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10 Reasons a Small Business Blog is Worth it

10 Reasons a Small Business Blog is Worth it

As small business owners we wonder whether blogging is worth the time and effort.  After all, our days are filled with enough activity as it is.  Here’s a great post by Jeff Charles giving you 10 great reasons why you need to do this.

10 Important Reasons to Work Seriously On Your Small Business Blog

Jul 19, 2016 by Jeff Charles In Marketing Tips 2

 


10 Important Reasons to Work Seriously On Your Small Business Blog

 

How the heck do they do it?

You know who I’m talking about. I’m talking about those successful small business entrepreneurs who get tons of business and engagement online.

Sure, they hustle just as much as you do. They attend the same networking events. But there’s a difference.

They seem to have much more business than you do. They’re closing more deals. They’re generating more leads through their website.

So what’s the difference between you and them?

They’re probably blogging. They’re probably using their small business blog to build an online audience that is engaged with their brand.

If you’re a small business entrepreneur or solopreneur, you have probably heard of content marketing, right? No doubt you’ve heard of the importance of creating valuable content for your website. But maybe you haven’t taken that first step yet.

A small business blog is one of the most-used and effective content marketing tools at your disposal. Simply put, if you’re not blogging, you’re leaving money on the table.

Here’s some stats for you:

  • Marketers that use blogs get 67 percent more leads than those who don’t.
  • 81 percent of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs.
  • Companies that blog have 97 percent more inbound links.
  • 61 percent of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog.
  • 60 percent of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its site.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to consider how you’re connecting with your audience. Since you might not have the huge marketing budget of a mega-corporation, you will have to use other means to build and connect with your audience.

One of the best ways to do this is by blogging. It’s been shown to be highly effective at generating quality leads for your business.

Many business owners overlook the potential rewards that blogging can provide. But you’re a savvy entrepreneur, so you’re not going to make this mistake, are you?

This post is going to give you ten benefits that a small business blog can provide for your business. When you read through this post, you will learn various ways you can use your blog to generate more business, earn more credibility and make it easier for prospects to find you online.

Why You Should Have a Small Business Blog

1. Market Research

Having a blog with many articles allows you to more effectively understand what your audience really wants. From the back end of your site, you can spy on what pages people are viewing the most, and this gives you an idea of where their interest lies. When you know what types of content perform the best, you know what types of content to continue to create.

Also, you can use your blog to request feedback from your audience. If you have an engaged following, it’s very likely that they will be happy to answer the questions you have.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

As you probably know, there’s not much of a point to having a killer website if nobody can find it. One of the biggest keys to getting more traffic is making sure that people will find your site when they use search engines. As a  matter of fact, search engines are the no. 1 driver of traffic to content websites! SEO is something that you can’t ignore if you want to have a viable online presence.

The more relevant content you have on your website, the more likely it will be that you will rank for certain keywords. This is where a small business blog comes in. Consistently publishing high-quality content on your blog will do wonders for your search engine optimization efforts.

When you produce useful content, Google’s algorithms will rank your site higher. Over time, your site will make its way to the front page of search results. Not only that, but when people read high-quality content, they’re more likely to link back to it. Earning quality backlinks from other high-authority blogs will do wonders for your SEO efforts.

3. Customer Engagement

Engagement is immensely important for any online business. It’s not enough to just create great content. You also need to interact with your audience as much as you can. You can’t have any success by just talking at your audience. You need to have ongoing conversations with them. It will help you know your audience better. It will help your audience know you better.

That’s what you want.

If you enable comments on your small business blog, you can discuss topics and get feedback directly. This can tell you a lot about your customer base. Not only that. It shows your audience that you are interested in interacting with them. This will increase loyalty and help you form a deeper connection with your audience.

4. Communicating Your Mission

One of the most important components of effective branding is purpose. Connecting with your audience means embracing a unique brand perspective that can give your audience something they can connect with on an emotional level.

This is where blogging comes in.

Your blog is a place where you can communicate your brand purpose. This is important because establishing a strong brand is an important part of encouraging customer loyalty. When you communicate a brand purpose that goes beyond what you sell, it helps you stand out from your competition.

For example, if you are a business that sells vegan meat substitutes, you can express your brand’s purpose by posting animal welfare material on your site. This shows your audience that your company is focused on something more than just making money.

5. Communicating With Customers

If there’s something going on with your service — for example, there will be a planned outage or lack of availability — you don’t have to keep your clients in the dark. Having a centralized place to post announcements is extremely important because people don’t always read their email.

6. You Can Offer Promotional Material

A small business blog is also a great place to offer occasional promotions. If you already have an engaged audience that consumes your content, they will be able to see what discounts or promotions you are offering. It’s a great way to keep your customer base informed.

Sure, you can spread your coupons around Facebook, but it’s better to get into the habit of compelling your audience to visit you at your own site, especially if it’s an ecommerce site. Keep them coming back for more by posting your promotions on your blog.

Here’s a caveat: you don’t want to overdo this. While blogs can be great for offering promotions, it shouldn’t be used solely for this purpose. Most of your content should focus on offering informational value to your readers. If you only post promotional content, your audience will not continue to visit your blog.

7. Showing Your Human Side

People want to know that there are actual human beings behind the business that they buy from. Post some personal stories and talk to your customers through your blog.

This is an opportunity for you to let your personality shine through. When you’re writing blog posts, don’t smack your reader in the head with a bunch of “corporatespeak.” Nobody wants to read that. No really, they don’t!

It’s much better to write in an informal style that people can relate to. When it comes to blogging, it’s not just about what you say, it’s about how you say it.

8. You Can Become a Source of Value

The key to effective blogging is providing value. Nobody is going to read your content unless they get something out of it, right?

If you want to build influence, you have to be valuable. You can do this by providing helpful information to your readers through your blog.

Arjun Reddy, the founder of Super Baby, builds credibility with his website’s “resources” section by giving actionable tips to his visitors.

“Our visitors are parents who are looking for fun ways to help their children become smarter. The advice we give in our resources section is designed to provide helpful parenting tips for our readers.”

The reason Reddy is enjoying success is because he’s providing value up front. When you do this, you show your potential clients that you are valuable to them. That’s why content marketing works. When you’re creating content, you should be asking yourself what your reader is going to get out of that particular piece of content. Each piece of content should be designed to inform, educate, or entertain. If possible, you should do all three!

