Archives for March 2012

How to Miss the Boat on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a rapidly evolving social media platform that appeals more directly to business people than do Facebook and Twitter; specifically, business-to-business (B2B) possibilities. You undoubtedly know that. Most of those folks want to be successful with LinkedIn promotion and generate new leads, business, or career opportunities. What you might not know is how exceptionally you can fail on LinkedIn as a busy entrepreneur or small business owner. It’s easy! Just follow these 10 easy steps.

  1. Leave Your Profile Summary Blank
    This is crucial to failing on LinkedIn. Lots of people want to turn up in People searches, but not a radical like you. Leave that Summary section blank since it is the key area that the LinkedIn search, and Google for that matter, index to learn about your worth. Who wants it? Invisibility rules!
  2. Restrict who can contact you
    People can be completely bothersome, so keep your configurations such that you’ll decrease contact with them. Go to your privacy controls on the Settings tab and pick the most reducing restrictions, like switching off your activity broadcasts (you’re not doing them anyway!), making certain only you can see your activity and networks, and ensuring that you view other profiles anonymously. Victory is yours.
  3. Ignore past work experience
    Fact says that no one is bothered about your past work history anyway, so only write about your ongoing work. Remember the KISS principle, so keep it short and sweet and avoid using unnecessary phrases that these SEO types call ‘keywords’. By uploading just one job, you won’t have to worry about having to both with the monotonous writing of keywords in your former roles either.
  4. Don’t post a photo
    Photos are for models. As an engineer, consultant or other business expert your work speaks for itself and your face ain’t your money-maker, so screw the personal comfort level that people since birth seem to feel when they see a real person’s face behind the computer terminology. This is work, not just socialization!
  5. Ignore References
    These are forged and everyone knows it, so why bother. Who cares if LinkedIn references really link back to the referrer for effortless proof of who’s doing the talking? If I ask other business schmos for references, they’ll just want something back from me, and who has that kind of time?
  6. Be Picky About Connections
    Hold your contacts close to your heart and only have that few of network associations that you currently do business with, that way you can contact any of them with a request and not feel guilty about it. What good can a large number of connections do for you anyway, they’ll just bother you for their little pet projects you have no interest in whatsoever. It’s not as if LinkedIn operates like Google and those connections are like backlinks that enhance your search relevance to get on page 1 when your keywords are– Ouch! No keywords written into our profiles in an user-friendly way.
  7. Don’t show your work
    LinkedIn provides Applications for you to post more info about you, theoretically to differentiate you from other experts. The “idea” is that when people reach your profile, you stand apart by already showing what you flourish at via slide presentations, case studies, video (ah-hem!) et cetera. Poppycock! Just something else to maintain. Why put something up that only 10 or 20 people may read or look at.
  8. Don’t join groups
    Subject matter interest groups abound on LinkedIn, from job search groups to industry verticals. Who has the time to pay attention to a few “professionals” spout off about one theme or another and post links to their websites to develop dialogues. Besides, why should I share my useful knowledge about my market for FREE? I’m not crazy! I get paid to offer expert discourse. Damn straight!
  9. Fill it out and quit it
    The charm of a LinkedIn profile or any site is that once you get it ‘live’, you are done with it for good. The more you change it the more you can upset your search engine ranks, no? That is the perfect slogan for LinkedIn implosion. Don’t you wish you came up with it? Changing things around requires a lot of work on top of it all. Post the dang thing and be finished with it.
  10. SPAM your contacts
    If you’ve got a few contacts, you can make it even less by making regular inquiry or pitches to sell your product or service or go to your website. Connections will leave you faster than if you attempted to eliminate them, because they’ll do it in bulk, so send out a few extremely smarmy emails every week and your LinkedIn demise will be complete.

The reality is, you aren’t striving to fail on LinkedIn. You desire to succeed as well and develop more LinkedIn business leads and use LinkedIn as an authentic advertising tool for your website, but possibly you just don’t know how. If you’re like a lot of business owners, however, and can look at yourself under the microscope and see any of the Top 10 LinkedIn Failure Techniques listed above in your talk or actions, perhaps it’s time to question assumptions and alter your approach. It’s opposite day and this ain’t Seinfeld, so have a look at what NOT to do, and do something else and then notice your LinkedIn stats soar and your phone start to ring.

Spring Brings Fresh Ideas!

