What the Hashtag is this? Part One

hashtagIf you are confused by the entire ‘Hashtag’ culture of tagging pictures and quotes online in order to promote yourself, you can help your business by thinking more about them than simply casually plugging them into your tweets and posts. Purposeful hashtag marketing can boost impressions, make your content more searchable and encourage users to talk about your brand.

A great resource to investigate is https://top-hashtags.com/ . With this tool you can not only find hashtags that are already in use, but also find the most popular ones online, both overall, and in business niches.

Chances are that you want to steer clear of the ‘Branded Hashtags’ that the giant companies’ marketing campaigns use, unless you feel that you can use it to promote your own business successfully. While you can piggyback on all well-known hashtag phrases, this won’t guarantee a big following.  However, you can use your own branded message to promote your own brand. As with all marketing, it is best to create your own then see how you can leverage what is already online. Let’s look at an example:

If you own a small shoe store in Fort Worth, you can market on Social Media by highlighting who you are what you do and where you do business. When starting Pinterest or Instagram campaigns, for instance – great ways to show graphic attractive representations of your goods or services, a couple of checks through Top Hashtags show you more creative marketing options.

Entering Top ‘shoes’ requests for hashtags, show the following post numbers:

1 #shoes 58.36M  2 #flatshoes 3.798M    3 #instashoes 3.121M    4#newshoes 2.184M

5 #flatshoesmurah 1.969M    6 #shoestagram 1.858M    7#shoesoftheday 1.498M

8#nikeshoes 1.370M

Obviously, if you stock Flat Shoes (Or have a special price on them for a while.), or Nike Shoes, you have a built in global audience for them. #ShoesOfTheDay would be very cool ‘loss leaders’ for driving interest to your other stock.  Instagram-only special pricing would be a great fit for both #Instashoes and #Shoestagram hashtags. Whichever ways you want to use these figures, you can see the benefit of using these hashtags instead of a brand tag that you create. How about the city where you are doing business?

Top ‘Fort Worth’ hashtags along with post Numbers:

1 #forth 45.34K 2 #worth 789.2K

Obviously, these figures are much smaller, but definitely show some interest in the area where you are doing business. You could add one of the Shoes result hashtags from above to one of these to grow your local audience. Additionally, by looking at the top 10 hashtags overall, you can find some very interesting ideas:

1 #love 1.069B   2 #instagood 584.5M   3 #photooftheday 414.0M

4 #beautiful 384.9M   5 #fashion 375.0M   6 #tbt 369.8M 7 #happy 366.6M

8 #cute 363.1M   9 #followme 334.7M   10 #like4like 323.9M

Obviously, any combination of three hashtags from these lists has some incredible numbers attached to them.  ‘Cute Shoes in Worth’ garners built-in interest figures of almost 500 million posts, boosting your geographic prospect area’s numbers. Just 1% of these along with an engaging picture and copy would result in some great visitor figures, and possible store visits.

Encourage your followers to use them as well. This way, they’ll have a clear method of sharing posts with you and others interested in your company’s products or services. The online community will also know how to find content about your brand.

This is really just scratching the surface of Hashtag Marketing. In the post, we’ll be addressing some more ideas on how you can spread the word about your business using the ubiquitous hashtag.

‘Going Viral’ Mysteries revealed

Viral MarketingEveryone would love their message to become an internet ‘star’, and have their words and pictures to be an online darling, but is it possible, or do you have to be a ‘Grumpy Cat’ in order to do it? Is it purely by accident, or is there a formula to “virality”?

There IS a formula, but it takes the assistance if a lot of people that you don’t know, and Google. Some forethought also helps, and setting up a promotional avenue ahead of time just in case it happens, and you need it is also a good set of keywords. To have all of these checklists going at the same time sounds like a lot of work for a hope that something will happen at some time, but the spin-offs could be immense.

Firstly, you need to write for Google, and not your readers. This doesn’t mean keyword stuffing or any of the tired old tricks that ‘The Big G’ has already outlawed, it simply means an understanding of what Google is looking for, and to write your headlines along those lines. The body of your post should also feature its copy laid out in a certain way, so this is another reason to perform random Google searches and read the posts that are the most popular – whether they are from professional journalists, or talented amateurs.

Secondly, you need perfect timing. This is more art than science, but you need to be talking about a subject at the exact same time that a lot of other people are. It’s tough to be ahead of the curve with this, but your posts so far have been (hopefully) different from what is already out there, so you are accustomed to being different, now you have to be the same, but slightly ahead of everyone else. This is simply a case of being aware of what is probably being written and doing something different.

