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Rural Housewife or Tech Entrepreneur? You Decide

Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

The Real Trick of Social Media

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One major pet peeve of mine is that technology is only a way to work smarter and not an excuse to toss everything we ever knew about business out the window.  To master these new mediums, first you need to understand that there is a traditional equivalent to all of our online activities and anything we put online should have similar value.  Social Media and Internet Marketing are no different.

The goal of any style of marketing has always been to engage with your potential customers.  When thinking about how to be effective with Social and New media I can safely say that the psychology of the process hasn’t change, just the tools.  For instance, if you dread cocktail parties and business mixers because you hate small talk, you probably won’t like being on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter.  If you excel at meeting new people at conferences and filling your pipeline as the result of networking, then you shouldn’t have too much trouble using those skills online.

When trying to create your own social media campaign, start with traditional ideas like being present.  Half the job of networking is making time to meet with people.  The advantage to online networking and messaging is that you don’t have to hire a baby sitter – you just have to make time in your day to be present online.

My suggestion is that if you’ve never used the internet or social sites to market your business take it slow and try just one form of communicating at a time.  Mastering it before you move on to another will save you lots of frustration and prevent you from making too many mistakes – like being too promotional or too personal.

While there are plenty of sites that can give you insider tips and tricks to being more effective, please don’t feel that you have to know some secret hand shake to be part of the process.  Take what you know and what has worked for you in the past and allow yourself to ease in.

Written by Karlie

February 8th, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Wanted – Small Businesses with Website Woes

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Do family and friends praise your website, but the numbers show that it isn’t performing well?  I can confidently say that you’re not the only one in this situation.

Of the hundreds of small businesses that I’ve counseled, each case is confidential, but when I know there are at least a dozen businesses with the exact same issue, I think a little transparency would go a long way.

For example, I’d like to take posts such as “Ego’s Role in Business Websites” and “Beginning with the Finishing Touches” and make them less vague.  The idea being that if I could give specifics  then the cases would become real-world, working solutions rather than theory.  especially if someone would like to go long-term and report back on what’s been working or not.

So, if you, or someone you know is wondering why a website and other online presence practices might be coming up short, please let me know in the comments field below or the contact form. Please include anything you have specific questions about so that I can include the answer when I reply.

Don’t worry, I will email you before I begin my critique and if I don’t get a response, I’ll pick another site and try yours again for a later article.  If you change your mind about the critique or have any reservations just let me know.  I’ll be happy to take you out of the queue.

Written by Karlie

January 25th, 2011 at 11:08 am

Positioning Yourself as a FOSS Service Provider

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In my previous posts, (1, 2) I’ve been talking about why Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMB) need Linux and Open Source solutions. I’ve also talked about Open Source industries. But what we haven’t covered is getting in the game.

While I could go high tech here or dazzle you with business terms, the truth is, going into business only requires that you understand the ground rules.

Think of it in terms of poker or any other game. Yes, it might take you a while to develop the skills you need to be really good at the game, but one of the most important steps is learning the rules and understanding what makes for a winning hand.

No matter how unique your method of doing business, or your business model, you will need to pick up the basic skills and techniques. But just because you may not have a full tool kit at the outset doesn’t mean you can’t get started. Especially if you surround yourself with people who have the strengths you need.

The really good news is that you can get the basics lots of places. There are countless business resources online and many in your local community. If you’re in the United States, SCORE offers free business counseling and low cost workshops and the SBA sponsors Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) where you can also get free counseling and learn the basics of writing a business plan, accounting best practices and other essential skills.

Where you’ll find it getting tricky is getting past the no-cost mindset when you, and your clientele, begin thinking about free software solutions. I can tell you that the early years of my FOSS business were rough until I figured out how to properly position ourselves in the market place.

Our business model needed to be tweaked more than once to be sure our potential customers could see the value in doing business with us. In some cases we raised our prices, others we lowered them. In some instances we dove into the marketing plan, hammering out little details and studying our customers.

As I have branched out and helped other FOSS projects think about their positioning I’ve found the biggest issue is marketing messaging. You see, it isn’t about what they wanted to say about their latest and greatest update, but about what the customer needs to hear.

While that statement could be interpreted as the sort of thing con-artists do, it’s not about trickery, but about point of view.

