It is easy to get stuck in a rut with your systems or processes while running your business. All to often do I see business owners with the mindset “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” But that is not wise for entrepreneurs. The world we live in is nothing but constant change. There will always be a new program, new app, new service that could possibly be serving your better, or maybe even saving you money. I just finished reading a great article that got me inspired to double check some of my processes. This in turn got me thinking – what else could maybe be improved? I have pulled together a list of six things that you should check on that you may not have investigated in a while that could improve productivity AND profitability.
When is the last time you went really took a good hard look at your website? When is the last time you changed the content? When is the last time you had someone reach out to you based on your website? If you can’t remember the answer to any of the above questions, this one definitely needs to be a priority. So much has changed with website platforms, SEO, mobile optimization, and lead generation. Websites are so much easier to manage now, and the old SEO rules definitely no longer apply. (Check out 18 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind from Hubspot – GREAT suggestions to help get you started on this front.) Your website is definitely your first impression – so make your first impression your best. Call your web guy to start a refresh. If you don’t have one, I recommend this guy.
Server vs. Cloud
It used to be that small businesses had little choice when it came to centralized data storage or application sharing. They had to buy an expensive server and pay someone to maintain it. Then every few years buy a new one and start over. The reality was that most small businesses would hold on to a server for many years past the time it should have been replaced – and they would not pay to have it maintained anywhere near as much as they should have! The great news is that with mobile devices and cloud technologies, the need for small businesses to maintain a server of their own has been significantly reduced. Many small businesses that do fairly standard “office” tasks with their technology are great candidates to retire their old server and take advantage of a variety of cloud-based services that can offer many advantages to even a brand new server. If your business has an in-house server sitting lonely in a closet somewhere, it is highly recommended that you review the functions that server provides and evaluate if certain cloud services can be a safer and more cost-effective option for you.
FYI, technology has moved very fast and a lot has changed in the last several years, so don’t dismiss cloud services out of hand. A lot of misinformation gets shared by people who simply are repeating what others told them – and it’s often outdated and/or no longer relevant. Seek out qualified advice from a technology professional who is fluent in the many cloud technologies available. There are IT firms out there who are behind the times themselves and will still recommend servers to small businesses that would do better without one.
There are a lot of CRM programs out there. In the beginning, they were all very cumbersome and hard to set up since you had to put a lot of work into the set up. Truthfully, a lot of small businesses don’t even really need all the functions they provide, and you end up spending a lot of money on a program that you only use a fraction of. Based on your need and the size of your business, I recommend checking out this article which covers pricing, features, and the type of support provided for small business, very small business, what is free, and what is best for start-ups. I also found this article helpful, and showcases even a few I did not know about. Personally, I find a lot of usefulness out of using Trello, which is also free.
When is the last time you updated the look and feel of your newsletter? Is it still the same template that you started with years ago? While continuity can be a GREAT thing in many cases, you also need to be up with the times when it comes to visual design. People are really drawn to images and video. Take a look at your newsletter template and see if you think it really grabs the end user like it used to. You don’t want people to just scroll past something – you want to catch their attention.
Credit Card Processor
So much has changed in the credit card industry over the last 10 years. The mobile device revolution spurred a variety of mobile card processing services such as Square. It is now almost trivial for any small business to process credit cards. The reality is that customers look down upon those businesses that do not, so it is in the best interest of a company to make sure they can take credit cards – even if they only run a few per month. The question, however, is which credit card processor to use? Traditional credit card processors have some overhead costs that the newer generation of processing services do not. However, the per-transaction costs of the newer services are higher and eventually those fees add up to cost more than a traditional processor would. So what is a business to do?
The best advice is to find a person you can trust to give you good information regarding credit card processing. There is usually a fairly defined break-even point for most businesses where the fee structure of a traditional processor starts to save them money. Additionally, the costs associated with a processor can fluctuate over time so it is a good idea to make sure your current processor is still offering competitive rates. A trusted credit card professional can evaluate your costs and advise you if you should stick with who you have or look at another processing company. Ask around your area to find someone trustworthy, or if you need help, I can offer some referrals to trusted professionals my company uses.
It is easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks and not think about the next level. When is the last time you sat down and mapped out the next 90 days of what you wanted to accomplish in your business? Last month I sent an email out to my list promoting my 90 Day Plan that I teach my clients – and more importantly hold them accountable to. Typically this should be done quarterly – but I say it is never too late to make a plan. So what it is mid July. It is never too late to map out a plan, set goals, examine processes to achieve those goals, and have someone help you stick to it. I encourage you to do it, and if you need help, please call me!
These are just the first six that popped into my head, also some that I have witnessed for myself from some other businesses. I am sure there are many more. So think about it – what systems or processes do you need to take a look at? What have you not paid attention to lately that you should? I highly recommend giving your business a tune up. You never know how much money AND time you could be saving.
In my last two articles, we chatted about using video to promote your business. We focused on what to talk about, and the ever popular question of the equipment you need to get the job done. Now that we know what to say, and the video is recorded and ready to go, the next question naturally is:
What Platform Do I Post My Videos On?
Here is where I see a lot of people get overwhelmed. Yes, there are a lot of social media platforms to choose from. It is true that every single platform promotes the use of video to their feed, and yes, videos get more visibility and engagement. But where do you start? I am going to outline a few simple steps to get you started that will be easy to manage so you don’t get confused or frustrated and then give up – which defeats your purpose.
