Tuesday, December 30, 2008
1) Facebook: Create a profile, invite colleagues and clients to join, and make regular posts and updates. This tool is easy to setup and use and is much more professional than sites like MySpace.
2) Twitter: If you are a fan of Facebook, you'll love Twitter where you can post frequent but brief "tweets" that will automatically be sent to your list of followers.
3) Blogging: Create a free blog to reach out to prospective clients. Add blogs 2 - 3 times per week. Make them interesting and visually appealing.
4) Biznik: I love this fun networking site which not only promotes online networking but face-to-face networking as well - a nice change of pace!
5) Linked In: This professional networking site is a great way to connect with colleagues. In particular, I love the Q&A section where you can get and give free advice. It's a wonderful brainstorming tool.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
In marketing, I've seen only one strategy that can't miss -- and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second and the rest of the world last.
- John Romero
Monday, December 22, 2008
1) Add a special offer or call to action to your e-mail signature. For example: "Ask me about my December marketing special." "Our new widgets are flying off the shelves. Reserve yours today!" "Sign up for my e-mail newsletter and I'll send you my free report on Top 10 Ways to Promote Your Business Under $50." "There's still time to shop for Christmas. Stop in today!"
2) Add the same offer to your voice mail message. Make it short and sweet, so your message doesn't drag on for too long.
3) Volunteer for your favorite nonprofit, school or church. You will feel good about serving your community, make new friends and potential business contacts.
4) Offer to speak at an upcoming meeting or event, or teach a workshop or seminar for free. This is a great way to showcase yourself and to leave a lasting impression.
5) Create a free blog to share your insight and expertise. People love getting things for free, and you can position yourself as an expert.
Do you have a favorite free marketing idea to share? If so, post as a comment or e-mail it to me and I'll post.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
To keep those priceless referrals coming, I do the following:
1) I ask each prospect how they found out about me (web, referral, business directory, etc.), so I know where to concentrate my marketing efforts.
2) I personally thank each person who gives me a referral. Sometimes it is a handwritten thank you note or a personal phone call, and other times I give the referrer a gift or gift card, or treat them to lunch, to thank them for thinking of me.
3) To encourage referrals from my existing clients, I include a referral offer in my business agreement. In exchange for every referral who hires me, I'll give two free hours of my services to that client. This provides them with a tangible, quantifiable reason to refer me to others.
4) I refer my favorite professionals (graphic designers, editors, printers, etc.) to colleagues, so they know I'm looking out for their businesses too. Because I often partner with referral sources on projects, these referrals benefit me as well. I refer professionals who are good at what they do and whom I enjoy working with.
What can you do to grow your referrals today?
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
If you'd like your business card to scream "save me," follow these tips.
1) Have your card professionally created by a graphic designer. It may cost a few bucks up front but, once complete, the design is yours to keep and reuse over and over.
2) Ensure that your card's design flows with your brand in terms of look and feel including fonts, logos, colors and messaging. If you aren't sure where to begin, take out a stack of business cards you've collected and lay them face up in front of you. Which cards do you notice first? Why? Jot down the things you like and discuss them with your graphic designer. She can use that information to design a card that's perfect for you and your business.
3) Include useful information on the back of your card to make sure people use it and remember you. If you're a stylist and nutritionist, for example, turn it into an appointment card. If you're a real estate agent, include home buying tips, home selling tips, key local numbers (utilities, government, schools, emergency) or a referral offer. Another useful option is to list your products or services on the back of your card.
4) Go for a clean, uncluttered design. I've seen business cards that were so crammed with contact information that it was difficult to read the tiny print. Others included every professional designation the person had. Stick to the basics: your company name, logo, marketing tagline and primary contact information. If you want to include your designations, include only those that will be easily recognizable to your clients or put them on the back of the card.
5) Consider upgrading your card stock or adding a glossy finish to your card. These little touches can make your card pop. My card is made from normal stock but it has a nice glossy finish which makes the card stand out among others, and it feels nice to the touch. People often comment on how great my cards look. If that's their first impression of me and my business, I've already succeeded in getting their attention.
The next time you have business cards made, follow these tips and you'll be thrilled with the results. Go out and make a splash with your new world-class business card!
Monday, December 15, 2008
This is also a great time to look at your marketing plan and time line for 2009. What activities will you do regularly? weekly? monthly? quarterly? semiannually? annually? as needed? Try to schedule them for specific times of the month, so they are fairly consistent. Here's a quick example of what your January marketing plan might look like:
Week #1: 1/4 page ad in local community newspaper (biweekly)
Week #1: Post timely blog (2 per week)
Week #2: Monthly e-mail marketing (monthly)
Week #2: Post timely blog (2 per week)
Week #3: Press release announcing a key hire or business anniversary (as needed)
Week #3: Post timely blog (2 per week)
Week #3: 1/4 page ad in local community newspaper (biweekly)
Week #3: Review e-mail marketing stats for open rate and click-through rate (monthly)
Week #4: Networking meeting at Chamber of Commerce or other group (monthly)
Week #4: Post timely blog (2 per week)
Week #4: Check website and blog traffic for the month. Note any changes. (monthly)
Creating such a plan helps you to more effectively schedule your time, and it ensures that your marketing efforts are consistent. Only when you do this can you accurately measure your results to see what is working and what isn't. Happy Planning!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
1) Send personalized holiday cards between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. I go with a generic message such as Happy Holidays or Season's Greetings so they are all purpose, but I always sign each card personally and include a note thanking the client or vendor for working with me this year.
