Tag Archive: social_media

6 Ways to Increase Your Business Online Sales

6 Ways to Increase Your Business Online Sales

When small businesses rely on their ecommerce sites or online operations to generate a healthy revenue stream, it can be frustrating when sales slow to a crawl or reach an impasse. If the slump is temporary, attributable to a sluggish economy or bad weather, for instance, then small business owners need only to stay the course until customers start buying again.


However, if the slowdown in sales has been happening for a while, then it makes sense to look at the entire online sales process. Remember, it’s not just content but context that can help drive customers to your site.


Following are five tips that can help small business owners increase their online sales.


Leverage SEO for your content
You could have the greatest product in the world, but if few people know about your site then your hopes of increasing online sales are severely limited. To drive traffic to your site, you will need to broaden audience awareness of your business and product.

A great way to do that is to make your site, specifically the content on it, as search friendly as possible. This way when customers are using a search engine, such as Google, to look for online sites that sell a desired product, they will easily find out about yours via high search result rankings.


Brian Forrester, owner of Dynamic Web Solutions, a digital marketing business in Richmond, Virginia, works with small businesses and is a staunch proponent of this tactic. In fact, his firm has used targeted paid search, which is the practice of increasing web traffic by purchasing ads on search engines, for a local client, which boards pets. Not only did it double traffic to the site but the client ended up with numerous leads.


Paid search such as Google AdWords, tends to capture traffic further along the buying cycle,” explains Forrester. “This often results in higher conversion rates than other website traffic sources.”



And for those with a tight budget, Anna Lundberg, owner of Crocus Communications, a digital marketing consulting firm that works with small to medium-sized businesses, recommends making a paid search campaign as specifically targeted as possible. This includes putting the limits that you can set within Google Adwords, to define the maximum amount to spend per day.


Says Lundberg: “This means that you can make sure that you don’t go over the budget you have available. It’s very flexible and you’re never charged more than what you’ve specified; you can start as low as you like and increase as you learn from the results which keywords and which ads are working best as your business grows.”


To illustrate her point, Lundberg says that for one client, Grace & Wilde, a new luxury shapewear brand, her firm optimized their website so that it ranked on Google for select keywords. They also launched a paid search campaign that matched ad copy to the specific keywords.


“We also ran targeted Facebook and Twitter campaigns to go from zero up to over 2,000 fans and 500 followers respectively in just a few months,” she continues. “And these were real fans, not just fake or non-interested accounts,” as evidenced by their level of engagement and purchasing interest they showed in the product.


Build up social media presence

This might sound like a given for most business owners but the question needs to be asked: Do you have an active Facebook page? Do you post regular updates, which might include photos of items, special discounts, and even giveaways? Do you even have a Facebook page? If you’ve answered no to any of these questions, then it’s time to establish a better social media profile. The same applies to Twitter and YouTube. The more you can use these tools to actively promote your brand, the more you will be able to attract prospective customers to visit your site and buy your products.


At the same time, be careful not to oversell. Balance the sales pitches with content relevant to your target audience, such as how-to articles or whitepapers.


Says Forrester: “Creating content that resonates with the small business audience can drive targeted traffic via organic search. These visitors can convert into leads for service-based businesses and sales for ecommerce businesses.


Study dropout results in your analytics

Another way to boost your online sales is to see if there are any bottlenecks in your checkout process. Check your analytics to see if customers are not completing purchases and if not, when in the sales cycle that is occurring. Perhaps the fault isn’t with your actual products or digital advertising efforts as much as it is your online checkout procedure. Review the steps: Is the navigation complicated, full of superfluous steps? Does the customer have to click through too many pages? If so, you might want to tweak your checkout process to help convert these dropouts to sales.


Offer loyalty rewards

Regardless of the nature of your business, all customers like to feel special. Offering loyalty programs, such as cards or points that will award customers discounts or other rewards for their continued purchases is not just an effective way to increase sales but a best practice when it comes to customer retention.


Digital marketing consultant Lundberg agrees, noting that loyalty options can be done via e-mails that target customers based on specific purchases or information on their profile. “For example, this can be done via exclusive offers to reward Facebook fans,” she explains.


And once the customer signs up, he or she will receive regular news alerts, free shipping offers, and even birthday wishes, according to Lundberg.


Solicit customer feedback

Perhaps the best way to find out what you can do to boost your sales conversion rate is to go directly to the source—your customers. Ask for their feedback on your site. Poll them on their level of satisfaction with your business. What kinds of products would they like to see added to your offerings? Has your price point ever been an issue with them? (And to encourage free and unfettered disclosures, allow customers the option of remaining anonymous or cloaking their identity).


Sure, you may hear some cold hard truths about your business and your selling practices. But at the same time, the information gleaned could jolt you from complacency to begin the steps you need to take to increase your online sales.

6 Great Apps for Small Businesses

6 Great Apps for Small Businesses

The rise of mobile has certainly changed the face of business as we know it, and mostly for the better. Now that pretty much everyone has a smartphone, it is important that those phones are equipped with the right tools to keep up with the hectic life of a business professional. Having to put something off until you can get back to the office or hotel room could cost time, money, and even sales. That makes having everything you need in one mobile package a smart choice.


