By Gail Z. Martin Growing your business productively means understanding all of the tools available to you. Just as smart phones and tablet PCs have redefined productivity on the go, social media has redefined how people communicate, and more specifically, how consumers want to communicate with businesses. Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success 4 Simple Ways You Can Be in Two (or More) Places at Once 4 Tips for Managing Your Documents When You’re On the Road Cloud computing programs let you access powerful software (usually with a monthly membership) while the programs live on web servers and not on your hard drive, meaning you don’t have to worry about installing, updating and uninstalling. Most of these cloud-based programs have mobile apps, so you can truly access your information no matter where you are or what kind of device you’re using. Online Marketing: Simple Twitter Strategies to Turn Followers into Paying Customers Excerpted from “30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success” by Gail Martin. Order this book at http://amzn.com/1601632266 11 Important Reasons to Move to the Big Storage Unit in the Sky 4 Easy Ways to Make Sure You Never Forget an Important File Again When you’re on the go, it’s difficult to bring all your files with you. Carrying a laptop can be difficult when traveling through airports, and taking your computer with you puts you at risk for theft and damage. Printouts are cumbersome, offer data security risks, and provide only a static snapshot. My 3 Favorite Do-It-All from One Place Web Sites Social media “dashboards” allow you to post and monitor many of your social media sites all from one convenient place. Even better, you can upload and schedule your tweets and posts so that you can keep a more consistent social media presence, which is important to friends, fans and followers. Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin. Three Things You Should Know About Access-Anywhere Software Being able to access your software from anywhere on any device can be a real lifesaver when you’re on the road. Programs that live on web servers that you can access via the Internet are what Cloud Computing is all about, and it’s the key to using your smart phone and tablet PC to get more done when you’re on the go. Seven Reasons to Store Your Programs in the “Cloud” The term “Cloud computing” sounds intangible, and that’s just the point. •You don’t have to install the program, so you can use software that requires greater speed or memory than your desktop or laptop might possess. Starting to see the appeal? Cloud computing programs offer extremely flexible access to powerful programs without the hassles of maintaining the software on your own computer. If you’ve ever suffered through lengthy software download (especially one that needed to be done over several times), you’ll understand the appeal of being able to “visit” your software instead of needing to have it all on your hard drive. Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin. 23 Online Office Essentials for Your Smart Phone When you’re working on the go, many of the helpful tools you take for granted in your office aren’t at hand. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. Mobile Apps Get Work done on the Road Whether you’re a true road warrior or you just seem to be on the go all the time, mobile apps from your tablet PC or smart phone can make your life much more productive. Even better: many great apps are free, and others are very inexpensive, so productivity seems sweeter than ever. Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin. It’s Time to Get Your Head in the Clouds! The term “Cloud computing” sounds intangible, and that’s just the point. Why move to the Cloud? Starting to see the appeal? Cloud computing programs offer extremely flexible access to powerful programs without the hassles of maintaining the software on your own computer. If you’ve ever suffered through lengthy software downloads (especially one that needed to be done over several times), you’ll understand the appeal of being able to “visit” your software instead of needing to have it all on your hard drive. (Excerpted with permission from the book 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success.) Five Business Secrets I Learned from My Dog My golden retriever, Chase, was with me from the time I started DreamSpinner Communications nine years ago. Sadly, we just lost him to old age, but in that precious time we had together, Chase taught me a lot about life. Secret #1: Make friends everywhere you go. Very few people can see a golden retriever and not smile. Most people have to come over to pet one, and they stay to chat a little. A dog can be a great ice-breaker, and because of Chase, we got to know a lot of strangers who became friends. For Chase, every stranger was a friend waiting to happen. There’s some real wisdom in that, because success is not a do-it-alone kind of thing. As the song says, we get by with a little help from our friends. You can never have too many of them. Secret #2: Wag a lot; bark a little. Most of the time, Chase delivered a full-body wag that could knock a can of Coke off a coffee table and send papers flying. But when it was important, he had a bark that got people’s attention (and respect). What I learned was that you need to start out wagging (it makes friends and makes people happy), but sometimes, you’ve got to bark, and when that happens, let your voice be heard. Secret #3: Take time to play every day. Rain, shine or heat, Chase would drag me outside at lunchtime to throw a ball for him. He loved to run after it (he was a retriever, after all), and watching him always made me smile. I was also surprised at how much our little outings (usually only a few minutes long) could also change my mood, brighten my day, and give me a mental break so that I went back to work feeling happy and refreshed. Breaks are good for us, and we do better work when we take them. Secret #4: When storms come, rely on your friends. Although he was a big dog, Chase hated thunderstorms. Whenever a storm would come, he would find his people and sit close to us (usually under our feet). He couldn’t stop the storm, but he knew it wouldn’t be as scary if he was with people who loved him. We can’t stop the storms that happen in our lives—economic downturns, delivery glitches, supplier problems, etc.—but whatever comes our way gets easier when we have a supportive group who can help us keep it together until the storm passes. Secret #5: Show people how much you appreciate them every day. Whenever I left for even an hour, Chase greeted me at the door as if I’d been away for months, wagging and spinning in circles, letting me know how very, very glad he was that I was back. I never doubted that he appreciated me in his own doggy way. It’s a pretty good habit to pick up (you don’t have to spin in circles or wag). Let the people in your life know how special they are to you, how much you appreciate them, and how fantastic you think they are. That includes family, friends, neighbors, employees, vendors/suppliers, referral partners, clients and everyone who makes your life possible. Savvy, Successful or Scared of Social Media? Where are you on the social media scale? Savvy? Successful? Or scared? If you put yourself in the third category, you’re in good company. So many of the business owners and solo professionals I meet confide that they are afraid of social media. That fear is holding them back from using a valuable tool that could help them grow their business. And here’s the good news: you don’t have to be afraid. Fear #1: Social Media is Unfamiliar. Fear #2: Social Media Will Take Up All My Time. Fear #3: I Might Meet Weird Strangers on Social Media. Fear #4: I Don’t Know What to Say on Social Media. Fear of Facebook: Three Steps to Fear-Free Social Media I’ll never forget the time a lady came up to me at a luncheon and said, “I’ve gotten on Facebook for business and someone I don’t know wants to be my friend. What do I do?” 1. If you don’t put personal information on Facebook, no one can get it. This one’s pretty simple. If you don’t want to take a chance that the world might see certain photos or certain comments, don’t post them. Period. If it’s not there, it can’t be copied, forwarded or accidentally leaked. 2. Give yourself credit. “Don’t talk to strangers” is good advice for children, but in reality, if you’re in business you have to talk to people you don’t know. If you opened a store, you wouldn’t stay in business long if the only people you allowed to enter were friends and family. It’s the same on social media. Use common sense. Don’t talk about upcoming vacations or times when your house will be empty (talk about your trips when you return, unless someone will be at home while you’re gone). Never give out your password or account numbers, even if someone seems official. Keep conversations “business casual” and you’ll be fine. 3. Make sure you have up-to-date security software on your computer like Norton Anti-Virus or a similar program, and never click on links that look suspicious. For example, if you’re leery of clicking on a Facebook link in your email, open Facebook in your browser and click through from there. Don’t open attachments unless you’re sure you know the sender and you know what’s in the attachment. (Good anti-virus software will help with dangerous emails as well.) Take simple precautious and use the same common sense that you employ going about your business in the real world, and you’ll find that Facebook and other social media sites can enrich your business and personal life. Gail Z. Martin is the author of 30 Days to Social Media Success, and the host of the Six Figure Social Media Success virtual boot camp. Learn more about Gail and her books at www.GailMartinMarketing.com. Find out more about the Six Figure Social Media Success virtual boot camp at www.SixFigureSocialMediaSuccess.com Dagwood, Beetle Bailey and Other Internet Losers Not too very long ago, in the days when everyone subscribed to a newspaper, one of the best parts of the day for adults and children alike was sitting down with the “funny papers.” The comics section was something everyone could relate to, following the adventures of The Phantom, Brenda Starr, Rex Morgan, and Flash Gordon, and the misadventures of Snuffy Smith, Dagwood and Blondie, Family Circus, Broom Hilde, Snoopy, Beetle Bailey, Shoe, Cathy and more. Gail Martin is the author of 30 Days to Social Media Success and 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success. She owns DreamSpinner Communications (www.GailMartinMarketing.com) Keywords are King Consumers and reporters often turn first to search engines like Google for their news. When they look for information that is relevant to your products and services, how likely are they to find your Website and your press releases? Think of your own behavior as a consumer. It’s rare for someone to look further than the first page of search results. Use Keywords to Make Sure Your Releases Get Noticed Is It An Ad—or a Search Result? (Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin) For more information, visit www.GailMartinMarketing.com, or “like” Gail’s page at www.facebook.com/30DayResultsGuide. Is 2012 the year to make your dreams come true? Many New Year’s resolutions were made last month, but what progress toward your dreams did you make in 2011? Celebrate your successes by making a list of the steps you’ve taken, big or small, to get closer to your dream. (I’d love to help you celebrate—please post one or more of your successes to my Facebook page or tweet to me on Twitter!) Will you Finally Write Your Book This Year? So many people tell me that they intend to write a book “someday.” Some of these books are fiction, some are non-fiction, but they have one thing in common: they haven’t happened yet. Now suppose you’ve thought about writing a book, but aren’t sure whether or not it’s worth it. Here are some good reasons to go ahead and write your book: As you write your book, start thinking about how you will promote it to the people who need/want to read it. Don’t wait until the book is ready to go before you plan for promotion! As you market your book, you’re also marketing yourself, and building a brand so readers will remember you for future books. Effective PR and Marketing in the Age of Google The Internet has changed everything for Marketing and PR. While traditional media outlets (newspapers, magazines, TV and radio) remain prominent online media venues grow daily in importance. The Do-It-Yourself Consumer Going Around the Gatekeepers Budgeting Time and Money (Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin) Ten reasons not to target mass media The magic of multi-media releases and online ads If You Can’t Fix It, Don’t Worry About It Going Global with Social Media Sing it till You’re Nuts Doing Business While Unconscious Social Media Success with Industry-Specific Sites Social Media for Local Businesses Collaboration is Key to Growth in Current Economy Spread “Results Envy” and Watch Sales Grow Does your marketing spread “results envy”? If not, you’re missing out on sales. • What do you have now that you lacked? Take a Moment to Take a Bow Where Will Your Business Be in 30 Days? As the end of the year approaches, it’s a good practice to look back over the last twelve months and take stock, with an eye toward planning for the next twelve. Thrive in the Recession by Going Back to Basics Chocolate and Cash: Success Lessons from a Hershey Bar Smart Ways to Use Twitter for Business Using LinkedIn (carefully) for marketing Make the Most of Summer Marketing Spring Clean Your Marketing The Comeback Kid Persistence is the Key to 2010 Success Is it just me, or are you tired of the headlines, too? Forget Resolutions: Achieve Your Goals Where’s Your Map? Who Are These People and Why Are They Talking To Me? I use Facebook and Twitter to meet new people without the constraints of geography or time zones. When I invite people to be my “friend” or “follower,” I do so based either on personal knowledge of the person, or recognition of a shared interest. For example, we may both be members of an online marketing group (which would lead you to think we are both interested in marketing.) The vast majority of people are fine with this, and do the same to expand their personal circle of “friends.” The #1 Business Card Marketing Mistake I’m on Facebook: Now What? Power-Shift Your Personal Networking Are you getting the most from your in-person and online personal networking? Free Information Builds Trust, Relationships Can you ever give away “too much” information for free? Think about what it costs you to go to an average trade show, and then reconsider the question. Companies will routinely spend tens of thousands of dollars to stuff trade show goodie bags with all kinds of useless stuff, much of which is given to the attendees’ children or dumped on a breakroom table for office “vultures” who will never be purchasers or decision-makers. Is Real Estate Your Real Marketing Problem? They say that “location, location, location” is the key—but sometimes, it’s the problem. Social Media Takes Work Are you Twittering? If you’ve been on vacation for the last few months without access to the news, Twitter is a new micro-blogging program that allows you to convey ideas, tips, web sites and other goodies in “tweets” of 140 characters or fewer. What can you say in 140 characters of fewer? Surprisingly, a lot. And even more surprisingly, what you say can help you increase your business visibility and reach new people. It works like this. You start off by inviting the people you know to “follow” you on Twitter. For example —I’m on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/GailMartinPR. Hopefully, many of the people who read this will stop by my page and click the “follow” button. Now every time I tweet, you’ll get the message. If my tweets are helpful, funny or interesting, you can tell a friend, forward them or invite others to check me out. As with most social networking sites, the goal is to connect with as many people as possible in a way that adds value for them and makes contacts for you. I’m new on Twitter, but what I see being done out there was enough to get me involved. Here are some ideas for making the most of your 140 characters. Teach a mini-course. Break down something you’re good at into single sentences and tweet them once or twice a day. Let people know you’ve added new content to your web site. This is a great way to drive traffic. Hold a treasure hunt. Offer clues via tweets and have people respond with their answers via your web site or Facebook page or Squidoo lens. Another fund way to increase site traffic. Be sure to recognize the winner on….Twitter! Review the latest business books you’ve read. Pass along a one-line recap to let others know whether the book is worthwhile or not. Recap a conference or live event. You can set Twitter up to work from your cell phone. So if you go to a conference, you can tweet from the road on who you’ve met, how the speakers are and what great things you’ve learned. Forward links. Did your company just end up in the news? Tweet the link to the article. Did you just get interviewed on radio? Tweet the link! Find a cool web site with a great new tool? Tweet your friends. Just upload a video to YouTube—tweet it! Make an announcement. Let your Twitter friends be the first to know if you’ve won an award, signed a book deal or landed a new client. Ask a question. Invite answers to your website forum or social media page. This can be great for encouraging traffic to your Facebook group. Send reminders about live events. If you’re holding a get-together, speaking at a local meeting or hosting a coffee, tweet about it up to the last minute to encourage attendance. Your Twitter use is limited only by your imagination. So here’s my challenge—how are you seeing people using Twitter or how are you using it? Let me know your answer on my Squidoo page at www.Squidoo.com/GailMartin! And remember to add me on Twitter! Prepare now for pent-up demand ... While everyone is watching the bouncing ball of the Dow Jones index, the majority of people are missing an important fact. After lean times comes a spurt of spending due to pent-up demand. People are paying off debt and watching pennies now, and that’s an appropriate response. But once indicators start looking up, the companies and individuals who have put off essential purchases are going to start buying again. They may not start splurging on luxuries, but the things that are difficult to live without or do business without. Are you getting ready? Position yourself now while it’s slow and you have breathing room. Use this time to rethink, rebundle, and repackage your services and products. We already know that 2009 will be a banner year for start-up companies as big corporations have shed qualified, educated, proficient people by the hundreds of thousands. Many of those folks will decide life is better in the wild than on the game preserve, and they will need the tools to survive. If you offer coaching, consulting and professional services, they need you in bite-sized pieces to get off to a good start. Once the dust settles, existing companies are going to realize that the firms that survive are the ones that keep moving forward. You can’t grind to a halt and expect to make it. They will continue to need professional services, work-related products and expertise in order to compete in a new, leaner environment. Consumers also will continue to need essential goods and services with a few affordable luxuries thrown in from time to time. If you can offer a bargain and good value, they will respond. And here’s another thing to think about—the exodus of corporate talent into the small business pool is a great gain for those of us already in business for ourselves. We get access to corporate-trained experts who were previously out of our reach, people whom we couldn’t afford to hire full time but who we can afford piecemeal. As they become consultants, coaches and small business owners, we can now “rent” them and reap the benefit. This is a huge source of new ideas, best practices, and fresh approaches. So ride the wave! The best way we can help our neighbors and our communities out of this slump is to keep moving forward, making cautious investments toward the future, knowing that the upturn is the next natural part of the cycle. Marketing is one your best investments of time, effort and a little cash right now. That’s because marketing keeps your name visible as your competitors cower and fall away. If you meet a real, urgent need, demand for your services will continue among surviving businesses. Widen your net via online marketing to serve a global audience. But don’t stop fishing!
Promotional Tools on Facebook to Grow Your Business
Facebook now has over one billion users. While Facebook was originally designed as a recreational place to connect with friends, businesses were quick to see the potential. In fact, businesses have embraced Facebook faster than the Facebook architecture has adapted, leaving Facebook often scrambling to catch up to how its subscribers want to use the site.
Being present on social media for a company today is much like being present on the Web: you are judged negatively if you’re not there. Just as many consumers would not consider a company to be a “real” business without a Website, so many purchasers look for a Facebook presence to see if you are “real.” What matters is that consumers have decided that they want to have a two-way conversation with the companies they patronize, and firms that abstain from being part of the dialog do so at their peril.
At the very least, you need to have a Facebook Business Page. As Facebook has adapted to the needs of business users, these Business Pages have become easier to create and use. Facebook wants businesses to promote from a Business Page and not from a personal profile. Ignoring this rule can get your page deleted.
A Business Page works a little differently from a personal profile page in that a Business Page can’t “friend” individual users. Instead, users are invited to “like” the page and thereby opt-in to receive automatic updates whenever the page adds new information.
Today’s consumers value a connection through Facebook because they want to be able to express their opinions, ask questions, and feel as though they are being heard. They want to do business with people, not faceless corporations. Companies that learn to listen can reap valuable benefits, from uncovering (and being able to fix) customer service issues to discovering competitive advantages when a rival firm has dropped the ball, to new product ideas from the suggestions of loyal purchasers.
When you create your Business Page, make sure both your logo and your photo are prominently displayed. People need to find you as a business, but they want to connect with you as the person behind the business. Fill in the Information section, making sure your content is all about the benefit you provide to your customers and what you do for them (not just a laundry list of products and services). Include your other Websites, links to blogs and podcasts and business contact information so your Facebook fans can find you on the Internet.
If you already have a profile page, Facebook wants you to use it primarily for personal/recreational content. However, it’s OK to talk about business some of the time, just as you would in real life. Also, with a profile you can invite people to “like” your Business Page, and suggest that your “friends” also visit your Business Page. Just keep your profile mostly personal, to remain compliant with Facebook’s Terms of Service.
Six Easy Ways to Get More Customers with Facebook
1. Content is essential for attracting and keeping readers. Ask questions that are business-related, provide tips and post links to interesting and helpful videos, articles and blogs, even to content that you didn’t create but that your audience would appreciate. Repurpose articles and answers into Frequently Asked Questions and use other information you’ve written into short, helpful one-paragraph snippets of content.
2. Try to keep a conversational tone. Don’t use a hard sell, and don’t constantly promote. Instead, draw your readers in with open-ended questions and try to get them into a dialog. Facebook users want to connect with the person behind the business, so keep the conversation “business casual”, as you would at a networking luncheon. That means that it’s OK to talk a little bit about superficial personal subjects, such as your pets, vacation highlights, sports teams. Always make sure that the information you share shows you in an ethical, trustworthy light. Be human, but also be professional! You can also reward those who “like” your page with occasional special discounts and coupons.
3. Promote your Facebook Business Page at every opportunity. Put a “badge” (Facebook can generate this for free) showing your Business Page icon on your business Web page. Add the address for your Business Page to your business cards, signage, invoices, handouts and all marketing material (Facebook makes it easy to create a short, readable page address). Where your Website is a one-way conversation (you speaking to your customers), view your Facebook page as the opportunity to learn from having a two-way conversation with your prospects and buyers.
4. Facebook also offers the ability to place ads that show up on the profiles of other Facebook users who fit the demographic description you provide. You set the budget and the duration for the ads, and a campaign costing just a few hundred dollars can lead to hundreds of thousands of impressions and hundreds of clicks. This is a good way to drive traffic to your Business Page or to your company’s Web page.
5. Facebook has tightened up its rules for allowing contests, but that doesn’t mean that contests are out of reach for small businesses. PinpointSocial.com specializes in template-driven, do-it-yourself Facebook campaigns that comply with Facebook’s rules but are easy and affordable for small businesses to run. Used in conjunction with Facebook ads, this is a wonderful way to increase the “likes” for your page, essentially increasing your Facebook opt-in. Constant Contact has also added a social media tool that creates Facebook landing pages using templates, with the advantage that the tool also integrates with Constant Contact’s impressive email marketing capabilities.
6. You can also add value to your Facebook Business Page through extra add-on applications within Facebook. For example, one app allows your blog to automatically post to your Facebook page (RSS), increasing your productivity by getting additional exposure for each blog post. The same is also possible for your Twitter or podcast feed. For companies that sell on eBay, Facebook has an app that interfaces with your eBay site. Apps change frequently, so be sure to look for the ones that would be right for your business.
Sure, you’d love to rule the web with a gazillion fans, friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. You know you should be posting more frequently; if not once a day, at least several times a week. But who has time?
Fortunately for you, there are a growing number of social media productivity tools available to help you organize your online activity, making it easier for you to get more done in less time. Most of these sites enable you to post once and have your messages go to numerous social media sites, and a few of them have additional handy bells and whistles to help you manage your online life more efficiently.
“Dashboard” programs provide all-in-one-place control, much like the console of a car or airplane. Programs like HootSuite, Social Oomph, Ping and TweetDeck make it possible for you to plan your social media campaigns and load content in advance.
One of the central benefits of a dashboard program is the “set it and forget it” feature; the ability to enter content into the dashboard and schedule blog posts, Facebook updates and Twitter tweets to go out over a period of time. While pre-scheduled content is no substitute for live conversations, dashboard programs fill the very real need of making sure that busy people maintain a baseline, consistent level of content without large gaps.
You can always pop in online to add updates, post photos or jump into conversations in addition to your pre-scheduled content, but you won’t get to Thursday and realize you haven’t posted or tweeted all week.
A caveat: many dashboard programs post content with a source credit that says “from API”, meaning that it has been automatically posted. Some social media users and search engines view pre-scheduled content as less desirable than live-posted information, regardless of the quality of the actual information itself. This means that to keep your friends, fans and followers happy and to raise your social media score with ranking programs like Klout and Alexa, keep a good balance of live posts and pre-scheduled posts.
On the other hand, realize that pre-scheduled content is better than no content. Followers, search engines and ranking programs also take a dim view of prolonged absences. I maintain that if the best you can do during a busy period is pre-scheduled content, being present on a consistent basis far outweighs the alternatives.
