Category Archives: Business Development

Take Control Video Lessons Now Free

With all the recent changes to some of the major marketing tools I’ve included in the Take Control of Your Internet Marketing videos, I’m having to make some major business decisions. I cannot create and upload new videos fast enough to keep up!

So as of September 1st, access to all Take Control videos will be free of charge. There is much valuable content on the site that is not affected by the flurry of updates and changes to services and platforms including Google, Facebook, and the WordPress theme, Thesis.

Here’s how to proceed to get the most out of Take Control of Your Internet Marketing:

1. Don’t skip anything. Google Places is still the foundation of your relationship with Google who, as I said in the video, rules the world. Organic search still is your most valuable tool for reaching your customer and Google Places gives you an opportunity to tell Google who you are and exactly what you do, in your own words. The look of the Google search page has changed dramatically in the past few weeks which would require some major updates to the videos that I don’t have the time to do. But the basic, simple steps outlined in the video lessons for keeping your search placement has not.

2. Everything in the videos about review sites is spot on. Use the information to establish and maintain your review site listings. The review sites themselves will change their look, but your ability to access your listings and respond to reviews and the importance of those responses will not.

3 The importance of targeting your Perfect Customer becomes more important every day. The marketing lessons in Module 2 will continue to be the most important information at Take Control. Those of you who are doing the hard work of Id’ing your customers, digging into their needs and wants, likes and dislikes will benefit. Digging into your own business and matching the solutions you offer to those customers, and discovering the keyword phrases most often used to search for those solutions is now an essential activity for business success.

4. Facebook has changed dramatically. The lessons about Facebook in Module 2 will help you get comfortable if you’re one of the 2 people in the world who isn’t using Facebook. With Graph Search and the new updates to the News Feed, it is essential for any business wishing to reach customers through Facebook, to have a business page. It’s hard for a small business owner to keep up with all these changes, and even harder to keep training video material current! Uncle!! I can’t do it any longer. If your customers are on Facebook, you need that business page, and to keep up with changes, you’re going to need to follow the Facebook for Business Blog.

5. Your website. Module 3 still have an incredible amount of content that will help you be successful. Thesis, the WordPress theme used in the training has morphed into a new product called Thesis 2. It is an incredibly powerful tool for effortlessly keeping your website’s relationship to search engines and WordPress current.  We are keeping the video tutorials using Thesis, but recommending now that the “Twenty family” of free themes from WordPress are an excellent alternative for your small business website.  From “Twenty Eleven” through “Twenty Seventeen,” WordPress has presented a fabulous new theme each year. These themes are upgraded on a regular basis, so they retain their ability to work seamlessly with new versions of WordPress.

As for the marketing lessons in Module 3, they remain simple, doable and powerful. You will learn how to format your pages for search engines, no matter which WordPress theme you use. You will be less likely to adopt an expensive website design that had lots of bells and whistles, but less solid built-in SEO benefit that will attract your customers. You will know what technical steps to take to update an underperforming web page, and how to use the basic WordPress platform, no matter which theme you use.

6. Finally, you’ll have everything you need to start blogging successfully and effectively.

All the pieces for successful internet marketing are here, and they’re yours without further charge.

These are the exact steps that my private clients are using to build successful businesses. If you would like more individualized assistance to reach your business goals, please call or email. I have determined that I’m happier working with small business clients than trying to stay on top of Facebook and Google’s next move!

I will continue to blog on internet marketing as I come across tools that will help small local business people. An example is the latest free ebook from HubSpot on Facebook’s newsfeed. Go to Access the Crash Course to the Facebook News Feed. HubSpot has tons of free helpful information and a huge staff that keeps up on all these changes.

Thank you for your membership.

Joanne

Himalayan Outback: An Example of Internet Marketing Success

Himalayan Outback is an adventure travel business located in northern India. We have  worked together via Skype for six years.

Himalayan Outback is a good example of the value of a robust internet marketing strategy.

Misty Dhillon is a master fly fishing guide and recognized authority on the Golden Mahseer, a highly prized sport fish. Himalayan Outback is a high end guide service, taking fishermen to remote fishing locations in northern India to catch and release this amazing fish.

By “high end” I mean first class accommodations and service, even in remote areas where tent camping is used.

When we first met, Himalayan Outback’s homepage looked like this: oldhimalayanoutback

Misty’s question to me was, “I’m a highly sought after fishing guide, yet most of my business is coming from other people’s websites. Why?”