9. Networking!

When you have built an audience and gained some notoriety, it can attract other entrepreneurs to you. For an entrepreneur, networking is important, isn’t it?

If you’re able to grow your readership effectively, you will gain more credibility. This will attract other influencers in your niche. You never know who might be paying attention right?

This could lead to other opportunities for your business. You might be able to take advantage of the key relationships that you form through your small business blog.

10. Building Credibility

Having a small business blog gives you a presence in your niche. A blog is a record of quality value and experience that you are bringing to your audience. This will give you instant “street cred” when someone finds your content.

Lissette Palencia, CEO of Sleeping Angels has built a steady stream of clientele by using her blog to provide valuable information to her website’s visitors.

“As you can guess, when you run a nanny agency, your clients are parents who are concerned about the safety of their children. They want to do the research first. When they visit our website, they find tons of valuable information that helps them make the right decision for their family. Not only does it inform them, it makes them more comfortable with doing business us.”

This is essential for your business. Your blog is a tool that you can use to establish credibility in the minds of your potential clients. Prospects will read your content and gain value from it. Then, they will become far more willing to buy from you because you have already given them a significant benefit through your blog.

Conclusion

Here’s the thing. If you’re looking to expand your online presence, you need to be creating high-quality content on a consistent basis. A blog is one of the best ways to do this.

These are just a few reasons to keep a blog if you’re an entrepreneur, but there are much more. Just remember that anything that can bring value to your audience is something that you should consider adding to your business.

If you’d like to see more on this and other topics for small business owners, just sign up for my emails by filling in the form in the right hand column.

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

Need to Write Engaging Content? Here’s 12 Tips

Need to Write Engaging Content? Here’s 12 Tips

So, you’re a small business owner.  And, you’ve got a blog (or an E newsletter).  Congratulations. 

Then you wake up and realize you have just added content writer to your job description.  How are you going to add fresh content in every post? 

Here’s a post with 12 tips to get you started. 

12 Tips For Writing Engaging Content For Readers

Are you not getting any readership?

Why?

Because your content is not engaging!

In this post I’ll tell you 12 Tips For Writing Engaging Content For Readers. So read from top to toe! 😉

12 Tips For Writing Engaging Content For Readers

After reading your posts, your audience should feel like hanging around to ask questions, agree, disagree and see what else you’ve got to say. After all, we’re talking potential long term relationships here. Try these 12 Tips For Writing Engaging Content For Readers and you’re halfway towards bagging that customer.

Tips For Writing Engaging Content For Readers!

1. Pose Engaging Questions

At the end of a post, pose a brain-stimulating question. Make them ponder, make them wonder and churn those grey cells to figure out what you want. The idea is to put your site and business fully into your reader’s head so that they come back for more. One of the best ways to achieve this is by stimulating their thought process.

2. Put Out An Ethical Conundrum

Do you feel celebrities are doing good by adopting children from poor African countries? Should those children be taken away from their families just because they can have a better quality of life in the US? That’s an ethical conundrum right there. Put something like that out there in your post and motivate your readers to comment and argue amongst themselves.

3. Get Them To Offer Tips To Solve Something

It could be a problem that you’re facing, or something your customer is facing. It doesn’t matter. Write a post about it and open the door to your readers to contribute 5 unique tips each to combat the issue. In fact, make it a contest; publicly credit the reader with the best tips on your blog so that everyone can see.

4. Open The Door To Sharing

Share a personal problem you’ve experienced in a post and explain how you handled it. Then ask your readers to share how they would handle a similar situation. If you can get them to submit their thoughts in about 400 words or so, that’s a blog post you can use. With just one move, you manage to engage your readers plus get blog posts out of it.

Read : Top 10 Best Social Sharing Plugins For WordPress

5. Share Half A Story And Ask For Projected Outcomes

This is a spin-off from the old college game of spin the tale. Write a post detailing a problematic business or personal situation without detailing the final outcome. Ask your readers to contribute ideas for possible outcomes.  You can suggest some ideas from your side to motivate them along.

6. Start With An Engaging Opener

Your post opening should engage the reader from the word go. Remember, your readers can get all kinds of facts online. They don’t want another fact-spewing post. They want something that’ll ignite their curiosity, motivate their thought process and get them engaged. Make your opener funny, insightful, poky, witty and outrageous if need be.

 7. Make The Content Graphically Vivid

Paint a picture with your words, and draw people into the scene you’re painting. You don’t need to have Pulitzer-worthy authoring skills to do this. Just write in your speaking voice, as though you’re chatting up to your mates at the bar. Throw some adjectives and invectives in (watch out – no profanity!). Throw in some cultural flavor that reflects your background.

Read :  Short Length Post Vs Length Posts – What’s Best?

8. Use The Active Voice

Long, droning passive voice sentences are okay for legal docs and long procedural guides. When it comes to your blog post, keep the voice active. Your reader must be able to relate to the information you’re presenting in a live sense. The purpose will be totally defeated if your blog reads like old prose.

9. Use The First And Second Grammatical Person

It’s your blog; you’re talking to your readers – what’s with the third person? No more ‘they’ and ‘them’ and stuff. Write directly to your audience using first and second person only. This makes your reader feel closer to you and creates a virtual bond of familiarity.

10. Be Direct

Use active verbs instead of inactive verbs to deliver a direct, immediate and energetic impact. Instead of, “I was thinking how to address your issue”, write, “I am thinking about how to address your issue”. The difference is the directness of the tone and also the direct action mode.

11. Play With Words

There are many ways of writing what you want to say and it’s in your hands. For example, instead of saying, “I cannot put up with their holier than thou attitude anymore”, say “If I put up with their holier-than-thou attitude anymore, I’ll just call me a cow and be done with it”. I am sure you can come up with something funnier and more engaging.

12. Provide A Conclusion

Let’s face it; no one has tons of time to read every line of every post. Encapsulate the essence of your article in a short conclusion to help out these busy people. Your conclusion should ideally tie up your points together and provide a short glimpse of what the article is all about.

Read : 4 Reasons Your Blog Will Never Grow!

Over To you!

29 Reasons Email Should Be Your Top Marketing Tool

29 Reasons Email Should Be Your Top Marketing Tool

The biggest challenge we face as Small Business Owners is attracting new clients and customers.  How can we do this without breaking the bank?  

