http://www.sba.gov/community/blog/rss/15051/feed/RK%3D0/RS%3DWlb4_JLbOgtO8syXkSqkdylTA6E- en Build Your Business with a Great Web Presence http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/build-your-business-with-great-web-presence-1 <p>47% of small businesses don&rsquo;t have a website. Can you believe it? Establishing a web presence is easier than ever these days and there are so many tools out there that will make it quicker and more influential on your bottom line than ever before. Here are 3 resources that will not only convince you that every small business should have a great website, but guide you in exactly how to make that a reality &ndash; as painlessly and effectively as possible.</p> <h2> Make Your Website Work for You</h2> <p>Do you have one of the 95% of small business websites that isn&rsquo;t mobile-optimized? Get ahead of trends, stand out from your competition and make it as easy as possible for customers to connect with your business by providing them with an easy, enjoyable web impression. The new infographic by SCORE, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/making-your-website-work-when-online-youre-in-business">Making Your Website Work</a>,&rdquo; shares the real, hard numbers that put the value of mobile-friendly small business websites, online marketing and SEO into perspective. Did you know:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 97% of consumers look online for local products and services?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 70% of smartphone owners have connected with a local business after a search?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 70-80% of searchers <em>ignore</em> paid ads and focus on search results?</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/making-your-website-work-when-online-youre-in-business">infographic</a> compiles 9 statistics about small business website usage into 3 actionable tips to help you make the most of your business&rsquo;s web presence.</p> <h2> Optimize Your Site Design</h2> <p>So you&rsquo;re finally convinced - you have a website, but how can you tell if it&rsquo;s really adding to your bottom line? And adding the absolute most that it could be? SCORE mentor and entrepreneur Dan Beldowicz presents an online workshop, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/winning-websites">Winning with Websites</a>&rdquo; in which you&rsquo;ll learn:</p> <ul> <li> How website design can make or break your online success</li> <li> Why going mobile is a MUST</li> <li> The truth about mobile apps</li> <li> How &amp; when to hire a web developer</li> </ul> <p><a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/winning-websites">Listen and watch</a> as Dan explains how to optimize your web presence.</p> <h2> Create a Great Customer Call to Action (CTA)</h2> <p>Finally, you&rsquo;ve got to tell customers <em>exactly</em> what you want them to do next. If it&rsquo;s unclear or if there are too many competing options, they&rsquo;ll navigate away from that one important click you really want them to make. Daniel Kehrer, founder of BizBest.com, says, &ldquo;A strong CTA makes it clear what action the customer is expected to take, and why.&rdquo; How does that translate for your specific business? He says,&nbsp;&ldquo;Your approach depends on the action you want to motivate. For example, if the goal is to spur a purchase, and you&rsquo;ve already communicated benefits, a simple &lsquo;Buy Now!&rsquo; might be all you need.&rdquo;&nbsp; Daniel explains in further detail and shares <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/how-create-great-customer-call-action">10 tips for creating strong calls to action</a> to help you turn your heard-earned web visitors into revenue.</p> <p>By now, I hope you are completely convinced that a user-friendly, informative and helpful website is a must for your business and you know how to convert your newfound prospects into loyal customers. The online experience really does reflect the way you would drive sales at your storefront on Main Street: have an easy to find location, create an enjoyable, uncluttered experience and communicate exactly how customers can follow through to your end goal. And to make sure you stay on the right path to your end goal, be sure to get a <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors">SCORE mentor</a> to be your sounding board.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/build-your-business-with-great-web-presence-1#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/820541 The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:04:42 +0000 bridgetwpollack 820541 at http://www.sba.gov How to Work With Freelance Designers http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-work-with-freelance-designers <p>Small business owners often outsource to freelance designers to create their logos, marketing materials and more. While using online services where hundreds of designers bid on your project at the lowest possible price can have its place, there are times when you need an ongoing, personal relationship with a designer&mdash;someone you can work with over and over again and count on to deliver every time.</p> <p>How can you develop this kind of working relationship? Here are some tips.</p> <p>Start by choosing your designer wisely. Your local chamber of commerce, personal and business connections, other small business owners and social media networks are good places to look for designers. If you see a small business with a marketing piece, ad or signage that really stands out to you, contact the business owner and ask where he or she had it done. Good designers will have professional websites where you can check out their portfolios to see whether they&rsquo;ve done projects similar to yours. Ideally, you want to look for a designer who is not only familiar with current design trends, but also has some experience in your industry and working with small businesses.</p> <p>Make a shortlist of several options and contact them for more information about their services. Find out:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; How does the designer charge? Some designers charge by the hour, others on a per-project basis. If the designer uses a standard contract, ask to see it. Check out factors such as how many revisions are included in the price, whether you will own all rights to the finished product (very important if the designer is creating your logo), and whether the designer charges a percentage of the fee even if you aren&rsquo;t satisfied with the work.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Who will be working on your projects? Is this a one-person shop or does the designer have partners or employees? You might be impressed with one designer&rsquo;s skills, only to find out a much junior person will be working on your projects. Does the designer outsource to other designers? This isn&rsquo;t necessarily bad, but if the designer is outsourcing to the same type of online design services you were trying to avoid, there&rsquo;s not much point to hiring him or her.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; What other companies does the designer work for? Asking about clients will give you an idea not only of whether the designers is conversant with your industry, but also where you may fall in the pecking order. If a designer has lots of big clients, the reality is you may find your projects falling to the bottom of their priority list. Be sure to address this concern honestly.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Where is he or she located? Today, it&rsquo;s possible to work well with designers across the country or even across the globe. However, communicating about design issues can be difficult for small business owners. It&rsquo;s often easier to discuss visual issues in person, and if this is the case for you, you&rsquo;ll want to choose a local designer who can come by your office.</p> <p>Once you&rsquo;ve selected the designer, keep the relationship happy and successful by:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Clearly communicating what you want. Find examples of the type of design you like and explain what you like about them&mdash;is it the color? The use of type faces? The graphics or photos?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Being open to suggestions. You hired a designer for his or her expertise, so use it. You don&#39;t have to accept designs you hate, but do give the designer a chance to explain the reason behind the design. Perhaps he or she will change your mind.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Limiting your requests for revisions. There&rsquo;s nothing a designer hates more than umpteen emails asking to change this, that and the other. It&rsquo;s OK to have a lot of input into the design, but instead of sharing every thought as it pops into your head, take some time to review the work, think about it and discuss all the changes you&rsquo;d like at one time.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Setting clear expectations and deadlines. As with any working relationship, be sure you are clear about your standards. Using project management and scheduling tools like Zoho, Trello or Google Drive is a great way to ensure you have the latest versions of files all in one place so everyone can look at them and share their input.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-work-with-freelance-designers#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/812661 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 01 Apr 2014 15:00:09 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 812661 at http://www.sba.gov Business Cards Still Matter. Here’s How to Make Yours Stand Out http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/business-cards-still-matter-here%E2%80%99s-how-make-yours-stand-out <p>It&rsquo;s hard to believe with all the options we have for sharing contact information electronically, but the good old-fashioned business card is not going away any time soon. According to a <a href="http://www.examiner.com/article/study-finds-most-americans-still-handing-out-business-cards?cid=rss" type="homepage">survey</a> by global crowdsourcing marketplace <a href="http://www.designcrowd.com/" type="homepage">Designcrowd</a>, a whopping 87 percent of Americans still exchange business cards when they meet someone for the first time.</p> <p>If you think this is an empty gesture done out of habit, think again. More than two-thirds of survey respondents say business cards are useful because they either enter the information into their smartphones or file the cards in a Rolodex. In fact, Designcrowd says the number of business card design projects created on its website grew by 357 percent last year.</p> <p>Personally, I can see the benefit of quickly exchanging a card along with a handshake, as opposed to fumbling with your smartphone to input someone&rsquo;s information. Clearly, lots of businesspeople feel the way I do and are churning out business cards.</p> <p>So how can you make your business cards stand out from the crowd? Here are some trends to consider in business card design for 2014 and beyond.</p> <p><strong>Incorporate QR codes.</strong> QR codes haven&rsquo;t quite panned out as digital marketing tools, but they can work for business cards as an interactive lead generation tool. If your company sells B2B products or services or is in an industry with lots of tech-savvy, early adopters, a QR code might be worth a try. To make the most of a QR code, make sure it goes to a special landing page on your website where the user can learn more about your business and contact you for more information. For instance, it could be an About page with a video about your business and a click-to-call button or a form they can fill out to get a call from a sales rep.</p> <p><strong>Focus on branding.</strong> Your business card should convey your brand at a glance. This means your logo should be prominent and the overall feel of the card should harmonize with the rest of your marketing materials in terms of colors, fonts and images. The cleverest card in the world won&rsquo;t do its job if the message it conveys doesn&rsquo;t jibe with your brand.</p> <p><strong>Spend more on quality.</strong> Generic business cards are a dime a dozen (or 250 for $10), but they blend in and convey a &ldquo;blah&rdquo; message that your business is just like everyone else&rsquo;s. By spending a little more on high-quality elements such as handmade or textured paper, rounded corners, colored edges or embossed print, you can convey an image of quality that makes your business cards&mdash;and your business&mdash;memorable.</p> <p><strong>Keep it simple.</strong> Business cards packed with information, images and multiple colors look dated and tacky today. Today&rsquo;s trendy business cards feature clean lines and clear, legible fonts inspired by the &ldquo;flat design&rdquo; trend currently popular in website design. Flat design is characterized by a minimalist look. Instead of shadows or 3-D effects, flat design features strong lines; solid, saturated blocks of color; and creative use of typography.</p> <p><strong>Choose the right font.</strong> Clean, sans-serif fonts fit into the flat design trend. They look modern and are easier to read. Use fonts at least 12 point or larger. Also consider how your fonts stand out against the color of your card&mdash;if they&rsquo;re too similar, the card will be hard to read. In contrast to minimal fonts, another hot trend is fonts that look handwritten; these can work great for a business that prides itself on unique, quirky or artisanal products.</p> <p><strong>Both sides now.</strong> How do you reconcile simplicity with the need to include your business website, office and cell numbers, email and tons of social media handles on your card? Try keeping the front of the card clean with just your logo or other image, your name and your business name, then putting the details on the back.</p> <p><strong>Get professional help.</strong> Sure, you can pick your business cards using an online template, but it&rsquo;s worth spending a bit more to get something uniquely yours. There are dozens of crowdsourcing business card sites where you can get graphic designers to compete for your project, or talk to colleagues to get recommendations for a good designer in your area.</p> <p>What matters most about your business card is that it reflect your brand and your industry. Here are some cool examples of creative cards I&rsquo;ve seen:</p> <ul> <li> Business cards made out of cloth for an apparel designer</li> <li> A travel agency with business cards shaped like luggage tags</li> <li> Pet groomer business cards shaped like dog tags</li> <li> Business cards embossed with 3-D seeds for a landscaper</li> <li> A photographer featuring one of her photos as the background for her business cards</li> </ul> <p>You get the idea. Get creative, and your cards will get results! Once you&rsquo;ve got your cards, check out <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-ways-make-most-marketing-with-business-cards" type="homepage">this post</a> for ideas on how to use them.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/business-cards-still-matter-here%E2%80%99s-how-make-yours-stand-out#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/801821 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 04 Mar 2014 08:21:08 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 801821 at http://www.sba.gov When and Why Should You Stick to the Plan? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/when-and-why-should-you-stick-plan <p>There was a time, a few decades ago, when I thought sticking to the plan was a good for business. &ldquo;Because that&rsquo;s the plan&rdquo; seemed like a good thing. But I&rsquo;ve changed my mind.<img alt="wall and ladder istock.com" src="http://timsstuff.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/Wall%20and%20ladder%20iStock_000002393930XSmall.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 197px; float: right;" /></p> <p>Having a plan is absolutely a good thing. And sticking to the planning process &mdash; which means regularly checking results, evaluating progress, and revising a plan &mdash; is absolutely a good thing too. But sticking to a plan? Just because it&rsquo;s supposedly something people do? No.</p> <p>Years ago, I was one of four friends taking a two-week road trip in Europe. We were young, single and having fun. Three of us were fairly flexible about things, so if we liked one spot we&rsquo;d want to stay there longer; if we didn&rsquo;t like another, we&rsquo;d want to take off early. But the fourth always wanted to stick to the plan. And that was such a pain. We&rsquo;d made the plan before we left, and our trip meant learning. I remember the arguments: he&rsquo;d say &ldquo;but we have a plan&rdquo; and we&rsquo;d say &ldquo;but when we made the plan we didn&rsquo;t know what we do now.&rdquo;</p> <p>Fast forward to today and the first thing we can all see is that business time frames have changed. Business moves faster than it used to. And the business landscape has changed too. There&rsquo;s still a lot of consolidation at the top, and those huge enterprises need to manage longer-term plans in order to be able to steer. But there&rsquo;s also huge fragmentation at the bottom, too, with more than 20 million U.S. companies having no employees, and six or so small businesses, and they move faster. They have to.</p> <p>So assumptions change very quickly. And that, to my mind, is the key to managing a business plan and keeping it useful.</p> <p>First, do a plan that has concrete specifics you can track. Include not just the obvious numbers for sales, costs, and expenses, but also other manageable numbers like web traffic, visits, leads, presentations, calls, downloads, likes, mentions, updates, and whatever else drives your business.</p> <p>Second, set a regular schedule for reviewing plan vs. actual results. Have a monthly task to look at progress and identify problems.</p> <p>Third, learn to distinguish problems of execution from changed assumptions. If assumptions have changed, then the plan should change. If assumptions still hold true, then the difference between plan and actual results is a matter of execution. React to surprises according to what direction they go and what cause and effect you see. Usually, unexpectedly good results are a good reason to look at shifting resources towards the positive; unexpectedly bad results are a good reason to shift resources to correct a problem.</p> <p>And that&rsquo;s what I call the good side of sticking to a plan: have a plan, review it regularly, and revise it as needed. It&rsquo;s way easier to correct your course if you have a plan than if you&rsquo;re just reacting to whatever happened yesterday.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>(Image courtesy of stockphoto.com)</em></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/when-and-why-should-you-stick-plan#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/798621 The Industry Word Managing Marketing Starting Tue, 25 Feb 2014 02:45:41 +0000 Tim Berry 798621 at http://www.sba.gov Developing a Content Marketing Strategy http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/developing-content-marketing-strategy <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">While some of online marketing is trendy and will inevitably fade away, there&rsquo;s no disputing that content marketing is here to stay. If you&rsquo;ve heard this buzzword, but aren&rsquo;t really clear on what it includes, that&rsquo;s probably because its definition is expanding as marketers find new ways to provide content to their audience.