We spent the next few months responding to that question and changing Himalayan Outbacks entire web presence to reflect the answers. Continue reading Himalayan Outback: An Example of Internet Marketing Success

How to Start Looking For Small Business Financing Help

shopkeeper in front of storeIt has been my experience, working for many years with small rural business owners that NOBODY opens their own business to manage financials. It is one of the three necessary parts of owning and operating your own business and the one thing that is most often left to chance.

Getting help with financials

It’s scary to look at financial projections and profit and loss statements. Better to check your bank balance to see if you can pay your bills and go back to doing the fun stuff, the stuff you went into business to do.

In his book, Ripples from the Zambezi, Ernesto Siroli talks about how important it is for an entrepreneur to get help with at least one of the three vital parts of operating a business, the thing the business does, the marketing and the financials.

For most entrepreneurs financials is the obvious thing to get outside assistance with and the first step is to know what help to ask for. Too often the first signal that help is needed is when the checkbook tells you, you need to look for financing.

I received a nice email this week from Jeffery Redd of the Government Financial Officers Assn. (GFOA) thanking me for mentioning Small Business Trends in a previous post at my Rural Tourism Marketing blog.

Where to start looking for small business loans

Jeffery suggested another website regarding small business financing options that is good enough, I wanted to pass it on to you Take Control members and interested readers. The website http://www.abcbizloans.com/unsecured/sba-loan-programs/ spells out many of the types of grants and loans available through the SBA.

When you start looking for business loans and grants, this might be an excellent place to start to educate yourself about what’s available. Then, contact your local Small Business Development Center of micro enterprise association.

It’s helpful to start learning what you don’t know you don’t know before you start asking for loans. You’ll know what questions to ask when you meet with a small business advisor. The nice thing about this website, as Jeffery points out, is that it’s purely informational without a pitch for any particular type of loan.

And, you might want to check out that original post, 2011 Trends Favor Small Towns and Locally Owned Businesses. It is still useful and relevant .

 

Local Business Innovation: The Apple Way or like Cirque du Soliel?

How do you know what your customer wants and needs without asking?

Steve Jobs Circque du Soliel performer collageYears ago I was stopped while mall walking with my mom and asked to be part of a focus group. Being in marketing, I of course said “yes.

A group of us were taken into a room and given a choice of cereals served in white plastic bowls with different types of plastic spoons. I later figured out that the test had something to do with adding cereal to the McDonald’s menu.

I haven’t ever had cereal at McDonald’s and I don’t know anyone else who has. Who goes to McDonald’s for cereal?? Who even thought that it would be important. Did my focus group propel McDonald’s into the cereal business??

My focus group was polite and helpful. We knew what type of spoon we liked best. We had sweetness preferences. We had cereal temperature preferences. I would bet that none of us ever had a bowl of fast food cereal after that day.

I felt a certain kindred spirit as I read the Steve Jobs biography and learned of his disdain for focus groups. The legendary quote reads: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

Henry Ford once said that if he asked customers what they wanted they would have told him, “Faster horses!”

 So, how do we small local business owners determine what our customers want and need if they don’t seem to know themselves?

 How do we innovate?

As a guide service for instance, you can do it the Steve Jobs way and do something because it’s interesting and never been done before. I find a lot of Steve Jobs in small local entrepreneurs. You go into business to do what you love and oh, by the way, support yourself.

The Steve Jobs way can work for you because passionate small local business owners tend to attract customers who are like them! Fishing guide attract fishermen. Quilt shop owners attract quilters. Your personality is part of your product. Your customers are often like fans who will follow your lead. You can limit your risk by doing a big marketing blitz like Apple has done with each of its new products, or you can wait for the product to grow on people like the Macintosh has.

Don’t fall into the innovate like Steve Jobs category?

You could take a focus group approach and ask customers what they want and end up with the McDonald’s version of oatmeal.

Or you can pay attention to your customers needs and wants and innovate based on what you hear and see, the Cirque du Soliel way. Innovate based on customer reaction rather than expressed preference.

In a Help Scout article on innovation the marketing director at Cirque is quoted, “We survey to note whose applauding when the curtain goes down.” Pretty general stuff, but valuable in deciding whether to put on a 4 hour show or a 3 hour show.

But you can go further than Cirque. You have the ability through your natural conversation with customers to know their pains and wants – the primary drivers toward action. How do you suppose that Jane at Directions learned that her customers were looking for jeans that didn’t make them look fat? How do you suppose she took that next step and trained her staff not only to help customers fit jeans properly but to add jewelry suggestions as well? That’s innovation the Cirque way.

