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I hope you find my writing and business tips and observations useful. My business and blog are dedicated to helping businesses communicate clearly and reach their potential. Read, subscribe to my newsletter, enjoy! Tash

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How a business can volunteer

Corporate volunteering obviously helps the community as well as being positive for the supporting business.

Don’t think that the only way to support local community is to give money donations, though. Even businesses on their own tight budget can help local groups, and all businesses can find a means of giving that suits their specific structure and products/services.

Here are a few suggestions – what else can you add to this list?

  1.  do some pro bono work – a web designer could create or update their website, a plumber can put new washers in all their taps, food places could offer goods at cost (i.e. do the cooking for free) and an IT company could do a security check of their computers. I know I have written and edited various documents for community groups at minimal or no charge
  2. offer good or services at discounted rates for events or specified periods – e.g. a bakery could offer bread at cost for their fundraising events and a mechanic could offer an annual car service
  3. offer discounts to volunteers or members of the group – for example, a hairdresser may offer 20% off for people referred form a women’s shelter or soup kitchen volunteers get a free physiotherapy check up
  4. make employees available to volunteer at a community group. This could be everyone is off volunteering together once a year or a roster of people helping once a month or fortnight. Think about what works for your business and for the group you’re helping (not all places have space for an extra 10 people at one time for example).
  5. whenever you are upgrading (computer, phone, printer, etc) consider if it has enough value to pass onto a community group
  6. offer to print their newsletter to save their costs – collating, folding and so no are also possible tasks you can offer
  7. promote the group – put a banner on your website, link to their site, mention them in your newsletters, add their logo/details on the back of your business cards, add a donation box to your shop (or button on your website) and so on.
  8. add a collection box in your office/shop
  9. have a stall at their fete or other events – your fee and attendance will help more than it may appear
  10. invite them to speak or have an information booth at your big events

What other ways have you seen businesses support their local community?

Telling people is a key step

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, if I don’t tell you something how can I expect you to know about it let alone share the information?

image source: 123rf

Have you heard the expression ‘build the website and people will come to you’? It isn’t the entire story as no matter how great your website is, if no one knows it exists you will not get many visitors to the site.

There are many ways to increase your business profile, and various people will tell you that you MUST do certain things to further your business. Having a blog, joining Twitter and Facebook, putting videos on YouTube and having a LinkedIn profile can help a business, although to varying degrees for each business.

However, what is often not mentioned is that you have to promote those things in order to get the benefit of them. It’s great to tweet about new products and share valuable information but if no one follow you and your clients don’t know you are on Twitter, it’s pretty much a waste of time. Likewise for all those other social media options.

So remember to let people know about your blog, website, twitter account, Facebook profile and so on if you want them to build your business profile and website traffic.

How have you told people about your social media presence? What has been the most effective for you?

PS If you don’t already know, my twitter name is TashWord and Word Constructions is on Facebook.

Calling all customers!

Have you heard of a call to action? Have you got any idea what marketers and the like are talking about when the use this term?

While many people find marketing a bit wishy-washy or over-the-top at times, things like a call to action are important to understand for anyone trying to promote something ( a business, a blog, an event, and so on).

So, what is a call to action? It’s simply where you tell people what you want them to do. Examples are ‘buy now’, ‘call us for a quote’, ‘visit our website for details’, ‘visit us on the day’, ‘book here’ and ‘enter your email to subscribe’.

Adding a call to action generally gets much better results than just giving information. A call to action reminds interested people to actually do something and makes it easy for them in that you have told them what the next step is.

For simplicity, one call to action is enough in most ads and emails although a secondary (unspoken) call may be included such as ‘call us on 1234’ being followed by a URL.

Does all your marketing material include a call to action?

Blogging for promotions

Thanks to some external limitations, I found some time to catch up on some blog reading this morning.

Let me start by saying I do believe in blogs as a promotional tool in business – they are a great way to keep a site fresh, to build a relationship with clients and build your credibility. Yes, there are many social media choices now but I don’t think they are replacing blogs. Personally, I learn more from reading a good blog post than a tweet for instance!

