Friday, November 20, 2009

Use Google Alerts to See Your Impact on the Web

By now, most of us have "googled" our names to see what shows up in the mighty search engine about us. But do you use Google Alerts the same way? If not, you should check it out. Go to Google Alerts, type in your search criteria (I suggest putting your search terms in quotation marks; e.g., "Dana Neuts" or "Virtually Yourz"), what alerts you wish to receive (news, blogs, web, video, groups or comprehensive), how often you want to receive them, and where you want those alerts emailed.

I set at least one alert per client to come to me on a weekly basis. That way I can monitor how successful my marketing efforts are as well as what others are saying about my clients online. It is easy to set up, easy to monitor and FREE. You've gotta love FREE. When I get the alerts, if there is anything noteworthy, I forward it to my client so they can benefit from that knowledge as well. Check it out: Google Alerts.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz and iLoveKentWA
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

#1 Copywriting Rule - Don't Steal Content

Within the last month, I have witnessed at least a dozen cases of blatant theft of copyrighted material. In most cases, they were articles taken off websites and reused elsewhere under different authors' names. In another case, an agency took the copy I wrote for a client on one website to use it for someone else's website. In the latter case, I can't claim copyright infringement because I did the writing as "work for hire," but my client can take action against the offending party.

Don't get me wrong - I think the sharing of ideas is a wonderful way to learn from others, but stealing their work is not acceptable any any circumstances, particularly when passing off the work as your own. Instead, take the time to provide original material. Here are some ways to do that:

1. Research your topic of interest online or at your local library.
2. Interview experts.
3. Consult books and periodicals that address your subject of interest.
4. Subscribe to relevant trade magazines.
5. Do field research. For example, if you are writing about a new fitness program, try it out.

The bottom line - don't steal content. You might not get caught today or even tomorrow, but you will get caught. The Internet provides tools for writers and other content providers to discover whether or not their content is being used on unauthorized sites or by unauthorized parties. The penalties can be steep...including the loss of your reputation. Make it original, make it yours. Your readers will appreciate it.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz or ILoveKentWA
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Virtually Yourz blog on hiatus

Due to other client and volunteer commitments, I am putting this blog on hiatus. If you find that you really miss it or have topics you'd like me to cover, please post a comment on this blog.

If demand is high, I'll return to the blog. In the meantime, you can find me on, SPJ's Region 10 blog, and SPJ's Freelance Blog.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz, iLoveKentWA, SPJWash
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kent Writer Elected to the National Board of the Society of Professional Journalists


Kent, Washington, September 6, 2009 – Last week freelance writer Dana Neuts of Kent was elected to the national board of the Society of Professional Journalists during its annual conference. Serving a two-year term, Neuts was named to the position of regional director for Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. She will serve SPJ chapters and members in those states as well as act as their representative on the national SPJ board. She has also been asked to serve on the national freelance committee.

Previously, Neuts served as the president of the Western Washington Pro Chapter of SPJ, which was named Large Chapter of the Year for the third time at last week’s conference. In addition, the chapter received Circle of Excellence awards for its work in diversity and campus relations. Hilary Reeves, managing editor for The Business Examiner in Tacoma, succeeds Neuts as chapter president.

“Our industry is changing rapidly with new business models and communication tools emerging daily,” Neuts said. “At the same time, journalists are concerned about the future of our industry and our continued ability to serve as a valuable ‘check and balance’ for democracy. I look forward to contributing what I can to those challenges while also renewing the public’s trust in quality journalism and its role in open government.”

Dana Neuts is a freelance journalist based in Kent, Washington. Her work has appeared in publications including Seattle Business, the Business Report, Kent magazine, Renton magazine, The Seattle Times, South Sound magazine, Seattle Metropolitan and more. She is also the owner of Virtually Yourz, a writing, editing and marketing firm that serves small businesses and nonprofits, and the owner and publisher of, a community-based news and events website. She is a member of the Kent Downtown Partnership, serves on the board of the Halo Network Foundation, and recently founded Kent Connects, a local “no rules” networking group.

For more information, please contact:

Dana Neuts
Virtually Yourz


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Twits, Tweeps and Tweetups - Virtually Confused?

If you're like me and having a hard time with all of the new language inspired by social media - particularly Twitter - than you'll love this Twitter Fan wiki site. Filled with information, you can not only learn the lingo but what to do with it. Like this post? Retweet please, my tweeps!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tweet Later - a great productivity tool

If you manage more than one Twitter account like I do, you know how time consuming it can be to follow your followers, reply with a Direct Message, etc. To help me manage multiple accounts, I use Tweet Later. This productivity tool is free and it allows me to manage all of my Twitter accounts from one place. I can even "vet" my followers. In other words, I can auto-follow or I can review each follower to see if I want to follow back. I can even mark those I don't want to follow - such as the numerous porn sites - as spam. It's a useful tool. Check it out.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Follow me on Twitter: iLoveKent

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ten ways to market in a recession

Late last year I reconnected with an old business contact of mine, a financial planner. This man has been in business for 20+ years and has always been successful because he is a stand-up guy with a unique niche in his business. He is the financial adviser who takes the time to get to know his clients and to really learn what makes them tick before helping them design a financial plan. He is happier if he has helped a businessman or a family get closer to their long-term goals than if he gets a big fat commission check.

Unfortunately, the economy has hit his business hard, and he isn't seeing many of those checks. People are either afraid to invest or don't have the assets left to do so, so his business has dropped significantly. He came to me to help ramp up his marketing efforts, something he's been able to avoid doing for a long time.

