About Mary Ruth

Mary H. Ruth is a virtual assistant, online marketing manager, copywriter and editor, and certified inbound marketing specialist. She has over 30 years' experience in administration and marketing in both non-profit and business sectors, having earned a degree in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1975. Now living in Gainesville, Florida, she's been working online since late 2007.
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Managing Your Brand in Social Media

brandingThere are multiple ways for your small business to use the internet; multiple ways for you to express, lure, sell, and otherwise profit from online interactions. In the process, how careful are you to preserve branding?

Seen from this angle, online selling and online branding may appear to be opposites. To sell, you address the wants and needs of your market. To brand, you adhere closely to your own choices and convictions. What your customers want (relief from problems or needs) and what you want (profits) are not always the same thing, right?

Well, keeping these wants separate from one another keeps you at a certain less-than-optimal level of commercial success. Lots of people profit to some extent from courting market desires that are in no way related to their own desires and values.

But we do well to remember the teaching that the best success lies in the intersection of the world’s great longing with the individual’s great passion.

So be holistic in your small business online branding. Always start from the firm foundation of your convictions, your passions, your sincere offering to world. Connect on that basis. [Read more…]

A Sustainable Plan for Blogging

Bangui_Windfarm_Ilocos_Norte_2007It’s the most common question from small business marketers who want to make good use of the internet. It goes something like:

What can I write about? Where can I find content ideas? Or, How can I blog if I’m in a really boring industry, like insurance for truck drivers, or warehouse fulfillment?

If you feel stuck there in a content-less fog, not wanting to start blogging or writing social media posts because you think your field is uninteresting, you haven’t really thought things through.

For starters, what are you doing slogging away day after day at something you find boring? (I’m not accusing you; just urging deeper examination. I have certainly done my share of employment for organizations that I didn’t highly value. It’s something to work through, for sure.)

But never mind that, suppose you just innocently must admit that there’s not a lot that’s universally fascinating about roadside garbage collection or a tax preparation firm.

And you’d be right. If you look straight at the subject, isolated from everything else, it will indeed appear to be void of interest.

But Oh My Gosh, the truth is that no matter what the subject, possibilities for riffs on it are endless. [Read more…]

Freemiums in Action

Business websites are increasingly using the freemium, the free gift offered on the site’s first page, above the fold.  Visitors can access this ‘premium item’  in exchange for their email address. It’s an excellent strategy for growing your list while providing useful stuff to potential customers. If the freebie is high quality and truly brings satisfaction to the user, your brand has already made a new friend; and new friends will then become customers, if properly cultivated.

Let’s look at a few examples of free offers. These three show not only how varied your gifts may be, but also how creative you can be in the presentation of the offer. If the goal is to enlarge your mailing list, you’ll want to create an offer that is well-positioned to win trust.

Marisa MurgatroydMarisa Murgatroyd runs a full-service web design and internet marketing agency. People seeking those services may land on her homepage. And the first thing they see is not “Marisa Murgatroyd,” not “full-service web design and internet marketing agency,” not “We’re the best agency for all your internet needs!” What they see is the exact thing they are seeking in their deepest gut: “9,450 followers in 12 months!”  No dancing around here; it’s a barefaced bullseye of positioning and copy. There’s a video as well, which is validating but almost superfluous because the message is already abundantly clear.  And the freemium is a “step-by-step plan” showing how you can have the same results.

Take-away: Try creating a front-and-center offer with the right fonts and colors. Ask, What is the very specific thing my potential customer wants when they come to my site? How can I provide the thing they want instantly?

Jay BaerJay Baer is such an intelligent blogger; I always enjoy his writing and respect his viewpoints. He also positions and colors his offer so as to make sure it’s not missed. His gift is remarkable for the way it is configured. Jay writes a daily newsletter he titles One Thing. So you’re signing up to receive these newsletters, and you also get a free ebook (it’s called “21 Quotes That Will Change the Way You Think About Marketing”) that contains quotes from Jay’s latest book. Taken together, the freemium affords benefits on many levels: Jay builds his list, subscribers get useful info, the content spreads Jay’s theories among his market, subscribers read the ebook, and some will decide to purchase the hard copy book.