Jane could have turned her store into a jeans shop based on a focus group type strategy. Or she could have ignored her customers comments completely and sold jewelry based on her design understanding that  people will buy dramatic jewelry to draw the eye away from waistband spillover.

Instead, she took the Cirque way. She listened to reactions and innovated based on her understanding of how she could solve a customer’s pain.

Obviously, there are places for every type of customer input as you think about how to move in a new direction, to innovate

  • What do you know that your customers don’t that could be your innovation point?
  • How can you use what you learn from listening to your customer’s stories and reactions to expand your services and products?
  • When do you step out and do something new based on customer requests?
  • When do you step into the future and create the thing everyone will want?

How you innovate?

 

 

 

 

How to Use Native Advertising to Market Your Local Business

Native Advertising is the newest internet marketing technique for reaching your local customer.

advertising/content marketing yin yang symbolBecause most local business owners are great story tellers when it comes to talking about their business, it’s a perfect fit for people like you. And you need a partner to pull it off – your small town chamber of commerce. Here’s how it works…

Small town chambers of commerce are important components of the economic fabric of a rural community. They support local events and often run the local visitor center.

Native advertising is a benefit of membership that would be useful for any small local business.

Native Advertising on the chamber website.

Banner advertising is dead. Nobody pays attention to it anymore. And a paid listing on a website is even less valuable than banner advertising!

Banners and listings should be replaced by native advertising, which is simply a content piece – either a page or a post – that looks more like all the other information on the website. It has pictures, text and formatting just like a regular post or page.

It is a separate page with its own headline and is optimized for search engines, which means it will come up in an organic search for that particular service or business. This alone is worth the cost of membership in a local chamber of commerce.

Why aren’t chambers of commerce using native advertising on their websites?

Because they don’t know about it.

Most rural and small town chambers are run by business volunteers and part time secretaries. They are not up on the latest internet marketing opportunities. Many are still using old static websites that they can’t update themselves!

Because they are still using traditional advertising thinking.

With traditional advertising, space was a commodity that was sold by the inch. Advertisers had to squeeze lots of information into the space they could afford and hope that someone tripped over it at exactly the time when they were making a buying decision.

Now, digital space is virtually unlimited. The cost is in production – how much paid time will it take to write, upload and format the content for the chamber website. By partnering with the chamber and submitting ready to upload content, member businesses can help keep these costs low.

How can a you bring your local chamber of Commerce into the age of native advertising?

  • Share this article with your local chamber board.

Tell them that you’d like members to be able to have a native advertisement on the chamber website as a benefit of membership.

  •  Suggest a cost effective way to implement a native advertising strategy.

If every member interested in having a native advertisement posted on the chamber page is responsible for their own content, the cost to the chamber would only be in uploading and formatting the page or post.

  • Provide the chamber with a suggested form for submitting native advertising content. Everything should be submitted via email. Here’s what that form should include:

Space for a headline that is 70 characters or less. The headline should include the name of the business and one keyword phrase that a potential customer may use to search online for that business’s service or product. EX: Friendly’s Pet Shop Dog Kennel Treats Pets Like Royalty

One to three images cropped or resized to ___ size. (I refer folks to iPiccy.com to do this for themselves)

 300 to 500 words written like a story or letter rather than an advertisement. This is best accomplished when the writer thinks about one particular loyal customer, and writes as if they were writing a personal note to that customer.

 Content is free of spelling and grammatical errors.

Content is formatted into short paragraphs that can be easily skimmed.

Native advertising is the newest new thing in internet marketing. Giving your chamber a way to easily add fresh interesting content to their website is good for them and good for the featured businesses.

Urban chambers and big businesses are paying high prices for copywriters and marketing departments to do what you and your chamber can do for little or no additional cost.

Having a native ad for your business on the chamber website has great benefit

  1. There is benefit in being associated with your chamber. When searchers read about your business on the chamber website, you inherit the good will that many people feel toward these community minded organizations.
  2. Without much work, you’ll have another internet location trumpeting your business with a valuable link to your own website. That page on your chamber website inherits the authority your chamber has accrued, which means in many cases, the page will appear higher in search engines than your own website.

So, jump to the forefront in internet marketing and introduce your chamber to native advertising. If they have questions, refer them to this post.

 

Here’s a previous post about small town chambers:

25 Ways You Can Support Your Small Town Chamber of Commerce So That They Can Support You

The Real Value of Joining a Local chamber of Commerce – a research study from chamberorganizer.org on public perception of chamber membership.

