Archives for May 2011

A 12 Steps To Building A Brand Arsenal

branding helpIf you’re going to do battle for new business and strengthen your brand then you’re going to have to put your best foot forward to take advantage of any opportunities that you uncover. Below, I’ve provided a basic kit of activities that you should consider before engaging the marketplace:

1- A good business card that uses both sides and projects a professional image. Also include all information to contact you on and offline. The image should inspire viewers.

2- A brochure that addresses your target audience’s needs and desires. Refrain making it all about you. Give them a message that resonates with their pain points.

3- Join business groups on and offline to develop a network. It’s not who you know, but who knows you. If possible, join committees – it puts you on a higher footing with the most influential members.

4- Blog. This effort expands your expert profile, gets you publicity, builds a niche audience and motivates you. Blogging makes you a thought leader.

5- Resource website. Use your website as a resource for your audience. Give them lots of valuable information. Make it the got-to place for assistance.

6- Join Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter to expand on the conversations you have on your blogs.

7- Have a complete profile and list of keywords in the can, for use in profiles and blog posts.

8- Make your brand image “consistent” across all channels. This is extremely important. To do otherwise creates clarity issues.

9- Understand your brand and work tirelessly to build on it.

10- Put together a (powerpoint) presentation to use to get leads locally. You could make it available online as well.

11- Develop an opt-in list and email market to them.

12- Volunteer and give-back to your community.

Doing these 12 steps will definitely strengthen your brand and give you momentum. Once they are in motion, dropping the ball on any one of them will affect your effectiveness. There is enough positive movement to motivate you and satisfy search engines. Anything over and above these things will naturally just make your brand stronger. Watch this space for an expanded explanation of each of the 12 steps. I welcome your comments regarding your experience with any of them.

Does Your Business Really Need A Blog?

If you’ve been trying to promote your business on the Internet, no doubt you’ve received the advice to start a business blog.

Internet marketing experts consider a blog to be an essential tool to succeed online. In fact, I’ve made the decision recently to give more attention to my blogs — even if it meant giving up some paid gigs writing for other people’s blogs.

But is blogging right for YOU?

Benefits of A Blog

A high-quality blog can have many benefits, such as:

Search-engine Friendly

Blogs get indexed and ranked in search engines faster than static HTML sites. One way to increase the traffic to your business website is to add a blog.

Interactivity

Because a blog has many features that allow your readers to interact with you and with each other, a blog is an effective tool for building a community of like-minded individuals who are all interested in your field. They make the ideal prospects, because they’re already tuned into you.

Share-ability

Blogs have functionalities that make it very easy for you and your readers to share links to your blog posts. For example, you could link your blog’s RSS feed to your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts. Your readers could share the link to your blog post with a click of a button.

This makes it much easier for you to reach new audiences and tap into other people’s social networks.

Easy to Use and Customize

Most blogging platforms, such as WordPress, are much easier to use than plain HTML site builders. They come in templates that look good and have plenty of features right out of the box. At the same time, some templates are fairly easy to customize, even for those of us who don’t know any coding. Blogs have made web masters obsolete.

Multimedia

It’s also easy to add multimedia elements to a blog. These may include photo galleries or slideshows, audio recordings, and video. You can display your Flickr or Facebook albums automatically on your blog. You can also easily embed YouTube videos — yours or other people’s — into your blog.

Inexpensive

You can get a blog up and running for under $10 a month, including domain name registration (one domain name is often free for with the cost of hosting). You can no longer make the excuse that you can’t afford a blog.

Available 24/7

Assuming your hosting service doesn’t go down, you can expect your blog to be available 24/7, fully searchable and able to attract an audience of prospects for you.

Authority

A good blog will help establish you as an authority in your field. What better way to demonstrate your expertise in a subject than to publish content-rich articles on your blog regularly for months or even years.

List Building

By putting an opt-in form on your blog, you can easily build and grow a list of people who are interested in learning more from you. Imagine, these are people who have given you permission to communicate with them regularly! If you take care of them, they can easily become your biggest fans and lifelong customers.

Opportunities

An established blog will attract plenty of potential partners and other opportunities for you. These may include advertisers, joint venture partners, speaking engagements and other opportunities to reach other people’s audiences, and even paid consultancies and gigs.

With all that said, a blog does have its downside.

Disadvantages of A Blog

Endless Content

The lifeblood of a blog is a continuous and consistent stream of high-quality content. You need to publish good posts frequently (at least once a week) and consistently to attract and sustain traffic, build a community, engage with your readers, and network with other bloggers.

The constant need for fresh content may be draining for a blogger. You may soon find yourself burning out and getting disillusioned with your blog.

Technical Requirements

A blog is easy to use, but it does require SOME technical knowledge nevertheless. You can’t take a completely computer-illiterate person and turn them into a superstar blogger overnight. Some basic and not-so-basic computer skills are necessary.

Maintenance

If you use WordPress, you know that it’s constantly getting upgraded. Your theme and plugins will also have to be updated as necessary. And don’t forget to back up your files and keep your blog secure while you’re at it.