I thought I'd pass along some of my suggestions to those of you who might find some of yourselves in a similar position:

1) It is tempting to cut marketing expenses in a recession, but according to an SBA expert in Seattle, marketing is the last expense you should cut when the economy is down. In fact, if your year-round marketing efforts are consistent, you may only have to increase things a little bit (greater advertising frequency, for example) or maintain the status quo until the economy evens out. Bottom line: do not cut your marketing now.

2) Take advantage of the social media surge. Leverage sites like Stumple Upon, Digg, Facebook, Twitter and Squidoo to get your message out there. There is no "hard cost" to using these sites, but be cognizant of how much time you spend on them and be sure your message is consistent across the board.

3) Remember that the "hard sell" turns off many of today's consumers. Instead, take your time by offering them tidbits for free with a blog or posting tips on Twitter.

4) Position yourself as an expert in your field through article marketing, blogging, tweeting or commenting on others' blogs.

5) Interact with others online and through face-to-face networking without the expectation of a sale and, while doing so, remember to be yourself. If they need you down the line, they'll remember you or perhaps refer you to someone who might.

6) Keep your marketing efforts consistent. We all know that it takes 7+ times for a prospect to see our name, brand, product or service before it sticks or becomes top-of-mind. So make sure you get in front of your target audience on a regular basis (e.g., advertising 1x/week in local paper, 4 radio spots/day during rush hour, weekly blog posts, daily Twitter & Facebook updates, etc.)

7) Try "new" marketing tools. When finances are scarce, people are afraid to spend money so "doing what you've always done" may no longer work. If that's the case, try new (or new-to-you marketing tools - advertise in a different publication, try a TV ad, join an online network, join your local Chamber or downtown organization, investigate PPC or CPA advertising, place an ad on Facebook - whatever will put you in front of prospective customers.

8) Keep the customers you have. It costs less to keep a customer than it does to acquire a new one, so make sure your existing customers continue to have the great selection and service they are used to. Continue to woo them with special offers, free newsletters, thank you events, etc. to make sure they feel appreciated.

9) Be flexible. I know it is hard to be open-minded when business is slow, but you have to be flexible in order to adjust your marketing mix to what will work for you during a recession.

10) Perhaps most importantly, make sure you can measure whatever marketing tools you are using. That's the only way to see if what you are doing is working. If you are using online marketing tools, make sure you check your website or blog stats frequently to see what keywords, referral sources, days, times, etc. are bringing you traffic. For advertising, be sure to include a specific Coupon or Offer code so you can track the origin of the promotion and, if all else fails, ask your new customers, "How did you hear about us?" or "Who can I thank for your business?" You'll need this information when determining the success of your efforts.

Still not sure where to begin? Contact me to discuss your situation. My initial phone consultation is complimentary.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Face to Face Connections Remain Essential in Social Media World

Today I read a great article, the Meltdown Survival Handbook, in the August 2009 issue of Seattle Metropolitan (@SeattleMet for Twitter fans). This witty, refreshing article contained 20 ways to survive the recession while having a little fun. Tip #10 - Network the Smart Way - reminds us that social media networks like Biznik, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are wonderful ways to meet and connect with people, but old fashioned face-to-face connecting is still an essential tool to succeeding in the real world both, personally and professionally.

By connecting face-to-face, we are solidifying online connections, diversifying our contact base and having fun getting out of the house and away from the computer. Thanks to Dan McComb, co-founder of Biznik, for the much-needed reminder!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Four Differences Between Websites & Blogs

Some clients have asked me why they need a website AND a blog. There are a lot of good reasons to have both, but here is a quick rundown from my perspective:

1) A website is a great place for an online store. A blog is a better place to promote individual products.

2) A website is useful for containing information that doesn't change often (products, services, contact info., About Us, etc.). A blog is an ideal place for information that changes frequently.

3) A website is ideal for presenting a "brand" to prospective clients. A blog is better for creating and solidifying connections with prospective clients.

4) Websites are formal and professional. Blogs are casual and interactive.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Monday, July 27, 2009

Three Ways to Get More Twitter Followers

So you've jumped on the Twitter bandwagon and you know the difference between a Tweet and a #hashtag. Now you just need followers. Here are three ways to ensure that you get faithful followers who are interested in what you have to say:

1) Post regular updates to Twitter, but not too many. Some suggest that two to four updates per day is sufficient. To me, it depends on your purpose for tweeting. If you are a news organization, for example, regular updates are expected. If you are updating your status while on vacation, one or two a day should do it.

2) Interact with other Twitter users. Twitter is popular because it connects people to each other. It isn't just about what we as individuals have to say; it is also about contributing to other conversations and replying to popular threads or trending topics. It also means participating in Follow Friday (#FF) and Music Monday (#musicmonday).

3) Offer useful content. If you are constantly selling your products or services via Twitter, people will get tired of your updates unless you offer something else advice, links to interesting articles., etc. Post links to helpful articles, breaking news and pithy quotes in addition to your own updates.

By using these three techniques, your number of Twitter followers will grow and you'll not only receive interesting updates from interested followers but you'll grow your own online community. Happy Tweeting!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Appreciate Your Customers

Every customer wants to be appreciated, so make sure you thank yours regularly. Thank them verbally each time they visit your store, whether or not they make a purchase, and treat your frequent buyers with extra TLC. Here are a few ideas to show your customers how much you appreciate their business:

- Holiday or birthday cards
- A frequent buyer or customer appreciation program
- Monthly specials or coupons
- Special events like an anniversary or customer appreciation party
- A monthly email newsletter that gives them unique promotions, coupons, etc.
- Reward them for referring potential customers to you

By embracing your customers, you will make them feel special and appreciated so they are more likely to shop with you again soon. Good luck!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Consistent Contact: The Beauty of Email Marketing

To grow your business, you need a steady flow of new clients and prospects. To achieve that you need to get in front of potential customers an average of seven times before you become "top of mind." This can be achieved through consistent contact...either through advertising, a website, blogging, press releases, or a combination of methods to reach out to potential customers.