2) Send a gift of appreciation. I buy my ongoing and larger clients a small gift at Christmas - a nice pen & pencil set, a box of chocolates, a gift basket from Harry & David, or something else that I know that client would enjoy. For example, I have one client who prefers natural and organic products, so my gift to her will reflect that preference. For those who are far away, I ship the gifts. If they are local, however, I deliver the gift personally.
3) Make a donation on their behalf. This year because so many charities are struggling, I will make a toy or food donation on behalf of some of my clients. I know my clients will appreciate the gesture, and with so many people in need, this is a way for me to stretch my donation dollars too. To make the donation more personal, contact the client by phone or e-mail and ask for the name of their favorite nonprofit organization and make a donation to that charity in the client's name. Follow-up with a card noting the donation.
4) Present a homemade gift of cookies, chocolates or other gourmet treats that they can share. This is particularly nice if you do business with a group of people from one company.
5) Buy a gift card. If you know a particular client loves Starbucks or a local coffee shop or espresso stand like Kelly Latte's or Kona Kai (Kent, WA), buy a gift card in whatever amount you deem suitable. This way your client will think of you the next few times he or she purchases their favorite latte or mocha!
6) Offer free products or services as a thank you. If you aren't in a position this year to purchase gifts for your clients, consider offering them free products or services. Send them a gift certificate or coupon noting the freebie (Good for one free hour of marketing consultation to be used as you wish by May 1, 2009) along with a card thanking them for doing business with you.
7) Treat your client to lunch for a year-end wrap-up meeting, complimentary consultation or just to say thanks. If you space these out throughout the holiday season, this can be an affordable way to say thank you while also creating the opportunity to generate more business.
However you choose to remember your clients this holiday season, make sure the focus is on the client, not on you. Let them know you appreciate their business and hope to continue the relationship into the New Year.
Happy Holidays from the Virtually Yourz team - Dana, Gail & DeAnn!
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Marketing is not an event, but a process . . . It has a beginning, a middle, but never an end, for it is a process. You improve it, perfect it, change it, even pause it.
But you never stop it completely.
- Jay Conrad Levinson
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Mistake #1: Not having the right mindset
Mistake #2: Not having a strategy
Mistake #3: Not having patience
To read the full article as posted on Biznik, click here.
Friday, November 28, 2008
E-mail marketing is growing in popularity for two main reasons: (1) business owners need affordable opportunities to market their products and services to prospective customers, and (2) prospective customers are more often surfing the Web to find the products and services they want and need. As more and more companies use e-newsletters, or e-zines, to market to their target audience, however, we find our Inboxes filled each morning and we have to sift through those that we want to read now, will read later or will simply delete. To make sure that your e-zine gets opened now and read, follow these newsletter success secrets:
- Keep it short and sweet. Whether you insert outside content or write your own, offer one or two main ideas with each issue. If you offer too much content, it is likely to be ignored.
- Add interesting tidbits, quotes or “how to” tips for the reader who skims.
- If you including lengthy articles in your newsletter, abbreviate them to one or two paragraphs and then link to the full article on your website. This not only keeps your newsletter brief, but it leads the reader to your website…where you can track the pages they visit.
- Tailor your newsletter to your readers by asking them for feedback. What do they like, dislike, want to read about, etc.? What topics are important to them? What problems do they have that you can help solve?
- Create an interactive newsletter that includes questions, polls, surveys or asks for specific feedback. By engaging the reader, you are more likely to turn him or her into a site visitor and possibly a client.
- Your last paragraph should include a call to action or an offer to initiate a call or an e-mail request.
- Brand your newsletter so that it matches your other marketing materials. Include your logo, company colors and perhaps your photo.
- Make it visually appealing. Include photos, clip art, charts, graphs or other visual elements that complement the content.
- Choose an e-mail newsletter service that allows you design flexibility that is easily readable by multiple e-mail programs (Outlook, Eudora, Thunderbird, etc.).
- Make subscribing to your newsletter easy…and free.
- Provide “jump to” links in the top of the newsletter so readers can go right to the article or idea that most interests them.
- Send your newsletter at regular intervals—weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly— rather than sporadically. This is the best way to ensure that readers (aka prospective clients) remember you and look forward to getting your e-zine.
- Use an e-mail newsletter service that automatically creates an archive for your newsletters. This creates a history for you, but also for website visitors who might want to read past issues.
- Choose an e-mail newsletter service (e.g., Constant Contact, Your Mailing List Provider) that tracks user statistics and tells you who opened your newsletter and which links they clicked on. You can use this information to tailor future newsletters to your readers.
If you're unsure about any of these elements, consider the e-mail newsletters that you enjoy reading. What do you like about them? What makes them stand out? Why are you reading them? Jot down some notes about the elements that impress you and consider borrowing those ideas for your next newsletter!
Copyright © 2008 by Dana E. Blozis. All rights reserved.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
People don't want to be "marketed TO"; they want to be "communicated WITH."
