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Countdown: Skill #3 Creativity

Countdown: Skill #3 Creativity

The first blog post in this series ( http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm ) I listed the top ten skills necessary if you are to triumph in the ongoing upheaval in the worldwide job market.  Today, I want to discuss the #3 skill, Creativity.

 

 

Why is Creativity so Important?

 

There is one simple reason why creativity as a skill is so much in demand.  Robots and software technology can’t do it.  Here is one area where human beings can beat the bots.  Every time.

Freelancers need this skill to solve problems with new programs and procedures.  Clients and different departments implementing new programs and services will require new solutions to problems that arise.

I have a favorite saying I think sums up the need for creativity in the business world.  It comes from General George Patton, the famous tank corps commander in World War II. “The best battle plan in the world isn’t worth a damn after the first shot is fired.”

General Dwight Eisenhower also weighed in on this subject when he said, “Plans are useless, but planning is essential.”

Freelancers know this.  When it all goes to hell, you’re going to have to get creative and think your way out of it.

 

How Can You Define Creativity?

 

I admit this is hard.  Creativity is one of those things that everyone knows when they see it, but find it difficult to define.

Let’s take a shot at it.  Creativity is:

  • The ability to think outside the box.
  • Coming up with something that’s never been done before.
  • Applying old methods in new ways.
  • Perceiving the world in new ways.

There are more.  Here is a link taking you to a Copyblogger Post with 21 different definitions of creativity ( http://bit.ly/2jEEKTH ).  (Hint… the list starts about halfway through the post).

 

Can I learn to be more creative?

 

How many times have you heard it?  “I’m just not a creative person.”

Wanna bet?  Actually, we all start out being very creative, and then we unlearn it.  In 1968, a man by the name of George Land devised a test to measure creativity ( http://bit.ly/2ykJSzE ).  He then gave the test to 1600 children, age 3 to 5 years, enrolled in a Head Start Program.  The results were amazing.  The 5-year-old kids scored 98% on the creativity test.  He retested the same kids 15 years later.  Guess where they scored? 12%.  Adults given the same test scored 2%.

This means our society is teaching us to unlearn creativity.

So it’s really not an issue of learning to be more creative.  It’s remembering how to be as creative as we once were.

The common misconception is that creativity belongs to artists, writers, musicians, and maybe a few computer geeks.   Nothing could be further from the truth.  We are all creative. Like all skills, it is one where proficiency is gained by practice.

Remember the old joke? A kid carrying a violin case goes up to a cop in New York City and asks, “How can I get to Carnegie Hall?”  The cop looks at the kid and says, “Practice, practice, practice.”

The best part is improving creativity is fun. A lot of fun.

 

I’m Sold. Where Can I go to Learn?

 

Online of course.  Google “Learn to be Creative.”  You’ll get more than a million results.

Now as for books?  One of the best I have ever read on this subject is “The Artists Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” by Julia Cameron.  I read this book when it first came out over 25 years ago when I wanted to begin developing my writing skills.  I have reread at least 3 times since then.  Don’t be put off by the title.  This book is considered the seminal book on creativity.  It’s for people in every walk of life seeking to enhance their creativity skills.  There is also a great workbook that goes along with it I would recommend as well.

I have included links below if you would like to get these outstanding books. (Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Affiliate)

 

3 SEO Tools Anyone Can Use

3 SEO Tools Anyone Can Use

To the average small business owner SEO is a dark, baffling, process impossible to understand.  Here is post explaining 3 SEO tools anyone can use to improve their blog performance.

3 SEO Tools For Clueless Business Bloggers

07/01/2016 09:26 am ET | Updated 5 days ago

 

  • Liesha Petrovich Unashamed non-conformist, small business advocate. Kyokushin Black Belt. Fighting the good fight at Microbusiness Essentials

SEO is like flossing.

Sure, you know you should be doing it and that it’s important. Yet the whole idea behind having a business blog is to help your site’s SEO. What’s the point if you’re not leveraging your blog to increase your sites rankings?

According to SEO expert Neil Patel, “blogs bring in more traffic. Businesses that blog regularly generate 55% more visitors to their sites than those that don’t.”

Most small business owners can’t afford to hire experts or full-time webmasters to handle their sites SEO. The good news is that even the most clueless business owner can start increasing their SEO with a tool that guide you through the process. And you don’t have to be a tech wizard to use them.