One of my favorites is email marketing which is easy and affordable to do. Start by creating an email list of potential customers by collecting names and addresses on your website or blog, setting an email sign-up sheet out on your store counter or collecting email addresses on drawing or sign-up slips. Next, choose an email service like or, and set-up a regular email marketing campaign to reach out to prospects and existing customers.

Not sure what to write about or how often? Review my blog for ideas or contact me for a complimentary consultation. I'd be happy to help.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Friday, July 10, 2009

Five Tips to Make the Most of Your Business Cards

Business cards are an affordable way to keep your business "top of mind" when meeting new people. Here are some ways to make sure your business card stands out from the rest:

1) Have it professionally designed. An attractive, well-designed business card speaks volumes about you and your business. So does a cheaply-made online template version.

2) Your card's look should be consistent with your other print materials. As an extension of your brand, or your business's personality, your business card should include your logo, your colors and any other common elements that visually depict what your company is about.

3) Spend the extra money to have a glossy coating put on the card. Some companies offer this at no extra charge, but even if it costs you a few extra bucks, the smooth finish is worth it. It adds a professional touch you won't find on everyone's card.

4) Use the back of the card. When I redid my cards earlier this year, I added a list of my services to the back of the card. That way when I meet someone knew, he or she doesn't have to remember what I do. They can refer to the back of the card for some of my more popular services.

5) Give everyone two copies of your card, one to keep and one to share with a friend or colleague.

Use these five tips when creating your next business card to ensure that your card is one that gets saved!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Monday, July 6, 2009

Albert Einstein on Imagination

“Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.”

~ Albert Einstein

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Newsletter Basics: How to Create an Effective Newsletter

So you've finally decided to give email marketing a try, and you've chosen a service like Constant Contact or Your Mailing List Provider to send out mo nthly newsletters. Where will you begin? What will you write about? What elements should an effective newsletter have? Here are some ways to create an effective newsletter.

1. First, decide if you want to send one topic or more each month. It depends on your audience and how much time you want to devote to your newsletter each month. For a one-topic newsletter, I recommend talking about a particular product or service that you'd like to highlight. For example, you could announce a new product line that you are carrying, a new service that you're offering or an upcoming event you are participating in.

For multiple topics, I have an ideas folder that I tuck notes into as they come to me. Maybe I've run across a great new website that I like or I have a snippet of info. or a cool quote I want to share. It goes into the folder which I review for ideas when I'm developing my next newsletter.

2. The goal of each newsletter should be to increase your customers' awareness of your business. Each time they hear or see your name, the more likely they are to remember your business the next time they need what you offer. To keep your name "top of mind," make sure you: a) Include your business name in the From: portion of the email; b) use a compelling headline to draw readers in (July 2009 Specials: 20% off any spa service this month only); and c) offer them something (a discount, a coupon, free information) so they agree it is worth their time to read each newsletter.

3. Write the newsletter in a conversational tone so that it flows smoothly and it is easy to read. I like to open mine with a brief paragraph about something topical whether it is a note about the weather, the economy, or a news item that has affected us all. This helps my readers relate to me.

4. Include topics of interest to your readers. The newsletter is for them, so include topics they care about. For example, if you own an accessories shop, you could include an item about how to choose the right purse for a casual outfit or 10 ways to tie a scarf. If you are financial planner, you might include a list of useful websites where they can track their investments or monitor retirement savings.

5. Make it as interactive as possible. Engage your readers by asking them to submit topic ideas, Q&A items, a list of their favorite products and services, or testimonials. This lets your readers know what others are thinking and it helps to involve them in the process. The newsletter is not about you as much as it is about them, so create a forum for them to provide feedback.

With these tips in mind, you can create an email newsletter that readers will look forward to seeing in their inbox each month. Give it a try - I think you'll pleased with the results!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Blogger vs. Word Press: Which is better?

Blogger and WordPress are two of the most popular blogger programs. They are both free, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here is a quick analysis to help you figure out which one to use:

1. Blogger is EASY to set-up, learn and use. This is a great starter blog program for someone who isn't comfortable with technology or who is short on time and patience.

2. Word Press is not as easy as blogger to set-up but it is fairly simple. It requires a little more time and effort to get going. For a truly robust site, you'll want to use the self-hosted version of Word Press, rather than the version hosted by

3. Blogger offers a handful of templates from which to choose and colors, fonts, etc. are fairly easy to edit. Graphics are also easy to upload.

4. The version of Word Press has five pages of templates from which to choose. Most of these designs are simple and streamlined, but editing them and adding widgets to the blog takes a little more time.

5. Blogger blogs often look like other Blogger blogs. You can customize them, of course, but they are still remarkably similar. Word Press, however, has more options, particularly if you move to the versions.

My vote is for a Word Press blog. I like its versatility, the ability to have multiple pages (not just blog posts one page) and it seems more search engine-friendly. Whatever you choose, make sure it meets your needs and know that if you start with Blogger for its ease of use, you can import it into Word Press later. Good luck!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Five Low Cost Ways to Market Your Small Business

As the recession continues into the summer, businesses struggle to stay afloat, particularly newer, smaller businesses. It is times like these that the SBA advises business owners to maintain or step up their marketing...not to cut back. Here are some low cost ways for businesses to reach out to their customers without breaking the bank:

1. Issue a press release. Have news about your business - maybe a business anniversary, a key hire, new product or service? If so, shout it out to relevant media as well as online. Even if your story doesn't get picked up, the online exposure will boost your search engine ranking.