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Working with small businesses and nonprofits, I am often asked for advice on writing a press release that is sure to get picked up by worthy media outlets. For those new to writing press releases, here are 10 quick tips to ensure your success:
Tip #1 – Your press release must be newsworthy. You can’t write a press release to say how great your company is without having a reason for saying so. OK, that’s not entirely true. You can write a press release saying "ABC Company is the BEST widget maker in the world." However, news outlets won’t listen. However, if you say "ABC Company was recently awarded a million dollar contract by the U.S. Government to make widgets," the media is much more likely to pick up your story.
Tip #2 – The first paragraph of your press release should summarize your news factually and succinctly. Leave out the modifiers like biggest, best, most sought after, etc. Keep it short and to the point. Details can be added in subsequent paragraphs.
Tip #3 – Dress up your press release with a pertinent quote from a company official or an industry expert. This not only adds credibility to the press release, but it is more interesting to read. It also provides media outlets with an additional contact name for further information.
Tip #4 – The end of your press release should always contain a brief – no more than two or three sentences – about your company. Here’s an example: "ABC Company was founded by widget maker Tom Jones after he retired from Widget University in 1999. The company has grown exponentially since its early days, adding commercial and industrial to its line of widgets last year. For more information about ABC Company, please visit the company’s Web site at www.abccompany.com or call 888-555-1212."
Tip #5 – Be sure to include contact information (name, phone number, e-mail address and Web site). While some people prefer to include this at the beginning of the press release, it is becoming more popular to include this information at the end of the press release. Regardless of where you choose to include it, make sure it is easy to find.
In addition to writing a press release that will get noticed, it is also important to know to whom to send it.
Tip #6 – Choose your audience based on the anticipated level of interest. For example, if you are announcing quarterly earnings for an international company, your press release should go to as many media outlets as possible. However, if you are discussing a local event in your press release, concentrate your efforts on the local print, radio and TV media.
Tip #7 – If your audience is on the edge of another market, distribute it to both markets but change it slightly to make it more suitable to the second market. For example, I recently distributed a press release to the primary market of Whatcom and Skagit Counties (Washington) with the title "Local Businesses Help Kick Multiple Sclerosis." To make this newsworthy to the two counties to the south, I changed the heading to "Northwestern Businesses Help Kick Multiple Sclerosis." This slight adjustment increased the likelihood that other markets would pick up the story.
Tip #8 – The Internet has become an incredibly useful tool for instantly distributing news at a low cost. My favorites are PRWeb.com and PRLog.com, although I have also used Free-Press-Release.com and 1888PressRelease.com. I love that these sites are inexpensive, easy to use, and they track statistics on each press release so you know how many times it has been read, forwarded, printed, etc.
Tip #9 – Press releases can also be distributed in press kits. Normally sent to the media to announce new products or significant business changes, press kits are handy tools to share your company’s message consistently and inexpensively to a variety of media. Each press kit should, of course, include a press release of some kind.
Tip #10 – For companies who have a press or media page on their Web sites, this is a great spot to include press releases. This not only increases a company’s key words, but it provides an easy place for customers and the media to find updates. When distributing a press release, be sure to post it on your Web site.
While you can’t control when or if a given media outlet will carry your press release or do a follow-up story on your news, following the above tips can improve your odds.
Copyright (c) Dana E. Blozis, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Local Marketing Company – Virtually Yourz – Expands, Hires Two Writers
Kent, Washington, November 17, 2008 – Dana Blozis, owner of Virtually Yourz, announced today that she has expanded her company, adding two local writers, DeAnn Rossetti and Gail Schaar, to her staff. Rossetti and Schaar will assist Blozis in providing writing, editing and marketing services to Virtually Yourz clients.
Rossetti, an award-winning freelance writer and reporter based in Maple Valley, has more than 20 years of writing experience. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in drama/speech and history and a Master’s degree in writing. In addition to working for Virtually Yourz, Rossetti writes book reviews, feature stories, business articles and more for local and online publications.
Formerly with the Kent Chamber of Commerce, Schaar has a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications and advertising from Washington State University. She has a wide range of public relations, marketing and advertising experience and has won two awards from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. Schaar’s specialty is events promotion.
“Since moving to Kent in 2005, my business has grown beyond my expectations. After repeatedly turning down business, I knew it was time to hire additional writers,” Blozis said. “I’m thrilled to have DeAnn and Gail on my team. They bring a unique mix of professionalism and creativity to Virtually Yourz that further enhances the services we provide to our clients.”
With a degree in business administration, Dana Blozis started Virtually Yourz in 2004, after a 20-year career in the financial services industry. Specializing in small business marketing and public relations, Virtually Yourz provides writing, editing and marketing services to corporate clients, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. In addition to running Virtually Yourz, Blozis writes for publications including Seattle Business, Seattle Metropolitan, South Sound magazine, Computer Source, The Seattle Times, Kent magazine, Renton magazine and more. She also serves as the president of the Western Washington Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
For more information about Virtually Yourz, contact Dana Blozis at 360-920-1737 or visit the company’s website at www.VirtuallyYourz.com.
For more information, please contact:
Dana Blozis, Owner
When I started my business five years ago, I had enthusiasm and passion for my work, but a very small marketing budget. I also lacked a marketing plan for getting my message out to my target customer. I have learned a lot along the way and hope to impart what I’ve learned to you. Whether you just started your small business or are in your tenth year, there are some simple, affordable ways to keep your name in front of prospective clients and customers.
