Ryze up!

cartoon guy with phone

Some social networking sites can be difficult to use because when it comes to their user friendliness, they are behind. But what if I told you there was a free social networking site for business professionals like yourself that is easy to use? It’s called Ryze.

I know that my definition of easy may be different from yours, but by simply visiting Ryze’s website, you see that it has a simple design, which makes it easy to navigate and find what you’re looking for. So for those who are not interested in social media because you think it is too difficult, your problem might now be solved!

So, why use Ryze? It allows you to join special networks related to your industry, interests or location. There are more than 1,000 organizations that host networks on Ryze, and this gives you many options and opportunities to connect with like-minded people.

There are more than 500,000 Ryze members in more than 200 countries, which is another reason why using it can be great for you and your business. Social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter have millions of users, which makes the playing field very large and extremely competitive. That’s why Ryze is great if you’re looking for a smaller and more concentrated platform to network and grow your business!

In addition to it being user friendly and close knit, Ryze also allows users to hold conversations within their networks, which can create a tight community of individuals with similar interests. And this can eventually lead to relationship building which grows your network and can even be word of mouth for your business.

I’ve given you a few reasons why I think Ryze is great, but I want to know what you think. Create your profile, build your network, and drop me a line letting me know how it goes!

 

Sources:

https://www.ryze.com/faq.php

http://professional-networking-services-review.toptenreviews.com/ryze-review.html

http://get-susan.com/services/10-best-social-media-sites-for-small-business-owners/

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235864

Does a website with all the answers really exist?

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Quora? Glad You Asked….

There’s buzz surrounding a site, Quora, and many people seem to think it has all the answers. You ask a question, hit the search button and you have an answer…or 15! It may sound simple, but as a small business owner, this can be very beneficial to you.

Here’s more about Quora: It’s a question-and-answer website that allows users to post questions, answer them, share them and engage with those who have similar interests. You simply sign up and ask any burning questions you have. Currently, the website has thousands of topics ranging from social media marketing to maintaining a small business.

information from QuoraSo, as a small business owner, you may be confused about Quora’s benefit for your company. Sure, it’s great for your personal use, but what can a question-and-answer website really do for you? Well, if taken full advantage of, it can do the following:

  1. Build your business contact list: Who doesn’t want more contacts? Whether you’re a web-design guru, social media junkie, or you eat, sleep and breathe PR, it doesn’t hurt to use Quora as a place to share this knowledge and connect with others like yourself. And sometimes, they can even teach you something new!
  2. Do away with your writer’s block: If you own a business and you have a blog, chances are you have writer’s block at times. It happens to the best of us. Luckily, you can use Quora to find trending topics to use for blog posts. And after a while, you’ll find yourself asking, ‘What’s writer’s block?’
  3. Keep you connected: Quora gives you the option to connect your account to your Facebook and Twitter pages. This is great because as you are sharing your wealth of knowledge with your followers, they may like what you’re about, visit your profile and follow you on your other social media platforms. More exposure for you!

You name it, Quora has an answer for it. Go ahead and try it out. Sign up, ask your burning questions and see what or who you find. Let me know what you think!

Sources:

http://get-susan.com/services/10-best-social-media-sites-for-small-business-owners/

http://get-susan.com/2013/01/18/are-you-in-a-quandary-over-quora-dont-be/

http://www.wired.com/2011/04/ff_quora/

One of the most powerful social media platforms for small businesses

LinkedIn this, LinkedIn that. You hear about it very often, but what exactly is it? Why is it so important? How can it help your small business? I’ll tell you.

What is LinkedIn?   

It is known as THE B2B (Business-to-Business) social networking site. It has approximately 135 million users in more than 200 countries, and it keeps growing with two new members every second. LinkedIn was formerly viewed as the place to post your resume and search for a job, but it has grown into a booming networking site for business professionals. You create a profile for your business, add connections and share information.

Why is LinkedIn so important?   

Think of it as being a place where your company’s profile page acts as a resume for your business. Your resume is what sells your personal brand, right? Your profile on LinkedIn is what sells your company’s brand. And as a business owner, you know just how important selling yourself and your brand are.

How can it help a small business like yours?