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Cambria; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">In general, content marketing includes:</span></p> <ul style="margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"> <li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Blogs</span></span></p> </li> <li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Videos</span></span></p> </li> <li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Infographics</span></span></p> </li> <li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Whitepapers/Ebooks</span></span></p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">​</span></span></p> <h2 dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <em><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">How to Get More Readers (and Thereby Customers)</span></span></em></h2> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">The point of content marketing is to attract new potential customers to your site. You&rsquo;re providing useful information to them (in whatever format you choose), and ultimately, you&rsquo;re working to build trust. Once they feel they can trust you, that relationship moves into the sales funnel. </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">But first you want to get as many readers or viewers of your content as possible, since they won&rsquo;t all buy from you. Here&rsquo;s how.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <h2 dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <em><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Share Content on Social Media</span></span></em></h2> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Each blog post, video, infographic or ebook you create should be trumpeted through your social network. And not just once! Schedule several updates -- across all channels -- encouraging your followers to click to view the content you have created. Ask your followers to also share the update with their followers to reach a wider audience.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Cambria; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">So what&rsquo;s the ideal number of times to share? There is none. Just be mindful of your audience, and don&rsquo;t alienate them by posting multiple updates every day begging them to read your content. A few times a week is a good place to start.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <h2 dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <span style="font-family: Cambria; font-size: 16px; font-style: italic; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Post Content to Bookmarking Sites</span></h2> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">For many people, social bookmarking sites like Stumbleupon and </span><a href="http://www.bizsugar.com/" title="BizSugar.com, a content sharing site just for small businesses"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; color: rgb(0, 0, 255); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">BizSugar</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> are where they get their content. The benefit of doing so is that the content has already been vetted, so to speak. The most popular content has the most votes, so a quick skim through the top links should net the best content.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Cambria; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">For you, social bookmarking sites offer fabulous opportunity to connect to readers you wouldn&rsquo;t otherwise have found. The more places you can pick up new readers, the more customers you&rsquo;ll get.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <h2 dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <span style="font-family: Cambria; font-size: 16px; font-style: italic; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Set Up an RSS Feed</span></h2> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">It needs to be stupidly simple for visitors to your blog to easily get updates every time you post a new article. That&rsquo;s where </span><a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/06/what-is-rss.html" title="Information on RSS feeds and how they work"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; color: rgb(0, 0, 255); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">RSS feeds</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> come into play. When a visitor signs up to get your blog updates, she can either read them in an RSS feeder with her other favorite blogs, or get your updates via email. That way, she doesn&rsquo;t have to remember to check back on your blog for new content.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <h2 dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Set Up a Success Measurement Plan</span></span></h2> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">All this hard work in developing and sharing your content will be for naught if you don&rsquo;t measure results! Paying attention to how many visitors you&rsquo;re attracting with your content can help you know if you&rsquo;re doing a good enough job in marketing and sharing that content. And knowing which topics people are reading or viewing the most can help you generate future content ideas.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><a href="http://www.google.com/analytics/" title="Google Analytics, a free tool to measure your website performance"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; color: rgb(0, 0, 255); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Google Analytics</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> is the easiest tool to provide data on all of this. Plus, it&rsquo;s free to use.&nbsp;With Analytics, you can also look at traffic over time and make sure it&rsquo;s steadily rising the way you want it to. You can also look at conversions, if you sell products online. In other words: is the traffic that&rsquo;s arriving on your blog converting into paying customers? If not, you should analyze your site to determine the disconnect.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Cambria; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap;">These days, it&#39;s not enough to throw blog content out into cyberspace. You need a plan for your content marketing strategy so you draw in the right people with your content and turn them into loyal customers.</span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/developing-content-marketing-strategy#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/795891 The Industry Word Managing Marketing Thu, 13 Feb 2014 14:51:47 +0000 smallbiztrends 795891 at http://www.sba.gov Focusing Your Business’s Social Media Strategy http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/focusing-your-business%E2%80%99s-social-media-strategy <p>You&rsquo;ve heard time and again that social media marketing is the key to your business&rsquo;s success. But, do you know where the corresponding lock is? Or how to use it? Social media can seem like a behemoth of a marketing strategy sucking up all your time with results that trickle in at first. Well, fear not; we&rsquo;re here to set you on a clear, strategic path of the right ways to make social media work for your particular enterprise.</p> <p><strong>Start with the Big Picture</strong></p> <p>Is anyone on Google+? Will all these social media efforts even make a dent in my bottom line? What time of day should I post to get maximum exposure? You&rsquo;ve got questions and we&rsquo;ve compiled the answers. The new infographic, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/2013-small-business-social-media-trends-infographic" title="http://www.score.org/resources/2013-small-business-social-media-trends-infographic">2013 Small Business Social Media Trends</a>&rdquo; answers all the questions you&rsquo;ve been pondering regarding social media&rsquo;s effectiveness for small businesses, recommended posting frequency, emerging social networks and tips to keep in mind to get the biggest bang for your social buck.</p> <p><strong>Just &ldquo;Be Likeable&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>Sounds easy enough, right? Today&#39;s consumers are looking for businesses to display certain qualities on social media: accessibility, responsiveness, value, authenticity, adaptability and more. In his recent SCORE LIVE webinar, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/why-it-pays-be-likeable-7-simple-social-media-concepts-drive-results" title="http://www.score.org/workshops/why-it-pays-be-likeable-7-simple-social-media-concepts-drive-results">Why it Pays to Be Likeable - 7 Simple Social Media Concepts To Drive Results</a>&rdquo; best-selling author &amp; CEO of Likeable Local, Dave Kerpen, shared his 7 tips for harnessing these traits to become more likeable and ultimately see greater business results.</p> <ol> <li> 1. Listen</li> <li> Be Responsive</li> <li> Tell, Don&rsquo;t Sell</li> <li> Be Transparent</li> <li> Be Authentic</li> <li> Be a Team</li> <li> Be Grateful</li> </ol> <p><a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/why-it-pays-be-likeable-7-simple-social-media-concepts-drive-results" title="http://www.score.org/workshops/why-it-pays-be-likeable-7-simple-social-media-concepts-drive-results">Listen in</a> as Dave shares examples, anecdotes and quotes explaining why each of these 7 concepts is critical to your business achieving social media success.</p> <p><strong>Handle Negative Comments</strong></p> <p>You&rsquo;ve tried your best to be likeable but somehow it&rsquo;s happened: the dreaded negative comment! It&rsquo;s not the end of your social media efforts and definitely isn&rsquo;t the end of your business. In her recent blogpost, co-founder of IgnitorDigital.com, Carrie Hill, walks you step-by-step through <a href="http://blog.score.org/2014/carrie-hill/dealing-with-negative-comments-in-social-media/" title="http://blog.score.org/2014/carrie-hill/dealing-with-negative-comments-in-social-media/http://blog.score.org/2014/carrie-hill/dealing-with-negative-comments-in-social-media/">dealing with negative comments</a> on your business&rsquo;s social media pages. As Carrie says, &ldquo;The benefits of being online and active in social media far outweigh the negative aspects &ndash; but when the negative does rear its ugly head &ndash; you need to be ready with a solid strategy that your whole team is aware of.&rdquo;</p> <p>In the end, you&rsquo;ve probably come to realize that the social realm is a place your business needs to be. Like really needs to be in order to survive. As with all initiatives in your business, your best bet is to make a plan, follow through, get everyone on the same page, analyze and revise....and get a S<a href="http://www.score.org/mentors" title="www.score.org/mentors">CORE business mentor</a> to help you!</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/focusing-your-business%E2%80%99s-social-media-strategy#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/794201 The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Thu, 06 Feb 2014 21:52:25 +0000 bridgetwpollack 794201 at http://www.sba.gov Creating a Marketing Action Plan http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/creating-marketing-action-plan <p>We all know marketing is key to small business survival and success. And these days we&rsquo;re so inundated with marketing platforms and tools that it can be overwhelming to know what to do to be an effective marketer.</p> <p>What you need is a marketing action plan so you can lay out a path to follow. First though, warns Hal Shelton, a business executive, SCORE board member and author of <em>The Secrets of Writing a Successful Business Plan</em>, you need to define your company&rsquo;s buying cycle.</p> <p>As an example Shelton offers this cycle:</p> <p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Awareness. Potential customers know about your business, but aren&rsquo;t sure you have the products or services that fit their needs.</p> <p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Discovery. The research stage when consumers try to learn more about your company.</p> <p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Engagement. Potential customers take some action that may (or may not) lead to sale. It&rsquo;s important at this stage to get some customer contact information, like an email address.</p> <p>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Active customer. The prospect has become an actual customer and made a purchase from you.</p> <p>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Successful customer. The consumer has become a regular, loyal and satisfied customer.</p> <p>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Referrals. When customers are so happy with you and your business, they&rsquo;re willing to share their good experiences and offer testimonials and referrals.</p> <p>Now you can move on to creating a marketing action plan. Shelton says make sure you include steps in your plan that &ldquo;focus on customers in each of the steps of the buying cycle.&rdquo; And he adds, &ldquo;While some of the &lsquo;instruments&rsquo; might be the same, the messages may be different. For example, in a direct marketing campaign to gain awareness, you might want to steer potential customers to your website, but for active customers, you may offer a store coupon.&rdquo;</p> <p>So what should your action steps consist of? Of course, they&rsquo;ll vary depending on your type of business and stage your business, but here are some steps you might consider making part of your marketing action plan.</p> <p><strong>Market research</strong>. Market research isn&rsquo;t something to do only when you start your business; you need to continually stay on top of your target customers&rsquo; demographics, needs, desires and lifestyles. Draw from your own experience talking with your customers, as well as any customer data you have&mdash;sales records, website analytics, social media interactions&mdash;to see what they are researching, browsing, doing and buying. Also use third-party sources of research such as Census data to keep up with trends in your target market, and contact media properties where you&rsquo;re considering advertising to see who their readers/viewers/listeners are.</p> <p><strong>Develop a marketing plan.</strong> Once you know what your customers want and where they are spending their time, you can develop a marketing plan that reaches out to them where they live&mdash;whether that&rsquo;s outdoor advertising, social media, radio ads, online pay-per-click ads, public relations and more. Focus most of your budget on the avenues your research suggests will be most effective and affordable. Your marketing plan should cover the coming year and should include specific goals.</p> <p><strong>Create a marketing calendar.</strong> Break down your marketing plan more specifically into a calendar that shows what type of marketing you will do each month, each week and even each day. This can include ad placements, PR campaigns, social media posts and more. By putting your plan on a calendar, you&rsquo;re committed to carrying it out and things won&rsquo;t fall through the cracks.</p> <p><strong>Measure results.</strong> To make sure your marketing efforts deliver ROI, you need to track the results of each type of marketing you do. For example, you could put a code in an online or print ad (&ldquo;Mention code TREAT1 to get a free dessert!&rdquo;) and keep track of who mentions the code. Online, you can use analytics to see which ads or mentions attract customers to your site and to track which customers end up making a purchase. Regularly (once a quarter, at minimum, or ideally once a month) assess which marketing methods are driving sales and which are not.</p> <p>Shelton says other marketing action steps might include email marketing, using affiliates and distributors, building a website, direct mail, buying ads in assorted media outlets (newspapers, radio, etc.), social media and web marketing.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/creating-marketing-action-plan#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/793241 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 04 Feb 2014 17:35:48 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 793241 at http://www.sba.gov How to Maximize the Effectiveness of Facebook for Your Small Business http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-maximize-effectiveness-facebook-your-small-business <p>Does your small business maintain a Facebook page? Are you thinking about venturing into social media with a presence on this ever-growing social network? Mari Smith, often referred to as &ldquo;The Queen of Facebook,&rdquo; <a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/05/mari-smith-facebook-for-small-businesses.html" title="link to Mari Smith article">offers some insight</a> to help you use it most effectively.</p> <p><strong>Understand the fundamentals</strong></p> <p>Before jumping head first into Facebook, consider some fundamental questions. Ask yourself:</p> <ul> <li> Why am I on Facebook in the first place? &nbsp;</li> <li> What am I trying to do here?</li> <li> Am I trying to just generate fans and get better sentiment for my brand or actually sell product or improve customer service or just get visibility?</li> </ul> <p>Have a clear idea of what your goals are with your Facebook account so that you can measure your successes properly &ndash; and not based on standards that don&rsquo;t fit what you&rsquo;re trying to accomplish.</p> <p><strong>Think strategically</strong></p> <p>Smith says, &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really a matter of strategically thinking through what content you are posting in a manner that people are top of mind. You are top of mind because they have built this relationship with you and you&rsquo;re in their news feed, sharing valuable content and sparking interest.&rdquo;</p> <p>Be smart about what you decide to post on Facebook &ndash; what are you trying to achieve with each update? Smith adheres to an 80/20 rule. So, 80% of the time you engage on Facebook, you&rsquo;ll share &ldquo;a mix of your content, articles, resources and tools.&rdquo; For the other 20% of the time, you&rsquo;ll post content that asks for the sale or lead.</p> <p>This mix can add a lot of value to your page, which Smith suggests updating once or twice a day. With a varied approach, you won&rsquo;t be bombarding visitors with requests for sales all the time, but you&rsquo;ll be memorable because of interesting content that resonates with people and gives them a positive impression.</p> <p><strong>Be realistic </strong></p> <p>&ldquo;One thing to keep in mind as a small business owner is that just because you have 1,000 fans, all 1,000 of those people are not seeing your posts. It could be a fraction of those.&rdquo; Smith warns that the misconception of views is something she sees a lot with Facebook use. In reality, she says, only between 2% &ndash; 48% of page fans will see your updates.</p> <p>So what&rsquo;s Smith&rsquo;s recommendation for small business Facebook use? She suggests approaching it &ldquo;from the standpoint of generating email leads and gently guiding people to cross into your funnel, your e-mail list, your blog, your website and looking into your offers.&rdquo; Used effectively and realistically, Facebook can be a powerful contender in your arsenal of marketing tools.</p> <p><strong>Related Resources</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/step-or-get-left-behind-how-improve-engagemen" title="Step Up or Get Left Behind - How to Improve Engagement with Your Facebook Fans blog post">Step Up or Get Left Behind - How to Improve Engagement with Your Facebook Fans</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/7-ways-use-facebook-grow-your-email-marketing-list" title="7 Ways to Use Facebook to Grow Your Email Marketing List blog post">7 Ways to Use Facebook to Grow Your Email Marketing List</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/social-storefront-%E2%80%93-how-sell-your-products-and-services-facebook" title="The Social Storefront – How to Sell Your Products and Services on Facebook blog post">The Social Storefront &ndash; How to Sell Your Products and Services on Facebook</a></li> </ul> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-maximize-effectiveness-facebook-your-small-business#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/790461 Small Business Matters Marketing Thu, 23 Jan 2014 11:19:34 +0000 kmurray 790461 at http://www.sba.gov SBA and Yelp Present: Success with Online Reviews http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/sba-and-yelp-present-success-with-online-reviews <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><em><a href="http://officialblog.yelp.com/2014/01/sba-and-yelp-present-success-with-online-reviews.html">Editor&#39;s note: This was originally posted on Yelp&#39;s blog.