Take a look at these five apps that will add functionality to your phone – and life – with ease:


Audio Memos


Audio Memos is a great app that lets you record audio quickly and easily, whether you’re leaving yourself a reminder or recording a meeting or lecture.Lifehacker called it “the best voice recording app,” and it’s easy to see why – it’s simple, easy to use, and incredibly useful.


The app can even be set to start recording when it hears voices, so you can avoid long silences at the beginning of your recordings. Use the various extensions to trim your recordings, compress them for email, and upload everything to Dropbox, Box, Evernote, Google Drive, or simply send messages via email.




What do you do with those 20 or 50-odd, assorted business cards you’ve collected after you leave the conference? Most of us do a quick sort, and even then, the ones we keep often just get tucked away. Is there a better way to organize them? You bet.


With CardMunch, you just snap a picture of a business card and the app does the rest. It automatically converts the text on the business card into an address book contact using your mobile phone’s contact system. Snap a picture, ditch the card. Additionally, since CardMunch is owned by LinkedIn, you can take that contact information and add the person as a connection on LinkedIn, making it easy to view even more info through their profile right away.





MightyMeeting is a powerful tool that ensures you are never unprepared for a meeting. You can:


  • Store PowerPoint presentations and PDF files and share them any way you want to.
  • Set up online meetings that anyone can connect to using their phone, tablet, or computer.
  • Download documents to your device before you head out to a spot where you know that you are going to be without an internet connection, and use Nearcast to share them over Bluetooth between any iOS devices in the room.
  • You can even create an interactive whiteboard that everyone can use to share ideas.




I travel a lot, giving speeches and what not, and TripIt is my go-to travel app. Here’s how it works: with each travel reservation you make – car rental, flight, hotel, etc– you simply forward the confirmation to TripIt and the site combines them all and sends you back a master calendar/confirmation/itinerary. The elegant itinerary then syncs with Apple and Google Calendars. It also contains weather info for where you are going, as well as maps and directions for each stop on your travels. TripIt Pro adds real-time flight information, a flight finder, and more to an already robust app.



This is another of my favorite business apps. Hightail is a great way to share large files that might otherwise be practically impossible to send. The app lets you send files up to 2GB instantly from your computer or mobile device, and store an unlimited amount of files online. Such large attachments usually upset regular email servers.


At Hightail.com (formerly YouSendIt), you can see who has downloaded your files, and even control who can and can’t make changes to those files. Finally, you can also sign documents through Hightail and return them immediately, making sure that contracts, mocks, and other documents take as little time as possible to get approved.


These apps help make your phone or tablet the only device you need to get everything done. Do you have an app you can’t live without? Share it with us.

More apps for business http://www.businessinsider.com/50-best-business-apps-2013-8?op=1

Leveraging Your Social Media Instagram to Increase Your Business Visibility

Leveraging Your Social Media Instagram to Increase Your Business Visibility Leveraging Your Social Media Instagram to Increase Your Business Visibility

Instagram is the photo-sharing social media site with 150 million active users, 70 percent of whom check their Instagram accounts daily. More than a third check several times a day. Those kinds of numbers can be exciting for small business owners who want to promote their businesses.

Instagram is the easiest way to attract your ideal followers and gain new clients,” says Sue B. Zimmerman, owner of SueB.Do, a seasonal apparel store on Cape Cod. Using Instagram, Zimmerman increased sales at her shop over 40 percent in a single year.

Take a look at these six ways to leverage Instagram for your small business:

1. Educate yourself

If you’re not already familiar with Instagram and its functionality, you’ll want to learn how to use this powerful tool specifically for business. Bola Olonisakin, creative director and online strategist at GTech Designs, a marketing agency specializing in web design, custom content, and social media, recommends going directly to the source. “To assist the numerous entrepreneurs who are discovering its benefits, Instagram set up the Instagram For Business blog containing tips, brand spotlights, and news from Instagram headquarters,” she says.

2. Use the right images

“Every business owner needs a visual strategy,” Zimmerman says. However, knowing what type of images you want to share is only the first step. “Strategically using hashtags on your Instagram posts can extend your reach and helps with SEO,” she says. A critical part of a visual strategy is knowing how you’re going to share your Instagram images on other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Used properly, Instagram can allow a business owner to be effective and efficient.

3. Create a posting schedule

While Instagram originally developed for people to share their images in real time, you don’t need to use the tool that way. Many business owners create pictures or videos that can then be posted at a later date. “It isn’t necessary to post every day, but it is advisable to determine a schedule and decide what to post and when to post it,” Olonisakin says.

4. Go behind the scenes

“One of the great things about Instagram is that you can really use it to humanize your brand,” Zimmerman says. She recommends using video to show behind the scenes action in your business, such as product creation, setting up displays, and more. “Share pictures of your team members,” she says. “People are more likely to support your business when they feel like they know you.”

