Archives for November 2012

Tips for Running a Small Business Successfully

As with anything in life it helps to have a few Tips and some inside information when you get started in your new small business so that you can avoid the common pitfalls and problems that people before you have experienced doing the same thing. To that end below are a few great tips that you can and should use when you’re starting any new business.

Do we have to talk about a Business Plan?  If you don’t have one you really have no business going into business.  Your business plan, even if it’s quite simple, is the map that you will use to plot out your future moves?  Would a sailor leave port without his map?  No. Should you start a business without a sound business plan? No.

Use your Bank to your advantage, and if you can’t do that find another bank to work with that will help you run your business more efficiently and fits your particular business plan, find another bank. The fact is that most banks will help you out if you’re a smaller, start up business by giving you better rates, free direct deposit and smaller loans that fit your budget.

Get out in the public, make friends, talk to people and network, network, network. Join in community events, talk to owners of businesses similar to yours and completely different too. Join some small business associations.  Get out there and make yourself known!

Make sure you’re organized and stay organized.  Information about your time, your people, your finances and your inventory need to be at your fingertips constantly.  Make a spreadsheet that keeps track of all the important numbers and details and review it thoroughly once a week. Organization can make or break a new business.

Stay on top of new info, new techniques and new developments in your industry. Take online classes, subscribe to newsletter and magazines about your industry and stay informed. You never know when something new wil come along that wil make you life, or your customers’ life, better.

Get the licenses and permits that you need before opening your doors and make sure that you’re running a legal business in every way.

Certify all of the people that work for you that should be certified. Having these certifications will not only give your clients more confidence but it will also allow you to charge more for your services.

Running a business can come with large expenses. To help reduce costs, considering using a freight broker to improve your business’s efficiency as a whole.

Finally offer references or testimonials and also put them in your marketing.  Nothing helps a business more than testimonials.

Social Media Marketing for the Small Business: Series 8 of 8

Welcome back for the final part of our 8 Part Social Media series.  In this final blog we’ll be talking about how to monitor the conversations (i.e. feedback and reviews) that will inevitably find their way onto the internet about your business and/or services.  More specifically we will talk about how best to make sure that they stay positive (aside from your company always giving excellent customer care, of course).

There are 5 steps that your company can take to make sure that you are always on top of any content being posted about your biz that wasn’t posted by you.

1) Set up Google Alerts, a free email update that will alert you any time your company is mentioned on the net.  Any time your company or product/service is mentioned online Google sends you an alert and shows you where it is. Powerful stuff indeed.

2) Get to know Google Analytics and use it often.  This will not only allow you to track your social media campaigns it will also show you which websites are sending the most traffic your way. It’s a powerful tool to evaluate the success (or failure) of any marketing effort you make.

3) Use FaceBook Search to see who is talking about your company on the Face and of course what they’re saying about you.  (Hopefully it’s all positive.)

4) Search the same way on Twitter. If you recall we mentioned TweetDeck and Seesmic in an earlier part on Twitter.  Use these services to monitor any word or phrase and keep track of who’s using them and when.

5) Use any services that will push info back to you via email about specific phrases or words that you wish to track.  BackType is one such service that will send you an alert (similar to Google) when your company or the word or phrase you choose is mentioned anywhere online.

Keeping track of what’s being said about your company online may seem like a waste of time to some but the fact is that, if you do it well, you can see where you’re doing things right, where you’re making mistakes, and put out small fires before they get out of control.  Controlling what is being said about your company is impossible but responding in a timely manner and taking care of customers is certainly not and is vitally important in today’s hyper-fast information age.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this 8 Part series about Social Media Marketing and we wish you the best of luck in all of your future Social Media endeavors.  Check back often for more tips and information and take care!





Social Media Marketing for the Small Business: Series 7 of 8

Hello and welcome back for Part 7 of out 8 Part Social Media series.  Today’s topic is how to leverage a combination of different Social Media tools to best market your business online. The simple fact is that, as the old saying goes, you don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket.  One social media site is a good start but a combination of several going at the same time is your best bet for a good return on your investment.

Cross-marketing is the first task you need to accomplish.  Connecting your FaceBook and Twitter accounts for example is an excellent idea as your posts on each will show on the other, doubling up your efforts.

Connecting your LinkedIn profile to your Blog is next, as LinkedIn has a feature that will let you publish a synopsis of your latest Blog on their site in your account, automatically updating your profile every time you post to your Blog.  Nice!

Integrating Twitter into your Blog is a great idea and makes it so much easier for your readers to tweet about your posts directly from your webpage.  There are also a lot of other sharing tools out there that will allow you to give your readers the ability to easily share your posts to other social media sites as well.

Once you’ve become adept at doing these tasks (and are performing them regularly, if not every day) you’re ready to execute a multi-media marketing strategy.

