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// by Peg Corwin / Aug. 26, 2008 2 comments
keep-your-ear-to-the-ground-with-google-alerts

Want an easy, quick way to understand your business reputation and your market?  Learn what others are saying about you and your niche by creating a few Google Alerts.

How Do You Use Google Alerts? Just register your email at this link, choose some keywords and say how frequently you want email notifications of results. It's that easy. The interface is a single page. And, it's free. What Words Should You Choose?

Create one for your company name and one with your business phone number. You will get an email whenever the Google search engine picks up a mention of either. Your email, which will look like mine pictured above, has the link and brief copy. Just click and see who is linking to, or talking about, your business.

After you're comfortable, identify two or three key phrases related to your business. Put each phrase in quotes and create more alerts. These will give you emails with links to Web sites and blogs which use those phrases. You'll discover competitors and resources in this process. Experiment with the wording to get only info you want.

Why Alerts? Using Google Alerts improves your awareness of your online reputation and feeds you news and resources on your niche. Why not try it for a month and then post a comment here to tell me what you learned? Peg Corwin, SCORE Chicago More posts by Peg

Peg Corwin
// by Susan Solovic / Aug. 22, 2008 2 comments
networking-3-tips-getting-back-basics

Let’s get back to the basics and best practices of networking.  Here are my three tips for effective networking – the old fashioned way. 

First, you must be committed. You aren’t networking if you’re out for instant gratification.  An effective network is built upon a solid foundation of relationships that are built over time.  When you make a new business acquaintance, take time to learn as much about them as you possibly can.  Don’t look at them with dollar signs in your eyes.  Take time to get them talking by asking open ended questions and listening!  Are there common interests you share?  Do your children go to the same school?  Remember, people do business with people they like -- with friends. 

Second on my list of best practices is to follow-up after the meeting and be the first to provide assistance.  Stacking business cards on your desk or scanning them into your Outlook doesn’t create a network.  Sending your new acquaintance a brochure or sales letter doesn’t develop a relationship.  And calling to set an appointment or make a sale is really not going to do the trick.  However, taking time to develop a relationship is. For example, let’s say I meet you at an event and during our conversation you mention you are a dog lover.  Guess what, so am I.  We have a nice conversation and you tell me you’d like to know more about creating a dog-friendly office environment.  So what do I do?  I go back to my office and send a “nice to meet you” email, but in addition I include a link to an article with advice for pet-friendly workplaces. 

Finally, give, give, give.  Be willing to put the other person first.  Find out how you can help them and follow through become the “go-to” person.  Then, when you need assistance, you’ll be rewarded abundantly. There is no better asset – personally or professionally – than a strong network. -Susan Wilson Solovic, guest blogger

Susan Solovic
CEO and Co-founder
It's Your Biz
Susan is CEO and co-founder of It's Your Biz and an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, a multimedia personality, contributor to ABC News and other outlets, a public speaker and an attorney.
// by Peggy Duncan / Aug. 21, 2008 4 comments
marketing-seven-webpages-most-small-business-owners-forget-add

 

As you create or update your Website, make sure you have the right content that makes it easy for visitors to find everything they need. Below are some examples of pages to add that are often overlooked (or improperly done).
 

Media Room Why it’s important - 80% of business is marketing and PR is a great way to get free publicity. The media room gives a journalist everything they need including your media history, sample articles, topics, high resolution photos, company news. Why it’s overlooked – Small businesses often don’t realize the power of PR and how being mentioned in the media gives them credibility. You have a third party citing your expertise and you’re able to reach audiences you never would have otherwise. How to create – You’d create it as you would any page, putting a link to it somewhere on the homepage. Check out my Media Room and use it as an example. http://www.PeggyDuncan.com/mediaroom.htm

News Room Why it’s important – The News Room is where companies should post news about the company. You’ll write media releases and post them (whether you distribute them or not). Some items are not newsworthy and wouldn’t pique a journalist’s interests, but having the information on the Website will give you an opportunity to use your keywords in articles. This will help your site show up in search engines and may give journalists ideas for stories. Here is a link to mine. http://www.PeggyDuncan.com/pressreleases.htm Why it’s overlooked and how to create – Same reasons given for the Media Room.