</a></em></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid--af0a3b6-b0fd-b424-cfb1-67fdaac82b7c" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">Sharing what you dig and what you don&rsquo;t is nothing new, but today this consumer word-of-mouth happens at lightning speed online, in the form of reviews. What&rsquo;s more is that in a <a href="http://www.brightlocal.com/2013/06/25/local-consumer-review-survey-2013/" style="text-decoration: none;">recent national survey</a>, 85% of consumers said that they read online reviews about local businesses. With that in mind, Yelp and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) launched the Success With Online Reviews initiative to help America&rsquo;s small businesses successfully engage with online reviewers.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><img alt="" height="416px;" src="https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/nU1EB6gQrBH36SBOMfx5l4UC0ppvgjDecWki98r7tk450bXf_EHV2QyXxjkivcHX2fvOGVRL3AcngteQcip6ly-Pb_LN9j5MlWdzCcyfmZNW4IQN4I1vEX4JUA" style="border: 0px solid transparent;" width="624px;" /></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">The kickoff event was held this past week at the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4moA3PvLenk" style="text-decoration: none;">New York Stock Exchange</a> (NYSE) where local business owners were invited to learn online marketing insights from a panel of business owner experts and reviewers from Yelp&#39;s Elite squad. The panelists included Pam Nelson of <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/butter-lane-new-york" style="text-decoration: none;">Butter Lane Cupcakes</a>, Michael Brau of <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/dorado-tacos-new-york-2" style="text-decoration: none;">Dorado Tacos</a>, and Jay Sofer of<a href="http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=locksmith&amp;find_loc=New+York%2C+NY&amp;ns=1&amp;ls=90c5d314a4a67e11#find_desc&amp;find_loc=Manhattan,+NY&amp;sortby=rating&amp;cflt=locksmiths" style="text-decoration: none;"> Lockbusters</a> (who also holds the title of most reviewed locksmith in New York on Yelp). During the interactive session, attendees learned several key points including what motivates online reviewers to write as well as the impact of customer service on ratings -- it turns out the highest rated businesses tend to be focused on providing a great customer experience. Another pearl of wisdom from the panelists was that consumers actually like it when business owners respond to their online reviews.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"><img alt="" height="624px;" src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/OlQkjUW9h_t-S6eg_7Nn27cmNz6r5s5usZ_5nR4aT7mogFQ9v2dYEOfZpvWEEE6tipHr3wWjX7PIfEodoMmMRe1QkM_u-VAZy2l63rEhIk39D3tq5ifoRZ6HOw" style="border: 0px solid transparent;" width="624px;" /></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">In the coming months Yelp and the SBA will bring these local expert workshops to several key cities around the country, as well as host a series of webinars which begins on February 11th at 2PM EST. For additional dates, times, and workshop locations be sure to check out <a href="http://www.sba.gov/onlinereviews" style="text-decoration: none;">&nbsp;www.sba.gov/onlinereviews</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">The Success With Online Reviews initiative will run through <a href="http://www.sba.gov/nsbw/nsbw" style="text-decoration: none;">National Small Business Week</a> (May 12-16).</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/sba-and-yelp-present-success-with-online-reviews#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/790061 Open For Business Managing Marketing Mentoring and Training SBA News and Views Tue, 21 Jan 2014 19:46:46 +0000 Stephen Morris 790061 at http://www.sba.gov Advanced Strategies to Get People to Sign Up for Your Email Marketing List http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/advanced-strategies-get-people-sign-your-email-marketing-list <p>You already know that email can be highly effective in reaching potential customers and getting repeat business. In fact, despite the constant barrage of trendy new social sites, mobile marketing, and other channels opening up, email remains the top preferred channel for sending and receiving marketing messages, according to <a href="http://www.exacttarget.com/email-marketing/best-practices/consumers-prefer-email-marketing" title="link to ExactTarget">ExactTarget</a>.</p> <p>While email has proven itself effective, the real challenge lies in growing your contact list. People have become reluctant to part with their email addresses, out of fear of being barraged by unwanted daily messages.</p> <p>However, if you put your focus on delivering value through your email list and only sending emails when necessary, you&rsquo;ll see an increase in subscribers and opportunity to develop relationships with people who are more likely to convert into customers.</p> <p><strong>1. Popover Sign-Up Forms</strong></p> <p>If you&rsquo;ve visited a site and seen a box hover above the site inviting you to subscribe to emails, you&rsquo;ve seen a popover form.</p> <p>These forms can be highly effective, if used correctly. You&rsquo;re interrupting a visitor&rsquo;s experience on the site, but in a meaningful way. If you were visiting a marketing blog, for example, you probably wouldn&rsquo;t appreciate being interrupted by a popover inviting you to sign up for free dog training tips. But, on the other hand, if you were offered the opportunity to get more marketing content only available to subscribers (the way you are in the <a href="http://www.marketingprofs.com/" title="link to MarketingProfs">MarketingProfs</a> example above), you might be inclined to sign up.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s also important here to make it super simple for visitors to remove the box by clicking &ldquo;close&rdquo; or an &ldquo;X&rdquo; in the corner. I&rsquo;ve seen some popovers that have no obvious way to remove them from my screen, and you can bet I&rsquo;m not a big fan of those sites.</p> <p><a href="http://www.marketingprofs.com/short-articles/2480/are-popover-forms-right-for-you" title="link to popover forms article">Results vary with popover forms</a>: AWeber clients have reported a 10x increase in subscribers when using a popover form, while some Mailigen and GetResponse users have seen a 200-400% increase in subscribers.</p> <p><strong>2. Offer a Series of Useful Content</strong></p> <p>People want information. And while yes, you can provide it on your blog, sometimes they want a bit more. That&rsquo;s where email autoresponders work extremely well.</p> <p><a href="http://www.seobook.com/" title="link to SEOBook">SEOBook</a> offers email subscribers a free &ldquo;7 Days to SEO Success&rdquo; mini-course when they sign up. Because this is descriptive of what it will encompass, and specifies how long subscribers should expect to receive the autoresponder, you can imagine that SEOBook&rsquo;s email subscription tactic is fairly successful.</p> <p>Once you take the time to write a series of emails with really deep information on a topic, you can set it to send emails on a regular basis to new subscribers. Your work is done, and you&rsquo;ll keep attracting new subscribers, thanks to your exclusive content offered only to email subscribers.</p> <p>Another example of this is on <a href="http://www.copyhackers.com/" title="link to CopyHackers">CopyHackers</a>. Sign up for the copywriting tips, and they never run out. Rather than just a few days of great advice, site owner Joanna Wiebe sends a constant stream of useful tips, mixed in with the occasional announcement for a webinar or ebook.</p> <p><strong>3. Use the HelloBar</strong></p> <p>Here&rsquo;s a fairly new, innovative tool to help you grow your subscriber base. <a href="http://www.hellobar.com/" title="link to HelloBar">HelloBar</a> encourages visitors to take action on your site, whether that&rsquo;s to subscribe to your email list or visit a specific page. You can customize the copy and link it directs to.</p> <p>By thinking outside the &ldquo;email subscription box,&rdquo; you can create opportunities to connect with potential customers in unique ways through email. Test a few ideas individually and see which sends you the most subscribers.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/advanced-strategies-get-people-sign-your-email-marketing-list#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/787271 The Industry Word Marketing Wed, 15 Jan 2014 12:39:59 +0000 smallbiztrends 787271 at http://www.sba.gov February 25 Deadline for BizClips Video Contest to Win Great Prizes and Free Publicity for Small Business http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/february-25-deadline-bizclips-video-contest-win-great-prizes-and-free-publicity-small-business <p>What small business challenges are you facing this year? Help transform these challenges into successful opportunities by making and uploading your small business video story by midnight, Eastern Standard Time, on February 25, 2014. You could win great prizes and free publicity to improve your small business productivity.</p> <p><strong>Enter the Small Business Productivity Makeover Contest Today</strong></p> <p>You could win the grand prize, valued at $3,500, by sharing your story through &ldquo;BizClips: The Small Business Productivity Makeover Video Contest&rdquo; at <a href="http://www.bizclips.score.org" title="www.bizclips.score.org">www.bizclips.score.org</a>. The Contest is sponsored by SCORE and Brother International, a premier provider of print and communications products and services. The Contest celebrates SCORE&rsquo;s 50 years of helping more than ten million small businesses learn how to start a business, grow, and achieve their business goals through free business assistance and education.</p> <p><strong>MAKE a Video about Your Small Business</strong></p> <p>The Contest is easy to enter, but the entry deadline is approaching quickly. Make your 30-60 second video, describing your need for a business makeover and how SCORE could help address your challenges. Or you can also tell how SCORE previously helped your small business. The video can be simple or fancy, as long as it meets the minimum requirements. Here are some great tips on how to make a video: <a href="http://bizclips.score.org/additionalinfo" title="http://bizclips.score.org/additionalinfo">http://bizclips.score.org/additionalinfo</a>.</p> <p><strong>UPLOAD your video to the BizClips Contest website before midnight, February 25, 2014.</strong></p> <p>Don&rsquo;t be left out. The deadline to create and upload your video at <a href="http://www.bizclips.score.org" title="www.bizclips.score.org">www.bizclips.score.org</a> is midnight, Eastern Standard Time, on February 25, 2014. Late entries will not be accepted.</p> <p><strong>VOTE online for your video and ask others to help you get to the final round.</strong></p> <p>Voting is easy, too. All videos that meet the minimum requirements will be eligible for online voting beginning April 1, 2014. Spread the word of your video and ask your friends, family, customers and supporters to vote for you, too. They can also help you win by spreading the word. Public voting makes up 40 percent of the judging criteria. Voting closes at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, on April 30, 2014.</p> <p><strong>WIN great prizes and free publicity for your business.</strong></p> <p>The top 25 vote-getters will become finalists, gain significant free national media exposure, and win a <a href="http://bizclips.score.org/prizes" title="http://bizclips.score.org/prizes">Brother P-Touch prize</a>. The Grand Prize winner will be selected by a <a href="http://bizclips.score.org/judges" title="http://bizclips.score.org/judges">panel of small business experts</a> to receive a business makeover with up to $2,500 of products and services from Brother. The Grand Prize winner and a companion will be flown to Washington, D.C. in September 2014 for a special national announcement and awards ceremony at the 2014 SCORE Awards Gala. The grand prize winner will have a professional business makeover video created to be shown at the Gala and promoted by SCORE. The winner can also use the video for its own promotion. The total value of the grand prize is $3,500.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a unique opportunity for your small business to be in the limelight in front of a national audience. We&rsquo;ll be thrilled to help make the winning small business better, stronger and more productive to meet its challenges,&rdquo; said Ken Yancey, <a href="http://www.score.org" title="www.score.org">SCORE</a> CEO.</p> <p>BizClips, The Small Business Productivity Video Contest launched on November 25, 2013. Don&rsquo;t miss the deadline for this opportunity to help your small business turn its challenges into opportunities. Complete details are at <a href="http://www.bizclips.score.org" title="www.bizclips.score.org">www.bizclips.score.org</a>.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/february-25-deadline-bizclips-video-contest-win-great-prizes-and-free-publicity-small-business#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/786951 The Industry Word Managing Marketing Mentoring and Training Starting Tue, 14 Jan 2014 14:12:20 +0000 bridgetwpollack 786951 at http://www.sba.gov 4 Marketing Resolutions to Make This Year http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/4-marketing-resolutions-make-year <p>If there&rsquo;s one area of operations most small businesses can stand to improve, it&rsquo;s marketing. As a small business expert, I get more questions about marketing than any other aspect of business&mdash;and it&rsquo;s been that way for the last 30 years. Since the New Year is all about improving oneself, how about making some marketing resolutions for your business? Here are four to consider.</p> <ol> <li> <strong>I resolve to make a marketing plan.</strong> Many small business owners market haphazardly, throwing time and money at one marketing method and then, when it doesn&rsquo;t pay off immediately, switching gears to the &ldquo;next big thing.&rdquo; This scattershot approach does nothing but waste your resources and leave you frustrated and frazzled, convinced that marketing doesn&rsquo;t pay off. Instead, resolve to sit down and set goals for your marketing this year. What exactly do you want to accomplish&mdash;more leads, more sales closed, more inquiries? Once you&rsquo;ve got goals on paper, figure out the marketing methods that are most likely to get those desired results. Finally, figure out how you&rsquo;ll track results from each marketing method so you can see what&rsquo;s really working.</li> </ol> <ol> <li value="2"> <strong>I resolve to market consistently.</strong> It&rsquo;s easy to fall into the trap of marketing only when you&rsquo;ve got the &ldquo;spare&rdquo; time for it (which often means &ldquo;never&rdquo;). Or maybe you market wildly right before your busy season, then do nothing for months on end. As a result, your sales pipeline slows down. Keep your pipeline full by marketing consistently all year long. That doesn&rsquo;t mean you need the <em>same</em> level of marketing year-round&mdash;for instance, a toy retailer would obviously market more before and during the holiday shopping season than in, say, July&mdash;but it does mean you need <em>some</em> level of marketing all year. Create a marketing calendar that sets out what you&rsquo;ll do each month and breaks it down further into weekly and even daily marketing efforts. Then put someone in charge of making sure it&rsquo;s all carried out.</li> </ol> <ol> <li value="3"> <strong>I resolve to keep learning new things.</strong> Is your marketing stuck in the past? Advertising only in the print Yellow Pages might work if your clientele is solely seniors&hellip;and even seniors are increasingly going online to find businesses instead of letting their fingers do the walking. If you want your business to grow, you&rsquo;ve got to keep up with the (marketing) times. Resolve to regularly read industry blogs and publications, attend networking events and conferences, and take webinars and seminars to learn more about new marketing trends and how they&rsquo;re affecting your industry. Pledge to learn something new every month, and at least try some of it. Marketing is moving fast, and if you don&rsquo;t keep up you&rsquo;re going to get left behind.</li> </ol> <ol> <li value="4"> <strong>I resolve to do market research.</strong> Many small business owners see market research as something they do once&mdash;when starting their companies&mdash;and then never do again. But what happens when your market changes? The 20-somethings you might have targeted with your extreme sports company in 1998 are now in their 40s. Even if they&rsquo;re still buying extreme sports products, the way you market to them needs to be different now from what it was then. Keep tabs on the demographics of your target market so you can adjust your marketing approach to changes in their incomes, lifestyles, media consumption habits and buying behaviors. Use both secondary research from other sources and primary research&mdash;that is, simply asking your customers what they want and need.</li> </ol> <p>These four simple resolutions will make a big difference in your results&mdash;I promise.</p> <p>What are your marketing resolutions for 2014?</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/4-marketing-resolutions-make-year#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/785041 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 07 Jan 2014 15:18:12 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 785041 at http://www.sba.gov Grow Your Small Business with an e-Commerce Strategy http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/grow-your-small-business-with-e-commerce-strategy <p>As we ramp-up to the gift-giving holiday season, I wanted to take a minute to focus our efforts on retail businesses and specifically how they can maximize their returns. Nearly every type of retail business can benefit from the increased exposure and audience size afforded by an e-commerce site, so we&rsquo;ve compiled our top resources for adding or improving your e-commerce site.</p> <p><strong>Get Started</strong></p> <p>If you&rsquo;re currently using your website as a marketing tool or to give customers valuable information, the next obvious step is to add e-commerce capabilities. Selling products or services online isn&rsquo;t as hard as you might think and creates a new source of cash flow for your business.</p> <p>SCORE&rsquo;s guide, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/how-add-ecommerce-your-website" title="http://www.score.org/resources/how-add-ecommerce-your-website">How to Add eCommerce to Your Website</a>,&rdquo; will walk you through how to:</p> <ul> <li> Brainstorm ideas of what you should offer online</li> <li> Choose your payment solutions</li> <li> Choose a shopping cart solution</li> <li> Investigate e-commerce software</li> </ul> <p><strong>Get Found </strong></p> <p>Next, you&rsquo;ll want to have a plan for how to draw customers in. Having a solid domain name strategy can play a big role in helping your online business to succeed. It all starts with choosing the right domain name, or Web address, to represent your business on the Web. Have you considered the strategy of having multiple domain names pointing to your single website? Dan Beldowicz, creator of Social Media BS, <a href="http://blog.score.org/2013/dan-beldowicz/how-the-right-domain-name-or-names-can-help-your-online-business/">recommends tools and strategies</a> for establishing your main domain name and helping you brainstorm additional domain names that will benefit your business. Dan says, &ldquo;Think about purchasing domain names that represent different aspects of your business, such as product names or taglines.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Build Relationships </strong></p> <p>Finally, get your web visitors to click that &ldquo;purchase&rdquo; button. Filling shopping carts is about &ldquo;building relationships with your customers and your potential customers.&rdquo; says Shawn Pfunder, Go Daddy Web Expert and small business guru. &ldquo;The hard part about that is: how do you do that with just a computer? Websites have gotten a bad rap for being very de-personalized.