A blog on your domain is going to give more SEO advantages than other social media options, too.

Des Walsh blogged about some survey results about blogs and business. He wrote “Companies with 10 or fewer employees are 30% more likely to use social media for public relations, branding and understanding customers. And they are twice as likely as large companies to use social media for lead generation.”

It certainly didn’t surprise me that small businesses use more social media than large ones – there is the obvious budget differences meaning small business owners need to find more affordable ways to interact with potential customers. I also think that many small businesses do well because they provide a personal service (no account managers or moving customers between departments, and a stronger sense of ownership) and social media depends on the personal side of a business.

If you are a sole trader, the approval process is easy; if you work in a large company, especially if it is heavily regulated, the effort of getting blog posts, tweets and so on approved can be huge – and the time involved takes away form the immediate nature of social media anyway.

From the blogs you read, would you agree that small businesses use more social media than their bigger counterparts?

Keywords in promotional articles

On Sunday, I presented a workshop on using promotional articles as a business tool and discussed the use of keywords in such articles.

Keywords are words that a search engine will use to provide search results (e.g. if you type in “promotional articles”, they are the keywords and a search engine will find the sites most relevant for those words.) They are very useful in building up the popularity of your site with search engines.

So it is a good idea to include your keywords in your promotional articles so search engines will find your articles online and increase your exposure. In terms of attracting search engines, putting keywords into the title is also effective.

In reality, you probably use keywords in your articles without really trying – it isn’t easy to write an article about business books without writing business or books for example.

However, it is important to not use your keywords too many times in one article as search engines can actually penalise you for doing so. The easiest way to judge how many times is right is to read it out loud – if it sounds ok and appeals to a human, you probably haven’t over used the keywords.

I will share some examples tomorrow on overuse of keywords, but thanks to Suzie of Suz’s Space asking a question in my  workshop, let me explain that it is repetition of one or two words that is the potential problem – using a lot of different keywords in a suitable context is not a search engine risk.

For example, writing an article about a style of writing which includes a list of authors does have a lot of keywords (each name for instance) but is not over using the keywords (such as books and authors) for Suzie’s site.

Using events to promote your business

Yesterday, I described an email where past events were advertised – and suggested it was not a great idea!

Yet running or being involved in events such as seminars can be a very effective marketing tool. Assuming the event is well run and provides useful information, the event shows you as an expert, professional, helpful and possibly generous with your knowledge.

Obviously, in the lead up to an event you need to promote it to attract people to the event itself – not much of an event if no one turns up because they didn’t know about it!

However, you can also promote an event to market your business as well as the event – and this marketing can follow the event as well as lead up to it. Worst case, people know you run seminars and may be able to attend your next one; best case, people give you more respect and trust in you, and are more aware of your business.

Some ways you can use an event afterwards to promote your business and credibility are:

  • talk about how much you enjoyed the event afterwards – and how much you learned. That may even include mention of things that didn’t work that you have learnt from. Talk about it in your blog and newsletter, as well as on forums, at networking sessions and with colleagues
  • gather testimonials from people who were at the event. You can put these on your website (especially near the details for the next event), in a portfolio/resume, quoted in marketing materials, in your blog and newsletter, and in media releases for future events
  • ask attendees at the event to review the event – written reviews can be added to your site/blog/newsletter, or even better, to theirs! If they do review or mention your event in their blog, make sure you leave a comment thanking them for their perspective and perhaps adding something useful as a thank you
  • give attendees something that is branded for your event – this probably only applies to bigger events like a conference or full day event. If they wear a tee-shirt, carry a bag, mark a place in a book , drink from a water bottle, add a button to their website, use  USB key or write with a pen branded for your event, people may ask them about it and they will remember it for longer themselves.
  • mention the event, as appropriate, in future media contacts, articles, blog posts, newsletters and so on, although don’t do it all the time as that would just be boring and counter-productive!
  • set up surveys asking for feedback to help you improve the next event – invite people from the last event and others to complete it. This gives you market insight whilst also drawing attention to the fact you have an event coming up!