Remember – all roads should lead to home. You own your website, you do not own Facebook or Twitter or any of the other ones. It is YOUR content, so make sure you are loading it onto your website. The perfect place to do this is your blog. Instead of writing a lengthy article, you can post a vlog instead! You can then create a simple email newsletter to your subscribers (something you also own) that showcases a link back to your website where they can watch the video. This also helps with your SEO, so this is a win win – and a must-do first step.
There is no denying the most popular and most used video site on the Internet. Creating a YouTube channel is simple, and free. So why would you not have a YouTube channel? There are various ways you can upload a video to YouTube. You can either use YouTube directly – they make it super easy with a button that says “Upload”, or if you have a Mac you can use your iMovie software to upload it after you have done your editing. In the video link I included above, it also describes how to give it a proper title, descriptions, and tags to help make sure people on YouTube that are searching for what you are talking about find it. YouTube is owned by Google – so you are doing yourself a disservice if you are not uploading your content to the #1 search engine.
It is the number one social media network out there, so that is hard to ignore. They even make it super easy for you now with their Facebook Live feature. Simply turn it on on your phone and start talking. You are then LIVE on your FB page and can even talk to your followers in real time and answer questions. If you are going this route, remember two things. First, advertise when you will be on Facebook Live so people can plan on tuning in. Second, save your video to your phone so you can then upload it to your website and YouTube. The beauty is that even when it is no longer live, FB still considers this great content to show your followers, so your content will still get a lot of attention even if it is not being seen live.
If your followers are more the Twitter type, then you will want to be using Twitter’s video platform, Periscope. Periscope is a live streaming app owned by Twitter that allows you to share and watch live video broadcasts. You will need to download the app for this, but once you do, here is a great step by step tutorial on how to use Periscope. Remember, make sure you save your broadcast to your camera roll so you can utilize it on other platforms if you choose.
From here, the sky is the limit. You can post it to Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Vimeo, you name it. But ask yourself – where is my target market hanging out? Which platform do you have the most quality engagement? Just because these platforms exist does not mean you have to be everywhere. Be where YOUR target market is, and where they engage with you.
And here is a tip:
One GREAT place to learn where they are coming from, is to go into your Traffic Sources in your YouTube Analytics. You can learn how to do this here.
Bottom line: always post to your website, YouTube, and whatever social media channel that you are actively engaged in with your followers. You are one person, there are only so many hours in the day. So make them count.
Video is not going anywhere – so it is time to make it part of your online marketing. If you have questions or need help, don’t hesitate to contact me. In the meantime, I would love to hear your thoughts in my comments below!
My mind has already been on 2015. What did I learn this year? What can I do better? What did my marketing efforts of 2014 actually accomplish? I ask myself, and my clients, all of these questions as I sit down to prepare what I plan to take on in the marketing department for 2015.
First step: Get your calendar ready. I prefer to keep things simple. I have a very simple spreadsheet that outlines the twelve months of the year and I brainstorm different events or anniversaries that make sense for me to comment on. It is basically a “big picture” approach about the kind of content I feel would be relevant to my readers and clients. I take that information and formulate the various blog posts I want to write about that make sense with certain times of year. I am always open to move topics around to adjust to current events and moments in time that have events where the need for a little shuffling is in order. Always remain flexible and have the ability to capitalize on current events.
If you are not into spreadsheets or documents, another great place to organize your calendar is on Trello. I have mentioned Trello in the past. It is a FABULOUS online tool that multiple people can log onto and all of your team members can brainstorm content for the following year. This is a great one if you have a team, or if you want to share it with your business coach. **hint hint***
A lot of my clients – and other business owners – like to put their topics and ideas on their actual calendar. Having your due dates in front of you when you can glance at it and prepare for it weeks in advance allows you to prepare for it so you are not running around at the eleventh hour trying to meet a deadline. You can either color code your online calendar, but quite often it is even very useful to do it the old fashioned way – with post its and stickers! Below is a the folks at CoSchedule who make a WordPress plugin for an editorial calendar, and they are still using sticky notes! Whatever works for you – do it!
But what does one do when they sit down to a calendar and come up with nothing but a blank piece of paper? I will highlight my favorites from a great resource, CopyBlogger, and their article “50 Can’t Fail Techniques for finding Great Blog Topics” but make sure you click here for a the full list.
1. Google alerts – setting an alert with some of your industry’s key words. This can give you an endless supply.
2. Riff on a popular post. Post your reaction and thoughts to a popular blogger’s thoughts and a hot topic and you can gain some power packed link benefit!
3. Try a new medium. Check out YouTube videos, podcasts, or one of MY personal favorites: watch some TV for inspiration. I continue to get inspired by the show, Restaurant Impossible!
4. Do an interview. Do you have a favorite person you like to follow online or connect with at networking groups? The answer is no unless you ask them for an interview! I am sure they won’t mind the free publicity!
5. Take an entire day off. I love this one. Recharge your brain for a whole day by doing something you love. Go focus on your hobby and enjoy yourself. Giving your brain a break may be just what you need!
6. Do a product review. Is there something in your business you use every day that you just LOVE? Write about it and spread the love with your readers! My husband, who runs an IT company, does a great post every December on his picks for Holiday Technology Toys as an example.
7. Recruit a guest. When all else fails, call for back up and schedule a post of someone you respect that you can feature on your blog. Make sure their content is what your readers are looking for and it makes sense with the overall feel of your blog. But don’t get lazy and rely on them every month!
Lastly, you will want to set some sort of alert and an accountability system in place so this task actually gets completed. If alarms work for you, wonderful. If you need an accountability partner to make sure it gets done, then set that up. You will be amazed how much you get done when someone else is watching!
So I want to hear from you! What is your preferred calendar method and where do you get most of your blog topics?