Finally, you need to be part of communities that will voluntarily spread the word on your behalf. This means continually searching the ‘net for groups, communities, and other gatherings that talk about your subject.

A few years ago, a blog I was writing went viral. By that I mean my usual readership of 50 – 60 hits per day suddenly grew to over 5,000 visits in a 24 hour period. Wow! I picked up more friends, +1’s, followers and likes than at any other time. How? Well, luck was involved: I was working in an industry that had millions of fanatical followers across the globe. A famous international incident happened one day before I was due to write a post. Thanks to inside information concerning the industry (Not the incident in question.), and at least part of my mind being on what I was going to write in my next blog post – which was timed for the next day – the proverbial light-bulb went on, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I was working outside of the North American and European markets at the time, so I wrote, edited, and posted it in what was overnight in those geographic areas. Then I forwarded the post to a well-known Message Board Community that printed my writing on an ongoing basis. The next day, I had thirty minutes to spare, so I shared my newest post on all of my social media platforms.

By this time, the message board had posted my blog, and it was a huge hit, because for many people it as the first place they turned to get the information they wanted at the exact morning they wanted it – Message Board members tend to believe each other, rather than news outlets for gigantic news like this. Of course, they shared it with others not in the message board, and then my social posts were shared almost simultaneously by my friends outside of the industry.

I realized later that I had written my headline, and had lines within my copy that exactly mirrored the phrase that millions of other people used for Google searches that day to find more information on this exact subject, so Google thought that – as my use of these keywords were among the first printed on the web on this subject –  it MUST be the most popular place where people got their information, and I became an instant expert. This is what I mean about thinking along the same lines as Google: Think ; “how would people search for this”, and write those words in that order three or four times in your post, and especially in your headline and title tags.

It only lasted one day, but you can imagine that the amount of people that became followers of mine could become life-long followers if you continue to prove that you are an expert. Do you want to do all of this to ‘go viral’? Well, that isn’t the point. Do you want a lot of people to read what you say? Do you want to grow your popularity? Well, be ahead of the curve, lay traps in places where people who want to read your prose are likely to find it, and write it for Google’s bots. You will get lucky occasionally, and that means more people listening to you.

‘Tis the Season – Planning the Year ahead

meetingIn a few weeks it is Easter – the first ‘major’ holiday week of the year. While everyone is looking to some well-earned time off it is the perfect time for the small business owner to do some long-term planning. After all, everyone has a broken work schedule for the week, and possibly next, too. While everyone is relaxed, and can think in a much more expansive way, it’s time to call a Planning Meeting. By programming these during the four major Holiday weeks: Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas you will be able to gather everyone’s thoughts on planning for the next quarter, what has worked in the last and long term planning for the next year.

While this sounds like a reason for an argumentative free-for-all, some simple planning steps on your behalf can smooth the way, and ensure that everyone is thinking of the Business, and not just their role in it. The result may also mean actioning ideas that will further engage employees to the business, because you will be auctioning ideas that they feel is theirs.

Whether you are able to make this an entire ‘round-table’ day of planning, or a series of one-on-one interviews the overall path is the same: This is your chance to think in a Macro fashion about what is happening – in turn it makes all of the Micro decisions you have to make on a daily basis much easier to understand and track. It also sets up a planning calendar where you can measure progress and results of all initiatives, be they one quarter in length, or tailored for annual outcomes.

This is your day to ask ‘Where are we,  What if, and Why not’ – or perhaps just ‘Why’! Don’t worry about tough questions, new opportunities, and embrace changes, but be prepared to leave with a list of jobs, priorities, course changes and equipment requests that will probably change what you are doing right now, and how. It may even change your company’s future! It may be one of the most exciting and exhausting days of your year, but it’s a practice that we suggest every business, no matter the size, commit to doing.

Here are a few suggestions for you to use as a starting point that will help all businesses become more efficient and profitable:

Fewer Priorities

The amount of small details we have to deal with onside a business culture can lead to ‘Paralysis by Analysis’. Identify no more than three priority objectives for the year that result in you aiming higher and stop sending time on low priorities.

Embrace Results

Tracking results for ongoing projects can easily be sidetracked. By creating a list of “what we gain” if we win and by contrast “what is costs” if we lose, we create the motivation to overcome distractions and stay focused on results that matter.

