How to Market Your Small Business: Marketing Checklist

Marketing ChecklistNo matter what business you are in, there are many more ways to market your small business today than you are using. Read on or you may miss an easy way to increase your income.

1) Customer Loyalty from Current Customers

The easiest sales you will ever make are to existing customers. Your highest priority is to strengthen your relationships with anyone who has already bought from you. While this can mean autoresponders and emailed newsletters, anything with a more personal touch will work better.

When is the last time you gave your customers a call to see how they are doing? Have you asked them how they feel about your products or services? Do you tuck thank you notes into your deliveries?

The #1 reason people give for changing companies is that they don’t think their current provider cares. Make sure they know you do and you will get more business. Customer loyalty grows from personal relationships built over time.

2) Business Website and Blog

You need to have an online presence somewhere. Domain names are inexpensive (about $12 per year for .com) and hosting doesn’t have to cost much, either. You can even put your content on pages on an existing site and point your domain name to it for free. But the best option is to put your site on WordPress and have a blog you update regularly.

A business blog does NOT need to publish daily. Once a week is sufficient. If you find it challenging to keep your business blog updated, you can even hire a service such as WriteCollective to provide content or even manage the publishing for you. When you provide your customers with solutions to their challenges in your blog, they are likely to make a purchase. 61% of consumers say they have bought because of a blog post.

Businesses that blog have 434% more indexed pages, 97% more indexed links, and 97% more inbound links. B2B marketers using blogs generate 67% more leads. 90% of consumers find customer content useful. (More stats below.)

Business Blogging Stats

3) Local Listings

If your business has a physical presence, you must get it listed in all the major local directories. Quality directories are still important. Google just changed the name AGAIN. The new name is “Google My Business”. (Old names were Google Places, Google Plus Local, Google Local.) Google has the lion’s share of searches so this is your priority.

Make sure you use exactly the same name, address, and phone number on every local listing. Upgrade your listings with images, videos, mentions of cities and counties you serve, categories that apply, coupons and deals.

Beyond Google there are many more local listing opportunities. These are valuable links you can easily get that will help your business site or blog rank better. Even if you are an online only business, if you have a physical location to use do not pass up these listings. There is more information about where to get listed in Local Search Directories.

4) Social Media

While social media may seem overwhelming, there are now many experienced people who can get your accounts set up quickly for very little money. At a minimum, you should decide on a username that you can use consistently across all social networks. Check to ensure the username you are considering is available on all the major sites before you get started. You can check them all at once for free using Knowem.com.

You do not have to be active on every social network, but you do want to claim your username, upload an image, enter a short bio and link it to your site. These are valuable links easily obtained, so do not neglect them.  If you aren’t going to be active on a site now, include where you can be found in your bios.

There is a lot to doing social media well. Consider paying someone else to set up your accounts and teach you to use them. It doesn’t have to be costly and it will save you a ton of time and frustration. The main thing to remember is not to always be selling or broadcasting about yourself on social media. What you want to do is identify where your target audience is already active and then socialize with them. As you create relationships they will lead to business.

5) Protect Your Online Reputation

Claiming your social accounts and submitting local listings provides protection for your business by having your business name indexed many times. If someone writes something negative about you online, it is unlikely to rank above these authority sites so it won’t automatically land on the first page of search results.

Set up alerts to notify you when your business is being talked about. If you ever see negative comments online, do not automatically respond to them. Stop and think first. If it is a valid complaint you may want to respond. If it isn’t, and the person complaining does not have authority do not lend them yours. You may want to get advice from someone familiar with reputation management before deciding what best to do.

6) Don’t Forget About Offline Marketing

Even if you do business entirely online, that is no reason to ignore valuable offline marketing methods. Order signs or bumper stickers and put them on your vehicles. Consider advertising in free and inexpensive classifieds such as Craigslist, Thrifty Nickle, Pennysaver and others.

Use business cards, fliers, promotional materials, thank you notes and other printed items. Consider going to meetups or live events. If you do, give people you meet something interesting to remember you by. Promotional products that have a useful purpose can keep your business name in front of your clients a long time.

  • 85% say they do business with the advertiser
  • 88% remember the name on their products
  • 91% have promotional products in their kitchen
  • 74% keep products in their work areas
  • 83% say they want to receive promotional products
  • 53% use their promotional products weekly
  • 47% keep them for more than a year

7) People Buy From People They Like – Be Likeable

The most important part of business is people. Focus on figuring out what your customers need and give it to them in a cheerful, helpful manner. Think about why you do business where you do. Do you eat at a particular restaurant because the hostess remembers you or you have a favorite waitress?  Do you shop at a mom and pop store even though you suspect they’re more expensive? People buy from people they know and like.

