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Where is Your Lead Generation Going?

May 28, 2012

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At one point in your life, you probably had to attend a job orientation where your new employer made everyone stand in front of a group of people and introduce themselves.  You may have also been prompted to discuss your title and location of where you were working.

Fun times, huh?

If you take the time to recall, some people were less than enthused (probably because they needed something that would just pay the bills) but then you had those who boasted that they were going to take the company places and they tended to stand out the most throughout the session.

Now whether the person who had a rather humble presentation was the one who would eventually run the company as finding out whether an employee is excellent is a lengthy process.  When online, it may help to have a more assertive presence.

If you have ever heard the expression ‘How will you know how you will get to your destination if you don’t know how you’re going to get there?’, then you realize that having a plan of action is important.

Obviously, saying and doing produce entirely different results in anything but when it comes to getting leads, your actions have to be consistent as well as on target.

Getting Them to Come To You

You have a great product or idea and people can see this but what your marketing has to demonstrate is how it will benefit your prospects.  Will it save them time, money or will it improve their appearance?

Taking the time to describe this in as little time possible will begin to drive traffic.  So you need to develop an elevator pitch that includes the benefits.

Getting From Behind the Box

You are plugging away from behind the monitor but how are you going to reach your audience?  Yes, you may submit your content to search engines and directories and maybe a couple of social media sites but are you really reaching the right people?

Taking the time to research where your target can be found is important.  This is why you should not submit your content to categories labeled ‘Miscellaneous’ or ‘Other’ because it’s similar to someone going out in the middle of the street and yelling  randomly that they are going to help their new employer grow quickly.  No one cares.

Keep it Flowing and Take Notes

Many who enter business for the first time tend to underestimate marketing.  They spend too much money on the right campaign but expect results with the first few views.  More commonly others spend too little on exposing their product to a general audience.  Both methods are a waste of money and time.

By utilizing a sound marketing campaign that is frequent and targeted to those who are likely to buy, you are off to a great start.  However, it is important to track the number of responses.  How many inquired?  How many of those inquiries turned into sales?

When you compare on a weekly or monthly basis, you can tailor your approach. Shorten your headlines, look into other methods of exposure and speak to others about your marketing.

 

 

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Creating Relevant Content and Making it Pay Off

May 25, 2012

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You will find that many of your competitors may drop out of the e-commerce game for a number of reasons.  Some may have had a great concept but lack of execution, others may not have had a real business plan to begin with and others could not keep enough interesting content going to stay in the race.

In fact, you may have seen some of your competition come and go since you became established.  Maybe you were happy or sad but realize this, it can happen to you.

One person I knew of some years ago created an online zine that was available to the public – for free.  While it contained many interesting pieces by an assortment of contributors, their only compensation was a byline (name credit) – and the zine was nearly 100 pages long.  As a PDF (Portable Document File), it was easy to view and save in most cases. However, they didn’t go beyond a few issues.

While I missed them like a distant cousin I rarely see, I understood what happened and why.  Even though the start-up was funded by an educational grant, their ads were few and they seemed to place a lot of emphasis on clip art after a couple of issues (they were not an art-related publication).

To Write or Not

Some people do not have the energy, discipline or patience to write continuously for a period of time.  In this case, you can hire a contractor to do all or most of your marketing writing (articles, blog posts, etc.).  However, if you are not paying much, then show some flexibility when it comes to their submission schedule, content (they cannot always know exactly what is on your mind) and their need to take a break if they have other obligations, which is likely.

Create Quick Content

Did you see something funny while you were out driving that your audience can relate to?  Then grab that camera phone and snap!  Same goes for artwork, short poems or moving images.  Wherever you submit for brand exposure or monetary compensation, make sure that it is tagged with appropriate keywords.  During times when you don’t have the words, you can say it in a picture.

Talk to Others

One good content idea is to speak with others who are related to your industry.  For instance, if you are a clothing designer who puts on local shows, having an interview with a photographer or jewelry designer would not be a conflict of interest but this could be a great way to build an alliance.  If you participate in related forums, you can link to relevant articles about a particular subject.

