Starting in 2009, I took it upon myself to develop a Business State of the Union.Our company had been growing since its inception in 1997, and with the way technology was changing all the time I felt I needed to have everything in one place. I needed to have information available to me or to my husband if something were to happen to either one of us. Articles have been written that touch on pieces of what was going through my mind. In fact, there was an article from the NY Daily News about having a social media will.
But it is not just about social media. Think about your entire business. The infrastructure, the access, the passwords, the chain of command. What happens to all of that if something unexpectedly happens to you? Who has access? Where are the passwords?
Setting up your own State of the Union (SOTU) is an essential part of running your business. I am on my 8th year of doing so, and remind everyone annually at this time. So let’s go through the basics of what you need to do in order to set up your own personal SOTU.
Step One: Collect all the data.
- Business Systems – what technology do you have in place that is a vital part to running your business? Is it a specific software or database? Who has access? Where are the passwords? Does someone else understand how it works? A common one that comes to mind is Quickbooks.
- Social Media – As it stands, Facebook will not give you access to your loved one’s account when they pass. They will “memorialize the account” so only confirmed friends can see and still post. Now for most people this may not be that big of a deal, but what if you have a lot of Facebook Ads tied to this account? Pictures? You cannot access this without the name and login. There are types of legislation the will assist in certain cases, but why not avoid it altogether and have your login and password accessible to the person that will need it? This of course also applies to Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, you name it. Gather your logins and passwords to all the social media sites you frequent and list them on your SOTU.
- Email – Where is it hosted? What are the passwords? Do you have access to all of the machines, such as home or work laptops, phones, iPads, etc. where you can log on to the email?
- Websites – Again, where is it hosted? What are the logins and passwords? How many domain names do you own, and when do they expire? Where did you register them? This is especially true if your livelihood is tied to your brand and website.
- Internet/Back Ups – Gather your logins and passwords to deal with our internet account. Do you know your wireless network password? Do you have a guest account with a password? Do you have a Time Capsule or other back up hard drive that is password protected? You need to know what these are!
- Cell Phone Accounts – Again, having access to logins, passwords, and plan information is vital. It is extremely rare that anyone has a land line any more, so you need to be able to get on the carrier’s website and adjust whatever is necessary.
- iCloud/iTunes – Apple is typically very helpful in retrieving someone’s music if they have passed, but if you have access to these accounts and can relieve a lot of extra work and aggravation.
I could go on and on with the list of different programs, products, services like PayPal, Amazon and various people like lawyers and insurance agents, but you get the idea.
Step 2: Where To Store It
Now that you have all of this technical data in one place, what do you do with it? First, I recommend using an encrypted system to store all of your vital passwords. We use and recommend Passpack. Passpack.com is a password management system that will allow you to manage and organize your passwords, create accounts for family members or team members, and it is all encrypted and secure.
Next, it is time to create the official SOTU: a Word document or Excel spreadsheet that lists the physical location as to where to find your important documents, such as wills, life insurance policies, bank accounts and so on, and then also include your Passpack account information. This document can be as simple or as thorough as you want it to be. Then you find a place to put it.
Last year I even placed everything “in order of importance” to the best of my ability, just to make it easier on my executor.
My husband and I have placed our SOTU onto Dropbox, which is not only accessible to us both, but makes it easy to update the information. I also have a printed copy that I keep with the wills in a safety deposit box – just because I am anal like that.
Step 3: Update on an annual basis.
For us, that just happens to be every August. Set a date on your calendar – one that you will stick to. It only takes us less than an hour to go over any changes to passwords, business systems, bank accounts, etc. Just a small amount of time can really save you a lot of grief and struggle in the long run.
The SOTU is very personal since everyone utilizes technology and social media in different ways. Honestly – you don’t need to be a business owner to have one. Everyone should. Get your info together and then pick a person in charge.
So how many of you have a SOTU? Am I the only one? Did I get your wheels spinning? What are your thoughts?
I recently wrote several posts on how to utilize video to market your company. Already in 2017 we are seeing massive strides in the way companies are using video to market their business, as well as the platforms making changes allowing you to take your video to the next level.
Just last week, Facebook announced new ways to watch videos on Facebook that include bringing sound to the videos in the news feed as you scroll, adjustments to make the videos shot vertically look better on mobile devices, a new watch and scroll feature that allows you to keep watching the video but allowing you to keep scrolling through your feed, and a new app for watching Facebook videos on TV with the use of an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV.
