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Communicating Effectively with Content: Getting Started, Part I of III

September 10, 2012

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Say you have an eclectic bakery business that you want to build an online brand for.  Would you describe your bacon chocolate chip cookies as -?

a)      Great or yummy

b)      Exquisite

c)      A sweet, smoky delight that everyone should try at least once in their life

The first two may work as part of a tweet or summary excerpt.  However, when looking to get exposure through a blog post or other promotional material, you really want to take the reader there.  They can have yummy at the snack food section of their grocer.  What you have to offer is an indulgence that should only be shared with foodies like yourself.

Using words as visuals is a process that can take time to fully develop.  The great news is that there are many tools that will help with this whether a person is creating copy or a web summary that will get attention.

Summarize What You Really Have to Say

One common mistake that bloggers and others may make at some point is to start the first paragraph with a monologue about how they are feeling or other commentary.  When a blog post is found in an engine search, no one wants to see…

FREE STOCK INFORMATION WEBSITE

‘My wife lies to nag me.  Yesterday, it was the dog and now it’s something else.  Places where you can find free stock…’

TAX INFORMATION BLOG

‘Time away from the old battleaxe was simply incredible.  I wanted to call the clear blue waters home for the rest of my life but there’s the boss man, the other thorn on my side.  Here are some tax upda….’

Even if your current customer base can relate to having a spouse or a boss they may hate, if your business is about information, then you need to find a way to make your excerpts stand out from the competition.  Accomplish this by placing the most important information first.

Communicating with Your Audience

This is another area where some blogger could step up their game. Using jargon or terms that are not fitting of the demographic can cost readers.  The financial planner that works with clients that average $50,000 a year is going to have much different communication than the client base that makes more than six figures annually.  For one, the working-class group may want to hear terms broken down into everyday language and the more wealthy clients may just be interested in hearing about updates and new developments in the industry.

Getting the right words down can be an art form but one should be careful in using long sentences.  Studies show that web sentences that are 17 words or less have a greater chance of being read than one that is 29 words.  In technical and industry documents, this cannot always be helped.  However, the blog with light content or has the purpose to entertain may want to keep this is mind.

Also, short paragraphs that are made up of no more than three sentences are much better than long blocks of text.

Finally, if you add buttons, videos and other visuals on your site or blog, make sure that it does not overlap into text.  If you find that there is no medium between large and small (and the small is too small) images, try to adjust it manually.  By pasting the code, change the height and width (125×125 or 250×250 is best) and take for a test run before going live.

 

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Email Marketing: Getting Past the Rough Spots, Part II of III

August 31, 2012

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Running a virtual business is like running any other type of business.  You always have to be on top of things or you will lose money.  Though it’s common for new business owners to lose money in the first year, once weak spots are targeted, they can be reversed in little time.

Knowing how to measure what may be wrong is part of the bumps and bruises that come along from time to time.  Even those that are experienced and have made a nice profit still find themselves with challenges.

Not all business owners know how to use internet marketing and social media tools to their advantage.  Getting the basics down and applying personal experience is what makes a marketing plan successful though it can take some time to find the right tools.

The right communication is what will separate you from the novice e-commerce.  While there are chances for “do-over”, this is not something that you want to exhaust.

For example, say you signed up to receive updates on a product you saw advertised online.  One day, you open your email and read the subject line before opening.  Which of the two emails are you most likely to open from someone not named or has the first name of a business owner?

(a)    Hey…I’ve got a secret that you won’t believe.

(b)   Save up to 50% on [specified product] for the next 48 hours!

I’m sure you’ve received the first one in your spam mail at one point and trashed it right away, if you bothered to open it at all.  To me, it sounds creepy and may be a link to a computer virus.  Unless a business owner has a highly unusual name and that name is part of the business name, this is not recommended.  Finally, casual salutations are not the best way to go unless it’s part of the brand.