For example, once you post a video to YouTube you can then post about it on your Blog, Tweet about it on Twitter and, since these should be connected, your FaceBook fan page will get the updates too.  Sharing it on Pinterest and other sites as well is a great idea and will allow you to get lots more mileage from a single video.

Of course you’ll want to make sure that the social media websites that you’re posting to make sense for your business.  Pinterest, for example, is heavily into photos.  If you’re a service oriented company they may not be the right site for you.

Consistency is also key here as, if people come back to visit and you don’t regularly have new content they’re going to fall off in droves.  Keep posting and keep the great content coming and you’ll not only build an audience you’ll keep them coming back for more.

Then of course you will want to come back for more, specifically Part 8!

5 Common Myths About SEO

Search engine optimization is an area that many people have dabbled in at some point. Since it has been explored by experts and amateurs alike, there have been a lot of myths developed over the years. If you want to be able to get your site to rank higher in the search engines, you have to successfully separate myth from reality. Here are five of the most common myths in the SEO industry.

1. It Worked Last Year, So It’ll Still Work

One of the biggest misconceptions about search engine optimization is that you can use the same old tricks that you used five years ago or even last year, and they’ll still work this year. This is a big mistake, and it probably won’t work. Search engine algorithms are continually changing, and they are getting more advanced. This means that the strategies that you previously used probably will not do the trick this time around.

2. You Can Rank Higher by Stuffing With Keywords

In the past, one of the most common techniques that webmasters used to rank higher was to stuff their content with keywords. They would fill every sentence with keywords and this would help them rank higher. With today’s search engines, that will actually penalize your site. When writing the content for your site, it is important to sprinkle keywords into it, but you don’t want to overdo it. There isn’t really a magic number when it comes to the ideal keyword density, but it is better to keep the keywords on the lighter side.

3. Any SEO Firm Should Be Able to Help

Among some people there is a perception that any firm that calls themselves an SEO firm should be able to help you rank higher. Many people trust these companies and think that they know everything about the search engines. If you are going to hire a digital marketing firm, it is important that you do your homework first. Not all companies in this arena are the same. Some of them are much better than others. If you choose the wrong one, it could actually end up hurting your site.

4. I’ll Just Copy the Big Guys’ Strategies

Many people think that if they simply make their websites like a big Fortune 500 company’s website that they’ll be fine. In reality, many of the big companies out there don’t understand the first thing about search engine optimization, and they don’t do things the right way. If you just copy what someone else is doing, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

5. You Can’t Hurt Your Site With Bad Links

For the longest time, there was a belief that any link was a good route to your site. In reality, there are links that can harm the reputation of your site. If you want to rank highly, you’re going to have to be careful with what types of link strategies that you use. If you avoid falling victim to some of these common myths, your site should be in much better shape overall.

Writing is a Release

The ability to write effectively and creatively isn’t always a God given talent, sometimes it takes education and hard work to really excel at it.  I will say that the various forms of writing offer a creative outlet that allow us to live out fantasies, release stress, and even at times earn a living.  Consider the article you are reading right now, this is my form of creativity, and while it is second a job it does bring in additional income.  You are quite lucky when you can align a creative outlet, hobby, and profession all in one.  I find that writing courses are a great way to cultivate the writer inside of you, and they are often times very affordable as well.  Now let’s consider some of the other forms of writing that you perhaps have never considered.

Journalism is something I long aspired for, I read the daily newspaper and often admire how the writers can form eloquent sentence.  However, when I went to college I opted for a business degree instead, but this is perhaps why you see my interest in blogging coming out now.  To think that journalists create articles almost weekly that are read by thousand, or perhaps even millions of people.  To be able to carry that level of influence can be quite appealing.

Play writing is something I never really had a flare for, but I did attempt it in a creative writing class when I was younger.  Some of the greatest pieces of art have come in the form of play writing.  Consider the many works of Shakespeare, universities around the world involve his play writing in their annual curriculums.  This could be an interest and a talent that you weren’t even aware that you had.

Lastly, writing a novel is another interest of mine.  I have long debated taking on this task, but even I know my limitations.  Personally, I could vastly benefit from taking a writing class or two to sharpen my literary skills.  Writing a novel takes a certain level of skill and patience, it certainly isn’t a task that can be completed on a whim.  This not only involves writing itself, but also the collection and collaboration of ideas to make a concise and cohesive story come together.

Regardless of your choice of writing style I want to make clear that additional education and classes can benefit your endeavors far more than you may realize.

