Blocked while Blogging? Here’s how to get out of it.

Writers-BlockEarlier this year, I offered “6 tips for the perfect blog post“. However, there will be times when – despite the hints of lay out and content given in this post – you won’t know what to write. Everyone goes through it, despite your best efforts, the dreaded ‘writer’s block’ hits you and you can’t think of a single topic for your business blog. Here’s a list of ideas to fall back on.

Customer success stories.

Has someone told you how your good or service has made a positive impact on them or their life? Write about it to help others.

Industry tips.

You are part of an industry, so what have you discovered lately about that industry. Search for already printed bulletins from larger suppliers, or economic circles, and describe how it could affect your future. Don’t forget to thank the original writer and give them a link.

New products/services.

Are you planning an upgrade, or a new product? Tell everyone about it as a ‘sneak preview’.

Upcoming small business events.

Even if it’s just a Sale, write about it. In fact, if someone else is reaching out, share the news and look like a supporter to your community.

Customer feedback.

You can generate real customer comments about the industry in general. It could be useful for your prospects, and makes you look as if you care about customers and their observations to others.

Educate Your Customers.

Do your prospects truly understand how your product should be used or enjoyed? Take the opportunity to educate them, without selling them. This kind of free instruction places you as an expert, and someone that goes the extra mile for your prospects.

“Warning” Posts.

Is the World of prospects going to change because of something that is happening in your industry? Perhaps you can see the ‘Big Picture’, and help them to look ahead?

Related interests.

Spread the word about the world at large as it is affected by your product. Business tools, for instance, can relate to automation in the office, or freeing up employees’ time. Stepping away from your own product occasionally to look at the world at large reminds your prospects to do the same.

Product explanations.

What are the nuts and bolts of your business, your product, why you are here? Explain in detail how it comes together, and where it is from. The logic behind your businesses’ process will show what you do from a different angle.

Even with all of the writing you are doing on an ongoing basis, we all face a blank wall sometimes. Use one or more of these ideas to enliven your Businesses’ story, and get the word out to your prospects from a different angle.

Try them out and let me know your Successes !

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Social Media Re-Visited

social_media_marketingWhen you have reached the point where your small business marketing is a daily practice, it is normal to think occasionally, what this extra work is getting you? You are spending an hour or two online tweeting, posting and linking in. Perhaps you have gotten used to blogging on a regular basis, but are you seeing any interest for the work you are doing? It’s worth reminding yourself why from time to time, so here are some facts and figures for you.

Without online marketing, how were businesses marketed? A sign over the door for your store-front? Perhaps some local newspaper advertising? These methods and others need time to work. Everyone thinks differently, and your special offer may only resonate with them when they require your service or product – timing, truly, is everything. How many people every day walk past that store-front? How many people are seeing or hearing your ad? You never really had a clue, but hoped that whoever did walk into your business were, at least in part, thanks to your advertising. So, who online is interested in you?

A reminder that your links are a concrete reminder if who is sharing your material. Check your website’s Alexa details to find out who that is. By being active as a real person on Social Media, and putting yourself front and centre, with your business message in the background, you are inviting people to learn more. We all enjoy watching interviews with movie and rock stars on TV. We know they are going to plug their new movie, book, or album, but we are more interested in them as a person, and their thoughts on various issues. This is what you are achieving with Social media marketing. So, are your customers or prospects on line? Well…Over 70% of all internet users are on Social media, and over 80% of people between the ages of 18 and 50 are posting, and almost three-quarters of these access social media from a mobile device. We would say, yes – they are there. So what are they doing?

On Facebook alone, almost a quarter of these people log in over 5 times a day, over one million pages online feature a Facebook Log In button, and almost half of these visitors say that Facebook is the top influencer of their purchasing habits. Twitters has over 200 million global active users – and more than double this figure in registered users. In the two years after 2012, its user numbers grew by over 40%.