The surprising, simple answer is email.  

Done the right way, email can be a high touch way to build a list of people who are interested in you and your business. 

Here is a post listing 29 excellent reasons you should be using email as your top marketing tool. 

29 Reasons to Use Email Marketing (As Told by Small Business Owners)

 

 

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Deciding where to invest your marketing dollars isn’t a decision you take lightly.

You know you need to attract new customers and keep your existing clients coming back, but you can’t afford to invest time or resources into something that isn’t going to deliver the results you expect.

Email marketing is a cost-effective solution that gives you the power to reach customers in a place most people visit every day — their inbox.

There’s plenty of data to back up the benefits of email marketing. For example:

  • 91 percent of US adults like to receive promotional emails from companies they do business with (MarketingSherpa, 2015)
  • Email is almost 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined in helping your business acquire new customers. (McKinsey, 2014)

But if you really want to find out how email can work for your business, why not ask other small business owners and see how it worked for them?

We’re constantly on the lookout for the exciting and innovative ways our customers are using email marketing to build customer relationships and do more business.

Here are 29 of our favorite examples of how small businesses and organizations have benefited from email marketing:

1. Build credibility

People do business with people they know, like, and trust. Email gives you the ability to build credibility with your audience by sharing helpful and informative content.

“For years, in large part to the newsletter I think, I’ve never had trouble attracting new clients and the right kinds of clients. People will read my newsletter and be able to tell if I’m the right person for the project before they even call me.”

Tom Ahern, founder of Ahern Donor Communications

Constant Contact customer since 2006

Learn more: How to Create a Newsletter that Builds Credibility and Shows Off Your Expertise

2. Generate calls

When done right, email marketing lets you reach the right person, with the right offer, at the right time. For a business like Rejuvenate Therapeutic Massage, a well-timed email results in a flood of calls each time they hit send.

“Email is our prime mode of communication. We rely really heavily on it because whenever I send something out, I’ll get a flood of telephone calls.”

Victor Terrazas, owner of Rejuvenate Therapeutic Massage

Constant Contact customer since 2013

Learn more: How One Wellness Center Uses Constant Contact and MINDBODY to Connect with Clients and Drive Business

3. Increase donations

As fundraising efforts continue to move online, nonprofits need to adapt their outreach efforts as well. Texas-based nonprofit, Rescued Pets Movement, saw the benefit of using email to increase donations when they sent an email to raise emergency funds for a dog in need in March 2013.

“We sent a plea out to our database, explaining the situation and asking for help. Our audience knows that we only send these types of emails when we really need to, which is why these always get the most clicks and shares. The response was amazing; we raised over $10,000 from individual donors and were able to get her the help she needed.”

Laura Carlock, founder of Rescued Pets Movement

Constant Contact customer since 2013

Learn more: 4 Steps to Creating an Email Strategy that Drives Action

4. Strengthen relationships

If you want to build strong customer relationships, it’s important to have an effective tool to communicate with the people who matter most to your business. Email gives you the ability to stay top-of-mind and keep people engaged with your business during your busy season and the slower times of the year.

“Being able to get our message out there is important to us. It gives the members a feeling of being included. They know what’s going on with the gym and know that they aren’t just a number on a list.”

Nicole Sanders, founder of Ladimax Sports and Fitness

Constant Contact customer since 2014

Learn more: How to Choose the Perfect Email Template

5. Improve communication

If your business depends on having a reliable way to communicate with your members and clients, you need to have a communication channel you can trust. For real estate management company, Buccini/Pollin Group, email has provided a reliable solution to keep tenants informed and up-to-date.

“We’ve had people say that they’ve really noticed that there’s more communication going on. It can be something small – maybe the garage doors aren’t going up or down – we try to send out an email right away letting our residents know that’s happening, and sometimes get an email right back saying thank you and that they appreciate it.”

Julia Mason, residential marketing manager for Buccini/Pollin Group

Constant Contact customer since 2014

Learn more: How a Business Transformed Its Marketing to Meet the Needs of Its Customers

6. Build your brand

With email, you can strengthen brand recognition with new and potential clients, and extend your reach when people forward or share your message with a friend.

“The emails are an important reinforcement of brand. I get calls from people I’ve never met all the time. They get the newsletter, or a friend of theirs gets the newsletter, and they know I’m the person to call. It really helps establish credibility upfront.”

Brandon Stewart, realtor at David Griffin & Company Realtors

Constant Contact customer since 2009

Learn more: How to Turn Your Email Newsletters into Prime Real Estate

7. Boost sales

When you have an audience of people who are interested in receiving updates from your business, you’ll be able to think differently about how you boost sales throughout the year. This has been especially valuable for a business like Colorado-based Allegria Spa, which communicates with local residents and visitors from around the country.

“It has definitely been the easiest way to reach people. If we have a slower day and know that we want to reach local people, we can create a quick email and will get at least a few calls right away. The response is immediate.”

Christine Copertino, spa director for Allegria Spa

Constant Contact customer since 2011

Learn more: From Snail Mail to Email: How One Spa Made the Switch to Digital and Saw Great Results

8. Learn what works

Email marketing gives you the metrics you need to see how your emails are performing. These insights help you market smarter, and also give you the advantage of better understanding the needs and interests of your customer base.

“Email has definitely helped us with web traffic and attendance at our events. I like that after I send an email out, I can go back and see how many people clicked through on which links. That way I can tell people are interacting with our content and click through to our website.”

Ally Whittaker, public relations manager for The Local Good

Constant Contact customer since 2009

Learn more: 5 Steps to Grow an Email Audience that Looks Forward to Hearing from You

9. Get started quickly

With email marketing software like Constant Contact, you’ll have the tools and training you need to get started quickly — regardless of your level of marketing experience or expertise. When you do get stuck, we have a team of people who are dedicated to your success. Just pick up the phone and give us a call.

“When we first started, I really wasn’t sure how it would work for us. I’m not a professional marketer, and thought I would need a lot of training. But I decided to give it a try and was able to teach myself everything I needed to know.”

Anca Bala, gallery and event coordinator for Gallery Above Penn Square

Constant Contact customer since 2014

Learn more: How to Promote Your Organization Like an Expert (Even if You’re Just Getting Started)

10. Reach people on any device

With nearly two-thirds of all emails being opened on a mobile device, email marketing is one of the best tools you can use to take advantage of the growing popularity of mobile technology.

