Marketing is the bane of most entrepreneurs existence. On one hand it is necessary to communicate with your potential customer base while on the other hand it can be an incredible time suck taking you away from the business of running your business. It needs to be done and as the business owner you are the ideal person to get potential customers the info they need, so what is the answer? I can name that tune in one note…Automation.

Marketing, Marketing, Will Robinson

Ok, so maybe Robbie the robot is not exactly the type of automation we are talking about here but a factory analogy is not too far off. Think about it, the key to marketing (once you have figured out your message and the best way to present it of course) is messaging consistently over time to your potential customer base. The problem that most entrepreneurs face is the same issue that plagued the manufacturing industry in years past, volume. And how did manufacturers resolve the issue? Automation. So why not apply a similar principle to your marketing efforts? I know I am not making an apples-to-apples comparison here but you get the idea. It is all about having the time to generate the appropriate volume whether it be physical product or marketing content. We have established that the key to marketing is the number of touches (and no, not bad touches) you make with a potential client over time but just because you want to connect with them on an ongoing basis does not mean that you have to come back next week at the same bat-time and same bat-channel to bang out more brilliant insights. It is hard enough for entrepreneurs to get into a marketing frame of mind for their own business (even if that is what they do for others) so why not maximize that time when lightning strikes and begin filling a crock pot with marketing gems so you can set it to cook slowly, releasing your brilliance as it heats over the course of an automated campaign?

Recipes for Success

Ok, now you are sold. You know you can count on one or two good days each quarter when you can not only concentrate on marketing your company but you are actually interested in doing it. You have the ingredients, now all that is left is to find the right appliance to turn your marketing recipe into the culinary masterpiece you know it to be. So what are the Consumer Reports best buys for automated marketing:

Blog
One of the easiest ways to automate your marketing efforts is through Scheduled blog posting.  Blog platforms often allow you to set a date and time for your postings to go live. WordPress is especially good at this. You can hack out 10 blog draft blog postings and then schedule them to go live at the date and time of your choosing. This allows you to sit down on that one day a quarter and get it all out, all of the industry innovations, customer epiphanies and other nuggets of brilliance related to your business that have been building up but you had not been able to release to the wild. Then once you have extracted every last drop of insight, you can go through and set your wisdom to a slow drip so its magic fingers will touch your clients as regularly as possible. So then you can get back to the business of running your business secure in the knowledge that even though you are not even thinking about marketing anymore, your clients are receiving the benefit of your experience. And once your marketing build up reaches a critical level again you can just rinse and repeat to reset the circle of life.

Email
Email can work in much the same way with the added benefit of your appliance restarting itself for each new subscription so each individual feels the magic fingers at the exact same rate and in the exact same order no matter when they turned on the heat. How does this miracle appliance work you ask? The simple answer is “AutoResponder”. Now I know what you are thinking, “hey, wait a minute, that is what I set when I go on vacation, how can that possible fulfill the promise that you have laid out?” But worry not, the name might be the same but the function is drastically different. Email providers like MailChimp, aWeber or even a more involved service like 1ShoppingCart allow you to set up serialized  autoresponders that run as a result of a subscription to a given email list. These autoresponders generally allow you to set up multiple emails as well as a time delay from the initial subscription so that they can be sent in the order you want them received and with the appropriate time delay between each so your touches can trickle out at the proper rate.

Social Media
Social Media content distribution can also be automated  as an additional prong in your email and/or blogging efforts. Most blogging platforms and email providers offer options for direct social media integration so as soon as your blast of radiance hits your blog or email system, the same information can be immediately distributed to your different social media outlets like Facebook, and Twitter allowing you to magnify your audience all while you are focusing your time on servicing existing customer and business needs.

The bottom line is that through small time commitments and simple automation, entrepreneurs can effectively market themselves without sacrificing the business they are trying to build in the process.

Everyone who has a business blog (and whose business is not blogging) has the same issue, content. You got into business to do what you do best not write about it but in order for others to know about it, you need to get them to your site. To get them to your site you need to enhance your SEO. The best way to enhance your SEO is regular content updates and the easiest way to regularly update your content is with your blog. Everyone knows they should be blogging but figuring out what to write about is not only a huge source of stress, but sometimes the bane of an entrepreneur’s existence. But it does not have to be that way. In fact if you look hard enough you will find that half of your work is already done.

