Lead Nurturing as Lifestyle for Your Online Brand

zoetnetWhat’s the lifestyle of your small business or entrepreneurship? 

Before you can answer that question, we have to agree on a definition of lifestyle, especially when it comes to business.

Even associating the word lifestyle with anything about business may seem unusual. We think of it more in reference to our personal lives.

But there’s a growing trend in the synthesis of personal and professional lives, via the internet and global communications, and the concept of lifestyle is now a  major concern even in the public arena of your business. The way you conduct your affairs, the life of your commerce makes all the difference to today’s markets.

Are you a Whole Foods, a Walmart, a Waffle House, a Winery? You are distinguished by your brand and the lifestyle it supports. And the same applies even if you simply sell ice cream from a roadside stand.

So how can lifestyle be defined when it comes to business? Maybe we can understand it in terms of where the major focus lies. While we can assume profit is always paramount, our understanding of how to gain profit varies considerably.

Profit, for Whole Foods, may be achieved by setting a standard of quality; for Walmart, profit may be seen as a matter of quantity; for Waffle House, profit comes through predictability, while for a Winery, surprise or unpredictability will serve their bottom line the best.

It is possible and even desirable to create your enterprise from the ground up around a desired lifestyle. Defining this approach makes clear most of the choices you should make, from logo selections to products and services to customer relations.

  • For artists, their chosen ‘public lifestyle’ is usually content-driven. It’s all about the products of their creativity.
  • Professionals like doctors and lawyers carefully select the lifestyle they wish to cultivate, from emergency care to cosmetics.
  • Tradespeople serve a lifestyle of practicality and community.

Online, we find that what works best is a lifestyle of lead-nurturing. Or maybe a more humanist way of labeling it would be to say it’s a lifestyle of deepening friendships. 

When interfacing with the entire globe, a small business becomes far more concerned with qualifying leads than with collecting them. If your website, SEO, and social media are healthy and active, it’s far more important to address the right audience than it is to address a large audience. When the right audience is engaged, the challenge is to nurture them, to increase their interest and strengthen your bond with them.

For the entrepreneur, it’s not about constant expansion to reach ever larger markets online; it’s about constant cultivation of the markets you organically reach and continuously serve through your faithful and generous sharing.

Getting Started with Your Custom Website: 5 Steps

farm8Do you want to have an online presence for your small business? Inbound marketing on the internet starts with your website. When you have an established home base, you can expand from there into every nook and cranny of cyberspace, however your growth plan dictates.

Okay, you say, I’m ready to build a site. What do I do?

Whether you use a DIY tool to build your own site or you work with a site developer, start out on the right foot by clarifying your position in the following areas. [Read more…]

Blog vs. Facebook

Facebook vs.bloggingI built a website for a local brick-and-mortar business recently, and in the process asked if they would be including a blog.

We discussed the key benefits of blogging. My client asked, “So could I use what I’m posting on Facebook as blog posts?

It’s a valid question. For attracting the attention of a crowd, a blog post and a Facebook update may seem to be equally effective. However, they actually serve very different purposes.

There are millions and millions of blogs on the internet. But there are billions and billions of people on the planet. Online, bloggers are the business owners, the creators, the publishers, the ones who dare to take the lead. They are definitely in the minority, even though their number potentially includes every business owner alive (and anyone with a long term mission, come to think of it).

If you have a website, without some kind of blog you’ll have trouble attracting site traffic. This reality means that business owners who hope to use the internet for marketing must understand their role as creators on the web. You may be a plumber or a psychologist, but you’re also a leader. Today’s world requires that you share your leadership through web publishing. [Read more…]

Content is Collateral

Tyler.MeyerIf you’re having trouble understanding why the new standards in marketing require you to blog and post social media updates and pictures and all kinds of stuff about your daily business and life, this blog post may help. Because if you use the internet to market your small business, the first thing you learn is that content is collateral.

