4 things your small business should blog about

At Simplified Solutions, we help people tell their stories online and we use tools like WordPress and Twitter. One of my graphic design buddies gave me the title Chief Storyteller (obviously hacked from Chief Shoe-giver ala Tom’s shoes) when he was designing my latest business card. The title stuck and leads to a grin whenever someone sees it

We get the pleasure of telling the stories of some amazing businesses each and every day. A friend of mine Ron Stuart coined the phrase embedded reporter and it really does communicate what we do. We use new media to assist small businesses who have primarily used word of mouth to grow their businesses. Inbound marketing works well for word of mouth businesses, but not so well for those accustomed to interruption based outbound media. When those businesses use new media it often reminds me of Seth Godin’s book, Meatball Sundae. Your company needs to be built or changed to work with new media. When you simply put new media on top of an old business model you get whip cream and cherries on top of meatballs. Not too appetizing and a waste of money.

So when we do our embedded reporting, what exactly do “we” communicate:

(“we” is a team approach and collaborative effort- not just ghost blogging)

  1. We write about their story and their uniqueness. If they are just another “me too business” there is not much we can do to spread a boring story.
  2. We write about keywords that customers may use to find them on Google. We do it in a genuine way. We want to fish where the fish are. If we have what they are looking for, then we want to be johnny on the spot.
  3. We do educational marketing. We ask the sales team, the estimators, the marketing folks and the owner; what don’t prospects understand about your service, your process or your product? Then we craft content that educates.
  4. We have fun. We write about fun things. We mix it up a bit. You should too. Humor is powerful. Part of that fun is staging contests, promotions and creating engagement with customers, employees and raving fans of course.

The goal of it all is to make it easy for their product, service, or story to spread. We set up the platforms and (“in praise of slow” via Mitch Joel) create fertile ground for a community to build. This is all pretty new stuff so check back for updates and case studies. It’s part art, part science and part hope into the future. It’s better than hoping into the past though- pretty sure the old stuff isn’t coming back anytime soon. Thinking along the same lines? Contact us to start the conversation.

Social Media Workshops for Oldham County Chamber of Commerce

Over the last month and a half I’ve been doing a series of Social Media 101 workshops. Each workshop has been divided into 2 weeks with approximately 10 small business owners, freelancers, consultants or non profit directors. When I was initially contacted by the great folks at Oldham County Chamber they mentioned doing a hands on workshop one time for around 30 small business owners. The workshop evolved into 2 two-week sessions with different groups and it has been a great format.

The format has really worked because it allows me to give the participants the big picture in session one and get their buy in through some real life case studies.  The second session allows us to introduce some tools to make businesses more efficient at managing their inbound marketing. Too many businesses are “doing” social media because someone told them they should. In my experience you can’t do it, but you can commit to it over the long haul. You can’t get better at it if the only reason you’re testing the waters is because someone told you that you should.

So if I had to give those who haven’t been able to attend the cliff notes version- here it is in bullet form.

The concepts:

Inbound Marketing or Digital Marketing whatever you prefer. This includes social media, blogging, playing well with search engines (Google), and content marketing.

The key players:

Chris Brogan

Mitch Joel

Hubspot

Seth Godin

The books to read:

Trust Agents

Six Pixels of Separation

Linchpin

Tribes

Crush It

Rework

The spaces:

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIN

Youtube

The tools:

Google Reader

Google Alerts

Google External Adword Tool

WordPress or Hubspot CMS

Twitter Search

Hootsuite

Sorry no time to link all these up. Maybe in a follow up post. Just Google them all.

The New Top of Mind- 7 reasons to pump out content

Here is a quick list of 7 Reasons why you should start Pumping out Content for your small business, micro business or startup.

1) Because you can.

With a WordPress site and a premium theme ( of course I’m an affiliate) you are the director of “You” Publishing. It’s the ultimate in Bootstrap Marketing.

2) Because it’s fun.

What small business owner doesn’t get ideas in the middle of the night, driving down the road or in the shower. We all do. We care about our baby and even the most boring of us comes up with great ideas to promote his or her baby. Now you have the keys and you’re in control.

3) Because it educates and sells.

Want to get a point across to a prospect. Want to reinforce something to a current customer. Want to show your hand to a competitor. Want to tell your customers and prospects why they should look at your value propositions. Pump out the good relevant content.

