Archive for the ‘Small Business Marketing’ Category

If You Want to Get Attention, Say Something Worth Hearing

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Every day, we’re bombarded with more online information than our brains can possibly absorb. It’s as if a truck backed up to our homes and businesses each morning and dumped a ton of junk mail at our feet.

If you want to get any work done, you simply have to ignore or trash about 95 percent of anything you receive, even if it’s a subscription to a blog or eNewsletter you really mean to read.

So how do you get others to pay attention to your marketing messages?

Not by yelling louder or more often.

Here are my guidelines for being heard by the people you want to reach:

1. Know your ideal client and what problems she’s trying to solve.

If you don’t know whom you’re trying to attract and how you can be of help, it’s time to stop and figure that out. Everything else flows from this fundamental knowledge.

2. Provide quality content that solves a problem, teaches a new skill or inspires.

If you can do all three, even better. People are busy and easily distracted. To get your ideal client to pause and read, you need to give her content that’s immediately useful. It can be as short as a few sentences or as long as a feature article. Just be sure it’s worth her time.

3. Write with clarity and precision.

Nothing undercuts your message more than rambling sentences and poor grammar. If you’re not sure of your writing and editorial skills, find a good copyeditor to review your work before publishing.

4. Be consistent.

Produce and distribute your messaging content, via a blog, eNewsletter or other form of social media, on a predictable schedule, so your readers know when to expect your quality content—and look forward to it.

5. Be truthful and trustworthy.

Building a good reputation for your work is contingent on being a good person to work with. Enough said.

There is, of course, much to master about messaging tactics—how to build a good email distribution list, how to write effective headlines that get noticed, how to integrate keywords into your content to maximize search optimization, and so on. But even if you’re brilliant in all of these skills, if what you have to share isn’t worth reading, you’re wasting your time and everyone else’s.

The best test of your content? If you weren’t the author, would you take the time in the middle of a busy day to read it? I hope your answer is yes, but if not, you know what you have to do.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Photo Credit: maol via Compfight cc

Boost Your Blog with a Strategic Publication Plan: 5 Steps to Managing Your Time and Content

Monday, January 14th, 2013

If you enjoy writing, blogging is a great way to reach out and build connections with people who share your interests and who can benefit from your services. It’s also a great way to add fresh, search optimized content to your professional website and attract qualified inbound links, which improve your rankings

But it’s also a serious commitment. If you want to develop a following, you need to come up with a topic at least once a week, on schedule. You need to find time to research, write, revise and post. You need to stay on top of trends in your field and find an original angle. You need to understand your audience and what questions they’re asking.

It can seem easy at first, especially when you’re excited about launching your new blog, to find something good to write about. Without a publication plan, however, it’s also easy to run out of steam.

I’ve seen this happen time and again with clients who want a blog as part of their new professional websites. They’ll write a few posts, maybe even for a month or two. But soon, other commitments and demands of a busy schedule squeeze out the blogging, and it becomes a dated, dead-end section of their websites.

The best way to avoid that trap and keep your blog fresh and compelling is to develop a strategic publication plan. Here are the basic steps:

1. Identify your ideal client’s top questions.

What are your target audience’s biggest concerns that you can help solve? What are the questions you’re asked most often? This is the starting point for a series of blog posts. Write down the questions and group them into several main categories.

2. Develop a list of keywords that tie to your main blog categories.

You can do this using Google’s free keyword tool, if you’re on a budget, or a good paid service, like Wordtracker. You can find a lot of excellent free guidance about how to select keywords and phrases on Wordtracker.com. Keep this list handy as you develop keyword tags and headlines for your posts.

3. Plan out a series of post topics, one per week to start, for two to three months at a time.

Keep it manageable, based on a realistic assessment of your availability to write. As you plan, try to rotate your topics so that you cover the range of your main categories over a month or six weeks. I like to set this up as a table, with a column each for the post topic, the category, who’s writing the post (if you work with a team) and when the post is scheduled to publish.

4. Plan your time for research and writing.

You can tackle this in a variety of ways. If you work best on a weekly basis, set aside time for research and writing the first draft several days ahead of the publication date, so you have time to review and revise. Another approach is to set aside a day each month to focus on your blog, do all the research and first drafts, then take a few hours later that week to revise and set up a series of four scheduled posts, one for each of the next four weeks.

5. Track your traffic.

Review your blog stats to see which posts were most popular and got the most comments. Be sure to keep up with any comments in a timely fashion, to encourage interaction. Evaluate your publication strategy based on this feedback and develop your schedule for the next three months.

While some people favor writing several times a week, and even daily, to build a following, my preference is to write well, consistently, once a week. We’re all inundated with too much information every day, every hour, online. If you write something worth reading that your followers can look forward to on schedule each week, chances are they’ll read it and pass it along. And you’ll have more time to focus on the work you love most.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Holiday Grab Bag: How Not to Name Your Website, Free Guides to Better Web Copy and a Few Laughs

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Now that we’ve all survived the Mayan apocalypse-that-wasn’t, here are a collection of links for a few laughs about the year that was and some guidance for online marketing in 2013.

