A Small Budget for Social Media Marketing

social media marketing budgetYou’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: your business needs to be actively engaged on social media if you want to thrive in today’s marketplace. That’s great for major corporations with big budgets and plenty of resources, but what do you do if you’re a small business with limited resources and limited time? The good news about social media marketing is that you can achieve a lot without spending too much. But there are also many pitfalls you can fall into that will end up costing you valuable time and money if you’re not careful.

Tools You Can Use For Free

One of the major advantages of social media marketing is that most of the tools are free to use. Anyone can have a Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Google+ account provided they have an email address. There are also social media management tools like HootSuite that provide a basic package for free or a premium package for a low monthly fee. This means that anyone can get into the social media game for next to nothing.

Don’t Waste Your Time

The main problem with social media, however, is not the cost of the tools, but the time it takes to use them. This is where your business will have to seriously consider if certain social networks are worth being a part of or not. Take Twitter, for example. If you don’t have the time to tweet multiple times a day, then Twitter might not be for you. Social media users expect to see a fresh flow of content that is being continually updated, and failing to provide them with that can have a negative impact on your brand.

Can You Afford to Hire a Contractor?

Many businesses with limited resources will hire independent contractors to handle all of their social media for them. This is a great way to ensure that you have an effective social media presence even if you don’t have the resources to handle it yourself. But when hiring contractors, you can easily end up spending upwards of $10,000 a month to keep up a blog, a Twitter account, a YouTube account, a Facebook account, and more. Is this really something that your business can afford?

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin

Instead of trying to keep up a dozen different social media accounts when you don’t really have the time or the budget to do so, it may be best to figure out which areas you want to focus on and do those well. Consider which demographics you want to reach. Find out which social media tools they use most and do an awesome job of representing your brand across those platforms.

Social media marketing can be fun and it can be effective, but if you’re doing it wrong it can also be a colossal waste of time. And as with many other areas of marketing, going after a niche market means that you can often see a higher return coming from a smaller investment.

7 Actionable Tips to Gain Your Reader’s Empathy

kidsMost successful blogs have one thing in common. They offer information, ideas, and tips that readers can implement. Bloggers who have been there and done that and who can put themselves in the reader’s shoes win over the confidence of their audience. Establish empathy, be a problem solver and you’ll acquire not just traffic but dedicated readers.

Here are seven ideas to strike a chord with your readers:

  1. Back your assertions with facts and figures. Numbers speak louder than words. Figures are objective and can be corroborated. Elements of education and trust are introduced into content that carry verifiable figures.

  2. Link to respectable content. This is another activity that helps foster trust with the reader. Articles with links to established sources get shared and bookmarked more. There’s also a subconscious benefit to being associated, even loosely, to big names and brands. Relevant external links give search engines a clearer picture about the nature of your content as well.

  3. Write about what you know. Or in other words, choose the subject of your blog after considering your knowledge and interest in the topic. Words flow that much more easily when you know what you’re writing about and especially if you enjoy doing it. Most importantly, you can provide insightful content and not just information that is already floating around on the internet in one form or the other. You build on ideas and processes that add value with your content.

  4. Keep learning. There is no end to the learning process. And if you wish to acquire and maintain a reputation of being a subject matter authority, you have to endeavor to stay at the leading edge of your chosen subject. Keep aside time to interact with other opinion influencers and participate in forums. It will allow you to understand the readers’ needs and also the stakes involved. Higher the stakes, more valuable is an informational article and greater the incentive for you to create researched content.

  5. Know what your readers are looking for by studying analytics data. Does your blog provide answers to subject-related questions floating around on the internet? Does your content attract comments and inputs from interested readers? Search for breaking news, events, and questions about your niche. Forums, Google News, Social Media, Quora and keyword tools that use Google Autocomplete can help with ideas.

  6. Communicate in a tone that your reader can relate to. Remember, it’s about empathy. Reach out through your choice of words. Use a conversational tone and be one of them. Ask questions, it will get your readers to think and encourage them to share their perspective with you.

  7. Share your learnings. Clearly written posts on how you acquired a skill, how steep was the learning curve, how long did it take, did you have any moments of epiphanies, etc always make for great reading and present you as a knowledgeable well-wisher to the readers. How-to videos, descriptive podcasts are options to consider as well. Let them know that you have gone through similar challenges and come out the other side successfully. Inspire them to do the same.