5. Provide content of value

How-to videos, incentive offers, and genuinely entertaining images give people a reason to follow your Instagram account. Once you have followers, make sure to encourage engagement, Olonisakin says. “When you post an image or a quote, encourage people to react to it,” she says. “If it’s a quote, ask people if they think that it is true or not. If it’s food, ask people to post whether they would try it. The more posts you get on an image, the more other people are likely to see it.” Don’t forget that social media is a two-way street. “Engage with your followers from other social media platforms by following them,” she adds. “‘Like’ their photos. Leave comments.”

6. Keep it local

For many small businesses, emphasizing local connections is a key part of their marketing strategy. “You can create very niched Instagram accounts by giving each one a distinct name or handle,” Zimmerman says. For instance, you can create Instagram accounts for specific aspects of your business, such as a bridal retailer who also sells prom dresses and special occasion wear in addition to wedding gowns. For businesses in destination locations, consider including that location in your handle. “This can be extremely valuable, as it helps people discover your business when they’re visiting,” she adds.

When used correctly, Instagram can be an effective tool for promoting your brand. The app is available free through iTunes, Google Play, and the Windows Phone store. You may soon find that it becomes one of your most effective social media marketing tools.

Social Media Q & A: Expert Ed Gazarian Talks About First Steps for Small Businesses

Social Media Q & A: Expert Ed Gazarian Talks About First Steps for Small Businesses
by Sherron Lumley.

Ed Gazarian is a native of Boston, a graduate of Northeastern University and Harvard, who works for Pandemic Labs in Boston, one of the oldest social media marketing and analytics agencies in the U.S. He took some time to talk with writer Sherron Lumley about what’s new in social media and the first steps a small business can take when creating a social media strategy.

SL: Tell me about the business of Pandemic Labs.

EG: Pandemic is a 100-percent social media agency; we are not in print media at all. We’re all about customizing for actual customer needs. Rather than be tied to a specific set of platforms or technologies, we’re an agency committed to the notion that marketing is a dialogue, not a monologue. Our client roster runs the gamut from top-tier luxury brands (The Ritz-Carlton), to global retail chains (Au Bon Pain), and to regional groups (Fairmont Parks Art Association and The Roaming Boomers). We’ve also run campaigns with Dunkin’ Donuts, Puma, Canon, and DIRECTV.

SL: What are the basic social media steps that you advise your clients to take today?

EG: First, identify whom you want to communicate with. Based on who a brand wants to engage, the platforms, technologies and strategies we deploy will vary drastically from client to client. Knowing your audience is the absolute first step.

Next, figure out where those people are. If it’s Facebook, you know that’s a crucial part of your overall strategy. If your consumers are more active on something like LinkedIn, or social media’s latest darling—Pinterest—then focus your efforts there. There’s enough demographic info about the major channels out there, to make an informed decision about which channels to operate on. Depending upon what platforms you choose, your methods of engagement will differ. Understand that you will have to commit some time—and money—to these endeavors.

The last of these basic steps is identifying metrics of success. Yours will not be the same as those of other brands operating on the same platforms. Don’t get bogged down in things like “The Top 3 Metrics In Social Media”—lists like that are a dime a dozen. Don’t be dazzled by ‘The Next Big Thing’—does anyone still think Google+ is at all relevant? You know your brand, and you know who you want to go after. Be thoughtful in how you define what success means for you.

PQ_QAedgazarian.jpgSL: How has this changed in the last few years?

EG: Mobile and touch-based technology are easily the biggest game changers over the past few years. The ubiquity of devices like the iPhone, iPad, and their ilk have made social media campaigns based on these things extremely easy—and extremely cost-effective—to deploy on a large scale. Foursquare is a great example of this.

SL: Why is online marketing important today and looking forward?

EG: People are increasingly connected through social channels like Facebook and Twitter. We know, both anecdotally and through vigorous research, that people’s purchase decisions are more significantly influenced by recommendations/reviews/suggestions from their personal connections, than by any brand messaging. This is never going to change. Brands that capitalize on that fact through active engagement on social channels will reap the rewards.

SL: What are some examples of niche areas or groups in social media marketing?

EG: The B2B crowd is definitely one. In the small businesses world—from mom & pop storefronts, to local restaurants, and even 15 to 20-person niche service firms—opportunities abound. Just about every eatery near our office participates in some form of social campaign, such as group buying (through services like Groupon or LivingSocial), and they’ve enjoyed success using those channels.

SL: What are the benefits of targeting small audiences in social media?

EG: The more detailed you get, the more effectively you can tailor things, from the images and copy used in a Facebook ad, to strategically timing your tweets, to the text used in your Tumblr posts. The next evolution of this would be identifying your most engaged audience members. Solutions like Offerpop and Foursquare give small brands a way to compete with the Coca-Colas of the world, without being priced out of the market.

If you’re a local clothing designer with a single storefront, and you want to spread the word about your label to women around 35 years old, that live near your city, and that are interested in fashion—then there are channels (like Pinterest and Instagram) that are uniquely suited to that demographic. The people are already there, and the conversation already exists. Your job—and what will set you apart from the novices—is to find the relevant conversation, and take part in it. Anytime you can mix the value of in-person communication with the reach of social media, that’s a win.

Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training

Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training

by Jen Hickey.

 Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training Whether you’re thinking about leaving that big firm or graduation is looming, anybody looking to start their own professional practice should have a grasp of basic business fundamentals. While more colleges and universities are beginning to offer business courses to new doctors, lawyers, dentists, and other professionals, most still don’t. But the resources are out there, if you look for them. Some professional associations like the American Dental Association and the American Bar Association offer tips, information, training and seminars for managing the business side of a practice. Tap into your professional network and seek out advice from veterans in private practice. And don’t forget about the experts, particularly those that specialize in your industry. You can’t put a price on the right accountant or financial adviser. Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


“There are structural differences for professional practices,” notes Mitchell Weiss, author and adjunct professor at University of Hartford, Barney School of Business. And the legal structure of your practice goes beyond taxes. “How you finance the practice and degree of liability and risk go back to the structure of your practice,” explains Weiss. If forming a partnership, make sure you know everything about your potential partner(s), including how much personal debt they’re carrying. “A business partnership is not unlike a marriage,” he says. “If something goes wrong, you’re responsible as a professional and an individual.” Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


With practices that are capital intensive like dentistry, specialty health providers, and certain types of engineering or architectural firms, the equipment and/or software needed to run the practice will likely require some financing. “Speaking as a former lender, there’s only so much debt you can take on,” says Weiss. “Financing has to be done with some thought and deliberation to avoid rolling deficiencies from one loan to the next.” He cautions against the “snowball” effect of taking on too much debt, as equipment can become obsolete long before you’ve paid off the loan to finance it. “At some point, you’ll want to retire or sell the practice,” notes Weiss. “And if you owe more than you own, the value of your practice will diminish.” Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


A few years after Dr. Robert Sorin started his own Manhattan-based cosmetic and restorative dental practice, he attended a seminar in Chicago, where the audience was asked: “Are you entrepreneurs that happen to be dentists, or dentists that happen to be entrepreneurs?” The answer to that question marked the beginning of his entrepreneurial journey as a dentist. “Over the next few days, we were given benchmarks to set a baseline for success,” recalls Dr. Sorin. “While the goals have changed over time, I’m still using those same benchmarks, such as calculating production per day and month, total collections per month and a detailed breakdown of fixed and variable overhead expenses each month, to track my business 25 years later.” Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


Prof&Entre_PQ.jpgOne early misstep Dr. Sorin recalls was hiring too large of a staff. “Overhead costs can get quickly out of hand,” he cautions. “I’ve learned that you can have a smaller staff and get most, if not all, the same work accomplished.” Dr. Sorin also quickly learned the importance of forward budgeting. “By projecting costs one, two, and three years ahead, I’m forced to look at where expenses are going and where income strains may arise,” he explains. “It gives you metrics to ensure that your revenues at least equal or exceed expenses.” Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


“It’s important to have at least a rudimentary understanding of how your financial statements work (income statement, balance sheet, cash flow),” notes Weiss.  Staying on top of your financials not only helps you track performance, but also better positions you to negotiate terms and structure your loan payments. “For example, if you know your company’s revenues are seasonal in nature (high summer months, low winter months), you may then want to negotiate a repayment plan taking that into account to avoid getting squeezed,” explains Weiss. He also recommends comparing your financials against those of other practices in the industry. “There are plenty of peer metrics out there to measure performance.” Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


When attorney Cynthia Johnson Rerko was thinking about leaving her former employer, she was advised by a mentor to wait until she made partner. “People in the legal business and those hiring lawyers want one that’s made partner,” explains Rerko. “It’s a benchmark in a lawyer’s career.” She not only was the first female partner at her old firm, but also made it a year earlier than planned. In 1998, when Rerko left, she made sure she had enough cash reserves and a client list to get her Gainesville, Texas-based practice, which specializes in complex financial restructuring, off the ground. “Once I was comfortable I’d have a core business where I could at least break even, I was ready,” she says. Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


Part of the motivation for starting her own practice was her desire to spend more time with her then 11-year old son. “The law is still very much about billable hours,” explains Rerko. “And when you work in a large firm, it means putting in face time.” Once she was the boss, she didn’t always need to be in the office to run her business. And she was able to rein in her caseload when needed. “I knew my business would be there when I got back,” she says. This also allowed her to tap into a qualified flexible work force of contract lawyers and law students with prior professional experience. Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


Because she enjoys the work, Rerko sometimes had difficulty keeping track of her hours. “It can be a distraction,” she explains. “But when you’re making or breaking it based on collectibles, it’s something you have to do.” To enable her to concentrate on the legal side of her business, Rerko has an accountant that tracks her monthly revenues and expenses and manages her tax obligations. “It’s not the focus of my business,” notes Rerko. “But it’s necessary to keep it running.” Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


Jan Moye also saw an opportunity when she launched her Irving, Texas-based specialty engineering firm Moye Consulting in 2002. Back then, she explains, the introduction of new technologies in security and other building systems created the need for low voltage systems engineering in facilities design. “Suddenly, there was much greater complexity to the data network that needed to be accommodated in new building designs,” notes Moye. Her former employer was very supportive of the move—in fact, they became her first client. “I started the business because I wanted to make money doing what I do well,” she says. “But over the years, I’ve encountered issues and challenges that they didn’t teach you in engineering school.” Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