So with that in mind I offer you these 5 easy content sources for your business blog (Ginsu Carving knives not included).

  1. Customer questions
    When it comes to content the first and best place to go (which is where most of my most polished gems emanate) is right to your customers. Those questions you answer time and time again with each new client. Those things that you take for granted and just roll off your tongue without a thought. Those are perfect fodder for new posts. And if you play your cards right, you can take one common question and turn it into a series of posts. Just think of all of the great material you have at your finger tips. No, seriously, think about it…NOW….See, there is a lot of stuff in there that you did not realize you had. No mater how run of the mill you think it is, if it is a question you answer regularly or information you routinely provide to new customers, then as Jeff Foxworthy might say “iiiit might be a blog post”.
  2. Competition
    Another great place to look is back to your old school motto, “When in doubt, plagiarise”. OK, well not exactly but stay with me. One of the best sources for information for your blog can be your competition. Yep, you heard me, competition. I know what you are thinking, “I don’t want to copy what they are doing, I am different”. Well true as that may be, they can still be a good source of ideas. Take a look at the information your competitors provide about their products and services and no matter how different you are, it will give you ideas that are all your own. And sometimes you might just find content that could be helpful to your clients on its own. In those cases you don’t actually want to copy what they have but take that idea and create your own version of it that is tailored specifically to your business and your clients. And you don’t have to limit yourself to direct competitors, you can look around the net and see who is doing what in your space and jot down some topics because, “iiit might be a blog post”.
  3. Webinars or other marketing materials
    When sourcing content for your blog you should never overlook existing materials especially things like webinars. Many companies put webinars on a regular basis to keep clients up to speed on products or services and with each new one you do you can be sure to find at least one posts-worth of information. Even if you have already covered the content in a cursory way on your site or in a brochure make sure to look closely because, “iiit might be a blog post”.
  4. Industry changes
    Changes in your industry are another no-brainer for content. When new reports come out that have any bearing on what you do, its time to play telephone and repeat what you’ve heard. You should try not to lose any meaning in the translation but you understand what I mean. First make sure that the information is potentially valuable to your clients and potential clients. Then all you have to do is take the information you have received and put it in your own words and,  “iiit might be a blog post”.
  5. Customer success
    When it comes to blogging, customer success is often overlooked but your blog is a perfect forum for sharing this information with current and potential clients. Think about it. You can keep it simple and just explain how Company X is making use of your product or service. Other clients or potential clients can see that and put themselves into the story. No matter how specific a product or service is, every company that uses it will use it slightly differently. This differentiation opens up the possibilities for existing customers to see new ways of making use of what they already have or why they might need something else from you. So when it comes to customers, no matter what you are doing for them, you can now look at them with fresh eyes and realize that, “iiit might be a blog post”.

There is a virtual plethora of other simple sources out there just waiting to make your life easier. So get out there and let them be discovered because you never know,  “iiit might be a blog post”.

Almost every site you visit these days not only allows you to connect via various social media icons but also has this funny little icon with three arced lines over a dot. It is usually orange (but not always) and many people do not know what it does. What that icon represents is an RSS feed. RSS or Really Simple Syndication has been around since that time in the distant past before the current era of the smartphone when PDA’s (Personal Digital Assistants) ruled the world and most of them did not include an internet connection. At this time you had to synchronize your device in order to update information and while you are at it you could also synchronize information from websites using these feeds so you could read it offline. At that time you only really found RSS feeds available through news sites or other outlets with constantly changing content. Now though you find them everywhere because most sites contain a blog and what is a blog but an updated version of those same old news feeds but now they contain the most up to date info about your business rather than the latest crime statistics or the life and times of your favorite celebrity.

This ain’t your mama’s RSS.

