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// by SCORE Association / May. 5, 2009 2 comments
marketing-create-successful-biz-blog
GENERAL RULES

  • Don’t oversell. The blog is not your personal sales platform. While it’s okay to have information about your products and services on your blog, that should not be the focus of your content. That’s why you have a Web site. Instead, provide information and resources that your target audience would find helpful. Talk about trends in your industry, new tools, breaking news. A good way to get inspiration for your posts is to find out what other bloggers in your field are discussing. Also, think about which business blogs you visit and why you like them. This will help you carve out your personal niche within the blogsphere.
  • Write about what you know. Do not attempt to write about new trends or cool tools that you don’t fully understand because you think it will increase your traffic. Readers will see through this and it will hurt your credibility in the long run. Instead, demonstrate your passion for your business and industry with informative, intelligent content. By showcasing your depth of knowledge and experience in your field, you can position yourself as a go-to expert.
  • Engage your readers. There is a common myth that the only way to engage readers is by being controversial. This might work for individual entities, such as Perez Hilton, but it is not a good strategy for a small biz blog. That method can backfire resulting in a negative public opinion of you and your company, loss of clients and sponsors. It's just not worth it. Instead, you can encourage discussion on your blog by posing questions to your readers at the end of each post (ex. Have you tried this technique? What do you think?). Also, make sure to respond to user comments. This will encourage lurkers (people who read your blog, but never comment) to join in the conversation.

  Once you have the content ready, you need to put your blog to work. MARKETING BASICS What’s the point of having a blog if no one knows it exists? To increase your blog traffic, here are a few free and effective ways of marketing your blog online:

  • Ask all your bloggers to add a link to your blog at the bottom of their email signatures.
  • Add a link to the blog on your web site and all your social network profiles.
  • Submit your blog URL to directories such as Technorati, Blog Catalog and Yahoo! Blogs. (You can find hundreds of blog directories online).
  • Add ShareThis to your blog so readers can easily share your posts via email and social networks.
  • Leave comments on other high profile blogs in your industry, making sure to include a link back to your blog.
  • To garner more return visitors, make sure you have an RSS or Atom feed setup.

Jacalyn Barnes, SCORE View more posts by Jacalyn

SCORE Association

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Because our work is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to our network of 11,000+ volunteers, we are able to deliver our mentoring at no charge and our workshops at no or low cost.
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// by Sabrina Parsons / May. 1, 2009 7 comments
work-life-balancing-act

Recently I was asked to talk to a group of college seniors about pursuing careers in business after they graduate. Looking out at 50+ young, fresh faced seniors made me realize how far I have come since I graduated, and how much my outlook on working and life have changed. I remember being a senior, and thinking that I was going to do it all. I was going to have a fabulous, exciting career, and a husband, and kids. I never once thought about what it would actually take to make all of that happen. Now, almost 15 years later, I have managed to have a great career, and have a wonderful marriage and 2 beautiful children. But it has not been as easy and seamless as I thought it would be.

The number of compromises I have made in order to make my life happen –is almost overwhelming. The interesting thing as that most people looking at me from the outside, don’t ever see or acknowledge all the compromises. They assume that one part of my life must be suffering, and for the most part they make the assumption that it’s my family life that must suffer. The reality is that I compromise on both ends, and that makes my life work. At the end of the day though there is one “loser” in this compromise. The loser is Sabrina Parsons the person, not Sabrina Parsons the CEO or Sabrina Parsons the Mom and Wife. The actual part of my life that gets compromised the most is the “me” part. I don’t eat as well as I would like since I am always rushing around. I don’t work out as much as I would like, because I simply run out of hours. I don’t read novels for fun anymore – I am always reading business books and tech blogs and articles.

I recently realized that going to the supermarket BY MYSELF is actually a treat. I get to spend 60-90 minutes in peace – without anyone asking me for anything. When shopping for groceries by yourself is a treat – you know that you have made a lot of compromises. So how does this relate or help all those other working women out there, who either are already moms, and struggling to figure out their balancing act, or will be moms, and are afraid of what will happen to their careers? My biggest piece of advice to all women in the workplace is to be realistic about what is possible, and make appropriate changes to their careers and family life in order to create the balance that works for them. This may mean a career change or a change of jobs to a company that gives more flexibility. It may mean looking at moving to a place where extended family can give help and support.

