Posts Tagged ‘Content’

Building your business without getting lost in the minutia

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Every entrepreneur wants to build their business but most new businesses have to be very lean in order to get off the ground. Unfortunately for most businesses that means doing without key things that can help their business thrive but that does not have to be the case. Just because you do not have the specific skills needed for a task and you cannot afford to have a full or even part-time employee around to get the things done that you need does not mean that you have to do without. There are inexpensive options available to give you the help you need so you can focus more on the business of building your business.

Picture it, your office, now. You, focusing on meeting your clients needs while your daily office/business needs are effortlessly handled by an unseen force? It is an amazing feeling right? You, focusing on the stuff that made you want to start your own business in the first place, not a care in the world. Sound too good to be true? What could this amazing unseen force be? It is none other than your Virtual Assistant. That’s right, your heard me…Virtual. And I am not talking about The H.A.L 9000 or some scary SkyNet kind of thing that will take your data in a desperate plot to take over the world. I am talking about highly skilled professionals working from home that can remotely help your back office run at peak efficiency.

Think about it like hiring a temp from an agency but rather than getting basic computer skills and the task for providing office space and equipment, you get someone with experience doing exactly what you need done who provides their own equipment and can help you at just about any hour of the day (within reason of course). You can find VA’s with skills that run the gamut from very broad skill sets to help you take care of stuff that piles up and keeps you from getting to more important things to very narrow specializations to help you with more of a surgical focus and everything in-between.

Need someone to answer the phones so you can get out for a few hours a day unencumbered?
No problem. There are many ways in which your local business calls can be routed to a VA so they make appointments, take messages or anything else you require.

Perhaps you have great marketing ideas and have no clue hoe to implement them?
That’s not a problem either. You can find marketing writers to help with your website and other marketing content.

Does Social Networking completely elude you?
You are covered there too with social media experts who can not only get you setup with the likes of Facebook and Twitter but will also keep it updated for you to keep your presence fresh.

Bookkeeping not really your bag, baby?
You can find a VA to handle your payables and receivables to ensure that you are always in good standing with your vendors while making sure that your clients are in good standing with you.

Web Guys getting you down?
You can even find someone to make your website updates for you so you don’t have to pay outrageous maintenance costs to unscrupulous web developers.

And instead of paying for someone 25-40 hours a week, you only pay for the time you use and the rates are very reasonable. So what all can you get? The sky’s the limit. If there is a need, chances are the is a VA out the that is specializing in easing that pain.

And the list goes on. If you need it done, chances are there is someone out there with the expertise you need, ready to help.

So what are you waiting for? You can get exactly the help you need without the unnecessary overhead so have a seat at the table, tuck in and help your business grow.

5 more great WordPress Plugins

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

In a continuing effort to improve both user and usee experience with WordPress sites, I offer a few more handy plugins to help make life on both ends of the site a little easier.

WP-Spam Free
Those of you who have comments enabled for blog postings on your WordPress site know just how annoying comment SPAM can be. Yes, you heard correctly, SPAM (it’s not just for email anymore). But fear not, as with most things WordPress…there’s an app for that. Just like the filter on your inbox, WP-Spam Free will weed out the Viagra and Mortgage company ads (along with any other comments that don’t pass the smell test) that bots try to post to your site as soon as they get wind that there is a form to be submitted. It is great for you because it keeps unwanted content from showing up without your knowledge or in the case of having moderation setup, it will keep your inbox free of most of those blog born irritants. And it is great for your clients and potential clients because they do not have wade through drug and porn ads to find that diamond in the rough comment that they are looking for to make sense of everything they are reading.

Ever wonder about those “Tweet” buttons that appear on some blog posts (like the one to the right), well that is a great little plugin called TweetMeMe. What it does is add that nifty button to each of your postings and then it is kind enough to track the number of times other people thought enough of your latest rant to share it with their friends. All your visitors have to do to spread your wisdom is click the button and login to their Twitter account (assuming they are not already logged in) and there, like a virus, your knowledge finds its way to more willing hosts.

CForms II
OK, so how many of you are frightened by the prospect of adding a form to your site and even more troubled by the spew of nasty that is returned to you in email when your brilliance is rewarded with an inquiry? Worry no more. Contact Forms II was designed with you in mind. Now all you have to do is select from a list of field types, decide the order in which you would like them to display and you are off to the races. There is even an easy interface for setting up the email that comes back to you with those awesome results!

