A post over on The Blogmistress from a few years ago…

That is what it’s all about, isn’t it? For most of us. We want your attention and make use of every resource we can master to get it – Twitter, SEO, social bookmarking, social media, Facebook. Attention (bugle call) What we then do with it is another matter, of course. That’s when more traditional marketing skills come in, I suggest.

Taking the Blogmistress site as a case study, several hundred of you visit us every day now – which is wonderful (and thank you). But as the boss I then have to consider what we’re doing with and for you now that you’re here.

Of course much of what we aim to do is help you with your WordPress – one of the main reasons for creating the Blogmistress was to give me a great excuse to do just that – it’s what I like doing best – helping you to make sense of stuff that is within your grasp.

But then, with people to pay and hosting to maintain and pencil fetishes to be satisfied we also need to make better use of your attention from a business point of view. That’s the bit I’m rubbish at, that’s for certain (hence George on the team!).

Which brings me to you. What are you doing with the attention that you’ve worked hard to attract to your blog and website? Do you know just how much you’re getting and where it’s coming from?

What I’d love to do is listen to your advice and suggestions […]

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“I want some SEO …”

Something I get asked about now and then by clients old and new… They have a great website with good content and now “want some SEO”.

medium_3102556540Just what does that mean these days? A few years ago it was more obvious – research your keywords and apply them through your site (in a basic nutshell) then find some relevant sites to link through to you. But it’s just not that straightforward these days, if you want the rewards – visitors, customers, clients – whatever it is you need (which of course is the first thing you need to get to grips with – not as obvious as you might think), you have to work harder for, at least to start with.

So what are we supposed to do? Well we have so many ways to attract people now that we have to work out just what is likely to be most effective. Of course in order to do that you still have to understand what you’re selling and what you want people to do upon visiting your website or your blog. And then you give it to them. Well, that’s what it boils down to, but those visitors and customers, shoppers and subscribers are all over the place these days (so to speak).

For instance, one of the services Lynn Tulip of Assessment4Potential provides is excellent advice for people considering a job or career change. There are many people offering similar services so how do we get the job seekers to read Lynn’s posts and books, getting to know her style so they want to hire her to help them? Well by demonstrating her knowledge within her articles, these then need to be shared  as widely as possible, in the places those job seekers are looking. LinkedIn, for instance, is one good place for professionals. Facebook perhaps? It does not need to be direct, but sharing on Facebook may have her articles seen by people who know others who are looking – especially in that festive fortnight when people get a chance to think about their jobs a bit more, resolutions considered, and the like… Where else might be a good place to share this?

You see it’s not just a matter of putting in the keywords – those search phrases people use – that is going to be one of the hardest ways to attract people and there are arguably just handful of positions available. Do people even search for what you do on the search engines? Do they prefer recommendations or to find something in their more comfortable online “club”? StreetLife is a recent place to consider, for local businesses, and not as somewhere to advertise necessarily, but for your happy customers to recommend you, or for you to step forward in a friendly manner.

What might work for you? Where are your customers? Are you someone who can “chat” on Twitter so people get to know you somewhat, even within those meagre 140 characters, enough to look further, or certainly to welcome the occasional tweet related to what you do? I know for some the constant selling on Twitter works, but I’m not keen – but then I’m not fabulously successful or wealthy, so my approach is not going to be what works for everyone – I fit my online marketing to suit my life and business mix.

It really is all a matter of testing – dip your toe into the various online media and see what works. Watch your visitor activity on the website and through your calls to action – is there any? Perhaps time to rework the plan of action, for me as well as for you…

I’ll start with a post later in the week on where to explore – you might be surprised, and it may be easier than you imagine, this “SEO” lark…

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Don’t be cheap

I’m not talking about shoddy-cheap, obviously shoddy is never good, but affordable-cheap. For a small business can cut prices be a good thing, sustainably, for anyone concerned? From the point of view of a service provider just how long can you earn a sensible living doing “cheap”?

medium_10933181056Following on from my previous post about avoiding the bootstrapping clients, I wanted to explore  a bit further, but from the client/customer point of view. Because we are all customers as well as suppliers.