If you can’t or don’t want to handle blog maintenance, then you need someone else on your team who can do it for you.

Promotion

Aside from maintaining and publishing your blog, you also have to promote it. Just because you built it, doesn’t mean the readers will come.

You can attract traffic through both paid and free methods. Either way, you’ll have to invest some time, energy and possibly money to gain readers. Paid methods may include Google Adwords as well as banner ads and text ads in bigger blogs.

“Free” traffic-generating methods include article marketing, guest blogging, and social networking. I put the word “free” in quotation marks, because even if you don’t have to pay for these methods, they do take time and effort (both of which translate to money).

To Blog or Not to Blog

That is the question!

When deciding whether or not a blog is a good fit for your business’ online marketing strategy, realize that a blog is a huge commitment.

You must be willing to allocate time, energy and money to make it succeed.

However, if you persist with blogging, you will reap the rewards. Soon, you’ll have content that can bring you prospects and clients, literally even while you take a vacation. This is also content you own completely and can reuse, recycle and repurpose to your heart’s desire.

Your Thoughts Please

What do you think – is blogging worth it? If you’ve been blogging, what pros and cons have you experienced? If you’re still deciding whether to blog, which weigh more heavily to you now, the advantages or disadvantages of blogging?

Let us know your thoughts. Share them in the comments below or let us know on Twitter or Facebook.

PS: I teach a class showing business owners how to use a blog and email marketing to attract more prospects and customers. If you want a blog that works and avoid getting overwhelmed by all the little moving parts of online marketing, then check out my Magnetic New Marketing eClass.

Payroll solutions that can make you money

There are few things than deplete an employee’s morale more than, having worked hard for a month, receiving an inaccurate wage which does not reflect their own levels of commitment. Be it late, or too little, wages not paid properly can make workers question all areas of their business, not least the competency of those who provide his checks. Similarly, an employee could wonder if perhaps he was paid incorrectly due to the fact that the company could be in financial bother or, perhaps, maybe the employee is about to receive some bad news regarding his own position within the organization.

With this in mind businesses do their utmost to maintain a high level of accuracy in respect to their payrolls. They can do this in a number of ways either in house or by outsourcing their payroll to a company who specialises in this field. Out sourcing is undertaken for a number of reasons; firstly to avoid the worker dissatisfaction described above but also to steer clear of legal ramifications for inaccurate accounting and also to clear up more time within a company’s schedule to concentrate on creativity and productive areas of the company’s business. For all these reasons and more it is highly important that a company’s infrastructure is based around an accurate and fair payroll.

The importance of compensation based pay

Whilst, as mentioned before, few things are more likely to demoralize a client than inaccurate pay the opposite is also true. After a month’s hard work if an employee is fiscally rewarded for his hard work they will, in turn, be provided with motivation and incentive to carry on their hard work. This, ultimately, can only do a company good in terms of the bottom line. Payroll management is an essential ingredient in catapulting a company’s top employees to the highest positions in the company which, further still, provides long lasting benefits for the organization.

Reducing expenditures and freeing up resources

When companies upgrade their payroll management, they immediately benefit from saving time and thus reducing expenditures and freeing up valuable resources. This can be done by outsourcing payroll or even using payroll management software; both take a huge burden off a company who had previously considered payroll a manual task. Manual processes clutter business operations and cost the business money. By making sure there is an accurate and speedy payroll procedure in hand, be it in house or outsourced, businesses are able to reduce expenditures across the board.

Ensure lower tax bills

Whereas companies may believe that they are creating more money for their business by not investing in the monthly cost out sourcing would incur or by purchasing payroll software, they may indeed end up paying a lot more in the future. This is largely due to higher tax bills which can be accumulated through a number of different ways. It is remarkable that nearly half of all companies in the USA are fined, every year, for incorrect or late tax returns. Stoic refusal to accept the payments required for out sourcing or small business software purchases are usually the cause of this. Companies who deal with payroll in house often are unaware of the complicated web of codes, laws and regulations that tax returns require; something specialist services know as matter of course as per their job. To reduce their tax expenditures it is of optimum importance to companies to invest in upgrading their payroll.

4 Ways to Prepare your Small Business For Summer

Summer brings about change in more than just the rising temperature. If you live in a “summer town” that relies on tourism, you probably already know to stock up on items and get ready for more customers. But in places where population doesn’t fluctuate significantly, there are still things to do to prep for the coming summer. Taking a few (and in many cases, inexpensive) steps can really boost productivity and sales.

Summer Marketing—Do you know of a popular venue where people like to hang out in your area? Cover the place with flyers, signs, or even aerial advertising. Don’t make your campaign overwhelming, but make sure that the public can’t ignore your efforts. If you offer a product, you can also offer free samples or promotional items (i.e. stickers, frisbees, visors, tote bags). Scour popular restaurants, ice cream parlors, community pools, or beach boardwalk (if there is one nearby).