News releases. I recommend to clients that they distribute three to four news releases (better known as press releases) each year. This gives clients an opportunity to shout news out to the world about new products, services or partnerships; key hires; industry awards and certifications; new locations; events and more. News releases should be distributed on a timely basis to local media, trade publications and online. In addition, a well-crafted news release makes a great direct mail piece or a nice addition to your sales or media kit. Depending on whether you do the writing and distribution yourself, costs are variable. Distribution costs will also vary. Distribution via e-mail or fax is virtually nothing. Online distribution varies. Many news distribution sites are free, but I like to include a contribution to PRWeb.com to guarantee inclusion in popular search engines.
Online forums and networking sites. As social media continues to grow, relevant online forums and networking groups (e.g., Linked In, Biznik, Facebook, Twitter, Connexions, Konnects) are a great way to interact with professionals and prospective clients. By actively participating in Q&A forums, you expand your reach. To take full advantage of these free opportunities, make sure you complete your online bio; include your contact information and web address; and participate regularly. Such participation can also help to position you as an industry expert.
Referral program. About half of my business comes from client referrals. To let clients know I appreciate their referrals and to encourage them to keep sending them to me, I include my referral program in my business agreement. In exchange for a prospect who does business with me, I offer the referring client two complimentary hours of writing, editing or marketing services. Aside from my time, this costs me nothing and benefits both my clients and my business.
Newsletter. There are so many affordable e-mail services these days that sending an e-newsletter to prospective clients is a no brainer. The service I use costs about $5 per month, and it not only maintains my e-mail lists for me, but it provides templates and tracks reader stats. Clients can opt-in, unsubscribe or change their e-mail address at any time. This is an inexpensive way to stay in touch with clients and prospects.
The next question, of course, is how and when to implement the above. I recommend pulling out your calendar and scheduling time for marketing and business development. Schedule a news release for each quarter, or at least three times a year. For online forums and networking sites, set aside a certain amount of time each week to participate. A referral program requires a little bit of set-up time and a notification to clients of the new program, but aside from that, it doesn’t require much time. For your newsletter, I recommend sending them to clients at regular intervals. If you can’t manage biweekly or monthly, at least put together a newsletter on a quarterly basis. Save ideas in a folder so they are all in one spot when you’re ready to get started.
Try these ideas for at least six months and watch your business grow and, if you find that one method works better than the others, focus your efforts in that category. Enjoy your new affordable marketing solutions!
Copyright © Dana E. Blozis 2007-2008.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Regardless, the written word is a necessary part of our daily lives, particularly in a world that has become less face-to-face and more virtual. We communicate not only through the Web but through our e-mail communications, instant messengers and online chat. As a result, the words and images we use must be carefully chosen to not only convey our meaning but our tone as well.
Here are some tips to help you put your best foot forward in your online communications:
• “Internet speak” (LOL, b4, np, ty, etc.) is fine for casual communications with friends, but it should not be used on your company Web site or in any other professional communications. Words should not have to be deciphered to be understood. Save the LOL, BTW, and CYL for text messaging your kids.
• Always use appropriate punctuation and grammar – these tried and true rules will never go out of style. Need a refresher course? Pick up a resource guide the next time you visit Amazon.com or your local bookstore. I like Punctuation Simplified and Applied by Geraldine Woods (Webster’s New World, 2006).
• For those who didn’t get the memo yet, PLEASE don’t use ALL CAPS to convey a message. This is akin to shouting in the online world.
• Befriend the “spell check” tool and buy a good dictionary and thesaurus. Spelling errors create the perception that a person is too busy to proofread his own work or to pay attention to little details.
• To present content that is easily understood, write in clear, simple language. The benchmark is to write for an audience of 10th graders.
• When possible, add descriptive modifiers (i.e., adjectives) to convey degree and tone. Compare these two ideas: 1) “With our experience, our Web design team can create Web pages quickly.” 2) With more than 50 years of combined Web design experience, our creative team can develop an attractive, functional page design within 72 hours.” Sentence 2 shares the same idea, but is much clearer.
• Always proofread and edit your work to be sure it is error free and easily understood. For larger projects with a long-term impact, like Web copy, consider hiring a professional writer or editor to be sure your story gets told in a way that adequately shares the value of your company with others.
By following these basic guidelines, you can ensure that you communicate clearly and professionally - online and off - with your customers and prospective clients.
Copyright © Dana E. Blozis 2006-2008.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
To learn more about your target customer, visualize the group you want to reach out to and learn more about that group. Where do they shop? What magazines and newspapers do they read? Do they shop online? Is your target customer male or female? married or single? parent or nonparent? These types of things will help you to get a better feel for who your customer is and offer some insight as to where you might be able to reach that customer. For example, if you know your customers have children, you might target a parenting magazine for advertising versus a community newspaper who hits part of that demographic but not all of it. You might also consider adding a children's corner to your store to make it easier for families to bring their kids shopping with them.
Once you define your target market, reach out to those customers and continue to research and tweak your demographics. The better you understand your customer, the more effective your marketing will be. Happy marketing!
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Then, add e-mail marketing to your marketing plan, and send out regular e-mails to your customers. This can be weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly or whatever frequency works for you. The key is to send something memorable or useful and to send it regularly. At the same time, make sure you give your customer the opportunity to update his or her e-mail address or to opt out if they don't want to receive e-mails from you any more.