I know what you are thinking, we are no loner in that distant past, we are in the now and the age of the smartphone is here so who cares about RSS feeds anymore, right? Well, you should if you have a website. The age of the smartphone is upon us but there are still a significant number of less intelligent calling devices still in operation and many of those have the ability to access RSS feeds with their basic mobile browsing. Not only that but RSS feeds have a myriad of other uses including the ability to be integrated into other websites just by using the links. All that aside, the single best reason for you to have an RSS feed available for your content is because it is the easiest way for clients and potential clients to subscribe to your content. Like the PDA apps back in the day (which was a Wednesday as I recall..) there are apps available on the web, for smartphones and for desktop computers known as RSS Aggregators (A.K.A. “RSS Readers” or depending on how old you are, “News Readers”) that allow you to subscribe to content from your favorite sites and then be notified when updates are made. When site owners use web based apps like Google’s Feed Burner, it makes the process even easier for end users. These apps allow the site owner to connect their RSS feed to the apps notification system and then the end user is notified by email when updates are made to the site. It is like giving your clients and potential clients a sales rep to put in their pocket. Whenever the site is updated, that sales rep pops up and lets them know about all of the exciting and new things going on with your company.

So now that you know what RSS is all about and how it can benefit your company, you now realize that RSS feeds are like a Moving Buddy in the movie Toy Story – “If you don’t have one, GET ONE!”.

You’ve all heard the song and it is true that the best things in life are FREE but now that old adage has been updated to include publicity. Yep, you heard me right, publicity. How much time do you spend each year trying to get exposure for your company or products using regular marketing channels just to get lost in the minutiae that is the internet? How would you like to get some of that much needed exposure, possibly even in national media like ABC and AP? Well…wait for it…NOW YOU CAN!

You may not be the inventor of the exciting new Miracle Wrench that tightens bolts, loosens bolts and even takes bolts all the way off. And in all likelihood you will not get your very own nuclear submarine absolutely FREE so that you can be the first person on your block to Level Cleveland. What you can do though is Help A Reporter Out and possibly help yourself out at the same time. So how can you make those kind of connections, you ask? Easy! All you need to do is become a  HARO Hero.

So what exactly is HARO and how do you become a hero? HARO stands for Help a Reporter Out and it is the easiest way to FREE publicity. HARO is a new type of social media service that helps pair reporters with sources for their stories and it is free for everyone involved. All you have to do is follow these three steps:

  1. Visit HARO’s site and register to become a source.
  2. Watch for emails for PR opportunities that are sent out three times a day.
  3. Respond to inquiries that you feel will benefit from your insights on the subject.

If your response fits the need you will be contacted by the reporter to follow up and you could find yourself with anything from some additional search engine links for contribution to a bloggers post all the way up to some national exposure for your expertise on a certain subject. You could be one of many sources on a subject or you could find yourself as the subject of the article altogether like our sister company Virtual Technique did when it responded to questions about hiring a bookkeeper.

You may have heard that “The Truth is Out There”, you just may not have realized that you could be the source. So put your knowledge to work to Help a Reporter Out and who knows you may find yourself with a whole new pool of potential clients.

Differentiation is always at the forefront of marketers minds but until recently the only way that could be done on the web (outside of stellar content that everyone wants to read) was through the use of flashy designs and creating graphics for all of the headings you wanted to use your logo font. Sure the @font-face CSS tag was added to the CSS2 spec back in the late 90’s but only in the last few years have all of the major browsers begun supporting it.

So what does that mean exactly, you ask? It means that you might finally be able to escape the same old boring Times, Arial, Georgia, Helvetica loop you have been stuck in since 1993 without having a degree in graphic design. Or if you are happy with your existing San-Serif choice, perhaps you will just be freed up to bring some Holiday Cheer to your otherwise dreary website.

There are a great many ways to achieve this new level of style but for the purposes of this post I will stick with the two easiest:

@font-face

As I stated above, this CSS tag has been available since the late 90’s and is the most basic implementation. All you do is upload the necessary font files to your web server and then link to them using the appropriate CSS code. But don’t go wild and upload all of the fonts on your system thinking that you will make a tapestry of crazy on your site because most fonts are NOT licensed for this type of public distribution. As time goes on, more and more will open up but be very careful before implementing this method.