Take-away: You can have your newsletter as the freemium offer, but think about ways to maximize returns for yourself as well as for your subscribers.

Amy PorterfieldSocial media guru Amy Porterfield has a super-high profile, and she offers a super-generous free download: a four-part video training on using Facebook for business. The giveaway dominates the home page and is almost starkly simple. Notice the labeling of the go button – “Give it to me!”

Take-away: Make your offer a video, audio, infographic, or other non-text medium and you’re already ahead. Somehow, it’s just easier to watch a video than to read. And videos make it easier for you to control how your message is delivered.

Admittedly, these are all marketing-related businesses. I’m collecting samples in other fields and will report to you shortly!

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 Want more details about developing your freemium? Start here.

Landing Pages, Squeeze Pages, Lead Pages: What’s the Difference?

1456136606_0c723a9689_zDo you wonder about the difference between landing pages, squeeze pages, and lead pages?

The internet is a 21st century Wild West, so it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a lot of confusion over terms and definitions. One of the most flagrant examples is the overlapping meanings of the terms: landing page, lead page, and squeeze page.

Several years back, the landing page concept bubbled to the cyber surface. Close on its heels was the squeeze page. And after a hiatus, the lead page took center stage just a couple years ago.

What does this progression signify and what is the difference, if any, between these different types of web pages?

Like an unexplored continent, the internet very slowly reveals itself, and we are just as slow to understand its ways. Somewhere along the line four or five years ago we understood and began to maximize the use of landing pages, driving traffic to specific inner pages of our website. We began to lure attention not exclusively to the homepage, but to a long tail page from deep inside the site; a page created for the specific purpose of introducing the visitor to a singular opportunity.

So we learned to guide the traffic in this way, wooing while shepherding. We also adopted the landing page as central to website traffic generation, because it appealed to highly specific needs. The more finely targeted your market, the more precisely you can craft your message.

One way to finesse the route to your landing page, we then realized, is to reduce the number of possible distractions. This is from the Sucker-A-Minute School of Marketing, but any successful marketing plan works on all levels, right? So a squeeze page allows only one action, only one exit. Fill in the form or nothing. No menus or links or superfluous stuff; just the single opt in, large and preferably circled in red.

A good while later, the two approaches were synthesized in lead pages. While landing and squeeze pages still make sense for specific situations, we now appreciate that driving traffic to a certain page (like a landing page) and making a single, crystal clear offer once they arrive (like a squeeze page), is the most user-friendly as well as profitable way to use cyberspace.

Again, the diverse forms are still active. When posting your blog updates, you still set up landing pages. You may use squeeze pages for decisive steps in a sales sequence. And you routinely work the internet for branding purposes, producing content that’s attractive to your market and offering it through lead pages that build your list.

Any questions? What do you think? What other ways do we have to make it easy for customers to get to know us and enjoy our interactions?

Business Goals, Keywords, and Your Website

TieksYou already know that your business website should accomplish certain very specific things on the way to meeting your business goals. This post looks at a few examples of how that works.

It’s a rare enterprise that is not concerned with money-making. If the mission of your biz is social, political, educational, or the like then you’re probably a non-profit. We can deal with that in another post. But for now, let’s assume we are all pretty much in it for the bucks.

Unfortunately, many small businesses stop there in their website planning. They are looking for more income, plain and simple. So they direct a site developer to build pages with the aim of making money. However, since all aspects of their business are involved in this same objective, it’s not easy to decide which part of available content is the best hook for a website home page or landing page. [Read more…]

What is Blogging, and Why?

jmoneyyyyyyyContent marketing, the leading thought in marketing today, clearly centers on content creation, which in turn centers on blogging.

The idea is that content – as opposed to ad copy – is what attracts a market. And your content is the stuff of your profession or business; it’s the presentation of who you are and what you know. Moreover, content is thought to be non-promotional; it’s sharing for the benefit of the audience, rather than of your business.

Despite the fact that very few people love to write, and many people don’t like to read, blogging became the core of content creation from the web’s early days. Though it’s still the rule that blogging will most quickly bring valuable site traffic, the task is no more universally popular than it ever was. Unfortunately, I’ve built sites for clients who refuse to include a blog; and other sites where the blog was set up and then simply abandoned. Truth is, most business owners have no intention of blogging.