Spring is here and I’m taking the time today to see how I can improve my efforts to get my message out. I’m always trying to augment what I do with effective tools. A few things that I’m looking into is a mobile version of my website, webinars, getting more serious with Twitter and live workshops.

My web stats tell me that 24% of my visitors did so with a smartphone. That was enough to tell me that a mobile version of my website would be a smart move. I’m in the process of this now. The trick appears to be keeping text rich to accommodate the slow speeds of smart phones. I’m am also very aware of my brand image. The mobile site will naturally reflect this.

I’m researching webinars to see how I can leverage them to deliver high quality content. I’ve been a guest on several shows and they are fascinating in their reach and I love the instant response of the question segments. I expect it to be a lot of fun.

In the last month I’ve organized small branding workshops in the meeting room of my location. These have been received very well. I especially enjoy the conversation that springs up, as everyone around the table provides input and questions. It turns into a very invigorating discussion. My goal is to make them a subscription series.

What are you doing to further reach your audience? Do you have webinar experience you can share here? I’m interested in how it has helped you? Have you been able to monetize the effort?

So many questions. Let’s use this space to share best practices.

Customer Profiling and CRM

Do you know who your customers are? What do they like? How much do they spend with your business? How often do they use your services? What do they buy? These are all important questions, the answers to which can make a massive difference when it comes to maximizing the potential of your business.

Customer profiling is something that can help you with this and, when taken with robust CRM solutions, it could help you to boost your business.

What is customer profiling?

First of all, let us turn out attention to the question of what customer profiling actually is. The basics of it are all about building up a picture of who your customers are. For example, this could include data such as how they use your business and what they buy, as well as their demographic information (age, gender, education, occupation, income and so on) and geographic details (region, city).

You can use this data to build up information about the people who use your business, in order to get a better understanding of your customer base. CRM software can be used in order to keep track of all these details and make sure you have all the information you need to hand.

What should you consider?

When you are developing a strategy for customer profiling, there are a few things you should consider. For instance, what details are you going to focus on? As an example, you could choose to focus on customers who are good revenue generators for your business, either because they make occasional large purchases or because they buy from you regularly. You might decide to categorize people according to the types of products they have bought before – for example, which is your most popular product category? What sorts of people tend to buy from that range?

This is all information that you can feed into your CRM system when it comes to implementing other business strategies and maximizing your resources. We’ll find out more about this in the next section.

Implementing your strategy

Now we come to the issue of implementing your strategies: once you have organized all of your customer data and have built up profiles on the people who use your company, it’s time to make use of the information.

For instance, most CRM systems will come with good marketing tools that can help you design and implement campaigns. One option would be to decide to target a marketing campaign at a particular group of customers that you have put together based on your profiles. This could include promoting items to people who have bought similar things before, or promoting products to your ‘top end’ customers. You can use the marketing templates that are typically included in CRM software to help you manage this.

Overall, customer profiling is a useful way of gaining greater insight into your business. It can help you build more robust CRM practices and enable you to identify sources of potential development within your business, and so is definitely an avenue worth exploring.

Professionally Prepare Your Book For eReaders With Folium

Does it seem like everyone and their cat is publishing a Kindle book these days? Little wonder now that eReaders have gone main stream. People like it (I do, it’s the only way I read anymore) and the demand for content is huge. It’s not just because more people own it, I bet people who own and read using a Kindle, Nook, iPad or other readers are reading more than ever before. That’s what I’ve noticed about myself.

The technologies to create eBooks have also improved dramatically. Being a sucker for tools that help entrepreneurs in any which way, I jumped on the chance to review Folium Book Studio when they asked. Mind you, I don’t always review software just because someone asks. 99.9% of requests often go unanswered. Somehow, Folium sounded intriguing so I agreed.

What Is It?

Folium Book Studio labels itself as an eBook conversion and design tool. It will take your book and make it into an eBook format that Kindles, Nooks, iPads, Tablets etc can open.

How?

You start by creating a free account. Once in your account, you can familiarize yourself with the options using a sample book project that is automatically loaded into your account. You can’t export this book though but you can edit, remove, add, tweak, change the cover, design the cover, change styles and do just about anything to the sample book project so you can gain confidence using the tool.

Once you are ready to create your own eBook, you can start by creating a new project. Projects cost you 1 credit ($79) and you will have to pay up front for a credit before you can create a project.

