Archives for January 2012

Getting Your Small Business Found Online: Local Business Directories

Biznik Local Business Online Directory

If you’ve been paying attention to what’s new in local marketing, then you’re likely already using online directories to get the name of your small business out there.  You may be using Google Places, Yelp, and Merchant Circle, etc., but did you know there are a slew of other online directories you can add your business listing to as well?

With more and more people going online to seek out business recommendations, it makes sense to be in as many places as possible to up your chances of being found online when someone searches for that thing you do.

At the end of this article I’ll share a link to where you can find 50 more online business directories, but first I want to focus on one in particular that I find pretty impressive.

It’s called “Biznik,” and it bills itself as “an award-winning community of entrepreneurs and small businesses dedicated to helping each other succeed,” whose motto is “Business Networking that Doesn’t Suck.”

What I love about this particular online directory is that it feels much more like an actual community than it does a straight up directory.  Created specifically for indie business people, solopreneurs, and micropreneurs, Biznik’s overall feel is collaborative and helpful, with a strong whiff of “we’re all in this together, so let’s be supportive of one another.”

Biznik Local Business Online Directory

What’s different – and cool – about this community of independent business owners is that it blends online social networking with local member-driven in-person events.  And yes, there’s a Biznik community right here in Wilmington, NC!  (This is a big deal, because we didn’t even have Yelp here a couple of years ago.  Being at the very end of the road and all that . . . )

Basic membership at Biznik is free, pro membership is $10 per month, and ProVIP is $24 per month.  It couldn’t hurt to sign up for a free basic membership to get a feel for the community and what it has to offer, then upgrade to enhanced membership if basic membership gets you results.

Go to Biznik’s About page here to find out more.

Check out Hubspot’s list of 50 local business directories here.

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How to Use Twitter Search to Find Clients and Customers

Twitter Search to Find Clients

How cool would it be if you could spend just 15 minutes online and find potential clients and customers in your area, looking for exactly the kind of product or service you provide?

Well, you can use Twitter Search to do just that. Now, a word of caution: once you do find people looking for what you have to offer, you don’t want to do a hard sell; instead, you want to give them a valid reason to check you out.

For example, say someone’s looking for happy hour specials at a full service bar within a 5 mile radius, and you happen to be a full service bar with great happy hour specials within that 5 mile radius.  So you reply to their tweet with “Great happy hour specials at —Name of Your Fabulous Bar Here—on Front Street, ½ price appetizers & handcrafted beer until 7:00 pm!” or similar. Or if that’s too “salesy” for you, offer a $5 off coupon off for their next visit to your establishment.  You get the idea.

OK, so let’s get down to it and do a Twitter search so I can show you what I’m talking about. There are two ways to do this.

Log into your account, and once there, use the simple search bar at the top of your page:

Twitter search bar

Enter your search terms and see what turns up.  You’re going to want better, more targeted results than a general search will give you though, so click on “refine results” in the bottom right corner of that pane once your initial search results are returned, which will take you to the Advanced Search page.

Twitter cupcake search

Or, you can simply go to http://search.twitter.com/, and click on “Advanced Search” from there.

Twitter Advanced Search

Advanced Twitter Search

Once you’re in the Advanced Search pane, you’ll see all sorts of options for searching, so just have a play around and see what works; you’ll see that you can filter searches in several ways there.  If you’re a location-based local business, then obviously you want to use the “places” filter for finding people in your specific area searching for what you offer.

Here’s how I set up my search:

I searched for the general term “cupcakes,” which returned far too many results.  I then “refined” the search to: “need cupcakes,” within a 15 mile radius of Washington, DC, then clicked the “Question” box on the bottom of the advanced search page.  Here’s what that search turned up:

Twitter cupcake search results

Bingo!

Now what if you’re a bakery with mini cupcakes/cookies in this person’s area – don’t you think with a well thought out response to their tweet, offering them exactly what they’re looking for, that customer is coming to your store?

Here’s another example.  Let’s say you’re a caterer who specializes in catering large weddings. Using Advanced Search, you look for mentions of the words “wedding caterers” within 15 miles of your town, and you select the “Question?” checkbox in Advanced Search, which will narrow the results to tweets that contain your search terms and also pose a question.

You might not get results on your first search, but it’s entirely possible that if you run this search on a regular basis, you’ll find someone asking for recommendations for caterers who specialize in large weddings.  Then you can respond to these tweets with a special offer, a free consultation, or something else of value.

If you use Advanced Search to find people who are looking for what you provide, and you offer genuine, non-douchy value and solutions, chances are you’ll be able to add new clients and sales to your business.