Here’re a few easy SEO tools to help your business blog get noticed:

 

Serpstat: Helps You Answer the Right Questions

 

Although Serpstat is a multi-use SEO tool, one of the best features for business blogging is the Search Suggestions feature. It helps you create helpful content for your blog that your readers will easy find and value.

With a simple keyword like “buy laptop” you can see what questions people are Googling. For example, “why buy a laptop instead of an iPad” is asked by a large number of users. You could easily create a relevant blog post answering that exact question. This tool not only helps you improve your SEO but also your brand’s overall image. You’ll be seen as helpful and valuable, and as a credible authority figure in your industry.

 

 

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Moz Toolbar: Helps You Understand the Numbers

 

The numbers behind SEO can be complex. Moz has an awesome toolbar that shows a few key stats from your website. For example, PA is your individual page authority and DA is your domain authority. Both are calculated by several website factors including follow/no-follow links and Google rankings.

There is both a free and premium version of the Moz Toolbar for both Chrome and FireFox. Moz also has great instructions and best-practice articles that will help you understand and improve your website’s statistics in a very easy way. It’s a great option for new business owners who want to try something easy that’s also useful.

 

 

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Google Trends: Helps You Know What’s Hot

 

While this isn’t a traditional SEO tool, Google Trends is the go-to place to understand exactly what’s hot right this minute. Since Google is the most popular search engine in the world, we can easily see what Google users are searching for.

You can search by country or categories including business, tech, health, entertainment and top stories. You can also see the exact keywords people are using, interest by subregion (on a handy map), the interest over time, and also related searches.

This information can help you create relevant content for your site. For example, let’s say you have a pet-related business blog. The search term World’s Ugliest Dog Contest‬‬ is trending today and this could inspire a post that relates to this topic. Of course, you still have to create valuable and relevant content, but Google Trends gives you an idea of exactly what people want to read today.

 

 

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Small Steps into SEO

 

Stop putting SEO on the back burner. There’s help for clueless business blogger – it just takes a little patience and practice.

There are lots of simple, easy and affordable tools that allow you to ease your way into SEO. You’re already creating content for your business’s blog, so why not take a little time to create better content that will help your site’s Google rankings?

Follow Liesha Petrovich on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lieshapetrovich

Here’s 6 Tips to Make Your Business Writing More Effective!

Here’s 6 Tips to Make Your Business Writing More Effective!

Like it or not Small Business Owners are required to do a lot of writing.  It’s not as hard as you think.  Here’s 6 tips to help you along.

EFFECTIVE BUSINESS WRITING: THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAIN LANGUAGE

MARKETING & SALES

When running a business, it is important to be aware of how you communicate with your customers, your staff, your investors, and your suppliers. Your written materials, from your business plan to your marketing, are often the first encounter a person has with your company.  It is therefore important to make sure that your writing is clear, and that it is relatable.

As is the nature of small business, one of the essentials skills you must learn is the speed factor. You need to get your message across quickly and in a way that is easy to understand. This is where the principles of plain language come into play.

What Does Plain Language Mean?

Plain language means keeping your writing clear and succinct. It means removing the content that detracts the reader from your message.

For example:

“His report outlined three issues: a lack of high paying clients, conversions, and return customers.”

Is much more effective than:

“His report to upper management delineated that the issues of the day were threefold. These included observations about the influx of low level prospects, a lack of effective conversions, and an inability to attract return patronage”

6 Ways to Simplify your Business Writing

Here are three simple ways to simplify your language:

  1. Remember Your Audience. Does your audience know as much as you do about your area of expertise? Probably not, so remember to keep things simple. With this in mind, you should:
    • Drop the jargon. Remove phrases like “burn rate”, “touch base”, and “paradigm shifters”
    • Replace inflated language with simple words. For example “transpired” means “happened”, “paradigm” means “ideal”, and “conundrum” is just a fancy word for “problem”.
  2. Organization. Your message should always be presented in a sequential, logical, step-by-step manner to make it is easy to follow.
  3. Use Active Voice. Make it clear who is doing what. Sentences should be “we will do this to achieve X” rather than “the company will achieve X by doing Y”
  4. Use Clean Design.The presentation of your message is just as important as the words you use. Effective use of white space, headlines, subheadings, colour, font, images – are all elements that can either support your message, or distract from it.
  5. Minimize Long Blocks of Text. Help your reader digest the information you are presenting in small chunks whenever possible. Break long paragraphs into shorter ones with subheadings, and make sentences no longer than 20 words.
  6. Use Tables, Charts, and Examples. For information that is complex or data that needs to be analyzed, remember to include helpful visual aids or examples.