This is where the power of the Cloud really makes a difference, because through Cloud-based storage, you can access, edit and share many more documents than your mobile phone or tablet PC could store locally, without slowing down your device or maxing out your storage. Google Docs, SugarSync, Box.net, and Dropbox all have mobile apps, making it easy to grab your documents no matter where you are.
Many apps also allow you to email documents as attachments, which is a nice back-up storage option. Be wary, however, of relying on email if your document is large or your WiFi connection is of questionable strength. Remember, too, that if you’re using a public WiFi connection in a hotel or airport, your data is not encrypted so don’t email or upload sensitive files until you have a secure connection. Also, mobile plans differ in the way they charge for data usage, especially if you’re using your own Internet hot spot, so make sure you understand your phone plan pricing or you could be in for a surprise when your next bill arrives.
If you’re a person of few words, you’ll admire the elegance of the idea behind Twitter; each post is just 140 characters. That’s about two sentences to get your idea across. What can you do in two sentences? You’d be surprised.
Twitter is a great place to share links to valuable content (you can shorten them to preserve more of your character limit by using a program like Bitly.com or TinyURL.com): videos, interesting articles on other sites, blog posts, audio, or downloads. Find an article of interest to your audience? Share the link, and then tweet a few thoughts and ask a question to get a conversation going.
What else can you talk about in 140 characters? Recommend a business book and say how it influenced you. If you were at an event and saw a speaker who talked about something useful for your readers, Tweet about it! You could even include a link to the event Website, speaker’s home page, or to a video or blog post related to the event. Or, share a motivational quote, comment on a business-related topic that is in the news, or let readers know if you have an upcoming promotion or special event.
As with Facebook, you can reward the people who follow your page with periodic links to free downloadable material of value to their business, or give them sneak previews of special prices before you post the specials on your Website. People who follow you can ask you questions, either publically or privately, so you’ll want to monitor these so you can answer promptly. (Several of the dashboards make this easier.)
Twitter is also a good way to give live updates from the business-related events you attend. If you’re at a conference, either as a speaker or an attendee, send periodic tweets about what you’ve liked, what insights you’ve gained, what well-known experts you’ve heard or met, and other information that gives your followers a you-were-there feeling.
Whenever you use a keyword in your tweets (such as the name of an event, a book, a celebrity/authority or product), make it searchable by putting # in front of it. For example, if you are talking about the book Think And Grow Rich, you would tweet #ThinkAndGrowRich. That way your tweet will show up if anyone searches on the name of the book. You can also see what topics are popular by searching Twitters Trending Topics. Chiming in on a hot topic (if it relates to your business) can draw attention to your Twitter page, and help you gain more readers.
Promote your Twitter page, and make sure you let people know what’s in it for them to follow you. Tell them what kind of helpful content you post, and if you provide discounts or coupons, let them know. You can also have your Twitter feed automatically update your other online pages, such as your LinkedIn page or Web site, by using the RSS (Really Simple Syndication). LinkedIn has a free RSS application, and your Web designer can add it easily to your home page.
No, this isn’t about the afterlife. It’s about how you can store files someplace that never runs out of room, and back up your important data in a safe place outside your home or office.
Corporations store their data backup in salt mines and high security off-site locations. That’s a little extreme (and expensive) for most small businesses, but the need for secure storage and backup isn’t limited to large corporations. A flood, fire or natural disaster could wipe out your computer and your locally-stored flash drives and portable hard drives. Frequent back-ups to a storage location reduce your risk of a catastrophic data loss.
Storage capacity is another challenge for many users. While storage costs have decreased tremendously, making terabytes of capacity reasonably priced, some users rapidly exceed their on-site storage capability.
Fortunately, Cloud computing offers alternatives for both data security and data storage.
Carbonite, Mozy, MyOtherDrive, iBackup, Dropbox, GoogleDocs, GoDaddy, Sugarsync, ElephantDrive, LiveDrive, MyPCBackup and other sites offer Cloud-based data backup and storage capabilities. Most sites provide automated back-up, making it less likely that you’ll forget to update files. In addition, files stored on the Cloud can be accessed from any location, giving you portability.
When looking into Cloud-based data storage, remember that you’re entrusting your sensitive files to a third party.
Here are some questions to consider as you weigh your alternatives.
• What happens to my data if the provider is sold, merged or goes out of business?
• How does the provider assure site security?
• What precautions are taken against hackers?
• How does the provider do its own back-up to assure my data is safe if the provider has a catastrophic event at their location?
• What do other users say about the ease of use, security and customer support?
Cloud-based storage and back-up can be valuable and affordable services. Having your files saved from just one on-site disaster could well be worth the investment in monthly fees. As always, be sure to check out provider options to find the service that is the best fit for your business.
10 Mobile Apps for Business You Can’t Live Without
Whether you’re a true road warrior or you just seem to be on the go all the time, mobile apps from your tablet PC or smart phone can make your life much more productive. Even better: many great apps are free, and others are very inexpensive, so productivity seems sweeter than ever.
What are the basics you need to get work done when you’re not in the office? At a minimum, you need some good ways to take notes, work on or read documents, store and retrieve files, and access the tools you usually have close at hand in an office or on your laptop. Fortunately, there are apps for all these needs, and on your smart phone or tablet PC, they’re truly at your fingertips.
Smart phones and tablet PCs are desirable because they’re smaller and lighter than a laptop and easier to carry around. But that same portability comes with a price: they can’t carry all of the files stored so conveniently on your laptop. Good news: an ever-increasing array of apps bridges that gap between laptop and mobile device, making it easier than ever to work on the go.
Quick note taking is essential to keep your thoughts organized, especially when you’re constantly in motion. iPhones and iPads come with a basic Notes app, which while not perfect, is quite suitable for the kinds of things you’d jot on a cocktail napkin.
While it doesn’t sync with other apps and it doesn’t have any security beyond that of your phone’s keypad, Notes is perfect for jotting down something you don’t want to forget and assuring that you won’t lose the scrap of paper you wrote it on. Not perfect, but it’s free, and there’s a lot of basic function that goes a long way.
Evernote, which I’ve discussed earlier, also has a mobile app. So if you love it on your other devices, you can bring it along in your pocket with your phone or tablet PC. A few other note taking apps include Awesome Note, WriteRoom, Simplenote and RememberTheMilk make it easy to jot down what you need to remember, and come with varying additional capabilities, such as being able to sync to other devices or store data in the Cloud.
Pages is a very good, basic app for reading and writing documents. Documents you create in Pages can be emailed in RTF or Word format, and you can email yourself (small) documents in those formats and edit using Pages. While I find it cumbersome to type documents of any length with the on-screen keyboard or a phone or tablet PC, when you pair Pages with a wireless keyboard, the result is pretty efficient.
For those who want to access their Microsoft Office files from their iPad or iPhone, Quickoffice Pro HD bridges the gap between Microsoft and Apple. There’s also a scaled down version, Quickoffice Connect Suite. With Quickoffice, you can open a Word document, access a PowerPoint presentation, or edit, save and share other types of Office-based files.
Office2 HD is a similar program, offering a few more capabilities for word processing than some of the more basic apps. Documents To Go Premium Office Suite not only handles Word and PowerPoint, but it will also access Excel spreadsheets, and it syncs with storage programs including Dropbox, SugarSync and Box.net.
Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin. Order here: http://amzn.com/1601632266
To address these problems, Cloud computing programs make it possible for users to access their computers remotely and store files in secure storage sites that can be accessed on the go.
For users who rely on instant, mobile access to stored data but don’t want to lug their laptops everywhere they go, these programs offer portability, security and easy access.
GoToMyPC enables subscribers to securely access their computer back at the office while they’re on the road. If you’ve ever had an “oops” moment of panic as you realized that you left the folder or the flash drive you needed for your out-of-office presentation back on your desk, you can appreciate the appeal.
GoToMyPC is compatible with both Microsoft and Apple computers, and can also be accessed from an iPad. The service offers access to files, email, applications and network resources via a secure, encrypted connection.
Other virtual access programs include LogMeIn.com, PCAnywhere.com and Anyplace-Control.com.
You’ll need to weigh the convenience of remote access against the possibility, however slim, that even the most secure data connections can (at least theoretically), be compromised. If you travel frequently and have ever had a deal compromised by a missing file, the benefits may be well worth the risk to you. This is especially true for one-person companies who lack the home office staff to email or overnight a forgotten document.
If you’re in a business where a security breech would be catastrophic, it’s probably worth the price to confer with your Information Technology consultant to explore options. While the remote access programs themselves may be secure, there are inherent security risks to using public access computers, such as those in hotels, libraries and office supply stores. Only you can decide whether the risks outweigh the convenience. If you’re not sure how to assess the risks, talk to your IT consultant.
There are a lot of programs out there to help you organize your social media life. Here are a few of my favorites:
HootSuite is one of the best-known dashboard programs. It’s a powerful, user-friendly site that offers levels of membership ranging from a basic free service to a more robust Pro level. The heart of HootSuite is the ability to enter posts in advance into the dashboard and program when your content goes live across multiple social media sites. This works especially well if you are using a virtual assistant to help you load the content you’ve written, and it makes it easy to keep track of what you’ve said and where you said it.
HootSuite also has a convenient mobile app for smart phones, so you can keep an eye on your account when you’re on the go.
SocialOomph is another dashboard with many of the same capabilities as HootSuite. As you’d expect, SocialOomph lets you pre-load and schedule on Twitter, blogs and Facebook, and provides both a basic free level of service and an extended professional level.
You can track keywords, view your @Mentions and Retweets, purge spammy Direct Messages (DM), and monitor multiple accounts from one dashboard. The professional level offers blog integration, profile filters, and some interesting ways to assess which of your followers might be your most valuable prospects.
While SocialOomph leans heavily toward Twitter with a nod toward Facebook and blogs, it does enable Ping to send your information to LinkedIn and MySpace.
TweetDeck is another of the well-known dashboards. TweetDeck offers connectivity with Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Buzz, and Foursquare. It makes it easy to create and manage Twitter Lists and helps cut down on Twitter spam. Another valuable feature is the ability to follow Twitter Trends, real-time topics and TwitScoop to stay abreast of the most popular topics.
TweetDeck is available for iPhone, Android, iPad and a new Web-based interface, as well as the original desktop version. At the time of this writing, TweetDeck is free, which is good for a solid, basic dashboard. However, if you’re looking for a pro version with additional features or you want more analytics, at the moment, they’re not built into TweetDeck, so one of the other dashboards may do a better job if those elements are important to you.
Regardless of which dashboard program you use, remember that it’s your content that matters. If you’re creating content that is highly targeted and meets the needs of your ideal audience, then how it gets posted is a back office issue of no consequence to your online network. Remember also that while these dashboards have the ability to increase your reach, poor quality content will hurt your brand and over-posting with hard-sell copy will lose you friends and followers, and may get your account suspended.
These are power tools; use them with caution!
But if your programs don’t live on your computer hard drive, how safe are you from hackers and viruses?
If the idea of having your valuable and proprietary data residing in the Cloud worries you, there are steps you can take to set your mind at ease.
Secondly, always back up essential information. This can mean creating a print-out, saving a Web-based document as a file or a screen shot, or copying essential information to your hard drive or an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) storage site. An FTP site allows you to store and share documents or files that are too large for regular email. Yes, FTP sites are also Cloud computing sites—a good example is www.4shared.com, but there are many similar sites.
Third, be certain to safeguard your password. Realize that when you share access to your Cloud computing sites with an administrative assistant or colleague, they may gain access to your billing and credit card information unless the site allows for different levels of access.
Some Cloud computing sites offer a group membership, so that you can provide access to several employees or partners while keeping your own account information private. Other programs make it possible to designate an “administrator” who can access everything except the billing/payment information. If you must share your password with an assistant, keep track of which passwords have been shared and be sure to change your password if your relationship with the assistant ends.
Cloud computing programs can boost your productivity by giving you access to powerful software without the hassle of downloads and updates. You save time, reduce the in-house needs for online storage, and reduce your dependence on hired computer professionals.
Just think. You won’t lose part of a day as your IT consultant tinkers with the settings to make sure a newly downloaded program doesn’t wreck your network!
Small businesses and solo professionals also benefit by gaining access to valuable online services and software which would be prohibitively expensive to license on an individual basis, and which would require significant investment in servers and personnel to install and manage in-house.
For big productivity gains and lower costs, get into the Cloud!
“Cloud computing” refers to access to software that is accessible via subscription over the Internet. Programs that reside in the Cloud are actually housed on the servers of the company that owns the software and which provides subscription access.
Unlike traditional software, such as word processing or spreadsheet programs that are stored on your computer’s hard drive, programs that reside in the Cloud never have to be installed, updated or uninstalled from your computer. That’s the beauty of the “Cloud.”
Why would you want your software to be housed on the Cloud? Several good reasons come to mind:
•Because the software is stored on the Cloud, it doesn’t hog memory or bog down your computer.
•You don’t have to worry about updating the software; the tech staff at the company providing the software takes care of doing that.
•Since you access the software via the Internet (and a secure password), you can access your software (and possibly your related files) from any computer, anywhere you have an Internet connection.
•Since your access is via subscription (usually monthly or annually), your costs are much less than if you were to purchase a private license for the program.
•When you no longer want or need the software, cancel the subscription. There is no software to uninstall on your computer.
•If there’s a problem with the software, your subscription includes access to technical support. It’s the provider’s responsibility to fix the bugs, and you don’t have to download patches or new versions.
Appzilla, Appzilla2 and Apzilla 3 are the Swiss Army knives of the app world. Appzilla comes with 90 mini apps, and Appzilla2 has 120, including a book lamp, checklist, countdown timer, area code look-up, alarm clock, currency converter, date calculator, flashlight, and links to nine Google apps. Sure, Appzilla also has fun things like a metronome, moon calculator and Morse code generator, but those can be a momentary distraction when you’re stuck in an airport.
Need a dictionary? Try the Dictionary! app or the Dictionary.com app and have the English language at your fingertips. The Dictionary.com app even includes a thesaurus, or you can grab FreeSaurus on iTunes.
Looking for a phone number? Before you pay for a 411 look-up, try the WhitePagesMobile app. Use it to search for either businesses or people, and get maps or directions. YPMobile gives you the Yellow Pages business directory, plus ratings and event information.
Want to translate a phrase into Chinese or Serbian? The FreeTranslator app will help you with the important short sentences necessary to get by when you’re traveling. Can’t remember the source of a quote? Quotationary probably has what you’re looking for. Need to know where in the world you are? Try World Atlas HD for maps and useful details about every country on the globe.
Struggling with a metric conversion question? Convertbot has the answer. Not sure when your package will arrive? DeliveryStatus will get an answer for you. Need a mirror to see if the lettuce from your salad at lunch is still in your teeth? The Mirror app turns your smart phone into, yep, a mirror that you won’t lose in your desk drawer.
If you miss your filing drawer back at the office, try FilesToGo, a Cloud-based filing system that gives you access when you’re traveling. No need to juggle loose printouts on the plane: GoodReader can translate a PDF file into an iPad-friendly format so you can read it from your touchscreen. Bento is an app that works like a virtual clipboard/ database/ desktop organizer for either the iPad or iPhone.
When you’d rather speak than use a keyboard, you’ve got several great options. DragonDictation’s app (and program for the PC) lets you speak into your smart phone and activate your email or your text messages. To use your phone to take dictation or just record a message to send later, try Say It & Mail It Pro Recorder or QuickVoice2TextEmail.
Keep track of your time while you’re on the road with TimeMaster + Billing—it’s even got a billing module. Take your pick: Timewerks, TimeLogger or iTimeSheetLite can also help you manage and monetize your time. They differ in capabilities, so pick the one that works best for you.
If there’s still anything you’re missing from your bricks-and-mortar office, a quick search on iTunes or Android app store will probably turn up several contenders to help you create your home away from home.
What are the basics you need to get work done when you’re not in the office? At a minimum, you need some good ways to take notes, work on or read documents, store and retrieve files, and access the tools you usually have close at hand in an office or on your laptop. Fortunately, there are apps for all these needs, and on your smart phone or tablet PC, they’re truly at your fingertips.
Smart phones and tablet PCs are desirable because they’re smaller and lighter than a laptop and easier to carry around. But that same portability comes with a price: they can’t carry all of the files stored so conveniently on your laptop. Good news: an ever-increasing array of apps bridges that gap between laptop and mobile device, making it easier than ever to work on the go.
Quick note taking is essential to keep your thoughts organized, especially when you’re constantly in motion. iPhones and iPads come with a basic Notes app, which while not perfect, is quite suitable for the kinds of things you’d jot on a cocktail napkin. While it doesn’t sync with other apps and it doesn’t have any security beyond that of your phone’s keypad, Notes is perfect for jotting down something you don’t want to forget and assuring that you won’t lose the scrap of paper you wrote it on. Not perfect, but it’s free, and there’s a lot of basic function that goes a long way.
Evernote, which I’ve discussed earlier in the book, also has a mobile app. So if you love it on your other devices, you can bring it along in your pocket with your phone or tablet PC. A few other note taking apps include Awesome Note, WriteRoom, Simplenote and RememberTheMilk make it easy to jot down what you need to remember, and come with varying additional capabilities, such as being able to sync to other devices or store data in the Cloud.
Pages is very good, basic app for reading and writing documents. Documents you create in Pages can be emailed in RTF or Word format, and you can email yourself (small) documents in those formats and edit using Pages. While I find it cumbersome to type documents of any length with the on-screen keyboard or a phone or tablet PC, when you pair Pages with a wireless keyboard, the result is pretty efficient.
For those who want to access their Microsoft Office files from their iPad or iPhone, Quickoffice Pro HD bridges the gap between Microsoft and Apple. There’s also a scaled down version, Quickoffice Connect Suite. With Quickoffice, you can open a Word document, access a PowerPoint presentation, or edit, save and share other types of Office-based files. Office2 HD is a similar program, offering a few more capabilities for word processing than some of the more basic apps. Documents To Go Premium Office Suite not only handles Word and PowerPoint, but it will also access Excel spreadsheets, and it syncs with storage programs including Dropbox and Box.net.
“Cloud computing” refers to access to software that is accessible via subscription over the Internet. Programs that reside in the Cloud are actually housed on the servers of the company that owns the software and which provides subscription access. Unlike traditional software, such as word processing or spreadsheet programs that are stored on your computer’s hard drive, programs that reside in the Cloud never have to be installed, updated or uninstalled from your computer. That’s the beauty of the “Cloud.”
Why would you want your software to be housed on the Cloud? Several good reasons come to mind:
• You don’t have to install the program, so you can use software that requires greater speed or memory than your desktop or laptop might possess.
• Because the software is stored on the Cloud, it doesn’t hog memory or bog down your computer.
• You don’t have to worry about updating the software; the tech staff at the company providing the software takes care of doing that.
• Since you access the software via the Internet (and a secure password), you can access your software (and possibly your related files) from any computer, anywhere you have an Internet connection.
• Since your access is via subscription (usually monthly or annually), your costs are much less than if you were to purchase a private license for the program.
• When you no longer want or need the software, cancel the subscription. There is no software to uninstall on your computer.
• If there’s a problem with the software, your subscription includes access to technical support. It’s the provider’s responsibility to fix the bugs, and you don’t have to download patches or new versions.
What kinds of programs reside in the Cloud? Over the last decade, a growing variety of programs are available via Cloud computing. Here are just some of the types of programs provided via Cloud computing:
• Calendar programs, such as Google Calendar and Tungle
• Email programs, such as Constant Contact
• Web audio/video programs, such as AudioAcrobat
• Conferencing programs, such as GoToWebinar
• Shopping cart programs, such as 1ShoppingCart
• Data storage programs, such as Carbonite
• Online job management programs, such as Elance
• Benefits administration programs, such as BaseOnline.com
What about security on the Cloud?
If the idea of having your valuable and proprietary data residing in the Cloud worries you, there are steps you can take to set your mind at ease.
Secondly, always back up essential information. This can mean creating a print-out, saving a Web-based document as a file or a screen shot, or copying essential information to your hard drive or an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) storage site. An FTP site allows you to store and share documents or files that are too large for regular email. Yes, FTP sites are also Cloud computing sites—an example is www.4shared.com, but there are many similar sites.
Third, be certain to safeguard your password. Realize that when you share access to your Cloud computing sites with an administrative assistant or colleague, they may gain access to your billing and credit card information unless the site allows for different levels of access. Some Cloud computing sites offer a group membership, so that you can provide access to several employees or partners while keeping your own account information private. Other programs make it possible to designate an “administrator” who can access everything except the billing/payment information. If you must share your password with an assistant, keep track of which passwords have been shared and be sure to change your password if your relationship with the assistant ends.
Cloud computing programs can boost your productivity by giving you access to powerful software without the hassle of downloads and updates. You save time, reduce the in-house needs for online storage, and reduce your dependence on hired computer professionals. Just think about it, you won’t lose part of a day as your IT consultant tinkers with the settings to make sure a newly downloaded program doesn’t wreck your network!
Small businesses and solo professionals also benefit by gaining access to valuable online services and software which would be prohibitively expensive to license on an individual basis, and which would require significant investment in servers and personnel to install and manage in-house.
For big productivity gains and lower costs, get into the Cloud!
Gail Z. Martin is the author of 30 Days to Social Media Success, and the host of the Six Figure Social Media Success virtual boot camp. Learn more about Gail and her books at www.GailMartinMarketing.com.
Here are the top five things I learned from him about being successful in business:
I will always miss Chase, but I’m grateful for the time we had together. Many people heard his deep “woof” in the background of a phone call, and he was the muse for all of my books. His memory will stay with me forever, but so will the lessons about life and business that I learned from him.
So…take a moment to be grateful for the pets and people in your life, and show them how much they matter to you. And while you’re doing that, keep your eyes open for the wisdom that they can share that lasts a lifetime.