But what I think no woman should ever do is put herself in a situation where the only compromises happen on the family side. Ultimately you will resent your job and your career, and the Mommy guilt will overcome you. You will have to make compromises, but just make sure that both sides of the coin compromise. On day I hope to figure out how to make myself more of a priority – but for the time being, I love my job, I love my family, and I can live with a little less “me” time. Sabrina Parsons, Guest Blogger View more posts by SCORE’s Guest Bloggers

Sabrina Parsons
// by Julie Brander / Apr. 16, 2009 2 comments
brain-head-creativity

The biggest challenge in business is coming up with new ideas, products and services. Creativity is very difficult if you always continue to do the same things for many years and are afraid to change because you may make a mistake. The more we do things the same, the harder they are to change. Try folding your arms. Now fold them the other way. It's not easy, is it? Once you have a set way of thinking, it is sometimes hard to think differently. In business it is essential to always think about ways to improve your product or service and think about how it can be better. That is the challenge!

  • What is missing?
  • What can be added?
  • How can it be better?
  • How can it improve and make the customer happier and more loyal?

Think of new ways to enhance your products or services. The customer will tell you how to improve your products or services. An unhappy customer will complain and a solution to the complaint must found or you lose the customer. You always need client, customer and consumer feedback. How can the business improve the products or services so that the customers you want to reach are happy and want to continue to do business with you.

Be creative and think of new product lines and new markets and stay competitive.

  • What problems need to be solved?
  • With each problem there is an opportunity for a business.

State the problem

Add something, change it, make something bigger, make something smaller, eliminate something, or substitute something. It is essential to know your products and know your customers.

Analyze great ideas and look at why they succeeded, what did it do for people? Why do people buy it? How much will they pay for it? How long was it popular? When you have a new idea you must know “who will buy it?” and “how much the customer will pay for it”? Always try to increase sales with new items and bring in more customers or old customers looking for the next new thing that you have to offer. The more ways you can sell a product the better. All sales must be tracked and as soon as sales begin to fall the next new item has to be ready to be introduced. This is one of the many challenges in business and those who do this best continue to be successful for years and years. Expanding your market, increasing your business and always knowing that you have to make a profit are the key to business success.

Julie Brander
Business Mentor
SCORE New Haven
Julie has been a SCORE volunteer since 1997. She has 20 years of experience in business, starting a manufacturing, wholesale and retail jewelry company. After selling her business, she dedicated herself to helping other entrepreneurs start and expand their business.
// by Peg Corwin / Apr. 14, 2009 2 comments
web-marketing-what-basic-google-analytics-tells-a-marketer-and-questions-to-ask-

 

CONTENT

4. What pages of my site are most useful to visitors?

Stats to focus on: Top content, content by title, bounce rate Questions to ask yourself: What are the five most frequently visited pages? What pages should be top pages that aren't? What can I change to make those pages more useful, accessible or interesting? How can I change the link structure to get visitors there? Which page has the highest bounce rate, and why? What can I do with that page to keep people on the site, i.e., substantive content or offers or page redesign?

5. Where do visitors first land, and how do they proceed through the site?

Stats to focus on: Top landing pages, click patterns Questions to ask yourself: What are my top entry pages? How many visitors land on the home page versus other pages? Where is traffic coming from that is landing directly on internal pages, and how can I get more sites like that to link? What is the click path from the home page -- where do most visitors go, and where do I want them to go?

6. From what pages do visitors exit the site?

Stat to focus on: Top exit pages Questions to ask yourself: What are my top exit pages? For other than Thank You landing pages after purchase, how can I change copy or links there to keep visitors engaged in the site? Are they clicking outbound links, and do I want them to? (Maybe yes if these are Adsense ads or affiliate banners.)

TRAFFIC SOURCES

7. What traffic sources -- direct (typing a URL), referral, search engine or paid ads -- are driving visits to my site?

Stat to focus on: Traffic Sources Overview percentages Questions to ask yourself: What traffic sources are growing over last period, and why? Is off-web promotion increasing direct traffic? Are a growing number of related sites or blogs linking to mine? Have I changed copy on pages, which is leading to better organic search engine traffic? Are my paid ads campaigns working better than last period?

8. What other websites are referring visitors to my site?

Stat to focus on: Referring sites Questions to ask yourself: Where can I find sites similar to those referring traffic and request a link? Which referrers are bringing visitors who stay on the site the longest? View the most pages? These may be the best sources of high-quality prospects. Should I request that other referring site improve the link description to drive more traffic? What sites should be referring but aren't on the list? Why, and what can I do to get them to add links?