4) Because you’ll be one of the first adopters.

No matter how much small businesses are chattering about inbound marketing, social media and blogging- very few are actually doing it. Want to get ahead? Then actually do it and stop just talking about it.

5) Because you’ll learn a lot in the process.

Creating good content for your site and blog is fun yet challenging. It requires you to rethink the way you run your business, the way you market your products and services and the way your community views you. Whether you’re recording videos and screencasts, snapping telling pictures, writing great posts or sharing key links- you’ll be forced to think and learn along the way.

6) Because you’re creating indexable content that can be referenced by you and search engines fo-ever.

Think about the difference between the web and sending a direct mail piece, running a print ad or buying a phone book ad. Print is finite. The web is not as of yet.

7) Because I said so.

I have your best interests at heart. I’m a nice guy and a lot smarter people than me are saying this too.

Why I use WordPress?

Let me count the ways … no that’s too cliche.

Here are the top 10 reasons why I use WordPress … no that’s too Twitter.

Please become a fan of WordPress on my Facebook page … no that’s too Farmville or whatever that Facebook game is called that everyone sends me and I ignore.

For only $19.99 get all my WordPress Secrets … too splash page.

Click here to download a free trial of WordPress … too spammy plus it’s already free.

Pick up the phone and call now and you’ll also get my bonus report “How I’ve made millions in 3 hours per day using WordPress” … too late night infomercial.

Ok seriously now, the reasons why I use WordPress are many. This post may just scratch the surface but WordPress is something I love to use and write about. I’ve also built a business around it. Did I mention [start of shameless self plug] that my wife downloaded a virus on her PC last week for the 2nd time this year. It’s toast this time (I use a Mac and she wants one too but wouldn’t this Netbook really hold her over for another year or so- I think so too) [end shameless self plug] and we could use a new Netbook.

WordPress has leveled the playing field in two big ways:

1) It has made Web Design way more affordable. You no longer are tied to a webmaster if you don’t need to be. You also don’t have to get a custom CMS (content management system) built. You can launch a website or blog in a matter of hours. With the amazing number of premium themes and plug ins you can focus your attention on creating compelling content and building a community around your product, idea, service or cause. Instead of focusing all your attention on design, functionality and technical stuff, you get to redirect that energy toward the things that truly drive traffic and create bottom line results. Plus it has widgets and you can’t go wrong with widgets.

2) WordPress has allowed you, me and anyone with a business, passion or hobby to self publish. You no longer have to wait to be published in a magazine, newspaper or journal. You no longer have to pay big bucks to broadcast your message on TV or radio. You hit the publish button everytime you post something in WordPress. If it’s good they’ll find it through Google. They’ll share it on Twitter. They’ll Digg it or Stumble it. The ball is in your court like it’s never been before. It’s the ultimate bootstrapping tool. It’s homebase. It’s better than the other blogging platforms and open source CMS’s because it has a legion of fans, developers, designers, writers, podcasters, video bloggers, visionaries and entrepreneurs making it better daily. It’s a movement. It’s a community. Did I mention it has widgets and that’s fun to say.

I heart it and it’s high on my list.

Thanks to WP Studio for putting on the contest and to ithemes and webdesign.com for all they do to make WordPress better.

Budget ideas for New Media

If you’re a small business, busy professional, non profit or ministry; what’s it worth to have someone tell your story for you? Is it worth $6000 – $12000 per year? I’m sure you’re spending that much per year on ads. I created a little [download id=”2″] if you have your records handy.

I know businesses that allocate this amount of their budget just to yellow page ads or business card ads in weekly papers. I know businesses who spend this on lead generation programs annually. Some put this kind of money into radio or TV.

Wouldn’t it be more effective to start blogging about what you do, how you do it and who you can help? Wouldn’t it be more effective to create online spaces to organize your fans and customers. Wouldn’t it be more effective to handle your own PR instead of begging for it, or worse yet paying for it from the old media? If you’re a mid sized firm and your getting mad right now, then realize who I’m speaking to, it’s probably not you.