A Diamond in the Rough

While we know that it is possible that a diamond can be created from a simple piece of goal it is a hard concept to fathom.  After all, we have a nasty looking black chalky mineral that can transform into a clear and eloquent jewel that is admired by many.  The reason I bring up this analogy is to illustrate the often misrepresented coal and oil industry, and the thought that nothing but greed and riches comes from it.  Between the BP oil spill, OPEC, and the tankers filled with oil that have capsized in our waters, the oil industry is often thought of in a very negative way.  Many geographical locations are concerned with fracking, and other methods of oil extraction, and just how detrimental it can be to our environment.

However, what most people fail to realize is that is an industry that is both still blossoming, as well as learning from its mistakes.  The oil industry is either directly or indirectly responsible for millions of jobs around the world.  From professionals in corporate headquarters, to the local clerk at a gas station, it’s an industry that has helped many benefit financially, not just the super rich.  While we are always looking for cleaner and efficient ways of doing things, there have been numerous strides towards improvement already, and contributions made to agencies and foundations that are set on continuing these improvements.

Consider one successful professional that came about from the oil industry, Bob Finch.  He took his money made in the coal and oil industry and formed Talis Capital which has focused on key sectors like agriculture, recycling, natural resources, and alternative energy, all very green and eco-friendly initiatives.  He is responsible for supporting many charitable organizations.  These organizations support better quality of life for the disabled, and help to under privileged children.  Bob Finch has been both successful in personal and private endeavors, and should be a shining example of the good that can come from the oil and coal industry.  He truly is a diamond in the rough.

Social Media Marketing for the Small Business: Series 6 of 8

Hello and welcome back for Part 6 of our 8 Part Social Media series for small business. Today’s topic is Multimedia such as videos, photos and even audio and how they can help you promote and brand your small business.  This may be one of the more difficult aspects of social media marketing quite honestly but the payoff can be bigger too so, in our opinion, it’s well worth the effort.

No conversation about multimedia on the internet would be complete without YouTube of course, the video juggernaut that is one of the most powerful and popular websites in the entire world.  Participating on YouTube will help your biz but, to get the most bang for your buck out of the site, you’re going to need to start making and posting videos of your own.

These can be as simple or as complex as you’d like, but we suggest that simple is the way to get started.  A webcam and some expert knowledge is all you need, plus a topic that is interesting of course and will attract viewers and hold their attention.

YouTube also has a powerful suite of tools that you can use to evaluate the effectiveness of your videos, making it easier to know what people are watching and what to offer in the future.

Flickr is another site that is excellent for building some affinity for your brand and/or product.  People love pictures and Flickr give you a place to post and share them easily.  They also have discussion groups and other tools that will help you focus on your local marketplace.

BlogTalk Radio is becoming a very popular site for businesses.  You can host your own internet radio talk show there and, if you offer interesting info, tips, tidbits and other useable content, you will find that people start tuning in regularly, especially if you give them the opportunity to call in and ask questions directly to you.

The main point of any multimedia content is of course to make it interesting, helpful or, if neither of those two, at least funny.  People love funny and you will certainly build an affinity for your biz and your product using humor.  As will all Social Media content is king so before you start make sure that what you will give your viewers / listeners will entertain or help them in some way.

Once you’re on your way to YouTube stardom remember to come back for Part 7!

The Power of You and I

No matter your business, no matter your specialty or your industry, at some point you’re going to need to use your power to command the English language to convert a prospective patient into an actual customer and the most powerful English words that you can use to do that are the words you and I.

You see, when you use the word you you will connect with your clients on a much more personal level because you’ll be talking to them in the ‘2nd person’ as opposed to the ‘third person’ that many marketers (and your English teacher from high school) will tell you is the ‘formal’ way to write.  In marketing, however, being personal is much more successful than being formal almost every time.

The reason is that when you use the word ‘you’, as in “you will really like the way it feels on your skin” you are relating to people on a more personal basis, personalizing the conversation and breaking down the barriers that stand between you and a sale. In effect, you’re turning yourself from a stranger into someone that your prospective customers can relate to on a personal level.

If, for example, you send out a mass email to your email list it is imperative that you use the words ‘you’ and ‘I’ to break down the perceived barriers between your business and your customers.  Giving a speech to a group of prospective patients is the same and can turn an entire roomful of strangers into a roomful of clients that are ready to buy.

Imagine, if you will, the picture that this content leaves in a prospective customer’s mind; “Picture yourself using your new kitchen cabinets.  When you need a specific spice it’s easy to find and when you need extra space you can have it in an instant. I personally guarantee that I will make sure you love your new kitchen and that you will enjoy how much easier your life is once your new cabinets are installed”.

Is that powerful or what?!  The next thing your customer should say is “When can you start?”

One caveat; don’t use the word ‘you’ in any way that makes your content sound like a command.  “You must”, “You should” or “You have to” sounds like you’re trying to ‘boss them around’ and very few people respond to commands in a positive manner.

