marriott hotel in Dearborn, MI, provides a podcast allowing listeners to take a tour of the celebrated hotel, learn about its unique history and the people who influenced it. The host, Alan Osborne, reveals the chronicles of the hotel from his 20 years of knowledge. How cool is this? Rather than sift through photos of the hotel, which all hotel websites provide, users can listen in to a passionate insider and hear intimidate details of the environment.

Small businesses could utilize podcasts in the same way. While we are an extremely visual culture and we are used to reading information online on a regular basis, it’s a refreshing shift to be able to ignite an additional sense and listen to someone’s first-hand experience.

These are just a few of the ways the hospitality industry is thinking outside the box when it comes to new media initiatives. What others have caught your attention?

Photo Credit: Bigstock

How Social Media Changed the Culture of My Dental Practice

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Let’s see a show of hands out there.  How many of you have dentists who have content rich websites and are active on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest?  That’s what I thought.  Not too many of you.  Well, as a dentist, I am on a mission to change that.

Dentists and Marketing

Marketing has not been an easy journey for the healthcare industry. For a very long time, professionals in healthcare were discouraged, if not reprimanded, for advertising. About all you could do to “market” yourself was to have your name appear in the local phone book. The early adopters in attempting healthcare marketing were not well received and were, in fact, lambasted for their efforts.

“Classless” and “cheap” were words used to describe healthcare professionals’ small attempts at marketing and advertising.  Slowly, very slowly, this limiting attitude has changed. The healthcare industry has finally, if not reluctantly, taken the full plunge into the ocean of marketing and social media.

The Extremes

As with most things in life, there is a modulating process that needs to accompany change. Before that modulation occurs, typically you are going to see extremes. In healthcare, the extremes have been pretty obvious. There are the pharmaceutical, hospital, weight loss and dental implant companies that barrage us with promises of the best, the only, and the right options for our healthcare needs on radio and TV. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the general dental practice that sits quietly on Main Street USA hoping that “word of mouth” will continue to bring in new patients. While, just down the street, new dental offices are popping up every day providing more and more options for these same new patients.

The Reality

As “experts” in our respective fields, no matter what our business, the reality is that as a rule, every day when we go to work, we do basically the same thing as our competitors. So, in the field of dentistry specifically, most of my colleagues that are vying for the same patients that I am vying for do the same kinds of fillings, cleanings, x-rays, crowns and bridges. Some of us offer slightly different options but, for the most part, our days are very similar.

So then, how can we make ourselves appear “different” to potential patients?  What can we do to increase the traffic through our door instead of letting the dentist just down the street get the new patient?  That is the age old question!

The Answer

Think outside of the box. We already know what we’ve been trained to do as “experts” in our field. And we should always strive to do it better! But we can’t just rest on our laurels anymore. There are far too many other businesses like yours and mine out there and potential customers/clients/patients are getting more and more digitally-savvy all of the time. They are doing their homework and basing the decisions they make on their research. And to make ourselves show up in an enticing way, we need to think outside of the box. And one of those ways is social media.

Let’s Get Personal: My Story

Let me tell you how social media changed the culture of my dental practice. I’ve been a dentist for over 22 years and have owned my own practice for 16 of those years. I, like many of my colleagues (and other small businesses), tried many of the traditional forms of marketing including, but certainly not limited to the Yellow Pages, Dex Knows, church bulletin ads, local newspaper coupons and participation in local school events. In the early days, the only way of tracking my analytics was by keeping track of my results with a notebook and pen. And one by one, I eliminated ineffective and sometimes costly marketing efforts that had little to no ROI (return on investment).

I was conflicted because I still felt that there was value in the tried and true “word of mouth” method of growing a practice. But I knew that with new competition popping up at every corner, I was going to die as a business if I didn’t figure out how to create growth effectively and inexpensively. And then, one day, one of my awesome patients came up with the answer. The conversation began innocently enough. I was complimenting her on her oh-so-funny blog and asking her how she was able to promote her blog so successfully. She looked me straight in the eye and said “You can do it too. Just create a blog for your website and get a Twitter account and tweet about your practice”.