“We are definitely focused on mobile devices now. I want to know that if someone gets our email, no matter where they are, they can look at it. In fact, when I sent our last flyer I got three phone calls! That’s big! And I am almost positive that all of those people were on their phones, not in an office.”

Carol Singer, owner of Arlington Promotional Products

Constant Contact customer since 2009

Learn more: Making the Switch to Mobile: 3 Small Business Success Stories

11. Get more from doing less

One of the benefits of using an email marketing provider is that you have access to professionally-designed email templates. These templates are designed to make it quick and easy to get your message out to your audience, and ensure you look professional when it lands in the inbox.

 “Email marketing is great, because it doesn’t have to take a lot of effort to have a big effect.”

Terri Jasen, national program director, Pajama Program

Learn more: How a Nonprofit Raises $1,000 per Email

12. Look professional

Email templates aren’t just easy to use; they’re also designed to make sure you look professional when you reach your audience member’s inbox. You can insert your own content and customize each template with your logo and colors to make sure it matches your brand.

“We get really good feedback from the newsletters and the new templates have been working great for us, we’re getting a lot of opens.” 

Todd Starnes, president, Bicycle Adventures

Learn more: 10 Small Businesses & Nonprofits with Great-Looking Email Templates that Drive Action

13. Increase website traffic

Whether you’re an e-commerce business that sells products online, or a retail store that wants to increase traffic to your website so that you can bring more people into your store — email marketing can help.

“Email definitely works. We see people clicking through to our website and we have people coming into the shop telling us that they saw our newsletter.”

Dawn Noble, owner, La Provence

Constant Contact customer since 2011

Learn more: 10 Ways You Can Use Images to Bring Your Emails to Life

14. Market with a personal touch

Unlike other marketing channels that often limit your ability to customize your message for the different audiences you communicate with, email marketing gives you the ability to organize your audience into lists and communicate with people based on interest, purchase behavior, location, and more.

This has proven especially useful for someone like Courtney Hendricson, who manages the communication between the local government and business community of Enfield, Connecticut.

“I do the best I can to put all my contacts in separate lists so I can email just the development community, or just businesses, or elected officials, depending on what kind of event announcement or email I’m sending.”

Courtney Hendricson, assistant town manager, Town of Enflield, Connecticut

Constant Contact customer since 2013

Learn more: 4 Tips for Using Email and Events to Strengthen Your Community

15. Get immediate results

When you run a small business, every sale, order, or appointment can have a significant impact. With email, you’re able to get the results you’re looking for right away and easily track how your different campaigns are performing.

“It’s rewarding because we always get an immediate response through orders. Whenever we need to trigger sales, we’ll think of a great special to put out there.”

Karen Kowal, founder, Mother Earth Pillows

Constant Contact customer since 2010

Learn more: A Pain-Free Approach for Reaching the Right People with Email

16. Generate leads

Not everyone who joins your email list will be ready to make a purchase or sign up for a service. Email gives you the opportunity to capture new visitor’s attention and nurture the relationship with helpful and informative content.

“It’s been great for generating leads. People that are thinking about using our service will usually sign up for the newsletter. I’ll see them pop up for a couple of weeks in my reader-base, and then they’ll call and make an appointment. It’s not long until we pull them in as a customer.”

Meghan Blair-Valero, owner, Fogged in Bookkeeping, Inc.

Constant Contact customer since 2011

Learn more: [Q&A] How to Create an All Star Newsletter for Your Small Business

17. Build excitement

You want your marketing message to be something that people look forward to seeing. Email lets you keep track of which messages are generating the most opens and clicks, so you know which messages will get people excited to hear from your business.

“It’s always nice to hear someone tell us how much they enjoyed reading our newsletter and thanking us for reminding them to come visit the store or give us a call. The personal touch really makes the difference.”

Sue Bedell, owner, Second Bloom Design

Constant Contact customer since 2010

Learn more: 3 Steps to Building Better Relationships with Email and Social Media

18. Start a conversation

Email marketing lets you start a two-way conversation that will benefit you and your readers. Don’t just push your message out to them; encourage them to share their feedback and ideas. This approach has worked well for a company like WH Cornerstone Investments, which relies on email to share helpful advice, news, and education with clients.

“After each email, I get three to five calls. Some people see my email and get reminded they want a consultation, others will just want to talk about a news article.”

Paula Harris, co-owner, WH Cornerstone Investments

Constant Contact customer since 2003

Learn more: How to Build a Content-Rich Email

19. Promote services

Service businesses face the difficult challenge of keeping clients interested in their business, even when they aren’t looking for services at different times of the year. Email gives you the opportunity to keep your client’s attention without overwhelming them with unwanted information.

“Our email marketing started off as an experiment. But our open rates are usually higher than 50 percent and we get service calls every time we send a newsletter out, so I think it’s working.”

Matthew Taylor, co-owner, Green Solutions Lawn Care & Pest Control

Constant Contact customer since 2011

Learn more: 5 Ways to Market Your Now-And-Again Service with Email Content

20. Grow your audience

As a small business, it’s not always easy to stand out in a crowded market. Email marketing allows you to build an audience that is interested in hearing from you, without having to pay for other advertising channels.

“Five years ago, we started with about zero contacts, but we have a great database now – we have 7,000 email addresses. That means I can push out a social event or a holiday and let 7,000 people know instead of advertising  it for $500 in a newspaper.”

Grant Galuppi, owner, Galuppi’s Restaurant

Constant Contact customer since 2010

Learn more: [Q&A] 4 Restaurants Share Their Email Marketing Secrets

21. Stay organized

Reaching out to clients on an individual basis can be a costly and time consuming process. Email helps you save time by reaching out to your wider audience, while still delivering a message that’s personal and relevant to them.

“Before Constant Contact, we were manually keeping track of everyone we had reached out to — it was crazy, the amount of time it took. Now, I can send out an email to about 300 people in less than five minutes.”

Ruth Weening, catering manager, Basil Tree Catering

Constant Contact customer since 2008

Learn more: Help, My Contacts Aren’t Opening My Emails!

22. Increase your value

When you adopt a communication strategy that fits your audience’s needs, you’ll have more people paying attention to your message and get a higher return overall.