I see this as a failure to understand what blogging is. As with so many of the internet’s properties, basic instructions are usually bypassed. Suddenly, now the internet requires us to produce blogs, when heretofore we interfaced with the public through ads or a printed brochure, and left it at that.

So here’s a list of what blogging is, which also shows why it’s necessary and how it doesn’t have to be so challenging.

Blogging may be defined as

  1. regular interaction with your audience
  2. a way to attract the attention of potential audiences
  3. the place where you consider the angles of various aspects of your business
  4. the method you use to educate people about your subject/field/organization
  5. the way you express yourself in public
  6. how you prove your passion and expertise
  7. the vehicle for sharing your personality – and perhaps your mission – across the globe
  8. the accumulation of archives as evidence of your endeavors
  9. continual updating of your website, keeping search engines active there
  10. a strategy for keeping your own mind and interest keen, vis-à-vis your subject
  11. the build up of a knowledge base
  12. an instrument for effective thought leadership

We could go on. But the point is that nowhere in the list is the word ‘writing.’ A blog does not necessarily include writing. You can come up with ways to interact, attract, consider, educate, express, prove, share, accumulate, tease Google, stay mentally sharp, collect information, and contribute to your community without writing.

Will you talk, draw, collect, or how else will you cover these blogging necessaries without slaving over a written essay every week? I’d love to know your ideas.

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Figure out the system you’ll use to blog, and you’re already on the way to success. Need help? Info here!

How to Be Yourself in Business

bonkedproducerOne of the many challenges entrepreneurs and small businesses face is figuring out how to balance the personal and impersonal.

Your small business depends on your personal self-confidence and on sharing your individual talents, skills, and personality. People do business with you because you are you; you have earned their Like for whatever reason. Look around at the successful entrepreneurs you know: most have noticeable personalities; at least, they are not shrinking wallflowers. To work independently, you need a good measure of chutzpah and style.

On the other hand, too much personality can work against your best efforts in business relations. Management and customer service always require a certain equanimity, an easygoing attitude in terms of relationships. And if you want to find customers, you’re careful to be as unoffensive as possible. Most of us have had that desire to be all things to all people, even though we know it’s impossible. We want everyone to like us, and that often translates into stifling our personality more than sharing it. [Read more…]

Small Economies

[… A bit of a rant and a tangent.]

Carly-Art_-_Wild_bee_hive_(by-sa)I’m a little on edge about the mess in Washington, are you? If you don’t read the news, maybe you’re fine. But I think things are so extreme that even the normally news-free types can’t avoid learning about it these days. Probably at least 8 out of 10 people you know are aware of the government shutdown.

It’s extraordinary and scary, the way those people in our government are treating each other. Which is the same as the way we people are treating each other, right?

Sure, the politicians are screwing up big time, bickering – as so many describe it – like children. But they also reflect growing polarity among the populace. I can’t fathom why, but even the bad guys have their devotees. We’re split, fundamentally, passionately, maybe irrevocably. [Read more…]

9 Best Practices for Creating and Maintaining Your Client List

Your business leads listYou are aware that the money’s in your list, as they say. The success of your enterprise is directly related to the contact information  you have. Do you know who is on your list, what they do, what they’re like? The more specific information you have about your leads and buyers the better you can serve their needs and the more successful your business will be.

It’s that simple, though for some reason working through the process is pretty hard, something we all have to work at. Nonetheless the creation, cultivation, and care of your list can be done in a few clear steps. [Read more…]

Does Social Media Need You? You Bet!

Welcome back, Kate Edgar of SupportingYourSuccess.com! Here’s Kate’s take on why You matter to the world of social media. This post reminds me of that famous Martha Graham quote:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

 Social media sharply heightens this truth!

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.BalaYou say, ‘Who, ME? Does social media need me? I thought it was the other way around: I need social media, right?’

That too.

You need social media to boost your brand. The effort you expend to get yourself and your brand out there will repay you handsomely, done right. Done right involves your interchange on the social channels, sharing the best to educate, entertain and wow your audience with the great stuff they want to hear, see, and interact with. This ultimately deems you an authority, your brand as a go-to for all things to do with your expertise, your product, your service. [Read more…]

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