Contact Us This page isn’t overlooked, but it’s underutilized. I don’t know where the notion of putting only a contact form on a page came from. It should be easy for a potential customer or client to contact you. A contact form is so impersonal, whereas, a page with your complete address (it's OK not to put this if you work from home and rarely need people to mail something to you), phone number, email address, hours of operations, etc., is so much more inviting. So if you have a contact form, make sure you also add the information directly on the page. (The About Us page usually has the same problem. There is not enough detail about who the people in the business are and how you’re different from the competition.) On my Contact Us page, I also provide links to pages for my main contacts (meeting planners and journalists). http://www.PeggyDuncan.com/contactus.htm Why it’s overlooked - This page is underutilized because people do what they see the majority of other people do without thinking it through. Some do it because they don't want to get spam by putting their email address on the Web. Spambots can attack your forms too. Instead of writing my email address with the @ symbol, I spell the word "at" out. Some people also spell out "dot com."

Free Tips with a Way to Opt-In for More Why it’s important – Great content makes your Website sticky, and the longer you keep their attention, the more likely they are to buy. It also makes people tell other people, and gives everyone a reason to come back. Why it’s overlooked – They might not think they have tips to share, or might not write well. You have tips...you just haven't realized it. I'll write another post soon to give you some ideas.

How to Create – This section of the Website could be a newsletter or tips page. It should include a database form for capturing email addresses. The opt-in box is on almost every page of my Website. http://www.peggyduncan.com/

 

 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) Why it’s important – This page will help potential customers or clients get answers to common questions. They won't have to take time to call you and you won't have to handle a lot of calls with these common questions. How to Create – You should make a list of common questions people ask with answers anyone could understand. On the Webpage, you’ll create a list of these questions and create hyperlinks to the bookmarked answers. This page should be kept updated as people ask new questions. http://www.PeggyDuncan.com/eseminars/eseminar_faqs.htm

Raving Fans Why it’s important – People want to know how real people feel about your product or service. They will believe what others say far more than what you say about yourself. How to Create – Ask for them first. After my seminars, I circulate an evaluation that has a space for a testimonial. However, the best ones come from people who email me later. (Always get their consent before you post. I also sprinkle these gems throughout other pages.) http://www.PeggyDuncan.com/ravingfans.htm  P.S. If you’re a speaker or trainer, add a Meeting Room that has everything a planner will need before and after they hire you. Here’s mine you can use as a guide. http://www.peggyduncan.com/meetingplanners.htm One more thing: if a page is "Under Construction" do not under any circumstances provide a live link to it. It wastes people's time and they will question other links. So get cracking and add these pages to your site and let me know if you have other suggestions. - Peggy Duncan

Peggy Duncan
// by Susan Solovic / Aug. 15, 2008 1 comments
marketing-what-podcast-anyway

To Podcast or Not to Podcast - What is a Podcast Anyway?

What do you think about podcasts as a way to market my business?

As the CEO of an online media company, I get asked that question a lot. First, let me explain what a podcast is.

A podcast is a recorded audio file in an mp3 format which contains your content. Your listeners can listen to it on demand from your web site or download for future listening at their convenience. Generally, podcasts can be a powerful and affordable means of communicating your message; however, as with any marketing strategy you need to create a plan with measurable goals and objectives.

In order to be effective with podcasts as a marketing tool, you need to commit to a consistent schedule. Decide whether you want to produce a weekly, monthly or quarterly program and then stick with it. You can’t be sporadic, consistency is critical. Like any other form of communication in your business, podcasts need to be done professionally. Make sure your audio is of good quality and your content is valuable. Your podcast should never be a commercial, but rather it should contain information that establishes you and your business as an expert resource for information.

Each program must be well-organized and compelling to create a loyal audience. A podcast should be short. Keep your programs to between 5 and 10 minutes. If you want to cover a number of issues within a particular topic, turn it into a series with various parts.

Using technology for the sake of technology alone is never the right answer. But taking advantage of technology as part of an integrated marketing plan can create a competitive advantage for your business. 

Susan Solovic
CEO and Co-founder
It's Your Biz
Susan is CEO and co-founder of It's Your Biz and an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, a multimedia personality, contributor to ABC News and other outlets, a public speaker and an attorney.
// by Susan Solovic / Aug. 8, 2008 5 comments
grow-3-surefire-tips-to-grow-your-biz

Keep Your Eye on the Ball.

When you start a business, money is always tight. Attractive opportunities present themselves as quick ways to bring in revenue, but they are a complete departure from your core business strategy. Before you decide to go for it, stop and think about the ramifications of your decision. How much of a distraction is this going to be? One of the biggest reasons many small businesses fail is because they take on projects or products that are completely unrelated to their business strategy and subsequently the original business suffers. Trying to be all things to all people is impossible.Stay focused on your core business.