Writing an email, a formal letter, or even meeting minutes at work can be a daunting task.  Yet these are words that become virtually solidified in stone once they are put to paper.  As I explained above, the written and/or verbal word is a powerful one, and it can make or break your business.  Personally, I find writing courses to be useful to the business owner, or even the everyday person.  These are courses that can be offered online or in brick and mortar establishments of higher education.  Either way they serve to better your effectiveness in communicating with others and that is something that often times needs to be helped and nurtured along.

Social Media Marketing for the Small Business: Series 5 of 8

Welcome back for Part 5 of our 8 Part Social Media series.  Today’s topic is about the need for you and your company to participate on other Blogs.  The fact is, it takes time to build a reputation on the internet and sometimes it’s better for you to go out and make some noise and get some attention (i.e. be proactive) rather than to sit back and wait for people to come and find you. With that in mind here are your strategies for doing that very thing.

First you’ll need to find a few Blogs that cover your specific industry and make a habit of surfing to them at least weekly to see what’s being posted, what’s new and what’s news.  Get to know who the writers are and what their opinions are and, when you’re ready, start leaving constructive, interesting comments and notes about their posts.  If you need help finding Blogs Technorati has a list of the Small Business Blogs that you can use for reference.

Once you’ve found a few good Blogs to follow you’re ready for some more advanced techniques of building a rep for yourself. By now you have hopefully built a level of trust and credibility due to leaving great comments, asking interesting questions and even leaving bits of useful advice on other Blog posts.

You can now use the affinity that you have grown to ask some of these writers to let you have a go at a Guest Post on their Blog.  This is an excellent way to have your opinions and ideas seen by a much larger audience (depending on the Blog). You’ll want to agree on the topic and send a draft of your post ahead of the scheduled posting date of course so that all goes smoothly (and you’re invited back).

You can also ask that they guest post on your Blog also, which will bring over readers from their Blog to yours and open up some new doors in the process.  If you can’t do this with the ‘big guys’ right away don’t get discouraged.  Social Media takes time to build and bear fruit and so does Blogging of any kind.

How To Guest Post To Promote Your Blog from blogging expert Darren Rowse is a definite must-read if you want to start guest Blogging to build your business.

So get started making a Blogging name for yourself and make sure to come back and see us for Part 6, Multimedia!

How to Start a Fundraiser


The most common way for an organization to tackle the ‘lack of funds’ problem is to raise funds through a fundraiser. Even though raising funds requires the organization to put in big effort, the money raised can prove to be an essential support in the long run.

However, estimating the amount of money needed is one thing, and starting a fundraiser is something completely different. It’s not easy to run one when you’re unclear about the basic steps that need to be taken. In order to make your fundraiser successful, you need to plan meticulously plan it out, so that you increase the probability of making it profitable.

Here are the steps that you should keep in mind to ensure that your fundraiser hits a homerun.

#1: Choose a Worthy Cause

Regardless of how much cash you want to raise, you will have to start with a worthy cause. People who take part in a fundraiser or buy the merchandise sold at such an event only do so because they’re motivated by the cause.

So ensure that the cause you’re selecting is worth it. Let everyone know why exactly you’ve chosen it by highlighting the important points. Ultimately, the more worthy your cause is, the easier it will be for you to convince others to contribute to your fundraiser.

#2: Do Your Homework

Making the right decisions is critical when you’re running a fundraiser. You can’t afford to make any costly mistakes. This is why you should do your homework prior to starting the fundraiser. Look into other organizations or groups who have done something similar in your chosen area.

See if any of their ideas go with your vision. Understand why some of the fundraisers were successful while others weren’t. Taking this step will help you take better decisions that will lead to the success of your fundraiser.

#3: Determine the Fundraiser Type

What type of fundraiser would work the best for you? If your organization has already tasted success with a certain type of fundraiser in the past, then you could go with that. Since it’s already been proven to work.

If not that, you could go for a seasonal fundraiser where you plan according to what’s in vogue at the moment. For instance, if it’s the baseball season you can have a baseball merchandise sale, along with offering promotional koozies for your organization. Try and keep your fundraiser as relevant to the current season as possible.

#4: Set a Fundraising Goal

In order to boost your chances of success, you need to set a fundraising goal. This gives your volunteers a specific direction to work in. While it’s okay to have big goals, try to be realistic in your approach.

Consider the kind of profits you generated during any previous fundraising events, and use them as a yardstick to to create practical goals.

#5: Work on the Promotion

One of the most important steps that you cannot afford to miss is the promotion of your fundraiser. While different organizations approach it differently, there are a few things that will always remain common during promotion.

To start with, you can create a press release that can be sent to local newspapers and get radio stations to share it with their community. Besides that, try and leverage the power of posters and flyers that can be easily distributed at restaurants, universities and other places that allow public postings.