Looking to jazz up your posts to include a photo of the author or maybe want to look really awesome when responding to your blog comments? Well, if you answered “Amen, Brother” or some other type of affirmative response, UserPhoto is the plugin for you. Simply install it and you will find additional fields at the bottom of your account editing screen. All you have to do then is browse for that photo that just screams You and you are set. Let it upload and BAM (to borrow an expression) you are looking more sharp and professional than anyone has the right to be.

After the Deadline
For those of you bemoaning the fact that Spell Check is missing from the WordPress bag of tricks, cry no more. After the Deadline not only finds all of those textual faux pa’s but it also will school you on improper word usage to help you make the most of the brilliance that is leaking from that overstuffed brain. Just tell WordPress you want to publish your post and After the Deadline, like the Gentlemen’s Gentleman that it is, will scan your prose for things it finds to be naughty in its sight and allows you the opportunity to snuff it before your error is seen by the masses waiting for the next installment of the cool that is you.

Now that is what I call putting the Fun in Functionality. So don’t just sit there, strut on over to (or start your search right from your own sites admin interface) and take the first step toward enjoying making your site more enjoyable to use.

5 plugins to streamline your WordPress administration

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

WordPress offers thousands of little pieces of code designed to help you extend the functionality of your site with the least possible effort. These little pieces of code are known as plugins. Plugins can range from simple admin only enhancements to full-on new site features that are ready to deploy to your user base. The trick is finding the right one to fit your particular needs.

Here are 5 great admin enhancements that no site should be without:

Page links to
Although outmoded to a degree by some of the newer “Menu” functionality in recent versions of WordPress, this simple little plugin can save you a significant amount of time when making edits and additions to your site. Essentially it is a simple redirect for the page/post in question. It adds a control to your post/page editing console that allows you to set an internal or external URL and it redirect all traffic to that post/page to the specified URL. It is great when linking menu items out to third-party or other affiliated sites and allows you to either open the link in the existing window or pop up a new one so that you can send people out without forcing them to leave your site. As I said, the new Menu functionality covers this but I really like this plugin because it allow you to do it on the fly while right in the page editor so if you decide that the content on this page is no longer relevant and you would prefer any traffic coming to it to go to another page instead, there is no need to remove any content or do anything fancy, just enter the URL and you are off to the races.

Exclude pages
Another great plugin that is outmoded by the Menu functionality of the recent versions of WordPress but still a must have for simple sites or sites with themes that do not support the new menus (and there are a lot of them out there). All it does is add a single check box to your post/page admin that is checked by default and says “include page in navigation”. Have a sales page that you want to keep it from showing up in your menus? No need to pay a developer to make some funky changes to your theme code, all you have to do is uncheck the box and update the page, easy pease.

TinyMCE Advanced
A strange name but a familiar tool to all WordPress users if they only knew. You disagree? Well, have you ever updated a page or added a post in WordPress? Well, then you have used TinyMCE. TinyMCE is the script that is used to create that wonderfully familiar “Word”-like editing interface that you use to make things pretty in your posts. TinyMCE advanced builds on that great base and offers additional functionality, like table creation and editing, that can make it significantly easier to maintain your pages and posts. Instead of a measly two rows of buttons, you can now customize the features that are available so your editing menu can be as unique as the stellar content that you are creating with it.

Twitter Tools
Twitter tools is a great plugin to help you enhance your social media presence. Although recent version updates have made the configuration a little more involved, it is well worth it. It offers the ability to automatically send a Tweet to your followers each time you make a new post to your blog thus helping you kill two birds with one “publish” click. Now rather than creating a new post and then tweeting about it two days later because you got sidetracked right as you finished, the tweet will go our simultaneously allowing your followers quicker access to the brilliance you offer on a regular basis (kind of like this 🙂 ).

All in one SEO Pack
what can I say, it is all about the SEO and the All in One SEO Pack is just what the doctor ordered. This simple plugin allows you to quickly and easily optimize your site for search engines. If offers base functionality to set keywords and descriptions and home page title while adding a new component to your Page/Post editor that will allow you to optimize every page on your site individually. So now whenever you make changes on your site you can just as easily make sure that your page continues to be optimized to enhance your organic SEO. With this in place, you will have a solid base for any SEO strategy.