I certainly agree that small businesses, busy professionals, non profits and ministries can’t afford to bring someone on staff for $50-$60 K to handle this task. I’m betting you’re already stretched thin, so delegating this to staff may be out of the question as well. So what other options are there.

content updatesWe’ve created plans for those who want to outsource storytelling. We’ll be your PR department and Content Managers. We’ll update the content on your site, your Flickr photo feed or your Youtube video channel. We’ll coach you on creating compelling content. We’ll write educational marketing posts for your blog. We’ll handle blog updates on your latest endeavors, fundraisers, events or milestones. We’ll coach you to disseminate information and engage appropriately on Twitter and Facebook. We’ll organize your contacts with email newsletters. We’ll get people talking about your story and if your story isn’t worth talking about, we’ll help recreate it with you.  This is what we mean by creating and sharing your story online. They used to call this marketing and advertising. If you want to delegate you or someone on your team to handle this at least check back soon for the launch of our coaching programs and webinars. If you’re interested in our services they range from $499 per month up to $999 per month. We’re only looking to do this for a select number of clients. We’re already handling this for some.

Social Media Workshop

This post is mainly geared for a free workshop I did today. However, I think most folks who are new to social media will learn a lot.

Here is a quick summary of some bullet points from today’s talk:

LinkedIn is probably the most professional of the tools we discussed today, but also probably the most in depth. Within LinkedIn there are many directions you can go with your job search or networking. There are groups to join, connections to be made, recommendations to write and to seek out, and much more.

The biggest key is to first set up your account. Then set up your profile. From there you can get more acquainted with the site and tools over time. If you have at least created an account and set up a profile, then people can connect with you. Google can also index your results. Again this means that if someone Google’s your name (it’s become a verb), they can research you. Todd Doyle did a great job explaining LinkedIn and it’s value.

Twitter- is a great and simple tool that can help you to encourage others, promote others, contribute to discussions, plug yourself, and it’s also a lot of fun. Everything in Twitter is based on permission. People follow you based on the content of your tweets (posts). You choose to follow them back based on their content or by searching for people via (searchtwitter.com) Don’t forget to bookmark or favorite these links in your browsers. Another great way to find people to follow is by looking at the followers of your followers. For instance if you looked at my list you may see some people we know commonly. Then so on and so forth. Twitter followers are very faithful about reciprocating as long as you don’t over do it with a far too many posts or spam them with lots of unwanted solicitation type tweets. Mixing in the occasional plug, link, cause or promotion is not only expected but helpful to the entire community.

Twitter can help you connect and develop relationships when you genuinly become interested in others and when they reciprocate. Often people share information, job opportunities, new promotions, referrals and much more on Twitter. After you create your account and set up your profile, you will start to tweet. You only have 140 characters. Once you’ve went over that limit you’ll start to see the screen change colors. It’s a good idea to make your thoughts as concise as possible. Over time you will see many of the tricks and hacks that people use to get the most out of the 140 character limit. It’s simply brilliant and brilliantly simple in the way this works. Don’t forget to add a picture, a bio and a link to somewhere online that you have a presence. LinkedIn or Facebook profiles work well.

I’ll leave you with a few tips that will save you time and energy. I learned these the hard way by watching and by trial and error.

  1. If you want to link to someone else on Twitter in your tweet- @username is the format. You can look up their user name on their profile page or through a search.
  2. If you want to add a link then this website can help you shorten the link so it takes up less characters. You simply copy the url (the address in the bar up top) and paste it into the box on the website I’ve linked to above. Then you click make tiny and copy the new link and paste it into your tweet box. It sounds a little complicated but it’s really not. If you use a mouse then highlighting and right clicking will let you copy and paste easily. If you prefer using your keyboard – On a PC -Ctr button + C = copy while Ctr button + V = paste. On a MAC Command button + C = copy while Command button + V = paste.
  3. If you like what someone else says you can copy it and paste it into your twitter box and put the letters RT in front of it. This is called a retweet. It is the highest compliment to retweet someone elses tweet (post). You can make it easier for someone to retweet your material by making your tweets 120 characters instead of 140- don’t try and understand that one yet, just trust me. Here is the magic in the retweet. If someone has 15,000 followers and you say or link to someone interesting, many of their followers may quickly follow you. Viral marketing at it’s best.
  4. Don’t tweet too much and don’t tweet too little. A couple times in the morning, at lunch and around dinner is plenty to start with. At least try it once a day if that’s not possible.

Next week we’ll talk more about blogging, facebook and Ning. Also we can have a Q&A for those who have jumped in sideways into Twitter or LinkedIn.