&rdquo; In preparation for the upcoming retail surge, Shawn shared his <a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/selling-online-10-tips-fill-holiday-shopping-carts" title="http://www.score.org/workshops/selling-online-10-tips-fill-holiday-shopping-carts">10 tips to fill holiday shopping carts in your e-commerce store</a>, including:</p> <ul> <li> #1 Write remarkable descriptions</li> <li> #4 Solicit and publish reviews</li> <li> #7 Cross-sell the smart way</li> </ul> <p>There&rsquo;s still time to take advantage of the upcoming retail rush by getting your business started selling online or improving your current e-commerce strategy. Use these resources combined with the know-how of a <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors" title="http://www.score.org/mentors">SCORE mentor</a> to get your business harnessing the selling power of the internet today.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/grow-your-small-business-with-e-commerce-strategy#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/777001 The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Thu, 12 Dec 2013 20:03:15 +0000 bridgetwpollack 777001 at http://www.sba.gov Responsive Website or App: Which do you Need for Your Mobile Strategy? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/responsive-website-or-app-which-do-you-need-your-mobile-strategy <div> The fact that <a href="http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/infographic-2013-mobile-growth-statistics/" title="Link to mobile infographic">half of mobile phone users now use mobile as their primary source for Internet</a> means that more small businesses need to up the ante. Not all websites render well on small mobile devices, so it may be worth the investment to get more mobile-friendly.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> But the question is: should you have a responsive website or a mobile app?</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Let&rsquo;s look at your business needs to figure out the answer.</div> <h3> First, is Your Site Mobile Friendly?</h3> <div> Here&rsquo;s an easy way to find out: use <a href="http://Google’s Multi-Screen Resources tool" title="Google multi-screen tool">Google&rsquo;s Multi-Screen Resources tool</a>. Enter your URL and get a free report making suggestions for how your site could be optimized for mobile. Some of the suggestions might be simple enough to fix without investing more.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> If you use Flash, that will probably be one of the pain points that comes up. Not all mobile devices &mdash; especially Apple &mdash; are equipped to display Flash graphics.</div> <h3> The Difference Between Responsive Websites and Mobile Apps</h3> <div> <a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/05/what-is-responsive-web-design.html" title="Definition of responsive site">A responsive website</a> &mdash; you guessed it &mdash; responds to the medium it is displayed on. For example, when your site is viewed on a desktop, it might display three columns and a sidebar. But if it&rsquo;s viewed on a tablet or mobile phone, you might see a simplified version with fewer columns and easier navigation.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> It can be difficult to navigate or click links on a static site when used on a mobile device. Sites can appear cluttered, which may send people away from your site.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Mobile apps, on the other hand, are downloaded with a specific purpose. They&rsquo;re best for brands that have strong customer loyalty (people expect to access the information on the app enough to actually download it). The app might provide your store locations, special offers, or allow users to access their account information.</div> <h3> Next, What&rsquo;s Your Goal?</h3> <div> If you simply want people to be able to visit your site and have it look user-friendly, a responsive website is the best way to go. If people don&rsquo;t necessarily benefit from visiting your site while they&rsquo;re out and about (you don&rsquo;t have a physical location they need information about or coupons for), simply having a site optimized for mobile is your best and easiest option.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> On the other hand, if you&rsquo;re trying to drive users to a physical store or location, an app might do so. Given the fact that 80% of the time on mobile is spent using apps, hesitate before you assume you don&rsquo;t need one. It really comes down to the value you offer in the application. A map to your nearest location might not be useful, since most users use a Map application, but an app that notifies users when they&rsquo;re close to a store and offers a special coupon might be.</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> <div> Also if you have a platform where your customers log in to make transactions or you sell products on your website, an app can provide a secure place to do so. Many mobile users may feel more safe entering their login information through an app than through a mobile website.</div> <h3> Why You Must Make a Change</h3> <div> Whichever option you select, it&rsquo;s important that you take measures to improve the functionality of your website. Here&rsquo;s why:</div> <ul> <li> Slow loading times will cause mobile users to leave your site</li> <li> A page that doesn&rsquo;t render well won&rsquo;t encourage people to sell</li> <li> More, not fewer, people will use smartphones in the future</li> <li> The more ways you have to connect with potential customers, the better your conversion</li> </ul> <div> As a business owner, you&rsquo;ve got to do everything you can to make the trail from your site to a sale as easy as possible. Responsive web design and mobile apps provide just one more way to bring leads into the funnel.</div> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/responsive-website-or-app-which-do-you-need-your-mobile-strategy#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/774471 The Industry Word Managing Marketing Fri, 06 Dec 2013 15:30:23 +0000 smallbiztrends 774471 at http://www.sba.gov 6 Ideas to Turn Your Customer Holiday Gifts Into a Marketing Tool http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/6-ideas-turn-your-customer-holiday-gifts-marketing-tool <p>Hopefully you&rsquo;ve already created your annual customer and client holiday gift list. Whether they&rsquo;ve been naughty or nice, all clients should get recognized in this holiday ritual. But how can you make your holiday gifts do double duty&mdash;not only as a &ldquo;thank you&rdquo; for the past year&rsquo;s business, but also as a marketing tool to encourage more business in the new year? Here are some ideas.</p> <p><strong>Remind them of you.</strong> The simplest way to make your holiday gift a marketing tool is to choose a promotional product with your company&rsquo;s name and/or logo on it. But for best results, make sure it&rsquo;s something your client will actually use&mdash;ideally, in a setting when they&rsquo;ll be thinking about buying what you sell. Also make sure it matches your brand and is relevant to your business. For example, if you sell accounting services to businesses, a high-quality pen set, sophisticated note pad or travel coffee mug is likely to be used at or on the way to work when the client is thinking business, while a logo baseball cap will probably get stuck in the back of the drawer. On the other hand, if your clients are owners of landscape businesses who buy your company&rsquo;s mulch, that logo baseball cap might get tons of use when they&rsquo;re out on the job in the hot sun.</p> <p><strong>Personalize it.</strong> A promotional product with your logo isn&rsquo;t the only way to put your personal touch on a corporate gift. For instance, if you own a graphic design business, you could design your own wrapping paper or gift boxes for your gifts (be sure to add a label that says you designed it!). This way, you&rsquo;re subtly reminding clients of your talents while they open your gift. If you own an interior design firm, you could make gift wrap or ribbons out of leftover fabric swatches. You get the idea.</p> <p><strong>Give what you make or sell.</strong> This not only saves money because you&rsquo;re using your own inventory, but also reminds the client of your quality product. Every time the client drinks a cup of coffee made with your fresh-roasted beans, uses your handmade stationery or puts his iPad in your leather case, he&rsquo;ll be reminded why he does business with you.</p> <p><strong>Deliver your gifts by hand.</strong> If your clients are local, make an impact by delivering your holiday gifts yourself. Make a brief appointment so you&rsquo;re not interruptive, and spend the time catching up with the client. Don&rsquo;t make this a hard-sell sales call, but listen for cues as to how you may be able to help them in the future, and cement your interest in working with them again next year.</p> <p><strong>Give the gift of time.</strong> Instead of giving a physical gift, take key clients out to breakfast or coffee&mdash;something brief that provides a break in their busy days, but also gives you time to reconnect. You&rsquo;ll stand out from the crowd of social media connections by simply being present in real life, and you&rsquo;ll be top of mind when the client turns to next year&rsquo;s budget.</p> <p><strong>Give the gift of information.</strong> A business book or magazine subscription that&rsquo;s relevant to your client&rsquo;s industry, challenges and interests shows you put some thought into what will help her get ahead in the coming year. Plus, you can follow up later by asking the client how she likes the book and why you thought it might be helpful to her&hellip;segueing nicely into how your business might be helpful as well. And if you&rsquo;ve procrastinated, this is a quick and easy gift.</p> <p>With these simple tips, you can turn holiday business gifts into the gift that keeps on giving&mdash;giving you more business, that is.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/6-ideas-turn-your-customer-holiday-gifts-marketing-tool#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/771231 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 03 Dec 2013 16:55:51 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 771231 at http://www.sba.gov Yet Another 6 Ways to Use Social Media for Branding http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/yet-another-6-ways-use-social-media-branding <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-194a4451-37e4-6bc7-665a-1058d3c7bcf4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">In my last article, I wrote about <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/6-quick-ways-use-social-media-branding">6 ways to brand your business using social media</a>. &nbsp;Each of those 6 ways was relatively simple -- something just about any small business could do -- yet many overlook. &nbsp;</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-194a4451-37e4-6bc7-665a-1058d3c7bcf4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I&rsquo;m back this month with another six ways. &nbsp;Again, the focus is on activities that you don&rsquo;t need a big budget for -- just a little time and some elbow grease, and you, too, can take advantage of these ways.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">I&#39;ll pick up the numbering where I left off, starting with #7:</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">7. Link to Social Icons on Website, Email and Blog</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-194a4451-37e2-ec76-a4b6-08589bc5726b"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">There should be a breadcrumb trail from your website/blog and emails to your social media profiles &ndash; and vice versa back to your website. It shows that your social media profiles are an extension of your brand. </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">Make it simple for visitors to click to your profiles to connect and follow. Test the buttons periodically to make sure they are properly configured and actually work (at least 15% of the time I encounter sites that return error messages when you click on the social icons, making the icons useless). </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">8. Use Google Authorship </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">One of Google&rsquo;s newer updates includes </span><a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/04/google-plus-author-tag-feature.html" style="line-height: 1.1500000000000001;" title="Link to Google authorship info"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Google Authorship</span></a><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">, which connects your blog posts around the Internet to your Google+ profile. If you set it up, your Google+ avatar will appear next to your posts in a search, making it easier for people to connect with you and share your content.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">This is a good way to establish thought leadership and a high profile for company executives. It&rsquo;s also great for cementing a personal brand.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">9. Diversify Your Updates &ndash; But Not Too Much</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">S</span><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">pitting out a steady stream of retweets, self-promotional posts, or questions is enough to make the most dedicated fan click &ldquo;unfollow.&rdquo; Keep followers interested by creating varied types of posts, including: </span></p> <ul dir="ltr"> <li style="line-height: 1.1500000000000001; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <span style="line-height: normal;">Comments on others&rsquo; posts</span></li> <li> Links to your content and that of others</li> <li> Questions to your audience</li> <li> Videos and pictures</li> <li> Company news</li> <li> Discounts and special offers</li> </ul> <p><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1.1500000000000001; white-space: pre-wrap;">However, don&rsquo;t make the mistake of updating about everything in the world. People follow brands for a specific reason &ndash; and it usually has to do with the fact that they are interested in your business-related content, product information, and discounts and special offers.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-194a4451-37e2-ec76-a4b6-08589bc5726b"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If one week you are tweeting about industry information or your business, and the next about politics, you will lose followers.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">10. Get it on a Calendar and Schedule Updates in Advance</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">This is a fabulous time-saving strategy. Rather than having to spend all day on social sites, you can boil down the time you spend to minutes a day by pre-scheduling your content. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">More important, it makes your approach to updating your social networks consistent. When you&rsquo;re inconsistent and sporadic &ndash; perhaps updating 30 times one week, and then nothing for the next three weeks &ndash; it&rsquo;s hard to develop a connection with followers. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">And what does that say about your follow-through on projects or work with customers? It suggests subtly that you might be just as inconsistent.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">Then check in once a day to respond to anyone who has sent you a message or commented. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">11. Follow the Right People</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">Following is a two way street. Following others in a targeted way helps you gain targeted followers in return.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">Simply following anyone and everyone won&rsquo;t net you the results you&rsquo;re looking for on social media. Search for specific keywords, such as the ones that people search for to find your website. See who&rsquo;s talking about your brand or competition. Follow customers and those who fit your customer demographic. It&rsquo;s better to grow your following slowly in a more targeted way than willy-nilly.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">This gives you a targeted audience that you can satisfy with content and updates related to what they are expecting. And you will be more interested in what they have to say if it&rsquo;s related to your industry, and you can learn from them also.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Remember, followers may eventually turn into customers. According to a recent study by Twitter, </span><a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/08/twitter-followers-likely-to-buy.html" style="line-height: 1.1500000000000001;" title="Link to Twitter follower article"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">72% of your followers are more likely to buy from you</span></a><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> after following.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">12. Join Groups</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">LinkedIn caters to every imaginable industry. There are groups for content publishing advice, farmer&rsquo;s market vendors, and even pet industry professionals. Join active groups in your industry, or one filled with your target market. Dive into discussion. Participate. Share. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="line-height: normal; font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Groups are a great way to reinforce thought leadership in a particular industry, and gain attention for your brand among interested parties. Check out the </span><a href="http://www.linkedin.com/directory/groups/" style="line-height: normal;" title="link to LinkedIn Groups Directory"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Directory of LinkedIn Groups</span></a><span style="line-height: normal; font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> to find one.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/yet-another-6-ways-use-social-media-branding#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/757306 The Industry Word Marketing Fri, 08 Nov 2013 13:34:59 +0000 smallbiztrends 757306 at http://www.sba.gov How to Market Your Business with an Event http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-market-your-business-with-event <p>The holiday season is almost here and no matter what type of business you have, hosting an event is a great way to market your business during this festive time. Events can work for retailers, restaurateurs, business-to-business companies and personal service providers. Since a good event takes time to pull off, the time to start planning is now. Here are some steps to hosting a successful event.</p> <p><strong>Decide what you want to accomplish.</strong> Every successful event starts with a clear goal. Are you hoping to get prospects&rsquo; contact information, sell a ton of product, or just say &ldquo;thank you&rdquo; to current customers? Your goal will shape the event. For instance, if you want to sell product, an in-store event makes sense; if you want to thank B2B customers, you might host a dinner at a local restaurant.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Set a date.</strong> To maximize results, time your event right. Make sure it doesn&rsquo;t conflict with other events or dates your customers are likely to be booked for. You can also capitalize on existing holidays by timing your event to coincide with them&mdash;for instance, a retailer could host a <a href="https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small/" title="Link to main page of Small Business Saturday">Small Business Saturday</a> event to increase awareness of this national day for shopping at small, independent businesses.</p> <p><strong>Determine the nature of the event.</strong> Your date helps determine the scope of your event. For instance, if you want to do a Thanksgiving event (that&rsquo;s in just a few weeks!) you&rsquo;ll need to keep it on a smaller scale. If you&rsquo;re doing a New Year&rsquo;s celebration, you can make grander plans. As you envision your event, consider:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Where will the event take place (your business? Outdoors? A local restaurant? A hotel conference room?). Check into space availability and find out if any permits are needed.