For a business like Cotton Clouds, making the switch from print to email newsletters doubled the amount of sales they were able to generate each time they reached out to clients.

“Every time I send out an email, I get a sale in 15 minutes. Overall, I get up to four times as many sales with these newsletters than I did with my old ones, and they’ve gone from about $50 per order to $100.”

Irene Schmoller, founder Cotton Clouds

Constant Contact customer since 2010

Learn more: 5 Email Strategies for Quadrupling Sales

23. Attract new clients

In addition to connecting with the people on your email list, you can also share your newsletters and announcements on your own social networks to bring new people to your business.

“People get to see my work, which is great, and these are often people who I never get to meet with one-on-one. The timing of each newsletter is going to be right for somebody, and having the opportunity to show people what I’m doing has just been a great way to grow my business and my reach.”

Jill Singer, owner Jill Singer Graphics

Constant Contact customer since 2011

Learn more: Email Marketing: The New Networking for Entrepreneurs

24. Save time

Once you learn the basics, you’ll be able to put together a plan to get your emails out to your audience in less time.

“The biggest benefit of email marketing, from a staff perspective, is efficiency. I have a template made so it’s easy to pull together an email quickly. I think the rest of my staff thinks it takes me a lot longer to create an email than it actually does!”

Kayla Peck, FAO Schwarz foundation fellow at Strong Women, Strong Girls

Constant Contact customer since 2005

Learn more: How to Make a Big Ask Even if You’re a Small Nonprofit

25. You’re not alone

If you’ve tried other marketing activities, it can sometimes feel like you’re completely on your own. Here at Constant Contact,we believe you shouldn’t have to do it alone. You’ll have the support you need to get things done, and tools and training to become an expert marketer.

“I recently had some white space in a newsletter I couldn’t get rid of. So I called customer support and they explained the image needed to be resized and the issue was cleared up immediately. A great thing about Constant Contact is if you’re having a problem, you can just pick up the phone and someone will solve your problem in a matter of minutes.”

Dan Plouffe, co-founder, MyCollingwood.com

Constant Contact customer since 2012

Learn more: How One Small Business Became the Talk of Their Town with Email and Social Media

26. Stay top-of-mind

By sharing relevant content with your audience throughout the year, you’ll be able to stay top-of-mind and build credibility. While they may not be ready to act right away, when your audience knows you have something that can help them solve a problem they’ll be more likely to take action when the time is right.

“Almost all of our donations, around 95%, come through our email newsletters. Using email marketing to maintain relationships and build personal connections has been a key to our success. And the biggest part of that has been staying in touch and top of mind throughout the year.”

Julie Taulman, executive director, Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports (STARS)

Constant Contact customer since 2009

Learn more: 4 Nonprofits Share Their Email Marketing Stories

27. Improve visibility

As much as you’d like to think customers know about all of the different products and services you have to offer, there’s a good chance that many of them don’t. This was a problem the McDonald Wildlife Photography faced when they first got started with email marketing for their travel business.

Taking a more pro-active approach to their marketing proved to be exactly what they needed to improve exposure of the services they offer.

“Our problem in the past would be when people were not aware of all the trips we had available. Up until we started using Constant Contact we just had everything on our website. From a marketing sense, that’s the wrong approach because it puts the burden on our customers.”

Joe McDonald, co-founder, McDonald Wildlife Photography

Constant Contact customer since 2011

Learn more: All Star Conversations: 4 of Our Favorite Stories from this Year’s All Star Awards

28. Book more classes

Whether you need to get the word out about a class weeks in advance or want to make up for some last-minute cancellations, email marketing can help you get the word out about all of your activities in a way that’s convenient for you.

This is especially important for a yoga studio like extendYoga, which hosts a full schedule of classes every day.

“We make it easy for our customers to book classes right online through our emails. Once an email goes out, we see the sign-ups come in shortly after.”

Arlet Koseian, founder of extendYoga

Constant Contact customer since 2011

Learn more: Don’t Let These 4 Email Marketing Fears Hold Your Business Back

29. Maintain vendor relationships

You’re probably already investing time and resources into marketing to potential customers. But are you also thinking carefully about how you build relationships with vendors and partnering businesses? Email gives you the ability to maintain communication with all of your different audiences so that you can build the relationships you need to be successful.

“If you don’t have a plan for reaching out to vendors on a regular basis, it’s easy to let some people fall through the cracks. You want to make sure you’re maintaining relationships with both your core vendors and any of the smaller ones you may be working with.”

Lee Klacher, founder of Octane Press

Constant Contact customer since 2011

Learn more: How to Build Vendor Relationships and Increase Sales with Email Marketing

Start your success story

As you can tell, we love to hear the stories of businesses that have used email marketing to grow their business. If you’re already using email marketing and have seen great results, we’d love to hear your story in the comments below!

If you’re not using email marketing, and are interested in seeing how it could work for your small business, you can try it for free. Start your free 60-day trial of Constant Contact today!

Want to learn more? Download our guide, Get Started with Email Marketing: 10 Ideas that Really Work

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How to Retain Your Existing Customers

How to Retain Your Existing Customers

As a small business owner your second biggest challenge is keeping the customers you all ready have.  Using the internet to focus on superior customer service can help you do just this. Just check out the attached post. 

How the Internet Changed the Way Small Businesses Approach Customer Retention

Dec 21, 2014By in Community Cloud

Once upon a time, small businesses had to think small. Mom and pops were the mice of the business world, scrambling for crumbs and scratching out an existence in their niche market, hoping that the big guys didn’t open next door.

One core problem facing smaller companies’ growth are the lack the resources. That’s true today as it was 50 years ago. Without capital, small businesses are limited in many important facets needed to facilitate growth.

Without resources, small businesses have to choose between how best to invest their dollars. If you have only so much budgeted to grow; where do you put it? Marketing? Infrastructure? Customer support?

Customer Retention: The Case for Investing in Customer Service

There’s a case to be made for investing in marketing, technology and infrastructure, but in this post, we’re going to focus on why putting aside budget to improve customer service is your safest bet. Given that as much as 71% of customers would end a relationship with a company because of poor customer service, it makes sense to build out your customer service, whatever that may look like.

With armies of customer support staff and vast pools of resources at their disposal, huge companies are more capable of delivering top-notch customer service, and many have the customer retention rates to prove it.