Get Your Own Ezine Going

Before I met the associate some years ago, I had no idea that you could publish a book by converting it into a PDF and sell it.  Now there is no real promise in having more than a few pages (my ezines range between 10-15 pages).   if you are going to use it as a promotional tool, then a few pages will do .If you plan on selling outright on your site or via e-commerce like Etsy or Amazon, take a couple of your best works and create a short e-zine.  Microsoft Word or similar software have drag-and-drop templates that are easy to use.

Step Away From the Computer

Yes, you do everything from behind a monitor.  Create, communicate, remit and socialize.  However, offline marketing is just as important as online marketing.  Instead of taking just your business card to a networking session, how about a simple copy of your Ezine for those you contacts where the rapport is especially strong.  You can also use it to canvas your area of related businesses. This will give prospective clients something to remember you by with hopes that they will BUY!

 

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Getting Your Social Media Reputation Together (Really)

May 23, 2012

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If you’re one of those people who signed on for the Big 3 (Facebook, Twitter, Google) at random but never really did much with your account because you either forget or don’t really feel as if you have anything to say, then you may want to take heed to these tips about getting a campaign together and making it part of your routine.

Start with the Basics
When was the last time you updated your keyword list? When President Obama went into office? The series finale of Friends? Whether it’s been six months or six years, staying on top of popular keywords that relate to your brand is a big part of steering high traffic in your direction.
Whether you use Google Adwords or another keyword finder, you need to also realize that Google (the #1 search engine) has changed its algorithm a few times and it’s likely to change again in the near future.
In laymen’s terms, many sites and content management systems have been flagged and encouraged to eliminate content that is irrelevant, unoriginal and basically a waste of virtual space. Even if your content was not affected, these changes can make finding your site difficult when someone does a search.
So while it may be a time-consuming to add the new keywords to old content, you can update content with current information and maybe a tagged image or video that will make it stand out.

Taking on the Big 3 (and More)
So you have one of the three accounts and you may feel like a little fish in a big pond. There’s nothing wrong with this as it can make navigating more fun. On Twitter, you can add your new keywords to find new followers that may have similar interests.  Same goes for YouTube and Facebook where they are set up to make recommendations based on your keywords.
Now to find social media and directories that are more specializes, try the Resource Help Directory. There you will find a free listing of specialized sites that can be helpful in a number of ways. This includes definitions of social media sites that have a specialized interest. They can also inspire future content if you do article marketing as a way to promote your brand.
Communicate Quickly and Easily
Having nothing to say about your own brand is not a crime. Maybe you are refreshing your inventory or in the midst of launching a new marketing campaign and need to focus. However, once you have you r social media account more defined (profile image or logo, basic information and necessary keywords); you can share your old blog posts with a new audience. It would be best if it were evergreen content like a how-to or other informative piece.
Even if you don’t have your own content to show off, you can find articles, videos and more related to your brand in general. It’s not necessarily giving an audience to the competition but if something is fascinating, then you could use it in your next marketing campaign.
The Final Touch
Choose a day out of the week to respond to your social media followers if you cannot do it every day. Then choose a day out of the month to record and compare traffic analysis. It seems technical but if you notice a jump in traffic with the new keywords, then you should record this every month.

 

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Prosper with Quality Control

May 21, 2012

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Back when I was young, I worked for a very well-known food franchise that had a Quality Control Inspector. It was their job to make random visits to each location and monitor how money was being made. Simple things like cleanliness of the facility, the cross-selling of related products and giving customers an incentive to return.
At the time, it seemed lame and unnecessary especially when I was called out for giving away 6 packs of ketchup instead of 3.

Fast forward to the present. While this business is still very much active, they have had to make great changes in recent years to keep up with the times. For one, they offer more healthy options and realized that coffee beverages have become very popular in recent. Had they remained a place that is known for burgers and a funny mascot, they may not have survived these trying economic times – especially if every cashier gave away twice the amount of condiments on a daily basis.
When it comes to one’s online image, it’s easy to become complacent. You may have had a bump or two in the beginning but once a customer base was established and maybe a relationship with a marketing company to provide paid sponsorships, you thought you’d made it.
And you probably were in a position to quit your job or downsize with no major problems. However, staying fresh is part of maintaining your brand reputation.

