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Small Business Tips
Does your business create content for your customers? (It should.)
Have you noticed a difficulty standing out from your competitors and really driving traffic to your website with just blog posts?
The fact is, while I love written content, it’s not right for every audience.
Visual content like images (for Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook) is also very difficult to do right. Your audience is likely bombarded by compelling imagery constantly, so really standing out has become pretty hard.
But there’s one channel very few small businesses are using, and their inaction can be your profit.
That channel is video.
It takes very little equipment to produce compelling videos nowadays. The software isn’t too bad, either. Even just a nicer consumer-level camera could be enough to create a great video.
Sound, however, takes a little more effort. In fact, sound is more important than video quality. Your audience will tolerate poor video quality before they’ll endure bad sound quality.
This makes choosing the right microphone very important.
Fortunately, I’ve done the research and can provide some good recommendations for your needs.
That information, however, is exclusive to subscribers of my TL;DR Digital Marketing Report.
New subscribers get a bonus with their first issue that includes a report about what their business needs to do in 2015 to stand ahead of the pack and demolish their competition.
(If the word “demolish” is a little to strong for you, then how about “sell more than your competition”?)
I’ll be accepting new subscribers soon. Stay tuned.
One of the best reasons to hire a digital marketing consultant? It’s the tools.
By spending years doing digital marketing for a variety of clients in numerous industries, consultants/freelancers collect a “toolbox” – a gathering of their essential tools they use to perform client work.
Today, I’m going to share one of my favorite tools… one every business should use.
Automatically Post Social Media Updates at Regular Intervals
While there are many tools with post scheduling functionality, none were as easy to use as my favorite tool, Buffer.
With a free-to-use basic plan, Buffer has earned its place as my top choice for social media management. In fact, I think Buffer is so useful, I insist my clients use it.
Here are just some of the benefits of Buffer:
- Saves time: schedule a month’s worth of social media updates in a single session
- Delivers smart insights: Buffer now include analytics (for paid plans – I’m honestly not sure about the free plan)
- A great value: The paid plan is $10/month and lets you connect up to 12 accounts. It’s a great, cheap way to improve social media marketing for small businesses
- Improves your branding: Instead of “forgetting to post on Facebook today” or “not twittering enough,” small business owners can use Buffer to maintain a consistent brand presence
In my TL;DR Digital Marketing Report, I include strategies you can easily integrate with Buffer to basically do your entire month’s digital marketing all at once.
Subscription info forthcoming.
The Oscars were last night. My wife and I celebrated by hooking up her laptop to the TV, starting the Oscar Livestream (we don’t have “normal” TV), and livetweeting the whole thing.
It was good fun. We loved reading the jabs at Neil Patrick Harris’s dad jokes or instant memification of creepy John Travolta:
But the most important takeaway from last night was a powerful lesson I learned about social media marketing.
In fact, what I saw completely changed what I’m going to recommend to my clients in the future.
It has to do with how Twitter works, and it should change how small businesses approach social media.
Here it is: Unless you have a big budget or infinite time to spend on Twitter, it’s best to stay away from it as a promotional platform.
Because tweets have a terribly short lifespan.
This piece from readwrite says the majority of Twitter action happens in the first hour of a tweet’s life.
This more recent article from Wisemetrics argues a tweet’s average lifespan is even shorter, lasting only a few minutes. For your science enthusiasts out there, that gives tweets a half-life a billion times shorter than Carbon-14’s.
So what should small business owners do about Twitter?
In my opinion, nothing: ignore it… unless your business matches a very specific set of guidelines.
(I’ll be going over when your business should and shouldn’t use Twitter in the next issue of the TL;DR Digital Marketing Report, including free tools you can use to analyze your customers’ twitter profiles. These tools can let you know in seconds whether Twitter is worth your time as a business or not.)
If your business DOES match the profile of one that would thrive on Twitter…
…You have to know how to reach them.
Stay tuned for strong Twitter strategies soon.
Those running a Facebook page have been really hurt in the last year or so. Thanks to spammers, organic (non-paid) reach has declined to sometimes 6% of what it used to be.
That means of all the people who should be seeing your content, only 6% actually do see it in their newsfeeds.
For some business owners, this means Facebook is no longer a viable channel to reach their audience. The amount of work it takes to manage a good Facebook campaign simply isn’t worth the cost for the ROI.
But those business owners that understand the new changes won’t have much of a problem adapting. In fact, because so many brands will struggle to keep up, those that can easily embrace the “new” way of using Facebook have the potential to rise to the top.
I’ll explain strategies for this (and other topics) in my upcoming newsletter. It’ll be a brief monthly report on what’s changed and how your business can adapt.
Since it’s written for small business owners, it’ll be focused on adapting without spending a ton of cash, too.
Stay tuned. More info is forthcoming.
I’m doing an experiment this week. I’ve had an idea I’ve been sitting on for a few years, and I never put it into practice. “What if no one wants it?” I told myself.
Then I thought, “Screw it – let’s try it out.” I set up a quick landing page, Facebook ad campaign (I’ll include more info on this someday), and let ‘er rip.
After only a few days, I’ve got a respectable email list going. Product validated!
But how did I get my email list going? Yesterday, I mentioned the importance of emailing your customers to improve your sales. Today, I’m going to explain in a little more detail waht you need to do to begin email marketing.
Get Your Software Set Up
To get an email list, you need a program to send email. you can’t just use your Gmail or Yahoo Mail account; you need a special email service to message your customers.
Though there are plenty of email services to choose from, I’m a fan of Mailchimp for small (>500) lists simply because it’s free and simple to use. Any bigger than that, and you’ll need a paid solution. (I’ll give a breakdown of which solutions have worked best for my customers based on their list size in an upcoming post.)