Say WHATTTT??

There is Value in Being Impetuous and Impressionable

That very day, I solicited the help of Heather Acton,  freelance WordPress developer extraordinaire and I started designing a new WordPress website that would allow me to blog directly from my business website. I also set up a Twitter account and created a Facebook page. I worked diligently on increasing my presence on social media. I played with many ideas and tossed out the ones that didn’t work and kept the ones that did. I began doing videos that were posted to both YouTube and my website that dealt with dental health issues. I started a regular feature called Ask the Dentist in which someone emails me a dental health related question that I post and answer on my website.

I began to post articles to local newspapers to increase awareness of my office’s presence. I attended functions, some with the clever name of “Tweet Ups,” in and around the city of Chicago so that the many people that I was communicating with in social media I could meet face to face IRL (in real life)!

The result was a measurable increase in my “new patient” numbers as a result of my presence on social media.

To be clear, I made many mistakes along the way and even allowed myself to get slightly addicted to social media. But, the lessons that I gleaned as I muddled through the myriad of information I was reading and experimenting with, grew my desire to share a best practices sort of approach with dentists wanting to use social media. The result was my site, Social Media DDS, which allows me to consult with and coach dental professionals in the art of social media strategy.

What I Have Learned

  1. Have an interactive website. By interactive, I mean, make sure that your site is content rich and content fresh. Create a space on your website modeled after traditional “blogs” from which you can provide information to your readers and they can communicate with you. Have a fully functional and user-friendly commenting platform integrated into your website and “blog” such as Livefyre that allows conversation-like communication to occur, encouraging readers to participate in dialogue with you and the community.
  2. Be regular and predictable in your posts.  As Marcus Sheridan, the awesome author of The Sales Lion, says in this video interview, blog with regularity. Let your audience know that you will be there for them. Listen to their needs and then…engage, engage, engage. Social media is, after all, social. Once you have established a solid “home base” with your website presence, consider expanding your social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and, yes, even Pinterest.

Don’t Have Time?

I happen to LOVE working the social media and marketing angle for my dental practice. But I understand and appreciate that not all owners of a business can find the time to put into growing their social media presence. One of my favorite go-to people in the dental, social media marketing world is Rita Zamora of Social Media & Relationship Marketing. She suggests finding a “champion” for your social media presence (regardless of the type of business you run).

Look to your staff and decide who would be a perfect fit for championing your business. Let them represent the business. Teach them how to be the “voice” of your company. Delegate wisely. And, always keep your “voice” consistent and authentic. Never succumb to the temptation of letting a third party company be your “voice.” Always understand that your “voice” is what makes digital “word of mouth” marketing work.

Wrapping It Up

I am passionate about the potential of social media as a powerful tool in a business’ marketing strategy. I am also passionate about my business. It seems pretty intuitive then that, when I combine the powerful forces of my business with social media, awesome goodness is going to be the result.

I can’t imagine a new business in any industry not wanting to make sure that their internet presence is felt and that the business consistently nurtures its online presence. There are countless examples of success using the power of social media to build a business. I love to tell people that if I, as an owner of a dental practice, can grow my business utilizing the power of social media, then anyone can grow a business using social media!

How have you used social media to grow your online presence?  Has it worked?  Do you have any tips that might help others as they take their first steps into social media?

The One Topic Your Business Blog Needs to Cover

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When you log online to make a buying decision, what information do you want most?

You perhaps are interested in a product’s features or the scope of a company’s services. Reviews might be important to you, and some people like to do in-depth research about their options. You may like to compare products/services, and you probably want to know disadvantages, not just good points.

Marcus Sheridan at BlogWorld New York If you have a small business, you can be covering all of these topics on your blog. But what one piece of information are most businesses avoiding but should be talking about regularly?

Marcus Sheridan talked about this one topic during his session at BlogWorld New York (see picture at right). David Brook talked about this on his Partners in EXCELLENCE blog. Others have touched on this, as well.