YouTube traffic expanded more than 40% since last year, and continues to have a billion users watching millions of hours every single day. The thing you have to remember is that these are not super high quality edited videos by professionals. These are quick and easy videos that people are simply using cell phones to shoot in many cases. But that is getting it done. The content is out there, you are creating a relationship by being in front of them and it is increasing your credibility.
It is also rumored that Google and Bing are both testing video incorporation into their search results – meaning your Google ad or other content will get better results if it is a video. That is awesome!
Video is really leveling the playing field when it comes to marketing your company. For a small business, video is an inexpensive and relatively quick way to get in front of your target market. It allows you to connect with your audience in ways you never could before. You can answer frequently asked questions, showcase new products, interview happy customers, demonstrate your products, the list goes on and on.
So what are some more ways you can use video to market your business?
- Add video to your marketing emails. Studies show it will boost your click through rate by 200-300%
- Embed videos on landing pages of your website. This will help boost your website’s SEO. Sixty-five percent of people will visit a website after viewing a branded video they find online or via social media channels.
- Start utilizing the Facebook Live video feature. Facebook gives more attention to live video and will therefore make sure it shows up in a person’s feed. For those of you using this feature already, you may have noticed a recent spike in views thanks to this change in their algorithm. Don’t forget to save it to your camera roll on your phone so you can upload it to YouTube for additional exposure.
I recently read a quote that said “To not have any kind of video support and/or strategy that lives with and/or complements your existing communications would be a fool’s errand. It’s time to learn to love video.”
I completely agree. The age of using video to market your business is definitely here and I am sure we will see a lot more this year in technological advances that will make it even more simple to do. Time to quit dragging your feet and get started.
I really struggled with the topic of website advice as we sit here in 2016. I pretty much figured everyone was well versed on this topic. I mean, there are a million articles about this already and multiple sources you can utilize, right? But – I was wrong. Just in the last two weeks alone, my company has encountered every single issue I am about to address with a client or prospective client – so I thought it would be a good idea to cover some basics as well as some things that were not so basic. Let’s face it: websites, like all of technology, continue to evolve. We must evolve with it to stay caught up. So below are the top five issues we are seeing currently:
- YES – you still need a website. A prospective client reached out to me with this question last week. She wanted to know if a website was even necessary now since she could load everything on Facebook and get started for free. Let me very clear on this point: YES – you need a website. You DO NOT own Facebook. You can be shut down at any time based on the opinion or some sort of red flag at FB that will shut you down immediately. Even the famous Social Media Examiner was shut down by FB. Thankfully, it was only temporary in their case – but I am sure the reason it came back up so quickly had to do with the fact tons of FB powerhouses are involved in that entity. Needless to say, they carry a lot of weight to get the attention of someone to turn their page back on. Do you? Think about it – if you based your entire operation on FB and then one day they shut you down, what would you do? You should use FB as a tool to lead people to your website. Plain and simple.
- KNOW your passwords. A lot of business owners hire someone to get their website all set up and blindly give permission and freedom to register their domain, set up their site, maintain it. However, once it is all set up, a lot of business owners have no idea how to log in to a system that controls their entire livelihood. You need to know your passwords and how to get into the basic framework that controls your website. YOU need to have control. In the early days, this was much more difficult since websites were basically a bunch of files filled with cryptic code. But no more. Today, it is very easy to have a site that looks complex, but is as simple to log into and change as a Word document. If your web site isn’t simple to manage, it is time you upgrade your site.
- CONTROL your domain name. This is re-emphasizing the second point. As long as you have control of the account where your domain name is registered, you can fix most other things down the line. Time and again, my husband’s company gets calls from people in a panic that have no idea who is in control of their domain name, or when it is due to renew, or who to contact if they have questions. This is the very beginning, the basic piece, of everything you are creating online. Again, know your passwords, know when your domain name is due to renew. If you lose your domain name, it could lead to catastrophic results.
- BACKUP your website. Your website is essentially no different that any other precious data out there. Don’t assume just because it is on the Internet means it is backed up – it’s NOT! The company that is hosting/creating your site should be talking to you about backing up your site. However, we have run into several situations where this was not the case. Data was not backed up – and data was lost. In a case we encountered recently – six years worth of data. That is not only heartbreaking, but catastrophic to a business. So make sure your website is being backed up.