One way to look at social media that takes some of the fear away is to think of it as a tool like your telephone, mailbox or email. None of those are very scary, right? They’re all tools we use to connect with other people, and to have other people connect with us. Used improperly, we get telemarketer phone calls, junk mail and spam. But used correctly, we hear from friends, family and clients, receive valuable materials, and reach people around the world. Social media is one more way to make that connection, to deliver or receive valuable information, and to reach people around the block and around the world.
Not if you plan your work and work your plan. Think of it this way: if you walk into a store to browse, you could wander around for an hour. But if you go in knowing exactly what you want to buy, you can be in and out in 15 minutes. It’s the same with social media. Before you log on, have one or two strategic actions you want to accomplish, go do them, and log off. If there are things that catch your eyes but aren’t business-related, save them for your lunch hour or evening.
Well, you might meet weird strangers at the supermarket, too. However, on social media, you can choose whose invitations to accept, and if someone you’ve followed or friended turns out not be someone you want to associate with, you can easily unfriend them. Imagine social media as a huge conference. You go to meet new people, but if you meet someone you don’t like, you can throw out their business card. Social media is a big, global conference where you can meet amazing new people, and if you don’t like someone, you don’t have to remain in contact with them.
Social media is a fantastic way to encourage, educate, motivate, inspire, inform and support other people. If you focus on sharing helpful information, suggesting resources, sharing inspiring or motivating quotes/photos, and throwing in the occasional link to an interesting article, or funny G-rated video or book title, you’ve gone a long way toward offering useful, helpful, and connection-building content.
Gail Z. Martin is the author of 30 Days to Social Media Success, and the host of the Six Figure Social Media Success virtual boot camp. Learn more about Gail and her books at www.GailMartinMarketing.com.
She was truly terrified of talking to “strangers” on social media, and yet, isn’t meeting new people at the very heart of business success?
I asked the woman, “If someone came up to you at this luncheon and smiled and introduced herself, would you dive under the table?” “Of course not,” she replied. “Well, Facebook is like a big networking luncheon that never stops,” I told her. And when she thought about it that way, she was suddenly able to make sense of it and it wasn’t nearly so scary.
As I travel and speak to groups, I’m saddened and amazed at how many people are hanging back from utilizing social media because of fear. So here are three steps you can use to get past your Fear of Facebook and start using social media fear-free.
A funny thing happened on the way to the new millennium. Many newspapers went away. Many – if not most – readers moved online. And when the Internet shift came, the comic strips did not follow the newspapers.
There were reasons. Comic distributors and artists were wondering how they’d get paid in this brave new online world (as were the creators of online newspapers). Most of the well-known comics went to membership/subscription sites, under the assumption that their fans would follow them. Some did. More didn’t.
Fast forward a few decades. I was at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure Park, and wandered through Comic Strip Alley. There they all were, big as life, with gift shops and diners – all my old friends from the comics. Then I turned to my teenagers. With the exception of Charlie Brown, my kids didn’t recognize any of the comic strip icons.
What happened? Consumers changed how they read their news. And no matter how reasonable or well-intentioned the comics’ reason for not embracing easy online access, the end result is oblivion for these once well-known characters as far as anyone under 40 is concerned.
Why should you care? Because for me, this was a rather alarming case study of just how quickly well-established brands can vanish when they don’t figure out how to use new technology. Comic strip characters are unknown to today’s young adults and kids. On the other hand, Islands of Adventure also has a comic book area, with heroes like Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, and Wolverine, as well as Spiderman. Did my kids know them? Absolutely. They might not have read the comics, but they’d seen the movies or played the video games. The comic book characters were still relevant, while the comic strips might as well have been silent movies.
What made the difference? Comic books have been more visible in the Internet age with movies, online content, and video games. They found a way to embrace the new technology, remain current with a new generation, and still make money.
What’s the moral for you? One take-away is the lesson to not let fear of a new technology keep you from finding a way to remain visible. Look for a way you can have maximum visibility while still being paid for what you create, but avoid the reflex to hide behind firewalls.
The second lesson is to be wary about cutting ties with a successful longtime distribution method. People expected to get their comics with their news. When they didn’t, most people didn’t want to pay for both news and comics. Comics not only lost distribution, but they lost exposure.
Lesson three: When your distribution method changes, look for ways to stay visible. Even if comics had stayed with the online newspapers, it wouldn’t have won them the teen and child audience because those readers no longer care about newsletters. But teens and tweens spend a lot of time online. Comic books found a way to reach this audience. Comic strips did not.
Take a lesson from the comics when you think of the future of your own business. Often, our own fear of new technology is our biggest stumbling block. As Pogo once observed, “We have met the enemy, and they is us.”
“Keywords” are the terms customers use when searching for information with a site like Google. Many companies make the mistake of focusing solely on getting their company and product name onto search engine results and forget that prospects may not yet know the name of their company or product.
These valuable prospects are going to search on more generic descriptors, “used car” instead of “Ford,” “plumbing services” instead of the name of a company, or “color printers” rather than a brand name product.
Start by making a list of all of the nouns you normally use to describe your company, product, service or newsworthy event. Don’t be afraid to have several variations of the same term, for example, “printer,” “color printer,” “laser printer,” etc. Make sure that you include generic descriptions as well as brand names, product names and trademarked terms. If you’ve seen customers frequently misspell a term related to your product or service, include the misspelling as well.
If your product, service or event has recently been in the news, featured in the media or associated somehow with a celebrity, include the name of the celebrity, news source or media. Do you have a well-known spokesperson or a fairly famous mascot? Include those names. Does your product, service or event have any relevant tie-in to recent headline news stories? If so, include keywords related to that headline topic.
Now go out to Alexa and look at the most popular topics. Do any of those terms have a reasonable connection to your company, product, service or event? If so, copy the term to your list. Sites like Alexa may tell you what search terms are already sending business to your site and to competitors’ sites. Those are definitely terms to add to your list. Go to Twitter and see what the “trending topics” are—this is a list of the most frequently tweeted terms, the terms everyone is talking about. Do any of them apply to you? If so, grab the words.
Another place to look for hot keywords is on the social bookmarking sites like Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon. These sites enable users to share links to articles, Websites, and other Internet content that they have found to be interesting. It’s the online equivalent of hanging something on the office bulletin board with a sticky note that says, “Look at this.” Take a few moments and look for any popular topics that are related to your news, and add the words to your list.
At this point, you should have a pretty large list. Now it’s time to see which words pack the most search engine punch. Go out to Google Keyword Tool (it’s free) and enter one term at a time. Google Keyword Tool will return a list of similar terms along with the number of times those terms have been used to search for a topic on Google. You’ll immediately notice that many terms that are synonymous have very different frequencies of use. As I’ve said earlier, if you have two terms that mean the same thing and one is used a thousand times and one is used a million times, pick the million-search term!
As you’re looking through the keywords generated by the program, you may get some great ideas for new words, and you may find that many of the words you started with have very low search results. Don’t forget to try word combinations because sometimes a phrase does better than a single word.
When you write your press releases, use the keywords that are relevant to your topic and that get the highest search results. It’s a good idea to use these top keywords in your Web site copy, and in your blog as well as in your Facebook and Twitter posts.
Don’t be afraid to use a good keyword multiple times, but make sure that your press release is written to be attractive to human readers as well as to search engines. Avoid the temptation to mention a popular topic or celebrity just to drive up Web hits. Search engines recognize cheap tricks like that and can penalize your release in the rankings.
Remember that curiosity gets clicks, so be creative and entertaining with your press release headline. Be clever but not cute, and never mislead. Remember to use strong keywords in your headline as well as in the body of your release.
Online press release sites often allow you to add keywords in a list. Don’t skip this step! It will help your release be more visible. Your Web site should have keywords and descriptive tags associated with every page as well as with photo and graphic images. Search engines can’t “see” photos or graphics, so if you don’t tag photos, they can’t show up in search engine results. Keywords are an essential part of everything you do online.
Keywords also play a crucial role in online advertising. If you look at the first page of your Google search results, you’ll notice some sites appear in a box at the top and in a column on the right. These are paid ads, and the advertisers have chosen specific keywords associated with their product or service so that when someone searches on those keywords, the ad is shown.
Google Adwords, Yahoo Search Marketing and MSN AdCenter are just some of the keyword-driven online advertising programs available to help put your product in a prime position in front of prospects. As you may have guessed, these services aren’t free, and competition can be fierce (and expensive) for popular search terms.
For example, Yahoo Search Marketing’s site has a questionnaire for new prospects, and for those who are looking to create campaigns with a budget under $5,000/month, a pop-up box suggests they try MSN AdCenter.
Need I say that before you decide to pay big bucks for a keyword tied to online advertising, it’s important to test that keyword for free in your PR and on your Website to make sure it delivers a high number of click-throughs?
The trick with pay-for-keyword advertising is to identify keywords that do a great job at driving your ideal customer to your subject and that are fairly popular but that aren’t the most frequently used words for that subject. Here’s where you go back to the Google Keyword Tool and to your own track record using the keywords you’ve chosen and see if there’s a “star” keyword that works for you but hasn’t been discovered by everyone else.
This keyword may relate to a unique feature you offer, or it may be less popular than the top words yet with a large enough search volume to satisfy your Web traffic goals.
Keywords also play an important role in Facebook ads. Facebook ads allow you to set a budget by day as well as an overall campaign cap. You can set the demographics to determine who sees your ad, and choose to pay by either impressions or click-throughs. “Impressions” refers to how many times your ad came up on other people’s pages (but there’s no guarantee that they read it). It’s like the traffic that drives past a billboard along the highway—they may or may not be looking as they zoom by. “Click-throughs” are the number of times someone actually clicks on your advertisement. In the billboard analogy, it’s like the people who dial the number they see on the billboard, taking action based on the promotion.
Whether you’re using keywords in PR or in paid online advertising, remember that the popularity of terms (and their relevancy to your company’s business) changes over time. Revisit the keywords you’re using every few months to add new, more popular terms and to weed out terms that have outlived their popularity. I suggest keeping a piece of paper handy by your computer to jot down keyword ideas as you surf the Web.
The Internet is constantly changing, so your campaigns need to be just as flexible and willing to adapt.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to give yourself credit for progress made. Here are some ways you might have taken steps toward your dreams this year:
- Learning new skills through books, classes or self-study programs
- Taking a risk to add staff, new products, new marketing techniques, or new distribution channels/multiple streams of income
- Stepping out of your comfort zone to ask for help through coaching, delegating workload, finding a mentor.
- Investing in yourself and your business through memberships, classes, resources, technology and equipment.
- Spending time on your vision and plans to chart a course for the future.
- Team building with your employees, contractors and vendors
Getting out of the office to network and strengthen relationships.
- Joining a new organization, taking on a community leadership role, and giving back to causes that matter to you.
Write down every success, big and small, and every step you’ve taken to get closer to your dream.
Now take a few moments and read over your list, and let yourself feel well-deserved credit for all that you’ve done this year to pave the way toward attaining your goals next year.
Next, it’s dreaming time. What is your vision for the new year? I’m not talking about resolutions, things like losing weight or exercising more often. I mean for your business—what vision do you have to blaze new trails, extend your horizons, and step fully into your dreams?
Write down your vision and the specific progress you want to achieve next year. Do you want to write a book? Become a professional speaker? Conquer social media? Get over your fear of technology? Re-launch your web site? Create a new product? Move into a new office? Hire more help and delegate more tasks? Whatever it is, write it down! (And then share some of your vision with me on Facebook or Twitter, because there’s something powerful about telling your vision to someone else.)
You’re not done yet! Take a few moments to look over your new vision list. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed with what has to happen to make those visions into reality. Instead, imagine each item has already come true. Imagine that it’s this time next year, and these are your accomplishments. Try each one on for size. How does it feel? Capture that feeling and hang onto it; you’ll need it when the going gets tough as you work to bring your vision to life.
Take the time to celebrate and dream, and sow the seeds for prosperity.
Isn’t it time you finally finished the book you’ve been dreaming about writing?
I write both fiction and non-fiction books, and I can tell you that completing a book is not only a sense of accomplishment; it’s also a real rush of joy. I get so excited knowing that my book will touch the lives of people I may never meet, either to give them hours of escape and enjoyment, or to share practical tips to help them accomplish their business goals. Books are a lasting way for me to make an impact on the world around me.
So what about your book? I know, you’re busy. So am I. But it’s amazing what you can get done when doing something is a priority. As you know, I’m a huge believer in seeing what you can accomplish in just five minutes, just one hour, just 30 days. So here’s one challenge: How can you set aside just two hours a week to work on your book this month? (Hint: Weekend mornings.) What would happen if you planned to spend eight hours this month writing your book? Can you set a 30 day goal for yourself? It doesn’t matter how many pages you decide to write for your goal; all that matters is that you create a goal and make an honest effort to reach it.
- Completing your book is a milestone of personal growth, and it will give you a real sense of control and accomplishment.
- Writing can help to relieve stress and provide a creative outlet.
- As you write, you may find answers to questions that have been bothering you. Writing is a great way to tap into the wisdom of your subconscious mind!
- Writing non-fiction enables you to go from providing your knowledge on a one-to-one basis to a one-to-many basis, expanding the number of people you can help.
- A non-fiction book also helps to establish your credibility as an expert, and can be a powerful tool for attracting new business.
- Books and related products can create a new stream of revenue for you.
- Writing a book is newsworthy, which is a great way to get noticed by the media.
Over the last few years, many well-established newspapers and magazines have either ceased publication or gone to online-only editions. This is a reflection of many trends, including a slump in advertiser spending, a shift to online media consumption, and the realities surrounding the cost of creating and distributing traditional print media.
We live in a do-it-yourself society. We pump our own gas, scan and bag our own groceries, and serve ourselves at cafeterias. So it should come as no surprise that today’s consumers have begun to take a do-it-yourself to media.
Today’s consumer isn’t limited by the choices presented by local radio stations. He or she can listen to hundreds of highly targeted satellite channels, play a CD or plug in a customized playlist on an iPod. TV watchers can choose from over a thousand cable channels, pop in a DVD, TiVo a show from a few days ago or download video from Netflix. Print consumers can read news online without waiting for the 6 p.m. broadcast or the next morning’s paper. Consumers have become accustomed to getting what they want when they want it.
Google (and the other search engines) changed the world by enabling anyone with a computer to search the Internet in the blink of an eye. Consumers today often start with an Internet search for what they want, and look to more traditional media for validation. So a consumer in the market for a product may start with searches on EBay or Amazon to see what’s available, and then look at a ratings magazine, ratings Web site or user blog to check reliability and satisfaction.
This do-it-yourself approach has created a world where content is highly customized and personalized. No one else has your iPod playlist. You may create a “portal” page for yourself with links to all of your favorite blogs and Web sites, creating a customized stream of news, entertainment and information. Each of the thousands of cable and satellite TV channels reaches an increasingly targeted consumer, far different from in the days when all of America watched one of three broadcast channels. Satellite radio can focus on a single artist or entertainer as well as a segmented style of music, news or comedy. It has become essential for anyone trying to reach consumers to speak with the same pinpoint segmentation.
The Internet has given consumers a huge amount of new information, mostly by going around the traditional gatekeepers. The good and bad news about the Internet is that anyone can post information, and the search engines will find it. Unless the person posting is breaking a law, there is no one to keep them from making their information available. Search engines select results based on relevancy, but say nothing about legitimacy. Consumers have access to a wealth of information, but they also increasingly feel the pressure of information overload.
This shift has caused online media and offline media to re-think their relationship beyond being competitors. In reality, they often form a continuum that permits the consumer-researcher to go as deeply into a topic as he or she desires. The Internet has also created a 24/7 market for information of all kinds, fueling a need for a vast amount of content, some of which comes in the form of press releases. At the same time, overwhelmed consumers still value trusted blogs, online magazines and other “branded” outlets to deliver information that has been verified to some degree and to weed out the junk.
The need for news never ends. In order to stay fresh, blogs, Web sites and online publications (as well as video sites and Internet radio) must continually release new content. The capacity to consume that content far outstrips what any individual or news team can produce alone. Web sites, blogs and online/traditional radio and TV could not possibly fill all their space or hours of programming without press release-generated news and lifestyle information.
Reporters, bloggers, TV and radio hosts use press releases to find story ideas, discover interesting people to interview and find new products and events to feature. An increasing number of sites, including CNN, encourage readers to upload their own video. Sites like BlogTalkRadio.com enable anyone to become an Internet radio host and develop programming with a narrowly targeted audience.
This creates an unprecedented opportunity for companies that are adept at positioning their information to inform and entertain highly targeted audiences.
The other big shift is that the Internet and the search engines have put the “public” back in Public Relations. Traditional PR could only reach the public through media gatekeepers. Today’s companies can take their message straight to consumers via the Internet, and as we’ll see in the next chapter, that requires changes to the traditional format of the press release, PR’s workhorse tool. By reaching the public directly, a company can create demand for a product when consumers request it from retailers. Companies can share more product details than magazines or blogs are likely to cover. When coupled with social media and the interactive tools available online, companies have an unprecedented opportunity to get user feedback and satisfy complaints, potentially increasing satisfaction and strengthening their reputation.
It takes a deft touch (and a detailed understanding of your target audience) to create PR campaigns that satisfy both consumers and the media, but it is worth the effort. The Internet blurs the line between reporter and citizen-journalist. Many individual bloggers have huge followings that “traditional” newspapers and magazines can only envy. Most consumers read and listen to a blend of “professional” news and citizen-journalist offerings, gathering what they need from both.
Companies who ignore online PR opportunities presented by blogs, forums, Web sites, Web video and Internet radio do so at their peril. Huge numbers of consumers make the Internet their first stop for information, making it essential for companies to learn how to be part of the flow, or risk being left behind.
Pre-Internet, a PR budget was mainly for paper, envelopes, postage and fancy fliers. Today, most press releases are sent via email, and extra information is posted on a Web site and sent via a hyperlink.
PR budgets require a mix of time and money. Time is required to gather the demographic and psychographic information about your customer, as well as to track online and offline media consumption patterns. You’ll also need to budget enough time to research the appropriate traditional and new media you want to target—the blogs, Web sites, online/offline newspapers and magazines, TV, Web video and Internet/broadcast radio outlets best suited to reaching your consumer.
Time is also required to put together well-written press releases and to distribute them in a way that reporters will read. (I’ll cover more on the details of how to do that in future chapters). You’ll also need to know the media’s deadlines, which can range from nearly instantaneous to six months (or more) in advance. Online and offline promotional tools also take time to create, but add significant value in terms of exposure and engagement.
Today’s promotional tools may include traditional standards like posters, signage, brochures and flyers. Modern companies also recognize that Web sites, Web banners, Facebook ads, online contests and give-aways, free downloadable samples and specialized social media pages are a vital part of PR that reaches the wired consumer.
The good news is that effective online and traditional PR can be done with more elbow grease than cash. Sites like Vistaprint.com enable you to print materials very inexpensively, while email newsletter providers like Constant Contact make it possible to create your own online direct mail campaign. If you have the internal resources (or are comfortable doing it yourself), it’s possible to create your own Web sites, downloads and social media. If that’s outside of your comfort zone or beyond your time budget, you’ll need to consider budgeting money for assistance, or bartering for skills.
One of the best things about online PR and marketing is the ability to trace visits, clicks, impressions, page openings and forwards in real time. You’re no longer dependent on an expensive clipping service. Instead, free programs like Google Alerts make it possible for you to find every time your name, keyword, product or event is mentioned anywhere on the Internet. This makes it very easy to see which media venues are receptive to your information, and where you may need to re-think your approach.
(and where you can focus instead)
Every business owner dreams of seeing his or her press release on the front page of The New York Times. But did you ever stop to realize that as ego-gratifying as an above-the-fold placement in a major newspaper might be, it might completely miss your target audience?
Thirty years ago, consumers received their information differently than they do today. Back when there were only three major TV networks, all an advertiser or publicist had to do was get onto the major networks to reach most viewers. When a daily newspaper and weekly magazines were the only choice for news, the strategy was simple—get in the paper and magazines.
But times have changed. The proliferation of cable channels, satellite radio choices, online news magazines, and mobile phone applications, as well as the demise of many long-running newspapers and magazines has completely changed how consumers consume information. “Mass media” is now not nearly as “mass” as it used to be. So making the front page of a major newspaper won’t help you sell products or services if your target audience doesn’t read that newspaper. Welcome to a whole new world of niche marketing.
Niche Marketing Gets Results
Does the shift in consumers’ media preference mean the end of mass media? No—or at least, not yet. However, that shift has dramatically reduced the effectiveness of mass media to reach the same kind of broad audience they once dominated. Believe it or not, “mass media” vehicles such as The New York Times, CBS and FM radio stations have become niches themselves. Since they can’t promise to reach everyone, even such long-lived media vehicles now emphasize the profile of the consumer they do reach (in other words, their niche).
Am I saying that mass media no longer plays a valuable role in promotion? No—but its role isn’t what it used to be. The big newspapers, the three major broadcast networks and big city FM radio stations can help a major advertiser saturate a market, but they reach a shrinking audience base at a very high cost per person compared with New Media alternatives. If you’ve got a couple of million dollars to round out your promotional campaign, go ahead and spend it with the traditional media. If you’re looking for a better, more focused and less expensive alternative, keep reading.
Refocus your idea of PR to take a broader look at the opportunities that exist for you to reach your target audience. Many people are so obsessed with having their press release picked up by a big newspaper, a major magazine or a network TV show that they have not bothered to study those media vehicles audience profiles to assure that the message is reaching the right consumer. Sure, you get bragging rights if a big paper picks up your release, but will you get sales? It won’t hurt—but how much will it help? Not only that, but what’s the value of a one-shot media mention versus developing relationships with more targeted venues that provide the potential for you to reach your ideal customer over and over again?
Here’s something else to consider: how often can your company generate news that is truly worthy of national attention? For most mid-sized companies, having national-caliber news might happen once or twice a year—a new product launch, an IPO, landing a huge company as a client. For solo professionals and small companies, even a once-a-year national news item might be a stretch. Publishing a new book with a major publisher would qualify, as would winning a national award or being named to a national board of directors, but beyond that, it is difficult to imagine too many opportunities that would tempt a national reporter to cover your news.