From PR Daily’s Alan Pearcy:
12 best of the 2012 ‘best ofs’
Books, video bloopers, smartphone autocorrects and more. Enjoy!

From Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger, this guest post by Rob Henry:
URL Be Sorry! Google Cuts Back on Top-Ranking Exact-match Domains
Bottom line: Gaming the system doesn’t work. Quality content does.

And to help you create that excellent, search-friendly content, here are three free resources for improving your website or blog copy and content marketing strategy:

Content Marketing Institute
Content Marketing White Paper Library
Help with better web forms, nurturing leads, creating webinars and more.

Copyblogger
Copywriting 101: How to Craft Compelling Copy
SEO Copywriting Tips, Secrets, and Strategies
If you want to learn how to write better web or blog copy this year, these two collections of blog posts will get you started, and then some.

Happy holidays and best wishes for a prosperous, healthy and fulfilling New Year!

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Want Your Message to Get Attention? Think Like a Telegraph Operator

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

I finally got to see Lincoln this weekend, Steven Spielberg’s stunning portrayal of the President’s battle to pass the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery. Among the film’s most powerful scenes, there are several moments when all action pauses for a telegraph transmission. Tension mounts as the telegraph receives a string of Morse Code beeps and the critical news is translated—the outcome of a key battle, the House vote on the Amendment’s fate.

We take instantaneous messaging for granted today. But during the Civil War, the telegraph had only been in use for some 20 years; Western Union had just laid the first transcontinental telegraph cable in 1861. Operators needed be proficient in Morse Code, the series of dots and dashes, transmitted as short beeps and long beeps, that represent each letter of the alphabet.

Messages were short, focused and aimed at a very specific audience, then communicated in person or hand-carried to the intended recipient. And for those reasons, quite effective.

Except for the medium, not so different from effective messaging today.

Here are a few lessons about messaging we can all learn from the days of the telegraph:

  1. Know your audience. It’s easy to send out any kind of message into cyberspace. But if you’re not clear about whom your trying to reach and what they care about—what information they would stop in their tracks to discover—chances are good no one will pay any attention.
  2. Convey your message in a way your audience understands. In the 19th century, not everyone knew Morse Code; they needed an operator who could translate telegraph transmissions. With the Internet, you can write anything you want and put it online, publish it via emails, your blog and other social media. But if you’re using lingo or a language style that the people you want to reach don’t share, your message will be dismissed as unintelligible beeps.
  3. Keep it focused. Whether by telegraph or Internet, short, simple and clear add up to a memorable message that sticks.
  4. Time your message to arrive when people are looking for the information you want to provide. There are cycles in every business. Everyone’s looking for bargains right now before the holidays. After New Year’s, people look for ways to fulfill their resolutions to lose weight and get fit. In January and February, people in cold climates begin to plan for vacations in warmer ones. These are the obvious cycles. Whatever messaging you do, understand when those you want to help need it most, and set your schedule accordingly.

Bottom line: Our technology certainly has evolved, but the essence of human communication hasn’t.

End of transmission.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

Why Bother with a Website If You Have Good Word-of-Mouth?

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I know a small business owner, a specialist in computer repair and Internet security, who doesn’t have a website. Ironic, he admits, to be in the business of helping others have safe and effective communication online while lacking an on-line presence. But he does great work and has an excellent network of person-to-person referrals, and he’s been very busy.

The problem is this: Last year, someone across the globe pushed a scam over the Internet using the name of his company. If a potential customer looks up his business online, the first thing they find is the thread of warnings about the scam. You have to know him and type in his name to get to the real information about his business on his LinkedIn profile. Last time we spoke, he was planning to create his own website, but I have yet to see one.

Maintain Control of Your Message

Now, just because you don’t have a website for your business doesn’t mean you’ll end up with this kind of dilemma about your good name. But the point is, just about everyone checks you out online these days before they try to contact you to do business. And you want to be sure to have the upper hand in controlling what they read about you when they do.

According to Google, 97 percent of consumers go online to find local businesses. So if you’re relying on word-of-mouth for your business, like my friend, chances are you have a clientele that is primarily local and possibly regional. If people hear about you from trusted sources, they may call, but they probably will look you up, too. If they don’t find you online, this is what can happen:

  • They won’t fully understand your work and the range of options you offer for helping them solve the problem that’s brought them to you in the first place.
  • They may make assumptions about your qualifications that aren’t true.
  • They may make assumptions about your pricing that aren’t true.
  • They may wonder if you take your work seriously.

At the least, answering any of these questions or doubts can cost you time, having to explain yourself and your work in detail whenever you get an inquiry. At most, your lack of a web presence can cost you more business.

Expand Your Referral Network

While it’s wonderful to have a strong word-of-mouth network, you expand your odds of getting more business through your website. As any solopreneur soon learns, there are unpredictable cycles of feast or famine. If you’re just relying on a local personal network for business, you can find yourself without work at the most inopportune moment. Building a strong referral network online begins with a solid web presence that is your main reference point.