Marketing Your Small Business Summary

Grow your business by being consistently good at what is most important (what they buy from you) and being someone your customers truly like.

Optimize Your Site for Smartphones, Tablets and Other Devices

These days, it’s not enough to have a content rich website capable of loading in any web browser. The personal computer used to be the only device capable of browsing the Internet, but since the onslaught of smartphones, people now access web pages from their tablets, phones, and even their televisions.

If your website doesn’t work across multiple devices, your product or service may fail. In order to remain effective, you need to provide a quality browsing experience regardless of what device is being used.

Why Fix What Isn’t Broken?Graphic Fuels iPad

You may be thinking you’ve already targeted your customer base. Perhaps you’ve been online a long time and continue to do well. You may be asking yourself, “Why fix what isn’t broken?” In an effort to substantiate the effectiveness of a multiple device strategy, Google compiled a list of already established websites that reported incredible traffic boosts after redesigning and offering a quality browsing experience via devices.

  • The Huffington Post boosted mobile visitors 37% after their initial site redesign.
  • Beyond the Rack saw their mobile conversion rate double after optimization.
  • Plusnet saw their traffic grow 2x and their sales grow 10x.

Optimizing Your Site for the Multi-Screen User

According to Google’s whitepaper on the topic, mobile devices are the fastest growing device with “1.5 billion mobile subscribers globally, with an astonishing growth rate of 31%. In the U.S., smartphone adoption has passed 61%.”

So, how do you optimize your site for the multi-screen user and thus get a piece of the mobile market?

First, you’ll need to do some research. Take a look at your competitor’s multi-screen platforms. Load your competitor’s pages on tablets, PCs, and smartphones to determine the standard for your industry. If you see anything that could be improved, be sure to include that in your design down the road. By improving even just one feature, you’ll be setting yourself ahead of the competition.

Second, you’ll want to go ahead and adopt the right technology. You can streamline all of your pages, by using responsive design, which uses a simple HTML code across all your pages. If you wish your main site to remain more complicated in design, responsive design will not work for you. Responsive design provides a single URL for all content, with no redirects. It’s streamlined, but if you’ve put a lot of work into your main site, or the site that loads on a regular computer, you may not want to shuck that work in favor of a more streamlined look, simply because it loads faster on a smartphone.

Other technology options to consider:

·  Dynamic serving – this method detects the type of device the user is using and loads the correct page.

·  A separate mobile site – this method redirects users to a mobile-optimized website

People Expect Safety

No matter how you plan to optimize your website for multi-screen users, it’s important that devices remain as safe as traditional PC browsers. Remind your users that it’s important to have smartphone security to reduce their risk of downloading viruses and spyware. As with traditional PC users, anti-virus protection is necessary to navigate the dangers on the web.

Make Your Device Site Easy-to-Use

Finally, as a reminder, your customers are browsing your site with limited visibility, so streamline everything. Handheld devices have a much smaller screen than the typical PC. They expect your website to load on their screens, typically 7” or less, without any issues. Make sure the site is touch-friendly and doesn’t use pop-ups. By streamlining your device page, you’re ensuring your multi-screen customers are getting the best possible experience.

 

Blog Post

The Power OF Teams-Learning From Failure

The power of teams are awesome! At the end of February, as part of Start Up Gap, we gathered a number of authors and entrepreneurs together for the purpose of writing a book together. Instead of just showing small business owners how to develop their business, we wanted to create a project that would help them build their audience and leverage their brand.

Over the course of the past six weeks, 11 entrepreneurs, authors, coaches, and internet marketers came together to create a book called Learning From Failure: 11 Surefire Ways To Turn Your Worst Nightmare Into Your Biggest Success.

While I will get back to how you can get the book at the end of this post, I want to spend a few minutes explain how having a team come together to create a book is so powerful.

How Do You Write A Book With 11 People

When the idea first came up of creating a group book, there were a number of questions. Is it paid? Do we all have to be writing this at one time? How do we collaborate across theweb, and across the United States. How will everything be continuous throughout the entire book? What are the legal ramifications?

learning from failure

The truth is that this was an experiment in how to complete a group book project. Part of this process was based off of Amazon Kindle’s 90 day period for promoting books. You get 5 days to promote your book, as long as Amazon gets a 90 day exclusive rights to the book. The same deal applied here. For 90 days, you give exclusive rights to the chapter you wrote over to Start Up Gap, where the book resides on Amazon.

Then at the end of those 90 days, you can do whatever you want with your own chapter. However, the book stays on Amazon.

