Posts Tagged ‘small business’
Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Friday, April 5th, 2013
Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Your business blog is a marketing, search engine optimisation, social media and public relations tool. It allows you to reach your market, get your story out there and drive traffic to your site. As your blog acts in all these capacities, it can help you indirectly make money as your business grows. However, there are also ways you can earn money directly through your blog.
Whether your entire business is based on a blog or your blog is just one aspect of your business, these tips can help you earn more money from your blog.
Participate in Affiliate Marketing
When you become an affiliate marketer, you will partner with a company and get paid based on the number of products you sell or the number of leads or traffic you generate. Some bloggers see a lot of success with affiliate marketing, and this approach may work for your blog.
To make money this way, you’ll need a large audience and a good sense of how to pitch products to your market. Good affiliate marketers are able to persuade their audiences to purchase a product without losing readers. Usually affiliate marketing is implemented through links or ads on a blog and many times the links are included in actual posts. Marketers can sell products by posting product reviews or sales pitches or by simply mentioning and recommending products.
Earn Sponsorships or Sell Ads
Of course, your ability to gain sponsorships and use ads will depend on your blog. If your entire business is based on your blog, you may be able to take this approach. However, if your blog is just one entity of your business, you may not want to send potential customers to sponsors and advertisers, since that would likely hinder your own sales.
Many bloggers that have large, niche followings are able to earn revenue through sponsorships and ads. Sponsors who want to get their name in front of your audience and encourage your readers to visit their website will often pay a monthly or yearly fee to have their logo and links added to your site.
You can also sell ad space on your blog or write sponsored, or paid, posts to earn money from businesses that want to sell their product to your audience.
Sell a Product
This may seem like an obvious way to make money, but many people don’t associate product selling with blogging. You could use your blog to market an ebook, a newsletter subscription, a paid forum or any other product. The secret to doing this well is finding or producing a product that will appeal to your readers. For example, if you are a food blogger your audience may be interested in purchasing a cookbook you created or subscribing to your recipe newsletter.
Selling a product through your blog is slightly different than the classic business approach. Many businesses sell their products first, and blog second, treating their blog as a necessary aspect of their website. However, if you’re a good blogger, you could focus on building your blog, then introduce your products as an additional offering, next to your blog posts.
Your blog has the potential to add to your bottom line. Whether your blog is the foundation of your business or it is a branch of your larger organization, these strategies can help you reap monetary benefits from quality blog posts, a niche target market and a substantial following.
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013
Image courtesy of Peter Patau/Flickr.
If you’ve been in business for a while, you’re website may be due for an update. But how do you know when its time to make the change? Updating your site can be as simple as changing some copy or adding a few new pages. Or, if your site is really outdated, redoing it could be a major project that will take time and money.
Deciding whether or not your site needs an update is all about determining if your site is helping your business or if it could be more beneficial to your company.
Your Services Have Changed
One of the most obvious signs that it’s time to update your site is if your services are no longer accurately described on your site. If your business has undergone changes to the products or services it offers, it is imperative that your site is also changed.
Your Site Looks Outdated or Doesn’t Reflect Your Brand
If you have had a company website for several years, it could simply look outdated. If it looks old, it’s time to update it so your brand will appear up to date and your customers can see that you are on the cutting edge of your industry. Even if your company offers the latest and best services, if your website looks old, your customers may still perceive your brand as outdated.
On the other hand, maybe your brand has evolved since the last time you updated your website. If your site doesn’t use your brand’s newest colors, look and feel or slogan, it is due for a makeover.
Your Focus and Goals Have Changed
Over the years, your business may have changed its focus or goals. If this is the case, updating your website could help you be more successful as you pursue this new direction. Things like added pages, a new feature, updated calls to action or using a design that highlights certain aspects of your business can all help you reach your new goals.
If your target market has changed, or if you have expanded and want to target an additional market, you may also want to update your site. Different messages, and even styles, will appeal to different markets, and you want your site to be targeted at the correct markets.