Google+ may be ‘late to the party’, but thanks to its Google connection it already boasts almost 400 million monthly users and is growing by a third per year. Those over 45 years of age have increased by over half in the last two years. We all love great visuals and graphic images. This is proven by the fact that You Tube (Attention! Google Connection!) has over 1 Billion active monthly users, Pinterest boasts over 20 million, and Instagram gets more than 150 Million monthly users.

Be yourself online and find people and companies like yours. You prospects are probably online, in your area, and looking at what you are doing. Time a cut-price or Sale event to each one of these platforms and see who is ready to buy now. This is what you are doing online every day or week, and you need to continue it.

Is your Business Mobile ?(And that doesn’t mean movable.)

 

Mobile BusinessIt’s not only young, urban, early adopters that appear to live their lives through their mobile devices. Just like any other aspect of the knowledge-based lifestyle, the way to access mobile, and make your personal communications device easier to use, grows exponentially year over year. Moore’s Law, indeed! Even as a small business, you should ensure that your online marketing includes mobile ads, notifications, and analytics: Very soon, if not already, even if a prospect is standing outside your business, and they can see you through the window, they won’t recognize you until they see you on their mobile device. It is getting to the point (Amazingly quickly), that a mobile website and accompanying social media campaign is the only truly important advertising channel foe any business.

Liken it to an ad in a very specific magazine or newspaper that everyone in your market carries around with them. Perhaps these are tourists new to the area, or those that are downtown on this specific Saturday to see the Arts Festival that is happening around your business, or even the specialist pet-owner’s periodical that include cut-price tickets to their big event this weekend By ensuring that you are doing your bit in mobile, you are advertising to all of these groups, simply by the geographic area you are in.

Start with Google+ Local. Your business should be here, optimised to ensure your geographic location stands out, and linked to your You Tube and G-Mail accounts. As Google’s ongoing efforts to dwarf every other provider of services on the planet continues, they give more ‘juice’ to their own products being linked. Google+ is simply their attack on FaceBook, but when linked to your business, and – perhaps- You Tube, where you can graphically show your business, your business website, and it’s Google+ Local account, Google will love you even more. Those links don’t just add, they multiply in Google’s algorithmic-eyes.

One central Business account in this area is now the hub of your mobile advertising campaign, and links directly to the page of your website that gives prospects the information that will draw them in. of course, you should continue with your Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Yelp accounts as well, to ensure that your ongoing messages are being received by as many people as possible. Any person standing around your store is a member of Local search, whether they are visiting or residents. That makes almost half of all the world’s businesses local ones, so the size of the market is about to explode. Be one of the first to leverage this power.

Every visit to your advertising channels (Likes, Plus 1’s, Re-tweets, etc.) and your website should be recorded, too. Every visit means: “I am interested in what you do. Send  me more information.”, and it happens automatically. It is an invisible Visitors Book, that people sign voluntarily, grows over time, and allows you to advertise directly to prospects that already like you, and could well evangelize on your behalf to others. So, how do we achieve this?

Firstly, get a pro in (if you haven’t already. And you should: This is your businesses’ advertising after all.). Ensure that your website and social media paths are ‘mobile friendly’. This is simply a coding exercise, with the resizing of various views required to make sure they are not only easily seen, and that your emotions come over to the prospect. Ensure that the sites and pages are more easily navigable by a left-hand thumb only! Intellectually, the easier it is to see something in the prospect’s current view, the easier it is to decide to visit, or buy.

The companies that fit the needs of their mobile prospects have reported huge growth in sales in these areas, sometimes over a 50% rise, so this is vital. The strategy you use to ensure the overall marketing campaign works to its utmost is just as important. Using the keywords you already have should work, especially if they are repeated on your site’s landing page. Ensure that local references are there, of course: “Conveniently located in…” as a second line to follow up your [City] then [Service] keyword combination means that people walking close to you, with their smartphone on, realise you are within steps of them, you have a great cyber-store window full of what they are interested in, are open, and welcoming them. This is very powerful –something that advertisers could only rely on billboards for up to now: Imagine a huge floating blimp over your neighborhood that is shaped like a downturned fist with a finger saying: “Your (Insert Your Town Name Here) Mover is here…” That is what mobile is, except it is in your prospect’s hand.