Clarify What You Do and Why

One of the great benefits of creating a website for your business is that it forces you to clarify for yourself what you do, the value of your work and why you do it. You may already have good answers for all of the above, but until you sit down to put it into words, you won’t realize what you’re missing from your pitch and how you could make it better.

Simply put, even if you have a strong personal referral network, a professional website that presents you and your great work in a way that resonates with those you hope to reach is well worth the time and investment to ensure you that you’ll continue to have all the business you need.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

The Single Most Important Sentence on Your Homepage

Monday, September 17th, 2012

What’s the goal of your website? This may sound obvious. Of course you want to attract potential clients. But what do you want them to do once they get to your site?

If your have something to sell, the answer is clear. You want them to purchase your product. But what if you’re a service professional?

It’s not enough to describe what you do. You need a call-to-action. This is the equivalent of a Buy Now button on an e-commerce site.

Your Call-to-Action Depends on What Your Visitor Needs Right Now
If you want visitors to call you to find out more information about your services, your call-to-action can be as simple as an invitation to set up an appointment for a complimentary half-hour consult. I’ve had clients who are attorneys use this approach successfully, because people shop around for expensive legal advice.

You have to know your audience and how they make decisions. If they need to feel you out in person as one of several options, a free consult—with limits, so you don’t set yourself up for someone who wants to just pick your brain for free—can be a great way to build your practice.

Build a Relationship with Thoughtful Lead-Generation Content
If you have information products to sell, such as an online course, to leverage your consulting services, you’ll want to develop some free, useful content that your visitor can download, in exchange for an email address. This is called lead-generation content, and the goal of your website in this case is to build a qualified email list for developing your relationship with potential clients through additional info product offers.

Once again, you need to have a clear idea of your goals and offer information that has real value. Most people are wary of giving up their email addresses. We’re all inundated with email, a lot of it junk.

No-one Will Give You Their Email Address for More Junk Mail
What advice can you give in the form of a useful download—be it a fact-filled PDF, an eBook or a white paper—that will make your visitor want to opt into your list? And what do you want to do with that list? How are you going to follow up and build your relationship, leading to a sale of a more substantive info product or your consulting services? You need to know the answers before you craft your lead-generation content and call-to-action.

It’s worth noting that eNewsletters have become so ubiquitous that asking people to sign up for your weekly newsletter, especially if you’re using canned information from an industry subscription service rather than original content, is probably not going to get you much interest. It’s also not going to help you establish your own expertise if you’re just recycling someone else’s content as your own.

So—once again, what’s the goal of your website? And what do you want your visitors to do once they get there?

For a more detailed discussion of how to craft an effective call-to-action, here are some useful articles:

Content Marketing Institute: Are Your Call to Actions Missing These Proven Formulas?

HubSpot: 10 Best Practices to Optimize the Language of Your Calls-to-Action

Smashing Magazine: Call to Action Buttons: Examples and Best Practices

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

The Easiest, Free Way to Brand Your Business Online

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Business cards and letterhead used to be the main tools for professional communication and still play an important role in establishing your brand identity. You wouldn’t think of sending a letter or invoice to a client on plain white paper, right?

So why send an email to your client from your gmail address?

Tie Your Business Email to Your Brand
If you have a professional website, be sure your email is tied to your web address. Your web developer can quickly set this up for you if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself through your site hosting service.

There is just no easier way to remind clients of your brand than sending them an email from yourname@yourbrand.com. You can reinforce the connection through an automated signature at the bottom of your email that includes at least your name, phone and a live link to your website. Best of all—it’s free.

That said, I’m not a big fan of  branded email letterhead templates that you can buy online. For my money, they look cheesy, like hyped-up direct mail. Most business email correspondence is short, sometimes just a one-word answer that can be viewed in an email preview display. You don’t want to clutter up the heading with branding images, your photo or distracting messages.

Retain Branding in a Shortened Email Address
If your website has a long url and you’re concerned that it’s too much to type for an email address—or, as happened to a client recently, your email address doesn’t fit into the design of your business card—you can create a shortened version of your web address for your email.

Just be sure that the shortened domain name is available, because you’ll need to own it in order to set up the email address. Most importantly, be sure you retain the essence of your brand in the mini version.

For example, I use evelyn@herwitzassociates.com for my professional email. But if I wanted something shorter, I would go with @herwitzassoc.com, which combines my brand with a recognized abbreviation of the word “associates,” so it would still make a clear connection to my website. I would also have my web developer point herwitzassoc.com to my actual website for seamless search.

Remind Your Reader of Your Brand with Every Email
The beauty of email is its straightforward simplicity. Email provides an immediate way to communicate with anyone around the world.

What you say and how you say it are, of course, the most important ways that you establish yourself as a professional. But don’t miss this free opportunity to remind your business email correspondents, every time you write, who you are, the name of your brand and where to learn more about you online.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.