We enjoy a bargain but I do think it sensible to stop and consider just how much of a bargain it really is. Will it last? Is it done by an expert with plenty of experience or by someone wanting to make a fast buck who just happens to know the patter and jargon? And why would an expert be cheap?

On the other side, we’ve most of us been there. Bills landing left, right and centre and the chance to make a dent or two by doing a quick job for someone. But that way lies nothing good.

Back to the customer… Taking advantage of an expert with some fast offers is all very well but just don’t expect that same quality for price in future. It can be an introductory special offer but know that cut-pricing just cannot be sustained for a business to flourish or even remain in business.

So how to not be cheap? Well for my business being organised helps. The only problem with that is finding/making the time to stay organised, in between all the projects, both sensibly priced and cheap. My prices, therefore, have to include for someone to keep things organised. It had to be a case of stop everything and take the plunge. Just do it. Charge sensibly. Charge according to experience of both me and those I need working with me. And have the courage to say no to those quick fixes that end up with you working for less than the minimum wage. Another important thing is to be as clear as possible about what a client can expect for their payment, and then be really firm about meeting that expectation but anything beyond is chargeable.

As a customer, what is your experience of “cheap”? And as a business owner, do you manage to maintain a lower-priced service or leave that to the newbies, perhaps?

photo credit: ekkiPics via photopin cc

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Nice website, shame about the tumbleweed

You’ve invested in a great website; it looks amazing, is user friendly and you’re justifiably proud of it. Everything works, the doors are open to receive customers/readers/visitors.

Pretty tumbleweed

Pretty tumbleweed

So where are they?

It’s a long time since just creating a website and submitting it to the search engines might have been remotely sufficient, if it ever was. And it takes more than a beautiful website to sell; building it will not make them come.

Your shiny new website is just the first step for your online business, these days more than ever. You need to put in more time or money to attract the customers, the visitors. But the potential rewards are also more accessible than ever before too – know what to do, where to spend your time and go for it.

OK, that’s all well and good, Babs, but do I have to do it all? Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, Google+?

I’m glad you asked, dear reader, because this is something I love helping people to work out and learn.

And you do not need to do it all, just understand how each aspect works and which your best customers are likely to be using. The focus remains with them – what do they want, where are they and what is likely to grab and hold their attention? Answer these and you’re away. We’ll do more on the various aspects here this year, covering each of the wondrous options, as well as pointing those of you who think “If only there was somewhere to show me how to do all this stuff” to the new JDI Club launching this month (shameless plug).

Just keep in mind that it is not rocket science, that more of us than ever can do this stuff with just some gentle guidance and a push in the right direction.

Ask anything here, too – it keeps me out of mischief :)


photo credit: Wheeler Cowperthwaite via photopin cc

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Keeping an eye on the youngsters

It is so easy to keep doing what you’re doing, isn’t it?

medium_8252274159This morning I was listening to the radio and a piece about teenagers online, that many of them go to YouTube as their first port of call. Now I know this already, having a son who spends hours watching his favourite Yogscasts and other such screencasts. So why have I not allowed that to nudge my business brain to more seriously consider video beyond the screencast tutorials for the Blogmistress? More than this I shy away from but just how wrong might that be with the rising market’s apparent enjoyment of video rather than reading. Shame on me for not allocating time to researching if this is more than a teenage phase.

While working on an infographic (which I love and understand why they are popular – succinct and simple) for the JDI club I wanted to know more about the latest social media favourites and as well as the obvious I noted an apparent revival in Myspace and that Instagram is more popular than I considered. So that’s more training for me this week, understanding the whats and whys.

What’s my point? That all of us who use this wondrous web for our businesses need to refresh our view of things more often, even putting something into the schedule for such – it is important if we want to tap into the online market, essential. This should be easier for me as I’m suggesting what you all should be considering and just scheduling draft blog posts without also scheduling the time to understand and actually write them is my bad (see me – getting all hip ;-) ) and I will do better.