It’s almost like currency. Businesses used to market, purchasing attention with cash. Now we garner that attention through publishing. We used to count on advertisers to create clever slogans. There did not need to be a close relationship between your products and the slogans; you only needed the ads to be attractive in themselves. Many a corporation still uses these old methods (for instance, what does Geiko’s gecko have to do with a good insurance deal?)

But the internet introduced a different kind of marketing, one that’s closer to publishing than advertising. Online marketing counts on the value of a brand to be a deep well of useful information for the customer; and on the staff of an organization to share that information regularly. [Read more…]

Real Time Social Media Engagement

a guest post by Kate Edgar

open-houseWho’s engaged? When’s the last time you took the time to comment and connect on social media? Today? Yesterday? Recently at least?

Many are quick to speak their minds commenting on blog posts, but in the social circles on your platforms, are you engaged? If you can answer a wholehearted yes, then you win the Champion Social Engagement Award (would go on your wall if there was such an award, but alas…), and you might want to pass on the rest of this article. But for those who are shaking heads no, listen up.

What’s in a name? Social Media’s the name. Savvy engagement’s the game.

Begin with this visual: Say you decide to co-host an open house or two (social media platforms) with  some friends (connections, followers, customers, potential customers, etc.). You meet up in one place, or another (you’re found on several platforms)  and the loose hours at the open houses make it easy to get there kind of whenever you want to (hopping on to catch up, etc.). You and these friends decorate a bit (post something interesting or entertaining to the specific audience you’re addressing) to add ambience that enables a free flow of conversation, benefit, and enjoyment (comments, interaction) for those working the crowd.

Important to getting that flow going though is first, to go to the party with people who share your interests, ideas, and concerns; and second, who will have something to contribute to the conversations you bring. New topics get peppered in now and then and the open house gets buzzing as time goes on. People are engaged (they comment, like, follow, RT, share, +1, interact) in real time, while they’re there.

How much time do you have? No excuses here! Scheduling social media reply or comment time into each day or every other day or maybe just once a week, works for most. (You can sync and manage all of your social and email accounts to a single dashboard. Check out Social Media Examiner’s article here on some nifty apps for this.). The point of course is to find consistency and stick to it, just like posting your blog at regular intervals. Read, listen, pin, or watch the postings that reach you and then reach out in a conversational way, replying to the sender. Spark and keep healthy conversations going as best you can. Not everyone will reciprocate, but stay with it; persistence pays.

Your fans are waiting! Don’t disappoint them.

Please share. Also comment on this post with how you use creative strategies to engage on social media.

For another perspective please enjoy this article by Chris Abraham, so beautifully written.

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Kate Edgar owns  SupportingYourSuccess.com, a virtual administrative partner to small business owners and entrepreneurs, helping them realize better balance to grow their business. Paths to greater productivity and goals are opened, and the business owner finds valuable support they’ve been missing all along.  Great minds dream alike! Join Kate on Facebook!

What is an Opt-In and Why?

Brochures are precursors of opt-ins.I just returned from a long trip out of town. As always when traveling, I gathered a large pile of brochures, maps, flyers, and local newspapers. I love combing the racks at motels and Welcome Centers, culling the tastiest information and bringing it back to whatever room I currently occupy to peruse and plot my next adventures. These kinds of lures are taken for granted. Whether at the doctor’s office, the Chamber of Commerce, or the basket weavers’ convention, we expect to have access to free information. We need the descriptions, the images, the specifics; we want graphic details before we’re willing to buy. Printed brochures, premium items (like fans or pens with your company logo), fact or tip sheets and the like have been used for centuries in business. Today’s “opt-in” is the direct descendant of this familiar marketing tactic. However, the opt-in we have today actually improves on its forebears by doubling as a lead-generation device. While the venerable brochure fostered new clients, it did not provide that lead’s contact information. In contrast. a website opt-in is usually accessible only via a process that involves sharing at least your first name and email address. [Read more…]

The Creative Challenge of Inbound Marketing

knitting-irisContent marketing’s requirement that we continuously produce attractive new material is terrifying, to put it simply. How many of us have any experience at all in this kind of productivity? Even college students don’t write as much and as often. Even traditional advertising departments were usually not required to create something new every day.