Now re-think that question, with your focus on regional/local news as well as the information sources that reach your profession or industry. Picture your ideal client and think about the blogs, Websites, podcasts, Internet radio shows, online/offline specialty magazines, newsletters and member organization publications that speak directly to their interests and needs. I bet your mental wheels are turning, helping you envision all kinds of news that would be interesting and valuable to the audience most likely to buy your products or engage your services. Why not focus the majority of your effort where it is likely to make you the most sales?
Go Where Your Customers are Already Getting Their News
If you haven’t already surveyed your best customers to see what they are reading, watching and listening to, now is the time! Online survey tools are inexpensive and easy to use. If you use Constant Contact for your email newsletters, look into their survey tool to include a survey in your newsletter. Or, try out sites like SurveyMonkey.com that provide basic survey capabilities for free.
When you target your PR to the sites and publications your best customers are already reading, you create several advantages for your PR campaign. First, you remove the clutter of sending releases to a huge mailing list of publications that are largely not interested in your news. You can invest your time better elsewhere. Next, by shrinking the number of media outlets you’re targeting, you can invest the time to get to know which reporters are covering subjects relevant to your news, so that your pitches can be pitch-perfect. Finally, and very importantly, these niche publications have already won the trust and loyalty of your best customers. They have become trusted advisors. When your news appeara in these niche publications, readers are likely to accept it as a referral from a friend.
It’s useful to have an idea of the nationwide size of your total target audience. Do they number in the millions (for example, small business owners or participants in multi-level marketing programs), or in the thousands (yacht owners, shipwreck enthusiasts, etc.)? Don’t stop with a broad catch-all category like “small business owners.” In the U.S., a company is officially a “small business” up to 500 employees. Is your target audience a “big” small business or a “small” small business?
You’ll have the best results if you can get specific. For example, do you specialize in helping start-up companies, specifically those that have been in business less than three years and have sales under $1 million? Or do you only prefer to work with companies that have been in business for over 10 years and need to address issues with succession planning and mature markets? All “small business” is not alike. Don’t be afraid to start with a fairly tight definition of your ideal customer. Once you successfully reach that narrow audience, you’ll become attractive to broader audiences.
Having a fair idea of the size of your total target audience will help you target your online PR and marketing. If you know, for example, that there are 500,000 potential customers for your service, then a publication, Website or blog that reaches 50,000 people is reaching ten percent of the total market, making it a potentially valuable outlet for your news. Without the knowledge of your total market, you might have been tempted to bypass a site that didn’t have a readership in the millions (that old mass market mindset again).
You can use sites like Alexa.com to gauge traffic on the Websites, blogs, podcasts and other online sites that you are considering for your PR outreach. Tools like Alexa.com can help you find the sites with the most traffic, meaning that getting a news item picked up by those sites is likely to put you in front of a large number of people who are ideal prospects. It can also help you gauge how many people are seeing your release on the sites where it’s been posted online, and give you ideas of new sites to target with future releases that you might not have otherwise discovered.
Realize that even among sites that reach your ideal audience, size isn’t the only thing that matters. Some smaller publications are read by people who are “influencers”—trendsetters, authors, reporters and others whose opinions carry weight. These sites may have a smaller audience, but the audience’s importance is larger than its size. Likewise, a new site might not yet have a big following, but you might be able to establish a relationship with the blogger or site owner easily during the online publication’s early days, so that you’re a trusted news source when the site gains popularity. Realize that some small sites have a dedicated following who are true insiders within your niche audience. When your news reaches them through a site they trust, these insiders are in a position to help you grow by inviting you to speak, purchasing your product in bulk or recommending them to their own membership. Smaller sites can be extremely influential; so don’t overlook them as you build your media list.
With the continual evolution of services available via mobile phone and now “smart phones” with Web and data capabilities, a growing number of consumers are reading their email and surfing the Web through their phones. In the same way that permission-based email marketing revolutionized promotion in the 1990s and early 2000s, mobile phone text marketing is poised to reshape niche market promotion in the years to come.
If your message is timely and your target audience would consider it to be very important, text messaging may be a valuable tool for you. For example, restaurants and nightspots can text a message to their loyal customers about dining or drink specials or nightly entertainment. Customers who make purchases on a predictable schedule might be happy to find a discount coupon in their text inbox timed for their normal purchasing habits. Sites like MakeMeSocial.net and other providers help businesses create and manage mobile phone text campaigns. Text message marketing is here to stay, so file it away as a “maybe” for your future promotional needs.
(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin)
Traditional press releases focused on words because releases were static paper documents. A big PR roll out might include pocket folders stuffed with photos, CDs or DVDs, but those extras were expensive to produce and mail in bulk, especially when reporters weren’t guaranteed to use them—or even look at them.
Many businesses new to online PR and marketing make the mistake of thinking “text” when they should be thinking “interactive.” Words on a screen no longer pack the same punch they did before consumers, and reporters, became accustomed to the multi-media world online. You can add more impact to your releases for very little cost by thinking sight-sound-motion when you create your PR plans.
In the old days, the only way to share video, audio and photos with a press release was through a bulky, expensive press kit package. Today, all of those elements can be easily (and inexpensively) embedded into an online press release, giving the reader, and reporter, a wealth of information in an appealing sensory format.
Programs like AudioAcrobat.com provide an affordable way to record and share Web audio without requiring equipment more exotic than your regular phone. Whether the audio is a greeting, an interview with a CEO or community leader, or a customer testimonial, the ability to add relevant sound to your release makes the content much richer and more interesting.
You can easily include the link to your Web audio recording in the body of the press release, and when your release is posted online, that link becomes live, making it easy for the reader to listen right away.
Photos also create interest and enhance your PR story. Sites like Flickr, Shutterfly and Google’s Picasa Web all make it possible to upload digital photos from your latest event, awards program or tradeshow and share the photos through a link embedded in your press release.
If you want to provide photos for reporters to publish or upload, consider having a page on your Web site just for the media where you upload photos in a variety of resolutions and formats.
Web video is also an easy to add attention-getter. Small digital video cameras are widely available for less than $200. Smart phones, tablets like the iPad and laptop computers make it easy to create Web-ready video, edit it and release it online. You can upload your video to YouTube or to your own Website, and then include the link in your press release, giving readers the choice to read on or view your video.
Get creative in using the multi-media options that are available to you. Consider including an audio or video testimonial from a satisfied client in your release, or a short audio clip from your president’s speech. You can include video from your public event, but don’t forget to get on-the-scene comments from attendees about how much they love the program. The trick is to keep video and audio snippets short and relevant so that they add to your release without bogging it down or delaying your reader.
Embedded links to audio, video and photos are especially important since most reporters won’t open attachments from sources they don’t know. If you send your release as an email, embed the text of the release in the email itself, don’t attach it as a Word document. When you have live hyperlinks in the body of your press release text, you are able to share a wealth of multi-media information without sending large attachments.
Many people, especially reporters who receive large amounts of email on a daily basis, refuse to open attachments from unknown senders, and computer security programs may screen out attachments as spam.
Get creative in your thinking when it comes to using audio, video and photos as links in your online press releases. Imagine the power of a 30 second video demonstration for your new product. Take the reader on a one-minute video tour of your new facility. Use video to give your reader a 360° look at your product.
Photos can provide striking “before” and “after” views that make your point more eloquently than words. If your product or service creates a visual change, you’re overlooking a powerful PR tool if you’re not using Web video and digital photos to augment your releases.
Realize that online PR remains accessible through search results long after your news is no longer new. If you have used good keywords to make your releases come to the top of search results, they can continue to educate and inform reporters and prospects for weeks, months or even years after your event or launch is over.
That’s another reason to use video, audio and photos to tell your story, because your online release becomes a mini-web site to introduce a reporter or prospect to your company as well as to the news of the release itself.
If you plan to use photos or videos of event attendees or clients, make sure that you have the person’s permission. This can involve having the person sign a simple release form that allows you to use the video or audio for promotional purposes without compensation.
You can also include a general release as a condition of purchasing a ticket to your event (most theme parks do this). Always make sure you show people in a flattering light in your photos and videos, and avoid any candid shots that might not look professional, such as pictures of people holding cocktails or acting silly. What was totally understandable in the moment may not look good out of context on the Web. If a photo is one where “you had to be there,” don’t post it!
Excerpted from 30 Days To Online Marketing And PR Success, coming in November from Career Press.
A Six-Step Solution for Sanity
Studies show that we worry most about things that are least likely to occur. Many people are frightened of flying, but the danger of car accidents far outweighs the likelihood of airline mishaps. After 9/11, our fear of being killed by terrorists skyrocketed, yet for those who do not live in a war zone, you’re still more likely to die in your own bathroom or in your own home from a fall or household accident.
Be honest: How many times have you worried yourself sick and lost sleep over something that never happened? Or that turned out to be a non-event if it did happen?
So here’s a path to sanity. If you can’t fix it, don’t worry about it. Get busy doing what you CAN do and “outsource” the rest to those whose job it is to take care of it.
The oldest part of our brains is hard-wired to constantly scan for threat. It’s how our cavemen ancestors survived when there were large, hungry predators. And while we’ve evolved our frontal lobes and gained greater capacity for reason and strategy, that “reptile brain” (the amygdala) is as jittery as a Jack Russell terrier on a gallon of caffeine. Not only does it overestimate the threats that are there, but it “helpfully” suggests all manner of other terrible possibilities just so that you can be “prepared.”
What might have kept our ancestors from being eaten by saber-tooth tigers has lost much of its value because it lacks a reliable rating system. Your reptile brain amygdala sees all threats as equally possible and as equally devastating. It doesn’t factor in threats that are easily sidestepped (avoiding dark alleys at night), minimized (seatbelts and air bags) or highly unlikely (anything that happens in a Final Destination movie). Like the boy who cried wolf or the color-coded threat warnings from Homeland Security, the constant barrage of “Watch out! No, over there! No, the other direction!” eventually wears us out, leading to cynicism, anxiety and unsuccessful attempts to tune out.
This summer, we’ve had our fill of frightening news. Washington D.C. bickering, the Debt Ceiling, the U.S. credit rating, floods, wildfires and extreme weather seem like a never-ending doomsday scenario. And thanks to the 24/7 news environment on cable TV and the Internet, breathless commentators fill every waking hour with speculation that grows more dire as they struggle to out-catastrophize each other to gain ratings.
The mess in Washington? If you’ve voted and perhaps contributed to the causes or candidates that support your preferred solution, you’ve done all that you can do. Walk away.
Extreme weather? Take reasonable precautions for the types of problems common to your part of the country, note advisories about coming storms, and then put it out of your mind.
The economy? Focus on getting your own financial house in order, paying off personal debt, bringing spending in line with income, and adjusting your retirement saving for the current environment. Donate time, materials or cash to help those who have been hit the hardest. Then let go. You’ve done all you can.
In other words, do what you can and then get back to focusing on where you really are able to make an impact.
Here’s my six-step solution to overcoming the paralyzing fear gripping far too many business owners today:
Step one: Review and re-tune your top three business goals. Do they still make sense given what today’s consumers want? Are they chock full of value and priced attractively? Make adjustments if required.
Step two: Create a small group of positive-minded business owners with similar goals in complementary but non-competing fields. Get together on a weekly or monthly basis to encourage each other, share tips and make referrals.
Step three: Get out and talk to your ideal prospects and best customers about what support they need right now to keep their businesses and goals on track, then adjust your service and product offerings to give them what they perceive a desperate need to have.
Step four: Support your community. People are hurting right now. There are five job seekers for every available position, and many people have exhausted their resources. Tune out the blame-placers and be part of the solution. Remember that businesses flourish most when all members of their community are fed, clothed, healthy and employed. What can you personally do to lighten the burden of your neighbors in need? (You’ll be amazed how helping others improves your own outlook.)
Step five: Get excited about a new product or service that addresses an urgent client need. Maybe it’s repackaging something you already offer to make it more accessible or affordable. Maybe it’s a brand new product or service that arises out of your conversations with prospects and clients. Nothing banishes the blues like a new project that you’re fired up about.
Step six: Nix the naysayers. Make a commitment to only tune in to constructive, positive input. The more you listen to angry, fearful voices, the less productive you will be, so change the channel. Turn off the talk radio rants. Opt for reading your news online rather than listening to the breathless blather of TV hosts for whom everything is a dire crisis. Stop reading emails that pour fuel on the fire. Instead, turn your attention to those who are looking for solutions, rebuilding the community, and making a difference in their corner of the world.
Taking charge of what you can personally control is empowering, and it’s the best way to free yourself from the paralysis of fear. Commit yourself to focusing your energy on positive change and see the difference it makes in your business!
First, let me challenge the idea of a “local” business in the age of Internet commerce and a knowledge-based economy. Every company in the world began as a “local” business. If you think there are reasons why your company is intrinsically “local,” I want you to reexamine those factors.
Is it because your business model has relied on face-to-face service? Do you provide a perishable product, such as food? Is your service fundamentally hands-on, such as massage, organization or dog training? Are there licensing restrictions or laws governing the provision of your service, such as those in law or medicine?
I want you to brainstorm about what elements of your current product or service could be repackaged to reach a broader audience. If you run a restaurant, you might not be able to mail your barbecue ribs across the country, but you could bottle and ship the sauce. You can’t ship a hot cup of coffee, but you can sell the beans, flavorings, and logo mugs via ecommerce.
Licensing restrictions may dictate where you can physically practice law or medicine, but a book on your subject can reach readers around the world. Massage, fitness, organization and other hands-on specialties can go far beyond a local audience through video and how-to books.
Low-cost global phone service also makes it easier than ever before to offer coaching or consulting via phone calls, teleseminars or even group coaching webinars. Take a few moments and think about how you might be able to package your products and services to reach the world.
Make sure you haven’t prematurely closed off options for growth by thinking too small. Can your company “productize” what it offers to reach a larger audience? You might be able to increase your sales both at home and abroad with an expanded and easily shipped product line. Reaching a broader audience also helps to “recession proof” your business because even difficult economic times rarely hit all areas equally. By working with a national or global audience, you stand a better chance of bringing in a steady flow of new business even if your local area is experiencing a slow period.
It used to be that “global sourcing” was something only the largest companies could consider. Now, anyone with an Internet connection can shop for the best deal from online stores all over the world. Amazon, eBay and other online retailers have made it unimportant where an item is physically stored, and enable buyers to compare prices and purchase items almost without geographic constraints.
Customers have become accustomed to buying products and services without face-to-face interaction. Buyers have also learned to shop for pricing, features and qualifications online. At the same time, companies have grown more confident about “telecommuting,” whether their employees are working from home or based in another country. Companies have also become savvier about recognizing that talent does not have an even geographic distribution, and that specially qualified individuals can make a valuable contribution without physically coming into the office.
Social media sites like Facebook offer another opportunity to meet prospective clients from all over the world. By utilizing their networking capabilities to engage prospects in conversation before focusing on making a sale, you have the opportunity to tap markets that would have been geographically prohibitive.
Alumni, club and association sites also present opportunities for global networking. Most colleges and universities retain ties with alumni who are working or living out of the country. These expatriates might be receptive to working with someone who shares familiar ties and perspectives. Clubs and associations with international memberships offer the chance for you to get to know fellow members around the world with the immediate connection of a shared affiliation. Online profiles and membership directories plus forum or chat areas within the club/association web site make connecting easy.
LinkedIn is a great way to reclaim connections with colleagues who are now living abroad. You can also leverage the connections of your own network of colleagues to ask for introductions to their foreign colleagues or to the overseas branch of their organization. It’s never been easier to see the web of personal connections, and that network makes the world a very small neighborhood.
Social media also makes it easy to share your information without geographic boundaries. By sharing tips, uploading case studies or providing links to videos on your Facebook or Twitter sites, you are reaching a worldwide audience of prospects with a built-in mechanism for two-way interaction. Always review your content for unintentional language that might limit your perceived willingness to work with companies or individuals outside of the country. For example, unless the content is specific to the laws or conditions of a particular place, use more inclusive words like “customers” instead of nationality-limited words such as “American,” “Canadian,” etc. You can also make it clear on your website and in your profile and social media bio that you work with clients worldwide or at least beyond your own national borders.
If you’re already selling products worldwide, make a conscious effort to include the customers you might never meet face-to-face through your social media strategy. For example, my fiction books sell to an international readership. I can’t visit everyone’s local bookstore, but I wanted to make more personal connections. So in addition to my social media outreach, I’ve created two annual online blog tour events and make an effort to invite bloggers and websites based around the world to participate. Making the effort to be inclusive definitely gets noticed.
If you’re interested in reaching a particular part of the world, be sure to look at which social media sites are most popular in those countries. The list of sites and their popularity changes constantly, but doing a Google search on “social media in Europe” or “social media in South America” should give you a good idea of which sites are local favorites. Remember that not all sites use English as their primary language, so if you’re bilingual you may be able to participate in a broader variety of non-U.S. sites.
Social media is a great way to expand your company’s horizons. By productizing your existing services, participating in global marketplaces like eBay or Elance or by adding new services such as teleclasses, phone coaching or online group coaching, you can serve a broader audience and satisfy a global need for the expertise you provide.
Excerpted from 30 Days to Social Media Success
No doubt about it, small business has had a rough ride over the last couple of years. Between the credit constriction and the lack of consumer confidence, the dip in personal disposable income and the belt-tightening of most Americans, small businesses have worked harder than ever to prosper. Not only that, but as large corporations hoard their near-record profits, the hard work of getting the country back to work appears to have been delegated to small businesses. Hey, we’re miracle workers, right? Maybe so. According to the Small Business Authority (SBA), U.S. small businesses:
- Employ more than half of the U.S. private-sector payroll
- Generated 64% of new jobs since 2006
- Pay 44% of the private-sector payroll
- Employ 40% of technology workers
Many small businesses are the fruit of reinvention. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm, nearly 10 percent of those who found jobs since 2008 did so by starting their own businesses. Most small business owners I know had a prior life in Corporate America. Whether they were laid off, retired early, or lost enthusiasm for the corporate grind, they reinvented themselves as a small business owner.
Another form of reinvention comes through America’s immigrants, who left everything behind to start over and get a shot at the American Dream. We’re a unique place, where even the Native Americans at one time, long ago, emigrated from somewhere else. Many immigrants over the years came looking for jobs, and a significant percentage parlayed those jobs eventually into companies of their own, family businesses that became pillars of the community.
In fact, according to an SBA study, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start a company than non-immigrants. Those new to the U.S. own nearly 17 percent of all new U.S. businesses, and generate $67 billion in income. Of course, that income provides jobs and promotes spending in the community.
In an era when large companies are increasingly either globally based or far-removed from the communities in which their outlets reside, small businesses are an essential part of the community fabric. We employ local people, give to local charities, support local schools and youth activities, and lend a hand, serving on everything from non-profit boards to school boards to City Council. Most of us care deeply about our communities and have a strong sense of connection, something often missing with the mega-conglomerates.
The small business owners I coach on marketing take this trend even further. For many companies, marketing has a very strong sense of place and community. Many products are rooted in local or fresh ingredients or which convey a strong sense of geographic location. Services provided in person are intrinsically local. Companies in the recreation and hospitality industries are also intertwined inseparably with their communities. One of the most frequent questions I get is how an intentionally local company can best use social media to reach their neighbors on a strongly personal basis.
In fact, marketing itself frequently gives back to the local community. Print, radio and outdoor advertising for small business is quintessentially local. Social media for intentionally local companies works best when it focuses on the neighborhood, the community, the people and events close to home. Marketing in the form of Little League sponsorships, fund-raising events, underwriting for community activities, and volunteer drives is also highly local. For most companies, word of mouth begins locally.
Which brings me to the “sing” part.
Every time you promote your business, you sing about the value you offer to those who most need the product or service you offer. When you network and introduce yourself, you sing out about the talents you bring to solve problems for other people. Work itself, when you enjoy what you’re doing and feel called to give your best, can be a form of song. We’ve all heard about “whistle while you work,” but when you’re really excited about what you do, there’s truly a song in your heart.
Can other people hear you sing?
Small businesses, (of which 52 percent are home-based according to the SBA), are run by creative, talented and driven people with a vision for success. We’re hard working. We’re generally well-educated, whether formally or self-taught. We care about our families and communities. And….we’re tired.
I see worry and concern on the faces of many of the small business owners I meet. Even those who are most upbeat look exhausted from trying to stay afloat, expand, create new products and manage the budget. That exhaustion makes it hard to remember to sing. Yet now is when we need your song the most.
Research shows that companies that cut back on advertising and marketing during a downturn (singing your song for the world), do less well at the end of a recession than those firms that maintained high marketing visibility throughout the recession. Markets do bounce back (in fact, the Dow is once again near pre-recession heights). Remember that downturns eventually tick upwards.
No matter how tired you are, keep singing. Keep singing when it seems like no one is listening. Keep singing when everyone thinks you’re nuts. Sing louder when people predict doom and gloom, or when naysayers tell you something can’t be done. Sing to sustain yourself, and you’ll sustain those around you, too. If the best you can do is whistle in the dark, that in itself is a feat of monumental human defiance against the odds. It’s our best quality as a species. Sing about your products and services, about the benefits you bring to the consumer, about the results that you produce for your customers. Sing about how you change the lives of the people who use your products. Sing about the value in the talent and expertise you offer. Sing—even when you’re tired.
I’ve adopted an unlikely anthem for the summer of 2011. “Sing” by My Chemical Romance might not be what you’d expect a business owner to hum, but every time it comes on, I crank the volume. Why? It’s a song that reminds me that no matter what challenges I face, an attitude of cheerful defiance goes a long way toward accomplishing my dreams. You can find the lyrics here: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/m/my_chemical_romance/sing.html if you’re not familiar with the song.
Maybe it won’t hit you the same way it did me, and that’s OK. Find your own defiant anthem. The only thing that matters is that you sing, and keep on singing. Just sing.
Are you conscious? OK, I don’t mean clinically; after all, you’re reading this article. But if you’re mentally multi-tasking every minute of every day, there’s a type of sneaky unconsciousness that slips in without us ever knowing it. We are mentally “everywhere” but we are never fully “here.” When that happens (and it happens a lot), we rob ourselves, our businesses, our families and our communities of the true value of our full and conscious presence.