While her business was profitable from the start, it wasn’t growing enough. “Even though we did a great job on the execution of the technical work, I had to push myself to focus on marketing and networking with potential clients in the beginning,” she recalls. Once the firm had achieved a certain level of growth, she was able to hire a project manager who also handled sales and a marketing coordinator. “As the business got bigger, I could allocate certain jobs to those better suited for them.” Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


But when an opportunity arose to improve her business skills, Moye took it. Through a friend, she learned of the SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative, a seven-month-long M.B.A. boot camp. Every year, the SBA accepts about 200 established small business owners into the program who meet certain criteria (e.g. have been in operation at least three years and have annual revenues of at least $300,000). She applied and was accepted in April 2012 and graduated in November. Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training


Moye and her classmates were given a curriculum that included employment law, sales/marketing, branding, competitive analysis, and strategic planning, among others. “They’re topics that would be covered in business school,” she explains. “The difference is you get to apply what you’re studying to your own business.”  Moye found the interaction and advice she got from other small business owners of different sizes and industries very helpful. “They saw the challenges and issues I was having from outside the box,” notes Moye. “Those fresh ideas helped me to take the blinders off.”


“There’s no right or wrong way [to running a practice],” notes Dr. Sorin. “But you have to decide what’s important to you, how you’re going to allocate your time personally and professionally, what your goals are and set up metrics to meet those goals.” Tips for running a professional practice without formal business training

How to win when you’re the underdog

How to win when you're the underdogHow to win when you’re the underdog.

by Mayra Jimenez

 How to win when you’re the underdog.. Yes, size matters. But it’s not the only thing. An ecommerce entrepreneur shows how to compete when you’re outmanned and out-spent.

If your competitors have a head start in your industry, they have the upper hand. Not fair, maybe, but true. Despite what may be an average product or service, seasoned competitors have a simple leg up when it comes to branding and recognition: age.

In internet commerce, for example, age gives you extra ‘cookie points’ with search engines, as seniority is a factor in page rank, authority, link building, and more. Perhaps your senior competitors had it easier when there was less competition, ranking at the top without much effort, and reaping the benefits of limited options.

You might feel you got the short end of the stick because your company was founded in an era of massive competition in your industry. Here are a few tips to position your company among the top players:

Separate “professional” from “robotic”

Larger companies tend to present themselves in a rather corporate manner. Their frosty approach gives you a chance to charm the market with your personalized company story. Clients want to feel they are shopping with a company that cherry-picks their products or personalizes their services in some manner. Casualness and customization are not your enemy! Take advantage of the fact that your ideas don’t have to go through a string of departments to get approved, and make it as personal as you can.

React quickly to industry trends

The most important advantage that you have over your competitor is your ability to react quickly. The bureaucracy of large teams and approval processes are tedious and time-consuming. While your senior competitor moves like an elephant, you’re a vibrant cheetah running rapidly towards your next milestone. Stay abreast of innovative strategies and implement them. This is especially important in ecommerce, as blogging, videos, and social media have changed the rules of converting browsers to customers.

Push the boundaries of your industry playbook

Let yourself think outside the box. Way outside the box. Be bold. As long as the end goal is increasing profit or branding, go for those ideas that sound crazy. Monitor the results closely, and if it’s not working, change it, cheetah.

Bottom line: you have more going for you than you think. Your competitors have paid researchers looking for the next big thing in the industry, and watching what new strategies are out there. They know you exist. So outsmart them. Give them a run for their money.

Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

FacebookFacebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

by Jennifer Shaheen.


Have you noticed lately that Facebook looks different? If your News Feed hasn’t changed yet, don’t worry, it soon will. Since early March, Facebook has slowly been rolling out its new News Feed design, giving users the first meaningful remodel of the site since 2006. What does this mean for you, the small business owner? Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business


Image is everything

The first thing you’ll notice about the new Facebook News Feed is how much larger and more prominent the pictures are. People can continue to upload photos directly to Facebook, or share their images from other social media sites, such as Instagram or Pinterest. Photos are so central to the new design that Facebook allows users to choose a “Photos Only” view (more about that later). Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

For the small business owner, the new Facebook News Feed means it’s time to embrace visual marketing. “Selecting the right images is key—images get behind our conscious thinking and connect with our emotions,” says Joe Decker, of Rock Slide Photography. “Images of owners or employees at a small business help create a sense of connection with that business, and make it easier for customers to make the first call.” Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

Share your own original images on your business’s Facebook page, but don’t stop there. Your visual marketing strategy can include using photos from your manufacturers or suppliers, buying stock images, sharing existing memes, infographics, and more.

Exercise your emotional intelligence when choosing images for your Facebook page. “Having people smiling, interacting, making eye contact, either with each other or with the viewer help give a sense of happiness for the perfection they seek in their lives,” says Dov Friedmann, of Photography by Dov, who specializes in corporate events photography. “You want to have an eye-catching image or photograph that attracts the viewer and also captures the essence or tells the story of what your company is about.”