However, with the arrival of the ubiquitous communication tool which came to be known as ‘the internet’, things began to change very, very rapidly.

Now, two decades later, the internet has grown into a worldwide network of easily-accessible information, low-cost online tools, and free web applications, those small businesses which were once in danger of being crushed underfoot have leveraged the power of the internet to even the playing field.

The Internet was not only in critical in gaining new customers, but made retaining customers easier for the smaller guys. Thanks to the World Wide Web, things are only going to improve. 

Keeping in Touch (But Keep Your Distance)

The client/business relationship is a unique one. On the one hand, it’s important to recognize that any relationship will falter if neglected. After all, if you’re not actively swimming against the current, you are by default being pushed downstream. However, you don’t want to overdo things. Customers instinctively know that there are key differences between social and business relationships, and those businesses that cross the line and attempt to become ‘friends’ with their clientele risk alienating them.

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Small businesses have classically had a certain amount of difficulty walking this line—with either their lack of resources preventing them from being able to follow up individual customer leads, or their over-eagerness to connect with their audience leading them to over communicate with too much attention.

The internet has changed that by providing an inexpensive and non intrusive way for small businesses to connect with their patrons. Email is the current preferred method, letting the customer know that you are available for direct communication should they desire it. But, as we move forward, email becomes only the tip of the iceberg. Small businesses can now level the playing field even further by availing themselves of today’s best Internet and communication technologies.

Five Technologies and Techniques for Improving Customer Retention

We’ve all heard the statistic: It costs 6–7 times more to find a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. As such, customer retention should be one of the driving forces behind your business technology. But what technologies are the best suited to help achieve this goal? We’ve compiled a list of seven of our favorites that can help you improve customer retention and loyalty, without sucking up vast amounts of time, resources, and money in the process:

1. Mobile Presence

In January of 2014, for the first time in history, more people used smartphones and tablets to access the internet than personal computers.

With customer-focus drifting away from desktop and laptop access, no business can afford not to have a first-rate mobile presence. Why is that? Well, regular websites don’t render correctly on mobile devices, and websites designed to be operated with the click of a mouse don’t translate well onto a touchscreen interface. So, when mobile users land on these desktop-specific sites, they typically become frustrated and move on to greener pastures.

By upgrading a site to a responsive web design, which allows it to render correctly and effectively across all devices, businesses are able to cast a wider net, as well as keep customers as they switch between devices. Likewise, by creating a second, duplicate site that is optimized for mobile use, and then including a plugin on the original site that recognizes mobile users and automatically redirects them to the mobile version of the site, businesses can make the transition feel absolutely seamless. When people know they can access a site on the go, they’re more likely to keep coming back for more.

2. Social Media

These days, customer loyalty hinges on engaging in conversations. The modern client would rather discover for themselves—through helpful blog posts and reliable facts—the benefits of a product or service, rather than have those benefits shouted at them through a commercial; pummeling people with aggressive marketing pitches just doesn’t work anymore.

Social media was perfectly designed to incite and guide these conversations. In fact, 97% of marketers participate in social media marketing. However, 85% of those marketers feel confused as to which social media marketing tools are the best. Fortunately, social CRM software is readily available and takes a lot of the guesswork out of making the most of social media, by making it possible to easily manage data points around single customers, and to tailor social output to more directly target a chosen demographic.

3. Omni-Channel Support

Given the number of devices and routes that customers can now use to engage with a business, it is becoming important for organizations to offer a seamless experience regardless of the channel being used. Large companies such as Amazon have taken up this call, and now offer a number of customer support channels to ensure that users get the help they need, exactly when they need it.

There’s no reason small businesses can’t do likewise. 67% of online shoppers admit to having made recent purchases via multiple channels, so this kind of support is quickly becoming less of a luxury, and more of an expectation. The right software will automatically filter users into the optimal channels, where they can receive prompt, effective support, no matter what path they used to find it.

image from http://s3.amazonaws.com/hires.aviary.com/k/mr6i2hifk4wxt1dp/15021300/0df0e189-8de8-4567-90c9-c5a5e71d118b.png

4.Community Cloud

No customer is an island – the modern customer expects to be able to connect with everyone involved in the buying process, from the the CEO, to the vendors, to the other customers who’ve also experienced the products or services being offered. In essence, the customer is no longer content to be an individual; they now want to be part of a community.

The Community Cloud is a platform designed to connect those within the organization and those with whom they do business together in various online communities. Those involved in these communities also gain the benefits of being able to access all relevant data, content, and business processes.

A community makes it possible for businesses large and small to actively engage with their customers, understand their needs, and address any issues that might negatively affect retention.

5. Loyalty Programs

If your customers come back, find a way to reward them. 54% of consumers say they’d consider increasing the amount of business they do with a company in exchange for loyalty rewards, and 46 percent say they already have. Facts don’t lie; loyalty programs work. If customers know that they will be able to earn valuable rewards in addition to the already beneficial relationship that they have with your company, then they’ll have no reason to want to take their business elsewhere.

A Net for Customer Retention

The internet—and by extension, the various technologies that have grown to take advantage of it for business purposes—has made it possible for even small businesses to stop being mice, and to instead run with the big dogs. Of course, all of the customer retention tech in the world won’t do anyone any good if it doesn’t get used. Decreasing customer churn rate by 5% can increase profits by as much as 95% long term, so, if your small business finds itself stuck in the gutter, consider making a change or two.

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Why You Should Consider Internet Marketing

Why You Should Consider Internet Marketing

If you are running a small business (or would like to start one), one of your biggest challenges is how you are going to market yourself.   A lot of small business owners think they don’t need to try internet marketing, or they don’t have time for it.   Think again!  The attached post gives some very good reasons  for getting yourself on the internet. 

Why Online Marketing is Important

Adopting a strong and effective online marketing strategy can do wonders for your brand

Why Online Marketing is Important

There are many ways you can market your brand. You can send mail, host events, provide newsletters, and advertise to the world on television and magazines. However, while these are all excellent options, the list is missing one crucial method and that is internet marketing.

The importance of internet marketing is nearing its peak. Internet is the medium where most consumers get their information and it is also the easiest ways for the consumer to engage and get in touch with the brand.

Adopting a strong and effective internet marketing strategy can do wonders for your brand. Below is an overview of the benefits of internet marketing and why you should consider making it your key marketing medium.