Your Website Isn’t Getting the Results You Need
It’s time to update your website if it isn’t performing like you want it to. For example, if you hope to bring in new sales leads through your site, and you haven’t been able to do that lately, you may want to consider redesigning or updating your site. Or, another example would be that you hope your site’s blog will help you build your email list, but lately you haven’t been adding to your list. Sometimes all it takes to help you reach your goals is a site redesign.
Redoing your website can be a daunting task to take on. However, if any of these signs are evident in your business, it will be well worth your time and resources to update your website so you can reach your goals and build your brand.
Monday, March 18th, 2013
Image courtesy of Master isolated/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
Every business faces a unique set of marketing problems. Whether you are facing challenges relating to your market, your messaging, budgeting, choosing a marketing channel, increasing site traffic, making more sales or explaining your campaign to your manager, marketing problems can be stressful. However, turning your problems into opportunities can help you solve them and even reach new levels of success.
First, Define the Problem
Knowing you have a problem isn’t enough. When you face a marketing challenge, clearly define what it is. Write your problem as a statement that has both a cause and effect. There are two ways you can do this. First, you can write the cause of your problem and the effect as the problem. Or, if you don’t know what is causing your problem, you can write the problem and then the effect as it impacts your business.
An example of problem with a defined cause would be:
“Our brand’s image isn’t attractive to a young audience, causing us to lose a large portion of our market.”
An example of a problem with an effect as it impacts business would be:
“We are losing a large portion of our market, causing our sales to decrease.”
Recognize The Potential in Solving Your Problem
Knowing the causes and effects behind your problem can help you find solutions that will make a difference. As you begin to realize how solving your marketing problem can make a big difference in your digital marketing efforts, and by extension, your business’ attempts to reach goals, you begin to see the problem in a more positive light. To do this, brainstorm the positive outcomes of solving your problem.
Some benefits of solving a problem could be things like increased sales, new product offerings, increased brand awareness and high customer service success rates.
Find Creative, Beneficial and Permanent Solutions
When finding ways to solve your problem, avoid the temptation to create a temporary fix that won’t benefit your brand in the long run. Instead, use the challenge you are facing as a way to reassess your approach or the way you market your business. View the problem as a sign that it may be time to make some changes or add some new strategies to your plan. As you implement solutions to your problem, try to use them in ways that will do more than solve your problem, but will benefit your business as a whole. Thinking of solutions this way can also help you find more effective ways to solve problems.
When you face a marketing problem, try turning it into an opportunity instead of running the other way or letting panic lead you to quick fixes that won’t benefit your business in the long run. In reality, most problems do present some kind of opportunity; the trick is finding it and then creating ways to use the opportunity to your benefit.
Monday, November 26th, 2012
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPotos.net.
Before you launch that new website, there are a few things you should do. In fact, failing to check off these important factors could bring negative consequences. When you launch a new site or blog, you only have one chance to get it right. Many of your new customers or readers will visit your site at launch, and if they don’t like what they see, they likely won’t come back.
But, don’t let this idea scare you. It’s entirely possible to make sure everything is in its place and working properly so you’ll have a successful site launch and start your business or blog campaign off the right way.
1. Perfect Your Design
Make sure your design is exactly the way it needs to be before launch day. Make sure things flow well and that there is enough white space so your readers aren’t overwhelmed. Now is the time to make sure everything looks sharp.
2. Proofread Everything
When the design is done, you can proofread all your site content. Double check that all the details your audience needs are included. Edit for the usual things like spelling and grammar, but also check for things like style, tone and flow.
3. Set Up and Link to Social Media Accounts
Image courtesy of SalFalko/Flickr.
If you don’t already have some business or brand social media accounts set up, now is the perfect time to do it. You can use your new site’s design to personalize your account pages and add the URL of your new site in your biographical information. Then, link the social media buttons on your website to the accounts. There’s nothing like a broken social media button to make you lose a crowd of followers.