By keeping these tips in mind, your business writing will become more clear, readable, and easy to understand. The result? Customers who flock to your business because they want to utilize use your services.

TAGGED → CONTENT MARKETING

Why is Story Telling Different from Story Building?

Why is Story Telling Different from Story Building?

Here is the ugly truth.  Whether we like it or not, as small business owners we are in the marketing business.  People will not beat down your doors.  If you want sales, you have to find a way to motivate potential customers. 

One way to do this is to tell your story.  However, there is a difference between story telling and story building.  Attached is a great post from Duct Tape Marketing telling us how to build a great story by asking some great questions. 

Help me out here.  I am a small business owner trying to take my business to the next level just like you.   After you read the post, please pick one of the questions and post your answer in the reply section.  

By doing this, I can learn what interests you the most.  Then I can build informative posts on things that matter to you.  

Thank you in advance for your help. 

THE EXTRAORDINARY CRAFT OF STORY BUILDING

This post is part of a creative marketing series sponsored by HP

One of my favorite Mister Rogers quotes goes like this: “It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story.” I love this idea because I think it delivers a powerful business lesson.

storybuilder

Image Salim Virji via Flickr

People connect with stories that move them and most every business can and should tell a story that helps prospects and customers connect at a deeper level. I truly believe the Internet, while making it easy to find information, has left us craving real connections, with real people, and the companies they serve.

Your marketing story should be one of the primary messages communicated in your printed marketing materials and throughout your web presence. I had a plumbing client years ago that printed his marketing story on the back of his invoices because he wanted remind his clients of the role his entire family played in his business.

A carefully crafted marketing story is a tool that can serve any organization trying to break through the clutter and connect with new markets.

However, most of the advice written about the use of a personal marketing story revolves around creating and telling compelling stories and while I ,do believe that the best leaders are great storytellers, I believe the new reality of marketing asks us to become great storybuilders.

The difference may seem subtle, but it embraces that fact that we must involve our customers and influencers in the creation of our business and our story.

  • We must include our vision for the future, but that vision should be a shared vision.
  • We must know everything we can about the goals, hopes and dreams of a very narrowly defined ideal client. (Super big bonus if you’re the client ie: I am a small business owners trying to take my business to the next level, I target small business owners trying to take their business to the next level.)
  • We must frame our story with a message that addresses the desires, challenges and unmet needs of this market.
  • We must involve customers in the finishing of the story by making their real life experiences central to the character development.

If you want to take this next giant step in evolution of your marketing in a way that turns your customers and prospects into collaboration partners and storybuilders sit down with a handful of your ideal customers and ask them the following questions with an eye on developing an extraordinary marketing story.

  • What do you know about where this business is going that no one could know?
  • What is your industry’s greatest flaw?
  • If your business could choose a new identity, what would it be?
  • What is your favorite customer story?
  • What is your secret wish for your business?
  • What is the greatest challenge your business must overcome?
  • What is your greatest fear for your business?
  • What is your greatest achievement/disappointment?
  • What about your childhood shaped you for this moment?
  • What choices have you made that you regret?

It may take some guts to pose questions like this to your best customers, but do it and you’ll be on your way to builder a relationship that can’t be penetrated by a competitors low cost offers.

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5 Excellent Ways to Shape Your EMail Marketing

5 Excellent Ways to Shape Your EMail Marketing

As small business owners, we often hear that email marketing is dead.  Actually, it’s not only alive and well, it’s one of the most effective marketing tools available.  Here is an excellent article telling exactly why you should be using it. 

5 WAYS TO MAKE AN EMAIL NEWSLETTER YOUR BEST SALES TOOL

email newsletterNo matter how enamored you may be with social media, email still outpunches just about every tool out there when it comes to cost effective lead conversion.

Now, done correctly, what this really means is effectively using email communication in conjunction with efforts to produce educational content, amplify content throughout social media channels and turn Twitter followers into email subscribers.