Have you ever used Twitter search to find new clients and customers?  How did it work? Let me know in the comments below!

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

9 Reasons to Get Over Your Twitter Fear

I know from talking to a few small business owners and solopreneurs recently that Twitter seems to confuse a lot of folks.  They don’t understand the technology, they don’t know what to say on Twitter,  they can’t make sense of that odd Twitter lingo, and they’re not sure maintaining a Twitter account will have any value for their business to begin with.

I have been there!  I remember how I felt when I first started using Twitter.  It was frustrating, because in some ways it felt like conversing in another language, I couldn’t wrap my mind around what to “tweet,” and I wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to be beneficial to me.

But now I’m a complete Twitter convert.  I have been to the well, and I see how effective it can be for marketing, especially if you’re a small business or a solopreneur.  : )

So the best piece of advice I can give you for using and understanding Twitter is to just to get out there, set up an account, and start using it.  Everyone who uses Twitter effectively now starting out not knowing how to use it at all. Remember that.  Because that means you can learn how to use Twitter effectively too.

If you need a little inspiration to get over your Twitter fear and just set up your account already, then consider this your push off the ledge.

9 Reasons to Get Over Your Twitter Fear and Set Up Your Account Today

1.  Twitter is great for the small business or solopreneur because it’s a way to extend your brand and your marketing, for free.

2.  Once you build up your audience of targeted followers, you can get in front of these people on a regular basis, all at once, for free, and many of them will spread your content/messages/deals/specials to their followers as well.

3.  Twitter is all about your audience, so if you give them what they want, they will reward you with retweets, their business, their friends’ business, and so on.

4.  Twitter is a great platform for bringing your company’s or brand’s personality to life.  (On social media, people engage with real people, not companies per se, so don’t be afraid to show your personality.)

5.  Twitter adds another layer of customer service to your business.   And being super responsive to your customers is great for word of mouth, and will get shared on social media, meaning you will get more business as a result.  With all the wretched customer service out there, great customer service will make you stand out, and it’s easy enough to implement this on Twitter.

6.  You can use Twitter to drive traffic to your website.

7.  You can use Twitter to monitor what people are saying about your business – and your competitors’ businesses — and what works and doesn’t work in your niche or industry.  Free market research, anyone?

8.  You can use Twitter to network with others in your niche.  I simply love Twitter for this.

9.  Twitter gives you instant access to thousands of people and the ability to track trending topics in your industry and your niche, all at once.

I can’t stress this enough:  You can use Twitter to get in front of your target audience, all at once, for free.  Can you do that with a yellow pages ad or an ad in a glossy print publication or a piece of direct mail?  Nooooooooo.

Are you convinced yet?  ; )

Now, if you don’t have your account set up yet, no worries.  Here’s a link to very easy to understand instructions for getting your Twitter account set up, with screen shots of exactly how to do it, step by step.  In fact, the link here will take you to a fantastic site that has everything you could possibly want to know about all things Twitter!

In a future post I’ll talk about what to tweet, what kind of content mix to use,what ratio of your stuff to others’ stuff to post, and so on – your basic Twitter content strategy.

 

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

Why Your Food, Wine or Creative Business Needs an Email List

As we discussed in the last blog post, there are a number of reasons you want to have a blog for your food, wine or creative business, and for some of those very same reasons, you also want to have an email list.  These may be glaringly obvious if you’re already using online marketing, specifically email marketing, to promote your business, but they’re worth mentioning for anyone new to the topic.

Obvious Thing #1:  First and foremost, you need an email list so you can capture leads.

You want people to come to your blog or website to find out what you have to offer, learn more about you, and benefit from your awesome, value-driven content, but you also want folks to elect to deepen the relationship by giving you their email address.

In order to remain top-of-mind to folks who come to your blog when they’re not on it, interact with them at a deeper level, and do business with them at some point, you’re going to need a way to contact them again.

Ask yourself how many blogs or websites you’ve you visited and left, never to return again. And I mean even if you really liked the content, you’ve done this. I know I have.

Well, if you really liked what you saw on that site, and there was an opt-in form to sign up for said blog or websites special offer or free content or weekly newsletter or what-have-you, and that what-have-you was going to be beneficial to you in some way, you’d sign up, right?

On the other hand, if you visit a blog and there’s no way to enter your email for updates or newsletters, etc., there’s a good chance you won’t visit again, simply because as a small business owner, there are so many other things that take up your attention units on a daily basis.

You can have the best traffic strategies on earth, but if you’re not getting your visitors to sign up for your email list once they get to your site, you’re leaving a lot of potential prospects, customers and dollars on the table.

Obvious Thing #2:  An e-mail list is a great marketing tool, and one of the best assets your business can have.