Creating reader empathy is more than a technique to be implemented. Every blogger is expected to do this. In return, empathy leads to trust and stronger relationships with those you aim to serve. What experiences have you had with empathy? Do you find it natural or difficult to convey? I want to hear your stories and learn from your experiences as well. Please share them below.

 

8 Steps to Building a Perfect Ecommerce Site

Tips-for-E-Commerce-Website-DevelopmentIf you wish to succeed at selling through your ecommerce site, you need to begin on a firm footing. You’ve got a ton of competition out there and price SHOULD NOT be your only differentiator. If it is you’re leaving a lot of money on the table and missing out on massive amounts of customers. Presented here are the eight essential steps you need to take in order to build the perfect ecommerce website, maximize traffic, and drive more conversions.

  1. Plan your approach and base it on detailed information on standard best practices. This will allow you to not only get the execution right fast but will also give you ideas to introduce elements that can make your website get noticed.  Mapping out a plan based on essential requirements (products, images, shopping cart, SEO optimization) and features that you’d like to have (forum, affiliate program, auctions) will also allow you to stay focused on priorities.

  2. Choice of ecommerce platform and site template, or custom design, matters. If you plan to first test the waters, you’ll do just fine with WordPress. You can set up a fully functional ecommerce website using WordPress, there are plugins for data feed downloads, SEO, integrated shopping cart, different payment gateways, and much more. In fact, I only use WordPress because it’s so easy to use and flexible. For elaborate businesses, there are e-commerce platforms that you can compare for features and budget. Platforms include Shopify, Volusion, FoxyCart, Magento, Izzonet, and others.

  3. Incorporate SEO optimization techniques from the very beginning. These include doing the necessary keyword research to determine what your potential customers are searching for and then incorporating what you’ve learned into title tags and page copy as well as using canonical URLs, alt tags for images, considering site loading speed, implementing sitemaps, and 301 redirects where appropriate.

  4. Work on building a social media presence in order to reach out to prospects, build relationship and promote your business. Social media icons should be easily viewable on your ecommerce website. Look up other sites for examples of eye-catching icons and smart use of space. Use social logins to increase engagement rates, improve user experience, and enhance the ability for your customers to become brand advocates.

  5. Your ecommerce website design should allocate visibility to the different elements based on their importance. Product images and descriptions invariably get prime real estate. Drop-down menus, search, shopping cart, newsletter signup box, discount coupons, brand logo, payment system, special deals, etc all need to be prioritized and placement determined. Of these, most elements automatically select themselves for a position above the fold.

  6. A smooth single-page checkout with a hassle-free payment system creates a very favorable impression. Conversely, glitches in checking out such as the page refreshing and not going anywhere, a slow loading page, difference in amount billed as shown on the product page and payment page, etc can lead to abandoned shopping carts. The payment system should be configurable, scalable, work with different internationally accepted payment methods, and inspire trust.

  7. Mobile traffic is set to grow at an exponential rate.  Your ecommerce site should be optimized for mobile phone and load quickly. Logins and purchases should be easy and the layout should adapt to the smaller screens while maintaining a great user experience.

  8. Commerce, whether in the real world or online, has to be data driven. Analytics deliver a wealth of actionable metrics for you to study and take necessary action to refine content and process. With ecommerce, accurate and timely analytics is crucial so you can quickly and easily measure business metrics such as top referring sites, your best converting sources, most viewed products, flaws in your sales funnel, top performing keywords, etc. Understanding this info and having it organized in a way that allows you to make better decisions faster is your key to consistent improvement and a healthy bottom line.

If you’re just getting started be sure to select a cool brandable name that’s memorable and then work to implement the above-mentioned points to ensure that you hit the ground running. Some aspects, such as SEO, analytics, and social media, are an ongoing process. Keep at it, become a student of the game and you’ll definitely see progress and find willing buyers. This is a contact sport so get out there and start hustling!

How To Use Business Etiquette For Success

business-partnerAs a business we all want to succeed and grow but a couple things must be kept in mind. Are you engaging, interacting, and practicing successful customer service skills? Below, I will be mentioning several ideas for you to put into action to help you meet these aspects of how to use business etiquette for success.

- Be open to suggestions from customers of what they want to see. Let’s them know they are valued, heard and have a voice for your brand.

- Have a rapid response time for customer service questions. Show the customer you value care about them. By doing so, word of mouth of how great you are goes global.

