3 Reasons Why Blogging Will Help You Grow Your Small Business

I have been intimately involved in building, growing and consulting many small businesses both online and offline for many years and what I have found is that entrepreneurs at all stages of growth and development are anxious to discover both strategic and cost-effective marketing tools that will help them attract new profitable customers in an ever-changing dynamic market place environment.

Increasingly, small businesses are smartly adding blogs as a key tactical online marketing technique for three important reasons.

3 Reasons Why Blogging Will Help You Grow Your Small Business

1. Blogging Is a Great Strategy To Help You Increase Visibility To Your Ideal Targeted Market.

The bottom line is that incorporating a blog into your online marketing strategy can help you improve your chances to increase sales and grow your business.

Do understand that this is not a quick or short-term sales success technique. Be committed to a long view of blogging and this technique will help you build value as a lead generation tool over time.

But if you have the determination to post consistently adding content that is fresh and helpful to your ideal target niche market, it will help you gain a competitive edge over your competitors.

The most important tip for you to follow when starting a business blog is to “Define The Purpose of Your Blog.” Just as any company must have a business plan, your blog must have a specific direction and purpose.

For instance, if your blog’s purpose is to help your customers and prospects with information that delivers tips, solutions free advice and/or adds value to your primary product or service, then make it clear.

If fact, make it very easy for any first time visitor to your blog to recognize what it’s all about. The key here is to write your blog posts with your end-users in mind.

2. Maintaining An Active Blog Will Help You Improve Your Websites Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Results.

If you do decide to develop a blog as a marketing tool to help you grow your small business, focus on building it around two basic criteria:

  1. Your most valuable keywords
  2. Continually adding new and informative content

If you do this, you can gain leverage allowing you to effectively compete against the big boy brands.

As search engines continue to shake up the way they rank sites for relevancy, adding fresh and regularly updated content will continue to be an essential marketing strategy for your small business.

A couple key tips here are to:

  1. Differentiate your blog and make it stand out in a crowded and competitive marketplace. Make it “cool” for a lack of a better way to say it.
  2. Write your blog posts with your prospective searchers in mind. Put yourself in their shoes and use words and terms that they would be thinking in their heads when they are searching for what you offer.

Lastly, remember that as cliché as it sounds content is still king which means you should focus on delivering unique and helpful information. The reason is that fresh and relevant content is still the foundation of a smart SEO strategy.

3. Credible Content Will Help You Drive Traffic To Your Company Website.

If your objective is to build a blog that helps you generate sales leads and/or strengthen relationships with your existing customers, then you must realize that great content is what will help you build your reader and visitor base.

In fact, think of it this way, the content you deliver in your posts is like the food (or nourishment) you feed your readers and those who are searching the Internet for the information, tips and solutions you are writing about.

Plus, it’s the information that keeps them interested and hooked on your blog and will motivate them to share it with their friends and family. This helps to make it viral and valuable.

I stated it above and will emphasize here again that you should ask yourself “why am I publishing this blog?”

The answer to this question will lead you to creating great content. But continue to be diligent in keeping your focus on THEM (your reader).

In fact, paste this famous marketing saying on your computer screen as you write every post, “It’s all about them, it’s not about you.”

If you actually do this, you will create content your readers will be interested in and the by-product will be that you increase your competitive marketplace leadership, your SEO rankings, your sales leads and interested customer or client prospects.

One more tip when writing a business blog is to position yourself as the expert in your niche.

No one will actually come to you and crown you the expert but if you really do have expertise, experience and education in your area, then proclaim yourself the expert and share some of your successes and testimonials. This will increase your social proof helping to solidify the credibility of your blog enormously.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that incorporating a blog into your online marketing strategy will help you improve your chances to increase sales and grow your business.

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Freelancers and Small Business Owners: What to Look for in a Chamber of Commerce

In a previous article, Why Every Freelance Writer Should Join a Chamber of Commerce, I advised that every freelancer should join a Chamber of Commerce. However, not all chambers are effective.

Here I will outline what every freelancer and/or small business owner should look for before joining.

1. Dedicated Leads Meetings: What are these? Simply put, a time set aside just for passing/getting leads – no hobnobbing, no meet and greet, no speakers – a time just for getting and passing leads.

In my previous article, I outlined how this works, but a quick recap is as follows:

Members are given a specified time (usually 30-45 seconds) to give a short commercial about their product/service. Mine usually goes something like:

My name is Yuwanda Black and I am a freelance copywriter. I write/produce web copy, newsletters, sales letters, brochures and other marketing materials for small business owners. I work quickly and cost-consciously.

Recently, I provided a newly licensed realtor with all the copy for her website in just two days. A good lead for me today is a web designer, printer and/or communications manager.

NOTE: The reason I highlight the word today is that sometimes, as a business owner, you may be targeting a different market. For example, I do a lot of work with realtors and mortgage brokers.