The emphasis on content production exists because if it’s not relevant and helpful online, it’s a waste of pixels. Content is how we stay top-of-mind. It’s the medium, as much as display ads were the medium of marketing communications previously.

Producing content for your online branding must become part of your business lifestyle. In other words, we have to figure out how to meet the creative challenge of so much ongoing communication with our markets, and to meet it in ways that won’t be stressful. [Read more…]

How Permission Marketing Works

jbaker5The major driving force in inbound – or permission – marketing is relationships. We can even over-simplify a little and say that inbound marketing is presenting content that is created to attract a market and interest individuals in establishing a relationship with us.

Traditional outbound communications were like bees irritating us with their stings; inbound methods keep the bees at home, making honey that proves irresistibly attractive.

Advertising is banners that scream across the top of a webpage. Inbound marketing communications are blog posts on that same page, demonstrating the company’s personal understanding of the visitor’s life and interests. Note that while either of these vehicles might be successful in the short term, it’s the inbound approach that creates lifelong customers, precisely because a relationship has been established.

Once you have built a web home base, you turn to building your list. How do you tempt people to subscribe? It’s partly a matter of wooing them with your generosity, your amazing expertise, your entertaining charisma, or some other tool that is natural for you. But, as in any healthy relationship, it’s just not all about you. Winning someone’s heart involves being yourself and also clearly admiring the other for being their self.

It’s a love story. 

If you own a beauty parlor, you may talk about your new products or coloring solutions; but you’ll win clients’ hearts for good when you listen openly to them and offer custom advice. If you’re a lawyer, it’s not your previous triumphs that matter but your ability to convince the client that you understand their particular case. If you run a staffing agency, companies may think your ads are cute, but they’ll actually contract with you when they’re convinced you have the specific solution for their situation.

Just about anyone who has run a small business for some time will agree that the person-to-person connection is where business actually happens.

Developing your opt-in, your “freemium” or “Signature Promotional Giveaway” is an important part of this courtship between you and your market. The item or service is offered on your website for free in exchange for the visitor’s name and email address. You want to create some kind of benefit or download that is widely appealing to your target market. But on the other hand, something that has too wide an appeal will not be individually alluring. So the process is a long and careful journey of discovery as you home in on the kind of giveaway that will speak directly to the individual. It’s about getting to know your ideal customer. It’s about your relationship with them.

It takes a lot of time to develop relationships and to understand your customers deeply. But even more, it takes attention. The difference lies in where you focus. It no longer works to simply focus on selling; in the context of the web’s enormity, it’s necessary to focus on answering real needs and attending to individual voices.

Brands used to succeed by wearing a mask. If a company’s ads resonated they were successful; staff did not share the ongoing responsibility to enchant. Today, the internet won’t let us hide behind advertising. Brand is communicated through content creation and follow through. Leads are attracted and convert because you’ve built a relationship with them and they’ve come to depend on the value you add.

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Could you use some help devising an irresistible opt-in? We can brainstorm and advise you on creation options. Here’s the page!

When Do You Need a Custom Website?

Custom Websites from Small Business Online BrandingThe array of options available to anyone who wants to create a website is enormous. It is no wonder that small business people often drag their feet when it comes to setting up a solid web presence. Even a cursory glance at the possibilities is overwhelming. It seems obvious that a serious learning curve and a load of decision-making are involved. Who has time for all that, in addition to the already breakneck pace of living?

So allow me to over-simplify, in the interest of making things easier for the people who really count when it comes to building websites: the people who own the businesses behind them.

Web designers and developers thrive on having lots of options, but those who actually need websites are likely to fare better with just a few clear choices.

VERY generally speaking, you can build a site in one of four ways.*

1.  The simplest foundation is located in a WordPress.com or Google-account-related Blogger site. The hosting and templates come free, and some people have built impressively customized sites with these tools.

2.  Next step up would be a site created via an online app such as Weebly, Artisteer, or Homestead. The quality of these sites is absolutely professional, and there are hundreds of design options available. 