4. Make Sure All the Links Work
Go through your entire site to make sure every link, including buttons and tabs, work. The ones that interlink the pages on your site and the ones that link to outside pages are both important for optimal search engine optimisation and ease of use. Depending on the platform you use, you may be able install a plugin or program that will detect broken links for you.
5. Have Some Blog Posts Live and a Plan Ready
You can’t launch a website, especially a blog, without any posts. Have a handful of posts already live when you launch your site. It’s also good practice to have a blog posting plan for the next month or so ready. Even better, write several posts ahead of time and schedule them to go live over a period of time.
6. Create a Means of Contact
Your readers need to be able to contact you. Whether it’s to buy your services, ask a question or to report a problem, a contact form or readily available contact information is absolutely vital. If it’s not easy to contact you, your audience will lose faith in your customer service and may turn to blog comments or forums for their answers, giving you less control over how you serve your market.
7. Apply SEO Tactics to Pages
Before you launch, have a basic SEO plan in place. Part of this plan should include some on-site optimisation strategies, which should be done before you launch your site. Including keywords and meta descriptions before launching will help you influence your rankings from the day your site goes live.
8. Advertise Early and Decide How to Hook Readers
Build hype in your market before launch by using traditional marketing methods, social media and other sites you own, if applicable. You may also want to implement a way to entice new readers to visit your site, subscribe to your blog or follow you on social media. Some ways to do this might be through a contest or giveaway or by offering early followers a discount.
9. Set Up Analytics Software
Image courtesy of Colin Zhu/Flickr.
If you don’t set up analytics software for your site before you launch it, you won’t get a clear idea of how well your site is doing. You should see a surge in traffic at launch, followed by a steady stream of visitors. If you have no idea how well your site has done over time you won’t be able to measure your success.
10. Back Up Your Site
Backing up your site is extremely important. Having a backup ready can save you from disasters like a site hack, server failure or a mistake on your part. If something happens to your site during launch, postponing your launch to fix your site could ruin your campaign. Play it safe and back your site up often.
This checklist will help you launch a working, professional site and help you prepare for a successful launch. Your market will be met with a beautiful site and everything they need to respond to your calls to action and become customers or brand advocates.
Thursday, October 25th, 2012
There was a day when only the big, well-known businesses had a website. That day is long gone and now every business, no matter its size, has a website. In fact, you could argue that it is nearly impossible to run a successful business today without a website. The benefits of having a website can be greatly magnified if your website is fully optimised, if it speaks to your audience and if it compels people to further explore your business. Here are a few reasons your site may not be helping your business:
It is not SEO optimised.
A hefty portion of the traffic on your site likely comes from search engines. When people are browsing the Internet for information or for a certain product with the intention of making a purchase, you want your site to appear early in search results. Search engine optimisation includes making changes to your site so that search engines crawl it more frequently and rank it higher for relevant keyword searches. One of the most important ways you can make sure your site is helping your business is by making sure it is fully optimised.
It lacks a call to action.
Somewhere on your site, preferably on the home page, you need a call to action. Your visitors need a clear choice of how they can act. Whether that is submitting their email address for more information, making a purchase or donating to your cause, your visitors need to know what to do once they get to your site. If they don’t, you run the risk of having a high bounce rate, which means visitors quickly leave your site without taking time to explore it.
VisitLondon.com has two calls to action: connect on social media and subscribe to an online newsletter.
It is too hard to navigate.
You know what it’s like to try to navigate a website that is confusing or poorly organized. Don’t put your customers through this same aggravation. Make sure your site has a main menu with common-sense labels like “Contact,” “Services,” or “Products.” Good navigation should also weave your entire site together. Visitors should easily be able to move from one section of your site to the next, and even be able to backtrack easily to revisit pages they have already seen.
The BBC website has a clear navigation menu.
It strays from your brand image.