To talk about this topic, I want to examine three whys:

  1. Why people care
  2. Why businesses avoid blogging about it
  3. Why you can outshine your competitors if you blog about it

Why Everyone Cares about Price

That’s right – price is what most small business avoid listing online, even though everyone cares about it. Rich or poor, people want to know the money they need to get your product or services.

For consumers on a budget, price can be important in two ways: first, they might have to rule out options they can’t afford. Second, they might want to know price so they can save up for the purchase.

Even well-off consumers who don’t have budget restrictions care about price, though. Everyone wants to ensure they are getting a good value, that the price they are paying is justified.

Why Most Businesses Avoid Mentions of Price

Price is scary. As a freelancer, I have had to quote prices, and it’s frightening to avoid saying (or typing) a number. A lot of what-ifs go through my head:

  • What if consumers think my price is too high?
  • What if consumers think my price is too low and, thus, my services aren’t as good as my competitors?
  • What if competitors see that price and quote slightly lower to outbid me?
  • What if I undervalue my own abilities and the consumer would have been willing to pay higher?
  • What if I want to change prices in the future, but have already quoted this lower price?

All of those what ifs can be applied to any small business, not just freelancing. What if homeowners think my lawn service price is too high? What if would-be patrons think my prices are so low that I can’t possibly give a good haircut? What if competitors see my day care’s prices and price themselves just a little lower as a response? What if I’m missing out on profits because my restaurant’s prices are too low and hungry customers would have gladly paid more? What if people get mad when I raise my bakery’s cupcake prices?

Price is scary and that’s why most business owners avoid it, even though consumers really want to know.

To this fear, these what ifs, I have this to say: so what?

There will always be people who think your prices are too low or too high, and if competitors really want to know your prices, all they have to do is call and ask. What matters is that you are charging what your products or services are worth.

Why You’ll Kill Your Competitors if You Talk about Price

Just like competitors can call (or email) to ask about your price, so can consumers. So why is it important to put this information on your websites, and more specifically, on your blog?

People are lazy.

It’s that simple. People want a product or service, but calling around to find information is hard work. They’ll compare prices and value online, but picking up the phone takes an additional step. Sometimes, they’re willing to take this additional step – but only if you give them some ballpark information first.

Think about it. Let’s say you are in a strange city on vacation and you’re craving pizza. So you Google it and find three places near you that will deliver to your hotel. Two do not list their prices. The third says large pizzas cost $10. Are you going to take the time to call all three places, or are you going to simply hire from the $10 place, since that seems reasonable?

Many people will just go with the $10 option. It’s easier.

This works on a larger scale as well, for businesses selling more than just pizza. If you’re willing to list your prices, people will simply use your business – or at least consider you a top contender – because your competitors do not talk about price.

I suggest you take it a step farther by blogging about price often. Cover all the what ifs:

  • What makes your product or service worth a slightly higher price?
  • How do you keep quality high and prices low?
  • Why is your price justified even if competitors charge a lower amount?
  • What higher-priced packages do you offer for customers who want to spend more?
  • Why are you raising prices?

Talking about your prices – and talking about them often – gives customers the chance to learn as much about you as possible. This allows them to make informed decisions, and since you’re the one helping them make these decisions, they’ll be more likely to choose you over your competitors.

So, the bottom line? Don’t avoid listing some numbers, or at least giving people a general idea of what they can expect today. Don’t let the what ifs and fears keep you from talking about this topic!

Why Small Businesses Need to Go Mobile [Video]

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Did you know that an astounding percentage of mobile searches are people looking for local information? It makes sense, right – someone is out and about, has the urge to stop for food, and wants to find the hours and location of nearby restaurants. Or they’re at the mall, decide to see a movie and need show times. Or their car breaks down and they need to find a nearby mechanic.

If you’re a small business without a mobile-optimized website, you’re missing out. This video explains further:

We’ll also be talking about video at BlogWorld New York next week! Check out our mobile track, as well as the Social Media Business Summit, which has even more great social information for small businesses. There’s still time to register and get tickets here!

Is Your Small Business Missing Out on the Mobile Crowd?