However, I also write resumes. So, the next week, I may target recruiters at staffing agencies. Why? They often need resumes written, rewritten, edited and/or copy edited before they send them to clients.

As this example illustrates, it’s important to think carefully about what you want to say during your presentation – because, as I stated in my last article, people listen peripherally UNTIL they hear something that strikes a chord for them.

After all members have completed their commercial, leads/referrals are then passed (hence, the need to be highly specific in your message).

2. Dedicated Leads Meetings – ON A REGULAR BASIS: One chamber I belong to offers networking events on an irregular basis. In my opinion, this is not effective, for the following reasons:

a) People do business with people they know, like and trust: If you don’t see prospects on a regular basis, there is no chance to build a rapport. So, you never get to build any of these sentiments.

b) No chance to imprint your brand: If you can’t get in front of prospects on a regular basis, there is no chance to imprint what you do on a prospect’s brain. Most people have to meet you 3-4 times before they will remember your name, never mind what you do.

c) No chance to get a pulse of the community: Chambers of Commerce are the local business community – eg, realtors, bankers, web design companies, staffing agencies, physicians, etc.

Via this network, a wealth of information is often gleaned about the local economy – eg, how new zoning laws affect x, which companies are closing, which are expanding, types of industries projected to do well in the next 5, 10 years. It is a readily available research vehicle to learn a ton about what you can do to increase your business’s bottom line.

For all of the above reasons, it is critical to know HOW OFTEN your chamber meets. In my opinion, it should be at least weekly. One of the chambers I belong to has dedicated leads meetings twice a week – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. This allows everyone – no matter their schedule – to attend at least one.

3. Responsive Chamber Representative: As a new member, you are likely to be intimidated meeting other members. Even if this is not the case, you may not know anyone.

A good chamber will have a representative who literally takes you by the hand and introduces you to other members. S/he probably won’t introduce you to everyone – but will at least make 2-3 introductions to get you started. It will usually go something like:

“Mary, this is Yuwanda Black. She owns Inkwell Editorial, an editorial services firm in the area. Yuwanda, Mary here has been a chamber member for the last three years. She owns the local print shop. I thought it would be good for you two to get to know each other.”

Usually “Mary” will converse with “Yuwanda” about what she does and will introduce her to a couple of more people. Any savvy business owner can take it from there.

NOTE: It can be intimidating to walk into a room full of people you don’t know and tell them what you do. But, and you will just have to trust me on this – chamber members are some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

They are usually hardworking small business owners just like you – and most will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and at ease. AND, once you get a foothold in the organization, most members really do work to give you qualified referrals.

4. Lunch & Learns: Most chambers have enhancement seminars on a variety of topics of interest to small business owners – how to hire the right sales person, how to live a balanced life, the ethics of business, etc.

These are offered free or for a reduced fee to chamber members. Many times, the seminar presenters are chamber members themselves. Why is this important? It’s an excellent chance for you to get your product/service in front of a group of interested prospects.

This also builds your presentation skills – and could ostensibly add another revenue stream to your business. Many times after a seminar I’ve had attendees approach me about doing some type of work for their firm – ie, an in-house seminar, produce a sales letter, an employee manual, etc.

5. Advertising: The final tip I have is that any chamber you join should have some way for you to get the word out about your business via more than just the networking. Eg, via an e-blasted press release, a job posting board, an online member directory, etc.

One of the chambers I belong to offers all of this. It’s usually in some type of limited capacity, eg, no more than one press release per quarter, but is highly effective.

In summary, I was in business for years before I joined a chamber. My thinking was that they were just another organization that wanted a fee and would serve no real benefit. Boy was I wrong!

Building relationships via your local chamber will take some time (remember, prospects have to get to know, like and trust you), but the long-term benefits are beyond immeasurable.

The 5 Most Dangerous Marketing Mistakes Made by Small Business – How to Avoid Them

Many of the businesses I’ve worked with, usually have a singular issue that dominates their marketing woes. After a few years of doing this, I’ve figured out the most significant marketing areas that plague the majority of my clients.

An overview of the situation.

U.S. small businesses employ more than half of the private sector work force, produce more than half of private sector output, fill niche markets, innovate, and contribute to the competition in free markets. Small business drives the economy in most if not all of the developed countries in the world.

Small businesses are overrepresented in business turnover; that is, they have relatively high rates of company startups and closures. The life span of the average small business is still three to five years.

Small businesses give individuals the chance to achieve their own versions of the American Dream, and allow entry into employment by individuals and demographic groups who might otherwise be shut out of the labor market.

Small businesses pay a disproportionate amount of the taxes while receiving less than equitable state and federal support than larger businesses in the U.S.. Call me biased, but I think we need to fix that problem in my country.

Because the small business system is based on individual initiative, owners may not start with the right business education and experience. They most often start on a shoestring and do not market themselves adequately in the beginning.

When I tell startups that a good rule of thumb for them to follow is to invest up to 20% of their expected annual revenues in order to jump-start their business, many begin to realize the full implication of what they’re getting themselves into.