Now, by presenting an immediate benefit, there’s a much stronger chance on it being read.  Some companies, like Amazon, may refer to a product similar to your last purchase or something you may have browsed on their website.  Other e-merchants may use your first name in the subject line or in the body of the correspondence.

By separating your customers and prospects into groups based on past purchases or interests, this could drum up business.

What Do You Really Have to Say?

Email marketing is not limited to promoting a sale as it allows for very diverse content.  Some owners may create a short newsletter based on previous blog posts or excerpts from an e-book or whitepapers they may have for sale.  Another idea is to create handy tips or mention an industry event or matter.  And you can include a coupon or voucher that will allow them to save on their next purchase. Weekly or bi-weekly specials work best in this type of format.

This type of communication can also be used to gather information about your customers.  By using polls or asking survey questions, you can take this information and apply it to future products or marketing plans.

If you run out of ideas, you can create a content calendar and have every communication based on themes, such as the seasons or upcoming holidays.  Or hire a blogger for moments when you may experience writer’s block.

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Make Residuals While Building a Brand, Part I of III

August 27, 2012

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You’ve heard about making money while sleeping and were game to sign up right away, just like the ad told you to.  However, you may have found yourself inundated with subscription emails or a huge PDF e-book that does not directly answer your questions about how to make online residuals from your brand.

While you may have an idea as to how to do this, you may also find yourself spending a great deal of time with production in addition to running your business.  This can become tiresome for many, especially in the early stages of running an online business.

However, all hope is not lost.  Even a new online business can prosper in this economy.

In this series, we will cover what is needed to properly promote your brand online and increase your traffic numbers.  Though many get discouraged at the fact that there is no set formula to achieve this, it can be advantageous because it will set you apart from the competition.

Article Marketing – Now I don’t have to tell you that the ones that pay-by-the-view and let you have the byline are the best bet.  At the same time, there are many content companies to choose from and there are barely and handful that make the first search page results.  Yahoo Contributor Network (formerly known as Associated Content) and Ezinearticles.com are two long-standing brands that are not only picky about who they choose to bring on as a contributor but normally make first and second page results in an engine search.

With large companies such as these, you may have the small fish/large pond mentality but this does not have to be.  By taking time to choose keywords that are easily searchable along with creating something that is unique.  If you have a niche brand, such as green living or consumer finance, you may want to try posting (credited) on sites like MarketingGreen.com.  You can easily drive traffic to your site by posting to no more than two at least once a month.

One tool that you may want to keep handy is a social bookmarking tool.  These are great for articles that are published by content companies or your own blog posts.  This will save you a great deal of time and energy when it comes to promoting your work on your social media accounts as well as web directories and syndication sites like Digg.

It’s best to steer clear of any sites that have excessive pop-up ads or will not let you publish under your name.  Even though there are some large players that do this, it will not necessarily help your brand.  These are best for those who are trying to tighten their writing skills or just like to write as a hobby.

There are many tools that can help get you started such as Google Keyword Tool, a dictionary, thesaurus as well as writing prompts that can be found online for when that block kicks in.  Once you develop a writing style and productivity pattern, this will come easily.

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Time to Clean House

August 24, 2012

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You know that there’s no sense in buying a fancy painting or other expensive item for your home if it’s surrounded by dust.  Or worse, you don’t remember the last time you cleaned your home.

Now this article is not about the promotion of green household products but removing clutter associated with your brand.

Then again, what may be considered trash by some could be converted into a real gold mine, if you put in a little elbow grease.

Social media accounts. It’s fairly common to sign up for one of these at the insistence of a friend or associate and never look back.  If your account is still active, take a look at the profile and find ways to spice it up.  Do you have a better picture or image to use?  Maybe you can associate your brand with stronger keywords as a way to expand your network.  Though not every social networking concept is compatible with every brand, just consider the possible benefits before de-activating.