9. What keywords are driving traffic?

Stats to focus on: Keywords and phrases Questions to ask yourself: What are the most popular keywords bringing visitors to my site in organic search? Are those keywords in my site's metatags? What keywords are NOT driving traffic, and how can I tweak my site (with substantive copy, page redesign, or formatting) to change that? How can I modify my paid search ads, if any, to incorporate keywords that my customers are already using in organic search to find my site?

In a later post, I discuss marketing insights from more advanced metrics using Google Analytics features like goals, events, segments and conversions.  Here's the link: What Advanced Google Analytics Tells Marketers and Questions to Ask Next.

 

What marketing insights do you glean regularly from your Google Analytics reports? Please share your expertise and experiences in a comment.

- Pegin Corwin, SCORE Chicago 

Reference Links:

Definitions of key stats: clicks, visits, visitors, pageviews, and unique pageviews and the technical explanations of these definitions.

Table of web analytics software from Wikipedia

Intro to Google Analytics from the site itself.

How to add Google Analytics Tracking Code to your website for free

 

Peg Corwin
// by Julie Brander / Apr. 2, 2009 2 comments
how-to-be-an-effective-motivator-in-business

In business today it is sometimes difficult to pay high-quality people what they are really worth, so how can we motivate these people to work hard when we cannot pay them more money?  Here are some ideas on how to motivate key employees with non-financial incentives.

  • Make sure that very good work is acknowledged and, if possible, rewarded!
  • Give positive feedback and praise often!
  • Encourage employees to share new ideas and strategies. Open communication creates a team that works well together.
  • Allow employees to make decisions.
  • Pay for educational and training expenses.
  • Try to make sure that employees look forward to work each day!
  • Create a happy, positive, clean and safe working environment.
  • Promotions and titles can motivate employees.
  • Give paid days off whenever possible.
  • Offer benefits to employees.
  • Pay for on-site food, drinks and even lunch.
  • Present awards annually or monthly to employees.

These are among many steps you can take to motivate employees, increase productivity and achieve greater employee satisfaction. Always recognize, encourage and appreciate your employees! Their contribution is key to your business success. With conscientious, effective and efficient employees, your business will succeed. Please share incentives that you have used that have been effective in your business.

Julie Brander
Business Mentor
SCORE New Haven
Julie has been a SCORE volunteer since 1997. She has 20 years of experience in business, starting a manufacturing, wholesale and retail jewelry company. After selling her business, she dedicated herself to helping other entrepreneurs start and expand their business.
// by Julie Brander / Mar. 26, 2009 25 comments
marketing-effective-elevator-speeches-that-leave-a-lasting-impression

An elevator speech is a short introduction of who you are and what your company does in about 200 words or less. It should highlight your uniqueness and focus on the benefits that you provide. It is delivered in an enthusiastic upbeat way, introducing yourself, shaking hands, having eye contact, engaging the potential client and handing out a business card.

A good elevator speech would include:

1. The services or features that you provide.

2. The benefits that your clients will receive from these services.

3. Include successful client outcomes.

4. Create an opening sentence that will grab the listeners attention, the best opening lines leave the listener wanting more information.

5. Finally your elevator speech has to sound sincere, engaging and delivered with passion.

6. Always introduce yourself, shake hands and have a business card to hand out This essential networking tool will allow you to grab the attention of anyone you wish to do business with. 

This would be an example of mine:

Hi, my name is Julie Brander and I am a SCORE counselor with 20 years of business experience, I have my MBA and Real Estate License. I help people start and expand their businesses. I've helped clients get business loans who have been turned down. I've helped clients with their marketing plans in which they have increased their business and helped with business plans in order to get bank financing. SCORE counselors are available free of charge to help you with all your business needs. Please contact us at www.newhavenscore.com or call 203-865-7645 for an appointment.

Elevator speeches are intended for very brief encounters in an elevator. But elevator speeches are not just for elevators! You can use it whenever you introduce yourself to anyone who asks you what you do. It could be in the supermarket, waiting in line, at any networking event or where ever you are. So, who can describe with passion, precision and persuasiveness what you do better than you? A great elevator speech makes a lasting first impression, showcases your professionalism and allows you to position yourself. And if you want to network successfully, you need an elevator speech! 

Julie Brander
Business Mentor
SCORE New Haven
Julie has been a SCORE volunteer since 1997. She has 20 years of experience in business, starting a manufacturing, wholesale and retail jewelry company. After selling her business, she dedicated herself to helping other entrepreneurs start and expand their business.
// by Julie Brander / Mar. 5, 2009 22 comments
life-balance-10-positive-quotes-positive-mental-attitude

Persistence and positive thinking is what it takes to achieve goals. Goal setting should be a daily exercise and all goals should be written down. It helps you stay focused on the big picture and not worry about the little insignificant things in life and in business. As you write your goals down program your mind to work on your goals daily with a positive mental attitude and the persistence needed to help you achieve any dream you have. A list of ten positive quotes to help you develop a positive mental attitude.