Monthly coupons or promotions
Creative ways to use a product or service you offer
Promote events or company news
Holiday or gift-giving reminders or ideas
Utilizing e-mail marketing is an easy-to-use, affordable way to get in front your target customers. Need more ideas or help getting started? Please e-mail me. I can help!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
One way to improve the chances that your newsletter is actually seen by human eyeballs is to ask your customers to opt-in or even double opt-in to receive your messages. Single opt-in policies ask subscribers for permission to send email communication to a particular email address.
In the double opt-in scenario, you are not only asking for permission, but also confirmation that the email address in question does wish to receive email from a certain company. For example, you visit a company’s website and give them permission by subscribing to a newsletter. Shortly thereafter, the given email address receives a brief message asking the subscriber to again confirm their desire to receive emails. After permission has been confirmed this second time, the company will begin sending emails.
Yes, asking customers to opt-in will take more time. However, your chances of escaping the spam filter and arriving shiny and new in the inbox will improve greatly.
For more information on email marketing policies from two companies who should know, ExactTarget and Constant Contact, visit the following pages.
ExactTarget: Email Marketing CAN-SPAM Compliance
Constant Contact: Confirmed Opt-In Guide
Sunday, October 26, 2008
I had several friends invite me to join Facebook, but I assumed it was like MySpace and never took the time to investigate it. However, after viewing their pages, I created my own Facebook profile. From viewing the profiles of people I know, the site seems fairly tame. The layout, as far as I can tell, is pretty much the same though you can tailor some features to meet your needs. Like other networking sites, you can add your photo, list your profile, show your friends, join groups and talk about what you are currently working on. While most of my connections are work-related, I don't see a lot of business use for this site other than to stay more casually connected with my far-flung business contacts.
I would caution Facebook users to remember that prospective employers and others interested in you (e.g., ex-husbands, etc.) have been known to use Facebook to learn more about your personal life, so don't write anything in your profile or on your Facebook wall that you don't want the rest of the world to know.
On the flip side, people who aren't members can't view profiles, but once you're in, you can see just about everything unless you have blocked specific users or have opted for a private profile. From a parenting perspective, I'd be much more likely to let my technologically-curious teen daughter create a Facebook page than one on MySpace.
I'll be honest about this site. I hate it. I absolutely hate it. It is loud, trashy and, in many instances, inappropriate for teen use or for business. I know people who have business profiles on MySpace but I can tell you that I, for one, will never view them. I have always had a hang up about MySpace because of all of the Dateline stories about sexual predators on the site, but after giving it a chance, I still don't like it. The site has a whole section on privacy, keeping your kids safe, etc., but it doesn't prevent anyone from surfing the site and seeing what's out there.
I'm a big proponent of freedom of speech, so I respect the right of users to express themselves freely and to design their pages to suit their own tastes, but I don't see how it would benefit businesses unless they cater to younger audiences. My advice: proceed at your own risk.
I'd love to hear what other businesses think about the two sites. Please send me your comments.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
We’ve all seen those fish bowls sitting in the front of restaurants and shops asking for your business card in return for a chance at winning a prize. Giving away a prize is minimal compared to what that business is gaining: an inside look at their customers. Most business cards contain enough information that one can ascertain the industry, skill level, location, and sometimes even the education level of that customer.
After sifting through all those business cards, one might discover that a large segment of their customers are coming from people at a professional building one block away. The business owner may then target a different professional building two blocks away, trying to entice those customers to try out their business. You can also use those business cards to create a postal mail list or an e-mail marketing list using a service like Your Mailing List Provider or Constant Contact.
For more easy, do-it-yourself tips, check back often. I update the site several times a week!
Friday, October 17, 2008
1) Copywriters, whether in-house or independent, are notoriously bad at proofing their own work, myself included. Have someone else proofread the copy at each stage to ensure that you catch every mistake.
2) In line with the first tip, make sure that you proofread and approve the final copy before it goes to press. Once you’ve misspelled your company name on 1000 business cards, it is costly to have them redone.
3) Use spell-check. I know it isn’t perfect (it will think her is spelled correctly, even if you meant here) but it will notice if you’ve left the R out of Christmas.
4) Invest in a good dictionary, thesaurus, grammar guide and a style guide suitable to your industry. For newspapers, for example, the Associated Press Stylebook reigns supreme. Other folks use the Chicago Manual of Style, APA or an in-house guide. These resources will provide you with answers on everything from capitalization and abbreviation to serial commas and the use of foreign words.
5) Not sure where to turn? Consult a local writer’s or editor’s group to have a proofreader or copyeditor on call for large projects. It might cost you a little cash up front, but it will save you time and money in the long run!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Instead of posting a photo album of your activities last Friday night, you are asked to provide the details of your education, career, and areas of expertise. The next step is to make connections with the people you already know in real life. The program has the capability to, with your permission, search your Outlook or web-based contact list looking for LinkedIn participants that you already know. Now here’s where it gets interesting: you can see the names and company names of every person connected to your colleagues. If you have been trying to do business with a certain company, but cannot find a way in, this allows you to ask for a warm introduction from someone already on the inside: your colleague.
As is the case with most online networking sites, or for that matter most in-person networking events, you get out of it what you put into it. In other words, if you take the time to create a quality, detailed profile and make an effort to make connections, you will gain more business traction from the site. And if you use the site regularly, your own name and company may rank higher in the results of online searches.