How your customers will find you now

Central to Facebook’s new design is an easy to use navigation system that allows users to pick and choose what content they view. Content is sorted into Feeds, only one of which will be displayed at any given time. Switching from Feed to Feed is simple and easy, just like changing the TV channel.

There are six standard Feeds: All Friends, Close Friends, Music, Photos, Following, and Games. Your business page posts will appear on the Following Feed, and the images you post will appear on the Photos Feed as well.

Facebook has always had limited navigation. The redesign makes the navigation more prominent and easier to use. There will be an adjustment period as Facebook users become acclimated to the new system, but in the long term, the revamp may serve small business owners well. The organization of business pages into a centralized stream filters out distractions that compete for your customer’s attention.

Make the most of metrics

Facebook Insights tell page administrators how many people saw a post, how many people liked it, and how many people shared the post with their friends. Use this information to gauge how relevant and meaningful your customers find the images and updates you post.

“Our goal is to engage our fans and sometimes that might be a serious photo of a re-breather diver and other times it could be a scuba diver riding a bike underwater,” says Darren Pace, Director of Marketing for SDI, TDI and ERDI, a dive training organization. “Regardless of what type of images are assumed to work best, always check your insights to make sure your fans feel the same way.”

Move toward mobile

One of the most important changes in Facebook’s new design is one that many small business owners might not even notice. The new site design is responsive, which means Facebook’s appearance and layout will always be consistent, no matter what type of device users choose to use to view the site. Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

 Why did Facebook do this?

Take a look around as you go through the course of your day. How many people do you see that are ‘unplugged’—not actively engaging with any type of mobile device at all? Chances are the number won’t be too high. The reason it looks like everyone is using a smartphone or tablet computer is pretty simple: almost everyone is. Cisco’s Visual Networking Index has projected that there will be more Internet-connected devices than there are people by the end of this year.

A recent Google study found 90 percent of Americans move sequentially across multiple screens in one day to access information and entertainment. Facebook’s adoption of responsive design provides their customers with a satisfying experience no matter where they are. Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

Impact of responsive design

What happens if a customer who is using Facebook on their smartphone or tablet decides to follow one of your links and goes to your website? This is where website design becomes really important. If your business website is responsive, it will adapt automatically to look good on your customer’s viewing device, and they’ll have an optimized experience.

If your business website is not responsive, it may not look good or function well on your customer’s viewing device. The website that looks great on a desktop computer may not render properly on a smartphone. Customers are impatient. They’re not going to try to figure out how your website is supposed to look. They’ll just see that things are out of alignment or too hard to read and move on—and there goes your potential sale. Facebook’s New Look: What the changes mean for your small business

Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

3 Ways To Grow Your BusinessGoogle Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business Google “business networking” and you’ll see links to articles on how to increase your Facebook Likes and Twitter followers. Connecting with potential customers and business partners via social networking is, by now, an essential part of any company’s growth. Despite the skyrocketing impact of social media over the past decade, however, the importance of old-fashioned, face-to-face networking has not faded. Shaking hands at conferences and making chit chat at cocktail parties is still one of the best ways to expand your brand’s reach, build your business, and create vital partnerships. So, just how good are your networking skills? To turn that annual conference small talk into a critical company connection, look over this list of networking Dos and Don’ts.


DO research who is coming

If possible, look over the guest list for any conference or party and make a mental list of those folks you want to meet. Shawna Tregunna, founder and owner of ReSoMe.com, a social media company, explores who is coming online and uses social media to reach out to fellow attendees before the event. “I watch for mentions of [the event] on social media by hashtag or name. I also check out the guest list if it is public. If I see someone I want to connect with, I look for them on Twitter or LinkedIn and [send them a Tweet or message such as] ‘I see we are both headed to XYZ event! I would love to get a chance to say hi. Looking forward to connecting!’ Then, at the event, I have a list of people I know I will connect with,” says Tregunna. Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


DON’T be afraid to approach someone

“Take every advantage possible to meet new people,” says Lori Cheek, founder and CEO of Cheekd.com, a sort of reverse-engineered dating site that provides its members icebreakers they can use to introduce themselves to new people. “When attending networking events, I find that it’s most advantageous to go alone so that you’re forced to talk to new people,” suggests Cheek. “Understand everyone is there for a similar reason and, for the most part, want to make new connections, so don’t be shy—just walk up and introduce yourself. The only thing you have to lose is an opportunity.” Cheek also offers a reminder not to make quick judgments. “Efficiently communicate and never dismiss a single soul—you never know who you’re talking to, who they might know, or how they’d be able to contribute [to your company].” Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


DO listen…and listen and listen

“Listen more than you talk. People invariably like someone who listens to them and makes them feel interesting and appreciated,” says Lisa Thompson, L.P.C., director of professional services for Pearson Partners International, Inc., a full-service retained executive search firm. Thompson suggests keeping your own story to a minimum. “Avoid immediately going into too much detail about what you offer. Unless they indicate a real interest by asking direct questions, you will bore them and they will want to escape,” suggests Thompson. “Practice describing what you do in just a couple of sentences.” Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