So, you’ve gotten your target audience to your site, and with an attractive, value-driven reason to join your list, you now have your audience signing up to receive your regular email updates.

Now you have an opportunity to build a relationship with them that keeps them coming back to your site again and again, and keeps you top of mind even when they’re not visiting your site, as in, when they’re wondering where they can buy the product or service you provide.

Think of your email list as one of the highest ROI assets your business has. It’s a list of people who have raised their hands and said “I’m interested in your content, offers, information, services, etc.” This makes them a much better prospect for you than folks who follow you on Twitter or fan you up on Facebook, and once you’ve got them on your list, you can market to them again and again.

Now, Facebook and Twitter are important for driving traffic to your site, and for the ever important task of engaging and interacting with your customers and prospects on a regular basis, so you want to be providing value there as well.  However, not everyone is using these sites just yet, but almost everyone has email.  So leverage your Facebook fans and Twitter followers by having them come over and sign up for your email list.

I’ll say it again:  an email list is a list of people who have raised their hands and said they’re interested in what you have to offer, a highly targeted audience you can market to directly, without the kind of noise and distraction that can exist on social media sites.

Real World Example

So we’ve said that by keeping your name top-of-mind, you’re increasing the likelihood that your customers will purchase from you when they’re in a position to buy.

Here’s an example: let’s say you’re a wedding and baby photographer.  A couple comes to your website to check out your wedding packages and signs up for your weekly e-newsletter, where you share useful content each week like “tips for looking natural in your bridal portrait,” or “why natural lighting at X time of day is the most flattering,” or “Should you contract for photography only, or video as well?”  (I’m just making this stuff up, but you get the idea.)

Because you’ve stayed in touch on a regular basis, with quality information about a topic they’re interested in, when they are ready to buy, you’ll be at the top of the list of people they want to contact.

Why would they go searching online for a photographer they’ve never heard of when they already know you – the person who sends them useful information each week?  And when they want shots of their beautiful bundle of joy, or have friends or acquaintances getting married, guess who they’ll think of?

Obvious Thing #3:  You can drive traffic to your bricks-and-mortar business and make actual cold, hard cash with your email list.

Again, an email list that you mail to regularly gives you an easy way to keep your name in front of your customers and prospects on a continual basis, which translates to a ready-made, eager audience for any sales, special promotions or offers you have.

Think about it – once you’ve provided value to your list on a regular basis, every time you have something interesting going on at your place of business, you’re pretty much guaranteed to makes some sales, simply by pressing a button and sending an email.

Now, not every subscriber will become a loyal customer, but many will, and you’ll be much more successful selling to your list than to a group of relative strangers.

And even if the folks receiving your emails don’t read every one of them, they still see your name on a regular basis, so they won’t forget you.

Real World Example

Let me give you an example of this – I regularly shop at the same 2 wine stores in town, both of them sort of inconveniently located many miles from my house.  Even though there’s a perfectly good, well-stocked wine store just minutes away from where I live, I very rarely shop there, because I seldom remember they’re there.

This is because I get an email newsletter from the two other wine stores regularly.  One of them sends an email about once a month; it feels kind of random – some months I seem to get the newsletter, some months I don’t — but I do shop there fairly often, because I get that newsletter semi-regularly, so I remember them.

The second wine store, the one where I do most of my shopping, sends a regular email, each and every week, like clockwork,  announcing the wines they’ll be featuring at the weekly wine tasting, with tasting notes and prices – super handy!  Because even if I can’t make it to the tasting, I’m likely to stop in and buy some of the featured wines, based on the information in the newsletter.

Again, this store is not close to my house and therefore not very convenient, but I frequently shop there, because I’m getting that weekly newsletter, so they’re top of mind for me when I’m thinking about wine.

The wine store that’s way more convenient for me because it’s right around the corner from my house?  I haven’t shopped there in more than a year, because I hardly ever remember they’re there.  Seriously.  Until writing this blog post in fact, I had forgotten they were there, and they’re located just 5-10 minutes from my house.

So I hope you can see by now how powerful an email list and a consistent, targeted email marketing campaign can be to the bottom line of your business.

You can also use email to get great feedback from customers about what they’d buy more of if you offered it, and what doesn’t really move them about your current offerings.  And e-newsletters are easy to share and forward, so your customers will send them to their friends if they find value in them, generating even more business for you.

If you haven’t set up your email capture form on your blog or website yet, I hope you’ll put that on your marketing to-do list this week, and make email marketing an integral part of your regular marketing mix.

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]

 

Why Your Small Food, Wine or Creative Business Needs a Blog

The inbound marketing experts at Hubspot report that businesses that blog get 55% more website visitors than those that don’t.