These are but a few of the thousands of great plugins out there being developed and maintained by the open source community. Wish you could work more efficiently? In all likelihood there is app for that. So stop wishing, and start searching. And although the first things you see may not be the plugins you’re looking for, move along and you will fins what you need.

What kind of information should I put on my website?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

So you are ready to go with your new site: You have the perfect domain, you have set up hosting, you have found a fabulous designer but you are stumped when it comes to adding the content to your site. So what do you do? Well, every site is different and what works for company A will not necessarily work for company B so that is a difficult question to answer in absolutes but when in doubt, always go back to basics. There are certain types of information that most websites have in common and they are a good start for any site outline:

The home page is the place where everyone lands when they first visit your site so, as with everything else, it is important to make a good first impression. You already have a professional designer on board so the Wow factor is covered, now let’s think about the meat that supports that attractive looking garnish. At a very base level your home page should succinctly explain to visitors what you can do for them. This can be done as simply as with a clever tag line for your logo are be as involved as a paragraph introducing your services. This page should function as a kind of dashboard highlighting the most important aspects of your site whether they be having products front and center, readily available event information or the latest news about your business. You want prospects to find what they need here and allow it to lead them deeper into the site.

The next most important page is one that give details about your products or services. There can be many of these pages but you need to make sure that you at least have one good page that details what you can do for your prospects. And the more specifics you have about why your product/service is THE solution to the ills of potential customers, the better it will be received.

About Us
It seems pretty obvious but it is something that every site should have. Everyone wants to know who they are dealing with. This is a great place to tell prospects your company history including awards that have been received and charities that it supports. You want to make the prospect feel that they know you because the more that they feel the know you, the more comfortable they will be with you as a product/service provider.

Contact Us
It is very important that contact information is as easily accessible as possible. Prospects and clients alike want to have the ability to communicate with you if they have questions or problems. An address, phone number and email address are ideal but this is not feasible for companies that have a number of products/services and not as many people available to deal with that type of direct inquiry (especially by phone). In these cases, a contact form will do the trick. A simple form capturing Name, Email and Comments can handle a variety of different issues and allow the business owner to deal with things at their own pace without being inundated with emails and phone calls. A form of this nature can also be expanded to suit any business need and the results can be directed to someone best equipped to handle the inquiry.

With the basics down, you can begin to expand your outline to include news, events, additional product pages, additional forms, e-commerce and more. If you work collaboratively with your designer, they can help you determine the best options to show on your home page and throughout your site.

Think it Through!
No matter what business you are in, fully consider the information you want to provide your site visitors. The idea behind any site is be as sticky as possible so that once visitors arrive, they get stuck in the gooey deliciousness of your content and don’t want to leave. Once you have found the formula that works for your business then it is time to rinse and repeat. Regular updates to your site (especially on the home page) will help ensure that visitors will come back time and again to see what is new.

What’s the deal with Social Networking?

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

If you are not living under a rock and do not rely on the “Trash Heap” to give you the latest news of the day, then you have probably heard the term “Social Networking”. And while it is all the buzz on the internet, many people are unsure of what it is exactly.

So what is Social Networking anyway? Well, Social Networking, in general, occurs when individuals interact with other like-minded individuals in a social setting. But the definition of the term has morphed somewhat in recent years to refer more specifically to Online Social Networking which is the same but with a (cyber) kick. Online Social Networking occurs when these same individuals come together through various member access mediums to chat, share photos and generally connect online. There are many things online that can be considered to be social networks but for the purposes of this article we will confine the definition to connecting with individuals through things like Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In.

Ok, I get it but so what, isn’t that stuff just for teenagers? Well, not exactly. Although many of the largest social networks initially catered primarily to high school and college students, times they are a changin’. Now you will find a great cross-section of society getting involved with social networking because of how convenient it is to stay in contact with friends and family along with re-connecting with old friends that you lose touch with over time. The median age of your average social networker has been steadily climbing over the past few years. In fact, in 2008 social networking outstripped email in overall reach with 66.8% of internet users accessing member communities online compared to 65.1% for email.