Install a List Signup Form
Once you have your email service provider, it’s time to create a signup form to use on your site. Again, there are a few easy ways to do this, but Sumome is probably one of the easiest (and takes, like, 47 seconds).
Add Your Customer List to Your Email Service Provider
Finally, you’ll need to add your customer list (the list of people who have already proven they’ll pay for your product) to your email list in your service provider. Usually, this is as simple as the following:
- Downloading your customer list in your customer relationship management (CRM) software
- Uploading your list in your email service provider
Bam. Two steps.
Once that’s up, you’re ready to start emailing your customers.
But there’s more to activating your customers than simply throwing out emails.
- What kinds of messages will your audience enjoy?
- How frequently should you send messages (and how much is TOO much)?
- What should your subject headlines be to prevent getting caught by spam filters?
…And plenty more, of course.
Check back again to learn how frequently you should email your list – and how to avoid a stupid mistake I’ve seen doomed businesses make again and again.
Back in the day, when I began writing web content seriously, a common practice was for my clients to send me long lists of keywords and have me blindly write articles based on the list.
As long as I used the keywords (and any associated secondary keywords) enough times in the article, the content almost didn’t matter.
From the current internet marketing perspective, that practice sounds ludicrous. Good content marketing is all about sharing something that delights readers and brings a degree of happiness into their lives.
But that kind of “content farming” I used to do? It’s come to (rightfully) be seen as toxic and wasteful.
So why are so many content marketing agencies still doing it? More
Joe Hart recently published a great piece about saving live comedy on Medium. My favorite part directly relates to running a successful business:
There is a belief most people hold which is that comedy writing is a simple process. A comedian has an idea, scribbles it down on a piece of paper and then performs it in a room and everyone laughs. That great pieces of comedy like Eddie Izzard’s Cake or Death sketch were just written and suddenly became funny. This is a lie.
…But really when you watch a comedians set on Live At The Apollo or see their latest show what you’re witnessing is the final form of an evolved piece of material that is probably nothing like the original scribblings in their notebook.
To be able to evolve their material comedians need you. Audience. Since, more so than almost any other performance, comedy is a dialogue. I do not explicitly mean “banter” with the front row, but the simple rhythm of joke-laugh-pause-continue that a comedian practices at these gigs.
Only by gigging around their material and tweaking it and moulding it does material become truly hilarious. The fat is trimmed and the structures within the bit reinforced.
Wow! There’s a lot here that I love and that applies directly to how you can overcome some of the fears stopping your business from improving. I’ll do my best to break it down a bit.
No One Cares About Your Process
Something I’m a little self-conscious about is “growing in public” — that is, gradually changing my writing style or website layout or marketing strategies. A little voice in my head is worried someone will notice what I’m doing differently and call me out.
“Hey! You changed the font you use for widget headings!”
“Hey! Your email template is different!”
“Hey! I see you testing different variations of your landing page copy!”
Ultimately, what I think I’m afraid that little voice will say is…
“Hey! You’re trying to do something different, and that’s not okay!”
I sometimes fall into the trap of worrying what potential clients or customers will think if they catch me refining my process. (Maybe that’s leftover trauma from attending middle school in LA, where even the slightest change in how you dress can lead to ridicule.)
But it’s not just me who’s worried “someone will notice.” Many of my clients second-guess the changes their conversion rate specialists or designers want to make to their marketing efforts. I once heard the boss of a million-dollar company say, “We don’t want to test any differences on our home page because we don’t want customers to go, ‘Wait, what was that?'”
Translation: “We don’t want customers to see our process and think we’re somehow human!”
The fact is, you are human, and your business reflects that humanity. Instead of fighting it, embrace it. We live in an age of transparency due to social media and email leaks, so your customers are conditioned to respond positively to seeing the human side of your work.
No one will care if they can see you working out the best way to deliver goodness to your customers.
We Can’t See the Process of Others
The legendary story of Beach Body’s P90x product is a great example of how constantly tweaking and refining gives the path to success.
The short version is that the wildly successful information you see blared on late night television is the result of millions of dollars in testing. The first version of this infomercial bombed. So did the second and third. But somewhere down the line (and millions of dollars later), Beach Body hit it. They finally discovered the version of their infomercial that exploded their sales.
But do you know this when you’re watching their infomercial while flipping channels? Nope. You’re only watching the latest variation (and likely getting entranced at how good they are at delivering their message).
Successful product marketing often looks much easier than it really is. That’s because we only see the newest (and probably best) version.
What we don’t see is the process every single marketer has to go through: conception, mockups, testing, revisions, more testing, more revision, etc…
No one is such a genius he or she doesn’t need to follow this process.
Don’t let your vanity get the best of you and feel you’re somehow the exception.
If you’re reading this, though, I’m guessing you don’t feel you’re above that. You’re likely smart enough to embrace the subtle changes that gradually draw you closer to success. Right?
Have a nice weekend.
PS: That million dollar business I mentioned earlier? The one whose owner didn’t want to test because he didn’t want his customers to see his business openly trying to improve? It’s lost quite a bit of value and is no longer a million dollar business.
Happy customers are loyal customers, and loyal customers can make or break a business.
It’s easy to get into the mindset of, “How much money can I make this month?” But how much are we really helping our customers if that’s our primary focus?
Customers can tell if your’e primary interest is your business bank account. This can destroy the perceived authenticity of your business and ultimately leave your profits in the past.
But with a small shift in thinking, you can improve your connections with your customers and grow your business – all while genuinely improving their lives. More