So how do you know what fonts you can use? Well, to be safe, stick to sites like this one when looking to trick out your site using this method..

 

Google Web Fonts

Like with everything else you need on the web, Google is there for you again with their Web Fonts API. With hundreds of fonts to choose from and simple search features Google does it for you with probably the easiest method for implementing this new found font freedom on your boring site. They even go so far as to give you the code you need to simply copy and paste into your style sheets and pages. What could be simpler?

Don’t believe me? Check it out for your self.

As with everything there are pros and cons to any method you choose. Most methods for spicing up your fonts differ slightly in the pros but the main con is the same for them all: limited selection. But don’t let that dampen your creativity! As long as you have a little time and some patience, chances are you will find either the exact font you want or something close enough for government work to get the intended result.

 

Most small businesses ebb and flow with the seasons and summer more often than not is one of those slower times. The kids are out of school, vacations loom and clients are slower to respond even when they are very anxious to get something completed. During these times it is important not to lose focus. Don’t get me wrong, you deserve a break and should take some time to smell the roses but think of how much easier your life will be the rest of the year of you take a little of this time surplus and apply it to some of the housekeeping things you have been forced to ignore? So what can you do now that will make your life easier the rest of the year?

  1. Editorial Calendar
    As you know, regular site/social media updates are the cornerstone of any SEO success. I know you have your blog setup and have been dazzling everyone with the shininess of the pearls you have been putting on display but how much easier would it be for you if you had a calendar to rely on for your blogging, newsletter, social media and website update topics? Take some of the extra time you find yourself with this summer and rather than spending it trying to beat your old paddle-ball record, use it to sit down and come up with an outline of topics to get you though the rest of the year.
  2. Design updates
    If you are thinking about making updates to your identity in the form of design changes for your logo, website, collateral materials or social media themes, now is the time to put those thoughts into action. If you have plans for a new media blitz in the fall, you don’t want to lose valuable time going through a design process when you could already be reaping the rewards. Get the things you need done in process during your slow times so you can take as much time as you need to make sure any graphical updates are exactly what you want rather than rushing the process and accepting an inferior product because your are in a hurry to get things out the door.
  3. Blogging
    Now that you have your editorial calendar, why not take a little of this time to go ahead and bang out some of those posts? If you are using something like WordPress for your blog, you can go in and write as many posts as you like and schedule them to go live over time. How great would that be to be going into fall with posts queued up to run at regular intervals without a thought. Just fill up that marketing crock pot and let it run. And who knows, you might find some other marketing uses for your brilliant prose along the way.

Summer is finally here but fall is right around the corner so make sure to make the most of your summer and smooth out some of the business wrinkles for the rest of the year.

No matter what you do from submitting a proposal for a very lucrative contract to trying to use the restroom after the latest summer blockbuster, timing is everything and online marketing is no different. Many of you might have some idea that when it comes to email marketing there are certain days and times that are more effective than others but did you know the same was true of social media? So what are the best times to make the most of your online marketing?

  • Email
    As a direct descendent of that old marketing standby direct mail, email has been around the longest but the ideal days and times for sending campaigns have remained the same since the beginning. The best windows for Email are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m. or between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m.. The research bears it out but the reasons are simple. Monday emails will either get lost in the morning or post lunch purge and Friday emails often go unseen because people are trying to finish up for the week and they end up being caught in the same combine as the Monday emails. The morning time slot is great for single time zone emails because they make it in after the morning purge, but before the after lunch purge and are generally seen. The afternoon time slot is best for emails that go to multiple time zones because they achieve the same result avoiding purges on both ends of the spectrum.
  • Facebook
    Social Media is somewhat new to the game but it has found its own windows for maximum traffic. Facebook falls in line with emails love of middle of the road travel with links sent between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. getting the most traction while Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. being the best time to post on Facebook all week. This does not mean you should stop posting the rest of the time, on the contrary, if everyone did that, the trends would change to accommodate the content patterns (besides, lets face it, not everything you have to say is a gem). All this means is that you should adjust the timing for your most important content to go out in that sweet spot to maximize visibility.
  • Twitter
    Social media is the great equalizer for marketing and Twitter proves the rule once again with its disdain for established timing. For maximum Twitter traffic, the best time to say your peace is on a Monday between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. ET. So just when you thought you would start taking long weekends, you realize that you will have something to do Monday after all.