Images (Still or Moving)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, having a blurred image associated with your brand can cost you a thousand dollars over time. This holds especially true when the images are supposed to be of your actual product or service. Whether it’s apparel, a food product or replica image of your wares, having a clean image makes a huge difference in sales. If you’re still using the old 3-5MP camera from ten years ago, it’s time to invest in an upgrade of 8MP or more.
If you use images to illustrate a point, then finding an editing program will be of great help. There are many lesser-known software brands that have easy-to-use programs that cost almost nothing and produce great results.

The Power of Words
If you want to go from New York to Los Angeles,  going by way of Canada is a waste of time. Being able to deliver quickly is the key as the common viewer may only look at your site for 30-60 seconds before deciding whether they want to continue viewing.
Use engaging headlines to reach out to your audience and kept text flowing as smoothly as possible. If you have a piece of relevant information or funny anecdote, use with caution or if you’re not sure whether it should be included in the body, create a separate link that’s easy to upload (preferably a low-res PDF document as opposed to MS Word or other proprietary software).

The Overall Look of Your Brand
Many businesses still make the mistake of having too much text and images on their homepage which makes it difficult for a person to navigate. Allow for different sized fonts and colors to separate one category from another. Though there are no general whitespace rules, you can use your finger to determine whether the layout has balanced use of space or whether too much is crammed into one area.

 

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Why Isn’t Anyone Watching My Video?

May 18, 2012

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You took the time to make a video using your digital camera.  You uploaded it to the number-one video sharing site and told everyone about it but the number of visitors might as well be zero.

Then you wonder if you should have used a professional to get more hits and expand your customer base.

Not necessarily.

The internet has allowed people from all walks of life to become internet sensations.  Some videos are funny.  Others may be a little strange or just good but they all had one thing in common.

They were engaging.

Creating a level of engagement can be a challenge for some but in many cases, it’s possible to achieve.  Even on a small budget.

Is It Too Long?

One client I  have is building an online presence for a niche that is fairly new and has potential to become great.  The video opens up by showing off the facilities where their product is manufactured.  Not bad but the viewer gets to watch nearly one minute of every room that is grey, white, beige – and boring.

With no voiceover, the viewer does not really know one room from the other.  The other problem is that there is no action going on and with each frame being one minute or more long, I wanted my five minutes back.

If they were to show a typical workday, such as making the product, this would be better.  Plus, if a voice were added to describe everything without giving away company information, it would show some level of engagement.

How’s that Sound?

The disadvantage of using built-in PC microphones is that they can have limitations.  One, that “pop” sound that comes when a person uses words that begin with “B” or “P” can be eliminated without spending a lot of money.  A pop filter can be found at stores that sell audio equipment and cost anywhere from $30 -50. The same results can be achieved with a microphone headset.  I got mine from a chain discount store for $20.

Also, by downloading Audible for free, you can easily edit the pitch of your voice.  You can speed it up slightly or add a deeper pitch with just a click of a mouse.  This can take some time but once you find a number that fits, you can write it down so that the process will go faster in the future.

Sometimes, the problem could be in the voice itself. If you sound as if you’re reading or it comes off as a monotone, try speaking as if you were holding a conversation.

Are You Telling Everyone?

Just like anything else, you need to use keyword tags so that it will be found by most search engines.  There are also directories like Metacafe and Revver.  Like the directories where you submit your sites and podcasts, you can do the same with your videos by adding it to the relevant category.

Finally, don’t forget to embed your video to your blog or website.

As many videos are being uploaded daily, getting attention can be a strategy but since this can be an additional revenue stream, your efforts to be the best possible will pay off.

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Selling Your Brand to Online Businesses

May 16, 2012

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If you’ve ever wondered how some people really make money from their blog, it takes a little more legwork on your part.

Yes, there are the affiliate programs as well as online marketing companies that pay you to blog about different products and services.