It’s integration as much as anything that makes email work, but there are a handful of things that you need to do to get the most out of the email component of the mix.

Grab Attention

It’s not enough to have an email subscribe form tucked into the sidebar of your home page. If you’ve got a great offer to put in front of your visitors you need to make it impossible to ignore, without being obnoxious.

A new breed of popups makes grabbing visitor attention and turning it into email list subscribing almost pleasing. I’ve been experimenting with a rather new WordPress plugin called Pippity.

Once installed and configured this tool will note when you have a visitor that has not been offered your email subscription and briefly take over the screen to make them an offer. The visitor still has lots of control over the screen, but this tool positions your list in a way that’s hard to ignore.

I know there are some that don’t like this tactic, but Pippity gives you so much control, including A/B testing, that you can fine tune the tool’s use to make it work for you. Like it or not, with the right offer, most people see 300-400% jumps in subscribers using this kind of approach. (One tip: Turn it off for mobile browsers, as there’s no way to make it a pleasant experience on a mobile.)

Exchange Value

Giving people a reason to subscribe is even more important than simply grabbing their attention. In order to get willing subscribers these days you must sell the value of what you have to offer and most likely exchange something like a free ebook or report that sounds too good to miss right at the point of subscription.

The act of giving an email address comes with a price these days because all of our email inboxes are jammed. Your free stuff better sound as good as most people’s paid stuff if you want to get subscribers.

Of course, this also means that you need to keep the value exchange high if you expect to keep subscribers. Turning email subscribers into paying customers is not a one-time event; it’s accomplished through a process of building trust over time.

No matter what time frame you choose to offer your email newsletter, once a week or once a month, each issue should be something that people look forward to. It’s great to have a large list, but if less than 10% actually open your emails then you won’t get much return on your efforts.

Serve Snacks

I’ve been producing a weekly email newsletter just about every week since some time in 2002 and I’ve played with different formats, different content, and different ways to present information.

A great deal of what I’ve always tried to do is evolve with overall communication trends and my best advice is that you subscribe to lots of newsletters and pay attention to how others present information and how they change their presentation over time.

Currently, my newsletter format is designed to offer several compelling article abstracts grouped into a set of topics that I believe my readers expect from me. I author about 50% of the content and then hand select a couple blog posts from blogs I read that related.

When I switched to this snack sized, scannable format, I immediately noted that my response and engagement increased dramatically.

Be Sharable

Smart marketers have always employed tools that made it easier for people to share their email newsletter with friends, but these days that means making your content easy to share in social media as well.

Most email service providers have added social media sharing options that you can embed in your content so that a reader could tweet that they just read your article.

The content itself must exist online in order to use this most effectively. Most service providers also allow you to create an online archive version of your newsletter and I recommend you use this approach to socialize your content sent via email.

Go Solo

Once your readers come to appreciate your valuable newsletter content you may earn the right to send them offers. This is something that takes a little bit of experimentation and you can certainly erode trust by sending too many offers or sending offers that just don’t make sense.

While you can mix an offer or two into your regular email newsletter format, I’ve found that sending the occasional offer for a product, program or even joint venture with a product or service you truly believe in, using what is called a solo email is the best approach.

A solo email is designed to do only one thing, deliver the story and make a case for your offer. This can be a straight out offer to buy something or even an announcement for a free online seminar where you intend to make an offer, but it must be about one thing and one thing only.

Let me repeat, sending offers is something you earn, just like earning the subscriber in the first place. You must take care that you treat this trust with respect or you will lose it. Keep the value of your offers as high as the value of your content and your readers will appreciate getting both.

My recommended list of email service providers. (Each allows you to accomplish the things mentioned in this article)

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10 Key Elements Needed to Build Your Own Website

10 Key Elements Needed to Build Your Own Website

Are you a small business owner  who is considering building a website?  Don’t be fooled by those offering a free “one size fits all” deal.  Doing it yourself requires paying attention to these critical elements outlined in the attached post.

Building Your First Website? Here Are 10 Key Elements You Should Consider First

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What makes a great website?

Forget Hamlet and all that “to be or not to be” nonsense – how to build a great website is the real question that many web designers, developers, bloggers, and website owners have struggled with. There is no magical recipe or a one-size-fits-all solution, as the definition of a “great website” can depend on various factors, like your skills, budget, and niche.