So what does this really mean to you? Well as a business owner, you have an opportunity to take advantage of all this virtual water cooler milling. Make hay while the virtual sun shines. With the proliferation of these groups and their ever-increasing depth of connections to others, your message can go viral in no time at all. And the SEO potential is staggering. If you can reach one person at any of these online watering holes, that message can potentially be carried infinitely as well as being picked up by your favorite search engine with yet another golden link to your website. Think back to your favorite shampoo commercial. You get one persons attention and they’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on…

So how do I do it? The key to effective social networking, like with may other things, is planning. If you come up with a solid strategy for your business or product, you can hit them over and over without them even knowing it. And remember, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. The best part about social networking is that the networks themselves can interconnect to reinforce your message. Make sure that any strategy includes multiple points of contact.

As I stated before, there are a number of popular social networking sites out there but I will focus on some of the most popular:

Facebook is the quintessential social networking site. Anyone who is anyone online is on Facebook in some way shape or form. Any business or product can set up what is known as a Fan page on Facebook. It is essentially an online profile for you business that allows you to post messages, upload photos, share success stories or even have discussions with clients and potential clients. It can be like having your very own conference room in the ether where you can post the latest information about your products and services or share your success. And the best part is that when you post a link or even just make a statement about your business, it automatically shows up in the news feed that your “fans” spend their time with every day. It is a great way to keep top of mind with current and potential clients.

Twitter is a micro blogging platform that allows you to send updates to your “followers” 140 characters at a time. It does not seem like much, but it is enough to drive traffic to product information, blog postings or to inform “followers” of events. These quick postings are called Tweets. It is used by many as a means of communicating what they are doing “right now” but as a business medium it is growing daily to help connect businesses with potential clients, value added resellers and vendors.

Linked-In is the only one of the networks I have listed that was specifically intended for business use. You can add a complete profile about you and/or your company and then you can connect with people you have worked with in the past or present. The people in your network can then connect you with people in their network who are looking for someone in your field. The connections can get pretty deep so it kind of becomes like the 6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon but with potential business connections and who knows, maybe even Kevin Bacon himself.

Now that you are setup with your accounts, don’t simply rely on Linked-In,Twitter, or Facebook alone, use them in concert to make your messages sing. There are applications available that will allow you automatically post your Facebook Fan page status to your Twitter account (or vice versa) and Linked in will also display your tweets. And if you really want to melt your brain, set up a blog and set it to update Twitter, which can then update Facebook and Linked-In thus allowing you to post a single piece of content related to your business and have it reach multiple levels of people on multiple networks all at the same time…now talk about a Breck Shampoo moment.

The biggest thing to keep in mind when developing your Social networking strategy is that you have to update regularly to see any impact form your efforts. Social networking is not a fix it and forget it type of meal. This is the type that requires a candy thermometer and patience while you stir and stir to make sure that it doesn’t get scorched.

The 5 D’s of Effective Marketing Content

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

The biggest mistake that marketers make when developing their collateral materials is focusing too much on their brand and not enough on their products or services. Rather than focusing on the Who, what marketers should really be focusing on is the Why. Whether you are creating a new brochure or adding to a website, the best way to set yourself apart from the crown is with effective content.

Effective marketing materials should be constructed to persuade and inform. And as much as it pains me to say, design isn’t everything. You really need to have solid content to support your flashy graphics because once they snap out of their sense of awe and wonder about your stellar design (which they WILL experience 🙂 ), they will be ready to feast on the information your materials have to offer. If there is no substance to be had, they will leave and move on to a company that can satisfy their hunger.

The 5 D’s
In order to give yourself a fighting chance against all of the five-star competition out there you just need to ask yourself a few questions as you go through the process of developing your content:

  1. Definition – Is your product or service clearly defined and are all of the important features enumerated?
  2. Differentiation – Have you clearly stated how your product or service differs from your competitors and what specific pain it remedies?
  3. Demographics – Does your content clearly speak to your intended audience?
  4. Design – Is your content easy to read and understand and will it get your points across without confusing a layperson about your product or service?
  5. Distribution – Will the material you plan to produce be easy to distribute to your target market and be understood without interaction from a member of your sales team?

Answering these questions as you develop your materials will help your content to be more effective which will translate into more sales.