Then again, you can eliminate the middle man and keep the profit for yourself.  Yes, there is one online marketing company that takes 50% of what an advertiser pays to have a link and relevant text (sometimes up to 400 words) placed on YOUR blog.

And unlike some content management services (CMS), you get no byline or residual, just a one-time payment that could be as little as $5 per blog post.

Some of these marketing companies may even pressure you to place ads that have nothing to do with your brand that you have worked hard to create and maintain.

While you may see this as a cup of coffee at your favorite franchise, you are actually killing your brand by accepting all of these ads.

Oh yeah, the best part is that you may have to wait at least a month to receive your money, depending on who is remitting payments.  I’ve even had to remind people that they forgot to pay me.

Taking Control

Now if you have decent traffic or a good number of social media followers, you can solicit prospects with a simple letter.  O,r if there is a product that you already use and have reviewed it a few times, then you can reach out to the marketing contact of the company and negotiate a deal on your own terms.

Some may want for you to keep the post up for as long as 30 days or on the main page for a certain number of days.  If you’re a daily blogger, one solution would be to increase the number of visible entries per page.

The First Contact

Before sending an email to the owner of the site, you want to gather data about your brand.  The purpose is to present to them what it is you can offer them.  Does your site have a lot of visitors?  If so, how many? How many Twitter followers do you have?  What is your Alexa page rank?  What associations do you belong to? Every little bit of information you can present helps a great deal.

When you have all of this together, you can do one of two things.  If your data exceeds one letter-size page, then list everything but keep it separate from the initial letter.

In the letter, you want to get the name of the site owner or person in their marketing department. After the salutation, you want to describe who you are, what your brand is about and that you are interested in having them buy space on your site in exchange for more exposure.  You can include about 3-4 of the benefits or if you have a separate sheet, offer to send this data in a follow-up email.

The Response

There is a chance that your letter and information may be forwarded to an outside marketing company and they could be a little discriminating when it comes to compensation or whether your brand would be compatible.

Don’t fear as some companies may offer freebies in lieu of monetary compensation.  You may be asked to participate in a campaign for a product that is not yet on the market.  If your brand is new or rebounding, then don’t be too eager to negotiate for money.  This could also be a test to see how well you deliver first.

You also may need to adjust your approach but keep it simple and without buzzwords as this can be a little too aggressive or come off as spam.

 

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Get Customers to Know You the Right Way

May 14, 2012

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Growing up, you probably knew of someone that had a “reputation”.  Why?  Because they were usually quiet, mysterious and probably new to the neighborhood. Yet, when you got to know them, they were probably one of the coolest people you’ve ever met.

Working online is somewhat similar.  Unless your brand is already known within a particular industry, then getting people on board can be a little tricky at first.

Creating a Level of Engagement

As a business owner, you’re responsible for the creation, distribution and marketing of your product.  You may even take on accounting duties as well.

While this is common with most small businesses, you also have to be your own PR (public relations) person.

Though you can hire a blogger that’s experienced in marketing and communications, you may want to take a stab at the process before you begin to go through portfolios.

In the meantime, if you don’t have a basic analysis of your customer base needs, now’s the time to find out what type of content you can place on your site that they will find entertaining or useful.

Whether or not you use a blogger/ghostwriter, you should find a voice that will convey best who you are and one that represents the product or service.

Also, don’t be afraid to develop a rapport with your viewers.  Answer their inquiries, if you have additional information or resources to share, provide a link.

Keep communication open and positive as often as possible, especially when you are in the beginning stages.

When Bad Things Happen

A customer says they ordered 12 of an item but only received 10 or half of what they ordered was damaged or inoperable.  They’re hot and you have to fix it, even if it cost you your inventory, shipping expenses and time you may not have.

In business, it happens and the best way to ensure that a bad transaction doesn’t ruin your reputation is excellent communication from the start.

If you’re not in the habit of thanking customers for their purchase, then you may want to start.  This way you can leave your contact information, should they need to reach the person who’s responsible for sending out the order.

Keep detailed records of each action taken to remedy the situation, including dates, confirmation number and their response.  This way, if they post a negative online review, you will have arsenal to defend yourself.