Commit to Change

Strategy without change is worthless. If you ask “What needs to change in order for us to actually do this?” the answer will be a simple Yes or No.

Create Owners

Every objective will naturally spin off a list of projects: The things that need to be done, the new products, the new positions, or the new processes. Identify these projects and assigning an owner to each. After all, this was introduced by someone – at least in part –  so make them the one that cares the most about the project and carries the responsibility of moving it forward.

Focus on High Payoff

Identify the highest payoff work for everyone in the organization. This is how you properly assign tasks, and stay focused on what matters most. The three or four high payoff tasks will differ for everyone in the organization, but they become a “go to” as you plan ahead Quarterly and Yearly.

The One Page Plan

Finally, take our goals you need to reach and projects that all have identified to reach them, and align them on one page each in support of the proper top-line objective. Assign each project an owner and charge that person with assembling the team, resources and plan for tackling the project related tasks.

When it comes to keeping our entire business focused on what matters most this is the most important day our organization has in search of day-to-day alignment and focus. Take those broken weeks of holiday work, and ignite your business with simple, clean planning tasks that will move your business forward and engage your workforce.

“And the Envelope goes to…….?”

oscarIts Movie award time of the year again. Whether you are fan of Hollywood or movies as a whole doesn’t really matter in January and February, because many millions of people get their thrills from seeing the famous and talented on TV, almost as if they have dressed up especially for the viewer. This is the kind of thrill your business copywriting should give to people. A chance to get them into your article by the headline, and the first paragraph. Dress it up for them!

Here are some more tips to ensure that your article makes the most of its time on the Internet’s “Red Carpet”.

Offer the big promise and then clearly deliver

Your headline will be the first thing the subscriber sees, and this is your chance to catch their eye. You want to make a promise that will compel them to read your article. It needs to be sexy, like the opening monologue to the award show – who is it, and what are they going to say?

If you are going to use an offer, let them know what it is, don’t hint:

“Get Free Shipping” is way better than “Look in here for a special gift.” People like free and, the word Get or Getting is extremely important psychologically. It even outperforms exact figures such as percentages (Now, 10% off!). It looks like the reader is so close to receiving something, it’s just a matter of reaching their hand out, and it is theirs.

Avoid lengthy paragraphs

Staring at a huge block of text can be very intimidating. It looks like work.

Don’t make reading your articles look or feel like a chore. Break paragraphs up into something easy to digest and scan quickly if needed. This is the equivalent of showing off in that little cocktail dress, instead of the poor men that have to ‘tuxedo it up’

Write for your readers and address their wants and needs

You have an idea of your perfect customer, and prospect. Write for them, and them alone. When a popular actor gets his or her award, they thank everyone that knows them – everyone in their immediate circle. This is what your writing is doing for your prospects: Write for them, and make them feel as if you are interested in their interests.

Make sure everything is clean and easy to read

Use bullet points and headings so that everyone can see what is coming up, and know what to expect. Look at those clips from movies that are about to be awarded. These are bullet points, and they are repeated every time – even though, by the third time of seeing a clip, we know the movie itself. It’s a way of cutting through the chatter, and focusing your audience’s attention.

Be consistent

If you make a point, follow through with it. Don’t change your style, or your subject half-way through. I’m sure the best director would love to tell a global audience about the movie he is working on now, or the deal he’s just struck for next year’s movie, but they don’t – the subject at hand is celebration, and the work that he may have last seen six months prior. Stick to what you are saying in the way that you are saying it: Familiarity is comforting.

So, how did this article get its genesis point? The articles I have written for beginners in the business copy writing field have been popular, but I felt as if I needed a different hook for this one. By listening to what is hot today, even though I’m not a fan of award shows and do my best to avoid them, I know how much of a hot subject it is for many people. It is that opening paragraph and the headline that will get then into this article – even though it is about something else entirely!

Turning website traffic into Customers

web-trafficIf you are enjoying a well-placed website with a lot of visitors, it’s time to capture them and keep in touch with them. Picture yourself in a small time shop front business: There are hundreds of people that enter the store ‘ just to browse’, but they never stay to buy. They walk around and pick things up, but never stay. Why?