2. Start a blog. If you haven't jumped on the online bandwagon, you are behind schedule. It isn't too late to get started though. Create a free blog using Blogger or WordPress to tell people about your business, offer advice, advertise product and service specials, etc.

3. Embrace social media. If you are not already on Facebook, start a personal account and a business or organization page now. You can tie it directly to your blog, so when you post new info. to the blog, it automatically updates your Facebook page. Are you tweeting? If not, you need to be. Twitter is growing faster than anyone predicted. Get a free account today, find followers, post tweets, etc.

4. Host an event. If you have a brick-and-mortar location (retail store, office, etc.), get customers in the door with a special sale, promotion, anniversary, open house or fundraiser for a popular charity. Anything that brings people in the door is worth the effort, so make sure you publicize the event to current and potential customers to get the biggest bang for your marketing buck.

5. Email marketing. This is one of the easiest, most affordable ways to stay in front of current customers. Starting with a contact list of your present customers, create an email database and start a regular email newsletter or promotional campaign using a service like Constant Contact or Your Mailing List Provider (my favorite). I recommend emails once a month to stay in touch with your customers without being intrusive.

By adding one or more of these items to an existing marketing plan, small businesses can increase their marketing presence during these challenging economic times without a lot of cash. To your success!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Monday, June 1, 2009

Twitter Tools to Improve Productivity

Now that I have multiple accounts on Twitter (for different audiences), it has become difficult to maintain them. Here are some tools I discovered to make using Twitter a bit easier.

TweetLater: Helps you manage your different Twitter accounts, including automatically following those who follow you - a big time saver A searchable directory for top Twitter users by category

TweetDeck: A customizable dashboard/browser to maximize your Twitter experience

Twitterberry: A mobile application for using Twitter on your Blackberry

[Note: I'm just scratching the surface here. If you've found a Twitter tool that you just love, post a comment. I'd love to hear about it!]

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz, iloveKentWA, SPJWash
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to Plan Your Next Event

Event planning isn't rocket science, but it can easily be overwhelming if you've never done it before or if you are in charge of a large event. I've found that event planning can be easier to manage if you break it down into bite-size chunks. For example:

- Clearly define the event
- Where will the event be?
- Who will attend the event and why?
- What's the purpose of the event?
- When will it be? How much time do you have to plan it?

- Outline a budget and funding sources. Is it for-profit or not-for-profit? What is your break-even point?

- Identify key functions - marketing, promotion, fundraising (if needed), planning, logistics, refreshments, volunteers, etc.

- Calculate timing. Start with the event date and work backward to see when things need to be done. If you have an event six months away, what needs to be done the week before? the month before? three months before, etc.?

- Create a committee or core group of volunteers to help iron out the details. Let each person take a role that suits their skills, talent and availability. Meet regularly but make each meeting productive with clearly defined goals.

- After the event, host a fun "recap meeting" to get input from the parties involved. What worked well? What could be improved upon next time? Did you achieve your goals?

Good luck - it isn't as hard as it seems when you break it down into manageable tasks.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Are you doing a quarterly marketing review?

Are you monitoring your marketing efforts on a quarterly basis? If not, you should be, particularly in this economy. Why? You need to know what's working and what's not, so you can figure out what shifts need to be made.

For example, where are your advertising dollars going? Are you doing it regularly? If not, you may be wasting your money. If you are advertising consistently, are you choosing the best media (online, radio, TV, print, other) for your business?

Also, consider your current and new customers. Are you getting the kinds of customers you want - your dream customer, for example? If not, what do you need to do differently? It could involve creating a new brand, adding new products or services, or simply advertising in places where you will get "face time" with your prospects.

What tools are you using to market your products? Are you taking advantage of social media tools like blogging, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Biznik, Plaxo, Digg and other sites? Could your business benefit from one or more of these tools?

No matter what you're doing, you want to be sure to review it quarterly and to try to measure it if possible.

If you aren't sure where to begin, talk to fellow business owners, ask a marketing consultant or discuss your options with your local small business development center, branch of SBA or SCORE. Marketing doesn't have to be expensive, time-consuming or overwhelming. It is a question of considering your options and what works for you and your customers. Then track it, evaluate it, and change it as needed.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Friday, May 15, 2009

Seven Free Ways to Promote Your Blog

So you've finally started that blog you've always wanted. You have the occasional reader, but not the type of traffic you'd hoped for. There's a quick fix for that - promote your blog. Here are seven free ways to do that with little or no cost to you except for, of course, your time.

1. Twitter - Tweet your latest blog posting on Twitter.

2. Facebook - Link to your latest blog posting on Facebook or, better yet, create a business page and automatically link it to Facebook so it updates whenever your blog does.

3. Linked In - If you have a profile on Linked In, you can also have your profile automatically updated with your latest blog postings.

4. - Add your blog address to your Biznik profile.

5. E-mail signature - Add your blog address to your e-mail signature.

6. Marketing materials - The next time you update your marketing materials (biz cards, letterhead, brochure, etc.), be sure to include your blog address.

7. Encourage comments - On one of my blogs (, I offer a monthly drawing for three $10 Kent Station gift cards for qualifying posts. Winners are chosen randomly from those who post each month.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook, Biznik and LinkedIn

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Free High Definition Wallpapers

This Digg post won't boost your business, but it may increase your productivity. Here are some great, free wallpapers to try for your HD monitor. There are some beautiful selections here. Just be sure to do a virus scan before you install them. I chose "Age is Beauty" and one of the crayon wallpapers (you're never too old to color!)