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; How many people will attend? If it&rsquo;s an invitation-only event such as a dinner or seminar, you&rsquo;ll be able to get a head count by requesting RSVPs. If it&rsquo;s a more free-form event such as an in-store author appearance, you&rsquo;ll have to go with an educated guess.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; What equipment and extras will you need? This could range from tables, chairs and microphones to pens and paper or refreshments.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; What&rsquo;s your budget? Add up costs as you plan and scale it back if needed. Consider bartering with local businesses for some of what you need or, if it makes sense with your event, seeking other businesses (complementary to yours) to serve as sponsors.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; What staff will you need? Plan now to schedule workers for the event and make sure you have all hands on deck. It&rsquo;s a good idea to have someone besides you in charge of the logistics so he or she can execute and keep track of all the moving parts.</p> <p><strong>Start promoting.</strong> Your event needs attendees, so develop a mini-marketing plan for how you&rsquo;ll promote it. Use all your marketing and advertising outlets, including word-of-mouth, social media, print or online ads, flyers, store signage and more. Reach out to local reporters and bloggers asking them to attend and/or write about the event (ideally, both before and after). Send information to any local publications that post or print event listings. Let local business organizations, such as the chamber of commerce, know about it.</p> <p><strong>Be prepared.</strong> &ldquo;Hope for the best, but plan for the worst&rdquo; should be your mantra. A few weeks before the event, meet with your employees to run through what will happen and what might go wrong. No detail is too small to consider (just ask any speaker who&rsquo;s had a presentation ruined by lack of an extension cord). Things like napkins, duct tape and extra pens can make or break your event.</p> <p><strong>Capture customer information&mdash;and keep in touch.</strong> If your event attracts new customers or prospects, gather their information and follow up with them later. You can request information when they RSVP, ask people to sign up on a clipboard to get on your mailing list, or do the &ldquo;business cards in a fishbowl&rdquo; thing. Follow up within a few weeks while the event is fresh in their minds to provide something of value such as a discount code, free consultation or useful information.&nbsp;</p> <p>After each event, review what went wrong (and right) so you can learn for next time. The more events you host, the easier it becomes and the more you&rsquo;ll be able to use this valuable marketing tool.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-market-your-business-with-event#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/756816 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 05 Nov 2013 17:14:15 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 756816 at http://www.sba.gov Do an End-of-Year Planning Refresh http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/do-end-year-planning-refresh <p>It&rsquo;s that time of year: changing colors, chill air, thoughts of holidays coming, the shock of another year ending. Does your business slow down during December, like my business planning software business always does, and so many other do? If so, then this becomes a good time for a planning refresh.</p> <p>My business has always had slowdowns in the end of November and December. We recognized the pattern years ago and started to work with it. December became our time for pulling away from the business, looking out at the horizon, talking to customers and potential customers, evaluating potential new products, checking in with major clients, and so forth. We called it a planning refresh.</p> <p>Here are some important elements of a good planning refresh:</p> <p class="rteindent1">1.&nbsp; First, your long-term goals: Review your definition of success. That could be fame and fortune, or maybe just independence and peace of mind, or time for other things. Has it changed? Are you making progress? Have you forgotten where you&rsquo;re trying to go?</p> <p class="rteindent1">2.&nbsp; Second, your SWOT: Review strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Have they changed in the last year? Does your strategy reflect your SWOT? Is it time to revise strategy, or stick to the same thing?</p> <p class="rteindent1">3.&nbsp; Third, your target market: Are you still focused well and on the right potential buyers? Have market developments changed the strategic value of one segment over another? Does your market focus match the opportunities and your business offering?</p> <p class="rteindent1">This is an especially good time to refresh your sense of the customers. How often do you talk to them? Are you in touch with what customers are thinking and saying about your business? Has it changed? One of the best things you can do is talk to a few random customers, in depth, provided of course that you can find customers to talk to you. Market knowledge is critical to business success, and it&rsquo;s too easy to get lost in the routine and not realize that the situation has changed.&nbsp;</p> <p class="rteindent1">4.&nbsp; Fourth, review your competition. Think broadly about competition, looking not just for the competition you know, but also for new competition that you don&rsquo;t realize is out there. Maybe customers are discovering new ways to solve the problems and fill the need that your business offering is supposed to &ndash; and you haven&rsquo;t realized it. Just as an example, competition for business plan software includes courses, classes, books, magazine articles, television shows and consultants &ndash; not just other business plan software.</p> <p>When it&rsquo;s about autumn leaves, snow, spring blossoms, or summer heat, we call it the change of seasons. When it&rsquo;s business, we call it seasonality. The two are not too different from each other. Both can be used as automatic reminders of change and cycles.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/do-end-year-planning-refresh#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/756119 The Industry Word Managing Marketing Tue, 29 Oct 2013 17:13:58 +0000 Tim Berry 756119 at http://www.sba.gov 5 Ways to Market Your Business for the Holiday Season http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-ways-market-your-business-holiday-season <p>The holiday season is quickly approaching, and the time is now to make sure you get the most of your marketing efforts to help secure sales success in the coming months. Here are a few budget-friendly ideas to help get you started.</p> <p><strong>Social Media Contests</strong></p> <p>If your small business has a social media presence, contests on Facebook and Twitter are often a popular way highlight your brand and engage with customers, reminding them that your product or service is available &ndash; and a potentially great gift idea. With a few rules, a clever hashtag and incentive such as a prize or discount on your offerings, you can drum up excitement about &ndash; and draw people in to &ndash; your business.</p> <p><strong>Extra Appeal for Your Loyal Customers</strong></p> <p>Take this time to make your loyal customers feel extra special &ndash; it may come back to you by way of additional business and referrals. Without breaking the bank, you can provide special offers, sneak previews, free shipping or secret sales.</p> <p><strong>Special Events or Open Houses</strong></p> <p>Make your small business stand out by hosting an open house or special event at your store or restaurant. Use it to showcase holiday season gifts, menus and merchandise so customers can get a glimpse of your seasonal goods in advance. Pair the browsing with light refreshments &ndash; a mug of hot cocoa or a glass of cider &ndash; to get people in the holiday spirit. On their way out, give a special offer or coupon that invites customers back to make their purchases at a discount.</p> <p><strong>Holiday Help</strong></p> <p>This is a great idea from Illana Bercovitz at <a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/2012/11/social-media-holiday-marketing-strategy.html" title="link to Small Business Trends article">Small Business Trends</a>: use social media to offer helpful tips during a stressful holiday season. Consider your industry, product or service and related advice you could offer to make customers&rsquo; lives easier. &ldquo;Everyone appreciates useful advice and your customers will thank you for pushing content that makes their holidays slightly less stressful,&rdquo; Bercovitz says. Use an original hashtag to maintain brand awareness across platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.</p> <p><strong>Email</strong></p> <p>Although it&rsquo;s often considered overused, email remains inexpensive and easy to implement when it comes to maintaining contact with existing customers. That&rsquo;s a key to remember &ndash; to be effective, email marketing should be used with folks you have already done business with or who have expressed an interest in your business and have requested email from you (otherwise known as permission marketing).</p> <p>Keep these tips in mind if you plan to use email to support your holiday marketing efforts:</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Keep the e-mail short and sweet. </strong>Link directly to the content of interest so you make the process as easy as possible for your customers.</li> <li> <strong>Clearly state the email&rsquo;s intent in the subject line.</strong> For example, &quot;A Special Offer Just for You. Thanks for Your Business in 2013.&rdquo;</li> <li> <strong>Be festive in your design. </strong>Appeal to the sights of the season with a special design for the holidays.</li> <li> <strong>Follow online marketing rules. </strong>Don&#39;t forget that online marketing is regulated, so whatever tactics you employ be sure to follow <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/leaving-sba-dot-gov?url=http%3A//www.business.gov/guides/advertising/online/index.html" title="link to government guidelines about email marketing">government</a> guidelines that apply to list management, SPAM and other guidelines.</li> </ul> <p>For more great holiday marketing insight, check out this recent post from guest blogger Rieva Lesonsky, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/start-now-plan-your-holiday-retail-marketing-campaign" title="Start Now to Plan Your Holiday Retail Marketing Campaign article">Start Now to Plan Your Holiday Retail Marketing Campaign</a>,&rdquo; and our 2012 <a href="http://www.sba.gov/content/holiday-marketing-tips-ideas" title="link to holiday marketing web chat">web chat</a> with Caron Beesley.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-ways-market-your-business-holiday-season#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/755186 Small Business Matters Marketing Wed, 23 Oct 2013 11:23:37 +0000 kmurray 755186 at http://www.sba.gov Start Now to Plan Your Holiday Retail Marketing Campaign http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/start-now-plan-your-holiday-retail-marketing-campaign <p>Does it feel like summer was just yesterday? Well, it&rsquo;s time to put away the pool toys, cover the grill and pack up the bathing suits. For small retailers, it&rsquo;s time to start planning your 2013 holiday marketing strategy. (In fact, in a recent <a href="http://www.experian.com/blogs/marketing-forward/2013/08/21/holiday-planning-guide-for-marketers/" title="link to experian page">Experian survey</a>, 69 percent of marketers had already started planning&mdash;last month!). Here are some tips to get you started.</p> <p><strong>Determine your marketing mix.</strong> What types of marketing messages do you want to get out, and in what channels? Will you use traditional methods such as direct mail, cable TV or radio advertising; digital outreach such as email marketing, social media and online advertising; or a combination of both? Marketing isn&rsquo;t one-size-fits-all. To design the perfect plan for your store, look at what worked for you last year (and what didn&rsquo;t); set goals for what you want to achieve with your marketing this season; and consider how your target customer has changed in the past year. For instance, if you are marketing more to younger customers, you may want to increase your focus on digital marketing and decrease your direct mail spending.</p> <p><strong>Create a holiday marketing calendar. </strong>Timing is everything when it comes to holiday sales. You can have the best marketing plan and creative in the world, but if you don&rsquo;t get your ad in to the newspaper in time for it to run, that won&rsquo;t matter. Create a calendar of key dates, and work backward from those dates to determine what needs to happen when. For example, what do you need to do now, in October and in early November to be ready for Black Friday promotions?</p> <p><strong>Prep your employees.</strong> Customer service is a huge aspect of marketing for small brick-and-mortar retailers. You&rsquo;re competing not only with huge ecommerce sites like Amazon, but also with big retailers who integrate their online and offline shopping experiences seamlessly. What&rsquo;s more, &ldquo;showrooming&rdquo;&mdash;the practice of customers coming into your store to look at products in person, then using their phones to find a cheaper price elsewhere or online&mdash;is a real threat. To combat this, your employees need to be on top of their game. Not only must they provide stellar, smiling service, but they also need to be in-store sales consultants with expertise about your products and the competition&rsquo;s. Make sure your employees are well versed in what you sell and can advise and guide customers to keep them in-store.</p> <p><strong>Take advantage of Small Business Saturday.</strong> This initiative to drive more shoppers to local small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving (this year it&rsquo;s November 30) is growing every year. Visit the <a href="https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small/" title="link to small businesssaturday website">Small Business Saturday</a> website to learn more and get prepared with marketing materials, store signage and more you can use to rally your customer base to come out and support small business on Small Business Saturday.</p> <p><strong>Partner with local businesses.</strong> One reason Small Business Saturday is so successful is that it brings the community together. Don&rsquo;t wait for Small Business Saturday to co-market with other businesses in your area. Get involved with your chamber of commerce or business development association to come up with events that benefit everyone.</p> <p><strong>Give back to the community.</strong> Speaking of the community, now&rsquo;s the time to get involved. You may have a cause-oriented marketing program in place all year long, but if not, the holiday season &mdash; when giving is on everyone&rsquo;s mind &mdash; is a great time to choose a cause that matters to you and your employees. Choose an organization and a means of giving that make sense for your brand. That might be donating a portion of proceeds for one day to charity, giving shoppers a discount if they donate nonperishable food for you to give to a local food bank, or working with a Secret Santa organization to get customers to buy gifts for underprivileged kids at your store. The key is to get your customers involved, too&mdash;so make the cause part of all your holiday marketing outreach.</p> <p><strong>Plan your holiday events.</strong> Holiday events, such as special shopping nights, in-store promotions or performances, are a great way to differentiate your store during the busy holiday season. Figure out what events you&rsquo;d like to hold this year. Determine what you need to put in place to make them happen&mdash;whether that&rsquo;s refreshments and seating, extra inventory or holiday d&eacute;cor.</p> <p><strong>Spread the news.</strong> Whether it&rsquo;s a huge sale, in-store event, hot new product or charitable cause, let local media know what you&rsquo;re doing well in advance. Reporters and bloggers are flooded with pitches this time of year, so make yours stand out. Putting the perfect spin on your press releases, whether it&rsquo;s a feel-good story, a hot gift trend or a way customers can save money, should pique the interest of local reporters.</p> <p>Holiday retail is more competitive than ever, but if you get started early and plan well, you can still come out ahead of the pack.&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/start-now-plan-your-holiday-retail-marketing-campaign#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/753700 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 17 Sep 2013 22:53:16 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 753700 at http://www.sba.gov 6 Quick Ways to Use Social Media for Branding http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/6-quick-ways-use-social-media-branding <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">While there&rsquo;s no overnight success when it comes to converting social media followers to customers, there are some strategies you can implement immediately to see results. Remember the importance of branding &ndash; every social interaction says something about your brand. Here&rsquo;s how to make sure it says exactly what you want your brand to convey:</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">1. Upload Consistent Avatars</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If you&rsquo;ve got an old logo for your Twitter icon, your new company logo for Facebook and a product image on Google +, you&rsquo;re sending a mixed message to your followers and customers. Stick to a single avatar across all channels so that visitors build a mental connection from the social platform back to your site. </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Use a high-quality version (large pixel size) of your company logo, unless you&rsquo;re branding yourself, in which case you should use a really great smiling photograph. The reason to use a large image size is that sometimes others download your logo from social sites if they write about your company, so you want it to be as high quality as possible.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">2. Use Similar Colors and Design Across Platforms</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">In addition to ensuring that your images are the same on all social media profiles, it&rsquo;s important to deliver a similar look across the board. This, too, should tie in with what you&rsquo;re doing on your business&rsquo; website.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Twitter allows you to upload a custom background to your profile. Facebook and Google + provide a large banner photo or image up top. These are valuable real estate locations, and they provide you with the opportunity to use similar color and design elements to integrate with your company logo colors and the design of your site. A visitor should be able to recognize your brand from any social page they visit.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">3. Deliver Consistent Messaging</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Develop a voice that speaks to what your company is all about. If you provide useful tips for your audience on Facebook in a professional tone, make sure you&rsquo;re not using all caps and slang (&ldquo;OMG THIS BLOG POST ROXX!