- Do a short interview video with current clients conveying to others how you have helped them grow. Same goes for consumers who have bought your products. This creates reason for others to do business with you.

- Follow up with every client. This shows you never forget them and are willing to keep a built relationship.

- Have a presentation ready showing your company in action doing business. Gives potential customers an outside look in, shows how you operate and gives them a feel of your business resulting in likeability.

- Show you’re listening by responding. Respond to all questions and feedback, positive and negative. Let’s others know they have a voice and are being heard.

- Be willing to build your services or products around clients/customers needs and wants, putting them first. Make it all about them. After all, they do make your brand.

- Convey that you are willing to connect globally. Show the world you mean business, not just an area. 

Basically, just ensure the client/customer feels at home and will be successful by doing business with you. Give reason why someone should do business with you. Fulfill what they are looking for by going above and beyond the call of duty. By entailing all I have talked about, proper business etiquette can help mold your business into a success. Does your business or company practice business etiquette? I encourage you to add to my list of ideas and recommendations in a comment.

How To Develop Personality For Your Brand

personality_1When we all meet someone the personality they entail says a lot about what kind of person they are. The same holds true for a brand. It is very important as a brand to have personality. The reason this is true is because when people are looking to connect with a brand they look for an aspect about the brand that makes them feel comfortable and want to build a relationship with. Basically, your brands personality is whats perceived by others meaning your audience and consumers.

When developing the personality of your brand ask yourself a couple questions that will aid you in developing the right one that will encompass a positive impact.

  • Who am I? What kind of results do I want to see?
  • Is my brand one that everyone wants to connect with or am I trying to target a specific audience?
  • Does my personality fit my brand identity and is it strong enough to make a lasting impression?
  • How do I want to be perceived by my customers and audience?
  • Does my personality define me?
  • If my brand were human what would be my characteristics?

Once you develop your brand personality, the marketing strategy aspect of your brand becomes somewhat easier to create. Make sure all departments of your brand are working together as a team and agree as a team to make this happen. I have seen many brands fail when trying to develop a personality because they fail to work as a team which leads to a lot of chaos, disagreement and disaster.

So sit down with all departments of your brand and ask each other, “Are we being perceived in a way that makes us successful?” During the meeting with all departments, be sure to develop a set of social media guidelines or principles to help guide employees when carrying out tasks and communicating “as the brand”. If your brand is not being perceived as being successful take into consideration what I have talked about and start developing the visual personification your brand deserves. After all, personality can say a thousand words about who we are as brand.

5 Tips For Turning Readers Into Subscribers

readers into subcribersAs a blog owner, it is likely that one of your biggest goals is to increase the number of visitors who read your blog. However, what is more important is that you convert those readers into subscribers. When a reader subscribes to your blog, that person is essentially saying they are interested in reading your blog on a regular basis. Here is how you do it:

1. Provide Quality Content

Quality content is probably the most important factor to not only getting regular readers, but subscribers as well. Posts that are heavily laded with keywords may attract search engines, but not regular readers. If your content provides value, helpful advice, or pure entertainment, your readers will come back for more. If you are consistently writing these type of posts, eventually your reader will subscribe to your blog.

2. Post Regularly

Not only should you create quality content, but you should post on a regular basis. This shows the readers you are actively involved in your blog. If the last post is 6 months old, it will be difficult to convince someone to subscribe.

3. Give Away a Freebie

Everyone loves free stuff, so place an opt-in form on your site with a free report. While they will still have to enter their email address, if they like your site, a free report is just a bonus for subscribing. Also, consider having contests and giveaways for those who comment or subscribe.

4. Make it Easy to Subscribe

Encourage your blog readers to subscribe by making it easy for them. Allow them to subscribe either with a RSS feed or by email. People prefer different ways to follow your blog posts. While most people probably know what the little orange “subscribe” symbol means, consider actually typing the word “subscribe to my blog” in front of the symbol.

5. Engage with your Readers

When readers stop by and leave comments, get involved in the conversation. Try to respond to each comment that has substance. If a reader sees that you are a real person and are interested in what they have to say, you have a better chance at getting that person to subscribe.

Once you establish a decent size subscriber list, it is easier to reach out to them with exclusive sales or deals, a new product you want to promote, or subscriber-only special offers. Remember, they subscribed to be updated on your posts and not get tons of spam email. Treat your subscribers with respect and you will continue to maintain a positive relationship and image.