The whole idea of “mindfulness” seems to be the word-of-the-week the universe is throwing in my path these days, since at least two seemingly unrelated books and several magazine articles I’ve just read have focused on creating mindfulness in very different ways.
First, there was Lost and Found by Geneen Roth, a fascinating journey through one woman’s lack of consciousness about money and what happens when we’re not paying full attention. Then there was You are Here by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, a thin little book that isn’t a quick read because the author calls you to mindfulness—really being present in the moment—on every page.
Which got me thinking—how mindful are you in your business? Everyone is trying to do more with less, which promotes stretching ourselves and everyone else thin in the name of productivity. When we are overloaded, mentally and emotionally, are we really doing our best for our clients and our companies? When we’re mentally multitasking, can we make good decisions without ever stopping to focus on just one thing at a time and give it full consideration? Somehow, I doubt it.
A lack of mindfulness contributes to poor decision making in several ways. First, when we aren’t fully present in the moment, we often miss both nuance and potential ramifications that become very important later on. We don’t recognize those “unintended consequences” because we never really stopped long enough to think our decision through without rushing on to the next thing.
Are the decisions you’ve made recently under stress good long-term planning? How do they affect not just the main goal of your decision, but the people in your organization, your future profitability, your community? Are the decision quick-fixes for which you’ll pay more (one way or the other) later, or truly wise choices? (A clue—if you’re always up to your tush in alligators, you need to slow down and be mindful about the types of decisions you’re making).
How about those “unintended consequences” of not being mindful? Are you a good listener to your children, employees, or significant other? Or is your mind always elsewhere, on other things? Can you enjoy just sitting on a beach staring at the ocean or lying in a hammock looking at clouds for just ten minutes of downtime without having your mind jump down your to-do list? What joy and connection are you missing at work and in life by not being mindful, not being fully present in the moment?
Do you enjoy your work the way you used to? Or has it become a treadmill, just one darn thing after another? My bet is that in the early days of your business, you were more mindful in your tasks. You were fully present for customers, or fully engaged in the creation of your products or processes. When you are torn in a million directions and your mind is hopping from thing to thing like crazed monkeys in a tree, you lose your joy, and the quality of what you do create suffers.
How do you regain mindfulness in today’s busy world? The answer, according to Roth and Hahn and my Yoga teacher, begins with breath. Breathe in, and think about nothing but breathing. Breathe out, and remain focused just on your breath. Do that four or five times and you’ll feel a sense of serenity settle over you. Make a bet with yourself, now that you’re reminded about what serenity feels like, to breathe like that—just a few mindful breaths—whenever you change tasks today, or when someone asks for your attention. Can you remember to be mindful just for one day? If that’s too difficult, how about just for a morning? For an hour?
What happens when we’re mindful in business? People notice a difference. They not only notice a difference in you, but they see that you are different from other people, the ones who have monkeys jumping from branch to branch in their minds and are never focused.
You become a better listener, a better decision-maker, a better boss, friend, parent, or partner. You are truly “here” for them, and they notice. Not only that, but when you are truly “here” in the moment, your work becomes joyful, because you aren’t rushing through it to get to the next thing on the list. You reclaim your joy and your work improves. And when you breathe and are mindful, you consider your choices differently, taking the time to be “here” in the choosing and looking for the decision that is good not just in the next moment, but for everyone involved, for the long run.
Take the mindfulness challenge and see the difference that consciousness makes in your business!
Some of the richest opportunities in social media marketing are also among the most overlooked. Almost every organization now offers an online community as part of its membership, but few people take full advantage of the opportunities this creates to do business with a larger marketplace. Alumni organizations, Chambers of Commerce, business, professional and industry clubs and trade associations all offer fantastic possibilities to meet prospects, find collaborators and joint venture partners and increase sales.
Start with the profile - Your profile is the way others will get their first glimpse of who you are and what expertise you offer. Start with a current photo. Without a photo, your profile has no face. People want to deal with other people, and your photo assures readers that you are a real person.
Some sites have profiles that focus on academic or career milestones, while others offer more freedom with bulleted lists or paragraphs. Make your profile compelling with a focus on the benefit you offer to clients and the problem you solve.
Incorporate links to audio or video to let your personality shine through. Keep paragraphs short and use active verbs. Remember that a profile isn’t supposed to be a resume. Keep it conversational and benefit-oriented, but add enough career details to underscore your credibility. If you’ve published, add the titles of your most recent books. If the profile asks for hobby information, pick a few favorites; these can be great ice-breakers for conversation, and may attract fellow hobbyists. Details like hobbies help to humanize your profile and provide a sense of personality.
Get more from the directory - Club, organization or association sites often list an online membership directory. Used correctly, this can be a powerful tool to make profitable new connections. Shared membership does not make it ok to spam others, and unsolicited sales pitches can lead to revoked privileges or banishment from the site. Instead, look for real areas of common interest with individuals, and send a personal email to introduce yourself and set up a phone call. Indicate what you’d like to discuss, to allay any fears that your call might become a sales pitch. Good reasons to connect include the possibility of collaboration or joint venture, the opportunity to share resources or become referral sources for each other, or the chance to become allies in winning new business.
Make your initial email personal, friendly and brief. Don’t include a lot of links and don’t try to sell anything. Introduce yourself as a fellow member, and mention what it was about that person’s profile that intrigued you. Suggest a way you might be able to help each other, and ask to set up a phone call. Use the call to determine how good a fit there is in interest and personality, and go from there. Since most members completely ignore the potential connections in the membership database, you’ll probably be one of just a very few who make the effort to get to know members outside the local area.
Through the membership database, other new opportunities can appear. For example, by getting to know someone in your organization who lives in a different state or country, you might be invited to speak at their chapter’s meeting or submit a blog post, article or white paper. It becomes easy to strike up professional friendships across the country or around the world, making it easy to ask for an nsider’s perspective when travel takes you to your acquaintance’s home territory. Buying decisions in a global, Internet economy are no longer based on proximity, and your new contacts may be able to help you save costs or increase productivity by suggesting other resources.
Don’t rule out connecting with other firms that appear to be competitors. Few companies are really identical in skills or emphasis, and often, erstwhile competitors can win more or larger contracts by allying, leveraging their particular strengths.
If your organization has an annual conference, use the membership database to help you schedule meetings with high-potential prospects before you leave home. Contact the people you’re most interested in getting to know a couple of months before the conference to see if they plan to attend. If so, make arrangements now to meet for breakfast, lunch or a cocktail. Instead of wondering whether or not the trip will be productive, you’ll have a slate of scheduled meetings set up before you go.
Don’t forget that clubs, associations and organizations often have affiliate members that are vendors who provide services or offer discounts to club members. You can use the site’s social media tools to get to know these affiliate members as well, and use the same strategies to reach out to them for networking or in preparation for attending a conference or trade show.
Vendors can be powerful referral sources as well as valuable partners. Creating a connection through the social media tools on a membership site can eliminate the awkwardness of a sales call by first building a relationship based on shared interests. If the site posts the show program in advance, check out the speakers, breakout leaders and key vendors you’d most like to meet, and see if they’re listed in the membership directory. If so, make a pre-show connection and arrange your meeting ahead of time. This is a great way to stand out from the crowd because at the show, you won’t be making an introduction, you’ll be renewing an existing acquaintance.
You can also use the membership directory to get to know the chapter leaders in other cities or regions. This can open doors for speaking engagements, guest blogging or networking opportunities. When you are planning to travel to an area with a chapter of your organization, use the membership directory to touch base with local members to meet. Join the sub-groups for your organization or club on other social media sites, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, and get to know members in other areas through the chats and forums. You’ll be amazed how that online relationship can accelerate the formation of alliances and profitable opportunities when you finally meet in person.
If your content is firmly rooted in your expertise and sprinkled with client examples and mini case studies, members will get a clear idea of what you offer and the solutions you provide without the need for you to resort to actual selling. A good profile and signature block for your forum posts will make it easy for interested readers to contact out outside of the site if they are interested in your services.
Excerpted from the book 30 Days to Social Media Success: The 30 Day Guide to Making the Most of Facebook, Blogging, Twitter and LinkedIn
Whether you own your own company or operate a local franchise of a national firm, being a good neighbor is essential to creating a successful business. In the past, businesses have demonstrated their neighborliness by being prominent in the local scene. Sponsoring the town’s intramural or kids’ sports teams, underwriting local pageants, festivals and holiday celebrations, providing hometown scholarships, and encouraging employees to take visible roles in charity events have all been ways companies have shown themselves to be good neighbors.
Being neighborly also includes creating a sense of community by hosting programs that offer a chance for local people to mingle, relax and get to know each other. Some examples might include a health workshop held by a local medical practice, live music at a neighborhood coffee shop, bar or club, author readings and signings at a book store or library, or even a community day of service cleaning up a park or painting a school.
Now think about how social media could help you maximize those opportunities. Social media becomes a powerful way to leverage the PR benefit of your involvement as a sponsor before, during and after the event by creating new ways for the community to gather, communicate, interact and remember.
Before the event, use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to generate interest in what’s coming up. Get the conversation going before the event even happens. Encourage your core team of organizers, volunteers and beneficiaries to get online and talk about the event on your social media sites and on their own. Get them to link to each other’s sites/blogs and reTweet.
During the event, take photos and digital video (simplify the permission issue by making permission to be photographed part of the participation contract and the ticket agreement). Tweet and blog live. Have roving “reporters” with digital cameras and audio recorders gathering on-the-spot comments from participants, organizers and attendees. Ask everyone who signs up to blog, Tweet and invite their Facebook friends. Sign everyone up who attends as a Facebook friend and Twitter follower so you can stay in touch. Offer a prize to the person who submits the best video or digital photo collage/slideshow and then post it on all your event social media sites (encourage everyone to re-post for more viral coverage). If you need more volunteers, ask your Twitter followers to come and help out.
Make the most of local PR by contacting the reporters for your newspaper, radio and TV outlets and encouraging them to cover the event in their social media as well as in their regular column or show. If they attend the event, get plenty of photos and put them on your social media sites. Use your tags and keywords for great searchability, and be sure to do your Social Bookmarking. You might even seek out local dignitaries like the mayor or council members for photos, audio or video.
Politicians will rarely decline free PR! You can also leverage the local power of social media by rallying neighbors to help. Local animal shelters have used Twitter and Facebook to feature pets that are available for adoption, ask for volunteers and solicit donations of food or money when money gets tight.
Most people have no idea of the variety of things that go on in their community every day. Few Americans read a daily newspaper, and many formerly local news stations now only run nationally syndicated programming. When you become the conduit to connect busy people to their community, you gain stature as a leader and visibility for your business.
By featuring local events, local people and local businesses in your social media conversation, you will create a “voice” that can resonate within your community and that raises your profile in a positive way. Put your social media sites on your business card, and invite everyone you meet to friend or follow you.
At the same time that you’re cultivating your neighborhood audience, don’t automatically close the door to growing regional or national clientele. You’ll need to create a separate social media campaign to offer your products and services outside of your community, since local happenings won’t usually be a draw for long-distance clients. On the other hand, if you live in an area that is a tourist resort, a college town or a city or region that has seen an exodus of residents due to economic circumstances, you may find that for those who have left, there’s no place like home.
For example, a favorite sports bar in a college town could retain connections with alumni, who may have left the area, through social media. Restaurants have found gold in shipping favorite comfort foods, sauces and dips to regular diners who moved away, and a Facebook or Twitter site can allow your expatriate audience to get a taste of home. If you operate a store, entertainment venue or business that sees repeat business from vacationing clients, use your social media to stay in touch all year long, keeping them updated on what’s new, and finding out what they’d like to see when they return to your business.
Using social media for “local” businesses pays off in many ways. It can build business and strengthen community ties, which can win loyal clients. By staying in touch with event participants and “alumni” who periodically return, you can improve the odds of repeat sales.
And by extending your reach to clients beyond your area, you also buffer your cash flow from the ups and downs of the local economy.
Among all of the techniques I’ve seen promoted as ways to thrive in today’s economy, collaboration has received little comment, yet I believe it’s the most powerful tool for growing during lean times. Many business owners have the idea they need to rise or fall by themselves. Nothing could be further from the truth. If it’s true that “it takes a village” to raise a child, then it’s also true that it takes a village to help a company thrive.
Think beyond individual transactions with your customers, vendors, suppliers, referral sources and even your competitors to build a support system to enable your company to weather the ups and downs of the market.
Contact your customers and vendors and find out what their key challenges and goals are—even in areas unrelated to the services you provide. Can you help them achieve those goals or overcome those challenges by connecting them to someone in your contact base? Is there a way you could team up to tackle a big goal for a win-win solution?
When you connect with your referral sources, are you working hard to develop connections for them? The people who refer clients to you also need a stream of referrals. Can you refer some of your existing clients to them? Can you connect them to people in your network? You won’t know what they need unless you ask. And while you’re asking (and listening), look for ways you can partner to provide a solution or educational program for an audience of value to both of you.
When times get tough, people often become especially fearful of competitors. But a high-integrity competitor could be a fantastic collaborator. Few companies are perfect substitutes for each other. Even companies that seemingly offer the same menu of services
rarely have the same sweetspot or areas where they shine. Consider teaming up with an honest competitor to refer clients who need services you don’t provide, or to subcontract for you when you have an overflow situation.
The key to successfully collaborating with a competitor lies in a “no poaching” agreement. Both of you have to respect the collaborative relationship more than you want to chase an individual prospect’s money. So if Company A sends a referral to Company B for a service
that Company A doesn’t provide, Company B must have the integrity not to try to woo the client away from Company A for other services. Physicians practice these kinds of referrals all the time. A family physician might refer Patient Smith to a specialist for a specific need, but that specialist doesn’t then also begin to treat the strep throat or ear infections that the patient would normally see his family doc to treat. Doctors who violate this protocol and get greedy quickly find themselves frozen out of the referral loop.
That’s where you need to choose your collaborative partners carefully. Integrity is a must, not only to avoid client-poaching, but also to assure that your referred client will have a positive experience with whomever you refer. If you treat your own clients like gold, treat anyone referred to you like diamonds. Not only is that client’s happiness on the line, but so is your whole stream of referrals.
The second characteristic of a good referral partner is to have an abundance mentality. This one factor weeds out a lot of potential collaborators. Never partner with someone who is suspicious, who has a negative view of human nature, or someone who is consumed by fear that “there won’t be enough.” You want someone who realizes that the way for everyone to get more of the pie is to bake more pies!
What can you do with a collaborative partner besides swap referrals? Plenty. Last year, I created three mastermind groups with people hand-picked from my network who had high integrity, an abundance mentality, and common interests in growing their businesses in certain ways. Those groups have thrived, and through the structure of the monthly meeting (some by phone and some in person), we have vented, celebrated, schemed for world domination, asked for advice, shared resources and partnered on everything from events to
Collaborate with others to create events (live or virtual) when you offer differing services to an identical target market. Have each other provide guest posts on your blog or in your newsletter, interview each other on your radio shows or podcasts, share recommendations on good vendors and service providers. Brainstorm responses for difficult situations. Ask for a second opinion or a sanity check.
Running a business is hard work and few people who aren’t business owners understand the pressures and opportunities. Team up and watch your profits grow!
“Results envy” is the feeling a reader gets from a case study, example or testimonial that prompts the reader to say, “I’ve got to get some of that for myself.” Take a look at the master marketers on infomercials, the weight loss wizards and the gurus of direct mail, and you’ll see that results envy plays a prominent part in their success.
How many times have you see an ad or infomercial for a home gym featuring a perfectly tone and ripped man or woman testifying that “30 minutes, three times a week was all it took” to go from flabby to fantastic? How about those weight loss ads with their before and after photos as the voice-over testifies to how yummy the food is, how dieters never have to go hungry, how pounds just melt away? Those are perfect examples of creating results envy. Ever get a direct mail letter (or see an online squeeze page) with testimonial after testimonial?
These marketers use results envy because it works. Human beings are programmed to keep one eye on what our neighbors are doing. When the people around us get something good, we want some of that bounty too. It’s basic human nature.
If your company has stayed in business, then you must have success stories. Too often, we think about our clients’ success in terms of what we did for them, not how their world changed because of what we did. But from a prospect’s perspective, the question is: What’s in it for me?
Let’s take a look at the results your prospects want: Wealth, fitness, health, peace, happiness, success, admiration, fame, visibility, position, healing, friends/popularity, beauty, youth, and power. The list hasn’t changed much since the times of the Greek myths. To the extent that your product or service can deliver one or more of the above results, your prospect should be encouraged to feel results envy for the clients who already have gotten what the prospect wants.
Some of the triggers for results envy include: tangible/quantifiable results, visible effects, demonstrable/repeatable outcomes, achieving a goal, sustaining that achieved goal, creating admiration in others, or making a successful life change.
Closely linked to results envy is a sense of results satisfaction. Here are the six key aspects to satisfaction:
• What has happened since you achieved your goal?
• How has your life changed?
• What extra benefits occurred? (For example, if your prospect lost 50 pounds and then got a promotion and found the love of his/her life, those are ‘extra benefits’ to the weight loss.)
• How are you a different person because of the results?
• What long-lasting change have you achieved?
You can evoke results envy in many ways. Testimonials, case studies, infomercials and squeeze pages are a few of the ways. Don’t forget before/after photos, demonstrations, makeovers, “man in the street” interviews at an event when emotion is high, and referrals. “Journey” stories are also persuasive. A “journey” story is a narrative written in the first person from one of your happy clients that takes the reader through the internal and external process related to the change and result. These journey stories can be very effective for “invisible” changes related to coaching, counseling or other processes related to achieving peace of mind, happiness or shift in perspective.
Don’t forget to follow up with your success stories to create “where are they now” stories. While short-term success is enviable, we all know that many people succeed only to backslide and lose what they have gained. It’s particularly inspiring (and credibility-building) to show clients who succeeded and sustained that success. You’ll have fewer of these stories, but they have a powerful impact. These stories also demonstrate staying power, long-term rewards and permanent change, all of which are very persuasive to prospects and can serve as motivators to clients.
If you need a sales boost, re-think your success stories to provoke results envy, and watch your prospects turn into clients.
At the end of the year, most people focus their attention on what they want to have happen in the next 12 months. It’s certainly important to plan for accomplishments in the New Year, but before we get quite to that point, I want to challenge you to look back over the last 12 months and take a bow for what you’ve achieved.
If your company stayed above water (I don’t care how close you might have come to drowning or what resources you had to grab to stay afloat), take a bow.
If you used slow times to make new connections, revise your website or materials, review strategy, or make internal improvements to set the stage for a brighter 2011, take a bow.
If you made the time to continue learning, by taking classes, reading books, showing up for teleseminars or going to events that helped you discover new ways to manage and market smarter, take a bow.
If you found a way to get through the year without laying off staff, or if you continued at a level where you kept your independent contractors working, even if you had to reduce hours, take a bow.
If you kept your own optimism intact despite the naysayers, professional gloom-bringers and unremitting negative media climate, take a bow.
If you have dreams to make 2011 a year for new achievements and new goals, and you have a plan worked out to make those dreams come true, take a bow.
If you developed new revenue streams to take up the slack from products or services that weren’t selling as well as they used to, take a bow.
If you spent more time listening to your customers and asking for their opinions, then actually used the feedback you received to change your products, services or business delivery, take a bow.
If you reached out to other businesses to create win-win collaborations to help both companies weather the storm (with increased value for customers), take a bow.
If you ramped up your marketing (and yes, I could free options such as PR and social media) even though times were tough, take a bow.
If you encouraged a working climate of can-do optimism instead of a climate of fear and pessimism, take a bow.
If you refused to let anyone—politicians, economists, pundits, and other “experts”—hold you hostage to fear, take a bow.
If you remained committed to building a strong community and refused the urging to horde your blessings, take a bow.
Despite tight times, I’ve been surrounded this year by businesses and business owners who are focused on the positive. No one likes slow periods, but people with an eye on the future use slowdowns to make internal adjustments so that when the economy turns around, the company is prepared to seize opportunities. I’ve seen companies in a broad variety of industries use 2010 to invest in themselves and their future capacity through education, refocusing effort, rethinking goals and reimagining their products and delivery systems. These are the companies that will be at the vanguard when economic indicators tick back upwards, and they’ll already be miles ahead of competitors that spent the last two years wringing their hands.
Take a bow—but don’t stop there. Now is the time to catalog your achievements. Ask customers for testimonials, and add them to your web site. Update your profile on LinkedIn and your company’s information sheet with new awards, updated products, new product bundles or other noteworthy improvements you’ve made over the last year. Make sure your investment in the future pays PR dividends.
When the economy picks up—and it inevitably will—remember the lessons and the achievements of 2010. Remember also to continue to make the kind of investments in yourself, your staff, your strategy and your internal processes during good times to keep your competitive advantage.
Now look at yourself in the mirror and raise a toast—to what you learned in 2010 and to the good things to come in 2011—and take a bow.
First, take some time to write down all of your successes. Hard-charging entrepreneurs always have a long to-do list, but we rarely take the time we deserve to celebrate our accomplishments. So make a list of all the things that went right this year. Given the lean economy, just being among those still standing is a huge accomplishment! Keep this list in your day planner or near your computer, and refer toit every time you feel overwhelmed. Reward yourself with a hot cup of coffee, a walk around the block, a yoga break, or some other pleasant (and non-food) treat.
Owning your successes is just as important to your New Year planning as taking stock of the things yet to do. When we don’t stop long enough to enjoy our wins, we become unbalanced in our focus and head for burnout. So raise your coffee mug and give yourself a well-deserved cheer. As the old song says, you “made it through the rain.”
Next, before you pull out the neverending to-do list, I want you to close your eyes for a moment and visualize where you want to be at the end of next year. What do you want for your company? Is it more clients, clients of a certain caliber, more speaking engagements, revenue increased by a certain percentage, new physical locations, better click-throughs, or more online sales? Whatever it is, first, make your vision specific. Don’t just say “I want more clients.” Say “I want X number more clients who (are a certain size, spend a certain amount per month, are at a specific level in their business, are in a particular industry, etc.).” I would recommend having at least three goals, one to do with clients, one with revenue, and one with new products/services.