- MAKE IT MOBILE FRIENDLY. If you have not updated your site in the last three to four years, chances are your site is not mobile friendly. Recently, Google made it known to everyone that they were giving preferential treatment to mobile friendly sites. Research shows that the VAST majority of people check their email and social media accounts via their smartphone, so it goes without saying that your site needs to be prepared for your mobile visitors. Think about you and your friends: you are out at a restaurant and start talking about something you want to look up. Are you going to waste your time on a site that is not mobile friendly and hard to read? No. You will move on to the next site that will give you the information you are looking for. So make sure your site is up to date AND definitely mobile friendly.
Websites continue to be what I call the “mother ship.” All points of your marketing should be leading to home – your website. Your website is your little corner of the Internet world. You have complete control of all things happening on your website – or at least you SHOULD. Make sure you have the ability to collect emails, answer questions, tell your story, interact, and most importantly educate your customers on why they should be doing business with you. Email marketing, social media, direct mail – everything you do should lead back to the mother ship where you have control. Websites are DEFINITELY not going away. So the real question is – how much do you know about your website?
According to a recent blog post from Google, starting April 21st they will begin giving higher rankings to websites that are mobile friendly. Google states:
“This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”
It is no secret that Google is always changing their algorithms in order to give the end user the most up to date information when they come to do a search. The never ending game that we as marketers play is how to optimize our content in order to get the best organic rankings that we can in order to get placed higher. Reminds me of a joke I saw last week: Where’s the best place to hide a dead body? The 2nd page of Google!
Based on my experience running Google Ad campaigns for my clients, I can tell you without hesitation when I look at the stats from the ad that tell me where people are coming from, over 80% consistently in the last YEAR have been searching on a mobile device. So I am not surprised Google is moving forward. This is not something to be taken lightly or brushed aside.
An article from Forbes Magazine states,
“According to information we’ve been able to gather so far, it appears that this update will be as significant as Google Panda and Google Penguin, two previous significantly impactful algorithm changes, perhaps even more so. It’s also going to evaluate on a yes-no basis, which means it’s either going to see your site as “mobile friendly” or “not mobile friendly.”
Let’s face it, eCommerce is not going anywhere and if your site is not mobile friendly, chances are you are missing out on sales to businesses that have a mobile friendly, easy to use website and keep in touch strategy. So what is a business owner to do?
First: Optimize your website so that it will be mobile friendly. If you have been dragging your feet on this, the time is now to get it taken care of. Start by running your website through Google’s Mobile-Friendly test. This will tell you where you need to begin. Here, Google will talk to you about some more common mistakes such as proper coding of image files, not using flash for video – or anything else, and cross-linking inappropriately.
It is not entirely clear how SEO is going to be affected, but rest assured if your site is not mobile friendly your ranking will definitely take a hit.
A lot of this can seem overwhelming unless you know what you are doing with your website, so I recommend not re-inventing the wheel and hiring a professional to take a look at your site and make sure it is mobile friendly. If you are lucky enough to have WordPress as your platform, you should be able to select a different theme that is more mobile friendly.
Second: Look at your email marketing. Almost everyone checks their email primarily through a mobile device while they are on the go. Most business owners that I know that are smart and taking the time to send email newsletters use various companies to put together a sharp email that shares their content and represents their brand, but when is the last time you updated your newsletter to a more mobile friendly version?
Constant Contact and Mailchimp both have mobile friendly templates that will allow you to see what it would look on on a desktop, as well as a mobile device, before you send it out. Nothing is worse than checking your email on your phone and not being able to read it because you are trying to find a way to get the whole thing on your screen. Most people I know would give up – and that is obviously not good. So make sure your email is readable from mobile devices as well.
Third: Don’t give up on social media. With all the platforms to choose from I understand it can be an overwhelming task to keep up with. But with the increase in mobile devices, the primary way people stay in touch is via their mobile device and their favorite social media platform. If you are struggling with keeping up with it all and cannot afford to hire someone like me to help you, then I recommend choosing one platform – and being great at it. Find the platform that your target market is hanging out in and give that platform all of your attention and time. Be amazing at Facebook. Excel at Twitter. Have the world’s most beautiful set of boards on Pinterest. Do one thing, and do it well, and your business will be noticed online. Use tools such as Pagemodo or Hootsuite to help you organize your thoughts and plan your time online successfully.
Making all of your online efforts more seamless and intuitive for the end user are what is going to set your business apart in the coming months and years. Paying attention to the trends and acting accordingly should be the priority in when connecting with your audience online. Questions? Contact me, I would love to chat about it with you.