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As much as I hate to admit it, if you see me, there’s a good chance you can also see my cell phone. Or at least hear it if it rings. I was a late bloomer, not getting my first cell phone until I was in college and only getting my first smart phone about two years ago. I’m still a little resistant. I like a phone that makes calls and allows me to send text messages from time to time.

But even as a new media lover but a cell phone hater…well, I have to admit that my cell phone comes in super handy when I’m not at home. I can use it to set alarms. To check Twitter and Facebook. To take pictures. To send quick emails. To look up product prices to see if I’m getting the best deal. If you have a small business in a physical location (or locations), cashing in on utilitarian cell phone users like me can boost your profits more than you think. Let’s face it – you might be cutting edge, but most smart phone users are still pretty new to the whole new media thing. So how can you grab their mobile attention?

  • Create some kind of very useful free app. 
The likelihood that I’m going to pay for any app is slim to none. Seriously, I think to date I’ve purchased three apps…and I’ve had my phone for over two years. Of course, other users may be more likely to shell out a few bucks for an app, but if you create something useful and FREE? I’m there. Maybe you’re a restaurant that creates an app allowing me to order online. Or maybe you’re a bakery that creates a simple game I can use to win free cupcakes. Whatever. Be creative and get people downloading!
  • Give me a mobile version of your site.
Nothing annoys me more when using a cell phone than trying to look up something on a business’ website on my cell phone and there is no mobile version of the site. Half the time, some ad pops up on the screen making it impossible to click on anything. Yuck. Creating a mobile site is actually extremely easy (WordPress users have their choice of plugins that create it automatically for example). So no excuses!
  • Reward loyalty. 
People are still kind of figuring out location based mobile apps, but there are already likely thousands of Foursqaure and Gowalla users in your area. Reward their loyalty when they check in to your business’ location. An easy way to do this is to give a free item or discount to anyone who shows a waiter/clerk/etc. that they’ve checked in. You can also give a bigger reward to the person who is the mayor on the first of every month – it encourages coming in often to compete with other users.
With more and more people embracing their smartphones every day, your small business will really miss out if it is ignoring mobile altogether. This crowd will only continue to grow and it doesn’t take much time or money to reach out to these consumers and get them spending more money with your business.

Social Media for Small Businesses with “No Time”

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I completely understand why small business owners are worried about the time factor when it comes to social media. If you aren’t careful, networks like Facebook and Twitter can suck away several hours from your day, and few small businesses have the resources to allow that to happen. But don’t feel so overwhelmed with the demands of social media that you don’t give it any time at all. Even if you only have a few hours a week for you or your employees to spend on social media, you can get your company online and reap the benefits of these new platforms. Here are a few tips to help you get started with social media, even if you aren’t ready to devote you entire day to it:

  • Pick one to three sites and do them well.

New social networks and bookmarking sites are popping up every day, so it’s easy to get frustrated with the time it takes to be active on all of them. Instead of joining ten of them and doing a bad job at staying up-to-date on all of them, pick one to three sites to join and do them well. I think all small businesses should have a page on Facebook, so that should be a top priority for you, and beyond that, you can also join Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, Foursquare…the list goes on and on. Pick the networks that make sense for you – go where your customers are.

  • Make checking your social media sites part of your daily routine.

Every morning when you check your email, check your social media profiles as well. Respond to any complaints, thank people for compliments, and make announcements. Do this again mid-afternoon. You don’t have to live on social media; you just have to check it once or twice a day. If you make it part of your routine, it won’t seem like such a big hassle.

  • Share something new once per day.

If you don’t have a lot of time to spend on social media, don’t sweat it. Simply share something new once per day, whether that is an announcement about your company (“Hey guys, we started dipping our new chocolate-covered strawberries today!”), an interesting article you read relating to your industry (“Men’s Health has an awesome article about the health benefits of chocolate on their site right now.”), or a poll/question for your readers to answer (“Out of all the candies we make, what’s your all-time favorite?”). Stuck on what to share? Post a picture (“Here’s a snapshot of our test kitchen.”) or share “insider” information (“Today at the office, we’re testing out new lollipops. Yum!”). People love behind-the-scenes looks at their favorite companies.