When visitors come to your site, you want them to instantly recognize your business. Use your brand colors and styling throughout your website to tie everything together. This not only gives you a polished, professional look but also reassures visitors that they are in the right place from the moment your site loads. You already know how important it is that your brand is recognizable, so carry that same strategy over to your website.
It has poorly written or out-dated content.
Your site may have a beautiful design and have some neat special effects, but if your content isn’t well written, you are missing a key component of a successful website. If your site visitors are bombarded with content that isn’t grammatically correct, is hard to read, doesn’t flow or that doesn’t feel professional, you risk loosing their attention. On the Internet, people will move quickly from one destination to the next until they find a site that meets their needs. Poorly written content also harms your professional image, which can have far-reaching effects on your business in general.
Just like you change your business strategy and maybe even your products as the world changes, you need to keep your site content fresh. Make sure your content accurately reflects what your business does and that it is enticing to your current target market. Search engines rank websites with fresh content higher, so try to find a way you can consistently update your website, like through a blog or an online newsletter.
The design and content don’t work together.
While content is extremely important, so is the design that houses it. If your website has too many colors, animations or is too cluttered, your visitors will quickly feel overwhelmed and will leave your site. A clean design that is easy on the eyes and that highlights what your business has to offer, instead of buries it, will be easier for people to use and will even encourage them to click through the pages on your site, exploring more and more of your business. In fact, with careful planning you can actually create a site design that enhances your content.
VisitLondon.com uses design elements to highlight content.
Your can help your business reach its fullest potential by creating and then maintaining a strong website. The time and resources you put into making sure your site meets the above standards will be well worth it as you see your business excel and even surpass your goals.
Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
When I’m writing this blog I’ll quite often use the words company, business, and brand interchangeably. This is shockingly poor writing practice on my part, because as I’m sure you’re very well aware, not all companies have a brand, and not all brands are a company.
However, if you want to succeed in the online world of websites and social media, having a well established brand is imperative. When potential customers open their chosen browser, they’re bombarded with information, and it’s only by building a recognisable brand they can identify with that you’ll be able to cut through the noise and reach your target audience.
To further illustrate this point, imagine the Internet is like the good old British high street. Every store is competing to lure you in and convince you to buy their products. But given the choice between entering the clothes shop with a bright and interesting sign above the door, and interesting window displays, or the shop with a plain shop front and a piece of paper taped to the door with “clothes” scrawled on it, which do you think you would be more interested in?
This is precisely the difference between having an online company, and an online brand. With a brand, your customers will recognise you no matter where they see your name on the Internet; so if they bought something from your online store and then saw your logo on social media, they’ll make the link. So how does a company go about building an online company into an online brand?
- Before you project any image to your customers, you have to be perfectly clear with yourself about your intentions and plans for your business. There’s nothing worse than a company that is constantly “re-branding”, or “re-aligning their goals”. Although some evolution of the brand is normal, you should have you core mission statement pegged down before you go any further.
- Image is everything. Work with a designer, but make sure it’s someone who understands your company. Don’t be afraid to shop around, as there’s nothing more frustrating for a designer than working with a client they just don’t connect with. If anyone tries to tell you a good designer should be able to do anything, they’re probably selling something.
- Find your voice. Are you fun and playful, like Innocent? Or eloquent and refined, like The White Company? Do you use playful banter? Or keep things professional? This voice will lead the way in establishing your social media presence and your website copy.
- Cross-platform integration doesn’t have to man everything looks the same, but there should be some cohesion between your website and social media.
Friday, October 19th, 2012
Social media has often been thought of as a non-essential part of the marketing mix. The kind of thing you do because everyone else is doing it. It’s very often the case that the business owner’s perception of this branch of marketing is that it’s a job assigned to the intern, or possibly an already over-worked assistant. As a result “social media marketing” is never elevated above the process of posting an occasional tweet about an industry-related article, or a cute picture of a sleeping cat on Facebook.
