Write Outside The Lines

There is no trick or secret to blogging for your business.  There’s no formula or magic keywords or tags that will make your business blog be the most searched source on the internet. But it isn’t hard to blog either if you got something to offer and something to share.  Normally, I would say practice till you get it right, but sometimes it’s best to hire a freelancer or someone with much more experience.  And if you’re not a strong writer, don’t know your voice yet, or don’t have the time — someone else can do it for you in the meantime, right?  But if you wanna take a crack at it, review all the rules you’ve heard before: blog at least once a week, blog consistently and spread the word around through your other social media platforms.  Sounds easy enough.  But don’t forget the add-ons — the extras that make a blog a bit better: include video, photos and links whenever you can and appropriately, share more information that can help your customer or client rather than yakking it up about how great your company is and include links to your website.

But just like the tech companies, out there, there are some rules you should break —

  • Blog inconsistently consistently — What does that mean?  I try to blog every week, up to 3 times a week.  But I don’t have select days of the week when I blog.  I blog when I have an idea, or the time to devote to an entry.  Being flexible without a set schedule also allows me to add information as I get it — event dates, the latest news or what have you.  Decide how many times a week you’d like to blog and then go from there.  Your time should dictate when you have an opportunity to blog and share, not the calendar.
  • Play with the titles.  You’ll hear copywriters discuss the importance of a good headline or tag… I say, have fun with it.  Personally, I love innuendos for titles.  There’s something about misdirecting the topic that I enjoy all too much.  A (sexual) innuendo is more likely to stop people long enough to skim the article you wrote than a straight forward boring title.
  • Trade shoes when you write.  Think of the person who you are writing this blog for.  Think about what they would to get out of it, think  from their point of view.  Then give it to them.  Be that irate customer who doesn’t understand why the store won’t take back his purchase after 31 days even though his receipt says no returns, refunds or exchanges after 30 days.  Give him solution or a loophole to working with businesses and people like yourself.
  • Vent.  Here is that opportunity to tell the world about the awful no-paying-on-time client that won’t stop calling you whenever they feel like it. Here is the chance to spill how you (and most likely every other business owner) feels about that annoying client.  You can say it all, get it off your chest, be brutally honest without ever saying their name.  Think of it as a form of therapy.  Whoo-sah!

Blogging is the content marketing your business is going to need to keep it’s edge in 2014.  Anybody with a laptop and internet can blog, which means anyone with a business too, should be blogging.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t write outside the lines when you do.

 

 

 

Handle Your Business

Handling Documents:

Backpacks, no.  Satchels, Messenger bags,or Attachés, yes.

Exchanging Information:

Scratch or loose paper, no.  Business cards, yes.

Connecting and Reaching Out:

Networking events, no.  Community and Volunteer Events, yes.

Video-Conferencing & Chatting:

Skype, no.  Google Hangouts, yes.

Taking Payments:

POS machines, no.  Square or Intuit, yes.

Marketing Your Brand:

Flyers and brochures, no.  Blogs, Social Media Outlets and Local Papers, yes.

Handle your business … correctly. 

Driving Traffic To Your Business Blog

I love it when I read articles that share “secrets” about how to gain more followers, become an influencer or expert in your industry or drive traffic to your website or business blog.  But have you noticed that all the secrets sound the same?  Like you’re getting the same information from every resource, every article or link — and none of really tells you how.  ‘Write compelling content’, ‘Ask questions’ and ‘Engage with everyone who writes, comments, follows’ or whatever.  Okay, check and check.  But nothing’s changed.  Now what?  Now you stop listening to the same stupid advice.

I’m more concern with driving traffic to my business blog because if people like what I have to say and share, they’ll find me and my business on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and wherever else I’m present.  But how do we drive to your business blog?  We gotta be stuck to social media like white on rice, but only for no more than an hour a day –everyday (until it can passively drive traffic on its own).