The Most Convenient Form of Marketing

Designing and implementing a marketing strategy is a great deal of work, but if there is a way for you to be more efficient and to make things easier, then you should adopt it. Internet marketing is the most convenient form of marketing.

It is a way for your company to establish a presence even when the doors are closed and its afterhours. Consumers can get in touch with your brand through social media channels, email, chats, and so much more. Another great advantage is that this form of marketing is essentially costless afterhours.

All you need to do is to maintain your accounts and have chats available for the consumer. The rest will take care of itself. Lastly, consumers will also be able to stay up to date with your brand and what it offers by browsing your online selection of products, reading online content about those products, and issuing comments about what they think. The more feedback and interactivity that your brand has, the more success you’ll notice.

There are No Boundaries – The Globe is Your Limit

Mail and newsletters only go so far – and if you choose to go farther, then you are driving up the cost of your marketing campaign. Internet marketing is drastically different in that it doesn’t require you to put in as much cost while also allowing you the freedom to reach consumers everywhere.

You can gain a global reach by emailing consumers abroad, by converting your website and content to other language-friendly options, and designing content that is for a specific target audience. By expanding the reach of your content, you’ll be able to issue information to users worldwide.

This will create more interest in your product, it will increase sales, and it will also ensure that your marketing campaigns are more successful. In addition, you also don’t need to put in as much effort as you may think. Online marketing is the easiest and most convenient form of marketing.

Low Cost Solution

The cost of designing, providing, and marketing content is constantly increasing. Markets are required to come up with new strategies, content writers need to be more effective with key words and their writing, and designers need to be creative in how they reach the consumer.

Each of these methods is requiring brands to add more funds to marketing campaigns. However, if you need to come up with a less costly solution, the online marketing is the answer. Online marketing costs less because you don’t need to market your brand through a physical retail location.

It also reduces transaction costs because you aren’t working with another store or brand. With low transaction costs and low costs overall, online marketing is an a useful marketing strategy to undertake in the coming year.

Customer Relationships

Now more than ever, consumers are looking to establish long lasting and solid relationships with brands. If better customer relationships is a goal for your brand, than online marketing can help you achieve your goals.

Because most consumers get their information from the web, you’ll be able to widen your reach and to ensure that the consumer gets your content. Another way that online builds customer relationship is through social media.

By jumping on the social media bandwagon, you can establish a social media presence that allows you to interact with your customers, understand their needs and concerns, and to tailor your brand to their expectations. Most consumers are certainly not shy about voicing their beliefs on social media, so keeping yourself open to social media and to marketing online can provide you with a wealth of information.

Website Traffic

One of your goals when it comes to online marketing should be to increase your website traffic. Luckily, this can easily be achieved if you take the right steps. Website traffic can be increased when you market online through your social media accounts, website advertisements, links in your online newsletters, and information about products in your brand’s emails.

By creating links from pre-existing online content, consumers will be more inclined to click on those links that reroute back to your website. In turn, this increases your website’s traffic and allows consumers to get an idea of what the latest products and items you are offering.

In addition, not only does this apply to those who are already familiar to your brand, but it also applies to consumers who know nothing about it. By creating links on the web through social media and email, existing customers can forward information to their friends and family, thus generating more views and hopefully individuals who will purchase your brand.

Available Anytime

Consumers tend to get frustrated when they can’t get in touch with a company they’ve purchased a product from or one that will not hear their concerns regarding the product. One way to combat this product is to market your product online and to be available to the consumer.

With online marketing, the consumer can view your website anytime of the day, they can trend your social media accounts, and they can send you information about your brand so that you can get right back in touch. Keeping yourself active online can generate loyal customers that are going to continue buying into your brand while also sharing their positive experience with their loved ones.

To best maximize this benefit, you should be sure to keep the website available and running at all times. If there is an issue or you hear word of a problem, then the best thing to do is to reach out to IT and have it fixed. As they say, time is money. Staying online at all times means that you’re maximizing time and generating money for your brand.

Internet Isn’t Going Anywhere

Marketing opportunities come and go, which also affects whether you adopt a certain marketing strategy. However, one marketing opportunity that is here to stay is the internet. Not only is the internet staying, but it is also growing. This means that you can easily expand the reach of your marketing efforts for a long time to go.

As more users worldwide connect to the internet, you’ll have more people finding what they want online and hopefully your marketing efforts are going to point them in the right direction by providing them the links to your brand’s site and its content.

If you are a small business considering online marketing, then realizing how great of a tool the internet is can expand the potential of your business, it can generate revenue, and it can pose you as a competitive addition in the marketplace.

Subscriptions

Consumers want to connect to brands that are going to keep in touch with them in the long run. They want brands that indicate interest in their consumers, that want to generate long lasting relationships, and that ultimately care how the brand is faring with those that use it.

The internet allows you to take your relationship with the consumer to the next level by providing the consumer with regular and consistent online subscriptions to information that you provide regarding your brand and the latest products offered by your brand.

This is a wonderful way for your brand to keep in touch with customer needs and for customers to remain up to date on what you have to offer. Therefore, just by creating a new product, you can easily draw in an entire consumer base through your subscription newsletters.

Subscription newsletters are also extremely easy to implement, they are accessible to most users, and they can be forwarded throughout the web so you reach consumers that you aren’t intentionally targeting.

Conclusion

Since the advent of the internet, both business and consumers are slowly realizing its full potential. The internet has unlocked an entire new system for how people and brands are doing business.

As the internet grows and as consumers realize how useful of a tool it can be, businesses can maximize by generating more revenue and followers. The good news about the above tips regarding internet marketing is that they are extremely easy to implement, they don’t require as much effort as traditional marketing campaigns, and they can be done by nearly any brand manager – experienced or not very experienced.

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10 Guidelines for the Small Business Owner

10 Guidelines for the Small Business Owner

Starting a small business is definitely not for wimps. Overnight successes are rare if almost nonexistent.  Here are some excellent guidelines from a guy who’s done it the hard way. 

Last week a group of students interviewed me, as part of a class project, looking for secrets and keys to success. They were asking me because after 22 years of bootstrapping, my wife Vange and I own a business that has 45 employees now, multimillion dollar sales, market leadership in its segment, no outside investors, and no debt. And a second generation is running it now.