However, new data released by Jobs in Social Media suggests that you get what you pay for when it comes to social media marketing, and real expertise in the field comes at a cost. A social media account executive can command up to $73,000 per year (around £45,500), but before parting with this kind of money, you have to ask what they’re doing that the intern can’t.
Obviously, you’re getting more than just the posts and the tweets. By hiring someone to manage your social media accounts you should be getting someone familiar with the ins and outs of all social media platforms, who can navigate them in their sleep (although sleep-tweeters should be avoided at all costs.) They should also be apt at keeping up to date with changes, and be able to recognise and adopt new trends.
They should be familiar with advertising on various platforms, and have experience in building ad campaigns that deliver results. Experience is often the key to these roles, and this is something that you should be willing to pay for. Make sure you identify applicants with experience in your industry too, as the approach and technique will vary with different products, brands, and target demographics.
If you’re hiring someone to write your blog, they should also be familiar with how to optimise the content for search engines, how to use a variety of content management systems (CMS), and how to network efficiently Anyone can spend 3 hours a day idly commenting on other blogs, but it takes a quality blogger with experience to find and identify influential and valuable blogs to reach out to.
And finally, if you’re hiring someone to manage your engagement or community, then they will have to be natural people person. But this isn’t the only quality you should be looking for. A good engagement co-ordinator must be able to identify peak times for posting, respond to trends in demographics and to adjust their tone and approach depending on their audience. It’s a role that is more analytical than one might think, and you should be looking for someone with equal parts communication and analytical skills. The ability to easily converse online is only one small part of the whole package.
So, have I convinced that it isn’t just a role for the intern anymore? By all means, allow interns and work experience participants to get their feet wet and try their hand at social media, but don’t be mistaken for thinking this is a viable long-term strategy.
Tuesday, October 16th, 2012
Setting up a new site? Going with WordPress.org? Good choice! You’ll have complete freedom over your website, access to a powerful and intuitive CMS, not to mention all of the amazing plugins available to make your site more engaging. With a few simple steps, you can have your website up and running in no time, so you can focus on producing some great content.
One of the first things you’ll want to set up is Google Analytics – if someone visits your site and Google Analytics isn’t there to track it, did it even happen? One of the greatest advantages WordPress.org has over WordPress.com is the ability to integrate your site with analytics. You either do this manually, or with a plugin. Google Analytics by Yoast is one of the most popular available, and it’s really simple to install. You simple download the files, upload them to your host via ftp, and then activate the plugin.
Next, log in to your Google Analytics account and set up a new profile for your website. Go back to the plugin settings, and either insert the UE code manually, or select “Click Here to authenticate with Google”.
Once you’ve authenticated your account, you can customise your settings based on what you want to track. Easy!
Social Media Buttons
One of the first pages I add to my websites is a RebelMouse feed – if you aren’t already using it, RebelMouse syndicates all of your social media profiles into one attractive JQuery-style layout. You can select what does, and doesn’t go on your page, so your visitors will get a good idea of the kind of content you share on your social media networks.
Next up, you’ll need social media buttons. I prefer social slider, just for the vast range of social sites supported, but it can be a little tricky to set up. Social Web Links is an alternative that will give you more flexibility over the way your social media buttons look.
You could also try your hand at making your own buttons, and then add them to your side bar as a widget in an HTML/ Text box.
One of the biggest pet peeves of most blog browsers is that they find a website they love, but then can’t subscribe to it. To avoid this problem make sure you’re using a plugin like Follow to add a WordPress.com style floating subscribe button to the bottom of your website.
Share This and Shareaholic seem to be the leaders in the social sharing realm. Both work equally well, but I personally prefer sharaholic, as it’s easy to configure and supports so many platforms that you’ll be amazed there are so many available.
The trick with WordPress.org is to try out different plugins and see what works best for you. Occasionally you’ll come up against something that is deeply flawed, don’t worry, just deactive it and look for another one. There are so many available that
Monday, October 15th, 2012
Success on Pinterest seems to be down to two factors: time and luck. If you’re running short on both then it can seem like a fruitless task and that your attention may be better spent on other social networks such as Facebook or Pinterest. But to dismiss this network based on a slow start would be an unwise move, particularly if you’re an online retailer, as research has shown that Pinterest has a pretty good conversion rate when it comes to sales.