When you have paid for a project, you begin by giving the project a title and some basic information. Next, you can upload your book. Folium accepts books in these formats:

  • Microsoft Word (.DOC or .DOCX)
  • HTML
  • Rich text format (.RTF)
  • Plain text (.TXT)

After the book is uploaded, Folium will attempt to clean up the formatting and detect where all your chapters, page headings and content are. It will present you with a quick snapshot of the headings and content. From there on you can edit the content in a nice, easy to use editor interface. You can also re-arrange your chapters easily by dragging and dropping them. At any time, you can also preview how the book will look like in an eReader.

When you are happy with the book and ready to publish, you simply click the Download button and Folium will generate a copy of your book in the necessary formats for Kindle and B&N. It’ll also automatically generate and assign an ISBN to your book.

You can return to download this book multiple times. Folium will save your book project for 1 year.

Likes

What I like most is the built in styles. One of my biggest challenges creating digital books is my lack of creativity when it comes to matching fonts and sizes. It sounds easy but it’s not. I’m not in the printing or publishing business but have worked in an ad agency. I know there are reasons behind certain fonts and sizes. So having pre-built styles that look like a regular book is fantastic. You can even add little glyphs or fleurons to your page for that nice finish.

Free ISBN. This I like. An ISBN is included in your project credit. It’s automatically created and attached to your book when you export. While getting an ISBN is not difficult – you can buy one online and have it immediately – but single ISBN’s cost $125 and a bundle of 10 cost $250. The price to create a project and have it properly formatted with ISBN with Folium is $79. I’d say that’s a deal.

Dis-Likes

Because I am only reviewing this product for a short time and haven’t actually created the book and put it up over at Amazon, iBooks or B&N, my experience is limited. At this time I can say the tool itself is a pleasure to work with and the price is right. The ability to push the book to these digital marketplaces would be nice.

Another thing, the ability to download the book without ISBN generation would also be welcome. This way, we can test how the book looks like by directly loading it into our own devices. As it is, I couldn’t verify the design and formatting on the Kindle or iPad. I’m sure it will look great but it would be nice to experience the book in a real device.

Disclaimer

We received a free credit worth $79 in exchange for an honest, unbiased review of Folium. Views favorable or not are a result of my experience with the product, not from the credit – although it was appreciated because it allowed me to dive deeper into the product.

Promoting Your Brand with Social Media in 2012

If you have just started your business, or even if you have been in business for a while, it is still not too late to embrace the amazing promotion platform of social media. If you are new to social media, you may have questions about the best social media strategy to pursue. Here are some simple suggestions for effectively promoting your brand in the social media sphere:

Think About Your Brand First

Is your brand worth bragging about? Is your logo fresh and up to date? How about your website? Make sure you have something to shout about. Start with your logo. Does it have a professional look and feel to it? If not, you should think about redesigning your logo, which is a cornerstone of your business identity, before trying to implement a social media campaign. There are many cost effective logo maker sites online, such as Free Logo Services. Start with a smart logo, and the rest of your promotional efforts will reflect the image you desire.

Social Media 101: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube

Facebook

You will want to begin building out your social media presence with a Facebook page. If you already have a personal profile, you can easily set up a page for your business. You can add images, post updates, hold contests, and engage with your fans. Be sure to optimize your Facebook page with keywords that pertain to your business, as your Facebook page is searchable and people can find you through Google this way. A good rule is to post at least three times a week, and to attract as many “likes” as you can with an effective welcome page. You can offer a free report, newsletter, or other type of useful information to gather fans and build your email list.

Twitter

Twitter is a great way to gain a following by tweeting news, opinions, and re-tweeting content from other businesses and individuals you find interesting. Twitter is an effective marketing tool because tweets are limited to 140 characters, with shortened hyperlinks. With Twitter, you can promote specials, sales, updates, and links to your blog or other social media. One of the easiest ways to get others to follow you on Twitter is to tweet relevant content often. You can find content almost anywhere, from blogs, online periodicals, and newsfeeds.

Most web content will have a Twitter icon you can click on at the top or bottom of the page to re-tweet using a convenient interface like TweetMeme, for one. This displays as a pop-up window from which you can log in to Twitter, and the tweet appears already titled and hyperlinked. For maximum results, try to tweet several times a day, or at least a few times a week. When people follow you, it is a good idea to follow them back, unless they appear to be spammers or tweet unprofessional content (use of foul language, adult-type content, or non-business related). The more you tweet, the greater your following and Twitter clout.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has approximately 150 million users worldwide and is growing every day. LinkedIn is a rich resource for professionals because it only has business profiles. You can create an individual professional profile, and a company profile describing your products and services. By inviting others to join your LinkedIn network, you can find new business through referrals, introductions, and LinkedIn Groups. Your business page can be optimized, but need not be updated daily or several times a week, as with Facebook or Twitter.