Finally, once you have them in the store, what can they use their phone for? You can ensure that QR technology allows you to give them a special that they can purchase with their device. You are seeing this technology all over, now. Using the phone as a coupon holder only for them, you can simply ask them to buy through it, and make that decision, easier for them to do.

This is not a fad, nor simply another advertising gimmick – this is big and growing, and now you can use world-wide, trusted search capabilities to make any business a local one.

How Your Business Stands out From Everyone Else.

Leading the pack, ingenuity,standing out from the crowd concept.Are you in a crowded marketplace? Do you offer a ‘Commodity’ Product – a good or service that customers can get anywhere else? These two questions often go together, and create an ongoing problem for many businesses: How do you stand out from your competitors. Especially when you are the ‘Newbie’ on the block? The one that has just started and the history of your prospects’ community have a head start on you?

Firstly, you must differentiate yourself from everyone else, which takes some research. Type in a Google search for your future competition, find out where they are, how long they have been in business, and what they offer. This will take you some time if you are in a  busy industry, but for all of the research you do, you will discover not only why these businesses are successful, but in which areas they overlap and offer the same service as everyone else.

Mostly, they will all be the same, which means you have an avenue to investigate: What don’t they offer? Which part of the marketplace do they ignore, or not serve at all. if you can’t make your business different, then make your clientele stand out. Find new ways to do your business. If everyone in a marketplace is the same, then their fees are the only differentiating factor, which can drive the overall prices down.

Find a way of adding something to your services that no-one else does. This means that you have the opportunity to charge more, but you are offering more, so the price and the value of what you offer do not get confused into the same thing – which they aren’t.

It is important to know about your clientele: Who they are, what they do, what they want, everything. When you find an overall pattern in whom you are serving, you will find another way that you can offer something that they need – you add to your value set, and continually spread your expertise over similar business interests that will appeal to your Ideal Customer.

Use the lessons you have learned, for instance, in marketing and online engagement to put your clientele in touch with each other: Become the centre of a hub of activity, rather than someone that offers a service when it is required. Make sure that your specialty is part of your client’s lives. Ensure that your clients bring you new business. They know people just like them, and as they are being served by you, their friends will like it to. Now, you are not only being unique, and filling your funnel with perfect prospects, they are evangelizing for you, and bringing you more and more business based on what you do so well.

It takes commitment to work this way. Commit to your research, your additional professional education, and your social engagement skills. Often you will wonder if anyone else goes to these lengths. They probably don’t, which is why they are part of the pack, and not a business that stands out in your marketplace. Look for your inspiration outside of your regular industry sources, to what market leaders in other industries do. Find out which of your competitors are reaching the end of their current practices: Moving, retiring, getting out of a certain line of business. What can you pick up from others? Can you start another business stream with this information?

We started discussing how to stand out, and next we will look at how to expand your business. It maybe scary, but you will stand out.

6 Tips for the Perfect Blog Post

blogging2When you blog on an ongoing basis, perhaps even daily, you soon fall into a routine that includes certain unwritten rules to make your copy as entertaining as possible. If you are new to blogging, or aren’t getting the feedback that you were expecting, you may be forgiven for thinking that these unknown laws are the stronghold of those that are in some secret circle, or those that have a set of outlines to refer to when editing. It really isn’t that much of an unearthed secret from some ancient tomb that has led those of us that write often that leads us to write great copy every single time. Unless you have gone through some kind of formal writing education, it’s really a case of trial and error, much the same thing that you are going through. Of course, the best posts are also the result of lots of work. While I can dash off a blog post every day, it takes another few hours of ‘fine-tuning’ to get it to say what I want.

Culling the net for Best Blogging Practices will soon lead you to a list of ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ that will make your everyday blogging practices easier. In fact, there is a list of glaringly obvious outlines that most full-time, respected bloggers follow, and will give your writing more punch. Here are the top tips that I found over the last little while – things that I follow, but more unconsciously than anything else. I hope they can ignite your imagination.