The Internet continues to offer us the most valuable access to our market, arguably (?) the most powerful tool for those of us who sell services or anything non-geographically limited. And we know how it evolves, so we must listen and watch and learn – frequently.

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Everything changes – work with it

One of the latest changes that has some business owners and social media marketers up in arms is Facebook changing the way it shows content to those who’ve liked a business page. “They’ve moved the goal posts” they cry. The result of the change is that we have to work a little harder to be seen by our audience, our “likers” – or we can pay for the privilege.

Human – business evolutionEach time an essential aspect of online marketing changes the way they provide their free services, people complain. People who perhaps expect rather too much for free and consider that everything on the Internet should be free. Such an attitude is understandable to a degree – so much is still and has been free to view and any portal or service that starts to charge is met with outrage. We really do need to appreciate the resource that goes into the wondrous facilities we enjoy.

For the social media playgrounds at our disposal, some of us know that if we keep going with sensible, relevant online activity the changes are more likely to be a good thing. It’s a shame that those who think they know better won’t stop and pay attention long enough to reap the rewards of experience. But I digress…

You can only control the aspects that you own, to paraphrase my friend, Nikki Pilkington (we did have a chuckle yesterday about this). Everything changes, evolves – Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ – all of it. You can harness the available power if you offer what they consider to be good stuff for their users – fresh, relevant content, usefulness, interest – whatever enhances and enables them to provide what we expect of them. Think about it – when we use Google to search for something we want the most useful and relevant links for our search – if our website/page can provide that we must make it simple for Google to know and show this. When we’re catching up with online friends on Facebook, we do not want to be bombarded with all the business pages we’ve Liked, but would perhaps (arguably?) like to choose those we see in our feed. Or indeed when we see actual adverts, we’re more likely to click on those of very targeted interest to us.

So when you, as a business person who wants to reach as many relevant customers as possible online, consider just what is going to work you do need to keep in mind that things change. This scares many but do the right things and you’ll reap the rewards.

On the Facebook matter, there are ways to increase your visibility – basically you ask those who Like your page to select to see your updates – which really is fair enough. Nikki has outlined just how to do this here. But you have to actually do something – too many people expect an awful lot for doing very little. Marketing online is more and more about getting out of it what you put in (and of course knowing what to put in and where, the strategy), and not simple about having a well-optimised site.

photo credit: patriziasoliani via photopin cc

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Friday Rant: Enough with the Negative…

medium_6253836387Am I the only one to get annoyed at negative blog post and article headlines?

  • What Not To Do…
  • Why Your …. is Failing
  • The Ten Don’ts of …

You get the idea and have seen plenty yourself, I’m sure. Such titles put me off, they annoy me, and they do not persuade me to read the actual content. I may be missing out on some great information but I’m not encouraged to give the author my attention.

Aren’t more of us likely to react better to positive headlines, perhaps more:

  • How to Succeed at …
  • Ten things to do to…
  • and one I spotted recently “Are your fees high enough?” instead of “Are your fees too low” (hat tip to Mark Lee for that one)

Is it just me? What do you think? Do you take much notice of an article’s title? Are you put off by negatives or irritated by positives, perhaps?


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What counts as blogging?

Someone asked me how long I’d been blogging for, and I had to first think of what would actually count as blogging before I could answer. While I would often join in with, and even start, a number of forum posts to the degree that could almost be considered blogging, I would say my first foray into posting to the wider community was through the online networking platform Ecademy back in December 2004, but even that was pretty lightweight and social rather than business. But to then take my blogging outside of that playground, well you can see those tentative efforts here (I leave that post live to remind me that it was not actually that long ago after all).

origin_24720422Anyway, no wonder I don’t blog as much as I should/want to, my mind and thus my writing meanders all over the place…

So what does count as blogging? If we take the correct meaning it is a web log – which quite frankly could mean anything.

If you are blogging for pleasure, you can write what you want. For business we perhaps want to behave ourselves a bit  more ;-). What are our options for a blog. What can people who don’t write well do, for instance? Well these days I’d suggest whatever works for what you want your blog to achieve.