Next, visualize what you want for yourself and your family. Is it more time together at meals? More exercise time? A family vacation? Long-term financial security? Make it specific. If you want a vacation, spell out where and when and what you want to do and how you want to get there. Involve your senses. Touch, taste, hear and smell your goals. Again, I’d suggest having at least three goals, with at least one to do with your personal renewal/health, and one to do with your close friends/family.
Your last visualization is what you want to see happen in your community. Would you like to see every child have the supplies needed for school? Want to end hunger in your city? Would it make you happy to know that all pets were healthy and well-fed?
Whatever your passion, visualize at least three goals, making them as specific and sensory as possible. Shoot for three goals: One that affects the area near where you live, one that connects to your house of worship or source of inspiration, and one that reaches out to the world.
Now it’s time to pull in your timeframe, as if you were focusing a telescope. You’ve created a very clear vision for what you want in your business, personal life and community for next year. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Inspiring goals will remain just words on paper unless you take action. Because our goals seem to lofty, we often fear failure, so we hesitate, unsure of what to do next.
I’m going to share the heart of the 30 Day Success System I use in my marketing books, because it works for the rest of life, too. The real trick to achieving your goals is to break the big dreams down into a series of smaller action items and make those small steps happen one month at a time.
OK, I can hear it already. You have enough on your to-do list already. But are the items that clutter your current list going to help you achieve your dreams? Read over your list with a critical eye. How many of the items could be delegated (if essential), and how many won’t matter to your dream if they never get done? Purge your list of what can be handed off and what doesn’t really matter, and make room for the things that will make your dreams real by this time next year.
Take twelve fresh pieces of paper, one for each month in the new year. Divide each paper into four weeks. Now start with your first three goals, and think about one action per week that you can take each month to make those goals happen. As you write your actions into each month’s to-do list, think about how they will build on each other.
So if one of your goals is to generate more speaking engagements, begin with actions like compiling a list of likely organizations, create an attractive speaker package, then identify the decision-makers, and make a series of personal contacts with scheduled follow-up.
Do the same for all of your other goals. You should have nine actions each week for every week in the year. If you want to be really ambitious, come up with three sub-actions for each of the nine weekly actions so that you can do a small task each day to move you closer to your dream.
The old proverb that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” is true. Many of us never reach the destination our hearts desire because we are so focused on the enormity of the thousand miles makes us too overwhelmed to start with a single step. You can change that by making your big dreams do-able in daily and weekly bite-sized pieces.
Where will your business, life and community be in 30 days? You now have a map for achieving your dreams. Where you go and what you make of it is entirely up to you.
The economy has corporate and political leaders scratching their heads, as everyone seeks a way to remedy the situation. And yet, many small businesses continue to thrive; in fact, many are growing. There are many reasons: exceptional customer service, a product or service perceived as being something clients can’t do without, good value for the price. But one trend I see among companies that are weathering the recession is a back-to-basics approach.
Going back to basics is a powerful approach in a time when everything seems topsy-turvey. While there are several ways to go back to basics, the thread that ties everything together is to reimagine your business as if you were starting fresh today. Companies that can approach turbulent economic times with the mindset and adaptability of a start-up firm are likely to do better than those that cling to the “way we’ve always done it.”
Here are some ideas to help your company succeed by going back to basics:
#1: Go back to a basic need. Every business started because it offered something to fill a gap or meet an unmet need. As businesses grow and expand their product and service lines, the resulting complexity often drowns out the original need. Now is a good time to strip away all the padding and remember the basics that helped to launch your company successfully.
#2: Go back to the basics of communicating your solution to the core need you serve. When you started your company, you knew that you needed to let everyone know what you provide and what need you served. When your business is more established, it’s easy to believe that everyone knows what you do, but the truth is, people forget, or they may not have had a clear understanding the first place. Don’t take anything for granted. Let people know what you do and how your product/service meets a need.
#3: Go back to basic outreach. Starting your company took a lot of hustle. You went to lots of networking luncheons, after-hours mixers and evening events. In good times, maybe business began to flow without the need for your attendance at all those programs, and you breathed a sigh of relief. In tight times, face-to-face connections can seal the deal. Get back out there and wear out some shoe leather.
#4: Go back to basic products. What core product or service got your business started? Is there still a need for it? If so, consider emphasizing that core product/service front and center in everything you do. As businesses grow, they often add layers and levels to bundle their products with extra goodies, and in strong economic times, people are willing to pay for bells and whistles. When consumers are watching pennies, offering a value-priced core product/service may be the difference between making a sale and having someone walk away.
#5: Go back to your basic mindset. When you started your business, you were constantly focused on selling, connecting, forging partnerships and getting visibility. In good times, companies grow their infrastructures, and business owners often get bogged down in internal meetings that have little to do with revenue growth. Start acting like an entrepreneur again and ditch the meetings.
#6: Go back to your basic market. Your original product/service met a need for a specific target market, and that success helped your company grow. Maybe you grew enough that you expanded into many different markets. In lean times, that multi-market approach may be too expensive to maintain. Re-examine your original market and if the need for your product is as strong as ever, consider a return to your roots!
#7: Go back to basic advertising. In good times, companies can get away with highly creative branding campaigns that are focused on name recognition instead of sales generation. In tight times, marketing expenditures need to feed the bottom line by generating sales. Ditch the image campaign and go back to explaining how your product solves a problem and meets a need to provide a valuable user benefit. Use coupons and offer free samples and trial periods. Make it as risk-free as possible to purchase. Provide payment plans and value pricing. Get all you can out of free publicity through PR and social media.
As difficult as lean economic times can be for business, there’s something exciting about the challenge to see if you can start all over again by going back to the basics that launched your company. A return to basics can also give you a clean start unencumbered by expensive and unnecessary extras that were accumulated in boom times. You can emerge from the recession stronger, better focused, better positioned in the market and ahead of the pack by making a back to basics approach your secret weapon!
Over the summer, I had the chance to visit Hershey, Pennsylvania. A day spent at Chocolate World taught me some great lessons about marketing, and how sweet it was! Milton Hershey created the Hershey Chocolate empire, and went on to be known for his philanthropy. But while almost everyone has tasted a Hershey Bar, they may not know what made Milton Hershey such a success, or what they can learn from his business.
Don’t be afraid to fail
Milton Hershey failed at making candy at least four times—including bankruptcy—before succeeding with Hershey’s Chocolate. After he succeeded, he still “failed” with the lackluster success of some of the products he created (Hershey’s Soap Flakes, anyone?). Over the years, Hershey’s has produced many brands of candy bars that are no longer sold. That didn’t slow him down, and it didn’t stop him from innovating and taking a risk on a new idea.
Don’t let success stop you from risking everything
Milton Hershey had finally succeeded in his original candymaking enterprise with caramels. Then he realized that the real future lay in chocolate, something that at that time was only available to the very wealthy. Hershey sold his successful caramels business and invested everything in an idea no one had heard of—creating a chocolate bar anyone could afford.
Provide Quality and Value
Milton Hershey was fanatical about using good quality ingredients (he even bought his own sugar plantation), and he also invented new machinery to mill the chocolate and mix ingredients better. His innovations dropped the cost of making chocolate, enabling Mr. Hershey to offer chocolate bars to the world for just a nickel apiece.
Way back at the turn of the last century, the advertising industry was in its infancy. Milton Hershey realized the importance of letting everyone know about his products. He was an early and zealous adopter of nearly every form of advertising available to him.
One of Hershey’s employees decided to go into the candymaking business himself, and began mixing up recipes for a whole new kind of treat in his basement. Milton Hershey didn’t slap him with a lawsuit or try to shut him down. Instead, Hershey offered to sell him chocolate. The new treat was a success, but the man’s sons didn’t want to run the business after the inventor died, so they sold it to—Milton Hershey. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is now consistently the top or #2 selling brand of Hershey’s candy.
Do the right thing
Milton Hershey acquired his fortune in the guilded age of the “robber barrons,” a time when factory-owned company towns treated employees like indentured servants and found ways to trap them into perpetual debt. Hershey believed that creating a model community would create healthy, happy employees and reduce labor problems. He did the unheard of—encouraging employees to purchase their own homes—and created a financing company to provide affordable loans. He built HersheyPark as a place for employees to relax and spend time with families. He also gave generously to area schools, libraries and churches.
Remain true to your values, even when times are hard
During the Depression, Milton Hershey remained committed to his employees. Since demand for candy was down, Hershey put his own money into building major infrastructure projects all around town, using his employees for labor. The town benefitted from community buildings that stand to this day, and Hershey Chocolate did not lay off a single employee throughout the Great Depression. (Fortune 500—are you listening?)
Leave a Legacy
Mr. and Mrs. Hershey couldn’t have children of their own, so they opened a school for orphan boys. When Hershey died, he left the majority of his vast fortune—around $60 million dollars (or close to $2 billion in today’s dollars) to fund the school. His Foundation also funded projects like the Hershey Medical Center. He didn’t worry about having the most toys, he used his wealth to create a better world.
Bet you didn’t realize there were that many lessons to be learned in a chocolate bar, did you? Why not grab yourself a couple of squares of chocolate or a nice cup of cocoa right now, and think about how you can apply the principles that made Milton Hershey wealthy in both cash and character to your business?
If Facebook is a networking event and LinkedIn is like a personal referral from your Blackberry address book, then Twitter is the cocktail party of the social media scene.
Twitter is a “microblogging” site, which means that it’s like blogging, only shorter. On Twitter, users can share 140-character messages called Tweets. Thanks to an ever-growing number of applications and add-ons, you might be surprised at the power in those short Tweets to connect you to potential prospects and customers.
The key to using Twitter for business is to think about what you can share in 140 characters that your prospects/customers need. Here are some ideas to get you going:
• Share short tips related to your area of expertise: saving money, exercise, diet, marketing, reducing stress, living green—short, actionable and to-the-point.
• Invite followers to live or virtual events
• Update followers on new blog posts or articles
• Invite discussion by posting a poll, asking a question or having a trivia contest.
• Stage a “Tweetup” or live event invitation via Twitter. Great for more spontaneous get-togethers or telling your followers about in-person sales or discounts.
• Publicize your “flavor of the day” whether it’s a daily special, soup, ice cream, coffee or tip.
• Invite participation in real-time when you’re on a live radio call-in show.
• Notify followers if there’s a last-minute event cancellation or weather-related store closing. If your web site goes down but you can get to a WiFi location, send out a Tweet to let followers know you’ll be back up soon.
• Offer a teaser by Tweeting the first chapter of an article (with a link to the rest) or the first chapter of your new book.
• Reward followers with links to special content, coupons or first-look content.
• Send Tweets from the road as you attend conferences and events. Make sure you use hashtags so your Tweets trend with others from the same event.
• Watch Trending Topics to see where the buzz is, and jump into the conversation if you can add relevant information or insight.
• Keep it interesting and helpful by reTweeting good posts by colleagues and opinion leaders, sending links to articles, blogs and videos and being on the lookout for great relevant content to share.
• Follow your competitors or industry leaders to see what others are doing and borrow best practices.
Excerpted with permission from 30 Days to Social Media Success, by Gail Martin, new from Career Press.
LinkedIn can be a powerful marketing tool, but because its culture is very different from other social media sites, it’s important to respect the rules and tread lightly. The best analogy would be successful in-person networking. You would never barge into someone’s desk and raid their address book or Blackberry. Ethical networkers also don’t pretend to be referred by someone who hasn’t given permission to use them as a referral. Apply that same networking etiquette on LinkedIn, and you’ll be on your way to success.
What can you do to market your company on LinkedIn?
• Create a profile that shows you and your experience at its best and most credible.
• Use your Update box to let your contacts know about speaking engagements, new projects, or job-related news.
• Use the My Travel app to share where you’ll be traveling if it’s important to you to make the best use of your travel time by fitting in extra lunches, coffee and dinner with out-of-town contacts when you visit the area.
• Use the Events app to invite your connections and increase your event visibility.
• Be generous in giving (truthful) recommendations, and ask your contacts to write recommendations for you. Give first, and others will reciprocate.
• Use caution in deciding who to add and whose invitations to accept so you protect the integrity of your connections.
• Use the “six degrees of separation” indicator to ask your connections to refer you to others in their networks.
• Use the Wordpress, Tweets and BlogLink apps to have your blog, podcasts, videos and Tweets automatically update your LinkedIn page to keep it fresh.
• Fill out your profile completely, and use a good, recent, professional photo.
• Offer to give referrals to your contacts, and introduce people you think might benefit from the connection.
• Use polls to get snapshots of what your customers and prospects think about key issues. Polls can also help you gather statistics for reports and presentations.
• Join groups and participate to add value. Virtual chapters of professional, industry and alumni associations where you’re already a member are especially valuable.
• Reconnect with mentors, colleagues, and subordinates whom you’d lost track of from prior companies. (The company and industry search functions are very helpful for this.) You expand your active network with people you already know.
• Start a group if your key membership organizations aren’t represented. If you remain active as a group leader, it can be a great visibility tool.
• Let your contacts know what kinds of new projects you’re interested in, so they know if you’re open to be approached.
Excerpted from 30 Days to Social Media Success, by Gail Martin, new from Career Press.
Summer is the time when nothing happens because everyone goes on vacation—right?
Maybe not. Once June rolls around, many business owners take a cue from school kids and decide that all the serious work is done until September. Oh, they’re technically “open” over the summer, but they drop back on attending marketing meetings (because “no one goes”), slack off on blogging, direct mail or newsletters (because “no one’s reading it”) and hold off on making contacts (because “nobody’s in the office”).
Then September comes and they’re in a panic because business is slow! In my opinion, summer is a fantastic time for cultivating business opportunities. Don’t worry—I believe in going on vacation as much as anyone, and I unplug when I go. But like warm weather and fresh fruit, summer offers seasonal possibilities that are too good to pass up.
Here are my tips for making the most of your summer marketing:
#1: Prospects have more time to connect. During the summer, the people you have been trying to reach all year may see a seasonal slow-down. They will probably adapt with a little more laid-back, casual pace themselves. Now is the time to catch them for a short phone conversation or even a meeting over coffee that they were too busy for earlier in the year.
#2: Summer is the time to set up events for next year. Whether you’re planning an event of your own or you want to be booked as a speaker at someone else’s event, there are only six more months left in the year, so many planners are already looking at 2011. This is especially true if their annual event has already happened for this year. Get a jump on the competition by putting in your pitch early.
#3: Summer slow-downs leave more time to read. If the target audience for your newsletter, blog and social media posts experience a little slower pace during the summer, they may well use it for more online reading time. Instead of taking a break from communicating, make sure that your summer written communications are especially spicy and good!
#4: Summer is the half-way point in the year. Because the year is half gone, it’s a great time to check in with clients and prospects to see if their revenues or goal-achievement is on schedule. If not (and if you can help get them back on track), you’ve got built-in urgency for them to hire you!
#5: Budget season is coming. Many companies prepare their new year budget beginning in October. If prospects have been stalling with a go-ahead “because it’s not in the budget,” now is a great time to update your proposal and re-submit it, with a cover letter that helpfully notes the fresh figures “for your new budget cycle.”
#6: Slow periods are great times to work ON your business. If client work really does slow down for you, seize the opportunity to tackle your own improvement projects. Update your website, blog more frequently, spruce up your marketing materials, and write articles to submit to industry publications, spiff up your speeches, and dust off your business plan to check on your progress.
You can enjoy the summer and make headway on your business goals by keeping these six points in mind. Not only will your summer marketing soar, but you’ll find that come September, you are still top of mind with prospects who are ready to buy!
It feels good to do some spring cleaning. I’ve been purging my office of old files, deleting old emails, cleaning out closets. Getting rid of old, unused stuff makes the room seem bigger, makes me feel better, and makes the whole building seem a little lighter. When’s the last time you did some Spring Cleaning on your marketing? Many of the business owners I talk to market on autopilot. They found a few things that worked for them during the first month or year they were in business, and they’ve kept on doing those same things ever since.
Even when the economy changed drastically. Even if their product offerings, service portfolio or target audience went in a whole new direction. They cling to that familiar marketing like a lucky rabbit’s foot, afraid to do something different. Other business owners were fortunate in that when they started up, they didn’t need to market themselves. Referrals poured in, word of mouth sent them more business than they could handle, and life was good. Until it wasn’t. Eventually, they tapped out all the friends of their friends and family, word of mouth brought inquiries but didn’t close sales, and life suddenly wasn’t as rosy. So it’s time for some Spring Cleaning.
You know you need to Spring Clean your marketing when:
• Your target market has changed in the last year
• You have added new products or services
• You’re changing your pricing or altering how your bundle or deliver your services
• The economy changes (hint—this means everyone)
• There are fundamental shifts in your industry
• A major new competitor enters the field, or a big player exits the market
• It’s been over a year since you really sat down and thought about how you’re communicating about your business.
Why Spring Clean your marketing? One reason is because we fall into comfortable rut and over time, the rut takes us where we’ve been, not where we want to go. Another big reason is that the world is constantly changing, and our marketing needs to stay nimble. Finally, and maybe most importantly, our goals change, and if we don’t update our marketing, we’re selling the company we ran last year, instead of building our dreams for tomorrow.
So here are my top five ways to take a mental broom to your marketing, vacuum out the dust, and give your business the fresh, clean smell of success.
Tip #1: See if your goals have changed. Maybe last year, or two years ago, your priority was on getting more consulting clients, but now, your top goal is getting more paid speaking engagements. Are you putting your time and energy into marketing to achieve your new top goal? If that’s not where the time and energy are going, it’s time to do some cleaning.
Tip #2: See if your market has changed. If you’re a local business, how have the demographics changed around your store in the last two years? If you’re a neighborhood business, do you still know your neighbors well enough to meet their needs? Take the time to update your market research.
Tip #3: How is technology impacting your industry? Do you serve a market that welcomes text message coupons? Can you promote for less money by using social media instead of direct mail? Should you have your own iPad application? Have your customers abandoned print newspapers to read online? Find out how your customers are using technology and make sure your marketing reaches them in the way they now consume information.
Tip #4: Has your network changed? No matter how much business you’ve gotten from any club or association, membership changes over the life of an organization. Are you still getting value from your membership or event fees? Are there fresh faces coming to programs, or is it a social hour with the same old crowd. Re-think the time and money you spend on personal networking by re-evaluating your memberships, and make sure you know where your target audience is congregating.
Tip #5: How is the economy impacting your buyer? Yes, we’re rebounding, but there’s some debate as to whether consumers will ever return to their spendthrift days. Likewise, the rebound hasn’t touched every community equally. Some are booming, while others have a way to go. Cautious consumers need more touches to go from prospect to buyer, and they want more assurance of value. Make sure your marketing messages are in sync with your consumers’ mood. It feels good to throw open the windows and toss out old junk. Get the same sunshine-fresh feeling with your marketing by opening the windows of your mind and tossing out the outdated marketing approaches and messages that no longer serve you. It’s a new year and a brand new economic recovery. Are you tuned up and ready to go?
How well do you “process failure?”
The April 12 issue of Newsweek Magazine featured an article by Daniel Gross entitled: “America’s Back! The Remarkable Tale of our Economic Turnaround.” http://www.newsweek.com/id/236190. I loved this article for two reasons. First, it stands in direct opposition to the drumbeat of negativity you hear on the street with compelling evidence that we’ve turned a corner. Secondly, Gross notes that one of the things Americans do best is bounce back from failure.
According to Gross, in America, failure does not have the stigma attached that it does in other countries. We pull ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and resolve to do better next time. Our system is more tolerant of failure than in many other countries. (Heck, when you really mess up, you get your own reality TV show!) And in a quirky, entrepreneurial, genius-inventor-in-the-garage kind of way, we celebrate failure because at least it means you tried. Recall the quote attributed to Thomas Edison that he had found 10,000 ways NOT to make an incandescent light bulb.
Gross called the freedom to make mistakes and get a fresh start, along with the willingness to make mistakes in pursuit of a big dream “processing failure.”
How well do you “process failure?”
The last year and a half has been a rough ride. Banks failed. Companies failed. Stock portfolios failed. And individuals who had worked hard found a lot of their gains swept away in an economic hurricane even bigger than Katrina. We’ve spent quite a few months nursing our failures. And yet….
We believe in the power of tomorrow. Annie said it on Broadway: “The sun’ll come out, tomorrow.” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s girlfriend said it: “There’s always tomorrow for dreams to come true.” Even Scarlett O’Hara said it: “Tomorrow is another day.”
Maybe you tried a new line of business and it didn’t meet expectations. That’s OK. Learn and move on. Process failure.
Perhaps you experimented with a new type of marketing and it didn’t pay off quickly enough. Take a lesson and do it differently next time. Process failure.
The quintessential American attribute, at least according to Gross (and I agree) is the ability to shake off disappointment and start over, with dreams that are even bigger, better and bolder than before. Many of the immigrants to America left behind old failures along with their original names when they came to this country for a fresh start. Many more shed their failures and headed West for to start over. Our legends are full of people who did what others said couldn’t be done, and along the way, failed publicly plenty of times before they hit it big.
How can you “process failure” to emerge from the downturn bigger and better than ever? Are you planning for a comeback?
Research shows that companies that keep marketing during a downturn and remain visible are the ones that get the lion’s share of the business once consumers begin to spend again. Are you using inexpensive, effective marketing to stay visible and offer value?
Start planning now to turn last year’s “failures” into this year’s big breakthroughs. What have you learned that will make you better, smarter, more adaptable or faster than ever before? What next-big-thing idea do you have floating around in your head that you haven’t recognized yet?
Yogi Berra said “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” So when the sun comes up tomorrow, are you prepared to make the most of it?
Move Forward or Be Left Behind
Are you making steady progress towards your 2010 goals, or waiting for something to happen?
Maybe you’re waiting for the economy to turn around. For hiring in your area to pick up. For the stock market to trend upwards. For second quarter…summer…something.
If you’re not moving forward, you’re setting yourself up to be left behind once the recession finally ends. Why? Because lots of other companies aren’t waiting. They’re moving now because they know this is the best time to actively reposition their company for the coming upturn.
