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Creating a cost-free, social media presence for your business using LinkedIn

linkedin-logoHere is a way for you, a small business owner or manager, to use your existing presence on LinkedIn to launch a Social Media Marketing Strategy that will cost you absolutely no out-of pocket expenses. This plan will take very little time to set-up and probably less than one hour a week to maintain. By following these steps, you will have taken a very big first step towards creating social awareness and buzz for your company on the Internet and in the Social Media space. Read more…

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Management tip from the Military, and it’s NOT what you think.

General Martin Dempsey

General Martin Dempsey, 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Recently, I was privileged to have the opportunity to hear a talk on Leadership by General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff. Now here is a leader with about 2 million armed forces under his command. Someone with that kind of organization must know something about how to lead people, right?  Yet, his leadership philosophy was downright shocking on the surface, but made perfect sense upon further reflection.

During his talk, General Dempsey shared some sayings that he keeps in a card in his pocket. One of them really stuck with me. It went something like this: “Have I allowed a subordinate to change my mind about something today?”

General Dempsey shared with us that ultimately, he had to create an environment for an organization that needs to function from the bottom-up. He said that the forces who are in harm’s way day-in and day-out are in a better position than anyone else to determine what needs to be done to make the organization successful. In other words, the largest military organization in the world needs to be “empowered” to do their jobs.

Wow. Talk about “walking your talk.” This is someone really committed to encouraging information and suggestions flow up from the bottom of his organization all the way to the top and, even more important: the ideas get seriously considered.

Think about this in the context of how you run your small business. Ask yourself honestly: Are your employees encouraged to bring you their ideas? Do you listen and seriously consider their thoughts or do you step on their enthusiasm? Are they empowered to do their jobs? Do they have the tools and training they need to provide great service to customers? Have you allowed them to change your mind about something lately?

Before you respond with something along the lines of “Yeah, but, employees don’t have my knowledge and experience,” or “It’s my business. I make the rules and the employees follow them,” think about General Dempsey. He runs an organization where if people don’t follow orders, they might go to jail. Ultimate management power, to be sure. And yet, he is looking for ways that his entire management team can learn from the troops and give them the support that they believe they need. Building trust. Listening. Encouraging. Empowering. Even when bullets are flying.

Would your organization better serve your customers if you did the same?

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Tony Spear is the Principal of Spear and Associates Consulting, LLC., a Marketing Agency specializing in affordable Internet and Search Marketing campaigns for small businesses. For more information visit www.spearconsulting.net.

7 Steps to a successful small business website

small business website checklist

You are starting a new business and decided that you need to have a website. Or perhaps you already have a business, hate your current website and know you need something new. Here are the 7 questions you need to ask yourself, your partners, your employees, and your website provider before anybody even thinks about writing a single line of code:

Step 1: What is the business objective of this website?  You have to know what you want to accomplish with this website and how it adds to your business. There are a number of possibilities, any of which could be a legitimate goal:

  • Build company and brand awareness
  • Promote a meeting, event or presentation
  • Generate inquiries via phone call or email
  • Build a list of new prospects
  • Create online sales
  • Any others you can think of to help build your company

Once you know your goal(s), the checklist naturally leads to the next step:

Step 2: How will I convince visitors to my website to take action that will help me meet my goal?  In other words, what content is going to be on the website that will convince your visitors to pick up the phone, send you an email, register for the event, request your free white paper or place items in the shopping cart and press the “Buy” button?  Generally speaking, this requires that you share with your visitors some sort of narrative: who your company is, what you are really good at, who else has done business with you, what are the benefits to the visitor to doing business with you, and some type of call-to-action. It is here where you need to think like a prospect: What are their possible concerns? How can you engage them with your company or products? What incentives or reassurances can overcome their concerns and help them decide to take action? It is really important to step back and put this narrative and content together before you start spending resources on creating your site. Otherwise, you may well have to spend them again.

Step 3: How will I get visitors to my website?  There are lots of options here. Many of them are decidedly low-tech:

  • Word-of-mouth, networking, handing out business cards with your website address on them.
  • Advertising. This can be anything from newspaper and magazine ads, billboards, TV and radio ads. All of those channels can contain your web address. Of course, if you are going to depend on traditional ads to generate web traffic you are going to need a very easy-to-remember domain name. Something easy to remember like “www.joeswidgets.com.”
  • Trade Shows. You can hand out brochures, flyers, coffee cups, frisbees etc. Just make sure that every item has your web address prominently displayed on it.
  • Search Engines. These are the new yellow pages. It’s how people find stuff online these days. And unless you are lucky enough to have a particular niche business without a lot of competition, if you hope to be found in search engine results, you will need to determine…

Step 4: What is my Search Engine Strategy?  Ok. This is a bit of a big subject and current best practices are changing all the time. But there are some factors to consider that aren’t likely to change any time soon:

  • What search engine terms, aka keywords, do I want to lead to my website? If I sell blue widgets, I would undoubtedly include “blue widgets” in my list of keywords.
  • What content will my website contain so that the search engines consider it an authority on each of the keywords in question?
  • How will I build inbound links so that other websites, relevant to my content, send traffic to my website?