So now that you have found some of the sweet spots for your marketing exposure, you might need to revise that editorial calendar I know you have for all of your communications. And if you don’t have one already, it might be time to start thinking about one so you can make sure that all of your marketing brilliance will not fall on deaf ears.

Everyone who has a business blog (and whose business is not blogging) has the same issue, content. You got into business to do what you do best not write about it but in order for others to know about it, you need to get them to your site. To get them to your site you need to enhance your SEO. The best way to enhance your SEO is regular content updates and the easiest way to regularly update your content is with your blog. Everyone knows they should be blogging but figuring out what to write about is not only a huge source of stress, but sometimes the bane of an entrepreneur’s existence. But it does not have to be that way. In fact if you look hard enough you will find that half of your work is already done.

So with that in mind I offer you these 5 easy content sources for your business blog (Ginsu Carving knives not included).

  1. Customer questions
    When it comes to content the first and best place to go (which is where most of my most polished gems emanate) is right to your customers. Those questions you answer time and time again with each new client. Those things that you take for granted and just roll off your tongue without a thought. Those are perfect fodder for new posts. And if you play your cards right, you can take one common question and turn it into a series of posts. Just think of all of the great material you have at your finger tips. No, seriously, think about it…NOW….See, there is a lot of stuff in there that you did not realize you had. No mater how run of the mill you think it is, if it is a question you answer regularly or information you routinely provide to new customers, then as Jeff Foxworthy might say “iiiit might be a blog post”.
  2. Competition
    Another great place to look is back to your old school motto, “When in doubt, plagiarise”. OK, well not exactly but stay with me. One of the best sources for information for your blog can be your competition. Yep, you heard me, competition. I know what you are thinking, “I don’t want to copy what they are doing, I am different”. Well true as that may be, they can still be a good source of ideas. Take a look at the information your competitors provide about their products and services and no matter how different you are, it will give you ideas that are all your own. And sometimes you might just find content that could be helpful to your clients on its own. In those cases you don’t actually want to copy what they have but take that idea and create your own version of it that is tailored specifically to your business and your clients. And you don’t have to limit yourself to direct competitors, you can look around the net and see who is doing what in your space and jot down some topics because, “iiit might be a blog post”.
  3. Webinars or other marketing materials
    When sourcing content for your blog you should never overlook existing materials especially things like webinars. Many companies put webinars on a regular basis to keep clients up to speed on products or services and with each new one you do you can be sure to find at least one posts-worth of information. Even if you have already covered the content in a cursory way on your site or in a brochure make sure to look closely because, “iiit might be a blog post”.
  4. Industry changes
    Changes in your industry are another no-brainer for content. When new reports come out that have any bearing on what you do, its time to play telephone and repeat what you’ve heard. You should try not to lose any meaning in the translation but you understand what I mean. First make sure that the information is potentially valuable to your clients and potential clients. Then all you have to do is take the information you have received and put it in your own words and,  “iiit might be a blog post”.
  5. Customer success
    When it comes to blogging, customer success is often overlooked but your blog is a perfect forum for sharing this information with current and potential clients. Think about it. You can keep it simple and just explain how Company X is making use of your product or service. Other clients or potential clients can see that and put themselves into the story. No matter how specific a product or service is, every company that uses it will use it slightly differently. This differentiation opens up the possibilities for existing customers to see new ways of making use of what they already have or why they might need something else from you. So when it comes to customers, no matter what you are doing for them, you can now look at them with fresh eyes and realize that, “iiit might be a blog post”.

There is a virtual plethora of other simple sources out there just waiting to make your life easier. So get out there and let them be discovered because you never know,  “iiit might be a blog post”.