It’s true that no one knows the exact date when the economy will turn around. But research shows that companies that actively market during a downturn are the winners when customers start to buy again. Why? They’ve remained visible. They’ve retooled and improved their products. They’ve developed new products that are attuned to the needs of the market. They haven’t been asleep at the switch. They make their own destiny.
What could you be doing right now to move forward so that you’re first in line when the economy trends upward? You could update your website, or add a new social media component to your strategy. You might add new events or newsworthy activities to your calendar and increase your PR. As a business owner, you might seek out speaking engagements to get yourself in front of other decision makers.
You could contact all your recent prospects with an update about what you have to offer so that your solutions are fresh in their minds. Most of those activities are free, so cash flow or a tight money situation isn’t an excuse for inaction.
No marketing activity can guarantee results, but doing nothing is a sure way to get nothing. A farmer can’t wait until the warm summer days to plant crops. He’s got to put down seed in the cold, wet spring weather believing that summer will come. You can’t wait until the economy gets a jump-start to move forward on your marketing plans.
When you take action, you create your own future. Taking action puts you in control, and it gets you out of the passive, victim role of waiting for someone (the grown-ups?) to do something to save you. Collectively, we are the economy. Small business creates most of the jobs in the U.S. and accounts for a huge slice of the GDP. We’re supposed to be smarter, faster and quicker to maneuver than the lumbering, committee-driven corporations. (Remember, the mammals won the battle of evolution against the dinosaurs.) It feels good to be the captain of your own ship.
The community looks to small business and solo professionals to lead. When small business hangs back, waiting to be saved, consumers lose confidence. When consumers aren’t confident, they don’t spend money. Everyone is waiting for someone else to move. So….MOVE!
Your voice will be louder and your position more noticed when you take action now because so many others refuse to take a risk. Count the benefits to being bold: You position yourself to be first in line to serve consumers when the economy revives, you are perceived by your industry, employees and community to be a leader, and you actually participate in improving the economy instead of being a bystander.
What will you do TODAY to position your company for the rebound?
Let’s see: “Politician hits an obstacle, gives up.” Then there is, “Doing the right thing is hard; Congress goes out for coffee.” Or how about, “Honest work takes energy, CEO embezzles instead.” Or the ever-popular, “Working out is boring, athlete takes steroid short-cut.” And of course, “Diets aren’t fun; have another donut.”
Unfortunately, we’re a quick-fix culture, but life (and business) doesn’t work that way. Grandma was right: “Anything worth having is worth waiting (and working) for.”
What are you working for in 2010? Is there a goal out there that seems far away, looks like a lot of work, might be difficult or is going to take some boring elbow grease to attain?
In my experience, the number one reason business owners don’t generate results with their marketing is that they give up too soon. Marketing and PR are like the water that carved the Grand Canyon, one drip at a time. You can’t force a customer to buy products or services on your schedule. All you can do is educate them about what you offer and how it solves their problem, and then stay visible until their own need creates an urgent reason to buy.
Persistence and consistency are the keys to marketing success in 2010. Yep, good old 1900s values, not swanky high tech tools. Don’t get me wrong: the swanky high tech tools can help you reach global audiences at a fraction of the cost of old fashioned media. But without persistence and consistency, all you’ve got is a tool. It won’t do the work for you.
We all love to see immediate results. Sometimes a marketing effort hits like lighting in the right place at the right time. It becomes viral, and suddenly, you’re all over the Internet. But just like winning the lottery, there’s a reason campaigns like that make the news. They’re rare.
I learned the unglamorous truth back in grade school with piano lessons. I had a good memory, so I found out I could get through my lesson without doing all the practice my teacher required. Another student didn’t memorize as quickly, but she diligently put in the hard labor of practicing. Guess who ended up the better piano player? (Hint: It wasn’t me.)
If you want to see a difference in your marketing results this year, whether it’s in PR, social media, networking or online marketing, then it’s time to roll up your sleeves. There are no short cuts or cheats. Create a plan, break it into action steps, work the action steps week-in and week-out, and see results. That’s all there is to it.
Do those three simple things, and you’ll be miles ahead of most businesses who give up because the real work of marketing isn’t fun.
It works for piano lessons, and it also works for marketing. Funny thing, I have the feeling it applies to most of life, too.
Most of us make New Year’s Resolutions every year—often, the same resolutions year after year because we don’t put the resolve into the resolution to make it happen.
It’s easy to get distracted by all the bright, shiny ideas that dart across our paths, and discover that we’re not only not arriving at our destination—we’re completely lost.
With that in mind, I’d like to offer my tips for setting goals that get accomplished:
#1 Start at the beginning. For marketing, that means go back to your business plan and re-think your top goals. Are they still your priority? Has the economy changed your thinking? Make any adjustments at the business plan level first.
#2 Make sure you’re in sync. Now that you have your business plan goals straight, take a look at your marketing actions. Do you have actual goals with ways to evaluate each to know if they’re working? Do they tie into a specific business goal? If not, line them up!
#3 Re-think your time. Does your calendar corroborate the goals you say you want to achieve? For example, if you say you want to be more active on social media but there’s no time blocked out (and ferociously guarded) to spend on social media, you’re kidding yourself. Put your top priorities on your calendar first and work everything else around it. (This includes exercise, family and self-time, too.)
#4 Revise your vision board. You’ve written down your goals in #1 – 3. Now it’s time to picture them. If you had a vision board for 2009, remove the items you’ve achieved with an attitude of gratitude, taking the time to celebrate each one. Then, as you add new ones, picture achieving each one in your mind as you paste them on. Put the board where you’ll see it all the time.
#5 Surround yourself with the right people. No one does it alone. If you can’t find a group that suits your needs or inspires you to reach your goals, make one! Think about who you know who might be trying to reach similar goals—losing weight, gaining clients, launching new products, etc. Invite them to create a mastermind group, book club or monthly lunch meet-up so you can encourage each other, be accountable, and share ideas and resources. Plan to connect online in between to keep the energy going.
#6 Spend money to make money. Success requires an investment of both time and money. If there’s an area in your business (or life) where you need help to do better, then commit to making it happen by finding a way to pay for some assistance. Buy a book (or borrow it from the library), sign up for a teleclass, watch a free video on YouTube, Google search for free articles or papers on the topic, and spend a few hundred dollars to get an hour or two of professional advice. Most coaches, consultants and professionals have the ability to offer one or two hours for a reasonable price with no long-term attachment. You and your business are worth it.
#7 Step outside your comfort zone. If what you’re doing now is working for you, congratulations! I bet there are still some ways to tweak it for even better results or more efficiency. If you’re not achieving the goals you’ve set, it’s time to get bold and try something new. (The coaching and resources in step 6 can help with this.) You’ll be amazed at how opening yourself up to new opportunities can change everything for the better!
We’re coming into the season when everyone makes New Year’s resolutions. Most of the time, these resolutions are personal: lose weight, eliminate debt, make more time for relaxation, and go on that vacation you’ve been postponing. As valuable as those kinds of resolutions are, it’s also essential to use this time to make resolutions for your business goals for next year.
Grab a piece of paper and work with me. If you have a written business plan, pull it out, too. Take a moment to read through your business plan. First, congratulate yourself on all the goals you accomplished. We often shortchange ourselves in the congratulations department because we’re so busy flogging ourselves to do more. So bask in your accomplishments. Make a list of what went right. Let yourself feel the glow. That’s important, because in a moment, you’ll be making another list, of things to do next year, and you need to feel the glow of success to be empowered to take the next steps.
Now look at the goals that were not prioritized for this year, or that just didn’t get done. Are they still important? Has the marketplace or the economy made them irrelevant, outdated or less essential? You may have some good goals that just need to wait a year for the market to rebound. The changing business environment may have given you a different perspective on what you really need, or changes in cash flow may make it necessary for you to do high priority items more slowly. Make two new lists. In one list, write down your new top three priorities for your business. In the other list, write down the things that have to wait. Scratch through and eliminate anything that just doesn’t make sense in the new economy.
The first list is your road map for the new year. Now that you have your priorities straight and your goals are in sync with today’s market realities, it’s time to make sure that your budget and target audiences are also aligned. Take a realistic look at how much money you can spend in the new year to accomplish each of your top goals. Your most important goal should get the most money, and so on down the line. Maybe you can only afford one goal this year. That’s ok. Next, jot down who the target audience is for each goal that will need to be reached to help you accomplish that goal. Sometimes market conditions will make it necessary to change or reprioritize your audiences, so please don’t skip this step.
Now that you’ve gotten your basic road map, let’s talk about the tools to get you where you want to go. Here are some of my favorite tools that I use to make my business vision into a reality.
Vision Board: A vision board is a poster you create with photos or cutouts from magazines to remind you of your goals. It’s a way to constantly program your subconscious with directions and to keep yourself moving toward your goals. Place your vision board somewhere you’ll see it daily.
Affirmations: Come up with a list of five to ten spoken goals and repeat this list every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to sleep. Make the goals specific and put a time limit on them. For example, perhaps one of your goals is “I want to increase my opt-in list by 30 percent by June.”
Laser Coaching: One of the best ways to put your road map into action is by getting help with the details. Laser Coaching is a one-hour consultation with a professional on one particular problem. You and the pro brainstorm solutions and you leave with a detailed action list.
Mastermind Group: This is a small, supportive group of professionals who meet on a regular basis (live or by phone) to encourage each other, act as a sounding board, brainstorm possibilities and suggest resources.
Education: The business environment and market are constantly changing. That means successful business people must be constantly learning. Sign up for teleclasses and workshops to help you keep your edge.
Assessment Tools: Getting an assessment of your strengths and areas for improvement can be useful to find blind spots and identify areas you might be better served to outsource. An assessment can be a great lead-in to laser coaching because it will help you identify areas for attention.
Marketing Tools: Many entrepreneurs are doing their own marketing in today’s economy, but maybe marketing isn’t their strength. Even if you’re not a natural marketer, you can learn to create effective marketing that gets results. Look for a home study course or a bundled package of educational materials and one-on-one coaching—you can get some great deals on very useful programs right now since many coaches are offering specials due to the economy.
What are you waiting for? You can make 2010 your best year yet. Prepare now to reach your goals in the New Year and get the tools you need to make your vision happen.
What amazes me is the number of people who seem to have forgotten the part about social media being, well, social. As in meeting people you don’t know. At a recent luncheon, one woman asked me: “Why do these people I don’t know try to friend me?”
Well, for the same reason that people at the luncheon you don’t know try to introduce themselves to you. Because the goal of the event is networking–which means meeting strangers in a business setting.
If you want to use Facebook just to talk with your extended family or old sorority sisters, that’s fine, but you should make your page private so that it’s an invitation-only site. That’s also a good idea for teens, because it’s true that “friends” aren’t always who they claim to be. (They aren’t in real life, either.)
But if you go onto Facebook or Twitter and join business groups, don’t be alarmed or defensive when someone you don’t know offers to be your friend or invites you to be their friend. That’s how the whole idea of social media works.
Imagine that someone opens a store on a busy street. Friends and family drop by to wish the new store owner well. All of a sudden, a person the storeowner doesn’t know walks in. He says hello. He offers a business card and asks for one of the store owner’s. He tries to strike up a conversation on a shared interest, one he deduced from looking around the store.
What should the store owner do? Call the police? Scream? Start shouting: “Who are you and why are you talking to me?”
Gee, it might just be that the person wanted to buy what the person was selling. At least, before she went medieval on his butt.
Or imagine that a business person goes to a networking luncheon (presumably to get more clients) and it all is going well until someone she doesn’t know walks up and introduces herself. What now? Throw silverware? Call 911? Yikes, a stranger!
As an adult, we have reasonable methods in place for meeting new people. Common sense says you don’t offer your credit card or Social Security numbers, give them a key to your house, or arrange a blind date with your daughter. But despite the advice your mother gave you when you were in kindergarten, it’s OK for adults to talk to people they don’t know. We call it….business.
Social media is new and many people are confused as to how to use it for business. That’s OK. But the next time someone you don’t know friends you on Facebook or follows you on Twitter, treat it the way you would if a newcomer greeted you at a networking meeting.
It’s OK to ask them what made them choose you, but try not to sound defensive or angry. After all, it’s nice to make new friends—and some of these new Facebook friends just might become clients. Remember that a one-time greeting is not spam and the person is probably not a serial killer. That stranger might just buy what you’re selling, assuming you can get past hello.
If you’re confused or scared by social media, contact me for further suggestions.
Drumroll, please. The number one business card marketing mistake is…..not putting your email address on your business card! (OK, imagine that I’ve just smacked my palm to my forehead to say ‘duh-oh’).
Now I can guess the excuse–you don’t want to get spam. But you know what? You’re in business to be contacted. Some of those contacts will be new clients who want to spend thousands of dollars with you. Some will be people trying to sell you recycled toner cartridges. But pull up your big girl panties or your big boy tighty-whiteys–the price of being open for business means being “bothered” by contacts.
Today’s economy works on email. Phone calls are intrusive and time-consuming. If I send you an email, we can arrange an appointment for a phone call. No phone tag, no string of missed messages. That is efficient for your time and mine. If you give me a card with no email, now I’ve got to call you. Odds are I’ll get your voice mail. Then you’ll call me, and round and round we’ll go. Or I might catch you at your desk in the middle of a meeting or on deadline, so you can’t talk, which leads to another round of calls.
All that time wasted because an email address wasn’t on the business card.
When you give someone a business card without an email address, you’re asking them to work harder to reach you than to reach your competitor. Most people hate searching for email addresses or filling out an email forms. If I have a choice between two providers of a service and one has an email address on the card and one makes me call or search for it, guess who I’ll spend my money with? That’s right. The person I can contact at my convenience, 24/7, with an email.
How much business are you losing because your email address isn’t on your business card? How many people would have sent you referrals from your last networking luncheon, but it was too much trouble to do so since you didn’t have an email address? How many people passed your card on to a prospective client who took a look at your card, didn’t see an email, and gave business to the competitor who was easier to contact?
If you’re only doing business by phone, you’re behind the times. I have to ask myself when I don’t see an email address–is this person using best practices or living in a 1990s world?
Not only do you lose out on new business, referrals and replies from people you’ve met, but you’re also making a statement about your accessibility to potential new clients. I interpret a lack of an email address on a card to say, “I don’t care about your convenience; it’s all about my convenience.”
If you hung out a shingle over a store or office, you’d have to deal with the “bother” of people walking in off the street. If you have a phone, you deal with the “nuisance” of hearing it ring with those troublesome calls. And if you have email, you might get some messages that don’t interest you. I’m not sympathetic. That’s the price of being in business. As the comment goes, “we could get more work done if it weren’t for those darn customers.” Not having an email address on your business card could just give you all the peace and quiet you desire. (And that’s not a good thing.)
It seems like I’ve been speaking a lot about social media, and that’s because people have a lot of questions!
I’ve talked with a lot of small business owners and solo professionals who either aren’t sure why (or whether) they should be on social media, and with others who have set up accounts and aren’t sure what to do next. Social media, of course, refers to online communities such as Facebook, and MySpace, sharing sites like YouTube and Flickr and specialized sites like Shelfari. It also includes blogs and Twitter, the popular “micro blog.”
Social media may be a new tool, but it works best when some basic marketing principles apply. First of all, social media will only work effectively when it’s part of a plan. Secondly, for social media to work, you have to understand who your audience is, where they are congregating and what message will resonate to move them to action. And thirdly, you need to have a good idea of what any tool actually does in order to use it effectively.
Get a Plan Many companies fail to market effectively because they don’t have a marketing plan that’s based on their business plan goals. A surprising number of solo professionals don’t even have a business plan! As they say, failing to plan is really planning to fail. This is true for social media as with any type of communication. Marketing is only as good as its foundation, and if you aren’t clear on your business goals (“make more money” is not a business plan-level goal), then your marketing will be imprecise, your message will be muddled and your results will be unimpressive (but how would you know if you have no plan by which to measure them?). Social media works best when it is part of an overall marketing plan. It should be targeted to a specific segment of your target audience, and its message should reinforce and extend your overall marketing themes. Social media is a great way to deepen relationships with existing clients and prospects and to reach a whole new group of potential prospects whom you might never have otherwise had the chance to meet. It can also help you create and sustain a two-way dialogue and drive traffic to your other sites.
You should know what you hope to gain from using a marketing tool, whether you’re using social media, traditional advertising, PR or direct mail. You should have a budget for time and money and some quantifiable idea of return. Your marketing actions should be linked directly to the business plan goal advanced by that action to keep you grounded in return-on-investment. Your plan should make it possible for you to assess your results and decide whether or not to continue investing resources in a specific marketing action, including social media.
Know Your Audience Social media success requires that you understand your audience, their needs, their culture and the language that moves them. Different social media sites have very different primary audiences, who go to those sites for differing reasons.
For example, Facebook is primarily a social site, where business takes on a more conversational, low-key approach. Meeting new people on Facebook is easy and encouraged, and it’s ok to approach total strangers and invite them to become “friends” on the basis of shared interests or people you know in common. On the other hand, LinkedIn is a power networking site with very strict rules about who you should invite or accept into your network (only people you actually know in real life) and with penalties for breaking the rules.
You will probably find many people on both Facebook and LinkedIn, but they will react differently depending on where you approach them. This isn’t so different from realizing that a business person may act differently at the office than when you encounter them after hours in a local pub.
To use social media successfully, it’s important to know the rules for each community you join and watch how others interact before plunging into the action. Then adapt your approach for that community, making your site more social and casual on one site and all-business somewhere else. This also affects how much you share about what you’re doing and your personal life. Facebook tends to encourage showing more personality and even quirkiness, along with some insight into the person behind the suit. LinkedIn, on the other hand (using these two as polar examples), sticks to business. You’ll need to adapt your message for the particular site as well. Continuing with the examples of Facebook and LinkedIn, on Facebook, invitations abound to attend teleseminars, online groups and other real or virtual events. On LinkedIn, it’s up to the individual to find the groups and choose to join, and invitations to events tend to be more low-key and restricted to the one-line “what are you doing” box.
Understand the Tool Facebook and MySpace are a lot like meeting people at a cocktail party, where conversation can range from serious to frivolous. LinkedIn is like a business networking luncheon. Your blog is like a short personal conversation about a given topic, while Twitter is more like a quick comment. Each of these social media tools (and the other sites like them) has strengths and weaknesses. For example, Twitter can be great for asking for immediate feedback on a topic. I tweeted while I was live on a radio interview to ask my followers to call in, and got people calling on the studio line while we were on air because of it! Facebook and MySpace are great for sharing information and interacting with people in more than one way—by posting photos or video, integrating the RSS feed from your blog or podcast, creating and running your own discussion group, and having a relaxed, personal conversation about your area of interest. LinkedIn is fantastic for making connections to the friends of your (real) friends. YouTube and Flickr focus on sharing interesting visuals, while bookmarking sites like Digg, Delicious or StumbleUpon are like a global bulletin board where people can post links to articles or content they found interesting, useful or just truly bizarre.
There is no one perfect social media site, just as there is no universal power tool. Sometimes you need a hammer and sometimes you need a saw. That’s why it’s so important to really understand the pros and cons of the social media sites you’re considering. You’ll avoid making embarrassing mistakes, be able to connect better with other users and get better results from your investment of time. Social media isn’t a short cut or a miracle cure. It requires a learning curve to understand how it works and which sites are best for you. Used correctly, it can be a powerful part of your marketing plan that can connect you with people around the world—including new prospects for your business.
Personal networking remains one of the top return-on-investment marketing strategies—IF it’s done strategically. How do you network strategically? First, make sure that the group delivers the audience that buys from you. Not just the type of company that buys from you, but the actual decision-makers who sign the contracts. If you’re not networking with the decision-makers, you’re networking inefficiently.
Next, see if you can be considered as a speaker or host for an upcoming event. This is a great way to provide a valuable resource to the group while also increasing your own visibility.
Look for ways to help, not just ways to gain. Offer information, referrals and resources to help the people you meet grow their businesses. You’ll be remembered. A note of caution here: Don’t expect every referral or tip to be rewarded tit for tat on the spot. On the other hand, if a few months go by and no one offers similar resources to you, re-evaluate whether the group is worth your time. The giving should even out over a few months if it’s a healthy group.
Go with a plan in mind. Have a clear idea of the type of person you need to meet and the kinds of resources you can offer to meet that person’s needs. Know whether your primary goal is gaining referrals or closing business. Take plenty of business cards (seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people show up without any at a luncheon). Make sure the cards are updated with your current information, and that they include your email address.
If you’re attending a weekend conference, you can make the most out of your investment of time and money by thinking ahead. Always size up the event in advance. Get a detailed program as soon as it’s available. First, look at who the speakers are. Is there anyone you need to meet from a networking or deal-making perspective? If so, who else is going who could make introductions? Do you have a friend among the organizers? Next, look at the session titles. What sessions will be most useful for your business? Which sessions look like a waste of time? Realize that your best opportunity to meet a presenter may be after a session. It could be worth it to attend a so-so session to meet a hotshot presenter.
Now look at the vendor list. Which companies do you need to do business with? This is where you find your short-list of companies from whom you need to purchase resources and with whom you want to create collaboration. When are the networking opportunities? These are meals, cocktail parties, mixers, brunches, coffee hours, etc. When are the “dead” times? These are the times when you aren’t planning to attend a session or breakout. This is the perfect time to schedule coffee with someone you need to talk to, or to spend quality time in the vendor room when the crowd is gone.
Plan to get up early and stay late. Always wear your nametag and make sure it is turned right side out. Take more business cards than you think you’ll need. Take your laptop—you’ll need it even if you don’t plan to work remotely. Hang out where people gather. Be in the coffee shop, at the bar, in the lounge. Greet others with the organization’s nametag and invite them to join you.
Don’t hang out with your friends. Don’t skip out to shop, fish or vacation.
Review the organization’s online membership directly months before you attend. Contact high-possibility people with a personal email introduction. Follow up with a phone call. Arrange to meet at the event during “dead” time. If your organization offers an online profile, make sure yours is updated with current contact information, a good photo and a benefits-oriented message of what you do to solve clients’ problems. Then check out the people you meet online via LinkedIn and Facebook. Make sure your profiles are updated and professional because they’ll be checking you out, too! Invite your new friends to follow you on Twitter (add the Twitter address to your business card), or have a link on your card for a free bonus item on your web site to drive opt-ins.