It can help in more ways than you can imagine! LinkedIn allows you to provide credibility and authenticity to your business because it shows visitors that you are serious about your brand. When you promote yourself and your business to someone at an event, the next step they usually take is to look you up online. And considering you already have a website, your LinkedIn page will add weight and act as a supplement, showing more of what you are about.

A LinkedIn page can further help your business because it’s essentially a free marketing tool. Just by knowing which keywords or phrases you want to rank for, you can easily boost your presence in search engine results through the copy on your LinkedIn page.

In addition to being a platform for you to showcase your business, LinkedIn can help in sales with its advanced search capabilities. The people in your network could aid your next sale—think about the people in their network who they can spread the word to, or better yet, who you can reach out to. This is a valuable tool because sometimes it’s not only about who you know; it’s about who they know.

According to many marketing experts, LinkedIn should no longer be optional for small businesses. It is a must have, and it is one of the most important platforms. Companies without it are truly missing out on the power it holds for business growth.

Sources:

http://get-susan.com/services/10-best-social-media-sites-for-small-business-owners/

http://blog.hootsuite.com/linkedin-for-small-business/

 

Humanize your brand

 

social media conversation

Your customers want to know that behind your company’s doors, engaging and compassionate humans are present—not robots.

How can you show them that? Two words: social media.

According to JetBlue, “Our goal would be to make ourselves available, help whenever possible, and to show that our brand is built by real people who care about our customers.”

The airline company is becoming well-known for maintaining a great social media presence, especially on Twitter. It knows who its customers are, where they are and how to tailor their messages to improve brand favorability.

Maintaining a solid social media presence not only makes it easier for you to get your messages out there, it also shows that you keep up with the latest. But most importantly, it humanizes your brand. Humanizing your brand essentially means giving it a human touch by interacting with your customers on a personal level. How can you achieve this? Here are six ways:

  1. Start with your staff: Your staff members are the most authentic expression of your brand. If you have in-office traditions for example, post them and generate a conversation with fans about their own traditions!
  2. Reach out to key individuals: Key individuals are those who have a highly connected network that is relevant to your brand. By building a relationship with them, you increase your chances of spreading your brand’s messages in a faster and easier way.
  3. Be present: Brands that embrace the social media culture and understand what’s required to engage through conversation can create vibrant customer communities.
  4. Show a sense of humor: Time and time again, we see that humor is an easy and effective way to connect with our audiences. Of course, you just have to make sure it doesn’t hurt them.
  5. Use everyday language: Many people have a social media account because they want to be entertained. They don’t want to read business jargon when scrolling through their Twitter and Facebook feeds.
  6. Engage, Engage, Engage: Whether your audience approaches you with a question, concern, or to simply start a conversation, always remember to engage. A small gesture goes a long way when building rapport and favorability on social media.

I know you may feel that you have to add more hours to your already busy week, but think of social media this way: It is essentially an invitation for dialogue. You’re simply having conversations with your fans and customers and showing them the fun, relatable side of your company.

Sources:

https://blog.kissmetrics.com/thrive-on-twitter/

http://mashable.com/2012/03/29/humanize-brand-social-media/

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/humanize-your-brand-with-social-media/

 

Go where your customers are

social media for small business

Your colleagues brag about the number of likes they receive on Facebook posts, the number of retweets on Twitter and the number of shares they get on Linkedin. But this information is uninteresting and irrelevant to you, and all you want to do is move on and discuss where everyone will meet for lunch.

Chances are, you are among the business owners who believe that social media is strictly for recreational use, and it’s a complete waste of time and effort. But if that were the case, why do lucrative companies depend on it?

For many reasons! First, unlike many marketing tools, social media marketing is completely free. Yes, free isn’t always the way to go, but social media has proved it’s gold numerous times. Take computer technology giant, Dell, for example. It combines promotions, engagement and photo sharing that keep followers informed of what Dell is up to. And it pays off. Its Dell Cares and Dell Cares PRO Twitter accounts had a 34% conversion rate for turning ranters into ravers.

Additionally, there is a social media platform suitable for every business and every target market. Facebook is now becoming more popular among seniors, millennials love Instagram, Linkedin is popular among the college educated and women dominate Pinterest. What does this mean? Whether you are a company that targets one or various audiences, if you use social media as a marketing tool, you can choose the platform your audience most frequently uses, and tailor your messages to make your company more favorable.