 

Why Your Small Business Should Invest Time In Twitter

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image10045997Till a few decades ago, an ad in the local business directory was regarded an adequate business promotion strategy, but the same cannot be said of today. The explosion of the internet has made newspaper and television advertisements a thing of the past. Media marketing solutions such as social networking, surveys, online videos, email marketing and mobile phone marketing are the new trends in business promotion. They are used by mammoth corporations and small businesses alike.

Of all the solutions listed above, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and LinkedIn are the most widely used. While Facebook is the indisputable leader, Twitter is not far behind. It has an equal potential to drive your business however; the main problem is a vast majority of business owners are not aware of how they can use this network to their advantage. Below, learn why your small business should invest time in Twitter.

  1. The Micro-Blogging Feature: Twitter is a blogging site with a difference. The distinguishing feature, also its plus point, is its 140-character limit. The word limit pushes one to create short yet straightforward, informative and creative content. Readers, mainly customers looking for product information, appreciate such a format. To add, it proves a successful communication strategy given our declining attention spans.

  2. The Ability To Target A Wider Audience: With over 200 million active users, “Twitterverse” is an incredible network of connections. Besides, it is expanding rapidly as large numbers subscribe to the service daily. As a result, it helps you reach out to a wider audience. You can also sync your email account or phone book and import contacts.

  3. An Opportunity to Collect Quality Leads: Twitter enables a firm or corporation to build quality leads as it doesn’t involve a search of random people but leads who are genuinely interested in a particular industry. It enables a small business to get quality followers, those who influence their target market.

  4. Adjust Security Settings: You can adjust Privacy settings on Twitter. Tweets are made visible to all members on your friend’s list. However, the direct message option allows to you send a private message without making it visible to all.

  5. Build Credibility and Brand Loyalty: In the online marketplace, it is difficult to trust because most of the time we are dealing with preprogrammed systems. Bigger business houses have capital to invest in trust-building measures, but small businesses are deprived of these privileges.

Twitter is a great platform to help build relationships with your customers. Though the space is restricted, you can share links to videos, presentations, articles and blog posts that showcase your business to the world. Responses and re-tweets open lines of communication for real time conversation and customer service such as customer queries and resolving issues in a timely manner. Also, It gives your business a human feel. When a follower re-tweets a post, it is as though he or she is endorsing your product or service creating word of mouth marketing. One can also use it as a medium to update customers and to disseminate important news about your small business. Is your small business investing time in Twitter?

 

 

 

How To Survive The Early Years of a Business Startup

Entrepreneurs all have at least one thing in common: they see potential. Potential excites them, motivates them and drives them. The idea of potential propels them forward and compels them to commit time and resources into their start-up business ventures because they have the hope of seeing that start-up succeed. However, almost any start-up business owner can attest to the fact that the early years can be challenging. The true test of launching a start-up company is making it through these rough first years, and below are a few tips on how to survive the early years of a business startup.

Remember to Have Perseverance

The most helpful advice that anyone in business can give someone who is slugging it out with a start-up is to keep going! It may come as a surprise at first, but the majority of successful business owners have more failures than successes. The only thing separating them from failure was their refusal to stop and their inability to simply call it quits. True determination is what kept today’s heavy hitters in the game, and it is what will keep you going further than you thought you had the strength to.

Focus on Your Opportunities, Not Just Your Problems

One of the best ways to keep persevering is to remember to divide some of your time each week to working on opportunities. Often in the first few years of a start-up company’s existence, there are so many issues to troubleshoot and problems to solve that it can really pull one’s attention away from opportunities. Over time, this has a negative effect on morale. In addition to this, focusing on the problems will ultimately stifle the creativity required in a start-up.

Remember, if you want your business to stick around, you need to commit some of your time to thinking about opportunities. Focusing on the opportunities and the potential is what ultimately energizes you. Work on the problems you face, but also carve out time to commit to new advances. Spend your time working on both, and you will be better for it.

Ultimately, the difference between success and failure is that people who are successful have simply kept reinventing themselves after every failure. In the early years of a business start-up, survival hinges on constant effort. Though there may be a lot of difficulties to navigate through and it may feel like there are more failures than you bargained for, if you are able to stay committed and hang on then it is likely you will reap the rewards of this in due time.