To set up a basic LinkedIn account at no charge, visit www.linkedin.com. To view a sample profile, check out mine here.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
1) Read the news headlines on MSN and local newspaper websites once in the morning.
2) I watch one local news program each day, usually the 11 p.m. news.
3) I read my e-mail and return phone calls in blocks.
4) I delete e-mail forwards, chain letters and calls for political action without reading them.
5) I save my blog, magazine and social networking reading for the weekends when I’m less likely to be on overload.
It is sometimes hard to segment my days like this, but this system – though not foolproof – allows me to work in large blocks of time without being interrupted by the latest political, financial or celebrity scandal while staying on top of current issues of the day.
How do you compartmentalize your time to avoid the crush of news and information each day? I’d love to hear your ideas!
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
This goes against everything my parents taught me: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.
While it may be naive of me to think this is possible in today's world of cut-throat politics, I'd much prefer to hear the candidates stand on their own records and merits than to win as the lesser of two evils. The insult-slinging has taken us to a new low, where Jerry Springer-like behavior is acceptable in every arena and no one has to take responsibility for their words any more.
The same is true in business. Talk about your own successes, your own philosophies and the positives you bring to the table. If you're all that you say you are, you don't need to belittle or berate the competition to rise above them. You're true character will speak for itself.
P.S. - Wake me up when it's over...
Monday, October 6, 2008
1) Ensure that your timing is ideal. Magazines plan months in advance, so ask for an editorial calendar so you can plan your ad(s) for the right time.
2) Magazines tend to display higher quality ads than the black & white ads most newspapers display. Make sure you have a top quality ad with a great headline and compelling copy to grab your readers' attention.
3) Focus on telling your readers how they'll benefit from your product or service, rather than listing features.
To choose the right magazine to advertise your business in, contact relevant magazines in your market and ask for a media kit. The media kit will include a rate card (i.e., pricing) as well as demographics and, most likely, an editorial calendar.
To your success,
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Today I stumbled on this gem from Constant Contact: How To Get More Opens & Clicks by Gina Watkins. She gives some great advice on how to get your e-mail marketing messages opened and clicked on. Read her tips on how to write a killer subject line to be sure your e-mails are read!
Read it here:
Bright Path to Success for Local Women
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Learn about recordkeeping for small business/self-employed individuals:
- What books and records are
- Why books and records are needed
- Who should have books and records
- How good books and records can shorten an audit
- How long books and records should be kept
Note: Time zones shown are Daylight Saving Time.
CONFERENCE ACCESS CODE
393508 - 10:00 a.m. (EDT); 9:00 a.m. (CDT); 8:00 a.m. (MDT); 7:00 a.m. (PDT)
125274 - 1:00 p.m. (EDT); 12:00 p.m. (CDT); 11:00 a.m. (MDT); 10:00 a.m. (PDT)
725297 - 4:00 p.m. (EDT); 3:00 p.m. (CDT); 2:00 p.m. (MDT); 1:00 p.m. (PDT)
Register at the AT&T TeleConference Services Web site (www.attevent.com) by October 17, 2008. Reservations are limited, so register at the earliest date possible. You will receive a Personal Identification Number that you must use to join the conference. If you have never registered with AT&T for a prior phone forum, you will first need to click on create a profile.
If you require special accommodations (for example, Braille, large print or interpreter services) please contact Shane Ferguson at email@example.com. We will e-mail presentation materials on October 20, 2008. If you do not receive this e-mail by noon on October 21, 2008, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request the materials. A question and answer period will follow the presentation. However, due to the public nature of the call, we will not be able to address specific client issues.
Click here for more info.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Fortunately, however, I have recently had so much business (yeah!) that I've had to hire someone to help me with research, editing and writing tasks. It was a tough call to make, as well as an unexpected investment, but it has allowed me to take on more new clients and to continue meeting deadlines. Here are my tips on how you might delegate more in your business:
1) Make a list of tasks that absolutely MUST be done by you, as well as a list of tasks that you might delegate (bookkeeping, appointment setting, filing, shredding, marketing, etc.).
2) Make a list of people who might be able to assist with the duties you might delegate. For example, do you know someone who does bookkeeping or who has a virtual assistant? If so, start there.
3) Talk preliminarily with those people to see what their availability and rates are. Can you afford them? Are they available when you need them? If you aren't sure if you can afford an assistant or to outsource your work, consider what you'll lose if you don't - clients? time? sanity?
And think of what you'll gain by sharing some of your growing workload - clients? time? sanity? Win, win!
4) Interview several people and see which of them match or complement your working style. Choose the one that seems to be the best fit.
5) Once you make your selection(s), try a test project to test the waters. Explain each project clearly, provide the necessary information or tools to do the job, state a clear deadline and how and when you will pay for the work. After the project is complete, evaluate the quality, timeliness and ease of working with the person. If each item is rated an A+, hire away! If not, keep looking.
Friday, September 26, 2008
On a quarterly basis - or more often if needed - put together "recruitment packets" to tell prospective clients more about what you do. Include a business card, bio sheet and menu of services along with any brochures or other printed material you have on hand.
I like to put mine in a simple colored folder that matches my logo and has space for a business card. I stock up on my favorite color - red - during back-to-school sales. That way I can get the best price, and I can find plenty of folders that match by business cards!