When marketers hear about bounce rates the first thing they think (like the rest of us) is about the college paddle-ball championships in which they carried their intramural team to victory when they kept their cool while their opponent sneezed at the crucial moment of a heated bounce-off . Once they come out of their reverie they then think of email but that is not the only kind or worse kind of bounce rate you can run across. Nay, the worst kind of bounce rate is the one that occurs with most site owners blissfully unaware. The bounce rate I am talking about is for your website. Now, I know what you are thinking, “But I am not sending my website anywhere, how can it bounce?”. Well. It is not THAT kind of bounce. When someone talks about website bounces, they are not talking about emails and they are definitely not talking about rubber balls; unfortunately they are referring to site visitors. Specifically ones that that make their way to your site and then leave from the same page they entered without going any deeper into the gooey deliciousness of your well crafted content.

So what can you do to mitigate this paddle-ball like nature? The best way is to try to avoid some of the barriers to entry that site owners sometimes unknowingly include in their site.

  1. Design & Layout
    The first place to look for potential issues is your site design. One of the biggest offenders can be in the use of media. I am not saying that you should not use media, in fact it is just the opposite. As I have stated in other posts, media (like greed apparently) is good. It should just be applied judiciously. You would not make a meal of Twinkies (at least not on a regular basis) and that same rule applies to your site. Avoid using gratuitous animation, automatic pop-ups and under no circumstances should you have media with an audio component play automatically when the site is loaded. A lot of it sounds good in theory but in these situations it is always best to harken back to that first law of web design: First, Do NOT Annoy!. Keep your site focused and that will help your visitors focus on why they are there. Stay away from things that could be at very least a distraction or at most a full on deterrent to nestling in and basking in the Cool that is your site.
  2. Content & Navigation
    The next places to look are your content and navigation. It should not require and advanced degree for people to find what they need. The ability for users to find their way around  quickly and easily is one of the most important elements of any website. If a user cannot find what they are looking for, they leave. It is as simple as that. The easier you make it for people to find what they want, the more useful your site will become. But finding it is not enough. If you want to reduce those bounce rates you also need to make it easier to comprehend as well. The content itself needs to be clear, concise and valuable. Marketing speak for the sake of hearing your self talk or technical jargon that does not mean anything to anyone outside your industry does not do anything for anyone. And forcing someone to read a hundred paragraphs on the technical specifications for flushing a toilet when the words “press lever” will do, will likely lead to that unwanted rubbery response you are trying to avoid. The easier you make it to read and understand, the faster they will get the point and the more likely that they will slip unknowingly into the comfy chair of your brilliant content without need of the Spanish Inquisition (whether or not they expect it).
  3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
    Probably the biggest contributors to a sites bounce rate are irrelevant search engine rankings. I know what you are thinking, “There is no such thing as a BAD search engine ranking!”, but that is not necessarily true. As you may have remembered while putting on your deodorant this morning, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. It does you absolutely no good to rank for keywords that are not relevant to the content on your site. Sure you might grab a good spot in some searches but by trying to rank for unrelated keywords you could be hurting yourself in more ways than one. Not only are you getting a bounce because as soon as someone realizes that your site does not have the content they are looking for  they leave but you are also creating a negative first impression with a potential customer.  So when you pop-up later in a search that actually does makes sense, you might get skipped because all they remember that your site was not relevant. So the best way to avoid this is to make sure your site is optimized for the most relevant keywords possible.

No matter what you do, some bounces will always occur whether it is a mis-clicked link, an erroneous URL or just someone playing around in their browser. All you can do is optimize your site to mitigate any real and consistent bounces. Using a professional designer from the start can help avoid common pitfalls but even if your site is already up and running and is guilty of some of the outlined offenses, you can always go back and take a lesson from the Beatles and take that sad song and make it better…

 

To most people LinkedIn is just part of the social media landscape but in this location you will find not only your customers and prospects but employees and competitors as well all interconnected in a web of possibilities. And while the business uses of other social networks are still being explored, here you have one whose original purpose was business networking. With over 100 million plus users in over 200 countries (and getting a new member about every second) there are exponential networking capabilities but how can you make the most of your involvement in this business networking behemoth? It is all about the basics.

Optimize:
Fully optimize your profile. I know it sounds simple but those little nagging completion meters are there to help you. The more information you provide the easier you are going to be to find by potential clients. And don’t just go through the motions to get to that ever elusive 100% mark, make it count.