By following in the footsteps of business leaders who came before you and by holding on to the initial potential you saw, you will be able to overcome the early years when things do not seem to flow as easily as you initially hoped they would. Keep a strong presence of mind, focus on opportunities, and keep going. All of these differentiates a successful start-up from one that falters and fades out.

Social Media: Communicate With Your Small Business Customers

social media communicatinoAs the social media trend continues to grow, it has become apparent that social media presents a unique opportunity for small businesses to connect with their client base on a grassroots level and in a cost-effective manner. Though it may be difficult to justify taking time out of running a business to communicate with customers over various social media outlets, in reality this time expenditure shouldn’t feel trivial. Purposeful social media in business allows for a community to be built around a business’ concept or product, which is something marketers always strive for.

How Social Media Builds a Community

Social media is an excellent tool for a small business because it allows the business to actually connect with the audience and inspire a conversation. When social media is done right, it is engaging. It creates a dialogue among owners and potential clients, and it can stir interest in a product. Through back and forth dialogue between a business and their clients, a community is fostered where you can get a feel for the types of people that are interested in what your business offers. Basically, social media allows your target demographic to be friends with you and converse with you at the same time.

Social Media As A Tool For Customer Service

The social media platform also has the very immediate possibility of being an extension of your customer service offerings. In addition to having a customer service hotline or inbox, social media is a way to monitor the conversation about your product or service online and be a part of it. Using social media, it is possible for a business to offer solutions and tips in real time and in public. In effect, social media gives a small business the chance to host the conversation about themselves, which gives a business the power to interject at any moment and correct problems as they occur.

Social Media is Worth Your Time

Though small businesses often have a hard time justifying the time expenditure that social media requires it has nonetheless become an extremely important tool for business and should be used to its full potential. It helps small companies build a community that previously would have taken the resources of professional marketers and plenty of money to build. Companies can now build a community with the same power almost organically. Furthermore, it has the potential to enhance your business by giving you the opportunity to address customer service issues in real time and in public.

Social media is still growing and there is no sign that the trend is coming to an end any time soon. Small businesses should decide how they want to engage with customers on different social media sites and begin to do so. At this point, the drawbacks of not joining social media sites are too hefty to ignore, and the potential involved with a well-run social media presence is too great an opportunity to pass up for your small business.

5 Business Apps To Save You Time and Money

Time-is-Money1Business apps are a great way to ensure that your company is doing everything it can to ensure profitability. That is why it is important to keep up with the various developments in the world of business apps, to ensure that each company is utilizing all of its resources. While many businesses have New Year’s resolutions to improve productivity or net revenue, for example, these resolutions can be forgotten through the course of the year. It can be exceedingly difficult to stay motivated. However, by taking a look at these five business apps, many business owners will find they are able to ensure many of the resolutions such as saving time and money can be maintained.

goalGETTER Can Help Keep Goals in Focus

Each year, many business owners find that setting realistic goals is a great way to ensure they are able to generate the type of revenue that will set them up for a prosperous year. goalGETTER is a free app that allows users to input their savings amount before selecting various goals that they have. These goals could be to generate a specific amount of revenue each month, for example. After inputting the goals, the app is able to track the savings in order to monitor the distance for achieving the goal. This can help business owners to stay motivated to work hard.

The Mint App Can Help to Reduce Debt

Saving money and reducing debt are both extremely important to most business owners. In order to do this, they should know where their money is going. The Mint app categorizes transactions and allows business owners to keep better track of where they are putting their money.

LearnVest Gives Helpful Advice

The LearnVest app allows users to have a free 15-minute call with a person who is a planning expert and can give advice and support. The app connects to business owners’ financial accounts and shows the real-time spending numbers. This helps these business owners set their financial goals.

Personal Capital App Allows Business Owners to Track Investments

Investments are an important component to many businesses. The app tracks the investments by the account, security, and asset class. The app lets users know how their investments are doing, and these can be compared to the indices.

SavedPlus Is Automatic Saving

With the SavedPlus app, business owners are able to select a percentage of their revenue that they want to save. Every time a purchase is made, some money will go into a savings account. For example, if the business owner spends $100, and wants to save 10%, $10 will be deposited into a savings account when the purchase is made.

Using an app to guide the goals of a company can be extremely valuable, and apps like these are vital for many business owners. Often this technique is much more practical and simple than the traditional pen and paper method, or manual computer entries. By using these five great apps, businesses can save more time and money this year. Ultimately, that is the goal of most business owners.