By putting together these packets ahead of time, you'll be ready on the fly if you have a last minute meeting or function to attend!
Monday, September 22, 2008
Monday - Client and prospect follow-up
Tuesday - Networking, new blog post
Wednesday - E-mail marketing (newsletter, promos, coupons, etc.)
Thursday - Change voice mail message to talk about newest product or service.
Friday - New blog post, place ad in local paper
By biting off your marketing activities in small chunks, marketing suddenly becomes easier to manage and less overwhelming. Stay tuned for more free marketing ideas!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
1) I schedule my appointments in blocks. For example, on Monday, I had an appointment in Tacoma and a business-related errand to run in Renton. I went to Tacoma and, on my way home, I went to Renton. That not only saved gas, but it also saved time if I'd made separate trips from home.
2) I've had some serious, deadline-based writing to do. To ensure that I can sit down and write uninterrupted, I close my e-mail inbox, shut off my cell phone and wait until my family leaves the house for the day. Then I sit down and get to work, finishing the assignments off one after the other. Knowing that I've tackled these big tasks, I can enjoy a leisurely lunch outside before I start my next project.
3) In conjunction with item #1, I leave at least 2 days during the week appointment-free. This allows me to have some committed, noninterrupted time in my office to get work done, as well as catch up on my bookkeeping work and organizing my office. I look forward to these days, where I can dress casually, work at my own pace and check things off of my "to do" list.
4) I also make time for exercise in the mornings when possible. This helps me to make time for myself, but it also energizes me. The natural high I get from working out keeps me going for hours afterward. It's a great way to fuel my productivity!
How do you manage your time? If you have tips to share with my readers, I'd love to hear them!
Monday, September 8, 2008
When you just can't budge on a task that you're procrastinating about, let go and create a question to develop a better strategy.
Ask yourself "What am I waiting for?" or "What will happen if I get started?" Write down your answer and tackle the issue realistically.
Material used with permission from Paula Eder, Ph.D., who develops customized, practical guides to help individuals and organizations find time to achieve personal, professional, and academic goals, and achieve career success. Register for her free, Finding Time Tips and Award-Winning Finding Time E-Zine at http://www.findingtime.net.
I've been doing some business traveling these past two weeks, so I haven't been able to keep up my blog. Fortunately, my creativity is high so the ideas are flowing. Stay tuned for more useful marketing and business tips later this week!
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Complete Publicity Plans
Small Business Marketing for Dummies
Marketing for Dummies
The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide
For my favorite websites, check out my links in the right hand margin. ---->
Don't have time to read but need to beef up your marketing now? Contact your local Small Business Development Center for a consultation, sign up for a marketing class at your local community college or contact your local Chamber of Commerce or downtown association for a referral to a marketing consultant in your area.
Marketing doesn't have to be flashy or expensive to be effective. Instead, it needs to get the right message to the right audience at the right time. Not sure where to begin? Shoot me an e-mail and I'll be happy to point you in the right direction!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Friday, August 8, 2008
- Choose relevant publications based on your audience. If you are a retail business, advertising in a local newspaper makes sense. If you are advertising to businesses, however, a publication targeted to businesses is a better choice.
- Consistency is key. Getting your message out there once a month or once every six months is not enough. You must regularly get your message in front of your target customer for them to remember who you are and what you have to offer. They might not need you now, but if you are top of mind, they'll remember you at the right time.
- Rates are often based on frequency. You get a better deal on your rates when you run more than one ad. Ad packages are designed to reward you for frequency and to ensure you get the best results because you're being consistent.
- Many publications will create your ad for free. Take advantage of this opportunity to have an expert design your ad for you. It's included in the price, so you might as well get the biggest bang for your buck.
- Ask about special packages. Some publications will offer special deals to certain businesses - restaurants, for example - that they want to encourage to advertise with them.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
1) You need a website, no matter how simple. It can be a blog like this one, or something more elaborate with your business name as the domain name, www.mariehaggin.com, for example.
2) Advertising. When times are tight, people often stop their advertising but this is the time when you most need to advertise. If your advertising isn't working for you, try a different publication or a different market. You need to consistently reach the right market with the right message.
3) Networking. This can include membership in organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, your local downtown association, or the local chapter of a group like BNI or it can be an online network like LinkedIn or Biznik. Network with like-minded professionals and share referrals.
4) Rewarding customers. The 80/20 rule tells us that approximately 80% of our business will come from 20% of our customers. That's why every business should have a customer referral program to reward its very best customers. It could be including them in a special monthly promotion, posting a customer of the month photo on the wall of your store, or recognizing them with a Client Appreciation Event. Make sure they feel appreciated and they will continue to shop with you and refer their friends to your store.
5) Community involvement. Like networking, community involvement is a great way to meet other members of your community and to spread the word about your business, even if it is only subtly. Try sponsoring a local sports team or relevant school club, volunteer at the local Food Bank, join the PTA or a local church organization. When feasible, volunteer your time or your services.
6) Shout your news to the world. At least 3 to 4 times a year, issue a news release (also called a press release) to let the community know what you've been up to. Anything that's newsworthy will do - a business anniversary, addition of a product line, a new professional certification, key staff hire, upcoming event, or participation in a nonprofit organization. I recommend you submit the release to your local media, relevant industry-related groups and online. You'll be surprised at how affordable it can be to get widespread coverage and to keep your name "time of mind."