&rdquo;) on Twitter, as an example. </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Your social updates represent your company so it&rsquo;s important, first of all, to maintain a professional voice, and second, to be consistent. Visitors should know what to expect when browsing your social profiles. </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">This is especially important if specific qualifies are key to the impression you want to convey: luxury, formality, trust, professionalism or other attributes. If one of those types of attributes is important to your brand, you need to convey that attribute throughout your social messaging. </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">4. Provide Unique Content on Each Channel</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">That being said, you shouldn&rsquo;t duplicate content across all social channels. It&rsquo;s fine to share the same blog post, as an example, but find a new way to present it for each channel. </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Ideally, you want to give people a reason to follow you on all platforms. If you&rsquo;re delivering the same identical update on all at exactly the same time, there&rsquo;s no reason for them to do that.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Diversify your communication strategy for each. Mix up what you offer, as in this example:</span></span></p> <ul dir="ltr"> <li style="line-height: 1.1500000000000001; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">On Twitter, share relevant links from our blog and other industry sites</span></span></li> <li style="line-height: 1.1500000000000001; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">On Facebook, share videos our audience appreciates, as well as answer questions about our products</span></span></li> <li style="line-height: 1.1500000000000001; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">On LinkedIn, actively participate in industry groups</span></span></li> <li style="line-height: 1.1500000000000001; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">On Google+, engage with other users and start a dialogue</span></span></li> </ul> <p><span style="background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1.1500000000000001;">5. Check for &ldquo;Unofficial&rdquo; Pages, Claim Them, and Brand Them</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Check social sites to make sure there are not already pages set up that you haven&rsquo;t claimed. </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">This can happen on review sites like Yelp. Look for instructions on how to claim your profile, </span><a href="https://biz.yelp.com/claiming"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">such as here for Yelp</span></a><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">On sites like LinkedIn, there may be a company page but no one is listed as the Administrator and therefore no one can update the page. So you have to contact LinkedIn to be able to assign administrators. </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Or it may be a situation where someone has used your company name without permission, in which case you will have to contact the social network and report the unauthorized use. </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/169486816475808"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(17, 85, 204); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Facebook has a form to report impersonations</span></a><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> of individuals or companies.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">6. Focus on 2 to 4 Social Sites</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">It is possible to go overboard when it comes to joining social media sites. Sure, you want to reach as many people as possible, but you&rsquo;ll do better to zero in on only as many as you have time to update. Think deep, not wide.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">When you focus, it is easier to develop a consistent message and brand visibility. </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1500000000000001;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-37846252-127b-2af7-4c7d-92cbc6813fc4"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Remember, the more effort you put into social media, the better the results. Aim for a consistent, engaging experience, and you will attract new followers and, eventually, customers.</span></span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/6-quick-ways-use-social-media-branding#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/753102 The Industry Word Marketing Thu, 12 Sep 2013 14:06:31 +0000 smallbiztrends 753102 at http://www.sba.gov 3 Signs That Social Media Might Not Be the Right Fit for Your Small Business http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/3-signs-social-media-might-not-be-right-fit-your-small-business <p>Small-business social media use has become a barometer of our times for industry analysts who are eager to gauge the impact the economy and new technologies have on the way small firms do business.</p> <p>And despite a few sluggish years, the latest data suggests that small businesses are turning to social media in droves in an effort to increase sales (source: <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/meghancasserly/2013/04/17/why-small-businesses-are-losing-on-social-media/" title="link to Forbes">Forbes</a> and <a href="http://www.manta.com/" title="link to Manta">Manta</a>). The problem is, no matter how much time they spend, some small businesses are not reaping rewards.</p> <p>Why is this? The problem is that small businesses are expecting leads and sales, and while social media can definitely be a lead generator, Forbes reports that the expectations that small businesses have of social media is completely out of whack with how they are actually using it. Setting up a social media page, then posting promotions and events and hoping the sales will follow just isn&rsquo;t going to cut it. Social media is not another direct marketing channel; it&rsquo;s a patience game. It&rsquo;s a place to answer customer service questions, to get to know your followers and build community.</p> <p>But the question, &ldquo;What should I be doing on social media?&rdquo; is one that won&rsquo;t go away for small business owners, eager to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. So if you&rsquo;ve ever asked what your business should be doing on social media, take a step back and consider whether it&rsquo;s actually a good fit for your business at this point in time.</p> <p>To help you decide, here are some signs that social media may not be right for your small business:</p> <p><strong>Do you have a website?</strong></p> <p>Do you have a website to act as a hub of information and back up your social media presence? Social media should never be considered the be all and end all of your online presence. If a user can&rsquo;t find out more about who you are or what you sell online, then don&rsquo;t get social. In addition, your website functions as a repository of other content that supports your social media strategy &ndash; blogs, white papers, and ebooks should all be housed on your website and then amplified and shared on social media networks. Your website is also home to lead capture devices that you promote on social media such as your newsletter sign-up page, customer surveys, event registration pages and so on.</p> <p>Bottom line: a website lends your business and your social media presence credibility. Build that first before you get social.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>How are your other marketing activities doing?</strong></p> <p>Think of social media as the outer circle of your marketing efforts (your website is at the core). Between the two, there are a number of marketing must-haves that you should put in place before you get going on social media. Social media may be free, but it only works as part of a wider, integrated marketing strategy.</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Get your logos and brand imagery in order</strong> &ndash; Make sure you have and are happy with your company logo and any other brand imagery that you use and that they are implemented consistently across all your marketing materials. Sounds obvious, but growing small businesses can sometimes go through frequent iterations of their corporate look as they try to establish a brand identity. Google Plus, Facebook and Pinterest are highly visual, so it&rsquo;s important to get it right.</li> <li> <strong>Claim your profile on search listing profiles </strong>&ndash; If you are a local business, claim your listing on Google Plus, Bing, Yahoo, Yellow Pages, etc. When people search for your business or the types of services you offer online, these listings are likely to show up prominently and help you get found. Add basic information to build out your profile.&nbsp; Don&rsquo;t forget to add your personal profile to LinkedIn, too.</li> <li> <strong>Start a newsletter </strong>&ndash; eNewsletters are a great way to connect directly with those who want to hear about your business. You have a captive audience there; your message is delivered to their inbox and allows for a deeper conversation. It&rsquo;s also a useful tool to help you spread the word about your social media presence.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Do you have the staff and resources to support social media?</strong></p> <p>Social media is a commitment that you shouldn&rsquo;t take lightly. It may be free, but if you are going to be successful at it, you need to commit the right resources. Getting online once or twice a day and posting an update isn&rsquo;t enough. If you want social media to work for you as a lead generator, then you&rsquo;ll need to throw some headcount at it &ndash; someone who can write blogs, search and listen to what is being said about your industry, your business and your products or services. Someone who can gauge and track what type of content people are responding to.</p> <p>I mentioned earlier that answering customer service questions is going to be a big part of &nbsp;your social media efforts. This means that whoever is monitoring and posting content needs to be qualified &ndash; they don&rsquo;t need to be a social media whiz, but they should know something about your company, its values, goals and customers.</p> <p>Furthermore, be prepared to involve them in team meetings so they are informed about all elements of the business. In the same vein, make sure that each department &ndash; from sales to billing to product development &shy;&ndash; are aware and engaged with your social media efforts so that they can provide the appropriate responses to issues, learn from feedback and hear what the customers are saying.</p> <p>Social media is not just some throwaway marketing strategy; it&rsquo;s a public face of the company. So be prepared to understand the commitment you are making.</p> <p><strong>Related Articles</strong></p> <ul> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/don%E2%80%99t-be-social-media-marketing-skeptic-%E2%80%93-learn-where-and-how-start" title="Don’t Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic – Learn Where and How to Start article">Don&rsquo;t Be a Social Media Marketing Skeptic &ndash; Learn Where and How to Start</a>.</li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/7-tips-getting-more-your-customer-e-newslette" title="7 Tips for Getting more from Your Customer E-Newsletter article">7 Tips for Getting more from Your Customer E-Newsletter</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/8-ways-strengthen-your-email-marketing-offers" title="8 Ways to Strengthen Your Email Marketing Offers and Calls to Action article">8 Ways to Strengthen Your Email Marketing Offers and Calls to Action</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/how-use-social-media-do-better-job-customer-s" title="How to Use Social Media to Do a Better Job of Customer Service article">How to Use Social Media to Do a Better Job of Customer Service</a></li> </ul> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/3-signs-social-media-might-not-be-right-fit-your-small-business#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/752931 Small Business Matters Managing Marketing Mon, 09 Sep 2013 11:21:14 +0000 Caron_Beesley 752931 at http://www.sba.gov Referrals: The Fast and Easy Way to Market Your Business http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/referrals-fast-and-easy-way-market-your-business <p>If you&rsquo;re like most busy small business owners, you&rsquo;re always looking for fast and easy ways to market your business and get new customers. One of the fastest and easiest is right under your nose: Your existing, satisfied customers can be a great source of referrals to new business&mdash;provided you handle the referral process right.</p> <p>&ldquo;Process&rdquo; is the key word here, because getting referrals haphazardly and contacting them without having a specific plan in mind can be just as bad as not getting them at all. Yes, it will take a little work on the front end to set up a referral process, but it will ultimately pay off in a continuous pipeline of qualified new business. Isn&rsquo;t that every business owner&rsquo;s dream?</p> <p>Here&rsquo;s a 6-step system for getting and maximizing referrals:</p> <p class="rteindent1">1. <strong>Ask for them</strong>. You won&rsquo;t get if you don&rsquo;t ask, so develop a system where you gather referrals at a set point in the sales process. Typically, you&rsquo;ll want to do this after the sale is complete and you know the customer is satisfied. For a retailer, this might be at the point of purchase, or you might send a follow-up email asking for a referral. For a B2B company, the natural point would be during a follow-up call to make sure the service or product is working out OK. Build this into your sales process so that asking for referrals becomes as automatic to your employees, clerks and salespeople as, say, putting a receipt in the bag.</p> <p class="rteindent1">2. <strong>Get digital</strong>. Email and social media make it easier than ever to ask for a referral. You can put requests for referrals on your social media sites, ask for referrals as part of your email outreach, or create a contest for the customer who refers the most people or the referral that generates the most business.</p> <p class="rteindent1">3. <strong>Offer a reward</strong>. Speaking of contests, we&rsquo;re all more motivated to do something if there&rsquo;s a reward involved. When developing rewards for referrals, take into account the value of the referral. If you&rsquo;re asking a shopper on your ecommerce cosmetics site to share a friend&rsquo;s information as part of the checkout process, that&rsquo;s pretty low-value. If, on the other hand, one of your top B2B clients has discussed your product or service with a business colleague, knows that he or she is interested in learning more (and controls a $100,000 budget), and provides you with that person&rsquo;s name and email&mdash;well, that&rsquo;s pretty high-value. Appropriate rewards could range from a dollar-off discount code, to a free product or service, to a percentage off the next invoice. (Rewards can escalate in value depending on whether the referred client actually makes a purchase.)</p> <p class="rteindent1">4. <strong>Keep it simple</strong>. People want to help you out, but not if it&rsquo;s a huge hassle. Make referrals as easy as possible with tools like prepaid referral postcards customers can drop in the mail, referral forms enclosed with your invoice so they can mail it back with their payments, a form they can fill out while paying the bill at your restaurant or a simple form on your website they can fill out with a few keystrokes.</p> <p class="rteindent1">5. <strong>Follow up in a timely fashion</strong>. Once you get a hot referral, follow up before it has time to cool off. Two weeks should be the maximum time you wait to get in touch. Build the time frame into your referral system, and use tools like CRM software to set reminders of when referrals should be contacted. When you follow up, don&rsquo;t assume you&rsquo;ve &ldquo;got it made.&rdquo; Introduce yourself by referencing the person who made the referral, then follow up by educating the person about what your company can offer them, rather than doing a hard sell. Consider sending some free information, a sample or a discount on a first purchase.</p> <p class="rteindent1">6. <strong>Deliver on your promises</strong>. Make sure your interactions with the referred customer are professional and that, if he or she buys from you, you provide outstanding service. Otherwise, you could end up embarrassing the person who provided the referral, and not only will you fail to land the new customer, but you might just lose the old one.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/referrals-fast-and-easy-way-market-your-business#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/751519 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 20 Aug 2013 07:46:32 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 751519 at http://www.sba.gov 10 Tips to Help You Build and Grow a Stand-Out Small Business Brand http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/10-tips-help-you-build-and-grow-stand-out-sma <p>The United States loves small businesses &ndash; it&rsquo;s official! That&rsquo;s according to a survey by the Pew Foundation (<a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/04/small-business-owners-trusted.html" title="Pew Foundation survey">reported here on SmallBizTrends</a>) which found that 71 percent of Americans view small business more favorably than any other institutions, including religious organizations.</p> <p>Why is this? Well, small businesses are seen as a positive influence &ldquo;on the way things are going in this country.&rdquo; But it&rsquo;s more than that.</p> <p>Small businesses are in a unique position to create valuable customer experiences. Their products and services are often niche; the target customer is very defined; and business operations are agile and unconstrained by corporate rules and processes. Small businesses are also trusted for their integrity, community engagement and customer service. When was the last time you called a small business and got put through to an automated call center? These seemingly small things come together to create a hugely competitive value proposition &ndash; and are the lynchpin of your brand.</p> <p>But what can you do to leverage these experiences and grow the appeal of your brand &ndash; without breaking the bank? Here are 10 tips that can help:</p> <ol> <li> <strong>What is Your Brand?</strong></li> </ol> <p>First, it&rsquo;s important to understand that your brand is much more than your logo, merchandising or products. As I mentioned above, it is about the sum total of the experiences customers have with your business. This includes the visual elements of your business, but it also includes what you do, how you do it, what your customer interactions are like, the type of information you share in your marketing and on social media. All these elements help establish the trust and credibility of your business.</p> <ol> <li value="2"> <strong>Stand Out</strong></li> </ol> <p>Standing out means being different. If your brand is going to be strong, you need to be able to pinpoint what it is that makes what you do unique. What differentiates you from others in your industry? Read <a href="http://blog.score.org/2012/sba/5-tips-for-using-competitive-differentiators-to-build-your-business-brand/" title="5 Tips for Using Competitive Differentiators to Build Your Business Brand post">5 Tips for Using Competitive Differentiators to Build Your Business Brand</a>. Don&rsquo;t forget to weave your differentiators into your company&rsquo;s messaging and marketing. Here are some tips for doing that: <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/7-tips-getting-your-marketing-message-right" title="7 Tips for Getting your Marketing Message Right post">7 Tips for Getting your Marketing Message Right</a>.</p> <ol> <li value="3"> <strong>Have Great Products and Services</strong></li> </ol> <p>Word of mouth is often a small businesses greatest lead generator, so having great products and services that people talk about is a critical part of your brand and why you are in business. &nbsp;Even the most outgoing and charming small business owner is not going to succeed in bringing customers back, unless the product or service they provide delivers and exceeds expectations. Don&rsquo;t lose sight of your product &ndash; keep refining it, testing new offerings, and making sure you always put product first, not the money it brings in.