Think about it this way… What are the key things high level geeks think about when it comes to setting up a new computer? Processor speeds, RAM, Kernel version, getting the proper video drivers and all those other spec sheet gems.

Now think about what a business owner wants to know. They want to know how much it’s going to cost. Is there going to be any down time? Will their employees adopt the new tech and use it effectively? Who’ll be able to solve any problems that may arise? Why should they trust that a free download isn’t going to be a lemon? If it’s so great, why is it free?

My best advice, DON’T Underestimate the importance of re-programming your thinking so that you can step away from the for-geeks-by-geeks FLOSS marketing that you’re use to seeing. If needed, find someone familiar with FOSS and SMB speak to translate for you.

The reality is that the barriers to starting a successful business aren’t that big if you’ve got the right mindset going in. Again, a good team of advisers can help you overcome any portion of the business process that you have questions about. The rest comes down to your skills and ability to get the job done to your client’s satisfaction.

We’ve got a winner by Dimitri Castrique

Written by Karlie

July 21st, 2010 at 11:05 am

Keeping your Facebook Fan Page Perky

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By now we all know that social networking is about attraction and that constant blasts about sales and product updates is not that attractive.

For the On-Disk.com Fan Page I’ve decided to post at least one FOSS or Open Source link per day, since I’m pretty sure that sort of content would be most attractive to our customer base. So far, I’d say it’s working. How do I know it’s working? Not all of the fans are friends and family.  I did put a fan banner in rotation on our website, but other than that I’m not pushing the fan page out to my customers.

So when you’re up to your eyeballs keeping the business running, how do you find the time to keep your Facebook fan page perky?

One answer is StumbleUpon.

For me, StumbleUpon started out as the “Entertain me” button, but by using some of it’s features, I’m also able to find neat content for fan pages too.

It starts off assuming you’re already stumbling content that’s relevant to your industry.

The second step is setting your Stumble bar so that you can stumble for relevant content. If you click the image above, you’ll see where and how to select your topics.

From there, just hit the Stumble! button as needed to find a good page to share with your fans.

As a personal preference, I like to us the linking feature on Facebook status updates. While you can just add the link in the “What’s on your mind?” box, I think it looks better to save it for comments and add the link separately.

Written by Karlie

March 25th, 2010 at 8:11 am

So what is the right domain name?

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Domain name can play a role in your business success, but it’s not as vital as it once was.

People use to worry that a long domain name would be hard for people to remember as if it were a long phone number. But the reality is that your new domain name can can be almost any length as long as it describes your business well.

While I’d avoid BigTonysAllKazooPolkaBand.com* due to excessive length, it’s not inappropriate if, in fact, you are Big Tony and you lead an All Kazoo Polka band.

Now if the name you want is already taken, you’ll be better off finding another name. If the site is established, the registrant isn’t going to be too keen on giving it up and they won’t do it cheaply. If it’s simply a squatter, you might be able to negotiate a good price. Just keep in mind that a year of domain registration is usually under $10, so if you’re paying a few thousand dollars to a squatter the name should be really fantastic.

~Karlie
* Factoid of the day – once upon a time I was the owner of BigTonysAllKazooPolkaBand.com

Written by Karlie

December 23rd, 2009 at 10:24 am

Websites that work for Small Business

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A website doesn’t have to be complex to be an effective tool for Small Business owners. The key to making a website work for you is taking advantage of the passive nature of websites.

Websites, in their natural state, just sit around waiting for someone to browse the content. They only become active when we begin driving visitors.

The good news, is that you don’t have to go to great expense to bring in your visitors.

The Advantage of Being Passive

All too often we are dragged into feeling that we must aggressively compete. That the Internet is a turf war and if we can’t go big, we should go home.

That’s just not the case.

In any business, there’s a target market and the key to having a successful website is getting your information picked up by the search engines so very specific customers will find you.

Relevant Content and Searchable Terms

The key to understanding what the engines will sort into the top 10 listings is Relevant Content.

Think about listing websites from the search engine perspective. There is an infinite number of websites with similar content. If people can’t find what they’re looking for, they’ll search with another engine. To keep the “good stuff” front and center and the users in front of their advertisers, they have created complex systems to sort out the good from the bad.