To your success,
Sunday, August 3, 2008
Virtually Yourz - The marketing and PR solution for small business
I hope this tagline will make it easier for people to understand what it is I do that benefits them. What do you think?
Friday, August 1, 2008
For Virtually Yourz, my dream customer is a small business owner who doesn't have the time or expertise to do his or her own marketing. They are males and females, usually between the ages of 40 and 60, of varying income levels, and have usually been in business for two years or more. They are most interested in my marketing and PR services (versus my writing and marketing). Some want help gaining more visibility for their business through press releases, while others want help with marketing planning. Now define your dream customer and develop specific strategies to address their wants and needs. Good luck!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Whether you run your own business or work for a big company, I'm sure you can identify with this YouTube video featuring a company working with a graphic designer to create the ideal Stop sign (primary target: women, secondary target: men). It takes a few minutes to watch, but it is hilarious. If you've been on either side of the situation, you'll be able to relate to how tough it can be to manage a project when you have multiple inputs. Pleasing everyone can be tough - and the end result is often ineffective. Thanks to Krista Rosemary of New Tech Web for sharing it. Enjoy!
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I was recently asked by a prospective client how I can help her get more visibility for her retail business. She owns a darling, niche-based yarn and knitting shop in downtown Kent called Renaissance Yarns. She seems to be doing all of the right things right, but wants to know how to further grow her business both online and off.
My niche is marketing small businesses in the service sector, though I've done some retail marketing. Rather than say "I can't help," I'm taking this project on as a challenge. What can I learn that can help her to gain visibility? How can I draw more loyal customers to her business? That's the beauty - and challenge - of marketing. It is an art, not a science, and what works for one business might not work for another...but I'm excited about the possibilities. She has a wonderful product, a gorgeous store and a talented staff. I want to help her succeed, while at the same time learning more about marketing retail companies. In this way, we are working together in partnership.
Have a great idea to share? Please post it. I'm open to suggestions!
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I now do the same thing with web links in press releases in my materials, too. A quick click will tell you if the link is active or if there is a typo in it. Simple advice but invaluable!
Monday, July 14, 2008
This recently came into play with a new client that hired me to do some web copywriting for her. We discussed the project by phone, and I followed up with a business agreement outlining what I'd do and when and what her role would be (providing information and paying me on time). I completed the project on time and haven't heard from the client since! She indicated via e-mail that the first page was "great," so I'm stumped as to what's happened. I've tried calling and e-mailing, but no word yet. Fortunately, I have the documentation of our agreement to back me up if needed.
This is yet another live-and-learn situation for me. I've been working virtually for nearly 5 years and have never had a client drop off the face of the earth before, though several have been slow in communicating with me. Usually when such things happen, I find a way to work an explanatory clause into my business agreement.
Have you ever had a similar situation? If so, how did you handle it? I'd love to hear your suggestions.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
How will you motivate yourself today?
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Not sure how to analyze my answers or whether to consider taking the next step, I contacted my local Small Business Development Center at Green River Community College. I will consult with business guru Kirk Davis there to help me sort out the answers. In addition, I plan to consult with a CPA and/or attorney to decide if it is time to move to an LLC from a sole prop.
Has your business grown recently? How did you decide how to take it to the next level? I'd love to hear from you!
I'm not sure where I'm headed - or even where I want to go - but the prospects are exciting. Stay tuned!
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Why did I tackle the easier parts first? It goes back to my test-taking days in high school. I always went through my tests by glancing over all of the sections, and questions, first. Then I'd answer all of the easier questions first - multiple choice, true & false, etc. Those I knew for sure I'd answer right away. If I wasn't sure, I'd pencil in a question mark and move on. On pass #2, I'd answer those with the question marks. On pass #3, I'd answer the hardest questions or those that were fill in the blank or essay. By answering the easier parts first, I saved my time to devote to those that required more thought. If I had time left over, I'd review all of the questions - and my answers - one final time.
The same is true of my project. I knew certain pages were almost finished and just needed fine-tuning or proofreading. Knowing that I had 7 of 11 pages done, I could devote the rest of my afternoon to researching, rethinking and rewriting the remaining pages without feeling rushed or pressed for time.
Neither my method nor my friend's is right or wrong. It boils down to what method works better for us. How about you? What strategies do you use to break down a project into manageable parts?
Thursday, July 3, 2008
In addition, I often break larger projects or assignments into steps (schedule interview, conduct interview, type/transcribe notes, ask follow-up questions, write, edit, submit) and I schedule each of those separately on my "to do" list so I can anticipate how much time each step will take me. Scheduling an interview, for example, might only take 10 minutes, but typing the notes and writing the article could take hours for each step.
For more ideas like this one, subscribe to one (or both) of my free monthly newsletters: writing and editing & marketing. You can subscribe at http://www.virtuallyyourz.com!
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
If you are creating or redoing marketing materials for your business, explore the materials of your competitors to see what elements you like and what you don't like. But when you sit down with your graphic designer and copywriter, make sure the materials reflect YOUR BUSINESS, not someone else's!
I hope you'll find my blog interesting. I'll share business tidbits, marketing ideas and other tips & tricks I've learned along the way. Hopefully, you'll find some useful ideas to take away with you.
I welcome your comments and suggestions for useful information!
The virtual solution to your writing, editing and marketing needs.