If you have a blog comment box, clear away all spam or those with irrelevant information.  By keeping this visible, others may think that you don’t care about what is posted as long as you have evidence of traffic.  It’s actually better to have a couple of people that have nice or meaningful things to add instead of 20 posts that promote everything from designer shoes to precious metal or stocks.  If you can, you may want to also ban the email address and IP address so that spammers will be discouraged from posting in the future.

You should also take the time to respond to relevant commenters if haven’t done so already.  If you want to add them to your mailing list, make sure that an opt-out link is visible when sending future correspondence.

Follow up on inquiries.  Though some brands are good about updating their mailing lists, you should be the one to determine what is received by your inbox.  If you know that a resource is no longer of any use to you, delete unnecessary messages and remove yourself from their email subscriptions.

Find ways to make use of old items.  In the case of electronic documents, there are always quick ways to re-purpose them.  In the case of old logos and images, these can be posted on sites like Instagram and Pinterest.  Though these are not direct revenue opportunities, they can increase your online traffic.

The same goes for old articles you may have written for marketing purposes.  By changing the tone, adding new information or structuring as a how-to tutorial, you can get many uses.  By posting on your own blog or using a content management company like EzineArticles.com, you can take advantage of increased exposure as well as revenue opportunities.

When things are going well, it is easy to procrastinate or overlook these things but if regular cleaning is not done at some point, it will only become more of a job as time passes on.  By making this routine, you won’t have to miss out on precious productivity hours.

 

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Tweet Your Way to Success

August 22, 2012

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If you think that what you say or how often you say it doesn’t affect your brand, take a look at this article. You may think differently when it comes to how 140 characters or less can affect your online presence.

Why Does Social Media Matter Again?

Twitter. Facebook. FriendFeed and now Pinterest. There’s a new one almost every week and the ranking seem to shoot up out of nowhere. For the emerging online brand, it comes with the territory to find new marketing tools and research how they can benefit you. It’s also part of the job to find those who find you industry or niche of interest.
However, you have to make the first move not only in your approach but being approachable to others. This means using a profile image that is yours, creating a handle that is easy to remember and (drum roll) having something of relevance to say.
Your Tweet Image
Use a clear photo or logo image and fill out the information about your brand (under ‘Profile’ tab). In your bio, you can make it witty or informative but you only have 160 characters, so make every word count.

Content Matters
This is more about letting people (or Twitter followers) know that you are alive, basically. You don’t have to come up with something witty every day or week but checking in at least twice a week is good until you can make it part of your daily routine.
You can tweet blog posts, either you own or those related to your industry. Sounds routine but if you knew off all those struggling to keep an online presence that merge personal information in with business. While there’s nothing wrong with a human moment but some things are simply TMI.
Followers
While some people like to grab all the followers possible, like with every social networking platform, make sure that the person that you approve is someone that seems to relate to your industry.

There was once a time when spammers would send an email that looked like a normal request. If your eyes were good at that moment, you could tell that the request was a fraud. Read on and you would find a reasonably good-looking woman that looking for a hot date. Huh? Click the link and you are taken to a landing page about dating, or worse.

If you get a follower request that looks suspicious, log in to your Twitter account to approve it. Normally, you won’t find the suspicious request,  so you can remove it from your email.
Making a Little Money
When a brand has a social media presence, they may be approached by online marketers that are looking to advertise. These days, this has become more competitive so making sure that everything on your blog and Twitter page is current. Though having a high page rank is good, it is not always enough to join these promotional campaigns.
The great part is that unlike writing blog posts that must contain a keyword or URL, all you need is a short mention that a product is worth checking out. If you are a respected figure in your industry or niche, this should convert to sales and everyone is happy!

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Generate More Sales

August 15, 2012

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Sounds easy to say but being able to take a look at what you, the owner of a brand, can do to generate more sales can make the difference in how you stand against those in your niche or industry.

Like the saying goes, ‘Nothing comes to sleepers but dreams’.  If you’ve been in business for a while and are still convinced that you can make “lazy income”…one of these days, wake up already and stop wasting your time and money!