If I am simply waiting for a specific time, for a meeting, or am simply hiding from the weather outside, I always go into small stores like this. I do it to engage my mind in something, to see what kind of in-store marketing businesses are doing, and to kill a few minutes rather than just hanging around outside, looking suspicious. If I am asked whether I need assistance, I’m always honest about the reasons for my visit, so that the hard-working staff know that they can leave me and move on to someone who may be buying. In other words, I am the typical web visitor. Occasionally, a forward thinking shop staff will see what I am looking at, and say: “That’s at a special price today, because of (insert reason).” That’s thinking, because they want to know what I’m interested in. This is what you want your site to do; to separate the browsers from the shoppers, and find out what the interest level is, and in what.

Add a ‘Contact Us’ button. It’s a CTA (A Call-To-Action) that isn’t too pressurizing, and doesn’t add to much worry to the browser. They know that they can always unsubscribe from any service, and they can sift through the offers that you send them at their own speed, without being cornered into making a decision.

A good tip here is to purchase an automated mail system where you can enter a raft of e-mail messages, and send them information. They are very inexpensive to get into, and you can choose what bells and whistles you need. Now you can send out information about your company to those that have shown an interest: Not every day, but enough for them to keep you and their initial interest in mind. You can copy them on highlights of your latest blog post, or send them special offers that aren’t on your site. Whatever you feel will keep them engaged in your Company’s story. You can even send periodic/seasonal “feel good” emails – like Happy Holidays from…or Happy Valentines day from…and add your little spin to it . Even if only 10% of these contacts buy from you, the chances of them becoming long-term, multiple purchasers are very good. You can then think of new or better ‘Fanzone’ specials for these extra special customers.

If your site isn’t getting visitors, re-design it to cater to your Ideal Customer’s profile. If you are getting visitors, but too high of a ‘Bounce Rate’, re-design your landing page to entice closer inspection. If your Call To Action isn’t working, try different designs and strength of invitation. However, if you are getting interest from your ‘Contact Us’ button, use what you can from your ongoing writings to ensure those visitors remain with you, and shop from you, often.

Make the most of your businesses’ Holiday season

holiday-shoppingNow that Halloween is behind us, it won’t be long before US Thanksgiving celebrations, Black Friday/Cyber Monday online sales, and then Christmas. Of course, New Year is only a few days after that, so it’s time to start thinking about the exciting Holiday Marketing you need for your business. If you haven’t started planning these campaigns, yet,  and there isn’t time for separate, unique six-week ad campaigns that have proven useful for companies  for the festive season, you may want to think of an overarching idea ‘The Holidays’, namely November through February. If it’s too early to think about Christmas for you, it isn’t for your business, so here’s five tips on readying your businesses’ online holiday campaigning.

1.        ‘Click to Call’ tools

Get them to come to you: A ‘click through’ button on your website allows your prospects to see something they like on your website, and contact you directly with a question. Once they know they can reach you, you become approachable, friendly, and someone they would like to start a relationship with. In turn this makes them more open to receiving advertising from you.

There are plenty of tools for this, and to ensure that your company can do this on a regular basis, why not start at the beginning of the Holiday season? You can plan the staffing of the phones for business hours, set up a return call system for outside hours, and promoting this service gives you an additional ‘touch point’ with the fans you have already. It may teach you things that you need for times outside of the holidays.

Customers and prospects are usually busy themselves at this time of year, so you can open up a stress-saving avenue for contact with them. They will always pass on good news to others!

2.        Search Functionality.

If Prospects and customers cannot find what they want on your site in a short search time, they will give up and go somewhere else. Use your site analytics to find out where people go, which pages they land on, visit, and bounce from. These metrics will show you patterns of use that will give you clues on what is not working. If you are the type of business looking to use the holidays for sales or advertising and want to highlight different or new items and services, make sure that all pages showcase your business as best they can, and offer functionality. Now is the time to re-design to answer the questions these analytics results bring up. In turn, you may find places that need re-design to seamlessly loop this process site-wide.

3.        Add some video

It is by far the best teaching tool, is the most popular among visitors, and can be the most effective: is it time for a festive video presentation, or tour through the site? Get your gatekeeper to front it, and – when they answer the phone – they will be recognized.

4.        Related Content

Do your pages lead to the next right page? Is there a clue that your Analytics can give you as to how people navigate your site? Perhaps some well-placed teasers, directions, or offers would both strengthen those ‘tours’, and bring weaker ones up to that strength? This is not a case of more links, but rather stronger ‘suggestive’ items as to where to go next. This drives traffic to the warmest and coolest areas of your business, based on actual customer ‘tours’.