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz
Find me on Facebook: Dana Neuts
Connect with me on LinkedIn and Biznik

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Learning Twitter & The Golden Rules

I find this blog posting this morning via Twitter. It shares with users the Golden Rules of Twitter. Here are a few quick tips. Please read the full article for a better explanation.

1) You must follow those who follow you.

2) Use hashtags (#hashtags) to make your subject matter easier to follow. For example, if I post something about marketing, I would include "#marketing" in my post so it is easier to find for those who search by topic.

3) Reply: a normal Tweet goes to all of your followers; Retweet (RT): goes to all of your followers but is easier for the intended recipient to find; Direct Mail (DM): private email and the author of the original blog post discourages DMs.

4) Whale: A whale is the Twitter nickname for someone with more than 10,000 followers.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Follow me on Twitter: VirtuallyYourz

Friday, April 10, 2009

Avoid the Five Most Common Article Writing Mistakes

Nothing turns off readers more than typos, misspelled words and long sentences lacking punctuation. Here are some tips to help you avoid the five most common article writing mistakes.

1. Lack of content. The single biggest mistake you can make is to dilute content by drumming up keyword content. While keywords are important, they should be used sparingly and not at the expense of your content. Ensure that your subject material is well developed and organized efficiently.

2. Grammar and Spelling. Simple grammatical and spelling mistakes can make even the most knowledgeable author appear ignorant or uneducated. To convince the reader of your expertise, it is imperative that your article be articulate, authoritative and error-free. Take full advantage of your word processing Spell and Grammar Check utilities or have the article professionally proofread.

3. Punctuation. Improper use of punctuation (lack of punctuation, improper use of exclamation points, etc.) will detract from the overall quality of the article.

4. EXCESSIVE CAPITAL LETTERS. Using Caps Lock to emphasize a certain word may be appropriate, but overuse of capital letters tends to make the reader question the device: is this article a sales gimmick? Is the author an amateur?

5. Poor formatting. One-sentence paragraphs, run-on or nonsensical sentences, sentence fragments, and excessively long bulleted lists will all reflect negatively on the article’s quality. A properly formatted article will contain, at minimum, an introduction, followed by several paragraphs of 5-7 sentences, each separated by a blank line, with paragraph headings appropriately delineated from the text following, and ending with a conclusion paragraph.

Use of these tips in your article will further enhance your online image, cementing you in your client’s mind as the professional to whom they should entrust their business.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Attracting New Business Through Article Writing

How do you attract new business? A very popular method is writing and distributing online articles, which not only help you establish your online presence, but further cement your expertise within your field. However, it is not enough to simply publish an article with popular keywords. Your article must lure the reader away from similar articles in their search engine results and keep them fixated through the resource box, where they will be directed to your website.

1. Use a catchy title. Captivate the reader with an informative or exciting title. If you were choosing a link among the many Google search results, would you be more likely to read an article entitled “Advanced Golf” or “How to Golf Like a Pro in 4 Visits to the Links”?

2. Write as the expert. If you are the owner of an Interior Design business, do not write about computer motherboards or popular diets. Write about what you know: preferred fabrics for the bedroom or living room, new finishes of paint, current home decorating trends, or flooring alternatives.

3. Maximize the resource box. Unless you would like your article to read like sales copy, do not include any promotional information within the body of the article. Instead, utilize the resource box to its fullest potential. Include your name, company’s name, a brief statement regarding your expertise, and your contact information, including relevant URLs, email and phone numbers.

4. Issue a call to action. Motivate your potential client to action by providing a FREE estimate, newsletter, ebook, tips, or consultation. Your reader found your article due to a targeted internet search, but it is up to you to close the deal!

If writing articles is a part of your marketing plan, ensure that the articles that you write properly reveal the person behind the article, leading to new client relationships.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Friday, April 3, 2009

10 Powerful Tips for Marketing Your Small Business

I love It's a great resource for all kinds of ideas for every kind of business. Here's a great article I found by Ann Marie Rubertone: 10 Powerful Tips for Marketing Your Small Business.

1. Print your best small ad on a postcard and mail it to prospects in your targeted market.

2. No single marketing effort works all the time for every business, so rotate several marketing tactics and vary your approach.

3. Use cross promotion to market your business.

4. Answer your phone in a new way.

5. Add stickers and handwritten notes to your print materials.

6. Send a second offer immediately to first-time customers.

7. Use newsletters to focus your marketing on repeat business.

8. Host events.

9. Exchange services.

10. Enclose special offers and promotions in your outgoing mail.

Read the full article here.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Difference Between PR & Publicity

I found this link on a Tweet. Check out this short comparison by Seth Godin: The Difference Between PR & Publicity.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Thursday, March 26, 2009

What is marketing?

If you asked 10 people what "marketing" means to them, you would likely get 10 different answers. You'd probably get a mix of advertising, branding, promotion, public relations, social media, business development, planning, marketing mix and more.

In my mind, marketing is all of the activities and tools that a person or company uses to promote its products, services or ideas. It should include all of the items mentioned above and so much more. So the next time you think about marketing and the tools available to you, don't limit your thinking to one aspect of marketing. Think of the entire gamut of possibilities, and you'll find a wealth of tools and opportunities available to you.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Monday, March 23, 2009

Create a plan, draw yourself a map - Part 2

Continued from March 20, 2009 blog post:

2. Pick one goal at a time and think backward of how to accomplish this goal.
Increase number of subscribers to company newsletter by 10%.
a. Put a guest book in front of store asking people to sign up for email newsletter from the company. Also, post a printed display copy of the newsletter so that customers can see actual newsletter.
b. Add “Forward to a Friend” function to newsletters to encourage word-of-mouth referrals to newsletter.
c. Ask other respected business owners about their newsletter readership and trade ideas.
d. Track number of subscribers today and continue to check subscription numbers in order to see progress.