  • Don’ Bury the Lead
    Make the info you provide work for you starting with a strong summary-headline. Think of it like keyword optimization for your website. What is the best way to describe yourself for a search. Are you a Graphic Designer or are you an Atlanta Logo Designer. Once term will pull you up with about a million other people while the other significantly narrows the field
  • Show them what you can do
    Make sure to fill out your areas of expertise. You never know what skills a person might be looking for and the more well-rounded you are for the job, the better.
  • Give them a Call to action
    Make sure they can contact you. It does not do you any good to show up in all of the searches if people cannot find a way to connect with you once they determine you are the right person for the job. You need to strike while the iron is hot so don’t give it time to cool down while they are trying to figure out the best way to make your brilliance part of their project.
  • Let your music be heard
    Request recommendations them from connections you have done business with in the past. Testimonials from satisfied clients or praise from former co-workers can go a long way toward sealing the deal. Anyone can “enhance” their resume to sound better on paper but it is a whole different story when potential clients can hear people singing from the mountain tops about their amazing experience working with you.

Connect:
Making connections is what it is all about but it is more than just names on a list. You need to interact to make the most of the medium.

  • Lock and Load
    Add connections from your address book or search people out based on past work history. You have to start building your connections at home before you can expect to be found. And once you make your base connections you can expand your web by reaching out to people they may know. And then they’ll tell two fronds and so on and so on and so on.
  • Get Onboard
    And if you are a business owner, get your employees involved and leverage their connections as well because you never know where you might find that next project.
  • Follow up
    Keeping top of mind with people only requires you to keep your eyes open. Listen to what your connections are saying and drop a quick note congratulating them on recent promotions or other events notated in their LinkedIn account. It will start a dialog that will make you more memorable.

Socialize:
Get your other social networking involved to help spread the word.

  • Twitter
    Integrate your twitter feed into your profile to let people see what you are putting out there and give them an opportunity to follow your musings on a regular basis.
  • Blog
    Integrate your blog as well (if you have one) so people get all the info they need about your and what you offer in one place. Give them more than they bargained for and take advantage of the captive audience to dazzle them with your thought leading brilliance.
  • Trip-It
    If you travel a lot for business set yourself up on Trip-It so you can easily make sure people know where you are going and how long you will be there. That way you can kill two birds with once stone by setting up meetings with new potential clients while you are in the area.

Contribute:
As with any social network, what you get out of it largely depends on what you put into it so make a contribution.

  • Say it don’t spray it
    Use updates to give useful info, not just propaganda. Become a resource for people looking for your expertise. Best case you can become a thought leader on certain subjects and worst case you can provide information that can be a tipping point for determining whether or not your get a call. Either way you can never go wrong with providing useful information.
  • Get in with the In Crowd
    You will find a great many groups in Linked-In that cover a multitude of topics from Alumni associations to highly segments industry specific cabals. Find a group that makes sense for you and join. But don’t just join, in order to make the most of this type of interaction you need to participate. Join the conversation. Give your two cents and who knows you might just strike up a conversation with someone who is looking for you.
  • Sing for Your Supper
    The recommendation train runs both ways. Don’t be stingy! Make sure you are helping your connections the way they are helping you. And if you are still felling a little bit selfish,  keep in ind that writing recommendations can be just as useful as getting them yourself. What you say about working with other people says as much or more than the what others say about you. Remember, you never know what circuitous route a connection may take on its way to you. Someone could be looking for something completely different, read a recommendation you posted and realize that what they really need is a person like you for a totally unrelated project.

Do the Math
Connections through liked-in are like playing 6-degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon. You start out knowing a few people in the far-flung reaches of the world and the next thing you know the Bacon Brothers are playing for your next birthday party. Lets put it in perspective. I only have 141 direct connections through linked-in but those 141 connections actually balloon up to a potential 36,600 connections and that is only going a few layers deep. Just think how many that would be if I actually had to go more than 2 degrees to get to Kevin Bacon? Going all six would yield be a crazy number of connections.

The bottom line is that there is too much business potential to ignore so get it in gear, optimize your account, load those contacts and start some business conversations.