DON’T stay in just your industry

Getting beyond the folks within your industry can benefit your company in surprising ways. New ideas for marketing partnerships, insight on fresh ways to approach sales, and more solid business opportunities may arise from chatting with someone in another field or specialty. “It pays dividends to diversify your connections. Raise your awareness of the circles you spend your time in and if the circles have become too narrow—one type of industry, one type of profession—make it a point to widen the circle from time-to-time,“ writes founder and CEO of Impact Instruction Group Amy Franko in her e-book 35 Tips to Build Lasting Strategic RelationshipsGoogle Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


SmallTalk_PQ.jpgDO take notes

Katie Shea, director of marketing at OrderGroove.com, a company that launches and manages subscription programs for major retailers, suggests taking a brief moment to take notes on people you meet. “If you are at a large networking event like a cocktail party
or fundraiser, it’s easy to collect dozens of cards, yet difficult to keep
track of all of the different two- to three-minute conversations,” says Shea. “After a few
conversations, take a break to write personal notes on the back of each
card you’ve received—[things like] ‘NYU alum, born in South Africa, avid traveler.’ Not only will this jog your memory of the conversation, but your new
contact is likely to be impressed that you remembered such a personal
detail about him or her during later conversations.”


DON’T get stuck in conversations

Having a few ideas on how to exit a conversation is just as important as having opening lines to start one. Being “trapped” with one person for too long means missed opportunities to connect with others. “Learn to handle networking vultures and elegantly get out of a conversation with someone who wants to stick with you,” suggests Thompson. “You might say there is someone across the room you just have to speak to, or introduce that person to another and move along, or have other possible strategies up your sleeve.”


DO follow up in person

Keep that brief conversation going after the event with another face-to-face meeting—even if you don’t see an immediate use for the relationship. “You’ve heard the saying that if you need a relationship, it’s usually too late to build it. It’s often why people end up feeling as though they’re being insincere, because continual relationship building isn’t a habit built into their everyday life,” notes Franko. “A quick conversation with a new contact is rarely a bad
thing, but where the deals happen is later down the road. Be sure to follow
up—offer to buy coffee, lunch, a drink—with those individuals that you
believe offer synergies to your business,” offers Shea. Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

DON’T have an out-of-date online presence

To cultivate and grow relationships, many go beyond “just touching base” periodic emails. They build on that face-to-face networking with social media, which means it is vital your LinkedIn account is always up-to-date, and you are active on at least one social media channel. “I will connect with everyone within 48 hours [of an event] on LinkedIn with a unique greeting and ask for their other social channels so we can stay in touch,” notes Tregunna. “I then try to do mentions of them on social media if they are active – ‘Great meeting at on ! If you haven’t connected with them here you should try!’” That virtual connection keeps the lines of communication open and ready for future business opportunities that happen in person. Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing

Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

by Jennifer Shaheen.

Get ready—Google+, the little known social media platform, is likely going to play a much more important role in your marketing strategies in the future.


It’s all part of a plan Google vice president Bradley Horowitz first laid out in 2011.Google+ has a social networking component, but it is not meant to be solely a social network. Instead, Google+ is the integration of all the Google tools and applications, which gives the company the opportunity to roll out and integrate features that enhance the user’s experience. You can use Google+ to connect with your circle of friends, host online meetings through Hangouts, search for local businesses or protect ownership of your content through Google Authorship. “Google+ is Google itself. We’re extending it across all that we do—search, ads, Chrome, Android, Maps, YouTube—so that each of those services contributes to our understanding of who you are,” Horowitz said. Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.


Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing: The reach of Google

On average, Google+ users are spending 12 minutes a month on the social network. That pales in comparison to the 8 hours a month users spend on Facebook. Given this disparity, why is Google+ relevant? Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.


The answer’s simple. Guy Kawasaki said it best in his book, What the Plus! “Google owns one of the biggest rivers of Internet traffic.” As a result, if you’re a new user who wants to use any of Google’s most popular products or services—like creating a YouTube Channel or utilizing review sites like Zagat and Google Local—you now have to have a Google+ account. Creating a simple Gmail account, however, does not force you into using Google+ and individuals who already have a Google account haven’t been forced to register for Google+ either. But if you would like access to certain features, you will find yourself redirected to a sign-up page for Google+. (If you want to access any of Google’s services without being forced to sign up for Google+ Lifehacker tells you how.) The move requiring forced registration has ruffled a few feathers, but Google’s in the enviable position of being Disneyland in a world otherwise populated with cut-rate theme parks. To get on the best rides and have the most fun, you’ve got to pay the price of admission. Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.


Google has been working steadily to integrate Google+ into sites it doesn’t actively control. Web publishers are lured by the promise that something as simple as adding Google’s “+1” button—which only requires cutting and pasting a few lines of code to the site—can exponentially boost site traffic. Five million people hit that “+1” button every single day, sharing articles, blog entries, photos, logos and iconography, a YouTube video, reviews, and more.


Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.:Ubiquity has its benefits

“The Google platform gives you enterprise quality tools for a small business price,” says Ivana Taylor, publisher of DIYMarketers.com. “Specifically, I like that they all integrate into the most powerful search tool on the planet. You can literally run an entire marketing system on one platform.”