3. Add deadlines to goals.
a. Increase number of subscribers to company newsletter.
i. Put a guest book in front of store asking people to sign up for email newsletter from the company. Also, post a printed display copy of the newsletter so that customers can see actual newsletter. Complete by: April 2009
ii. Add “Forward to a Friend” function to newsletters to encourage word-of-mouth referrals to newsletter. Complete by: May 2009
iii. Ask other respected business owners about their newsletter readership and trade ideas. Complete by: June 2009
iv. Track number of subscribers today and continue to check subscription numbers in order to see progress. Complete by: Check number each month at the start of the month for the remainder of the year. Set reminder for 1st of each month.

I hope this helps you see that while it may seem daunting at first, but by writing out an actual plan, large, seemingly overwhelming goals are within reach. When you draw out a plan for your company, you are much more likely to achieve your goals and improve the health of your company.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Friday, March 20, 2009

Create a plan, draw yourself a map - Part 1

Think back to how you felt about your progress at the close of the year; were you happy, indifferent or disappointed? Did you meet your goals? Did you make any goals?

It’s easy to have vague, haphazard goals that never get met, especially when they exist only in the dark, forgotten corners of your mind. Why not consider making a plan for this year? Yes, it’s already nearly second quarter – who cares? Just like it’s never too late to quit a bad habit, it’s never too late to get it together and make a plan.

Start simply by making a short list of specific, measurable goals. Next choose one of those goals and think backward about how you will get there. Continue with each goal until you’ve created a path to your desired success. Be sure to consider factors like your busy times of the year and set deadlines.

Here’s an example for a small business owner:

1. Make a short list of goals.
a. Increase number of subscribers to company newsletter by 10%.
b. Create targeted advertising campaign for remainder of 2009.
c. Cut operating costs by 15%.

- continued in part 2 to be posted March 23, 2009-

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Understanding Twitter: How it is less like Facebook and more like e-mail

Whether you are new to the social media scene or an old pro looking for new tips, you'll love this article by Naomi Pollack on Biznik. It is a great "how to" on Twitter. Get Twitter basics here!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The devil is in the details

I think this phrase originally came about because neglecting little details can ultimately cause a bigger task to fail. In today’s pervasive world of 24-hour connectedness and rampant social media, little details seem to be swirling all about us. However, the key is to distinguish between those details which are truly important and crucial to the completion of a larger task, as opposed to those details that are merely distraction. In a time when people are trying to do more with less of everything, including seemingly less time, it’s more important than ever to try and weed out those unnecessary details that divert our attention from what is truly important.

Think about your day and how you spend your time. Are you wasting away your time like a spendthrift bank executive, or are you frugal, taking care to avoid wasted time on unnecessary tasks? I can think of one huge time vacuum that many of us can work on; put down the “CrackBerry!”
For an interesting read on how changes in technology are affecting our concentration and daily lives, visit Newsweek and read, “Will the BlackBerry Sink the Presidency?”

Virtually Yourz,

Dana Neuts

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Just say NO (to spam)!

Thanks to the economic downturn, Hormel’s iconic canned meat, SPAM, has become more popular. But that doesn’t mean spam is more popular in people’s email boxes than on their plates. While it may be tempting to blast email everyone on your entire subscription list for a short-term gain, it will most likely result in irritated customers and fewer overall subscribers.

Email is cheap, yes. Email is easy, yes. Email has the power to drive your customers running in or running out of your doors. Treat your customers with respect by treating their inboxes with respect and you’ll continue to build long-lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships with your customers.

For more on this topic, read ExactTarget’s “No Executive Left Behind Whitepaper”.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Three Ways to Make Time for Marketing

What I am hearing from small business owners and other organizations who count marketing among their many tasks is that time is one of the biggest challenges. Those who wear many hats in their businesses are so inundated with customer service, inventory management, product development and administration that marketing can take a backseat. The problem is that marketing needs to be consistent to be effective.

Do you struggle to find enough time to update your blog, create or update a Facebook page, or send out your monthly e-mail newsletter? Here are three ways to make time for those necessary marketing tasks.

- Plan ahead. Take one day each month to plan your marketing tasks for the next month and do all of the necessary work in advance. For example, on March 15, plan for April. Write all of your blog postings for the month at once and schedule them to be posted throughout the month. This block of time allows you to focus on the task at hand, so you can be creative and not rushed to get the task done.

- Schedule time for social media. As sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Biznik grow in popularity, it has become almost necessary for businesses to participate. Unfortunately, active participation can take a big chunk of time out of your day, so I plan my activity in blocks. Twitter and Facebook are ever-changing, so I login to both each morning. I have my Twitter updates automatically posted to Facebook, so I only need to type status updates once. For LinkedIn and Biznik, time isn't as critical, so I set aside down time (like when I'm on hold or have idle time on the weekends) to make updates to my profile, view the community forums, etc. If I get a message or invitation to connect, it will be e-mailed to me and I can address those as they come in by logging in as needed (once a day, max.)

- Delegate marketing tasks. If you have a tech-savvy employee, or an intern with a silver tongue, consider having them help with some of your marketing tasks. A tech-savvy employee, for example, could easily create a blog or Facebook business page or event for you. A silver tongued-employee might help brainstorm ideas for blog postings, events, your April promotion or your next newsletter. If those resources aren't available, consider outsourcing some of your marketing responsibilities to a marketing professional. You can find anything from a virtual marketing expert who offers a la carte services to a full-service marketing, PR and advertising agency.

If you have other time savers to share, I welcome your comments!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What are your marketing challenges?