Target Summer Industries/Customers—For example, if there is a summer camp operating close to your business, contact the owners. See if they need your products or services, and offer a bulk or special deal in exchange for their business. Many areas in the country suffer from increased insect/pest activity in the summer. If you are an exterminator, you can offer periodic sprays for places with heavy populations, such as retirement homes, country clubs, malls, etc.

Cheap Labor!—Have a small firm? Take interns for the summer. Some places offer paid internships, but most do not. So if you don’t have the funds to pay an intern’s salary, offer things like free snacks or meals, and the most useful thing of all: experience. You can also offer part-time jobs for high school students. They often look for a summer job, and will take almost anything that gets them spending money and doesn’t interfere with their summer activities. So as a merchant, you can go ahead and take advantage of that. Just keep a few things in mind when it comes to internships:

  1. Interns shouldn’t replace regular, paid workers.
  2. Training new people takes a little time.
  3. It is not mandatory to offer a full-time job to an intern after the internship is over.
  4. Internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  5. If you want to pay your interns but don’t know wage regulations, check out the government’s Wage and Hour division. This is also a great resource for part-time compensation.

If you are planning to hire high school kids, take a moment to inform yourself on the laws and regulations for teens at work from the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Explore The Market—Take the time to do some tourism yourself, and tour your regional market. Summer months provide a great opportunity for testing the waters in your area. Merchants can take advantage of typical summer events such as fairs, farmer’s markets, flea markets, regional festivals, car/boat/plane shows, and the like. These events can offer valuable insight into your competition, product pricing, and your customers.

How To Make Your Own Economy

What are you doing to create your own economy? On the news and in the streets you hear stories of how the economy has hurt people. They’re also waiting for a turn-around. Essentially they are waiting for someone to get it done for them. As an entrepreneur this doesn’t have to be you. Business people understand that risk is a part of doing business. You are out among the wolves all day long. Every negative event leads to opportunities for those willing to see them. Positive thinking attracts positive results. Are you seeing opportunities? Are you developing new revenue streams and partnering with like minded entrepreneurs? It’s time you stopped erecting barriers to success and started opening doors of your own design.

Never stop learning. Read books, attend seminars and workshops. Not only will you learn something new, but you will meet new people, you will share ideas and spark new ones. Every book I read leads to doors opening. When ever I look to partner with someone on an idea, I get a lot of takers. Surround yourself with doers. Make your own economy happen for you today.

One Site Or Two: What To Do When You’re At the Crossroads

As a small business, if you have a large site, should you split it into two websites or leave it as one? This is a difficult question that really has no right or wrong answer, but we’ll give you something even better: we’ll help you examine some of the ups and downs of both options to help you decide what’s best for you.

Maintaining One Large Site

Offering everything in one place is convenient for you and your target audience. You only have one set of expenses, one set of marketing and content strategies, one set of social media profiles, and only have to go to one location to update and maintain your content. When it comes to ranking and link juice, you have more pages use can use to rank and will be able to catch with the long tail.

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to having everything on one site:

  • Too much content can be difficult for users to wade through. They’ll have to go through more content to find what they’re looking for.
  • A larger site means a larger audience. This makes it far more difficult to target specific visitors.
  • The more general your targeting, the lower your conversion rate generally is, simply because you have to get visitors past the things they’re not interested in to get them through the sales funnel.
  • The wider your audience, the wider your reach has to be and the more spread out your marketing strategies need to be.
  • Larger sites require better databases and more resources to run than smaller sites (often split onto subdomains). Sometimes, for smaller businesses, this may go beyond your current resources.

Breaking Your Site Into Two Or More Sites

Splitting your website onto two or more main domains can have a multitude of benefits. Each site can be tailored to meet the needs of a specific audience, including the design and site architecture. Each site can have its own branding and carry its own loyal customers.

Financially, running more than one site may also have some benefits. Since you have two properties, you have two separate investments that can grow. Also, if something should happen to one of the sites (say it falls in the rankings, for example), you have another site that will continue to generate revenue until the affected site recovers.

With two sites, there is often the chance to benefit from the competition as well. You have two sites to conquer more of the market and a wider range of terms, products, services, and audiences. Also, it’s possible that if customers don’t buy from one site, they’ll buy from the other, which is often the case with real world stores.

Like with one main site, there are some downsides to consider with multiple sites:

  • You have twice as many sites to upgrade, create, and maintain.Both sites need consistent content, have current social profiles, and need fresh marketing ideas.
  • Both sites require links, SEO, and attention/traffic
  • You need two distinct audiences, otherwise you’ll dilute your offering.

Questions You Need To Be Asking

Here are a few things you’ll need to ask yourself before choosing a path:

  • Do you have two distinct visitors (buyers) coming to the site for different reasons?
  • Are you able to separate the site into two ‘themes’ to create two brands that can stand on their own?
  • Do you have the resources available to market, run, and maintain two sites?
  • Will you benefit enough to warrant splitting the site or creating two separate sites (ROI)?
  • What are your plans for each website? Is there a way to grow them both together, or will your expansions take the two sites farther apart from each other?

Have you split your site onto two domains or decided to run one large site? What have your experiences been?

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