Good content will get noticed, but how does it get noticed?  YOU have to share it first.  Share it on your Google + profile, share on Facebook.  Join LinkedIn groups and share it there as a discussion topic.  Crawl up everything social media site you have time for (which hopefully not more than 10 sites unless you’re social media marketer, then that’s different) and get noticed.   If you’re asked to give a description, take a piece of the article or blog you’ve written and make that the description. Sites like BlogEngage, BizSugar and StumbleUpon are great for that.  It doesn’t require you to think up something new to say and gives the reader a piece of the blog enticing them to read further on.  When your blog hits your Facebook Page, share it from your Facebook page to your personal page.  Be proud of it.  You wrote it, own it.  And make sure to invite friends to like your Facebook page too.    On Twitter, share your link to your blog in conjunction with someone’s else that’s similar to your topic with their name in the tweet.  People like seeing their name mentioned and will retweet it.  Which means their followers will see your blog link too.  On BizSugar, go ahead and submit your blog or article.  Then turn around and comment on at least 5 other submitted blogs that are interesting to you.  You’ll notice that you’ll get some comments back and some views on your blog site as a result.

You can continue to listen to the same advice with the same empty gaps of information that leaves you confuse as to why how.  Or you can really do the leg work that will return results.  Understand you’re not going to get a 1,000 views right off the back (or hey, maybe you will, who knows), you have to build an audience that wants to return and read what you have.  And these are the best techniques to position your business blog to have that effect.

 

7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Be Using Google Products…

… at least, in their early stages while they’re building and establishing themselves.

  1. Gmail Account – It comes with EVERYTHING!  Now, We all know how more professional it looks to have an email address with your company website domain, but there’s no rule or law that says you can only have one business email.  I have contact@intelboutique.com (and a few others) as well as intelboutiquela@gmail.com.  It allows me to create a Google + profile, connect with others and promote my business blog. 
  2. Google + –  Speaking of it, Google + has rebounded and bounced back from unnecessary to useful.  Like any other social media platform, you have to find your audience and what drives them to read and engage on Google +, but once you do, you’ll find worth your while.   Nonetheless, it’s another tool brought to us by Google that can help businesses stand out and grow.
  3.  YouTube –  One of the best, if not the best ways, to promote your business is the use of videos.  Why?  Videos are watched, shared and commented on more than links, quotes and yes, content.  Maybe it’s our short attention span or that we’re bombarded with so much information that videos give us the right platform to digest data.  Whatever the reason, jump on it, it works!
  4. Hangout (formerly known as GChat) – This is perhaps my most favorite tool because, I am not a fan of Skype. Hangout/GChat is video conferencing and instant messaging all wrapped up in one.  You can hold video meetings with your team, you can voice text conversations and share links and videos.  Making virtual businesses easy to conduct .. well, business.
  5. Google Drive –  If you’re still sketchy about “The Cloud” Google Drive offers you a place to save your work, documents, presentations, client list, correspondences and whatever else is important to your business operations.  And what makes Google Drive a better, you can save it offline to your desktop.  Beautiful!
  6. Google Calendar – I live by my Google Calendar.  I upload every meeting, every task, invite others to shared events, set reminders in advance to remind me of due dates and deadlines.  And I get every update and notice sent to my phone and tablet.
  7. Maps – I travel to my clients in LA.  And although I grew up in LA, I don’t always know every side street, dead-end and little area or district.  If I feel like I’m not that familiar to where I’m headed, I pull out my phone, type in the address and let the voice guide directions be my GPS.  It hasn’t failed me yet.  Also, Google Maps tells me where other businesses, buildings and anything of importance to me and my businesses.

I don’t want to lead anyone thinking that Google is the be all to end all, but it does offer a host of very useful tools for newbies and seasoned business owners who need to do more with pocket change.    And who knows, you might find more uses with Google than you ever imagined.

Bring The Networking Opportunities To You

Networking is still intimidating for many of us.  No one wants to go up to a complete stranger, plaster a fake smile on their face and make introductions.  It’s awkward, it’s forced and by the end of it, we haven’t really ‘networked’.  Yeah, we might have collected a number of business cards, names and numbers, but we haven’t formed any real relationships with other professionals.  That part takes time.  And besides, networking events can be painful and a hassle (yet, we still go, right?) But wouldn’t it be easier if the people we wanted to touch base with and connect with came to us instead?  And not at some poorly thrown together event where we all have to wear sticker name tags?

Until we’ve gotten into the rhythm of formulating a strategy for networking, many of us don’t really know who we should network with.  We’ll go up to someone, do our little spiel, let them do theirs and walk away hoping we did good enough.  Ugh! How often have we done that?!  Instead, start small, start simple, start social.  As in, using social media.  It’s easier, takes the pressure off and gives us the advantage of doing a little research on the person and their company before we ever have to open our mouths.  One of the best places to practice social networking is on LinkedIn.  Because it’s simple.