5.        Strengthen the customer engagement.

Make sure that you have an easy-to-navigate map of your site, ask for feedback, and advice, and always measure your engagement. The Holidays are a great time to do that, because you may be highlighting Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, Boxing day, New Year, and Valentine’s day special attractions. If the next time you take a breath will be in late February, have your specials lined up, and signpost them correctly. Then, take note of visitor feedback (Both on your site, and through contact), to find out what you can do better for the rest of the year.

This means that this time, next year, your site will be more ready for business, your advertising will change to reflect and point out these changes, your customer and prospect engagement will increase, and a glimpse inside your current and future customers will be much stronger.

Always look at advertising changes as another way to engage with both customers and prospects. If this time of year is your busy time, listen to what people are saying about you during the holiday period, and make changes based on this conversation. In turn this will keep people on our site longer, and lead to more committed evangelists as well as more newcomers interested in what you do.

Seven things you aren’t doing – but should be!

worker stress funnyWhy did you start your business? Usually, we hear the following:

“I could do this way better than the last Boss that I had.”

“I received a payout, and thought that it was time I went out on my own.”, and the famous: “I’ve always wanted to do it.”

If you didn’t get into a market segment for reasons such as goods requirement in that region, or competition, or even a better raw material source, you can still concentrate on how you can make your business succeed from this point on by creating practices that more seasoned companies have done. Here’s Seven tips on how you can start succeeding:

Businesses fail to reach their full potential.

Any reason you can think of is usually a symptom of a bigger problem, and two of those are usually more organic than you can see. Either business owners are unclear about their goals (or have lost sight of their original goals as to what they want to get out of their business) OR business owners don’t really know what’s going on in their business.

Not knowing what’s going on in the business is extremely common and relates to knowing your KPI’s (key performance indicators) For instance, how many people do you have to connect with to get the right percentage to walk through your door and how many have to purchase and how many who purchase have to become loyal clients and/or referrers of others to your business? Start with last year, find out how close you are, and what steps do you have to take to get it right this year.

Know where you are

What are you doing right, right now, and what do you need to strengthen in order to get our first tip correct?  Find out how long it will take to get there, and what it will cost. If you don’t know, get help – and factor that cost into your calculations.

Where are you going?

Many small business owners run a daily management routine on habit, rather than on a clearly defined journey toward a goal. Even if you are entrepreneurial, you must have something to head for in the medium and long term that is about your businesses’ success, not your rose colored view of the future. Break down the big picture into manageable chunks so you can see how far you have come, and what you have to do to reach your next steps.

How much do you earn?

You have to know how much it takes for the business to pay its bills, pay lifestyle wages and generate profits to grow the company. You need a predictive budget/cash flow model to see how much it takes to expand, and that includes owner’s salaries.

if you don’t plan to create profit for growth, how is your growth going to be funded? If you don’t pay yourself the right amount now, how will you know what you pay yourself in the future. Just taking ‘what’s left’ is not a plan.

Tell Everyone

Now that you know where you are, where you are going, and have decided your income, you have to get customers buying your products or services. But WHO are these people and WHERE are we going to find them? That is marketing, but now you know these two crucial facts about your future customers, you know what message will get to them, and that is the basis of your future. What are you doing right now for these customers, what do you need to work on to make their experiences with you better, and what will make hem return, or tell others?

Manage for success

While you are looking at these ‘big picture’ questions and challenges, you cannot be expected to run everything, perfect a customer relationship model for your staff, and be the corporate fireman. You need to get out of the everyday, and either delegate or hire someone that does these tasks for you.

These are two distinct jobs, and you shouldn’t be dropping complex calculations of future growth to go unblock the toilets. You need a head of daily operations, no matter the size of your company. That person reports to you, but on an organized daily meeting basis. Give yourself the time to plan the future.

Get a coach

A coach/mentor is outside of the day-to-day activity and can provide a cool outsider’s point of view about what needs to be done and/or can bring to the table ideas and concepts outside the your awareness or current level of experience.

Choose the right one: Remember, they are there to help YOU rather than sell you a coaching system designed to make them money. So ask questions about their specific expertise in your business, ask for names of other businesses in your industry area they have helped so you can reference check them, check their availability in relation to responding to problems or issues you may encounter, and lastly, determine what is and what is not included in their fee structures.

Give yourself the permission to speak candidly to someone about your business, and receive critical advice. They aren’t a friend, they are a professional, but they can become your company’s best friend.

Good Luck transforming your business for the next level of success.