YouTube

YouTube has been around for some time, but just recently got a facelift and better organized its content. More businesses are making short videos instead of or in addition to regular blogging. Videos are visually engaging and easier to glean information than having to sit down and read a one-page blog. You can choose what subject matter to present, and viewers can make comments about your videos. The goal is to attract subscribers to your channel by regularly posting relevant, interesting videos.

New Generation Social Media Sites

Google+

Fairly new to the scene, Google+ has quickly become a favorite of social networkers due to its user-friendly platform and “circles”. You can add anyone on Google+ to a circle, and then group these circles according to your association with that person: friends, acquaintances, colleagues, or just following. Google+ users fill out a profile describing who they are and what they do, and can make posts of their own content, or “+1” someone else’s content. You can actively promote your own website, blog, and other favorite resource sites from around the web.

Pinterest

For heavy users of social media, new kid on the block Pinterest is taking the social media universe by storm. Pinterest is basically an online “pinboard” where users (with a handy Facebook login interface) can create a profile and multiple “boards” such as “products to love” or “places to visit”.

You can entitle your pinboards anything you like. Users then “pin” links, photos, and other media to their chosen board. Each person can follow their Facebook friends who have joined Pinterest, or by exploring other profiles of people with similar interests. Although anyone can join, Pinterest has become an absolute favorite for brides, wedding planners, interior designers, photographers, and artists. Pinterest can function as an online product portfolio, highlight your events, accomplishments and awards, and show a more personal side of your business. Follow others that you are interested in doing business with, or who have boards that display synergistic content. Pinterest is an ideal platform for creating brand awareness with creative people.

There is a myriad of social networking and bookmarking sites on the web you can use to promote your brand. The key is to start with the heavy hitters that have the most traffic and can help you gain a loyal following. It is important to remember that when using social media, the best strategy is to engage your followers, not just promote yourself. By creating a dialogue with your customers and fans, your brand’s message will be spread far and wide across the social media world.

Marketing Your Virtual Goods: 5 Essential Practices for Online Content Creators

The domain of cheaper and cheaper applications, hardware and computing memory has given hundreds of millions of people the option to author and self-publish books, produce videos, music and spoken word audio. If you have something to say, there is a good chance that you can afford to get it down in a tangible enough format to sell, and if it is superb content, there is an audience for it. But exactly what are the best ways to steer people with open pocketbooks to it with the billions of digital products out there? This two-part series will present you 10 methods to get the word out and the revenue in.

I’ll use the electronic eBook as the example in this article, but the same methods can be applied to videos, music and any other product you can deliver on the web.

Why digital products?

Low-priced but professional electronic publishing enables relatively easy production of saleable, written works of value by bloggers and category experts. Authors are capitalizing on low-cost, limited run publishing of hard copies, and that’s great. Keeping the product digital keeps the work in the cyber-universe that has zero cost of delivery once the charge card clears.

The goal for every eBook writer is to get noticed, read, and make a profit on the results of her labor in producing the book.

Sound uncomplicated? It is, but it isn’t easy. Online marketing an eBook involves a variety of corresponding tactics to get eyeballs viewing and cash flowing. You can buy traditional advertising in print periodicals and magazines and classifieds, but let’s restrict this discussion to the online world.

Here are 5 winning practices that will help any writer, small business person or entrepreneur attract readers and profits:

1. Provide a Destination

Every different product you make can have a landing page if not several landing pages. This is the eBook specific site (myebooktitle.com) that makes use of either a written or video sales letter structure to talk about all the reasons people should purchase your eBook. Landing pages are a conversation unto themselves, but should have as many 3rd party testimonials ranting about the book and its material as possible. Every landing page winds up in a call to action to purchase the book online, for a limited time discount cost.

Note that landing pages don’t have to be on your own domain. You can create a fan page on a site like Squidoo that is cost-free to establish and capitalizes on the SEO and visitors that the main Squidoo website already has.

Wherever your landing page is, ensure it is SEO optimized around key phrases and even your geographical area. This gives it the best opportunity for high natural search result ranking.