Moreover, collaboration proved to be pretty easy with modern technology. Conference calls happened on Fuzebox and Google Hangouts, Microsoft Word chapters were emailed back and forth. Note: Thank you for the review features on Word!

Also, we coordinated the marketing through Google Docs. A few gigantic spreadsheets reside their with the information about who contacts whom. Then email and tweet templates were emailed out. Personally, used Hootsuite to schedule all my book posts.

While the majority of the writers were here in Chicago, there were some writers in Texas, Oklahoma, Boston, and New York. I guess this was not a West Coast project! :)

The compensation and the legal part I will leave out, as a courtesy to the other writers. Needless to say there were contracts that everyone signed.

My Failings With The Book

So often in business, success is merely a product of failure. The lessons we learn from those failures are the gift that spark our success.

With that in mind, let’s look at what we did wrong, so we can see the successes in this book. Furthermore, the next group book that we write in May will benefit from this analysis.

Top Three Lessons

First, we had a number of planning meetings. While, I know they would not be private, I would switch from Fuzebox to Google Hangouts next time. Personally, I think Fuzebox is a better system. However, a number of members had trouble logging into the system. Big issue!

I have been debating back and forth on this internally. Do we have a private planning meeting, or a public one that could spark interest in the book? Personally, with any book that has more than 10 writers, keeping it a secret until launch is not realistic. Might as well, leverage the campaign in advance.

Sort of make it free for those who might be interested in writing this with us, and the paid members get to make decisions and get the additional attention of those watching the meetings.

Second, I should have been more specific with the formatting of the book. In fact, for the next group book, I am creating the template ahead of time. Then I am requiring everyone to use Microsoft Word 2010 or later. Personally, I use Office 365 to stay up to date with Microsoft’s updates.

Third, my time frame was off. We all get ambitious sometimes with projects. Of course, we can put together a full book in 30 days. Why not? OK!

While, we finished the book in roughly 45 days, I did not think through the editing process fully. Because of this, I created a publishing schedule for the next book that will be closer to reality.

Successes

If you write a book about Learning From Failure, then you have to expect that in a blog post where I demonstrate the failings of this book we will then go over the successes.

First, we are closing in on 1000 downloads over the past 5 days. While not New York Times Best Seller level (yet), still something to be proud of accomplishing.

Second, we have consistently ranked high on Amazon in the Entrepreneurship and Business And Money Short Reads category. (See below)

amazon rank learning from failure

Third, we actually wrote a group book. Writing a book by yourself is challenging. Coordinating with 10 other people to write a book has a new level of challenges as you get everyone on the same page for creating the book.  Something I was not fully expecting when this project started, along with about 1000 questions I had not considered before other writers asked me. Henceforth, live and learn.

Note: My apologies to Judy Knoerle for using the word, actually, twice in a blog post.

To The Future

So, what’s next? Well, first I predict you want to download the book on Kindle before the clock strikes midnight tonight. To do so, click on the button at the bottom of the blog post.

Second, if you are interested in learning more about future book releases then make sure to get on our list for future free ebook releases. Go here!

Third, if you are more interested in growing your brand and benefiting from the power of teams, then contact me to learn more.

That is it! Now prepare for the future! Prepare to click on the big, slightly obnoxious download button! Prepare to read Learning From Failure!

Ultimate Download Now Button

The Importance of Word of Mouth in Marketing

Guest Post: Tanner from Utah Video Marketing team contributed this guest post on the power of word of mouth marketing.

Marketing is one of the most important things in business. Without marketing, you are not going to be able to have any clients or customers. Even if you are the best company for your niche, it will mean nothing if you aren’t well known in the industry. When you are looking to grow you company, you need to spend a considerable piece of your budget on marketing. This will assure that your company is able to reach the target market that is going to bring in your revenue. If you are marketing to other companies, actually contacting those companies directly could be a great from of marketing.

Regardless of the product or service that you are marketing, you need to be able to reach your customer base. There are many different ways of going about marketing, but there are certain types of marketing that work best, whatever industry you may be in. Word of mouth marketing is one of the most valuable types of marketing that is out there. The importance of word of mouth marketing can be the difference between your company being very successful, or not successful at all.

Word of mouth marketing is unique to your business

Word of mouth marketing is one of the most important types of marketing because it can not be duplicated. Other companies won’t be able to look at your marketing campaign and copy it. Word of mouth marketing is completely unique to your business, products, and services. You can buy all of the marketing in the world, and it still wont be as genuine to your business as word of mouth marketing. Word of mouth marketing will give your potential customers a great feel for how your business really is. They will have a much better idea of what to expect from your products or services.