Step 5: What is my Social Media Strategy?  There’s an old saying: “Fish where the fish are.” Right now, the fish are spending their time on Social Media Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. The numbers are growing dramatically. Facebook announced over one billion users this month. Pinterest is the fastest growing social media site in history. A social media strategy is necessary for you and your company to engage with your prospects, hear their concerns, establish your credibility and generate enough interest in you and your company to create internet traffic. This is the new normal. Internet marketing is now a two-way conversation.

Step 6: Who is going to be responsible for maintaining my internet content (web and social media sites) and when will they do it?  You will need to insist that whoever is setting up your website is doing using a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress so that a non-programmer can add content, register new users, and link your social media contributions to your website. You will also need to make sure that it is somebody’s job to create new content on a regular basis and that they have time in their workday to do it. These days silence is suicide. If you don’t have somebody in your company who will do this, then hire somebody to do it on a contractor basis. Because if you don’t regularly update your web content, there is really no point in having a web presence.

Step 7: How will I measure success?  Remember those goals we set at the beginning of this discussion? We need to measure our performance against those goals. To measure website traffic there are a number of analytics tools that tell us how much traffic our website got and where it came from, what pages they visited and how long they stayed. Google Analytics is one such tool that is free, easy to install, and all that most small businesses will need to monitor their website performance.

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Tony Spear is the Principal of Spear and Associates Consulting, LLC., a Marketing Agency specializing in affordable Internet and Search Marketing campaigns for small businesses. For more information visit www.spearconsulting.net.

Image courtesy David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The 3 Things Your Friends Should Know About Your Business

When we talk business with our friends or business network, here’s what we should make sure they takeaway: 3 Things Your Friends Show Know About Your Business

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Tony Spear is the Principal of Spear and Associates Consulting, LLC., a Marketing Agency specializing in affordable Internet and Search Marketing campaigns for small businesses. For more information visit www.spearconsulting.net.

Starting Up Vs. Consulting: 5 Lessons For Success

Some very sage advice from Allie Siarto who learned there is nothing like experience: 5 Lessons for Success

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Tony Spear is the Principal of Spear and Associates Consulting, LLC., a Marketing Agency specializing in affordable Internet and Search Marketing campaigns for small businesses. For more information visit www.spearconsulting.net.

Search Engine Results: Sometimes you have to Join Them to Beat Them.

person standing out from a crowd

If you are a small business owner or employee, and most of us are, you probably don’t want to get into the details of the recent Google Penguin and Panda algorithm changes. You also may not have the budget to hire an SEO service who may charge a lot of money with the “guarantee” of getting you top-3 placement in Google organic results (but you won’t see the results for at least 90 days). You almost certainly don’t have the time or energy to figure it out for yourself. So what should you do?

Here is what you need to know about Penguins and Pandas: Google is now putting a lot more emphasis on original content, research and authority in one’s field when handing out top rankings. Why? Because Google’s mission is to put relevant and authoritative original content in front of people seeking information. Google’s intent is clearly to make it increasingly difficult for people to game their way into top placements without having created the content and authority to be in those top spots. Is it possible to become an authority (aka Subject Matter Expert or SME) and create the content necessary to move up? Sure. But it takes time and energy, both of which are in short supply for small business owners these days.

So how can a small business person and their website move up the ranks in short order without having to invest inordinate amounts of time, energy and treasure? By doing exactly what Google is trying to move us towards with all these changes. By purchasing Paid Advertisements.

Paid Ads, be they Pay Per Click (PPC) or Cost Per Impression (CPI) allow small business people to compete with larger companies by placing their messages in front of people looking for information at the time they are looking for it. The more relevant your ad (and website) is to the information being sought, the higher the placement of your ad and the less you have to pay for it. For less than the price of a Yellow Page ad (remember those?) you can literally attract hundreds of new, qualified prospects per month to your website.

For more information about Paid Ads for small businesses, please see my free presentation: Search Engine Marketing 101.

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Tony Spear is the Principal of Spear and Associates Consulting, LLC., a Marketing Agency specializing in affordable Internet and Search Marketing campaigns for small businesses. For more information visit www.spearconsulting.net.

Image courtesy Master Isolated Images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Really, it IS the steak…

The structure of the website (the steak) is critical to the success of your Internet Search Engine Marketing Results

In my last two posts, I’ve been talking about the importance of a well-structured website in creating pages that not only perform well from a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) point of view, but also perform well in Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns. Here is a real-word example that I personally experienced and how the structure of a website can make a big difference in search campaign performance. Read more…

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