Now, you may say that traditional media accomplishes the same goals, and it has worked for you so why change it now? Always remember this: go where your customers are. If your customers are using more social media, so should you. One in seven people worldwide uses Facebook, and more than half of all Americans are on it. Twitter reaches 175 million tweets each day, and Instagram has 7.3 million daily users. Imagine how quickly you can spread the word about your business locally, nationwide and globally.

Sources:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kyle­mccarthy/five­facts­about­social­m_b_6515334

html https://blog.kissmetrics.com/thrive­on­twitter/

Bring Your Brand to Your Website

 

building brand

Building Your Brand on Your Website

Your website is often the “front door” for your business. It can be the first interaction with your brand that your customers have…and maybe their last one. More than half of website visitors will spend less than 15 seconds on your website – barely long enough to register the name of your company. This means communicating your brand quickly and clearly on your website is critical to growing your business.

What goes into a user’s decision to stick around and check out your website? Or, better yet, to make a purchase or ask for a quote? Successful websites deliver a combination of good design, interesting content and the right technology. These three issues create a three-legged stool for the success of your website.

From the technology side, it is very important that the website load quickly. A slow website will frustrate your visitors and they will move on rather than waiting. Slow loading times also can affect your rankings in Google search. The best websites, as ranked by Google positioning, will load in fewer than 14 seconds* and many load in fewer than 10 seconds. You can check your average page loading time in Google Webmaster Tools to see how your site is performing.

Think about how a slowly loading site reflects on your brand, leaving the user with the impression that your company is either not technologically savvy or just doesn’t care. This is doubly true if your company is tech-related in any way, even if you just sell tech.

Pretty vs. Functional

While an artistically gorgeous website can be a thing of beauty to behold, it is not always the ticket to a great user experience. Your website design can either make it easier for users to find what they need, or leave them frustrated. I typically recommend the “less is more” approach when it comes to website design. I believe clean, simple and elegant styling is easier to navigate. Placing menus, search bars, a call to action or your logo in the right spot helps the user find what they are looking for more easily. For example, on virtually every website you will find the logo on the upper left. If you click that logo, it will generally take you to the home page. Users know this and they have come to expect it. Don’t make them work for it, or they’ll leave you.

Your website’s design should reflect your overall brand.Incorporate the colors and fonts of your logo and existing marketing materials and use them throughout the website. From start to finish everything should have a consistent and clean look, from the site to the invoices you send your clients — this will reinforce that image each time your customer encounters the brand. Repetition is good; variation is evil.
When you design your website, be sure to make it very easy for your customer to place an order or contact you for information, depending upon your goals. A well-placed form on every page makes it easier for users and helps to drive more business. Remember, the goal of your website is to sell, not just to look pretty. Driving more business is achieved by making it easy for users to get what they came for, and by making it easy for them to buy.  

Say What Your Customer Wants to Hear

Good, relevant content is the third leg of the marketing stool for your website. The user is looking for something when he or she comes to your website. If you figure out what that is and make it easy to find on the home page, you will improve your sales or goal conversions. Having a blog on your website helps you provide newsy, interesting information your customers will appreciate and Google will value in its rankings. The key word here is “relevant.” The information should be relevant for the user (not you) and related to what they are searching for.

When you are putting your content together, be sure to continue the tone of voice that you use in your other marketing materials. Be genuine and sincere, don’t try to pretend to be something your customers won’t recognize when they actually do business with your company. For example, don’t write copy filled with hip slang and obscure references if you are a conservative, professional firm. It will not come across as realistic to your customers and could even turn them off. Make your words mirror your business.

Headlines should move the user through the copy and describe what information is contained on the page. This is important not just for the website visitor, but also for Google, which uses headlines to determine what your website is about.

You Get What You Pay For

Above all, make sure your website looks professional and reflects the value of your business and your brand. Since it is your front door in many ways, it should attract customers and invite them in. If you do not have the skills or experience to create your own website, I always recommend making the investment to hire a professional web developer. It will be well worth the money to get an end result that will actually help you grow your business with a website that is attractive, professional, functional and provides a great user experience.
* Data from SEOchat.com

What Makes Your Small Business So Special?

stand out in a crowd

UVP – Unique Value Proposition – is one of the basics of small business marketing. Understanding what sets you apart from competitors is the first step in developing a sustainable and believable brand position and marketing campaign. But here’s a tip – it’s not your high quality and excellent service. 