Word of mouth marketing is free

One of the best things about word of mouth marketing is that it is free. Word of mouth marketing is one of the most effective types of marketing, yet you don’t have to spend any money on it. Your customers are doing all of the work for you, with you having to spend a fortune on that great marketing. They will spread the word at no cost, simply because they love your products or services. Sometimes the most work can simply come from referrals.

Word of mouth marketing helps build your brand

When you are looking for brand recognition, nothing helps more than word of mouth marketing. For example, if a friend shows someone their favorite music group, they are way more likely to download their music than if they just heard it on the radio. They are even more likely to download that music if their friend is wearing a t shirt from that music group. This type of word of mouth marketing makes it cool to be into what your friends are into. Sometimes people will buy a product simply because that is what their friends are buying.

People trust what their friends and loved ones have to say

When a random person comes up to you on the street and tries to tell you their opinion about something, you could care less. Although, when we get together with our friends and family, we actually ask them for their opinions on certain matters. It is easy for us to trust our friends and family members, because they have been with us through so much. They know what we like, and what we dislike. We are much more likely to listen to what our friends or family members have to say, rather than just some advertisement.

Word of mouth marketing can help products spread fast and go viral

The world of internet marketing has really changed up the game. It is very easy for a video, picture, website, or Facebook page to get a lot of attention when people start sharing it. With the click of a button, people can literally click share and instantly all of their Facebook friends are aware of this awesome new product, video, or page that their friend is into. This makes it very easier for their friends to click the share button as well, and have all of their friends know about this awesome product, page, or video. This can create a chain reaction which makes a video go viral. Everyone continues to share this video, product, or page, until many many people know about this. There are videos now on the internet that can gain tens of millions of views in a short week due to effective word of  mouth marketing. It is easier than ever for people to share with their friends the love they have for a new product, video, or page. This helps build a huge customer base fast for these businesses.

Word of mouth marketing is quite possibly one of the most important types of marketing in the world today. There is no amount of money that can replace the effectiveness of word of mouth marketing. In this digital world, word of mouth marketing can take a small business or product, and turn it into a world wide recognized brand. Word of mouth marketing may seem hard to achieve, but as long as you are working on making your companies services and products top notch, this will be no problem for you. If you focus on word of mouth marketing, you will have a big company in no time.

Take A Look AT The Graphic That Will Help Me Win The $500 Brother “Back To Business” Contest Prize

Brother Creative Center

Entered Biz Sugars’ Brother CreativeCenter Contest

Yes, I decided it was time to take my shaky design skills to the next level. Fortunately with the Biz Sugar Brother CreativeCenter “Back To Business” Contest, I did not need to brush up on my graphic skills to rock your eyes with my works of greatness. The process was pretty simple. Spend about 10 minutes on the Brother CreativeCenter creating a graphic that I can then use to promote Start Up Gap. Then I created the absolute beauty below to shock and amaze you all! Are you shocked? Are you in awe? Why not?

start up gap flyer

practicing vood traffic

Practicing Voodoo Traffic at the Chicago library to get you to the Start Up Gap Episode with Anita Campbell tomorrow

Ulterior Motives

So, why am I sharing this with you. Well, three reasons:

1. I plan on winning the prize for the contest, and thought doing a blog post would help garner more attention. Always important to get compensated for writing and designing.

2. My subconscious NLP method for getting you to check out StartUpGap.Com tomorrow at 4 PM CST when I interview Anita Campbell, the owner of BizSugar. Working on getting some serious voodoo traffic to the event tomorrow with this post. Look into my eyes. Burn this date onto your Google Calendar! Join us for this session to learn how Anita Campbell built her business. On the count of three you will wake up with a sudden urge to watch this show.

3. I thought I would take this time to show you how to actually use the Creative Center to create your own graphics. When I do win, I want to make sure that I had some serious competition. Are you up for the challenge? He! He! He!

 

 

How To Set Up Your Own Flyer Or Business Card

I thought that one of the easiest ways to show you how to use the Creative Center would be to do a quick video, as I set up some business cards for Start Up Gap. Be prepared to be amazed. Now, that I have worked my voodoo on you, I am sure that it is sure to happen.

What do you think? Pretty easy for you to set up your own graphic as well right? Then join in on BizSugar, so I can have some additional competition.

What Do You Think?

I know this was a visual explosion for your eyes. Definitely join in on the contest, so you too can claim international fame for your graphic skills (or at the very least have a great flyer or business card made up on the cheap.)

In the meantime, quick question. Should I now become a professional graphic artist, or stick to writing? Let me know in the comment area, along with a link to your own design.