If you know anything about blogging, you already know that it’s great for search engine optimization, hence the statistic above.  But if you’re a small business or solopreneur just starting out, you may not even have a website to optimize just yet.

And that’s Reason # 1 for starting a blog, so you can quickly establish your home base online if you haven’t yet. You want to have some kind of online presence that has a blog or website as its centerpiece. Did you know you can set up a free blog on WordPress.org, and this can BE your website? Yep, you don’t have to use the WordPress platform for blogging, you can use it AS your main website, and it makes a very nice one, in fact.  And did I mention it’s free?

(This blog you’re reading?  It’s running on WordPress.org.  Didn’t cost me anything at all for the blog platform itself, just $10 to register the domain name and about $8 per month for hosting. That’s all.)

Reason #2:  If you’re a creative business, a blog is a perfect place to strut your creative stuff on a regular, instantly updateable, basis.  For crafters, photographers, painters, graphic designers, writers, interior designers, jewelry makers, etc. – what better way to keep your latest, greatest work of art in front of your customers and potential customers?

The beauty of a blog over a website is that you can update it as often as you like, even several times a day if you’re feeling it.  Got a bolt of inspiration you want to share with your readers and customers on the fly?  Update your blog in minutes with your latest image, design, handcrafted jewelry, or other work of creative genius.  ; )

Reason #2a:  If you’re a restaurant or wine business, same idea as #2, above. You know how frequently things can change in this business, and having a blog is a great, instant way to update your customers and prospective customers on what’s going on.

You know how it is:  your weekly specials already went out to your e-mail list subscribers and/or you put them up at your website, and now the trout/sea bass/mahi mahi or what-have-you didn’t come in.  You have to sub something out on the menu, and now you can update the weekly specials instantly on your blog.

Wine peeps, same for you.  I’ve worked in the industry, so I know how disappointing it is when that excellent wine you tasted with your rep on Wednesday, the one you were going to offer at your tasting this weekend, doesn’t come in.   But if you’ve got a blog, you can write a few lines about something else delicious and wonderful you’ll feature instead.

(And yes, you can do all this via your Facebook or Twitter account as well, but on your blog you’re not limited by a finite number of characters, and you can make the experience so much richer for your audience.)

Reason #3:  You need to have a piece of online real estate that you own and control.   You have no ownership of your social media profiles/accounts, so it’s wise to funnel your Facebook, Twitter and other social media followers to a place you DO own and control, and where ideally, you can also collect their e-mail addresses:  a blog.   And you also want a place where you can share longer form content than you can at your social media sites.

Let me give you an example:  I have a friend who is a gifted photographer.  She owns a really cool business where she offers a specific and individualized service for her clients.  She’s got tons of email addresses of folks she’s sold to before, thousands of followers/fans on her FB business page, and lots of followers on Twitter.  She also has a website, hosted on Yahoo.

There’s a lot of great stuff going on here, but she doesn’t have a central hub that she owns and controls.   Now, what if Twitter and Facebook went away tomorrow?  Not likely, I know, but what if?  There go 3500 leads – poof.  But if you’ve got those 3500 coming to your blog, and ideally signed up for your e-mail list, you have a real, true asset.  And one you can market to and interact with again and again with your high quality content, products and services.

Social media sites are great, but you want to get your peeps over to your main hub or website – so use social media to share and interact and to add an extra  layer to your customer service (among other things), but make sure to also use it to drive peeps to your blog or website, where you can collect their email addresses, build a relationship with them, and then communicate with them over and over again.

Those are just three reasons you want to consider having a blog for your business, and ones I think are very important, but there are loads of other good reasons as well:

• To establish your expertise and set yourself up as an authority figure in your niche

• To interact with clients/customers and prospects, and to educate them about more than your products and services

• To build and strengthen authentic relationships with your customer base that makes them know, like and trust you, so that they want to come only to you for that thing you do. A blog is a great way to build a personal connection with your audience.

• To capture leads (through an e-mail sign up form on your blog – easy to implement)

• To improve your search engine rankings

•  A blog is a valuable marketing asset where you can build a following that is naturally curious about what you offer.

I know maintaining a blog is a commitment, because you’ve got to figure out what to post and you’ve got to have time to update it regularly, but the benefits far outweigh the time commitment, if done correctly!  : )

[Hey there, gorgeous. Did you know you can get my FREE weekly newsletter, with actionable tips, techniques, and how-to’s for marketing your business online, delivered straight to your email inbox each Tuesday? You betcha! Go ahead and enter your name and email address at the top right hand side of the blog now, and let’s get you glowing online.]