However, there are a few general guidelines and practices that you should consider on your quest to build a great website. I’ve presented them here in the form of bite-sized tips. You can use them as a checklist to help you optimize and launch your first website. If some of these tips seem like common sense, that’s because they are.

A great website is not detached from reality; it makes the most of its platform’s limitations and accommodates the needs of its audience. Here’s what you need to make it:

Clear Vision and Purpose

What’s the purpose of your website? Why are you making it?

Every website planning session should start with these questions, and yield straightforward answers in the end. Your mission should be clear to the visitors of your website.

If you’re selling a service or a product, focus on it. If you’re trying to establish yourself in a niche, implement some tried-and-true ways to achieve that. Creating a personal blog about your interests? Clearly state what they are.

Your visitors should never have to guess what the website is about.

Smart, Content-Aware Planning

While you’re still in the planning stage, think about what kind of content you want to produce, and decide what will be your website’s flagship content. Then, design your website around that choice, so that it adapts to the type of content.

Are you a photographer who wants to create an online portfolio? Build a gallery-style website with support for high-resolution images. Do you just want to write a blog? Don’t waste time building from scratch, use an existing blogging platform likeTumblr or WordPress. If all you need is a simple landing page, you could try anUnbounceInstapage or Pagewiz template.

Dynamic SEO Strategy

Content and design are two fundamental elements of every website. Useful, engaging, and shareable content drives visitors to your website, while attractive, functional design makes it easy and enjoyable to consume the content. But to get to your website, people have to find it first, which is why you have to optimize your keywords, titles and topics for search engines.

The “dynamic” part of the story means that you can’t just set up a plugin and trust it to do everything for you. SEO is a process, an activity that requires effort and a lot of continuous research. Track your traffic, measure engagement and learn what brings people to your website.

Keep up with search engine algorithm updates and keyword optimization trends. In short, make sure your strategy can be quickly modified or changed if it becomes necessary. And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t make your content sound like it was written by a robot!

If you are planning on building your site with WordPress, we have previously published a comprehensive SEO guide for beginners, you should check it out.

High-Quality Stock Materials

The Web of today is predominantly visual, and you wouldn’t be wrong if you said that images are as important as written content. They complement the text, break it up to keep the reader interested, and provide additional information in the form of diagrams, screenshots, and infographics.

While you could always create your own graphics, sometimes you won’t have enough time or inspiration, which is why it’s important to find a reliable source of stock materials. You could try PhotoDune for high quality stock images andGraphicRiver for stock graphics. Another option is to hire a professional for completely tailor-made graphics.

Wherever you source imagery, just make sure to attribute images properly and to check if the license allows you to use them for commercial purposes.

Flawless Performance

A great website doesn’t only look right; it also works right. Frequent downtime, broken links and server errors can damage the reputation of your website and drive the visitors away. One of the most important steps in the website building process is choosing a good hosting service.

Ideally, it should offer several pricing plans so that you can pick the one that suits you best, and come bundled with handy tools and support for website maintenance. You can also improve the speed of your website by optimizing images for the Web and tweaking the options of your CMS (but only if you know what you’re doing!).

If you would like to learn more about optimising images for the web, Ben Smithett has published a comprehensive post here.

Responsive Layout

Layout is one of those elements that can make or break the visitor’s impression of your website. It should be eye-catching yet uncluttered, and present your content in a logical way. You don’t have to stick to a traditional top-down paradigm – feel free to experiment and create unconventional website layouts. Grids are a popular choice these days, and they are relatively easy to customize.

If you’re building a website with WordPress, you can choose from hundreds of fantastic pre-made themes with all kinds of layouts. Another solution is to use aresponsive landing page template that will look great on mobile and convert well.

You should also consider responsive design. The principles of responsive design boil down to a layout that scales across devices and looks equally amazing on computers, tablets and smartphone screens. By having a responsive layout, you will save yourself the trouble of creating separate “mobile” versions of the website, and maybe a few coins, too.

Sensible Navigation

Navigation goes hand in hand with the layout, so it makes sense to work on them at the same time.

Essentially, menus should not be confusing or complicated. Avoid too many sub-menus with multiple levels, and keep the main navigation visible and easily accessible. When you start creating content for your website, think about how you want to categorize and tag it. Make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for by including a search field in a prominent part of the website.