Be Your Own Cheerleader!

When someone says something nice or positive online, post a link on your blog or website.  Even if it’s in print, scan and post as a low-res JPEG so that it can easily be read online.  If you sell through e-merchants like Amazon or Etsy, keep open communication with your customers so that they will feel confident buying from you again.

Even if you operate your own shopping cart through your internet service provider or host, you can create your own short forms where customers can describe their experience.  This will also help you in creating your next promotional campaign or better target your services.

So don’t get caught in the trap of being stuck behind a monitor for hours.  Take the time to get to know your customers and prospects as it will be one of the best investments you will make in business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cross-Sell to More Cash

May 11, 2012

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Growing up, you probably had a job at a fast-food or retail chain and your boss got on your case about letting customers know that free shakes come with that order. Or, if they buy one pair of glitter shades, the hot pink ones are half-off – today only.

Such wonderful memories they are but this was to get you ready for the world of moving units in business.  Yes, you were probably that employee or boss who wondered why things must be so hard when one small order of fries will not make or break the company.

Yes, that burger clown on TV has a crazy advertising budget and can afford to give away meals to many people before there is an actual loss.  Same goes for that retailer that wants you to create that sense of urgency by implying that the stock is low on a sale item, even though there are more than a few dozen in storage.  And as far as the remaining items go, you knew that they would be marked down to nearly $0 the following week.

Now you’re the one in charge and though you don’t want to twist anyone’s arm, you’ve got bills to pay or worse, you’re working on a credit extension now.

In the online world, there are many business advantages and one of those is that digital items need no storage, other than your hard drive.

So isn’t this more reason to seize the opportunity?  For one, if you don’t ask then you won’t know if your customer wants to buy this extra item at 50% off – TODAY ONLY.

Say you have a series of online articles related to your industry.  Not only do you collect a residual (pay-per-click, or PPC) but since you (hopefully) own the rights, you can tailor them to a particular audience, throw in some graphics and call it an e-book.  Charge $10 (or more) from your site but when you buy ‘X’ product; you can get the book for only $7 as part of a “bundle deal”.

Those big corporations had to start somewhere and most likely used these tactics and more to get ahead.

Another example would be a bookkeeper that is experienced in consumer finance.  Though she makes a nice living preparing taxes during the early part of the year, she’s noticing more business from brand-new small businesses that need to file taxes quarterly.  Most of these people are former 9-5ers who’ve been laid off or decided to strike out on their own.  All they know is to get a weekly check and spend it.

So our bookkeeper decides to reach out by creating a series of e-books based on her revenue-based blog.  These are entertaining yet informative articles that let people know how to spend wisely while transitioning, how to make small investments and find resources that pay more interest than the usual bank savings account.  The bookkeeper can also double her money by placing advertisements from other companies in the book where she already has an  affiliate account. She gives one book away with every referral or new customer and often people return for more unaware that the same information can be found online for free.  It’s only her level of  candor that makes it a great match for her audience.

Sell, sell, sell.

 

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Making Your Brand Stand Out

May 9, 2012

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Back when I was in school, there was a student who liked to imitate Arnold Horshack , a nasal-sounding young man from the 1970’s sitcom, ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ by quickly raising his hand frantically and yelling out , “Ooh ooh ooh” when the teacher asked the class a question.  While it was funny years after the show was cancelled and this student milked every minute of the laughter, his gimmick to get attention wore itself out within weeks.

Had he used a witty style that was flexible or at least original, there may have been a little more longevity at his feeble attempt to make Science 1 more fun.

Hopefully, you as an online brand take things more seriously.  Meaning when it comes time to put a marketing plan into place, you have researched and come up with something that is not only creative and original but will have some shelf life.

Or maybe you have several products that may be considered seasonal and your campaigns run accordingly.  Say if a clothing business is enjoying the benefits of spring (such as the warm weather), she should have her marketing plans ready to go for summer and working on fall as we speak.  If not, then she’s setting herself up for an epic fail because time isn’t something you can get back, unlike money.