  • If you want to impart knowledge and demonstrate that you know your stuff, might you be able to do that just as easily with a video? Work out a way to do yours and then add it to your blog with some brief notes and post that – see if that works for you.
  • Or just a screencast? On the Blogmistress site I like to do a screencast to accompany any blog posts that include showing the reader how to do something. These days I “just do it” rather than delete and re-record until things are perfect – I’m far less fussy and nobody’s noticed or complained so far…
  • Could you have your ideas transcribed from a recording? If you can record what you want to say, how about then having someone type it up into a post for you? Or post the actual recorded file – podcasting your blog.
  • My friend and colleague, Steven Healey, has just added a list function to his new blog that has me very excited. I’d love some blog posts to be actual discussions. The hardest part of that is encouraging people to join in, to engage, I’m sure. But he’s found a tool, and I’ll help him test that out, that makes this simpler to make happen.
  • If visual is what appeals to you and your audience, use Pinterest or Tumblr or one of the wondrous image sharing options out there.
  • Articles can certainly be blog posts, or is that the other way around – Suze explores that idea rather nicely.

What else? What would you consider appropriate for a blog?


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The best way to play with Twitter?

Today I was loitering in Twitterland and spotted a wonderful tweet from Buzzfeed that showed an online “chat” between several brands. They have really kindly taken screen prints and placed them all into the one post here. Take a look and then tell me if you consider the brands involved in a more friendly light?

Absolutely wonderful banter between brands, selling nothing, just chatting and joining in with the fun. Essential for those new to Twitter and thinking it’s all about selling at people.

And you just know those doing the actual tweeting had fun with this too.

Now can you imagine using Twitter?

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Reviewing Your Online Marketing Strategy 2 – Who wants you?

Oh, the temptation to title this “Who loves you?” just so I could add “baby” at the end – but realise most of you are too young to have any idea what that would be on about. Aren’t you? ;-)

So in part 1 we had a good look and think about what we want to achieve with our business.

Now to consider the people who will buy, your customers.

You need to understand who they are, get to know as much as you can about them. In the old days this was known as market research. I’m not sure if that is what fresh, wet-behind-the-ears business owners are taught at the local enterprise agency or modern equivalent, but it certainly was in my day, and at business college.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYes, you are happy for anyone to buy, but you’ll have more success if you focus on the best possible customers for your product. If your market is very specific, you can plot the simplest route to it. This won’t stop others buying, but it will make the most impact on your marketing efforts.

So – picture them. How old are they? Where do they live and/or work? What do they enjoy? Do they go online? Do they surf the web or stick to the safe confines of Facebook? Do they use a computer, laptop, tablet or phone for online activity? Are they comfortable buying online? Do they have plastic yellow bodyparts (just checking that you’re paying attention!)? What websites do they like and visit?

For instance – the WordPress support website, The Blogmistress, is ideal for people who like to have control over their content but don’t want to have to sort out the updates. They want the control and to have an understanding of what can be done, but like to have someone on hand to ask or just do things if they are busy with their own work.

So the ideal Blogmistress customer runs their own business and/or blog, they love the flexibility of WordPress but don’t really have time (or the inclination) to get geeky with it as they are busy being successful at what they do. They also understand that using such a service is an investment in their business without me having to spell that out to them – this is useful for any supplier!

Understanding who your customers are can then guide you as to where they might look for and/or find you. Are they likely to be Facebook users, or perhaps more social media savvy and use Twitter or Google +? Are images relevant – might they enjoy Pinterest? Or are they not interested in the Internet at all? Do they just use email, or only go online if they absolutely have to?

Who are your ideals? Picture them in your mind and then consider what they want to know about you and what they have come to buy.

Make notes! We will bring everything together soon and with all of this information, you’ll have a good idea of a strategy that is likely to work for you, to succeed.

And you might like to join us on the November course on getting to grips with marketing online…

photo credit: Kaptain Kobold via photopin cc

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