For years, Google has been providing entrepreneurs with free tools they can use to market their business. Google Analytics, Google Webmaster, and Google Places—now Google Local—are critical components of many small business owners’ digital marketing arsenal. Google+ adds another layer of functionality to the tools they’re already using.Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.


It’s important to be strategic and determine what role you want Google+ to play in your digital marketing strategy. To do this, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with what the features and capabilities of Google+ are.


“Get on it, and add your other profiles and websites/blogs to the About Page,” advises Joel Libava, The Franchise King. “Make sure to do the Google Author Markup along with it. It helps tie it all in for your Google search results.”  Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.


Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing:The importance of knowing your customer

“The psychology of getting someone to share your message is very different than the psychology of getting people to drive to your store and actually buy something,” says B.J. Bueno, managing partner at the Cult Branding Company. “The key thing to remember is that communication has a biological function. It’s vital to our survival. People tend to share things that give them value in their social circles.”   Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.


“The way to get the most out of your Google+ strategy is to put yourself in the shoes of your customer,” says Taylor.  “What will your customer “touch” first? Chances are that they will search first so it makes sense to do Google Local and Google Adwords and YouTube. You can see how powerful the integration is for getting found and ultimately getting chosen.” Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.


Ramon Ray, of SmallBizTechnology.com, uses Google+ primarily for video chatting with clients and colleagues through the Google+ feature known as Hangouts. His key for engaging with customers via Google+? “Just like any other vehicle, you need to deliver great content, regularly,” he says.


Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.: Google+ as a customer service vehicle

Viewing Google+ solely as a social media platform for corporate communications is a mistake. You can also expand the utility of Google+ by using it as a customer service tool.


Says Bueno: “We use Google+ specifically for the Hangout feature for our business. It is quickly becoming our preferred way to interact in the virtual space because it’s very easy and seems reliable thus far. As small businesses continue to operate in fragmented work/life space, services like Google+ can provide a vital way of keeping team members, vendors, and clients connected through sight, sound, and motion.”


For entrepreneurs who value flexibility, Google+ has distinct advantages as well. “With seamless access on iPads and other portable devices, you can now conduct meetings from virtually any location,” Bueno adds. “With integrated and other Google apps like Drive, Google+ has a lot to offer small businesses.” Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.


As Google+ gains more and more of a foothold in our digital lives, being able to recognize and make best use of this powerful tool can help small business owners on a budget expand their brand presence efficiently and affordably. Google+ Gaining Role in Digital Marketing.

Marketing Your Small Business for Back-to-School? Two Key Tips to Clear Through the Clutter

It’s that time of year again— time to get the kids ready for back-to-school. And while you’re buying new school supplies and clothes for the kids, why not think about some new ideas for your small business as well? One smart idea that many small business owners implement this time of year is to market their business with the back-to-school season in mind. With so many families focusing on school, it makes a lot of sense.

Don’t think that your business has to sell services or products to families to cash in on the back-to-school fever. Really, any business can tap into this moment in time. For instance, an accounting firm can put a back-to-school spin on some promotions, such as: “Is your small business’ math not up to speed? Don’t worry, you don’t need a tutor; instead contact the Jones Accounting Firm and get A’s on your next financials.”

The key to marketing your business for back-to-school is twofold: First, you need to have the right angle. Second, you need to have the right vehicle. Let’s look at both.

The Right Angle: There’s no shortage of competition out there when it comes to back-to-school promotions. Here’s why: marketers focus on where people put their attention, and right now, for families, returning to school is getting that attention. So, it’s important to be smart with your marketing efforts so that you don’t get lost in the shuffle.

I once had a master marketer tell me that the key to marketing in a crowded field is “waves and dips.” He explained that while it is smart to catch a wave like back-to-school because it is where the eyeballs are, the key to standing out is the dip. That is, you need to position yourself in a spot where the rest of the wave marketers are not.

What constitutes a dip? Really it is anything that you can do that sets your business apart from everyone else. The accounting firm above did that by tapping into the fall mindset. Whereas most back-to-school promotions are for clothing and office supply stores, Jones Accounting promoted a business that is not normally associated with back-to-school promotions. That is a classic “dip” promotion.

Your dip could be:

A loss leader sale of an item that is not normally found on sale.
An ad campaign that is really different. My dad once brought an elephant to his carpet store in September. While it did attract a lot of kids and parents looking for rides, Dad was not prepared for, shall we say, “Cleanup on aisle 3.” So be careful.The bottom line is you need to be different enough so that you stand out among all the surfers trying to catch the same wave.

The Right Vehicle: One of the great things about marketing today is that there are so many ways to get the word out: Pay-per-click, traditional ads, blogs, Twitter, etc.

While I am a big proponent of all of these new forms of media because they work and generally are very affordable, in this case, I would suggest that the tried is also true. Where are the parents? What do they read, watch and listen to? Wherever your audience is, that is where you need to be.

Some options: go the http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/growing-your-business/salesandmarketing/blog/2012/09/04/marketing-your-small-business-for-back-to-school-two-key-tips-to-clear-through-the-clutter