  • Follow a person’s company page.  See what kind of updates they have, any links they share.  Google their website online.  Get interested in their business before you connect.  If they don’t have one, suggest, they start one.
  • If this person is consider a thought leader, follow their postings.  Comment on their postings.  Like and share their postings.  Make it a point to notice them and others they’re interacting with.  By doing so, someone is surely noticing you.
  • Share your company blog.  Don’t have a company blog? tsk, tsk! You already know you should have one.  And when you’ve loaded some posts onto it.  Share it as an update on your status.  Share it to groups you belong to on LinkedIn.
  • Don’t belong to any groups?  JOIN!  But don’t be one of those people who belong to like 37 groups!!!  How can they actively participate in all those group discussions, network effectively and have time left over to work in and on their business?  Not likely.  Pick… 4-5 groups.  Groups that matter to your business and industry.  No need for hyper-drive overkill here.
  • Take advantage of those offerings to connect with someone (LinkedIn gives you up to five people to connect with on the basic account outside your network).
  • Whenever you add someone new your network, immediately send them a message.  It’s doesn’t have to be a bio about yourself or a company overview.  Just a simple thank you for adding you and that you look forward to sharing ideas and connecting with them in the near future.  Appreciate everyone’s time and gesture.

Get engaged.  That is what networking comes down to, especially when it’s handled virtually.  No secret about how to do it, just get engaged.  Show others you’re someone worth knowing and they will come seek you out.   But, of course, you have to put yourself and your business out there.  In order for others to network with you, you gotta leave them some bread crumbs.

 

 

What Will You Do Differently in 2013?

What will you do differently this year?

How will this be a better year in business for you?

Will you network more?

Or will you build better relationships with the people already in your network?

Will you market more?  How will you market?

Will you finally give yourself that work life balance you desperately need?

Will you find time to relax?

Will you take a vacation and rejuvenate?

Will you grow the business or just maintain?

Will you seek investors or additional loans?

Will you hire employees?

Will you make yourself more available?

Will you blog for your business or create some sort of social media presence?

Will you over-think and worry?

Will you put off till the last-minute?

Will you outsource menial tasks while you run the business?

Will you ask for help when you need it?

Do you a support system to ask from?

By the end of the year, will your efforts be worth it?

Blog Topics For Your Business Are Easier to Find Than You Think

 I love online small business forum and bookmarking sites.  If you have the time, they are wonderful sources of information.  Other small business owners share their knowledge and expertise related to their respective field and this in turn help aspiring and new small business owners tweak and fine tune their operations.  Yet, there’s one element where small businesses  (especially really small businesses, like micro-businesses) struggle with in the social media outlet, “le blog”. 

You’ll find many sympathizers who will understand how difficult–challenging blogging can be.  Especially in the early stages.  No matter how gun ho someone might be about tackling this blogging world, ideas aren’t always easy to come by and many times are done over and over and over again (heck, even this one).  It all depends how on the writer ( slash business owner) is able to spin the topic and give it a fresh outlook.  But where do you find the ideas to even begin the process?  For starters, drop the cliques.  Don’t let anyone insult your intelligence by saying how you’ve got to think outside the box and let your creative juices flow.  What box?!  Is there an expiration date on those juices?  Despite the ambiguity, ideas for your business blog topics are everywhere else.  Literally.

The best business topics come from 3 sources: (1) Real experiences from your business (if you’ve been up and running for a while)  (2) Conversations you have  and (3) Observations you’ve made.  Just to be a little bit in everyone’s face, if you cannot find topics to blog about, your ears and eyes aren’t open.  Every time you speak with a prospect or current client/customer, there’s a topic right there. Just don’t drop any names or else you might be in hot water (at least, not without their expressed written permission).  Do you have friends or colleagues who are also business owners?  Blog topics are hidden there as well.  What about your experiences working with vendors?  Or, as a customer of another organization or company?  Why is that company a good fit for small business owners?  – TOPIC!  Why is it not a good company to do business with?  – TOPIC! How about when you’re driving around and you see a for sale sign on a vacant building or an empty lot.  Maybe you can move your business there and expand it.  It’s a great neighborhood, plenty of residential properties nearby, heavy foot traffic – TOPIC! 

So before you get dismayed with finding topics to write for your blog, just start taking notice of things you do everyday and the people you come in contact with. The little things that you do can be an inspiration for what you share.  There are hidden gems everywhere for you to write about, you just have to look around.