Frankly, during that interview I felt bad for not having better answers. Like the classic cobbler’s children example, I analyze lots of other businesses, but not so much my own.  As I stumbled through my answers, most of what I was saying sounded trite and self serving, like “giving value to customers” and “treating employees fairly,” things that everybody always says.

I wasn’t happy with platitudes and generalizations, so I went home that day and talked to Vange about it. Together, we came up with these 10 lessons.

And it’s important to us that we’re not saying our way is the right way to do anything in business; all businesses are unique, and what we did might not apply to anybody else. But it worked for us.

1. We made lots of mistakes

Not that we liked it. At one point, about midway through this journey, Vange looked at me and said: “I’m sick of learning by experience. Let’s just do things right.” And we tried, but we still made lots of mistakes.  We’d fuss about them, analyze them, label them and categorize them and save them somewhere to be referred to as necessary. You put them away where you can find them in your mind when you need them again.

2. We built it around ourselves

Our business was and is a reflection of us, what we like to do, what we do well. It didn’t come off of a list of hot businesses.

3. We offered something other people wanted …

… and in many cases needed, even more than wanted. You don’t just follow your passion unless your passion produces something other people will pay for. In our case it was business planning software.

4. We planned.

We kept a business plan alive and at our fingertips, never finishing it, often changing it, never forgetting it.

5. We spent our own money. We never spent money we didn’t have.

We hate debt. We never got into debt on purpose, and we didn’t go looking for other people’s money until we didn’t need it (in 2000 we took in a minority investment from Silicon Valley venture capitalists; we bought them out again in 2002). We never purposely spent money we didn’t have to make money. (And in this one I have to admit: that was the theory, at least, but not always the practice. We did have three mortgages at one point, and $65,000 in credit card debt at another. Do as we say, not as we did.)

6. We used service revenues to invest in products.

In the formative years, we lived on about half of what I collected as fees for business plan consulting, and invested the other half on the product business.

7. We minded cash flow first, before growth.

This was critical, and we always understood it, and we were always on the same page. See lesson number 5, above. We rejected ways we might have spurred growth by spending first to generate sales later.

8. We put growth ahead of profits

Profitability wasn’t really the goal. We traded profits for growth, investing in product quality and branding and marketing, when possible, although always as long as the cash flow came first.

9. We hired people slowly and carefully.

We did everything ourselves in the beginning, then hired people to take tasks off of our plate. We hired a bookkeeper who gave us back the time we spent bookkeeping. A technical support person gave us back the time we spent on the phone explaining software products to customers. And so on.

10. We did for employees’ families as we did for ourselves.

Family members — not just our own family, but employee family members too — have always been welcome as long as they’re qualified and they do the work. At different times, aside from our own family members, we’ve had two brother-sister combinations, an aunt and her niece, father and daughter, and husband and wife.

And in conclusion…

Bootstrapping is underrated. It took us longer than it might have, but after having reached critical mass, it’s really good to own your own business outright. It might have taken longer, and maybe it was harder — although who knows if we could have done it with investors as partners — but it seems like a good ending.

Family business is underrated. There are some special problems, but there are also special advantages too.

* * * * *

Tim Berry, Entrepreneur and Founder of Palo Alto Software, bplans.com and Borland InternationalAbout the Author: Tim Berry is president and founder of Palo Alto Software, founder of bplans.com, and co-founder of Borland International. He is also the author of books and software on business planning including Business Plan Pro and The Plan-as-You-Go Business Plan; and a Stanford MBA. His main blog is Planning Startups Stories. He’s on twitter astimberry.

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How Twitter Can Help You Find Out About Your Followers

How Twitter Can Help You Find Out About Your Followers

As small business owner, if you are not using twiiter, perhaps you should be. Twitter can give you an amazing amount of information about your audience.  Check out this post. 

Last week, Twitter launched a new, free dashboard that shows demographic information about your Twitter followers. You can see your followers’ interests, household incomes, net worth, occupations, their buying habits, education levels, and even what credit cards they have.

6.3.15A

Having access to these insights is a great way to inform your content strategy. There are three great tricks that can guide creative and messaging, and even inform other areas of your brand’s marketing strategy.

1. Compare your follower demographics to the general Twitter population.

Add a comparison audience, and analyze “All Twitter Users” versus “Your Followers.” You’re able to see what the general Twitter population’s habits or interests are versus your brand’s, which will show you what resonates specifically with your audience. In the image below, this brand’s audience is much more interested in fast food than the average Twitter user, showing the brand that fast food is an area they can own on Twitter.

Why is Storytelling so Powerful?

Why is Storytelling so Powerful?

As  a small business owner doing your own marketing, one of the biggest struggles one faces is how to engage the audience you are trying to reach.  One of the most powerful ways is to tell a story.  Here is a great post expaining why storytelling is so compelling. 

The Secret to Activating Your Audience’s Brain

March 4, 2015

how-to-activate-your-audiences-brain-blogIf you are like me, you are always looking for the latest and greatest ways to do things faster, better, and cheaper. Personally, I get a thrill as I hunt for the best piece of hardware, software, or acclaimed process that will “change my life.”

In the world of presentations, there is one key ingredient that will radically change them – specifically, how you engage your audienceand how they perceive you. And, it’s a solution you have been hearing for quite some time now, but I want to take it one step further.

Tell a story.

Why?

It’s the most efficient way to activate and ignite your audience’s brain.

Let’s look at the illustration below.

your-brain-on-data---revised

When you share facts and stats with your audience:

1. They are going to agree with you

2. They are going to disagree with you

Hence, only two parts of your audiences’ brain will ignite when reacting to data.

But, what if you tell a story instead? Let’s look at this illustration.

your-brain-on-stories---revised

A story doesn’t spark agreement or disagreement but rather participation. In fact, stories ignite 7 parts of the brain, which is testament to why as humans we love stories.

If you want to see all of this in more amazing detail, here’s an entire infographic my team created a few days ago.

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The bottom line is this: If you want to engage your audience and activate their brains, you need to start telling stories. Plain and simple. It’s powerful. It’s effective. And, it works! It’s the best tool to have in your kit.

Author Bio

Scott Schwertly is the author of How to Be a Presentation God and CEO of Ethos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki. If Scott is not working with his team building presentations, you will find him in the pool, on the bike, or on a long run. Scott lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three dogs. He has a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harding University.

Follow the conversation and connect with Scott on LinkedIn orTwitter.