Smart, Content-Aware Planning

Adding a sitemap is also a good idea. On the other hand, don’t add a footer just for the sake of it – instead, make it contain useful information. Which brings us to the next point…

All the Information

If your website doesn’t contain relevant information about you, your company and/or product, and your mission, it’s not a great website. Who are you? Where is your company based? Which products and services do you offer, and under what conditions? How can people contact you? Remember that all this information is important to your visitors, and it helps you establish your brand.

Provide simple contact forms, general information about your business, and an unambiguous privacy policy. Describe your terms of service and include a FAQ page. If you’re an author or a blogger, why not create an entire “About Me” page? It can double as a portfolio or a collection of links to your previously published works.

Visual and Typographic Flow

Throughout this text, you might have noticed that tweaking the visual components of a website has been emphasized as extremely important. The reason for this is simple: a great website is a careful balance of quality content, a functional, optimized backend, and an attractive design. In other words, you can write the best blog posts in the world, but if your website is slow and looks like something from the 1990s, it will be hard for you to reach a wide audience.

Visual and Typographic Flow

Luckily, making a website pleasant to read is not as hard as it might seem. There are many free, online tools to help you build color schemes and learn about color theory. Likewise, it’s not that hard to figure out the basics of typography.

There are many tutorials and resources that will teach you about optimizing font size, choosing the right line spacing, and establishing a vertical rhythm. In the end, it’s all about flow and harmony – a great website is a whole whose parts fit together perfectly.

Backup and Automation

Let’s say you did it – you’ve created a great website. You’ve poured in hours and hours of hard, creative work, and you’re extremely happy with the result. The last thing you need is to lose it all.

But as you probably already know, accidents can happen, and it’s too easy to lose data. That’s why you have to prevent it by doing regular backups of your website. You don’t have to do it manually; in fact, most website maintenance tasks can be automated, and you should make use of some great tools, plugins and code snippets available for free.

Moreover, similar products exist to help you optimize, clean up, and generate HTML and CSS code, and if you ever get stuck in your web development endeavors, you can consult these handy cheat-sheets.

Of course, you’ll find countless similar advice-dishing lists on the Web. It’s up to you to decide which suggestions you’ll embrace – after all, it’s your website. Perhaps the most important aspect of a great website is that you, as its owner and creator, are satisfied with it.

To get to that point, you don’t have to follow all the rules; in fact, sometimes it might be better to break a few. Just remember what Shakespeare wrote: “All’s well that ends well.”

Over to You

How does your website measure up against these criteria for a great website? Are there any more factors that you would add? Please share your thinking in the comment box below.

Daniel Katz

Avoiding the 7 Blunders of Internet Marketing

Avoiding the 7 Blunders of Internet Marketing

If you’re a small business owner today, you are led to believe if you just put up a website, a Facebook page, or send out a bunch of emails, success is automatic.  I’m sorry to tell you, nothing could be further from the truth.  Read the attached post to find the 7 deadly mistakes many small business owners make. 

7 Small Business Internet Marketing Blunders

The reality, of course, is very different. The Internet is a tremendously competitive marketplace. To be successful, you need to be able to connect with prospects faster and more efficiently than your competition.

It’s easy to make mistakes along the way. Here are some of the most common small business Internet marketing blunders we’ve seen:

1. Creating a static site

Some small business owners get excited about creating their website. They spend weeks tweaking and designing, just to get everything in place. Then, once the site is launched, it sits unchanged. This is a big mistake, for several reasons. First of all, the search engines like fresh content. If you’re not regularly publishing something to your site (for example through a weekly blog post) your rankings will fall. In addition, there tends to always be at least some timely information on your site. If a potential customer visits your site and sees a listing of monthly specials for six months ago, she’s not coming back to the site again anytime soon.

2. Testing too little

Just because you think a site looks good, is easy to navigate, and will increase sales or leads doesn’t mean that’s the case. You need to be smart about testing out your site’s various elements. The same holds true for a given marketing tactic. Simply purchasing pay-per-click ads for some random keywords isn’t nearly as effective as testing out various keywords to see which offer you the most positive results.