</p> <ol> <li value="4"> <strong>Make Sure Your Customers Know the Face Behind the Product</strong></li> </ol> <p>One of the biggest reasons that small businesses fail is because of the persistent absence of the business owner. You only need to look at a few episodes of business makeover TV shows like <em>Ramsay&#39;s Kitchen Nightmares </em>and <em>Tabatha Takes Over</em> to witness what can go wrong if a business is left to run itself. Without an actively engaged owner, employees lose motivation and structure, which can quickly lead to sloppy service, a poor product and customer churn. Yes, your business needs to be able to function without your constant presence, but it&rsquo;s important to strike a balance &ndash; find ways to make sure your customers know you and connect with the face behind the business. Businesses really thrive when the energy of the owner is there.</p> <ol> <li value="5"> <strong>Get Your Name and Logo Right</strong></li> </ol> <p>This is essential to brand recognition and it&rsquo;s important to get it right the first time (changing your name and logo can be costly down the road). Your logo and name should be easily recognizable and reflect the nature and tone of your business as well as appeal to your target market. I&rsquo;m a dog owner, and two of my absolute favorite small businesses cater to pet owners &ndash; <a href="http://woofies.com/" title="link to Woofies">Woofies</a> (my local provider of dog walking services) and <a href="http://www.doggonenatural.com/" title="link to Doggone Natural">Doggone Natural</a> (a healthy pet food store). The names and logos of both these businesses reflect the personality of their brands, what they stand for, the products they offer, their market (people and their pets) and the overall tone of their businesses. When I see their logos, it makes me feel good; I feel an affinity with them &ndash; and that&rsquo;s what you need to shoot for.</p> <ol> <li value="6"> <strong>Have a Distinct Voice</strong></li> </ol> <p>A great way to ensure your distinct brand message is delivered consistently across your business is to focus on how you and your employees interact and communicate with customers &ndash; in-person, on the phone and on social media. Not sure what your &ldquo;voice&rdquo; should be? Look to other brands. What do they do that you&rsquo;d like to emulate? How do they greet and interact with you? What is it that they do that makes you feel good about doing business with them?</p> <ol> <li value="7"> <strong>Build Community Around What you Do</strong></li> </ol> <p>A successful brand is one that is trusted and respected by customers &ndash; building a strong community online and off can help you achieve this.</p> <p>You don&rsquo;t have to spend a lot of money to do this. In fact, many successful brands concentrate almost exclusively in online and offline community building as opposed to traditional advertising. Facebook and Twitter are great outlets for this, as is your blog. Offline participation in community activities such as local events, fundraisers, charities, as well as hosting your own events such as workshops or loyal customer events, can all help you build community and extend the trust you&rsquo;ve earned to your brand.</p> <ol> <li value="8"> <strong>Be an Advocate for Your Business &ndash; Not Just a Salesman</strong></li> </ol> <p>You don&#39;t have to be the greatest salesman to succeed in business. Selling takes many forms &ndash; and being a brand advocate gels them all together. For example, many small business owners strive to be the number one salesman, the number one cheerleader, and the number one fan of their own business (you&rsquo;ve got to be excited about it if you want others to be excited too). If you are passionate about your business, be an advocate for it. Use many of the tips in this blog to make sure people understand what you do, the story behind your products, what your products have done for people, your methods and mission, and all that good stuff. Invite people in!</p> <ol> <li value="9"> <strong>Be Reliable</strong></li> </ol> <p>Letting your customers down by failing to live up to your own promises and brand standards can be particularly harmful for small businesses that depend heavily on referrals. The foundation of brand loyalty lies in great service &ndash; a happy customer is a loyal customer. So make sure you aren&rsquo;t making promises that you can&rsquo;t keep &ndash; whether you run a pizza business and pledge to deliver within 30 minutes, or are a painting contractor who promises to start a job on a Monday at 9:00 AM sharp. Stand by your promises. &nbsp;</p> <ol> <li value="10"> <strong>Have a Value Proposition</strong></li> </ol> <p>Value, not to be mistaken with price, can help define your brand and differentiate you from the competition. This goes back to my second point about standing out. What niche do you serve? What do you do well in that niche that makes you different from everyone else? What are the emotional benefits of what you do? The answers to these questions will help define what your value is to your customers &ndash; it could be your great customer service, product quality, innovation, or any combination of these.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/10-tips-help-you-build-and-grow-stand-out-sma#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/744621 Small Business Matters Managing Marketing Mon, 29 Jul 2013 14:02:53 +0000 Caron_Beesley 744621 at http://www.sba.gov True story: planning vs. black swan disasters http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/true-story-planning-vs-black-swan-disasters <p>Imagine yourself in charge of a 40-person company, selling small business software, during the sudden crash of 2008. Your sales had been lagging a bit all year, but as the financial news blackened in late summer and early fall, your sales plummeted. September sales fell to 25% below the previous year, 30% below your planned level. October sales fell again. Within one short 10-week period, you found yourself falling from slightly profitable to below breaking even.</p> <p>What do you do? Of course you cut expenses; that&rsquo;s obvious. How to you decide what to cut?</p> <p>And in this situation &ndash; The unexpected, unforeseen sudden plunge &ndash; how does a business plan help? Are you glad you have it &ndash; or is a plan, and planning, entirely wasted because it didn&rsquo;t predict the disaster?</p> <p>Back to the story. In this case (and I&rsquo;m skipping names and details on purpose, because I don&rsquo;t want it to be promotional), although the business plan was suddenly obsolete, it served as a key management tool for managing the crisis situation.</p> <p>The plan in question had been developed almost a year earlier, for a company that had a fiscal year closing in September. However, it had been reviewed and revised monthly, so it was kept up to date.</p> <p>That plan managed not just a strategy summary, but also dates and deadlines and responsibilities. And its projections included not just sales, but also cost of sales; and expenses including salaries, other fixed expenses such as rent, utilities and so forth.</p> <p>Although the numbers in the plan became instantly obsolete when sales dropped, the relationships didn&rsquo;t. The management team was able to use the plan vs. actual results to gauge the impact of falling sales, and then look ahead to the planned flow of expenses to decide what to cut.</p> <p>One important insight that came from the plan was that many of the expenses fell automatically because they were variable expenses tied directly to sales or cost of sales. For example, some channel marketing expenses were contractually tied to channel sales, so some expense cutting was automatic.</p> <p>Another important insight was that it would be possible to cut enough discretionary expenses to preserve financial health without cutting payroll. In this case, the company decided that losing people wasn&rsquo;t a good idea. They liked the team in place and didn&rsquo;t want to cut jobs that they&rsquo;d have to recruit again and then train again a few months later, if the sales turned back up.</p> <p>So the plan, with its up-to-date monthly revisions, operated like a dashboard. Turn one dial one way, another the other way.</p> <p>Without a plan, it would have been a lot harder to look at connections and relationships between sales, expenses, marketing goals, discretionary and non-discretionary expenses, and adjusting for the sudden crisis. With a plan, the options were visible, and the decisions were easy to make.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/true-story-planning-vs-black-swan-disasters#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/737181 The Industry Word Managing Marketing Starting Tue, 23 Jul 2013 15:44:29 +0000 Tim Berry 737181 at http://www.sba.gov 6 Marketing Tactics That Quickly Boost Sales http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/6-marketing-tactics-quickly-boost-sales <p>You work hard to market your business, and you&rsquo;ve succeeded&mdash;so well that you&rsquo;re swamped with work and have no time to market your business. When you come up for air after finally finishing that big project or filling that huge order, you realize you&rsquo;ve got no new business in the pipeline. Does this sound familiar? Striking a balance between running your business and marketing your business is a common problem for small business owners. The smaller or newer your business is, the bigger a problem it&rsquo;s likely to be. After all, if you&rsquo;re a one-person business, there&rsquo;s no one to pick up the slack.</p> <p>How can you make time for marketing when you barely have time to breathe? Here are some tips to help ensure you never drop the marketing ball again.</p> <p><strong>First&hellip;</strong></p> <p><strong>1. Develop a marketing plan.</strong> Making a plan will save you time in the long run. Figure out which marketing efforts bring in the most business, so that when you&rsquo;re really crunched, you can put all your focus there. Plan what you&rsquo;d like to do each day/week/month, as well as the &ldquo;bare minimum&rdquo; you&rsquo;ll do when you don&rsquo;t have time for the big picture.</p> <p><strong>2. Set aside time. </strong>Marketing is like having children: If you wait till the time is right, you&rsquo;ll never do it. You have to make time. Set aside 20 percent of your work hours each week to devote to marketing, and keep it sacred. Without marketing, your business won&rsquo;t survive for long.</p> <p><strong>Then try these quick tactics to bring in business fast&hellip;</strong></p> <ul> <li> <strong>Touch base with existing customers.</strong> It&rsquo;s easier to make a new sale to an existing customer than to land a new customer, so go where the low-hanging fruit is. Get in touch with existing customers to see what they need, suggest new products or services they could buy from you based on their past purchases, or offer some special deals. You can even set up your CRM system to do this automatically so you can pretty much set it and forget it.</li> <li> <strong>Request referrals.</strong> Let your current customers lead you to new customers. Quickly contact some existing customers (make sure they&rsquo;re satisfied ones!) and see if there&rsquo;s anyone they can refer you to who might want to buy what you sell. Be sure to follow up right away.</li> <li> <strong>Do double duty.</strong> Build marketing into business tasks you already do. For example, when you send an invoice include a flier or a hyperlink about a special offer or deal. Include these when you ship product, too. When your salesperson or service person completes a transaction, have them hand customers coupons for $X off their next purchase or servicing. You get the idea.</li> <li> <strong>Outsource what you can.</strong> Is there some menial marketing task you still handle because you think can&rsquo;t afford to outsource it? Consider your hourly rate and whether you could pay someone to do it for less. If you&rsquo;re struggling to design marketing brochures yourself, but you&rsquo;re not an artist and your hourly rate is $200, could you find a designer for less? Most definitely&mdash;and you&rsquo;ll free up your time for more productive things.</li> <li> <strong>Network-in-place. </strong>Don&rsquo;t have time to go to your usual networking event this week because you&rsquo;re slammed? Instead, &ldquo;network in place.&rdquo; Bring business cards and be ready to promote your business wherever you go&mdash;the gym, the grocery store, the kids&rsquo; softball game, pumping gas. You never know who you might meet that could be a lead or a client. Don&rsquo;t be pushy, but do listen and be ready to help.</li> <li> <strong>Consider raising prices.</strong> If you feel like a hamster on a wheel and can barely keep pace with your workload, it might be time to raise your prices. This sounds counterintuitive, but consider: If you&rsquo;re getting this much business as it is, how much more could you get if you had more time to market? Weed out the clients who are least likely to pay you more (often, you&rsquo;ll realize these clients are your biggest headaches, too) and try raising prices on some of the others to see what works. You&rsquo;ll have more time to work on marketing (and more money to spend on your marketing) because you&rsquo;ll be making more profit for the same amount of effort.</li> </ul> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/6-marketing-tactics-quickly-boost-sales#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/727771 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 16 Jul 2013 04:53:08 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 727771 at http://www.sba.gov Identify the Best Marketing Strategies for Your Business http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/identify-best-marketing-strategies-your-business <p>According to the 2013 <a href="http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=23878" title="http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=23878">AT&amp;T Small Business Technology Poll</a>, which surveyed 1,000 small businesses nationwide, 66 percent of respondents plan to invest as much or more in digital marketing &ndash; websites, social media and online advertisements &ndash; as they did last year. And more than 80 percent of those surveyed will also continue investing in traditional word-of-mouth marketing to increase awareness and visibility the old-fashioned way.</p> <p>Marketing represents such a broad array of possible avenues for a small businesses owner, all pursuing the same end goal: making your potential customer aware of your business. From purchasing an advertisement in a magazine to tweeting about your daily special (and everything in between), which of these should you devote your time, money and attention to?</p> <p>When you first start out in your business, it can be tempting to want to try everything and over time stick with what works best. But whether you&rsquo;re going it alone or have a small staff, efficiency is key. There is no time (or money) to waste! The SCORE Marketing team recognized this need and sought to develop a tool that could help small business owners quickly narrow down their marketing focus and get directly on the path to success.</p> <p>And so was born the <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/marketing-assessment-tool" title="http://www.score.org/resources/marketing-assessment-tool">SCORE Marketing Assessment Tool</a>, presented by The UPS Store&reg;. It&rsquo;s a free, quick, and easy survey of 13 multiple choice questions that will pinpoint your business&rsquo;s exact current marketing needs and send you directly to resources in the comprehensive <a href="http://www.score.org/marketing-cookbook" title="http://www.score.org/marketing-cookbook">SCORE Marketing Cookbook</a> that will address those needs. If you&rsquo;re just starting out you might receive a recommendation for a guide on how to determine an appropriate marketing budget for your business. If you&rsquo;re further along, you may be directed to tips for maximizing the power of email marketing or making the most of networking opportunities. The results will be tailored to your business stage and your current marketing efforts and goals.</p> <p>Once you have used the assessment to guide you to appropriate resources, you can utilize a free <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors" title="www.score.org/mentors">SCORE mentor</a> to walk you through the processes of putting these marketing strategies in place. In fact, SCORE mentors are available at any point in your business&rsquo;s lifecycle &ndash; whether you&rsquo;re looking to ramp up your marketing efforts or start a new venture from scratch.</p> <p>If you are looking to successfully start or grow your business, marketing is a key ingredient to making that happen. Take advantage of SCORE&rsquo;s free and personalized resources like the Marketing Assessment Tool to help you identify and address your business&rsquo;s most pressing marketing needs. There&rsquo;s no time to waste!</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/identify-best-marketing-strategies-your-business#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/727651 The Industry Word Marketing Mon, 15 Jul 2013 18:58:10 +0000 bridgetwpollack 727651 at http://www.sba.gov 10 Ways to Make Your Small Business Social Media Activities Rock http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/10-ways-make-your-small-business-social-media <p>Social media may have the lowest cost of entry of any marketing tool, but is not actually that easy to do well. In fact, a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sba.gov/leaving-sba-dot-gov?url=http://www.emarketer.com/(S(gjrgkh45dmewndatycqrprnz))/Article.aspx?R=1009332" title="eMarketer report">report by eMarketer</a> found that small businesses are struggling to adopt social media, with only 24 percent of small firms having integrated social media in a structured way into their operations.<img alt="" height="173" src="/sites/default/files/images/socmed.png" style="float: right;" title="Social Media Graphic" width="259" /></p> <p>Knowing where to start is perhaps the number one obstacle holding many small business owners back. Knowing what to do when you get there is next.</p> <p>So, whether you are new to social media or looking to go beyond using it in an ad hoc or informal way, here are 10 ways to make your small business social media activities rock.</p> <ol> <li> <strong>Pick the Site(s) that Works for You</strong></li> </ol> <p>Social media sites are emerging on an almost weekly basis, and it&rsquo;s easy to become distracted or lost in the speed of change. So where should you focus your efforts?</p> <p>Speaking at last year&rsquo;s National Small Business Week social media panel, Erica Ayotte, social media manager with Constant Contact, recommends businesses start with one channel to test and nurture it. Then try to diversify: &ldquo;<em>Spend a little time each week exploring new platforms and figure out if they might be for you</em>.&rdquo; Speaking at the same event, GrowBizMedia&rsquo;s Rieva Lesonsky recommends that you &ldquo;<em>find out where your customers can be found, go there first, and then spread out from there&hellip; if you run a restaurant, yes, you probably should be on Twitter, but you should really be on Yelp first</em>.&rdquo;</p> <ol> <li value="2"> <strong>Share Interesting and Visual Content</strong></li> </ol> <p>This is one area that really does take time. What&rsquo;s interesting anyway?</p> <p>Well, let&rsquo;s start with the basics. If you have any news to share, and by news I mean &ldquo;newsworthy&rdquo; (i.e. something that impacts your customers directly) then go ahead and share it &ndash; things like holiday opening times, new offices, menu updates, charity events, etc.</p> <p>Then add another tier &ndash; share quality content. Something you do well that will help you stand out in a crowd &ndash; blogs, white papers, tips, or quick &ldquo;how to&rdquo; videos (host them on YouTube or Hulu).&nbsp; Then use social media to amplify it. Feel free to share content from others (without breaking copyright) if it is relevant to your fans. Don&rsquo;t be afraid to ask people what content they want you to share!