1.         Attention Grabbing Headline: You read blogs because their headline draws you in. Make a promise of benefit, make it short, and deliver what you promise.

2.         The first 50 words: They should outline a situation, or a problem, that the reader shares and wants the answer to. Don’t make your points flowery, but describe them well. I always remember Mark Twain’s maxim: Don’t write that it’s raining, describe what it feels like to be rained upon.

3.         Use Persuasive Words: There is power in a pen, words can persuade. There are trigger words, and adjectives that hit home. Read some fiction to find out what grabs you about a scene, a phrase, a sentence, and use the words you see that trigger something in you, that persuades you that this real.

4.         Bullet points: You have seen this in many articles: List your ideas in easy to read and consume sentences, then follow up with another piece of information that describes it more fully. Don’t write anymore on a point, simply edit those two items down until they describe the point you are trying to make. Of course, you can always use numbers, too!

5.         Hold reader’s attention: You know who you are writing for, and you know what they are looking for. Gently get to your punchline, your answer, or your point in a way that keeps them hanging in there with you. You want them to move on, not check out.

6.         Close the deal: You have set up a situation, a premise, or a problem. At the end, solve it. Your final conclusion should ask questions, or make your reader reach for their own conclusion, but give them the answer they need.

Of course, editing is vitally important. Aim for 500 – 600 words for a total, but pad it out with scene setting, description, and adjectives, first. Then cut the article back to your desired length, leaving the most important components of the piece, with just the right amount of accompanying description. Learn to master the six points above (and have fun while you are doing it! It’s exciting!), and your blog posts will shine. If you re-read this post, you will see that these six points are covered completely. In fact, the hardest thing I had to do was winnow all of the ways that I think automatically when writing down to these six.

End of Year promises: Write Better, Exercise More.

Writers BlockIt’s that time of year again! The end, when we all always promise to do more or better. For the blog writers among us, it’s one thing to say: “I’m going to do more/ better.” Wait a minute – didn’t we say that at the end of 2011? A disciplined work ethic isn’t beyond anyone, but it can be tough to implement. Here are a few ideas that helped me. Hopefully you will find them logically correct, easy to implement and won’t stifle your creativity. They are exercising, list-making and writing.

Don’t roll your eyes! I know you probably promised yourself a fitter 2017. Did it come about? If yes, then read further to see how you can apply the same rules to your writing. If not (you know who you are), then think of the parallels between these disciplines, and how applying a few rules to your life as a whole, makes your decision-making better and easier.

When you exercise, you make the decision to do it. Whether its laps, circuit training, weights, swimming, or simply walking, you make the decision to get dressed up, leave the house and do it. There, now. That wasn’t too bad was it? Don’t think that you must do this for a certain amount of time, or a certain numbers of days of the week, you are doing it now, because you want to. The same could be true for writing. That awful white screen is not a block to your creation, it’s a help.  It’s welcoming, and says: “Let’s go, I am waiting for you.”

Don’t feel as if you have to write every day, over and over under some kind of restrictive regimen. If you are ‘too busy’ today, it means that there are too many things on your mind, crowding in on your creativity and internal discipline. Both exercise and writing helped me with this, because they are repetitive acts that channel my attention, and allow me the time to make lists. While you are working, if you have an idea, pause, write it down on a ‘to do’ list, and then carry on. Don’t get distracted, don’t ditch your current project (or stop walking), but organize your thoughts into what is important and, when you get back home, write a list.

Both practices mean that you are organizing your thoughts: A larger and more important ‘current job’ also allows your mind the time to make a list later. You can then get back to what is important; the current project.

Of course, now you have added another task, namely clearing the ‘to do’ list you have just created, but you have also added a layer of discipline to your day. You now know where your energies are: Completing the task at hand – either exercise, or writing – then devoting time to whittling that list down. The items at the top of the list are the ones that are most important, because they were on your mind first. Get them done, or make a first step, then write down the next task that is to be required, and move to the next task. Of course new tasks will be added, but those are for another day.