The Six Insider Secret’s Of Contagious Content

Viral content is everywhere on the internet. People are always saying that a video “went viral”, which usually means it received a vast amount of views in a short amount of time. There’s a lot of psychology that goes into creating a viral video, though, and a lot of skill for those who are attempting to achieve viral success. Viral content is, in and of itself, emotional content. And emotional content will always drive people to share, comment, and send the video to their friends.

It has been demonstrated that practical, useful, surprising content goes viral more quickly, because the person sharing it is seen in a more positive light for having done so. Causing someone to be positively affected is one of the easiest ways to create a viral video, but the “shock and awe” factor also helps to make a video share-worthy.

There are many ways to ensure that the content you’re creating will be shared, possibly even at a viral level, but in order to really make the best out of all the knowledge pertaining to how to make a video that will be a hit, you need some actionable steps. This infographic can help you understand the psychological basics of human behavior, and steps regarding how to apply that behavior to your video creation.

The Six Insider’s Secrets of Contagious Content [Infographic] by Who Is Hosting This: The Blog

Content Runner

I recently had the opportunity to check out Content Runner, a service that helps you find quality writers. Weird, I know, why does a writer need to find writers? Well, the truth is that I sometimes take on a lot of projects, and have other writers create some of the articles so that I can keep my content fresh for clients.

To do this I use systems like Content Runner to make my life easier. Now, before I get too far, I will be honest with you – I was given a review account to check out Content Runner. However, to be objective and provide you with the best information possible I will provide you with a balanced approach that discloses some of the shaky things about this site as well as the benefits of using this system. I broke this review into the different sections of the site that I found useful or interesting (screenshots included for reference).

content runner dashboard

 

Style GuideStyle Guide

First, they have a cool style guide section already completed, where you can add or subtract different styling information you require for the site. I found this more useful than the approach taken by other sites like iWriter or TextBroker, where you have to write in every project bid what you expect from the writers.

One note: Content Runner talks about citing official sources and using headers. However, they do not touch on telling writers to make sure the grammar and spelling is up to snuff. While this might sound obvious, I included it because some writers just need to need that gentle reminder.

The other benefit to this, is that if you have multiple clients you can create multiple style guides for each client. Therefore, if one client is on grammar patrol, and another is more concerned about SEO then you can specify each client’s needs in separate style guides.

Ease of Use

The ordering process is easy enough for your kindergartener to do it (so hide the username and password from them). From the dashboard you click “Post Your Order.” Then a small pop up screen appears with your Order Request.

content runner order form

Next, you either fill out the form or upload your request into the form. For those who fill out the form, you just need to include the article notes about the topic along with the word count, deadline, and price. Remember that the style guide will provide your writers with the general criteria, so you do not have to keep repeating yourself every time you need an article on what you need.

The whole process, once your style guide is set up should take you no more than 5 minutes. Remember to check the article after you submit it to ensure that everything is correct. You can start getting offers from writers on your articles immediately. Then you approve the writer that fits your needs.

White Label WordPress Exporter

One of the coolest things I found while using Content Runner was their WordPress exporter plugin. This plugin enables you to post any content directly from Content Runner straight to your site without have to log on, or copy and paste files.

They even have a white label option for marketing firms outsourcing their content for clients. That way, you can import the content, and your clients will not be the wiser when they are on your WordPress site that you purchased content from Content Runner.

wordpress api key content runner

Writer List with Favorites and Blocked List

The final Feature on Content Runner is the Writers List. You can favorite and block writers you like and dislike as you go. Also, you can take into consideration what other clients thought of the writers as well. This way if someone has two or more blocks, you can block them as well from even applying for your article.

content runner writer list

Need to be able to do full edits on instructions

The major downside that I saw on the articles is that once you have submitted an article you are not allowed to make edits without deleting the article entirely. If one aspect of your article changes, it is nice to be able to change that one specific area without having to start all over.

However, since your article is live I do understand why Content Runner does this. The only thing I would say is that, if you have to approve the writer in the first place, allow the clients to edit the article requests up to the point of the publication. That way, if you need to change the price for example to attract more talent, you can do so with ease.

It was driving me a bit crazy, because I play with how things look and feel. In other words, I want to be able to edit things the entire time until the article is with the writer.  The lack of an editing feature would make it easier.

Content Runner Summary

Overall, I found the site very easy to use, and great for client work. As someone who writes and hires out writers as well for WordPress projects, the plugin to be one of my favorite add-ons to the entire site.

Since, I am new to the site I will update you also on anything new that I find as I keep using the site. Just approved my first writer to create an article, and am impressed with how easy the process is at Content Runner. Let me know if you have any questions on Content Runner below.