Back To Basics—What Is a List?

One of the reasons I offer business coaching as part of my services is that I have observed a lot of small business owners are missing some of the basics. In addition, when new developments like social media are added to the mix, it is easy to lose sight of those basics even when they are present.

There is a saying, “the money is in the list,” that I believe dates back to when traveling salesmen were commonplace. They understood that if they kept a list of all of their contacts, whether they were people met in coffee shops, new prospects referred by people they knew, current or past customers—any and all—and then cultivated them over time, that would be where their best and most reliable customers would be. It is difficult to emphasize this enough—the importance of taking the time to build relationships, giving others time and opportunities to know, like and trust us, because it is human nature to prefer to do business with those we already know.

When a client pushes back and tells me they don’t think they need a list it is generally because they have current clients and are taking the short view. They are missing the point that consistent business success is often dependent upon things like their list, permitting them to prosper during times when money is tight.

To your business success!

Why Twitter?

When you think about Twitter, do you throw up your hands in overwhelm? Most business owners I speak with tend to echo this, saying that they just don’t understand it, discounting it as fluff. I felt the same way until I attended a presentation by Laura Fitton ‘@pistachio’ at Webvisions in Portland, Oregon in 2012. Her “Whither Twitter” talk was a revelation for me. I recommend taking a look at the slides viewable here:

I suspect that the 140 character limit contributes to the thought that Tweets are too short to be anything important, and that they must all be in the category of trivial announcements like “I am having cereal for breakfast.”

To the contrary, each little Tweet has the potential to spread farther and wider than larger posts, spreading like little seeds in the wind. Each tweet is essentially a miniature website with it’s own url, it lasts forever, and because they are short, the likelihood of them being read is good. They can also contain links to other pages with larger content. Their size encourages immediacy, thus lending themselves to events, emergencies and political actions—as well as little nuggets of helpful tips and tricks that encourage others to “follow” the writer. When you offer good content it gets passed along, building your traffic and growing your tribe vente en france viagra. It is also considered good etiquette to follow those who follow you, increasing the likelihood that they will remain in your tribe. Tweets can be written in advance and scheduled for posting, relieving concerns about the potential for distraction. Consider the mighty Tweet!

To your business success!

Social Media 101: Why Is This Important, Anyway?

The majority of small business owners I speak with are struggling to incorporate social media into their marketing. The general attitude is one of overwhelm, saying that they can’t imagine how to fit it in. You might be able to relate to the solopreneur who told me that if I could explain to her why it is so important, then she would give it a try. Here is my take on this.

Referrals have always been the best source of new business. My eye doctor runs a third generation practice and knows this avis pfizer viagra. He proudly declares that “all of their business is through referrals and that they will never advertise online.” He is missing an important point. Social Media is the new face of referrals. “Word of mouth” now has the ability to spread farther and faster through online networks of friends. Likes, shares, tweets… the click of a button can bring your business to the attention of hundreds or more, an exponential increase over what a coffee meeting or lunch can do, and in a fraction of the time. This is free advertising that will be available online forever. —Can anything else you are doing beat this?

Once someone knows your business exists, you can go about the process of helping them to get to know, like and trust you. This is your recipe for creating a client or customer.

To your business success!

Have you ever heard of a “VA” and wondered what it was?

It’s a best kept secret! Most small business owners have their hands full and are often in constant scramble mode. This is particularly true if you are new in your business. This can lead to perpetual long hours, disorganization, things falling through the cracks and potential burnout. Not a pretty picture.

Some of us are lucky enough to have family members or willing friends who can be pressed into service. There is also the possibility of arranging for a college intern. This requires it’s own form of organization. Still another possibility is finding a high school student who will work for minimum wage. This brings up the issues of training and trusting someone in your space, etc.

For those of us who need a better option, allow me to introduce the concept of a “virtual assistant” and how this can give you some leverage. Envision a person (or one with a team) who have made it their business to provide support services for business owners like you. They already know how to deal with contact management, social marketing, setting appointments, transcribing notes, making travel arrangements, doing research, cleaning up email, putting together a newsletter…

The point is they can do all of the things that are slowing you down and keeping you from spending more time actually doing business. Since this is their specialty they will do it better and faster than most of your other options. Yes, you need to pay them, but the money will be well spent. No need to train them or micromanage, and if you don’t have work for them they just move on to help the next client. They usually have monthly packages where you can commit to needing them for a set number of hours per month. The one thing they can’t do (unless they are local) is to come in and help with things on site like filing.

The next time you are wishing you had a clone, consider how much it is costing you to not have help.

To your business success!

Don’t Be Held Hostage by Your Website!

Who will be responsible for keeping the site updated? If you would like to maintain your own site and be able to make your own changes, are the time and technological resources available to support this?

One of the reasons WordPress sites have become popular is that the Administrative “back-end” to the website is a user-friendly dashboard. This means no more waiting for months until your designer/developer has the time—or you have the money—to make a few tweaks to that time sensitive announcement.

Also, if you have decided to include a blog have you allotted time for writing posts and maintaining it? For a blog to be effective it really needs to be updated at least monthly, better still every one to two weeks. This is what is referred to as “fresh content” and the search engines like Google are never happier than when they find fresh content to reward with improved search rankings. But if you hate to write, this might also be a good time to consider whether you’d like someone else to write it for you, be it an intern, paid staff or an outsider.