Sure, you do those things but the truth is that your competitors say the same thing about their businesses, too. Every business owner, president or CEO believes in her heart that the company provides better quality and outstanding service. Why else would they be in business? Of course that is not always the truth, but what is true is that your customers have already assumed you will be giving them great service and a high quality product or service. In fact, it’s the ante that gets you into the game – if you can’t hit that benchmark then customers will leave you. Worse, they’ll tell their friends but they probably won’t tell you.

So, if your UVP is not quality or service, what is it? This is the hard part because most business owners feel very strongly about those two attributes and want to use them in their marketing campaigns. What’s left when you remove them? The real UVP.

Other attributes that describe your company may include convenient locations, competitive pricing, unique or hard-to-find products, locally-made, hand-crafted, environmentally-friendly, etc. When you are developing your UVP, I encourage you to make a list of all the qualities of your business that customers would find valuable. Ask your employees, customers, vendors and friends for their input. Go on social media and ask. You may find that customers see value that you did not!

Understanding what truly makes you special can help your small business marketing plan get off on the right foot and give you that great position that will distinguish your business from the competition.

Starting Fresh – Rebranding Your Company

This week, I am moving into a new office. My company has always been run from a home office, but I decided to take the plunge and move out and expand. I am partnering with another woman business owner to lease an office in Green Cove Springs, FL, and we have been busily creating our new space these last two or three weeks.

All of which made me think about rebranding. Every company or business has a brand. Whether you consciously create it or not, a brand exists. The best definition of a brand I ever heard is that “a brand is a promise.” The promise might be different for you than for your neighbor, because your interaction with the brand is unique. Your customers have an image in their minds of what your brand is. You can try to manage your brand image, but it is impossible to control it. rebranding label says new version

If you have not been managing your brand, or if you haven’t updated your company’s image in a while, it might be time to rebrand. But how do you go about that? Here are a few steps I suggest:

1. Research your existing brand. Find out what your clients or customers think about your business by asking them, either through a survey or in person. By understanding your current position in their minds, you can decide what changes you need to make. For example, do your customers think of you as trustworthy but expensive? You can improve that image either by lowering your prices or by doing a better job of explaining the high quality you provide for those higher prices.

2. Do a 360-degree look at your business. Assess your business from the parking lot all the way to the restrooms. What do your signs say about you? The colors of the walls, the state of your shrubs? Are your marketing materials up to date and do they all have a consistent look and feel? How about your website – often the “front door” to your business. Is it mobile friendly? Is it cluttered, or easy to navigate?

3. Determine what you want your brand to be, and write it down. This might be a mission statement, a tagline, or just a couple of words, but if you have a clear vision of what you want to communicate it will be easier.

4. Now decide if you need to make changes to your logo, signs, colors, website, etc. Maybe you only need to make changes to the content, or perhaps provide additional training to staff.

5. Make an implementation plan. Many companies, especially non-profits and very small businesses, cannot afford to throw away boxes of printed materials. But I recommend a definite deadline by which everything will be changed over, even if it is a year away. You can phase in your implementation if you need to, but prioritize those steps according to what will have the most impact on your brand.

6. Lastly, communicate with customers, vendors, employees and other stakeholders about your rebranding. Ask for their feedback to make sure you are hitting the mark. If not, make changes. This can, and should, be a continuous process of measuring your brand’s impact.

In a few weeks, I will be speaking to a group of women business owners in Nassau County, FL about rebranding. I’d be interested in hearing your ideas about what I should include, or your feedback about this post. Have a great day!

Do you really know your competition?

knock out competition Deppe

 

Knowing who your competitors are is a basic part of marketing your business. Sometimes that is easy – you can look up and down the streets of your community and figure out who has the same products or services for sale. Other times it is more complicated. There may be online competitors (Amazon, for example) that are not as evident, or there may be out-of-town competitors who are also coming into your market area.