What other ways have you used or seen used for promoting events after they have happened?

Promotional Articles

Think about why you use the internet for business. Sure you look at the graphics and pictures, but the main activity is collecting information, right?

So, does it make sense that one of the best ways to pull people into your site is to give them information? Selling your product or service is your main business aim, of course, but if you give people information they will trust you – and they’ll stay on your site long enough to learn your name.

How can you use information to get people to visit your website?

Informative articles from Word ConstructionsBy far the easiest way is to submit informative articles to various web sites and ezines. That doesn’t mean you submit an article about you or your business as that will bore and annoy your readers. What you have to give them is good information about something relevant to your business, something they can use and appreciate you for.

If you are a mechanic, you could submit articles explaining what fuel injected means or how to jump start an engine; a wedding planner can write about how to decide on a guest list; an accountant can explain negative gearing or claiming GST inputs; and a butcher could write about the different cuts of meat.

You also need to make sure the article is interesting and basic enough for your potential clients to understand and finish. It must be accurate and presented professionally as well,  if it is to promote your business positively.

At the end of the article, you include a short bio about yourself and your business. You can see the bios I use at the end of business and health articles.

If you have a web site or email address, make sure the bio includes this information so it can be hyperlinked back to you. Thus anyone reading your article and wanting to know more or use your service can contact you instantly.

I mentioned the value of promotional articles a few weeks ago, and I will cover ways to make use of them in coming posts.

Running effective surveys

FIlling in a form by handAside from the content of the survey itself, it is very important that any surveys or feedback forms are well prepared in other ways.

I just answered a survey that included at least three of the following mistakes and it has left with me with the impression that those business owners don’t care about details or consistency – so why would I trust them with promoting my business (their apparent service)?

So before you make a survey available to your customers, check how it presents and do a test run to see it really does work – better yet, get someone else to do the test run for you.

  1. Be careful of what you make a compulsory questions/answer. If a compulsory response isn’t included, the person can’t submit their survey and may get frustrated and move on which means you don’t get their feedback. And most people won’t tell you they had this problem, either.
    So if you do make a question compulsory to answer, ensure there is an answer for everyone so all can answer – even if one answer is “don’t know”, “prefer not to answer”, “none of the above” or similar.
    And if you give a range of answers including ‘other’, make sure that ‘other’ is an acceptable answer. I have done surveys where I can’t submit unless I choose a response instead of ‘other’ – forcing me to choose an inaccurate answer as well as my true comments.
  2. Most small (and even larger) businesses use a third party to run surveys. This generally means the survey appears more professional and can be easier to use – for example, not many businesses can afford the programming to do an online survey each time. While this is a valid practice, minimise the third party as much as possible.
    For example, if you complete this business branding survey, which is run on a third party survey site, you will be directed to the host business’s website once you click on ‘submit’. This way, the business itself is being promoted and gains more traffic from people doing the survey. The other option is to let people go to the third party’s homepage once the survey is complete.
  3. Brand the survey as much as possible. If the survey is a serious part of your business, it should continue your brand. That means add a logo, use your corporate colours, use the same style of writing, use your corporate fonts and use relevant images as applicable. You may not be able to make it match your web template or change fonts, for instance, but brand it as much as possible.
  4. Keep it as short as possible – you probably want responses from a range of people, not just the bored and those who love surveys, and busy people don’t have time for long surveys unless they see a potential benefit from it.
    Be careful with the number of questions – if one more question or comment will create a new page, review it. Someone scanning a survey will see there is another page and decide it is too long which would be a pity if the next page was only one question – or worse, if the next page is simply a “thanks for doing our survey” message.
  5. Look at the presentation – is there too much text so it looks complicated or time consuming? Does it look professional or just thrown together? Is there a nice mix of multiple choice answers and written responses, or just written responses? Does it look easy to complete?

Once you are confident you have good questions and a well prepared survey/questionnaire, the next step is to announce and promote it appropriately. Remember that many people won’t fill in the survey just because you want them to – you have to give them a reason to want to do it themselves.

And then make sure you make use of your survey results!

Use your words wisely!