</p> <p>Another tier of content should focus on telling the big picture story of your business &ndash; showcase employees, community activities, or how customers are using your product or service. This is a great opportunity to be visual and stand-out in busy newsfeeds.</p> <p>Remember, give it time. It takes time to figure out what works. For example, you might think about using polls and surveys to engage with followers, but if you are still growing your network, you might not get the right results &ndash; yet. So, keep trying new things until you find a sweet spot. And don&rsquo;t forget, just because people may not be interacting with you yet, that doesn&rsquo;t mean they aren&rsquo;t listening, so keep the faith!</p> <p>For more tips read:</p> <ul> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/8-ways-develop-online-content-your-business-%E2%80%93-even-if-you-hate-write" title="8 Ways to Develop Online Content for Your Business – Even if You Hate to Write blog post">8 Ways to Develop Online Content for Your Business &ndash; Even if You Hate to Write</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/never-run-out-blog-topic-ideas-here-are-36" title="8 Ways to Develop Online Content for Your Business – Even if You Hate to Write blog post">Never Run Out of Blog Topic Ideas: Here are 36</a></li> </ul> <ol> <li value="3"> <strong>Listen</strong></li> </ol> <p>Great content drives engagement and grows social communities, but equally important is the art of listening. Think of social media as a form of conversation &ndash; it&rsquo;s a two-way dialog. If you&rsquo;re not prepared to listen to what is being said to you, about you, or with you, then you simply aren&rsquo;t &ldquo;being social.&rdquo; In addition to listening to your consumers, carve out time to listen to influencers in your business, to your competitors, and to those who can help you perfect your social media strategy (<a href="http://www.hubspot.com" title="Hubspot link">Hubspot</a>, <a href="http://www.marismith.com/" title="Mari Smith link">Mari Smith</a>, and <a href="http://socialmediatoday.com/" title="Social Media Today link">Social Media Today</a>, to name just a few).</p> <ol> <li value="4"> <strong>Have an Authentic Voice</strong></li> </ol> <p>Again, &ldquo;be social!&rdquo; Drop the corporate marketing speak; people like dealing with people. So don&rsquo;t be afraid to loosen up a little and when responding to problems or complaints; sign off with your first name.</p> <ol> <li value="5"> <strong>Foster Fan-to-Fan Engagement</strong></li> </ol> <p>Some of the strongest social networking communities are based on supportive relationships and information sharing between fans.&nbsp;If you are posting interesting content, this will follow naturally as fans start to engage with others based on common interests. There are a few things you can do to encourage these relationships, many of them mentioned in this blog - listen to fans, chime in when you think you can add something, respond to comments, open the doors to shared experiences/needs, encourage fans to share photos and experiences and always communicate authentically (drop the corporate hat).</p> <ol> <li value="6"> <strong>Don&rsquo;t Overly Automate</strong></li> </ol> <p>While there are some great free tools that can help you automate your posts, don&rsquo;t overly rely on these to get you through the day &ndash; it will show. Instead, set aside some time, 2-3 slots a day to post (note that the evening is a high volume time to post and get noticed), monitor and respond to fans.</p> <ol> <li value="7"> <strong>Commit to Social Media </strong></li> </ol> <p>If you are truly going to succeed at social media, then you need to take it seriously and commit to it. For many small businesses, this means adopting a new paradigm. Don&rsquo;t treat social media as an aside to be taken advantage of when you want to get the word out about your latest offer. Commit to a content strategy. Ensure all levels of the organization are on-board and are involved in your social media strategy. Don&rsquo;t just assign daily responsibility for it to an office junior &ndash; this is the face of your business, after all, and it involves dialog with your customers (is a junior up to that?).</p> <ol> <li value="8"> <strong>Treat Social Media as an Arm of Your Customer Service Operations</strong></li> </ol> <p>Social media is also an essential part of your customer service strategy. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, then you need to be prepared to monitor and respond to questions and complaints. These blogs offer more advice on this topic:</p> <ul> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/how-use-social-media-do-better-job-customer-s" title="How to Use Social Media to do a Better Job of Customer Service">How to Use Social Media to do a Better Job of Customer Service</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/7-tips-dealing-with-criticism-your-business-social-media" title="7 Tips for Dealing with Criticism of your Business on Social Media">7 Tips for Dealing with Criticism of Your Business on Social Media</a></li> </ul> <ol> <li value="9"> <strong>Don&rsquo;t Forget Your Other Marketing Channels</strong></li> </ol> <p>Social media may be free, but it only works as part of a wider, integrated marketing strategy. It should never replace your website (which is the hub of all your marketing activity and the home of your online content). Email is also still important. You have a captive audience there; your message is delivered to their inboxes and allows for a deeper conversation.</p> <ol> <li value="10"> <strong>Measure</strong></li> </ol> <p>Don&rsquo;t forget to measure the impact of your social media efforts. Use third party apps or Facebook&rsquo;s Insights tool to monitor click-through rates. Compare these across posts to see if there&rsquo;s a trend as to the type of content that&rsquo;s popular. Measure engagement by tracking how many likes and shares your posts get (measured by Facebook as &ldquo;reach&rdquo;). Use this data to inform and adjust your content strategy.</p> <p><strong>Additional Articles</strong></p> <p>Here&rsquo;s a selection of SBA blogs that can also help with key areas of your social media strategy:</p> <ul> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/how-make-social-media-plan-your-business" title="How to Make a Social Media Plan for your Business">How to Make a Social Media Plan for your Business</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/social-media-tune-your-website" title="Tuning up your Website for Social Media">Social Media Tune-Up for your Website</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/six-tips-getting-most-out-your-small-business" title="Tips for Getting More out of your Business Tweets">6 Tips for Getting the Most out of your Small Business Tweets</a></li> <li> How to Build and Engage with a Loyal Social Media Following &ndash;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/how-build-and-engage-with-loyal-social-media-" title="How to Build and Engage with a Loyal Social Media Following - Part 1">Part 1</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/how-build-and-engage-with-loyal-social-medi-0" title="How to Build and Engage with a Loyal Social Media Following - Part 2">Part 2</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/putting-social-social-media-marketing-3-tips-" title="Tips for Interacting with Your Customers via Social Media">Putting the &quot;Social&quot; into Social Media Marketing: 3 Tips for Interacting with your Customers</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/7-ways-use-facebook-grow-your-email-marketing-list" title="How to Use Facebook to Grow your Email Marketing List">7 Ways to Use Facebook to Grow your Email Marketing List</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/7-tips-dealing-with-criticism-your-business-social-media" title="7 Tips for Dealing with Criticism of your Business on Social Media">7 Tips for Dealing with Criticism of Your Business on Social Media</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/how-use-social-media-do-better-job-customer-s" title="How to Use Social Media to do a Better Job of Customer Service">How to Use Social Media to do a Better Job of Customer Service</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/6-ways-drive-your-social-media-fans-your-offline-business" title="How to Drive your Social Media Fans to your Offline Business">6 Ways to Drive your Social Media Fans to your Offline Business</a></li> <li> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/measuring-social-media-roi-real-business" title="How to Measure Social Media ROI">How to Measure Social Media ROI</a></li> </ul> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/10-ways-make-your-small-business-social-media#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/726701 Small Business Matters Managing Marketing Starting Mon, 15 Jul 2013 12:03:00 +0000 Caron_Beesley 726701 at http://www.sba.gov How to Get the Most Out of Facebook Graph Search http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-get-most-out-facebook-graph-search <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">In January of 2013, Facebook starting rolling out a Beta version of something called Graph Search. And this week, they opened up Graph Search to all U.S. users.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Graph Search has been touted by some as Facebook&rsquo;s answer to search engines such as Google and Bing, but it&rsquo;s truly not a replacement of a standard search engine. In fact, Facebook actually incorporates Bing search results in a feature it calls &ldquo;Search the Web.&rdquo; &nbsp;</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Rather, Graph Search simply does a better job of searching through Facebook. Graph Search is especially good if you want to search to see what your friends are doing, what they like or other information related to them.&nbsp;Graph Search in its current form is also good at searching by location.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Graph Search can help your business get discovered by more people, especially if you run a local business. &nbsp;</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Here are some pointers for how to make the most out of Graph Search for your business:</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">(1) Experience it yourself.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If you haven&rsquo;t yet used Graph Search, do try it out as soon as you can.&nbsp;Many people will still have to push a button and enable it, if they want to use it.&nbsp;The simplest way to do that is to go the </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(157, 79, 76); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Facebook Graph Search page</span><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">, an</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">d click the button to &ldquo;Try Graph Search.&rdquo; </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Once you&rsquo;ve signed up, spend 20 minutes doing some sample searches. Insert a search phrase in the newly enhanced search box that now appears at the top left corner of Facebook. You&rsquo;ll see many more search options &ldquo;auto-suggested&rdquo; in the search box.&nbsp;You&rsquo;ll see options such as &ldquo;Friends of ___,&rdquo; &ldquo;My friends that like ___&rdquo; and &ldquo;Friends near [city] that like ____.&rdquo;</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">This way, you will see what users see, and you&rsquo;ll get an idea of the kinds of search results returned.&nbsp;In order to capitalize on the advantages of Graph Search, you first have to understand them yourself, as a user.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">(2) Make your business page as complete and detailed as possible.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Local businesses will want to make sure their location is spelled out clearly on their Facebook Page.&nbsp;Indicate products and services, too.&nbsp;Have a good image, also. This way you&rsquo;re more likely to show up in searches and look impressive.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">(3) Encourage fans to share their location when they visit, and leave reviews.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Reviews show up in Graph Search results for local businesses, so you will want to have as many reviews as possible. Also, searchers will see friends who have visited. For instance, if I search for a restaurant on Facebook, one of the results will show me restaurants near a city of my choice that my friends have visited.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">(4) Offer discounts and specials on Facebook.</span><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> &nbsp;</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If you regularly offer specials and discounts via your Facebook page, people will get used to checking it for them.&nbsp;It then increases activity with your business.&nbsp;And the bigger your network, the more visible your business will be when people use Graph Search.&nbsp;People will see their friends&rsquo; activity, Likes, etc. -- and that in turn will grow your network. The more engagement, the more opportunities for additional engagement.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">While Graph Search is not the single answer to all your Facebook marketing, it offers some advantages that you will want to take advantage of to market your business, especially a local small business.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.1666666666666667;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:10pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-79eb648f-d4ab-d864-894e-1524f6013e3b"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Finally, for those concerned about how of their activity appears on Facebook, </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/about/graphsearch/privacy"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(157, 79, 76); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">go to the Graph Search Privacy page</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Verdana; color: rgb(38, 38, 38); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> to verify your privacy settings.</span></span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-get-most-out-facebook-graph-search#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/724861 The Industry Word Marketing Fri, 12 Jul 2013 20:54:53 +0000 smallbiztrends 724861 at http://www.sba.gov How to Choose a Business Name That Helps You - Not Hurts You http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/how-choose-business-name-helps-you-not-hurts-you <p>During the initial stages of starting a business, choosing the right name of your company can be a difficult task to say the least. It may surprise you but even the name of your business can trigger a red flag with some lenders and creditors.</p> <p>Unfortunately, many business owners don&rsquo;t take this simple step into consideration, especially when it comes to the <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/06/17/building-business-credit-video/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="business credit video">business credit building</a></strong> process.</p> <p>Before you pick a business name, follow these three steps:</p> <p><strong>Step 1: Conduct a Trademark Search</strong></p> <p>You may come across a great idea for a business name, but first you should make sure that you won&rsquo;t be infringing upon a prior user&rsquo;s trademark.</p> <p>The first step is to conduct a trademark search by using the <strong><a href="http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/index.jsp" target="_blank" title="Trademark Search" type="Trademark Search">Trademark Electronic Search System</a> </strong>(TESS).</p> <p>This search engine allows you to search the database of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Once you have completed your search and the results uncover no likelihood of confusion, then you will be ready to proceed.</p> <p>If you fail to follow this step, it can potentially lead to disaster for your business in many ways. Imagine if you had to recall all of your products because of a demand by a prior trademark user. Not only that, but you can end up paying the other party&rsquo;s attorney fees and monetary damages, which can get very costly.</p> <p>If you decide to own a federal trademark, your business will have several advantages, such as:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&bull;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Public notice of your claim of ownership of the mark;</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&bull;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; A legal presumption of your ownership of the mark and your exclusive right to use the mark nationwide on or in connection with the goods/services listed in the registration;</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&bull;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The ability to bring an action concerning the mark in federal court;</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&bull;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The use of the U.S. registration as a basis to obtain registration in foreign countries;</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&bull;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The ability to record the U.S. registration with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Service to prevent importation of infringing foreign goods;</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&bull;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The right to use the federal registration symbol &reg; and</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&bull;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Listing in the USPTO online databases.</p> <p>For more trademark information, tools, applications, and documentation visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.</p> <p><strong>Step 2: Pick a Safe Business Name </strong></p> <p>One of the common mistakes that can impact your company&rsquo;s ability in obtaining credit is in the name you choose. Picking the wrong type of business name can automatically label your company as a high risk.</p> <p>There are certain industries that the <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2010/12/17/business-credit-reporting-agency/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="business credit agencies">business credit reporting agencies</a> </strong>classify as risky, so picking a company name in a high risk category can possibly trigger an automatic turndown, higher premium and/or reduced credit limit recommendations for your business.</p> <p>For example, real estate is considered a very high risk industry, so naming your company John Doe Real Estate Investments would not be the best choice if you plan to apply for financing. Pick a safe name that won&rsquo;t get your company labeled as a high risk.</p> <p><strong>Step 3: Pick a Unique Business Name</strong></p> <p>While the sound and spelling of a business name &ndash; as well as the availability of a dotcom &ndash; play a key role, don&rsquo;t let this be the single factor that drives your decision.</p> <p>What makes a good name for a business from a marketing standpoint is usually the opposite of what makes a good name from a legal standpoint.</p> <p>Even though you may think that choosing a business name that describes your product in the name is much better for marketing purposes, it does give you less protection from other people using it against you.</p> <p>It really depends on what makes the best business sense, but this is something you should definitely cover with both your marketing and legal team.</p> <p>Select a unique business name that is marketable and protects you legally. Before you incorporate, take the time to review these three steps so you can pick a business name that works and benefits you.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/how-choose-business-name-helps-you-not-hurts-you#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/720311 The Industry Word Financing Marketing Starting Wed, 10 Jul 2013 14:02:17 +0000 Marco Carbajo 720311 at http://www.sba.gov