Marketing and PR are great vehicles for small businesses, particularly in a difficult economy where a consistent marketing presence is more important than ever. The challenge, however, is having enough time, money and manpower to market to your target audience consistently and effectively.

I want to help you hit that challenge head on; I am working with Kirk Davis at Green River Community College to put together some very specific marketing "how to" workshops that can help you to grow or sustain your business, even during troubled times.

To provide content that is most useful to businesses like yours, I'd love to get your input.

1) What marketing challenges do you face as a small business owner? (e.g., limited time or money, lack of knowledge, lack of manpower, etc.)

2) What marketing tools (e.g., e-mail marketing, press releases, event promotion, etc.) would you like to learn more about?

3) Do you use social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and Biznik? Would you like to learn how to use these tools to increase your social capital?

4) What marketing ideas or tools would you implement on your own if you just knew how?

5) Do you have a marketing plan? Do you update and adapt that plan as needed?

Please e-mail your replies to me at or call me at 360-920-1737. I value your input and will keep your replies confidential.

Thank you and may you and your business be prosperous in 2009!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Neuts

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The power of the written word

"The written word is the strongest source of power in the entire universe."
~ Gary Halbert

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Facebook - your "must have" marketing tool

If you try one new marketing tool this month, make it Facebook. I have made personal connections on Facebook as well as professional ones, many that have proven to be invaluable. In particular, it has helped me to stay on top of what's going on in the journalism world in Seattle. I hear things from my peers before they are widely known in media circles, and I'm able to contribute to those conversations.

Think about how Facebook might help you connect to others - family, friends, co-workers, vendors and prospective clients. It is a great way to professionally connect.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wisdom from Microsoft's Bill Gates

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."
~ Bill Gates

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Henry Ford's Secret to Success

"If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own."
~ Henry Ford

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A successful business requires balance

I am getting married this weekend and, in the weeks and months leading up to this moment, I have rediscovered an obvious truth - to be successful, my life requires balance - a fact I often overlook or ignore. To be my most productive, I am implementing these steps so my business can continue to be successful, and I can reduce my stress level of trying so hard to please everyone:

1) Take 2 days off per week.
2) Make time for myself daily - proper nutrition, exercise, relaxation.
3) Make time for my family every evening and weekend.
4) Set more realistic expectations about what I can accomplish in any given day.
5) Reduce interruptions such as phone calls, e-mail checking and social media interaction.

These are guidelines I should implement already, but that I often ignore in my fury to get work done. I have found that following these rules more strictly, however, causes me to be more productive and more creative - a bonus for me and my clients!

What are some of your productivity rules?

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Monday, February 2, 2009

Show AND Tell

Have you ever been in a conversation where someone was explaining a previously unfamiliar concept and you struggled to visualize the idea with the description alone? Have you listened to a teacher or lecturer who talked without visual aids? For many people, a concept is easier to understand when there are accompanying figures, diagrams or photos to illustrate key points. The same is true of marketing online.

If you are selling a product, insert pictures of all conceivable uses of the product by the text on your web page. For example, if you are selling a doll, take a picture of the product’s packaging, usually designed to be very compelling to shoppers in person. The toy should also be photographed outside the package with any included accessories carefully arranged. Finally, photograph the doll in the hands of a child so shoppers can visualize the overall dimensions and functionality of the toy.

The same concept applies if you are selling a service like technical support or web posting. You might include a picture of Ethernet cable or a graphic of the World Wide Web. As an owner of a pest control company, you can revive your tired pricing web pages with pictures and subtitles of the insects for which your service targets. For more abstract services, such as web design, include screen captures of your finished projects. A proofreader or copywriter can easily post links to online work and may be able to post pictures of the covers of published works. An alternative is to photograph a book shelf or stack of books to post beside your text. If these options are unavailable to you, you can use stock photos free ( or at minimal cost ( or to liven your web pages. Note: To prevent copyright infringement, always make certain that you have the rights to display a picture or graphic if you are not the photographer.

For photo composition, ensure that there is adequate lighting and a clean background. It is important that the item of interest is centrally positioned in the foreground with little background distraction. A black or white drop cloth or sheet often offers the best background in terms of focusing the reader’s eye on the product by providing optimum contrast.
In the highly competitive world of online marketing, creating visual interest will set you apart from your competitors and will show – not just tell – your customers why they should do business with you.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Working Together

"Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success."
~ Henry Ford

Monday, January 26, 2009

Creating the Perfect Profile or "About Me" Page

[Continued from last week...]

To ensure that you write the best “About Me” or profile page, follow these guidelines:

- Briefly describe your education and relevant experience. This section shouldn’t reiterate the specifics of your resume, but should highlight the projects, jobs and coursework that pertain to the work, clients, or customers that you seek.

- Devote a small portion of your text to who you are outside of your career. Are you a parent, volunteer, community leader, wine connoisseur or weekend hobbyist? Do you fish, scrapbook, or collect first edition books? It is important to include items of interest that will show to your reader that you are relatable and approachable.

- Add a picture of yourself, preferably close-range. Avoid pictures that have distracting backgrounds, large groups of people, or are not in focus.

- List items that set you apart from your competitors. Do you have special qualifications, certifications or affiliations that will enhance a client’s work? Have you landed an easily recognizable client like Microsoft, Starbucks or Google?

- Be consistent with tense and person terminology throughout your paragraph. I like using present tense where appropriate (e.g., Virtually Yourz offers writing, editing and marketing services to small businesses and nonprofits throughout the United States.) I also prefer using third person (Virtually Yourz instead of I or we)

While the “About Me” page of your website is intended to be personal in nature, maintain your professionalism. Use proper grammar, spelling, punctuation and complete sentences throughout to prevent the section from becoming too casual.