3. Keeping design and content creation in-house

Design and content creation can be expensive, there’s no doubt. However, the fact is that there are verifiable advantages to relying on experts to do what they do best. Just like you hire a reliable accountant to handle your books, you need to hire reliable developers to help frame your Internet presence. Fortunately, with outsourcing sites abounding, you have many options when it comes to finding talented individuals to hire on a contract basis.

4. Spreading social media marketing efforts too thin.

Social media is one of the hottest areas of Internet marketing right now. It’s easy, however, to just fire a barrage of ammunition at all of the various social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. A small business should have a presence at each of those sites, but you need to concentrate your efforts where they can do the most good. For example, some businesses will want to focus almost exclusively on LinkedIn, especially if you’re mostly a b2b endeavor. If your business has lots of products and images, you’ll probably want to utilize Facebook. Those who are in a service-related business might have the best luck with Twitter. You can experiment with the various sites, but ultimately you want to focus in and concentrate your efforts on one or two sites.

5. Paying for ads

Pay-per-click advertising isn’t always a bad thing. That said, there are so many other more effective and less expensive Internet marketing models. Ad campaigns can be a part of an overall Internet marketing strategy, but they should never be the centerpiece or the only piece.

6. Ignoring local search

More people looking for local businesses turn to Google today than turn to the phone book. Your small business needs to take advantage of that fact, and the best way to do so is via local search optimization. Even if you have a business that doesn’t rely primarily on business from a single geographic area, you can still benefit by targeting some larger geographic markets.

7. Forgetting to evaluate

You need to keep all of your marketing efforts (not just your Internet marketing efforts) under constant scrutiny. If you can’t demonstrate verifiably that your Internet marketing efforts are increasing your bottom line, then you probably need to change strategies. Internet marketing, just like offline marketing, should always keep ROI in mind.

The Internet offers all sorts of opportunities to businesses, and not just large corporations. Avoiding these common mistakes is the first step in putting the power of the Internet to work for your business.

About the Author

Benji Hyam is a Social Media Coordinator at Vistage International, an executive coaching organization that helps CEO members build better companies through unique business coaching and executive development opportunities.

What’s Keeping 52% of Small Businesses Off the Internet.

What’s Keeping 52% of Small Businesses Off the Internet.

If 70% of buyers do research on the web before they buy, then why do 52% of Small Businesses lack a website? I believe there are two reasons and one of them is not money.

What are the Barriers?

In my opinion the barriers are time and knowledge.

Most Small Business Owners simply don’t have the time to learn how to build and maintain a website in addition to running a successful business.

But, the biggest barrier is knowledge. What I mean here is not knowledge in the usual sense. Rather it’s the wall of techno-babble small business owners encounter when they try to learn how to promote their business on the Internet.

Surprisingly, money is not a barrier. The cost to acquire and maintain a website is only $400 to $500 per year tops, if you do it yourself.

Why is Internet Presence Critical?

 If 70% of buyers do research on the web, and your business or service isn’t there, you won’t be found. Worse, you have no chance at those clients. You are invisible to them

According to Reiva Lesonsky, CEO of GroBiz Media, “If you don’t have a website, your business will become increasingly invisible, until it vanishes altogether.”

Why Today’s Customer’s are Different.

 People don’t want to be sold. But, they do want to be educated.

So, as a small business owner today, your job is not to sell, it’s to educate your potential customer or client.

Using Content Marketing as a tactic in your marketing strategy, you make your potential client or customer aware of who you are. Once they are aware, hopefully they will come to like you and trust you.

People buy from people they know and trust.

 Why Conventional Advertising Doesn’t Work!

 Conventional advertising falls down on two counts. The first is cost. The second, and in my opinion the most important, is the content is fixed. It’s the same message over and over. After a while, potential customers just tune you out.

Today’s customers want new, evolving information that’s relevant to them. The Internet is ideal for this because you can provide a constant flow of changing information at very low cost.

 What’s the Bottom Line?

 Ten years ago, a website was a novelty. Today it’s a necessity.

If you are a Small Business Owner your biggest challenge is acquiring new customers.

There are customers out there who want to do business with you, but they don’t know who you are.

Don’t let the Techno-Babble get in the way. There are resources available explaining this process in plain English.

Invest the time, do the research, get on the Internet, and your business will thrive.

StephenFettersSelfieCheck out my website at  www.successfulcontentmarketing.com

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