2. The Social Pimp

This one should be undeniable. Promote your eBook landing page in your Tweets, on your Facebook page, in LinkedIn groups, your YouTube channel, and on all other social media outlets where your book can be seen, forwarded, re-tweeted and more. Don’t rely on this as your foremost method, but if you have fantastic content and a memorable message, you just may go viral and then the sky’s the limit.

3. Internet Press Releases

Write a press announcement or a collection of them about your book, its release and availability, and submit to paid news release sites like PRNewswire.com and/or low-cost/no-cost outlets like PR.com. Make it compelling and link to your page for purchase.

4. The Power of the List

Don’t have an email list? Shame on you! Your personal or business website should have an email sign-up list where people opt in to hear from you. But why would they do this? I’m sure you’ve seen sign up forms that say, “Sign-up for our email list!” Gag me with a pitchfork! Unless the site carries gravitas and heavy name awareness, no one will register for your list without a lead magnet. A lead magnet is the freebie, the free offer that intrigues the reader enough to cede his email address to get it.

If you just created an eBook, your magnet may be 1 or 2 free chapters of the eBook. Gather email addresses while enthusing people with the free chapter content, tantalizing them for even more. You, of course, now send them customized email messages from your email marketing partner (Constant Contact, I-Contact, MailChimp, etc.) that are timed auto-responses from the day they first received the chapters. Each subsequent email gives them an option to click through to your web page and buy.

5. The Email Footer

This is the easiest technique I know of to get folks to a product landing page and it costs you absolutely zero. Yet I am surprised that it is the one that is often forgotten. Every email you send should have a standard footer that represents you. It typically has a name, title or something appealing about you, and some way to get in touch with you. It should also have your site linked or whatever other page you might want to steer people to, like a LinkedIn profile. You can use an anchor link, like Get Your LinkedIn eBook now, or spell out the link beginning with http so it reads http://www.yourlink.com and will be visible in text-based email browsers too and a live hyperlink in most email browsers. Emails get forwarded, copied, and otherwise shared. You never know who is viewing and clicking.

3 Prudent Ways to Improve your Business Cash Flow

An old proverb says, “Cash is the king”. Free flow of cash is the life blood of your business and without adequate supply of cash, your business endeavor may end up in failure. The difference in the time on which you, the business owner, pay to your employees & the suppliers and the time on which you collect cash from the customers, leads to cash crisis.

Many profitable business establishments had to file bankruptcy because, at a particular point of time, the amount of cash flowing in was far less than the amount of cash flowing out. Given this, it is essential that you should have a proper cash flow management strategy in place. If you do not have proper cash flow management in place, you will fall short of money to make necessary investments required to compete with other market players. Otherwise, you may have to borrow money to run your business smoothly but at the cost of interest payments.

Though proper cash flow is the fuel to run your business smoothly, but majority of the business owners do not have control over cash flow. Poor cash flow management can be attributed to increasing number of business failures. Various studies by different credible agencies have, time and again, proved that capital inadequacy is the prime reason behind failures of small business. Given these, having proper cash management strategies are highly essential for successful business. Here we discuss some strategies on how to improve cash flow.

Improve Receivables

If you receive payments for the products immediately at the time of sale, then there will not be any cash flow problem. But, in actual practice that does not happen. There is a time lag between the products delivered and payments received. You can lower down this time lag by following some smart strategies. You can start offering discounts to the customers who make immediate payments. You can also set up post office boxes so that even the customers residing in far away areas can mail payments and the authorized banks can process the amount quickly. It would be a smart strategy to centralize your business banking activities at one bank. You can also request your clients to transfer the amount through depository transfer checks.

Increase Sales

It is quite easy to understand that if you want to increase cash, you need to find out new customers and to sell more to the existing customers. In fact, this is the objective of all businesses. How you can increase your sales volumes boils down to how prudent are your marketing strategies, how good your product is and what your competitors are doing. However, here one thing that is to be noted is that sales should not be on credit. Otherwise, this will increase the amount receivables and not the actual cash.

Tighten Credit Requirements

When you are at an initial stage of your business and trying to gain ground, you often pay credits to the customers in order to sell more. This sometimes leads to cash flow problem, as the customers sometimes do not make payments on time. So, it is recommended that before providing credit to the customers, you must determine the risks associated with providing credit to a particular customer. You need to tighten the criteria for obtaining credit from you.

By following these tips, you are likely to improve your business cash flow. Anyways, you need to review your cash flow on a regular basis and take measures accordingly.

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