Creating Effective Marketing Collateral

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

The trick to creating truly effective marketing materials is finding the right balance between form and function. As I have stated before, content is king but great content is useless if you don’t have anyone reading it. Enter Content’s flamboyant cousin, Design. Good design can have as much of an impact on the bottom line as content because the flash of a great design, like a carnival barker, is really what brings in the crowd.

So what can you do to make sure what you are creating is both visually and substantively powerful?

The 5 C’s of powerful marketing materials

  1. Clear Headline – Think about it, you are standing in line at the grocery store, you glance over at the magazine rack and see one headline that says “Cow has Human Baby” and one next to it that says “Beige is the new Off White” which do you gravitate toward? Unless you are planning on auditioning for the next edition of Project runway, you will likely be more intrigued by the former. Although this may not be a good example of a brochure headline, it illustrates the point that the right headline can make the sale.  A clear and catchy headline can be the difference between someone stopping to read your material and moving on to the next more “off white” marketing piece in the rack. Make sure your headline is clear and catchy. Make people want to read more.
  2. Clean Layout – A good layout bolsters that great headline and helps direct your prospects eye. It leads them through the content and helps them digest the material the way you want them to. Using short paragraphs that are broken up by larger (and sometimes colorful), informative headings allows your reader to get the point even if they only have time to scan the material. Good layout maximizes the efficacy of your content.
  3. Clever Graphics – There really is something to the old adage “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”. Maximize your exposure with graphics that help to define the information you are trying to get across or at very least helps draw the reader further into the content you have worked so hard to develop. A nice graphic presentation can draw as much attention as the aforementioned “Cow has human baby” headline. Make the most of the little time you have and give those visual learners out there something to absorb. Whether you use drawings, maps, or photos as long as they help illustrate your products benefits, visuals can help tell the story when they don’t have time for the words.
  4. Call to Action – One place many marketers fall short on their materials is in the lack of an effective call to action. No matter how savvy your prospect base is, when you are marketing to them, they are sheep and you are the little pig asking them to kindly move along. Don’t be afraid to be forceful. They are looking to you for guidance so don’t disappoint. Make sure to tell them what they should do next. Click Now, Call Today or whatever is appropriate for your product or service. If you don’t tell them, how can you expect them to do what you want them to do?
  5. Contact – Don’t forget to tell them who you are. You got their attention, you have directed through the information, you have stunned them with your graphics and you told them what to do. Make sure they know who you are. Always include your branding and multiple ways to get in contact with you. You need to ensure that you don’t blow the excitement generated with your awesome graphics and brilliant prose.

Make a Memory
The bottom line for any type of marketing material is usefulness. The goal should be to create something that clients will want to hold onto. They might not be ready to purchase immediately but if you find the right balance between content and design, they will hold onto your materials (or bookmark your site) until they are ready and when that time comes you will be their first contact.

5 things to consider when creating marketing materials

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Whether you are creating a website, a brochure or a full on ad campaign there are a number of things that need to be considered before starting the process. Considerations vary depending on the type of marketing you are doing but some things stay the same.

  1. Know Your Audience. You have to know your ideal customer in order to effectively communicate with them. Putting yourself in their place will go a long way toward developing the type of relationship you want.
  2. Know Your Materials. The approach you take when putting together a particular type of marketing material or campaign will vary depending on what you are doing. The content that goes into an ad campaign is much different form that of a brochure. Make sure you have a complete understanding of the medium before you start so you can properly organize your selling points to maximize the effect on your indented audience.
  3. Know Your Audience. I can’t stress this enough. Stay away from jargon or any kind of industry specific language that may distance you from your customers. The more you know about your intended audience, the more effective your communications will be no matter what types of material you decide create.
  4. Know Yourself. Know your products and services inside and out. Be thorough in the information you give to prospects and above all make it meaningful. If the content of your brochure, ad, mailer, etc is not valuable to your target audience, your materials will quickly find their way to the recycle bin or worse, the shredder.
  5. Know Your Audience. I may have mentioned this one before but I thought I would mention it again because too many companies produce materials that are really good if you already know all there is to know about their product or service but they are not quite as meaningful if you are not in with the in-crowd. Knowing your audience well allows them to be let in on the joke and gets you one step closer to your goal…a sale.

Keeping these things in mind as you begin to develop your marketing plan will keep you on the right track and hopefully help you begin to build the types of relationships you are looking to build with your customers.