The danger signs.

Let’s take a look at the 5 most dangerous business trends to avoid. If you find that you’re currently making some of these errors, admit it, make a note of it and get ready to fix it.

Here are the top 5 reasons for business failure:

1. Incompetence (46%)

2. Unbalanced Experience (30%)

3. Complacency (12%)

4. Lack of Experience (11%)

5. Neglect, fraud, or Disaster. (1%)

It makes sense to avoid the usual pitfalls before working on improving your income. Because the biggest challenge to small businesses today is Incompetence. That does not mean the business owner is stupid, just that they don’t have the proper business education to keep themout of trouble.

Hard on the heels of Incompetence (46%), is Unbalanced Experience (30%), Complacency (12%), followed by Lack of Experience (11%), in the specified field of business, and finally, Neglect, Fraud, or Disaster (1%). These are the leading causes of failure in business today.

These five opponents to your profit margin must be carefully monitored if you want to do more than just make a living in your business.

Incompetence

Let’s start with incompetence. We aren’t saying that people who start businesses are dumb. We mean that they usually start with very little competence in business affairs. They might be experts in their field but not in the complexity of running a business.

The proof of that statement is that 46% of all business failures are caused by a basic misunderstanding about what it takes to run a business.

Take a look at this list and burn it in your memory. These are the leading causes of failure in businesses today. Notice that being stupid is not on that list.

The good news is that incompetence can be beaten out of you with knowledge and experience.

Unbalanced Experience

The second major cause of failure is unbalanced experience. If you just got out of dental school and are extremely talented in your craft, that’s great but if you don’t have a head for business, then you may not be ready to take on that challenge at this time.

Let’s look at a few of the causes of unbalanced experience.

These are usually caused by ad hoc business practices or inconsistent application of policies and procedures.

Complacency

Complacency usually occurs during the mid phase of the business cycle when owners and mangers are doing well but not keeping up with current trends and competitive measures. They are simply coasting. Usually these businesses are doing a marginal job at marketing but relying on their credibility and history for sales.

The entrepreneurial spirit is replaced with lethargy and mediocrity. Competition soon overtakes them and the marketplace makes them obsolete.

Lack of Experience

11% of the people who go into business do not know their market well enough to survive as a viable operation.

Neglect, Fraud, or Disaster

There is that small minority of businesses that suffer from fraud and disaster. A mere 1%.

Bonus Threats – Taxes and Inflation.

Another enemy of business is one that we rarely see coming. If you analyze your income and you’re growing by less than 10% a year, you’re going backward. Real inflation is usually higher than the government estimates. For obvious reasons. They have a vested interest in keeping the numbers slow. Your business has to live in the real world.

Along with inflation you’ll also deal with the various taxes and fees that have to be paid. These don’t seem to go down each year; just the opposite. They all take away from your bottom line.

Let’s look at the odds for a moment. The NFIB estimations are grim at first glance. Remember that the majority of small business owners do not get an education in business before they open their doors.

That is why they wake up one day to realize that they are making little or no money regardless of how much they bring in.

The bigger you are, the easier it is to succeed.

The fewer the employees, the greater your chances of failure! The facts lead to some interesting conclusions. Those businesses that can maintain a large staff tend to have systems in place to give direction and purpose to its employees. That in turn leads to greater income that does not rely on the business owner’s direct input. The business owner is now free to grow the business instead of working in the business.

So you see that the main cause of business failure is redeemable. We can, through proper education and planning, take care of this problem. If you are in trouble financially, you should seek immediate financial counseling. You may be able to get help from your local SCORE program or the SBA in your town.

If you take the time to study the mistakes of others you’ll have a greater chance of success.

Generate A Constant Flow of Leads to Your Small Business

Whether you’re just getting started in small business, or you’re a seasoned professional, you know that leads are critical to keeping your business afloat. You can either pay a lot of money for new leads, or you can follow these creative steps to generate them without paying a dime.

Here are five powerful ways to generate new leads without a marketing budget:

1. Networking– Using your customer network, frequently remind the top 20 people in your circle that you’re here to help them. Always focus on the ways that you can help your members without coming across as self-serving. By helping others first, they will help you with new leads, in return.

2. Publishing– Write articles and blog posts frequently. As you build up your body of work, you’ll generate leads from multiple directions. Not only will this build your credibility, but it will also position you as an expert in your field.

3. Referrals– Frequently ask your current customers for referrals. Ask you customers for the names of people that are of the same quality and caliber they are. Develop multiple referral systems to gather clients from different areas.

4. Niche yourself– Do not try to sell everything to everyone. Instead, specialize and become the number one in the World for your particular niche. When prospects are looking for a solution to their problem, your name is much more likely to come up if you’re a specialist in your niche.

5. Build an email list– By building a list, you’ll have a direct conversation on a frequent basis, with people that really want to know what you have to say. Email is very intimate and it allows your customers to focus on your message much longer than social media.