Set Milestones. Create a business plan with a timeline and milestones. Without established benchmarks, days, weeks and months can pass by while you talk, talk, talk about what you're going to do, but you never get around to doing it.You may not meet all your goals as quickly as you predicted.In fact, in most cases you won’t. It typically takes twice as long, and twice as much money, as you think it will to achieve your objectives. Nonetheless, your established milestones keep you focused on progress.

Take Action Every Day.

Never let a day go by in your business where you haven't done at least one activity to help you reach your business goals. Business success requires discipline--the discipline to practice those things that are instrumental for your success. Only occasionally making a sales call or attending a networking event won’t keep the pipeline filled with new business opportunities.One thing that works well for me is creating a list of top priorities, “the must dos” for the day, and getting those items completed first. Otherwise, I find it’s easy to get sidetracked with answering emails, cleaning my office area or working on a project I enjoy but isn’t a strategic business need. Make sure you work smart and use your valuable time productively. -Susan Wilson Solovic, guest blogger

Susan Solovic
CEO and Co-founder
It's Your Biz
Susan is CEO and co-founder of It's Your Biz and an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, a multimedia personality, contributor to ABC News and other outlets, a public speaker and an attorney.
// by Peggy Duncan / Aug. 7, 2008 9 comments
telecommunications-do-you-need-800-number-or-separate-fax-line
Phone companies offer unlimited long distance. For $20 a month, I get unlimited long distance from AT&T. I don't think twice about making a call and staying on the line until I've finished my business. I believe the people who need to call me probably have this same convenience.

Cell phones make it economical (free) to call long distance. I don't give out my cell phone number and always have minutes to roll over to the next month. If I need to make a call away from my office, it's no problem, no cost. Consequently, if I can call you for no cost, I don't mind calling a regular number.

Google could work better than a vanity number. Getting a phone number that spells your company name, etc., is a cute way for people to hopefully remember you. But the perfect vanity number is hard to come by. And do people remember them? I don't. I just Google anything I'm trying to find.  Here is why I got rid of my dedicated fax line years ago.

Combo copier/fax/printer/scanner with a splitter handles outgoing faxes. Before my printer broke, on the rare occasion that I had to fax something, my all-in-one machine worked great. Because DSL uses a different signal from the analog phone, I didn't have to unplug or switch any lines. (I've been without a printer in my office for almost a year. In a later post, I'll share with you how I run my business without one. When it broke, I realized that I hardly printed anything anyway. So I thought I'd try doing without one and it's working.)

Free version of eFax handles incoming faxes. Since I rarely receive a fax, I use a free service from efax.com. I don't publicize the fax number, and only give it out as needed. As long as I don't receive more than 20 pages a month, the service is free (http://home.efax.com/s/r/efaxprint).

Regular postal mail will get it there. If they can't email it, and it's too many pages to fax, I remind people that it's OK to use regular mail. We often forget about the option of mailing something. It still works.  So if you still have an 800 number or dedicated fax line, I'd like to hear why? Is it because you've always had one and never thought about it? Are your reasons for having it more important than improving your business infrastructure by developing more streamlined processes, enrolling in training and learning how to finish everything six times faster, hiring an expert to work with you so you can delegate, or developing a stronger Web presence so business comes to you? Let me know. - Peggy Duncan

Peggy Duncan
// by Susan Solovic / Aug. 1, 2008 3 comments
legal-fictitious-name-of-company-not-your-name

In addition to being the CEO of SBTV.com, I am also a licensed attorney. Although I don't practice law anymore, when I did, I specialized in helping small businesses get started on the right foot.

Fictitious Name. Here's an example of what I mean. Five of my male friends decided to incorporate their business themselves--ABC, Inc. Once incorporated, they chose to operate using the name “XYZ Services,” so they filed a fictitious name registration. One year later, they called frantic because they were being sued personally for something relating to their business operations "They can't sue us personally," they exclaimed. "We're incorporated." Now that my friends were in trouble, they desperately wanted help. So I called the attorney who filed the suit against them and asked why he sued them individually instead of the corporation. "Have you seen their fictitious name registration," he asked. When I admitted I hadn't, he smugly agreed to fax it to me. As soon as I saw the faxed document, I knew my friends were in trouble.

Here's what went wrong. A fictitious name or DBA, allows your business to operate using a different name. ABC, Inc., my friends' company, was a corporation. Corporations and Limited Liability Companies can transact business under a different name than their official one by filing a DBA that states this company is now operating with this name.