If you don’t have many customers or traffic – Start promoting your blog or website. Begin to add interesting content at least three times a week.  If this is not possible, hire a blogger that has an interest or knowledge of what it is you are selling so that their posts will be relevant to your brand and not generic-sounding.  From there, you can submit your site URL to search directories and other places where your brand can be found.

If you have some traffic but few sales – Start a promotion campaign that will entice your customer base to buy from you.  Offer discounts on slow-moving items, turn old or non-moving items into freebies or place a spin on something old so that it will be new to your customers.  Make sure that the links to your merchant/shopping carts are active and that you are in good standing with your payment processing company.  You may also want to send out a press release to those mediums that may find your items relevant.  Resist the urge to trust those marketing and promotion services that distribute mass press releases.  There are many type of software that will help the user to filter mediums by interest or industry.  Or, you can create your own by looking up places that will accept your press release.

If you’ve had a slump in sales – Go after new traffic, both online and offline.  Find new venues to sell you wares.  If your products are digital, there are many places that allow you to join and upload with little to no upfront cost.  Make sure that any photos of your product are tagged as well as visible so that it can be easily adjusted to their preference. Also, get to work on the next big thing and start an email campaign shortly before you launch the new product.

If you feel sales beginning to slide or decrease – Get to work on the next best thing and start collecting addresses for your customers to join the email marketing campaign.  Also, you can start an incentive program that is similar to the big-name retailers.  By offering a card, that entitles customers to discounts on certain items in return for shopping credits.  This is a sure way to get some excitement going.

From time to time, give away excerpts or samples – If you have an e-book on the market or whitepapers for sale, you can give loyal customers a small taste of what they have been missing.  An excerpt may be no more than 5 or fewer pages total.

The online business is like any other business, the money does not just roll in.  Even when it does, it is your job to stay a couple of steps ahead by looking for new products or ideas to share with your customers and prospects.  By losing sight of this, you can find your brand back at the starting gate.

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Tag, Your Brand is It!

August 13, 2012

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Do you know who Mortimer Swindall is?  Or what they do?  Maybe they have the answer to one of your biggest challenges – saving enough money for retirement or practical tips for eating right on a busy schedule.  Or maybe they have the best advice for how to overcome life’s obstacles.

As unique of a name this is, without the right use of tags, or keywords, the user may never know this brand or its purpose.

What’s in a Name?

Anything that is not Ann or Bob Smith could allow for any type of variation, in most cases.  My first experience with this was a company I contracted with that wanted SEO articles on ‘Jimmy Hendricks’.

Being a pretty serious music lover, I took offense to this and let them know.

However, a really patient soul took the time to explain to me that occasionally, I would get requests for ‘Barbara Striesand’, ‘J.C. Penny, ‘Sam Reuben’ or others that could be easily misspelled online.

So if our friend were versed in this mindset, they can also categorize themselves as ‘Mortemer Swindell’,’Mortamer Swindall’ and so on.

Even those with simple, monosyllable names like ‘Bred Pit’ can even allow for variations that most search engines will catch (e.g. ‘Did you mean Brad Pitt?  Included in search results, or show only ‘Bred Pit’?’)

Make Them Remember with an Anchor

When a new online brand comes on the scene, they want to be as accessible as possible.  Anchor text is the best way to do this.  If Mortimer Swindoll is offering ways to reduce child care expenses in your area, the last thing they will want to do is offer the homepage URL only.  This is a waste of time because few will take the time to navigate a web homepage that may or may not have a visible link.

Here is a short cut that anyone can copy for their own reference or a clickable link is not present -

<a href=http://www.mortyswin.com> Text such as ‘Click here’ or the name with no special characteristics, goes here</a>.

No spaces are allowed and don’t be afraid to preview before going live.

Same goes for the email link – <a href=mailto:mortyswin@gmail.com> Text such as ‘Email Me’ or ‘Contact Us’ </a>.