If you consider yourself to be a closet luddite, would paying someone to maintain your website be a better investment? Seriously, do-it-yourself-er or not, if you don’t understand techie things and would prefer to be out conducting business, these are all questions to be realistic about when providing the answers. Half of my clients are small business owners who have tried the “do it yourself” route and said “enough.” They came to me saying that they were spending so much time struggling to learn that they were neglecting the business it was intended to support. Your website should be the star of your web marketing team—not a time suck that you learn to dread!

To your business success!

What do Websites & Buildings Have in Common?

I wrote the title to this and then started making a list. It immediately became clear that they have a LOT in common. For starters, there are the parallels of their roles and functions—skyscraper/corporate site, office or shop/business site, house/personal blog or portfolio.

They both require planning. A building begins with detailed paper blueprints, then gets built from the ground up, foundation to roof. A website is planned by first considering the purpose, audience and functionality, then moving on to the design and construction of the site.

Buildings and websites share the need to look good for their appointed role and audience. Buildings, especially homes, are rated according to their “curb appeal,” while websites are commonly discussed in terms of their “look and feel.”

Both have security concerns. Buildings use locks, lighting, fences and alarms. For websites the language changes to passwords, firewalls, SSL, encryption, etc, but the purpose of keeping the bad guys out remains the same.

And then there are the optional add-on services—websites can connect with online schedulers, e-commerce shopping carts, social media sites, etc, while have yard service, the mailman and deliveries of pizza and packages.

To your business success!

Are You Ready?

—or are you getting ready to be ready?

As small business owners it only stands to reason that we want our business to be as perfect as possible. The logo and branding should all look professional and serve as an authentic representation of our products, services and our individual spin. All of the marketing—website, emails, videos, business cards, signage, packaging, promotional brochures…a list that is capable of growing out to the horizon, needs to match our branding, have wording that is just right—and that can be done and redone repeatedly if our confidence is even slightly in question.

The products and services themselves need to be developed just “so” or they too can fall into the do and redo loop. Then there are the behind the scenes systems like bookkeeping and contract, setting up your office so we can find things… I am sure you get the picture. If we aren’t personally guilty, we all know plenty of others who are.

It is easy to criticize or poke fun at a business that’s not doing it all perfectly. The point that gets missed though is at least they are doing it.
They may not “wow” as many customers as they would like, but by getting out there and making a start they are gaining in both experience and confidence, learning from their mistakes, improving over time.

Imperfect action is better than none.

To your business success!

What Would Make Your Life Easier?

The other day my search for a better contact form for mobile websites led me to one that is an object lesson in how one person’s ideal solution can be another’s overwhelm. What started out to be a simple contact form turned out to have a ‘laundry list’ of added features: along with the more standard option of hooking into an autoresponder, it can

  • initiate a video conference call between you and the sender,
  • record the call,
  • hook into your online schedule and synchronize with your desktop calendar allowing visitors to set appointments,
  • collect payments—
  • and those are just the highlights.

Does this add up to feature bloat or perfection?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and understanding your own needs is where we all need to start.

Consider what parts of your business and life are tolerations and stuck spots. Do you end up playing tag with your clients a lot just to set appointments? Are you trying to find a way to migrate from a paper planner to a digital one—or keeping both and having things drop through the cracks? Is your personal email getting cluttered with clients and business messages?

Spotting the trouble spots is the first step to being open to the discovery that there are solutions to be had. Changes don’t have to be scary or bad—sometimes they can be sanity savers.

To your business success!

Planning for Mobile

What viewing platform(s) will your site be viewed on most frequently? It used to be mostly a Mac vs PC or Internet Explorer vs Firefox sort of question (not to mention the issue of which versions!) but mobile has become increasingly important in the world of internet browsing viagra livraison express. While this is a part of knowing about your target audience, it is also a factor that is vital to consider when planning for the future. Many features on static websites are terrible for mobile and will drive users away. 

Apple made the decision to give no support to Flash on it’s mobile devices. This now means that if you have a Flash-based website it is like hanging out a “closed for business” sign to anyone on an iPhone or iPad. Similarly, the majority of websites online today were not built to be mobile-friendly. Mobile search has now surpassed desktop search, with the numbers climbing fast. It is rapidly becoming essential for any business who wishes to remain competitive that they have a mobile-friendly version of their website ready to hang out the welcome mat.

A few other things to consider for mobile—
⁃ If you have lots of large image files or videos on your site, make sure they have been optimized so that they will load quickly and not bog down someone’s smartphone browser.
⁃ Avoid the use of popups.
⁃ Don’t have links opening new windows—or if you must, post a warning that this will happen.

To your business success!

Welcome to the Web Clarity E-Marketing Tips Series

The Web Clarity series is for you if you have or will have a small business or health practice and you are having trouble getting started or un-stuck with your website or online marketing.

Maybe you have tried doing it all yourself, or perhaps you decided to let your nephew or brother-in-law take care of it for you. How has that worked out?

Between the website itself, the search engines and social media, not to mention e-commerce, there is enough to do, know and keep track of that anyone who isn’t a web professional is justified in feeling overwhelmed.

The series will cover beginner’s basics, updates on new changes, tips and tricks to save time and hair pulling, and recommendations for products and services that might provide some relief. If you have comments or questions I encourage you to post or email them and I will make sure they are addressed, either individually or in one of the weekly tips.

To your business success!