The problem with Pinterest is that it favours those creative working types who can naturally fit image browsing into their everyday job. Designers, photographers, and artists all seem to do very well on the platform – and they’re rewarded by becoming the people new users follow automatically when they sign up. It’s a self-serving circle, so the key to success on Pinterest is to have enough time to build incredible boards and to constantly provide good content, and then to have the luck of being selected as one of the suggested users by Pinterest.
But you don’t have to spend hours slaving away, building up your boards – you could always cheat…
Pinterest is, after all, a network, and you should be making the most of this network of people to let them help you with the bulk of the work. One of the best ways to do this is by creating contributor boards – these will allow other users to pin to your boards, and help you to grow your following with little to no effort.
You’ll obviously need a following to start with, or to have a well established brand on other social networks, but other than that you’ll only need to take a few steps to get this up and running.
How to Grow your Following on Pinterest
1. Decide how you want to run your contributor boards. Some suggestions would be: a staff picks board, where you invite your whole team to get involved; a guest blogger, where you pick an influential blogger and give them free reign for a week, month, or indefinitely; a competition board, where you invite all of your followers to pin, and the best pin wins a prize; or a general community board.
2. To add another pinner you’ll have to be following them first. Go to your boards, and then click on the board you want to add other users to. Go to edit board, and you’ll see this screen. Enter their user name and select “add”. This will send an invitation to contribute to your board, which they will have to accept.
Once the user accepts your invitation, your board will then show up on their list of boards. And your board will now gain followers every time a user opts to “follow all” of your contributors boards. So the more people you have contributing, the greater your reach.
Have you had any success driving traffic to your site with Pinterest?
There’s been an enormous surge in original content making its way onto YouTube in recent months; the huge networks are even taking a slice of the action by commissioning original TV shows to be broadcast on the new-look tube. YouTube recently announced that they would be adding 60 new channels, and there are companies like Machinima accounting for a huge amount of the YouTube views. Added to this the growth of the tablet and mobile entertainment market, and it seems like there are more reasons than ever before to be actively using YouTube to reach your audience for marketing purposes.
YouTube is no longer confined to sharing videos of kittens on slides, or dogs saying “I love you” – there’s been a huge surge in brands using them as a way to offer more valuable and useful content to their customers. And now YouTube is starting to reward those content creators who share the most interesting and engaging videos, by optimising the search results based on how long users watch the video.
This means that related videos and search results will now favour those videos that engage past viewers for a longer time. So what does this mean for content publishers and viewers? Content publishers will have to work harder to keep their content engaging – either by making their videos better, or possibly even shorter. Videos will now either have to be incredibly entertaining, or incredibly ‘to-the-point’.
How to Use YouTube for Promoting your Company or Brand…
1. Are there any frequently asked questions about your product or industry circulating on sites like Quora? Why not offer a video explanation that will help your audience to make the most of your product. PowToon create presentations, using their own product, to help people make better presentations. Remember, you’re the expert on your product – why wait for a blogger to share a tutorial?
2. If you’re going to (or hosting) an industry event, why not film some footage (make sure you get permission first if it isn’t your event) and then create a video round-up for those people who couldn’t make it.
3. Create product demonstrations – but try to steer away from the usual stock video style. If you’re not the best on camera, join forces with a video blogger to
4. Got an industry expert in the office for a few hours – conduct a quick interview about issues affecting your industry at the moment. You’re more likely to get a 15 minute interview out of someone than a 500 word blog post – and it’s great material for social media.
5. Use video to show the inner workings of your company – this can be particularly valuable to companies trying to gain the trust of investors or big clients. It can also help you to attract the best talent, as prospective employers will have a good idea of what it’s like to work for you.