Don’t Forget Categories

Using the search results from Google Adwords or WordTracker, use all of the high-traffic keywords possible.  If the Mortimer Swindoll brand also deals with commercial accounts, they can add ‘business to business”, or B2B as one of their labels for content, directories and so on.

Having a unique name in the virtual world is highly recommended.  However, using it to one’s advantage is one way to stay ahead of the competition.  By ensuring that it is easy to pronounce as well as spell, it will stay in a person’s head or in their bookmarks.

If you ever saw that kid who played tag and hid so well they couldn’t be found, it takes the fun out of the game, after a while.  Though many people search for information, they are not likely to spend more than 15 minutes looking for something that may be important to them.

 

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The Power of Persuasion in Three Steps

August 10, 2012

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Michelle (not her real name) decided to bring her “A” game to the building. After years of creating a comic book character based on her work and love life, she decided to go big time.
By creating a subscription site where paid members can view and buy her shorts any time of day.
After years of publishing and selling her own comics, she created many video shorts that drew a lot of traffic. She even got a mention in a couple of pop culture magazines and other online sites. So instead of continuing her breakneck pace of working part-time while holding on to her daytime gig as an accountant, she decided to take some time off and make a very wise investment in her future as a businessperson outside of the confines of a corporate job.

She learned about distribution and promotion in independent films. An intellectual property attorney was hired as well as a social media publicist to help transition those persons that had been seeing her gems for free on a popular video sharing site.

It was the social media person’s job to get these people to convert into paying customers during a recession!

Many laughed at Michelle and advised her to not give up her day job but even when her business appointments fell through or something did not go as expected, she refused to throw in the towel.

While we can tell that our friend Michelle had a lot of endurance as well as foresight into the future, there was one thing they don’t teach in accountancy and that was how to drive web traffic in a struggling economy.

Here are some takeaways that may apply to your brand –
1. Stress the rewards. With a subscription service, Michelle could produce her films on a bi-monthly basis instead of whenever she had the energy. While she had a decent following, she grew a little tired of producing shorts worthy of watching while working 40-50 hours a week. This gave people options as opposed to the same old reality shows or having to shop around for something to watch.
2. Be clear in promotion. There is no easy way to tell someone that they will have to start paying for something they once got for free. Michelle’s publicist came up with some pretty creative ideas to go about this which included the advantages of staying home as opposed to visiting the local movie chain.
3. Give them something to remember. One strategy that Michelle came up with was to show an excerpt of her film with a cliff-hanger at the end similar to a nighttime soap opera. Though she kept some of her free videos up, having a new cliff-hanger (with many ending teasers) every other month is what made people spread the word to others.
Though she was not able to quit her job immediately, having this in place made it easier when her company relocated out of the country. She now makes paid appearances and has added like-minded writers to her publishing company.

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Let Your Name Drive Traffic

August 3, 2012

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I knew someone with a business that had really great promotional tools which included, cute business cards, a flashy website complete with animation and special effects and a cool name that stuck in people’s heads.

Problem was, no one knew the purpose of “My Talk-a-pillar” by taking a glance at any of these tools.  If a person had the patience, they had to sit through a cartoon short that showed a happy caterpillar making their way through various crowds to get the word out about their clients.  Their business cards were a tri-fold design which described the marketing, promotions and public relations services offered – inside of the card.

While the name is very fitting for this type of business, it defies one marketing concept – the elevator pitch.

Upon visiting the website, many people do not have two minutes to watch a video, amusing as it may be.  This should be a separate link and possibly cut down to 30 seconds or less.

Don’t Let Superfragilisticexpialidocious Happen to You!

Everyone wants a name that stands out – whether it’s their business or possibly a new baby.  Generally speaking, here is nothing wrong with this.  Though some people from other cultures may choose to use a shortened version of their given name because it may be easier to pronounce or spell by the general public. For instance, the Indian name Abalendu may be shortened to ‘Len’.