Above all, keep in mind that this section should be about YOU, and it may be your only opportunity to impress the reader with the person that they will hire, so use it wisely.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Using Your “About Me” Page as a Marketing Tool

Clients are more likely to commit to a purchase if they can relate to a real person, so make the most of your website’s “About Me” page or your blog’s profile. This is your opportunity to introduce your true self to potential prospects.

Of course, many people are reluctant to write about their successes because they don’t want to be perceived as braggarts. However, if you write your “About Me” page in a factual manner, it is the perfect venue to describe your professional and to tell potential clients more about the person behind the product or service.

See my next blog posting for tips on writing the ideal “About Me” or profile page!

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Monday, January 19, 2009

Article Marketing - The Value of the Resource Box

While the quality of an article is critical to proving the expertise of an author in a given subject area, the accompanying resource box serves to further anchor the reader’s interest. The most persuasive resource box will explain how the author has become knowledgeable in a given field, providing information regarding experience, business pursuits and contact information.

As article submission and distribution sites typically limit the number of characters available to 500 or less, it is best to avoid résumé duplication and provide two or three sentences of information including the author’s name, website URL and business experience.

Inclusion of a free product (ezine, newsletter, quote or video) will also provide an additional incentive for the reader to visit your website, leading to a meaningful increase in traffic and potential sales.

Examples of resource boxes:

- Marty Marketer is the owner of ABC Marketing Services, a firm representing a combined total of 37 years of marketing experience. For more information regarding our services and how we can help your business grow and succeed, sign up for our free monthly newsletter at (301 characters)

- With 20 years of professional experience and a degree in business administration, Dana Blozis is the president of Virtually Yourz, a Seattle-based firm specializing in writing, editing and marketing services for small businesses and nonprofits. Visit to sign up for our free marketing newsletter. (341 characters)

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The purpose of marketing

The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.
~ Peter Drucker

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Elements of good writing

On Linked In, I responded to a post from someone who wanted to know how to benchmark his own writing. Here is my response, which can apply to just about anyone and almost any type of writing:

"When I write anything whether it is for a client or for publication, I concentrate on the following:

1) Quality content: Content should be clear and concise, or "tight" as our editors like to say. In other words, say what you need to say and make it interesting, but avoid unnecessary words that don't add to the story.

2) Grammar, spelling and punctuation: If something is poorly written, I won't read it, so I won't ask my readers to sift through mistakes. After you've given a piece your best proofreading eyes, ask a friend or colleague or hire a line editor to give it a look.

3) Flow: This is an element of writing that is hard to teach, but when you read your work, you'll know if it flows. For example, does each sentence seem independent of all the others, or is there a nice transition from one idea to the next?

4) Read it aloud: I always test my work 3 ways: I read it on screen, I print off a copy to read and make editing notes on, and I read it out loud. Each perspective, no matter how minutely different, gives me a different way to look at and hear my words.

5) Sleep on it: Whenever time allows, I like to sleep on a particular piece or project, particularly if it is for publication. Sometimes I'll notice things on day 2 that weren't readily apparent to me the day before, and sometimes I realize that I conveyed exactly what I intended to, so I feel more confident in my work when submitting it to a client or magazine.

6) Fact check: Make sure your basic facts are correct. I like to follow up on key information such as dates, spellings of proper names, geographical facts, etc. This may be as simple as double-checking your typed version against your notes, or it may involve a little more research to confirm your data. Also, because it can be edited by anyone, Wikipedia sources are helpful for general background, but I would always fact check that data with another reliable source. For example, if quoting the population of City A in Country A, Wikipedia might give you a close enough figure for you to start writing, but before publishing or posting, I'd go to the country's official census source. In the US, for example, I'd go to the U.S. Census Bureau website to double-check a fact.

I hope that helps. Good luck with your project!"

(first posted 12/26/08 on Linked In)

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

The marketing and PR solution for small business

Monday, January 12, 2009

Boost Newsletter Subscriptions with these Quick Tips

Does your newsletter database need a boost? Here are some quick tips for growing your database of prospects and subscribers:

1) Offer a free report or gift for everyone who signs up in the next 14 days.
2) Give a $10 gift card to Starbucks to current subscribers who get 5 friends to subscribe.
3) Add your special offer to the signature block of every e-mail you send out.
4) Add a simple sign-up form on your website and/or blog to make subscribing easy.
5) Include your offer in the resource boxes of your online articles.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Friday, January 9, 2009

Why do I need a press release?

I am often asked why press releases are important. In my experience, they are a fantastic (and affordable) opportunity to shout your business news to the world. There's no guarantee that the news will get picked up by the media - that's a blog post for another day - nonetheless, you can increase your exposure online and with your customers.

Some reasons for a press release:

Business launch or anniversary
New product or service launch
Key hires
Nonprofit work or donations
Remodeling or expansion
Significant earnings or growth announcements

Have you issued a press release lately? If not, add this to your marketing plan for 2009.

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Customer contact is key

In the New Year, particularly in the current economy, it is more important than ever to retain your clients. Make sure you connect with them regularly to let them know you appreciate their business. By creating this open dialogue, you increase your top of mind awareness and develop open communication which customers want and need.

Fortunately, connecting with customer doesn't have to be costly. Try these affordable tips to show your customers you care:

- Mail them copies of their press clippings with a handwritten note
- Send monthly e-mail blasts with special offers, discounts or promotions just for subscribers
- Treat your top customers to lunch or host a client appreciation event
- Send a personal e-mail or call them when you add a new product or service of interest
- Create a customer referral program

Virtually Yourz,
Dana Blozis

Friday, January 2, 2009

The power of the written word

"The written word is the strongest source of power in the entire universe."
- Gary Halbert