  • "There are two ways of meeting difficulties. You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them." -Phyllis Bottome
  • "The secret of getting ahead is getting started." -Sally Berger
  • "Leadership is knowing what you want and making it happen." -Miriam Colon
  • "Sometimes I think creativity is magic, it’s not a matter of finding an idea but allowing the idea to find you." -Maya Lin
  • "The winners in life think constantly in terms of I can, I will and I am. Losers, on the other hand, concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have or would have done, or what they can’t do." -Dennis Waitle
  • "The man who does not work for the love of work but only for money is not likely to make money or to find much fun in life." -Charles Schwab
  • "You must do the thing that you think you cannot do." - Eleanor Roosevelt
  • "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Muriel Strode
  • "Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood." -Marie Curie
  • "Goals are as essential to success as air is to life." -David Schwartz

These and many more can guide you to a more positive attitude which is necessary in these tough economic times. Are there other quotes that you can share that have helped you achieve your goals?

Julie Brander
Business Mentor
SCORE New Haven
Julie has been a SCORE volunteer since 1997. She has 20 years of experience in business, starting a manufacturing, wholesale and retail jewelry company. After selling her business, she dedicated herself to helping other entrepreneurs start and expand their business.
// by Peg Corwin / Mar. 3, 2009 10 comments
strategic-commenting-visibility-your-niche-brand-building-and-website-traffic

Comment on blogs relevant to your niche. When you focus on your niche, readers are more likely to visit your blog or site.  (And highly relevant back links have a greater SEO value.)  Concentrate on maybe 5 or 10 blogs in your area.  See this great ReadWriteWeb post on how to determine the top blogs in any niche.

For maximum impact, choose blogs with good page rank in Google and large numbers of RSS subscribers. (Check the page rank of any blog here.) Popular blogs, with high numbers of RSS subscribers, show up in the blog aggregator Alltop.com.  And the free Google Reader lists the number of subscribers to any blog feeds (Subscribe to the blog feed in Google Reader, click the blog name and then click “show details,” upper right, to see the feed count.)

Make the comment relevant and substantive. Read the post thoroughly and contribute something meaningful.  This might be your own experience, an answer to a question raised, even a further question the post suggests.  If you’re tempted to write “great post,” try instead to mention one idea you strongly agree with or something new you learned.

Be careful with negative comments. Saric recommends that you only comment positively: “Only write a comment if you like the post and if you have something relevant and interesting to say.”  On the other hand, LeadsExplorer says you can make negative comments:  “A comment is just another opinion that can have the opposite opinion from the blog post or the general opinion of the readers of the blog.” Sarah Perez agrees that negative comments are part of intelligent conversation: “Blogger and reader don’t always have to agree with each other, but being able to at least constructively debate the issue brings something to the table that straightforward reporting does not.”

Comment quickly on popular blogs.  Saric says, “The earlier you are, more exposure you are going to get.”  Set up Google Alerts for your main keywords on your target blogs.  (The blog-specific format is “URL  keyword”, i.e. “http://www.scorechicago.org  commenting”.  Set type to blog, and how often to “as-it-happens.”)  If you’re on Twitter or a voting site like Stumbleupon, maybe also reTweet or Stumble the post after you comment, to get maximum visibility from social media activity.

Check back and follow up on later comments, to participate in the conversation.  If there’s a box to check to be notified of further comments, check it.  Network, learn, interact.

Use a consistent media profile. As Saric suggests, “Brand your comment by using same name, same avatar, same URL and same signature.”  Use your full name in the comment field to increase trust and promote branding.  For those who don’t know, most blog templates hyperlink your name to the URL you provide, so you don’t have to add your web address to the post.

In essence, do think long-term. Do make comments to build relationships, not to generate short term bursts of traffic.

Commenting Don’ts

Don’t cut and paste generic comments. They add nothing and you ruin your reputation for possible short term gain.

Don’t be rude. This networking world is small and you don’t want to burn bridges.

 

Forum Comments. Online or internet forums are online discussion sites.  Some allow you to set up an online profile and others permit you to include a link to your website in your signature.  It’s an excellent way to get your name out on the internet and present your knowledge and expertise.  Popular social networking sites like Linkedin, Facebook and Myspace, as well as many niche sites, have such forums as a site feature.  Be sure to read the forum’s rules and regs.