In the online world, it is best to adopt a name that is easy to spell and possibly no more than 10 or 12 letters of being used as the main URL.  Though things in the virtual world seem to get more complex and competitive every day, taking time to perform research on a name/URL combination will be worth it.

Are You Smarter than a 7/8th Grader?

Writing books will tell you that this is the age range to shoot for are middle school when writing for a general audience.  Though you may find that people can now easily say and spell names like Madagascar, Rihanna and many others, unless you have a great media machine to back your brand, it may be best to keep things simple.

A play on words is nice as it can stay on people’s minds (A common one is Curl Up and Dye for hair salons, as seen in the popular 1980 film The Blues Brothers).

A name that also serves as a call to action is great also.  One I ran across recently was Go Girl Financial.  Their mission statement was to help women gain confidence when dealing with money.  Though I would have preferred ‘handle’ or ‘control’ as opposed to ‘deal’, the statement shows a positive action (gain confidence) that complements the title, which is also a call to action.

Starting Over but Not Defeated

Our friend at the beginning of the post eventually saw over time that they were going to have to make some changes.  Though she was very sociable and upfront in person, their online and offline marketing tools told a different story.  She learned that in the virtual world, it would work to her advantage to get to how she can benefit prospect and then start with a presentation.

It took a little bit of time and money to design everything but found that once she did this, her customer base went up by 67% and sales were up by 30% – back when the economy was really in shambles.

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Using Online Forums for Money

August 1, 2012

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If you have ever visited a forum or place where readers voice their comments, you may have noticed that there are some repeat posters.  Some of the comments may be funny, insightful or controversial to get a debate started.

In some cases, this may be the blog or website owner themselves,

As it is easy for anyone to have a strong website presence and be profitable in this economy, owners tend to take measures that cost little money but can be very effective in gaining traffic.

Becoming an online poster for pay

I’m not talking about the freelance gigs that come up every so often where a media or content company pays a flat amount for every post given on random sites.  However, this is a route to consider if you’re looking to build traffic for your own brand.  Before signing up, please read the guidelines to find out if self-promotion is allowed in the comments or the poster profile.

What I am speaking of is creating an online image that will stand out.  You can easily take a stock photo, (For public use only. If not sure, check for the Creative Commons license and any restrictions that are imposed) use an interesting user name and give your opinion on current news or a particular industry.

If what you have to say is interesting enough (along with the topic), your post will be found in a news stream or search engine and generate interest.  For a faster response, send links to your family and friends and you should see a difference in 24 hours or less.

Keep it coming

Like any marketing tool, this has to be consistent.  Even if some posters claim to have found that you are both the owner and poster, keep on plugging away and don’t expose yourself.  So for every interesting post you may write, choose a character or two to get a dialogue going.

Ask Questions for Content Topics

You can also peek and set up an account with Yahoo Answers or those Q&A forums that are related to your brand or industry.  Ask a question or view questions and create a blog post (possibly with substantial research to back it) around the dialogue.

Content Really Matters

In order to gain traffic, what you have to say must be entertaining, newsworthy or informative.  Personal rants should tell a great story and/or have a positive outcome.  If this is not the case, be careful in posting.

If you like shock, this can drive traffic.  However, if this is your choice, be prepared for posters to be just as shocking, if not more so.  While this can be exciting for both the blog owner and readers, there is the possibility of jumping the shark.  In other words, once the excitement wears off, can you really continue on the same shocking road?

In the case of posters, you have people who want to get something off their chests and will happily post as long as you have a place for them to express themselves.  Then you have those who may not make a point but their posts are exciting to read.

Establishing boundaries is important.  While it’s impossible to monitor and manage posts in our sleep or downtime, be careful of those who constantly make derogatory and pointless remarks or spammers.  A way to filter these is to use the set up features of your blog to block their email and IP address.

 

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