Make notes on the business cards you collect so that you can refer to the conversations you had at the event in your follow-up email. Send personal follow-up emails within a few days of returning from the event. Include a link for a free white paper, free e-book or other bonus item to get opt-in permission. And please, don’t automatically add everyone you met to your newsletter list without getting opt-in permission. Most importantly, follow up on the deals you started. Show your initiative by keeping things moving.
If you keep these tips in mind, I guarantee you’ll be ahead of 99.9 percent of the people who attend networking events—and you’ll have the increased business to prove it!
Now think about who is likely to download a white paper or a limited-use trial subscription. These are not casual freebie collectors. These are likely to be people who are seriously shopping for a current need.
Much of what is given away on the internet is really re-purposed content. That is, it was created for another use and has fulfilled its initial purpose. Now the choice is to have it lie around collecting virtual dust, or be out helping to sell your company.
So are you giving away the store? Only if you are giving away something you could actually sell. If you created audio recordings of a five-part teleseminar series that is still fresh and relevant, maybe you give the first session for free and offer the other four recordings for a nominal fee. If it’s more than a year old and you are routinely creating new content, give the whole thing for free but use it to plug this year’s new content. Or, give away one level of information (white papers, articles, short web/audio) and then offer a paid level of access to get more in-depth information (teleseminars, webinars, trial products or beta downloads).
Remember that customers need to trust you before they buy from you. The more intangible your product, the more difficult it is for them to “test-drive” before they commit. That’s why case studies, articles, etc. are so important for knowledge providers, and why limited-use downloads and limited-access trial periods are essential for product/service providers.
When you allow visitors to your site to download “free” information, make sure you are gaining their permission to add them to your newsletter list so you can stay in contact. This is very valuable, since a “house list” of opt-in email addresses is the basis for permission-based email marketing. Once visitors opt-in to get the freebies, you have a way to nurture that relationship and lead them down your sales funnel.
Internet culture has strong roots in sharing information freely. When you share information with site visitors, you’re not only being a good Internet citizen, you’re also being a savvy marketer.
I was just at a business function where the owner of a local printing company bemoaned the fact that Internet printers are putting pressure on long-time printers. His company hadn’t invested in digital printing, relying instead on being one of the largest offset printers in the area. For years, that was good enough. But it’s not working anymore.
Here’s why. In the “old days” (pre-Internet), companies could carve out a market by being the only local whatever. There are fewer and fewer products and services where “local” alone is good enough to guarantee you a market.
Sure, you can’t order a fresh-brewed latte from out-of-state, but you can buy a latte maker and order the coffee from anywhere in the world. You can even order pizza and a gourmet dinner via one of the many upscale frozen food companies that deliver anywhere in the US. (You may not save on the cost of the entrée, but there’s no charge for your drink, tax or tip.)
Location alone won’t save you. If you can’t compete on price with the people who provide the same service via the Internet, then you’re going to have to compete on turnaround, exceptional customer service or really tangible value-addeds to keep your business.
Most companies are stuck thinking of themselves as limited by a certain local geographic region—usually the distance they or their customers are willing to drive for a face-to-face meeting. Who said that had to be the limit?
Most of my business is done via phone with customers I have never met in person. Much of the work I contract out is done by talented people who had the right skills at the right price all over the world. Welcome to the global economy.
Wake up! How can you repackage, repurpose or rebundle your services to provide something that could be provided to anyone, anywhere?
Real estate is supposed to be the ultimate “local” business. But a growing number of real estate agents in high-growth areas are connecting with agents in areas where people are leaving due to relocation. They work out a referral fee that benefits both parties, and suddenly, the whole of North America is their territory. Restaurants may find a way to mail a favorite menu item (the Penn State Diner has been mailing its oh-so-wonderful Grilled Stickies to hungry alums for decades), or even a sauce or dressing. Think you’re limited by licensure? Oh really? Does “WebMD” ring a bell? How about the places that sell pet medications or contact lenses via the web?
The problem isn’t with the market; it’s with the mind. Envision yourself as a national or international business person. Now—how do you supply your service or product to your market? Yes, it means making changes to your mindset, your pricing, your business model and your goals. Suck it up, pull up your big boy tighty-whiteys or your big girl panties and get over it. Shift happens. And when the market shifts, those who don’t figure out how to shift with it get left behind.
If you’re having a real estate problem with your marketing, it’s time to foreclose on old ideas and flip your intellectual property to a whole new way of looking at the world.
I was at a conference recently, and a colleague of mine bemoaned that with Facebook and Twitter and the rest of the social media sites, there really is no such thing as privacy anymore–and we’ve given it up voluntarily.
My response was to ask whether he’d ever lived in a small town. Because if you hail from a small town, you know that there are pros and cons to being in a place where everyone not only knows your name–but where you’ve been and what you had for dinner last night.
In a small town, people feel as if they know each other because they see one another around a lot. They’re not really best friends–but they make small talk, something that doesn’t happen much in a big city. And since everyone knows everyone else, talking about what other people are doing is high entertainment.
As a businessperson, it also means that you have plenty of opportunities throughout your day to make a good impression, say hello, and remind someone that you are waiting to hear back from them or recommend a good book. In other words, to make human connections.
Having a good reputation in a small town will get you far. And having a bad reputation will sink you. There’s no place to hide because everyone knows where you live.
Where am I going with this as far as business and social media?
I hear a lot of small business owners struggling with what to do with social media and how to use it. It seems alien and mysterious to them. But those same business owners would be right at home in a small town, saying hi to people who are “friendly strangers” and wishing someone a happy birthday and making chit-chat about a good TV show or the local team’s win. And business owners know that being seen and being friendly is a big step toward winning new customers.
Has the light bulb gone on yet? Social media is bringing a sense of that small town connectedness to the bigger world. There’s a sense of transparency that may be new to big city folks but that everyone from a small town understands. There’s a “superficial” friendliness that doesn’t imply that someone is a confidant, but that makes a brief human connection. And there’s the chance to pass along news, a good story, a funny joke, or something interesting to your friends.
Are you starting to get ideas yet? You use blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and the other Web 2.0 tools to create the same sense of community. It’s the biggest small town in the whole world. You know how to network with your neighbors. You understand how to being friendly creates new customers. You do it in your neighborhood offline. Now it’s time to rethink your boundaries.
Who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you Tweet each day.
By Gail Z. Martin
Growing your business productively means understanding all of the tools available to you. Just as smart phones and tablet PCs have redefined productivity on the go, social media has redefined how people communicate, and more specifically, how consumers want to communicate with businesses.
Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success
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Excerpted from “30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success” by Gail Martin. Order this book at http://amzn.com/1601632266
11 Important Reasons to Move to the Big Storage Unit in the Sky
4 Easy Ways to Make Sure You Never Forget an Important File Again
When you’re on the go, it’s difficult to bring all your files with you. Carrying a laptop can be difficult when traveling through airports, and taking your computer with you puts you at risk for theft and damage. Printouts are cumbersome, offer data security risks, and provide only a static snapshot.
My 3 Favorite Do-It-All from One Place Web Sites
Social media “dashboards” allow you to post and monitor many of your social media sites all from one convenient place. Even better, you can upload and schedule your tweets and posts so that you can keep a more consistent social media presence, which is important to friends, fans and followers.
Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.
Three Things You Should Know About Access-Anywhere Software
Being able to access your software from anywhere on any device can be a real lifesaver when you’re on the road. Programs that live on web servers that you can access via the Internet are what Cloud Computing is all about, and it’s the key to using your smart phone and tablet PC to get more done when you’re on the go.
Seven Reasons to Store Your Programs in the “Cloud”
The term “Cloud computing” sounds intangible, and that’s just the point.
•You don’t have to install the program, so you can use software that requires greater speed or memory than your desktop or laptop might possess.
Starting to see the appeal? Cloud computing programs offer extremely flexible access to powerful programs without the hassles of maintaining the software on your own computer. If you’ve ever suffered through lengthy software download (especially one that needed to be done over several times), you’ll understand the appeal of being able to “visit” your software instead of needing to have it all on your hard drive.
Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.
23 Online Office Essentials for Your Smart Phone
When you’re working on the go, many of the helpful tools you take for granted in your office aren’t at hand. Fortunately, there’s an app for that.
Mobile Apps Get Work done on the Road
Whether you’re a true road warrior or you just seem to be on the go all the time, mobile apps from your tablet PC or smart phone can make your life much more productive. Even better: many great apps are free, and others are very inexpensive, so productivity seems sweeter than ever.
Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.
It’s Time to Get Your Head in the Clouds!
The term “Cloud computing” sounds intangible, and that’s just the point.
Why move to the Cloud?
Starting to see the appeal? Cloud computing programs offer extremely flexible access to powerful programs without the hassles of maintaining the software on your own computer. If you’ve ever suffered through lengthy software downloads (especially one that needed to be done over several times), you’ll understand the appeal of being able to “visit” your software instead of needing to have it all on your hard drive.
(Excerpted with permission from the book 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success.)
Five Business Secrets I Learned from My Dog
My golden retriever, Chase, was with me from the time I started DreamSpinner Communications nine years ago. Sadly, we just lost him to old age, but in that precious time we had together, Chase taught me a lot about life.
Secret #1: Make friends everywhere you go. Very few people can see a golden retriever and not smile. Most people have to come over to pet one, and they stay to chat a little. A dog can be a great ice-breaker, and because of Chase, we got to know a lot of strangers who became friends. For Chase, every stranger was a friend waiting to happen. There’s some real wisdom in that, because success is not a do-it-alone kind of thing. As the song says, we get by with a little help from our friends. You can never have too many of them.
Secret #2: Wag a lot; bark a little. Most of the time, Chase delivered a full-body wag that could knock a can of Coke off a coffee table and send papers flying. But when it was important, he had a bark that got people’s attention (and respect). What I learned was that you need to start out wagging (it makes friends and makes people happy), but sometimes, you’ve got to bark, and when that happens, let your voice be heard.
Secret #3: Take time to play every day. Rain, shine or heat, Chase would drag me outside at lunchtime to throw a ball for him. He loved to run after it (he was a retriever, after all), and watching him always made me smile. I was also surprised at how much our little outings (usually only a few minutes long) could also change my mood, brighten my day, and give me a mental break so that I went back to work feeling happy and refreshed. Breaks are good for us, and we do better work when we take them.
Secret #4: When storms come, rely on your friends. Although he was a big dog, Chase hated thunderstorms. Whenever a storm would come, he would find his people and sit close to us (usually under our feet). He couldn’t stop the storm, but he knew it wouldn’t be as scary if he was with people who loved him. We can’t stop the storms that happen in our lives—economic downturns, delivery glitches, supplier problems, etc.—but whatever comes our way gets easier when we have a supportive group who can help us keep it together until the storm passes.
Secret #5: Show people how much you appreciate them every day. Whenever I left for even an hour, Chase greeted me at the door as if I’d been away for months, wagging and spinning in circles, letting me know how very, very glad he was that I was back. I never doubted that he appreciated me in his own doggy way. It’s a pretty good habit to pick up (you don’t have to spin in circles or wag). Let the people in your life know how special they are to you, how much you appreciate them, and how fantastic you think they are. That includes family, friends, neighbors, employees, vendors/suppliers, referral partners, clients and everyone who makes your life possible.
Savvy, Successful or Scared of Social Media?
Where are you on the social media scale? Savvy? Successful? Or scared? If you put yourself in the third category, you’re in good company. So many of the business owners and solo professionals I meet confide that they are afraid of social media. That fear is holding them back from using a valuable tool that could help them grow their business. And here’s the good news: you don’t have to be afraid.
Fear #1: Social Media is Unfamiliar.
Fear #2: Social Media Will Take Up All My Time.
Fear #3: I Might Meet Weird Strangers on Social Media.
Fear #4: I Don’t Know What to Say on Social Media.
Fear of Facebook: Three Steps to Fear-Free Social Media
I’ll never forget the time a lady came up to me at a luncheon and said, “I’ve gotten on Facebook for business and someone I don’t know wants to be my friend. What do I do?”
1. If you don’t put personal information on Facebook, no one can get it. This one’s pretty simple. If you don’t want to take a chance that the world might see certain photos or certain comments, don’t post them. Period. If it’s not there, it can’t be copied, forwarded or accidentally leaked.
2. Give yourself credit. “Don’t talk to strangers” is good advice for children, but in reality, if you’re in business you have to talk to people you don’t know. If you opened a store, you wouldn’t stay in business long if the only people you allowed to enter were friends and family. It’s the same on social media. Use common sense. Don’t talk about upcoming vacations or times when your house will be empty (talk about your trips when you return, unless someone will be at home while you’re gone). Never give out your password or account numbers, even if someone seems official. Keep conversations “business casual” and you’ll be fine.
3. Make sure you have up-to-date security software on your computer like Norton Anti-Virus or a similar program, and never click on links that look suspicious. For example, if you’re leery of clicking on a Facebook link in your email, open Facebook in your browser and click through from there. Don’t open attachments unless you’re sure you know the sender and you know what’s in the attachment. (Good anti-virus software will help with dangerous emails as well.)
Take simple precautious and use the same common sense that you employ going about your business in the real world, and you’ll find that Facebook and other social media sites can enrich your business and personal life.
Gail Z. Martin is the author of 30 Days to Social Media Success, and the host of the Six Figure Social Media Success virtual boot camp. Learn more about Gail and her books at www.GailMartinMarketing.com. Find out more about the Six Figure Social Media Success virtual boot camp at www.SixFigureSocialMediaSuccess.com
Dagwood, Beetle Bailey and Other Internet Losers
Not too very long ago, in the days when everyone subscribed to a newspaper, one of the best parts of the day for adults and children alike was sitting down with the “funny papers.” The comics section was something everyone could relate to, following the adventures of The Phantom, Brenda Starr, Rex Morgan, and Flash Gordon, and the misadventures of Snuffy Smith, Dagwood and Blondie, Family Circus, Broom Hilde, Snoopy, Beetle Bailey, Shoe, Cathy and more.
Gail Martin is the author of 30 Days to Social Media Success and 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success. She owns DreamSpinner Communications (www.GailMartinMarketing.com)
Keywords are King
Consumers and reporters often turn first to search engines like Google for their news. When they look for information that is relevant to your products and services, how likely are they to find your Website and your press releases? Think of your own behavior as a consumer. It’s rare for someone to look further than the first page of search results.
Use Keywords to Make Sure Your Releases Get Noticed
Is It An Ad—or a Search Result?
(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin) For more information, visit www.GailMartinMarketing.com, or “like” Gail’s page at www.facebook.com/30DayResultsGuide.
Is 2012 the year to make your dreams come true?
Many New Year’s resolutions were made last month, but what progress toward your dreams did you make in 2011?
Celebrate your successes by making a list of the steps you’ve taken, big or small, to get closer to your dream. (I’d love to help you celebrate—please post one or more of your successes to my Facebook page or tweet to me on Twitter!)
Will you Finally Write Your Book This Year?
So many people tell me that they intend to write a book “someday.” Some of these books are fiction, some are non-fiction, but they have one thing in common: they haven’t happened yet.
Now suppose you’ve thought about writing a book, but aren’t sure whether or not it’s worth it. Here are some good reasons to go ahead and write your book:
As you write your book, start thinking about how you will promote it to the people who need/want to read it. Don’t wait until the book is ready to go before you plan for promotion! As you market your book, you’re also marketing yourself, and building a brand so readers will remember you for future books.
Effective PR and Marketing in the Age of Google
The Internet has changed everything for Marketing and PR. While traditional media outlets (newspapers, magazines, TV and radio) remain prominent online media venues grow daily in importance.
The Do-It-Yourself Consumer
Going Around the Gatekeepers
Budgeting Time and Money
(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin)
Ten reasons not to target mass media
The magic of multi-media releases and online ads
If You Can’t Fix It, Don’t Worry About It
Going Global with Social Media
Sing it till You’re Nuts
Doing Business While Unconscious
Social Media Success with Industry-Specific Sites
Social Media for Local Businesses
Collaboration is Key to Growth in Current Economy
Spread “Results Envy” and Watch Sales Grow
Does your marketing spread “results envy”? If not, you’re missing out on sales.
• What do you have now that you lacked?
Take a Moment to Take a Bow
Where Will Your Business Be in 30 Days?
As the end of the year approaches, it’s a good practice to look back over the last twelve months and take stock, with an eye toward planning for the next twelve.
Thrive in the Recession by Going Back to Basics
Chocolate and Cash: Success Lessons from a Hershey Bar
Smart Ways to Use Twitter for Business
Using LinkedIn (carefully) for marketing
Make the Most of Summer Marketing
Spring Clean Your Marketing
The Comeback Kid
Persistence is the Key to 2010 Success
Is it just me, or are you tired of the headlines, too?
Forget Resolutions: Achieve Your Goals
Where’s Your Map?
Who Are These People and Why Are They Talking To Me?
I use Facebook and Twitter to meet new people without the constraints of geography or time zones. When I invite people to be my “friend” or “follower,” I do so based either on personal knowledge of the person, or recognition of a shared interest. For example, we may both be members of an online marketing group (which would lead you to think we are both interested in marketing.) The vast majority of people are fine with this, and do the same to expand their personal circle of “friends.”
The #1 Business Card Marketing Mistake
I’m on Facebook: Now What?
Power-Shift Your Personal Networking
Are you getting the most from your in-person and online personal networking?
Free Information Builds Trust, Relationships
Can you ever give away “too much” information for free? Think about what it costs you to go to an average trade show, and then reconsider the question. Companies will routinely spend tens of thousands of dollars to stuff trade show goodie bags with all kinds of useless stuff, much of which is given to the attendees’ children or dumped on a breakroom table for office “vultures” who will never be purchasers or decision-makers.
Is Real Estate Your Real Marketing Problem?
They say that “location, location, location” is the key—but sometimes, it’s the problem.
Social Media Takes Work
Are you Twittering?
If you’ve been on vacation for the last few months without access to the news, Twitter is a new micro-blogging program that allows you to convey ideas, tips, web sites and other goodies in “tweets” of 140 characters or fewer.
What can you say in 140 characters of fewer?
Surprisingly, a lot. And even more surprisingly, what you say can help you increase your business visibility and reach new people.
It works like this. You start off by inviting the people you know to “follow” you on Twitter. For example —I’m on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/GailMartinPR. Hopefully, many of the people who read this will stop by my page and click the “follow” button. Now every time I tweet, you’ll get the message. If my tweets are helpful, funny or interesting, you can tell a friend, forward them or invite others to check me out. As with most social networking sites, the goal is to connect with as many people as possible in a way that adds value for them and makes contacts for you.
I’m new on Twitter, but what I see being done out there was enough to get me involved. Here are some ideas for making the most of your 140 characters.
Teach a mini-course.
Break down something you’re good at into single sentences and tweet them once or twice a day.
Let people know you’ve added new content to your web site.
This is a great way to drive traffic.
Hold a treasure hunt.
Offer clues via tweets and have people respond with their answers via your web site or Facebook page or Squidoo lens. Another fund way to increase site traffic. Be sure to recognize the winner on….Twitter!
Review the latest business books you’ve read. Pass along a one-line recap to let others know whether the book is worthwhile or not.
Recap a conference or live event.
You can set Twitter up to work from your cell phone. So if you go to a conference, you can tweet from the road on who you’ve met, how the speakers are and what great things you’ve learned.
Did your company just end up in the news? Tweet the link to the article. Did you just get interviewed on radio? Tweet the link! Find a cool web site with a great new tool? Tweet your friends. Just upload a video to YouTube—tweet it!
Make an announcement.
Let your Twitter friends be the first to know if you’ve won an award, signed a book deal or landed a new client.
Ask a question.
Invite answers to your website forum or social media page. This can be great for encouraging traffic to your Facebook group.
Send reminders about live events.
If you’re holding a get-together, speaking at a local meeting or hosting a coffee, tweet about it up to the last minute to encourage attendance.
Your Twitter use is limited only by your imagination.
So here’s my challenge—how are you seeing
people using Twitter or how are you using it? Let me know your answer on my Squidoo page at www.Squidoo.com/GailMartin! And remember to add me on Twitter!
Prepare now for pent-up demand ...
While everyone is watching the bouncing ball of the Dow Jones index, the majority of people are missing an important fact. After lean times comes a spurt of spending due to pent-up demand.
People are paying off debt and watching pennies now, and that’s an appropriate response. But once indicators start looking up, the companies and individuals who have put off essential purchases are going to start buying again. They may not start splurging on luxuries, but the things that are difficult to live without or do business without.
Are you getting ready?
Position yourself now while it’s slow and you have breathing room. Use this time to rethink, rebundle, and repackage your services and products. We already know that 2009 will be a banner year for start-up companies as big corporations have shed qualified, educated, proficient people by the hundreds of thousands. Many of those folks will decide life is better in the wild than on the game preserve, and they will need the tools to survive. If you offer coaching, consulting and professional services, they need you in bite-sized pieces to get off to a good start.
Once the dust settles, existing companies are going to realize that the firms that survive are the ones that keep moving forward. You can’t grind to a halt and expect to make it. They will continue to need professional services, work-related products and expertise in order to compete in a new, leaner environment.
Consumers also will continue to need essential goods and services with a few affordable luxuries thrown in from time to time. If you can offer a bargain and good value, they will respond.
And here’s another thing to think about—the exodus of corporate talent into the small business pool is a great gain for those of us already in business for ourselves. We get access to corporate-trained experts who were previously out of our reach, people whom we couldn’t afford to hire full time but who we can afford piecemeal. As they become consultants, coaches and small business owners, we can now “rent” them and reap the benefit. This is a huge source of new ideas, best practices, and fresh approaches. So ride the wave!
The best way we can help our neighbors and our communities out of this slump is to keep moving forward, making cautious investments toward the future, knowing that the upturn is the next natural part of the cycle.
Marketing is one your best investments of time, effort and a little cash right now. That’s because marketing keeps your name visible as your competitors cower and fall away. If you meet a real, urgent need, demand for your services will continue among surviving businesses. Widen your net via online marketing to serve a global audience.
But don’t stop fishing!