Strangely, both exercise and writing make for great companion tasks. Exercise when you get up, free your mind to think about the writing challenge to come that day. Then get rid of the sweat and muck, and start making that list. When you sit down to write, you will have a clearer mind and have at least a first line, or a premise, to start with.

Now, simply write; don’t procrastinate – write. Make your lists throughout the exercise. This includes answering those nagging thoughts in your negative mind: “This is an awful piece of writing, I should be writing about this.” That idea goes on your writing to-do list. Then, move on.

When your writing task is completed, start on the to-do lists, and get them completed. These lists will grow, but by daily application you will be clearing all of them, and adding to a fresh set of lists. You will find that by clearing your mind this way, you will prioritize better, and achieve more. As the first week progresses, you will find that you are feeling better, and are mentally sharper because of your exercise regimen. You will also be writing better, because your mind is clearer. Because your mind is clearer, you will achieve more in your non-writing tasks, and you will find some time on your hands. There will be a list of writing ideas waiting for you every morning, all around you is paid, up-to-date, cleaner, better.

More importantly, you will have followed through on multiple New Year’s Resolutions which makes you feel better all round. You will no longer have emergencies that come up and take you out of your routine, and must be addressed right then, they will have been taken care of by your list-keeping.

You will find out that the more you apply yourself to relaxation during exercise your mind will conjure up all kind of writing projects. Your clearer mind will help you to sleep better, and you will want to exercise. All go hand-in-hand, for a fitter, more organized, and creative New Year.

Use Big Business Branding for your Small Business Pt 2.

Marketing ChannelsIn our last post on Big Business Branding for small companies, we asked you to research your UVP (Unique Value Proposal), your current and future audience, and how you can solve their problems. Matching the answers to these questions to your Marketing Content, you now need to find the best ways to reach your audience; both existing customers and prospects.

Marketing Channels

What channels do your prospects use, and how can you get to them? What is the use of creating an incredible content and not have it seen? By finding out if it’s local print, TV and Radio, online, or ‘billboards’ in public signage, how do they find you? Spend your budget getting to your prospects in the areas they will see you easiest.

Even if they prefer sourcing and buying via referral, listen to what people are saying and where they are saying it. You will have to streamline your content to be broadcast over the channels that consistently bring you new people. Above all, remember that it not just “You are there and you are done with it”; you have to live there, you have to contribute, monitor, respond, and build trust. You have to make sure are along with them always.

Online this will mean the right web content, optimized for the right Search Engines, updated often, and always tailored to your audience and prospects. You can add Blog posts, Video and audio, updates, breaking news, pictures, and honest company news. Social media is great for this – get to the people that will require you in the future, interest them, and keep in touch.

Offline, this means understanding your prospect community and being a part of it: Charity events, seminars, and workshops. Sponsor other events, get to your audience where they live and work. Keep in mind that you have to solve the problem or you are just empty vessel making noise.

Measurement

How do you know if your branding campaigns are working? You need to monitor and measure your results. This isn’t so much setting goals, as understanding what analytics you are using, and growing them. If something isn’t working, find out why and move to others, or change your message.

Do your live events attract people? Has your website increased its traffic size? Do your social platforms show an increase in followers? Does your Newsletter or E-mail marketing show a larger and larger audience, or response rate?

So originate some rules for yourself to constantly monitor your Branding efforts: Look at your target audience. Is it right? Does your message match it? Have you found your Ideal Customer? Does your content excite these people? Does it change, and is it updated often enough? Does it match your marketing channels, and is it being received?

Your written material could be the greatest Ad Copy ever, but if it doesn’t match the channel you are using, it is useless. Look at the market leaders in your industry, and parse what they are saying, and where.

Finally, test out different messages on different platforms in different ways at different times of the year, to find out which ones work best, to whom, at what time, and through which avenue. It’s only when you find out the best possible match between Prospect pool, message and channel that you will truly discover the best message – and THAT is your brand.