Image credit: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

What a Local Business Can Learn From Google About Employee Retention

Besides being your own IT (information technology) department you’re probably your own HR (human resources) department as well. So today I’m going to look at what an IT company, Google, can teach even the smallest business about HR.

Google Street View The thing that precipitated this post is the announcement this morning of Google’s new Street View addition, views taken from the tallest peaks in the world. Googlers (the fond title you get when you work for Google) who love to climb took along the proper camera gear and recorded their climbs for Google Street View.

This is a pretty radical example of the kind of perks Googlers get – go to work filming your Everest climb! The news is full of stories about Google perks at it’s offices from New York to headquarters in Mountain View, CA.

What do Google’s employee perks have to do with you?

What can a small local business owner learn from Google about retaining his or her qualified and valuable employees?

Everything. Google offers a wide range of perks from free food and massages on their campuses to time for employees to pursue their own interests to ping pong tables! There is something for everyone, and it works.

Google is making money hand over fist. It is innovating at an amazing speed based on new ideas generated by employees. And Google employees stick around. Google understands the value of a happy stable workforce.

If you drill into the list of 100 Best Companies To Work For, you will see that big salaries aren’t a necessary qualification for getting onto this list. As a matter of fact, it’s hard to identify one thing that all these companies do to get a top billing. This is good news for you, a small local business. These companies are listening to their employees and providing what those workers need.

Ping pong tables may not be the best fit for employees at Whole Foods Market. There, a little thing I have heard about from Whole Foods employees that they love, is the ability to pick one free product each month, no restrictions. Guess who benefits when employees enthusiastically recommend to customers what they’ve personally tried.

So back to you and your 1 or 10 employees. What does this have to do with you?

Retention is as important to you as it is to Google and Whole Foods. Retraining each replacement employee is just as expensive. Happy employees are as valuable to your bottom line.

If you look at the psychology behind all the benefits provided by the 100 Best Companies To Work For, you’ll see that it wouldn’t be all that hard for a small business to duplicate.

1. The best companies give employees a sense of connection to the company. Workers feel like more than a cog in the works. Their ideas matter.

Your employees may have as deep a connection to your customers and your suppliers as you do. They may have a more intimate understanding of the positives and negatives of your physical plant.

Are you providing incentives for employees to come up with their own creative ideas for improving how your business runs? Are you asking for their input? Do you know about new ideas those employees have for innovation and expansion of what you do?

2. The best companies provide the kinds of perks that their employees need and want.

Going down the list you’ll see some give in-house childcare, some have gyms, some have flex time programs. Some have all of the above and some have none of the above, but still made the top 100 list!

The key seems to be providing the perks that meet the needs of the employee, and it is often not more money. What is important to one employee many not be important to another.

When I was running a busy marketing and PR office for Siskiyou County, California tourism, one employee wanted to bring her newborn to work, another wanted to be able to have time off once her assigned work was done, another wanted to be the “go to” person for our film location services and another wanted to be free to do the research to recommend the best database system to fit our needs.

My list of perks looks pretty impressive, because I implemented all these things. Each was a personalized incentive. In a small local business, you can do the same. The goal for you is the same as for Google – to make it easy for your employees to get up in the morning and go to work. You don’t have to provide everything. You just have to be open to providing what your own employees want and need.

3. The 100 best companies empower each and every employee as a valued representative of the company.

Zappos (#11 on the list) is better at this than anyone. I wrote about Zappos recently: Rethinking Rural Development: What is your Small Town’s Promise? Zappos’ employees know that their primary role is to create and keep happy customers. They are empowered to make that happen without having to check with a supervisor.

You can do that too. Do your employees have the authority to on the spot solve a customer problem or extend a little bit of extra care?

Happy empowered employees will not give away the store. They will, however, sometimes use their authority to extend extra service and provide something a little extra to build a loyal customer relationship or, on the spot, turn around a difficult situation.

These perks don’t involve bigger pay checks. Every one of the listed companies provide their workers with a living wage, a foundational requirement. But beyond that, they demonstrate the vital reality, that people work, and stay on the job for more than money.

The lesson for you and all small local businesses is to make certain you are viewing your workforce as valuable partners in the success of your business, just like Google and Whole Foods and Zappos.

Look at what kinds of additional services you can provide to enhance your own workplace. Don’t know? Ask. You’ll be surprised at how doable many of the “perks” are that your employees request.