But there are other things that compete for your business, things you may not have thought about. Restaurants, entertainment venues, the arts and similar businesses are especially at risk for some stealth competitors that you may not have considered. Leisure activities are increasingly being done online as the internet offers many more real-time entertainment options. In addition to movies, TV shows and games, you can also participate in hang outs, web chats and other live activities. You can watch a first-run movie, a live symphony performance, or a jazz dance performance on demand while sitting in front of your TV, your desktop computer or your smartphone and tablet. Mobile, handheld entertainment is a growing part of our everyday lives and it is competing with your business.

How does an online movie compete with your retail outlet? Because it takes away the time that your customer might otherwise have spent shopping at your store. Customers obviously have limited free time and the convenience of shopping or consuming entertainment from home is a competitor you cannot afford to ignore.

So how do you compete? Provide an engaging, quality experience for your customers. Knowing that consumers are interested in an experience means that the way you approach and interact with them may have to change. Make sure that your retail space is clean, approachable, modern-looking, and attractive. Encourage staff to be friendly and learn about the customers, so they can better meet their needs. Standing behind a counter and waiting for customers to come to you is the old way of doing business. Today’s consumers want information, choices and advice from others.

If you don’t already have a strong online presence that encourages reviews from customers, I encourage you to develop that. Connect your customers with review sites like Angie’s List, Google + and Facebook to make it easier. Or, you can deploy an a widget on your website that allows them to post right there.

Thinking “outside the box” means getting creative about understanding what you are really competing with. It’s not just the obvious anymore.

Lessons Learned

Last week, I lost my Dad. He had been in the hospital for a couple weeks and in the ICU for the last few days of his life. On Mardi Gras Day, he went to be with my Mom.

Dad with his grandson

Dad & my son in front of a replica of my Dad’s first car

So, you are probably wondering what this has to do with marketing, right? Well, my Dad inspired me in many ways and a lot of my business principals are based on lessons learned from my father. In fact, the red queen I use in my logo is a nod to my dad, who taught me to play chess and always think 3 steps ahead – a lesson I’ve carried all throughout my career.

Some 50 years ago, my dad was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down for the rest of his life. He lived much longer than expected and I attribute that to his ability to find humor in just about every situation. In honor of my Dad, I would like to share a few lessons learned from him that I think apply to marketing your business.

1. Bad things can happen to you, so be sure you have insurance. In marketing terms, this means more than just insuring your business – it means building a great relationship with your customers and audiences so that IF something goes wrong, you have a nest egg of good PR to draw on. If you are old enough to remember the Tylenol scare, you will recall that J&J weathered that storm in no small part because it had a solid reputation in the marketplace.

2. Think ahead and think through the alternatives. Just as in chess, there are a number of moves you can make with your business. Each option has potential reactions from your competitors, customers and/or vendors. Being strategic in your marketing requires that you think through the possible risks and rewards of your actions.

3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Dad never let his situation get in the way of having fun with friends and family. He found ways to laugh at himself even up to the very last day of his life. I always admired how his sense of humor drove him through the tough times. When things get difficult in your business, remember that this, too, shall pass. Keep in mind that there are people with bigger problems than you, and that the light at the end of the tunnel is NOT ALWAYS a train!

4. Don’t listen to what other people tell you about your destiny, your path, or your future. Many doctors told my dad he would not live past the age of 45 or 50, yet he was 78 when he died. When my Mom died 8 years ago, many people thought he would have to go into a nursing home because she had been his caregiver. But he didn’t. He persevered, adapted, found resources to help him remain at home and outlived every single prognostication made for him. There will always be naysayers or people who want to tell you to give up or that you can’t accomplish your goals. It’s best to ignore them and find some people who support you and will help you do more than you ever imagined possible.

5. And finally, stay close to family and friends. There is no substitute for that kind of support in your business or your life. My dad always encouraged me in my business and gave me sound advice along the way. His faith in me sustained me when I was feeling unsure about my plans. My dad had friends and family throughout the country that he stayed in touch with, and who reached out to me and my brother after his death. Dad would have been humbled by the number of people who said they were inspired by him, respected him and cared deeply for him. You can’t buy that kind of support, but you can let it slip away if you don’t tend to your relationships. The same is true for your customers, too.

At the Oscars, J.K. Simmons wrapped up his acceptance speech for Supporting Actor with these words: “Call your mom, call your dad…Don’t text, don’t email. Call them on the phone and tell them you love them.”

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