Relevant to the engine usually means hitting as many of the search terms as possible within written content of any given website. And it’s important that the terms are within standard sentences because the engines will read your site and can tell the difference between coherent sentences and lists of terms.

Relevant content is including the information your customers want to find.

That means, you shouldn’t get hung up on key words as stand alone terms. Instead think of providing information that is not only a good read, but is also very descriptive so that you’ll have more opportunities to include relevant content.

By including as much information about your business as possible, the search engine can’t help but sort out a very specific group of customers to send you.

The more ways you can get your point across, the more likely you are to include relevant, searchable terms that will bring in the customers you were hoping to reach with your website.

If you do business locally, your location and distances from landmarks is very relevant and will drive foot traffic to your store.

“On the Corner of Main and Center.” “Across the Street from {Landmark}.” “Just 3 Miles from Downtown {City}.” “Serving the Greater {City} Area.” “In {Shopping Center} near {Anchor Store}.”

If you sold shoes you could say something like, “This {brand name} ladies shoe has a 2.5 inch heal and butter soft leather…” would hit on searches for {brand} shoes, {brand} ladies, ladies leather etc.

As far as your use of the relevance, {brand} {location} is very relevant if your customers know exactly what they want and where they want to buy it. By including your location somewhere on the same page as your product listings, you’ll be able to catch the attention of these very specific shoppers.

Getting Listed in the Search Engines

Getting listed in the search engines is FREE and requires no special software or service providers. Best of all, it’s easier than you think.

You can submit your site directly to the engines by visiting each one you’d like to be listed in and finding their submission criteria. While it may take you a while to do it manually, you’ll only ever have to do it once. Once the engine knows about you, that’s all that’s required. Sending it in over and over again doesn’t increase your ranking.

Just give the listing process time to work.

The engine wants your information and will send an automated program called a Spider to your site in an attempt to catalog your content.

It’s called a Spider because it crawls across the world wide web following links in an attempt to visit every page.

Relevant links

In the same way that Relevant content on your own site can bring a specific type of customer, so can relevant links from other websites.

It does two things for you. First, it will deliver a certain number of like minded people. Secondly it will help boost your “relevance” in the eyes of the search engine.

Think of it this way… What’s more relevant than the corporate website for the brand itself? Logic then dictates that if they list your website as a point of purchase, you are relevant too.

Again, if the aim is to align yourself with the most relevant content, you can’t get much more relevant than a link from…

  • The Manufacturers of the products you sell
  • National, Regional and Local Associations you may belong to
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Local business listings to establish your relevance to local customers. (Tourist Info, online yellow pages, etc)

Maintaining Relevance

In passive mode, all that’s required is to be sure the most relevant key words are present on your website.

If you want to take things a little farther, the key to maintaining your relevance to the engines is to keep your content fresh. Changes in your content will trigger a listing update at the engine for your site.

If you add new pages, you’ll also get another listing opportunity and another chance to reach your target audience.

Though you’ll probably find that it’s your human viewers who’ll benefit the most from new information. After all, the ultimate goal is to be relevant to people by way of the engine.

Boosting Relevance and Search Engine Rank

If fresh content isn’t enough to boost your relevance, the first place to turn for answers is your website traffic statistics. (Ask your webmaster if you aren’t sure how to check your stats.)

With your site stats you’ll be able to see a basic snapshot of who your average visitor is and what’s bringing them to the site.

Most statistics programs will show you which engines your visitors are coming from and which search terms they used to find you. Sometimes you’ll see that your customers are finding you for reasons other than what you intended.

For the most part you’ll probably discover traffic flow from unintended key words. This is usually a good thing! It’s only bad when the search terms are misleading because anyone arriving at your site is likely to leave the moment they discover you don’t really have what they were looking for.

If customers aren’t finding you using what you think are your main key words, type them into the engine to see what other sites are beating you out.

Then just tweak your message until you’re ranking where you’d like to be.

Just one word of caution… it may be impossible to get top 10 for some key words and phrases, so pick your battles and focus on the areas you can win. Remember the idea is to use the engine to sort out customers most likely to make a purchase.

Written by Karlie

December 14th, 2009 at 2:22 pm