3.  Far more customizable is a WordPress.org site, an app that most hosting companies will offer as a free add-on.

4.  And at the top of the complexity and cost scales is a proprietary site built with a combination of codes and extras as required by big industry. Communications, sales, customer service, multiple managers and everything else about big business will generally require completely custom structures that can cost five or six figures to build.

* Please note: Each of these options has many additional examples. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list.

Again in general, there are three different features that distinguish these four types of website builders.

1. Hosting – i.e., the business of placing and maintaining your site on the web – is taken care of in #1 above, but must be arranged separately by you for the other three options. It’s drop-dead simple to register with a new host (this site is hosted by Bluehost.com, and I’m not ashamed to give them huge, unaffiliated kudos for their excellent service) so don’t let this detail scare you away.

2. Design – how your website looks, feels, and how it’s structured to hang together – is another key element. Options #1 and #2 above offer limited design options; #3 is far more flexible, and #4 is 110% customized.

3.  Support – the arrangement for ongoing guidance in using your website ranges from public forums for WordPress.com and Blogger users to in-house staff for the big corporations, and everything inbetween. As a small business, you may want a professional service provider to cover this base for you when needed. In options #2 and #3 above, even though you may manage to create the site on your own, having someone to keep it spiffy and attractive may be worth the investment.

There’s cookie-cutter, DIY, and custom high quality. Each appropriately applies to a certain stage of business. Does this help you see where you should start? Please let me know in the comments.

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If you’ve already concluded that custom WordPress is your thing, check out our services in that area!

Itty-biz Owners: Why Blog?

You may be surprised at these 5 Fundamentals of Blogging for Your Small Business Website

floeschieBlogging is generally thought of as a series of essays. To blog is to write, often. Which is all very well and good, but not the strong suit of many an entreprenuer.

Sometimes I wonder about the gurus who stridently proclaim that everyone must have a blog. Who is their idea of  ‘everyone?’ Do they mean every hair stylist, doctor, and courier service? If so, they are naive. Not everyone is capable of blogging. Unless …

Unless we take an alternative angle on what it is to blog. Let’s forget the idea that blogging is writing essays. Suppose you have no prior concept of blogging, and I describe it to you this way:

1. Websites are generally static. Your blog is the manner in which you show that you are alive and kicking. It’s sort of like calling your mother, though maybe we should think of it as something more positive, like checking in with your kid, perhaps. It’s sending out a signal, for no other more important reason than to send the signal, to demonstrate your status and connect. Since public memory is shorter than a crewcut, you have to blog consistently and often.

2. They say that enough monkeys playing around on typewriters for long enough will produce the works of Shakespeare. I doubt that, but it’s for sure if you blog faithfully over time, many aspects of your awareness and skill will be sharpened. How can you help but benefit from communicating with regularity about your objectives and experiences? Blogging not only shares your expertise; it also heightens it.

A side effect is the fabulous public relations benefits from being generous with your knowledge/discoveries. Do not underestimate the profits to be gained by demonstrating your willingness to share.

3. Lovers of gardens keep journals of their work. Travelers collect souveniers and photos. Parents compile scrapbooks and memoirs. These endeavors are motivated simply by love. Your blog, too, is best motivated by love. What? you ask. How can my legal-advice-for-the-shipping-industry-blog be motivated by love? Easy! Find what you love about your work, your clients, your daily routine, your colleagues, the weather, whatever. A major pre-requisite to successful blogging is selecting a subject that you love enough to stick with.

4. For some time now, education has tended to enhance our left-brain (analytical) thinking and neglect our right-brain (imaginative) thoughts. Because of this, it’s difficult for many people to be freely expressive. A worker-bee industrial world has little use for the individual’s take on things. But in the digital environment, you’re no-one unless and until you speak with authority. You build authority by proving trustworthiness. You prove trustworthiness by blogging.

5. Your blog is where you meet your friends and fans. It’s your front door, the park, the breakfast club at McDonald’s. What is your place in such a scenario? Let your blog reflect that.

Show your friendly self as truly as you can. Online branding is no more complicated than that.

 

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