DBA vs. Personally. When my friends filed their paperwork to register the name XYZ Services, instead of noting it was the corporation using the DBA, they said the five of them were using the name. That's why the attorney was able to bring suit against XYZ Services which was owned by the five guys -- personally. Ultimately, we settled the case against them, and they went out of business. There are excellent Internet resources to help you learn more about the ins and outs of fictitious names. Also, check with your county and state governments to see what is required in your state. Resources such as SCORE can provide assistance and information. Finally, it is always a good idea to run final documents by a professional. If you are trying to hold costs down, go ahead and utilize the online legal document sources, but a quick review by a professional attorney in your state may keep you from going out of business as my friends did. -Susan Wilson Solovic, guest blogger

Susan Solovic
CEO and Co-founder
It's Your Biz
Susan is CEO and co-founder of It's Your Biz and an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, a multimedia personality, contributor to ABC News and other outlets, a public speaker and an attorney.
// by Peggy Duncan / Jul. 31, 2008 15 comments
use-dual-monitors-and-spend-less-time-working
If you use Windows Vista, the instructions at the link work the same except getting there is different. Instead of clicking Properties when you right-click on the Windows Desktop, click Personalize, Display Settings, and go from there with the same instructions. This monitor swivels to portrait mode."This monitor can function in landscape or portrait mode. You will love using dual monitors. It'll take you a few minutes to get used to it, but you'll be glad you did. To take it to another level, purchase a monitor that you can swivel to portrait view (check out Hewlett-Packard's w2408 24 inch LCD Monitor...Google it). Also check out UltraMon(TM) from Realtime Soft if you want to do more with multiple monitors such as having a Taskbar on each one. One more thing: to view your Outlook calendar on one monitor and email on the other, right-click the Calendar icon, Open in New Window. Then drag the calendar to the other monitor. If you went from one monitor to two or more, let me know how much it has helped. Or once you set yours up, let me know what you think. Peggy Duncan, SCORE Atlanta View more posts by Peggy

 

Peggy Duncan
// by Peg Corwin / Jul. 29, 2008 21 comments
hey-you-there-reading-this-heres-how-it-works

Good. Got your attention. Now come into my corner for a minute. I want to tell you a secret about Web 2.0.

It's about conversation.

Between you and me. Between you and other bloggers on this blog. Between you and others in social networks like Small Business Online Community, LinkedIn or e-WomenNetwork. Web 2.0 tools, like blogs, social networking sites, even video or photo sharing sites, are about real and person-to-person communications. In this case, really just you and me. If we were standing in an elevator and I asked you a question, I doubt you would ignore me. You'd respond. If you're willing, it can be the same here. Yes, it's easier to skip the response because you can't see me. You can "lurk," read but not participate. But it's the interaction that makes this real, and not just another elevator ride.

So speak in your own voice by adding a comment.

It doesn't matter if you don't have something profound to say at first. Maybe it's just, "Didn't know this. Thanks for the tip."  Whatever. But become part of the conversation.

And if you like the topic, the comments, come back, because the bloggers, the social network members, and I will respond. Or better yet, subscribe to the conversation by email. Click that big orange button in the upper right of this blog that says Subscribe (free) by email. Or in a feed reader (Here's how a feed reader works.) And guess what?

By commenting on blogs in your industry or subject area, you can build your reputation. You can share your expertise, which indirectly promotes your business.  That's the power of Web 2.0. Now I'm going to make it easy to start, to exercise your Web 2.0 muscles.

Please just click the "Leave a Comment" link below and talk to me. Did you know you could do this? At least say "I'm joining the conversation," and add your name and business. - Peg Corwin, SCORE Chicago More posts by Peg

Peg Corwin
// by Peg Corwin / Jul. 22, 2008 1 comments
4-questions-every-home-page
Krug cautions that your home page must unambiguously convey your business:

"If it's not clear to me what I'm looking at in the first few seconds, interpreting everything else on the page is harder, and the chances are greater that I'll misinterpret something and get frustrated."

When I wrote an article on the above baker-educator-chef, I had to call and ask about their services. You don't want your prospects to work that hard. If I visit the home page on your website today, will I find words I understand about your product or service? Will I grasp your niche? If you're inspired to put your home page to the four-question test, have someone outside your organization answer those questions about your page. Then please come back and let me know what you learned in a comment. Peg Corwin, SCORE Chicago More posts by Peg

Peg Corwin