  • Streamline your response to complaints.

Customer complaints are one of the biggest challenges in any business, and social media makes it extremely easy for people to take their complaints public. Instead of responding to all of them in such a public setting, streamline the process and take it private. People want to know that you’re listening, but a lengthy back-and-forth on Twitter probably isn’t how you want to spend your afternoon. Instead, make your response, “I’m sorry for *insert issue here*. Can you email *insert email address here* so I can help you?” or something similar. That way, any of your employees with access to social media can respond to the complaint while allowing you to handle the individual responses privately.

  • Hire employees you trust – and give them all access to social media.

Many of your employees probably already use social media. Give them access to your profiles or allow them to speak on behalf of the company so that you have more of a presence online. Of course, you’ll need to set some policies in place (what to talk about or not talk about, how to distinguish who is updating if multiple people have access to one account, etc.), and you definitely need to trust your employees if they’re going to be using social media on your behalf. But if you don’t have a lot of time, getting the entire company involved is a great way to make sure your company is represented online as much as possible.

Seven Blog Post Ideas for Business Owners

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“The biggest keyword tool is not Google. It’s your customer.” – Marcus Sheridan.

At BlogWorld LA 2011, speaker Marcus Sheridan talked about his experiences taking his pool business to a whole new level by using a blog. He’s able to compete with huge pool companies, even though he’s a small business owner, and more importantly, he’s able to do so in an economy where fewer people are spending money on pools. The secret Marcus shared with us is that if a small business blog understands what customers are asking, the blog can answer those question and ultimately make sales. He went over seven blog posts ideas anyone in any industry can use to gain traction with a small business blog:

1. Cost and 2. Price

One of the most common questions that people ask in ANY industry is how much they’re going to have to spend to purchase products. “What is the price of…” or “How much does…cost?” are great place for you to start. People avoid answering these questions for some reason, so if you’re willing to talk about price/cost, you’ll stand out.

3. Problems

Your competitors are going to talk about the problems with your products. Beat them to the punch! Address these problems instead of sweeping them under the carpet so you control the conversation. Talk about why your products are still the best options, even with the disadvantages.

4. Versus and 5. Compare

Customers what to know the differences between your products and between your products and other products. Who doesn’t love options? Talk about these differences on your site! That way, when they search for these long-tail keywords, your site is what comes up first. It goes back to the concept that you should talk about problems – you want people to hear you out first, so they can think about your products favorably.

6. Awards

People love to win stuff. Most industries don’t have official awards, so create them yourself! Not only will this be interesting to your readers, but you’ll also get linked by other people – even your competitors! From personal experience, I can say that this kind of post takes a lot of work and might be controversial, but you will get traffic and SEO value if you take the time to publish this kind of thing.

7. Breaking News

Lastly, if you can break news in your industry, this is a great way to attract more readers and to get people to link to you. It’s hard to get the jump on major news sources, but you can talk about how general news relates to your industry. As an example, when Virginia experienced an earthquake earlier this year, before the ground even stopped shaking, Marcus was planning his next post – to talk about the damages some pool owners could be experiencing and why his company’s pools weren’t damaged.

Marcus was by far one of the best public speakers that I’ve ever seen and I think his presentation can be summed up in one thing that he said during it, “If a consumer is thinking it, you should be writing it.” It’s a good lesson for all bloggers, not just small business bloggers!

Remember, you can check out the entire session, as well as other talks from BlogWorld LA 2011 by picking up a virtual ticket to the event.

About the Speaker

The story of Marcus Sheridan is a unique one. In 2001, he stumbled across his first business with two friends and began installing swimming pools out of the back of a beat-up pickup truck. 9 years later, and with the help of incredible innovations through inbound and content marketing, Sheridan’s company became one of the largest pool installers in the country and currently has the most visited swimming pool web site in the world. With such success, in late 2009, Sheridan started his sales/marketing/and personal development blog—The Sales Lion, and has since grown it to one of the strongest blog communities on the web.

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