Big Boards has a list of forums on numerous topics, in both directory and search format. Of course, post in forums related to your blog or site.  Choose a couple forums and become known in them rather than spreading yourself too thin.   Sometimes you have to be a member for a certain number of days before you start posting.

Since we’re talking comments, please comment on this post.  Tell me something you agree or disagree with.  Tell me if commenting has worked for you, and how.   Or give me your opinion:  Is it OK in a comment to add a link to your own posts if it’s really on target?

-Peg Corwin, SCORE Chicago View more posts by Peg

Peg Corwin
// by Jennifer Kushell / Feb. 27, 2009 1 comments
success-tip-5-globally-savvy-or-internationally-challenged

This past year, YSN decided to get a closer look at college students around the globe to better understand the next generation workforce young people launching their careers. In case you haven’t heard, over the next 10 years more than one billion young people will enter the workforce. They may be your kids, your staff, your partners, your peers or even your competition, but however pervasive they may be in your world today, it’s time to ask yourself if you’re ready for these sweeping market and demographic changes. Are you globally savvy or internationally challenged? Are you ready to join the new world order? The “Global Career Mindset Study” we conducted was the first of its kind, surveying students from 50 countries. The most compelling finding: 55% of students are looking abroad to launch their careers, and only 20% plan to look for work locally. What’s more, they’re skilled, they’re ambitious, they’re hungry for new opportunities to show the world what they can do, and they’re savvy — about politics, geography, world affairs and culture. Plus, they have the business skills the top employers and entrepreneurs are looking for in young talent. Between the current economic turmoil and the workforce crisis, building a solid business or finding and keeping a great job is going to require a lot more effort. If you want to give yourself every possible advantage, it’s time to expect more from yourself. I firmly believe the smartest thing you can do to be competitive in the global workforce is to become more globally savvy, aware, skilled, refined, and cultured. Stop thinking of your own city or country as your community and start thinking of yourself as a citizen of the world. 

A few tips:

  • Keep up on international news. Read it online or watch international news broadcasts.
  • Build and nurture relationships with people from other countries, on and offline. Join international membership organizations. Attend and participate actively in global conferences and events.
  • Travel as much as you can to experience different cultures first hand. In your own country, spend time with immigrant families with a strong sense of their native culture. (Visit with them in their homes if you can.)
  • Learn different languages. At the very least, learn how to exchange pleasantries (hello, how are you, nice to meet you, thank you, goodbye) in a few different languages. Practice and learn more every chance you get.
  • Lastly, open yourself up to new and different experiences. Embrace the idea of things and people who are unfamiliar and look at your exploration of the world as an adventure that will not only open up your opportunities, but change the quality of your life.

My best advice:

Think like an economist, act like an entrepreneur and set your sights globally. Jennifer Kushell is the author of the New York Times Bestseller Secrets of the Young & Successful: How to Get Everything You Want Without Waiting a Lifetime. As President & Co-founder of YSN, Jennifer has dedicated her life to helping young professionals and entrepreneurs in over 130 countries find success through powerful tools like the YSN Assessment. Jennifer Kushell, Guest Blogger View more posts by SCORE’s Guest Bloggers

Jennifer Kushell
// by Julie Brander / Feb. 26, 2009 4 comments
customer-service-how-keep-customers-loyal-your-biz

Think about the places you frequent and determine why you keep going back? It can be as simple as the shop owner knows your name and acknowledges you every time you go. Being friendly or giving personalized attention always pays off. Giving a customer extra time or something that is not expected goes a long way. All the little things that we remember when we do business with the people that we like. It does not take a lot of effort and should be your mission to always exceed customers’ expectations.

5 Important Tips to Remember

1. Give your customers a reason to come again

2. Thank them for their business every time they come

3. Offer incentives, perks, and discounts for loyalty and referring new customers.

4. When a customer is a good customer think of ways to offer a special discount or give an added value gift.

5. Always think of new ways to attract customers and keep them coming back makes your business more profitable.

People do Business with People They Like

They frequent businesses that are easy to do business with; customers expect good quality, service and value. Always educate your customers about your products, explain features and benefits to the customer and give a guarantee. Always remember without customers there is no business so always nurture those relationships and go above and beyond what is expected.

Julie Brander
Business Mentor
SCORE New Haven
Julie has been a SCORE volunteer since 1997. She has 20 years of experience in business, starting a manufacturing, wholesale and retail jewelry company. After selling her business, she dedicated herself to helping other entrepreneurs start and expand their business.