If you don’t see the importance of a strong marketing strategy for your brand by now, think about how new clients will find you online.  Do you know how easily you can be found in an engine search?  When was the last time you did any marketing or promotion outside of telling someone in your social circle?  If you have a hard time answering any of these questions, then take note.

Marketing is an ongoing process.  While you may know of a funny or special ad that has not changed in many years, this is not always the case for most businesses, especially one that runs solely online.  You may not have the resources to have a storefront, you can sell yourself easily just like if you were paying for a brick-and-mortar building every month.

Find an aspect of your business that a consumer would find interesting.  If you have a catering business, you could give away short tips in an e-book, as part of a content marketing strategy or video which could go on to be monetized.  Same goes for a bookkeeper or anyone selling professional services.  Instead of looking at it as giving too much away, think of it as creating a level of engagement – and you are in control of the conversation.

Mix and mingle with like brands.  You can participate in a link exchange or open a Pinterest account and find people who are interested in your industry.  Think about it, if you sell men’s business clothing, not everyone who sells men’s clothing is the competition.  Not when you have clothing sellers that cater to the big & tall man, those who market to a younger demographic and so on.  This is why it helps to observe the competition because they could be the inspiration you least expected

Look closely at your past campaigns. Note which ones had a nice reception and which fell flat.  You can go through magazine, books and get ideas for campaigns that would be compatible with your business.  And don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.  Do people find you funny, informative or a little of both?  Did your last ad inspire them to buy or tell someone else with a direct link to your site?  If not, this is something to aim for in creating a new marketing campaign.

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Cash in on Your Curiosity

May 7, 2012

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If you remember that curiosity killed the cat, you should also realize that cats have nine lives.  Sounds a little silly but it does apply to your brand when trying to rebound from a dry spell or giving your image a little oomph.  Being nosy and taking time out to observe and make notations can make a huge difference in your profits.

You know that cats tend to be very quiet, sneaky and are serious observers.  In fact, you may have a funny story about a cat walking up on you when it was the least expected.  Maybe you were caught cheating on your diet, your mate or just up to no good.  And you probably were very happy that the cat couldn’t tell others about what was witnessed, that’s where the similarities end.  The more words you use to communicate, the better.

Getting Up is Half the Fun

If you are a person that runs from a challenge, let me tell you that you may want to invest in some fight gear now – gloves, shoes and maybe a raw steak – because you will have to make some decisions that could make you or break you.  That is unless you take the time to work out the kinks.  But you can look forward to getting knocked down at least once while running your online business.

Start with the Basics

Using a keyword tool will help you a great deal, especially if you have a blog or e-zine that is online.  A great one can found at Google (Go to Products>Adwords>Tools and Analysis>Keyword Tool), Word Tracker and others.  Most of these are free though paid options are available but for now, you just want to find keywords relevant to your brand.

For instance, if a person were to call their business “Fancy Feline Footwear”, it may get some attention with the right marketing but very few people are looking for ‘feline’.  Most users want something for their ‘cat’, so this is a term you will want to make part of your search engine strategy.

Wander into Opportunities

You will have times when all of your orders have been fulfilled, you’ve blogged and maybe done some article marketing or bookkeeping and now you’re surfing around the net.  What are you looking for? Recipes?  Celebrity gossip?  How about looking for opportunities that will help you make money? 

If you believe that you have the perfect e-book in mind,  the discipline to teach an online class or just want to look into work-for-hire (WFH) opportunities such as writing sponsored posts for other companies or participating in marketing opportunities where you will be given a product to review and write about.  You can also find out how Pinterest can work for your business,  since it is the new social media craze.  Look directly into these opportunities and begin to do research on those companies that will allow you to make money while you retain your rights.

Your podcast can be converted into a video and uploaded to several video sharing services and if you haven’t sent your podcast to Podcast Alley or other podcast directories, get on it now.

Same goes for your social media accounts.  If you have not created a Facebook page or Twitter account for your business, get started and use the keywords found, update it with fresh (and relevant) content so you can become eligible for marketing opportunities in your industry.

 

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